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Playoff Picture – Camping World Truck Series

When the checkered flag flies at the end of Thursday’s Camping World Truck Series UNOH 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway, it will mark the beginning of the playoffs. However, the regular season isn’t over yet, with a lot of drivers still having a lot to fight for.

Johnny Sauter

Sauter currently owns a 56-point advantage over Noah Gragson, meaning he is your 2018 regular season champion. That will translate into an additional 15 playoff points, boasting another department where the veteran already leads.

Nonetheless, a victory, or at the very least a stage win would be still significant for the No. 23 team as it would give them even more of an edge.

Noah Gragson

As noted above, Gragson cannot take the points lead from Sauter. So with one championship out of the picture, and only one win and 12 playoff points,increasing those numbers would help his chances at a different title.

Brett Moffitt 

Hot off a win, a repeat performance could allow him to enter the playoffs with the most playoff points. Other than that, Moffitt sits pretty heading into this week.

Justin Haley, Ben Rhodes

Haley and Rhodes are both locked in virtue of wins and have nothing to lose. For the two young drivers, Thursday should be all about winning stages and the race.

Grant Enfinger, Stewart Friesen

Both own a significant points advantage over Matt Crafton and zero wins. While Friesen (+39 over Crafton) doesn’t hold quite the safety net Enfinger does (+53), it would still take a lot to put him in any danger of missing the post-season. Their biggest concern should be getting their first win of 2018. 

Matt Crafton

Out of the top-eight drivers, Crafton is in the most danger. Fortunately for the two-time champion, no one outside the cutoff can pass him in points. The only thing that would kick him out would be a new winner (excluding Friesen and Enfinger).

Also worth noting, the 42-year-old has never won a race at Bristol.

Spoilers

So, who could knock out Crafton? The obvious would be Todd Gilliland.

While Gilliland has yet to be victorious, he drives for one of the best teams in the sport, Kyle Busch Motorsports. His team has also been heading in the right direction, with four finishes of seventh or better in the last six races.

His last visit to the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile” also resulted in a K&N Pro Series East win earlier this year.

Other possibilities?

A look into Bristol history shows that last first-time winner came in 2016 when Ben Kennedy won with GMS Racing, a team that has been one of the best this season. An organization that also has two drivers, Cody Coughlin and Dalton Sargeant, looking for their first wins.

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.

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Trucks

ASHLEY ASKS…… Dalton Sargeant

With a pair of top-10’s so far, Dalton Sargeant enters the Alpha Energy Solutions 250 at Martinsville Speedway hopeful to break into the top-five. But before taking to the track, the GMS Racing shared his thoughts for POPULAR SPEED.

POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts going into Martinsville this weekend?

DALTON SARGEANT: I’m really excited going into Martinsville. I grew up short track in late models. I’m really excited about it. I think we’re going to have a really strong Performance Plus Oil Chevy this weekend. When you look at GMS Racing and Martinsville, they have such a strong background – Johnny Sauter winning, as well as Chase Elliott winning last year. I’m really excited and looking forward to it.

PS: What’s the biggest challenge of Martinsville?

DALTON: I would probably say how close quarters the racing is. You have to be really smart to keep your truck in one piece throughout the entire race, and obviously there’s going to be a mix-up between the built and spec motors which will have some controversy I’m sure. But we’re just going to try and focus on our truck, and make it as fast as possible to challenge for the win.

PS: How would you characterize your season so far?

DALTON: Our season has been a mix of ups and downs. At some points, we’ve had highs but also some lows. My biggest takeaway from the season so far is we’ve had some lowpoints but rebounded back from them. We wrecked at Daytona, but came back at Atlanta and had a good run there. I feel like our team is being smart, and making the best out of each situation. But at the same time, we need to be a little bit better. Hopefully we can turn our luck around at Martinsville, get out front and chase down the checkered.

PS: Being your rookie campaign, what are your goals for this year?

DALTON: I’d say my biggest goal is to go out and win a couple races, and make the championship four at Homestead. As a team and organization, that’s the goal that everyone is trying to strive for and achieving.

PS: As a rookie, what’s it like having the crop of teammates at GMS to be able to lean on?

DALTON: It’s definitely really helpful. I’d say Johnny Sauter is probably been the biggest help, but he is one of the main veterans in the series. He has so much knowledge and experience. It’s something special to be able to work with him. At the same time, I feel he’s very open and willing to help younger guys like myself run well in the Truck Series.

PS: What track are you most excited to get to in the weeks to come?

DALTON: Well, we have quite a bit of a break after Martinsville, so I’m just focused on getting on track this weekend. But I’m also looking forward to Dover in a couple of weeks. It looks like a pretty cool place. I’ve never been able to race there before, so I’m looking forward to that quite a bit as well.

