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Defending K&N Pro Series East champion and current DGR-Crosley NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series contender Tyler Ankrum has had a change of plans when it comes to racing in 2019.
After announcing in the offseason his plan to run every race once he turned 18, Ankrum will now run a part-time schedule for the team, citing a lack of sponsorship.
“At the beginning of the year when we announced we were going full-time in the truck; that was me, my family and [team owner] David Gilliland’s agreement,” Ankrum tells Frontstretch. “We thought it was important that DGR-Crosley was full-time in the Truck Series and was fighting for a championship.”
After working out the kinks at Martinsville Speedway (19th) in his season debut, Ankrum and the No. 17 team reeled off back-to-back finishes of sixth and ninth at Texas Motor Speedway and Dover International Speedway.
However, despite the announcement of a full-time run, Ankrum wasn’t fully funded for the season just yet, hoping to rely on partners picked up after the season began to get him to Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“We started off really strong,” he says. “We knew we had to run really well in order to get a sponsor; it wasn’t like we went into the season knowing this wasn’t a possibility of happening. There was always this chance that ultimately, in the end, somebody wouldn’t step up or we wouldn’t get enough finishes to get recognized.”
Once he stepped in the truck, his average finish in six races has been 12.5, leading nine laps (all coming at Texas Motor Speedway this past weekend). Still, he says he holds himself to a higher standard.
“They’ve been decent,” he says. “At Charlotte, I made a mistake, cleared myself off (turn) 4, almost wrecked (Ross) Chastain and myself. Multiple minor mistakes. These Truck fields are so competitive, it doesn’t take a lot to show how big of a difference (little mistakes) can make, especially if they pile up.”
🚨 IMPORTANT UPDATE 🚨
— Tyler Ankrum (@TylerAnkrum) June 12, 2019
“Texas was really, really good,” he says. “Just bad luck. We’ve been coming back through the field from pit road penalties, knocking the wall down in the truck. That just shows the speed in the truck. We have speed, we just need some freakin’ luck on our side so we can win some races.”
Ankrum notes that the cost of four to five races in the NGOTS adds up to what his entire K&N Pro Series East season cost last season, one in which he won the championship in his rookie year.
“It’s unfortunate what happened, but it’s kind of the product of our own environment, what we’ve created in the past few years,” he says. “It unfortunately costs a lot more money than it needs to. Not everyone can do it.”
Despite having a few more races in the truck this season, Ankrum and his team have shifted focus to next year moving forward, as a full-time season isn’t in the cards.
“The idea behind it was we’re not going to spend all the money we have in reserves this year and [that] we’ll come back stronger,” he says. “There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s what Erik Jones did in a KBM [Kyle Busch Motorsports] truck (in 2014). You don’t have to go full time to be recognized. You have to have a few really good runs.”
The San Bernardino, Calif., native pointed to Ryan Preece making the most of his limited Xfinity opportunities with Joe Gibbs Racing and parlaying that into a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series ride, as well as Christopher Bell being discovered by Toyota while racing on dirt.
Ankrum and DGR confirmed to Frontstretch that at least six more races are on his schedule for 2019, his next one coming later this month at Chicagoland Speedway.
“We think we can do more,” he says. “We hope we can get at least eight or nine in. There aren’t too many more races left after that. The idea of a championship this year is definitely out of the question. At this point, we’re just focused on winning races and getting the best finishes possible.”
NOTE: One day after this story was published, Ankrum was listed on the entry list as the driver of the No. 87 NEMCO Motorsports truck for Iowa this weekend.
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