Crafton on final wreck: 'That was just last-lap Daytona'
RELATED: Race results " Grala earns first career win DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Matt Crafton 's position as a 17th-year veteran and two-time champion in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has afforded him the clout to hand out scrutiny about how his peers race. The late-race intensity that sent his No. 88 Toyota arcing skyward like paper in a gale, though, was met with a shrug and a grin. "That was just last-lap Daytona," Crafton said. Rookie Kaz Grala prevailed in Friday's Camping World Truck Series opener at Daytona International Speedway , somehow threading his way through chaos at the front of the pack to win the NextEra Energy Resources 250 . The event was bookended by wild crashes, one on Lap 2 and the last on the 100th and final trip around the 2.5-mile track. Crafton's wheels-up pirouette became the focal point of the last-lap fracas. The 40-year-old driver's ThorSport Racing entry emerged at the front of the pack shortly after the white flag dropped, helped by an aerodynamic assist from teammate Ben Rhodes . The pack wound up in a three-wide jumble as it headed to the backstretch for the final time, with Johnny Sauter , winner of the race's opening two stages, in the middle and Rhodes shuffled up top. Patience was long gone by then. Rhodes lost control as new teammate Grant Enfinger's bumper shoves amplified. Crafton was nearly clear of the fray, but Rhodes' truck clipped his right-rear fender to trigger the chain reaction. "I'm like, 'oh, this is not good,' " said Crafton, who wound up 14th in the 32-truck field. "Then you feel that light sensation and you know what's going to happen from there. … "I'm very happy that it only went over one time and landed back on its wheels, without a doubt. The race was just … it was crazy, just chaos all night and there was just stupidity all night to say the least. Some of this plate racing is crazy. I mean, they beat the rear bumper off some of these trucks. I don't know how they didn't wreck more, to be honest. A lot of people did a lot of great, great saves out there." Sauter was attempting to become the season opener's first back-to-back winner since Todd Bodine repeated in 2008-09. But his GMS Racing truck was snared in the late pileup, with Crafton's No. 88 appearing to land on the bed of Sauter's. "I elected to go three-wide and tried to make something happen, because who the hell wants to finish second, you know?" said Sauter, who was scored 15th. "In hindsight, there's a million different scenarios that go through your mind and I'll have a lot better grasp of it when I can sit home and watch it, study it and try not to make the same mistake next time." The final crash was especially costly to ThorSport, which had all four of its Toyotas added to the 12-truck crash tally. "I don't know what else to say because these guys have worked so hard," said Rhodes, credited with 12th place. "I've got such good teammates. It's unfortunate we were all caught up in it." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Kaz Grala sneaks by last-lap 'Big One' for win at Daytona
RELATED: Race results " Series standings " Detailed breakdown DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- In the space of 100 laps, Kaz Grala went from youngest NASCAR national series pole winner at Daytona International Speedway to youngest NASCAR national series race winner at Daytona. What happened between the first green flag and the checkers, however, could fill volumes. Miraculously, Grala slipped through a wild wreck on the backstretch on the final lap of Friday night's NextEra Energy Resources 250 to win the first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race contested in stages under NASCAR's new competition format. That final wreck, ignited when Ben Rhodes spun from the outside lane off the bumper of ThorSport Racing teammate Grant Enfinger, wiped out veteran contenders Johnny Sauter , Timothy Peters and Matt Crafton . RELATED: In-car look at last-lap melee But Grala -- 18 years, 1 month and 26 days old -- drove through the melee as trucks bounced off each other like pinballs on either side of him. Grala claimed the trophy for his first national series victory and the five playoff points that go with a race win under NASCAR's new scoring system. Austin Wayne Self took the runner-up spot, followed by Chase Briscoe, and the father-son combination of John Hunter Nemechek and Joe Nemechek in fourth and fifth. "That was freaking awesome! I can't believe we won Daytona," Grala said in Victory Lane. "I couldn't see a lot there. I knew it was a little bit risky. It was the last lap, and we had to do what we had to do. "I saw coming out of (Turn) 2 it starting to get crazy. There wasn't going to be any way I was going to be lifting (off the accelerator). I was just going to go low, cross my fingers and close my eyes a little bit. "Luckily, it worked out for me. I just can't believe it. It's so surreal." Self put it much more succinctly. "When all hell broke loose, we were in the right spot." The race didn't wait until the last lap to get crazy. On the second lap, Briscoe, racing for the first time in the Truck Series, gave Noah Gragson's Toyota an off-center tap on the rear bumper, sending Gragson bouncing off the outside wall in Turn 1 and out of control. By the time the smoke cleared, 17 trucks -- one more than half the field -- had sustained varying degrees of damage in the wreck. RELATED: One lap in, wreck shakes up Daytona field Gragson, Austin Cindric and Ryan Truex couldn't continue. Same for Ross Chastain and Clay Greenfield . John Hunter Nemechek stayed on the lead lap but fell victim to a flat tire as Stage 2 of the race came to an end with Sauter in the lead. "I took a few hard hits out there," said Gragson, who was unhurt in the wreck. "Just a bummer. I didn't want to end the