NASCAR Truck Series: Four Takeways from Phoenix

AVONDALE, ARIZONA - NOVEMBER 04: Zane Smith, driver of the #38 Michael Roberts Construction Ford, and crew celebrate after winning the 2022 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Championship and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix Raceway on November 04, 2022 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Zane Smith dominates Phoenix to finally win a Truck series title, Majeski sends it, KBM ends it’s dominance with Toyota, and fan favorites with uncertain plans.

1) Zane Smith wins his first Truck Series title, after two second-place championship finishes:

After finishing runner-up two years in a row, Zane Smith and Front Row Motorsports put on a dominant show, grabbing the pole and leading 77 out of the 150 laps. Smith previously finished second in both 2020 and 2021 with GMS, and in 2021. After 2021, he did not have a ride for 2022, he made calls to teams and found a home at the newly founded Front Row Motorsports Truck Series team. Winning at Daytona, COTA, and Kansas, and staying consistent throughout the season, Smith made his way into the Champioship 4.

Winning the final race and the title, Smith is returning to the team in 2023, with a special bonus. Front Row has announced he will make Cup Series starts for the team, starting with the Daytona 500, and returning to the Xfinity Series with an aligned organization. Smith was previously recruited by Chip Ganassi Racing as a potential driver to replace Kurt Busch if he retired.

 

With Front Row Motorsports, Zane Smith has elevated himself, proving he is a potential Cup Series talent, and we will see what his 2023 season has for him.

2) Ty Majeski sends it, and Thorsport’s future:

Thorsport and Ben Rhodes won the 2021 Truck series title and brought along Ty Majeski this year as Thorsport’s title contenders in Phoenix. Rhodes locked himself into Phoenix on points from Talladega and Homestead, with Majeski winning Homestead. Majeski had momentum going into the Phoenix race and Rhodes was just excited to be defending his title. On lap 148, while Rhodes leading the race, Majeski made a daring push for second around the #38 Truck. Majeski sent it and could not make the pass stick and spun out, bringing out the caution and an overtime finish.

With two drivers finishing in the top four in points, you would expect that they would have a contract for 2023. However, none of the four drivers have announced if they are returning to the team for the 2023 season, which is odd given the success they had this season, with three wins and two drivers in the Championship 4. I would expect announcements to come now that we are in the offseason.

3) Kyle Busch Motorsports announces its 2023 plans:

With Kyle Busch going to Chevrolet and Richard Childress Racing, the future for Kyle Busch Motorsports was uncertain. On Friday before the trucks took the green flag, Kyle Busch announced that KBM will move to Chevrolet for 2023, bringing in drivers Chase Purdy and Jack Wood. Purdy will drive the #4 Truck full-time, while Wood will get ten races in the famous #51 truck, sharing it with Busch. Also announced, Rev Racing will be moving into the Truck Series with Nick Sanchez, the 2022 ARCA champ. The team is bringing  new sponsorship with Gainbridge and will be aligned with KBM.

4) Hailie Deegan, Nemechek, and more yet to announce 2023 plans:

As mentioned previously, Thorsport has not announced any 2023 plans. Is the team holding out to grab some talent from the dissolving KBM and Toyota driver pool?. Are contracts finalizing with their current lineup to return in 2023? We will see in the coming weeks of offseason. But some popular drivers have yet to announce their plans.

Hailie Deegan

One of the most popular drivers in the series, has yet to announce her plans for 2023. She is in search for a new ride after current team David Gilliland Racing, announced it would rebrand as TRICON Garage and move to Toyota. Deegan, a contract Ford driver, ran an Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas and had an impressive run. Ford also said they are looking for an Xfinity Series ride, according to Bob Pockrass. If she stays in Trucks, her only choice is a second Front Row Motorsports truck, being the only Ford team in the series. If Friday’s race and the 2022 season is any indicator, it would be a much better option than the DGR Ford she has been racing this season.

John Hunter Nemechek

He took a leap of faith moving to Toyota at the end of 2020, and it was the correct move. Nemechek won 7 Truck Series races and an Xfinity race. With KBM’s move to Chevrolet, Nemechek is looking for a 2023 ride. He has shown his talent in the trucks and in Xfinity, and even subbed for a suspended Bubba Wallace and qualified great for his only start in the Next Gen car. He is either heading to the Xfinity Series, most likely with Joe Gibbs Racing, or back to the Cup Series, potentially with 23XI Racing. In Xfinity, he could be an immediate title contender and weekly threat to win races. In Cup, he may have flashes of greatness, some top tens and maybe a top five finish. Exciting to see what he will be racing in 2023.

Featured Image Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images