Here’s various news items and notes for the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series racing this week at Daytona International Speedway…
What’s in a name?
The 2019 season brings a new look to NASCAR’s Truck Series.
Last May, NASCAR and Camping World announced an expansion to their partnership agreement that provides Gander Outdoors naming rights to the rebranded NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series in 2019.
Camping World originally became title sponsor of the Truck Series in 2009. In 2014, NASCAR and Camping World signed a landmark seven-year agreement, continuing the partnership through 2022. The newly expanded agreement announced last year provides official NASCAR status and naming rights to Camping World’s partner brand, Gander Outdoors.
Gander Outdoors, formerly known as Gander Mountain, was purchased and rebranded by Marcus Lemonis, Chairman of Camping World, in May 2017.
“Nearly a decade ago we felt strongly our entitlement sponsorship would dramatically increase Camping World’s customer base and it’s delivered,” said Lemonis. “We expect the passionate fans of NASCAR will embrace Gander Outdoors the same way they supported Camping World and we couldn’t be more excited about the future of the series.”
What’s old is new again for defending race winner
The 2018 winner of the NextEra Energy 250 is back to defend his Daytona crown – but it will be with a different team and number than rode into Victory Lane with him last year.
But don’t expect him to face any growing pains in his “new” ride.
Because Johnny Sauter is going home in a way – reuniting with ThorSport Racing in the No. 13 truck – a number he drove for them in one race in 2005 (Homestead-Miami Speedway) and then for the 2009-2012 seasons. He remained with ThorSport through 2015, switching to the No. 98 for his final three years under their umbrella.
Sauter and ThorSport parted ways after the 2015 season, and the 40-year old Wisconsin native then paired up with GMS Racing to capture the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series championship in 2016 and 13 wins over three seasons from 2016-2018.
It was announced at the beginning of January that Sauter would not be returning to GMS, and now he finds himself back with ThorSport for the season-opener in Daytona.
And he’ll have a familiar voice in his ear calling the shots from atop the pit box. Also moving over to ThorSport with Sauter is his good friend and crew chief Joe Shear Jr. The pair originally worked together from 2004-2012…and then reunited halfway through the 2016 championship run.
Together, Sauter and Shear have 20 wins in the series – accounting for all but three of Sauter’s 23 career truck wins. Of note – Shear also has 23 total career wins atop the pit box (his other three wins coming with Kasey Kahne in 2015 and with Cole Custer in 2014 and 2015).
Last year’s Daytona win was Sauter’s third in the season-opener. The first came in 2013 with a ThorSport Toyota and the other two with a GMS Chevrolet.
That makes Sauter the only driver to have won the Daytona race with two different manufacturers – and he’ll be looking to make it three as this time around with ThorSport, he’ll be driving for the win in a Ford.
New look for the reigning champ
Brett Moffitt put together a storybook season in 2018.
Widely considered the underdog on the little-team-that-could, Hattori Racing Enterprises, he won his first race of the season at Atlanta. And then went on to tally six wins total – including the most important of all – the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, netting him the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series championship.
But the story didn’t have a perfectly happy ending as Moffitt and Hattori broke up at the end of the season. That was to the benefit of GMS Racing, who snagged the 2015 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year and put him in the No. 24 Chevrolet for this season.
In addition to his six wins in 2018, Moffitt recorded 13 top 10s – all of which also happened to be top-five finishes.
He’ll be partnered with veteran crew chief Jerry Baxter, who is no stranger to the truck series. He guided Kaz Grala to the Daytona season-opening win in 2017 for GMS. Prior to joining GMS in 2017, Baxter spent four seasons with Kyle Busch Motorsports, mentoring the likes of Bubba Wallace, Christopher Bell, Daniel Suarez and Matt Tifft. (NASCAR PR)