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Ty Majeski to race full-time for Niece Motorsports in Truck Series

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Ty Majeski will compete full-time for Niece Motorsports in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series in 2020, the team announced Tuesday.

Majeski, a former Roush Fenway Racing development driver, will pilot the No. 45 Chevrolet that Ross Chastain drove to an appearance in the Championship 4 this year. Chastain will compete full-time for Kaulig Racing in the Xfinity Series.

Majeski, 25, made one start for Niece Motorsports last year, making his Truck Series debut in the playoff race at ISM Raceway. He finished 11th.

The team confirmed to NBC Sports that crew chief Phil Gould will return to the team.

“I’m really excited for the opportunity to race full time with Niece Motorsports,” Majeski said in a press release.  “I’m appreciative of (owner) Al (Niece) and everyone at the team for giving me this opportunity.  We’re looking to continue to build on what Ross and the team accomplished this year.  We expect to be contending for wins and ultimately the championship.”

“Last season was really a dream come true for me and this team,” said Niece in the press release.  “No one expected us to be contending for a championship in Homestead – but there we were. We’re confident that we can do the same next season. Ty is clearly extremely talented – he’s won in everything he’s driven.  I’m excited to have him join the team full time.  We’re looking forward to great things in 2020.”

After competing part-time for Roush Fenway Racing in the Xfinity Series in 2018, Majeski made six starts in the ARCA Menards Series this year, winning three times and finishing in the top five in the other three races. The 25-year-old native of Seymour, Wisconsin, also earned four wins on the ARCA Midwest Tour.

Majeski’s news comes the day after his attempt to win the Snowball Derby came up short.

The rest of Niece Motorsports’ driver lineup will be announced at a later date. The team did not include in sponsor info in their announcement.

 

Truck Series Championship 4 Outlook

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Two past champions and two drivers who won their first Gander Outdoors Truck Series races this year are primed to battle for the championship Friday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway (8 p.m. ET on FS1).

Led by defending champion Brett Moffitt, the Championship 4 consists of Matt Crafton, Ross Chastain and Stewart Friesen.

There are no upstart phenoms in this group of drivers, where the average age is 33. The veterans came out on top. But who will be the last one standing?

Here’s a breakdown of each driver.

Matt Crafton (No. 88 Ford for ThorSport Racing)

Wins: None

Career Playoff wins: Two

Miami Record: Three top fives in 18 starts, including his win in 2014 to claim his second championship.

Championship-Caliber Moment(s): Crafton did everything he needed to short of winning a race this season to make the title race. He enters Miami with three top 10s in the playoffs and only one DNF through 22 races.

Outlook: It’s entirely possible Crafton could claim his third Truck Series title this weekend without having won a single race this season. In fact, he hasn’t won since the 2017 race at Eldora. The last time a national series driver won a title without a win was Austin Dillon with his Xfinity championship in 2013. Crafton will try to do it as the only Ford driver going against three Chevrolets.

“Just beat the other three guys,” Crafton said Friday night. “At the end of the day, just go out there and just make your truck the best you can in practice and Homestead’s always such an interesting one just because you have so much tire wear, you get so much tire falloff and you get one set of tires in practice. You have one shot to get the balance of your truck good. … But at the end of the day we know what trucks we’ll be racing for a championship.”

 

Brett Moffitt (No. 24 Chevrolet for GMS Racing)

Wins: Four (Iowa, Chicago, Bristol, Canada)

Career Playoff Wins: Four (two this season)

Miami Record: Will make his second Truck start at the track following his win there last year to claim the title. Finished 31st and 36th in his two Cup Series starts.

Championship-Caliber Moment(s): Led the final 27 laps at Bristol and survived three restarts in that span to fend off Chandler Smith and Chastain for the win.

Outlook: Could become the second Truck Series driver to claim back-to-back titles, following Crafton’s 2013-14 reign. Regardless of the outcome Friday, Moffitt won’t have to worry about his career prospects. After proving GMS Racing’s decision to go with him over Johnny Sauter was the right one, he’ll be back in the No. 24 next season.

