Thursday, March 21, 2019

PREVIEW: Two new owner-driver teams among the entrants at Martinsville

PHOTOS: @TimmyHillRacer, Tony Mrakovich Racing
Saturday, March 23, 2019
TRUCKS Race 4 of 23
Alpha Energy Solutions 250 at Martinsville
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Mike Senica

The preliminary entry list for Saturday’s return of the Truck Series stood at 37, but soon after posting, two teams withdrew (#80, #87), dropping the count to 35. On Tuesday, three more teams were added (#9, #11, #43), two of which revealed on social media earlier in the week, bringing the list back up to 39 trucks. As it stands, seven trucks will be sent home after qualifying, equaling the season-high mark set at Daytona.

DRIVER CHANGE: #1-Beaver Motorsports
Travis Kvapil is entered in Mark Beaver’s #1 truck for the first time since he was withdrawn at both Daytona and Atlanta. He takes the place of Stefan Parsons, who gave Beaver’s team its debut at Vegas, but was sidelined with carburetor issues in a 31st-place finish.

Recuperating from his illness at Fontana, Austin Dillon is back in the Truck Series for the first time since February 24, 2018 at Atlanta, where he ran 20th for Young’s Motorsports. This time, he takes over Joe Nemechek’s #8 Chevrolet, replacing Vegas 16th-place finisher Angela Ruch. It will be Dillon’s first Truck Series start at Martinsville since his championship season in 2011, when he finished 7th in the spring and 3rd in the fall.

RETURNING: #9-CR7 Motorsports
Codie Rohrbaugh attempts his first Truck Series start since he failed to qualify in Daytona. Longtime backer Grant County Mulch remains his sponsor.

DRIVER CHANGE(?): #10-Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing
As of this writing, Jennifer Jo Cobb is not listed as the driver of her own #10 Chevrolet she has driven through the season’s first three rounds, and the driver name entry has been left blank.

Mark Rette’s team switched truck numbers from the #82 to the #11 this week, but it’s still KBM driver Spencer Davis behind the wheel of the team’s Ford. Davis seeks his first Truck Series start on a short track following five starts at tracks 1.5 miles long and larger.

MISSING: #15-DGR-Crosley
Anthony Alfredo competed in Tuesday night’s eNASCAR online race, but is not entered in this Saturday’s event, nor is David Gilliland’s new third truck, the #15.

Tyler Ankrum returns to the site of his Truck Series debut last fall, when he finished 18th in DGR-Crosley’s #54 Toyota. This time around, he moves to the team’s #17, taking the place of Ryan Reed, who ran a solid 9th in Las Vegas. May’s Hawaii rejoins Ankrum as sponsor.

RETURNING: #19-Bill McAnally Racing
Welcome back Derek Kraus, who returns to Truck Series competition for the first time since his outstanding 8th-place series debut last fall at the ISM Raceway. He once again drives for Bill McAnally Racing, and as reported here, the team has at least three trucks in their shop. NAPA Auto Parts continues its partnership with the team’s efforts with primary backing from ENEOS.

For the first time this year, Austin Wayne Self is not the listed driver of the #22 Go Texan / AM Technical Solutions Chevrolet. After the driver's name was left blank earlier in the week, Bubba Wallace was added on Wednesday to run double-duty. The two-time Truck Series winner at Martinsville has not taken the green in the series since May 11, 2018, when he ran 14th in Kansas.

RETURNING: #27-ThorSport Racing
Myatt Snider and the #27 team are another returning duo from Daytona, where they finished 21st following one of the night’s many crashes. Snider made his first two Martinsville starts last year, finishing 6th in the spring and 3rd in the fall.

DRIVER CHANGE: #34-Reaume Brothers Racing
Daniel Sasnett looks to make his Truck Series debut despite making just one start in the ARCA Menards Series – a 34th-place finish in the 2018 opener in Daytona. The 41-year-old driver from Florida drives in place of Jesse Iwuji, who reported for duty immediately after he finished 26th in the last round in Las Vegas. Standard Sand and Silica, which backed Sasnett in Daytona, is the listed sponsor.

MISSING: #42-Chad Finley Racing
Chad Finley’s team is not entered this week following their withdrawal in Las Vegas which resulted from the team’s hauler accident leaving the Atlanta track.

