Categories
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

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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

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. 

Categories
XFINITY

Final Four all over John Hunter Nemechek’s Mind

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – As most young drivers are trying to make a name for themselves, John Hunter Nemechek has a familiar last name in the garage area. Being known as Joe Nemechek’s son, the 21-year-old has always dreamt of winning at Daytona International Speedway.

This season, Nemechek will be racing the full season with GMS Racing. Their first battle together is the high banks of Daytona, where he has never run in a NASCAR Xfinity Series car. The North Carolina native’s best finish at Daytona in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series is fourth.

“It’ll be huge to win today at Daytona and there’s a lot of history in my family at Daytona,” Nemechek told POPULAR SPEED. “From my dad winning here back in the day, he has been a really good restrictor plate racer. Just Daytona itself, the atmosphere is huge, the history here is big so it would mean a lot. To kick off the first race with GMS Racing being able to come home with a win would mean a lot.”

His father has won twice in the Xfinity Series at Daytona. Nemechek is hoping to follow his father footsteps in being successful at that historic track.

After running a partial schedule in both the Truck Series and Xfinity Series, Nemechek was able to capture a victory in each series. During the off-season, the North Carolina native was anxious to get the season kicked off with GMS.

“Prepared a lot, a lot of training went in and watching videos. Nemechek said. “I’m just really excited and over the offseason I just got tired of talking about it so I was just ready to get to the race track and see what we can do. We have speed, qualifying didn’t really show it but as far as overall drafting speed I feel like we have it and I’m really looking forward in getting out there and racing later today.”

Taking advice from his victorious father on how to tackle Daytona, Nemechek is confident he has the speed to capture the victory. Furthermore, he is excited to see how the season plays out and prove that his team can compete for a championship.

“I want to be in final four at Homestead and have an opportunity to win the championship, that’s our overall goal.” Nemechek said.

With the big named teams in the garage area, the Xfinity Series is filled with high competition. GMS is looking to turn heads with their new driver behind the wheel. They hired a young driver with experience, but not only that, with a past race winner. 

Nonetheless, the No. 23 car is no stranger to reaching victory. Last season, they won at Talladega Superspeedway with Spencer Gallagher behind the wheel. The victory demonstrated that they do have cars with a great deal of speed.

As the season starts off, look for Nemechek to compete in the front of the field as he tries to add more wins to his name.

EMAIL BRANDON AT: brandon.rivero@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MrBrandonRivero

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

Sauter’s Showcases Short-Track Prowess with Runner-Up at Iowa

Johnny Sauter excelled Friday night at Iowa Speedway, winning Stage 2, finishing second, and collecting more points than any driver in the field.

This performance attested to his short track racing prowess that has defined his season through the first nine races. He hasn’t finished worse than third at the smaller venues on the schedule, including runner-up results at Martinsville and now Iowa. 

He has also placed better than Christopher Bell in each of his runner-up performances. 

With Sauter and Bell leading the way in the driver’s standings in first and second respectively, the championship battle could come down between the two competitors this fall.

While Sauter has outperformed Bell at the smaller tracks, the driver of the No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota has been masterful at the larger venues. 

Both of his victories this season came at 1.5-mile facilities, Atlanta and Texas. Texas is also one of the three mile-and-a-half’s in the playoffs, and its position in the second round means a victory there would advance a title contender to the Championship 4.

Sauter will also benefit from having three smaller tracks in the post-season with New Hampshire, Martinsville, and Phoenix. Last fall, he won at Martinsville and placed second at Phoenix en route to his first career championship.

Talladega will be the one wild card factor in the playoffs as its unpredictability and position as an elimination race will make survival critical to post-season success.

While the GMS Racing drivers’ experience in the series may lend the upper hand in some playoff events, the championship race is hosted at a track that suits Bell, Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Sauter did beat Bell there last November to capture the title, but Kyle Busch Motorsports has shown tremendous improvement at 1.5-mile tracks this season and has won every intermediate race so far in 2017. 

If both drivers continue to show the way in the series, this fall’s championship battle will pit experience against youth and short-track success at odds with mile-and-a-half prowess.

Whichever competitor and team can make up ground at the other’s stronghold over the course of the summer will likely earn an advantage that could decide the title race.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @HeyJasonSchultz

EMAIL JASON AT jason.schultz@popularspeed.com

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

Sauter’s Strength Points Towards Another Title Bid

Johnny Sauter captured his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory of the season Friday afternoon at Dover International Speedway.

It marked his first win since taking back-to-back events at Martinsville and Texas last fall. The pair of victories propelled his championship run by earning him a spot in the finale at Homestead-Miami where he went onto to claim the title.

