Camping World Series News (4318)
Camping World Truck Series News
Heading into the 2016 season, Camping World Truck Series rookie, Rico Abreu had little to no expectations in his opening campaign in NASCAR’s third-tier division.
The California native made his name on dirt prior to coming to NASCAR in 2015, when he competed in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. Over the course of the 14-race season, he earned eight top 10s and won his first race at Columbus.
Since making the move to the Truck Series, the 24-year-old has struggled compared to fellow rookies, William Byron, Christopher Bell and Cole Custer, all whom have top five finishes. He’s competing against teenagers that have been in the NASCAR system longer than he has. However, Abreu didn’t start racing until he was 16 years old.
Moving to ThorSport Racing in 2016, Abreu has seen some of the lows of the sport.
In six races this season, Abreu has a best finish of 10th at the shortest track on the circuit, Martinsville. In a series that drivers establish themselves, hopeful of making it to the XFINITY Series and then the Sprint Cup Series, the rookie believes he has a lot to learn.
“I think we are getting better as a team and improving when we show up to the racetracks and the initial firing off in those first few laps of practice,” Abreu told Speedway Digest of what he needs to improve on most. “That was my biggest thing this year is not firing off fast enough and then being behind all weekend.”
Abreu has been involved in three crashes this year, where it resulted in a finish of 22nd or worse in each of those races.
At Daytona, he was running in the midst of the pack, getting caught up in a crash involving 18 trucks, more than half of the 32-truck field. In the fourth race at Kansas Speedway, the No. 98 machine spun on the third lap. And most recently at Dover, he made contact with ThorSport Racing teammate Ben Rhodes, causing both to hit the wall.
In the last event at Charlotte, the rookie driver was running in third when he got into the wall, falling to seventh late in the race. On the final pit stop, he received a penalty for pitting outside the box, finishing 20th.
Typically, rookies are vulnerable out on the track, thus why they have a yellow stripe across their bumper. However, there are some instances when they are in the wrong place at the wrong time.
With an average starting spot of 19.5 and average finishing position of 19th, there are details that the team needs to work on. In the past, drivers at ThorSport Racing have done a good job at finishing the deal winning 20 races over the past five seasons with two of its drivers in the top five in points, four times including back-to-back championships in 2013 and 2014.
The former driver of the No. 98 truck, Johnny Sauter, won four races in three seasons with virtually the same team. The team is capable of winning, but Abreu needs to give better feedback and gain chemistry with crew chief Doug George.
Finishing races and keeping the car out of the fence is at the top of the list in one of the most competitive racing series that Abreu has ever competed in.
“I come from racing 30 laps in the World of Outlaw Sprint Car Series, which I feel is the hardest open-wheel series in the country,” Abreu said. “I think now it’s great to go back and forth in both series. The Truck Series is very stout this season with all of the young rookies and the up and comers.”
Being successful on dirt was one of the reasons why Mike Curb wanted Abreu on his team. He has a long friendship with team owner’s Duke and Rhonda Thorson even forming a partnership on the track.
Abreu is well respected off the pavement, winning the last two Chili Bowls. Held in Tulsa, OK, the Chili Bowl is the biggest dirt race in the world, where over 300 drivers try attempt to make the main event each January.
Tracy Hines, competition director at ThorSport Racing, is a former sprint car driver and was intrigued by Abreu’s status in NASCAR, thus why the team took a chance on a driver who has very little experience on asphalt.
Abreu often picks the brain of 2014 Truck Series champion and teammate Matt Crafton during a race weekend. While leading the point standings and recording back-to-back victories at Dover and Charlotte, Crafton is arguably one of the best drivers to have as a teammate throughout the garage.
“My teammates have been doing a great job supporting me and helping me with this transition,” Abreu said with a smile. “Matt [Crafton] has been the biggest influence because of the experience he has. I go to him for a lot of questions and he gives me great feedback.”
Following the last race at Charlotte, Abreu went to Victory Lane to hug Crafton following his triumph, hoping that one day that will be him in that position.
The chemistry within the organization is said to be near an all-time high. In 2016, the team has four teams running all 23 races. Competing alongside Abreu and Crafton are Rhodes and Cameron Haley. Three of the drivers have three years of experience or less, while the No. 88 team has been in tact since 2005, the longest current tenure in the Truck Series.
