GMS Racing has signed 19-year-old Dalton Sargeant to drive for the team this season and compete for rookie of the year honors in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Sargeant will drive the No. 25 Chevrolet Silverado.
He was the rookie of the year in 2016 in ARCA and placed second in the points in that series last season. He also has competed in NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and West races. Sargeant has six career Truck starts, placing a career-best 10th at Bristol Motor Speedway in his series debut in 2015.
“I’m really excited to be joining a championship-caliber team in GMS Racing for the 2018 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season,” said Sargeant in a team release. “Mike Beam and everyone at GMS Racing has put so much effort into this No. 25 team during the offseason and I can’t thank them enough for this opportunity. GMS Racing has put together an all-star team of people and equipment, plus had faith in me to drive and compete for wins. I’m looking forward to what we can accomplish in 2018.
“It’s always been a dream and a goal to compete at this level in NASCAR. I left a career and a life in Europe to compete against the best in NASCAR and today is that day. We have a full slate of things coming up as a team and I know we’re all really looking forward to getting on the track and beginning the season.”
ARCA teams likely have a better handle of what to expect for next month’s season opener after two days of testing this weekend at Daytona International Speedway.
Day 2 of the test was Saturday, with three of the five fastest drivers from the Cunningham Motorsports stable. The fastest Cunningham driver was Shane Lee, who was fastest of the 52 drivers in the test, with a speed of 188.608 mph. Third-fastest was Dalton Sargeant (188.111 mph) and fifth-fastest was Ty Majeski (188.013 mph).
Given how his car performed Saturday, Lee is ready to start the season, which begins at Daytona on Feb. 18 for the 54th Lucas Oil Complete Engine Treatment 200.
“We’re confident about our chances coming back in February,” Lee told ARCARacing.com. “This car was strong from the get-go. We put well over 100 laps down in testing. We were doing 15 to 20 laps at a time in the draft today. It’s a nice feeling knowing you’re with a winning team, and all I have to do is drive.”
In-between Lee and Sargeant with the second-fastest speed (188.363 mph) was Austin Theriault, driving the No. 52 Toyota for Ken Schrader Racing.
“I might have been able to do a faster lap, but we were being cautious,” Theriault told ARCARacing.com. “We want to bring this car back for the race. I learned a little more about how these cars draft. We’ll go over the changes we made back at the shop, and decide what package to come back with.”
Just one female took part in the two-day test, Leilani Munter, who recorded the 16th fastest speed of the field (186.100 mph) in her Toyota on Saturday.
“It was good to knock the cobwebs out this weekend, and be back in a car before the race,” Munter said. “I’ll be in driving shape, 100 percent focused on racing for the next month and I’m looking forward to February.”
While Lee was fastest Saturday, overall he was the third-fastest of the two-day test. Venturini Motorsports rookies Noah Gragson (189.143 mph) and Spencer Davis (189.092 mph) were fastest with their speeds from Friday’a first day of the test.
Saturday’s overall session was both shortened and its start delayed due to the track having to be dried following early morning showers. Still, teams managed to get a full five hours of track time in before the test concluded.
This meant an end to the reign of the previous class, which was announced last May with 12 members. That class included the eventual K&N Pro Series East champion, four winners in the K&N East and two in the K&N West.
The class also featured four drivers who are competing in the Camping World Truck Series and have won a total of four races in the last two seasons.
Rico Abreu – The oldest driver from last year’s class, Abreu is one of four that currently competes in the Camping World Truck Series, driving for ThorSport Racing. While the 4-foot-4 driver hasn’t finished better than 10th (Martinsville) in seven starts, his year has already a notable moment. Abreu started 2016 by winning his second Chili Bowl Nationals in a row and giving us one of the more memorable victory celebrations in recent memory. Abreu, 24, also left his this mark on the K&N East series, winning a race at Columbus Motor Speedway. MORE: Q&A
Nicole Behar – The only female driver in last year’s class, Behar earned two top-five finishes in the K&N West series just prior to the reveal of the class last May. A second-place result tied the mark for highest finish in the series by a female driver. Behar, who was featured in Sports Illustrated’s “Faces in the Crowd” last year, finished 2015 10th in the point standings while earning 10 top-10 finishes. The 18-year-old is splitting time this year between the CARS Tour Series for Super Late Models and the Pro All Star Series South (PASS) and will make her ARCA debut on June 19 at Madison International Speedway for Venturini Motorsports. MORE: Q&A
Kyle Benjamin – Until Todd Gilliland came along, Benjamin was the youngest driver to ever win an ARCA race. Three years later, Benjamin is in his second season in the K&N East, driving for Ranier Racing with MDM. He will also compete in select ARCA races for the team. Last season, the 18-year-old from Easley, South Carolina, won the K&N East race at Bristol Motor Speedway and finished ninth in the standings.
