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Niece Motorsports enters tech alliance with GMS Racing, Justin Fontaine to race full-time

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Niece Motorsports, a Camping World Truck Series team, has announced it is entering into a technical alliance with GMS Racing and it has signed Justin Fontaine to compete full-time for the team next season.

The technical alliance will include chassis, body, suspension and engineering support. Niece Motorsports will move its shop location to Statesville, North Carolina, to be closer to GMS Racing. In 2017, GMS Racing fielded the trucks of Kaz Grala, Johnny Sauter and Justin Haley.

“I’m really proud of how far this team has come in the last year,” team owner Al Niece said in a press release. “I’m proud of this team’s growth and everything we’ve accomplished this year.  I’m thrilled to begin working with GMS this offseason and into next year.  This really gives us the chance to improve our program, by aligning with a team that has a proven track record.  It’s going to be our job next year to go out there and perform at a high level.”

Justin Fontaine (Getty Images)

Fontaine, 20, will drive the No. 45 Chevrolet for Niece Motorsports. He will compete for rookie of the years honors and enters the 2018 season with three Truck starts since 2016. He joins Austin Wayne Self in running full-time for the team.

Fontaine made one start for Niece Motorsports in 2017 at Chicagoland Speedway, where he finished 17th.

“This is an exciting time in my career and I believe I’m ready for this next challenge with Niece Motorsports,” Fontaine said in a press release.

“I know I have a lot to learn, but with the leadership of Niece Motorsports and the support of my management team at AM Racing, I believe I can transition well and produce some good results in my rookie season.”

Fontaine ran a partial ARCA Racing Series season in 2017 for AM Racing’s development partner, Win-Tron Racing.

Fontaine was injured in the opening race of the ARCA season and missed five races before returning in June at Elko (Minn.) Speedway, where he finished 11th. He picked up a career-best finish of ninth at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway and ended the year with a top 10 at Kentucky Speedway.

The 2018 Truck Series season begins on Feb. 16 at Daytona International Speedway.

GMS Racing names Chad Norris as Spencer Gallagher’s crew chief in Xfinity Series

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Chad Norris has been named crew chief of Spencer Gallagher‘s No. 23 Chevrolet in the Xfinity Series next year, GMS Racing announced Thursday.

Norris, who has spent the last two seasons as crew chief for Brennan Poole at Chip Ganassi Racing, replaces Joey Cohen.

In Gallagher’s rookie season, the 28-year-old driver recorded one top 10 (Richmond I), eight DNFs and finished 19th in the standings.

Norris and Poole earned four top fives and 17 tops 10s in each of their two seasons together. The No. 48 team advanced to the second round of the playoffs this season and finished sixth in the standings.

“Chad will bring a lot of good and solid knowledge to this Xfinity program,” said General Manager Mike Beam in a press release. “Spencer showed a lot of improvement last season, and I feel like Chad can take him to the next level. With Chad’s veteran knowledge and experience, I know Spencer and this No. 23 team will succeed and excel.”

Norris has been a crew chief for 215 Xfinity races since 2005, working with drivers including Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Trevor Bayne, Travis Pastrana and Darrell Wallace Jr. He’s earned three wins. The most recent was with Bayne in the fall 2011 Texas race.

“I am really excited to join GMS Racing for the 2018 season,” Norris said in the press release. “We have all of the assets to build this Xfinity team into a top-tier competitor every weekend at the track. With Mike Beam and myself there is a lot of veteran knowledge to continue to not only help Spencer to grow as a driver but the Xfinity program as a whole.”

Johnny Sauter returning to GMS Racing next season

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GMS Racing announced that defending Camping World Truck Series champion Johnny Sauter will return to the team in 2018.

Sauter, who will compete for the Truck championship tonight at Homestead-Miami Speedway (8 p.m. on Fox Sports 1), will drive the No. 21 Chevrolet in his 10th full-time season in the series.

