NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series News and Notes – 2020 NextEra Energy 250

Next Race: NextEra Energy 250

The Place: Daytona International Speedway

The Date: Friday, February 14

The Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

TV: FS1, 7 p.m. ET

Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 250 miles (100 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 20),

Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 40), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 100)

2019 Winner: Austin Hill

New year, new name

The start of the 2020 series is also bringing an adjustment to the look of the trucks.

In 2019, NASCAR and Camping World announced an expansion to their partnership providing naming rights to the rebranded NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series.

In 2020, that name is going to change, again… but just a little. It will now be referred to as the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series.

With the logo change also comes a new sponsor for the pole award. Cometic Gasket is now the official sponsor of the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series pole award.

Daytona’s NextEra Energy 250 will be the start of the Cometic Gasket Pole Award for the Gander Trucks Series.

Tilton Engineering and Xceldyne Valve Train Component also joined the series as contingency sponsors this season.

Daytona kicks off highly anticipated Gander Trucks field
The offseason brought a lot of changes to the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series. Although there will be a lot of familiar faces on the Gander Trucks lineup, there will also be a lot of new fulltime faces. Familiar faces will stick with familiar teams, while others have jumped to different ones to start off 2020. There will also be quite a few names that moved to another series making starts in the series.

The following drivers are 2020 rookie-of-the-year candidates:

  • No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota – Raphael Lessard
  • No. 21 GMS Racing Chevrolet – Zane Smith
  • No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota – Christian Eckes
  • No. 45 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet – Ty Majeski
  • No. 15 DGR-Crosley Ford – Tanner Gray

 With a handful of new full-time faces in the Truck Series, take a look at some of the names that might make the biggest impact on the 2020 season.

Zane Smith made 10 Xfinity Series starts in the No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevrolet. He accumulated two top fives and seven top 10s. With only one Gander Trucks start under his belt at Gateway, Smith will be tackling his rookie season with Kevin Manion leading the way as crew chief. In the ARCA Menards Series, Smith has driven for Venturini Motorsports and MDM Motorsports, finishing second in the championship with MDM in 2018. Smith is also a member of the 2020 NASCAR Next class and the Drivers Edge Development program.

Ty Majeski turned heads with his successful Late Model career and is taking over the No. 45 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet from Ross Chastain. Majeski has made one career start in the series and finished 11th at Phoenix. Majeski started his career on dirt karts in Wisconsin and later moved up to racing those Late Models on asphalt. After that, he went on to the touring series and was the ARCA Midwest Tour champion in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, while winning the Rookie-of-the-Year honors in 2014.

Raphael Lessard is only 18 years old and has made five starts for Kyle Busch Motorsports. He earned two top 10s and his experience in Late Models could certainly help him while competing for the rookie-of-the-year honors. Champion crew chief Mike Hillman Jr. will also take the lead for Lessard. Lessard became the second non-American to win the CARS Super Late Model series championship at age 15.

Tanner Gray made three starts in the Gander Trucks in 2019 and will now pilot the No. 15 DGR-Crosley Ford fulltime in 2020, while competing for Sunoco Rookie of the Year. The 2018 NHRA Pro Stock champion made his debut on the Martinsville short track just eight months after making his first stock car start in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series and New Smyrna Speedway. Gray became the youngest NHRA national event winner in April in 2017 and then he went on to with the championship in 2018, his second year in the division.

Christian Eckes was crowned the 2019 ARCA Menards Series champion and made eight starts for Kyle Busch Motorsports, where he also shined. He earned three pole awards, three top fives and four top 10s. Rudy Fugle, another champion crew chief, will be atop the pit box for Eckes and it’s expected that they’ll be contending for a lot of wins.

Todd Gilliland notched his first career win in 2019 for Kyle Busch Motorsports but will be transitioning to Front Row Motorsports for 2020. Front Row Motorsports partnered with DGR-Crosley to field in an entry for Gilliland.

The veteran scoop

Johnny Sauter is no stranger to success at Daytona International Speedway. Sauter will be making his 12th start at the superspeedway, looking to clinch his fourth win at the historic track. The driver of the No. 13 ThorSport Racing Ford has three wins (2013, 2016, 2018) with four top fives and five top 10s. Four of Sauter’s finishes outside of the top 10 were a product of being involved in a crash (2009, 2010, 2012, 2019). In 2019, Sauter finished 23rd after starting 17th. But, with the experience he has, he’ll be looking for redemption on Friday night.

