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Trucks

GALLERY: Current NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series Playoff Picture

Following the first eight races of the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series, two drivers have locked themselves into the post-season of the eight positions available. With six more spots up for grabs over the next eight events, the action promises to be full of excitement.

As we hit the halfway mark of the regular season, here is an idea of how things look thus far.

Nigel Kinrade | NKP

1. Johnny Sauter – Locked In, 1 Win

Returning home to ThorSport Racing was the perfect medicine for Johnny Sauter as he is already locked into the post-season with a victory at Dover International Speedway. He has also shown potential across the board with five top-10’s in eight races.

He is projected to start the playoffs in second, four points behind Grant Enfinger.

Nigel Kinrade | NKP

2. Austin Hill – Locked In, 1 Win

Austin Hill wasted no time getting himself locked into the post-season by winning the season opener at Daytona International Speedway. Driving for the defending series champions, he has since posted four more top-10 finishes.

He is projected to start the playoffs in fourth, five points behind Enfinger.

Rusty Jarrett | NKP

3. Grant Enfinger +79

Although he has yet to reach victory lane this season, Grant Enfinger has been the most consistent driver as he is one of two competitors to post seven top-10 finishes in the eight races thus far. It has paid off, allowing him to build a race cushion over the cut-off and currently lead the regular season standings.

He is currently projected to start the playoffs in the lead, four points ahead of Sauter.

Nigel Kinrade | NKP

4. Stewart Friesen +64

With having come close to winning on several occasions, Stewart Friesen has been given the title ‘the next driver to breakthrough’ for a long time now in the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series. While we still await for the moment to happen, he has built himself a good cushion with five top-10 finishes this season.

He is currently projected to start the playoffs in third, four points behind Enfinger.

Nigel Kinrade | NKP

5. Brett Moffitt +46

The defending series champion has not slowed down despite switching teams, having scored five top-10’s in eight races, with half of those in the top-five. Certainly he will be hoping to put his 19th-place finish at Charlotte Motor Speedway behind him quickly to maintain his current advantage.

He is currently projected to start the playoffs in fifth, five points behind Enfinger.

Rusty Jarrett | NKP

6. Ben Rhodes +45

Ben Rhodes has been solid, scoring six top-10 finishes in the eight races this season, including a fourth-place finish at Charlotte to pad his advantage. With an average finish ranging from ninth to 11th at the next three tracks on the schedule, he needs to make sure his consistency continues.

He is currently projected to start the playoffs in sixth, nine points behind Enfinger.

Rusty Jarrett | NKP

7. Matt Crafton +42

It may come as a shock that Matt Crafton has yet to reach victory lane, but that is the case eight races into the 2019 campaign. He has shown the potential to do so as he put himself in contention on a couple occasions, but not consistency like he has been known to do so in the past. He will need to improve on making that a regular habit if he wants to continue racking up championships.

He is currently projected to start the playoffs in seventh, nine points behind Enfinger.

Rusty Jarrett | NKP

8. Todd Gilliland +1

While Kyle Busch Motorsports is known as being championship contenders and Kyle Busch managed to score five victories this year, the team now watches as their young drivers fight for the last spot in the top-eight of the playoffs. The only way to make it happen for them both now is to see a victory be earned. Gateway could very well see it happen for Todd Gilliland following a runner-up finish last season.

He is currently projected to start the playoffs in eighth, 13 points behind Enfinger.

Nigel Kinrade | NKP

9. Harrison Burton -1

Harrison Burton has shown potential behind the wheel with race-winning opportunities, but seems to be missing what it takes to be there at the end of these events with the veterans. Combined with having to fight back from issues each week, the points are not being earned as much as he would have hoped. 

Out of the next three races on the schedule, Iowa Speedway is his best chance to reach victory lane following a pole and third-place finish last season.

John Harrelson | NKP

10. Sheldon Creed -24

Sheldon Creed consistently runs up front with the leaders throughout the events, but seems to find trouble – sometimes of his own making – during the late stages which seems him relegated outside of the top-10 in the finishing order. As a result, he only has one top-10 finish despite leading 92 laps to this point.

Out of the next three races on the schedule, Texas Motor Speedway is the only track he has ran previously.

Nigel Kinrade | NKP

11. Tyler Dippel -88

For a rookie in the series, you need to give Tyler Dippel credit for the performance delivered thus far with a season-best finish of eighth at Texas Motor Speedway. He just needs to work at finding more consistency with Young’s Motorsports to run steadily in the top-10.

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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Trucks

PREVIEW: JEGS 200 at Dover International Speedway

Entering the JEGS 200 at Dover International Speedway, Kyle Busch had won the previous four races in the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series. He won’t be able to take the checkered flag on Friday afternoon as he is not entered in the event.

As a result, there’s a field of competitors hoping that they can take advantage of the opportunity before them.

Although he cannot do it behind the wheel, Busch may still make his way to victory lane as a truck owner. He has four trucks entered into the JEGS 200, with Raphael Lessard leading the first of two practices on Thursday afternoon.

The Canadian is making his second career series start following a 14th-place finish at Martinsville Speedway in April. He is no stranger to Kyle Busch Motorsports equipment, having competed in late models for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion’s last year. In eight CARS Super Late Model Tour events, Lessard scored a top-five in four of those with a victory at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Krysten Harrelson | NKP

KBM also has a strong chance of being successful with Todd Gilliland, who was fifth quickest in the first practice. The second-generation racer currently ranks eighth in the series standings following back-to-back finishes outside of the top-10. With a lot of criticism being delivered his way early in the season about his potential future and lack of results to KBM standards, a win would certainly help in quieting the speculation. 

