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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

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

ASHLEY ASKS…… Jesse Little

The Active Pest Control 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway generated a lot of headlines for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. One of those was the impressive eighth-place finish by Jesse Little

Ready for a limited schedule this year consisting of a minimum of eight events, the 20-year-old shared his thoughts on the performance, as well as his outlook moving forward.

POPULAR SPEED: To start off the year, you’re off to a good start….

JESSE LITTLE: We were happy about how we ran at Atlanta. We wanted to go there and have a good solid run, and we believed that would’ve been a top-10. To go there and get into the top-five with 10, 12 to go, that was pretty impressive and good for us. It was a good confidence booster and gave us the knowledge to know we’ll be competitive this year, and maybe have a shot to win a race.

PS: What’s it like being a single truck team going against the multi-truck organizations?

JESSE: It’s fun, to be honest. It’s frustrating at times, but to beat them is rewarding and you feel you’ve accomplished something. You know, we work really hard and we do our due diligence before we go to the track and compete as much as we can as best as we can. To go there with the small group and people behind us and compete against some of the best, that’s what it so special and rewarding.

PS: You’ve got a nice schedule moving forward. Looking at the races you’re going to run, what track are you most excited to get to?

JESSE: Honestly, Dover our next one. I feel that’s a track that suits me better than anyplace. I’ve always been really good there. We’re taking a truck there that’s going to do really well. I think we should have our best shot to win a race here, but other than that, I’m excited to get to all of them. I feel like I can be good no matter where I am.

PS: What are your goals for this year?

JESSE: Right now, a good goal is to be competitive, whether that’s running in the top-five every race, or showing the viewers and other drivers that we can run up front. I think a good realistic goal is to get a top-five finish. I’ve had some top-10s now, and I just want to go out each week and be competitive and execute.

PS: How close are you to running the full schedule?

JESSE: We’re getting closer with the introduction of the NT1; that helped us quite a bit. However, it’s still really difficult for a team like us to do it without a lot of funding and sponsorship. So we’re constantly seeking as much help as we can from outside companies. But other than that, we are starting to get the infrastructure and resources in place to make it happen. We just need the funding to do it now.

PS: Who is your racing hero?

JESSE: I think obviously I would have to say a little bit of my dad, but growing up watching, Tony Stewart was one for me. I enjoyed him more so than a lot of guys growing up when I was younger.

PS: Touching a little off-track, letting the fans to get to know you. What’s your favorite food?

JESSE: I like a good bacon cheeseburger for me, or a nice medium rare steak.

PS: On the flip side, what’s your least favorite food?

JESSE: I enjoy everything, but something that I don’t really care for is probably green beans.

PS: What’s your favorite TV show?

JESSE: The Office.

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

JESSE: A good book, matches, and an ax. I figure with that I can take care of that. Actually, maybe a fishing pole instead of a book.

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

OBSERVATIONS: Active Pest Control 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has been dubbed as having the best side-by-side competitive racing, and they proved why on Saturday evening at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

From the green flag to the checkered, trucks spent multiple laps battling for position, even going three-wide at times, throughout the entire field. From challenges for the lead, to three drivers vying for a top-five spot at once, the race had everything mixed into one.

Now combine that with a dramatic ending with an overtime finish and the strategy of taking two or four tires equally four-wide jostling for the lead, and you have the perfect package for a race put together.

Of course, the icing on the cake was seeing a team get their first career win, in the form of Hattori Racing Enterprises. After proving they could run up front last year with Ryan Truex, the team found their way to victory lane due to the efforts by Brett Moffitt. Moffitt ran up front throughout the entire event, electing for four tires on the final restart to enable him to go from third to first going into turn one.

Moffitt’s journey hasn’t been the smoothest in NASCAR, as he found himself in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series with an opportunity at Michael Waltrip Racing. However, he lost his ride, forcing him to slip back down the ranks of competition. Now with a chance to rebuild his career, the 25-year-old is getting a second chance that some can only wish they could have. Imagine if he turns it into championship glory at year’s end.

Seeing small teams succeed in the truck series is nothing new, as it has proven to be one of the more-forgiving avenues for smaller budgets. Moffitt wasn’t the only one breaking barriers on Saturday, as he was joined by fellow small team contender Jesse Little.

