Sunday, April 5, 2020

iRACING: Bubba Wallace ragequits at Bristol

SCREENSHOT: Seth Eggert, Kickin' The Tires
Bubba Wallace finished last in Sunday’s third round of the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational, the Food City Showdown at Bristol Motor Speedway, when his #43 Blue-Emu Chevrolet was eliminated in an early crash after 9 of 150 laps.

Entering this, his third full-time season with Richard Petty Motorsports, Wallace’s best finish of the season was a strong 6th back in Las Vegas, following a 15th in the Daytona 500. He then struggled in the following two rounds, finishing 27th at Fontana and 19th at Phoenix, but thus far has completed all but two laps in the abbreviated 2020 season. Following the suspension of track activities, Wallace joined the iRacing action at Homestead, where he ran 7th, then took 25th at Texas.

This past week, Wallace carried sponsorship from Blu-Emu, the same pain reliever which has continued to back Landon Cassill’s #89 Chevrolet in his digital efforts. Cassill debuted a new look to his sim rig on Sunday, featuring two wall decorations to resemble the inside of a race car. Wallace’s own Blue-Emu machine would be run on a familiar red-and-blue throwback paint scheme, reminiscent of some of Richard Petty’s old STP cars from the 1970s. Wallace had himself enjoyed one of the best runs of his first full season two years ago, leading his first six laps in the Food City 500.

In qualifying, Wallace ran 16th fastest, 0.222 second off the fastest lap by eventual race winner William Byron. He lined up in 8th for Heat Race 2 and finished in the same spot, just over seven seconds back of a photo finish between John Hunter Nemechek and Ryan Preece. This put the #43 in the 16th spot on the grid for the 150-lap main event. No drivers failed to qualify as the extra entrants ran yesterday’s Saturday Night Thunder on the same track.

Starting 32nd and last was Clint Bowyer, who ran teammate Aric Almirola’s Smithfield scheme on his #14 Ford this week. Bowyer struggled right from the start. He spun in qualifying and turned the slowest time, a full 1.4 seconds off the pole speed. This lined him up next-to-last in Heat Race 2, but fell behind last-place starter Bobby Labonte at the green flag. He climbed up to 12th on Lap 22, but that time by hit the wall, and soon after tangled with Labonte in a race for position. Now one lap down, Bowyer said “I broke my give a damn” and started bumping several drivers. He ultimately wrecked down the backstretch and took last from Labonte with six to go in the 50-lap heat.

Bowyer started alongside Erik Jones, whose #20 DeWalt Toyota finished last in Heat Race 1 after an internet connection issue prevented him from turning a single lap. The issue returned around five laps into the main event as Jones’ #20 was shown three circuits down on Lap 8. It seemed Jones would join Noah Gragson at Atlanta and Ty Majeski at Kansas as drivers to recently finish last due to internet issues.

However, that soon changed as Bubba Wallace ran the outside lane to pass Bowyer for position. On Lap 10, Bowyer twice crossed into Wallace’s path, stuffing the #43 into the outside wall. Frustrated, Wallace pulled low on the backstretch, summoned his car to the pits, and called it a day. “All right – you have a good one,” he said. “That’s it. That’s why I don’t take this shit serious.”

Moments later, Jones surprisingly returned to action, at least 10 laps down. Around Lap 25, he passed the exiting Wallace, dropping the #43 to last place. Jones completed just five more laps before he, too, disconnected, leaving him 31st.

The 30th spot fell to Chase Elliott, whose #9 NAPA Chevrolet was involved in several incidents. Kyle Larson took 29th when his #42 McDonald’s Chevrolet was parked by iRacing for trying to wreck Daniel Suarez, who was parked last week in Texas. Suarez just worked his way past Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. to climb out of the Bottom Five, leaving the #47 Kroger Chevrolet in 28th. Both Stenhouse and Suarez were credited with 72 completed laps.

*Car #43 has never finished last in a Cup Series race at Bristol, a track where Richard Petty won three times including a season sweep in 1975.

