Natalie Decker

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Natalie Decker to run part-time Truck slate for Niece Motorsports in 2020

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Niece Motorsports announced Thursday that Natalie Decker will run a part-time schedule in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series in 2020.

The Eagle River, Wisconsin, native will drive the No. 44 Chevrolet Silverado. It’s expected that Decker will run at least eight Truck races, with the possibility of adding more as the season plays out. Decker’s first race will be the season-opening NextEra 250 on Feb. 14 at Daytona International Speedway.

“Change is inevitable, change is expected and exciting, and change is also frightening,” Decker said in a media release. “But this year is a year I’m ready for! I have never felt so prepared with my health, in the gym, and mentally.

“There are so many things to be excited about working with Niece Motorsports, starting with my teammates Ross (Chastain) and Ty (fellow Wisconsin native Ty Majeski). I’m ready to learn from them and be 100% open minded going into the season!”

Decker joins Niece Motorsports after competing in 19 races last season for DGR Crosley. Photo: Niece Motorsports.

The 22-year-old Decker will also have Carson Hocevar as a Niece Motorsports teammate.

“We are excited to have Natalie join the team,” said team owner Al Niece.  “Natalie has shown a lot of talent, and we are excited to see her continue to develop that at Niece Motorsports.  We are certain we will put her in competitive equipment that will really give her a chance to shine.”

Decker, who spent the 2015 season as part of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program with Rev Racing, joins Niece Motorsports after making 19 starts last season for DGR-Crosley and finishing 19th in the overall standings.

Her best finish last season was 13th at Las Vegas. It was a difficult first year in the Truck Series for her, recording nine DNFs, including eight early exits due to crashes.

She previously raced full-time in the ARCA Menards Series in 2018, including earning the pole and finishing fifth in the season opener at Daytona. She went on to finish seventh overall in the season standings.

Decker also announced that in addition to her part-time Truck Series slate with Niece Motorsports, she’ll run a full six-race schedule in the SGT-Trans Am West Coast Series for AVE Motorsports. She’ll be behind the wheel of a GT-4. The season begins March 14 at Sonoma Raceway.

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Natalie Decker recovering from gallbladder surgery

Natalie Decker
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Natalie Decker, a Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series driver, is recovering after undergoing surgery to have her gallbladder removed.

MORE: NASCAR video, schedule and more

Decker, who raced for DGR-Crosley in 2019, posted on Instagram Wednesday about what led to the surgery, including problems with her gallbladder the kept her from taking arthritis medication.

“Hi everyone now that I have had the surgery to remove my gallbladder I will share the whole story!” Decker said. “I have been not being able to eat much food and have been in so much pain every time I eat we went through lots of testing like upper endoscopy and gallbladder function test! They finally figured it out and my gallbladder wasn’t functioning right! I had to get my gallbladder removed before I could go back on my Arthritis medication. I’m so thankful everything went very well!”

Decker, 22, made 19 starts in 2019. Her best finish was 13th in the spring Las Vegas race.

Preliminary entry lists for NASCAR at ISM Raceway

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The end is nigh for all three NASCAR national series with only two races left for each series.

They will hold their final playoff elimination races this weekend at ISM Raceway near Phoenix.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for each race.

Cup – Bluegreen Vacations 500 (2:30 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC)

Thirty-nine cars are entered.

John Hunter Nemechek is entered in his second race in Front Row Motorsports’ No. 36 Ford in relief of Matt Tifft.

Joe Nemechek is entered in Premium Motorsports’ No. 27 Chevrolet.

Both Nemecheks are entered in all three races this weekend.

Kyle Busch has won the last two races in Phoenix. In this race last year, he beat Brad Keselowski and Kyle Larson. In the spring he beat Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Blaney.

Click here for the entry list.

Xfinity – Desert Diamond Casino West Valley 200 (3:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC)

Thirty-eight cars are entered.

Riley Herbst is entered in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota.

More: Herbst to compete full-time for JGR in Xfinity in 2020

Ryan Vargas is entered in JD Motorsports’ No. 4 Chevrolet for his third career start.

Bobby Earnhardt is entered in MBM Motorsports’ No. 66 Toyota.

This race won last year by Christopher Bell over Daniel Hemric and Matt Tifft. The spring race was won by Kyle Busch over Ryan Truex and Tyler Reddick.

Click here for the entry list.

Trucks – Lucas Oil 150 (8:30 p.m. ET Friday on FS1)

Thirty-four trucks are entered. Two trucks will not qualify for the race.

John Hunter Nemechek is entered in NEMCO Motorsports’ No. 8 Chevrolet.

Derek Kraus, the current K&N Pro Series West points leader, is entered in Bill McAnally Racing’s No. 19 Toyota.

Ty Majeski is entered in Niece Motorsports’ No. 44 Chevrolet for his first career Truck Series start and his first NASCAR start of the season. He will also make his K&N Pro Series West debut Saturday night.

DGR-Crosley will field five entries for the first time: Dylan Lupton (No. 5 Toyota), Tanner Gray (No. 7 Toyota), Anthony Alfredo (No. 15 Toyota), Tyler Ankrum (No. 17 Toyota) and Natalie Decker (No. 54 Toyota).

This race was won last year by Brett Moffitt over Noah Gragson and Harrison Burton.

Click here for Truck entry list

Todd Gilliland wins Martinsville Truck race; playoff contenders struggle

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For many of the six remaining NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series playoff contenders, Saturday’s race at Martinsville Speedway wound up being more like Mayhemville Speedway.

