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Twenty-three races, 20 full-time drivers and one champion.
After finishing runner-up the past two seasons, the third time proved to be the charm for Zane Smith, who scored the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series title with a win at Phoenix Raceway last Friday (Nov. 4).
The win marked the end of his time playing bridesmaid to Sheldon Creed in 2020 and Ben Rhodes in 2021. Smith scored four wins, 14 top fives, 19 top 10s and led 492 laps on the season, a series high in all of those categories. He was also just one of four drivers who didn’t have a DNF this season (Chandler Smith, Ty Majeski, Timmy Hill).
Interestingly enough, after spending the previous two seasons with GMS Racing, Zane Smith didn’t actually know where he would race this year until after the 2021 season had ended. By comparison, he had already signed an extension with the organization before the playoffs even began this year. Additionally, he’s expected to make a handful of Cup Series starts.
The 2022 season has featured it all: first-time winners, drama between drivers, dramatic crashes, terrifying moments and even heartfelt goodbyes. But three of those goodbyes stand out above the rest, due in large part to their significance.
Farewell Camping World
In late 2007, NASCAR announced the search for a new series sponsor had begun. Craftsman, which had sponsored the series since 1996, the second year of its existence, had opted to end its tenure as the nameplate of the Truck Series.
Enter Camping World.
The company initially signed a seven-year deal to sponsor the series, and before that deal was set to expire, it was extended. The Truck Series went by the Gander RV & Outdoors moniker, one of Camping World’s subsidiaries, for the 2019 and 2020 seasons before returning to Camping World in 2021.
All told, the company has served as title sponsor of the series for 15 years, and throughout that tenure, CEO Marcus Lemonis has been all-in. In fact, Camping World even sponsored several trucks throughout its time in the series. The checkered flag over Phoenix marked the end of an era and the longest running series sponsorship to date.
— Marcus Lemonis (@marcuslemonis) November 5, 2022
Now, the series’ sponsorship has come full circle as Craftsman will return to serve as the title sponsor beginning with the season opener at Daytona International Speedway. It’s not immediately clear how long the partnership is set to last, but it’s a welcome return to follow the departure of Camping World.
Kyle Busch Motorsports Ends its Toyota Tenure
From the end of one era to the end of another, Kyle Busch Motorsports ran its last race under the Toyota banner at Phoenix.
— Kyle Busch Motorsports (@KBMteam) November 4, 2022
Team owner Kyle Busch‘s NASCAR Cup Series departure from Joe Gibbs Racing and subsequent signing with Richard Childress Racing included a manufacturer change. Of course, that meant KBM couldn’t remain with Toyota, and while he didn’t have all the answers when he announced his Cup plans, Busch made it clear the team had plans to run Chevrolets beginning in 2023.
Founded in 2010, KBM has served as a development program for Toyota itself.
In fact, plenty of today’s household names in the sport that have come through the ranks with the organization: Jones, William Byron, Bubba Wallace, Daniel Suarez, Christopher Bell, Noah Gragson, Todd Gilliland, Harrison Burton. All of those names are Cup drivers today, and Gragson moves to Cup full-time next season.
The team has certainly had its ups and downs, but its legacy for Toyota will be one that’s remembered for years, and it’s something the organization will continue to build on with Chevrolet in the coming years.
All told, KBM brought Toyota 98 wins, two driver championships (Erik Jones in 2015; Bell in 2017) and seven owner’s championships in its 13 years under the manufacturer’s banner.
Next year, KBM will field two full-time trucks, but only one will chase the driver’s championship with Chase Purdy. Jack Wood, who leaves GMS Racing after a single full season with the organization, is set to split the No. 51 Chevrolet with Kyle Busch and a variety of yet-to-be-announced NASCAR Xfinity and Cup series drivers.
David Gilliland Racing Ends Its Ford Tenure
Toyota’s loss of KBM meant the manufacturer needed a team. Somewhere to call its development program.
Enter David Gilliland Racing.
Having already run under two different names during its time in the Truck Series, the organization will once again rebrand itself.
It also includes a manufacturer change from Ford back to Toyota, which the team ran in 2018 and 2019, along with a name change to TRICON Garage. The newly rebranded organization has plans to run three full-time trucks and a part-time entry beginning with the season opener at Daytona.
“We are thrilled to return to Toyota and compete in the new Toyota Tundra TRD Pro next season,” co-owner Gilliland said. “I’ve seen Toyota’s dedication to the sport firsthand, and we are excited to partner with them going forward. I’m sure this new partnership is going to help TRICON reach our goals of consistently competing for race wins and championships.”
Toyota development driver Corey Heim, who ran just 16 races during 2022 but still won Rookie of the Year honors, makes the move to the organization to run the full schedule. Tanner Gray remains with the organization and his younger brother Taylor Gray will join the series full-time in March after he turns 18 since he won’t be eligible to compete in the first three races on the schedule due to his age.
Meanwhile, the organization’s most recognizable driver in Hailie Deegan will move on to remain with Ford, although her 2023 plans are not clear as of press time.
Author’s Note: Thank you for your support throughout the 2022 season. May you enjoy a restful offseason filled with plenty of time with family and friends through the holidays. I look forward to returning to this space next season to share more stories throughout what is arguably the best series in NASCAR.
About the author
Content Director Beth heads up management of our 30-person staff, acting as Tom’s main assistant with technology and personnel while working as Frontstretch’s Truck Series expert. The author of Truckin’ Thursdays and the coordinator of the site’s pre and post-race coverage, she also runs a periodic charity column that spotlights when NASCAR gives back. A childhood transplant to Texas, Beth is a 15-year writing veteran who has contributed content to BRANDT and Athlon Sports, among other outlets.