NASCAR's 2019 Gander Outdoors Truck Series Preview

Everything you need to know

In 2018, for the fifth consecutive season, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series had a new champion. In 2019, the series will have a new name, as it transitions to the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series.


Despite the new name, the series will look very much the same, with 23 races scheduled at 20 different racetracks, the same as 2018. Those 23 races will see some familiar faces at the front of the field. 


GMS Racing is planning on fielding multiple entries in the Truck series in 2019, with Johnny Sauter again leading the team’s efforts. Sauter, the 2016 series champ, had perhaps the best year of his career in 2018, with six wins and a career-best 14 top-5 finishes. He also led a career-best 585 laps, 130 more than his previous career best. He and crew chief Joe Shear Jr. are lifelong best friends and seem to speak the same language, even when they aren’t necessarily talking. 


Sauter finished fourth in the standings due to an ill-timed bad day at Homestead, when handling issues in the race left him 12th at the finish. Sauter and Shear don’t have many bad days, and they will surely be locked and loaded for another run at the series title in 2019.


Sauter will be joined by 2018 ARCA Racing Series champion Sheldon Creed, who joined GMS Racing for the final four races of the season. Creed had four ARCA wins on his way to the championship and quickly got up to speed in the truck, finishing fifth at Homestead.


Sauter’s stiffest challenge should come from Todd Gilliland and Harrison Burton, both of whom will be making a first full-season run at the title with Kyle Busch Motorsports. Gilliland didn’t turn 18 until May, forcing him to miss three races on superspeedways early in the season. Gilliland racked up nine top-10 finishes in 19 races and likely would have had a couple of wins if not for a last-lap run-in with teammate Noah Gragson at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and running out of fuel on the last lap at Texas, both while leading.


Burton, son of former Cup driver Jeff Burton, won an ARCA event at Pocono and scored three top 5s and six top 10s in eight Truck starts. He has a lot of talent in his corner, with mentorship from father Jeff, team owner Busch and business manager Kevin Harvick.


Matt Crafton will once again return to the No. 88 for ThorSport Racing, as he has for every year of his career but one. Crafton went winless in 2018 for the first time since 2012, and his top-10 production was the lowest it’s been since 2011. But ThorSport now has a year under its belt with Ford, a switch that was made just weeks prior to the kickoff of the 2018 season. 


The last-minute change hampered all of ThorSport’s four teams. Teammate Grant Enfinger did score his second career win, at Las Vegas in September, and finished fifth in the series standings, the best of the bunch. Ben Rhodes also picked up a win, coming at his home track at Kentucky Speedway, but he was eighth in the final standings. The fourth teammate, Myatt Snider, locked up the Rookie of the Year award. All three are expected to return to ThorSport in 2019.


Stewart Friesen is expected to return to Halmar Racing in 2019, and he could mount a challenge for the series title. Friesen had 16 top-10 finishes in 2018, nine of which were top 5s. Friesen made the playoffs and advanced into the round of eight, eventually finishing seventh in the standings. He and crew chief Tripp Bruce, who helmed Johnny Benson Jr.’s 2008 championship season, make a solid pairing.


One driver who will not return to his team in 2019 is defending series champion Brett Moffitt. Despite winning six races and scoring Hattori Racing Enterprises’ first championship, the organization fought to secure funding throughout the season. The week after the finale at Homestead, it was announced that the Hattori team would have funding for 2019, but from a driver who was bringing along sponsorship, leaving Moffitt without a job heading into the new year. 

 

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Top 10 Drivers

 

1. Johnny Sauter, GMS Racing 
Sauter is the 2016 champion and has 10 wins in the last two seasons. Despite finishing fourth in 2018, Sauter had a career year. Another run with crew chief Joe Shear Jr. and GMS Racing should give him a great shot at his second title.


2. Matt Crafton, ThorSport Racing
The series’ elder statesman, Crafton has been a fixture since the season finale in 2000, and he hasn’t missed a race since. A two-time champ, Crafton should be strong in ThorSport’s second year within the Ford camp.


3. Grant Enfinger, ThorSport Racing
The 2015 ARCA champion found his footing in the Truck series last season with his second win and his first real run at the championship. Enfinger is solid on all types of tracks, including the dirt, where he came up inches short of the win at Eldora in 2018.


4. Stewart Friesen, Halmar Racing

Friesen and his team have an alliance with GMS Racing, which improved the team’s performance dramatically over the past season-and-a-half. Friesen is a consistent top-10 finisher but is still looking for his first career win.


5. Todd Gilliland, Kyle Busch Motorsports
Gilliland led two races on the final lap in 2018, and yet he’s still looking for his first career Truck win. He and his team have shown they can do it; they just need the luck to hold out all the way to the finish.


6. Harrison Burton, Kyle Busch Motorsports
Jeff’s son has shown to be capable in every form of racing, from late models to the K&N Pro Series to ARCA, so there’s no reason to believe he won’t be a winner in Trucks, too. He should be an early favorite for Rookie of the Year.


7. Ben Rhodes, ThorSport Racing 
Rhodes picked up a big win at his home track, Kentucky Speedway, in 2018 and made the round of eight in the playoffs. He’s found a competitive home in the Truck series with ThorSport as he continues to look for a chance to move into the Xfinity Series.


8. Myatt Snider, ThorSport Racing
Snider earned the Rookie of the Year title with a solid season in 2018. He didn’t win, but he was impressive all season long with eight top-10 finishes. With a season of experience under his belt, Snider can race his way into the playoffs.


9. Sheldon Creed, GMS Racing
The 2018 ARCA champ arrives without a lot of experience in stock cars but a lot of experience winning. He’s won championships in off-road truck racing and already has a top-5 finish with the GMS team in the finale at Homestead.


10. Jordan Anderson, Jordan Anderson Racing
A throwback to the days when drivers owned their own teams, Anderson made the move to team ownership out of necessity when his previous team folded. The ultimate underdog, Anderson is a fan favorite who has shown that his team can compete for top 10s.

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