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Feature

ASHLEY ASKS….. Ty Majeski

After running a limited schedule across the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series the past three years, Ty Majeski is ready for the full truck campaign with Niece Motorsports in 2020.

The Wisconsin native recently spoke with POPULAR SPEED about his thoughts entering the season.

POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts as we look forward to the 2020 season?

Russell Labounty | NKP

TY MAJESKI: Obviously for myself, incredibly excited to be full time just in general. I’ve been doing some NASCAR stuff since 2017; it’s always been three races here, 12 races there, six races there. It’ll be good to finally get in a rhythm with the team. As a young and up-and-coming racer, you just want to have a good opportunity to race full-time with good people and good equipment, and I’m excited for that opportunity this year. I’m ready to make the best of it.

PS: What are your goals and expectations for the year?

MAJESKI: I think the biggest thing for me is to establish a rhythm, and obviously get in tune with the team. Some of the guys that I worked with before are on the team, so I’m excited for that. But just to establish consistency and eventually compete for wins. I mean, we expect to run well. This team is proven and obviously I feel in the right opportunity I am able to go and win races, and that’s our goal.

PS: What track are you most looking forward to?

MAJESKI: I think the one for me is probably Martinsville. It’s a track that I’ve always wanted to race at. Obviously, you grow up watching on TV or playing iRacing on it. For me, I ran the Xfinity Series and doesn’t go there – or hasn’t in the past, so that’s definitely one I’m looking forward to. I have a lot of laps there virtually, but none in real life, so I’m excited to get there and race that track.

Barry Cantrell | NKP

PS: You’ve been able to gain a lot of experience to date. What’s the biggest thing that you have picked up on that you feel will help you now that you’re full-time?

MAJESKI: I think the biggest thing is working with a lot of different people. You learn a lot of stuff, and I’ve gotten the chance to work with a lot of good people, just maybe not in the right situations. I think you need to take bits and pieces from each situation and opportunity and take all that knowledge and apply that to your current opportunity. I think, to date, this is going to be my best opportunity as a up-and-coming racer, and I’m just excited to get going. I can’t wait for Daytona.

PS: What would it mean to you if one day you could reach the top level and be in the Cup Series?

MAJESKI: That’s obviously my goal. As a kid, I never thought it was possible. I’m a first generation racer from a small town in Wisconsin and I never thought it’d turn into what it is has, and obviously it’s come realistic in the last few years, and we’re going to do everything that we can for ourselves to do that.

PS: Last year, you made a lot of headlines across the board. What was your favourite moment from 2019?

MAJESKI: I would say winning my first ARCA race, especially at Charlotte. Obviously Charlotte is the hub of NASCAR and motorsports in the U.S. and to go win on the home turf of motorsports was really cool. Then to be back it up, I won at home track in Chicago a few weeks later. Those are two pretty cool wins for me for different reasons.

Nigel Kinrade | NKP

PS: We’ve gotten to know you as a late model racer across the country. How many races can we expect to see you run in 2020?

MAJESKI: We’re putting the schedule together right now; it looks like it’ll end up between 10 and 15 late model races. There’s a lot of holes in the truck series schedule. Between middle of February and middle of November, we only race 23 weekends, so there’s definitely opportunities for me to run some late model races.

PS: Who would you call your racing hero?

MAJESKI: I think that changes as growing up, I think it’s different than it is now. For awhile there, I looked up to Alan Kulwicki and how he did things and how he went to school and got his engineering degree, and had a do it yourself attitude. He was the guy working in the shop himself, but also an owner, a driver, and he had the capabilities of being a crew chief; that’s something that I strive to be like.

Now a days, you see drivers that just show up to the race track and drive; I take pride in knowing what I’m racing and doing the best that I can to know what I am racing to make better adjustments and give better feedback to my crew chief.

PS: Given your career path to date, what would be one piece of advice that you’d offer to that next driver out there?

MAJESKI: I think the big thing is to surround yourself with good people. Just like anything else, just in general, if you surround yourself with good people, good things will happen. The racecars and equipment can be good, but if you don’t have the right people working on it and guiding you, you won’t get anywhere. That’s been the biggest thing for me in my career is I always try to put myself in the best situations with the best people, and so far it has worked out for me.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Feature

Jimmie Johnson is Feeling Optimistic in Return to the Desert

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AVONDALE, Arizona — Seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson is currently wrapping up one of the statistically worst seasons of his career. The driver of the famed No. 48 is looking to rebound at ISM Raceway – a place that has been very kind to him in his 19-year career.