NEW TEAM: #43-Tony Mrakovich Racing
When we last saw Tony Mrakovich in NASCAR, he had made his XFINITY Series debut in Richmond last spring, finishing 24th for the now-defunct JGL Racing. It was a solid finish given that he’d been swapped out of his ride the week before at Bristol. Still with just six ARCA Menards Series starts on his resume, Mrakovich has now become an owner-driver in the old school way, fielding a #43 with returning sponsorship from Street Stores Hardware.

DRIVER CHANGE: #44-Niece Motorsports
Reid Wilson seeks his 2019 series debut this Saturday, returning to the site of his career-best 16th-place finish in his series debut last spring. This time around, he drives for Al Niece, taking over the #44 Chevrolet from Las Vegas 12th-place finisher Timothy Peters.

RETURNING: #46-Kyle Busch Motorsports
17-year-old Raphael Lessard, the 2016 CARS Super Late Model Tour champion from Quebec, eyes his Truck Series debut this week. Slated to drive KBM’s #46, a team which made its most recent start last fall at the ISM Raceway with Christian Eckes, Lessard carries sponsorship from Spectra Premium and an 8th-place finish in the ARCA event at Five Flags Speedway earlier this month.

RETURNING: #49-CMI Motorsports
Ray Ciccarelli’s owner-driver operation is back in action this week after the team withdrew from Las Vegas. Ciccarelli aims to make his first Truck Series start at Martinsville in his #49 sponsored by CMI Installations and Cool Weld.

Team part-owner David Gilliland returns to the Truck Series for the first time since his 13th-place showing in Daytona, and takes over for Natalie Decker, 13th in Vegas. Gilliland aims to make his first Truck start at Martinsville since 2015, when he finished 23rd for Ricky Benton.

NEW TEAM: #56-Hill Motorsports
Still another owner-driver operation opened its doors earlier this month as NASCAR part-timer Timmy Hill and brother Tyler Hill now have their own Truck Series effort. Running the same #56 that their father Jerry Hill ran in Cup in the early 1990s (a separate team from the current effort), the Hill brothers acquired two trucks from MDM Motorsports, and look to run about 10 races in 2019. According to Hill’s interview with Catchfence, Jerry Hill, Carl Long, and Rick Ware are among those who have helped get the effort off the ground. Southern Freight Services is the listed sponsor.

DRIVER CHANGE: #63-Copp Motorsports
On the same night Derek Kraus turned heads in BMR’s truck at the ISM Raceway, Dawson Cram quietly finished a career-best 16th, and has yet to finish worse than 24th in his Truck Series career. This week, Cram aims for his first start since that night, returning to the site of his 17th-place showing for Mark Beaver last spring. He takes over for Scott Stenzel, who was sidelined early in Las Vegas en route to a last-place finish.

WITHDREW: #80-Jacob Wallace Racing
First of the withdrawals during the week, Jacob Wallace’s team pulled out of what would have been their first attempt since a DNQ in Atlanta earlier this year. The team had by far the most unique primary sponsor from the Sinister Suite Haunted Hotel.

WITHDREW: #87-NEMCO Motorsports
NEMCO Motorsports elected to withdraw their second truck, which team owner Joe Nemechek was slated to drive.

RETURNING: #92-RBR Enterprises
Ricky Benton’s team and driver Austin Theriault are still another pair returning to action for the first time since a DNQ in Daytona. Theriault has just one Truck Series start at Martinsville – a 20th for Young’s Motorsports back in the fall of 2016.

MISSING: #97-JJL Racing
Jesse Little and the JJL Racing team aren’t entered this week following a 19th-place showing in Las Vegas.

CUP INVADERS: #8-Austin Dillon, #51-Kyle Busch

Sunday, March 24, 2019
CUP Race 6 of 36
STP 500 at Martinsville
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Landon Cassill

After two straight years of running just 38 cars, the spring race at Martinsville falls to just 36 starters with no “open” teams entered. It is the smallest Cup field at Martinsville since September 22, 1996, a race which had 42 entrants and six DNQs. It is also the fifth-straight short field in 2019.

MISSING: #27-Premium Motorsports
One week after the #27 team returned to action in Fontana with Reed Sorenson, who finished 34th, neither driver nor team are entered in Martinsville.

Jeb Burton will make his second-straight Cup start at Martinsville, and his second in a row for Rick Ware Racing at the track following a 33rd-place showing last fall. This time around, he drives Ware’s second car, the #52, and is listed in a Chevrolet in place of the Mustang run on the “West Coast Swing.” The Ford will instead go to teammate Cody Ware, who runs the #51.