“I think it’s a different type of pressure,” Moffitt said Friday. “Last year (was) ‘What if I don’t get the opportunity again?’ type of pressure. Where this year is I need to perform for those who gave me this opportunity and that’s the Gallagher family and everyone at GMS. They’re working as hard as they possibly can to give me fast Silverados week-in and week-out. Anything short of winning a championship will be a disappointment for all of us. We feel like we have the best opportunity to do it. We feel like we have the best people to do it.”

 

Ross Chastain (No. 45 Chevrolet for Niece Motorsports)

Wins: Three (Kansas, Gateway, Pocono)

Career Playoff Wins: None

Miami Record: Best finish in five Truck Series starts is eighth in 2013 while driving for Brad Keselowski Racing. Finished 16th last year with Niece Motorsports.

Championship-Caliber Moment(s): Got a late start on the points race after he switched his points declaration from Xfinity to Trucks after eight races in the Truck season. Checked off every box mandated by NASCAR to become playoff eligible, earning two wins in the process and scrapped his way into the Championship 4 without a playoff win.

Outlook: Chastain has everything to prove and nothing to lose Friday night. Eleven months since he lost a full-time ride in the Xfinity Series, Chastain has a shot at his first NASCAR title. Chastain will compete full-time in the Xfinity Series in 2020 with Kaulig Racing.

“Bet ya’ll didn’t expect to see me here … A dream come true,” Chastain said after he finished ninth in Phoenix. “My team owner Al (Niece) just said it best, he said ‘Why stop now?'”

 

Stewart Friesen (No. 52 Chevrolet for Halmar Racing)

Wins: Two (Eldora, Phoenix)

Career Playoff Wins: One

Miami Record: Three starts with finishes of seventh and fourth the last two years.

Championship-Caliber Moment(s): After a penalty at the start of the Phoenix race for beating the pole-sitter to the start-finish line, Friesen bounced back and held off Brandon Jones to claim his first win on asphalt and advance to the Championship 4.

Outlook: Friesen and Halmar Racing didn’t compete in NASCAR until 2016. They’ve won their first two races this season and are one race away from a championship. Like Brett Moffitt last year, we can’t help but speculate it’s because of the mustache.

“We’ve got our favorite truck we’re running next week that we’ve gotten a lot of time under our belt with,” Friesen said following his win. “It’s going to be a tough race, obviously. It gets tough to pass at Homestead. The tire falloff is huge. It falls off lap-to-lap. You can go out and start a run, you’re wide open for a lap. Then it backs up, backs up, backs up. Then you get right up on the boards. You got to work that air bubble and there’s a lot of stuff you can manipulate at Homestead to help yourself out that I’ve learned the last (three races there). It’s a gritty race track paved with the aggregate of the area. It looks like you’re racing on sea shells, that’s what it is. That’s what the pavement plants have there. It’s cool and it’s exciting. ”

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Ross Chastain says DQ spurred ‘very bone-jarring words’ from truck owner

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Ross Chastain is “100 percent confident” he still will make the truck playoffs after having his first-place finish Sunday at Iowa Speedway tossed out on a postrace technicality.

But regardless of how Niece Motorsports rebounds from the disqualification, the repercussions still could threaten the future of the truck series team.

“There will be fallout from this for us for a long time,” Chastain said Tuesday during a taping of a NASCAR on NBC Podcast episode (which will be released next week; a video snippet is available above). “It shook (team owner) Al Niece and all of us to our cores (asking), ‘What are we doing? Why are we doing this?’ Al’s prepared for years to win races, and the amount of investment and infrastructure he’s put into this race team, and to get your second win, and they take it away.

“I think it really made him think about why is he doing this? And is this worth doing? It did. He’s a guy who wears his emotion on his sleeve just like I do. He’s honest. And he came in the shop (Monday) and had some, for me, very bone-jarring words that was like, ‘Holy cow, this could have a really bad effect on all our futures, his included, in NASCAR.’

