NASCAR Truck Series News (6256)

Gander Outdoors Truck Series News

Halmar Friesen Racing (HFR) officials today announced plans to chase the 2020 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series championship with driver Stewart Friesen.

The ‘20 season marks a new beginning for HFR and the No. 52. 

HFR makes the move to Toyota with the support of Toyota Racing Development (TRD). 

“We were all very impressed after spending time with Toyota,” Friesen said. “TRD has been welcoming to our organization. With their support, knowledge and technology, we hope to bring our team to another level.”

HFR has secured a new base of operations in Statesville, N.C. Trucks will be purchased through Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Tripp Bruce returns to the team as Crew Chief. Gene Nead has been signed as Competition Director. 

“Through this transition, we’ve been able to retain several members of our team from last season,” Friesen said. “They’ve remained loyal to us and have new energy going into 2020.”

HFR principal Chris Larsen feels HFR has assembled a championship-caliber organization.

“The championship is our goal,” Larsen said. “Making it to the ‘Final Four’ was an accomplishment, but we’re all competitive. You want to be sitting at the head table at the series banquet. We’re working to be that team.”

Friesen, 36, enjoyed a career season on the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series in ’19, placing fourth in points and earning the first two victories of his career: on the dirt at Ohio’s Eldora Speedway in August and the ISM Raceway (Phoenix) in November.

In 23 events, Friesen’s two victories were accompanied by 12 top-five and 16 top-10 finishes. 

The Canadian-born Friesen, who resides in Sprakers, N.Y., enters his fourth season of NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series competition.


GMS Racing officials announced today that NASCAR driver, Zane Smith will compete full-time in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series for GMS Racing in 2020, completing the organizations full-time Gander Truck’s line-up. Veteran crew chief, Kevin ‘Bono’ Manion has joined the organization to lead the team for Smith.


In 2018, Smith drove for MDM Motorsports and competed full-time in the ARCA Racing Series. Throughout the season, Smith captured four wins, 12 top-fives, 13 top-10’s, one pole award and earned a runner-up finish in the series’ standings. Also, in 2018, Smith made one Gander Trucks start with DGR-Crosley at World-Wide Technology Raceway where he finished fifth in his first Gander Truck Series start. Most recently Smith competed for JR Motorsports in 10 NASCAR Xfinity Series events and accumulated two top-fives and seven top-10 finishes.


“When I got the offer from Mike Beam asking me to run a truck full-time for GMS Racing, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity,” said Smith. “GMS is a Championship caliber team and to be a part of an organization like theirs is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’m looking forward to working with Manion again. He has a lot of experience and I know we will be a great team.”


Manion has called the shots atop the pit box for many notable top-name NASCAR drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, and many others. Over all three NASCAR Series, Manion has accumulated an impressive resume including:

·     Five NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series wins, 27 top-fives, 65 top-10’s, and 10 poles. Two of those wins being the 2010 Daytona 500 and 2010 Brickyard 400.

·     15 NASCAR Xfinity Series (NXS) wins, 36 top-fives, 53 top-10’s, and nine poles. Two Xfinity Championships with Martin Truex Jr in 2004 and 2005.

·     Four Gander Trucks wins, 16 top-fives, 28 top-10’s and one pole.


“I am really excited to join GMS Racing and Zane (Smith) for the 2020 season,” said Manion. “With GMS Racing’s championship caliber equipment and Chevrolet support, we have all the resources to win some races and be in the hunt for the 2020 Championship. I got the opportunity to crew chief Zane (Smith) in his first Gander Trucks start in 2018 at Gateway and we worked really well together. I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish next season.”


Over the past seven years in Gander Trucks competition, GMS Racing has 27 wins, 103 top-fives, 204 top-10’s, 13 pole awards, and one Championship in 2016 with Johnny Sauter. 


“We are thrilled to welcome Zane (Smith) and Kevin (Manion) into the GMS Racing family for the 2020 season,” said Mike Beam, president of GMS Racing. “With Kevin’s veteran crew chief knowledge and Zane’s skill they will make a great team. I think we have a solid line-up for 2020 and I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish.”


Additional information on sponsorship and an assigned truck number for Smith will be announced at a later date.

GMS Racing PR

The young guns will have to wait.

Matt Crafton, a 43-year-old veteran of 19 full seasons in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series, took home his third championship with a second-place finish in Friday night’s Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Crafton claimed the title without winning a race this season, but that was all but irrelevant as Crafton moved within one championship of series leader and NASCAR Hall of Fame Ron Hornaday Jr.

