A year ago, Justin Fontaine left Daytona International Speedway with a back injury and uncertain future in racing. Now, he will return to the famed speedway in February with a full-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series ride with Niece Motorsports.
Recently, Popular Speed’s Ashley McCubbin spoke with the 20-year-old about his thoughts going into next season.
POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts entering the year?
JUSTIN FONTAINE: Really positive. I think it’s going to be really good. We’ve got the alliance with GMS Racing, and I’ve got Darrell Morrow as a first time crew chief. So I think it’s going to be great. We’ve got a whole new shop and there’s a lot of positive things happening. I think it will be a strong year for us.
PS: What are your goals and expectations?
JF: Well, our first goal is we want to run all of the laps. In every race that we got to, we want to run all the laps, get experience and learn as much as we can as we move on. Some of these tracks will my first time going to them. So the goal is to make all of the laps and be there at the end. Hopefully, we’ll be in the top-15 the first half of the year, and then maybe parlay that into some top-10’s. Right now, the goal is to finish top-15 and build that knowledge.
PS: What track are you looking forward to?
JF: I think there’s two that I’m really excited about – Bristol and Eldora. Bristol is special to me because I raced up at Kingsport in Tennessee for most of my late model career just down the road from Bristol, so really excited to race there for my first time. Then Eldora just because it’s a unique experience doing dirt in a truck and not having a lot of a dirt experience, it should be a lot of fun to go there.
PS: What’s the biggest thing you learned in your limited starts this past year?
JF: I think just figuring out how these trucks work in the air, and how much sideforce and downforce they have. Also, getting a feel for the competition we’re racing against, like Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter, and some of these younger guys as well. Figuring out how they race and getting an idea of how things work in the series, and getting some exposure to tracks like Pocono, Chicago, and Martinsville. Just getting an idea of how the competition is, and how the trucks feel has been really big.
PS: How did you get started in racing?
JF: I started late relative to a lot of others. I was 12 when I started racing quarter midgets. I did that with my dad as a hobby, on the weekends when we had time; didn’t race that much in that. Then as we got serious about it and realized I wanted to do it as a career, we got into Mini Cup racing and then four-cylinder racing a little later. Then in 2014, I had the opportunity to go Late Model racing at Kingsport and did that for three years, and then moved up to K&N and ARCA after that.
PS: What’s the most memorable moment of your career to date?
JF: Well, I would say the one that sticks in my memory the most was the Daytona crash, for sure. That’s been kind of my claim to fame so far in my career. But just the experience at Daytona was surreal even before the wreck happened, getting the opportunity to make laps at a track that historic and then so many of our sport’s greatest drivers competed there. It’s a really special venue.
PS: Starting last year with the ARCA wreck at Daytona, how surprising is it to look back and realize where things are now?
JF: I would say that I am blessed. I am blessed to be in the opportunity that I am in. The wreck was a pretty crazy time for my family. It’s amazing an event that affects one person can have side effects that affect everybody in your family, and friends too. So it was kind of trying time for us, and getting through that, and to be back in Nashville for three months was pretty tough on me mentally. But as time went on, I think that three months working on everything that I could think of to work on – most of it was sponsorship based. I spent a lot of time looking for sponsors that are actually going to be on the truck next year. Really, I did what work that I could and make it work as much as I could.
When we came back, we went back to business as usual, racing as hard as we could, and then when the opportunity came to go truck racing – it was surprising for different reasons. For me, it’s taking every opportunity you get regardless of the situation. It’s about taking advantage of whatever comes about. This was too good to pass up and it’s an opportunity that I am really excited about. So I think I would able it as blessed to be where we are now.
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