Racing for the family-owned JJL Motorsports, Little stayed within the top-10 throughout the entire event, running as high as third, en route to a solid eighth-place finish. While only boasting a team made up of two full-time crew members, they have managed to put their resources in the right places, buying some equipment from Brad Keselowski Racing when they closed last year. Coming off a great run in their opening event of 10 this year, Little would be the perfect underdog story for the series. 

Though for most of the event, the story wasn’t about the small fries – but rather Kyle Busch. Driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports, Noah Gragson scored the win in the first stage. Busch then put his truck out front in the second stage, and looked destined for glory entering the final portion of the event. However, a costly mistake ultimately took away his chance of winning.

Busch came down pit road set for four tires, when the crew member got hung up in trying to take off the right front. Crew chief Marcus Richmond saw the delay, and called for Busch to leave pit road with just two tires changed, not realizing the left rear tire had been undone by the changer already. Busch left as instructed, only to watch the tire come rolling off.

When NASCAR wanted to make sure teams were tightening lug nuts, a policy was put in place so teams would self-police themselves, but consequences would be heavy if a tire was to fall off. The penalty that comes from such infraction is severe, with the rulebook stating, “Any loss or separation of an improperly installed tire(s)/wheel(s) from the vehicle after exiting the team’s assigned pit box will result in a three race suspension of the crew chief, tire changer of the lost wheel(s), and the jack man.”  

This situation for Busch brings forth an interesting element in the fact that jackman Ernie Pierce and tire changer Coleman Dollarhide also work for Stewart-Haas Racing in the Cup Series. When NASCAR would penalize before, all suspensions saw crew members removed from all three series of competition the week(s) of their suspension. 

If incidents like this nature continue, a change could be seen in whether teams will allow their crew members to work for other organizations in other series during a race weekend.

In this case, though, there may be no penalty and nothing to worry about. NASCAR can make a judgement call here and look at the circumstances, seeing the team wasn’t trying to break the original intention of the rule and allow this to slide under the bus. Let’s face it – it wasn’t like the crew member was only trying to hit three or four of the five lug nuts, but instead going about his job as usual with a miscommunication. 

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

Jesse Little Expanding Truck Schedule

After scoring his first career top-10 finish last year, Jesse Little is set to expand his involvement in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

“We’re excited about the changes and the future of JJL Motorsports,” said team principal Jason Little. “We’ve been very fortunate to have some great relationships in the Truck Series since our beginning, but 2018 is looking to be our most productive yet both on and off the track.”

Little will drive the No. 97 family-owned JJL Motorsports Ford in a minimum of eight to 10 events, with room for the schedule to grow. They will make their 2018 season debut at Atlanta Motor Speedway in February’s Active Pest Control 200 benefiting Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

“I can’t thank my uncle, Matt and everyone on the JJL Motorsports team enough for making these huge strides,” he said. “I can’t wait to get on the track at Atlanta and see what we pull off. We’re putting all of our eggs into one basket this season and I think that focus and dedication will not only allow us to accomplish our goals, but raise the bar even further as the year races on. Can’t wait.”

The new year sees them switch manufactures, going from Toyota to Ford, and acquiring equipment from Brad Keselowski Racing over the off-season. 

JJL Motorsports also announced that Matt Noyce will serve as the crew chief, and they are looking to possibly field other drivers in both NASCAR truck and ARCA events. 

“Jesse is going to be a huge part of the JJL Motorsports scope this year, but we’re eager and actively pursing working with other drivers who want to make that next leap in competitive equipment or established drivers looking for competitive equipment,” added Jason Little. “Our focus is the Truck Series this year, but we’re also going to run some ARCA too. For sure, we’re planning to run the ARCA race at Charlotte with Jesse, but that opportunity for someone else to jump in and drive will be an option.”

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

Getting to Know: Jesse Little

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 Jesse Little, who made his first four Camping World Truck Series starts in 2015 after competing full-time in the K&N Pro Series East in 2014. 

Birth Name: Jesse Little

Nickname: Hammer Time

Hometown: Sherrills Ford, NC

First thing I do when I wake up: Let our cat outside

Favorite sports team: Alabama Crimson Tide (Roll Tide!)