Harrison Burton has also showed speed with KBM in 2019, posting a season-best fifth at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He is looking to get things back on-track after a crash at Texas Motor Speedway saw him finish 31st. He showed potential last year with a fifth-place finish at the Monster Mile. 

On the flip side, veteran Johnny Sauter led the final practice for ThorSport Racing. Sauter knows his way around Dover International Speedway, as evident by winning the past two truck series events at the Monster Mile. He also boasts the best average finish of the drivers entered in Friday’s race (eighth) with five top-10’s in 10 starts.

The 2017 NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series Champion currently ranks fourth in the standings, following four straight top-nine finishes including a third in the most recent series event at Texas Motor Speedway.

Russell Labounty | NKP

Currently heading into the weekend, Stewart Friesen is the points leader by six points ahead of Grant Enfinger, solely based on consistency with three straight top-five finishes. Although he has yet to reach victory lane in his career, the Canadian came close to winning at Texas Motor Speedway as he was catching Busch in the late stages until the handling went away on his No. 52 Chevrolet Silverado. He has not done well at Dover previously, failing to finish in the top-20 in both of his previous starts.

Enfinger, meanwhile, boasts the second-best average finish of drivers entered (8.5) following a third and 14th in his previous two starts. The ThorSport Racing competitor has been solid this season, entering this weekend following back-to-back top-10 finishes including a fourth in the most recent series event at Texas. 

Expect ThorSport Racing to run up front as they visited victory lane in 2016 with Matt Crafton. The driver of the No. 88 Toyota Tundra has posted six top-five’s and 11 top-10’s in his 18 races at Dover to go along with that win. He currently ranks sixth in the standings following three straight top-10’s including a fifth-place finish in the most recent series event at Texas.

Russell Labounty | NKP

Looking back on Texas, Tyler Ankrum surprised plenty of people watching with a sixth-place finish, momentum he hopes to carry into Dover this weekend. The rookie has previous experience at the Monster Mile, placing 11th in last year’s K&N Pro Series East Event. He was 11th quickest in final practice on Thursday afternoon. 

As mentioned previously, Busch has won the last four races, but he did not win the season opener. That honor went to Austin Hill in his first race with Hattori Racing Enterprises. Following the victory, Hill placed seventh at Atlanta Motor Speedway before posting three straight finishes outside of the top-15. Certainly a return to victory lane would renew the confidence for the defending series championship team, but Hill’s previous results at Dover do not offer much hope. In four previous starts, his best finish was 16th in 2015. 

The only driver thus far in the top-nine of the standings not mentioned thus far is 2018 NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series Champion Brett Moffitt was second quickest in final practice as he hopes to improve on his 12th-place finish last year at Dover International Speedway. He did not fare well at Texas Motor Speedway with a result of 19th, but had posted three straight top-fives before then. 

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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ASHLEY ASKS…… Brennan Poole

After three seasons of NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, Brennan Poole is running the full NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series schedule for a new team, On Point Motorsports.

The most recent for the trucks, the Vankor 350 at Texas Motor Speedway, played witness to Poole’s first top-10 result as he placed ninth in the final results. The Lone Star native recently spoke to POPULAR SPEED about the team’s success, as well as outlook moving forward.

POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts on the season to date?

BRENNAN POOLE: It’s been pretty good. We’ve had some things at the beginning of the year not go our way through the first four races. But, we had a pretty good run at Texas and getting that top-10, I really think has given us some momentum going into this month-long break that we have in the truck series.

I feel pretty good and excited about getting to Dover coming up here soon. We just have to keep working on our trucks, and making them better, and finding more speed, which I think everybody on our team has been working hard to do. If we can continue to have some things go our way like they did at Texas, we’ll be in good shape.

NIGEL KINRADE | NKP

Kind of started out with the crash at Daytona, and then the 13th at Atlanta wasn’t too terrible, but we didn’t get to qualify and had to start at the back so we were kind of coming from behind all night. So I felt like that race went okay for us. But after that, we just had issues. At Vegas, we had a really good truck and had a fuel pick-up issue which cost us a top-10 issue there, and then at Martinsville, we had the engine lose the cylinder two laps into the race which just killed our day.

But Texas was a good weekend for us. I think we have a lot of momentum heading to Dover, so I’m just looking forward to getting to the next race and seeing where we’re at.

PS: Based on the start of the year, what do you feel you and the team need to do better moving forward?

BRENNAN: Well, I think just a little bit better communication between me and my guys, because we’re just really learning this truck together. Everybody on our team has Cup and Xfinity experience, but it’s the first time working on the truck so we’re just learning it together. I don’t have a whole lot of truck experience. This is my first year in the truck, so we are all just trying to work together and figure out what exactly we’re looking for to create speed and build longevity in for the race.

It’s just about us getting a little bit more familiar with the trucks, and being able to communicate what we need to make the trucks go faster. But I think it just boils down to experience with each other, and just with working with the trucks, because it’s just a different deal. It’s definitely different than a lot of things I’ve driven over the years. So each week I’m learning new stuff, and the team is learning new stuff, and we’re just putting it together.

I think we’ve done a good job of making the trucks faster right from the start of the season. We qualified eighth at Las Vegas, which I thought was really strong. Then we qualified 13th at Texas and drove up into the top-five at one moment, and got some stage points with a ninth-place finish. So I think everything is going in the right direction, and we’re all excited about the direction that we’re going in. But I think it’s just experience in working together, as well as gaining experience with the truck.

