After winning the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Championship last year, Tyler Ankrum is taking the next step of his racing career in competing in the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series. In his second start of the season at Texas Motor Speedway, he consistently ran up front en route to a sixth-place finish.
The DGR-Crosley driver recently spoke to POPULAR SPEED about his success in the lone star state, as well as his outlook moving forward.
POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts looking back on Texas?
TYLER ANKRUM: Looking back, there’s obviously things to improve on. With it being my first race, there’s a ton that I learned. I appreciated with the trucks and how they handled. Looking back, I wish I could’ve done a few things differently, but I think with the current trucks we have and with it being my first year, I think we’ll have a really strong year. I don’t know what to expect, honestly. A lot of people have asked if I should be expecting more from finishing sixth at Texas, but I’m not too sure.
I love Dover. I raced there last year in the K&N car. We had a really good run for us until we had some issues on pit road. We had a really good K&N car last yearn and a good truck last year, so I don’t know. I just think we’re going to have to see when we get there. We’ll have some simulator time, and then we’ll just swing for the fences like we did in Texas.
PS: Being that Texas was your first intermediate truck race, what surprised you the most?
TYLER: For me, it was just the air. The first five laps of the race I struggled a little bit because I was just so taken away of how aggressive the air is, and how much it affects the truck. We tried to get behind some trucks in practice at Texas, but it just seemed no one wanted to be around each other like they did at Vegas or Atlanta. It just kind of seemed like everyone was trying to figure out their own package before qualifying and the race.
That, and how aggressive everyone drove – or how assertive how everyone drove. There were a few really aggressive drivers out there who would not get off your door. They would just drive on your door every corner, and you get pissed off around them as it’s not that respectful. There’s this gentleman’s code amongst drivers if it is 10 to go, I understand why you got down on my door and got me loose, or got me sideways. But when it’s Lap 15 or 50 or even 100, when there’s still a good distance to go, it gets frustrating.
There’s a lot of respectful drivers out there, but I just couldn’t believe what you could do to manipulate someone else’s truck without even touching them. You get a foot on either corner of the truck, and you can affect them somehow. You almost have out to outthink them. On the short tracks, you can outdrive them, but looking up front, you’re just manipulating the air and you mirror drive a lot. Even at Texas, you’re mirror driving a lot; you block and you get drafts off other trucks, and it’s a whole different style of racing than I’m used to.
PS: You mentioned your excitement about Dover. What’s the most challenging aspect when it comes to the Monster Mile?
TYLER: Well, I think the most challenging aspect with Dover is really is it’s almost like Bristol. Every change you make, it’s super small and you really feel it. Essentially, it’s Bristol – just a half mile bigger and with concrete tracks like that having extra grip, it’s almost harder to find extra speed in the truck. So I think that’ll be the toughest thing. But I’ve been there before. I think Winchester Speedway is a lot scarier than Dover, so I don’t think I’ll have any issues getting up to speed. But the level of competition there is going to be very hard.
PS: Being your first truck series season, what are your goals and expectations for this year?
TYLER: I mean, I would love to get a win. My main goal is to make the playoffs. I would love to make the playoffs and win Rookie of the Year. I know I’m pretty far behind when it comes to Rookie of The Year points, but I think it’s something we can do, considering how well we ran. There are guys that already have three or four races under their belts, and in my first two truck starts, I think I’m third in points. So based on points accumulated so far, I’m pretty proud of the guys and what we’ve done. I think we have a legitimate shot at doing so, and that’s the main thing.
It’d also be a dream come true if I could make the final four at Homestead. I think if we did that, it’d really help boost my career in finding sponsorship.
PS: So beyond Dover, what track on the schedule are you most excited for?
TYLER: That’s a tough one, because there’s so many cool tracks. I already checked off one track on my bucket list – that was Texas. Other tracks that I’ve been wanting to check off, we don’t go to. We don’t go back to Daytona, we don’t go back to Atlanta, and those are my two most favorite tracks. I’m really excited for Bristol. I’ve been there quite a bit in the super late model and the K&N car; I’m really excited about going there.
My number one most excited towards for the rest of the year is Miami. Miami is such a cool track. it’s always been fun super fun in the NASCAR Heat video games and it’s always super fun on Iracing, so we’ll see. We have a long season ahead of us, a lot of work cut out for us, and I’m up for the challenge.
PS: So in talking about the schedule, what track do you wish was on the schedule?
TYLER: I wish we had Richmond on the schedule. I already heard that it is going to be on the schedule next year. I’ve always loved Richmond, watching it at least. I think it’d be cool.
PS: Actually, that has been confirmed with the 2020 schedule.
TYLER: That’s cool. I think that’ll be one cool track to add, and I think trucks going back to Watkin’s Glen would be really cool, too. I loved Watkin’s Glen in the K&N car and I’ve never really been a huge fan of the Canadian track (Canadian Tire Motorsports Park), watching at least. So I think the trucks would be super cool at Watkin’s Glen – especially watching them going down the backstretch. There’s a lot of options that NASCAR could do to mix up the schedule for the trucks. It seems the trucks have had the same schedule for five or six years now.
I think it’d be also cool if NASCAR had an all-star, or wild card race for the truck series. I know they have those bonus races, but almost like a PGA or US Open like they do in golf with the biggest race of the year at a different track each season. But you know, I definitely won’t complain about what NASCAR has as they’ve done a fantastic job with the cards they’ve been dealt over the past however years. I love the truck series. They’re a lot of fun, and even more fun to watch. So I’m excited to race some more, and get to Dover, Kansas, and Charlotte in May.
PS: We’ve seen drivers trying lots of different series and cars. What is on your bucket list?
TYLER: There really isn’t. One day I may want to get back in the midget, kind of go back to my roots. But my heart has always been with NASCAR. I don’t think it’d hurt to race in IndyCar once or twice as that’d be a ton of fun, too. But my heart has always been with NASCAR, and I’ve always wanted to do stuff with them.
I’ve always wanted to be passing Jimmie Johnson down the backstretch for the Daytona 500. So I think I’m going to stick with what I’m doing.
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