Tuesday, August 20, 2019

ARCA: Late entrant Wayne Peterson does not sling any dirt at Springfield

PHOTO: WiseGuy on YouTube
by William Soquet
LASTCAR.info Guest Contributor
ARCA Menards Series

Wayne Peterson finished last for the 42nd time in his ARCA Menards Series career in Sunday’s Allen Crowe 100 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds when his #0 Ford did not complete any of the race’s 100 laps before retiring with brake problems.

The finish came in his 107th series start and was his first since Gateway, five races ago.

Once again, Wayne Peterson Racing rolled out two cars for the event. Originally, Buck Stevens was slated to drive the car, but by later in the week, the entry list had been updated to show Peterson in the 0. Up-and-coming driver Tim Richmond continued to diversify his racing portfolio, as the road racer continued his maiden stock car voyage with an appearance on dirt in the #06.

The dirt also brought out some familiar faces to the ARCA dirt scene. “Dirt ringers” Kelly Kovski, Ryan Unzicker and Logan Seavey entered, all three in the same machines they drove in this race a year ago: Seavey in the #20 for Venturini Motorsports, Unzicker in the Hendren Motorsports #24, and Kovski in the Allgaier Motorsports #16. It was a local affair for Unzicker and Kovski, who both hail from Illinois. Will Kimmel drove his team’s flagship entry for the first time this year. Some part-timers also joined the effort. Dale Shearer entered in a second Kimmel Racing car, Bobby Gerhart returned after somewhat of a quiet summer stretch, Eric Caudell continued his partial schedule, and Fast Track Racing entered Richard Doheny in the #1 car and Mike Basham in the #11 machine.

Peterson on track Sunday.
Rolling off on the grid last after qualifying was Peterson, whose lap of 51.7 seconds was twelve seconds slower than Shearer’s next-slowest lap and more than eighteen seconds off of Seavey’s pole time. Coming to the green, Peterson was a noticeable distance behind the field in a white car with rookie stripes on it. The car, however, stayed clean of a first-lap crash with Eric Caudell. The incident relegated Caudell to the garage after officially completing a mere one lap, filling two of the bottom five slots extremely early in the race. Tommy Vigh Jr., Basham, and Shearer filled out the Bottom Five with overheating problems, a common issue with old chassis at dirt tracks. This issue was potentially compounded by a wetter track surface for a majority of the race after an early red flag for rain. Give a call, however, to current LASTCAR championship runner-up Richard Doheny, who finished for the second time in his 34-race ARCA career, three laps down in 12th.

Looking to the LASTCAR championship battle with a mere four races left in the season, the drivers’ championship is still wide open, with Peterson now one of three drivers tied at two finishes apiece. Brad Smith currently leads on a Bottom Ten tiebreaker, 13-12 over Doheny, as both are tied with ten Bottom Five appearances. Ford leads all manufacturers with eight and has all but wrapped up the title; even if Toyota finished last in all four remaining races they could only tie Ford for the lead. As for the owners title, Wayne Peterson Racing holds a 4-3 lead over Fast Track Racing, but there is still a lot of time for things to seesaw one way or the other.

21) #0-Wayne Peterson / 0 laps / brakes
20) #7-Eric Caudell / 1 lap / crash
19) #10-Tommy Vigh Jr. / 17 laps / overheating
18) #11-Mike Basham / 26 laps / overheating
17) #68-Dale Shearer / 33 laps / overheating

1st) Ford (8)
2nd) Toyota (4)
3rd) Chevrolet, Dodge (1)

1st) Wayne Peterson Racing (4)
2nd) Fast Track Racing (3)
3rd) Brad Smith Motorsports, Kimmel Racing, Venturini Motorsports (2)
4th) KBR Development, Mullins Racing, Our Motorsports (1)


Saturday, August 17, 2019

CUP: Kevin Harvick completes fourth-most laps of a Bristol last-place finisher in dramatic duel with Austin Dillon

Kevin Harvick picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career in Saturday’s Bass Pro Shops / NRA Night Race at Bristol at the Bristol Motor Speedway when his #4 Busch Beer Ford fell out with clutch issues after 244 of 500 laps.

The finish, which came in Harvick’s 670th start, was his first of the season and first since May 27, 2018 at Charlotte, 47 races ago. In the Cup Series last-place rankings, it was the 41st for the #4, the 41st for clutch issues, and the 695th for Ford. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 65th for clutch issues, the 67th for the #4, and the 956th for Ford.

The only other time Harvick was featured on this website turned out to be one of only a few setbacks during a strong 2018 season. He scored eight victories that year, though the last at Texas turned out to be the final “encumbered” finish before NASCAR brought back disqualifications. No one knew at the time that race would begin a puzzling losing streak that continued through his championship loss to Joey Logano and the first 19 races of this season. The streak finally ended at Loudon, where he held off a spirited charge by Denny Hamlin, and just last Sunday he scored a second victory with an economy run at Michigan.

At Bristol, where his most recent of two wins came in 2016, Harvick started the weekend 14th in opening practice and 20th in Happy Hour. He improved in qualifying to take 8th on the grid with a speed of 128.434mph (14.940 seconds), second among Fords to his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Aric Almirola in 5th.

Meanwhile, taking the 39th and final starting spot was Ross Chastain, who two days earlier finished 3rd in the Playoff opener for the Gander Outdoors Truck Series. Chastain was again in Premium Motorsports’ #15 Chevrolet with new sponsorship from the Chantz Scott Auto Group. During the pace laps, he was joined by teammate Quin Houff in the #27 Premium Motorsports Chevrolet as Houff surrendered the 34th spot to pull to the outside of the row in front, 38th on the grid.

