Natalie Decker

Natalie Decker
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Natalie Decker to miss Pocono Truck race due to hospitalization

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NASCAR Truck Series driver Natalie Decker will miss Saturday’s race at Pocono Raceway after being hospitalized, according to an announcement on her website.

The 23-year-old Niece Motorsports driver has been hospitalized since Tuesday due to bile duct complications related to her gallbladder removal in December and Decker’s website said a “medical team is still treating her.”

Decker was set to drive Niece Motorsports’ No. 44 Chevrolet in Saturday’s race. Niece Motorsports confirmed to NBC Sports that Bayley Currey will take her place.

In her second year in the Truck Series, Decker has made 22 starts. She’s competed in three of the five races held this season. She finished fifth in the season-opener at Daytona for her first top five and top-10 finish in the series.

Call him the bounty hunter: Chase Elliott beats Kyle Busch to win $100K

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Chase Elliott may have earned a new nickname Tuesday night: the Bounty Hunter.

By winning the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Elliott won a $100,000 “bounty” put up by Kevin Harvick and Gander RV & Outdoors CEO Marcus Lemonis to be a full-time Cup driver to beat Kyle Busch to the finish line, snapping Busch’s streak of seven consecutive Truck Series wins.

The money goes to a charity of Elliott’s choosing, benefitting COVID-19 relief.

“It was a lot of fun,” Elliott told FS1. “It’d been a long time. It doesn’t make up for Sunday (finished second in the Coca-Cola 600) but it was still a really good night. I’m glad to win and do some good for the relief efforts for this virus.”

Busch gave Elliott all he could handle in the last 15 laps, drawing closer seemingly on every lap, but ultimately couldn’t catch Elliott before the finish line.

“He was a little better than I was there at the end; I had gotten a little tight and I don’t think we adjusted enough on the last pit stop,” Elliott said of Busch. “Luckily, the right front stayed on it long enough to get to the end.

“To be able to come out and out-run him and him finish second, I’d rather have him finish second than wreck or something, so I feel like I did something right.”

MORE: Results, standings after Truck race at Charlotte

It was Elliott’s third win in 13 career Truck Series races.

Busch was frustrated with his truck all night.

“(The truck) just never was right, so we were out in left field the whole night, never had a real great feel for the truck, a great driving truck, so I just salvaged what I could,” Busch said in a post-race Zoom media conference call. “It was self-inflicted, threw it away. We had six months to prepare and screwed it all up.”

Chase Elliott celebrates after winning the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Trucks Series North Carolina Education Lottery 200. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Busch chuckled when told that Elliott imitated Busch’s usual bow after each win he amasses.

“No, this is the first I’m hearing of it,” Busch said. “Imitation is the strongest form of flattery or I don’t know what it is. But that’s cute.”

Elliott

“It was just a spur of the moment thing,” Elliott said with a smile. “I thought we’ve had so much fun with it with Kevin (Harvick) and putting up the money, Kyle was a good sport about it.

“It was not a dig at anybody, just having fun with it. It was about beating him, so why not have some fun with it.”

Zane Smith finished third, followed by Brett Moffitt and Sheldon Creed.

John Hunter Nemechek finished sixth followed by Johnny Sauter, Ty Majeski, Austin Hill and Ben Rhodes.

Tuesday’s race was the first for the Truck Series since Busch won Feb. 21 at Las Vegas, just a couple of weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down NASCAR racing for more than two months.

It was Elliott’s first Truck race since 2017.

“It was about beating Kyle and we did that, so I guess I can quit now,” Elliott laughed.

Busch, meanwhile, saw his streak of winning the last seven Truck races he entered fall short of an eighth consecutive start and win.

Busch finished fourth in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, won Monday’s Xfinity race and was runner-up in Tuesday’s race. He goes for another win in Wednesday’s Alsco Uniforms 500, which wraps up four races in as many days at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Ross Chastain (first stage win of season)

STAGE 2 WINNER: Chase Elliott

Who had a good race: Zane Smith was the highest finishing rookie driver, earning a career-best third-place finish. Smith has made just four starts in a Truck in his career but gave the front runners a formidable challenge, particularly in the final 15 laps. “I was so determined to get third,” the 20-year-old Smith said. “It was an awesome night.”

