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Christian Eckes wins Truck Series pole at Daytona

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Christian Eckes won the pole for tonight’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series season opener at Daytona.

Driving the No. 51 Toyota for Kyle Busch Motorsports, Eckes posted a top speed of 182.604 mph.

It is the first career pole for 18-year-old Eckes in his fifth career start.

“I felt way more confident in our car in the draft yesterday,” Eckes told Fox Sports 1. “I really wasn’t sure where we would qualify but here we are on the pole.”

He will be joined on the front row by David Gilliland (182.556 mph).

The top five is completed by Todd Gilliland (181.686), Harrison Burton (181.357) and Grant Enfinger (181.349).

Burton will start from the rear after an engine change was made on his No. 18 Toyota on Thursday.

The race is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.

Click here for the starting lineup.

David Gilliland, Ty Gibbs to appeal heavy penalties for violating testing rules

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Defending K&N Pro Series East championship team DGR Crosley will appeal Wednesday’s L6 penalty assessed by NASCAR for violating the preseason testing policy.

A NASCAR spokesperson confirmed to NBC Sports that the team used the NASCAR-approved spec engine in the test. The use of the engine violated the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Series testing policy, which specifically prohibits testing at a sanctioned track on the 2019 K&N Pro Series East schedule.

Car owner David Gilliland and driver Ty Gibbs, the 16-year-old grandson of NASCAR Cup team owner Joe Gibbs, were each suspended three races for the team’s private test at New Smyrna Speedway. Car chief Chad Walters was suspended indefinitely.

Gilliland is also docked 100 owner points. Gibbs has been docked 100 driver points.Gilliland, Gibbs and Walters have each been fined $5,000 apiece. The L6 penalty is the most severe in K&N Pro Series.

No date for the team’s appeal has been set. If the appeal is not heard before the Feb. 10 K&N Pro Series East opener at New Smyrna Speedway, all three would be allowed to compete.

Here’s what the violations are, per the NASCAR rule book:

* Section 12‐5.3.7: Violations resulting in L6 Penalties, in general, represent the expressly forbidden areas of unauthorized activity such as violation of the NASCAR Testing Policy.

* Section 12‐ 5.3.7.1.5 Violation of the NASCAR Testing Policy Conducting a private test with a NASCAR K&N Pro Series vehicle at a sanctioned track on the 2019 K&N Pro Series East Schedule (such as New Smyrna Speedway). Private race vehicle testing by any NASCAR K&N Pro Series race team, employee, contractor, affiliate, associated, subsidiary or surrogate at any facility that appears on the Series Schedule or that has been granted a Touring Series sanction will be prohibited regardless of “rookie” or “veteran” status.

DGR Crosley issued a statement Wednesday, claiming it was taking part in a private ARCA test.

“This afternoon NASCAR made us aware of a penalty they are imposing for actions that occurred during an ARCA Racing Series test on January 14. We strongly believe that we did not violate any rules and will therefore appeal the penalty immediately. While the appeals process runs its course, we will move forward and keep our focus on the upcoming season.”

However, the ARCA Series will not hold any sanctioned races at New Smyrna Speedway in 2019.

ARCA also issued a statement on the penalty:

“ARCA does not have any private testing limits at sanctioned or non-sanctioned tracks, other than a clearly defined moratorium on each event entry blank that generally covers the week leading up to an ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards event. Teams who would like to schedule a private test at one of the 18 tracks on the ARCA schedule do not have to notify us in advance of doing so, it is an agreement between them and the individual track.

“The only time we would get involved would be if a team tested during that moratorium period that is defined on each entry blank. DGR-Crosley Racing is not under any ARCA penalties because they did not break any ARCA rules.”

DGR Crosley won the K&N East series championship last season with driver Tyler Ankrum.

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Anthony Alfredo joins DGR-Crosley in 2019

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DGR-Crosley announced 19-year-old Anthony Alfredo will compete with the team part-time in 2019 in the Gander Outdoors Truck series. Alfredo is part of the NASCAR Next program.

Last year, Alfredo won a 100-lap K&N Pro Series East series race at South Boston after taking the lead from Chase Cabre on the last lap. Alfredo had three more top fives and nine total top 10s in 14 starts.