The defending champion has been the strongest driver in the field through the first six races of 2017. He has only placed outside of the top-three once after being collected in the last-lap crash at Daytona while battling three-wide for the lead.

He scored three consecutive runner-up results heading into Dover. By implementing a different pit strategy in the Bar Harbor 200, he gained one additional spot and picked up the win.

The success the GMS Racing driver has experienced to start this year significantly differs from how his title season began.

After winning and securing a playoff spot at Daytona in 2016, the pressure of getting to Victory Lane to assure an opportunity to compete for the championship was off.

Sauter finished outside of the top-15 in three consecutive races after the season opener before rebounding to finish inside the top-five in the next three events.

The veteran’s performance throughout last summer was average as he collected top-10 finishes while not making too much noise.

He continued to run at this level in the opening round of the playoffs before turning it up for the second round by winning two races and placing second in the penultimate event of the year at Phoenix.

The 39-year-old then entered Homestead-Miami with confidence and ran ahead of the three other championship challengers to claim his first career title.

Now he has similarly begun 2017 to how he finished 2016 – by dominating. His victory at Dover will likely only provide more momentum for additional trips to the winner’s circle.

Playoff points will play a major role in the race to the championship this fall.  Sauter now leads the series with eight heading to Texas where he has three victories, tied for most at any track in his career along with Martinsville.

Another strong performance will again solidify his spot as the top competitor in the series and allow him to maintain his status as an early title favorite.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @HeyJasonSchultz

EMAIL JASON AT jason.schultz@popularspeed.com

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

Sauter Suffers a Block for the Clock

When you think Martinsville Speedway, you think Johnny Sauter. It’s a track the defending series champion circles twice on the schedule every season.

The Wisconsin veteran was prepared and poised to defend his 2016 victory, but part-time teammate Chase Elliott had a different idea.

With 12 laps remaining after a caution in the Alpha Energy Solutions 250, race leader Elliott chose the outside lane as part of the teammate strategy the GMS Racing drivers employed all day. Elliott cleared Sauter on the backstretch, and turned to his mirror for help.

Sauter tried to argue his point with swift nudge to Elliott’s bumper heading unto Turn 3, but the 21-year-old was able to withstand the contact and go on to the checkers.

While Sauter, who finished runner-up, accepted the maneuver, he didn’t exactly concede to it.

“Chase did what he needed to do there with the block,” Sauter told Fox Sports. “When the shoe is on the other foot, I’ll do what I need to do.”

Chase Elliott becomes the first in his family to win the coveted Martinsville clock. His 16-time Most Popular dad, Bill, had a three career best third-place finishes in 45 tries.

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

Categories
Commentary

THREE TAKEAWAYS: Alpha Energy Solutions 250

After nearly a month-long absence, the Camping World Truck Series returned to action at Martinsville Speedway. As expected, there was plenty of hard racing, with Chase Elliott scoring the win.

The GMS Show

GMS Racing dominated the Alpha Energy Solutions 250, with Chase Elliott and Johnny Sauter

leading 161 laps. They each won a stage 1 and 2, settling the win between them. With a block on the late-race restart, No. 23 edging out the No. 21.

After their first championship with Sauter last year, there has been no sign of slowing down. They have won inning two of the three races run, as well as four of the six stages.

Top-Five for Gragson

After being involved in Lap 1 accidents at Daytona and Atlanta, rookie Noah Gragson needed a solid run The Nevada native was strong at Martinsville, battling for the win in route to his first top-five.

The finish didn’t come easy, though, he spun on Lap 100 due to contact with Chase Briscoe. After falling back, the 18-year-old used strategy to be on Elliott’s bumper for second with 50 to go.

While it wasn’t a win, his fourth-place finish will serve as moral boost for his team.

Traffic Jam

While GMS Racing dominated, Kyle Busch Motorsports’ Christopher Bell had the upper hand late in the event.

After pitting late in stage two, Bell stayed out during the break to take over the top spot. The 22-year-old had held off Elliott for 89 laps until he caught the tail end of the field.

Going into turn one, Austin Cindric fought to remain on the lead lap, blocking Bell’s No. 4 Toyota Tundra. The pair made contact, causing Cindric to spin with Bell falling back to third.

With a beat up truck, Bell settled for a third-place finish.

Mitchell Breuer is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

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
News

Suspensions, Points Penalties Levied Following Atlanta

Following last weekend’s NASCAR event Atlanta Motor Speedway, three teams have been handed down penalties.

The No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing team of AJ Allmendinger was assessed an L1-level penalty for lug nuts not properly installed following Sunday’s Cup Series races.

Allmendinger’s crew chief Randall Burnett was fined $65,000 and has been suspended for the next three Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races. The team was also docked 35 owner’s and driver’s points. The penalty drops Allmendinger from 11th to 35th in the driver’s standings heading into this weekend’s race at Las Vegas.

