By Matt Weaver (HOMESTEAD, Fla.) — Despite all of his early success, defending ARCA Racing Series champion Mason Mitchell admitted that he still has much to learn, following a 16th-place finish in his NASCAR Truck Series debut on Friday night at Homestead Miami Speedway.
Mitchell hopes to go full-time in the Truck Series in 2015 but hasn’t finalized the pieces to make that a reality — at least for his homegrown Mason Mitchell Motorsports operation. In addition to acquiring the funding needed to go full-time, Mitchell also needs experience and seat time, having never turned a lap in a Camping World Truck prior to the first practice session on Thursday afternoon.
After finishing on the lead lap with a relatively unscathed truck, Mitchell left Miami with an optimistic perspective on his NASCAR debut and learning curve.
“It’s so hard to pass here,” Mitchell told Popular Speed after the race. “So the one thing I had to learn was that keeping momentum up is even more important here than it was back in ARCA. I think we had a 10th-to-12th place truck — speed wise — but didn’t have the track position or the experience needed to pass better.
“I feel like I learned a lot and left here able to remove my Miami rookie stripe. I really enjoyed the weekend and hope that it leads us to where we can do even more next season.”
Mitchell says he has a full-time driver signed for his ARCA Series team and is now placing most of his efforts towards extending this Homestead one-off in the Truck Series into something permanent or full-time.
Joe Nemechek Optimistic for 2015 Trucks Operation
While proud of the efforts of his son and team at NEMCO Motorsports this season, driver-owner Joe Nemechek is actually somewhat disappointed by their overall statistics.
Entering Speedweeks and the start of the 2014 season, the 20-year NASCAR veteran actually expected the first-year Truck squad to challenge for wins against the likes of Kyle Busch Motorsports, Brad Keselowski Racing and ThorSports Motorsports, regardless of which driver was behind the wheel.
Combined, the father-son duo finished with an average result of 10.0 with 15 top-10s in 22 events.
With that said, he doesn’t want those unfulfilled expectations to get misread as disappointment in John Hunter either. Despite the lack of victories, the elder Nemechek remains proud of his son and praised him after the race on Friday at Homestead.
“I thought we were going to be better than we were this year,” Nemechek told Popular Speed. “John Hunter has definitely come through. All of his races on the mile or less tracks, he’s been awesome.
“He’s had 10 really good runs and was close to winning a couple of them. I came close to winning one or two of them too and we’ve made some big gains at the end of the year. I’m looking forward to the beginning of next year. ”
Next season will again see Joe and John Hunter split driving duties at least until the younger Nemechek turns 18-years-old on June 11. By this point, Front Row Joe hopes to have found sponsorship to have a second truck to race against his son on special occasions.
“There are five big track races that I have to run next year before he’s eligible,” Joe Nemechek said. “He’ll take over once he’s 18 and he’ll run them all. We’re desperately trying to find more sponsorship dollars and with more dollars comes the opportunity to keep this truck running full-time and maybe get us a second one for me to run on special occasions.”
Spencer Gallagher Improving in Advance of 2015 Full-Season
Spencer Gallagher has made 12 starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series over the past two seasons and believes that he has methodically improved during that time.
With six top-15s in nine starts this season, the results are starting to pour in at the perfect time as Gallagher recently announced that he will race full-time in the Truck Series in 2015, returning to his family grown GMS Racing.
“This was GMS Racing’s first year in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series,” Gallagher said. “This is my first season here with my assembled team here trying to do this and next year is my first full NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season so there have been some challenges.
“But I’ve had people tell me that I’ve really impressed from where I started to where I am now so I always try to take that into my heart when I’m down. It’s really good to have that supportive group around and I’m really looking forward to next year.”