By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
Another piece of the 2018 Camping World Truck Series puzzle has fallen into place as Hattori Racing Enterprises will return full-time. However, the team will be returning without Ryan Truex who lead the team to a ninth-place finish in points in their first full-time season.
Although the team never reached victory lane in 2017, Truex tied their best finish, second at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. He also finished second in the 2016 season-opener with Hattori. Truex also earned the organization’s first two pole positions at Chicagoland Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“The biggest improvement for 2018 is the people,” team owner Shige Hattori said. “Unlike last season, (crew chief) Scott Zipadelli is already here and coming back along with our truck chief. We’ve invested in some new crew members at the shop and believe the changes will allow us to be more efficient and bring in new ideas to elevate this race team’s performance.”
Zipadelli joined HRE at the beginning of the 2017 season. His leadership helped improve the team’s performance, multiplying their top-five and top-10 finishes by several times.
“Our initial goal this year is to get to victory lane and win our first race,” Hattori continued. “We want to make the playoff field and win a championship. We made good progress in the middle of last season by building a new truck, and we’re applying everything we learned to the new Tundras that we have added to our fleet. We’re going to be even better prepared in 2018 with a larger inventory of updated trucks and support from TRD to win races and compete for the championship.”
HRE Competition Director, Mike Greci, shares the optimism that Hattori has, even with the driver change,
“We’re thrilled to beef up our inventory and have more quality pieces in the shop to take to the racetrack. But, it’s difficult to move on after the effort Ryan (Truex) put in and everything he did to grow our program to where it is now. I’ve worked with the Truex family for many years, but we had to make the best decision possible for everyone at HRE. We truly wish him nothing but success moving forward. We’re looking forward to getting our lineup announced and head to Daytona (International Speedway) and win some races this season.”
Since the 2013 season, HRE has had Brett Moffitt, Ross Kenseth, Jesse Little, and Truex behind the wheel of its’ Toyota Tundras. In 42 Truck Series starts, the team has earned nine top-fives, 17 top-10s, and two poles, all of which were earned by Truex. The organization also accounts for nine NASCAR Xfinity Series and 10 ARCA Racing Series starts.
Driver and sponsor lineup will be announced at a later date.