Race Weekend Central

Truckin’ Thursdays: Is TRICON Garage On the Edge of an Upswing?

On Friday (April 14) Corey Heim scored his first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series win of the season at Martinsville Speedway.

Although it was shortened from 200 laps to 124, Heim was the truck to beat regardless, leading the most laps and sweeping the stages.

It was also the first win for Heim’s team, TRICON Garage, since it rebranded at the end of the 2022 season. Formerly called David Gilliland Racing, and before that DGR-Crosley, the team signed Heim at the end of the 2022 season after Heim’s former team, Kyle Busch Motorsports, shifted to Chevrolet.

TRICON switched from Ford to Toyota after the KBM news dropped, and is currently the only big name Toyota team in the Truck Series (ThorSport Racing also switched from Toyota to Ford at season’s end in 2022).

See also
Rajah Caruth on Racing as a Full-Time Student, Developing as a Racer

Heim’s signing seemed to be a sign of hope. He had just won two races in 2022 en route to winning Rookie of the Year despite competing in just 16 of the 23 races. Heim’s talent is there, but his new team has struggled to find solid results since the rebrand – and really even before that.

Since its inception in 2018, TRICON Garage has just five truck series wins, with the first four of them coming from the same team, the No. 17. Of those four wins, only one came from a series regular. In 2019, Tyler Ankrum notched his first (and to date, only) career Truck win at Kentucky Speedway, becoming the first driver born in the 2000s to win a NASCAR premier series race.

Since then, only part-time or one-off drivers had won for TRICON until Heim came along. Ryan Preece won two years in a row at Nashville Superspeedway in 2021 and 2022 despite running a part-time schedule, and Cup Series regular Todd Gilliland won for his dad in a one-off race at Knoxville Raceway in 2022, making it the first multi-win season for the team.

But none of TRICON’s past or present full-time drivers have finished higher than 14th in the final standings. The team currently fields five trucks, four of them full-time, but all of them have had their weaknesses.

The first truck, the No. 1, is a rotational truck after Hailie Deegan left for ThorSport this season. That truck’s best finish is ninth, twice, from Kaz Grala at Circuit of the Americas and rookie William Sawalich at Martinsville. Before that, Deegan ran two full-time seasons in the No. 1. Although she had a best finish of sixth, she only had three top 10s in those two seasons, finishing 20th and 22nd in the standings. After showing a lot of promise in the ARCA Menards Series, Deegan did not impress in her first two Truck seasons.

The new No. 5 is at the hands of Dean Thompson, a Rookie of the Year candidate last season. Thompson hasn’t shown much speed over his career in the Truck Series. The one good run he had, at Texas Motor Speedway this season, ended in a scary crash that sent him to the hospital. Thompson has yet to record a top 10 in the Truck Series, with his best finish coming in the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt race this season, where he finished 12th.

Tanner Gray has been with TRICON ever since he made the jump from NHRA to NASCAR, driving the No. 15, and he arguably serves as the flagship driver at TRICON since Ankrum left the team. But Gray has had his fair share of struggles — although he has gained 20 top 10s in 72 starts, he has been wildly inconsistent, failing to find victory lane and only managing to finish as high as 14th in the final standings (2020).

See also
Couch Potato Tuesday: Martinsville Doesn't Provide FOX With the Necessary Action

While Gray’s younger brother, Taylor, has shown some promise in his select starts last season before going full-time this season, he has struggled to get it going this season after missing the first few races due to not being 18 yet. Heim on the other hand is a proven contender, and the pressure may have fallen on him to perhaps turn TRICON around when he joined.

His win at Martinsville might have kickstarted that, as the team had four of its five drivers finish in the top 10.

The question is: can the team keep that momentum? While Heim has gained three top 10s prior to his win, he was relatively quiet in those races. The only TRICON truck that had gained notoriety was Thompson during his fantastic run at Texas.

Tanner Gray has looked much more competitive this season than he has in previous seasons, but still doesn’t seem consistent enough to try to notch his first career win despite leaving Martinsville with a top five. And brother Taylor, as previous mentioned, has had an abysmal start to the season — he finished an OK 11th in his season debut at COTA, but finished a dismal 24th at Texas and crashed out early at Bristol before gaining his first top-10 of the season at Martinsville.

Maybe Martinsville was the turning point for the team. Maybe Thompson’s run at Texas gave the other drivers confidence that ALL of their trucks can compete on any given week. Or maybe Martinsville was a fluke day for the team. Hopefully it was not the latter. TRICON Garage needs to ride that momentum of Martinsville into the summer stretch to collectively avoid having just another middle of the road season.

About the author

Frontstretch.com

Anthony Damcott joined Frontstretch in March 2022. Currently, he is an editor and co-authors Fire on Fridays (Fridays); he is also the primary Truck Series reporter/writer. A proud West Virginia Wesleyan College alum from Akron, Ohio, Anthony is now a grad student. He is a theatre actor and fight-choreographer-in-training in his free time. 

You can keep up with Anthony by following @AnthonyDamcott on Twitter.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

Share via