MISSING: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Although the XFINITY Series is off this weekend, Carl Long’s team has not entered their Cup car this weekend at Martinsville, one week after Joey Gase finished 35th in Fontana.

DRIVER CHANGE: #77-Spire Motorsports
Last year, D.J. Kennington ran both Martinsville races as part of his part-time Cup campaign, finishing 28th in the spring and 27th in the fall for Gaunt Brothers Racing. The latter was a last-minute deal where he was swapped in for Jeffrey Earnhardt. This time around, the Gaunt Brothers aren’t entered, and Kennington takes over for Fontana 36th-place finisher Garrett Smithley in Spire Motorsports’ #77 Chevrolet.

Saturday, March 30, 2019
XFINITY Race 6 of 33
My Bariatric Solutions 300 at Texas
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Jeff Green

It’s the XFINITY Series’ turn to take the week off. The series returns a week from Saturday for a triple-header weekend in Texas.

This day in LASTCAR History: (March 21, 1976): Bill Elliott picks up the first last-place finish of his Cup Series career at his home track, the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Making just his second career start that day, Elliott’s #9 Dahlongea Ford Sales Ford broke the driveshaft after 21 laps, leaving him last in the 21-car field. David Pearson won the race. While Elliott would have to wait until 1983 to claim his first Cup win, he wouldn’t finish last again for more than four years.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

CUP: Clint Bowyer the only retiree in Fontana after race-long engine woes

Clint Bowyer picked up the 8th last-place finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at the Auto Club Speedway of Southern California when his #14 Rush Travel Centers / Haas Automation Ford fell out with overheating issues after 130 of 200 laps.

The finish, which came in Bowyer’s 474th series start, was his first of the season and first in Cup since September 3, 2017 at Darlington, 52 races ago. In the Cup Series last-place rankings, this was the 40th for car #14, the 116th from overheating issues, and the 689th for Ford. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 59th for the #14, the 172nd from overheating, and the 948th for Ford.

The last time Bowyer was featured on LASTCAR in 2017, his frustrating night in Darlington all but eliminated him from Playoff contention. It was a disappointing end to his first full season with Stewart-Haas Racing after taking over for the retired Tony Stewart. All that changed last year, when he ended a nearly six-year winless drought at Martinsville, claimed a rain-shortened win at Michigan, and remained in Playoff contention until a crash in the penultimate round at the ISM Raceway. Bowyer’s 12th-place rank in points was his best since 2013, and set him up for another strong year in 2019.

Coming into Fontana, Bowyer sat 11th in the standings with a season-best 5th at Atlanta. Through those first four rounds, his #14 Ford Mustang had ranked no worse than 20th, his lone DNF of 2019 after a crash in the Daytona 500. He looked to keep the momentum going in Fontana, a track where he’d finished inside the Top 10 in nearly half of his 18 starts, and finished inside the Top 20 in his last three in a row.

Bowyer’s Fontana weekend began with the 14th-fastest speed in opening practice. He then made the controversial third round of Friday’s qualifying session, improving from 13th in Round 1 to 9th in Round 2. When he and the rest of the Round 3 participants waited too long to time in, he was officially credited with the 9th spot from Round 2. Officially, he had no listed speed, though his Round 2 mark clocked in at 178.359mph (40.368 seconds).

Starting 38th and last on Sunday was Joey Gase, who was back in the Cup garage for the first time since his disastrous weekend in Las Vegas. Team owner Carl Long at Motorsports Business Management made good on his promise to run logos for Nevada’s chapter of the Donate Life organ donor program on Gase’s #66 Toyota, running the exact same paint scheme that completed just 10 circuits in Vegas. He was joined at the back by two teammates from Front Row Motorsports: rookie Matt Tifft, whose #36 Surface Sunscreen / Tunity Ford changed engines, and Michael McDowell, whose #34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford twice failed pre-race inspection.

Rolling off pit road after the command, Tifft stopped at the exit of pit road along with the #00 Manscaped Chevrolet of Landon Cassill, the #77 Benevolent Foundation Chevrolet of Garrett Smithley (which, like his XFINITY ride for JD Motorsports, was backed by CalFire, where Smithley’s father works as a wildfire tanker pilot), and the #52 Mtel-One Ford of B.J. McLeod. The four of them then rejoined the pack into Turn 3. By the end of the first pace lap, McLeod and Smithley lagged behind last-place Gase’s #66, as did Reed Sorenson in the #27 Rim Ryderz Chevrolet. The field then ran a five-wide salute to the fans, after which point McDowell dropped to the rear, followed by Tifft. Neither Front Row car spent much time in the rear as Sorenson, McLeod, Smithley, and Gase all dropped in behind the pair and filled out the final two rows when the green flag dropped.