“Everyone works really well,” Abreu said of his teammates. “I think it’s an open notebook in debriefs. We are in the same shop so you can only hide so much. Everyone communicates very well and all of our trucks are mainly the same.”
With Abreu’s self-described tough luck to start his rookie campaign, the team is in a bad situation, forcing them to make it up time in the pits. It puts even more pressure on top of the enormous amount that pit crews face to begin with.
“It’s such a big learning curve coming from Sprint car racing to now a 3,400 lb stock car,” he elaborated. “It’s a big jump for me, but I’m getting the hang of it and I’ve got 17 races left to try and win one.”
In previous seasons, there have been drivers such as Abreu that go from racing in their respective series, take a shot at NASCAR and go back to their home division. Abreu admitted that he plans on being in NASCAR for the long haul and one day become a Sprint Cup driver.
Juan Pablo Montoya, Marcos Ambrose and many more have all tried, ultimately going back to their prior series. Abreu does not want to be the next to fall short of his goals within NASCAR.
“I just want to win,” Abreu said. “I’m so focused on racing the racetrack.”
Moving forward in the season, Abreu is excited about racing the 1.5-mile racetracks and any track that has multiple grooves of racing. With his dirt experience, he’s not afraid to rim-ride the wall in other words the cushion of the track, like one of his close friends, Kyle Larson.
On the 1.5-mile racetracks, Abreu looks like Larson on the track. All drivers try to get everything out of their car or truck, but sometimes push the envelope a little too much. There have been multiple instances where getting a little too high has cost the team, damaging the racecar, much like Charlotte.
“I think we are getting better and we are going to some good tracks in the next couple months and a few of them that I have raced on before,” Abreu mentioned. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Abreu believes that better preparing himself for events will be beneficial in the immediate future. He is at the point of his career where he needs to advance up the ladder of NASCAR, starting so late into his career.
Finishing all of the races is one of his main goals for the remainder of 2016. Gaining the on-track experience at this level could get to the point of whether he is successful in NASCAR.
Austin Wayne Self, one of the 32 drivers in the field who patiently waited for his opportunity, turned in a 21st place finish upon the conclusion of Saturday’s 134-lap event.
Self, who earned his best finish in recent weeks, did sustain damage to his No.22 AM Technical Solutions Toyota on the final lap after getting together with Daniel Hemric and finishing the race with contact against the outside wall at the stripe.
“Even though we struggled a bit with the handling of the truck today I’m happy we were able to get the finish we did.” Referring to the final lap, Self said, “I’m not happy about that deal at the end of but at least we finished where we did.”
“The last couple of races have been tough on our team. I’m hoping we can build on our progress and get things ready for our next event at Texas (Motor Speedway). I’m really excited about going home and racing in front of my home state crowd.”
Self, who started in the 25th position after rain canceled Friday’s qualifying session, battled an ill-handling truck yet was able to race his way up into the 13th position by lap-73. After a caution on lap-77, Self, would get shuffled back on the race restart - giving up valuable track position. Continuing to battle a loose truck, the pilot of the AM Racing Toyota would battle to keep his truck inside the top-25.
Desperately hoping for a much needed late race caution to give the team a chance for another round of adjustments, the team’s chances of a top-10 finish were delated, as they ultimately settled for a 21st place finish.
“We struggled with handling after that last pit stop and that cost us. We made the right adjustments but the truck didn’t respond the way I wanted it to as it took a few laps for our tire pressure to build up. My crew continues to do a great job and battle hard, we just ran out of time there at the end to make adjustments to better our final position.
After three-consecutive weeks of racing the NASCAR Truck Series will break until Friday, June 10, when the series returns to action for the running of the Rattlesnake 400 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Ben Kennedy, driver of the No. 33 JACOB Companies Chevrolet, earned a 14th-place finish in the NC Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Due to inclement weather, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) practice on Thursday afternoon was shortened to only one hour-long session. On Friday, qualifying was cancelled, causing the field to be set per the NCWTS rulebook. Kennedy started from the 3rd-position for the NC Education Lottery 200, which was rescheduled for Saturday, May 21.