James Bickford – A relative of former Sprint Cup driver Jeff Gordon, Bickford spent the last two seasons in the K&N West series, where he earned two wins driving for Bob Bruncati. Both came at State Line Speedway in Post Falls, Idaho. Bickford currently doesn’t have a ride for 2016, but he keeps busy with his own vending machine company. MORE: Q&A
William Byron – You’ve probably seen his name pop up in recent weeks. Byron, 18, is almost two weeks removed from his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win at Kansas Speedway. The victory came in just his fifth series start. The rookie earned his first pole last weekend at Dover International Speedway. He signed with Kyle Busch Motorsports this season after winning the K&N East title in 2015, amassing four wins in the process. The scary thing is Byron has only been racing for just over three years. MORE: Q&A
Cole Custer – After two seasons of part-time racing in the Truck series, the 18-year-old Custer is finally racing full-time in the No. 00 for JR Motorsports. The California-native took home one win last season at Gateway Motorsports Park. Through five races in 2016, Custer has one top five (Dover) and two top-10 finishes (Dover, Kansas). Custer is scheduled to compete in five Xfinity Series races for JR Motorsports. MORE: Q&A
Ruben Garcia Jr. – The defending winner of the NASCAR Mexico Series, Garcia now competes in the K&N East series for Rev Racing. Garcia earned his first top-10 finish last month at Virginia International Raceway. The native of Mexico City won four races in four seasons in the Mexico Series, claiming three during his championship campaign. MORE: Q&A
Austin Hill – While he’s not the oldest member of last year’s class, Hill definitely has the most responsibility. At 22, Hill is the only NASCAR Next driver from last year that can put “parent” on their resume after he and his wife welcomed their daughter, Lynnlee Ann Hill, last November. That was after a season in K& N East where Hill won two races, bringing his career total to five. In 2016, Hill has competed in two Truck series races, including making his debut at his home track of Atlanta Motor Speedway with a 12th-place finish. MORE: Q&A
Jesse Little – The son of former Sprint Cup driver Chad Little, Jesse Little only had a part-time ride in the K&N West series in 2015, running in six races and winning one at Iowa Speedway. The 19-year-old driver has two K&N wins in four seasons. He is pursuing a degree in finance at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. After competing in four Truck series races last year, Jesse Little will attempt to qualify for the May 20 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway for Rette Jones Racing. He will also compete in six to eight K&N East races for the team. MORE: Q&A
Dylan Lupton – Lupton spent his 2015 season splitting time between the Xfinity Series and other racing circuits, running in eight Xfinity race with a best finish of ninth at Mid-Ohio. He finished fourth in his lone K&N East race at Watkins Glen. In 2016, he’s competed in two Xfinity races while failing to qualify for a third. He earned a DNF in his one ARCA start at Daytona International Speedway after running out of gas four laps from the race’s conclusion. Lupton is set to graduate from UNC-Charlotte.
John Hunter Nemechek – The son of former Sprint Cup driver Joe Nemechek, the 18-year-old is in his first full-time season on the Truck circuit. Even without a full-time sponsor, John Hunter Nemechek and Nemco Motorsports are keeping the top-tier teams on notice. The No. 8 truck has won twice in the last two seasons and has 10 top-five finishes in John Hunter Nemechek’s last 23 starts. He is currently seventh in the Truck point standings and all but qualified for the season-ending Chase. MORE: Q&A
Dalton Sargeant – The 18-year-old from Boca Raton, Florida, dabbled in a little bit of everything in 2015. He competed in the Truck series (four races), K&N West (four races, one win), while also running in the Snowball Derby and the All-American 400. His only full-time ride was in the K&N East series, where he six top-five finishes and ended the year fourth in points. In 2016, he has competed in two ARCA races, two CARS Super Late Model Tour races and is competing in the Champion Racing Association. MORE: Q&A
Dalton Sargeant has 45 minutes to spare and he has to eat lunch at some point.
The 17-year-old driver is between classes at Cardinal Gibbons Catholic High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., when he speaks with NASCAR Talk.
He has just left math class and when the bell rings next he will be in government class. His favorite class is geography.
“The teacher is pretty lenient on everybody since we’re all seniors,” Sargeant says.
It was in math class last semester when Sargeant received a call from NASCAR about being part of the NASCAR Next program, which is aimed at spotlighting the sport’s emerging stars.
