By Dustin Albino
Ninety days ago, Grant Enfinger was battling for the 2020 Camping World Truck Series championship at Phoenix Raceway. Now, with just over one week left until the 2021 season begins at Daytona International Speedway, the Alabama native is left with just a part-time schedule.
On Thursday morning (Feb. 4), ThorSport Racing announced it would race under the Toyota banner in 2021, while also publicizing its driver lineup. That includes three-time Truck champion Matt Crafton, 2016 champ Johnny Sauter and Ben Rhodes all returning. Meanwhile, Enfinger and Christian Eckes will split time in the No. 98.
Yes, Enfinger, who is coming off two solid seasons, including the 2019 regular season championship. And just last year, the No. 98 truck won a team-high four races, including the penultimate race of the year at Martinsville Speedway, guaranteeing him a shot at the championship.
Instead of running the full 22-race schedule, Enfinger is scheduled to compete in 12 events. His first race will be in the season opener at Daytona, the same race he was victorious in just last year.
“It’s a little bit bittersweet because it’s still a great situation,” Enfinger told a group of media Thursday afternoon. “I’ve got a great team behind us, we’re very capable of winning races. Being in the Toyota Racing family, it’s just going to help us that much more. It’s going to be some off weekends, so hopefully I can fill those up somehow.”
Instead of causing an uproar about the situation, Enfinger said he is grateful for the last four full-time seasons with ThorSport. Prior to 2017, the most races he’d run in a single season was eight (2016).
“I’m appreciative of the opportunities that I’ve had, not only over the last four years but this opportunity here,” Enfinger added. “Duke Thorson [team owner] has done a lot for me that he hasn’t had to do.
“It is a demotion to be running part time, but it’s part of it. It’s part of rolling with the punches. The whole racing deal is a whole roller coaster of emotions. I’ve been doing this for a long time, so it’s not the first time something like this has happened but I’m going to go into the year with an open mind and make the most of it.”
Enfinger admitted his schedule isn’t exactly set in stone, but following Daytona he will next be in the No. 98 Toyota at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 20 — another track he won at in 2020.
Of Enfinger’s 12 scheduled races, Champion Power Equipment is set to be on the No. 98 for seven of them. Ultimately, he didn’t have enough funding for a full season.
“There is so much of stuff that is in our control and so much that isn’t,” Enfinger stated. “It’s a tough time right now to put all these deals together and go racing.
“As much as this is a competition based sport, it’s also a business. There’s a million different ways to put these deals together and to make them work. This year, it just happens to be part time. That’s what it ended up being. It’s not that I’m happy about it or anything like that, but it’s still a great opportunity. It’s how it all played out this year.”
But not being in contention for the driver’s championship makes for a simple goal for this season. Win early and win often.
Enfinger said: “I think for the time being it’s pretty simple: win races.”
Aside from his Truck schedule, Enfinger confirmed he hopes to run as many races as possible this year around the country. One of those includes running for Go Fas Racing’s super late model in the Rattler 250 at South Alabama Speedway on March 14.