STATESVILLE, N.C. – Entering the first break of the 2018 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season, a surprise among one of the full-time contenders in the opening races is Rookie of the Year candidate Justin Fontaine, driver of the No. 45 ProMATIC Automation / Superior Essex Chevrolet Silverado.
The Niece Motorsports driver invaded the Truck Series tour on the heels of competing in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards last year. Despite the learning curve between the two series, Fontaine’s results in the first three races of the season have been eye-opening.
From returning to Daytona International Speedway a year after he was seriously injured in the ARCA Racing Series season-opener and scoring a top-10 finish to leading laps in the series' most recent race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and earning a career-best ninth place result, Fontaine is 12th in points and on the cusp of entering the Playoff cutoff line.
Fontaine, a native of Asheville, N.C. sat down for a question and answer session reflecting on what’s transpired in the first three races of the year and what lies ahead for his Niece Motorsports team.
1. You’re three races into the 2018 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule and you’ve posted two top-10 finishes, are you surprised?
Justin Fontaine: “I wouldn’t say surprised as much as I am just humbled. We set some expectations this year; we wanted to be top 15 in most, if not all the races this year. I felt like we were close at Atlanta, but we came up just a little short.”
2. Did Daytona, Atlanta and Las Vegas go better than you expected? What was your biggest challenge in the first three races?
Justin Fontaine: "Daytona played out exactly as I planned it to, we wanted to ride, be smart, and capitalize at the end. And we did that. Vegas was great because we came off a challenging week in Atlanta and we rebounded and showed everyone that Daytona wasn't a fluke.
"My biggest challenge thus far I think was Atlanta. Throughout the weekend, I just struggled with getting the feel of the race track, however it wasn't anything we didn't plan for already."
3. You’re 12th in the Truck Series standings. How will you try to maintain that position? Can your team be Playoff material?
Justin Fontaine: “What we have to do is be consistent. Whether that’s consistently top 15 or top 10 or wherever we fall, we have to stay consistent. We are absolutely playoff material. It’s important to keep in mind the youth of this team and my inexperience.
“We are not going to let ourselves get over confident in these two results and we are going to continue to manage our expectations for the rest of the year.”
4. Talk about your Niece Motorsports team. How is the chemistry?
Justin Fontaine: “I tell you what, I love where I’m at right now. I have been in this business a few years now and this is the happiest I have ever been with my situation.
“I feel like I am building a home at Niece and I will be here as long as Cody (Efaw, team manager) and Mr. (Al) Niece (team owner) want me to be.”
5. How important was it to start the season on a solid foundation knowing there’s some gaps coming up here soon?
Justin Fontaine: “I think it’s just good for our confidence going into the summer months. We can enjoy the results a little longer, but more importantly we have a little extra time to make these trucks even better for the weeks to come.”
6. You’re returning to Martinsville Speedway in a few weeks, site of your Truck Series debut in 2016. Talk about your emotions about going back to the Paperclip.
Justin Fontaine: “Martinsville is a tough place. Anyone can look at my result from 2016 and know that it wasn’t as strong as we had hoped. However, all that finish did was motivate me to come back and be stronger.
“We have the people, and the truck to be competitive so I think we will surprise people again!”