“I guess I finally got out of the wheelchair and got up one the wheel and got it done,” said Crafton, who crossed the finish line 1.569 seconds behind race winner Austin Hill but a comfortable 9.201 seconds ahead of Ross Chastain, who finished fourth in the race and second among the Championship 4 drivers.

“One step closer to what Hornaday’s done, and they called us the underdog.”

Crafton exhibited a mixture of elation and defiance as he celebrated in Victory Lane. Almost an afterthought among pundits entering the race, Crafton schooled his younger Championship 4 competitors with a No. 88 ThorSport Racing Ford that improved throughout the race.

That others discounted his chances clearly was a motivating factor for Crafton.

“There was nothing sweeter, to be honest,” Crafton said. “It was that little jab in the side—and I don’t know if I needed that, but it just ticked me off. And I just said, ‘I’m going to prove you really, really wrong tonight.’

“I knew I was going to do whatever I had to do for every one of these guys, for (team owners) Duke and Rhonda (Thorson) and everyone who worked hard, but I said it was that little bit extra poke.”

Though fired up by the slight, Crafton had to exercise the patience of a veteran when Hill passed him for the lead on Lap 112 of 134.

“Once they told me the 24 (championship contender Brett Moffitt) was nine seconds back, and we were gapping him by three-tenths (of a second) a lap, I was like, ‘I need to look at the big picture here and not take a chance of losing this championship. Let’s just ride right here—race as hard as I could without doing anything dumb to put the thing in the fence.”

Winning the title without winning a race didn’t bother Crafton in the least.

"I’ll sleep very, very well all winter—with the trophy,” he said.

Crew chief Junior Joiner, who has been with Crafton for all three of his championships—the first two coming back-to-back in 2013 and 2014—echoed that sentiment.

“We didn’t win the race, but gosh, darn it, we won the war,” Joiner said.

The youth movement did have its moments on Friday night. In his eighth Truck Series start of the season, 19-year-old ARCA champion Christian Eckes secured the seventh owner’s championship for Kyle Busch Motorsports with a third-place finish, a day after Eckes was announced as one of KBM’s full-time drivers for next year.

Eckes couldn’t have claimed the owner’s title, however, if it weren’t for the efforts of a veteran driver.

Crafton made his first start in the Truck Series in 2000, running only his debut race at Auto Club Speedway that year. Greg Biffle won the Truck Series title that season, and it was Biffle whom KBM team owner Kyle Busch coaxed out of retirement to run one race in the No. 51 Toyota at Texas.

Biffle won in his only start, and it was that victory that qualified the No. 51 for the owner Playoffs.

“I just thought an old retired guy might be able to get it done—and he did,” Busch said after Friday night’s race.

Coincidentally, Crafton is the first Ford driver since Biffle in 2000 to win a Truck Series championship.

Todd Gilliland and the No. 4 JBL/SiriusXM team finished eighth to close out the 2019 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series season. On Friday morning, Gilliland was 22nd in NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series first practice and fifth in final practice. Qualifying was rained out and the field was set by the NASCAR rule book.
Gilliland rallied as high as third in the final race of the season, but had trouble on restarts and fought the handling on his Tundra. Ultimately, he was able to rally to an eighth-place finish.
Stage One Recap:
  • Qualifying was canceled due to weather, so Gilliland began the race in 11th position.
  • During the first stage, Gilliland brushed the wall, and reported that his Tundra was loose.
  • At the end of the first stage, Gilliland was 12th.
  • Crew chief Wes Ward called him to pit road for four fresh Goodyear tires and Sunoco fuel.
Stage Two Recap:
  • Gilliland began the second stage in 11th, and was able to climb into the top-10
  • He was able to climb to seventh, and then Ward opted for pit strategy and called him to pit road under caution on lap 49 when he said his Tundra was "super loose" in the center of the corner and off.
  • They changed four tires and filled the No. 4 with fuel during the stop.
  • Following the pit stop, Ward instructed Gilliland to save his tires, so Gilliland completed the stage in 23rd.
Stage Three Recap
  • Ward opted for track position and kept Gilliland on the track between stages. The No. 4 JBL/SiriusXM began the final stage in third.
  • On the restart, Gilliland reported that his Tundra had lost right front grip and he fell to the bottom of the top-10.
  • On lap 98, Ward brought Gilliland to pit road under green flag conditions for the final scheduled pit stop for four tires, fuel and an adjustment.
  • During the final segment, Gilliland unfortunately came into contact with an animal and damaged the grille and front end of the No. 4 Tundra.
  • Despite the damage, Gilliland crossed the finish line in eighth, earning his 14th top-10 of the 2019 season.


