TALLADEGA, Ala. – With just five races remaining on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) schedule, and planning to step away from competition at the end of the season, Niece Motorsports rookie Justin Fontaine heads to Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway for Saturday afternoon’s Fr8Auctions 250 prepared to leave his mark.
Fontaine opened up his rookie season on the tour with a top-10 finish at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway in February, and while the Asheville, N.C.-native went to school with the dos and don’ts of speedway racing – he is hoping to showcase what he learned and deliver his third top-10 finish of the season.
“It seems forever since we’ve been racing,” Fontaine said with a smile. “I’m looking forward to getting to do some superspeedway racing. My Niece Motorsports team has been working hard for the past month or so on our No. 45 ProMATIC Automation Chevrolet and I look forward to seeing what we can do during the race on Saturday afternoon.”
Fontaine also touched on his announcement following Las Vegas, where he plans to step away from competition in November.
“The last couple of weeks have been emotional that’s for sure,” he added. “Thankfully, I’ve had a lot of support from my family, friends and most of all my team. We’ve still got plenty of work to do before the season ends at Homestead and it begins this week at Talladega.”
The 20-year-old doesn’t have particularly a lot of drafting experience, especially when it comes to the Truck Series, but he has stayed focused and used the available resources to him to help prepare for his superspeedway debut at the 2.66-mile superspeedway.
“I’ve never been to Talladega,” explained Fontaine. “I was supposed to run the ARCA race there – but when I got hurt at Daytona, Talladega was no longer an option, so I’ve only had the ARCA and Truck Series races at Daytona to get myself accustomed to plate racing.
“It’s a mental game for sure and I’ve been doing everything I can with pictures and video to help me get focused and prepared. The trucks can be a handful compared to an ARCA car, but I think that produces better racing for the competitors and the fans too.”
With strict goals for the final stretch of Truck Series competition over the next six weeks, Fontaine believes it’s important for him to be running at the finish from now until Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway next month. To accomplish those goals, he knows he must first finish.
“In order to have an opportunity for a good finish, you have to be running,” added Fontaine. “That’s something I wish we could have done a little more. I think we’ve been doing a better job of it lately, but these final five races – it’s my goal to go out there and see if we can competitively finish in the top-15 and hope for a couple more top-10s too.”
Realizing the Truck Series Playoffs is underway, Fontaine doesn’t plan to interfere with the players, but says it’s important for the non-Playoff teams and drivers to shine in the spotlight too.
“I have a lot of respect from the competition, especially when it comes to the Playoffs,” he sounded. “I’m going to be respectful on Saturday. Make the right moves with the right help and remember who I’m racing around. The last thing I want to do is put us in an awkward position, where we could have an effect on who makes it to the next round or not.
“On the flip side, when push comes to shove, if we’re near the front and have the opportunity to put our team and partners up front – we’re going to do that. That’s what is expected of us. I definitely think you can be respectful to your competition but leave your marks too.”
After 18 races, Fontaine sits 15th in the series’ standings. He carries an average finish of 19.7 entering Talladega. He earned a career-best ninth-place result at Las Vegas in March.
In addition to a full-time NASCAR driver, Fontaine just started his sophomore year as a student at the University of North Carolina (Charlotte), where he is pursuing a political science degree.
The Fr8Auctions 250 (94 laps | 250.04 miles) is the 19th of 23 races on the 2018 NASCAR Camping World Truck schedule. Practice begins on Fri., Oct. 12 from 9:05 a.m. – 9:55 a.m., while final practice is set for 10:35 a.m. – 11:25 a.m. Qualifying is set for later in the day beginning at 4:35 p.m. The 32-truck field will take the green flag the next day, Sat. Oct. 13 shortly after 12:00 p.m. with live coverage on FS1, the Motor Racing Network (Radio) and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Satellite Radio, Channel 90). All times are local (Central).