While the lifetime Hendrick Motorsports driver will start the Bluegreen Vacations 500 in the 22nd position, he feels optimistic about his car – even with the limited time he feels the premier series had on the Arizona-based track.

“The guys did a really good job getting speed in the car,” Johnson told POPULAR SPEED. “We only got two laps in, so it’s tough to tell. It’s was tough to understand what was going on in practice as well. It was cut short for us because we didn’t pass tech last week and the track is just now rubbering in, so the first practice was kind of a wash.

“The second one went by so fast. We knew we were off, but we knew where to attack. The guys did a great job putting more speed in the car and I’m optimistic, but I won’t know until we get in there and lay down those first few laps.”

The 43-year old enters ISM Raceway off a tough weekend that saw him slip in the traction compound at Texas Motor Speedway, getting into the wall. The PJ1 returns this weekend in the higher groove at the 1.5-mile speedway.

“It wasn’t part of my issue last week – I will say that at Michigan (International Speedway), it got me – but it is what it is,” said the seven-time champion. “The harder that stuff is, the more grip it has. After cautions or certainly at the start of the race, we know this stuff isn’t going to have grip going into turns one and two. It’s always been the same, but I feel a lot of drivers didn’t realize it until they were riding around on the pickup trucks before the race, waving at the fans.”

Johnson has the second-most wins at ISM Raceway among active drivers, including three consecutive wins spanning from 2007-08 and one addition victory in the Fall of 2009. The track formerly known as Phoenix International Raceway has not been too kind to the Team Chevy driver since the reconfiguration in 2018, as he only has one top-10 finish. This will by no means be an easy event for Johnson to overcome, but it’s hard to go against a confident driver who has 15 top-fives, 21 top-10s and an average finish of 10.2  at a venue where he also has four wins.

EMAIL COLE AT: colecusumano88@gmail.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management to other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered and endorsement.

 

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Feature

Rain halts Talladega race after William Byron wins Stage 1

TALLADEGA, Ala – In a helter-skelter finish at the end of Lap 55, William Byron held the lead to win Stage 1 of Sunday’s 1000Bulbs.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway to advance his cause in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.

The winner of Stage 2 and the race, however, won’t be decided until Monday. Rain arrived during the first stage break and sent fans in the frontstretch grandstands scurrying for cover. A subsequent break in the rain wasn’t long enough to dry the 2.66-mile track and get the race restarted.

With 57-of-188 laps complete, the race will resume at 2 p.m. ET Monday, broadcast on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

The stage win left Byron temporarily in eighth place in the Playoff standings, six points ahead of ninth-place Joey Logano, who was second in Stage 1. The Playoff field will be cut from 12 to eight drivers after next Sunday’s Cup race at Kansas Speedway.

Alex Bowman, Byron’s teammate finished third in the opening stage, followed by Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Jimmie Johnson, Daniel Suarez, Kurt Busch and Ryan Blaney.

The Fords of Keselowski and Clint Bowyer hooked up in a tandem draft, with Bowyer pushing the No. 2 Mustang to the lead on Lap 44. The cars had such a strong run together that they separated from the rest of the pack and were soon swallowed by the pursuing draft.

At the end of the race, however, tandem runs may well be crucial in deciding the winner.

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Feature

Dover Not a Slam Dunk for Toyota Armada

So, is there a realistic chance someone not driving a Toyota wins today’s Apache Warrior 400 at Dover International Speedway?

Actually, there is.

Toyota drivers Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch will start on the front row in today’s first-round elimination race of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. Not coincidentally, Truex and Busch also won the first two playoff races. And five of the top six qualifiers are in Toyotas.

But Saturday’s practices showed the Chevrolet and Ford teams have some muscle, too.

In the morning practice, the Stewart-Haas Racing Fords of Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch clocked in first and third, respectively, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. second in his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet and Jamie McMurray’s Chip Ganassi Racing Chevy nearby in fourth.

The final practice saw Hendrick teammates Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson atop the board, with Harvick third and McMurray’s teammate Kyle Larson fourth.

