There are few more high pressure situations in NASCAR than a late restart, especially at short tracks like Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee with cars packed like sardines on the high banking.
Ty Majeski, a Seymour, Wis., driver who has raced many times at the La Crosse Fairgrounds Speedway, found himself faced with holding off the rest of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series field with 12 laps to go in last Thursday’s UNOH 200. It was only Majeski’s 40th start in the series, but the 28-year old played it like a veteran.
“We’ve found ourselves in late positions in races to win a lot,” Majeski said. “I’ve probably been in that very spot over 100 times. It just felt like another short track restart leading the race with 10 laps to go…I’ve won races in that position and I’ve lost races. Every time you lose one, you learn something and you look back at what you could have done differently the next time.”
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Majeski — a five-time ARCA Midwest Tour champion and multi-time Oktoberfest winner in West Salem — took the No. 66 Road Ranger Toyota Tundra from ThorSport to victory lane for his first win in a national series NASCAR event.
Majeski struggled to find footing in his first five years on NASCAR’s national stage, with 2022 technically being his first full-time season. His first ride with Roush Fenway Racing in the Xfinity Series ended when the team closed its Xfinity shop. In 2020, Majeski was released from his Truck Series contract at Niece Motorsports before the end of the season.
In 2021, his former spotter turned ThorSport general manager David Pepper gave him an opportunity to come to the team’s shop in Sandusky, Ohio just six hours away from Wisconsin. He started out as an engineer with a part-time schedule before getting a full-time ride this season for the team that won four Truck Series titles.
“Crossing the start finish line, there was a sense of relief,” Majeski said. “I feel like I’ve been capable of being in this position, I just needed to find the right opportunity with the right race team and people. I finally found that home with ThorSport.”
Ty Majeski takes the checkered flag at the UNOH 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sept. 15. The win was Majeski’s first in the national division of…
Part of remaining afloat in NASCAR despite a shaky start came from being a constant contender in Late Model short track races. The same season Niece Motorsports fired him, Majeski won his third Oktoberfest Championship at the Fairgounds Speedway, as well as the 53rd annual Snowball Derby. Last season, Majeski won the Dick Trickle Memorial 99 and his series-record fifth ARCA Midwest Tour title.
Moments after taking the checkered flag, Majeski made sure to credit his Late Model crew, led by owner and crew chief Brian “Toby” Nuttleman, for the opportunity to keep his dream alive.
“I’ve been fortunate to be part of a great Late Model program out of West Salem, so I gave a shout out to those guys in my interview,” Majeski said. “They put a lot of effort into keeping me relevant on the Late Model side and helping propel me to more NASCAR opportunities. It was great to have that moment and thank them in victory lane. They worked so hard to get me to where I am today.”
Despite the track record and new-found success in NASCAR, Majeski has remained humble. The driver started at ThorSport the same way he started his first NASCAR job with Roush Fenway, working as an engineer in the shop during the week and finding ways to go racing over the weekend.
Even after his first career win, Majeski is still helping in the ThorSport shop in what he said was a huge part of his growth into the sport and team.
“I felt like it was a good development step in being at the shop, getting to know some of the guys, the trucks, the equipment and building a relationship with (owners Duke and Rhonda Thorson),” Majeski said.
The biggest moment of Majeski’s career set up an even bigger opportunity. The Bristol win automatically gives Majeski one of four playoff spots in the Truck Series championship race at Phoenix Raceway on Nov. 4. The best finisher of the final four will be the season champion. The no. 66 trucks have racked up nine top-fives and 14 top-tens in 2021.
“I feel good about where our team is at,” Majeski said. “I don’t think a lot of people expected us to be in this position but throughout the season, even though we felt consistent and ran up front all year, we’ve gotten so much better throughout the year. How we’ve finished may not have been better, but the fashion we’ve done it in has been so much better…We’re hitting our stride at the right time at the end of the season.”
It’s a busy time in Majeski’s career, so much so that he’s “not 100% certain yet” on if he’ll be returning to La Crosse Fairgrounds Speedway for Oktoberfest this season from Oct. 6-9. If he does, it’ll be another chance to be with the racing family that for a decade set up Majeski for the opportunity he got last week at Bristol.
“You have to have a lot of great people involved to make these programs work,” Majeski said. “Those late model guys are like family at this point. We’ve been working together for 10 years and they always have those cars ready for me whenever I come back to race them. I’m very fortunate to race for two great programs in two different forms of racing.”
James Krause can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @jkrausepro.