The No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing XFINITY Series team was assessed an L1 penalty for failing to meet ride height requirements following Saturday’s XFINITY Series race at Atlanta.

Crew chief Scott Graves was fined $10,000 and was suspended for this weekend’s XFINITY Series race at Las Vegas. The No. 18 team was also docked 10 owner’s series points. Additionally, it makes the race victory an “encumbered finish,” meaning playoff-point perks from the win are meaningless in the XFINITY Series Owner’s Points  Standings as part of NASCAR’s new rules for 2017.

The No. 23 GMS Racing Truck Series team, which finished fifth with Chase Elliott, also was penalized following Saturday’s Truck Series race at Atlanta.

Crew chief Jeff Stankiewicz was fined $5,000 and suspended from the next Camping World Truck Series points race after the truck failed to meet post-race ride height requirements. Additionally, the team was assessed a safety violation for having lug nuts improperly installed. Stankiewicz was fined an additional $2,500 for that violation.

EMAIL JUSTIN at tuckerjustin65@yahoo.com

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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

One Thing is Certain for Bowman

Alex Bowman has no definite plans for 2017 in NASCAR’s top three national series, but there is one thing for certain.

The 23-year-old Bowman has been tapped to run the No. 24 GMS Racing Fraternal Order of Eagles Chevrolet Silverado at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Saturday afternoon’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race.

https://twitter.com/AlexBRacing/status/836246402019766273

Bowman hasn’t competed at the Truck level since 2015, when he made his one and only start at Michigan and finished 11th in the No. 00 Chevrolet.

A Tucson, Ariz., native, he has made one career XFINITY Series start at Atlanta Motor Speedway, when he finished 34th due to a blown engine in 2013.

Justin Haley will be the primary driver of the No. 24 for GMS Racing, but he is too young to compete in the season’s first two races. He will take over the driving duties of the No. 24 at Martinsville Speedway.

Bowman, who subbed for Dale Earnhardt Jr. last season when Earnhardt was plagued with lingering concussion issues, last raced in the preliminary Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona. He finished third.

Scott Lagasse Jr. drove the No. 24 Chevrolet last weekend in Daytona and finished seventh.

The Active Pest Control 200 from Atlanta Motor Speedway can be seen live Saturday, Mar. 4 at 4:30 P.M. ET on FOX Sports 1 and heard on MRN Radio.

Shane Carlson is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL SHANE AT shane.carlson@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @ShaneCarlson4

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

Categories
Trucks

Grala Talks With POPULAR SPEED About Wild Daytona Win

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Just over three hours before the first checkered flag of the 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season waved at Daytona International Speedway, the greatest moment of Kaz Grala’s young career was winning the pole award for Friday night’s race.

That changed when the caution flag waved on the final lap of the NextEra Energy Resources 250.

As GMS Racing teammate Johnny Sauter battled for the lead with ThorSport Racing’s Matt Crafton and Ben Rhodes, the three made contact and wrecked, which resulted in one of the few “Big Ones” that occurred in the event and has made restrictor plate racing so notorious.

Grala escaped the melee with the lead, which ultimately gave him his first truck win in his 10th career start.

He became the youngest Daytona winner in Truck Series history at 18 years old.

“I couldn’t see a whole lot, but I believe I saw the door number of the 27 (Rhodes),” Grala said. “Typically, when you see a door number when you’re going straight, that’s not a good sign.

“I figured I’d keep my foot down and pull left and cross my fingers to see how this thing turns out. Luckily, it turned out well for me.

“For me personally, and for GMS Racing, the win was huge for the organization.”

Before the race, Grala was overwhelmingly excited for winning the pole. It seemed like he could barely contain his energy knowing that he’d start on the front row at Daytona — “The World Center of Racing.”

His enthusiasm after the win was even greater. After his post-race press conference, he spoke exclusively with POPULAR SPEED, and his voice had the same volume and fervor that he had when he was in Victory Lane.

As a rookie, his goal was to get the experience of running a full race at the 2.5-mile track. Although he was competing to win as every driver does, he would have been content to push Sauter, who dominated the race and won the first two stages, to a second consecutive victory at the speedway.

The win all but guarantees his spot in the playoffs, and he was also awarded five playoff points as every winner gets under NASCAR’s new format.

“This completely changes the dynamic of our season going forward,” Grala said. “We can really relax, learn, spend some times working on things for the playoffs. There are a lot of mile-and-a-halves that I’ve never been on before.

“We’ll just ride this wave and see how the season plays out. We couldn’t be in a better position and that’s all thanks to [crew chief] Jerry Baxter and all of GMS Racing.”

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

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