Todd Gilliland won his first career Truck race in the NASCAR Hall of Fame 200.

But the big story of the day was how playoff contenders Brett Moffitt, Austin Hill and Tyler Ankrum were knocked out due to wrecks, and Matt Crafton suffered a mechanical issue, leaving all of them with disappointing finishes heading into the final championship-qualifying race in two weeks at ISM Raceway near Phoenix.

Crafton finished 23rd, while Ankrum was 25th, Austin Hill 26th and Moffitt was the lowest-finishing playoff contender (29th).

Moffitt still was able to hold on to his lead in the standings, having a 10-point edge over Stewart Friesen, who finished sixth Saturday. Ranked third is Ross Chastain, who trails Moffitt by 25 points after finishing second Saturday and is 20 points above the cutoff line.

In the fourth and final transfer spot is Hill, who is 36 points behind Moffitt and nine points ahead of Crafton in fifth.

Ankrum is 15 points behind Hill as the last playoff-eligible driver in the points standings, which can viewed by clicking here.

MORE: Click here for results

MORE: Click here for points standings

It was Gilliland’s first win in 46 career Truck Series starts.

“It feels amazing,” Gilliland said after the race. “This place is really hard to win at. … Luckily we were out front. Just wish we could’ve been a little bit faster all weekend, but as a driver that’s what you always hope for and this thing was fast enough today. … What a race.”

As for the rest of the top five finishers in the race, Johnny Sauter was third followed by Grant Enfinger and Timmy Hill.

Moffitt dominated the first stage, leading all but the first lap of the 50-lap segment. But he was knocked out of the race early in the final stage on Lap 116 when he hit the retaining wall while trying to avoid a wreck between Jeb Burton and Natalie Decker.

That’s Martinsville,” Moffitt told FS1. “We had a dominating truck. When we got out front, we could just ride and be two tenths faster than the field. It’s a bummer, but we’ll go to Phoenix and try to win that one and then go to Homestead and win that one.”

Rookie Sam Mayer, making only his second career Truck race start, won Stage 2. However, 23 laps later, the 16-year-old Mayer was involved in a nine-truck wreck that also knocked him out of the race.

Just disappointed in myself, trying to get in a hole that wasn’t there,” Mayer told FS1. “I just misjudged it. … We did well while it really mattered, but when it really did matter, we kind of messed up at the end. Hopefully we can go to Phoenix (in two weeks) and do better.”

Stage 1 winner: Brett Moffitt (fifth stage win of the season).

Stage 2 winner: Sam Mayer (first career stage win).

Who had a good race: Gilliland, obviously, but kudos also have to be given to Chastain as well as Harrison Burton. Though Burton was involved in a last-lap spin and finished 18th, he was closing in on the lead and the potential win in the final laps until that incident.

Who had a bad race: With less than 20 laps to go in Stage 2, Matt Crafton was closing in on the lead, only to be forced to pit to replace the battery and cockpit computer on his Toyota Tundra, dropping him eight laps behind the leaders. Crafton, who finished 23rd (eight laps down), is facing a nine-point deficit heading into ISM Raceway in Phoenix in two weeks for the fourth and final spot in the championship round at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

What’s next: Lucas Oil 150 at ISM Raceway, Nov. 8, 8:30 p.m. ET. The four highest-ranked playoff drivers after that race will battle for the Truck Series championship on Friday, Nov. 15, at Homestead-Miami Speedway. 

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Final truck practice report from Martinsville

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FINAL PRACTICE:

Todd Gilliland was fastest in the final NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series practice Friday afternoon at Martinsville Speedway.

Driving the No. 4 Toyota Tundra, Gilliland laid down a speed of 95.694 mph in the 50-minute session.

Harrison Burton was second-fastest at 95.247 mph, followed by defending Truck Series champ Brett Moffitt (95.170 mph), Johnny Sauter (95.141 mph) and rookie Sam Mayer (95.036 mph).

Only 30 trucks took to the track for the session.

Click here for the final practice results.

FIRST PRACTICE:

Less than a week after winning the ARCA Menards Series championship, Christian Eckes hopped into a NASCAR Gander Outdoor Series truck Friday and was fastest in the first of two practice sessions at Martinsville Speedway.

Christian Eckes (Getty Images)

Piloting the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota Tundra, Eckes covered the .526-mile bullring – the shortest track on the NASCAR circuit – at a speed of 95.391 mph. He was followed by Ross Chastain (94.661 mph), Sheldon Creed (94.477 mph), Ben Rhodes (94.449) and Todd Gilliland (94.402.

A total of 31 trucks took to the track for the session.

Click here for first practice results.

The second Truck practice will be held from 2:05 to 2:55 p.m. ET this afternoon. Qualifying (10:05 a.m. ET) and the NASCAR Hall of Fame 200 race (1:30 p.m. ET) will be Saturday.

In a special rookie practice held before the first full-field practice, Sam Mayer was the fastest (93.604 mph) of the five rookies that took part.

Tanner Gray, who won the NHRA Pro Stock championship last year, was second-fastest (92.969 mph), followed by Codie Rohrbaugh (92.751 mph), Danny Bohn (92.466 mph) and Natalie Decker (90.833 mph).

The NASCAR Cup Series does not get on track until Saturday for two practices and qualifying. The NASCAR Xfinity Series is off this weekend.

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