The hottest driver in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series entering Friday night’s Lucas Oil 150 (10 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN) at the Phoenix Raceway may very well be the one everyone is overlooking in all honesty. I mean think about it.
Chandler Smith has 3 wins this season alone and is the defending race winner on this 1-mile west valley track. His three career Phoenix finishes are 3rd, 3rd and 1st respectively. He also just won at Richmond, a like track, too.
Seems like a favorite if you ask me.
What about Zane Smith? The regular season champion is coming into his third Championship 4 appearance. He finished 2nd in his previous two opportunities. At Phoenix, he’s finished 2nd and 5th respectively. 2 of his last 3 finishes on the year were runner-ups including 5 of the last 11 at that. He and Chandler combined to win 3 of the first 4 races of the season.
Sounds like a favorite to me too.
Then you have Ben Rhodes. He won last year’s championship. He has 4 top 7’s in 7 career Phoenix starts including 3 straight (4th, 7th, 3rd).
Can’t overlook him. He’s the champ until someone tells him differently. Which is why I think it’s a dangerous mistake to overlook Ty Majeski.
He had 0 career wins entering the Round of 8. In fact, he was 0-for-39 in his Truck career heading into the round. However, he’s 2-for-3 since. Can he make it 3-for-4 and take home a championship in the process?
“I hope it intimidates them,” says Majeski. “We feel really good about where we are at as a race team. I feel internally within the 66 team that we are the favorites. We have the most momentum in the series for sure coming off of a really dominating win at Homestead. The thing about us is we have been on a constant uphill climb all season, and we are certainly peaking at the right time. I don’t think there is much denying that. I think we are the favorites and we have that mentality coming in and we are going to try to go and carry that into Friday night.”
As far as why he has bottled up that much confidence?
“I think we are peaking at the right time,” he says. “It’s been a constant uphill climb, and I think this has been coming for quite some time. I feel like we have had the potential to go on a streak, and we have done the little things. We’ve led laps in the last six or seven races and that has been a huge confidence boost for us and we have been able to put the small things together – coming on and off pit road. The pit crew has really started to perform. I feel like I’m as confident as ever. I have a high level of communication between Joe (Shear, Jr., crew chief) and I. We’ve been able to unload really, really fast at all of these different type of race tracks that we haven’t been together. Taking all of those factors together, we are the favorites.”
He’s not wrong in that. Majeski also has 6 top 8 finishes in the last 7 races overall too.
Sounds like a sleeper among these four and ironically enough, the favorite. I wouldn’t doubt that his No. 66 Toyota will be celebrating in Phoenix on Friday night.
“I certainly believe in momentum,” he says. “My mentality coming in here is just calm and loose and confident. Coming in here with what I feel like is zero pressure, is a big difference for me compared to what it could be in a different situation. I do believe in it for sure.”
Majeski says he feels zero pressure in saying that either. He says that he has achieved everything that he felt like he’s needed to this year and has proven everything that he sought out to prove.
“I feel like the championship would be icing on the cake for a great season,” he continued. “Our confidence level is high coming off winning two of the last three. We feel really good about where we are at. I don’t know if the other guys are nervous or not, but we don’t take it as another race, because it is not. I think anyone that says it’s another race, we are just going to do what we do, is lying. We’ve put a lot of preparation into this race, moreso than any other race throughout the season, which is natural. It’s the biggest race of the season for everybody, but from a mindset, I’m feeling no pressure. Just happy to be here, taking it all in. Taking in the moment and enjoying it and having fun. Just having a loose mentality. We are ready to go and let it all hang out Friday night.”
The reason he proved so much is that he took an unorthodox route to get here. The 28-year-old has taken a different path to the Truck Series than most. It’s not uncommon for teenagers to show up and race in this series which is why to have a driver in his upper 20’s still fighting for a title in his first full season is a breath of fresh air.