32) #43-Bubba Wallace / 9 laps / ragequit
31) #20-Erik Jones / 14 laps / internet
30) #9-Chase Elliott / 31 laps / disconnected
29) #42-Kyle Larson / 71 laps / parked
28) #47-Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. / 72 laps / disconnected

Saturday, April 4, 2020

TRUCKS: Bobby and Roger Reuse Enjoy a Solid Afternoon in Mosport

Roger Reuse
PHOTO: Brock Beard
Traveling to Canadian Tire Motorsports Park poses a logistical challenge to the competitors of the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series. Last year’s running saw just 29 starters make the journey, three short of a full field. Curiously, it was one of the series’ underfunded teams – Jordan Anderson Racing – which brought three trucks for the race. While Anderson himself would drive his #3 Chevrolet, the other two would be run by brothers Roger Reuse and his younger brother Bobby.

Bobby Reuse
PHOTO: Brock Beard
The Alabama-born Reuse brothers own WCIParts, a longtime backer of Anderson’s. The two owned the WCIParts-sponsored pro late model Anderson drove to victory at Alaska Raceway Park last May. Bobby bought the Anderson team’s uniforms in 2019. The two are also racers themselves, having competed against each other on road courses across the country. “We’ve raced together a long time,” said Roger. “We’ve road raced together, so it seems like we’re always running around each other.”

In 2014, the Reuse brothers made the jump from Trans-Am into NASCAR national series competition. Both started out driving for Mike Harmon, who also helped Anderson in his rise through the ranks. Bobby made his debut at Road America and finished 29th despite engine trouble. Roger’s first start came at Watkins Glen, where he finished under power in 30th. In the next round at Mid-Ohio, the two then raced against each other in a pair of Harmon cars. Bobby finished 24th while Roger finished last in the 39-car field.

The 2019 running at Bowmanville offered the brothers still another chance to compete against one another. Prior to the race, Bobby finished 17th in the 2017 running for Mark Beaver while Roger ran 27th for the Little family’s team in 2018. This time, the brothers would each drive one of Anderson’s trucks, each using the Owner Points of a different single-truck team. Roger would drive the truck Anderson raced the previous round at Bristol, converted to a road course setup, and bearing the #04 of the Texas-based Roper Racing. Bobby ran a third Anderson truck with Hill Motorsports’ #56 on the yellow-and-white Chevrolet.

“The Ropers are out of Texas and they weren’t gonna run this race,” said Anderson. “Same thing with Timmy Hill. We were able to go to them and get some of their guys up here with us to make it all happen. So I’ve always believed the small teams need to stay together to make it as healthy as possible for all of us.” Both the Reuse’s trucks carried associate sponsorship from WCIParts and had Ilmor engines under the hood. The brothers also provided a hauler of their own to help bring the three trucks north.

The weekend got off to a rough start when Anderson backed his #3 into a tire barrier in practice, completely destroying his rear clip. With just 30 combined crew members among his three entries, and no backup truck due to the Reuse effort, Anderson had no choice but to rebuild the rear of his truck, hammering the pieces straight. The team rebuilt and re-decaled the truck in time for the main event, where Anderson matched his 2018 finish of 16th.

“I’m really proud of Jordan,” said Roger Reuse. “It’s amazing what he’s been able to do. And to pull this off with three teams. That’s what I tweeted out earlier – three teams, there was two practices, one qualifying, and all three of us. He had a wreck, but he was able to qualify, and he did it all in the second practice. So we made all the practices, all the qualifying, and we were all running at the end.”

As for the Reuse brothers, Bobby came out ahead, taking the checkers in 22nd despite a persistent tight condition and a spin on the last lap. “It was good,” said Bobby. “I had a lot of fun. Raced with Jason White for a long time and tried really hard to get around him. And when I finally got close to him coming up the frontstraightaway, I was a carlength off of him, and I guess I decided to give the frontstraightaway crowd a show, and I did two pirouettes in the middle of the track and threw it in first gear and kept going.”

