The line between “top-dog” and “underdog” is a little bit murkier in the Truck Series compared to the Cup & Xfinity Series. Regardless, teams like KBM, ThorSport, and Front Row typically run the show, but is a team like GMS Racing really an underdog? What about Niece, or Friesen-Halmar, or Hattori? Regardless, the smaller teams in the sport deserve some recognition too, and that’s the goal here – to take a look back at the 2022 season for some of the underdog teams in the Truck Series.
Teams are ordered by their highest finishing position in the Owner’s Championship. Because there are a lot of teams that only made a small handful of attempts, I will only be looking at teams that made at least 10 qualifying attempts.
I know what you’re probably thinking – Niece isn’t an underdog team! They’ve won multiple races, they were in the playoffs, they even made it to the Championship 4 a few years ago, how can they possibly be underdogs?? Well my response is – who got all those wins? Ross Chastain. Who made it to the Championship 4? Ross Chastain. And when was that? Three years ago. So yes, I believe that Niece is still an underdog team – but they’re the closest to shedding that moniker, and made big strides towards that this year.
The 42 truck was piloted by Carson Hocevar for the second straight season, and he also made his second consecutive playoff appearance. Unfortunately for the team, that appearance was as short lived as the last, as Hocevar was ousted from the playoffs in the first round, and would go on to finish 10th for the second year in a row. It doesn’t take away from how solid Hocevar’s season was however, bringing home seven top-five’s, including three runner up finishes. He had a few close brushes with collecting his first career win this season, but came up just short of doing so.
Outside of Hocevar, Niece also fielded the #40 #45 trucks full time for rookies Dean Thompson, and Lawless Alan. There was a lot of fall-off from the teams top truck to these trucks – another reason why they can safely be considered an underdog – as both failed to collect any top-10s. Thompson finished in the top-20 five times, ending 23rd in points, tied for third in the rookie of the year battle, while Alan fared a bit better (particularly in the first half of the season), collecting eight top-20’s, ending up just ahead of Thompson in points in 22nd. Still, given that it was both driver’s rookie season, it was far from a disaster.
Niece had a third full-time truck piloted by Kris Wright for the first 17 races of the season, but Wright was out of the truck over the final six races of the season as he shifted his focus to running Xfinity Series races for Brandonbilt Motorsports. Wright collected five top-20’s of his own across those 17 races. Bayley Currey and Chad Chastain would split duties in the truck for the remainder of the season.
Niece also fielded a fourth truck part time, the 41, for Ross Chastain, Chad Chastain, Justin Marks, and Tyler Carpenter. While the last thee only made individual starts each finishing 30th or worse, Ross Chastain made five starts, collecting the organizations fourth ever win at Charlotte, and a top-five at Sonoma to go along with it.
All told, it was a solid year for Niece – but before they can really be counted among the big dogs of the sport, someone OTHER than Ross Chastain needs to win a race, and they need to finish better than last in the playoff field. While nothing has been announced for any of their rides next year, rumors a few months back of a possible part time expansion into the Cup Series in 2023 – anchored by Carson Hocevar as the driver – leads one to speculate that Hocevar is likely still in the team’s plans for next year. We’ll have to wait on Thompson.
MHR has won a whopping 11 ARCA Menards West Series Championships since their first in 1999, and made the jump to the Truck Series full time in 2020 with Derek Kraus. The same fate befell the team this season as did in 2020, with them being the last team to miss the playoffs, and ended up finishing 11th in points. The big difference being their first year of full-time competition they brought home 13 top-10s including three top-fives, while this season they only brought home seven top-10s and no top-fives with a best finish of sixth at Bristol.
MHR also fielded the 91 truck for Colby Howard, who stepped back from JD Motorsports to run full-time in trucks. While he got off to a slow start, he collected three top-10s in the second half of the season at Mid-Ohio, Kansas, and Talladega.
The team also fielded a third car for 17-year old Jake Garcia for six race weekends. While he failed to qualify in his first attempt at Martinsville, he would make the field in his next five tries, and bring home a best finish of 16th in the season finale at Phoenix.
