By: Ashley McCubbin
The theme of each NASCAR Silly Season is figuring out what the changes will be, so that way you can find the ride that your favourite driver(s) is(are) behind the wheel of. It’s why News From The Pits is here to help you sort through it all.
Spire Motorsports announced they were expanding to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series following three years of NASCAR Cup Series competition, but have not announced the details yet.
While it’s great to see teams expanding and continuing to build their footprint, there may be questions whether this is a great decision. Sure, they have won with Justin Haley – but that was Talladega Superspeedway. As they just begin to find consistency with being around 20th, is it a good bet for a small team to expand?
Following two full years in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Colby Howard will be full-time in the Truck Series with McAnally-Hilgemann Racing as they expand to two trucks in 2022. This may be a good bet for the South Carolina native after only scoring a pair of top-20 finishes last season. In comparison, McAnally scored four top-10’s with Derek Kraus in 2011, including a fifth at Knoxville. With the team beginning to find speed, and a new alliance with GMS Racing, they could be on the cusp of playoff contention.
Kraus’ return to the organization has not been confirmed officially, with the last update in October being “they’re still working on a deal.”
GMS Racing is dealing with enough change of their own, with 2020 Champion Sheldon Creed leaving for the Richard Childress Racing and the Xfinity Series. There’s continuity in seeing Jack Wood return for a second season, but that’s all if you look at the breakdown.
One of the voids at GMS is filled, though, with Grant Enfinger announced for the full-time campaign for the next two seasons. The Alabama native has become a long-stay in the series, set to enter his 10th year involved. He knows how to get the job done, as evident by four wins in 2020. Although he only scored 11 top-10’s last year, let’s not forget he did that driving for two different teams at once. As one of the well-respected, known talents in the series, he could be the next driver to take the organization to championship contention.
After all, it was Zane Smith that gave them their best shot in 2021 by making the Championship 4, but he will not return to the organization. His “going for broke to get a ride” attitude late in the year will see him join Front Row Motorsports, replacing Todd Gilliland as he moves up to the Cup Series. The No. 38 Truck has a solid base thanks to this past year, though, as the second generation driver captured a win and 16 top-10 finishes. Could Smith’s experience in the series lead FRM to their first title?
Tyler Ankrum and Chase Purdy, meanwhile, will both leave GMS Racing to be teammates at Hattori Racing Enterprises as the team expands from one truck to a pair. Ankrum scored a victory in 2019 and five top-10’s last season, while Purdy picked up a pair of top-10’s in his rookie campaign. The Shigaeki Hattori-led organization knows how to contend for titles and wins, as proven the past two years. The change may be what both need to focus their careers moving forward, and begin to make a bigger impact. However, continued sub-par performances may see this be their last major opportunities. Austin Hill, who gave them four wins in the past three years, follows Creed to the Xfinity Series with RCR.
Circling back around, Enfinger’s move answered some questions about ThorSport Racing as they have yet to make any announcements for 2022 yet. Let’s look back at past season’s though, as isn’t this what we’ve grown used to?
Ideally, Matt Crafton should return as a multi-time champion with no desire to switch things up in liking where he is with Duke and Rhonda Thorson. The only change will be a new crew chief, as Junior Joiner moves on. That will be something to get used to, as the pair have become one of those “you never thought it’d end” in the series. There’s also belief Ben Rhodes should be returning for next season, as he captured them the 2021 title. However, if sponsorship isn’t there for some odd reason, we have seen stranger things. This also ultimately leaves Christian Eckes and Johnny Sauter as question marks right now, too.
The other team that Enfinger drove for in 2021 was CR7 Racing, and they will also be intertwined with GMS Racing for 2022 via a technical alliance. Blaine Perkins will take the reigns behind the wheel after scoring a runner-up in the 2020 ARCA Menards West standings, and scoring a best finish of 13th at Talladega Superspeedway in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with Our Motorsports. The realistic expectations should see them battling in the teens, with some top-10’s possible as he gets used to the series.
Jesse Little also drops from Xfinity to the Truck Series, joining up with Young’s Motorsports. After a pair of top-10’s in 2020, the second generation driver failed to do the same last season with a best performance of 14th at the Daytona International Speedway road course.
Randy Young has proven to show a team with ability to get the job done, as evident by a victory by Tate Fogleman at Talladega Superspeedway in 2021. So perhaps Litte’s experience full-time is what they need to break into the next sector of the field.
While fielding multiple entries this past year, it is unclear what remains in the cards for 2022 beyond Little. Tate Fogleman is headed to On Point Motorsports, while nothing has been announced for Kris Wright.
On Point, meanwhile, ran multiple different drivers behind the wheel in 2021 with Brennan Poole, Michele Abbate, and Danny Bohn. A pair of top-10’s have may to believe Fogleman’s influence could boost the program, but he’s also young in the sport so questions are begged to be asked. No plans have been announced for that trio, by the way.