That said, Kyle Busch and his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was fastest in best 10 consecutive-lap average speeds in both sessions, so he remains one of the favorites to win.

Still, this race could be a little more wide open than the first two playoff races at Chicagoland Speedway, where Truex won easily, and New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where Busch dominated. Collectively, the two Toyota drivers led 81.4 percent of the laps in those two races.

“I think we’ve got it closer,” Elliott said after Saturday’s final practice. “I think we are still off from a couple of guys, but I think we are in the ballpark.”

“Second practice (Saturday) went really well and we will just fall into a group (Sunday) and go racing at one of our best tracks and try to get the best result,” said Johnson, an 11-time Dover winner.

At the conclusion of today’s race four of the 16 playoff drivers will be eliminated from championship contention.

The four currently on the outside looking in are Austin Dillon, who is tied in points with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. but behind on a tiebreaker; Ryan Newman (-1), Kurt Busch (-17) and Kasey Kahne (-21).

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Feature

10 Surprising Outcomes in the Bojangles’ Southern 500

Denny Hamlin scored an exciting victory in Sunday night’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway after leader Martin Truex Jr. suffered a flat tire in the closing laps.

The victory, the second of the year and 31st of his career for Hamlin, capped a long, intense night of racing at NASCAR’s oldest superspeedway.

Here are 10 surprising facts about the 25th race in the 26-race Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regular season.

  1. Seven-time’s struggles

Jimmie Johnson, the seven-time Cup champion, finished 12th at Darlington. He has now gone 12 consecutive races without finishing better than 10th. His last finish inside the top 10 came June 4, when he won at Dover.

  1. Battle of the brands

Toyotas swept four of the top six finishing spots, with Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Hamlin (1st), Kyle Busch (2nd) and Matt Kenseth (6th) turning in strong showings. Rookie Erik Jones (5th) had an excellent run in his Furniture Row Racing Camry. Kurt Busch (3rd) was the lone Ford in the top six finishers, with Austin Dillon (4th) the only Chevrolet.

  1. Dillons do it

It was a good night for the Dillon brothers. Austin Dillon finished fourth to earn his first top-five finish since winning the Coca-Cola 600 in May, while brother Ty was 13th in the No. 13 GEICO Chevy. That matched Ty’s best finish of the season

  1. Twice as nice

Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch finished third behind race-winner Hamlin and Kurt’s younger brother, Kyle. Coming off a fifth-place run at Bristol, this is the first time Kurt has finished in the top five in consecutive races all season.

  1. Playoffs

Three drivers who are winless in 2017 — Chase Elliott, Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray — remain playoff eligible heading into the final regular-season race next weekend. The only way one of them can be knocked out is if there is a first-time winner at Richmond International Raceway next Saturday night. No other driver can race his way in on points.

  1. Points

Martin Truex Jr. won the first two stages of the Darlington race and has clinched the regular season championship and the 15 playoff points that go with it. He will enter NASCAR’s championship battle with at least 52 points.

  1. Martin’s mayhem

There were two throwback paint schemes in the race that paid homage to NASCAR Hall of Fame member and two-time Bojangles’ Southern 500 winner Mark Martin. Trevor Bayne finished 35th in one of the Martin schemes and Clint Bowyer 40th in the other.

  1. Leading the way

In a 367-lap race, Hamlin and Kyle Larson each led the exact same number of laps – 124.  You don’t see that very often.

  1. Broom time

Hamlin swept both the Monster Energy Cup and the NASCAR XFINITY Series races at Darlington for the second time, having done it first in 2010. The only other drivers to sweep at The Track Too Tough To Tame are Dale Earnhardt in 1987 and Mark Martin in 1993.

  1. Broom time, Part Deux

Joe Gibbs Racing didn’t win any of the first 18 races of the Cup season. They have now won four of the last seven. And for the second consecutive Cup race, JGR swept the weekend, as Hamlin won both races at Darlington and before that, Kyle Busch won all three at Bristol. This team is peaking at the right time.

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Commentary Feature

Studs and Duds, Watkins Glen Edition

Martin Truex Jr. played the fuel mileage game to perfection on Sunday to capture the I Love NY 355 at the Glen, his series-high fourth Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win of the season.

Like every NASCAR race, some drivers and teams came out way ahead and others had miserable weekends. So to recognize both, here’s the Watkins Glen edition of Studs and Duds.