On the break, Gase was running alongside Smithley, who shook off the #66 as they exited Turn 2. Smithley also made quick work of McLeod, who dropped back into Gase’s sights. By Lap 8, Gase reported a tight condition while McLeod pulled away from him, and the pair were more than 20 seconds back of the leaders. Those leaders caught up to Gase on Lap 13, then the next time by passed on the high side of Turn 1, putting Gase the first car one lap down. Gase lost a second lap by the 26th circuit, just short of green-flag stops.

The first round of pit stops caused last place to change hands several times. Cody Ware, McLeod’s Rick Ware Racing teammate in the #51 Jacob Companies Chevrolet, took the spot after his stop on Lap 33. Smithley took it seconds later on the same circuit. On Lap 34, McLeod took 38th for the first time, and returned to action three laps back of the lead. Gase finally made his first stop on Lap 37, and retook the position the next time by.

It was on this same 37th lap that Bowyer began to find trouble. Running 18th at the time, Bowyer radioed his crew that his engine felt like it was blowing up, that he had dropped a cylinder and there was smoke in the cockpit. Nevertheless, the #14 continued to run under power while a two-car battle ensued for last between Gase, 4 laps down by the 45th circuit, and McLeod, who picked up a large piece of debris on the backstretch. The pair then made several pit stops: McLeod took last again on Lap 58, followed by Gase on the 65th, McLeod on the 66th, Gase on the 67th, and McLeod on the Lap 68 restart.

On Lap 74, McLeod slowed down the backstretch and pulled to the apron of Turns 3 and 4. The Ford then crept down pit road and pulled into the garage, apparently done for the day. However, on Lap 86, the Rick Ware crew got the #52 rolling again, and McLeod returned to action 18 laps down on Lap 88. At that point, all 38 drivers were still on the track – including a concerned Bowyer – with none more laps down than McLeod.

Through all of this, Bowyer’s day went from bad to worse. A spotter miscommunication led to a tangle with Corey LaJoie’s #32 Hartford Gold Group Ford as the two raced off Turn 4, causing some cosmetic damage to both sides of the #14. Then, around Lap 135, Bowyer pulled into the garage area, citing the same engine issue from before. This time, the problem proved terminal. Five laps down in 33rd already, Bowyer’s car was pulled off RaceView on Lap 142 and shown “out” on FOX’s leaderboard soon after. On Lap 155, McLeod finally moved past Bowyer, dropping the #14 to last place. As it turned out, the Kansas native was the day’s only retiree, and the only one to score his first Bottom Five of 2019.

McLeod finished 37th, a full 42 laps ahead of Bowyer, but 28 laps down to race winner Kyle Busch. Smithley took 36th, 16 laps ahead of McLeod, and on the same circuit as Gase, who gave the Nevada Donor Network 188 laps of visibility. Rounding out the group was Reed Sorenson, four laps ahead of Gase and Smithley, and eight laps back of the leaders.

*This marked the first time that both Bowyer and car #14 finished last in a Cup Series race at the Auto Club Speedway.
*Bowyer is also the second-highest qualifier to finish last in a Cup race at the Auto Club Speedway. The record remains with Sam Hornish, Jr., who started 7th on February 25, 2008.

38) #14-Clint Bowyer / 130 laps / overheating
37) #52-B.J. McLeod / 172 laps / running
36) #77-Garrett Smithley / 188 laps / running
35) #66-Joey Gase / 188 laps / running
34) #27-Reed Sorenson / 192 laps / running

1st) Front Row Motorsports (2)
2nd) Germain Racing, Motorsports Business Management, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

1st) Ford (3)
2nd) Chevrolet, Toyota (1)


XFINITY: Caesar Bacarella’s difficult Fontana weekend ends with parking second Means car

PHOTO: Bryan Nolen, @TheBryanNolen
Caesar Bacarella picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Production Alliance Group 300 at the Auto Club Speedway of Southern California when his #90 Whataburger Chevrolet fell out with a vibration after 1 of 150 laps.