PS: Who is your racing hero?

DALTON: That’s a tough one. There’s a couple different guys that I look up to. Tim Richmond for kind of his character and the things that he did not only on the track, but off the track. But current day-wise, I’d have to say Jimmie Johnson just because of how smart he is and where he has come from, and how far he’s gotten. He’s always an inspiration and a guy to look to. You can’t overlook a guy that has seven championships; you have to look at what he’s doing and see what it is to be so successful. I think he’s a guy that a lot of people look up to.

PS: Having some fun now – favourite food?

DALTON: I guess I would have to say probably pizza. I lived overseas for awhile so I’m big on Italian food.

PS: What’s your favorite topping to go on that pizza?

DALTON: That’s a tough one. It all depends on the mood. Sometimes I would have to say a Hawaiian pizza, but you can never go wrong with a plain cheese as well.

PS: Least favorite food?

DALTON: I would have to say vegetables. Definitely not a fan of spinach, broccoli, anything too healthy like that. There is some stuff that I like – I do like a lot of fruits, but definitely shy away from some of the stranger vegetables.

PS: What is your favorite TV show?

DALTON: There’s so many. I guess I would have to say – I’ve been binge watching Atlanta lately.

PS: You’ve ran your fair share of late model events. If you won the Rattler 250, would you make friends with the snake?

DALTON: That’s a tough one. Growing up in South Florida, there’s quite a bit of snakes and they’re always something that I shy away from. So I’d have to say I’d be pretty scared there.

PS: If you were stuck on an island, what are three things you must have?

DALTON: Water, fire, and shade.

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

Haley, Sargeant and Gragson Announce Truck Series Plans

Although the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series silly season has been quiet thus far, it seems business is starting to pick up as the opening event of 2018 looms at Daytona International Speedway. Three more drivers confirmed their plans over the weekend, setting up for a strong field when the first green flag flies.

Haley Returns to GMS Racing

GMS Racing confirmed on Monday that Justin Haley will drive the No. 24 Chevrolet Silverado once again in 2018. He will have primary sponsorship from Fraternal Order of Eagles.

“We found a lot of success toward the end of the 2017 season, so there’s a good amount of momentum that we can carry over into this year,” said Haley. “The No. 24 team is working hard in the off-season to take us to that next level, to be able to keep running up front and improving week to week. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be competing for a championship when we get to Miami, and I couldn’t be more excited to be heading in that direction with GMS and the Fraternal Order of Eagles.”

The 18-year-old was strong last season, scoring three top-fives and 12 top-10’s in 21 races, while capturing his first career pole at Texas Motor Speedway. He will once again have Kevin Bellicourt calling the shots on the pit box.

“It’s been really encouraging to see the work that not only this team has done, but that Justin has put in over the off-season,” said Bellicourt. “From working in the gym to time on the simulator, he’s focused on getting himself prepared to make a run for the title. The team has put everything we’ve got behind him and we’ve watched him do the same. It feels like all the pieces are coming together at the right time.”

Sargeant Joins GMS Racing

Matthew T. Thacker NKP

GMS Racing will also expand their organization in 2018, as they signed Dalton Sargeant to drive the No. 25 Chevrolet Silverado. 

The 19-year-old has shown speed the past couple of years in both the ARCA Racing Series and NASCAR K&N Pro Series. Over the past two years, he has scored four ARCA wins and scored a runner-up in the 2017 year-end standings. He has also made 18 K&N Pro Series starts in both the East and West combined, scoring a win and 10 top-five finishes. Sargeant was part of the 2015 NASCAR Next Class. 

“I’m really excited to be joining a championship-caliber team in GMS Racing for the 2018 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season,” said Sargeant. “Mike Beam and everyone at GMS Racing has put so much effort into this No. 25 team during the off-season and I can’t thank them enough for this opportunity. GMS Racing has put together an all-star team of people and equipment, plus had faith in me to drive and compete for wins. I’m looking forward to what we can accomplish in 2018. It’s always been a dream and a goal to compete at this level in NASCAR. I left a career and a life in Europe to compete against the best in NASCAR and today is that day. We have a full slate of things coming up as a team and I know we’re all really looking forward to getting on the track and beginning the season.”

He will enter this season with four truck series starts under his belt, including a pair of top-10 finishes. 

GMS Racing also announced that Doug Randolph joins the organization and will call the shots for Sargeant in 2018.

“I can’t thank Mike Beam and GMS Racing enough for the opportunity to lead this race team in 2018,” said Doug Randolph. “I met Mike on my first job in racing as a mechanic for Junior Johnson’s team in 1982. We’ve worked together many times throughout our careers and have stayed friends along the way. He and Maury Gallagher have certainly given us all the resources we need to win races and championships. I’ve watched Dalton progress in his career for a while now. He’s been impressive and won in everything he’s driven, against tough competition for years. I’ve taken a lot of pride into developing drivers over the years, and the opportunity to work with Dalton at a race team like GMS Racing is something that I’m excited to be a part of.”