STUD: Cole Pearn

Grieving enormously over the tragic and unexpected death of his best friend earlier in the week, Pearn perfectly orchestrated the fuel-mileage strategy that allowed race-winner Martin Truex Jr. and the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota to make it to the finish line when others ran out of fuel.

STUD: Martin Truex Jr.

Truex has more race victories (4) and playoff points (34) than any other Cup driver. By himself, he has led more laps this season than all 11 drivers from Hendrick Motorsports, Team Penske, Richard Childress Racing and Roush Fenway Racing.

DUD: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Nothing good happened to Earnhardt this weekend, as he completed just 22 laps before the engine let go in his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, leaving him 37th and last in the field. His car was slow and ill-handling all weekend long. 

STUD: Daniel Suarez

Third place was a career-best Cup finish for Suarez, who has finished seventh or better in each of the last four races. Clearly, his star is on the rise.

STUD: Clint Bowyer

Needing a good finish to stay in playoff contention, Bowyer scored a top five in the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. He’s still on the outside, but he has a fighting chance to make it in.

DUD: Brad Keselowski

Although he led 20 laps and had a fast Team Penske Ford, Keselowski made two critical mistakes that left him 15th: He initiated contact with Kyle Busch that spun both drivers out midway through the race, and then went through too many pit boxes when he came in for a splash of fuel with three laps to go.

STUD: Matt Kenseth

A clutch runner-up finish hugely helped Kenseth’s playoff chances. Before Sunday’s race, the 2003 Cup champion had just one top five in 17 races at The Glen.

STUD: Chris Buescher

Two weeks ago, Buescher got his best finish of the season with a ninth-place run in the Brickyard 400. He followed that up with an excellent 11th-place finish at Watkins Glen.

DUD: Jimmie Johnson

For the third consecutive race, Johnson finished 27th or worse. The four Hendrick Motorsports drivers had a combined average finish at The Glen of 23.75. Not good.

STUD: Michael McDowell

Twelfth place was a solid effort for McDowell, who brought the No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Chevrolet home in the top 20 for the third consecutive race.

STUD: Toyota

For the second race in row, all six of the Toyota Camrys from Furniture Row Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing finished in the top 10. Toyotas swept the top four spots at The Glen and have now won four of the last five races.

DUD: Chevrolet

The only member of the Bow Tie Brigade to finish in the top 10 was AJ Allmendinger, who wound up ninth. It was not a good weekend for the Chevrolet contingent.

DUD: Joey Logano

Now 95 points out of the playoff cutline after finishing 24th at Watkins Glen, Logano can only make the playoffs with a victory in one of the next four races.

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Feature

Joey Logano Feeling the Need for Speed

Joey Logano’s situation is pretty simple: If he wants to make the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs this year, he almost certainly needs to win one of the next five races.

And make no mistake about it, Logano and Team Penske expect to make NASCAR’s playoffs every year, especially after advancing to the championship round twice in the last three years.

This time, though, the challenge could be daunting.

Logano heads into Sunday’s I Love NY 355 at the Glen a distant 18th in the Cup driver standings, and 69 points out of the last transfer spot.

On top of that, the Toyotas of Joe Gibbs Racing and Furniture Row Racing seem to have found the speed in recent weeks that the Penske Fords don’t quite have.

Saturday morning at Watkins Glen International, Toyotas held the top three speeds and four of the top five in the opening round of practice, while Logano was seventh, one spot behind teammate Brad Keselowski. Logano’s best lap was 0.734 seconds slower than Kyle Busch, an eternity in NASCAR time.

Earlier in the week, Logano talked about the speed deficit.

“The positive side is that the next four out of five races we’ve won at before. All of them but Darlington,”  Logano said Tuesday night during a screening for the new film “Logan Lucky,” in which Logano is one of a handful of NASCAR drivers with a cameo role.

“We’ve done this before,” Logano said. “We won Richmond this year. Bristol’s one of our best tracks that we always run up front at.  … And Watkins Glen’s been, really, in all honesty, one of our best tracks the last couple of years, finishing second (in 2016) and then winning the year before.”

Logano said he was pointing to Watkins Glen.

“I feel like we should be competitive this weekend,” he said. “Maybe our best shot (to win) might be this weekend.”

But Team Penske needs to find more performance.

