Ryan Truex

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Ryan Truex replaces Blake Koch at Kaulig Racing in Xfinity Series

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Ryan Truex will drive the No. 11 Chevrolet for Kaulig Racing in the Xfinity Series, replacing Blake Koch, the team announced Tuesday.

Koch drove the No. 11 in the team’s first two seasons.

Truex, the younger brother of 2017 Cup champion Martin Truex Jr., will compete in his first full-time season in Xfinity.

The announcement comes after it was announced last week that the 25-year-old driver parted ways with Hattori Racing Enterprises in the Camping World Truck Series.

On SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Tradin’ Paint,” Truex discussed the move to Kauling Racing, which he said reminds him of Furniture Row Racing, the team his brother competes for.

“Really excites me for the future,” Truex said. “I’m annoying. I’ve just been kind of floating around the past few years and bugging people, trying to keep my name out there and doing everything I can and luckily it’s worked out.”

Truex said getting the deal with Kaulig Racing was “kind of roller coaster,” with him not thinking it would get done at one point.

“I’m honestly glad it’s done and we can focus on going out and performing and doing our jobs,” Truex said.

Last year was Truex’s first full-time season in the Truck Series. He earned eight top fives, 13 top 10s and two poles. He finished the season ninth in the standings.

Koch, in his second season with Kaulig Racing, earned five top 10s and his first pole (Talladega). He made the playoffs but failed to advance out of the first round, finishing 11th.

Truex has 39 Xfinity starts since 2010. He has two top fives with a best finish of second in 2012 at Dover from the pole. That race was one of 13 Truex competed in for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Truex won back-to-back K&N Pro Series East championships in 2009 and 2010.

“When we started this team two years ago I knew we had the potential to be one of the strongest teams in the Xfinity Series and I think we’re within reach of that goal,” team owner Matt Kaulig said in a press release. “Ryan is going to be a great addition to the team and I have some high hopes for this season. Each year we keep improving as a team and I think this season we’ll be able to get some wins and make another run in the playoffs. Everyone at Kaulig Racing is excited to have Ryan on board and it should be a great, fun year.”

Kaulig Racing is part of a technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing.

“Luckily having the Childress ecosystem around us I can go talk to Austin (Dillon), talk to Ty (Dillon), talk to (Daniel) Hemric, and get their insights and what they think I need to do or what I need to change to get used to these cars,” Truex said.

Kaulig is also the CEO and owner of LeafFilter Gutter Protection, which was the primary sponsor for Koch the last two seasons.

On SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive,” Kaulig said that Bar Harbor Sea Food, which backed Truex in the Truck Series, will be his primary sponsor with LeafFilter still involved in some capacity. Other sponsorship will be announced at a later date.

Also appearing on the “The Morning Drive,” Koch said LeafFilter Gutter Protection not returning as the primary sponsor is why he’s no longer driving the No. 11.

“I knew they were looking (for a driver with a sponsor),” Koch said. “I didn’t have time to get one, really. I got the official word a couple of days ago, but I pretty much knew in mid-December that I was going to have to figure something out. So it wasn’t a complete shock, because everything wasn’t officially done until yesterday.”

Koch said there is no hard feelings between him and Kaulig.

“I don’t want people mad at Matt Kaulig thinking he kicked me out,” Koch said. “This is a mutual thing. We talked and Matt owns LeafFilter. He was putting  a lot of his own money into having me drive a race car. You just can’t do that forever.”

On “The Morning Drive,” Kaulig said the team is adding 15,000 square feet to its shop in Welcome, North Carolina, which is on the RCR campus, and it plans to field a second car this season.

Kaulig said there’s a “100 percent chance” he’d bring Koch back to drive the second car, but added there’s no hard date for when the second team needs to be in operation, saying it may not make its first start until a few races into the season.

“We’re shopping the second car right now, but we won’t run the second car without sponsorship,” Kaulig said.