NIGEL KINRADE | NKP

PS: Being the first full-year foray for On Point Motorsports, where have you set for the goals for this season?

BRENNAN: Well, we all have really high goals because we all have experience in motorsports, but we also understand that we have a lot to learn and build on. So our original goal was just to make the playoffs at the end of the year. We’re 13th in points right now, so we have a little bit to overcome. But I think it’s definitely a challenge that we all believe that we can do. So as the year goes on, we’re going to be able to put ourselves in a position to win a race and get ourselves locked into the playoffs.

We just have to keep working towards that goal. That’s what we’re trying to get to, and I think everybody is working hard to get accomplish that. We’ve been able to show that we have some speed in our trucks, but it’s about showing that we can put an entire race together and making sure our truck is good throughout the race and not making any mistakes, good pit stops, good restarts, and good strategy. All of those things have to come together, and I think with the experience through the season, we’ll be able to put ourselves in position to do that.

PS: You mentioned your excitement for Dover next month. What’s the biggest challenge of the Monster Mile?

BRENNAN: There’s a lot of different things. Dover has gotten a lot rougher over the years, so every time I go there, I try to focus on the bumps in turn three and four and getting through those bumps good. I also focus on carrying a lot of speed through the corner. Dover, to me, is all about how much throttle you can carry through the corner and not get tight. We call it the 5/8th mark of the corner, but as you get right in the middle and start to get off on exit, the car or truck starts to get tight in that spot, and I think the key is going to be being able to hold throttle through that part of the corner so you can carry a lot of speed.

Obviously, in the trucks, momentum is really important – even at Dover. When I’ve been there in the past in an Xfinity car, you’re not out of the gas very long; it’s just such a fast mile track and high-banked. One, it’s a lot of fun. It’s one of my favorite tracks that we go to, but it’s about making sure you can carry a lot of throttle through the corner and get through the bumps in turn three good and you can wrap the bottom of the corner to get off of it.

RUSTY JARRETT | NKP

But I think we have a good game plan going into Dover. We’ve got a truck that we’ve been working on. It’s going to be a new truck for us, so I’m just excited to see the stuff that we’ve been working on and see if it pays off for us and see if we have a little bit more speed and see what we got.

PS: Beyond Dover, what track are you most excited to get to?

BRENNAN: Well, for me, we already raced Martinsville once and right off the bat, we had engine troubles in qualifying and ultimately ended up having it go down a cylinder right at the start of the race, so we didn’t really get to run that race. But all through practice, we were just super fast. We were in the top-five on averages for speed. I felt like we had a really good shot of going there and running up front, contending, and getting a good finish.

That one of kind of stunk for us because we had such a good truck. So I’m certainly looking forward to going back to that race because I feel good about potentially having a shot to win a race there. But fortunately we get to go there at the end of the year, so I’m really looking forward to that as it should be a good weekend for us.

But coming up short term, I really like Charlotte. It’s one of my best mile-and-a-halves in the Xfinity car, so I’m really looking forward to running that race in another month or so; I think that’s going to be another good one for us. But I really like a lot of tracks that we go to.

Obviously, the truck series gets to run that race at Eldora, which as a racer is an event that I’ve always wanted to run. I grew up racing dirt modifieds around Texas where I grew up, so I think it’s going to be cool. I’ve been to Eldora. I went there once while racing quarter midgets when I was 10-years-old, and watched the sprint cars ruin there, and I never would’ve thought that I’d go there and race. So I really think it’s going to be cool to go and do as I have some dirt experience. I think I am going to enjoy that race, and have fun and enjoy competing at that track. So that one is going to be cool, too.

RUSTY JARRETT | NKP

PS: What track do you wish was on the Truck series schedule that currently isn’t?

BRENNAN: Well, fortunately next year it’s going to be on there, and that’s Richmond. Richmond has always been one of my favorite tracks that NASCAR goes to, period. I love that kind of flat worn out short track style racing. That’s one that I wish was there this year as I feel it’s a place that I really know how to get around. I go there and have a lot of confidence, knowing what I need in my car and have an understanding of what it’s going to take to compete. So I’m going to be looking forward to going there and competing there next year.

But I just like the flat short tracks. I think that’s what I like Martinsville, too. I got to race late model stocks when I was coming through the ranks and I just always enjoyed going there. There’s something about the flat short tracks that I enjoy.

PS: Speaking of the schedule, there’s been mixed thoughts from drivers and fans on the month-long break that we have in the truck series. What are your thoughts?

BRENNAN: I think the break can be good sometimes for teams, and sometimes be bad for certain teams. For us, we had a lot of momentum after Texas and we were all fired up after getting the top-10 and finally have things go our way in that race. Then we have a month break to just sit here and we’re like, “Dang,” as all of us are just wanting to go back to the race track. Sometimes it can also allow you to catch up on trucks that you’re working on, so I think it can be good in certain situations. But for me, I’m ready to go. I want to race as much as I can.

But next year, the schedule isn’t going to be as big as breaks as we’ve seen in the past and they’ve done a lot of cool things with it in adding some tracks to the schedule at different times. Certainly, everybody is really excited about running at Martinsville under the lights which I think is going to be just really neat. So I’m looking forward to all of those changes.

NIGEL KINRADE | NKP

But with the month break, it’s been kind of cool. We’ve been spending a lot of time together as a team working on our new trucks and getting prepared for when we go back racing with three in a row – Dover, Kansas, and Charlotte. It can be a good thing for a lot of teams, but it can be a bad thing especially when you have a lot of momentum and stuff on your side taking a month break.

PS: We’ve seen drivers trying different series and cars. What is on your bucket list to try?

