Here are various news and note items from the ARCA Menards Series racing this week at Daytona International Speedway…
ARCA Menards Series drivers sticking around to enjoy Florida sun
If you’ve been following the Speedweeks activity this year, you’ll notice the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series entry list has a lot of familiar names.
Nine drivers have stuck around since their Saturday race in the Lucas Oil 200 to contend in Thursday night’s NextEra Energy 250 (7:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). And that includes three of the top four and five of the top seven finishers from last weekend.
Race winner Harrison Burton and second-place finisher Todd Gilliland will be starting off their 2019 full-time campaigns for Kyle Busch Motorsports this Thursday under the lights.
Burton will be a Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender this season in the No. 18 Toyota. He actually has 15 Truck Series races under his belt over the past three years – with a total of four top-five and seven top-10 finishes. He also won the pole at Iowa last year, where he posted one of his two third-place finishes (Phoenix).
Gilliland raced for the rookie title last year, but missed four races at the beginning of the year on tracks 1.5-miles or longer due to age restrictions – he had to wait until he turned 18 in May to race on those tracks. But in 19 series starts last year, he put together six top-five and 12 top-10 finishes while also grabbing the pole award at the fall Martinsville race. He’ll be back in the No. 4 for KBM.
Christian Eckes was fourth on Saturday and will looking to make his fifth career Gander Outdoors Truck Series start, Codie Rohrbaugh (seventh last weekend) is aiming for his third series start and Natalie Decker (sixth on Saturday) looks to make her first series start.
Tyler Dippel, Bobby Gerhart, Jason White and Gus Dean all also ran in Saturday’s ARCA race and are looking to make the field on Thursday night.
ARCA champ moving up
2018 ARCA Menards Series champion Sheldon Creed is making the jump to the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series this year and will be piloting the No. 2 Chevrolet for GMS Racing with Doug Randolph atop the pit box.
Creed won four races last year en route to the title, while also posting an impressive 16 top fives and 18 top 10s in the 20 races. His average start was 4.7 while his average finish was 4.2.
A contender for the 2019 Sunoco Rookie of the Year award, Creed has seven Truck Series starts under his belt, including five last year – four with GMS Racing. His best result was a fifth-place finish in the season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Full stable of talent at Daytona for ThorSport
ThorSport Racing is coming to Daytona full of NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series driver star power with five well-known names behind the wheels of their Ford rides.
Two-time series champion (2013, 2014) Matt Crafton leads the driver line-up once again – and may arguably be the most hungry of the crew. The veteran of 430 races over 19 years in the series has been in an unusual drought – his last win was at Eldora, of all places, in July, 2017.
That marks 35 races since his last trip to Victory Lane – and 2018 was his first winless season since 2012.
2016 Truck Series champion Johnny Sauter returns to his former team after spending the past three seasons with GMS Racing. He is the defending winner of this Daytona race, and, in fact, is looking for his fourth win on the 2.5-mile superspeedway.
Grant Enfinger returns to the No. 98 for the team, coming off a Round of 8 appearance in the Playoffs and a win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the fall. He other win in the series came in 2016 at Talladega, when he ran a part-time schedule of just eight races.
In 60 career Truck Series starts, he has 18 top-five and 35 top-10 finishes along with three poles.
Ben Rhodes enters his fourth full-time season in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series, all with Thorsport, and hopes this is his breakout season. The Kentucky native has one win in each of the past two seasons (Las Vegas in 2017 and Kentucky in 2018) and those two years were a marked improvement over his rookie season.
He posted just two top fives and five top 10s in 2016, but jumped up to six top-five and 12 top-10 finishes in 2017, then had eight top-five and 13 top-10 finishes last year.
Rounding out the ThorSport lineup for the season opener is 2018 Sunoco Rookie of the Year Myatt Snider in the No. 27 Ford. Snider tallied a trio of top fives and eight top 10s last year.
Natalie Decker looking to make Truck Series debut
Natalie Decker hopes Daytona marks her first NASCAR Gander Outdoors Series.
DGR-Crosley announced in November that the ARCA Menards Series regular would be racing a combination of Truck, ARCA and NASCAR K&N Pro Series races in 2019 as part of their driver development program.
Decker ran a full-time slate in ARCA in 2018, recording two top-five and nine top-10 finishes. She also recorded a pole in the season-opening race at Daytona.
Last Saturday, Decker finished sixth in the ARCA Menards Series Lucas Oil 200 on the 2.5-mile track.
Decker does have one previous qualifying attempt in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series from Martinsville in 2016. (NASCAR PR)