Myatt Snider

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Truck practice report at Atlanta

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Noah Gragson topped the field Friday in the final NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Atlanta Motor Speedway.  Gragson had a lap of 178.775 mph.

After him was Ben Rhodes (177.499 mph), Justin Haley (176.848), Jesse Little (176.493) and Dalton Sargeant (176.364).

There were no incidents in the session.

Click here for final practice report

Practice 1

Justin Haley was the fastest in the first of two practices. He had a top lap of 178.029 mph.

Daytona winner Johnny Sauter was second with a lap of 177.040 mph. He was followed by Myatt Snider (177.040 mph), Stewart Friesen (176.995) and Noah Gragson (176.589).

There were no incidents in the session.

Final Truck practice will be from 4:05 – 4:50 p.m. ET.

Click here for Truck 1 practice

Friday 5: Future NASCAR stars could get their start online instead of on track

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Is a future Daytona 500 winner competing in a sim race today having yet to drive a real race car?

For as far-fetched as it might seem, it was only five years ago that William Byron — his skills honed online in iRacing events — started driving a Legends car.

Although many of his competitors began racing by the time they were 7 years old (Byron was 15), Byron already has an Xfinity championship and won rookie of the year in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, Camping World Truck and Xfinity Series in each of the past three seasons.

Now the 20-year-old drives the iconic No. 24 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. Some suggest Byron will win a Cup race this year as a rookie.

Byron’s rise leads to the question: Is he the exception or the start of a trend as simulation racing and eSports become more popular to a younger generation?

If Byron succeeds, the search will be on to find someone like him. While many children start racing in karting, Banderlos or quarter midgets, many can’t because their families do not have the means or expertise to compete.

Byron didn’t come from a racing family, so he raced on a computer instead of track as a child.

“iRacing was my chance to really see if I had any ability to drive a car,’’ Byron told NBC Sports. “I think from that standpoint it’s a great starter for understanding if you do have some ability and seeing if that can translate.’’

William Byron at Daytona International Speedway. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

While he admits not everything transferred from the computer to a car, the hours spent racing online helped.

“The biggest thing was learning the restarts and learning being side by side, setting up passes – the technical things that you figure out in a race car, I could figure out on the sim and put that in the race car,’’ Byron said. “Driving on the track by myself, that was natural. But the race craft from iRacing was something that I think helped me get farther ahead quicker.”

In the search for the next great driver, at what point does it make sense for teams or manufacturers to create an iRacing league for specific age groups to see who might have potential similar to Byron and put them in a car to see if their skills carry over?

“That is something that is of interest and something we’ve spent some time on,’’ Jack Irving, director of team and support services for Toyota Racing Development, told NBC Sports. “It’s definitely non-traditional. I think that is evolving, the better the physics are, the better that iRacing becomes and even the home units.

“By no means do we discount iRacing. I think it’s as important as any other form of working out or going to the gym. Obviously, racing is racing, so being put against a bunch of kids on the track, competing against each other, tells you a lot and the ups and downs of it are real. You can’t reset a race track. If you go hit a wall, you’ve got to deal with the feelings of that after.

“The psychological aspect of racing, that’s one thing I think from William’s perspective is he was extremely special from the way his makeup was and how he approaches races and how he approaches competing. If William had a tough race, it was the same William the day after, he was going to build on it and get better.’’

Toyota Racing Development already has created a driver pipeline that has sent Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez to Cup rides at Joe Gibbs Racing and watched as Byron — he drove in the Truck series for Kyle Busch Motorsports — moved to Chevrolet. Toyota has Christopher Bell in the Xfinity Series, Todd Gilliland and Myatt Snider in the Truck Series and Hallie Deegan in the K&N Pro Series West, among others.

For every Jones, Bell or Gilliland, others could be missed because they didn’t have the opportunity to begin racing at an early age.

Before Toyota can do something like that, Irving notes his group needs to understand what to measure and what translates from computers to the track.

“Can we expand it and do more with what we have? Yes,’’ Irving said of its analytics study. “Just getting data has been relatively new to the sport over the last few years. So even kind of dissecting data and how you would traditionally go after athletes at every level, we’re just starting to get over that more and more and we’re continuing to get better at that in the last few years.

“Figuring out the metrics that you’re just rating real racers has been difficult. We’ve spent a fair amount of time the last two years doing that, three years doing that, and evaluating the people that are out there that are currently racing. I think, yes, to touch further backgrounds and to find in deeper regions, (online simulation games) is definitely a tool that can be what the future is.’’

2. Daytona Speedweeks Crash Report

Ninety-five vehicles were involved in accidents in Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck races at Daytona, based on race reports and replays.

Chase Elliott (No. 9), Kasey Kahne (95) and Danica Patrick (7) crash in the Daytona 500. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

That is tied for the second-highest total of vehicles involved in incidents during Daytona Speedweeks since 2013. Those in incidents range from cars destroyed to any that were slightly involved.

