Race Weekend Central

Truckin’ Thursdays: GMS Leaves Fond Legacy & 2024 Silly Season Chaos

One of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series’ biggest teams will not be around when the green flag waves on the 2024 season.

GMS Racing announced on Wednesday (Aug. 23) that it would cease operations at the end of the 2023 season, capping a 13-year tenure that included fielding teams in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Truck Series and ARCA Menards Series.

GMS has had massive success in its career, winning one ARCA championship in 2015 with Grant Enfinger and two straight ARCA East championships with Sam Mayer in 2019 and 2020. The team has won in every series it has competed in; one Xfinity win with now part-team owner Spencer Gallagher, and 29 ARCA wins (15 main, nine East, and one West).

But its bread and butter was the Truck Series.

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A total of 44 of the team’s 70 total wins have come in the Truck Series via 13 different drivers; Johnny Sauter holds the most wins for the team with 13. It also has two Truck Series championships, one in 2016 with Sauter and one in 2020 with Sheldon Creed.

In addition, several drivers who still compete in NASCAR began their careers with GMS.

The team has not lost any of its success in recent years – Enfinger has won three races in the last two seasons for the team. Enfinger also got his first career Truck Series win driving part-time for the team in 2016. Although it didn’t compete in ARCA in 2023, Daniel Dye won for the team and was a mechanical failure away from winning the 2022 championship.

This is shocking.

The Truck Series hasn’t had this big of a team cease its operations since 2017 when both Brad Keselowski Racing and Red Horse Racing ceased operations despite having great success in the series.

As with anything unexpected that happens in life, blame begins to be placed even if there is none to give. One reason it is believed that GMS is ceasing operations is due to Legacy Motor Club switching to Toyota. Legacy, although operated independently from GMS, is operated out of the same race shop as GMS, and both teams are co-owned by Maury Gallagher.

While the seemingly obvious choice would have been for GMS to just switch to Toyota, too, it seemed like there was no interest in doing so, and the conflict of interest in running a Toyota-backed Cup team and Chevy-backed truck team was likely too much hassle for anyone to deal with.

This leads to speculation that the idea to switch to Toyota was that of Legacy co-owner Jimmie Johnson. Had Gallagher been the one to raise that idea, one would think that he would look into switching his truck team to Toyota as well (Johnson does not have any ownership stake in GMS).

The reality is, while it’s easy to place the blame, there are so many reasons GMS could have as to why it will shut down, so the blame game is a hard one to play. What really needs to be thought about is what 2024 is going to look like in a post-GMS world. GMS is a powerhouse team that has fielded as many as five trucks at one point, and it already fields three full-time trucks this season.

So, what happens next?

First, let’s look at equipment. Not only is GMS shutting down, but its fabrication company GMS Fabrication will also be ceasing operations, which has served the motorsports community for years. GMS also has a fleet of trucks it now needs to sell off. One choice could be that of McAnally-Hilgemann Racing.

MHR’s race shop is located right next door to both buildings of GMS Racing/Legacy Motor Club and GMS Fabrication in Statesville, North Carolina. MHR also shares a shop with CR7 Motorsports, which fields Colby Howard full-time in the Truck Series.

GMS Fabrication sits right between MHR/CR7 and GMS/Legacy; if that is shutting down, it means that GMS may no longer have a use for that building and CR7 could move into the GMS Fabrication shop.

On top of that, CR7 could strike a deal with MHR and GMS to split acquisition of trucks, which could help CR7 obtain better equipment for the Truck Series, as the team has notedly seen a decline in performance. MHR and CR7 also both have ARCA teams, so any remaining ARCA cars that GMS owns could go to those teams as well.

All of this is also provided that another team doesn’t swoop in and buy everything that GMS owns. From a logistical perspective, MHR and CR7 acquiring the assets of GMS makes sense as everything is within a stone’s throw of each other – CR7 gets its own home, MHR an CR7 gets more competitive equipment and getting that equipment to the shop doesn’t involve hours upon hours of intensive labor to transport it there.

One thing remains – whoever gets that equipment will see a bump in competition, even if it’s small.

Then there is the more obvious issue. Where are its current drivers – Enfinger, Dye, and Rajah Caruth – going to go?