Who had a bad race: Brennan Poole was involved in two last segment incidents that prevented him from making his bid to collect the Harvick/Lemonis bounty. Poole finished 38th. … Matt Crafton suffered a broken track bar late in the race, ending his night prematurely. Crafton finished 35th.

Notable: Brett Moffitt continues to impress in his ongoing recovery from suffering two broken legs in mid-March. In the last five days, Moffitt has earned strong 11th (Darlington) and 6th (Charlotte) place finishes with a fourth-place finish in the Truck race.

What’s next: Vet Tix Camping World 200, Saturday June 6 at 1 p.m. ET, Texas Motor Speedway.

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Super Late Model driver Jett Noland joins Niece Motorsports

Jett Noland
Niece Motorsports
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Super Late Model driver Jett Noland has joined Niece Motorsports for a partial Truck Series schedule this year, the team announced Thursday.

Noland will compete for the team in races at Richmond Raceway (April 18), Iowa Speedway (June 12) and the playoff races at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway (Aug. 21), Bristol Motor Speedway (Sept. 17), Martinsville Speedway (Oct. 30) and Phoenix Raceway (Nov. 6).

A native of Groveland, Florida, the 16-year-old Noland competed full-time in Super Late Models in 2019 and won rookie of the year honors at his home track of New Smyrna Speedway. He also finished in the top 10 in the Southern Super Series season points.

Noland joins a Niece Motorsports driver lineup that includes Ty Majeski (full-time), Ross Chastain, Natalie Decker, Ryan Truex and Carson Hocevar.

Silly season scorecard: Daniel Suarez joins Gaunt Brothers Racing

Daniel Suarez
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The biggest remaining piece to the puzzle that was the 2019-20 NASCAR silly season has been put into place with the confirmation that Daniel Suarez will compete full-time in the Cup Series with Gaunt Brothers Racing.

Suarez moves from Stewart-Haas Racing over to GBR to drive its No. 96 Toyota. This will be the first full-time Cup campaign for the team.

Here’s a recap of all the major headlines from silly season.

ANNOUNCED CUP RIDES FOR 2020

No. 00: Quin Houff will race for Star Com Racing full-time. Announced Nov. 27.

No. 1: Chip Ganassi Racing announced on Nov. 1 a multi-year extension with Kurt Busch.

No. 6: Roush Fenway Racing announced Oct. 30 that Ryan Newman would return to the car as part of the news that Oscar Mayer would sponsor the No. 6 through 2021.

No. 8: Richard Childress Racing made it official Oct. 2 that Tyler Reddick will move to Cup in 2020 and drive the No. 8 car.

No. 10: Aric Almirola confirmed Oct. 11 he signed an extension to race for Stewart-Haas Racing.

No. 13: Ty Dillon posted a video Sept. 6 on Instagram refuting rumors that he would retire after this season. He has a contract with Germain Racing through 2020.

No. 14: Clint Bowyer was announced Oct. 17 as returning to Stewart-Haas Racing for a fourth season.

No. 15: Brennan Poole will make his Cup debut and will drive for Premium Motorsports full-time. Announced Dec 11.

No. 17: Chris Buescher will take over the Roush Fenway Racing No. 17 ride in 2020 after the team announced Sept. 25 that it would part ways with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. after the 2019 season.

No. 20: Joe Gibbs Racing announced Sept. 6 that it had signed Erik Jones to an extension. It is a one-year extension for the 2020 season.

No. 21: Matt DiBenedetto replaces Paul Menard at Wood Brothers Racing (announcement made Sept. 10). DiBenedetto’s deal is for 2020 only.

No. 32: Corey LaJoie will return for a second straight full season with Go Fas Racing and the No. 32 Ford. The team announced on Nov. 1 it would enter a technical alliance with Stewart-Haas Racing next year. Ryan Sparks will serve as his crew chief.

No. 37: Ryan Preece moves from the No. 47 to the No. 37. He will have a new crew chief, Trent Owens, who has been crew chief on the No. 37 for the past three seasons.

No. 38: John Hunter Nemechek replaces the now retired David Ragan for Front Row Motorsports. Announced Dec. 12.

