FORT WORTH, TX - Max Gresham's trip to the Texas Motor Speedway last Friday was bittersweet. It marked the official end of his reign as the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Champion, but it also continued his successful transition into the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS).
Gresham's No. 8 Made In USA Brand (MIUSA) Chevrolet finished 12th in the WinStar World Casino 350K. Coupled with an 11th-place finish a week earlier at Martinsville, Va., the Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate continued to establish a solid foundation for the future.
"While I am proud to have been the K&N Pro Series East Champion for the past year," Gresham said, "I'm also very excited about my new challenges. We've started something really special here at Eddie Sharp Racing (ESR), and we keep improving every week.
"It's been a long time since I've felt this good. I'm getting my confidence back."
Gresham, 19, started 21st at the 1.5-mile raceway. He and crew chief Chris Showalter executed a strategy that concentrated on fine-tuning their setup during the first half of the race, and charging forward when conditions were more favorable in the second half.
"Texas is a real challenge because the track changes so much from the start of the race to the finish," Showalter said. "Once we got the truck where we wanted, Max really put on a show. You could see him gain so much confidence in the final 70 laps. He was smart and aggressive with the way he worked other guys over. Just like Martinsville, our Made In USA Brand (MIUSA) Chevrolet was at its best at the end of the race."
Gresham passed 12 trucks in the final 100 miles to be the highest-finishing driver from the Eddie Sharp Racing stables. He also was the second-highest rookie of the year contender.
"We took a big step this year," Gresham said. "Things really started to click in the middle of the season when we came over to Eddie Sharp Racing for a five-race schedule. We've made huge improvements in each of our first four starts. I can't wait to keep it going at Homestead (Fla., on Nov. 16)."
The Griffin, Ga., driver turned over the K&N Pro Series East throne to Kyle Larson on Saturday. Larson clinched the championship at the Rockingham Speedway.
"I had fun winning the championship a year ago," Gresham said. "I know his sense of accomplishment. But I can't just stop now. My new challenge is to build on the success we've had and take it to the next level like we're doing right now."