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Mark Taylor ranks the drivers ahead the Truck Series season. With some young talent making the move up, can anyone dethrone Zane Smith in 2023?
With just three finishes this year outside of the top 10, Zane Smith, the regular-season champion, is an excellent pick for Lucas Oil Raceway.
Matt DiBenedetto earned his third top-10 of the year last week, and although this will be his first Texas start in Trucks, his best Cup Series finish at the track was third in 2021.
John Hunter Nemechek finished in the top four the last three races at Darlington and was second there last fall, so could this be the week he gets that elusive victory?
Despite this being Kyle Busch's first Trucks race on a road course, he’s a expert at these circuits and should do well.
Past Fantasy Outlooks
Plans have not been announced as of this writing for the No. 22 AM Racing team, but it is expected that Self will return to this team in 2023. He made 17 of 23 starts last season in this truck collecting two Top-10 and four Top-15 finishes. Brett Moffitt and Max Gutierrez combined to fill out the remainder of last season's schedule in this truck and nabbed an additional Top 10 by Gutierrez at Nashville. Self's average finish ballooned to 22.3 last season, which was a career-worst mark. He'll need to improve on that, especially if he's tabbed to race most if not all the 2023 calendar for this team.
The six-season veteran returns to the No. 22 team in 2022 to continue his push for improvement. Self will once again pilot the No. 22 Chevrolet of AM Racing. He snagged a career-best four Top-10 finishes with this team last season and wound up a respectable 14th-place in the final point standings. This team lacks the speed to lead laps and contend for race wins, but Self is experienced enough (129 starts) to stay out of trouble and generally finish within the Top 15 most weeks. With just 2 DNF's all of last season, he was able to achieve a respectable 17.6 average finish. Self would like to move up the ladder, so motivation is high. However, this small team's limitations will always be his biggest x-factor.
The team is presumed to be returning for 2021 with young driver Self back behind the wheel of the team's Chevrolet. Last season was somewhat of a disappointment as the Texan only grabbed two Top-10 finishes in the 23-race schedule. The good news is that those two strong performances came in the last three races of the season. That should signal that some things were sorted out and performance improved going into the off-season. Ryan Salomon closed out last year as crew chief and led Self to that late-season success. It's presumed he would return at the crew chief position. The No. 22 team has their work cut out if they want to improve their 16th-place final driver standings position and subpar 20.8 average finish from last season.
The young driver just completed his fourth season in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series. Self performed admirably in the Niece Motorsports No. 22 Chevrolet. He nabbed a career-best three Top-10 finishes during the campaign and wound up a respectable 14th-place in the final driver points. He'll be expected to take additional steps in the upcoming season. Self will once again be paired with crew chief, Eddie Troconis. The two labored at times last year, but finished the season on a good note of consistency. With Niece putting good trucks in Self's hands, the expectations will rise accordingly. Niece showed race-winning potential last year with their No. 45 entry and driver Ross Chastain. That pressure to perform will continue to mount on Self.
The youngster will be starting his fourth truck series season in 2019. Self spent last year getting this No. 22 team off the ground and established. He collected just one Top-10 and 10 Top-15 finishes in the campaign. It is expected that Self will be back at the wheel of the No. 22 Niece Chevy Silverado again in the upcoming campaign. He should be paired with crew chief Arthur Haire, who served the position down the stretch run last season. The duo seemed to click as Self grabbed some of his best finishes after mid-season. They aren't going to set the world on fire, but the duo should be improved in season two together.
Details are still pretty sketchy on this race team, but it appears to be coming together. Self has been named to one of Niece Motorsports' entries, but no number, crew chief or sponsors have been named as of this writing. Self battled through an 18-start slate with multiple teams in 2017 that saw him crack the Top 10 only twice and pile up six DNF's. He's hoping for more continuity and team stability as he races in the upcoming season. With so many questions still remaining about this team, it's difficult to project potential success.
The runner-up in the ARCA Series last season will move to full-time truck series racing this season. AM Racing formed last December and formally announced their plans to field Self full-time in 2016. The 20-year-old Texan is fresh off a one-win, 12 Top-10 finish campaign in the ARCA Series. There he battled to keep up with Grant Enfinger all season long in that racing series. This small team will find the going tough in a very competitive division of NASCAR. With an abundance of talented young drivers around him, Self will have to do a lot to distinguish himself. This team’s limited budget and limited sponsorship will make for some tough headwinds to navigate.
More Fantasy News
Suspended for failed drug test
Runner-up Finish at Daytona
Self finished second in the NextEra Energy Resources 250 Camping World Truck Series race at Daytona International Speedway Friday night.
Austin Wayne Self: Rookie Campaign in 2016
Self roars into his rookie season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2016 with strong support from a circle of Texas-based companies led by AM Technical Solutions, who announced their return as a primary sponsor for Self, AM Racing PR reports.