NASCAR issues three lug nut penalties in final penalty report of season

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NASCAR has issued three penalties to crew chiefs for unsecured lug nuts following the championship weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Jason Ratcliff, crew chief on the No. 20 Toyota driven by Matt Kenseth, has been fined $20,000 and suspended one Cup points race for two unsecured lug nuts.

Ratcliff will be moving to the Xfinity Series to serve as Christopher Bell’s crew chief next season. The suspension is series specific. So he will be available to crew chief Bell in the season-opening race at Daytona.

Paul Wolfe, crew chief on Brad Keselowski‘s No. 2 Ford, was fined $10,000 for one unsecured lug nut.

In the Camping World Truck Series, Phil Gould, crew chief on Ryan Truex‘s No. 16 Toyota, was fined $5,000 for an unsecured lug nut.

Chase Briscoe earns Miami Truck pole; Austin Cindric highest of Championship 4 drivers

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Chase Briscoe took the pole for tonight’s Camping World Truck Series season-ending and championship-deciding Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Briscoe was fastest with a speed of 167.499 mph, followed by Ben Rhodes (167.348 mph), who will also sit on the front row when the green flag drops tonight.

Three of the four Championship 4 drivers didn’t qualify as well as they might have liked.

One did, however, as 19-year-old Austin Cindric qualified third (166.831). Cindric and Briscoe are both competing in the final race for Brad Keselowski Racing, which is folding after this season.

As for the other three Championship 4 drivers, two-time Truck champ Matt Crafton qualified eighth (165.614), defending series champ Johnny Sauter (165.092) qualified 11th, and Christopher Bell (165.309) failed to advance past the first round of qualifying. He’ll start tonight’s championship race 13th.

As for the rest of the top 12 qualifiers who are not running for the championship, Grant Enfinger was fourth (166.590) followed by Noah Gragson (165.909), Ryan Truex (165.848) and Justin Haley in seventh (165.705). Also, Stewart Friesen qualified ninth (165.431), Kaz Grala was 10th (165.203) and Myatt Snider was 12th (161.575).

The Ford EcoBoost 200 will take the green flag shortly after 8 p.m. ET. The race will be televised on Fox Sports 1.

Click here for the full qualifying grid.

Patience pays off for Johnny Sauter at Phoenix, wins 2nd straight race

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Johnny Sauter won for the second week in a row – and earned his first win at Phoenix Raceway – capturing Friday night’s Lucas Oil 150.

Sauter, who won last week at Texas, came from behind, helped out by three big wrecks in the final 21 laps, that allowed him to go to the front and take the lead on the final restart with two laps to go.

The defending Camping World Truck Series champ heads to Miami for Friday’s championship race. He’ll square off with two-time champ Matt Crafton, Christopher Bell and Austin Cindric.

This could be one of the most compelling Truck championship battles, as it pits veterans and former champions Sauter and Crafton vs. 22-year-old Bell and 19-year-old Cindric.

John Hunter Nemechek, who needed a win to advance to Miami, finished second and was eliminated. Cody Coughlin was third, followed by Chase Briscoe and Kaz Grala.

“It stinks to be that close,” Nemechek told Fox Sports 1. “We definitely have to keep our head held high. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

MORE: Results of Friday’s Lucas Oil 150 Truck race at Phoenix

MORE: Truck championship field set for Miami — points report

With seven laps to go, leaders and Kyle Busch Racing teammates Noah Gragson and Christopher Bell got together and took each other out. Bell tried to stay on the track, but the damage on his truck proved to be too much and he came to pit road for repairs with four laps to go.

With 21 laps to go, contact between Austin Cindric and Ben Rhodes sent Rhodes crashing. Matt Crafton was unable to avoid his Thor Sport Racing teammate, putting Rhodes and Crafton out of the race.

“They took a cheap shot,” Rhodes’ crew chief, Eddie Troconis told Fox Sports 1 of Cindric. “If they want to go to Homestead and race like that, they’re not going to make it past Lap 1.