On the other side of things, veteran and reigning champion Matt Crafton, hasn’t had the best of luck at Daytona International Speedway. He will be making his 20th start at the track on Friday, the most of any active driver but has yet to take home the trophy. Crafton’s best finish at the track is fifth (twice; 2010 and 2019). He only has those two top-five finishes and eight top 10s. He’s only led eight laps at Daytona in his career and has four DNF’s. But, since 2019 was one of his two fifth-place finishes and he’s coming off another championship season, maybe 2020 will be the year he checks a Daytona win off his list.

Silver anniversary for ThorSport Racing

ThorSport Racing is celebrating its 25th anniversary in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series at the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway on Friday, February 14 (7:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Their current drivers will sport special silver paint schemes on their Ford F-150s at the track this weekend to kick off the season.

Since its launch, ThorSport has accumulated 12 consecutive seasons with at least one win in the Gander Trucks series. They have made it to Victory Lane a total of 30 times with drivers Terry Cook, Matt Crafton, Johnny Sauter, Ben Rhodes, Grant Enfinger and Chase Briscoe. The team has 253 top fives, 533 top 10s and 33 pole awards to their name. ThorSport has finished in the top 10 in points 27 times with reigning champion Matt Crafton doing it 13 consecutive seasons (2007-2019).

ThorSport Racing has four drivers’ championships total including one in the ARCA Menards Series with Frank Kimmel and three in the Gander Trucks series all with Crafton. The team also owns three Rookie of the Year titles (2007, 2009 and 2018).

Additionally, the top two drivers with the most consecutive starts in series history have done so behind the wheel of a ThorSport truck, including Crafton with 453 starts.

Can Hill do it again?

Austin Hill had a career-best season in 2019 and it all started off at Daytona International Speedway.

Hill secured his first career win in his first season with Hattori Racing Enterprises. The win was only the start, though, as he went on to win three more times, including the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Hill may not have hoisted the championship trophy at the end of the season, but he did have seven top-five finishes and 13 top-10 finishes with three pole awards.

Todd Bodine is the only driver in series history to have won back-to-back at Daytona (2008-2009).

Toyota dominated with eight consecutive wins at Daytona from 2007 to 2014, but Hill was the first Toyota driver to have won for the manufacturer at the track since 2014.

Coming off a career-best season with four wins and clinching the first races of the season as well as the last, Hill has to have some motivation heading into Friday night’s race.

To the pole
Only four drivers in NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series history have won the pole award as well as the race at Daytona International Speedway.

2001 – Joe Ruttman

2006 – Mark Martin

2007 – Jack Sprague

2017 – Kaz Grala

In total, seven races of the 20 races run have been won from the front row. Last season, Austin Hill started in the 10th position and went on to win the season-opener but before that, it was three years of winners from the front row.

NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Etc.

Hey, I know you: Some big names from Gander Trucks history will be back behind the wheel of a truck this weekend. John Hunter Nemechek, who now competes fulltime in the Cup Series for Front Row Motorsports, will pilot the No. 8 NEMCO Motorsports Ford. Ross Chastain will be back with Niece Motorsports for the weekend behind the wheel of the No. 40 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet, but is competing fulltime in the Xfinity Series with Kaulig Racing. Riley Herbst will be competing for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the No. 51 Toyota.

Back, back again: Niece Motorsports enters the 2020 season with a hefty lineup of drivers for their three trucks. Ty Majeski is the only fulltime driver for the team in the No. 45 Chevrolet. Other drivers will be behind the wheel of the Nos. 40 and 44 throughout the season including Natalie Decker, Ross Chastain, Ryan Truex, Jett Noland and Carson Hocevar. Chastain ran fulltime for Niece Motorsports last year, earning the team their first career wins as well as a run for the title. They came up short, though, as Chastain finished second in the points behind Crafton.

ARCA takeover: The NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series will have a lot of champions hit the track on Friday night – ARCA Menards Series champions. Among those are Sheldon Creed (2018 champion), Christian Eckes (2019) and Grant Enfinger (2015). Additionally, Derek Kraus won the ARCA West championship last year. Creed was fulltime with GMS Racing last season, where he got four top fives and 11 tops 10s. Kraus ran select races in the Gander Trucks series for Bill McAnally Racing and Eckes ran on a part-time basis for Kyle Busch Motorsports. Enfinger is the veteran Gander Trucks competitor among the group, entering his fourth fulltime season with ThorSport Motorsports. Zane Smith finished second in the 2019 ARCA championship and will also run a truck fulltime this season. All of the ARCA champs will be completing fulltime this season for another crown – just in a different series this time.


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