Bobby also engaged in the same class racing that’s become a part of today’s NASCAR, where teams not contending for the win battle hard against one another to be best of their group. “I think we weren’t the best today, but we might have been the best of the rest. And we beat the guys we were supposed to beat. I really wanted to race with Jason (White) and that was fun to do. I really wanted to beat the 12 (Gus Dean) – I needed to get a little bit faster. I know we were faster in the race today than we were in qualifying. And that’s all you can ask for - as long as everytime you go on the track you go faster. It was a good day. No scratches.”

“He seemed to handle this a lot better than I did,” said Roger, who finished three spots behind his brother in 25th. “I got to see him a few times, but he was faster.” For Roger, the challenge was radio issues, which drew a black flag late in the third stage. “My radio wasn’t working, so they black-flagged me. I couldn’t hear and I was trying to get out of the way. I really didn’t think I was going that slow. I was just trying to get out of the way and let them all get by. So I’m not really sure. The problem is I couldn’t talk to anybody to find out what it was for. I figured it was coming out of the radio, but I came in and no one knew I was coming in. So I don’t understand why NASCAR didn’t tell the crew what was going on.

For all the challenges, the three teammates enjoyed their afternoon north of the border. “The fans here are fantastic,” said Bobby. “Every caution you’re riding around and they’re waving at you. You can’t really wave under caution, but I do my best to wave at them after the race, before the race. I’m only in Canada today, I want to be supportive, and these fans are supportive up here. It’s fantastic.”

Sunday, March 29, 2020

iRACING: Transfer driver Anthony Alfredo eliminated in another hard crash; Timmy Hill breaks through with Pro Invitational victory

Anthony Alfredo finished last in Sunday’s second round of the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational, the O’Reilly 150 at the Texas Motor Speedway, when his #33 Death Wish Coffee Chevrolet was eliminated in an accident after 39 of 130 laps.

Alfredo’s lone start across NASCAR’s top three series came last month at Fontana, where he climbed aboard Richard Childress Racing’s #21 Chevrolet, qualified 13th, and finished a strong 6th. After the subsequent postponements, he next arrived in last week’s Pro Invitational opener at Homestead, where his most recent Truck Series start ended with a blown engine shortly after the command, leaving him last. Alfredo qualified for the landmark sim race, overcoming an accident in practice, but finished just 32nd after another pair of incidents in the race itself.

This time around, Alfredo would once again have to race his way into the main event through the Last Chance Qualifier. The Texas round would prove especially challenging as the 30-lap affair would not be slowed by any cautions, and 31 other drivers would join him to contest the final four transfer spots into the Pro Invitational. Alfredo qualified a strong 5th and contended for the lead nearly the entire race. He was still leading at the white flag before Alex Labbe completed the pass just past the stripe. Alfredo hounded Labbe to the finish line, both of them transferring to the main along with third-place Ty Majeski and fourth-place Ruben Garcia, Jr.

Incidentally, the Last Chance Qualifier also saw a competitive battle for last place. The 32nd-place starter was Scott Stenzel, who carried the same #63 and Personal Comfort sponsorship from his most recent Truck Series start for D.J. Copp last year in Las Vegas. Stenzel was the only driver to not turn in a qualifying lap. After four laps, Stenzel had climbed past J.J. Yeley, who took over the spot in his #85. Yeley returned the favor by Lap 7, and Stenzel held the spot until the day’s first incident. Coming down the backstretch, Kyle Weatherman’s #54 Jacob Companies Ford threw a block on the #7 Brandt Agriculture Chevrolet of Justin Allgaier. The two collided and swept up the track, collecting several other cars. Weatherman took over last by Lap 10 and would remain there the rest of the race.

Meanwhile, Alfredo qualified 23rd for the 35-car main event. Taking the last spot was a returning Greg Biffle, who was back in his familiar #16 Ford for the first time since 2016, and back at the digitally-rendered version of the track where he won last year’s Truck Series race for Kyle Busch Motorsports. Biffle didn’t take a qualifying time along with transfer driver Ty Majeski, whose #45 CMR Chevrolet suffered minor damage in the qualifier. Turning in the slowest lap of the qualifying session was Ross Chastain, whose #6 Ford clocked in at 29.867 seconds.

