Three of the four previous editions of the Chevrolet Silverado 250 (Sept. 1-3) have came down to the last corner on the last lap, and in some cases have continued with slaps in the paddock, and shoulder tackles under the flagstand. While the Annual Mudsummer Nationals has become the one of, if not the most, sought after prize in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, the annual blast through the hills north of Bowmanville, Ontario has also taken on a special meaning for many of the truckers.
Last year there was plenty of drama in turn 10 as John Hunter Nemechek (below) drove Cole Custer (above, leading) off the track, before continuing to rub him into the wall down the frontstretch to the checkers to take the win by mere inches. The real excitement came post-race when Nemechek stopped to pick up the flag from the starter. Custer took off down pit road, hopped the wall, and sprinted towards Nemechek. When the former high school football player got there, he channeled his inner Lawrence Taylor and blasted Nemechek with a textbook tackle.
“It's not how we wanted to get it, but we won. We got some good press and some bad press over it, but I have to thank our fans for standing behind us. As for Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, I think it's a fun track, and I've enjoyed road course racing. The track atmosphere is great, and think it's awesome that we go to Canada, and to a road course once a year. You can do some different stuff to make up time, even if your truck isn't perfect. I'd even take a couple more of these every year as well,” Nemechek said when asked about last year’s race.
With just two races left before the Chase for the Camping World Series championship starts, Nemechek is one of the title contenders thanks to two wins posted earlier this season at Gateway and Iowa.
“We've had a fast truck all season, and we've been able to run in the top-five, or top-three most of the time. We're going to try and become the first repeat winner at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, and get some more playoff points,” he said.
Other drivers, such as Austin Wayne Self, are eager to take on the daunting challenges that CTMP presents. “When I was a kid, I raced karts, but you had to be 16 to race open-wheel cars, so I got into Stock Cars. I love road course racing, and to me, it would be bigger than winning Eldora or Daytona. It's a momentum track, with a mix of technical sections, fast sections, and some big elevation changes. The fans are everywhere around the place, camping on hills, and in the trees. And the crazy finishes, I think that's a result of that long backstretch and the ability of the trucks to suck up to each other. About the only other place where a win would mean as much as CTMP would be Texas, because that's where I grew up.” Self finished 15th in his first career CTMP start last year.
Christopher Bell (below) finished fifth last year, and is determined to be more prepared for the 2017 race. To help prepare, he raced in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series race at CTMP during Victoria Day SpeedFest this past May, finishing 23rd after experiencing some mechanical problems during the race.
Despite a disappointing result, Bell thought the experience was worthwhile. “The Pinty's race was good preparation for our race on Labour Day, and that place is awesome! The elevation changes make it a lot of fun, and the way the corners are a rhythm section at the end seem to make for some close finishes,” he said.
With four wins under his belt so far in 2017 (Atlanta, Texas, Kentucky and Pocono), Bell is the current championship leader and one of the title favorites entering the Chase.
Two-time Truck series champion Matt Crafton (2013-14) crossed one off the bucket list earlier this summer as he captured the Mudsummer Nationals at Eldora, and will ride that victory into the Truck Series playoffs. After cutting his teeth of asphalt, Crafton has been working at gaining more dirt experience over the past few seasons, as he has been racing a Modified through the mid-west. “It's been fun. My dad and I go to the track together, and I get to work on racing on dirt, and we just get to hang out at the track,” Crafton said.
While he put that program together with Eldora in mind, he doesn't seem to have the same interest in road course races. “I don't think we're buying a GT3 car anytime soon - the dirt stuff has been enough. I think it would be pretty cool to win, and we've run well every time here. It's also just great to race in Canada. I've done the IWK 250 at Riverside before, and between that and Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, the fans are awesome,” he said.
Crafton finished fourth at CTMP last year and was second in 2015.
The only Canadian full-time driver in the series this year, Stewart Friesen, from Niagara-on-the-Lake is looking forward to the race. “It's going to be great to have all the fans from Ohsweken, and all my friends be able to come and watch us race in Canada,” he said.
Friesen led much of the Mudsummer Nationals at Eldora before Crafton (above right chatting with Ben Rhodes) passed him for the win, but he was still thrilled by the experience. “Yeah, I was bummed we didn't win, but it really showed that we can race at that level, and we think we can build off a result like that. I haven't done much road course racing, but have been doing some racing on the simulator, and iRacing. That's about the best you can get without racing there,” he said.
Sitting second in points, thanks to a victory at Dover earlier this season, defending Truck Series champion Johnny Sauter could be considered an 'honorary Canadian'.
“When I was racing in ASA I drove for Alec Pinsonneault, and I got to do a lot of short track racing against Canadian Junior Hanley. I think it's great for the Truck series to come there, and while I'm by no means a road course racer, it's pretty fun. I've went out and spent some time with the fans who camp there before. It would be huge to win this race, and if I did I'd be missing my flight and end up in the campground somewhere,” he said.
There are a few more Canadians who will be suiting up for this year’s race, including Pinty’s Series veteran Jason Hathaway, of Uxbridge, Ontario who will make his Truck series debut in the no. 66 Bolen Motorsports entry.
Two-time Pinty’s series champion (2010, 2012) D.J. Kennington (above) will be making his sixth career NCWTS start, and his second at CTMP (he finished 14th last year), but this time it will be in equipment far different from anything he has ever driven on one of NASCAR's three biggest stages. He will be piloting a Kyle Busch Motorsports truck that has been prepared by Gaunt Brothers Racing. Both have been victorious at CTMP in the NASCAR Pinty's Series action before.
The inaugural edition of this race in 2013 saw Chase Elliott pick up his first career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win, wrecking Austin Dillon on the final corner to take the win. Afterwards, the girlfriend of Mike Skinner decided to stick up for her man by slapping Max Papis (whom Skinner had been racing) in the paddock after the race.
In 2014, Ryan Blaney and German Quiroga swapped the lead twice in the final three corners before Blaney won the drag race out of turn 10 to capture his first Truck series win.
Two years ago, Erik Jones survived a late race restart to edge out Alex Tagliani for the win, a victory that would help propel him to the series championship.
What will happen in 2017?
It very well could be decided in turn 10 on the final lap – again!
Photography by Getty Images for NASCAR