In the early stages of the race, Kennedy reported to crew chief Jeff Stankiewicz that the No. 33 JACOB Companies Chevrolet was handling loose on entry and tight in the center and the middle of exit. Kennedy stayed within the top-10 until the first caution of the day occurred on lap 24. Stankiewicz called Kennedy to pit road for four tires, fuel, and air pressure and track bar adjustments to help tighten the free-handling chassis. Kennedy restarted with the field from the seventh position on lap 28. Kennedy reported that he was getting tighter and dropped back to the 12th position. Kennedy continued to battle for position within the top 10 until the caution clock expired on lap 68. Kennedy reported to Stankiewicz that he was continuing to get tighter on the longer runs. Stankiewicz called Kennedy to pit road for four tires, fuel, and air pressure and chassis adjustments, restarting the JACOB Companies Chevrolet in the seventh position on lap 71. Kennedy reached the third position on lap 83 but once again the No. 33 began to tighten up and he fell back to the 12th position on lap 116. Stankiewicz knew Kennedy was short on fuel and called Kennedy to pit road for two left side tires and fuel under green flag conditions, returning to the field on lap 122. In seven laps, Kennedy battled his way through the field and by lap 129 he settled in to the 14th position where he remained until the No. 33 JACOB Companies Chevrolet crossed the start-finish line on lap 134.
Kennedy is 13th in the driver championship point standings, seven points out of the 10th position
BEN KENNEDY QUOTE:
"The weather conditions this weekend were really tough on us. We only had one practice in our JACOB Companies Chevy and didn’t’ get a chance to qualify so our time on track was limited. It was great to start up front in the third position. I was really tight on the long runs and free on the short ones. We were great on restarts but the truck just kept getting tighter and tighter on me throughout those long runs. Jeff (Stankiewicz, crew chief) had a tough call there towards the end when it came down to whether we could make it on fuel or not, but we didn’t want to chance running out of fuel and came down to pit. We had a fast JACOB Companies Chevrolet and I am looking forward to Texas."finish is great. I'm really proud of the GMS Racing team and the effort they put in all weekend."
GMS Racing PR
After turning the 11th-fastest lap late Thursday in an abbreviated practice session for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway, John Wes Townley rolled off from the inside of row six at the start of Saturday afternoon’s rain-delayed NC Education Lottery 200 on the high-banked, 1.5-mile oval.
But the nighttime chassis setup (the race was originally scheduled for Friday evening) on his No. 05 Jive Communications/Zaxby’s Chevrolet wasn’t receptive to the early afternoon, sun-splashed conditions over the historic speedway, evidenced by the veteran driver free-falling through the field once the green flag finally waved shortly after 1 p.m. eastern on Saturday.
Townley was never in jeopardy of being lapped during the 134 lap race. But that was one of the few bright spots on a frustrating day that saw him post a 16th-place finish.
“The sun came out and our truck was super tight for most of the race,” Townley said. “We tried to loosen it up on the first two stops. It finally helped some, and we started turning some laps times comparable to the leaders. But we had lost so much track position, we just couldn’t play catch up.”
Townley had originally been scheduled to practice and qualify his ARCA car in Toledo, Ohio on Saturday and participate in Sunday’s Menards 200 at Toledo 200. But the Truck Series rain delay at Charlotte Motor Speedway forced him to withdraw from this weekend’s ARCA event.
Athenian Motorsports and Townley will trek up the east coast this week to run the NJMP ARCA 150 presented by Unique Pretzels at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville, N.J. on Saturday.
“I’ve race there before in ARCA and it’s a challenging road course,” Townley said. “I had a chance to go up there a few weeks ago and turn some laps in a street car. Road racing is not my strength, but we’re going to give it our best shot and see how things turn out.”
Athenian Motorsports PR
Spencer Gallagher, driver of the No. 23 Allegiant Travel Chevrolet Silverado, turned a challenging race into a sixth-place finish at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Gallagher collected his fifth-consecutive top-10 finish Saturday in the NC Education Lottery 200.