“Speed’s been an issue, no doubt,” Logano said. “Yeah. Oh, yeah. It all starts with that. … The speed we had at Pocono, I don’t think you could put the right strategy in to win that race. We were going to fight for 10th. It’s hard to win with a 10th-place car. You’re going to have to get really lucky. Logano lucky, to make that happen.”

The bottom line?

“We’ve got to get faster,” said Logano. “No doubt.”

On Sunday, we’ll find out if indeed Team Penske got faster, or at least Logano lucky. 

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Feature

5 Takeaways from the Overton’s 400 at Pocono Raceway

It was another unpredictable afternoon at Pocono Raceway, where 2015 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch qualified on the pole and won his first race of the year, becoming the seventh different winner in the last seven races at the 2.5-mile triangle.

Here are five key takeaways from today’s race:

Busch’s bonanza

At long last, Kyle Busch found Victory Lane again after an immensely frustrating season . Busch ended a 36-race winless streak, the longest of his Cup career, by nerfing Kevin Harvick out of the lead with 16 laps to go to make the race-winning pass. It was Busch’s first career Cup victory at Pocono.

In the process, Busch became the 14th different driver to win a Cup race this year and the 10th different driver to win in the last 10 races. With a win under his belt and the fast Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas he’s had all year, Busch is suddenly a legitimate championship contender again.

Toyotathon

Kevin Harvick finished second in his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, but it was clear Toyotas were the fastest cars at Pocono, with Kyle Busch winning, Martin Truex Jr. third and Denny Hamlin fourth.

Seven-time’s struggles

Jimmie Johnson has seven Cup championships to his name, but he also has three DNFs in the last four races. And for the second consecutive race, Johnson crashed after close racing with teammate Kasey Kahne. Before that, Johnson and Ryan Blaney had contact.

“It’s just hard racing,” said Johnson. “We were going into Turn 3 and the guys were lifting and he (Blaney) just missed his marks a little bit and luckily we didn’t crash. And then I was in the outside lane and losing some spots. I think the No. 5 (Kahne) washed-up into me and king of finished me off over there in Turn 3. It’s definitely not the day we wanted to have but I don’t think either one of those situations were intentional by any stretch.”

Last go-round

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s last trip to Pocono as a full-time driver was a decent, but not great, one. He was only mid-pack in practice and qualifying, and he had a pit-road speeding penalty during his first pit stop in the race. That dropped him a lap off the lead and back to 30th..

After Stage 1, Earnhardt got the free pass and on a Lap 71 caution, he gambled on tires to pick up 15 positions, moving him up to third place. That didn’t work and the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet quickly dropped through the field.  Still, Earnhardt was seventh when Stage 3 started and he wound up a respectable 12th. But he needs to win to make the playoffs.

A cautionary tale

In NASCAR, you can’t win a race on the first lap, but you can lose it. On the opening lap of the Overton’s 400, Matt Kenseth spun in Turn 3, triggering a big crash behind him that snared eight drivers, including Austin Dillon, Aric Almirola, Danica Patrick and Chris Buescher. It was a horrible way to start the race for these drivers.

“I had passed about seven cars the first two corners,” said Almirola, who finished 38th and last. “I was making a lot of progress and then we got to Turn 3 and everybody just stacked up. I saw some smoke. I saw some cars stopped. I got piled in from behind and just drove into the accident. … Sort of a bummer not to even make a whole lap. Not our day.”

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Feature

Bowyer Takes Throwback Paint Scheme Personally

And the hits just keep coming. Tuesday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Uptown Charlotte, Clint Bowyer and Mark Martin unveiled the throwback paint scheme Bowyer will carry Labor Day weekend during the Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. 

Bowyer’s No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Ford will carry the deep blue colors of the Carolina Ford Dealers in a tribute to Martin’s 1989 ride in what was then known as the NASCAR Busch Series.

“For me, it was really easy,” said Bowyer, who is 11th in Cup points in his first season with SHR. “When you think about throwback paint schemes and how to honor a legend of the sport, it was so easy to look back at 2012, when Mark Martin came over to be my teammate at (Michael Waltrip Racing).

“It meant so much to me,” said Bowyer. “I learned so much from him (Martin). To have this opportunity to honor him at the Darlington throwback weekend they’ve created is so much fun.”

And the sponsors is a good fit, too.

