DAYTONA BEACH, Fl.—  The 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season started out terrible for Noah Gragson and his Kyle Busch Motorsports team.

Shortly after qualifying, Gragson and his team learned that team Jeff Merritt, a team mechanic, lost his wife Stephanie after injuries sustained in an automobile accident two weeks ago.

“One of my guys back home, Jeff, we had a hard loss a couple of minutes ago,” Gragson said. “His wife passed away. They got in a car wreck over the offseason. He worked really, really hard on this truck. We’re going to go out there and drive as hard as we can today for him, for Stephanie.

Gragson was hoping to win the race for Jeff and his family

However, Gragson was involved in an accident on the third lap, where he was spun by Chase Briscoe.

“I’m fine. NASCAR does a great job with the safer barriers and making these trucks safe. I’m fine. I took a few hard hits out there. Just a bummer. I didn’t want to end the race like this, but I had a good time for the lap I got. Felt like the 29 (Chase Briscoe) hit me in the wrong part of the bumper going through the tri-oval, it just got me loose and it got pointed into the outside wall. Just very thankful for the opportunity to come out here to Daytona, racing in front of the fans” said Grayson after the accident.

Grayson would be scored in the 26th position.

Despite racing with a heavy heart, Gragson is optimistic about next weekend in Atlanta.

“We’re going to go out to Atlanta next weekend and hopefully get the W.”

DAYTONA BEACH, Fl.— The 2016 ARCA Racing Series Champion, Chase Briscoe, scored his first top-five in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Briscoe finished third in Friday’s NextEra Energy Resources 250.

Briscoe started the race in the 16th position, but caused an accident on the second lap. Noah Grayson went high, but Briscoe already filled the hole. The accident collected 14 cars.

Despite being involved in the wreck, Briscoe quietly rallied to finish in the third position.

“It was nerve wracking to say the least. This place makes the hair on your back stand up, especially inside the driver’s seat. It’s a great way to start my career with Brad Keseloski Racing. Im really looking forward to the rest of the year and Atlanta next week,” said Briscoe.

Briscoe was not considered a contender for most of the race, but towards the end, he worked his way into position for a great finish, despite causing a wreck in the opening laps.

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) kicks off their 2017 season in the NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway, their only trip to the speedway. This kicks off a 23 race season for the teams.

42 drivers are slated to compete for 32 positions in Friday’s race. Unfortunately, 10 drivers will be sent home after qualifying on Friday afternoon.

This will be the 18th NCWTS race at Daytona International Speedway. 15 drivers have won the pole. 15 different drivers have won at Daytona. Three races have been won from the pole position with Jack Sprague being the last driver to do so in 2007. Ty Dillon set the qualifying record at 188.774 mph back in 2015. Mark Martin set the race record at 146.622 mph in 2006.

Drivers are excited about getting back into action on the track with the new competition enhancements.

"I like the idea of the stages, and getting points for each stage, it will be huge. Then you've got the segments, and the segment wins that earn bonus points, which ultimately help your chances of getting in the Chase, and then earning bonus points there as well. So, I like the idea a lot and we'll see how it plays out this season. To be honest, I'm happy this format eliminates the caution clock for the Truck Series because I was not a huge fan. However, I think it will have the biggest impact on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series because their races are so long. With that being said, I think the segment races will bring some great racing to the Cup Series, but I don't see it making a huge impact with trucks because our races are shorter and we race so hard from green flag to checkered flag. I do think it will make for some exciting races around each segment though, for sure,” said Matt Crafton.

"I'm really looking forward to making my first start in the Truck Series. It's such an honor to be able to run at Daytona in any racecar, but to be able to do it in one of NASCAR's top-three series and to be driving for a Cup champion is truly a blessing and a dream come true. Daytona is different than any other place we go; running there in the past with ARCA will definitely be beneficial in the Truck Series race. Seat time in anything helps anywhere you go. My Cooper Standard Ford F-150 and the ARCA car will drive totally different, but I think it will still help just knowing the characteristics of the place and how superspeedway racing plays out,” says Chase Briscoe.

The NexEra Energy Resources 250 will be 100 laps. The race will be on Motor Racing Network and Fox Sports 1. Elliott Sadler will be in the Motor Racing Network booth.