BRENNAN: I mean, I obviously want to be a Cup driver as I’ve yet to run a Cup race yet. I know that’s not a super exciting answer, but I want to be a Cup driver. That’s my goal that I’m working towards all the time. My dream is to be able to one of those guys and to be competing at the highest level competitively. But if I’m talking about just doing some stuff for fun, I’d love to race an asphalt modified in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Series.

Maybe I’ll have an opportunity to do some of that soon just for fun, and I’d love to go back and run some dirt cars. I raced dirt modifieds a lot and dirt late models from time to time, and I really enjoyed that style of racing. I always thought it’d be cool to go run a World of Outlaw Late Model race, or do something cool like that, because I think the dirt racing is so much fun and it’s just completely different. I’ve always kind of enjoyed doing something different like that.

I also want to try and run the 24 Hours of Daytona. Hopefully I can do that one time in my career. That’d be amazing. I always thought that race was really cool and special, and a privilege to be apart of.

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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ASHLEY ASKS…… Tyler Dippel

In the most recent NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series race, Tyler Dippel put together a solid-run en route to placing 10th for his first career top-10 finish.

The Young’s Motorsports driver recently spoke with POPULAR SPEED about his season to date, as well as outlook moving forward.

POPULAR SPEED: How would you rate your season to date?

Rusty Jarrett | NKP

TYLER DIPPEL: I think it’s going pretty good. We need to get our stuff a little bit better, but everyone is starting to work together really good. I think we’re making positive gains on the trucks, and I’m getting better at the bigger trucks. We just need to keep working on it, and it’s getting better and better each week.

PS: What did it mean for you to score your first career truck top-10 at Texas?

DIPPEL: It’s a big confidence builder to get up there and run with those guys, and I think it’s only going to keep getting better from there. I think that was really good for us.

PS: What do you feel that you and Young’s Motorsports could do even better?

DIPPEL: We just need to work on the trucks, and then just experience for me. It’s going to be a whole team thing. I think we’re going to grow and get better as the season goes on.

PS: What are your thoughts as we look towards Dover?

DIPPEL: I’m excited for Dover as it’s a place that I’ve ran at with the K&N Series, and it’s always cool to go to a track that you’ve been to before, unlike seeing most of these places for the first time like I have been. Plus, I think it’s a really fun race track so I’m looking forward to it.

PS: Beyond Dover, what track are you most looking forward to?

Rusty Jarrett | NKP

DIPPEL: Probably Eldora, because I’m a dirt racer so that’s probably what I have circled on the calendar.

PS: What track do you wish was on the truck series schedule?

DIPPEL: I’d probably have to say a place like Memphis would be pretty cool that we raced at in the K&N Series.

PS: We’ve seen drivers trying different series and cars. Is there anything on your bucket list for one day?

DIPPEL: I’d like to drive everything, pretty much. Nothing stands out in particular, as I kind of want to try everything that I can get my hands on.

PS: Based on your racing experience to date, what would be your advice to the next wave of drivers coming up?

DIPPEL: Just get in a racecar as much as you can, and work hard, and never give up.

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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Trucks

ASHLEY ASKS…… Tyler Ankrum

After winning the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Championship last year, Tyler Ankrum is taking the next step of his racing career in competing in the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series. In his second start of the season at Texas Motor Speedway, he consistently ran up front en route to a sixth-place finish.

The DGR-Crosley driver recently spoke to POPULAR SPEED about his success in the lone star state, as well as his outlook moving forward.

POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts looking back on Texas?

Matthew T. Thacker | NKP

TYLER ANKRUM: Looking back, there’s obviously things to improve on. With it being my first race, there’s a ton that I learned. I appreciated with the trucks and how they handled. Looking back, I wish I could’ve done a few things differently, but I think with the current trucks we have and with it being my first year, I think we’ll have a really strong year. I don’t know what to expect, honestly. A lot of people have asked if I should be expecting more from finishing sixth at Texas, but I’m not too sure.

I love Dover. I raced there last year in the K&N car. We had a really good run for us until we had some issues on pit road. We had a really good K&N car last yearn and a good truck last year, so I don’t know. I just think we’re going to have to see when we get there. We’ll have some simulator time, and then we’ll just swing for the fences like we did in Texas.

PS: Being that Texas was your first intermediate truck race, what surprised you the most?

TYLER: For me, it was just the air. The first five laps of the race I struggled a little bit because I was just so taken away of how aggressive the air is, and how much it affects the truck. We tried to get behind some trucks in practice at Texas, but it just seemed no one wanted to be around each other like they did at Vegas or Atlanta. It just kind of seemed like everyone was trying to figure out their own package before qualifying and the race.

That, and how aggressive everyone drove – or how assertive how everyone drove. There were a few really aggressive drivers out there who would not get off your door. They would just drive on your door every corner, and you get pissed off around them as it’s not that respectful. There’s this gentleman’s code amongst drivers if it is 10 to go, I understand why you got down on my door and got me loose, or got me sideways. But when it’s Lap 15 or 50 or even 100, when there’s still a good distance to go, it gets frustrating.

NKP

There’s a lot of respectful drivers out there, but I just couldn’t believe what you could do to manipulate someone else’s truck without even touching them. You get a foot on either corner of the truck, and you can affect them somehow. You almost have out to outthink them. On the short tracks, you can outdrive them, but looking up front, you’re just manipulating the air and you mirror drive a lot. Even at Texas, you’re mirror driving a lot; you block and you get drafts off other trucks, and it’s a whole different style of racing than I’m used to.