race like this, but I had a good time for the lap I got. "Felt like the 29 (Briscoe) hit me in the wrong part of the bumper going through the tri-oval. It just got me loose, and it got pointed into the outside wall." In the final 60-lap stage, all four GMS Chevrolet pitted early on Lap 68. Though Spencer Gallagher and ultimate sixth-place finisher Scott Lagasse Jr. drew speeding penalties while exiting pit road, Sauter reclaimed the lead, with Grala trailing him, when Christopher Bell 's Toyota got loose in Turn 4, slowed and spun off the bumper of Timothy Peters ' Tundra. Sauter, the defending series champion, looked to be in control of the race until John Hunter Nemechek 's spin off Turn 2 on Lap 95 of 100 caused the fifth and final caution and set up a chaotic two-lap run to the finish. Wrecked on the backstretch, Sauter was credited with a 15th-place finish but collected two playoff points for winning both the first and second stages, each lasting 20 laps. Bell, one of the preseason favorites for the championship, sustained heavy damage in three wrecks, including the last one, but his seemingly indestructible No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota Tundra made it to the finish line in eighth-place, salvaging a respectable result from a potentially disastrous night. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Father-son Nemechek duo set to compete at Daytona
MOORESVILLE, N.C. -- NASCAR has always been known as a family sport where the love of racing has been passed from generation to generation. In the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) NextEra Energy Resources 250 at the Daytona International Speedway on Friday, February 24, John Hunter Nemechek will have the opportunity few sons have enjoyed: competing against his father, 1992 NASCAR XFINITY Series champion Joe Nemechek . Should both Nemecheks qualify for the race, it would be the first time a father and son have competed in the same NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race since Dave Blaney and Ryan Blaney started the 2013 Inaugural Mudsummer Classic at the Eldora Speedway . It will also be the first time a father and son have competed in any of NASCAR's top three series at the Daytona International Speedway since the 2006 in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with Bobby Hamilton and Bobby Hamilton Jr. The Nemecheks will even be running for the same team -- family-owned NEMCO Motorsports -- which will field John Hunter Nemechek full-time in the No. 8 Fire Alarm Services, Inc., Chevrolet for 2017, and will also field Joe Nemechek in the No. 87 Fleetwing Chevrolet in a select number of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series events. Joe Nemechek and John Hunter Nemechek have competed against each other on the race track just three times before, twice in the Allison Legacy Race Series, and once in the ARCA Midwest Tour. The first time the duo competed against each other was in the Allison Legacy Race Series at the Concord Speedway in 2011 where the son finished first, and the father second. In a rematch at the Carolina Motorsports Park John Hunter Nemechek finished third, and Joe Nemechek finished fourth. The other was in an ARCA Midwest Tour event at the Milwaukee Mile in 2013, where neither driver won but experience outran youth. John Hunter Nemechek , who posted two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victories and captured his first pole award during the 2016 season, may be at a disadvantage in Daytona. Joe Nemechek has comprehensive experience at the "World Center of Racing," having five pole awards and two victories (1998, 2002), four top-five and seven top-10 finishes in the NASCAR XFINITY Series . In addition, he has the all-time NASCAR XFINITY Series most starts record, including the most laps completed record, and number of pole awards record at the Daytona International Speedway . Across the top three NASCAR divisions Nemechek has 74 total starts at the Daytona Beach, Florida, facility. The NextEra Energy Resources 250 will mark NEMCO Motorsports' fourth and fifth NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start at the 2.5-mile tri-oval superspeedway. Joe Nemechek posted a team best finish of eighth-place at the Daytona International Speedway on February 21, 2014. The elder Nemechek last competed in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2015 at the Texas Motor Speedway , finishing in the sixth-place. It is not unusual for family to compete against one another in NASCAR's premier series as sets of brothers have been the norm rather than the exception. Joe Nemechek competed together with younger brother John Nemechek in three ( Watkins Glen International , Phoenix International Raceway and Walt Disney World Speedway) NASCAR Camping World Truck Series events. This will be the second NASCAR season-opening event Joe Nemechek has competed against Nemechek lineage. In the 1997 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season-opener at the Walt Disney World Speedway, Joe Nemechek in the No. 87 finished nine positions ahead of John Nemechek in the No. 8 -- both as owner-driver entries. Both father and son have collected victories, pole awards, and claimed the title of Most Popular Driver in their respective series, but only Joe Nemechek has claimed the series championship trophy. Without the dedication Joe Nemechek has had towards his son's career, John Hunter Nemechek knows he might not have had the chance to show his talents, and have the opportunity to team up with his dad at the Daytona International Speedway . Joe Nemechek and John Hunter Nemechek look to add their names to the short list of fathers and sons who have won races head-to-head in NASCAR's premier series, and be listed alongside Lee and Richard Petty, Richard and Kyle Petty, Bobby and Davey Allison, Dale and Dale Earnhardt Jr ., and Buck and Buddy Baker.