The finish came in Bacarella’s 9th series start. In the XFINITY Series last-place rankings, it was the 21st for car #90, the 138th from a vibration, and the 522nd for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 51st for the #90, the 211st from a vibration, and the 1,646th for Chevrolet.

Bacarella is a name many NASCAR fans may not know as his entrance to NASCAR has been both sudden and infrequent. A pilot, outdoorsman, and owner of a construction firm, the 43-year-old driver has been racing since 2000. According to the profile on his website, he’d originally planned on making the jump to NASCAR’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series in 2012, six years after he’d claimed Rookie of the Year honors in Florida’s FASCAR Pro Truck Series. But that debut never came, and five years later he instead appeared in the ARCA Racing Series.

Driving for fellow Floridian Brian Finney, who hadn’t fielded a stock car since his son Phil was seriously injured in a scary crash in the final moments of the 1980 Firecracker 400. Bacarella made both ARCA restrictor-plate starts in 2017, finishing 33rd in his debut at Daytona, then 25th at Talladega. Workout apparel company Alpha Prime, still another connection to Florida, sponsored both races, and would again return on November 11, 2017, when Bacarella jumped the Truck Series completely and made his XFINITY debut driving for B.J. McLeod at the ISM Raceway. Though he qualified a strong 14th in his first race, Bacarella’s first start was marred by an early tangle with Brennan Poole and Daniel Hemric which sent Poole into the wall, eliminating Poole from Playoff contention in the penultimate race.

While Bacarella had failed to finish three of his eight previous XFINITY Series starts, he has already turned heads at Daytona. In 2018, just one year after his ARCA debut at the track, the driver earned a career-best 13th in the first race he ever finished on the lead lap. He looked to do even better this past February in his debut for Mario Gosselin’s XFINITY team, DGM Racing. After qualifying 12th, Bacarella ran as high as 5th and had just re-entered the Top 10 with three laps to go when contact from Tyler Reddick put him into the Turn 3 wall, leaving him 29th. Saturday’s race at Fontana would be Bacarella’s first since that day.

Bacarella’s Fontana weekend began on a promising note Friday when he jumped from 27th of 30 drivers in the opening practice to 16th of 34 in Happy Hour. Then, in qualifying, a major setback. Headed into Turn 3 on his single-car timed lap, Bacarella’s car broke loose and backed into the outside wall, causing the right-front to whip into the fence. The driver managed to roll his battered car into the garage area with the right-front wheel locked-up, and through he was uninjured, the DGM Racing team didn’t have a backup car.

As it turned out, this was the second-straight week the #90 had wrecked before the race. Last week, rookie Ronnie Basset, Jr. crashed in practice and had to run a redecorated version of the #36 Joe Froyo Chevrolet the DGM team had on hand for teammate Josh Williams. But Williams was now running that car at Fontana, and the team had no bullets left in the chamber.

The backup Means car with Bacarella's wrecked #90 in the
PHOTO: Cindy Yen, @cindymeliyen
In the final frantic minutes before the race, team owner Mario Gosselin worked out a deal with Jimmy Means Racing to have Bacarella drive Means’ backup car for David Starr. Unlike Bacarella’s black-and-white machine, this was one of the bright orange #52 Chevrolets sponsored by Whataburger. As in many similar arrangements – particularly at Means Racing – the team applied temporary numbers out of tape to each corner of the car. Large black squares of tape covered the #52 on each door with a crude rectangular “90” fashioned out of at least two rows of white tape strips. A smaller black patch covered the number on the nose with crooked “9” and “0” decals from the DGM Racing font. While none of the sponsor or driver name decals were changed in the brief time leading up to the race, the car was still listed in the race results under the “Alpha Prime” and “Maxim” sponsors of Bacarella’s original entry.

Failing to complete a qualifying lap meant that Bacarella would start in the rear, and the backup car meant he would incur a redundant tail-end penalty prior to the start of the race. Joining him would be the #13 Street Toys / Toyota of John Jackson, the first car out to qualify, who missed driver introductions. Bacarella retook the spot moments after the green, as scanner traffic intercepted by Max Neuwirth reported that Mario Gosselin instructed his driver to take the green at half-throttle, then pull down to the apron on the backstretch and pull his car in. Bacarella did this, lagging back from Jackson at the start before pitting, completing the first lap in the process, and was done for the afternoon.

With only two cautions for stage breaks in the first 84 laps, eight other drivers filtered into the garage area, filling out the Bottom Five.