After rain delayed the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway into the late evening hours, Christian Eckes posted a third-place finish to clinch the owner championship for Kyle Busch Motorsports' No. 51. Over the course of the 2019 season, the No. 51 had seven different drivers, including owner-driver Kyle Busch, veteran driver Greg Biffle, Eckes, Brandon Jones, Chandler Smith, Alex Tagliani and Riley Herbst. These drivers, led by veteran crew chief Rudy Fugle, combined for six wins, three poles, 15 top-five and 17 top-10 finishes, 792 laps led, an average starting position of 7.7 and an average finish of 6.5. The No. 51 finished first or second 10 times in 23 races, and in the top-three 13 times. This is the record seventh owner's title for Kyle Busch Motorsports, with the previous championships coming in 2010, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.
In practice early Friday morning, Eckes was 14th-fastest in first practice and third-fastest in the final Gander Trucks practice session in the No. 51 Mobil 1 Tundra. Qualifying was rained out and the field was set by the rule book, so the No. 51 started on the front row in second-place.
On the start, the 19-year-old driver was battling a free handling condition, and fell backwards, but Fugle took advantage of pit strategy to adjust on the No. 51 and get Eckes back to the front of the field. The young driver led 26 laps to begin the final stage, then after a final green-flag pit stop, cycled around to third, where he finished the race.
Eckes, a Middletown, N.Y., native, will run full-time for Kyle Busch Motorsports in 2020, in the No. 18 Safelite AutoGlass Tundra. In eight starts in 2019, he posted three-top five finishes, four top-10 finishes and three poles. He had an average finish of 10.5 and an average starting position of 4.8.
Stage One Recap:
  • Qualifying was rained out, so the field was set by the rule book, meaning the No. 51 started on the outside of the front row.
  • In the opening laps, Eckes reported a loose handling condition, and slid back in the top-10, finishing the first stage in fifth.
  • Fugle called the young driver to pit road for four fresh Goodyear tires, Sunoco fuel and adjustments during the stage break.
Stage Two Recap:
  • Eckes started the second stage in fifth, but was unable to make forward progress, falling to 10th within a few laps.
  • Under caution on lap 49, Fugle opted to bring Eckes to pit road for four tires, fuel and another adjustment.
  • Fugle instructed Eckes to save his tires for the remaining laps in the stage, so the No. 51 finished the second stage in 21st.
  • During the stage break, Fugle had Eckes stay on track to gain track position.
Stage Three Recap:
  • Eckes began the final stage in the lead. He kept the lead for 26 laps, before relinquishing it to eventual race winner, Austin Hill.
  • Fugle called the No. 51 to pit road under the green flag for the final scheduled pit stop on lap 97.
  • When stops cycled through, Eckes was in third, and he maintained that position through the closing laps.
  • The third-place finish was the highest of the teams competing for the owner championship, and the No. 51 earned the seventh owner championship for Kyle Busch Motorsports.


Making his final start for Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) before graduating to a full-time role in the NASCAR Xfinity Series next season, Harrison Burton started 13th and finished 13th in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Burton closes out his rookie season 12th in the championship standings after posting seven top-five and 11 top-10 finishes across the 23-race schedule.
Stage One Recap:  
  • After qualifying was washed out due to rain, Burton lined up 13th based on owner's points.
  • As Stage One went caution free from start to finish, the second-generation driver communicated that the Safelite Tundra was experiencing a "four-wheel slide" in the corners and would finish the stage in 14th. 
Stage Two Recap:  
  • Crew chief Mike Hillman Jr. summoned his young driver to pit road for a four-tire and fuel stop with a trackbar adjustment in an effort to improve the handling.
  • When Stage Two went green on lap 35, the No. 18 Toyota was scored in the 12th position.
  • Burton continued to be unhappy with the handling of his Safelite Tundra, communicating that it was "chattering on exit." When fluid on the track brought out the second caution of the event, a few trucks pitted, but the Safelite team stayed on track in an effort to be able to put on fresher tires for the start of the Final Stage.
  • The rookie driver was scored in 10th for the ensuing restart, but fell back to 12th when Stage Two came to completion on lap 60. 
Final Stage Recap:  
  • Hillman Jr. summoned his driver to pit road between stages for a four-tire and fuel stop with an assortment of adjustments hoping to bring the truck to life for the Final Stage.
  • Burton would start the Final Stage scored in the 14th position. In the early portion of the stage he communicated that the Safelite Tundra was "loose on entry and tight center-off."
  • He was scored in the 13th position when he hit pit road for a scheduled green-flag stop on lap 95.
  • When stops cycled through he was in the 11th position, but continued to battle the handling in the closing laps and would cross the stripe 13th. 


