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This weekend, the Camping World Truck Series kicks off a tripleheader with the Xfinity and NASCAR Cup series at Darlington Raceway.
The seventh annual Throwback Weekend marks the first time the Truck Series was actually scheduled to participate. In previous years, the series didn’t even race at Darlington and only made its return to the historic track in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and NASCAR’s efforts to run a full season despite the shutdown.
But when the teams take to the track this weekend, there will be a few changes to pay attention to. Perhaps the one that will stand out the most is the absence of sophomore driver Raphael Lessard. Last November, he signed on with GMS Racing to run at least 12 events with the hope that enough sponsorship could be found to run the full season. Instead, he’s run just seven races this season with a best finish of third on the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt track and won’t be behind the wheel of the No. 24 Chevrolet this weekend.
A statement from GMS Racing. pic.twitter.com/AtM3YzDlRp
— GMS Racing (@GMSRacingLLC) May 3, 2021
Lessard issued his own statement, which came just days after and eighth-place finish at Kansas Speedway.
“My management team and I have always believed in our ultimate success and we still do,” the statement read. “Over the last years, we have focused all our energies on completing full seasons in the upper echelons of NASCAR, and we have achieved that goal recently. However, we are currently in a situation where we cannot continue this season, and it’s hard to accept that fact. All I have ever wanted is to be behind a steering wheel and win!
“I enjoyed every moment with GMS Racing, from the preparation to the track, and I want to give special thanks to Maurice J. Gallagher (Maury), Mike Beam, Josh Wise, Chevrolet and Christopher Biby, my Agent, Chad Walter, my crew chief, Tyler Monn, my spotter and all the crew at GMS Racing.”
In 35 Truck Series starts, Lessard has one win, five top fives and 11 top 10s. He finished 12th in the championship standings during his rookie season in 2020. His departure left the No. 24 Chevrolet without a driver for this weekend’s race at Darlington. Enter the internet’s investigative eyes, which, of course, led straight to the team rosters for this weekend’s events. Ryan Reed was listed on the team roster as driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet, and GMS confirmed his participation on Wednesday.
Reed is set to make a one-off start for GMS with backing from Tandem Diabetes Care, “a medical device company dedicated to improving the lives of people with diabetes through relentless innovation and revolutionary customer experience.”
“I’m so excited and I can’t thank Chevy and everyone at GMS, Mike (Beam) and Maury (Gallagher), enough for the opportunity,” said Reed. “It is awesome to see a new partner come into the sport with Tandem Diabetes Care. I use their t:slim X2 insulin pump to help manage my type 1 diabetes and their advanced Control-IQ technology has improved my health overall. It’s incredible to be able to represent them on the track and have my daily life changed by their product.”
Reed joins the team with far less experience in the series, though he did race full-time in the Xfinity Series from 2014-2018. He has just four Truck Series starts, including two this season behind the wheel of Ray Ciccarelli’s No. 49 Chevrolet. Reed boasts a best finish of ninth at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2019, driving for David Gilliland Racing.
Meanwhile, Niece Motorsports is shaking up the Truck Series by bringing back Erik Darnell, who hasn’t run in NASCAR since 2012 and hasn’t piloted a truck since 2008. According to Niece general manager Cody Efaw, Niece has been “trying to get him in a truck for the past few years.”
He’ll step into the No. 45 Chevrolet which will feature a Northern Tool + Equipment throwback to the scheme Darnell scored both of his Truck Series victories in.
“I’m excited to get back behind the wheel in the Truck Series, especially with an organization of this caliber,” Darnell said. “The support from Northern Tool + Equipment means so much to me. Darlington is a tough, but fun track, so Friday night should be a good time. Thank you to Al Niece for the opportunity.”
Additionally, Niece Motorsports has swapped three of its four crew chiefs. Phil Gould, who was with the No. 45 last week, moves to the No. 42 team with Carson Hocevar. Efaw, who was with Hocevar will move to the No. 44, which will be driven by Bayley Currey, and Matt Noyce moves from the No. 44 to the No. 45 with Darnell behind the wheel. Ryan Truex will keep Wally Rogers atop the pit box, though.
- The Truck Series saw an impressive ratings increase for last weekend’s race at Kansas Speedway. Despite running at the same time as the first of an IndyCar Series doubleheader at Texas Motor Speedway, the Wise Power 200 saw a 56% increase in viewership over 2019.
— Erik Arneson (@EBASports) May 4, 2021
- John Hunter Nemechek will lead the field to the green flag alongside Austin Hill at Darlington. Zane Smith starts third, followed by Ben Rhodes and Todd Gilliland. Johnny Sauter starts sixth, followed by Stewart Friesen and Chandler Smith. Matt Crafton and Hailie Deegan round out the top 10. An entry list of 43 trucks means Ray Ciccarelli, Trey Hutchens III and Todd Peck were eliminated based on owner points.
- Sometime in the overnight hours while waiting to pull into Kansas Speedway last weekend, Norm Benning‘s truck that pulls his trailer was stolen from the hotel the team was staying at. As of press time, it has not been recovered, though the team has at least gotten the trailer back home and still plans to be at Darlington this weekend.
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