When the race started, there was a scramble in the outside lane, and at one point, Houff’s car skated up the track just as it had last week in Michigan. Houff briefly held last the first time by, then worked his way past the #00 Permatex Chevrolet of Landon Cassill. It was Cassill who was last by Lap 7, and it was he who became the first car one lap down on Lap 13 when Denny Hamlin worked past him in the high lane in Turn 3. Cassill held the spot until Lap 37, when Cassill raced past former teammate Kyle Weatherman, Bayley Currey’s relief driver in the #52 Belmont Classic Cars Chevrolet.

The night’s first accident threw in a new contender. On Lap 80, Austin Dillon blew a right-front tire in Turn 3, and the trailing Jimmie Johnson in the #48 Ally Bank Chevrolet could not keep from rear-ending Dillon’s #3 Bass Pro Shops / Tracker Off Road Chevrolet. The contact caused Dillon to slam the outside wall with the right-front corner while Johnson caught race leader Hamlin as he passed in the middle lane. All three cars spent an extended time on pit road for repairs, none longer than Dillon. Dillon managed to clear the Crash Clock while Houff and Weatherman traded last place on the restart. That changed by Lap 107, when more repairs for Dillon dropped him to last place. Dillon apparently returned to action for around eight laps, then pulled into the garage near Turn 2. Having cleared the clock, the crew was able to work on Dillon’s car and avoid the #3 scoring its first-ever Cup Series last-place finish at Bristol.

Finally, on Lap 196, Austin Dillon re-fired the engine and returned to pit road at the head of the backstretch, 92 laps down to the leaders. As he got up to speed and passed both Houff and the #53 Chelle Corporation / AQRE Ford of Josh Bilicki, the crew reported no smoke coming from the #3 while the driver said the water temperature was sitting at 232 degrees Fahrenheit. Later in the race on Lap 258, Dillon recalled how strange his accident was, saying the right front “bound up” before it blew and he held the brakes. He also said he likely wouldn’t have hit the wall if Johnson hadn’t rear-ended him.

Harvick's crew stands by during transmission repairs.
PHOTO: NASCAR Streaming Services
Harvick didn’t enter the last-place picture until a routine pit stop near the end of Stage 2. With just two laps to go in the stage, NBC’s cameras caught the #4 being pushed behind the wall with transmission issues. Replays showed the transmission fail after the jack dropped, stopping the car in its tracks. Harvick’s car happened to be one of four in the field with livestream cameras on board, so viewers could watch as the Stewart-Haas Racing team set to work underneath the machine. By Lap 284, Harvick was within 65 laps of being passed by Dillon, who was still on the track. There was also the chance of getting another spot if they returned – Reed Sorenson pulled Spire Motorsports’ #77 Go-Parts Chevrolet off after Harvick, and was the first to retire from the race. If Harvick completed just 26 more laps, he’d finish ahead of the #77, who would inherit last place if Dillon also finished.

On Lap 301, Harvick’s crew seemed to have the car fixed. He was 58 laps down and rolling toward the exit to pit road at Turn 4. Then the car stopped directly in front of the media center. The crew pushed him back, and someone diagnosed a possible clutch issue stemming from a failure in the transmission’s input shaft. It was a clutch issue that also happened to eliminate Sorenson from the race. On Lap 328, Harvick was told he could hop out of the car. Two circuits later, someone on the crew said “We’re done.” And on Lap 336, Harvick’s car was unavailable on RaceView, out with clutch issues.

Harvick stalls in front of the media center after repairs.
PHOTO: NASCAR Streaming Services
Back on the track, Dillon fell 110 laps down, but still managed to catch and pass Harvick for 38th on Lap 353. In the end, he would escape the Bottom Five completely, losing just three more laps in the process en route to a 34th-place finish. Sorenson finished 38th. The next two spots fell to Front Row Motorsports as Michael McDowell’s #34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford and David Ragan’s #38 MDS Ford were collected in a multi-car pileup that brought out the final yellow on Lap 373. Ragan’s finish came after a solid mid-pack run just days after he’d announced his intention to retire from full-time competition at the end of 2019. For McDowell, it was his first Bottom Five of 2019. Rounding out the group was Josh Bilicki, the second Rick Ware Racing driver to fall out due to fatigue this summer. Bilicki tweeted his helmet hose blower broke, forcing him to run with the visor up. The heat continued to get to him until he became sick, forcing him to pull off the track.

UPDATE: Harvick's crew chief Rodney Childers tweeted Monday that a locker in the rear gear failed and not the clutch. However, clutch remains the official cause on record.

Matt DiBenedetto, the 2016 LASTCAR XFINITY Series Champion, earned a career-best runner-up finish in Leavine Family Racing’s #95 Toyota Express Maintenance Toyota. The finish continued a strong summer stretch that began with a previous best 4th-place run at Sonoma. After leading Happy Hour, qualifying 7th, and running Top 10 most of the night, he took 2nd place with a daring three-wide pass on the final restart, then the lead after a door-to-door battle with Erik Jones that ended with Jones in the wall. He led 93 consecutive laps and was trying to hold off polesitter Denny Hamlin until contact with Playoff bubble driver Ryan Newman allowed Hamlin to catch up and get by with just 12 to go. The run came just two days after DiBenedetto confirmed rumors that he would be out of a ride next year, released from the Leavine team likely in favor of a Joe Gibbs development driver. DiBenedetto, who has turned things around after 20 LASTCAR features, still has no plans for 2020.

*This marked the first last-place finish for car #4 in a Cup Series race at Bristol.
*The 244 laps Harvick completed are the fourth-most by a last-place finisher of a Cup Series race at Bristol. The record remains 373 by Jamie McMurray on March 16, 2008.
*Harvick is the first Cup Series driver to fall out due to clutch issues since May 29, 2016, when Reed Sorenson’s World Record Striper Company / Hauling Bass Chevrolet fell out after 200 laps of the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte. Harvick is also the first to finish last at Bristol for this reason since March 30, 1980. When Buck Simmons earned his first last-place finish in the #12 Ramey’s Chevy City Chevrolet during the Valleydale Southeastern 500.
*Harvick is just the third driver to ever lead at least one lap of a Cup Series race at Bristol and finish last in the same event. The only other two instances were March 29, 1981, when Dave Marcis’ #71 Bowlin Coal / Hudson Chevrolet broke the rear end after leading 18 of the first 60 laps, and August 24, 1991, when Rusty Wallace’s #2 Miller Genuine Draft Pontiac led 16 of the first 88 laps before a crash.

