First up is a bird’s-eye view of Charlotte Motor Speedway. After that, teams like Hendrick Motorsports and Team Penske tweeted proof there’s no such thing as a snow day in NASCAR. Also, Daniel Suarez and Dale Earnhardt Jr. each got into a bit of a jam while driving.
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.”
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.
Travis Pastrana looks to ‘figure out’ NASCAR with Truck Series return
CONCORD, N.C — On a warm day at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Travis Pastana received similar greetings from old friends and competitors.
“I’m glad you’re back in the game!” yelled one burly Red Horse Racing crew member over the constant roar of the Camping World Truck Series garage Tuesday afternoon.
A few hours later, the action sports star would climb back into a NASCAR vehicle for the first time in two years.
At 33, Pastrana plans to compete in the Sept. 30 Truck race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the same track he made his last start at in 2015. He’ll be driving the No. 45 truck owned by Niece Motorsports that’s also been driven by T.J. Bell this season.
Pastrana was in Charlotte for a one-day test despite being a very busy man. He has his popular Nitro Cirus stunt tour and is competing full-time in world rally for the first time since 2010 and leads the points. He also has a family with two daughters to raise.
So why dip back into NASCAR? Why spend six hours in May testing for a race in September?
Four years after his lone full-time Xfinity campaign with Roush Fenway Racing, Pastrana has an itch. A question that he needs to find the answer to.
“I’ve been able to figure most racing things out and be competitive,” Pastrana told NBC Sports. “Everyday at some point, I go ‘why couldn’t I figure out NASCAR? What do I need to do?’ I haven’t had the time to do it right.”
It helps that truck races are a viewing priority on TV for Pastrana’s 3-year-old daughter.
“She’ll watch an entire race,” Pastrana said. “Which is shocking because she doesn’t sit and watch anything. She’s always kind of bouncing off the walls. She likes the Trucks, especially Matt Crafton because she knows Matt a little and (Crafton’s daughter) Elladee is around her age. … We went down to Florida last year to see the finals and the truck race.”
Pastrana showed spurts of potential in 2013 in the Xfinity Series. Driving a colorful No. 60 Ford for Roush, he earned a pole at Talladega and qualified on the front row three times. In 33 starts, he collected four top 10s.
After a career filled with various action sports championships, Pastrana had viewed NASCAR as the next mountain to conquer.
“NASCAR’s been challenging because I’ve made a career and a living out of being able to take risks that no one else was willing to take,” Pastrana said. “I never cared about motorcycle set up. I just go out there and I ride. Your body is the setup. Even in rally, the course has so many different corners and different jumps, you’ll never have the perfect set up, so it comes down more to the driver.
“In NASCAR, it comes down to what you know about the truck. We’ve been working a lot, learning about the truck, learning about the cars. When I came into NASCAR, I didn’t know a lot about NASCAR. I thought it was a cool sport. Now, since then, I’ve learned a lot more about the sport, not to say I’m going to be great by any means, but I feel like I’ve got a much bigger appreciation and understanding for what it takes.”
Now those twenty-something drivers are rising stars in the Xfinity and Cup Series. Unlike Pastrana, they were raised on and have mastered this discipline their entire lives.
“I know I wouldn’t have made it (to Cup),” Pastrana admits. “With the time that I had, I know what it takes to get to the top of the sport. I was hoping that my other sports would translate better. They didn’t. Ok, that means we’re doing this seven days a week. Every minute of every day is thinking about NASCAR. Without a wife, kids, a business in Nitro Circus, that would have been an awesome challenge. But for me, at the point I was at in my life, I can race with my money and other people’s money, but I don’t have the time with my own equipment to do this. We’re doing the rally championship. It’s six rounds, so I can be 100 percent committed for those six rounds.”
Come Tuesday, Niece Motorsports’ small operation, along with some of Pastrana’s friends and former Roush crew members, scrambled around their garage stall to prepare the truck for what could be Pastrana’s only on-track action before September.
But as The Nitro Circus’ schedule slows down, there may the opportunity for another race, possibly at Chicagoland.
“We’re trying to drive as much as I can this year,” Pastrana said. “I’m doing the first full rally championship since 2010. For me, I’m doing a lot more pavement stuff, lots of go-kart stuff. Just trying to figure this stuff out a little bit, every chance that I can to come out.”
Optimism can’t produce horsepower, though. At the end of the marathon test, the combined effort of Pastrana and Bell and their rag-tag team could only muster a top speed of 174.396 mph, the slowest of the session by six mph.
But unlike the other 19 teams present at the test, Pastrana was the only driver there not taking part in their “day job.” He was just having fun, while studying up for the real test on Sept. 30.
“I’m not saying, ‘hey, I’m coming back in full-time,’ Pastrana said. “I’m racing one race, mostly to help my rally, but also to keep my foot in the door and say, ‘look, eventually I’d like to figure this stuff out because I haven’t figured it out and it bugs me.'”
Once you’ve had a taste of driving a NASCAR car or truck, it’s hard to resist attempts to come back.
Such is the case for action sports star Travis Pastrana, who announced Monday that he will test tomorrow (May 2) at Charlotte Motor Speedway and compete in the Camping World Truck Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sept. 30.
Pastrana will drive the No. 45 Chevrolet Silverado for Niece Motorsports in that race.
“I love NASCAR, and Las Vegas is always a good time, so I’m really looking forward to racing there later this season,” Pastrana said in a media release. “The seat time at Charlotte will be a huge help for me to get up to speed and for the team to get a solid base setup for when we show up to race later in the year.
“I’ve actually worked with several of the people on this team in the past. It’s a fun group and we have a good rapport.”
Pastrana has long sought to return to NASCAR racing, and the opportunity with Niece Motorsports is what he was looking for.
“NASCAR is something that challenges me,” Pastrana said. “I’ve done a lot of work over the past couple of years to try and improve my pavement skills.
“I’m racing my first full year of Rally (America) since 2010, and I’m fresh off my first win in over a year, so it’s really exciting to be able to get behind the wheel again and see what we can do in the Truck Series.”
It will be Pastrana’s first NASCAR race of any type since he competed in a Truck Series race at Las Vegas in 2015 (finished 16th).
Prior to that, he ran all 33 races in the Xfinity Series in 2013, with a season-best finish of ninth in the spring race at Richmond as well as three other tenth-place finishes. He also earned one pole that year at Talladega.
One bonus for Pastrana is he’ll have Cody Efaw as his crew chief on the No. 45 truck. Efaw served as Pastrana’s car chief in the 2013 Xfinity Series season.
“Any time you can team up with someone you’ve worked well with in the past, there’s obviously a level of comfort there,” Pastrana said. “I know the group of guys that Niece Motorsports has assembled is going to give me a great shot at running well.”
Niece Motorsports is competing on a part-time schedule in the Truck Series in 2017, with plans to race full-time in 2018.