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Trucks

Creed Continues To Improve in Truck Series

LAS VEGAS — Sheldon Creed may be out of the playoffs, but that has not stopped him from contending for wins in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series.

Entering Friday night’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the driver of the No. 2 had four straight finishes of sixth or better. This trend continued during the World of Westgate 200, where Creed once again proved to be a contender all night long and put himself in a constant battle for the lead.

“I mean we’ve been getting better and better. I feel like I’ve finally got my team back this week, so that was nice,” Creed told POPULAR SPEED. “I thought we were going to be pretty good, maybe a little snug, and we were plowing. Like I could hall butt for 10, 15 laps and then I would get so tight. But I don’t know. I had a shot there at the end. I have a lot of fun battling with those guys for the top three. Then I just got too tight there at the end, even trying to keep up. It’s a bummer but it’s something to build off of.”

While he may drive for one of the best teams in the series in GMS Racing, this season has still be a learning process for the 21-year-old rookie.

The good news for Creed? He has himself surrounded by a lot of people to lean on for advice, including two drivers that are current championship favorites.

“I have a ton of speed, just learning how to race better and better every weekend. Just trying to learn from Brett (Moffitt), and from Ross (Chastain), and from all these guys up front. I just want to learn as much as I can. I feel like tonight I did a really good job of passing and just being patient. Just need to keep working on that.”

The California-native will hope to keep to continue the improvement going in the closing stages of the season, but it could prove challenging with as the next two tracks the trucks visit. Creed has yet to run an event at Talladega Superspeedway, he finished outside the top-15 in his two prior starts at Martinsville Speedway.

Despite this, Creed will also look to break into the top-10 in points, as he currently sits 11th in the standings.

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

Eckes Stays Solid In Vegas

LAS VEGAS — Christian Eckes has made a name for himself in the ARCA Menards Series with three wins this season; however, do not let that distract you from how well he has done in his short time in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series.

Entering Friday night, the 18-year-old had three top-10’s and two top-five’s in six starts with Kyle Busch Motorsports, and he continued to impress this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

In his mile and a half debut, Eckes started the day off with his third career pole and ended it with a career-best, third-place finish.

“You know, it’s definitely cool to come run good. Especially in my first true a mile and a half race. So, I had fun,” Eckes told POPULAR SPEED. “Honestly, this is one of the more fun races I’ve ever raced. I was able to move around a decent amount and had a good enough truck to make moves that it was fun. I look forward to the next two. I’ve got two more this year, Martinsville and Homestead. And just looking forward to those with this 51 team and what we pick up in there.”

While his next start it is over a month away, the part-time driver of the No. 51 is already looking forward to his trip to the paperclip along with his final race of the year at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“You know, Martinsville is kind of more of what I’m used to,” Eckes said. “As far as here and moving around and stuff like that because it’s going to be huge for Homestead. So it’s a lot to be learned still. I’ve made a few mistakes out there and I felt like it costs us a shot at getting better track position in 16 was really good there, so I’m not sure if I would have been able to fully hang on, but in the same aspect, if we were there you never know.”

If he is able to continue to perform at his final starts of the year, one will really have to wonder what his future holds given how well he has performed.

However, in the meantime, Eckes will look to capture the ARCA Championship before anything else. In that series, he is currently second in points with three races remaining, including this weekend at Salem 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.

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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.

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News

Kyle Busch notches 201st career win in Martinsville Truck race

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – A week after locking up his 200th NASCAR national series victory at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, Kyle Busch took the first step toward the next century mark.

Holding off challenges from Ross Chastain and runner-up Ben Rhodes, Busch survived a late restart in winning Saturday’s TruNorth Global 250 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway.

The race ended under a last-lap caution, after Reid Wilson’s No. 44 Chevrolet spun in Turn 4 and nosed toward the inside wall. Rhodes was running second when the yellow flag waved, with reigning series champion Brett Moffitt third and Chastain fourth.

The victory was Busch’s second at the .526-mile short track in his own Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota. Busch has won each of his three starts this season and now has 54 victories in Trucks, extending his series record.

“These guys worked really, really hard this weekend,” Busch said of crew chief Rudy Fugle and the No. 51 team. “We unloaded, and I didn’t like where we were at. We made wholesale changes to this thing all weekend long and just tried to keep improving this Cessna Beechcraft Tundra and make it faster. …

“All these guys kept trying to make it turn the center (of the corner) better. At Martinsville, you have to turn the center without getting too loose in or too loose off. … And we had enough tire at the end to hold them all off.”

Busch led 174 of the 250 laps, including the final 66. He passed Chastain for the top spot on Lap 185 and held it the rest of the way through four subsequent cautions before the final restart with three circuits remaining.

“Today we just kind of let the race play out and come to us,” Busch said.

Rhodes had a second-place car but not a race winner — and he knew it.

“It was a good day at Martinsville,” Rhodes conceded. “It was the best finish I’ve had here yet. I was surprised — qualifying 16th. We had a fast Ford F150, but we just needed a little more. We got beat by the best in the business. He knows what he’s doing here.

