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Trucks

Natalie Decker Learning, Gaining Experience in Trucks

JOLIET, Ill. – A lot of eyes are on the career of Natalie Decker, who is running her first part-time schedule in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series in 2019.

Through 10 races, she has four finishes inside the top-20, with a best of 13th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. When asked her thoughts about the season, Decker says she’s “learned a lot”, and gave a lot of praise to her team, DGR-Crosley Racing.

“I love the team that I’m with. I couldn’t have picked a better team,” Decker told POPULAR SPEED. “DGR-Crosley, they’re so amazing, and having David Gilliland as the owner and just being able to lean on him and ask him a lot of questions whenever you want, that’s just a wonderful tool to have.”

While it is her first year running multiple truck races, Decker is not inexperienced though, having competed in multiple racing series. Her 2019 schedule has included races in the ARCA Menards Series and NASCAR K&N Pro East Series, in addition to making a start in the Trans-Am Series.

While knowing what to expect with ARCA being that she ran the full schedule in 2018, it made the transition to K&N easy due to being very similar. However, Trans-Am has been a different experience for her.

“That’s really fun because it’s road racing and it’s really new to me,” Decker said. “Then it’s also going to help if we ever go road racing in the truck or whatever. It’s a good experience just to always be in a race car every weekend.”

With that experience, she has developed skills, including the ability to manage a vehicle throughout lengthy portions of a race, something she believes she’s been able to carry into the truck series.

“We’re better on the long run in a race and, I feel like that’s a big strength to have no matter what you’re racing. That’s something that I’ve always really been good at so it’s good to bring it back over into the trucks. And we have every series that I’ve been in, that’s just probably one of my best strengths.”

Decker did admit though that there are areas that need to be worked on, which includes being better at the beginning of the race weekends.

“What we really need to improve on this season is when we unload for practice, especially all these new tracks we go to, is just learning faster and getting up to speed faster,” Decker said. “That will just help in the long run and that will help instead of learning it all and getting up to speed in the race, just doing it right away in practice.”

As she looks towards the rest of the season, Decker is keeping her goals within reach.

“My goal is definitely getting top-15’s,” Decker said. “That’s a big goal of mine. And then just carrying that through the rest of the season.”

Decker managed to accomplish that goal at Chicagoland Speedway on Friday night after she finished the Camping World 200 in 14th. With nine races left on her schedule, she will compete again in the No. 54 Toyota on July 11th at Kentucky Speedway.

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.

Categories
Trucks

ASHLEY ASKS…… Timothy Peters

The NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series is only two races into the season, but so far, Timothy Peters is off to a solid start with a pair of top-10 finishes. The veteran recently shared his thoughts with POPULAR SPEED entering this weekend’s Stratosphere 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts going into Las Vegas Motor Speedway?

TIMOTHY PETERS: I really like racing at Las Vegas. So you know, six years ago we were able to win that race. It always gives you confidence to go to a place that you’ve had success at in the past, and with how our season has started off with finishing seventh and 10th with a new team, a lot of momentum all around. So we just got to keep pushing and continuing and hopefully this momentum will follow and we can improve our spot within the top-10 this weekend.

PS: What is the biggest challenge of Las Vegas Motor Speedway?

TIMOTHY: It’s not really a challenge; it’s just unique. Because it’s in the desert, it’s sandy when we get there and we’re the first ones to get on the race track. So it’s not as clean, but by the time we get to qualify, it’s really clean. So it’s a high groove race track, a lot of different parts of the track are fast, and a little fast. It’s just the characteristics of the track and knowing as a driver how to come in and accept the challenge the track gives you and work on the balance of the truck.

PS: What are your thoughts on the first two races of the season to date?

TIMOTHY: It’s exciting. Everybody is working hard – the guys, Chevrolet; the alliance with GMS fabrication is really cool. As a racer, you want to improve on those starts, and you have to hand it to those guys for taking a chance in owning a team. It’s showing now what it’s capable of with Ross running well, us running well. We’re just needing to capitalize a little more and we’ll get better. We’re collecting a lot of data and when you’re doing that, that’s good as it makes you faster.

PS: Looking ahead, what are your goals and expectations for the rest of the year?

John Harrelson | NKP

TIMOTHY: Right now, I’m hoping for more races for myself as we’re coming up on the last race that we agreed upon to do. The key is to finish these races, but you want to have a respectable finish. We’ve done that, we’ve executed. We’ve collected a lot of data out of the races.