It appears as though the team has stagnated a bit right on the cusp, narrowly missing the playoffs three years in a row, with fewer top-10s in the last two seasons combined than they had in their first. But they’re still three things – new, solid, and at least seemingly well funded, a rarity for an underdog team as they carry big money sponsorship in the form of NAPA Auto Parts. They’re right there it seems – they just have to make that final jump.
Their 2023 plans have not been announced yet, but Kraus and the team have a long relationship, and his return seems likely. As for Howard and Garcia, we will have to wait.
In their second season of full-time competition, Rackley WAR enlisted the services of former Cup Series standout Matt DiBenedetto who had been ousted from his ride with the Wood Brothers, then found it hard to find another Cup ride in light of his actions & comments during the 2021 season. So he ended up taking a two-series demotion for a spot with with Rackley WAR, and it ended up being a pretty solid pairing at times.
After only securing a single top-10 in 2021, the 25 truck collected seven this season, including the organization’s first win at Talladega, which also marked DiBenedetto’s first career national series win after so many well documented close calls in the Cup Series.
The team also fielded a second entry in three races for Tate Fogleman, failing to qualify twice and bringing home a 20th place result in his one start.
While they were inconsistent at times, it was all in all a great season to build on for the still new organization – and with the announcement that Matt DiBenedetto will return to the team in 2023, this could be a team to watch as a darkhorse playoff contender next season. It’s unknown what the team’s plans for a second entry are, but it would be safe to assume a few more than three attempts if they do choose to field a second truck.
For the sixth year in a row Henderson Motorsports fielded Parker Kligerman in the 75 truck on a part-time basis, and the returns this year were great. On top of generating a lot of positive buzz for the team, as he’s become one of the most likeable commentators in the sport thanks to his work as a pit reporter, Kligerman picked up his third career win this season at Mid-Ohio, beating out the eventual Series champion Zane Smith.
Despite only running 12 of the 23 races on the schedule, Kligerman’s performances – with eight top-10s, including four top-fives and the aforementioned win – were enough to rocket the Henderson Motorsports 75 truck all the way to 19th in owners points, beating out 14 trucks that made at least 20 starts. It was also enough to get Kligerman a much deserved full-time Xfinity Series ride in 2022 – his first such opportunity since 2013 – with Big Machine Racing driving the 48 car.
With Kligerman taking a full-time Xfinity Series ride it’s unclear what the future holds for Henderson, but one thing is certain – when they show up, they’re competitive. It will be interesting to see who is behind the wheel of the 75 next year, whether it’s still Kligerman, or someone new.
2022 marked Young’s Motorsports’ fourth year of full-time competition, and it was largely forgettable. With two wins on the teams record – Spencer Boyd in 2019 and and Tate Fogleman in 2021, both at Talladega – the team fielded the 12 truck for Boyd on a full-time basis, while fielding the 02 and 20 trucks for a number of drivers, including Kaz Grala, Jesse Little, Danny Bohn, and Matt Mills.
The highlight of their season came when defending series champion Sheldon Creed hopped in one of their trucks for a one-off race, and won the pole award at Circuit of the Americas. Sadly though, he would ultimately come home with a last place finish after suffering a mechanical issue in the race’s opening lap.
All told, the team brought home three top-10 finishes, all three of which were collected by their part time trucks. Jesse Little and Danny Bohn finished sixth and eighth respectively at the season opening race at Daytona, while Kaz Grala came home seventh at Mid Ohio.
The team’s lone full-time entry Spencer Boyd had a season to forget unfortunately. He recorded his best finish on the year of 11th in the season opener, and only collected two more top-20s all year, ultimately finishing 28th in points, his worst result in his four years with Young’s, and the third straight year his finishing position has worsened. He also racked up seven DNF’s, and failed to qualify at Talladega.
The team hasn’t announced their plans for the 2023 season, but it’s probably safe to say they expected more out of the 2022 campaign. But hey, their 17-year old ARCA East Series driver Leland Honeyman had a solid year and came home third in points in that series. He also ran a race in trucks for the team at Bristol… so he may be part of the team’s still unannounced 2023 plans.