Nine laps after Bacarella’s exit, Jeff Green pulled in RSS Racing’s #38 Chevrolet with brake issues, the closest Green has come to finishing last since Atlanta.

Finishing 35th was ISM Raceway last-place Bayley Currey, whose Rick Ware Racing crew repaired the damaged #17 Chevrolet and brought on Cup sponsorship from Jacob Companies, only to retire with overheating issues after 14 circuits.

Timmy Hill took 34th, completing 34 laps in Carl Long’s lowest-finishing Toyota Camry, the #66 Toyota, before transmission issues.

Rounding out the group was Bacarella’s teammate Josh Williams, citing engine trouble on the #36 Joe Froyo Chevrolet just 37 laps into the event. Williams, Hill, and Bacarella earned their first Bottom Fives of 2019.

Morgan Shepherd was also among the early exits on Saturday, retiring with handling issues after 43 laps. However, the short field and high attrition among smaller teams lifted him to 31st at the finish, his best XFINITY Series run since last summer at Indianapolis. (CORRECTION: Shepherd's best finish since Dover on September 28, 2013, when he finished 27th). It had been even longer since Shepherd last finished 31st in an XFINITY race – September 22, 2012 at Kentucky.

Further up the standings, Ryan Sieg came home 11th, charging from 16th in the final 20 laps following a pit road penalty. Sieg keeps alive the strongest start of any full-time competitor on the XFINITY Series tour - no driver but him has managed to finish 11th or better in all five rounds run so far, and he now sits 9th in the standings. To put this in even greater perspective, Sieg has already matched his season-best marks in Top Fives (1) and Top Tens (3), set in 2016, with 28 races still left to run this year.

Also keeping their streaks alive were both Brandon Brown and Gray Gaulding, who restarted 10th and 12th with 34 to go and finished the final two cars on the lead lap in 15th and 16th. This time around, Brown finished ahead of Gaulding, and once again did so without sponsorship on his #86 Chevrolet. Brown has yet to finish worse than 18th in the Daytona opener and now sits 14th in points. Gaulding, 16 points behind Brown, has finished 16th in three of the last four races, not counting a season-best 12th in Las Vegas. Brown and Gaulding have also matched each other in laps led, both pacing the field for two circuits.

*This marked the first XFINITY series last-place finish for car #90 since April 3, 2010, when Danny O’Quinn, Jr.’s #90 D’Hont Humphrey Motorsports Chevrolet fell out with brake issues after 33 laps of the Nashville 300 at the Nashville Superspeedway. This team, fielded by Eddie D’Hont and Randy Humphrey, was ostensibly the latest incarnation of MSRP Motorsports, the Phil Parsons-led effort which fielded the #90 for 2009 LASTCAR XFINITY Series champion Johnny Chapman.
*Curiously, the #90 entered this race in a tie with the #52 for the ninth-most last-place finishes in XFINITY Series history, 20 apiece. The #90 is now tied with the #0 with 21 each.

37) #90-Caesar Bacarella / 1 lap / vibration
36) #38-Jeff Green / 10 laps / brakes
35) #17-Bayley Currey / 14 laps / overheating
34) #66-Timmy Hill / 34 laps / transmission
33) #36-Josh Williams / 37 laps / engine

1st) Motorsports Business Management (2)
2nd) DGM Racing, JD Motorsports, Rick Ware Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (3)
2nd) Toyota (2)


Thursday, March 14, 2019

PREVIEW: Kyle who? Two XFINITY teams off to an impressive start in 2019

Brandon Brown's unsponsored #86 sits 14th in XFINITY Series points headed to Fontana.
Saturday, March 16, 2019
XFINITY Race 5 of 33
Production Alliance Group 300 at Auto Club (Fontana)
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Mike Harmon

There are 37 drivers entered for 38 spots in Saturday’s race, marking the third short field in five races in 2019 and the second in a row.

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-JR Motorsports
Ryan Preece returns to the XFINITY Series for the first time since his 7th-place run in Atlanta, and brings with him sponsorship from Velveeta Shells and Cheese. Preece takes over for Ryan Truex, who earned his first runner-up finish in the series since 2012 as he followed Kyle Busch to the finish line, 3.025 seconds back. Preece pulls double-duty along with his Cup ride in the JTG-Daugherty #47 Kroger Chevrolet.