“We raced the clean and were better than them all year long. We deserve to be at Homestead. It sucks that they’re going to go. I believe NASCAR should park then and penalize them. … He doesn’t know how to race. It’s unfortunate it comes to this.”

Troconis and Crafton both had bitter predictions for Cindric at Homestead.

Said Troconis, “Obviously, they’re not going to out clean in Homestead.”

Crafton told FS1: “Just wrong place, wrong time. I told Ben (Rhodes), the 19 (Cindric) better not finish Homestead.”

Rhodes told FS1: “(Cindric) put me in a bad place and I was trying to do everything I could to keep the spot, but once we filed into Turn 1, we were all going to wreck. I don’t know if that was the right move on his part. … It looked like a desperation move. I guess if I was in his position, I can’t blame him, but it’s not the move I would have liked to see. … Just driving over his head, I guess.”

STAGE WINNERS: Stage 1 (Christopher Bell), Stage 2 (Christopher Bell)

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Austin Cindric not only reached the Championship 4 round, he also recorded his 13th top-10 finish in the last 14 races. … Bayley Curry finished a career-best 10th.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: On the restart following the Cindric/Rhodes/Crafton wreck with 15 to go, Dalton Sargent, Jesse Little and Ryan Truex were involved in a wreck that brought out another red flag. As soon as it happened, Truex said over his team radio, “What the hell just happened?”

NOTABLE: The race was red-flagged three times due to wrecks in the final 21 laps for over 37 minutes in total.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I’m a lucky man, what can I tell you?” – Race winner Johnny Sauter.

WHAT’S NEXT: The 2017 season wraps up Nov. 17 with the Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Johnny Sauter wins at Texas, locked into Truck championship race in Miami

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Defending NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champ Johnny Sauter took a big step towards repeating, winning Friday night’s JAG Metals 350 at Texas Motor Speedway.

It is the Wisconsin native’s third win of the season, which equals the number of wins he earned en route to last year’s championship.

It also marks the second consecutive year that Sauter has won the fall playoff race at Texas, assuring himself a spot in the championship race in Miami in two weeks.

“I haven’t been pumped up this much in a long, long time,” Sauter said.

Sauter held off a late-race challenge by runner-up Austin Cindric to earn his fourth career triumph at TMS. In addition, it was the Hendrick Motorsports Engine Department’s 400th overall win.

Christopher Bell finished third, followed by Chase Briscoe and Justin Haley, who spun on Lap 58 after making contact with Sauter, his teammate at GMS Racing.

Haley kept his truck off the wall and sustained only minor damage to the left rear and was able to continue on.

Sixth through 10th were Kaz Grala, Grant Enfinger, Ryan Truex, Matt Crafton and Noah Gragson.

Crafton suffered a costly pit road penalty just past halfway when NASCAR ruled a crew member came over the wall too soon, and was never able to recover.

Justin Haley’s truck was found to be too low in inspection after the race. Christopher Bell’s truck was found to have an unsecured lug nut.

MORE: Results from JAG Metals 350 Truck race at Texas Motor Speedway

MORE: Johnny Sauter clinches spot in championship race, Christopher Bell close on points

STAGE WINNERS: Christopher Bell (Stage 1), Noah Gragson (Stage 2).

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Austin Cindric gave Sauter a stiff challenge in the closing laps, but couldn’t get past. … Chase Briscoe bounced back from tough races at Talladega and Martinsville to finish fourth.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Tommy Joe Martins completed three laps before suffering a hard wreck in his Chevrolet Silverado. … John Hunter Nemechek pitted late in the race, had struggles restarting and then was penalized for speeding while exiting pit road. He finished 19th.

NOTABLE: John Hunter Nemechek, who is 39 points out of the final transfer spot, must win next weekend at Phoenix to advance to the championship round in Miami.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It was a nice points day, but we already have really good points, so we really wanted to win.” — Third-place finisher Christopher Bell.

WHAT’S NEXT: Lucas Oil 150; 8:30 p.m. ET Nov. 10 at Phoenix Raceway