Enfinger is in the midst of a title run this season, having already won two races. Enfinger is no stranger to ride uncertainty – in 2021, while driving full-time for ThorSport Racing, he was forced to scale back to part-time status due to sponsorship issues. He ended up missing a race due to this, eliminating him from playoff contention due to the full-time status rule, but never missed another race after another team picked him up for any races he would not compete at ThorSport.

That team? CR7 Motorsports.

So it’s clear that CR7 and Enfinger have a relationship already. The key word is “have,” not “had.” Enfinger has a part-time deal with CR7 in ARCA this season, competing at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May as well as the upcoming race at Milwaukee Mile Speedway. Enfinger also seemingly has sponsorship in Champion, which has followed him pretty much anywhere he has gone.

So there could be a chance Enfinger returns back to CR7 in 2024 as a part or full-time ARCA driver or part or full-time Truck driver, whether he drives a second truck or replaces Howard in the No. 9. However, one other unlikely option could be on the table for Enfinger entering 2024: retirement.

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Enfinger will be 39 when the 2024 season kicks off, and while he isn’t at an age where retirement could be a viable option, he also hasn’t garnered any real interest from teams outside the Truck Series.

If he doesn’t jump ship to CR7 in 2024 – unless he joins an ARCA team or low-funded Truck team – Enfinger could very well consider retirement, which is a decision that only looms larger should he be crowned the 2023 champion.

Dye seems to already have a deal lined up. Just hours after the announcement broke that GMS was shutting down, Dye put out a Twitter statement saying that he already has a full-time ride for next year.

But where?

This is where another organization is impacted by GMS shutting its doors: Drivers Edge Development. Formed in 2016, Drivers Edge Development is a driver development program jointly operated by GMS Racing and JR Motorsports. Several drivers that still race are DED alumni, including Creed and Mayer, among several others. One of the current drivers of the program is Dye.

With Josh Berry moving up to the Cup Series in 2024, that leaves his No. 8 JRM car open. Many expected Carson Hocevar to take it, but rumors have swirled that he will move up to the Cup Series in 2024. Now, with Dye having signed a deal, along with the sponsorship he brings, perhaps he could unexpectedly be the next driver of the No. 8 Xfinity car.

Caruth’s path is, like Enfinger, a little bit murky. Despite hinting at not having a ride for 2024 earlier in the season, he actually has several options available to him. He is also a part of Drivers Edge Development and could be an option for the No. 8 car (or otherwise, depending on what JRM does with its stable for 2024). He is a part-time Xfinity driver for Alpha Prime Racing and could bring sponsorship needed to compete with the team full-time in 2024 too.

Caruth also has ties to Rev Racing, with whom he competed for an ARCA championship with in 2022. Rev has a technical alliance with Kyle Busch Motorsports, so Caruth could potentially make a move back to Rev in a second full-time truck and reunite with teammate Nick Sanchez.

But GMS may not necessarily have to get rid of Caruth altogether – they might just need to loan him out for a bit.

Legacy’s switch to Toyota has brought with it rumors that John Hunter Nemechek could take over the No. 42 Cup Series ride, which would leave his No. 20 Xfinity ride open. Could Caruth get a massive opportunity to take over a Joe Gibbs Racing Xfinity car (one that has five wins this season, mind you) and compete under the Toyota banner? And then maybe down the road could be reunited with GMS in the form of Legacy to drive one of its Cup cars?

Or could he work with his mentor?

Bubba Wallace – a mentor throughout Caruth’s racing career – is also driving for a Toyota-backed team in 23XI Racing. The team has made it clear it would like to expand at some point, and if charters are acquired, Caruth could eventually join 23XI.

Either way, Caruth could land some massive opportunities in the future, and the closure of his truck team could actually benefit him greatly.

GMS Racing will leave the Truck Series having left a lasting impact on the series, and its shocking closure will undoubtedly leave a hole in the landscape of the Truck Series going forward. However, GMS will also continue to leave its mark after it is gone, as it has just flung the door wide open (perhaps even broken the door off its hinges) for 2024 silly season.

About the author

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. He is a loyal fan of the Cincinnati Reds and Carolina Panthers, still hopeful for a championship at some point in his lifetime.

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

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JT

Good reporting. However, it was likely that GMS was not included in the Toyota switch with LMC because Toyota already has TRICON as their factory-backed Truck team on a multi-year contract.

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