PS: You mentioned your excitement about Dover. What’s the most challenging aspect when it comes to the Monster Mile?

TYLER: Well, I think the most challenging aspect with Dover is really is it’s almost like Bristol. Every change you make, it’s super small and you really feel it. Essentially, it’s Bristol – just a half mile bigger and with concrete tracks like that having extra grip, it’s almost harder to find extra speed in the truck. So I think that’ll be the toughest thing. But I’ve been there before. I think Winchester Speedway is a lot scarier than Dover, so I don’t think I’ll have any issues getting up to speed. But the level of competition there is going to be very hard.

PS: Being your first truck series season, what are your goals and expectations for this year?

TYLER: I mean, I would love to get a win. My main goal is to make the playoffs. I would love to make the playoffs and win Rookie of the Year. I know I’m pretty far behind when it comes to Rookie of The Year points, but I think it’s something we can do, considering how well we ran. There are guys that already have three or four races under their belts, and in my first two truck starts, I think I’m third in points. So based on points accumulated so far, I’m pretty proud of the guys and what we’ve done. I think we have a legitimate shot at doing so, and that’s the main thing.

Matthew T. Thacker | NKP

It’d also be a dream come true if I could make the final four at Homestead. I think if we did that, it’d really help boost my career in finding sponsorship.

PS: So beyond Dover, what track on the schedule are you most excited for?

TYLER: That’s a tough one, because there’s so many cool tracks. I already checked off one track on my bucket list – that was Texas. Other tracks that I’ve been wanting to check off, we don’t go to. We don’t go back to Daytona, we don’t go back to Atlanta, and those are my two most favorite tracks. I’m really excited for Bristol. I’ve been there quite a bit in the super late model and the K&N car; I’m really excited about going there.

My number one most excited towards for the rest of the year is Miami. Miami is such a cool track. it’s always been fun super fun in the NASCAR Heat video games and it’s always super fun on Iracing, so we’ll see. We have a long season ahead of us, a lot of work cut out for us, and I’m up for the challenge.

PS: So in talking about the schedule, what track do you wish was on the schedule?

TYLER: I wish we had Richmond on the schedule. I already heard that it is going to be on the schedule next year. I’ve always loved Richmond, watching it at least. I think it’d be cool.

Rusty Jarrett | NKP

PS: Actually, that has been confirmed with the 2020 schedule.

TYLER: That’s cool. I think that’ll be one cool track to add, and I think trucks going back to Watkin’s Glen would be really cool, too. I loved Watkin’s Glen in the K&N car and I’ve never really been a huge fan of the Canadian track (Canadian Tire Motorsports Park), watching at least. So I think the trucks would be super cool at Watkin’s Glen – especially watching them going down the backstretch. There’s a lot of options that NASCAR could do to mix up the schedule for the trucks. It seems the trucks have had the same schedule for five or six years now.

I think it’d be also cool if NASCAR had an all-star, or wild card race for the truck series. I know they have those bonus races, but almost like a PGA or US Open like they do in golf with the biggest race of the year at a different track each season. But you know, I definitely won’t complain about what NASCAR has as they’ve done a fantastic job with the cards they’ve been dealt over the past however years. I love the truck series. They’re a lot of fun, and even more fun to watch. So I’m excited to race some more, and get to Dover, Kansas, and Charlotte in May.

PS: We’ve seen drivers trying lots of different series and cars. What is on your bucket list?

TYLER: There really isn’t. One day I may want to get back in the midget, kind of go back to my roots. But my heart has always been with NASCAR. I don’t think it’d hurt to race in IndyCar once or twice as that’d be a ton of fun, too. But my heart has always been with NASCAR, and I’ve always wanted to do stuff with them.

I’ve always wanted to be passing Jimmie Johnson down the backstretch for the Daytona 500. So I think I’m going to stick with what I’m doing.

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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ASHLEY ASKS…… Johnny Sauter

After finding uncertainty through the off-season without a ride, Johnny Sauter returned back to ThorSport Racing, ready to chase after his second NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series title. Thus far, he has shown speed with four top-10’s in five races.

The veteran recently spoke with POPULAR SPEED about his thoughts on the year thus far, and moving forward.

POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts on you and your team’s start to the season?

Nigel Kinrade | NKP

JOHNNY SAUTER: I think it’s been pretty good. We’ve had speed, week-in-week-out, so that’s encouraging. We’ve had some bumps along the way, and still managed to have decent days out of those problems that we’ve had. I feel really good about where we’re at, and where we’re headed so we just have to keep it going.

PS: Where do you feel that you and ThorSport could get better to be even stronger?

SAUTER: Well, I think the biggest thing is we’ve had speed off the truck and then come race time, like this past weekend at Texas, we just weren’t good. So I obviously have to get better at what I’m feeling and the feedback that I’m giving so that we can race better ultimately. So a couple of the little things that happened to us have been preventable, but for the most part, we unload with speed each week and it’s up to us to keep that going.

I don’t think it’s a lot of big things. I think it’s just a couple things here, and a couple things there, and we’ll be knocking on the door for the win I feel like.

PS: Drivers have mixed feelings in having this early-season break. Your reaction?

SAUTER: I mean, you can’t add more races and the season goes from February to November. It’s perfect at the amount of races it is, and that means there’s going to be gaps in the schedule. I guess I just don’t pay attention to it. For me personally, and for where we are right now, we got through the first five races kind of unscaved and didn’t tear anything up.