Gragson Returns to KBM

John K Harrelson NKP

After a successful rookie campaign in the Truck Series, Noah Gragson will once again drive the No. 18 Tundra in 2018 for Kyle Busch Motorsports, featuring sponsorship from Safelite AutoGlass. 

“This year is already off to a great start knowing that I’ll be back at Kyle Busch Motorsports to compete for a Truck Series championship in 2018 with Safelite as the primary sponsor on my No. 18 Tundra,” Gragson said. “Having Kyle as a mentor and the technology that Toyota and TRD have in place for young drivers allowed me to learn a lot in my first full-time season in trucks, and I know that I’m better prepared to start 2018 off strong. I was able to get my first taste of victory late last year and it was special. This year I plan on climbing more fences and celebrating more wins with everyone at Safelite.”

Last year, the Las Vegas native placed 10th in the year-end standings with 13 top-10 finishes, highlighted by his first career series victory at Martinsville Speedway. 

“Noah showed continuous improvement in 2017 winning a couple of poles in the first half of the season, and in the second half of the season putting whole races together,” team owner Kyle Busch said. “He was able to showcase his potential late in the year winning in the Super Late Model at Winchester and followed that up with a Truck Series victory at Martinsville a few weeks later. His progress was similar to Christopher’s (Bell) at the end of 2016, and we’re confident now that Noah has a year of experience in the trucks under his belt, he will be able to win more races and compete for a championship this year. Harrison also made great strides during his six-race schedule in 2017 and we look forward to being a part of his continued development as he returns for an expanded part-time schedule at KBM in 2018.”

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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Dalton Sargeant Joins Venturini Motorsports for 2016 ARCA Season

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Dalton Sargeant and Billy Venturini expect to smack around the competition this season in the ARCA Racing Series.

Sargeant announced on Thursday at Daytona International Speedway that he will compete in 15 ARCA events this season with Venturini Motorsports with support from Toyota Racing Development and Microsoft Windows.

His campaign starts at The Salem Speedway next month and includes most of the events he’s eligible for while still 17 years old.

Venturini will serve as the crew chief on the No. 55 entry when Sargeant is behind the wheel, and the driver expects to their pairing to produce immediate dividends at the track.

“Billy has given me some high expectations this season,” Sargeant said. “Billy told me that the worst this Salem car has finished was second, so that’s gives me a ton of confidence for the year ahead.”

Sargeant will also drive his Toyota Camry at Talladega, Toledo, New Jersey Motorsports Park, both Pocono dates, Michigan, Winchester, Iowa, Lucas Oil Raceway, Berlin, Salem, Chicago, Kentucky and the ARCA finale at Kansas.

For his part, the always brash Venturini made no secret of his own personal goals for his tenure alongside Sargeant.

“As far as I’m concerned, they’re going to have to worry about beating us because the way I see it, I’m the best guy out here.

“We’re going to smash their asses this year.”

Venturini knows he’s providing the rest of the ARCA garage bulletin board material, but he wasn’t going to take it back because he knows he’s got a prized talent in Sargeant, a former European open-wheel prospect, who finished second in his first Snowball Derby attempt back in 2014.

“I think he has a lot of potential,” Venturini said. “He was my K&N Pro East championship pick last year so I’m surprised they didn’t have more success. I think he’s really good and I know we’re going to do a lot of good things together.”

He competed full-time in the K&N Pro Series East last season for HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks, where he finished fourth in the standings with nine top 10s in 14 starts. Sargeant also made four Camping World Truck Series starts for Wauters Motorsports, where he posted a single top 10 at New Hampshire in September.

Sargeant says he wants to make a handful of Truck Series starts in 2016 but noted that nothing has yet been finalized.

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EMAIL MATT AT matt.weaver@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattWeaverSBN

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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Getting to Know: Dalton Sargeant

Each week during the NASCAR offseason POPULAR SPEED will post a “Getting to Know” driver profile, featuring some of the younger talent coming through the racing ranks. We continue our series this week with Dalton Sargeant, who ran the full K&N Pro Series East schedule in 2015 in addition to making four Camping World Truck Series starts.