No. 41: Stewart-Haas Racing announced Nov. 15 Cole Custer will replace Daniel Suarez.

No. 47: JTG Daugherty Racing announced Oct. 16 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will join Ryan Preece at the two-car team, essentially swapping seats with Chris Buescher. On Dec. 2, the team announced Stenhouse will drive the No. 47, with Brian Pattie serving as his crew chief.

No. 77: Ross Chastain will drive the car as part of a partnership with Chip Ganassi Racing and Spire Motorsports in the Daytona 500 and Coca-Cola 600 (announcement made Jan. 9).

No. 95: Christopher Bell moves to Cup in 2020 and will drive for Leavine Family Racing (announcement made Sept. 24).

No. 96: Daniel Suarez joins Gaunt Brothers Racing for his fourth full-time Cup season and the team’s first (announcement made Jan. 28).

Rick Ware Racing: JJ Yeley and Joey Gase will drive two of the team’s three full-time rides. The third driver has not been named yet, although David Ragan will compete in the Daytona 500.

Kaulig Racing: The Xfinity Series team will attempt to make its Cup Series debut in the Daytona 500 with Justin Haley (announcement made Jan. 10).

ANNOUNCED PLANS IN OTHER NASCAR SERIES

Xfinity Series 

Kaulig Racing announced Oct. 15 Ross Chastain would compete full-time for the team in 2020 driving the No. 10 Chevrolet, joining Justin Haley, who returns for a second full-time season and will drive the No. 11 Chevy.

More: Kaulig Racing announces full-time crew chiefs for 2020

Joe Gibbs Racing — Announced Oct. 17 Harrison Burton will drive its No. 20 Toyota full-time in 2020. Announced Oct. 31 Brandon Jones would return for a third year in the No. 19. Revealed Nov. 5 it would field a third full-time entry with Riley Herbst in the No. 18.

JR MotorsportsJustin Allgaier will return to the team for a fifth year in the No. 7 Chevrolet. The No. 8 car will be driven by Daniel Hemric for 21 races, Jeb Burton 11 races and Dale Earnhardt Jr. for one race. Noah Gragson will also return for a second season in the No. 9 car, while Michael Annett returns for a fourth year with the team in the No. 1 car.

Richard Childress Racing — Will field the No. 21 full-time with three drivers, Myatt Snider, Anthony Alfredo and Kaz Grala. Andy Street will serve as crew chief. Snider will also compete in selected races for Ryan Sieg Racing.

Stewart-Haas RacingChase Briscoe will remain with the team for his second full-time season (announcement made Jan. 6).

JD MotorsportsJesse Little will compete full-time for the team, while Colby Howard will compete for the majority of the season.

SS Greenlight Racing – Former Richard Childress Racing driver Joe Graf Jr. will compete full-time in the No. 08 Chevrolet (announcement made Jan. 16)

Martins MotorsportsTommy Joe Martins‘ team returns to the track with Martins set to drive the No. 44 car (announcement made Dec. 24).

Truck Series

GMS RacingDriver lineup will include Brett Moffitt, Sam Mayer, Sheldon Creed, Tyler Ankrum and in six races, World of Outlaws driver David Gravel.

Kyle Busch MotorsportsRaphael Lessard will drive the No. 4 full-time while Christian Eckes will drive the No. 18 full-time.

Halmar Friesen Racing — Stewart Friesen will return for a third full-time season in the No. 52 Truck. The team will also switch from Chevrolet to Toyota in 2020.

Hattori Racing EnterprisesAustin Hill will return to the No. 16 Toyota for a second year.

Niece Motorsports – Ty Majeski will drive the No. 45 truck full-time, taking the place of Ross Chastain. Announced Dec. 10. Carson Hocevar and Natalie Decker will compete part-time for the team.

DGR-Crosley/Front Row Motorsports – An alliance between the two teams will field an entry for Todd Gilliland in the No. 38 truck (announced Jan. 13), but it will be in a Ford instead of a Toyota (Announced Dec. 11).

McAnally-Hilgemann Racing – 2019 NASCAR ARCA Menards Series West champion Derek Kraus will compete full-time for the new team in the No. 19 (announcement made Jan. 13).

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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.

Follow @JerryBonkowski