Matthew T. Thacker | NKP

So I’m looking at it as a positive and it gives us a chance to look at our stuff, and see what we want to do differently, or what we can maybe make better instead of just trying to constantly build. I feel like it’s a good break and comes at a good time. I do hear the criticism of the breaks and all that, but at the end of the day, the truck series schedule is what it is and if you add more races, you start to add more costs. So I’m good with it.

PS: Next race on the schedule – Dover International Speedway. What are your thoughts entering that event?

SAUTER: Well, the last few years we’ve won there so I feel really good about going back. Even prior to having ever won at Dover, I felt like it was one of my favorite race tracks, just because of the speed and how fun that place is. I love it and even if I run terrible, I love it. Great place to go, and even honestly looking further beyond that, there’s some really good race tracks for us. But Dover is definitely in the top-five favorites for this season for sure.

PS: What’s the toughest challenge of the Monster Mile?

SAUTER: Handling is really important, and track position is really important. We’re going around there so fast that its put a big emphasis on track position and clean air and things that you hear people talk about a lot. But having that said, if you have speed, you have options to move around the race track which is always encouraging. I just think the sheer speed of it. We all know that we’re going fast at that race track, but for some reason, Dover you can really feel how fast you’re going and I feel that’s what a lot of the drivers like.

PS: Beyond Dover, what track are you most excited to get to?

Nigel Kinrade | NKP

SAUTER: I mean, I like a lot of different tracks for a lot of different reasons. As I look ahead, I like every place, honestly. I’m probably not the biggest fan of Eldora, but beyond that, I like everywhere that we go. Charlotte is a good one, we’re going back to Texas before too long – there’s a lot of good summer races like Michigan and Bristol, all tracks that I enjoy.

PS: What track do you wish was on the NASCAR schedule that currently isn’t?

SAUTER: There’s a lot of good race tracks that aren’t on the schedule. It’s going to be a short track for sure, so the Milwaukee Mile or Lucas Oil Raceway Park, Memphis Motorsports Park. Something like that is what I would like to see on the schedule. I’m a short track guy so I’d like to see us go to some of those types of places for sure.

PS: We’ve seen drivers explore running different series and cars. Is there anything on your bucket list to do?

SAUTER: No, not really, just ultimately winning a second championship is on my list. I still do some of the late model stuff here and there. There’s one or two races left on that deal that I’d like to win. But as far as Cup or anything like that, I’m good.

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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Trucks

OBSERVATIONS: Vankor 350 at Texas Motor Speedway

When Kyle Busch takes to his No. 51 Toyota Tundra at Charlotte Motor Speedway in a couple months, there’s one thing that you should know – he is probably going to reach victory lane.

Throughout the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series season, a driver earning points in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is allowed to run a total of five truck events. Busch has currently ran four of those, and won each of them in convincing fashion. His latest came on Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway as  he paced 97 of the 147 laps en route to victory lane. 

Despite his fourth consecutive series victory, the speed from the guys in Kyle Busch Motorsports shop was lacking according to their boss.

“I don’t know, we just lacked a little bit of overall speed tonight,” Busch said. “We just didn’t quite have exactly what we wanted. Kind of worked on it all in practice. I thought we were pretty good, but just not enough. Those guys were just able to keep up with us way too much throughout the night, I thought. It’s a better race that way when they’re able to keep up, so that means we’ve got to go to work and work harder in order to get ourselves a little faster.”

Unlike previous events where it seemed the veteran would cruise to victory lane, he was actually passed for the lead with Brett Moffitt going around the outside on Lap 99. Unfortunately, contact in the late stages with Grant Enfinger after getting loose resulted in a flat tire, ending his chances of victory.

Stewart Friesen also showed promise towards scoring the victory, as he was able to close the gap between himself and Busch as the laps began to wound down with 25 to go. While he got to the No. 51’s tailgate, he was unable to complete the pass, fading back with a tight truck to a second-place finish. It was stated last year, and the same goes once again in 2019 – it’s only a matter of time before the No. 52 Chevrolet is in victory lane.

Overall, the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series proved once again why they are the most exciting to watch on the intermediate tracks. Drivers battled side-by-side throughout the event, using the big hole punched in the air by the trucks to work the draft around each other. Although the first stage was a little rough with a couple back-to-back incidents, things ran smoothly from there on with a couple thrilling three-wide moments and saves from various drivers as they slid up the track.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series package was supposed to resemble that of the drafting nature with the reduced horsepower and high spoiler. That was evident once again in qualifying with drivers not wanting to be the first to go out on-track and be in line behind others. While it hasn’t played as big of a role through the first three intermediate events this year, perhaps Texas Motor Speedway’s layout with fresh pavement and the traction compound in the second groove is the right method for some excitement.

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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ASHLEY ASKS…… Ryan Reed

In early March, Ryan Reed got the chance to get back behind the wheel, placing ninth in the Strat 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with DGR-Crosley Racing. It marked his first start in one of NASCAR’s top-three series after being let go from his NASCAR Xfinity Series ride at the end of 2018 due to lack of sponsorship. 

Recently, POPULAR SPEED caught up with the California native to discuss that race, as well as his outlook towards his future in NASCAR.

POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts on how Las Vegas Motor Speedway played out for you?

Rusty Jarrett | NKP

RYAN REED: Overall, everyone was pretty happy. The team was pleased. I thought, as a driver I take a lot of responsibility in getting the finish we deserve, and I felt like we had the opportunity at once in the race to be in the top-five, and show a little more speed than we did. But overall, DGR is a young team, still developing, and they have great people and key components, and the truck drove really good. I think a top-10 was a solid result. No major mistakes. I felt like if we did that race over again, we could turn the ninth-place finish into a fifth-place finish, but overall, all things considered, it was a solid weekend.

Those deals are so tough. You have one weekend, you haven’t worked with those guys very much so you’re still trying to figure out little things here and there, so it was a lot different than what I was used to. It was cool to get the opportunity with David (Gilliland), everybody at DGR-Crosley. Having Dexcom, Inc. come on-board was huge. For them to help me get back in a seat in the top-three series was really cool, and definitely after losing a full-time after the last five years, it was good to get out there.

PS: What do you feel that you and DGR-Crosley Racing could’ve done better to finish higher?

RYAN: I think just clean some little stuff up. Pit stops – I felt that was one of the spots walking away that could’ve been a little bit better, and then I felt like I could’ve done a better job on the restarts. It took me a little bit to figure out what line to be in.

Rusty Jarrett | NKP

The Xfinity (Series) stuff races so much different – the restarts are so much different, the drafting is so much different. Just not having done that – I ran one truck six or seven years ago and I hadn’t ran anything on a mile-and-a-half, so going back into it was a huge different experience. Regardless, I think between the restarts and pit stops, cleaning some stuff up, there’s three or four spots there easily.

PS: You touched upon this, but how much different are the trucks compared to the Xfinity Series cars?

RYAN: A lot varies. The engine package – you’re racing at a lower RPM so keeping momentum up is really a big deal. Obviously, way more drag as they punch a big hole in the air so drafting is really big. You’re pretty much wide-open once the sun goes down there at Las Vegas. It’s almost like restrictor plate racing in a sense with the drafting.

Also, it’s just so hard to finish passes in those trucks, because it’s so hard to manipulate the air on the other trucks around you. So when you get around the veteran guys, they get really tough to pass. It’s all those little things that you’re not going to figure out in one race. I got to hop in there for one race, learned a lot, and felt like I gave some good feedback to help the team – and that’s it for the year.

I think Tyler (Ankrum) and those guys have the opportunity to build on some great pieces they have right now. Especially for a new truck team, you have a lot of building to do a race team and it takes some consistency. I look forward to watching those guys and watching them get better.

PS: Can you shed any light on what the rest of 2019 holds for you?

Russell Labounty| NKP

RYAN: I think we have really exciting stuff that we’re working on, obviously none of it I can reveal today as none of it is signed on the dotted line yet. But I think we’re really close to signing a little bit for this year, and then a lot for 2020. I think when the deal wrapped up at the end of last year and the sponsor announced they weren’t coming back leaving me out, it was so late in the year that typically when you find that out in November, it’s hard to put something together in 60 days before the start of the next season.

So I think when that happened, I think we realized that we’d be rebuilding in ’19 and come back stronger in 2020, and I feel like with the parts and pieces we have in play right now, I feel that we can do that. I feel we can be in a really good position with a really strong team and good partners going into 2020, so just have to keep working hard and finishing those up.

It’s a real interesting perspective for me this year sitting back and observing. I feel like I’ve become more a student of the sport than I have been. I’m just trying to do whatever I can that when I do the get the opportunity, if I get the opportunity, I’m prepared as possible and when you’re in this position, that’s all you can do. You can just work as hard as you can, and hope the dominoes fall that allow you to have another shot at an opportunity.

PS: As you look back on the past couple Xfinity Series seasons, what moment stands out for you the most?

RYAN: Obviously the Daytona wins; those are so special, especially when you have struggles and adversity like our team had plenty of. We had a lot of bad weeks and a lot of times that we left the track so frustrated, not understanding what we needed to do and could do to find more speed. Obviously when you go down to Daytona and Talladega, that gives you a level playing field and that gives you the opportunity to maybe beat the guys that have your number on the short tracks and mile-and-a-halves, and road courses.

Lesley Ann Miller | LAT Images

The Daytona wins – to see not only what it meant to me and my family, but also the whole team, was such a great feeling across the board, and you could see that across the organization. Obviously, it meant so much to my team, the 16 team, and my crew chief and my guys that all had a hand on that, but also across the organization with the Cup guys. It was a big shot in the arm for everybody. I’ll remember that forever in how much it meant to everyone around me with the celebrations, the victory parties, the team lunches – it was really cool.

PS: What would you have done differently in knowing what you know now as you look back?

RYAN: I think there’s so much that I could’ve done differently. I started racing full-time when I was 19-years-old, so it’s kind of interesting to think back when you’re 25. I think like anyone whose 25 and looks back at their life when they were 19, they would do a couple things different. I think there are things that I could’ve done a little better, probably listen more and talk a little less, and maybe worked a little harder and done a bit better job here and there. I think it would’ve made a difference, but ultimately, everything happens for a reason.

I feel like all the decisions led me to where I am today – good, bad, and different – and whatever is next is going to come as a result of hard work. That’s something that I knew always was that my work ethic was always there, right or wrong. I just want to continue working hard and learn from my mistakes, and build on the things that I did right. That’s all you can do as a person, and I think it’s a really exciting time for me.

Anytime you have a big change in your life, it leads you wondering what’s next. It can be a little scary, but it also can be very exciting if you accept the challenge, and I think that I have the right system around me with mom, dad, and my girlfriend that have gave me a lot of support through it all and excitement for the future.

John Harrelson | NKP

PS: We’ve seen drivers trying different series and cars. Is there anything on the bucket list for you?

RYAN: Yeah, there’s a lot. I think there’s countless things that I’d like to try and hop into. There’s drift cars, and all that. But I think the thing that I’ve always thought about that I think would be very cool for a couple different reasons, is to run the Indy 500 and the Coke 600 in the same day. It’s something that I think is just pretty amazing for a lot different reasons. Obviously, you have two of the biggest races in the world in the same day, and there are guys that have done both of them in the same day which is an amazing 1,100 mile feet.