39) #4-Kevin Harvick / 244 laps / clutch / led 28 laps
38) #77-Reed Sorenson / 269 laps / clutch
37) #34-Michael McDowell / 368 laps / crash
36) #38-David Ragan / 371 laps / crash
35) #53-Josh Bilicki / 373 laps / fatigue

1st) Rick Ware Racing (7)
2nd) Stewart-Haas Racing (4)
3rd) Front Row Motorsports (3)
4th) Chip Ganassi Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Spire Motorsports (2)
5th) Germain Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Motorsports Business Management (1)

1st) Chevrolet (13)
2nd) Ford (9)
3rd) Toyota (2)


XFINITY: While Tyler Reddick went from last to first at Bristol, Mason Diaz ended up staying there

PHOTO: Ricky Matthews, @WCYB_Ricky
Mason Diaz picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Friday’s Food City 300 at the Bristol Motor Speedway when his unsponsored #68 Brandonbilt Motorsports Chevrolet was involved in a single-car accident after 3 of 300 laps.

The finish came in Diaz’ fourth series start. In the XFINITY Series last-place rankings, it was the 4th for the #68, the 326th from a crash, and the 533rd for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 27th for the #68, the 1,192nd from a crash, and the 1,680th for Chevrolet.

A 19-year-old driver from Manassas, Virginia, Diaz’ journey into NASCAR is a familiar one for many of today’s up-and-comers – go-karts, Bandoleros, then the INEX Legends Series. He made the move to NASCAR through the Whelen All-American Series, first in Limited Late Model class and then to Late Model Stock Cars. All the while, he carried sponsorship from Southern Rock Carriers, themselves sponsors in the CARS Super Late Model Tour. Soon, he was balancing racing with his full-time studies at Old Dominion University, where he pursues a major in business and a minor in motorsports engineering.

Diaz was originally scheduled to run the full K&N Pro Series East schedule this year with MAD Motorsports. He was off to a solid start, coming back from a 14th-place finish in the New Smyrna opener to take 8th at Bristol, placing him 9th in points. But in the next round at South Boston, Diaz crashed in practice trying to pass a lapped car, severely damaging the right-rear of his #24 Ford. To make matters worse, the weekend was a double-header, and by failing to start both races, he dropped out of title contention. The team re-evaluated their travel costs and decided to scale back to a part-time effort.

During his rise through the ranks, Diaz has also competed in two of NASCAR’s top three series. He made his Truck Series debut for Brandonbilt Motorsports at Martinsville on October 28, 2017, qualifying a strong 9th and finishing 23rd. Last year, he made his XFINITY Series debut with Mario Gosselin’s DGM Racing, steering the #90 Chevrolet to a 19th-place finish at Richmond after starting 22nd. Brandonbilt and Diaz then reunited just this year, again at Richmond, and once more he was fast in time trials, taking 16th on the grid. But engine woes ended his night after just 63 laps, leaving him 36th. A crash-filled race at Charlotte was equally unkind, leaving him 30th at the halfway point.

Bristol not only marked Diaz’ third XFINITY start of the season, but the return of his K&N Pro Series East effort for the first time since South Boston. In the lower series, Diaz capitalized by qualifying 4th in the 16-car field and finishing there, following Sam Mayer, Ty Gibbs, and Ruben Garcia, Jr. to the checkered flag. On the XFINITY side, Diaz drove the team’s second car, a red-and-white #68 that resembled the car Will Rodgers drove in his series debut at Iowa. Diaz didn’t participate in the opening practice, then ran 34th of 38 drivers in Happy Hour. But again, he improved in qualifying, taking the 27th spot with a lap of 116.129mph (16.523 seconds).

A strong entry list of 42 drivers added drama to qualifying as four teams were sent home. Just eight-thousandths of a second bumped Chad Finchum from the field in Motorsports Business Management’s #66 Toyota. Next in line was Joe Graf, Jr., who was unable to make it in on time driving Kaulig Racing’s #10 EatSleepRace.com Chevrolet driven to top-five runs this summer by A.J. Allmendinger. Camden Murphy missed the cut in RSS Racing’s #38 Chevrolet while J.J. Yeley, swapped out of the ride, put up the 18th-fastest time in RSS’ #93. Rounding out the group was Morgan Shepherd, who debuted his “throwback” scheme on his Visone RV Chevrolet – a tribute to the Cliff Stewart-owned Performance Connection Pontiac that Shepherd drove to his first Cup win at Martinsville in 1981.

Taking the 38th and final starting spot was Tyler Reddick in the #2 Tame the BEAST Chevrolet. Reddick, the regular season points leader, was not allowed to take a qualifying time after his car failed inspection four times. This also incurred Reddick the same penalty as Matt Tifft in the Cup race at Dover earlier this year, requiring him to take a pass-through penalty at the start of the race. Joining him at the rear was 9th-place qualifier John Hunter Nemechek, whose #23 Midnight Moon Moonshine Chevrolet was sent to the rear for unapproved adjustments. Diaz also surrendered his 27th spot and started alongside Reddick in 37th, moving Nemechek up to the inside of the row in front in 35th.

When the race started, Reddick ducked down pit road as soon as he could, losing one lap in the process. But he didn’t take last as Diaz lost two laps in the race’s opening moments from an apparent trip to pit road. Diaz returned to action four laps back, only to clobber the Turn 2 wall on Lap 6. The car ground to a stop against the fence, the driver reporting something broke in the right-front of his car. “That thing just shot straight into the wall,” said someone on the team shortly after the accident. Diaz went behind the wall, done for the day. The crew continued to look over the right-front, trying to figure out what happened. On Lap 28, they examined the right-front suspension, and on Lap 36 looked over the ball joint. The crew saw something wrong with the upper suspension, but couldn’t determine if it happened before or after hitting the fence.

