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Trucks: Tyler Ankrum, Chase Purdy hope to pick up the pace with Hattori

Kyle Larson works through his people to thank, including his wife Katelyn, Rick Hendrick, Jeff Gordon, Cliff Daniels and the rest of his family, as he cites hard times over the past year that made him a better person.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Tyler Ankrum is now in the ride he’s found himself envying.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been making laps on the race track and the 16’s blown my doors off and I’ve said to myself, ‘Wow, I wish I was in that truck,’” Ankrum said Tuesday during a Toyota media teleconference. “And it seems to have come true.”

After two seasons at GMS Racing, Ankrum replaces Xfinity Series-bound Austin Hill in the No. 16 Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota Tundra.

Also joining Hattori is Ankrum’s teammate at GMS, Chase Purdy. He’ll drive the No. 61 Toyota Tundra next season, giving Hattori two full-time Truck entries for the first time.

Both look to change their recent fortunes.

After earning his first Truck win as a rookie in 2019 with David Gilliland Racing, Ankrum couldn’t get another during his two years at GMS. He failed to make this year’s Truck playoffs, and his winless streak sits at 55 races.

“I really see this as an opportunity,” Ankrum said of his new team. “A change of pace, fresh outlook, fresh people to work with, learning how to communicate in different ways, learning how to communicate with different types of people. For me, it’s a way to recalibrate.”

Ankrum will work with crew chief Scott Zipadelli, who guided the No. 16 team and Brett Moffitt to the 2018 Truck title. Zipadelli says he’s focused on improving Ankrum’s race craft and having him look at races differently.

“I think the races that Tyler, him and his team, have performed well have been impressive,” Zipadelli said Tuesday. “We’ve got to work on the consistency as a group.

“Obviously, you go to Daytona, you want to survive, right? But the rest of the races, we want to run in the top seven every single week and build our points up the first five, six races.

“Focus on just execution, not making any mistakes. And once we learn each other and learn our weaknesses and strengths, we’ll polish those up as we go.”

As for Purdy, his rookie season this past season with GMS was rough. He suffered six DNFs and posted two top-10 finishes, while also missing the Watkins Glen race after testing positive for COVID-19.

Like Ankrum, Purdy has noticed Hattori’s performance. But he’s noticed the team’s togetherness as well.

“I think Tyler said it best - the 16 truck didn’t just blow his doors off, it blew mine off too,” Purdy said Tuesday. “Obviously, I know the kind of equipment and people over here at HRE. It’s a tight group. It’s like family. Everybody works together closely, and they pride themselves on that.

“I think that goes a long way and it’s definitely a fresh start. Now that I’ve got this year underneath me, I’m ready to hit the ground running. I have high expectations, and I’m ready to do whatever I can to perform and exceed those expectations.”

As Ankrum and Purdy get acclimated, Zipadelli is helping keep Hattori’s expansion to two entries on track.

“You would think that the challenges would be ‘one plus one is two’ and there’d be twice as many challenges - but it’s probably more like a ‘four,’” Zipadelli shared. “With the way COVID has affected the industry over the years and some of our vendors and manufacturers and parts, it’s kind of slowed everything down.

“But we’ve made some really big gains the last two weeks, getting some of these parts and pieces and having quite a few new employees throughout the facility. It’s really moving along. The last two or three weeks have really shaped up pretty good.

“Heading into the holiday season, the guys will get a break and when we come back, it’ll be full steam ahead.”

Niece rounds out 2022 lineup

Niece Motorsports announced Tuesday that Kris Wright will drive its No. 44 Chevrolet, completing its full-time driver lineup for 2022. Wright joins 2021 Truck playoff driver Carson Hocevar, Dean Thompson, and Lawless Alan.

This season, Wright ran the majority of the Truck schedule (16 of 22 races) for Young’s Motorsports, posting a top finish of 12th in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway.

He also ran all seven road course races in the Xfinity Series, posting a top finish of 17th for Sam Hunt Racing at Watkins Glen.

“As a group, we are really excited about the direction our organization is heading, going into the 2022 season,” Niece Motorsports general manager Cody Efaw said in a release. “Kris is an important piece of that puzzle, so we are happy to have him join the team.

“I think the four drivers we have set for the 2022 season will complement each other well and work well together. We have big expectations next season, and we’re working hard to get there.”

Niece fielded three full-time entries this season: Hocevar (No. 42) and Ryan Truex (No. 40) had their own, while multiple drivers, including Alan, shared the third entry (No. 45).

The team also had a fourth part-time entry (No. 44). Thompson made his Truck debut at Phoenix in that entry.

Hill Motorsports expands to two Trucks

Timmy Hill’s Hill Motorsports outfit will expand to two Truck entries in 2022 and switch manufacturers to Toyota, the team announced Monday.

Timmy Hill will drive the No. 56 entry full-time after sharing the seat with brother Tyler the past three seasons.

Plans for the team’s second entry, including a driver lineup, schedule and truck number, will be announced later.