Following an extra lap at pace car speed, the race went green on Lap 2. Three circuits later, the last spot had fallen to last week’s winner Denny Hamlin in the #11 FedEx Toyota. According to Clint Bowyer, who joined Hamlin in the back of the field, both had dropped back deliberately to wait out the race’s accidents. But the opening laps were run surprisingly clean, and Hamlin dropped Bowyer to last on Lap 8. It wasn’t until around Lap 22 that the first pileup was triggered by Ryan Blaney and Kyle Busch heading into Turn 3. The wreck, which didn’t immediately draw a caution, dropped Blaney to last place by Lap 25 in his #12 Menards Ford. At that point, Blaney was already three laps down. The caution fell two circuits later on Lap 27.

On Lap 39, Alfredo had already used one of his "Fast Repairs," but worked his way up to 9th, holding the spot in a single-file line, following Timmy Hill in 8th. Coming down the backstretch, Matt DiBenedetto’s #21 Motorcraft Ford pulled low and Alfredo threw the block. DiBenedetto then lined up behind the #33 and pushed Alfredo into the corner. Moments after the camera cut away, Alfredo was shown spinning in the outside lane of Turn 3, collecting the #3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet of Austin Dillon. The in-car cam revealed Alfredo was still running the low line entering Turn 3 when his car hooked abruptly to the right and smashed the wall head-on. Alfredo took the last spot from Blaney by Lap 45, when the #33 was shown six laps down.

Finishing 34th was Christopher Bell, whose #95 Rheem Toyota was involved in at least one of the race’s early accidents, and was shown running off the pace under the Lap 27 caution. The 33rd spot went to Daniel Suarez, who suffered damage in his #96 Toyota, then was parked after he attempted to deliberately wreck Ty Dillon under caution entering Turn 3. The attempt failed, and after Suarez crashed, he became the first Pro Invitational driver parked by iRacing. Rounding out the Bottom Five were Biffle and Garcia, who both finished under power, laps down to the leaders.

Taking the victory was Timmy Hill, who followed-up his strong performance in last week’s Homestead opener with a thrilling victory. Hill nudged race leader William Byron out of the inside lane in Turn 1 and survived a green-white-checkered restart to take the win, holding off a fast-charging Ryan Preece in 2nd spot. Hill, a prolific iRacer with hundreds of victories, won with his preferred setup – a simple Logitech steering wheel and pedal assembly plugged into a single computer screen.

Garrett Smithley and Landon Cassill, two other underdog stars from last week’s Homestead race, also backed-up their strong runs by finishing 3rd and 4th, respectively. Smithley overcame significant damage to the rear bumper of his car and remained in contention for much of the day. Cassill qualified 5th and dropped as far as 20th at one point before marching back up to the leaders.

John Hunter Nemechek also enjoyed a fine run, leading 10 laps in the #38 ROMCO Equipment Ford. The aggressive Nemechek ran 2nd for much of the opening laps, throwing several aggressive blocks into the corners to defend his position. It wasn’t until a late-race incident entering the quad-oval that he slipped out of the Top Five.

*The #33 had scored its most recent Cup Series last-place finish at Texas on April 9, 2017, when Jeffrey Earnhardt’s turn for The Motorsports Group ended with a crash after just 9 laps. Earnhardt was himself one of the contenders in Sunday’s Last Chance Qualifier, but missed the cut in his #50.

35) #33-Anthony Alfredo / 39 laps / disconnected
34) #95-Christopher Bell / 88 laps / disconnected
33) #96-Daniel Suarez / 110 laps / disqualified
32) #16-Greg Biffle / 121 laps / running
31) #27-Ruben Garcia / 122 laps / running

Saturday, March 28, 2020

TRUCKS: Jennifer Jo Cobb still pushes forward

Another tight battle further back in the pack in last year’s running of the Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Mosport involved both Jennifer Jo Cobb and Norm Benning, both owner-drivers in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors & RV Truck Series. In the end, Cobb held off Benning for 23rd, both of them four laps down to race winner Brett Moffitt.