On that same lap, a pileup ensued in Turn 1, triggered by contact between Matt Mills, running 30th, 1 lap down, as Cole Custer and Christopher Bell raced up behind them. The gap between Mills’ car and the outside wall closed quickly, causing Custer to spin into Bell and slide down the track. Unable to avoid contact were two Cup regulars – Erik Jones in the XCI Racing #81 iK9 Stars and Stripes Toyota and Joey Logano in the #12 Snap-On Tools Ford. First Jones, then Logano slid into Bell’s stopped car, and both were eliminated from crash damage.

It was a rollercoaster weekend for the crew of the #17 Chevrolet fielded by Rick Ware Racing in conjunction with Mike Harmon Racing. Bayley Currey was named as driver for the XFINITY team’s first start since Iowa, but that changed Thursday when Currey was suspended indefinitely for accidentally violating NASCAR’s substance abuse policy. Currey said he’d been taking a sports supplement during his training which he didn’t realize contained the prohibited substance dimethylamylamine. The Ware team originally stated Kyle Weatherman would drive in Currey’s place for both the Cup and XFINITY races, but by Friday, it was Joe Nemechek behind the wheel of the #17. As in other times he’d been called upon during large entry lists, Nemechek stepped up with a 28th-best lap that put the car in the show. However, Nemechek lost at least four laps by the time of the Mills / Bell wreck and exited with a busted oil cooler.

Rounding out the Bottom Five was Justin Haley, who was battling near the Top 5 for the first 79 laps until smoke trailed from the pipes of his #11 Leaf Filter Gutter Protection Chevrolet, forcing him behind the wall with a blown engine. For Haley, Logano, and Jones, it was their first Bottom Five of 2019.

Teams big and small all found adversity in the race’s final stage as blown tires and the outside wall collected many contenders. One of the night’s biggest heartbreaks was suffered by Justin Allgaier, who was leading with 11 laps to go when a tire let go on his #7 BRANDT Professional Agriculture Chevrolet, leaving him 8th. The other was Ryan Sieg, whose top-ten car ran up as high as second inside the final 50 laps. But contact from Brandon Jones put his #39 Lombard Bros. Gaming Chevrolet into the outside wall, forcing an unscheduled pit stop, then a trip to the garage. He finished 25th.

But there were strong runs for underdogs as well, including Diaz’ teammate Brandon Brown, who rebounded after a track bar failure in opening practice put him into the outside wall. The crash forced extensive repairs before qualifying, and his car was even slow getting off the grid and joined the field halfway through the first pace lap. But Brown ran in or near the Top 10 for much of the night. He was 6th on Lap 73, and still held the spot on Lap 108 ahead of the big-dollar efforts of Chase Briscoe and Brandon Jones. Only late in the race did Jones slip off the lead lap for a 12th-place finish. Both he and Gray Gaulding, who impressed with a 6th-place finish in Bobby Dotter’s #08 Pannini Chevrolet, earned the second-best finishes of their young XFINITY Series careers. Gaulding’s run closed him within 97 points of Sieg for the final spot in the Playoffs.

Jeremy Clements finished 4th in his #51 RepairableVehicles.com Chevrolet, a return to form for his owner-driver operation at the track that also saw his first career last-place finish. It was the third top-five finish for Clements and his first since his upset victory at Road America two years ago.

And Timmy Hill with Motorsports Business Management made the most out of running the Hattori Racing Enterprises’ #61 entry that broke down in Austin Hill’s qualifying attempt last month at Daytona. Hill was a Top 10 car for much of the night and finished seventh, the first and only car one lap down. This matched Hill’s career-best finish in the series in two Daytona races in the spring of 2012 and fall of 2018.

For more on Mason Diaz, check out his website here: http://www.masondiazracing.com/

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #68 in an XFINITY Series race at Bristol. The most recent last-place finish for the number in the series was on April 29, 2011, when Matt Carter’s #68 Morro’s Truck & Welding Chevrolet fell out with a vibration after 6 laps of the Bubba Burger 250 at Richmond.

38) #68-Mason Diaz / 3 laps / crash
37) #81-Erik Jones / 36 laps / crash
36) #12-Joey Logano / 37 laps / crash
35) #17-Joe Nemechek / 43 laps / oil cooler
34) #11-Justin Haley / 79 laps / engine

1st) Motorsports Business Management (6)
2nd) RSS Racing (5)
3rd) DGM Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, Kaulig Racing (2)
4th) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Brandonbilt Motorsports, JD Motorsports, Jimmy Means Racing, Rick Ware Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (14)
2nd) Toyota (8)


TRUCKS: Jesse Little’s abrupt exit at Bristol results in his first last-place finish

PHOTO: Jesse Little, @jesselittle97
Jesse Little picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series career in Thursday’s UNOH 200 at the Bristol Motor Speedway when his #97 Visit Kingsport / Skuttle Tight Ford was collected in a multi-truck accident after 2 of 200 laps.

The finish came in Little’s 30th series start. In the Truck Series last-place rankings, this was the first for the #97, the 105th for Ford, and the 154th from a crash. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 39th for the #97, the 955th for Ford, and the 1,191st from a crash.

It’s no coincidence that NASCAR has a new driver with the last name Little behind the wheel of #97. Jesse’s father Chad Little campaigned the number from 1996 into late 2000, first for Tex Powell and then for Roush Racing. The green-and-gold John Deere colors were one of the most recognizable cars on the Winston Cup circuit, propelling Little to six of his eight last-place finishes and a career-best runner-up finish to Mark Martin at Texas in 1998.

