by Rob Tiongson
It has come to this in the IceBox Pickup Throwdown Series. After four grueling, arduous, exciting, and emotional races that started at the virtual Texas Motor Speedway last month, it’s been quite the journey for NASCAR’s stars of the Cup Series, XFINITY Series, and Gander RV and Outdoors Truck Series as well as one of NTT IndyCar Series’ most tenacious racers.
As the virtual haulers bring our contenders to the digital Homestead-Miami Speedway for the season finale for this special series, it’ll be more than just prize money and bragging rights to consider. Virtually, it’s possible that anyone in the top-20 has an outside shot at the championship. But we’ll get real and point out to 10 drivers to watch for the championship in Thursday night’s IceBox 100, and we’ll do so right now!
1) Harrison Burton – Besides the fact that Harrison Burton’s logged a win at Gateway, a second at Texas, and a seventh at Kansas, it’s not like this NASCAR XFINITY Series racer has done much. For real though, Burton has been a consistent frontrunner who’s willing to get aggressive at the right time throughout this course of the series.
2) Santino Ferrucci – Sure, Ferrucci has ruffled a few feathers and that may have netted him that encounter with the Turn 1 wall of the virtual World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway. However, when he does play nice and uses that chrome horn at the right time, he mixes it up with NASCAR’s brightest XFINTIY and Truck Series racers.
3) Christian Eckes – While he missed Gateway and finished 26th at Michigan, Eckes has been dangerously good in the IceBox Pickup Series races. Just 11 markers from the points lead, look for Eckes to be a solid threat for the IceBox 100 win and championship with his balanced approach.
4) Austin Wayne Self – It seems like Austin Wayne Self’s shown two types of speed – go and stop. When he’s stopped just once like he did at Kansas, it’s been as low as 29th. But when he’s on “go,” he’s been 10th or better in those three races which makes him quite the wild card at Homestead.
5) Josh Bilicki – Like Eckes, Bilicki missed Gateway but he’s been such a solid contender in the IceBox Pickup Series races with a fourth at Texas, third at Kansas, and 11th at Michigan. If he’s in this Thursday night’s race at Homestead, look for this hardy racer, a lover of Culver’s, to be a stout title threat as he’s only 12 points out of the lead.
6) Jordan Anderson – In a four-way fight for sixth with Ryan Truex, Josh Bilicki, and Hermie Sadler, Mr. Anderson’s been feast or famine in these past four races. However, he’s definitely a racer to consider, especially if 007 is as she was at Michigan, a track that’s somewhat similar to Homestead, the season finale venue.
7) Tyler Hill – After a so-so start in the IceBox Pickup Throwdown Series, Tyler Hill’s been quite strong with a fourth at Michigan and a fifth at Gateway. After seeing victory get snatched away from him at Gateway, he’s going to be laser focused at Homestead.
8) Ryan Truex – If Ryan Truex can shake off the Jeff Gordon 1999 season bug that he’s faced in the PUTD, he stands a realistic shot at the title at Homestead. Perhaps he can borrow brother Martin’s luck from 2017 and come through with quite the riveting win on Thursday night.
9) Matt Mills – As a driver who’s likely picked up a lot from these races that may prove relevant in his NASCAR XFINITY Series efforts. After a third at Gateway, don’t overlook Double M as someone who can hoist the virtual IceBox Pickup Throwdown Series championship.
10) Derek Kraus – After a trio of setbacks in which he was a victim of circumstances at Texas, Kansas, and Michigan, the real Derek Kraus showed up with a runner-up at Gateway. Fast, tenacious, and sneaky, the quietly confident young racer has all the makings to take it all, even if he’s sometimes an “under the radar” contender.