We stayed out of trouble at Daytona – even then we still got collected in a crash, but came back for a top-10 finish. Obviously luck had a lot to do with that, but it’s still a top-10. At Atlanta, we ran around the 10th position all race long and then at the end, we found ourselves in 14th. Then we had a restart and were able to gain four spots with six laps to go.

When you show up and do well at places you can control your own destiny, like Atlanta and Las Vegas, you can get the results that you know you can get.

PS: What track on your schedule for 2019 are you most looking forward to?

TIMOTHY: All of them. As a racer, that’s what you want to do. To be honest with you, you always want to win at your home track and my track is Martinsville. That’s where we hope that we get to go, but we’re thankful for the races that we have.

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

TIMOTHY: I’m a short track guy so I’d like to see some more short tracks put on. So if you could somehow work on that…. It just isn’t one in particular; I like them all.

PS: What is one change that you would make to improve the sport of NASCAR?

TIMOTHY: It’s a loaded question. I’m just going to say that we’re good with what we’ve got. I’m not sure if much of my input would help. I’m just thankful to participate in it.

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

TIMOTHY: No, not really. For me, the racing doesn’t get much better than what we do. We get to drive race trucks. That’s a dream of mine to always compete in the top level of NASCAR.  I have a beautiful family and it doesn’t get much better than that – spending time with family and getting to race fast trucks.

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.

Categories
XFINITY

OBSERVATIONS: Xfinity Series-Gander Outdoor Truck Series Double Header

Atlanta Motor Speedway is one of the best tracks for any of NASCAR’s three divisions to race at, and they doubled the fans pleasure on Saturday with back-to-back events.

While known for it’s three-wide, across the whole surface racing, both the NASCAR Xfinity Series Rinnai 250 and NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series Ultimate Tailgating 200 were dominated by a single driver. However, it was not simple for either to reach victory lane, though.

Christopher Bell was quick from the drop of the green flag in the Rinnai 250, taking the lead early and not ready to look back. Though after dominating the first two stages, a hang-up with the right rear on pit road under green would cause him to lose valuable track position. It didn’t deter the sophomore driver, as he quickly rallied and made the pass three-wide to ultimately put himself back on top. A quick restart at the end, and he took the Toyota Supera to victory lane for the first time.

It’s no secret the level of talent that Bell has behind the wheel, as many believe it’s just a matter of time before we see him in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Actually, it’s really about waiting for a seat to open up for him. Though after leading the Xfinity series in victories last year, he failed to win the championship. Given his chase for perfection, that’s certainly fueling him to perform this year.

His determination, though, can sometimes shine a negative light. While you’re expecting a driver to purely happy in victory lane, Bell is the type to look at what he did wrong right in that moment. At the Chili Bowl after winning on preliminary night, he critiqued his restarts; on Saturday, he spoke of how he wasn’t able to run the bottom line like he should have. Although some may be confused by hearing these types of comments on a celebratory moment, it showcases the desire, and how badly he wants to make it to the top – a fire that honestly could be something of admiration.

Kyle Busch dominated the Ultimate Tailgating 200, but wasn’t able to just hang in the top-five and have fun all day long. A vibration brought forth an unscheduled pit stop, sending him back to 24th in the running order. Busch did not waste time making his way back to the front, returning to the lead before the stage’s conclusion. He then held off Johnny Sauter‘s charge on a late-race restart to take the victory, a record 52nd in the series.

Although criticized by many for his attitude at times, there is denying Busch’s talent, or the fact that he will be in the NASCAR Hall of Fame one day.

Sauter, meanwhile, may feel the wrath of fans given his comments post-race in how he was trying to wreck Busch on the ensuing final restart.

“Honestly, I was kind of trying to wreck him,” Sauter said. “I just couldn’t get there. I was locked on to him and I was hoping he would spin out but he did a great job of blocking.” 

Sauter is known for his no brash attitude, and it’s certainly created a divide in the stands. Given the fact he was almost without a ride for this season, you have to wonder if comments like these are really necessary. Thank you for the honesty, though. 

The double header proved successful for Atlanta Motor Speedway as both races were great to watch from the seats.

Although at times it seemed the Xfinity Series was spread out in parts, there was always a battle somewhere to watch throughout the field, with multiple cars mixing it up at a time. Whether you chose to run the high lane, the middle, or conserve your tires with the low line, you never totally felt bored. The joy of worn out tracks with multiple grooves.