The 28 Cup cars involved in accidents in the Daytona 500 was down from last year when 35 cars were listed in incidents. But this year’s total was the second-highest for the Daytona 500 since 2012.

The 63 cars involved in incidents in the Daytona 500 the past two years rank as the highest two-year total in the last 10 Daytona 500s.

Here is how many Cup cars were involved in accidents in the Daytona 500 in recent years:

2018: 28 cars

2017: 35

2016: 11

2015: 18

2014: 25

2013: 18

2012: 23

2011: 29

2010: 17

2009: 15

3. A Good Sign for Austin Dillon?

Only once since 2012 has the Daytona 500 winner not finished in the top 10 in points. That happened last year when Kurt Busch placed 14th.

The last time a Daytona 500 winner also won the championship was 2013 with Jimmie Johnson.

4. Xfinity Series Debuts

John Hunter Nemechek, 20 years old, and Chase Briscoe, 23, each will be making their Xfinity Series debut this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Nemechek will be in the No. 42 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing. Briscoe will drive the No. 60 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing.

5. The Last Word

While Austin Dillon and member’s of his team got tattoos to commemorate Dillon’s Daytona 500 victory last weekend, crew chief Justin Alexander did not do it.

“I said when I win a championship, I’ll get one on my face,’’ Alexander said Monday.

“Everybody document that,’’ Dillon said. “He’s going to get a tattoo on his face (after) a championship.’’

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ThorSport Racing adds Myatt Snider to its Truck Series driver lineup

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ThorSport Racing announced Wednesday it has signed Myatt Snider to drive the No. 13 Liberty Tax Ford F-150 in the 2018 Camping World Truck Series.

“To be a part of a team with a winning pedigree like Duke and Rhonda [Thorson] have built over the years is an absolute blessing,” Snider said in a media release. “After getting to know the organization over the past month, I’m even more excited to get to Daytona, and to join Thorsport in 2018.”

Even though he’s only 23 years old, Snider has a lengthy racing resume. He comes to ThorSport having previously raced in NASCAR’s Whelen All-American Series, the CARS Late Model Stock Car Tour, the ARCA Racing Series and part-time previously in the Camping World Truck Series.

The Charlotte, North Carolina native has amassed two wins, 13 top-five, 26 top-10 finishes and three pole positions across those series, including winning his debut race in the ARCA series at Toledo (Ohio) speedway in 2016.

Snider rounds out ThorSport’s four-driver lineup, joining two-time series champion Matt Crafton, Ben Rhodes and Grant Enfinger.

ThorSport recently changed from a long-time affiliation with Toyota to Ford for all four of its trucks.

“I’m really looking forward to working with my new teammates, as there is a lot of knowledge to tap into going into my rookie season,” Snider said. “Switching to a new manufacturer, it seems things have come full-circle, with Ford being a part of some of the biggest highlights in my racing career, including my ARCA win at Toledo.”

ThorSport Racing GM David Pepper said of Snider: “He is an exceptional young man and talented driver. With him, I feel we’ve really rounded out our four-truck lineup and this, to me is the strongest driver lineup we’ve ever had. We’re going to be very competitive this season, starting with Daytona.”

Snider makes his ThorSport debut on February 16 in the Truck Series’ season-opening NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway.

Justin Haley takes pole for tonight’s Truck race at Texas Motor Speedway

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18-year-old Indiana native Justin Haley earned his first career Truck Series pole and became the youngest Truck Series pole winner at Texas Motor Speedway in qualifying for tonight’s JAG Metals 350.

In addition, Haley recorded the fifth-fastest pole speed in Truck Series history, covering the 1.5-mile oval at 186.181 mph.

Haley was followed by Noah Gragson (186.053), Christopher Bell (185.982), Johnny Sauter (185.861), Ryan Truex (184.894) and Austin Cindric (184.887).

Seventh through 12th were Kaz Grala (184.571), Matt Crafton (184.351), Ben Rhodes (183.861), Chase Briscoe (183.849), John Hunter Nemechek (182.051) and Myatt Snider (177.101).

Click here for the full qualifying results.

Grant Enfinger fastest in final Truck practice at Texas

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Grant Enfinger was fastest in the final Camping World Truck Series practice at Texas Motor Speedway.

Enfinger, who drives the No. 98 Chevrolet for ThorSport Racing, posted a top speed of 185.274 mph around the 1.5-mile track.

Enfinger was followed by Myatt Snider (184.609), Austin Cindric (184.420), Justin Haley (184.370) and Johnny Sauter (184.332).

Sauter was fastest in the first practice session.

Snider recorded the most laps in the session with 42.

Christopher Bell, who was 10th fastest, has the best 10-lap average at 182.232 mph.

Tommy Joe Martins made contact with the wall in the session before he completed a lap. He was cleared and released from the infield care center.

Click here for the practice report.