“It’s scary stuff right now, and that’s why we will go win this weekend, and we will keep winning.”

The team’s appeal of the penalty will be heard today at 9 a.m., and Chastain will be in attendance (“If they want me to speak, I’ll speak”). Because his team is the first dinged under NASCAR’s revamped approach to postrace inspections this season, it’s difficult to gauge the team’s chances because there is virtually no precedent (the last time a driver was disqualified was more than two decades ago).

In the likelihood that the disqualification is upheld, Chastain faces a stiff challenge to make the playoffs. He must win one of the final six regular-season races and also erase a 69-point gap to hold a requisite top 20 spot in the standings.

Given that only 14 drivers have attempted all 10 truck races in 2019, making the top 20 should be easy, but Chastain has been earning points over only the past two races after electing to switch to truck points in early June. His May 10 victory at Kansas Speedway was ineligible for playoff consideration.

That doesn’t dissuade Chastain from believing he can contend for the truck championship. He will race Saturday night at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway with the Chevrolet he drove at Iowa.

“We gave them an eight-race head start, so what’s one more race? How big of a head start do these guys need in the points? No issues on my end,” Chastain said. “I don’t want to sound cocky, but I am confident, because I know what it’s like to not have speed, and you’re struggling and don’t have resources. We have the resources.”

The full podcast episode will be available on audio and video next week; you can watch a snippet above.

Ross Chastain declares for Truck Series driver points, will race at Texas

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With eight of 23 races already complete in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series season, Ross Chastain has declared for Truck Series driver points, switching from the Xfinity Series, and will attempt to compete for the Truck championship, Niece Motorsports announced Tuesday.

Chastain won the May 10 Truck Series race at Kansas Speedway and has finished in the top 10 in every race so far.

But the Kansas win does not lock Chastain into the playoffs. After spotting his competitors eight races, he will start with zero points, will have to win again and then be in the top 20 in points to guarantee himself a spot in the playoffs.

With eight races left in the Truck Series regular season, Jesse Little, who has only made five starts, is currently 20th in the Truck standings with 91 points.

Section 17.6.d in the Truck Series rulebook states any driver who is allowed to change their points declaration “will forfeit any driver points earned up to that point (in another series) and start at zero points” in that series.

Chastain was 13th in the Xfinity Series following Saturday’s race at Pocono. Twelve drivers make it into the Xfinity playoffs. Chastain was 23 points behind the cutoff spot with 14 races left in the regular season.

Chastain has also competed in every national NASCAR series race this year across all three series, totaling 34 starts.

That streak will continue Friday night when Chastain drives the No. 38 Chevrolet for Niece Motorsports at Texas Motor Speedway. TJ Bell Jr. was originally entered in the truck.

The Texas race is the first of three consecutive races that are being labelled as the “Triple Truck Challenge,” with individual race winners being awarded $50,000. A driver could earn $500,000 if they win all three races.

Only drivers earning Truck Series points are eligible for the program.

“After much consideration and many conversations, I’ve decided to pursue championship points in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series, effective immediately,” Chastain said in a press release. “This shift will allow me to be in the truck race this weekend in Texas, and I’m grateful to everyone at Niece Motorsports for giving me this opportunity.”

Chastain will continue to compete for JD Motorsports and Kaulig Racing in the Xfinity Series where sponsorship has been “solidified.” He is set to compete in three more races for Kaulig Racing.

“I know this is the best decision for me at this time and am thankful for everyone who has and will continue to support me moving forward into 2019 and beyond,” Chastain said.

Chastain drove the No. 45 Chevy in the first eight Truck races of the year. Kyle Benjamin will drive it this weekend.

“I know it won’t be easy, but I believe this team is capable of making the playoffs and competing for a championship with Ross,” team owner Al Niece said in a press release.  “We are proud to bring trucks capable of winning to the race track. It takes a lot of work to get there and we don’t take it lightly. We’re ready to see what the next eight races bring.”