“It was fun following him and seeing how he was pacing himself. That’s something I’ve struggled with in the past. … Anytime you restart next to that guy, I try to log it in my memory banks so I can just try and get him next time.”

Pole winner Stewart Friesen finished fifth after leading 19 laps, third most behind Busch and Chastain (53). Myatt Snider, Grant Enfinger, Matt Crafton, Johnny Sauter and Bubba Wallace completed the top 10.

French Canadian driver Raphael Lessard finished 14th in his first start in the Truck Series.

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Trucks

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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Trucks

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. 

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Trucks

Rookie Outlook: Gander Outdoors Truck Series

Since 2010, five of the nine drivers that have won the Gander Outdoors Truck Series Rookie of the Year have gone on to secure full-time rides in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

The most recent of which being William Byron, who now drives the famed No. 24 for Hendrick Motorsports.

With that being said, the award clearly introduces fans to drivers that will likely be on the rise in the next couple of years. In 2019, the series will once again have quite the class.

Harrison Burton

The most recognizable name on the list, and arguably the favorite for not only the Rookie of the Years honors, but the championship as well.

The son of Jeff Burton will be making his first full-time effort with Kyle Busch Motorsports after making 15 starts with the team over the last three years. He will be competing in the No. 18, replacing 2018 series runner-up, Noah Gragson.

The expectations will be high for the 18-year-old and, it will be interesting to see if he can carry his previous success in the ARCA Racing Series and NASCAR K&N East Series into a series where he does have experience.

In 15 starts (all coming with KBM), Burton has posted four top-five’s and seven top-10’s, with his best finish of third coming at Iowa and Phoenix last year.

Sheldon Creed

Someone who may be overlooked heading into Daytona, but it may not stay that way for long.

Creed has proven himself a capable competitor in the past, winning four races in the ARCA Series a year ago in route to a championship. The 21-year-old will align himself with GMS Racing and will drive the No. 2 Chevrolet.

Like Burton, he has had opportunities in the series before, making seven starts with a top-five and two top-10’s to show for it.

Gus Dean

Another ARCA winner makes the move up, as Dean joins Young’s Motorsports to drive the No. 12 Chevrolet.

Unlike Burton and Creed though, he has zero starts in a truck; so this year may serve as a learning curve for the 24-year-old.

Tyler Ankrum

After winning four races and a championship in the K&N East Series, Ankrum looks to continue his winning ways as he continues to climb the NASCAR ladder driving the No. 17 Toyota for DGR-Crosley.

The 17-year-old will have his work cut for him early though, as his season will not start until March 23rd at Martinsville Speedway, after which he will be 18 and face no age restrictions. In the process, Ankrum will miss three races, which was enough to keep Todd Gilliland from winning the Rookie of the Year last year.

Part-Timers

Ankrum won’t be the only rookie getting a ride from DGR this season as both Natalie Decker and Anthony Alfredo will share the No. 54 Toyota.

Decker made headlines last year in ARCA, where she was able to win the pole at Daytona International Speedway and score nine top-10’s throughout the season.

Alfredo comes from a season in the K&N East Series where he won one race and finished fifth in the points standings.

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

Gander Outdoors Naming Rights of Truck Series to Begin in 2019

Series to be Rebranded NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 8, 2018) – NASCAR® and Camping World have expanded their agreement to provide Gander Outdoors naming rights to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Beginning in 2019, the national series will be rebranded as the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series.

Camping World originally became title sponsor of the Truck Series in 2009. In 2014, NASCAR and Camping World signed a landmark seven-year agreement, continuing the partnership through 2022. This newly expanded agreement provides official NASCAR status and naming rights to Camping World’s partner brand, Gander Outdoors. The remaining years on the deal are still intact.

“Gander Outdoors’ customer base has an affinity to the outdoor lifestyle and will transition seamlessly as the title sponsor of our national series in 2019,” said Steve Phelps, NASCAR Chief Operating Officer. “The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has a consistent and dedicated fan base that will embrace the Gander Outdoors brand. This expanded agreement demonstrates our partners’ confidence in the on-track product and the power of our brand loyal fan base.”

Gander Outdoors, formerly known as Gander Mountain, was purchased and rebranded by Marcus Lemonis, Chairman of Camping World, in May 2017. Earlier this year, Gander Outdoors announced its title sponsorship of two races at Pocono Raceway; the Gander Outdoors 150 (NASCAR Camping World Truck Series) on July 28 and the Gander Outdoors 400 (Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series) on July 29.

“Nearly a decade ago we felt strongly our entitlement sponsorship would dramatically increase Camping World’s customer base and it’s delivered,” said Marcus Lemonis, Chairman of Camping World. “We expect the passionate fans of NASCAR will embrace Gander Outdoors the same way they supported Camping World and we couldn’t be more excited about the future of the series.”

Additionally, as part of the newly expanded agreement, Camping World partner brands Overton’s and The House Outdoor Gear will also receive official NASCAR status. The newly signed agreement includes rights to activate across all retail locations nationwide.