Jesse has been racing since he was seven, and in 2012 became the youngest-ever driver to start a NASCAR K&N Pro Series race at age fifteen. Two years later, he won his first K&N Pro Series East race at Loudon and finished a career-best sixth in points. The following season in 2015, Little and his family made the jump to the Truck Series, starting a part-time effort, JJL Motorsports. Now just eighteen, Little made his series debut at Dover and qualified 9th, only to be eliminated in an early crash. His first Top Ten came the next year at Iowa.

JJL switched from Toyota to Ford last year and improved even more, finishing in the Top 10 in six of their nine starts. The strong runs lifted Little to 19th in series points despite running less than half the schedule. The youngster also made his first two Cup starts that year, finishing 35th both times – at Kentucky for Premium Motorsports and at Bristol for Gaunt Brothers Racing.

This year, however, Little and JJL have struggled to find the same consistency. Coming into Bristol, the pair made seven Truck Series starts but finished no better than 13th at Texas in March. They also finished outside the Top 20 in three of their most recent four starts, including Dover, where the track bar failed and left them a disappointing 29th after a 13th-place qualifying run. Bristol, the scene of Little’s most recent Cup start, was a chance for a turnaround. The team debuted new sponsorship from the tourism board for Kingsport, Tennessee as well as returning backing from Skuttle Tight. On Monday, the truck made an appearance at golf's World Long Drive competition on the way to the track.

Little began the Bristol weekend running 35th of the 36 trucks in opening practice with just five laps complete, then climbed to 15th in Happy Hour. He then qualified 22nd with a speed of 122.905mph (15.612 seconds).

Little was originally among 37 entries who were set to attempt the 32-truck field, but the list shrank by one after Michigan last-placer Norm Benning withdrew his #6 H&H Trucking Chevrolet. This still left four teams on the outside looking in after qualifying: Codie Rohrbaugh in the #9 Grant County Mulch Chevrolet, Cory Roper in the #04 Preferred Industrial Contractors Ford, Timothy Peters in Ricky Benton’s #92 BTS Tire & Wheel Distributor / NAPA Filters Ford, and Lou Goss in his #74 Kramer Service Group / A&A Haulers Chevrolet.

Starting last was Angela Ruch, who returned to the series for the first time since June at Texas. She drove one of Al Niece’s entries, the #44 The Ruch Life Chevrolet, and although she’d made just six starts in 2019, the #44 had attempted every race, giving the team a superior rank in Owner Points to the four part-time efforts sent home after qualifying. She’d be joined at the rear by just one other driver – Sheldon Creed, whose #2 Chevrolet Accessories Chevrolet had started 24th, but was sent to the rear for unapproved adjustments following engine issues in qualifying. Coming to the start, either Creed or Ruch was still in the last row with a black truck, likely 29th-place qualifier J.J. Yeley’s #34 Colonial Countertops Chevrolet, starting alongside.

On the break, the last row showed a white and black truck in the final row. Ruch remained in last place for the start, but dropped Yeley to last at the end of the first lap, 8.166 seconds back of the lead. Yeley was still last on Lap 3 when the battle ended abruptly.

That time by, Little was running in a large pack of traffic when Gus Dean spun coming off Turn 4. Little checked-up and was rear-ended by a closing Sheldon Creed, knocking Little into a spin that backed him into the outside wall before he stopped next to Dean’s truck. The contact left Little sitting backwards in the middle of the track with heavy damage to the rear clip. While Dean, Creed, and the trailing Jordan Anderson in the #3 Capital City Towing / Sefton Steel Chevrolet all stopped at the scene, each started moving again and eventually cleared the minimum speed requirement under the Crash Clock. Little, however, remained stopped on track long enough to be the first to lose a lap. He was then brought to the garage, done for the night.

Yeley pulled his truck behind the wall shortly after the restart, and Ruch was eliminated in a crash down the frontstretch at the start of Stage 2. Finishing 29th was John Hunter Nemechek, whose #8 Berry’s Manufacturing Chevrolet was rear-ended in the opening stages, then collected in a pileup with Johnny Sauter on Lap 76. With heavy damage to the front and rear of his machine, Nemechek pulled behind the wall, done for the day. Jordan Anderson, who narrowly avoided serious damage in the Little accident, lost an engine past the halfway point and rounded out the Bottom Five.

For more on Jesse Little, check out his website here: https://jesselittle.com/JesseLittle.html

*This marked the first ever last-place finish for the #97 in a Truck Series race. The number is also one of the rarest in the series. Prior to JJL Motorsports’ first start in 2015, the number had just seventeen starts, capped by a strong 7th-place finish by Jeff Choquette at Iowa in 2014.
*Little is tied for the fewest laps completed by a Truck Series last-place finisher at Bristol. Also completing two laps in the race was Johnny Sauter, now tied with Norm Benning for the most series last-place finishes. On August 22, 2012, Chapman’s #5 RSS Racing Chevrolet had electrical issues in the UNOH 200.

32) #97-Jesse Little / 2 laps / crash
31) #34-J.J. Yeley / 12 laps / transmission
30) #44-Angela Ruch / 65 laps / crash
29) #8-John Hunter Nemechek / 75 laps / crash
28) #3-Jordan Anderson / 102 laps / engine

1st) NEMCO Motorsports (3)
2nd) Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing, Norm Benning Racing, Young’s Motorsports (2)
3rd) Copp Motorsports, DGR-Crosley, Halmar Friesen Racing, Hattori Racing Enterprises, JJL Motorsports, Niece Motorsports, Reaume Brothers Racing, ThorSport Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (13)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (2)


Thursday, August 15, 2019

PREVIEW: Bristol sees a multitude of Truck and XFINITY teams rejoin the circuit

PHOTO: TriMaxx Graphics
Thursday, August 15, 2019
TRUCKS Race 17 of 23
UNOH 200 at Bristol
Round of 8 – Race 1 of 3
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Bayley Currey

There are 36 drivers entered for 32 spots in Thursday’s opener at “Thunder Valley,” meaning four teams will miss the show (following the withdrawal of Norm Benning). It’s the most entrants for a Truck Series race since Charlotte in May, where 38 drivers entered before two withdrew.

