23 races, 20 full-time riders and one champion.
After finishing second for the past two seasons, a third time proved appealing for Zane Smith, who clinched the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series title last Friday (November 4) with a win at Phoenix Raceway.
The win marked the end of his stint as bridesmaids to Sheldon Creed in 2020 and Ben Rhodes in 2021. Smith had four wins, 14 top fives, 19 top 10 finishes and led 492 laps in the season Series high in all these categories. He was also just one of four drivers not to have a DNF this season (Chandler Smith, Ty Majeski, Timmy Hill).
Interestingly, having spent the past two seasons with GMS Racing, Zane Smith only knew where he would be racing this year after the 2021 season had ended. By comparison, he had already signed an extension with the organization prior to the start of the playoffs that year. He’s also expected to make a handful of starts in the Cup Series.
The 2022 season has shown it all: first-time winners, drama between riders, dramatic crashes, terrifying moments and even heartfelt goodbyes. But three of these farewells stand out from the rest, in large part due to their importance.
Goodbye camping world
In late 2007, NASCAR announced that the search for a new series sponsor had begun. Craftsman, who had sponsored the series since 1996, its second year of existence, had opted to end her tenure as the Truck Series nameplate.
Enter the camping world.
The company initially signed a seven-year deal to sponsor the series, and before that deal expired, it was renewed. The truck series operated under the name of Gander RV & Outdoors, one of Camping World’s subsidiaries, for the 2019 and 2020 seasons before returning to Camping World in 2021.
All in all, the company has served as the series’ title sponsor for 15 years, and throughout that tenure, CEO Marcus Lemonis has been all-in. In fact, Camping World even sponsored several trucks during his time on the series. The checkered flag over Phoenix marked the end of an era and the longest-running series sponsorship to date.
Thanks to all. I couldn’t be there tonight. Too much emotion. 14 years. I will miss you @NASCAR pic.twitter.com/MZXkE0bbOh
— Marcus Lemonis (@marcuslemonis) November 5, 2022
Now the sponsorship of the series has come full circle as Craftsman will return to serve as title sponsor, beginning with the season opener at Daytona International Speedway. It’s not immediately clear how long the partnership is set to last, but it’s a welcome return after Camping World’s departure.
Kyle Busch Motorsports ends his tenure at Toyota
From the end of one era to the end of another, Kyle Busch Motorsports ran its final race under the Toyota banner at Phoenix.
7 owner championships.
2 driver championships.
1 shot left.
Thank you @ToyotaRacing. 🤝#TeamToyota pic.twitter.com/fX5hrHOUOv
— Kyle Busch Motorsports (@KBMteam) November 4, 2022
The departure of team owner Kyle Busch from the NASCAR Cup Series from Joe Gibbs Racing and subsequent signing with Richard Childress Racing involved a change of manufacturer. Of course, that meant KBM couldn’t stay with Toyota, and while he didn’t have all the answers when announcing his Cup plans, Busch made it clear the team had plans to race Chevrolets from 2023.
KBM was founded in 2010 and served as a development program for Toyota itself.
In fact, many of today’s well-known names in the sport have come through the ranks with the organization: Jones, William Byron, Bubba Wallace, Daniel Suarez, Christopher Bell, Noah Gragson, Todd Gilliland, Harrison Burton. All of those names are Cup drivers today, and Gragson is making a full-time move to the Cup next season.
The team has certainly had its ups and downs, but his legacy for Toyota will be one that will be remembered for years to come, and it’s something the organization with Chevrolet will continue to build on for years to come.
All told, KBM brought Toyota 98 wins, two Drivers’ Championships (Erik Jones 2015; Bell 2017) and seven Owners’ Championships in the 13 years under the manufacturer’s banner.
Next year, KBM will field two full-time trucks, but only one will be chasing the drivers’ championship with Chase Purdy. Jack Wood, who is leaving GMS Racing after a single full season with the organization, will share the #51 Chevrolet with Kyle Busch and a host of as yet undisclosed NASCAR Xfinity and Cup Series drivers.
David Gilliland Racing ends his tenure at Ford
Toyota’s loss of KBM meant the manufacturer needed a team. Anywhere to name his development program.
Enter David Gilliland Racing.
Having already gone under two different names during its time in the Truck Series, the organization will be changing its name again.
This includes a manufacturer change from Ford back to Toyota, which the team drove in 2018 and 2019, as well as a name change to TRICON Garage. The newly renamed organization plans to operate three full-time trucks and one part-time operation from the Daytona season opener.
“We are thrilled to be returning to Toyota and competing in the new Toyota Tundra TRD Pro next season,” said co-owner Gilliland. “I have seen Toyota’s commitment to the sport first hand and we look forward to working with them in the future. I’m sure this new partnership will help TRICON achieve our goals of consistently fighting for race wins and championships.”
Toyota development driver Corey Heim, who only did 16 races in 2022 but still won the Rookie of the Year award, is moving to the organization to drive the full schedule. Tanner Gray remains with the organization and his younger brother Taylor Gray will join the series full-time in March after turning 18 as his age ineligible him to compete in the first three races of the schedule.
Meanwhile, Hailie Deegan, the organization’s most prominent driver, will remain with Ford, although her plans for 2023 are not clear at press time.
Author’s Note: Thank you for your support throughout the 2022 season. May you enjoy a relaxing off-season filled with quality time with family and friends through the holidays. I look forward to returning to this location next season to share more stories about arguably the best series in NASCAR.
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