Birth Name: Daniel Sargeant        

Nickname: Dalton Sargeant

Hometown: Boca Raton, FL         

First thing I do when I wake up is: Most everyday I’m going to school or traveling, I don’t usually have any time to do anything except to rush out the door. I guess that makes me a morning person, but not by design … so I’d say just start immediately getting ready for the day

Favorite sports team: Florida State. Great sports teams, great college, great town and atmosphere

Biggest accomplishment: Making the decision to leave everything I was accustomed to with racing in Europe and move back to the States and start racing on the historic short tracks of North Carolina. It was a huge leap and a huge decision that changed my life forever, but I’m really glad I made that decision

My most memorable race was: I always refer back to finishing second in my first Snowball Derby in 2014. It was at a time where I was just finishing up my first year of stock cars and at times had struggled with the learning curve. It was a really special moment that I was fortunate enough to spend with my family

The food I eat the most is: Steak and ice cream, maybe not necessarily together but easily the two things I love the most (possibly in life 🙂 )

How I describe myself in three words: Determined … Fun … Competitive

My racing mentor: To be honest, I’ve had so many great mentors in racing from on the track to off the track. To single out just one would be wrong, there’s been so many different and radical changes throughout my career and a lot of really smart people involved at different stages that made me who I am today

Playing on my iPod right now: 2 Chainz and G-Eazy. What can I say, I go through stages and currently into a rap/hip-hop stage

Favorite racetrack: Phoenix. I really enjoyed it –  a really fast mile track that if your car is a little off you can adjust your line and make it better and find speed

If I could guest star on a TV show it would be:  Unfortunately I don’t have much time for shows. School, racing, friends and the great backwoods of south Florida keep me really busy.

When I’m not racing I’m: Usually in school or I’m enjoying some kind of outdoor activity. I really enjoy off-roading, trying to get stuck in the mud, camping and love challenging myself, getting better with target shooting

In 2016 I will: Win races … that’s the one and only thing that I didn’t accomplish in 2015. I felt like we were consistently at the front of the field everywhere we went and in several different disciplines but didn’t close the deal. In 2016, I want to be able to close and win races

EMAIL KELLY AT kelly.crandall@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @KellyCrandall

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

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K&N: William Byron Dominates Greenville for First Victory

GREENVILLE, S.C. — A host of NASCAR K&N Pro Series East drivers have burst onto the scene via Greenville Pickens Speedway Victory Lane.

Add William Byron to that list.

Joey Logano, Austin Dillon and Darrell Wallace Jr. headline a who’s who of drivers that have captured their first series checkered flag at the historic South Carolina oval in the last 10 years. Byron, a 17-year-old from Charlotte, North Carolina, became the seventh member of that group as the victor of Saturday night’s Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 150.

It was a dominant performance for Byron behind the wheel of his No. 9 Liberty University Chevrolet. From his starting position on the outside of the front row, he outmaneuvered Coors Light Pole Award winner Daniel Hemric on the race’s initial start and led the entire event in just his second series start.

“I did expect a dive bomb,” Byron said of Sargeant and Gray Gaulding behind him. “I just kind of gassed it in the center of the corner to give a gap to myself. But I overshot the corner a little bit and had to use more brake — whatever I had to do to keep it on the bottom.

“That was the key to winning the race.”

Gray Gaulding crossed the line second while Dalton Sargeant, Austin Hill and Hemric rounded out the top five. Gaulding made contact with Sargeant on the final lap in Turns 3 and 4 to earn the runner-up spot and said he just didn’t have enough for the No. 9 Chevrolet.

“I peeked the nose under (Byron) in Turn 1,” Gaulding said of the restart. “But he was just better. Man, that was the biggest thing — that he could just drive off the corner. I gave him a little tap but once he got on the gas, he was gone.”

Weaver: The 2015 NASCAR K&N East Driver Roster Represents the Future of Stock Car Racing

The remainder of the top 10 finishers in the second race of the year included Kaz Grala, Nick Drake, Ronnie Bassett Jr., Rico Abreu and Peyton Sellers.

With Byron’s victory, the 14 all-time K&N Pro Series East races at GPS have produced 13 different winners. He joined Brett Moffitt (2011) as the only two of those 13 to lead wire-to-wire.

The Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 150 will be telecast by NBCSN on Tuesday, April 7 at 6:30 p.m. ET. The K&N Pro Series East will return to action on Saturday, April 18 with the PittLite 125 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The complete results can be found below.

  1. William Byron
  2. Gray Gaulding
  3. Dalton Sargeant
  4. Austin Hill
  5. Daniel Hemric
  6. Kaz Grala
  7. Nick Drake
  8. Ronnie Bassett, Jr.
  9. Rico Abreu
  10. Peyton Sellers
  11. Jeremy Burns
  12. Kyle Benjamin
  13. David Garbo, Jr.
  14. Kenzie Ruston
  15. Collin Cabre
  16. Dillon Bassett
  17. John Holleman
  18. J.J. Haley
  19. Devon Amos
  20. Jay Beasley
  21. Christian Celaya
  22. Travis Miller
  23. J.P. Morgan
  24. Mike Senica
  25. Scott Heckert

Popular Speed Executive Editor Matt Weaver contributed to this story.