The pride of Port Tobacco Maryland, Timmy Hill, had himself a solid season in 2022. While he didn’t record any top-10s, he ran every race on the schedule for his family owned team, and didn’t record a single DNF! It was his first time running a full schedule in Trucks, and only his third time doing so in any NASCAR National Series. The team also fielded a second entry for Timmy’s younger brother, Tyler, for seven races.
Hill Motorsports has been around since 2019, and over that time has put together a fair number of good runs – fifth place at Martinsville in 2019, four top-10s in 2021 including a phenomenal P2 run for Tyler Hill – but this was their first time running a full slate of races with one driver. While yes, it was the team’s first season without a top-10, committing all of their resources to one driver was a meaningful step in the growth of the team.
In my opinion – both as an objective observer, and as a Maryland native who wants to see the only driver from my home state succeed – Timmy Hill is one of the more underrated drivers in NASCAR, and I think a lot of fans would agree with that sentiment. If this team can get some resources together to make the trucks a bit faster, this group could be an interesting team to watch in the coming years.
AM Racing fielded the 22 truck for 22 of the 23 races on the 2022 schedule, mostly for Austin Wayne Self, in what marked the seventh year of this driver-team combination. After a hot start with top-15s in each of the season’s first three races, including two top-10s, Self would pilot the 22 truck to just one top-20 in the next eight races. Self would temporarily step away from the truck following the birth of his daughter, and would go on to compete in six of the remaining twelve races.
In his stead, AM Racing enlisted Brett Moffitt and Max Gutiérrez to run the remaining races (save for Sonoma, for which they did not field an entry) with Moffitt seeing little success, and Gutiérrez picking up a top-10 at Nashville, the third and final one for the team on the year.
AM came home 23rd in owner’s points on the year, a step backwards for the team after finishing in the top-15 two of the last three years. The team has not announced any plans for the 2023 season, but it is probably a safe guess to say that they will field a full-time entry for Austin Wayne Self yet again. While he’s never collected a win, he has a fair number of solid runs on his resume. AM Racing is at the very least a fringe playoff team when they’re at their best, and are worth watching.
On Point Motorsports
In their fifth season fielding a Truck Series entry, On Point Motorsports had arguably their least successful season since 2018 when they only ran five races – and even that year, they still managed to pick up a top-10, which they didn’t do in 2022 until the season’s final race.
Last offseason it was announced that Tate Fogleman would drive the 30 truck full-time for On Point in 2022, but after running just 11 races the 2021 Talladega winner was unceremoniously removed from the truck, and replaced by a rotation of drivers that ran one-off races before the team stuck with iRacing phenom Kaden Honeycutt, who ran seven of the last eight races of the season.
Neither Fogleman, or the rotation of drivers the team went on to field, could make much of anything happen with their trucks unfortunately, as the team struggled, collecting only six top-20’s, and a lone top-10 in the season finale at Phoenix. The team would ultimately finish 24th in the owners standings.
Whatever transpired between the team and Fogleman was not well publicized, and the team’s plans for 2023 have not been released yet. If they retain Kaden Honeycutt, they’re getting a solid and interesting prospect, but only time will tell if the team will recover from their relatively hectic season.
Reaume Brothers Racing
While it wasn’t necessarily a hyper-competitive year for RBR, it was definitely an entertaining one with a lot of new and interesting faces in their #33 and #43 trucks, both of which ran nearly full schedules. This team has developed a reputation as being one that’s willing to give the little guys a shot – allowing drivers who maybe can’t bring together huge amounts a funding chances to get on track and get their names out there, even if it is usually in relatively weak equipment. They are also one of the teams most committed to increasing diversity of the sport, employing drivers from a wide variety of backgrounds.
In 2022, RBR enlisted the services of a whopping 21 different drivers. Among them were Akinori Ogata & Kenko Miura from Japan; Loris Hezemans from the Netherlands; Blake Lothian, Armani Williams and Jesse Iwuji, three of the five African American drivers in NASCAR; Devon Rouse, the only openly gay driver in NASCAR; and last but CERTAINLY not least, friend of the site Brad Perez.