The Gander Outdoor Truck Series is known for their jaw-dropping intermediate action, with the runs that they’re able to get on each other with the current aero package. Saturday was no exception, with drivers battling throughout the whole night as evidenced by a three-wide battle for the lead at one point, along with Busch and Sauter swapping back and forth through the middle of the race.

If there’s any negative to say about the track, you could say that restarts can be torture if you start in the outside lane. No matter who seems to start second, they spin the tires and lose track position to those on the inside. Harrison Burton felt that in the truck race, going from second to seventh on the final restart. But Atlanta isn’t the only track with this problem, and if that’s the only downfall, then we can live with that. Once again, please don’t repave this track.

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.

Categories
News

Kyle Busch collects record 52nd Truck Series win with Atlanta victory

HAMPTON, Ga. – As darkness enveloped Atlanta Motor Speedway, and rain pelted the windshield of his No. 51 Toyota, Kyle Busch patiently waited for word he had sole possession of the all-time victory lead in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series.

The record-setting win wouldn’t be quite that easy. After the red flag for rain, NASCAR restarted the race, rather than calling it. Five laps later, after parrying a determined charge from former series champion Johnny Sauter, Busch took the checkered Saturday’s Ultimate Tailgating 200, earning his 52nd victory and breaking a tie for most all-time with NASCAR Hall of Famer Ron Hornaday Jr.

“It means a lot,” Busch said. “It’s a big deal for me and a big deal for this team.”

The win was Busch’s fifth in the Truck Series at Atlanta but the first since 2009. Of his 52 triumphs, 16 came in trucks fielded by Billy Ballew before Busch founded his own Kyle Busch Motorsports team and added 36 races to his total (and counting) as an owner/driver.

With Ballew in attendance at Atlanta, Busch’s Tundra carried the former owner’s name on board.

“I had Billy Ballew on board with us here today,” Busch said after climbing from his truck, with mist putting a wet sheen on Victory Lane. “And Billy’s right over here as well. It took putting Billy Ballew back on my truck to get me a win here, so we might have to make that an annual reoccurrence.

“I slipped getting out (of the truck). It’s a little wet out here, in case y’all didn’t notice.”

Busch, however rued the fact that the race wasn’t called as he sat on pit road under the red flag on Lap 121. His teammate and protégé, Harrison Burton, held the second position at the time, but when the race restarted, Burton had the slippery outside lane to deal with and fell to eighth at the finish.

“I wish we could have ended it (then),” Busch said. “I would have rather had Harrison finish second. I’m not sure how far he fell, but he ran a great race today. It was cool to see the No. 18 right up there as well.”

The victory was Busch’s 195 over all three of NASCAR’s national touring series combined, leaving him just five short of his stated goal of 200. With 92 NASCAR Xfinity victories, Busch also holds the career record in that series.

Sauter got to Busch’s rear bumper right after the final restart on Lap 128 but didn’t feel he could make a winning move.

“I just didn’t think I could get it there,” said Sauter, who returned to ThorSport Racing for the 2019 season. “I’m bummed, because I thought I timed it right, and I was pushing him, and he was doing a good job of blocking, and I just didn’t think I could get there.

“It’s a good start, though. I’m happy with the effort. We just need a little bit more. When I go back and watch the replay, I hope I’m not kicking myself in the butt for not making that move to the top, but honestly, at that point I didn’t feel like I could get it done.”

Grant Enfinger, Sauter’s ThorSport teammate, ran third, followed by reigning series champion Brett Moffitt and Ben Rhodes. Ross Chastain and last week’s Daytona winner, Austin Hill, came home sixth and seventh, respectively.

Categories
Trucks

ASHLEY ASKS…… Spencer Boyd

Moving over to Young’s Motorsports during the off-season, Spencer Boyd was able to kick-off the year with his new team with a fourth-place finish in the NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway.

As the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series get set to tackle Atlanta Motor Speedway, Boyd shared his thoughts with POPULAR SPEED.

PS: What are your thoughts as you look back at Daytona?

SPENCER BOYD: For us, it was a great weekend. All of the guys worked hard putting that truck together, and we showed a lot of speed in qualifying and in the race, my spotter did a great job. We were up front most of the race, stayed out of trouble, and got a solid finish. So we’re excited for a good start to the year, and a good start with Young’s Motorsports.