Austin Hill capped off an incredible breakout season with a dominating performance for his fourth victory of 2019 at Homestead-Miami Speedway (HMS) on Friday night. Hill stole the show and made a clean sweep in South Florida by collecting the first two stage wins of his career and led 56 laps en route to the win. The victory secured Hill a fifth-place finish in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series driver point standings and helped Toyota capture the 2019 Gander Trucks Manufacturer championship.
Hill showed the muscle of his Chiba Toyopet Toyota Tundra from the first lap of practice, as he was third quickest in the first session on Friday morning. The Georgia native took the green flag from fifth position after qualifying was scraped due to rain. After losing momentum on the bottom of the track on the initial start and slipping to 11th, Hill began to blitz his way to the front of the field. The 25-year old began to make it obvious that he and the No. 16 Chiba Toyopet Tundra would set the pace as he advanced to fifth by lap 12. Hill took second on lap 25 and grabbed the lead on lap 29 to secure his first-career stage victory on lap later.
Crew chief Scott Zipadelli made a small chassis adjustment under the Stage 1 caution to aid Hill’s snug balance, along with four tires and fuel. Hill restarted in sixth on lap 36 and immediately charged towards the front. Less than 10 laps later, Hill chased down the race leader and retook the top spot on lap 44. Hill paced the field until lap 60 to sweep both stages. Once again, Zipadelli and the HRE team gave Hill four tires, fuel, and a minute air pressure change under the caution to help Hill’s Chiba Toyopet Tundra turn in the center of both corners.
As a result of three trucks staying on track, Hill restarted fourth for the night’s final restart on lap 68. He methodically kept pace with the race leader and returned to the race lead on lap 90. Zipadelli called Hill to pit road on lap 99 in the middle of a green-flag pit stop cycle for his final stop of the event. While other competitors short pitted, Hill cycled to third position but quickly erased over a two-second deficit to permanently take the lead on lap 112. Hill delivered smooth, consistent laps, rim-riding HMS's high banks, for the final 23 circuits to bookend the 2019 campaign with victories.
In 2019, Hill shattered outside expectations and his personal stats by recording three pole awards, four wins, seven top-five and 13 top-10 finishes in 23 races.
Austin Hill Quote:
“I just have to give it all to my guys. This is probably the best truck that I’ve had. I know we were really good at Vegas, but man, this thing was good. At Vegas we were on a different tire strategy than other guys, but we weren’t this time and we just showed them how good we actually were. I’m excited for the win, but at the same time it stings a little bit because I know if we would have been a little better in the Round of 6, we could be celebrating a win and a championship. I can’t thank everybody on this team enough. Can’t thank Chiba Toyopet, Toyota, TRD enough. With this win we locked up the manufacturer’s championship for Toyota so I’m really glad that I could be a part of that and help that out. Awesome way to end the season.”


Austin Hill bookended his 2019 season with a victory in Friday night’s Ford EcoBoost 200 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway – finishing a comfortable 1.569-seconds ahead of veteran Matt Crafton, whose runner-up effort was enough to earn him his third NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series championship.

Hill won all three stages in the race and led a race best 56 laps to give the No. 16 Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota its second consecutive Homestead win. Last year Brett Moffitt drove the truck to a race and series championship trophy.

Christian Eckes finished third on Friday to earn Kyle Busch Motorsports its record seventh series owner championship – the organization’s sixth in the last seven years.

From the drop of the rain-delayed green flag, the four championship eligible drivers – Crafton, fourth place Ross Chastain, fifth place Moffitt and 11th place Stewart Friesen – had to deal with a highly motivated Hill for the race win. Officially eliminated from Playoff contention last week at Phoenix’s ISM Raceway, Hill came into the event highly-motivated nonetheless.

He drove around title contender Chastain to win the first stage and held off Crafton for wins in both the second stage and ultimately the race trophy.

The 25-year old Georgia native finished the season as he started – in Victory Lane - matching his work in the season-opening Daytona race – his first career win. He won again at Michigan in the summer and then again at Las Vegas and was truly a formidable contender through the Playoffs. Unable to overcome a points deficit after a crash at Martinsville, Va. in the final Playoff round, however, kept him from the Championship 4. However his work Friday sent a strong message that he’s ready to contend for the championship next year as well.

