NASCAR Truck Series: Three Big Stories from Mid-Ohio

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From Parker Kligerman flashing his talent and the Truck Series playoff picture to old-school charm, here’s Three Big Stories from Mid-Ohio.

LEXINGTON, Ohio — Just as soon as it arrived, the NASCAR circus packed up and moved on from Mid-Ohio.

With a Camping World Truck Series field stacked with young talent and depth,ย Parker Kligerman flashed the talent that made him a rising prospect in the 2010s, dominated, and took the checkered flag. What does the playoff picture look like, with one race left in the regular season? Furthermore, the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is as old-school a facility as it gets.

So without further adieu, let’s delve into the Three Big Stories of Mid-Ohio.

Part-timer bests the rising stars

LEXINGTON, Ohio – JULY 9: Parker Kligerman, driver of the #75 Food Country USA/Tide Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series O’Reilly Auto Parts 150 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on July 9, 2022, in Lexington, Ohio. Photo: Ben Jackson/Getty Images

As I left the media center, Saturday, and walked to my car, Kligerman — who’s flying down to Atlanta Motor Speedway to work the Cup Series race, Sunday, for NBC Sports — stuck around in the garage area and conversed with fans.

For a man who’s all but made the transition to pit reporter, he flashed the talent that made him a hot prospect in the 2010s.

He led all but 11 of the 67 laps, Saturday, but trailedย Zane Smith in the closing laps. On the final restart with three laps to go, however, he took the racing line in the keyhole, raced Smith down the backstretch and out-braked him into Turn 4 to retake the lead.

But it didn’t stop there.

Coming to the checkered flag, Smith nudged him in the carousel (Turn 12), but couldn’t pull up. Which left Kligerman to score his third career Truck Series victory, and first since Talladega in 2017.

Now this begs the question: What does this say about the level of depth in the Truck Series, if a part-time driver comes in and dominates?

Kligerman says the trucks are so similar, that it demonstrates the depth.

“You can put a good body on these things, have the right motor, put the right components on it, and you can go win,” he said. “So, I was talking to John Hunter (Nemechek) the other day and he and I were laughing because he was like, ‘Sometimes, I learn more in this series for the Cup Series than sometimes in XFINITY.’ Because there’s no equipment discrepancy here.

“It’s really hard. It’s (hard) to go up against someone like Zane, who’s on a heater this year. He’s obviously been just strong everywhere. He is on his way to [the] cup. Did an awesome job in this cup debut. That means a lot to beat him in a straight-up fight.”

I don’t know how much I necessarily believe this, but I’m a guy who types words on a computer.

Kligerman knows cars (or trucks, in this case) better than me.

The playoff picture

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And then, there was one.

With the O’Reilly Auto Parts 150 in the books, just two spots remain.

With a 47-point cushion, Grant Enfinger doesn’t need a perfect race. Rather, he just needs to avoid major calamity to race for the championship. Three-time series champion, Matt Crafton, however, doesn’t have as much room for error, with his 19-point gap.

Nowย Derek Kraus, 19 back, andย Tyler Ankrum, 46, probably need a win to control their destiny.

After Nemechek’s lackluster day, Smith needs only finish 35th or better to clinch the regular-season championship.

We’ll find out who comes out on top in two weeks, at Pocono Raceway.

The charm of old school

LEXINGTON, Ohio – JULY 9: A general view of the tower at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series O’Reilly Auto Parts 150 on July 9, 2022, in Lexington, Ohio. Photo: Tucker White/LastWordonSports.com

In my eight years as a motorsports writer, I’ve worked NASCAR and IndyCar races at 13 different tracks. Some were modern marvels, like Daytona. Others were rustic, but with an old-school charm, like Darlington, Martinsville, and Talladega.

Mid-Ohio takes the cake in the old school department.

You have wood-walled garage stalls.

You have the ease of walkability (at least when you know your way around).

You have a wood-walled media center that feels like a cabin I’d rent in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.

Furthermore, like Darlington, it’s over 10 miles from the nearest interstate. While Darlington, however, is just a stone’s throw from its namesake downtown, Mid-Ohio is in the middle of miles and miles of fields, houses up next to the roads and in the heart of Amish country.

No, really. They had the horse, buggies and attire that you’d associate with Amish people. I counted about 10 Amish horse buggies that I passed, as I drove to and from the track.

I’ve seen people pour rum into their solo cups at the Indianapolis 500, before 7 a.m., and that was less of a cultural whiplash than seeing a NASCAR hauler pass an Amish horse buggy!

As a bit of a racing purist, myself, I felt right at home at Mid-Ohio.

I can’t wait to work another race at this track!

TOP IMAGE: Ben Jackson/Getty Images