PS: How much did it mean for you and the team to get off on a good note together?

SPENCER: It’s really important to get a good finish with the first race with Young’s Motorsports and the guys worked really hard. Just getting started, getting good points – things like that. So I was really excited – got some stage points, so that was a big deal as the stage points are something you need to be thinking about at all times. So to collect those on a speedway, we were definitely happy about it.

Rusty Jarrett | NKP

PS: Now as we head to Atlanta, what are your thoughts going into the weekend?

SPENCER: For me, going to Atlanta, I feel like we have a good truck and a good chance. I really just want to go out there and get a good finish in the top-10, and work on our mile-and-a-half program. I think Young’s Motorsports did really well last year with a couple top-fives in the mile-and-a-halves, so if we could go out there and pick up where they left off, that’d be really good, and then just build from there through the rest of the season.

PS: What’s the biggest challenge of Atlanta?

SPENCER: Tire management is everything at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The surface is just a cheese grater. So you want to get out there and get as much out of the truck you can the first few laps to separate yourself from the other guys, and then just manage your tires, hold off your tires. Realize that maybe you can get them go for a couple laps if they’re going to just run off their tires real quick. So just recognizing the race pace, and not steering from that plan.

PS: Looking ahead on the season as a whole, what are your goals and expectations for this year?

SPENCER: For me, my goal is to go out there and run all of the laps and be in the top-10 on a regular basis and make the Chase. Through that, just strategically get more and more aggressive and get up front to battle it out with those guys.

PS: What track are you most looking forward to beyond Atlanta?

SPENCER: I love short track racing. So I’m looking forward to Martinsville. Gateway and Iowa are definitely circled, but Martinsville is definitely a special place. I made my debut there and ran in the top-five that day, so really looking forward to going back.

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

SPENCER: Well, for me, my favorite track in Xfinity last year was Richmond, so I’d love for Richmond to be on the truck schedule. But not sure if we’ll see that anytime soon.

NKP

PS: If you were in charge of NASCAR for one day, what is one change that you would make to improve the sport?

SPENCER: That’s tricky. There’s so many moving parts. For me, I feel like NASCAR made the right decision to go to the Ilmor (Engine) in trucks, and I feel like doing the body change that they did in Xfinity would be good in trucks. Just all those cost management things help the smaller teams, and the bridge the gap from the middle to the front of the pack.

PS: Now, we’ve seen a lot of drivers try a bunch of different series and cars. So what’s out there on the bucket list for you?

SPENCER: I would love to run a Global Rallycross Race. That looks like a lot of fun. You see a lot of drivers from different motorsports do that, so that looks fun. They have a really cool young fan base and I think that’d be cool to tap into.

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.

Categories
XFINITY

ASHLEY ASKS…… Ross Chastain

Competing in all three series last weekend at Daytona International Speedway, Ross Chastain was able to score three top-13 finishes, including a third-place finish in the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series.

Set for triple duty at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the Florida native shared his thoughts entering the weekend with POPULAR SPEED. 

POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts as you look back at Daytona?

ROSS CHASTAIN: It was almost everything that I could ask for. We had three racecars that drove pretty well, honestly. The track was losing more grip so guys were starting to lose the handling, so there were small things that I changed and worked on, but you don’t know that into you get into the race and really draft at full speed.

I feel like I might have used up all of my luck there at Daytona for the next couple of years, because strategy wise, it worked out each race exactly how we needed it too.

Russell Labounty | NKP

PS: Out of the three races, what was your favorite and why?

ROSS: I don’t even know if I could pick. They each had different stuff going on. Don’t think I could pick one.

PS: Did the high-line and ride style of racing seen throughout speedweeks surprise you?

ROSS: It did surprise me. I mean, I wasn’t complaining when we were out front. I was like, ‘Man, this is the way to go.’ But once we were back in traffic, tried to make the bottom work and I’m not sure. I don’t understand why. I don’t know if anybody really does, but once we got to ripping around the top, there was no way the bottom was going to be it. I don’t know if maybe we found something, or if it was a fluke.

PS: Now as we head to Atlanta, what are your thoughts going into the weekend?

ROSS: Dry, think dry thoughts. Think sunny weather. No, I  mean, the truck and XFINITY race, if I can run the doubleheader there on Saturday, I’m looking for good things out of the 45 truck and hope we’ve taken the right steps over the off-season, and the 4 car, it’s just business as usual; just go do our deal. We know what to do and how to do it. I will be working with a new crew chief than I have the last two years, so looking forward to that.