DRIVER CHANGE: #13-Motorsports Business Management
John Jackson rejoins Carl Long’s operation for the first time since his last-place showing in Atlanta, three rounds ago. He takes the place of Stan Mullis, who finished next-to-last at the ISM Raceway. Street Toys and, Mullis’ backers at ISM, are again the listed sponsors this week.

DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Timmy Hill takes over for brother Tyler, who finished a strong 20th in just his second career series start last week in Phoenix. It will be Timmy Hill’s fourth XFINITY Series start in five races this year, and first since a 23rd-place showing in Las Vegas.

GIVE A CALL: #86-Brandonbilt Motorsports
Brandon Brown enters Saturday’s race 14th in points, having finished no worse than 18th in all four races run so far this season. His best finish of the year came in Atlanta, when he ran 13th. Driver and team have accomplished this despite running without primary sponsorship all season long. Saturday will mark Brown’s first XFINITY start at Fontana.

Caesar Bacarella returns to the XFINITY Series for the first time since his career-best run in the Daytona opener, where an almost certain Top 10 ended with a brush with the wall leaving him 29th. Bacarella takes over for Ronnie Basset, Jr., who recovered from a slow start at ISM Raceway to finish 32nd in a backup car.

GIVE A CALL: #08-SS-Green Light Racing
Like the Brandonbilt team, Gray Gaulding has enjoyed a strong start to the 2019 season, holding 16th in the standings. He arrives in Fontana with three consecutive finishes of 16th or better with a best of 12th in Las Vegas. Through Gaulding ran just 34th in the Daytona opener, this was mostly due to a pit road incident in an otherwise event-free race, and came after he qualified a season-best 5th. and Flywheel will again sponsor the Bobby Dotter entry in what will be Gaulding’s first series start at Fontana.

CUP INVADERS: #18-Kyle Busch
Busch is entered in his third-consecutive XFINITY Series race, and on Saturday will have his first opportunity to reach 200 combined wins across NASCAR’s top three circuits.

Sunday, March 17, 2019
CUP Race 5 of 36
Auto Club 400 at Auto Club (Fontana)
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Trevor Bayne

There are 38 drivers entered for 40 spots this week, two more cars than last Sunday’s round in Phoenix, and tied with Las Vegas for second-most in 2019. Regardless, this remains the fourth-consecutive short field in 2019.

RETURNING: #27-Premium Motorsports
For the first time since Casey Mears’ last-place finish in the Daytona 500, car #27 is back in the lineup this week. This time around, the car isn’t entered under Germain Racing, but under Jay Robinson’s Premium Motorsports (which was reportedly the arrangement at Daytona). This time around, Reed Sorenson drives in place of Mears, rejoining the Cup tour for the first time since Las Vegas, where he ran Spire Motorsports’ #77 (also backed by Premium) to a 36th-place finish. Tommy Baldwin, Jr., who most recently tried to get the #71 Chevrolet into the Daytona 500 field, is the crew chief.

GIVE A CALL: #36-Front Row Motorsports
Matt Tifft was one of the biggest surprises in last Sunday’s Cup race at the ISM Raceway when he ran as high as 18th before settling for 20th. Tifft’s three previous Cup starts yielded finishes of just 36th, 28th, and 34th. Surface Sunscreen and Tunity once again sponsor the #36 Ford Mustang.

DRIVER CHANGE: #52-Rick Ware Racing
B.J. McLeod returns to pull double-duty (along with JD Motorsports’ #15 on the XFINITY side) in the #52 Mtel-One Ford. McLeod takes the place of Bayley Currey, who earned a 31st-place finish in his first series start at the ISM Raceway. McLeod will make his first start at Fontana in a Cup car.

RETURNING: #66-Motorsports Business Management
As reported here during the Las Vegas race, Joey Gase and the #66 Cup team are back in action this week, two rounds after a frustrating engine issue left them last. The Nevada Donor Network has picked up team owner Carl Long’s offer to back the ride in Fontana in hopes of giving the sponsor more track time. Like McLeod, Gase has never made a Cup start at Fontana. However, he does have seven XFINITY starts here with a best of 16th just last year.

DRIVER CHANGE: #77-Spire Motorsports
One week after Quin Houff earned a 30th-place finish in his Cup Series debut, Garrett Smithley is back in the Spire entry for the first time since Atlanta, where he ran 36th.

Saturday, March 23, 2019
TRUCKS Race 4 of 23
Alpha Energy Solutions 250 at Martinsville
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Mike Senica

The Truck Series returns next week to lead-off the companion weekend with the Cup Series at Martinsville.