While the team only managed to collect six top-20s on the year (picked up by Jason White, Thad Moffitt, Loris Hezemans, Chris Hacker, Brad Perez, and Mike Marlar) their impact on the sport is, in my opinion, far bigger than their results indicate. Giving drivers of far-reaching backgrounds chances to get out there and compete is huge for a sport had been so strongly rooted in being exclusive, not inclusive. Teams like Reaume Brothers Racing help NASCAR continue to shake that, and make it clear that NASCAR is for everyone. I personally hope they’re able to bring some more competitive trucks together moving forward, because they deserve it.
In their third season of full-time competition, 2022 marked the first time that CR7 Motorsports put all of their resources towards one full-time driver, fielding the #9 truck for rookie Blaine Perkins. Unfortunately for the team, it was a year to forget, as they were largely uncompetitive all year, only bringing home a single top-20 finish for the #9, while also collecting six DNF’s. The team did field a second entry for Jason Kitzmiller for four races, who was able to wheel the #97 truck to three top-15s and the team’s lone top-10.
The team’s performance saw the 9 truck come home outside of the top-30 in owner points in 32nd, while Perkins ended up 29th in driver points. It was easily the team’s worst season, as over the previous two seasons they were able to rack up 10 top-10s, including three top-fives. You never like to see regression of that magnitude for a small team, as every dollar matters for these guys.
The team’s 2023 plans have not yet been announced, but they will certainly need to take a step forward if they plan to stick around. Whether they do that by giving Perkins another year to continue growing, or opt to go in a different direction remains to be seen. Perkins has won three races in ARCA, so he is a worthwhile prospect, but this team needs results now.
Bret Holmes Racing
2020 ARCA champion and part time Truck Series driver Bret Holmes ran eight races in 2022, collecting two top-10s… and was mere feet away from having an absolutely spectacular moment for his family owned team.
At Talladega Superspeedway, Bret Holmes put together a great run that saw him up front in the race’s final laps. Coming to the checkered flag, Holmes got a great run on the outside and went for the lead over Ben Rhodes and Matt DiBenedetto. Rhodes cut down the track to try and retain the lead over an equally hard charging DiBenedetto when the two made contact and triggered a huge wreck, causing the caution to fly with the field just a few hundred yards from the stripe.
As the dust was settling, it appeared as though Holmes had picked up his first career win, as he narrowly beat DiBenedetto to the finish line… but because of the caution, the results were determined by the running order at the time of the yellow, which allowed Matt DiBenedetto to collect his first career win, rather than Holmes – who had to settle for a career best third place finish.
In a NASCAR career that began in 2016, Holmes has only ever run for his family owned Bret Holmes Racing, winning the ARCA title in 2020 after finishing third the year before, and running quite well in Trucks in his limited opportunities (six top-15s in 15 starts). If this team can get some financial backing, they could be a force – because Holmes is a legit talent.
Everyone’s favorite team to hate, Tim Viens’s group “Glory 2 God Racing” had a season which toed the line between comically bad, and outright unprofessional. But regardless of which side of that line you think this team falls, one thing is certain: it was a terrible season for them. Between two trucks, the team showed up on the entry list 26 times. Of those 26 efforts, the team failed to qualify or had their entry withheld eight times.
Of those eight failed attempts, one of them got the team into some hot water, as the team was supposed to field an entry for Travis McCullough at Sonoma. Evidently, the truck showed up to the track essentially half-built, and in no condition to be raced, forcing the team to withdraw from the event. McCullough took to social media and blasted the team for their unprofessionalism, while the team, particularly controversial team owner Tim Viens, attempted to defend themselves. A great piece that goes much more in-depth on the matter can be found here:
Even without the controversy, G2G would probably still take home the title of “worst team of 2022”, collecting nine DNFs to go with the aforementioned eight DNQs, and just a single top-20 run, a P19 effort at Atlanta for Matt Jaskol. Their trucks would end up 39th and 44th in owner’s points respectively.
G2G’s future plans are unknown, as it was speculated that the team had run into serious financial issues at times this season – but any troubles they may have had didn’t stop them from continuing to field entries late in the year. Regardless, the overwhelmingly negative press the team received throughout their inaugural campaign has likely sent a message to all drivers that this is a team that should be avoided. So we’ll see who takes the bait and chooses to take a chance driving for them if they return in 2023.
Cover photo credit: Hill Motorsports on Twitter