The Cup race with the new package – just first time we’ll truly see what the fruits of NASCAR’s labor are. But really, and fortunately, Atlanta will be the best show for the Cup cars all year. Unfortunately after Atlanta, the teams will start figuring stuff out as they’ll have something real to study instead of just testing and simulation, and they’ll start working on fine-tuning it. So I think we’ll see the best from the Cup Series that we’ll have all year, so that’s promising this weekend.

John Harrelson | NKP

PS: What’s the biggest challenge of Atlanta?

ROSS: The asphalt, for sure. Like everybody talks about, it’s one of the older surfaces and the hot mix that they use there with the seams, you slide a lot with the cars handle. There’s some big swells in 3 and 4; there’s some abrupt in 1 and 2. So the corners are pretty different in my mind, and the car is going to handle a little different at each end and do different things. It takes a really good racecar there.

I mean, (Kevin) Harvick has won everything that you can win there so many times, but he knows what he’s looking for as I’ve watched his practices back and races over the years. It’s just not right; he knows what he’s looking for. That’s just something that comes with time and experience, and that’s what makes people great like he is. It looks great in the race, it looks like he’s lifting at the flagstand, but it’s because he’s got his car driving close to exactly how he wants.

But definitely the asphalt. It’s one of a kind there. These tracks whenever they build them, the hot mixes are different  when they lay the asphalt due to the region of the country that they’re in. Atlanta just works out that it makes good racing.

PS: The off-season was filled with ups and downs for you. Was it easy to keep faith that everything would work out for you to have an opportunity this year?

ROSS: I knew all along there was a bigger plan for me, and it’s got to happen for a reason. I really realized that I wasn’t ready to walk away from all of this. I still feel like we have a lot to prove. So yeah, it was a couple of days to figure out and take in what happened, and just get back on track trying to do everything we could to be in the best position to be back on track and be competitive. NASCAR is a business. I went to work with everything I could control, and it worked out.

Russell Labounty | NKP

PS: With that in mind, what is it like being back home with JD Motorsports?

ROSS: It’s big. Even though I wasn’t racing with them in Daytona, I still spent a ton of time with them and the guys and Johnny (Davis) and Gary Keller. If you didn’t look on-track, you would’ve thought I was racing with them. Looking forward to that this weekend and getting that kicked off and just getting back into our deal, and putting together a string of say 15 really solid races and all of sudden, people are going to be like how are they doing what they’re doing and that’s the best satisfaction I can have.

Even though, I know the cars are good enough and they handle good enough with good speed, a lot of people don’t give them credit. The driver in my situation gets to take a lot of credit, but I try to turn it back around and put it back into the team since I can only do what the car will allow me. It’s not like I’m doing anything different than the other drivers; the 4 just handles that well and is that fast.

PS: Looking ahead on the season as a whole, what are your goals and expectations for this year?

ROSS: I think I’ll end up running the most National Series races again; that’s the plan, but a lot can change. But just be competitive – whatever that means; just get the most out of my racecars. So for Daytona, that was surviving and being there at the end, or getting to Lap 15 and wishing there was a caution because I had burned the left rear off of this thing. Just doing my job, plugging away and learning more about these racecars.

It’s not going to be the glitz and glamour that some of these guys will have, and that’s tough sometimes honestly for me; not the glitz and glamour, but the competition side is tough to watch guys go out and be successful, but I feel like we can be successful given even less great circumstances than someone has. It just means we have to work harder, and we have to put our head down, keep our feet moving, and we’re going to get to where we want to sponsorship-wise, and just the dollar amount raised on everything so the teams can do everything and reach their full potential.

Nigel Kinrade | NKP

PS: What track are you most looking forward to beyond Atlanta?

ROSS: The next one, honestly. I don’t have any that I don’t like; I enjoy all of them, even the ones that I haven’t ran well at in the past. I just work harder than even I thought I could to be better at it.

Just really, the way the NASCAR season goes, it’s such a grind, especially for the 4 car and 15 car. If I go and right side a car, that’s going to be three or four cars until I have it back in our rotation, and usually we’re turning cars around every other week to run. So just getting into that and the pressure that comes with everything. I really enjoy it, and feel like I thrive on it to be honest.

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.