In 2017, he won twice in the CARS Late Model series at Hickory Speedway driving for Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“Going to DGR-Crosley next season is a huge opportunity for me,” said Alfredo in a press release. “To be able to work with David (Gilliland), who’s not only the owner but also someone who has a lot of racing experience, is going to be very beneficial. They have a great group of hardworking, knowledgeable people in their shop which is going to make the transition to Trucks a lot smoother for me. They’ve had a lot of success at every level they’ve competed in, and it’s a dream come true to be able to race for them at the national level.

“Making it to the Cup Series is the end goal, and I feel like I’m one step closer to where I want to be. I can’t thank everyone who has made this possible and supported me throughout my career enough, especially my family and sponsors who continually believe in me.”

DGR-Crosley says Alfredo is expected to make his Truck Series debut at Atlanta Motor Speedway. A full schedule will be released at a later date.

“I’m excited to have Anthony on board next season,” said Gilliland in the press release. “I watched him all year in the K&N Series and he did a great job. He’s a talented racer and has shown that he has the drive to keep getting better. He’s a great fit for our program at DGR-Crosley and going to do a very good job for us next season in the Truck Series.”

DGR-Crosley signs Natalie Decker to driver development program

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Natalie Decker will seek to make her NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series debut in February with DGR-Crosley, the team announced Friday.

The team co-owned by former Cup driver David Gilliland signed the 21-year-old Decker for its driver development program. She will run a select number of Truck races and a combination of K&N Pro Series and ARCA races.

She has competed in ARCA the past two seasons. Decker finished seventh in the points in ARCA last year, scoring two top-five and nine top-10 finishes. She became the fourth woman to win a pole at Daytona International Speedway.

“I’m really excited to be making the step up to trucks, especially with DGR-Crosley,” Decker said in a statement from the team. “Making the transition to trucks is going to help me progress my career and build my skillset. I think it’s very important that I’ll have the same team around me whichever series I’m running and having David (Gilliland) there to help coach me and give me advice.”

Said Gilliland: “I’m excited to be adding Natalie to our 2019 driver roster at DGR-Crosley. We have really competitive cars and a lot of talented drivers lined up for next year, so I’m excited to see what we can do together.

Decker’s full schedule for 2019 will be released at a later date.

Look back at 2018 season through photos

Photo: Dustin Long
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With the completion of the season, I often go back and look at the photos I’ve taken on my phone and reflect upon the special pictures.

Here are 10 photos I took that stood out to me as I looked back upon the 2018 season.

 

For those who question if Paul Menard smiles. He does. Here he is doing an interview with NBC Sports during media day in January

 

Clint Bowyer with son Cash in the media center after Bowyer ended a 190-race winless streak by winning that event in March.

 

This is among my favorite pictures just for the girl’s reaction at getting Kyle Busch‘s autograph as he headed to the drivers meeting at Bristol in April. Busch would go on to win that race.

 

Michael Riggs, shock specialist for Bubba Wallace’s Richard Petty Motorsports team, sets the scales for the team at Bristol in August. Another one of my favorites in how it shows the work of a crew member that most people don’t see.

 

NASCAR Hall of Famer Leonard Wood sits on the pit wall during the Southern 500 as William Byron races by in a Jeff Gordon Rainbow Warriors paint scheme. So much history in this picture.

 

Garrett Smithley hugs Ross Chastain in Victory Lane after Chastain won the Las Vegas Xfinity race in September for Chip Ganassi Racing.

 

Jimmie Johnson played a joke on Martin Truex Jr.’s team at Dover, a week after Johnson’s contact spun Truex in the final chicane and cost Truex the win at the Charlotte Roval.

Johnson was allowed in the Dover garage after it closed and put about a dozen children’s bikes on the lift gate of Furniture Row Racing’s hauler.

“Cole (Pearn) made a comment to me at the end of last weekend when we were leaving the track all in good fun,” Johnson said at Dover. “I saw some of his crew guys when I came back from a bike ride on Friday, and one of them grabbed my bike and said, ‘Oh, hey, is this my nice, new bike that Cole was talking about?’ ”

“So, as I shared that story with my team, the ideas started flowing, and we … sent my bus driver off to Walmart where they had some pre-assembled bikes and had some fun with it.”

 

Aric Almirola after he failed to win the Dover playoff race in October. Not much else needs to be said.

 

David Gilliland, who won the pole for the Camping World Truck Series race at Talladega Superspeedway in October, holds a puppy his family adopted earlier that week.

 

Ray Gallahan, fueler for Joey Logano‘s team, watches the team spray each other with champagne after Logano won the championship. It was Gallahan’s last race going over the wall. He sat back to take it all in and to avoid be “sticky” from the champagne.