Biggest accomplishment: Being named to the NASCAR Next class

My most memorable race: The fall race at Greenville in 2012 when I finished third. It was my first top-five with Corey Lajoie, Chase Elliot, Kyle Larson, and Brandon Gdovic rounding out

The food I eat the most: Moe’s steak nachos with queso on the side

How I describe myself in three words: Relentless … Loyal … Dedicated

My racing mentor: My old man, Chad little

Playing on my iPod: Alan Jackson

Favorite racetrack: Dover

If I could guest star on TV it would be: For sure Criminal Minds!

When I’m not racing I’m: usually working on race cars or wishing I was fishing

In 2016 I will: Hopefully be racing a lot more

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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Home Tracks

K&N East: Jesse Little Sets Bristol Record in PittLite 125 Qualifying

BRISTOL, Tenn. – Welcome back, Jesse Little.

The 18-year-old NASCAR Next driver has returned to the K&N Pro Series East for a one-off appearance this weekend and quickly made his intentions known, earning the pole for the PittLite 125 on Thursday afternoon at Bristol Motor Speedway. His quick lap of 15.891 seconds at 120.748 mph was also a new track record for the Pro Series at Thunder Valley.

NTS Motorsports teammates Brandon Jones and Daniel Hemric will start second and third on Saturday afternoon with Jones’ lap of 15.893 also eliminating the previous track record of 15.898 set by Michael McGuire in 2013.

“We definitely got it dialed in the right direction,” Little said. “I just love these big tracks and it’s something I look forward to the most.”

Little will be making his 38th career NASCAR Pro Series East start on Saturday afternoon and has two prior poles — both at NASCAR national touring venues Dover and Iowa. Now he has scratched Bristol off his list. His first career victory also came at a top-level track last summer at New Hampshire.

“Hopefully, we can finish where we start on Saturday,” Little added.

K&N East: Bristol Race Preview

William Byron, J.J. Haley, Scott Heckert and Rico Abreu all topped 120 mph and secured positions fourth through seventh. Kyle Benjamin, Codie Rohrbaugh and Nick Drake round out the top-10.

Championship leader Austin Hill was forced to a back-up car after a hard crash in the second practice session but still managed to qualify 11th. The backup car has a winning pedigree, having captured the season-opening race at New Smyrna in February and finished fourth two weeks ago at Greenville Pickens Speedway.

Hill believes a flat right front tire terminated his primary car.

“Nothing I could do,” Hill said. “I can’t thank my guys enough. They have been working their tails off all day. We’ve changed springs; we’ve changed everything, shocks. Everything to make that thing fast.”

Defending winner Eddie McDonald clocked in at 16th while championship contender and West division points leader Dalton Sargeant qualified 17th. Gray Gaulding was set to start 19th but an electrical fire during time trials will force him to start at the rear of the field.

Little says the race is relatively short so he plans to be aggressive right from the start — even though he says Bristol is second in intimidation factor on the K&N East schedule just behind Dover.

“We have to be (aggressive),” Little said. “I don’t think tires will be an issue so we’re going to push hard the entire time and hopefully our car doesn’t steer in the wrong direction.”

The PittLite 125 is scheduled for a 4:30 p.m. ET green flag on Saturday. The race will be televised on NBCSN on Thursday, April 23 at a time to be determined. The starting lineup can be found below.

  1. Jessie Little
  2. Brandon Jones
  3. Daniel Hemric
  4. William Byron *
  5. J.J. Haley *
  6. Scott Heckert
  7. Rico Abreu *
  8. Kyle Benjamin *
  9. Codie Rohrbaugh *
  10. Nick Drake
  11. Austin Hill
  12. Kaz Grala
  13. Trey Hutchens
  14. Ronnie Bassett
  15. Travis Miller
  16. Eddie MacDonald
  17. Dalton Sargeant *
  18. Kenzie Ruston
  19. Gray Gaulding
  20. David Garbo, Jr *
  21. Jay Beasley
  22. Collin Cabre *
  23. Chad Finchum
  24. John Holleman IV *
  25. Devon Amos *
  26. Sarah Cornett-Ching *
  27. Charles Buchanan

EMAIL MATT AT matt.weaver@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattWeaverSBN