Categories
XFINITY

Another Truex Is Playoff Bound

LAS VEGAS, Nev — For the first time in his career, Ryan Truex is in the playoffs.

In his first campaign with Kaulig Racing, the 26-year-old was able to qualify NASCAR XFINITY Series playoffs following a regular season that consisted of one top-five and ten top-10’s, a stat line that is already the best the team has seen in its three-year history.

Truex will also ride into the final seven races with momentum, after finishing eighth in Saturday’s DC Solar 300.

“It’s good. We finally had a good today after like a month and a half of bad luck, where we had top-five, top-10 runs every week and it’d seem like something would go wrong,” Truex told POPULAR SPEED. “It feels good that we capitalized at the right time. This is an important race for us, mile and a half and this is where you have to be strong, and our car had a lot of speed, so that’s very promising. RCR as a whole, I thought we had a lot of speed. Proud of my guys and now we start over with fresh points and just got to be on it every week.”

While it is a significant accomplishment for the Kaulig team to be a part of the 12-driver field, their driver knows they still have an uphill battle ahead. With no stage wins throughout the year, they will enter the playoffs at a disadvantage, seeded 10th and three points under the cutoff for round two.

As far as what he will need to do to succeed, Truex believes they will need to be more consistent.

“We cannot have bad days,” Truex said. “We don’t have playoff points, so we really can’t have bad days, where some of those guys like (Justin) Allgaier and (Christopher) Bell can afford to with playoff points to lean on. Just got to be consistent and manage these races and be there at the end, get stage points and all that good stuff so we can make it out of the first round.”

Looking ahead, the opening round on the schedule may favor the New Jersey native.

His No. 11 team found success at Richmond in April, where they qualified sixth and finished seventh. The unit has also shown signs of speed at road courses, starting seventh or better at each of the three races, and scored their lone top-five at Mid-Ohio.

The potential is there for Truex to turn what has already been a solid first full-season in XFINITY into a great one.

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

Lack of Speed and Communication Holding Truex back from Contention

As the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series guys go back to the ovals, the NASCAR XFINITY Series ran their second straight road course of the season. The push to make the playoffs is starting to heat up as some teams hope to become a factor in the next upcoming weeks.

After his best career season in one of NASCAR’s top three national series, Ryan Truex snagged an opportunity with Kaulig Racing in the NASCAR XFINITY Series replacing Blake Koch. Kaulig Racing failed to score a win during two seasons with Koch and was looking for a positive change.

After parting ways with Hattori Racing Enterprises, things fell into place for Truex. It was a bit of a surprise to fans that after a strong year in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Truex would lose his ride. In fact, it led to Truex joining a new team up in the XFINITY Series.

Yes, we can say he climbed the latter after a full-time season in the Trucks Series; but let’s face it, after 20 races so far, Truex hasn’t had as much success as he had in 2017. They began the season strong, capturing two top-10s in the first couple of events but nine top-10’s with a single top-five finish have rounded out their year so far. Their team is not racing to the level of some of their top tier competitors but are looking to catch up quickly before the playoffs.

“Just trying to find speed; we’re not running where we need to right now to make it to Homestead,” Truex told POPULAR SPEED.

Truex sits comfortably in the eighth position in the playoff standings despite only two top-10’s in the last six races. 

As Truex and Kaulig Racing look towards the future, their lack of speed may be revived with better communication. That’s right, a key to having success in a race car is a strong rapport with your team, and that may very well be holding Truex back.

“Yeah, I mean can give better feedback and work on my end of things and that’ll help too,” Truex said.

With five races left before the playoffs, if Truex and his team are able to solve these two issues, their season may easily progress into a threat for race wins and possibly a championship.

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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
XFINITY

Ryan Truex Focused on Making Most of Opportunity with Kaulig

With a pair of top-10’s in the first two NASCAR XFINITY Series races this season, it’s safe to say that Ryan Truex is off to a great start. 

Despite being his first year with Kaulig Racing, the success shouldn’t be any surprise, though. Truex proved his ability last year in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, scoring 13 top-10’s en route to a ninth-place finish in the year-end standings for Hattori Racing Enterprises. Meanwhile, Kaulig Racing made the playoffs in 2017 with Blake Koch.

Although the partnership appeared to come together late in the off-season, it’s an opportunity Truex isn’t taking for granted.

“It’s been awhile since I had a team like this supporting me,” he told POPULAR SPEED. “For them to have the alliance with RCR and all the resources they provide, to be able to lean on all of that, being able to talk with their drivers on the weekend – to have all that in our back pocket is huge and something that I hadn’t had since 2011 when I was at Michael Waltrip Racing.

“I’ve gotten a lot of experience between then and now, and been in a lot of different vehicles, good or bad, but this is the best opportunity that I’ve had in a long time.   

With the pieces in place for success, it’s no surprise that the team is focused on being even stronger moving forward, possibly breaking through for their first career win. 

“Obviously, we want to win,” Truex said. “I think this team has what it takes to win. It’s going to take me getting to know my crew chief, and everybody getting on the same page, and what I need out of the car. We’ll have some more growing pains for sure, but we all want to win races.”

The thought of possibly scoring his first career XFINITY Series victory this year is “huge” for Truex, as he says it would be “great to show the world that I deserve to be here.” The next couple of weeks could be the right spot to make it happen, as he has had previous success at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway.

Though when it comes to which track he’s excited for, the concrete banks of Dover International Speedway are on his radar.

“Dover is always a big one for me,” he said. “It’s my favorite track, my home track; I always seem to run well there. I like Richmond a lot; it’s been awhile since I’ve been there, but I’ve had good runs there, and I enjoyed that track. I think we can run well there. There’s a lot. I like road course racing, and we have four of them. I think there are a lot of good opportunities for us to run well and get a win.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@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
XFINITY

OBSERVATIONS: Powershares QQQ 300

The fans may have been treated to the closest finish in NASCAR XFINITY Series history with Tyler Reddick edging out Elliott Sadler in the Powershares QQQ 300, but it didn’t come without controversy or endless overtime attempts.

Although there have been concerns about a lack of competitiveness at times in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drafting package, those were unheard of in regards to the XFINITY drivers. From the drop of the green flag to the checkered, the competitors ran side-by-side for position. It was risky at times, with some of the blocks at the front of the field to keep the lead by the likes of Joey Logano and Kyle Larson, but everybody managed to escape trouble until the final laps.

Two of the drivers who had put themselves in position to challenge for the win in the late stages were JR Motorsports teammates Chase Elliott and Sadler, running up to second and third. But a push from Sadler, locking bumpers with the rear of Elliott’s No. 88 Chevrolet, resulted in a penalty from NASCAR for both. As in previous years, drivers may bump draft each other, but they cannot lock bumpers.

It’s one thing to penalize the driver who enables the push – Sadler in this case – as they are making the choice to plant themselves against their fellow competitor, knowing the risk of being penalized is out there. But, is it fair to penalize the driver getting pushed?

It goes without saying that Elliott gains an advantage from receiving the push from Sadler, but was it his choice to be pushed? He gets no say in the matter, as he can’t stop that person from doing what they’re doing. Now, there is a possibility that Elliott could break the draft, but we know the trouble that would cause instead. 

Since NASCAR implemented this rule, it has caused controversy at every turn, whether both drivers should be penalized, and whether it is always implemented. If you re-watch the end of the race, you can see that Ryan Reed was locked on Reddick’s bumper pushing him to the win. So where’s the penalty there, if the sanctioning body wants to be fair across the board?

“I’ve got a misunderstanding of the rule, so I’m sure they’ll explain it to me,” Sadler commented post-race. “I’ll get a phone call Monday, and they’ll explain to me what their interpretation of the rule is and what my interpretation of the rule is. 

“I thought you couldn’t lock bumpers to gain a position. That’s what I thought. I thought that’s what they’ve always said. So obviously now it’s not that, which you can black flag every single car in the field because, I mean, I tandem ‑‑ out of the 143 laps, 90 laps we were tandem‑‑ not the whole way around, but either down the frontstretch or down the backstretch or whatever. I’ve got to get an interpretation of what the rule really means.” 

Races mired by controversy stir the ire of the fans, taking away from the action that happened. The finish won’t be remembered in the weeks to come, but rather a penalty with 25 laps to go before the drama at the end. Is that what the sport wants when it seems like a pointless rule? 

Drafting on the restrictor plate tracks is supposed to be about who can make the most of the draft, the tools available of them, and making the moves that they can within their toolbox. It’s time that NASCAR takes themselves out of the box and lets the drivers play.

This wasn’t the only rule that came up in the discussion of this event, though, as the yellow line came back up as it did in the Advance Auto Parts Clash last Sunday.

With 21 laps to go, Reed pushed Ryan Truex down below yellow line, causing a wreck in turns three and four when Truex came back up onto the surface. NASCAR penalized Reed for forcing Truex, sending Reed to the back of the field for the restart.

The yellow line was brought into the rulebook to stop drivers from trying to get runs on the apron down the back, causing them to get a poor entry into turn three and cause a big wreck. However, through the years, it has become questionable whether drivers chose to go down, or were forced, at times. 

It’s no question reviewing the replays that Reed pushed Truex below the line entering the corner. However, Reed still feels he was unfairly punished, stating that he was just trying to save his car.

“I guess I forced the‑‑ I got loose and the 11 had to avoid me, so I forced him below the yellow line,” Reed said post-race.

So, is it fair to penalize a driver who is simply trying to save their car? Another angle to think about. 

But even with these concerns, it goes without saying that the XFINITY Series put together the best race of Speedweeks so far, even if it took multiple overtime attempts and chaos to get there. 

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@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
XFINITY

Ryan Truex Gets Promoted to XFINITY Series

After a successful campaign in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Ryan Truex will get to move up to the NASCAR XFINITY Series. It was announced on Tuesday that he will drive the No. 11 Chevrolet for Kaulig Racing in 2018.

“I’m extremely excited to be making the move back into the Xfinity Series,” said Truex. “In just two years Kaulig Racing has proved to be a highly competitive team each race and it should be a great fit. Last season I saw a lot of improvements in my racing and hopefully this year I can continue the success Kaulig Racing has built and compete for the championship at the end of the year.”

Truex is coming off a truck series season, placing ninth in the year-end standings with Hattori Racing Enterprises. The younger brother of current Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) champion Martin Truex Jr. is  also a two-time NASCAR K&N Pro Series  East Champion.

Since forming the team, the Matt Kaulig-led organization has successfully made the playoffs in both years with Blake Koch behind the whheel, along with two stage victories. 

 

“When we started this team two years ago I knew we had the potential to be one of the strongest teams in the XFINITY Series and I think we’re within reach of that goal,” Kaulig  said. “Ryan is going to be a great addition to the team and I have some high hopes for this season. Each year we keep improving as a team and I think this season we’ll be able to get some wins and make another run in the playoffs. Everyone at Kaulig Racing is excited to have Ryan on board and it should be a great, fun 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

Categories
Trucks

Hattori Racing Enterprises To Chase Truck Title Again

After a successful breakout campaign in 2017, Hattori Racing Enterprises confirmed on Thursday that they will once again run the full NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule in 2018. However, Ryan Truex will not be returning to the driver’s seat.

“The biggest improvement for 2018 is the people,” team owner Shige Hattori said. “Unlike last season, (crew chief) Scott Zipadelli is already here and coming back along with our truck chief. We’ve invested in some new crew members at the shop and believe the changes will allow us to be more efficient and bring in new ideas to elevate this race team’s performance.”

This past season, Truex guided the No. 16 Toyota Tundra to two poles, eight top-five’s, and 13 top-10’s. 

“Our initial goal this year is to get to victory lane and win our first race,” Hattori added. “We want to make the playoff field and win a championship. We made good progress in the middle of last season by building a new truck, and we’re applying everything we learned to the new Tundras that we have added to our fleet. We’re going to be even better prepared in 2018 with a larger inventory of updated trucks and support from TRD to win races and compete for the championship.”

The team did not hint towards driver and sponsorship for the year, stating that would be announced at a later date. Truex has yet to confirm any plans of his own, either.

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

Ryan Truex Exceeding Expectations Despite Missing Playoffs

When smaller teams compete in NASCAR, they define success differently than the top organizations.

Winning is the ultimate goal, but those with smaller budgets are working towards finishing in the top-five, leading laps, and competing for victories.

Ryan Truex and Hattori Racing Enterprises have accomplished these objectives so far in 2017.

The 25-year-old captured six top-fives, ten top-10’s, and led 86 laps in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series regular season. He’s also consistently raced up front and contended for wins on numerous occasions.

He had one of his best performances yet during Friday night’s TheHouse.com 225 at Chicagoland Speedway after winning the pole and dominating Stage 1 before ultimately settling for fourth-place.

A night like this in any other race would have marked another impressive run for the No. 16 team. However, with a spot in the Playoffs on the line, he came up one position short.

Truex ended the night tied with Ben Rhodes for the final spot, but because Rhodes had a better season-best finish with a second-place at Pocono, he won the tiebreaker.

Racing often comes down to the smallest margins on the track, and when Rhodes finished second, he beat Truex by a quarter of an inch.

While that finish in August ultimately decided Truex’s Playoff fate, it won’t define how his season has unfolded.

Before Truex began competing for Hattori Racing Enterprises, they weren’t very well-known after making limited starts in the sport with numerous drivers. 

The team has made significant strides with Truex behind the wheel and experienced crew chief Scott Zipadelli in charge, placing the organization in the conversation.

Truex admitted that they might not have the same speed as the top trucks; however, being able to run with them says a lot about the No. 16 team. 

Missing the Playoffs isn’t something to dwell in the team’s first full-time season. A victory is well within reach and winning one of the final seven races would be a fitting way to end a breakout year for Hattori and Truex.

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

Enfinger Could Be Sleeper Title Contender

The battle to earn a spot in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs is shaping up to create a competitive and dramatic end to the regular season.

With only eight spots available, many trucks capable of contending for the title will be left out.

Rookie Grant Enfinger currently sits ninth in the Playoff picture, nine points behind eighth-place Ryan Truex.

Enfinger had another impressive run in the UNOH 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway, placing fourth and earning his ninth top-10 finish of 2017.

The ThorSport Racing driver has quietly excelled this year. He has finished inside the top-five in six of the last nine races with a pair of season-best third-place finishes at Dover and Texas.

His consistency hasn’t made many headlines, but if he continues performing at this pace, the focus will soon be on him.

With just two events remaining before the Truck Series Playoffs begin at New Hampshire, Enfinger will need two strong runs in Canada and Chicago if he hopes to compete for the championship.

He will make his first career start at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in the Chevrolet Silverado 250. While he made three road course starts in the ARCA Racing Series, this will be the most important of his career.

The 32-year-old competed at Chicagoland last season and finished sixth, showing that if he needs to run well there to earn his title bid, it’s possible.

If Enfinger makes it in, his strength this season will make him a major threat for the championship.

While he will be behind in the playoff points column, the format often favors an underdog, and he could fill that role.

The key for the No. 98 team will be making it through the first two rounds as everything resets at Homestead-Miami for the Championship 4. Once there, all that matters is running well and topping the other three challengers to take home the title, and Enfinger is proving capable of accomplishing the feat.

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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

Pocono Shakes Up Trucks Playoff Picture

After an exciting Overton’s 150 at Pocono Raceway, only four races remain till the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series playoffs, and it’s anybody’s guess who will make the field. While there may be some uncertainty, it’s clear after Saturday’s 60-lap event that some are in better shape than others.

With five different winners and an 88-point cushion for Chase Briscoe, the battle to keep an eye on revolves around the seventh and eighth seed, currently held by Ben Rhodes and Ryan Truex. Although they may be in preferred position now, entering the weekend, it was a different story, with both failing to place in the top-20 in their previous three starts.

That wouldn’t be the case Saturday, as the pair collected points in both Stages, and finished second and third, respectively. The runner-up allows Rhodes to improve to five points over ninth, and brings Truex into the playoff field, after being outside entering the day.

With Truex moving in, who falls to ninth? Grant Enfinger, who now sits four points out after finishing 13th. While he seemingly had a top-10 truck, the driver of the No. 98 only collected one point during the first two stages and was plagued with mechanical issues in the race’s final stretch. When the Camping World Truck Series heads to Michigan International Speedway in two weeks, he will likely need to improve upon his eighth-place finish from his only previous start at the 2-mile oval if he wants to make up for lost ground.

Enfinger didn’t have the worst day as far playoff contenders go. That distinction would go to Noah Gragson, who finished 24th after being involved in an accident with Kaz Grala. The 19-year-old who was riding the momentum of seven straight top-10 finishes and entered Pocono only eight points outside the bubble, now sits 41 behind. The DNF essentially puts him in a must-win situation, which is a tall order for a rookie who hasn’t run a truck at any of the remaining four tracks.

Now, nothing is secure, and anything can happen. However, the question should be asked. How will this race overall impact the playoffs? Will the positive performance of Rhodes and Truex provide a bit of insurance in points? Will the points Enfinger loss not finishing top-10 end up costing him big?  Only time will tell.

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
Feature Trucks

ASHLEY ASKS…. Ryan Truex

Ryan Truex enters this weekend’s Bar Harbor 200 at Dover International Speedway with three straight top-10’s, including a season-best fourth-place finish at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Ahead of his home track race, the Hattori Racing Enterprises driver spoke with Popular Speed’s Ashley McCubbin about his thoughts entering the weekend, and his season so far.

Popular Speed: So, what are your thoughts going into Dover this weekend?

Ryan Truex: I’m excited. It’s my home track, and I have my home sponsor sponsoring the race so it’s extra incentive to do well, and we kind of have some momentum built after these past two races. So hopefully we can keep moving forward and get closer to a win.

PS: You ran two practices today (Thursday). How’d the truck feel during those?

RT: It felt good. The first practice we had some handling issues, but I think by the second practice we got it pretty good where I was pretty happy and comfortable. It’s the same truck that we raced at Charlotte and Kansas, so it’s had a lot of speed in it and it had a lot of speed today and drove really well. We were off a little bit in qualifying trim, but we have some ideas to get that better for tomorrow. But overall, I think it will race really well.

PS: What are your thoughts on your season so far?

RT: It’s been good. We got off to a rough start at Daytona getting wrecked on the second lap. After that, we’ve been getting better and better. The off-weeks at the beginning of the season helped us in getting our equipment ready, and kind of set back and rebuild a little bit. I signed on pretty late going into the season; it was January, and we got Scott Zippidelli in shortly after that. So it was kind of a last minute deal going into Daytona. So we were kind of behind the eight ball there and had to kind of rush to get to Daytona and Atlanta. So those off-weeks helped a lot in building new equipment, and getting ready for the mile and a halves and short tracks coming up. 

PS: Before this season, you got to run some races with Hattori. What’s the biggest thing you were able to take away from those to help you out this year?

RT: I think just experience in the trucks. Most of these race tracks I’ve been to a few times, whether in XFINITY or Cup. So on that side of things, I felt I had a lot of experience. But the truck series is definitely different in how you race, how the trucks drive and how they behave in the draft a lot different at mile and a halves. So be able to run last year some and learn a lot of that has helped. At this point, we’re getting our trucks fast and can start to really focus on getting them to drive well and being to the tracks these before, I know the feel that I need at the tracks. Somewhere like Dover, I feel that’s a huge advantage for us just going into practice knowing what I feel I need to go fast and be good in the race.

PS: What is it like being with a small team going up against the bigger organizations in the series?

RT: I like it. I think it’s a fun challenge. I think it feels really good when you can beat them, which we have been able to do these past few weeks. It’s not without hard work and not without a financial investment, which Shigeaki (Hattori) has done a lot of us. He’s invested a lot of his time and money into this deal, and it’s kind of been a rough go the past year and a half to get to this point. We had a lot of good runs last year, but we had a lot of frustrating runs as well. We kind of had to go through growing pains last year, but that got us ready even more so for this year, and being able to get the right people in place over the off-season and rebuild the team and get some new equipment and refocus our efforts has been huge. We were able to go into the season with a whole new mindset and we like being the underdogs. It’s a good fit for us. We definitely embrace the role and nothing makes us happier than going out and beating the big teams every weekend.

PS: Beyond Dover this weekend, which tracks are you most looking forward to?

RT: I don’t know, actually. I like most of the tracks that the truck series goes to. I haven’t been to Kentucky since they repaved it, so not sure what to expect there, and Texas will be a big curve-ball for everybody in the garage just because it’s been repaved and reconfigured. Hopefully I can lean on my brother (Martin Truex Jr.) a little bit since he’s raced there already and that will help us. But I’m looking forward to the road course race. I really like road course racing. Eldora – that’ll be different. I’ve never raced on dirt in my life so that’ll definitely be a challenge for me, but I’m looking forward to it and I think it’ll be a cool to do something different. I’ve always wanted to race on dirt so it’ll be cool to get a shot to do it. 

Truex showed speed during practice on Thursday, timing in eighth quickest in the second session behind the wheel of his No. 16 Toyota. He will look to back-up last year’s eighth-place finish at the one-mile high-banked concrete oval.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@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.