But obviously, for me, living with Type 1 Diabetes, I feel like that’d be a really cool story to tell in being able to manage diabetes and do one of the difficult doubleheaders you can do in motor racing. I think that’d be a really cool story. Obviously, that’s not a story that I can tell yet as I’m not there, but I think that’d be a bucket list thing to do one way.

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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ASHLEY ASKS…… Stewart Friesen

Three races into the 2019 NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series season, and Stewart Friesen has scored a pair of top-10 finishes. Following a fourth-place finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the Canadian took some time to share his thoughts on Martinsville Speedway, the year to date, and more with POPULAR SPEED.

POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts looking towards Martinsville?

STEWART FRIESEN: Honestly, Martinsville is not my favorite track on my schedule. We’ve had a lot of bad luck there and struggled the last few times we’ve ran there, so hopefully everything we’ve learned we can apply this year and have a better result.

PS: What’s the biggest challenge of Martinsville?

Rusty Jarrett | NKP

STEWART: For me, it’s just patience. For me, with the trucks having the spec engines, there’s limited horsepower so it’s a little bit of a different short track type of racing then I grew up doing with the modified engines and high horsepower. It’s just having patience, and having a good game plan and playing it out.

Trip Bruce, my crew chief, and I have talked about it. There’s probably a couple different ways to play it, so we’re going to watch some video of last year’s races and see how it played out, and make our best decision on a plan and stick to it.

PS: What are your thoughts on your season to date?

STEWART: It’s been good. We struggled at Atlanta a little bit. Daytona is always a bit of a crapshoot, but we were able to get out of there with some points and have a 10th-place run, even with the wreck at the end. We learned a lot at Atlanta, and then we had a great run at Vegas and learned a lot from that, too.

We’ve applied some stuff that we’ve learned from those two mile-and-a-halves to our mile-and-a-half program with our bodies on our Chevys, and hopefully when we go to Texas in two weeks we can apply some of that stuff and really shine there.

PS: You’ve come close to winning your first career victory a couple different times now. What do you feel you and your team need to make that happen now?

STEWART: Just execute a good, full race weekend. Have a good first practice; when you unload off the truck, there’s always things you can do to the race truck to make it better, and we’ve done that – but just haven’t been able to execute a full race. We have a couple of sure wins and we pitted under green flag stops and they got away from us – last year at Kentucky and at the end of the year at Texas. That was just miscues on my end, speeding in the pits and then stalling at Kentucky under a gas-and-go deal.

John Harrelson | NKP

So it’s just having good, clean races. Vegas was good for us. We had some bad luck at the beginning where we had a flat tire and stuff we had to battle through, but that’s what it takes to win a race at any day – having a flawless day. The day that we do that, I will be jumping up and down and telling you about our first win.

PS: Beyond Martinsville, what track are you most looking forward to?

STEWART: I’m really looking forward to Texas. We were fast there both races last year and like I said, our mile-and-a-half program has been good. With the association with GMS (Racing) and their fab shop, and the stuff that we’ve learned and applied from this year already, I’m really looking forward to getting there.

PS: What track do you wish was on the schedule that currently isn’t?

STEWART: That’s a good question. Probably Richmond. I’ve never been there, but watching the races, they put on a really good NASCAR race there. And then I was a really big fan of New Hampshire. That was where I made my first truck series start on pavement three years ago in 2016. I just had a couple good runs there, so I wish that was on the schedule – and the fact that it’s close to home here in upstate New York.

PS: We’ve seen drivers explore running different series and cars. Is there anything on your bucket list to do?

STEWART: I’ve been able to run a bunch of sprint cars, and win some of those races which has been cool. I got to run a non-wing car in California on Thanksgiving, and that was pretty cool. Maybe getting back to the Chili Bowl is kind of a bucket list thing, and maybe having a shot at Xfinity or Cup would be something I’d like to be able to participate in before I hang it up.

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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Creed Scores First Top-10 of the Season At Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS, Nev — After crashing out at Daytona International Speedway, and finishing 12th at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Sheldon Creed headed to Las Vegas Motor Speedway looking for better results.

The day started off a shaky note as on Lap 7, his No. 2 Chevrolet spun through the infield grass, causing the race’s only natural caution, and looking as if his day may be over be it started. However, the 21-year-old would rebound, ending stage two in seventh which allowed him to earn points. The true punctuation on Creed’s day came at the end of Strat 200, where he would finish sixth, capturing his first top-10 of the season.

“I feel like we should’ve done it two weeks ago so,” Creed told POPULAR SPEED. “Just slowly building. We’re getting better. I made a mistake there at the beginning of the race. Spun it. So, we regrouped from that and, happy to be back in the top-10I think we would’ve run fifth, but I think something happened with lug nuts there on the last stop and they took a second. So overall, a good rebound from that spin early. Just ready to keep improving.”

Creed moved to GMS Racing after winning the ARCA Menards Series Championship in 2018. The impressive finish marked a sign of progress for the rookie and his team in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series. It’s a progression the California-native hopes continues throughout the season.

“I think we just gotta keep working together. Our team’s really good, but we just need to keep working together and keep getting better,” Creed said.

After three races, the 21-years-old sits 10th in the standings, 26 points behind first, and only five behind eighth as the series heads into a three-week break. When the trucks do return to action, they will compete at Martinsville Speedway, where Creed will look to improve his lone start at the track which came last October, where he finished 19th.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

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.