By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – At the end of the 2018 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series season, Grant Enfinger was one of the stronger drivers on the tour with a win at Las Vegas and fifth-place points finish, which was the highest among the Ford camp.
Now entering Friday’s NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway, ThorSport Racing’s top points finisher hopes to build their stride they began building after losing out to Chase Briscoe at the Eldora Dirt Derby last August.
Enfinger stated that from that point on, the entire No. 98 team saw the turning point and believed that they can continue showing strong speed throughout the second half of the season and confident it’ll continue into the new year as drastic changes were non-existent compared to the other four Duke Thorson-owned trucks.
“The whole second half of the season, really probably after starting at Eldora is when we hit our stride,” Enfinger told Motorsports Tribune. “Myself and Jeff Hensley (crew chief) have always worked good together, but I feel like we really started clicking. Josh Hankish (truck chief) and everybody on the team just started really believing when we came up short at that Eldora finish.
“Everybody truly believed that we can do this, and we had quite a few that we had speed capable of winning, just we were only able to pull it off one time at Las Vegas. Being able to keep that core group of guys going into this year makes us even stronger. We haven’t had to do a chop cut rebuild on the No. 98 team. We’ve been doing little things here and there to make everything better.”
With changes coming left and right, one thing is certain about ThorSport, their Ford F-150 trucks are expected to be stronger after putting in the work this offseason to assure they’re the team to beat this season.
“I feel like that we’ve already seen more resources from the Ford Performance Group already over this offseason and moving into this year,” Enfinger stated. “As an organization, we’ve had a good base right there, and we’ve just been slowly fine tuning everything over this offseason, so I think you’re going to see all of our trucks with really good speed this week and they’re going to continue to see that all year.”
Among the five drivers, it has a mix of young guns and seasoned veterans, which Enfinger has found it influential to have the kind of leadership, now that Johnny Sauter has returned to the team.
“It’s pretty cool the fact we have such veteran leadership on the team,” said Enfinger. “Johnny is kind of new, but he’s been there for seven or eight years before that. Him and Joe (Shear, Jr.) know their way around there. They were fast last year and hope they can bring some new ideas to the table to.”
The Fairhope, Alabama native has pointed to Matt Crafton, who’s entering his 19th full-season, to continue being an influence on his Truck Series career that goes back to his rookie year in 2017.
“Obviously, I lean on Crafton a lot, especially in my rookie season a couple of years ago. Going to a lot of places I’ve have never been to before, I’ve leaned on him a lot. Ever since then, just about every practice day, I’ll be in their hauler or they’ll in mine. We talk about our feedbacks and his judgment on what they do on their truck to relate to ours.
“We got a pretty good relationship as far as that goes. As far as he and Ben, kind of working together for a couple of years, you kind of know their tendencies, so you can kind of relate that to your own truck.”
Teamwork at Daytona is as important than ever, and the case of ThorSport being the only multi-truck team that runs a Ford, it’s critical to line up and make the right moves at the very end.
Enfinger commented that by having five trucks, including last year’s Rookie of the Year Myatt Snider, who’s running a partial schedule after Sauter took over his old No. 13 truck, is going to be a big advantage to dethrone the Toyota powerhouse of Kyle Busch Motorsports.
“We’re going to work together good this weekend,” said Enfinger. “We have five trucks, with Myatt this weekend, so it should be a big advantage for us with Ford to have five teams out of our shop here competing at Daytona. We know we’re all going to have good speed, but it’s just a matter of working together, avoiding the big wreck, and pushing each other to the front.”
Although plans can be made, nothing’s guaranteed as to whether it can be pulled off from the moment the green flag drops to the 100th and final lap.
“It’s definitely critical that we work together, but it is so hard to actually do that,” Enfinger responded. “It’s easy to make a plan and talk about it beforehand, but there’s so many unseen variables that just change every lap that you don’t know the exact circumstances.
I think it’s very important to work together and try to push each other towards the front. The biggest thing is to be in the right place away from that big wreck and go for it at the end with all five trucks.”