“Yes, certainly. I don’t think I would be in this position if I was handed an opportunity,” Majeksi said on his path to the Truck Series Final Four. “I’m glad I’ve had to work for it, because I have learned so much in my career and I think a lot of that experience and what I have learned – having to do it the old fashion way – has yielded results for us this season. I love being a part of the conversation with Joe (Shear, Jr., crew chief) and our engineer on what we need to do to this race trucks to be better and be a part of a decisions on how we go to the race track. I take a lot of pride in that. I love being a race car driver, but I also love being a part of it on the mechanical and engineering side, and that is something I take a lot of pride in on the short track level on my late model and I’ve gotten to the point where I feel like I know enough about these trucks to help us be better week-to-week, and I think that is something that has been a ton of fun for myself this year.”
Majeski grew up in Wisconsin and notched his first career win in any racing form on his 10th birthday. He tore up the Wisconsin race tracks. When he branched out of the state, he drew the eye of Michael and Darrell Waltrip’s brother who tried to lure the Majeski’s down to North Carolina to be near NASCAR’s base. He felt like that would further his career, but the family didn’t want to leave the Badger State.
He would instead make a career out of Late Models before wanting to eventually branch out on his own and finally move to North Carolina in 2017. He was 22 at the time and was hired on as an engineer with Roush. That decision led him to a role in driving for Cunningham Motorsports part-time in ARCA and making a few select starts in the Xfinity Series for Roush Fenway Racing.
He ran three races in Xfinity in 2017 and 12 more in 2018. With RFR closing shop on their Xfinity Series after that 2018 year, Majeski decided to go back down to race some more in ARCA and make a return also to his Late Model. He thrived in doing so and for 2020, his first full-time season was coming in NASCAR. This time it was with Niece in the Truck Series.
He ran 15 races, before being replaced. He wasn’t full-time anymore.
He did show up in 2021 as a part-time driver for ThorSport. However, that wasn’t his main focus on going to ThorSport. He was going to work on the Trucks full-time instead.
“I don’t have my engineering degree, but I went up there in 2021 knowing that I was only going to run a handful of races,” he said on what his first initial role was with the organization. “I took a backseat from a driving stand point. I went there to be an engineer, so my day-to-day job is Roamer arm. Each part, chassis, everything that has to do with the suspension of the truck gets scanned and gets a part number. We are able to take each component and choose it and basically build a model of the truck with each scanned number for each part, so it makes sim for us extremely accurate. It’s been great to actually touch each component.
“It’s forced me to learn a lot at a fast rate, and it has been able to bridge that gap between driving and the engineering standpoint. NASCAR, with the lack thereof of practice, teams have been putting a lot of effort on sim. It’s been a big reason why some of the teams are successful and the reason why certain teams are not. We made the decision at the beginning of the season to rely on sim and build up data points throughout the season, and it has become incredibly useful for us. We’ve been living and dying by the sim, and I feel like the results on how we unload week-to-week has shown. We unload with great speed and the balance has showed up close. It is just a testament to sim.”
He also returned to the ARCA Midwest Tour too and won the 2021 championship. It was his 5th which was a record in that series. This role led ThorSport to wanting Majeski full-time.
“Just timing,” he says on what led to him racing full-time this season. “A lot of being successful in this sport is timing. You have to be with the right people at the right time, with the right equipment around you. Duke and Rhonda (Thorson) have provided that for me. In taking a backseat to racing last year, Duke and I had the vision that we wanted it to turn into this. There are no guarantees, but it was a risk I was willing to take, just knowing where ThorSport was at and what the age of some of their drivers were. I felt like within a decent amount of time there was going to be an opportunity there. I didn’t know it was going to be for 2022, but it happened quicker than I thought, but I’m certainly glad I took that risk in taking a backseat and hoping it would turn into this.”
So this season, a full-time ride was his. However, he moved to North Carolina in 2017, remember? ThorSport operates out of Ohio. They’re one of the few teams that don’t reside in North Carolina. Majeski wanted to be near the team shop so the owners found him some housing near them while Majeski searched for a place to stay in Sandusky, Ohio.
In the process, he made the playoffs. Then in the playoffs, he won his first career race. Then his second. Those wins led him to a Championship 4 appearance.
Now he’s here with a shot at a title on Friday night.