While JR Motorsports is known for their success in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, 2016 was the first year that the race team ran a full schedule of 23 races in the Camping World Truck Series with driver Cole Custer.
Custer may not have won any races for JRM in the truck series but he did earn two second-place finishes. The No. 00 driver battled John Hunter Nemechek in the closing laps of the Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park back in September. Custer started on the pole and led 39 laps, the most a driver led during the 66-lap race at the 2.459-mile road course.
Nemechek and Custer went head to head on the final lap. Nemechek shoved Custer into the grass just before the two racers reached the flag stand. It was a finish the NASCAR officials had to review because Custer and Nemechek did not even finish on the paint of the start/finish line.  After the film review was complete, Custer came up short to Nemechek.
"We had a really fast truck," Custer told FS1 after the race. "Just got taken out, he hit me going into the second-to-last corner, then he hit me again."
Custer’s other runner-up finish came in the Speediatrics 200 behind William Byron. Despite not being able to catch Byron, who led a dominating 107 of 200 laps, Custer still led three laps himself on the .875-mile Iowa Speedway. "I thought I had him but I didn’t get a good restart there," Custer said in a post-race interview.
 Although he didn’t make NASCAR’s playoffs, Custer still earned six top-10 finishes during the final half of the season including a third in the DC Solar 350 at Las Vegas behind Daniel Hemric and Tyler Reddick. Custer again led three laps in the 146-lap event. He also finished ninth at Chicago and Texas, sixth at New Hampshire, seventh at Martinsville and rounded out the season with two 10th -place runs at Phoenix and Homestead. He crashed at Talladega but was scored 29th. Along with five top-five’s, 14 top-10’s and 19 top-20’s, Custer led a total of 82 laps in five races.
JR Motorsports has decided not to field a NCWTS entry for 2017. Custer is taking a full time ride at Stewart-Haas Racing where he will pilot the No. 00 Ford Mustang in the NASCAR XFINITY Series and contend for race wins and top finishes.
"I’m running the XFINITY Series this year and I think it’s definitely going to be different," Custer said last week in a Ford Performance transcript. "Coming from the Truck series, there are a lot of Cup guys that you’re racing against and it’s just a new competition level. It’s going to be a little bit of a different challenge, but I think we can do it and have a great team."

Alon Day currently races in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series, but spent two races in the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series competition. Day was named Israel’s Athlete of the Year in 2017, but hopes to make is way to the United States to race in the three national divisions.

His hopes are to race in the Trucks or Xfinity Series, but it becomes complicated when it comes to sponsorship. Day is actively pursuing to find sponsorship to run a full season in the Truck series. Day knows that if he cannot find the sponsorship in the States that the Euro series has a spot for him, where he has the chance to win a championship.

If Day cannot find a sponsorship he hopes to be able to race in the road course races at the Xfinity level or at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in the Truck series. Those races were considered the “most valuable” in his career. The Euro cars, according to Day, are just like the Xfinity cars, but with more power. However, when he went to drive in the Trucks, it was a totally different world because he was racing on ovals. Day has no experience on ovals because the Euro series races primarily on road courses. Day raced in the IndyLights Series, but used New Hampshire and Homestead in the trucks to “absorb information and knowledge” on oval racing.

Day currently resides in Tel Aviv, Israel, but recognizes that to race in NASCAR’s three national divisions, he must live in the United States. “My main priority here in NASCAR, doesn’t matter where (series), but to be here in the United States and not in Europe.”

Going back to Europe is considered a “step down” for Day because he feels like he is ready to race with the best in the States, but he understands that it is “part of life”.

With the talk of NASCAR adding another road course into the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Day would like to see a street course added to the circuit.

Day has only been in NASCAR since 2012, but motorsports was illegal in Israel. Day uses motorsports as a “measure of things in his life.” Day’s vision has always been “the highest level of motorsports”, whether it is NASCAR or Formula One (F1). Day began to work towards the top ranks of F1, but realized that Europe was not the place for him to be. Racing in NASCAR is “truly special” for Day.

Day mentioned that when he grew up in Israel, people thought NASCAR was just drivers sitting in the car turning left. Since Day has success in the Euro Series, races are now being broadcasted and people are truly beginning to see that NASCAR is truly one of the toughest sports in the world.