NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series News & Notes – Martinsville Speedway

Can Martinsville help predict series champ?

An interesting trend has been developing in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series. In five of the last six years, the eventual series champion won his first race of the season within the opening four contests.

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series
Next Race: NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series 250
The Place: Martinsville Speedway
The Date: Saturday, March 23
The Time: 2 p.m. ET
TV: FOX, 2 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 131.5 miles (250 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 70),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 140), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 250)
2018 Winner: John Hunter Nemechek

The lone exception was in 2015, when Erik Jones first reached Victory Lane at Iowa in the ninth race.

Brett Moffitt won in the second race (Atlanta) last year, as did Christopher Bell in 2017.

Johnny Sauter took home the checkered in the season opener at Daytona in 2016. Matt Crafton won the second race (Martinsville) in 2014 after scoring a victory in the fourth race (Kansas) to win his first championship in 2013.

And James Buescher also won the fourth race of the season at Kansas in 2012.

This weekend at Martinsville marks the fourth race of the season. Right now, only Daytona winner Austin Hill is in position to contend for the championship, as Monster Energy Series regular Kyle Busch won the other two races.

Looking at Martinsville, there are only two potential championship contenders with previous wins at the half-mile track: Johnny Sauter (fall 2018, fall 2016, spring 2013, spring 2011) and Matt Crafton (fall 2015, spring 2014).

 

Enfinger hoping to buck history and take early points lead to title town

Grant Enfinger, driver of the No. 98 ThorSport Racing Ford F-150, maintains a hold on the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series points lead following an 11th-place finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway two weeks ago.

But Enfinger will be looking to do what no driver since his ThorSport Racing teammate Matt Crafton did in 2014 – and that’s take a series points lead after three races all the way to the championship.

Here’s a look at who was leading after the first three races over the past 10 seasons:

2018 – Johnny Sauter

2017 – Johnny Sauter

2016 – John Hunter Nemechek

2015 – Matt Crafton

2014 – Matt Crafton (won championship)

2013 – Johnny Sauter

2012 – Timothy Peters

2011 – Matt Crafton

2010 – Timothy Peters

2009 – Kyle Busch

An interesting note about that list – all of those drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race this season.

In his third full-time season in the series, Enfinger has posted top-five finishes in the opening two races of the season and captured the points lead for the first time in his career following the Atlanta race.

At this weekend’s track, Martinsville, Enfinger has an average finish of 13.4 in five starts – but has a fourth-place finish in the spring race last year. Tossing out his 20th-place finish in a 2011 appearance, his average finish over the past two seasons moves up to 11.75.

Enfinger will need to continue with that level of consistency to stay on top in the points, where he currently holds a six-point advantage over Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Harrison Burton.

To compare at the track, Burton has also made five Martinsville starts, finishing second last year in the fall race. He has an average finish of 11.0 with one top-five and three top-10 finishes.

New names to watch this weekend

There will be a few names on the entry list this weekend that might be new to some race fans – but make sure to remember them because they are already starting to make their mark in several different developmental series.

NASCAR Next driver Derek Kraus, a 17-year-old from Stratford, Wisconsin, already has one NASCAR K&N Pro Series East win under his belt this season (New Smyrna) and a total of seven career wins across the K&N Series East and West schedules.

This weekend, his K&N Pro Series team, Bill McAnally Racing, will be fielding a Toyota for him as he attempts to make his second career NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series start. His first was last fall at Phoenix, where he finished an impressive eighth.

Another 17-year-old will be looking to make his series debut this weekend as Canadian Raphael Lessard, a native of Quebec, will be piloting a truck for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Lessard moves up to the Gander Outdoors Truck Series with KBM after success in the same team’s Super Late Model program, winning a pair of races in 2018. He was the 2016 CARS Super Late Model Tour champion after tallying four wins on the season.

He also impressed just two weeks ago in the ARCA Menards Series race at 5 Flags Speedway, leading several laps before finishing eighth.

Also looking to make his NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series debut this weekend is Juan Manuel Gonzalez for Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing. Gonzalez hails from Mexico City, Mexico, and placed fifth in the NASCAR FedEx Challenge Series in 2017 as an 18-year-old.

Most recently, he tallied 10 starts in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East in 2018, recording a top-10 at South Boston.

Sauter striving for five at “The Paperclip”

2016 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Series champion Johnny Sauter certainly knows his way around the half-mile track at Martinsville Speedway. Four of his 23 series victories have come there.

He won the most recent race at the track affectionately known as “The Paperclip,” and three times previous to that (fall 2016; spring 2013, spring 2011).

In 22 starts at Martinsville, Sauter has nine top-five and 12 top-10 finishes, with an average start of 9.1 and an average finish of 12.0. And he has remarkable staying power at the track that lends itself to beating and banging – he only has one DNF to his name.

In fact, he’s completed 97% of the laps run in races he’s entered – and has run the complete distance in all but five starts. (And…in two of those, he was only one lap down at the finish.)

The only track at which Sauter has more wins than Martinsville is Texas – where he has reached Victory Lane five times…including in the spring last year.

Two-time Martinsville winner Bubba Wallace returns to Trucks

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Bubba Wallace returns to the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series at the track where he got his first NASCAR national series win – Martinsville Speedway.

Wallace’s first visit to Victory Lane came in the fall race at the half-mile track in 2013. He then followed that up with an especially meaningful win, driving a truck with a special tribute paint scheme honoring 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Wendell Scott, a year later in the 2014 fall race.

Overall, Wallace has two wins in four starts at Martinsville, and tallied top-five finishes in each race. His “worst” finish was a fifth-place effort in his first visit to the track in the spring of 2013.