The 39-year-old driver has been with GMS Racing since 2016 when he won his first NASCAR title. Prior to that he competed for ThorSport Racing.

“I can’t thank the Gallagher family and Mike Beam enough for the opportunity they’ve given me the last two years,” Sauter said in a press release. “To be able to compete at this level, where you know you could win any given weekend, is incredible and I’m excited to be able to continue with the No. 21 team next year.”

Regardless of where he places in tonight’s Ford EcoBoost 300, Sauter will clinch his seventh top-five finish in the Truck standings.

Sauter has 17 wins since his rookie Truck season in 2009. He has seven victories with GMS Racing, including a career-best four this season.

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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

Kaz Grala on Austin Cindric contact: ‘I’m going to race people the way they race me’ (video)

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Two days after his last lap run-in with Austin Cindric in the Camping World Truck Series race, Kaz Grala said going forward he’ll show Cindric the same “level of sportsmanship that he showed me” when Cindric spun him to win.

Grala, a rookie for GMS Racing, made his comments on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Tradin’ Paint.”

Cindric scored his first NASCAR win after intentionally ramming into the back of Grala’s truck in Turn 5 of the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, sending Grala spinning. The 18-year-old Grala, who won at Daytona in February, wound up finishing third.

“I think any good driver will tell you that they have a pretty good memory,” Grala said. “I’m not necessarily one to go out and flat wreck somebody like he did to me. … I honestly don’t think you should expect to see that approach from me. But I can tell you any time we’re racing around each other I’ll give him the level of sportsmanship that he showed me this weekend. I’m just going to use up all the room that I need and he’ll have to figure it out from there. Again, nothing personal at all, I’m going to race people the way they race me.”

Grala said he had been warned by his team after Cindric banged fenders with Noah Gragson to take second place.

“The 19 is being very aggressive behind you, just be prepared,” Grala said he was told.

But Grala was caught off guard by Cindric’s maneuver.

“We’ve known each other for years,” Grala said. “I honestly didn’t expect quite that. I think going forward for myself and everybody else, I think we just need to race each other the way we want to be raced. I will continue to race people with respect and kindly have a little bit of give and take because at the end of the day, if you can’t make it to the last lap of the race, you’re never going to win the race.”

Grala said the race was Cindric’s to lose, especially with the Brad Keselowski Racing driver in possession of “50 percent newer tire life” than Grala.

“I think honestly he was intimidated to try to race me down into those last couple of corners,” Grala said. “He saw that as his opportunity to not have to face me down into Turns 8, 9 and 10. He certainly dealt with me and got me out of his way, and he was able to complete that lap completely unchallenged, which I just feel bad because I feel like it denied the fans a bit of a race.”

Cindric appeared on the Motor Racing Network’s Motorsports Monday to defend his last-lap actions that delivered BKR its first win of the year and a spot for him in the playoffs. Cindric claimed he wouldn’t have made the move had he already been secured in the playoffs.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever gone into a corner and known that I was going to throttle up and hit the guy in front of me,” Cindric said. “No, I wasn’t planning on spinning him out. There was a lot of runoff there to the left I was going to move him to and try to get a good run down the straightaway, but I ended up sending him around.

“You can’t apologize for winning. I definitely don’t like how it all ended up especially with Kaz because Kaz and I have grown up racing together. Kaz and I are friends. Obviously that may change after that weekend. I know he’s not very happy, and he has all the right to be. It’s one of those things I’m going to have to move through and try to earn some respect back over time, I guess.’’

Grala said respect is something Cindric can earn back, but that it might be a hard thing to accomplish in the final eight races of the year.

“I think the 19 is going to have a difficult time going forward in the season because I think he lost the respect of some drivers out there and that’s not something he can’t gain back. He sure can,” Grala said. “It’s just for an immediate effect this season, I’m just not sure it was necessarily the right move for him and his team going forward.”

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