For the third-consecutive season, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will have a different championship format, and along with it, a new in-race format. Since the series’ inception in 1995, the race format has been largely unchanged, give or take a Caution Clock and halfway break. However, the 2017 opener at Daytona International Speedway will see a new day of three different race Stages, in-race bonus points and playoff points that all directly affect the season championship.
Drivers running in the top-10 at the conclusion of Stage 1 and Stage 2 will be awarded with in-race bonus points, and the leader at each juncture will earn a playoff bonus point that is applied to each round in the Playoffs. Unlike last year’s format, drivers will be able to apply bonus points to each round of the postseason, including bonuses from their point standings finish in the regular season.
Timothy Peters is the second-longest tenured driver who will take the green flag at Daytona and has endured nearly every alteration the series has seen. Red Horse Racing’s eight-year veteran sees the format being a game changer on the track, on pit road, and in the standings.
“I applaud NASCAR. It’s going to be exciting for sure,” Peters said. “It’s going to change the way we look at the first half of the race. This is going to put you in a position to where you want as many bonus points as you can. That’s what it’s going to be about. The format is still ‘win and you’re in’, but if you have a win, and other guys have more bonus points, you very well could be on the outside looking in at some point.”
Peters noted that with last year’s experiment with the Caution Clock, the strategies and opportunities for improvement will be multiplied with the advent of the stage format and multiple caution periods.
“Even with the Caution Clock being scrapped, you might look at the Stages the same way,” Peters said. “(The Caution Clock) could take a mediocre day and turn it into a better one. With the segments coming into play, there’s even more strategy this year. It’s still the same scenario. You can chance it, and pit before the pits close before those (stage) cautions and find a way to gain track position through pit cycles.”
While pit strategies are nearly guaranteed to change, so is the mindset on earning bonus points. Gone are the days of earning points to lead a lap or the most laps, valuable points that apply to the Playoff are expected to turn up the intensity in earlier portions of each race and impact the championship.
“Everything has to be so precise,” Peters said. “Because, what’s on the line now is bonus points. Now that the bonus points stay with you through the entire Playoffs, if you’re eligible, that’s big to take you to Homestead. There are so many points, and playoff points, in play before the end of the race, we’ll have to adjust our mindset in each week to try and grab as much as we can. Once you start adding all those points up, it will make a big difference advancing through each round of the Playoffs.”
Peters’ body of work in 2016 has set the stage for high expectations, and a blueprint for success in garnering bonus points. He scored 16 top-10 finishes, fourth most on tour, and had the fourth-best average mid-race running position last season. With the level of consistency he has been known for throughout his NCWTS career, the 2017 race and championship formats could play directly into the Danville, Virginia native’s hands.
Many questions will begin to be answered when the curtain lifts at Daytona International Speedway in the NextEra Energy Resources 250. Peters’ quest to return to the championship finale at Homestead kicks off on February 24th on FS1.
-Written by Josh Weinrich