Justin Fontaine optimistic for Eldora dirt debut

Justin Fontaine optimistic for Eldora dirt debut Getty Images for NASCAR

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) rookie Justin Fontaine (@driverFontaine) has embraced every new scenario he’s encountered this year at Niece Motorsports, but Wednesday night’s Eldora Dirt Derby may be his biggest challenge yet.

Still, the Asheville, N.C.-native is focused and determined to conquer the unknown and deliver his Niece Motorsports team their third top-10 finish of the year in some midweek competition.

“I better be ready,” Fontaine laughed. “This dirt racing is completely new to me but it’s something I have to embrace and make the best of the opportunity in our No. 45 ProMATIC Automation Chevrolet.”

To prepare himself for his 16th Truck Series race of his career, Fontaine has been studying video, observing pictures and talking to his competitors and friends – trying to gather as much intel as possible before Tuesday night’s practice sessions.

“I think it’s going to be an adjustment for a few laps,” Fontaine added. “But, hopefully we’ll be able to adapt pretty quickly and get a balance with our truck and look forward to qualifying and the race.”

For Fontaine, his Niece Motorsports team led by crew chief Cody Efaw hasn’t put any expectations on the 20-year-old driver other than to race his heart out. Those same expectations set forth earlier this year for the former ARCA Racing Series competitor paid off with strong finishes.

Fontaine is poised to make it happen again.

“I think it would be hard on anyone to set expectations for Eldora,” sounded Fontaine. “It’s a night where it’s going to be a lot of fun – and there’s going to be some beating and banging, but I have to be smart behind the wheel and I know Cody will be on his game atop the pit box.

“We’ll just see what unfolds. I’d like to think we can leave there with a top-10 finish, but we’ll see. It’s still nice to have some goals – even in unchartered waters.”

Just past the halfway mark of the 2018 Truck Series season, Fontaine has put together three competitive finishes in the last four races, including a solid 17th place result at Kentucky Speedway last Thursday night.

“Overall, we made some significant gains from the start of the season to Kentucky last week,” offered Fontaine. “I’ve made some mistakes and put my Niece Motorsports team in a hole, but they have stuck with me and that’s the motivation I need to keep giving nothing less than 150 percent behind the wheel.

“I’m still learning. I’m learning with every practice, every qualifying run and throughout each race. It’s been a big leap to jump from ARCA full-time to Trucks full-time – but the gains we’ve made so far should make us better for this second half of the season and that’s something I’m looking forward to.

“Eldora provides that opportunity for surprises – and I hope we’re on the good fortune of that when the checkered flag waves on Wednesday night. Then, we’ll refocus on Pocono in a couple weeks.

“I can’t wait to get there.”

For the first time this season, Niece Motorsports will field three Truck Series entries at Eldora Speedway with newcomer Max McLaughlin set to make his entrance into Trucks behind the wheel of the No. 38 Chevrolet Silverado on Wednesday night.

“It’s a cool opportunity for Niece Motorsports on Wednesday night and I think I can really learn a lot from Max and Austin,” sounded Fontaine. “Austin has raced at Eldora before and Max is an accomplished racer on dirt.

“I’ll take any help I can get and I’m excited to see all three of us battle it out in Ohio this week.”

After 12 races, Fontaine sits 16th in the series’ standings. He carries an average finish of 19.2 entering Eldora. He earned a career-best ninth place result at Las Vegas in March.

In addition to a full-time NASCAR driver, Fontaine just completed his freshman year as a student at the University of North Carolina (Charlotte), where he is pursuing a business degree.

For more on Justin Fontaine, please visit JustinFontaine.com, like his Facebook page (Justin Fontaine) or follow him on Twitter @driverFontaine.

The Eldora Dirt Derby (150 laps | 75 miles) is the 13th of 23 races on the 2018 NASCAR Camping World Truck schedule. Practice begins on Tues., July 17 from 7:05 p.m. – 7:55 p.m., while final practice is set for 9:05 a.m. – 9:55 p.m. Qualifying is set for race day beginning at 4:35 p.m.; with the qualifying races set to follow beginning at 7:00 p.m. The 32-truck field will take the green flag shortly after 9:00 p.m. with live coverage on FOX Sports 1, the Motor Racing Network (Radio) and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Satellite Radio, Channel 90). All times are local (Eastern).

Niece Motorsports PR

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Steven B. Wilson

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