MISSING: #0-Jennifer Jo Cobb
Jennifer Jo Cobb will not be entering the #0 truck at Bristol, one week after Daniel Sasnett wrecked during his qualifying lap. Sasnett’s #0 was originally planned to be Cobb’s truck for Bristol and Mosport, but those plans have likely changed. Cobb is still entered in her #10, but it is not yet clear which of her remaining trucks she will drive.

WITHDREW: #6-Norm Benning Racing
Following his last-place finish at Michigan, Benning has withdrawn from this week's race. He is expected to run the following Sunday in Mosport, again running the truck he ran at Eldora.

MISSING: #14-Trey Hutchens Racing
Trey Hutchens returned to the circuit last week with a 16th-place finish in his own equipment. The team is not entered for this Thursday’s race.

One to watch on Thursday will be Dylan Lupton, who has finished strong in his previous starts for DGR-Crosley. This week, he takes the place of Anthony Alfredo in the #15, which was collected along with his teammates in a late-race accident, leaving Alfredo 26th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #20-Young's Motorsports
Spencer Boyd was entered in this truck, but by Tuesday was once again out, and will again be replaced by Landon Huffman, who filled in for Boyd at Eldora. Boyd made his Cup debut just last Sunday with Rick Ware Racing.

Current K&N Pro Series East championship leader Sam Mayer will run double-duty between the East Series and his first national series start in Trucks. The 16-year-old from Franklin, Wisconsin will drive GMS Racing’s #21, a team we haven’t seen on the circuit all year following Johnny Sauter’s release at the end of 2018. Manpower is the listed sponsor.

RETURNING: #30-On Point Motorsports
Brennan Poole and the On Point team are back in action for the first time since Kentucky, where Poole steered his Toyota to a 15th-place finish. Poole has five XFINITY starts at Bristol, including a track-best 6th in his most recent start in the summer of 2017. However, if he qualifies, this will be his first Truck start at the track.

DRIVER CHANGE: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
Ryan Sieg is going Truck Series racing for the second time this year and first since his 16th-place showing at Dover back in the spring. Then as now, he drives in place of Josh Reaume in the #33 Chevrolet, this time sponsored by Cook’s Comfort System. Reaume finished 18th with this team last week in Michigan.

DRIVER CHANGE: #34-Reaume Brothers Racing
XFINITY Series regular Chad Finchum was slated to make his Truck Series debut with the #34 team, taking the place of 21st-place Michigan finisher Jesse Iwuji. However, that plan apparently changed by Tuesday as J.J. Yeley was listed to drive the Colonial Countertops Chevrolet, leading off a triple-header weekend for the Arizona native. If he qualifies, it will be Yeley’s first Truck start since last year at Pocono, when he drove this same team to a 31st-place finish.

MISSING: #38-Niece Motorsports
At both Pocono and Michigan, T.J. Bell was entered at the last minute in Al Niece’s part-time #38 Chevrolet. However, with a large entry list, it’s unlikely that will happen this week. Bell finished 29th at Michigan.

DRIVER CHANGE: #44-Niece Motorsports
Angela Ruch returns to action for her seventh series start of the year and first since Texas in June, where crash left her 29th in the running order. She takes the place of Bayley Currey, a career-best 6th at Michigan following his first top-ten finish since his second career start at Phoenix in the fall of 2017. This week, Currey will instead run both XFINITY and Cup (see below).

RETURNING: #46-Kyle Busch Motorsports
Raphael Lessard returns to action for the fourth time in 2019 and first since Iowa, where he ran 9th for DGR-Crosley. This time, he moves back to Kyle Busch Motorsports and their part-time #46 team, last seen at Gateway where Chandler Smith finished a team season-best 4th. Spectra Premium will back Lessard’s effort.

MISSING: #49-CMI Motorsports
Ray Ciccarelli has not entered his #49 Chevrolet, one week after earning his first career top-ten finish at Michigan with a 9th-place showing.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Kyle Busch Motorsports
The aforementioned Chandler Smith will also be running this Thursday, taking the place of 13th-place Michigan finisher Brandon Jones. On top of his 4th-place finish at Gateway, Smith won the pole in Iowa and led 55 laps before he finished 8th. iBUYPOWER, his backer at Gateway, will again sponsor the Toyota.

RETURNING: #56-Hill Motorsports
The Hill brothers are back for the first time since their season-best 11th-place showing at Kentucky, and Timmy Hill will drive the Southern Freight Services Chevrolet for the first time since Chicagoland. Timmy has five Cup starts at Bristol and another 12 in XFINITY, but he has never before raced a truck at Bristol. Timmy is also entered in Friday’s XFINITY race (see below).

RETURNING: #68-Clay Greenfield Racing
Clay Greenfield also rejoins the Truck Series, eyeing his third series start of the year and first since a 16th-place finish at Kentucky. Rackley Roofing continues as sponsor as Greenfield looks to make this race for a sixth time and third year in a row. His track-best finish was a 16th for Rick Ware Racing in 2010. Greenfield's blue truck will also carry a decal celebrating Darrell and Stevie Waltrip's 50th wedding anniversary.

RETURNING: #74-Lou Goss Racing
Lou Goss will drive his own truck for the first time since his brief debut at Gateway. William Soquet, our Guest Contributor for the ARCA Menards Series, had the opportunity to speak with Goss, who said the #74 that Darwin Peters, Jr. ran at Eldora was not the former Harmon truck Goss acquired over the offseason, but another truck Peters entered using Goss' Owner Points. The Bristol truck, however, will be the Gateway truck with A&A Haulers and Kramer Service Group remaining as sponsors.

