Race Weekend Central

Truckin’ Thursdays: Is Tyler Ankrum Headed For A Career Revival?

With two races complete in the 2024 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season, the driver atop the points standings is … Tyler Ankrum.

Just as we all expected.

Additionally, the driver who has led the most laps thus far is also named Tyler Ankrum.

Although it has only been two races, Ankrum has impressed the Truck Series garage by hitting the ground running in 2024 with his new team, McAnally-Hilgemann Racing. The move came as a surprise to most, as it seemed like Ankrum was set to return to Hattori Racing Enterprises for a third year.

However, Ankrum and longtime sponsor LiUNA! jumped ship to MHR, leaving HRE in a poor spot, as the team will not compete full-time in 2024 — if at all — despite hiring for multiple positions before the season started.

Once considered a major prospect, Ankrum won the K&N Pro Series East (now ARCA Menards Series East) championship in his lone season in 2018. Driving for DGR-Crosley (now TRICON Garage), he got his shot in the Truck Series in the back half of the 2018 season, competing in two races before getting a full-time deal with the team in 2019.

After sitting out the first three races due to age restrictions, Ankrum notched his first career victory at Kentucky Speedway on a fuel-mileage strategy.

Sponsorship woes forced him out of the ride for a couple of races, for which he joined NEMCO Motorsports to remain playoff eligible. To date, his eighth-place finish in the 2019 standings is the highest points finish Ankrum has achieved in the Truck Series.

After one season at DGR-Crosley, Ankrum joined GMS Racing for 2020 and 2021, driving the No. 26. Despite a ninth-place finish in the standings in 2020 and a pole at Circuit of the Americas in 2021, Ankrum’s run at GMS was rather forgettable. Although that could be chalked up to an expansion phase of GMS that saw at least one of its truck running behind the others and drivers such as Ankrum, Dalton Sargeant, and Chase Purdy coming and going quickly through the GMS system.

See also
Did You Notice?: Front Row Forcing Ford To Take Notice

So when 2022 came around, Ankrum took the opportunity to replace Austin Hill in the No. 16 at Hattori. This was of significance because HRE had just won the championship a few years prior with Brett Moffitt, and Hill had brought the team eight wins in just three seasons. With backing from LiUNA! (who had sponsored Ankrum since his DGR-Crosley days), it seemed like the San Bernardino, Calif. native was poised to finally break out.

Unfortunately, he didn’t.

Ankrum’s two seasons with HRE resulted in 12th- and 17th-place points finishes and a combined one top five and 14 top-10s in his 46-race tenure with HRE. HIs one highlight with the team didn’t come in the Truck Series – he notched an ARCA win with HRE in a one-off start at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in 2023.

For 2024, Ankrum was surprisingly announced as the driver of the No. 18 truck for MHR – an expansion truck that brought MHR to three full-time trucks plus one part-time truck.

And of course, longtime sponsor LiUNA! came along for the ride, creating a surprisingly clean-looking paint scheme for 2024 that combines the LiUNA! orange and the blue hue typically found on a NAPA Auto Parts sponsored car (NAPA sponsors Ankrum’s teammate Christian Eckes and has been a longtime MHR partner).

And so far, he’s made the most of his opportunity.

At Daytona International Speedway in the season opener, he started fifth and led 16 laps en route to the stage two victory. He was caught up in a late crash, however, and finished 11th.

At Atlanta Motor Speedway, he started second alongside teammate Daniel Dye and led 46 laps, more than anyone. Unfortunately, the lanes shifting resulted in a seventh-place finish. Not a bad finish by any means, but Ankrum knew he could’ve won if he was able to work the lanes correctly.

Despite this, Ankrum leads the points standings by 10 points over Ty Majeski. Yes, it’s only been two races, and yes, the first two races were drafting tracks where anything can happen and anyone can win.

However, MHR has solidified itself as a championship contending team by going to the Round of 8 in the 2023 playoffs and winning four races last season with Eckes.

MHR was also a big beneficiary from GMS Racing shutting its doors at the end of 2023, as it acquired most of the team’s equipment, as did CR7 Motorsports, with whom MHR shares a shop and now has an alliance with. With essentially five trucks for 2024, MHR could be a force to be reckoned with in 2024, and Ankrum appears to be on the right track.

The next race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway will tell the tale of whether or not Ankrum’s momentum was just a fluke. If Ankrum runs well, it might be safe to open the discussion that he could be a dark horse playoff contender. Furthermore, one could reasonably assume that 2024 could serve as a catalyst to a revival in Ankrum’s career.

And with the help of his teammates, older or younger, maybe career win number two is not so far around the corner.

Truckin’ Tidbits

  • Christopher Bell will drive the No. 1 TRICON Toyota Tundra at Las Vegas. Colby Howard drove the truck at Atlanta and Toni Breidinger drove it at Daytona.
  • Atlanta race winner Kyle Busch is back behind the wheel of Spire Motorsports’ No. 7 for the second straight race. Busch will compete in his regular five races with Spire.
  • Only 32 trucks are on the entry list for Las Vegas. The No. 21 Floridian Motorsports entry of Mason Maggio, which was a late entry for Atlanta, will not compete at Las Vegas. The trucks will take the green flag a whole four spots shy of a full field.

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.

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