2017 Pro Truck Series Season Preview:
Three Reasons To Pay Attention To The 2017 Pro Truck Series This Season
By: Nate Graves
An Empty Seat At The Head of The Table?
As the days wind down to the start of the 20th anniversary Pro Truck season there is a very real possibility that the championship could go undefended, leaving the coveted truck title exposed and ripe for the taking.
While we can certainly expect to see returning champion John Newhouse in the no. 26 machine for at least a few races this season, it remains unclear as to whether or not he will run a full-time effort to defend his title in ’17.
At the conclusion of last year’s final race, Newhouse hinted at the idea that he would split seat time with daughter Hannah intermittently. Given the strength Newhouse showed last season, it’s reasonable to believe that his closest competitors would be a little less nervous coming into ‘17.
However, you may want to rethink that theory when you learn that Johnny Pierre could possibly be returning for another run at an unprecedented fourth Pro Truck title. Pierre, who had already announced plans to sell off his equipment and retire from the trucks, has yet to find a buyer to take over the operation that netted his team three straight titles.
But before all of you “J.P. crazies” get overly enthralled with excitement, it’s important to note that the idea of your guy pulling a Michael Jordan to come out of retirement is very much indeterminate, and highly speculative. However with the opener looming, it’s hard to believe the D.L. Evans truck will remain stagnant for long. If Pierre doesn’t find a buyer in the waning days of the offseason don’t be surprised to at least see the no. 38 team run a limited schedule.
A Furious Battle For All The Glory
With just weeks left before the green flag falls, the road to title town is presumably blocked by the back bumper of the no. 26. However, should the defending champion change plans and make a run for the repeat, it’s not going to be an easy one for the elder Newhouse, with or without the no. 38.
The obvious reason for this is because of a stacked field of title hungry veterans, all salivating at the idea of battling for the 2017 season championship. Looking past last season’s 1st and 2nd place finishers, there are 4 drivers who are all primed and ready to take on the responsibilities of taking home the title.
Going off of not just the points from the end of 2016, but overall speed and performance as well, Mason Newhouse is undoubtedly the 2017 preseason favorite. The young driver survived an unbelievable amount of bad luck last year and still wound up with an impressive 3rd place spot in the points. Despite the bad luck, Newhouse had incredible speed and was a serious threat to win all season long. If they can keep the speed and find the proverbial golden horseshoe, the sky is the limit for this team. Another factor weighing heavily in his title hunt is the fact that Newhouse Racing has scaled down their operation. This will allow the wrench-benders to put more focus on the kind of preventative maintenance needed to stymy those pesky mechanical failures that hampered them in 2016.
Another driver who seems to be right on the cusp of clinching the ultimate success in 2017 is Drew Reitsma. After a season plagued by unforeseen engineering issues, the no. 73 team held on for a 5th place spot, just 1 marker out of 4th. One reason to expect a solid performance out of the no. 73 camp this year is because they’ve been in this situation before. In 2012 they had a similar string of bad-luck that rendered a disappointing 6th place points finish. But after some off-season work, the team bounced back in 2013 by putting together a solid season that garnered the Reitsma team a 3rd place effort. Given their history coupled with the experience of Reitsma, the likelihood that this team sees success in 2017 seems like a given.
A third driver to keep an eye on come May 6th is last year’s rookie of the year Casey Pehrson. Simply put, the Pehrson Motorsports team had a tough rookie season, and to say otherwise would be a gross understatement considering their truck caught fire twice during the course of last season, but despite the tumultuous luck the no. 62 team accelerated through the learning curve and finished the season with a 6th place spot in the points. If Pehrson can emulate his late season performance and avert the flammable disasters from a year ago, he could very well be the giving the champion’s speech at season’s end. Furthermore, don’t let Pehrson’s rookie status from a year ago fool you, it was more of a formality than anything. Make no mistake about it, Pehrson has proven his abilities outside of the Pro Truck world as evidenced by a 2nd place season finish while driving a late-model in 2013. Given the experience he gained in 2016 you can expect the Buhl based driver to charge out of the gate vigorously for the start of his sophomore season.
Last on the short-list of championship contenders is a driver who could very well be in the best position to make biggest waves in 2017. Jason Quale, who is bringing back the Heeling Construction no. 12 entry could very easily be the biggest surprise of the 2017 season. Not for a lack of talent, Quale is perhaps the most under-rated driver in the series due to his clean and consistent driving style. Coming off of a career best points finish of 4th in 2016, Quale’s consistent nature has proven to be an effective strategy. So much so that “the consistency kid” has finished all but just 2 laps of every main event in the last two seasons, a feat that has never before been achieved in the previous 19 seasons of Pro Truck racing. Quale’s patient nature combined with the fact that his team has done extensive off-season work to their truck, are two factors that could very well spoil the party for the aforementioned pre-season favorites.
A Rookie Around Every Corner
As if the impending chaos of the upcoming title-war isn’t enough, the 2017 Pro Truck Series season will feature a Rookie of the Year battle between four different drivers, a battle that is likely to provide for the same kind of unexpected variables that created the chaos we saw in last year’s championship night.
The four rookies drivers running bumper stripe for 2017 are Riley Rogers and Trey Manker, as well as the father-son tandem of Rodney and Jayden Park, all of whom are coming into the 2017 ROY battle with impressive resumes.
Trey Manker is a 14-year-old driver with a diverse resume, he’s driven everything from 4-cylinder asphalt mini-stocks to the 2-stroke powered winged dirt demons. Although The kid they call “trey-dog” is making a big jump by moving into the Pro Truck racing scene, his resume speaks for itself and Manker has proven to be a top-notch talent. In 2014 he won the Magic Valley Speedway Jr. Stingers division championship, last season he won main events at both Pocatello Raceway and Meridian speedway while driving the #4 mini stock. There’s no doubt about it, the highly touted driver will make waves driving the Alan Larson owned no. 5 Agri-Service entry.
Riley Rogers, who will be piloting the no. 00, exploded onto the Pro Truck scene last year in dramatic fashion after qualifying P1 his first career start in a truck. Even more impressive was the fact that it was his first career start outside of Meridian, where he won a 2016 title competing in the High School Tuner division. In an effort to back his historically impressive run at RMR, Rogers returned for his second run of 2016 in the finale at Meridian Speedway and solidified his status by nearly capturing the checkered flag in an epic bumper to bumper battle with Johnny Pierre.
Rodney and Jayden Park will be competing as a pair of rookie teammates out of the newly formed 24/7 racing stables.