RETURNING: #75-Henderson Motorsports
Bristol mainstay Charlie Henderson brings his Food Country USA Chevrolet back to “Thunder Valley” with Parker Kligerman behind the wheel. Henderson and Kligerman haven’t started a Truck Series race since Atlanta, where they ran 20th.

MISSING: #87-NEMCO Motorsports
Joe Nemechek has not entered his second truck, which ran 31st at Michigan with Camden Murphy. Murphy is also not entered in this race, and will instead run XFINITY on Friday (see below).

RETURNING: #92-RBR Enterprises
Ricky Benton’s team has made just one start all year – Martinsville, where Austin Theriault finished 22nd, two laps down. The team missed the cut in their two other attempts, failing to qualify at both Daytona and Charlotte. Timothy Peters, who ran the Charlotte truck, is entered this week in RBR’s Ford sponsored by BTS Tire & Wheel Distributors and NAPA Filters.

RETURNING: #97-JJL Motorsports
The reunion continues as Jesse Little rejoins the circuit for the first time since Gateway, where he ran 21st. The JJL team has picked up new sponsorship from Visit Kingsport, the tourism board for Kingsport, Tennessee. Little has three Bristol starts in this series with a best of 13th two years ago.


Friday, August 16, 2019
XFINITY Race 22 of 33
Food City 300 at Bristol
2018 Last-Place Finisher: J.J. Yeley

There are 42 drivers entered for 38 spots, meaning four teams will miss the race.

DRIVER CHANGE: #4-JD Motorsports
The red-and-gold paint scheme returns for JD Motorsports’ #4 Chevrolet, one week after Lawson Aschenbach’s dizzying paint scheme wound up 28th after a late crash at Mid-Ohio. Landon Cassill will drive as part of a double-duty effort with Cup, making his eighth XFINITY start of the year and first since Loudon, when he drove Morgan Shepherd’s #89 to a 37th-place finish.

DRIVER CHANGE: #5-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #78-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
The first of four team driver swaps this week comes from B.J. McLeod’s effort, where Vinnie Miller moves from the #5 back to the #78 after a 25th-place finish in Mid-Ohio. Miller takes over for Scott Heckert, who drove the #78 to a 29th-place finish after a late crash. The swap allows Matt Mills to return to the #5 for the first time since Iowa, where he ran 18th. Mills finished 21st in the spring Bristol race.

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-JR Motorsports
Jeb Burton eyes his fourth XFINITY start of the season and first since Michigan in June, where he ran 9th. Burton has finished no worse than that run all season, peaked with a 5th-place run at Texas. As at Michigan, LS Tractor will sponsor the #8 Chevrolet. He takes the place of Regan Smith, who finished 21st at Mid-Ohio.

DRIVER CHANGE: #10-Kaulig Racing
Now 5th in this year’s ARCA Menards Series standings, Joe Graf, Jr. will drive for a second different XFINITY team this year. After two previous starts with Richard Childress Racing’s part-time #21, he will instead drive Kaulig Racing’s part-time #10 that ran 3rd last Saturday with A.J. Allmendinger. Graf’s sponsorship from EATSLEEPRACE.com follows him as sponsor.

RETURNING: #12-Penske Racing
Roger Penske’s #12 Ford Mustang is on the entry list, and as in its previous six starts, that means another Cup driver is in the field. This time, it’s Joey Logano, who last ran the series at Chicagoland, finishing runner-up to Cole Custer.

DRIVER SWAP: #13-Motorsports Business Management
DRIVER SWAP: #66-Motorsports Business Management
After running both road courses in the #66, Tommy Joe Martins switches to the #13, and Chad Finchum takes his place in the #66. Martins finished well ahead of Finchum last week, running 18th to Finchum’s 35th.

RETURNING: #17-Rick Ware Racing
Rick Ware hasn’t fielded his XFINITY car since Iowa, where Mark Meunier’s accident caused them to miss the cut. The team has returned this week with Bayley Currey running double-duty. It was Currey who gave the team its most recent start at Loudon, where he finished 35th. UPDATE: On Thursday, Currey was suspended indefinitely by NASCAR for violating their substance abuse policy. Kyle Weatherman will be the replacement driver. UPDATE 2: Joe Nemechek was instead tabbed the relief driver in place of Weatherman.

DRIVER CHANGE: #18-Joe Gibbs Racing
Another Cup regular in the field is Kyle Busch, who has won three of his five XFINITY starts this year and likely would have won his last time out at Watkins Glen before his suspension failed in Turn 5. Busch takes the place of Jack Hawksworth, who enjoyed an excellent debut at Mid-Ohio, starting outside-pole, leading five laps, winning Stage 2, and finishing 15th.

RETURNING: #28-H2 Motorsports
Shane Lee and Matt Hurley’s team rejoin the XFINITY Series for the first time since Iowa in July, where they ran a season-best 7th in their sixth and most recent start. Lee has one XFINITY start at Bristol with Richard Childress Racing in the spring of last year, where he ran 14th.

J.J. Yeley moves from the #38 that ran next-to-last in Mid-Ohio to the #93 for the second leg of his triple-header at Bristol. Taking over the #38 this week is Camden Murphy, who comes over from NEMCO’s #87 truck that wasn’t entered this week. Murphy’s fifth and most recent XFINITY start of the year came in Iowa in July, where he ran a season-best 24th.

MISSING: #42-Motorsports Business Management
NEW TEAM: #61-Motorsports Business Management
MBM has made a curious choice this week in Bristol, not entering the #42 that has run every race this season and finished 27th with Timmy Hill last week in Mid-Ohio. Hill will instead run a new car number for the team, the #61. We last saw this number take the green with upstart Fury Race Cars LLC with Kaz Grala behind the wheel. UPDATE: This #61 is the Hattori Racing Enterprises team that failed to qualify at Daytona. Timmy Hill drives in place of Austin Hill, meaning the rear window decal doesn't need to be changed.