Categories
Trucks

OBSERVATIONS: NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway

A brand new era began in the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series as it marked the first race with the new brand, hence the hashtag #ReadySetGo that has been trending across social media leading up to the event. While you always want things to start off well, you could say it was a “bang-up” opening event.

The trucks always put on some of the craziest restrictor plate racing, and the NextEra Energy Resources 250 was no exception. Throughout the event, from the drop of the initial green flag to the end, there was side-by-side racing as drivers jockeyed for positions, sometimes even three-wide.

Over the course of Daytona Speedweeks, fans have practically begged for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers to stop running single file up against the wall as we saw in both the Advance Auto Parts Clash and the Gander RV Duels.

However, patience was the name of the game as drivers solely wanted to go to the event of the with a car, and  on the case Thursday, save their equipment for Sunday’s DAYTONA 500. There’s no time for that in the trucks as stage points are given out on two different occasions, and the race is only 100 laps total in length. Combined with a lot of youthful drivers eager to prove themselves, riding along doesn’t happen. 

There is a price to pay with what we saw happen on Friday, though, as the truck series only had nine drivers complete the race out of the 32 who took the green flag. The constant battling for position resulted in several wrecks, with 11 cautions taking happening. Oddly enough, more than half of the event was run under the yellow flag (55 laps).

Between the Clash, the ARCA race and now the trucks, there have been 55 cars wrecked. Now do you understand why the Cup Series drivers have been riding along?

The Daytona 500 will probably feature more of the riding that we’ve seen in the past Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series events, just like we saw at Talladega Superspeedway last fall. However, as we close in on the end of stage and the race as a whole, expect the pressure to rise with battles for position happening. When that occurs, though, don’t say we didn’t warn you of what could happen.

While the truck series event was mired with wrecks, you can’t deny being happy for the winner as Austin Hill scored his first career series victory. After working hard to prove himself in lesser equipment the past couple of years, he made the jump to Hattori Racing Enterprises for 2019; this is the team that won the championship in 2018 with Brett Moffitt.

After being excited and welcoming to the opportunity, he’s already proved that he was worthy of the chance with a championship-worthy team. Now locked into the playoffs virtue of the victory, he and Scott Zippidelli can focus on improving their chemistry and keeping the level of performance the same as what Moffitt did last year, hopefully increasing their chances at a run for the title.

There were also other drivers who will leave Daytona with smiles on their faces, like Josh Reaume who scored his first career top-five, and Angela Ruch as she proved that she’s not just another pretty face. Daytona offers a chance for the small fries to shine in a special way. So hopefully the happiness that those two drivers have to offer makes seeing the disappointment on others easier to handle.

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.

Categories
News

Hill earns first career win after overtime finish in Truck season opener at Daytona

It took a crash-filled 111 laps, two overtime restarts and holding off a hard charge from Grant Enfinger on the final lap, but Austin Hill is now a NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series winner.

Hill took victory in the season-opening NextEra Energy Resources 250 on Friday night at Daytona International Speedway in his first race with 2018 championship-winning team Hattori Racing. Leading for 39 laps, Hill used every bit of his No. 16 Toyota to block Enfinger coming to the checkered flag.

“This truck was fast, it really was,” Hill told FS1 in Victory Lane. “I knew we had a truck that could compete. … I can’t believe that my first win came at Daytona. It’s so surreal and I can’t wait to party with these guys.”

Enfinger second-place result is the highest of his Truck Series career at Daytona, while Ross Chastain, Spencer Boyd and Matt Crafton competed the top-five finishers.

The second attempt at NASCAR Overtime was set up after a big crash with three laps to go brought out the 10th caution of the race. ThorSport Racing’s Ben Rhodes held the race lead when he went to block Hill on the backstretch. The moved slowed both trucks, stacking up the field behind them. Gus Dean attempted to pass Rhodes but collided with Sheldon Creed while moving to the outside lane, sending Dean spinning into Rhodes’ back bumper. The incident collected a total of 10 cars, leaving Hill with the race lead.

Timothy Peters and Clay Greenfield collided following the first go at an Overtime finish.

It was an overall battle of attrition in the season-opening event. A crash with 12 laps remaining also took Kyle Busch Motorsports drivers Todd Gilliland and Harrison Burton out of contention after colliding on the backstretch.

In her Truck Series debut, Natalie Decker cut a left-front tire on Lap 2, severing a brake line as her No. 54 DGR Crosley Toyota truck caught fire as she attempted to drive back to her pit stall. Decker was able to escape the fiery scene unharmed with swift assistance from a crew member.

