By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
There is a lot for Austin Wayne Self to be excited for as the 2018 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season draws closer. Self will be returning to full-time competition for the first time since the 2015 season. He will have Justin Fontaine as a teammate, and his team, Niece Motorsports, just announced a technical alliance with GMS Racing.
Self has 40 starts in the Truck Series over the past two seasons. In those starts, he earned one top-five and three top-10 finishes. Self’s best finish came in the 2017 season opener at Daytona International Speedway where he finished second after narrowly avoiding the final-lap melee.
“I’m excited,” Self said when he was asked about the upcoming 2018 season. “I really enjoy working with Niece Motorsports. We have been moving up to the new shop in Statesville, N.C. I’m pretty excited, they have a lot of cool things that they’re putting together for next season. With the Ilmor motor coming into play in the Camping World Truck Series, I think it will make things interesting as far as what we do with the trucks. It raises the opportunity for me and my crew chief to shine when we get to the racetrack. Hopefully now we’ll all be pretty even with the racecar.”
Although it has been going through NASCAR-sanctioned tests, the Ilmor spec motor has not yet been confirmed to be the standard for the 2018 season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Self, along with his teammate Fontaine, have experience with the Illmor spec motor in the ARCA Racing Series. ARCA has used the Ilmor 396 Spec Engine since the 2015 season. Self finished runner-up to Grant Enfinger in the 2015 ARCA Championship standings.
Despite his prior experience with the Ilmor motor, Self doesn’t believe it will be an advantage for him,
“As fast as everyone is, and as competitive as the Truck Series is, everyone will have it figured out within the first few times of hitting the racetrack. I’m used to how the [engine] program works. The program is a little bit different as far as how they send the engineers. Ilmor sends the engineers to the racetrack and every week you’ll have an Ilmor engineer. On that aspect, I’ll just be more familiar with it. But, I don’t think I’ll have more of an advantage with it. Once you get in the truck and put the pedal down, I’d say 90 percent of the guys out there will figure it out pretty fast.”
In total, Self as 47 career starts in the ARCA Racing Series. 25 of those races came before the implementation of the Ilmor motor. In those 47 starts, he earned one victory (Winchester, 2015), 13 top-fives, and 31 top-10s.
Between the new alliance, motor, team, and teammate, Self has a lot to be excited for as he prepares for the 2018 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season.