Ben Rhodes returns for second season at ThorSport
RELATED: Full schedule for Daytona Speedweeks ThorSport Racing announced Tuesday that Ben Rhodes will return for a second season with the Ohio-based team in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2017. The 19-year-old Rhodes will hit the track with a new truck number, piloting the No. 27 Toyota after campaigning the No. 41 for several seasons in multiple series. Eddie Troconis will serve as the crew chief and Alpha Energy Solutions returns as primary sponsor for two races. Rhodes, champion of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East in 2014, competed in his first full season in the truck series last year. The Kentucky native earned his first pole position at Martinsville Speedway in April and notched a pair of top-five finishes over the course of the season, his best a second place at Gateway Motorsports Park in June. "The 2016 season had a lot of ups and downs, but we have put all that in the rearview mirror and we're focused on the year ahead," Rhodes said in a news release provided by the team. "We have a new team, a new number, and great support from Toyota. With the NASCAR changes to the race and point structure, the No. 27 team will be up front contending for segment wins and race victories to get us into the playoffs and contend for the championship." Troconis previously served as crew chief for Cameron Hayley at ThorSport, leading the No. 13 team to six top fives and an 11th-place finish in the overall standings last season. Alpha Energy Solutions will hold primary sponsorship at Kentucky Speedway in July and Bristol Motor Speedway in August. The team indicated that additional sponsorship would be announced at a later date. ThorSport announced Monday that two-time series champ Matt Crafton and new addition Cody Coughlin would also be in the driver lineup for 2017. The Camping World Truck Series opens the season Feb. 24 with the NextEra Energy Resources 250 (7:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Daytona International Speedway .
Sauter on his 2016 championship: 'That's yesterday's news'
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! As Johnny Sauter returned to Florida this week it was a feel-good opportunity in the most literal terms. He is the reigning NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion and started that title campaign by winning the season opener at Daytona Beach, just down the highway from his visit to Orlando on Thursday under sunny skies and 70-degree temperatures. "When I drove my kids to school this morning it was 3 degrees," Sauter joked. "For me personally, it's nice to get away from the cold frigid temperatures of Wisconsin, it's nice to get a little break. I look forward to kicking things off." Sauter, 38, was in Florida to drop the puck at the Orlando Solar Bears hockey game, show off his championship trophy … and to get fans thinking about the approaching Daytona Speedweeks. For the first time in his career Sauter will start the season as a NASCAR champion, however he is emphatic that the title celebration is officially over now. "I've been racing long enough to know I need to put last year behind us because quite frankly, it's yesterday's news," Sauter said. "It's cool and I'm proud of the accomplishments of a year ago, but we're on the verge of a new season." Collecting a second consecutive trophy in 2017 would be trumping a historical rarity. Matt Crafton is the only driver to win back-to-back truck titles (2013-14) in the series history. And Sauter's title hopes are again a moving target with rule enhancements governing the series. Last year NASCAR instituted the popular playoff elimination in the series and for 2017, the sanctioning body has implemented a new -- and well-received -- format to enhance competition in all three national series. Points will awarded to the top 10 places following two early race segments then distributed again to the entire field based on the checkered flag standings. "To be completely honest with you, I haven't studied it a whole lot because at the end of the day, you still have to be there at the finish," Sauter said. "Yeah, it's going to be good to win segments, but ultimately if you win a segment and you crash in the third segment and it's a DNF that's not good either. "It's kind of like we're in the position we were a year ago with learning the Chase format. No one really knew. Until you do it once you really don't know what to expect. "Change is good. Change is inevitable and I'm looking forward to it." Sauter's eagerness to get back on track is easy to hear in his voice. He has won the Daytona season opener twice in the last four years (also in 2013). And while he acknowledges the frantic pace and pure intensity expected of the Feb. 24 NextEra Energy Resources 250 opener at Daytona, he also admits it is a perfect way to start the year. "Exhilarating," Sauter says of the experience. "From where I'm sitting that's the word I would use. It's only 100 laps of racing. But I promise you're so focused on what's going on around you that you find yourself in so many different scenarios, you forget half the things that happened to you until you go back and have a chance to watch a replay of the race. It's a pretty crazy night." "And," he added, "I have to be honest, I hear it a lot that that the Truck Series puts on the most exciting race and I do think that's a product of a shorter race and putting the emphasis on getting where you're going in a hurry. "Having said that, it's one of those places, I've crashed there before we've even completed a lap (2010) then the last couple years I've won it twice. "Anything can happen at Daytona, that's the tricky part about it and good part about it."