“I’m excited for the win, but at the same time it stings a little bit just because I know that if we would have been a little bit better in the round of six, we could be celebrating a win and a championship," Hill said. “But like I say, I can’t thank everybody out there enough.

And Hill conceded with a smile, “It’s awesome to get my fourth win of the season and end on a high note."

This year’s champion Crafton matches a three-title mark equaled only by Jack Sprague (2001, 1999 and 1997) and exceeded by only NASCAR Hall of Famer Ron Hornaday Jr. Crafton is the only driver to ever win back-to-back truck titles (2013-14).

“It feels amazing and we’re one step closer to what Hornaday’s done," Crafton said after climbing out of his car, noting that many underestimated his No. 88 ThorSport Racing Ford team. “And they called us the underdog."

Moffitt, who led the series with four wins, 13 top fives along with 17 top 10s and three pole positions, was clearly disappointed with his fifth-place finish.

“We were just pretty bad from the get-go this morning, just missing speed," said Moffitt, who drives the No. 24 GMS Racing Chevrolet.  “It is what it is, we had a good year and we’ll re-group and go after it again next year."

“It’s a disappointment but we’ll move on and get better," he added.

Chastain, who was a strong favorite to earn his first title, was equally as disappointed following the race. He led 36 laps on the night and for much of the early race looked ready to challenge Hill for the race win to land his first NASCAR title.

He won three races and earned a series best 19 top-10 finishes. A competitor in all three NASCAR national series, Chastain only declared himself championship eligible in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series in June.

“I want to throw up right now to be honest with you, but it has been an absolute dream," said Chastain, who will drive for Kaulig Racing in the Xfinity Series next year.

“It’s pretty crazy that we did that [made the Playoffs], and made it to Homestead," he added. “We did everything we could and that says a lot."

Tyler Ankrum, the driver of the No. 17 DGR Crosley Toyota, finished 22nd on Friday, but officially earned the series’ Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors for his season’s work. He wasn’t allowed to compete on the big tracks until he turned 18 in March and he missed the opening three races of the season calendar.

“We had a really great season I thought," said the 18-year old Ankrum, who won his career first series race at Kentucky this summer and qualified for the Playoffs as a rookie.

“When we had highs they were really, really high."

MARK RUSHBROOK, Global Director, Ford Performance Motorsports

THIS IS A GOOD WAY TO START FORD CHAMPIONSHIP WEEKEND.  “We’re excited to have ThorSport as a great team running Fords, and Matt Crafton showed his skill with a team behind him to take the truck to the front and get the championship.”

THIS WAS THE ULTIMATE GOAL WHEN THORSPORT JOINED FORD BEFORE THE START OF THE 2018 SEASON, RIGHT?  “Yes.  We had a great opportunity to partner with ThorSport two years ago and we’re so happy that we did.  They’ve been great partners on and off the track.”

Ford Performance PR

Toyota ended the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series (NGOTS) season in familiar fashion at Homestead-Miami Speedway, earning the 11th manufacturer’s championship – a high for any manufacturer in the series. It marked the manufacturer’s sixth title in the last seven years as Tundra drivers captured wins in 12 of 23 races in 2019.

“The success Toyota has had this year is just another testament to the hard work and dedication of our teams and drivers - whether it’s our young, up-and-coming drivers or veterans like Kyle Busch,” said Paul Doleshal, group manager of motorsports and asset management for Toyota Motor North America (TMNA). “The Truck Series has a long history of producing some of the best racing in NASCAR and we’re proud to be able to continue to showcase the Tundra and to add another manufacturer’s championship to its name.”

Five Tundra drivers contributed victories en route to this year’s NGOTS manufacturer’s championship with Toyota drivers combining to win 12 races and lead 1,164 laps in 2019. In five Truck Series appearances, Kyle Busch went undefeated while former Cup Series driver, Greg Biffle, made his first Truck Series start in nearly 15 years, driving his Tundra to Victory Lane in Texas. Three Tundra drivers also collected their first career Truck Series victories, including Austin Hill (four wins), Todd Gilliland (one), and NGOTS Rookie of the Year Tyler Ankrum (one), adding to Toyota’s winning tradition.

Since joining the series in 2004, Toyota has won 191 Truck Series races and captured 152 poles in 381 races. In addition to this year’s title, Toyota also claimed manufacturer championships in 2006 (12 wins); 2007 (13 wins); 2008 (13 wins); 2009 (14 wins); 2010 (15 wins); 2013 (13 wins); 2014 (18 wins), 2015 (14 wins), 2016 (14 wins) and 2017 (12 wins).


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