“This Carolina Ford Dealers paint scheme is an easy one for me,” Bowyer said. “As soon as I saw it, I’m like, ‘That’s the scheme.’”

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Feature Trucks

ASHLEY ASKS…. Ryan Truex

Ryan Truex enters this weekend’s Bar Harbor 200 at Dover International Speedway with three straight top-10’s, including a season-best fourth-place finish at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Ahead of his home track race, the Hattori Racing Enterprises driver spoke with Popular Speed’s Ashley McCubbin about his thoughts entering the weekend, and his season so far.

Popular Speed: So, what are your thoughts going into Dover this weekend?

Ryan Truex: I’m excited. It’s my home track, and I have my home sponsor sponsoring the race so it’s extra incentive to do well, and we kind of have some momentum built after these past two races. So hopefully we can keep moving forward and get closer to a win.

PS: You ran two practices today (Thursday). How’d the truck feel during those?

RT: It felt good. The first practice we had some handling issues, but I think by the second practice we got it pretty good where I was pretty happy and comfortable. It’s the same truck that we raced at Charlotte and Kansas, so it’s had a lot of speed in it and it had a lot of speed today and drove really well. We were off a little bit in qualifying trim, but we have some ideas to get that better for tomorrow. But overall, I think it will race really well.

PS: What are your thoughts on your season so far?

RT: It’s been good. We got off to a rough start at Daytona getting wrecked on the second lap. After that, we’ve been getting better and better. The off-weeks at the beginning of the season helped us in getting our equipment ready, and kind of set back and rebuild a little bit. I signed on pretty late going into the season; it was January, and we got Scott Zippidelli in shortly after that. So it was kind of a last minute deal going into Daytona. So we were kind of behind the eight ball there and had to kind of rush to get to Daytona and Atlanta. So those off-weeks helped a lot in building new equipment, and getting ready for the mile and a halves and short tracks coming up. 

PS: Before this season, you got to run some races with Hattori. What’s the biggest thing you were able to take away from those to help you out this year?

RT: I think just experience in the trucks. Most of these race tracks I’ve been to a few times, whether in XFINITY or Cup. So on that side of things, I felt I had a lot of experience. But the truck series is definitely different in how you race, how the trucks drive and how they behave in the draft a lot different at mile and a halves. So be able to run last year some and learn a lot of that has helped. At this point, we’re getting our trucks fast and can start to really focus on getting them to drive well and being to the tracks these before, I know the feel that I need at the tracks. Somewhere like Dover, I feel that’s a huge advantage for us just going into practice knowing what I feel I need to go fast and be good in the race.

PS: What is it like being with a small team going up against the bigger organizations in the series?

RT: I like it. I think it’s a fun challenge. I think it feels really good when you can beat them, which we have been able to do these past few weeks. It’s not without hard work and not without a financial investment, which Shigeaki (Hattori) has done a lot of us. He’s invested a lot of his time and money into this deal, and it’s kind of been a rough go the past year and a half to get to this point. We had a lot of good runs last year, but we had a lot of frustrating runs as well. We kind of had to go through growing pains last year, but that got us ready even more so for this year, and being able to get the right people in place over the off-season and rebuild the team and get some new equipment and refocus our efforts has been huge. We were able to go into the season with a whole new mindset and we like being the underdogs. It’s a good fit for us. We definitely embrace the role and nothing makes us happier than going out and beating the big teams every weekend.

PS: Beyond Dover this weekend, which tracks are you most looking forward to?

RT: I don’t know, actually. I like most of the tracks that the truck series goes to. I haven’t been to Kentucky since they repaved it, so not sure what to expect there, and Texas will be a big curve-ball for everybody in the garage just because it’s been repaved and reconfigured. Hopefully I can lean on my brother (Martin Truex Jr.) a little bit since he’s raced there already and that will help us. But I’m looking forward to the road course race. I really like road course racing. Eldora – that’ll be different. I’ve never raced on dirt in my life so that’ll definitely be a challenge for me, but I’m looking forward to it and I think it’ll be a cool to do something different. I’ve always wanted to race on dirt so it’ll be cool to get a shot to do it. 

Truex showed speed during practice on Thursday, timing in eighth quickest in the second session behind the wheel of his No. 16 Toyota. He will look to back-up last year’s eighth-place finish at the one-mile high-banked concrete oval.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.