Ryan Truex to compete full time for Hattori Racing
MOORESVILLE, N.C. -- Hattori Racing Enterprises (HRE) is pleased to announce that Ryan Truex , the 2009 and 2010 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Champion, will run a full-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) schedule in 2017, driving the No. 16 Toyota Tundra. Truex competed in 15 events with HRE in 2016 bringing home a career-best finish of second at Daytona International Speedway in February. "I'm grateful for this opportunity to race my first full National Series Season with HRE and Toyota Racing in 2017," Truex said. "We started 2016 on a strong note and were able to contend inside the playoffs prior to stepping out of the truck after Charlotte. I know we can have similar, if not better results in 2017 and I'm looking forward to contending for race wins and hopefully making the playoffs this season." Scott Zipadelli will take over the crew chief duties for Truex in 2017, his first season with HRE. In 2016, Zipadelli picked up his first-career NCWTS victory in August at Michigan International Speedway . The veteran crew chief also has three NASCAR XFINITY Series victories on his resume. Truex made his HRE debut at Daytona last year and competed in select events throughout the 2016 season. In 15 starts the 24-year-old compiled one top-five and four top-10 finishes. Truex has three career NCWTS starts at Daytona, bringing home two top-fives. "Ryan has the pedigree of a great driver and is even a better person," said team owner Shige Hattori. "It was an honor to have him drive our trucks last season and I'm looking forward to competing for the championship with him and the team this season. We recently moved into a new state-of-the-art shop facility and have recruited fantastic team personnel for this season. We feel like we've done everything to improve our organization which should result in competitive results. I know the No. 16 Toyota Tundra will compete for race wins this season." The HRE No. 16 Toyota Tundra gets on track Friday, February 24th at 7:30 p.m. ET for the NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway . There are opportunities to sponsor the HRE Toyota Tundra this season. There will be several sponsor announcements coming at a later date. </p>
Jeff Gordon to drive Camaro pace car at Daytona 500
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Three-time Daytona 500 winner and four-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon will lead the field to the start of Sunday's Daytona 500 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) behind the wheel of the new 2017 Camaro ZL1 pace car. "Chevrolet and I have a great history at the Daytona 500 and it's an honor to drive the 650-horsepower Camaro ZL1 pace car for the largest, most historic race of the season," Gordon said. Chevrolet will also pace the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Nextera Energy Resources 250 with a 2017 Silverado on Friday evening. A 2017 Camaro SS -- featuring a new Krypton Green exterior color -- will pace the NASCAR XFINITY Series Powershares QQQ 300 on Saturday. "Chevrolet is proud to pace the 'Great American Race' on the high banks of the iconic Daytona International Speedway ," said Steve Majoros, director of marketing, Chevrolet Cars and Crossovers. "The Camaro ZL1 delivers unprecedented levels of technology, refinement and track capability." Gordon has plenty of experience leading the field at Daytona. In addition to winning the Daytona 500 in 1997, 1999 and 2005, he shared the overall win last month at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. All three Chevrolet pace vehicles share graphic theme highlights in silver and black, along with selected accessories and personalization features. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Big wreck early at Daytona
A total of 17 trucks get caught in a huge wreck on the opening lap of the NextEra Energy Resources 250 , ending several drivers' nights at Daytona
Bell, Moffitt get loose after contact from Gallagher
Brett Moffitt and Christopher Bell are involved in a wreck just before the ending of Stage 1 in the NextEra Energy Resources 250 .
In-car: Last-lap melee at Daytona
Ride along with Timothy Peters, Christopher Bell and Scott Lagasse Jr. during the final lap wreck as Matt Crafton goes airborne in the NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona.
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