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NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series

Ankrum Off to Career-Best Start With McAnally-Hilgemann


Tyler Ankrum before NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series qualifying at

As Tyler Ankrum wrapped his second season with Hattori Racing Enterprises, he received a call from Bill McAnally.

Simply put, Ankrum had an opportunity to join McAnally-Hilgemann Racing — an avenue he didn’t realize existed. The organization built a third NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series team around him, forming the No. 18 entry for the 2024 season.

So far, it’s been all success for the 23-year-old from San Bernardino, California — and it trickles from the top down.

“I can truly say I’ve never seen a greater group of leadership in an organization, and that all starts at the top,” Ankrum told The Podium Finish. “Bill McAnally is a fantastic leader. He’s a guy that’s been — before he was a businessman and a race team owner, he was a driver and a racer himself. He understands racing and he knows people even better. So to have a guy at the helm like that just makes everything else trickle down and makes the GMs, the shop foremen, crew chiefs better leaders, and the drivers as well.”

Through seven races, Ankrum’s off to arguably the best start of his career. He led laps at both Daytona International Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway, finishing 11th and seventh respectively. In March, he finished fifth at Bristol Motor Speedway and the same at Martinsville Speedway a few weeks later.

But maybe his proudest moment of the early season came at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Before heading to the Sin City in 2024, Ankrum had never finished better than 10th, calling it one of his worst tracks.

This year, he started fifth, and though he didn’t lead any laps, contended for the win and came home second.

“The one that I felt fantastic about was Vegas,” Ankrum explained. “I might have not run top five the whole race, might not have led any laps. But for me to go to Vegas, which has been one of my weakest racetracks, to run second and have an opportunity to contend for a win was an even bigger confidence booster than Atlanta and Daytona.”

Ankrum’s four top fives in seven races already eclipse what he had at HRE — just one in 46 starts. He led points for the first four races, and although he dipped to sixth after crashing at Texas Motor Speedway, chalked up the start of the season as near-perfect.


Tyler Ankrum practices before the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway. (Photo: Wayne Riegle | The Podium Finish)

“I’ve never been above sixth points, ever,” Ankrum said. “We’re halfway through the regular season. For us to be able to come here and be this far ahead and points just makes our job so much easier because you don’t have to work so hard. I’ve had those years where you start off with mistakes or getting caught up in other people’s wrecks. You end up in a hole you cannot dig yourself out of.

“We’ve had a fantastic start.”

But the monkey still lies on Ankrum’s back. It’s been nearly five years since Akrum last won a race. In July 2019, he went to victory lane with DGR-Crosley at Kentucky Motor Speedway, but that’s been it.

Including that season, Ankrum made the playoffs twice in a row before missing it each year since. With a new team, he feels he’ll have the support to finally recheck that box — even though he’s learned to not let it weigh on him.

“I feel like we’re knocking on a win,” Ankrum said. “It used to weigh on my mind a lot more than what it does now, just because we’re in a good place with a good team, good organization with a lot of really hard-working people.

“If you can run top five every week like pretty much that we have, you are gonna start running top three more. The more you run top three, the more wins you’re going to get. It’s that simple.”

Some familiarity exists for Ankrum, which has made the transition to MHR relatively smooth. He raced super late models with part of his crew growing up, including truck chief Hunter Byrd. His interior mechanic, Rick Yeomans, and spotter, Eddie D’Hondt, came with him from HRE.

So outside of a few guys on the team, Ankrum already had relationships built. But he didn’t know crew chief Mark Hillman.

An experienced crew chief at all three NASCAR levels, Hillman worked with Jake Garcia in 2023 on the No. 35 MHR entry. After Garcia and the team split, he got paired with Ankrum — and they’ve worked together flawlessly.


Tyler Ankrum goes out for NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series practice at Texas Motor Speedway. (Photo: Dylan Nadwodny | The Podium Finish)

“This is probably the best working relationship I’ve ever had with a crew chief,” Ankrum explained. “He’s a great leader. He leads from the front — he’s not a remf, as they say. He leads from the shop floor and up from behind the desk. He’s a he’s a guy that works really hard. It just makes it easy as a driver.

“Mark has never worked in racing outside of the three national series. But Mark at his core is a racer. He’s an old-school guy, and that works well for me. I don’t do well a lot of the time with engineers, and that’s even funny because my engineer was a racer before he was an engineer, so our lingo — he can talk engineer but can also talk racing. That makes it easy for me to kind of ease myself in those conversations and be able to talk those things through.”

As Ankrum looks to bounce back from a disappointing Texas weekend that claimed two trucks, he’s confident. He’s got new energy and confidence in him. And he ultimately thinks a championship could be attainable.

Certainly, there’s a long way to go. But with nine races remaining until the playoffs, he’s just 43 points behind teammate Christian Eckes for the lead. He’s in the mix — and doesn’t want to let off the gas.

“You just can’t make any mistakes and you also have to be aggressive,” he said. “It’s gotten more and more difficult every single year. There seems to be more money in the garage and more talented drivers every single year. You look at the top 20 — the top 20 are winning trucks, relatively. There aren’t a lot of bad trucks anymore.

“Our ceiling, I feel like, can be a championship. A lot of things are going to have to go our way, just like everyone else. You never know what’s going to happen once you get to the Playoffs. But we got to keep our heads down, keep our eye on that brass ring and I think we can race for a championship.”




Nathan Solomon serves as the managing editor of The Podium Finish. He has been part of the team since 2021 and is accredited by the National Motorsports Press Association. Solomon is a senior in the Jandoli School of Communication at St. Bonaventure University. Contact him at

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