Race Weekend Central

Truckin’ Thursdays: Truck Series Storylines to Watch Heading into the 2022 Season

This Friday night marks the end of a more than three-month offseason. As the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series roars to life this week, so too does the 2022 championship campaign. Of course, the season can’t begin without plenty of stories to keep an eye on throughout.

John Hunter Nemechek a favorite again?

Last season, John Hunter Nemechek took a gamble on himself and it mostly paid off. After a relatively lackluster 2020 season in the NASCAR Cup Series that saw him score just three top 10s, the 24-year-old made the move to return to the Truck Series with Kyle Busch Motorsports to compete for wins.

And that’s exactly what happened. With five wins, 12 top fives and 16 top 10s in 22 races, Nemechek made it to the Championship 4 but faced multiple issues throughout the season finale at Phoenix Raceway that ultimately ended up costing him the title. Though he ended the season with a seventh-place finish, hardly a bad result after the adversity he’d faced throughout the race, it was still a disappointment for him.

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2021 NASCAR Top Storylines: John Hunter Nemechek Comes Up Short in Truck Series Championship Battle

But his plans to return to the series this year were made before the lost championship.

“I came to Kyle Busch Motorsports because it was an opportunity to get back to victory lane — I accomplished my goal of being here for wins and I’m excited to be coming back for more next year,” Nemechek said. “With the support of Kyle and Samantha, everyone at KBM and everyone at Toyota and TRD, I’ve been able to experience the thrill of victory alongside my long-term partners ROMCO, Fire Alarm Services, Pye-Barker Fire & Safety and Safeway, and we were also able to get Mobil 1 back to victory lane for KBM.”

But perhaps what was most important in last season’s campaign was that Nemechek looked like he was genuinely enjoying himself, even when he wasn’t in victory lane.

Can he maintain that performance again this season? It’s hard to bet against the team KBM has put together throughout its organization, but the playoffs and the uncertainty that can follow also make it a bit of a crapshoot when it comes to picking a title favorite this early in the year.

With all of that said, if Nemechek and the No. 4 team bring the same form they brought last year, they’ll be in the championship conversation throughout the season and straight to the final race on the schedule.

Matt DiBenedetto drops back from Cup

We saw Nemechek’s success dropping back from the NASCAR Cup Series for a chance to race for wins in the Truck Series, but can Matt DiBenedetto do the same? Sure, his reasons for taking a ride in the series may be different than Nemechek’s, but the end goal remains the same.

“Over the offseason, we really pumped the brakes a little bit,” DiBenedetto told Jayski last month. “[My wife and I] laid low, hung out, enjoyed a little time and it gave us good, quiet time to decide and think, ‘What do I want to do?’ For once, it’s not, ‘What does the world want for you to do’ and the noise of the world around you, I was like, ‘What do I want to do?’

“The more we talked, the more I was like, ‘This feels like the perfect opportunity for my path at the perfect time because it will be a lot of fun.’ The Truck Series is awesome, the racing is great and I had to humble myself to look at it that way and be like, ‘Man, this is what is actually meant to be and going to be a lot of fun and rejuvenate that joy of racing.’”

When Rackley WAR initially approached DiBenedetto, the idea all along was to give the organization an opportunity to improve its equipment and become more competitive within the series. And that appears to be something the seven-year Cup veteran is open to doing.

“Full time in trucks really struck my attention because it sounded fun,” he continued. “It’s easy to lose sight of the fun and enjoyment of it because the Cup Series is really stressful.

“I know we’re going to grow and make the team better — it’s still a newer team. Putting it in victory lane would be a goal, but I’m focused on doing the absolute best we can, making sure we’re grinding and putting in the most work possible, while this whole team is working together and making sure it’s the best it can possibly be. Once we get rolling, I think we’ll find out where we stack up.”

It is mildly concerning to note the organization is the same one Timothy Peters signed on with to run full-time last season before the two mutually parted ways just 10 races into that campaign. Only time will tell whether this new planned full-time run remains that way throughout the season.

Ty Majeski gets another shot

After making it a little past the halfway point through a planned 2020 full-time Truck Series campaign with Niece Motorsports, Ty Majeski dropped off the NASCAR landscape for the remainder of the season with little explanation. Obviously, 2020 was a difficult year for NASCAR and sports in general, as everyone tried their best to navigate the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic on the fly.

But after making four starts for ThorSport Racing last season, he joins the team full-time this year. Running alongside teammates Ben Rhodes, Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter, who’s confirmed to be running a handful of races for the organization with Junior Joiner atop the pit box, Majeski will once again get a shot at running in the Truck Series.

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Ty Majeski Running Full Time for ThorSport

“Over the past year, I have built so many great relationships with incredible people at ThorSport Racing,” Majeski said in a team release. “I couldn’t be more honored to chase a championship with them in 2022. “Our Cincinnati Inc. No. 66 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro looks great, and I can’t wait to give it a good run at Daytona. My team and I are ready to make the most of this opportunity.”

In his 15 starts during the 2020 season, he posted a best finish of eighth, one of just three top 10s. Meanwhile, he scored a pair of top 10s last year.

This year’s rookie class

Last year, it was Chandler Smith who bested Carson Hocevar, Hailie Deegan, Chase Purdy, Kris Wright and Tim Viens for Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors. This year, a new crop of rookies sets up for their shot at the same. Jack Wood, Dean Thompson, Lawless Alan, Corey Heim and Blaine Perkins will look to add their names to the list of drivers ranging from those who no long race in NASCAR to those who are now Cup veterans.

Wood made his Truck Series debut last season with GMS Racing but posted just one top-10 finish (World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway) in 12 starts. He’ll pilot the No. 24 Chevrolet for GMS alongside Grant Enfinger, who’s signed on to race for the organization for the next two seasons.

Meanwhile, Thompson made a single start in the season finale at Phoenix Raceway last year for Niece Motorsports. He ended up 21st before signing with the organization to pilot the No. 40 Chevrolet full-time.

Alongside Thompson, Alan joins Niece Motorsports full-time, piloting the No. 45 Chevrolet. He made his debut at the Daytona road course last season, ending the year with nine starts and a best finish of 18th at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Heim made just three starts for Kyle Busch Motorsports last season that featured a best finish of 11th at Martinsville Speedway. He’ll drive the No. 51 Toyota that featured multiple different drivers last season.

Meanwhile, Perkins joins CR7 Motorsports to run a full schedule. Last year, the organization showed marked improvement with Enfinger behind the wheel for a partial schedule, while Perkins made eight starts for Our Motorsports.

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