On this day in LASTCAR history (March 14, 1982): Dick May picks up the 13th last-place finish of his Cup Series career when his D.K. Ulrich-prepared #40 Stihl Chain Saw Buick lost an engine after 34 laps of the Valleydale 500 at Bristol. It was the final last-place finish of the Watertown, New York driver’s career, which extended back to 1970 and ended with a 25th-place run at North Wilkesboro on April 21, 1985. May’s best finish came in one of his first starts on May 21, 1971, when he ran 6th at the New Asheville (North Carolina) Speedway.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

ARCA: For the second year in a row, Mike Basham finishes last in the season’s second race

PHOTO: Rubbin's Racin' Forums
by William Soquet Guest Contributor

Mike Basham finished last for the second time in his ARCA Menards Series career in Saturday’s ARCA Pensacola 200 presented by Inspectra Thermal Solutions at Five Flags Speedway when his No. 69 Longhorn Fab / Kimmel Racing Ford fell out with clutch issues after 4 of 200 laps. It was his first since the 2018 Music City 200, 20 races ago.

Not much has changed at the Basham camp since we featured Mike almost a year ago. ARCA’s rule change to only allow steel-bodied cars at tracks under three-quarters of a mile has threatened some of the Basham family’s plans of their traditional schedule, but the family remains active in the series. According to The Pit Lane, the team’s focus has shifted away from fielding cars, although they may do that in the fall sometime at a short track. The collaboration between the Basham family and the Kimmel family is nothing new, as we chronicled after last year's Madison race. The Kimmel shop, however, is where things have changed. The team’s main sponsor, FASS Fuel Systems, did not return to the team, leaving team principal Will Kimmel scrambling for funding. Scott Melton stepped in to run half of the schedule, mostly superspeedways. Kimmel himself hopes to run a few events, such as his hometown Salem events. To fill in the gaps, it appears the team will continue to do what it did in 2018 – "start-and-park" to keep the car up in owner points and eligible for series bonuses.

ARCA did not release its preliminary entry list until February 26, and when it was released, it made waves for only having a dozen cars on the list. Series official Charles Krall said on Twitter he expected 24-26, and while it proved optimistic, it was close to where the entry list peaked, as 21 cars were entered by then. Connor Okrzesik made his debut with his family team, Corey Heim made his series debut for Chad Bryant Racing, Ty Gibbs made his first start with Joe Gibbs Racing and Tim Richmond (no, not that one) debuted in Wayne Peterson Racing’s No. 06 car, which has secured full-season sponsorship from Great Railing.

A host of drivers also made season debuts. Sam Mayer ushered in GMS Racing’s return to the series, Raphael Lessard made his first start since 2017, driving a second entry for KBR Development, and Matt Dooley and Dick Doheny made their season debuts, both with Fast Track Racing. Former Empire Racing development driver Kaden Honeycutt made his first appearance of the year and rolled out a family entry, which was assisted in setup and crew chiefed by racing veteran Jeff Spraker, who fielded a car for Dave Mader III at Daytona the past couple years. Tommy Vigh Jr and Chandler Smith also ran as part of scheduled limited-event efforts this year. Dale Shearer was also scheduled to bring his No. 73 down to Pensacola.

Doheny anchored final practice, his lap of 20.42 seconds (equivalent to about 88 mph) three-and-a-quarter seconds off of leader Chandler Smith’s lap. Smith led qualifying with a lap of just under 17 seconds, and while Doheny picked up the pace to a 20.2, it was his Fast Track teammate Matt Dooley who trailed the field, running a lap of 21.079 seconds.

Like many ARCA Menards Series races, the last-place battle for the ARCA Pensacola 200 was done within a few minutes. Basham pulled off the track after four laps. Doheny made seven laps before turning into the garage with rear end issues. Fourteen circuits later, Dooley took a trip behind the wall with handling problems. Carson Hocevar made an early exit with fuel pump mishaps, and Brad Smith made 47 laps before overheating to round out the Bottom Five.

20) #69-Mike Basham / 4 laps / clutch
19) #1-Richard Doheny / 7 laps / rear end
18) #11-Matt Dooley / 21 laps / handling
17) #35-Carson Hocevar / 34 laps / fuel pump
16) #48-Brad Smith / 47 laps / overheating

1st) Kimmel Racing, Mullins Racing (1)

1st) Ford (2)