Decker’s teammate and team owner, David Gilliland, also cut a tire on his No. 17 Toyota truck on the same lap as the caution flew for fluid on the track from Decker’s machine. Gilliland was able to continue to finish 13th after starting second.

Later in the race, a number of top favorites were involved in an 11-car crash on Lap 53. The wreck was triggered after Jordan Anderson and Sheldon Creed made contact at the exit of Turn 4, sending Anderson hard into the outside wall.

A host of other drivers had no real estate to evade the incident and collected varying degrees of damage, including pole-sitter Christian Eckes, defending champion Brett Moffitt, Grant Enfinger, Stewart Friesen, Brennan Poole, Johnny Sauter, Austin Wayne Self, Myatt Snider and Dean.

Creed earned 10 points with a Stage 1 victory in his first full-time Truck Series season, while Sauter finished first in Stage 2.

Another scary moment occurred in the Lap 2 caution period involving Billy Rock, jackman on the No. 28 FDNY Racing team of Bryan Dauzat. Rock jumped over the wall to service Dauzat’s damaged truck after crashing in a separate incident, but the truck was unable to stop due to a brake failure and he was struck in the pit stall.

The crewmember was awake and alert during a trip to the infield care center and was transported to nearby Halifax Health Medical Center for further evaluation.

Categories
News

NASCAR Announces Several Competition Updates to Kick Off 2019 Season

National Series Disqualification Procedures,

 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series “Triple Truck Challenge”

Among Several Announcements Ahead of Daytona Speedweeks

 

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (February 4, 2019) – NASCAR today announced several initiatives and procedural updates for the 2019 season, which officially opens this weekend at Daytona International Speedway with an action-pack Sunday double-header — Daytona 500 Busch Pole Award Qualifying (12:10 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) and the Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona (3 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

 

Among the announcements made today was NASCAR’s plan to move its thorough post-race inspection to the race track immediately following each national series race. If a vehicle fails post-race inspection, it will be disqualified, resulting in a last-place finish and the loss of all benefits from the win/finish, as well as any stage points. All other vehicles would move up in the finishing order under this scenario.

 

NASCAR will inspect the first- and second-place vehicles, as well as a random vehicle, after each event. Previously, full post-race inspections took place at the NASCAR Research & Development Center in Concord, N.C.

 

“Our industry understands the need to focus on what happens on the race track,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president of competition and racing development. “We cannot allow inspection and penalties to continue to be a prolonged storyline. Race vehicles are expected to adhere to the rule book from the opening of the garage to the checkered flag.”

 

The disqualification procedure will be implemented for all three NASCAR national series, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, the NASCAR Xfinity Series and the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series.

 

NASCAR also unveiled several other competition and personnel updates for 2019:

 

  • O’Donnell announced that the “Generation 7” car in the Monster Energy Series is scheduled to make its debut for the 2021 season and will be designed to feature new technologies and elements that showcase future production vehicles.

 

“There is a great deal of interest from our current and potential manufacturer partners to make the cars look even more like they do on the street,” O’Donnell said. “This will be an exciting progression in our racing technology that began with the introduction of the 2019 rules package.”

 

  • The NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series will feature the “Triple Truck Challenge” this season, a bonus program that takes place at three consecutive races – Texas (June 7), Iowa (June 15) and Gateway (June 22). All drivers earning series points are eligible and drivers who win one of the three races receive a $50,000 bonus. Winning two races nets a driver $150,000 total ($50,000 per race plus a $50,000 bonus), while winning all three races results in a $500,000 total prize ($50,000 per race win, $50,000 bonus for winning twice, plus a $300,000 bonus for sweeping the Challenge races). Monster Energy Series and Xfinity Series drivers are not eligible to compete in the three races of the program.

 

  • NASCAR has implemented a model of series-specific inspectors. Each national series will have a dedicated team of officials who will specialize in inspections for their respective garages.

 

  • Qualifying procedures across all three national series remain the same for 2019, with the exception that the first round of ‘group qualifying’ for short track and intermediate tracks will shorten to 10 minutes in length (previously 15) and the breaks between sessions will be five minutes long (previously seven).

