Race Weekend Central

Truckin’ Thursdays: TRICON Continues to Give Drivers Opportunities

In NASCAR, specifically the NASCAR Xfinity Series and Craftsman Truck Series, you might hear the term “all-star” to refer to a vehicle.

An “all-star car/truck” refers to a car or truck that is split between multiple drivers. Most of the time, Cup Series drivers anchor the ride, hence the term “all-star.”

In Xfinity, Joe Gibbs Racing is one of the leading proponents of an all-star car. For many years, it has had at least one, if not two cars filled by several different drivers — young and old, rookie and veteran. This season, both its Nos. 19 and 20 are split between several different drivers to go along with its Nos. 18 and 81, both of which are driven by a single driver vying for the Xfinity Series driver’s title.

It’s only fitting that its Truck Series counterpart has a similar setup within its walls.

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Along with four full-time trucks, TRICON Garage has a fifth full-time truck, the No. 1, that hosts a plethora of drivers behind the wheel. Some drivers are just Cup drivers looking to have some fun or gain more experience at a track, and some are drivers making their NASCAR debut.

The program had a similar setup in 2023 as well. The truck ran 21 of the 23-race schedule and welcomed eight different drivers in its drivers’ seat. Jason A. White made his first series start since 2014 at Daytona International Speedway. Kaz Grala and Layne Riggs got some more valuable seat time. Team co-owner David Gilliland made his NASCAR return in a one-off, while Cup veteran Bubba Wallace made two starts mostly for the fun of it at Darlington Raceway and North Wilkesboro Speedway.

Perhaps most importantly, the team welcomed three different rookies throughout the course of the season. Toni Breidinger made three starts, William Sawalich made six and Jesse Love made two.

While Love moved on to Xfinity with a different team and manufacturer, TRICON brought back both Breidinger and Sawalich for 2024. Breidinger has only competed in one race so far, but Sawalich has been confirmed for a nine-race slate – up from his six in 2023 – of which he has started two so far.

Breidinger and Sawalich, both ARCA Menards Series drivers (the latter only making 14 starts this season due to age), are either in the running for promotion in the near future, or in the case of Sawalich, preparing for even more in 2025. Giving them starts to get their feet wet is a great move to make sure they’re ready if the time does come for promotion.

Surprisingly, Breidinger and Sawalich are the only returnees to the No. 1 truck from 2023 thus far. That means TRICON is giving a whole new crop of drivers a chance in one of their trucks – trucks that are more than capable of winning races.

Breidinger kicked off the season in the No. 1 truck at Daytona before the team introduced Colby Howard as one of its drivers. Howard admittedly had an abysmal 2023 season with CR7 Motorsports, and he and the team parted ways following the season.

Howard’s stat sheet from 2022 (when he was with McAnally-Hilgemann Racing) led to the move from TRICON to be a surprising one. But after an okay 17th-place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Howard was brought back for Darlington, where he saw a chance at an upset first win slip away when contact with Nick Sanchez sent him back to seventh – still a very solid effort for only his second start of the year.

Cup driver Christopher Bell was the next driver to be introduced to TRICON’s stable. Much like Wallace last season, Bell competed at Las Vegas Motor Speedway mostly for the fun of it, and finished a solid fifth as a result.

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After Bell’s one-off came Sawalich’s first start of the season. Then the team pulled a real surprise out of its hat when it was announced that former NTT IndyCar Series driver and current IMSA Sports Car Championship driver Jack Hawksworth would make his Truck Series debut at Circuit of the Americas.

Hawksworth made one other NASCAR start for Joe Gibbs Racing, driving its all-star (surprise, surprise) No. 18 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in 2019. Despite the lack of experience in a NASCAR vehicle, Hawksworth made the most of his opportunity, finishing sixth on a day where all five TRICON drivers finished inside the top 10.

Sawalich then made his second (and most recent) start before Kris Wright, Breidinger’s ARCA teammate, became the newest TRICON addition. Much like Howard, Wright’s tenure in the Truck Series has been less than admirable, even parting ways from a full-time ride with Young’s Motorsports halfway through the season.

Wright was announced for two starts with TRICON, at Texas Motor Speedway and Pocono Raceway. Unfortunately, a late crash at Texas relegated Wright to a 30th-place finish, but he has another chance in July to put on a better showing.

Following Wright’s introduction to the No. 1, TRICON debuted perhaps one of its bigger signings for 2024: 2018 series champion Brett Moffitt.

After leaving AM Racing’s Xfinity team at the end of 2023, Moffitt was one of the bigger names who was left without a ride to begin the 2024 season. Fortunately, TRICON decided to sign Moffitt to a multi-race schedule with TRICON, with his first start of his currently undisclosed schedule coming at Kansas Speedway.

Once again, Moffitt brought the truck home with a top five, finishing fifth. Then came Howard’s aforementioned Darlington start, which gave the No. 1 team its fourth top 10 in nine races.

Now, this Saturday (May 18) at North Wilkesboro Speedway, one of the most anticipated debuts within the short track fandom awaits. Brenden Queen, affectionately known as Butterbean amongst the garage and fans, will make his NASCAR debut, driving TRICON’s No. 1 truck.

Queen, the 2023 winner of the CARS Tour’s prestigious Window World 125 at Wilkesboro, was announced as the team’s Wilkesboro driver way back on March 8. At the most recent CARS Tour race at Ace Speedway, Queen stated that it would be a very special week.

“You only make your debut once in the upper series,” Queen told Frontstretch. “Lot of nerves are gonna be going on. […] After Wednesday (May 15) it’s gonna be a whole new ballgame for me.

“I’ve been working hard with the boys at TRICON. […] I’m doing all I can on my end.”

Queen will be the eighth driver of the No. 1 this season. If you’re keeping track, following North Wilkesboro, TRICON will have had as many drivers in its No. 1 in 2024 as it did in 2023 before we even hit the halfway point of the season.

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There are still five races this season that are open for the No. 1. Moffitt has only run one race of his multi-race schedule so expect him to be behind the wheel at least one more time this season. However, it wouldn’t be surprising if Breidinger or even Bell gets back behind the wheel once more before the end of the year. Perhaps Gilliland makes another one-off at some point too.

But who knows who else TRICON might get to drive its truck before the year is out. The fact of the matter is that TRICON is giving drivers opportunities with its all-star truck that they may not have had otherwise.

Drivers like Hawksworth, Queen, Howard and Wright are the big examples of first or second chances. Who knows what opportunities lie ahead for these guys with the runs that they had?

What TRICON is doing with its No. 1 truck is equivalent to what JGR is doing with its Nos. 19 and 20 in Xfinity, or what JR Motorsports is doing with its No. 88. It’s a good platform for drivers who wouldn’t otherwise have an opportunity to showcase their talents in the upper series to do so and put their names on the map.

Not to mention, the fact that TRICON has been able to keep its rotational truck just as, if not more competitive than its four full-time single-driver trucks is super impressive. It shows that TRICON has really made improvements to its organization the past few years (especially since its early 2023 re-brand from DGR-Crosley). Gilliland has quickly evolved his team into perhaps one of the flagship organizations of the Truck Series in the wake of Kyle Busch Motorsports and GMS Racing closing down.

Let’s hope it keeps a rotational truck going, because imagine who else might get an opportunity to go NASCAR racing if it does continue?

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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