Following the second straight week of inclement weather cancelling qualifying, the No. 23 Allegiant Travel Chevrolet was lined up second for the postponed race based off of Thursday night’s practice results. A slow start to the 134-lap event caused Gallagher to drop back to the eighth position before the second lap. The Las Vegas native relayed to his crew that he was "way too loose" in the opening laps, but by the time the first caution of the event occurred on lap 24, Gallagher’s Allegiant Travel Chevrolet was tight in the center. Crew chief Jeff Hensley brought Gallagher to pit road from the 19th position for tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment. Despite the No. 23 crew’s efforts to alleviate the tight-handling condition, Gallagher continued to struggle with gaining positions and pitted during the second caution of the day on lap 68 from the 18th position. Hensley instructed Gallagher to pit for tires and fuel, return to the track and then re-enter pit road for a second stop for additional adjustments before the field returned to green. When the third and final caution of the day occurred just five laps later, on lap 73, Gallagher returned to pit road for an extended stop for more adjustments to help the same tight-handling condition and to raise the splitter off the track. He rejoined the field in the 25th position for the lap 77 restart. With 23 laps remaining, Hensley explained to his driver that the caution clock would be turned off with 20 laps remaining and that the odds of a caution were slim. Gallagher was told to begin saving fuel, while running in the 16th position, in an effort to make a run at a top-five finish. As the leaders began to pit with 10 laps to go, Gallagher quickly gained track position and entered the top 10 on lap 125. In the closing laps Gallagher worked his way into the sixth position and earned a fifth straight top-10 finish as the checkered flag waved.
Gallagher gained one spot in the driver championship point standings to sit in fourth, 22 points out of first.
Spencer Gallagher Quote:
“There was a galaxy of difference from what we experienced from practicing two nights ago to what we raced with today. Our handling balance changed completely for our Allegiant Travel Chevrolet and frankly, we struggled all day. It really caught us off guard but I think that speaks to the strength of my crew that we were able to come up with a good strategy to fix our lack of speed and we ended up coming out with a sixth place finish.”
GMS Racing PR
Johnny Sauter, driver of the No. 21 WaterPulse Chevrolet in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, earned his second consecutive top-five finish Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Sauter and crew chief Marcus Richmond used Thursday’s lone practice session to dial-in the WaterPulse Chevrolet for what was scheduled to be a Friday night race. After rain led to the cancellation of all on-track events for Friday, including qualifying, Sauter lined up for the NC Education Lottery 200 from the fourth position behind teammates Spencer Gallagher and Ben Kennedy.
From the start, Sauter reported that the No. 21 was free and he needed more rear grip in the center of the corner. During the first caution of the day on lap 24, Richmond called for air pressure and track bar adjustments, along with four tires and fuel. Sauter pitted from the third position and returned to the track in fourth after the leader took only two tires. Almost immediately following the pit stop, Sauter stated the previous adjustments to the WaterPulse Chevrolet had caused it to tighten up too much. The caution clock expired on lap 68 and Richmond brought Sauter to pit road for tires, fuel, and track bar and air pressure adjustments. The No. 21 lined up fifth for the lap 73 restart, but a quick caution on lap 73 prevented Sauter from making a run at the lead. Lining up sixth on the outside for the restart, Sauter was held up by the trucks in front of him and quickly fell back as far as 15th. From the 13th position, Sauter reported the No. 21 was “plowing off the corner” and the team began to discuss what changes they would make during the next stop. As the caution clock reached 30 seconds, the leaders crossed the start-finish line marking 20 laps to go and negating the call for a yellow flag. Richmond told Sauter to begin saving fuel, understanding that most of his competitors would need to pit before the end of the race. The leaders began to pit as Sauter climbed through the field, taking over the lead on lap 130. Sauter was told that in order to ensure he would make it through the next four laps without needing to pit, he would have to relinquish the lead and race for a top-five finish. Sauter crossed the line to finish the race in the third position.
The third-place finish is Sauter’s third top five of the season. He is now 10th in the driver championship point standings with one win.
Johnny Sauter Quote:
"Our WaterPulse Chevrolet started off really free and Marcus made what I would consider a good adjustment. From there on we were way too tight center-off, especially in traffic. The further I got back on the restarts I would just drive off into the corner and it would go straight. I don’t know if we didn’t have our attitude quite right or not but proud of the way it came out for all of the guys at the shop. Marcus did a hell of a job calling the race and we were just trying to save fuel at the end. Definitely not how you want to get a result but then on the flip side we’ve had some bad luck this year so it’s nice to have something go our way like this.”
GMS Racing PR