Without a word, Sargeant looked at a number he didn’t recognize and left the room.
He would discuss the next chapter of an unorthodox racing career that began by racing go-karts in the parking lot at Homestead-Miami Speedway and open-wheel cars in Europe for two years. Now he’s learning the stock-car racing ropes on the K&N Pro Series East circuit for HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks while dabbling in the Camping World Truck Series, making his debut at Bristol Motor Speedway last month and finishing 10th.
This Q&A had been edited and condensed.
NASCAR TALK: You raced at Bristol a few months before your first Truck race in the K&N Pro Series East. How does Bristol drive differently in those series?
DALTON SARGEANT: One thing with the Truck compared to the K&N car is that the Truck is on radial tires, so it reacts a lot differently. It has a lot more grip, so you’re able to carry a lot more speed through the corners, which is a really cool experience. It’s a really fast track and absolutely a blast. Another great experience about running in the Truck series was I got to race against guys like Ryan Blaney and Kyle Busch, and I got to learn a lot running around those guys and going in there with the trucks I was a lot more prepared than when I had gone there in the K&N car for the first time.
NT: Was it a difficult decision to move to Europe?
DS: It was easy.
NT: What made it easy?
DS: Just a desire to pursue a Formula One career made the decision easy. I desired that career path a lot, really. I didn’t have a problem whatsoever moving there.
NT: You lived in Europe for a little over two years. That’s not the usual route that stock car drivers take. What led to that?
DS: In the stock car industry you have to be living in Charlotte (N.C). It’s the same way in F1, you have to be living over in Europe. So it was really important. I went over there and I lived in Switzerland for two-and-a-half years. I was running karts as well as an open-wheel formula car, single-seaters and learning as much as I could. At the end of the day, I just didn’t have as much fun with it as I thought I was going to have and just didn’t enjoy it. So I decided to make the switch back to the U.S. and go stock-car racing, and I’ve loved it ever since.
NT: How would you compare the racing culture there to that in the Southeastern United States?
DS: It’s honestly a lot different. Everything over there, I’m not saying NASCAR is not advanced, they look at data acquisition a lot more than in the K&N series and Truck series and what we do. At the same time, it seems NASCAR is really advancing in some of that stuff. Another thing that was pretty difficult was the language barrier. I raced for two Italian teams over there, so I did have to pick up the language somewhat as well as them working with me on their English.
It was complicated but it was a good learning experience. It taught me a lot, and I think it was a positive move for me, not just for racing, but my life in general to be able to go over there and live there for a few years.
NT: Where in Switzerland did you live?
DS: I lived in Lugano, it’s a city about an hour north of Milan.
NT: Were you living there by yourself or were you there with family?
DS: I was there with my mother (Madelyn) and my brother (Logan). I attended an American school there in Switzerland for my first two years of high school. We didn’t really race much in Switzerland, we traveled around a lot, back and forth. My father was there somewhat as well. We just traveled around whether it was racing in Italy, England or wherever.
NT: What was your favorite place to visit?
DS: I definitely liked Rome a lot. It was a cool city, always busy. Whenever we had a race around Rome, I would try to swing by and the culture there is really cool.
NT: In Europe what was your favorite track to race?
DS: I would have to say my favorite Formula car track was probably Barcelona (Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya). It’s just really high speed, it was one of the larger tracks I had been on. Just a lot of fast sweeping corners and it was a really cool track. The track itself kind of nurtured a lot of tough competition.
NT: From that style of racing, have you learned anything that has helped you in your return to American racing?
DS: When I moved back from Switzerland and made the transition to stock cars, the passing’s a little different and you have a lot more side-by-side racing on the ovals than what you have on road courses in Formula cars. At the same time, it taught me quite a few unique techniques that some of these stock car drivers don’t know.
NT: Like what?
DS: Some of the techniques while braking as well as in the road course racing you have a lot of different styles of wheel control. You have tight hairpins (turns) as well as fast sweeping corners. Being able to make different transitions on the wheel throughout the race depending on the different lines that you take.
NT: How much of a culture shock was that for you going over there and when you came back, did it feel like you missed a lot?
DS: No, not really. I knew what I was going to be facing when I moved over there. I knew the expectations, and at the same time, when I came back I had almost gotten homesick within the three years, so to be able to come back was kind of a good feeling for myself.
At just 17 years old Dalton Sargeant’s career in stock car racing is happening quicker than expected as he balances high school and debuts in the K&N Pro Series East as well as the Camping World Truck Series.