DRIVER CHANGE: #68-Brandonbilt Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #86-Brandonbilt Motorsports
Another driver swap sees Brandon Brown return to his #86 in place of Will Rodgers, who is not entered after a strong 12th-place showing in Mid-Ohio. Brown struggled through at least two accidents before a 24th-place finish. Taking Brown’s place in the part-time #68 is Mason Diaz, who finished 36th in his series debut at Richmond, then 30th at Charlotte.

DRIVER CHANGE: #74-Mike Harmon Racing
After two straight weeks of road racers Dan Corcoran and Aaron Quine running his Chevorlet, Mike Harmon was set to return to the seat of his #74 Chevrolet for his 14th series start at Bristol. That changed by Tuesday, when Tyler Matthews, who formerly drove for JD Motorsports, was tabbed to drive in Harmon's place. There is no word as yet if Matthews or another road course ringer will run the car next week in Road America.

The end of Jeffrey Earnhardt’s partnership with iK9 last week has extended into XCI Racing’s part-time XFINITY effort, which returns to action this week. In Earnhardt’s place is Cup regular Erik Jones. Jones hasn’t started an XFINITY Series race since November 11, 2017 at Phoenix, when he won the pole and finished 3rd for Joe Gibbs Racing.

RETURNING: #89-Shepherd Racing Ventures
Morgan Shepherd looks to make his 11th XFINITY start of 2019 and first since Iowa in July, where he ran 36th. If he qualifies, it will be Shepherd’s 33rd series start at Bristol, a track where he’s won three poles and four races.

Chris Dyson’s XFINITY debut at Mid-Ohio came to an abrupt end on an early restart when he rear-ended Cole Custer, crumpling his Thetford-sponsored #90 Chevrolet. This week, the branding on the Mario Gosselin car is again Bassett Gutters and More. While Dillon Bassett was on the preliminary entry list, it will instead be older brother Ronnie Bassett, Jr. in the car this week. Ronnie’s eighth and most recent series start came at Kentucky, where he ran 29th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Patrick Gallagher enjoyed a quiet run in his XFINITY debut at Mid-Ohio, finishing 23rd as he became the first driver one lap down in the race’s final moments. This week, C.J. McLaughlin will run the #99, rejoining the XFINITY circuit for the first time since Loudon, where he ran 28th for RSS Racing in the #39 Chevrolet. Then as now, the sponsor is Sci Aps.

CUP INVADERS: #12-Joey Logano, #18-Kyle Busch, #81-Erik Jones

Sunday, August 17, 2019
CUP Race 24 of 36
Bass Pro Shops / NRA Night Race at Bristol
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Gray Gaulding

There are 39 drivers entered for Saturday’s 40-car main event, marking the sixth straight short field and 19th out of the 24 races this season.

TEAM UPDATE: #38-Front Row Motorsports
News broke on Wednesday that David Ragan will retire from full-time competition at the end of this season to spend more time with his family. Ragan has run every Cup race since his 5th-place finish in the 2007 Daytona 500, earning two wins and two last-place finishes. Ragan has made 25 Cup starts at Bristol alone with a best finish of 10th in the 2008 night race.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Rick Ware Racing
The entry list story on the Cup side has to be Rick Ware Racing, which expands from three to four cars for the first time and has different drivers in each. Last week, Cody Ware finished 36th in the flagship #51, the last car under power. This week, B.J. McLeod will run double-duty with his XFINITY ride for JD Motorsports, and welcomes new sponsorship from Pinnacle Sports & Entertainment.

DRIVER CHANGE: #52-Rick Ware Racing
Bayley Currey’s double-duty weekend with the XFINITY Series continues on Saturday, where he takes the place of 32nd-place Michigan finisher Austin Theriault. Belmont Classic Cars rejoins the Ware team as sponsor, as they had with B.J. McLeod’s last-place run at Dover earlier this year. This time around, the car will be a soft cream color with brown accents. Currey ran another Belmont-sponsored Ware car in his first Cup start at Bristol earlier this year, where he ran 31st, 12 laps down. UPDATE: On Thursday, Currey was suspended indefinitely by NASCAR for violating their substance abuse policy. Kyle Weatherman will be the replacement driver.

DRIVER CHANGE: #53-Rick Ware Racing
Spencer Boyd struggled in his Cup debut last week, ultimately eliminated in an accident that left him in last place. Josh Bilicki takes the controls of the part-time #53 team this week with AQRE as a team sponsor for a third straight race. Bilicki’s most recent start was when AQRE debuted as sponsor for the #52 at Watkins Glen, yielding a 32nd-place showing for his best of 2019. This will be Bilicki’s first Cup start at Bristol.

NEW TEAM: #54-Rick Ware Racing
Rounding out the Ware quartet is triple-duty driver J.J. Yeley, who brings car #54 back to the Cup Series for the first time since the 2003 season finale at Homestead, the last start for Sam Belnavis’ short-lived BelCar racing team. Yeley carries sponsorship from legendary metal band Slayer. The driver is currently taking a poll on which of the band’s songs to be played during his part of driver introductions.

DRIVER CHANGE: #77-Spire Motorsports
Last week, Reed Sorenson practiced and qualified the Spire Motorsports car at Michigan while Garrett Smithley was running the XFINITY race at Mid-Ohio. This week, Sorenson is the entered driver of the #77 with returning sponsor Go-Parts.com as sponsor.

Today in LASTCAR history (August 15, 1993): Rich Bickle picked up the 1st last-place finish of his Cup Series career when his #45 Terminal Trucking Ford lost the engine after 10 laps of the Champion Spark Plug 400 at Michigan. The finish, which came in Bickle’s 12th series start, saw him qualify 36th in the 41-car field. Another eleven drivers failed to qualify for the race, including James Hylton in a Pontiac sponsored by Rumple Furniture, future Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday, Jr. in a Wayne Spears #76 Chevrolet, and Jeremy Mayfield in the Sadler Brothers’ #95 Shoney’s Ford.