Wallace will be driving the No. 22 AM Racing Chevrolet Silverado entry.

Keeping an eye on the Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders

Harrison Burton, driver of the No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota Tundra, not only leads the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings, but he trails overall points leader Grant Enfinger by just six points in the series driver championship standings.  

Burton finished fifth at Las Vegas two weeks ago, just ahead of fellow rookie and sixth-place finisher Sheldon Creed. Creed sits second in the rookie standings but is 10th overall in the driver championship points.

Natalie Decker, who is not entered in this weekend’s race at Martinsville, has put up solid qualifying efforts each week but hasn’t seen the results in the races she has been looking for to start the season. A blown tire ending her day on the opening lap of the Daytona race (32nd-place) and then finishing three-laps down in 24th at Atlanta. But she rebounded nicely at Las Vegas, driving her No. 54 DGR-Crosley Toyota Tundra to a career-best 13th-place finish.

Tyler Dippel also struggled in the season-opener, finishing 29th after being caught up in an early crash, but answered his early misfortune with finishes of 11th (Atlanta) and 17th (Las Vegas) to get his rookie season back on track in the No. 02 Young’s Motorsports Chevrolet Silverado.

Of the four Sunoco rookies mentioned above who are entered this weekend, all have experience at this weekend’s Martinsville half-mile track. Burton’s five starts have yielded an average finish of 11.0 while finishing second last fall. Dippel has taken to the track once, placing 17th in the fall last year. In that same race, Creed placed 19th.

Parade Laps: Insights ahead of this week’s driver media breakouts

Four drivers from the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series – Young’s Motorsports driver Spencer Boyd, Sunoco Rookie of the Year points leader Harrison Burton from Kyle Busch Motorsports, and ThorSport Racing teammates Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter – will be participating in this week’s media rotations at Martinsville Speedway. These four drivers are preparing for NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series 250 this Saturday, March 23, at 2 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Spencer Boyd (No. 20 Young’s Motorsports Chevrolet)

Birthdate: June 26, 1995

Driver’s Age: 23

Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Career Highlights:

  • 2019 marks Boyd’s first full-time season in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Trucks Series after running full-time for SS Green Light Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2018.
  • He ran three Truck Series races in 2017 and again in 2018.

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Currently 13th in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series points standings.
  • Recorded his first career top-five finish in the series by placing fourth at the season-opener at Daytona.

Martinsville Speedway Performance:

  • Boyd made one start at the half-mile track in 2016, starting 27th and finishing 28th.

Harrison Burton (No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota)

Birthdate: October 9, 2000

Driver’s Age: 18

Hometown: Huntersville, North Carolina

Hobbies: Playing lacrosse, hunting, fishing, avid Duke, Carolina Panthers and Charlotte Hornets fan

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Career Highlights:

  • 2019 marks Burton’s first full-time season in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Trucks Series.
  • In 2018, he competed in eight races for Kyle Busch Motorsports and recorded his first pole award at Iowa and tallied a total of three top-five and six top-10 finishes overall.
  • He raced in six races for KBM in 2017, recording one top-five and one top-10 finish.
  • He made his Truck Series debut in 2016 at Martinsville, finishing 22nd.

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Burton is currently second in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series points standings and leads the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings.
  • After crashing out of the season-opening race at Daytona, he has finished eighth (Atlanta) and fifth (Las Vegas) in his last two starts.

Martinsville Speedway Performance:

  • Burton actually has five starts at Martinsville despite his rookie status. He’s completed all but one of the laps run during those races and has an average start of 9.6 and average finish of 11.0 at the half-mile track. He has one top five and three top 10s there.

Johnny Sauter (No. 13 ThorSport Racing Ford)

Birthdate: May 1, 1978

Driver’s Age: 40

Hometown: Necedah, Wisconsin

Hobbies: Late-model racing, family activities, hockey

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Career Highlights:

  • Sauter is the 2016 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series champion.
  • In 2018, Sauter made the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Championship 4 for the third consecutive season and posted a career-high six wins on the season.
  • Sauter has finished in the top five in championship points in six consecutive seasons (2013-2018).
  • In 2009, he won the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Sauter is currently sixth in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series points standings.
  • He finished runner-up at Atlanta and was eighth at the most recent race at Las Vegas.

Martinsville Speedway Performance:

  • Sauter is the most recent race winner at Martinsville, winning last fall to advance to the Championship 4 race in the Playoffs.
  • He has four wins in 22 starts at Martinsville, recording nine top-five and 12 top-10 finishes along the way. He has an average start of 9.1 and an average finish of 12.0 – and only has one DNF (Spring, 2016) at the track.

Matt Crafton (No. 88 ThorSport Racing Chevrolet)

Birthdate: July 11, 1976

Driver’s Age: 42

Hometown: Mooresville, North Carolina

Hobbies: Riding Glamis dunes in sand rails, karting

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Career Highlights:

  • Crafton is the 2013 and 2014 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series champion – the only champion to win back-to-back titles in series history.
  • He is the series’ “Iron Man” – currently at 433 consecutive starts, the most in series history.
  • In 2016, he won a career-high six races.

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Currently seventh in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series points standings.
  • Crafton finished fifth in the season opener at Daytona, 14th at Atlanta and was third in the most recent race at Las Vegas.

Martinsville Speedway Performance:

  • Crafton has a pair of wins in 34 starts at Martinsville, his most recent coming in the fall of 2015. He has nine top-five and 19 top-10 finishes at the track for an average finish of 10.7. He has just two DNFs at Martinsville, and not since the fall race in 2006.

(NASCAR PR)

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