 

  • The national series driver participation guidelines remain mostly unchanged from 2018. Drivers with more than five years of full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series experience are eligible for a maximum of seven NASCAR Xfinity Series starts and five NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series starts. Drivers who elect to accumulate Monster Energy Series points are not eligible to compete in any Dash 4 Cash or Triple Truck Challenge races, or the final eight races in either the Xfinity Series or the Gander Outdoors Truck Series. In addition, drivers who earn points in the Xfinity Series are ineligible to compete in Triple Truck Challenge races and the Championship race for the Gander Outdoors Truck Series.

 

  • Ben Kennedy has been elevated to managing director of racing operations and international development. He previously served as general manager of the Gander Outdoors Truck Series. His new responsibilities will include initiatives aimed at growing the sport, including managing NASCAR’s growth on the international scene.

 

  • NASCAR introduced the assistant directors for each series – Kip Childress (Monster Energy Series), Seth Kramlich (Xfinity Series) and Jesse Dollevoet (Gander Outdoors Truck Series).

 

The 2019 NASCAR season kicks off with “Speedweeks” at Daytona International Speedway. The 10 days of activity in Florida culminates with the 61st running of the Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 17 at 2:30 p.m. ET (FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

 

About NASCAR

The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc. (NASCAR) is the sanctioning body for the No. 1 form of motorsports in the United States. NASCAR consists of three national series (Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series™, NASCAR Xfinity Series™, and NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series™), three regional series, one local grassroots series, three international series and the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA). The International Motor Sports Association™ (IMSA®) governs the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship™, the premier U.S. sports car series. Based in Daytona Beach, Fla., with offices in eight cities across North America, NASCAR sanctions more than 1,200 races in more than 30 U.S. states, Canada, Mexico and Europe. For more information visit www.NASCAR.com and www.IMSA.com, and follow NASCAR on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Snapchat (‘NASCAR’).

Categories
Trucks

TRACKING THE CHANGES: Gander Outdoor Truck Series Silly Season Part 2

From one season to the next, NASCAR is never short of changes as there are always drivers in new rides entering another year of NASCAR competition. The Truck Series is also seeing a change of their own, with the new identity as it will be known as the Gander Outdoor Truck Series, rather than the Camping World Truck Series. 

Earlier this month, POPULAR SPEED released the first edition of Tracking the Changes for the Truck Series Silly Season, detailing the moves for several different drivers across the grid. Since then, there’s been more announcements made. So let’s review where things stand as of January 28, 2019.

NKP

Although Ross Chastain lost his opportunity in the NASCAR XFINITY Series with Chip Ganassi Racing, he will be behind the wheel in 2019. He will be sharing the Niece Motorsports entry with Reid Wilson, with Phil Gould calling the shots on the pit box.

Chastain became a hot topic for Silly Season after visiting victory lane in NASCAR’s second-tier division for Chip Ganassi Racing, and was initially announced to drive the team’s entry full-time in 2019. However, it was announced  that CGR will be shutting down their team due to a lack of funding. The news came following sponsor DC Solar’s offices were raided by the FBI. 

SEE ALSO: Tracking the Changes – XFINITY Series Edition

Meanwhile, Wilson made three starts in the truck series last season, scoring a best finish of 16th at Martinsville Speedway.

Russel LaBounty | NKP

Young’s Motorsports continues expanding their program, announcing that Tyler Dippel will be driving for them full-time in 2019. He placed second in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East standings last year, on top of making five truck series starts with a season-best 13th at Eldora Speedway.

Recall, that will give Young’s Motorsports three trucks full-time in 2019 as they already announced Spencer Boyd and Gus Dean as part of their team.

NIGEL KINRADE NKP

To nobody’s surprise, Todd Gilliland will return to Kyle Busch Motorsports to chase after the championship. Gilliland had a successful rookie campaign in 2018, scoring four top-five’s and 19 top-10’s. 

Gillliland will have a strong teammate in Harrison Burton, who takes over the No. 18 ride full-time that was driven by Noah Gragson, as Gragson moves up to the XFINITY Series with JR Motorsports. 

Barry Cantrell NKP

JJL Motorsports will continue their venture in the truck series, with Jesse Little set to run up to 15 races depending on sponsorship. The team will have a slightly new look, though, in the form of a new crew chief and new personnel. JR Norris has joined the team as crew chief of the team’s No. 97 Ford F150’s this year. Jamie Smith and Josh Frankos also join the team in a truck chief and Lead Mechanic role and will work side-by-side with Norris.

Little was known as the man with the small team that could after scoring six top-10’s in nine races last year. 

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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