“For me, it went by really fast,” said Cobb after the race. “I didn’t get as much practice as I would’ve liked, or much preparation to get the truck ready. The front was really tight, so it just turned like a dump truck, but the rear end didn’t have any grip. So you just try and adjust for those two kind of opposite feelings. And we did the best we could with it. Came home with a fairly clean truck in 23rd. We have a lot of issues when we come to Canada with the road course transmission, clutch, and everything. Everything worked, and I’m really proud of my team for putting it together.”

Cobb also talked about the challenges faced by an underfunded team, and how one accident by either of her trucks makes a big difference. The race was held just two weeks after Michigan, where Daniel Sasnett crashed her #0 truck in qualifying. “It was tough for us because of the (qualifying) wreck in Michigan with the 0, and so we were down a truck, and we had to prepare a whole new truck to be the 0, which was nowhere near being ready. And then to race our one standing truck we have left, that 10 truck. That truck is awesome – it’s done Michigan, Pocono, Bristol, now a road course. This same truck. The team has really stepped up and doing a great job.”

As of the Mosport race, Cobb had just four race-ready trucks available. In addition to the two she brought to the track for herself and Ray Ciccarelli, all that remained were one truck reserved for the series’ two superspeedway races and one still-battered truck for Eldora. “The Eldora truck is okay, but it’s so beat-up from Eldora that it needs body work, which is really expensive. So we’ll save it for Eldora next year and try to pound out the body. So, yeah, it’s a grind. All the different types of tracks really put on a grind for us. Especially when you put them all in the same month. We had every different kind of race course in one month.”

Cobb also talked about several small businesses joining her team as sponsors, also increasing the exposure of her own veterans’ initiative “Yeah – Osage Contractors, they’re a good one. You know, it is. We’ve got individuals who help us out that are amazing and we’ve got small businesses that help us out. And that’s just how we make it. The small dollars at a time, and they add up, and I really enjoy working with those types of business owners, because they’re like me. They’ve got a small business. They’re trying to do a good job. They’re trying to grow, they’re helping us grow. So I really enjoy working with those small to medium sized businesses. Our per-race sponsorship starts at $1,000 and so it makes it affordable. So, if anybody’s interested, shoot me an e-mail. My e-mail’s on the contact page of our website.”

As of this writing, Jennifer Jo Cobb is still seeking her first Truck Series start of the 2020 season following back-to-back DNQs for her #10 at Daytona and Las Vegas.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

iRACING: Pace lap internet issues leave Majeski last in Kansas sim race

Majeski in Sunday's Pro Invitational at Homestead
SCREENCAP: FOX Sports, iRacing
Ty Majeski finished last in Tuesday’s running of the Replacements 100 at the Kansas Speedway when his #45 CMR Construction Chevrolet finished 101 laps down in the 100-lap race due to internet connection issues.

Majeski, the four-time ARCA Midwest Tour Series Champion, would campaign the #45, the same number he’s campaigned for Niece Motorsports in the Truck Series this season. His year got off to a rough start with a spectacular last-place finish in Daytona that saw his truck slide to the apron on its roof. He then recovered nicely in Las Vegas, qualifying 5th and finishing 13th.

In Vegas, Majeski was sponsored by iRacing that night, where his prior success in super late models has been matched by arguably the most successful sim racing career. The latter proved particularly significant when NASCAR’s postponement came down just before he was to run the Truck Series race at Atlanta. For Sunday’s inaugural Pro Invitational Series race at Homestead, Majeski won the 20-lap Last Chance Qualifier and timed in 3rd on the grid for the 100-lap main. He finished in 9th.

Majeski was slated to return in Tuesday’s running of The Replacements, a follow-up to the successful Atlanta event held nine days earlier. He timed in 32nd in practice with a lap of 30.540 seconds, but was one of eight drivers to not take qualifying time. This placed Majeski in the 29th spot alongside Ryan Truex in the #40.

The 36th spot fell to crew chief Rodney Childers, whose #54 was decorated in the same Busch Beer paint scheme as his driver Kevin Harvick’s Cup car. Curiously, the starting lineup showed him on the outside of a placeholder entry for iRacing’s admin. The #02 “Race Control” entry would also figure into the final running order of the race itself.

On the first lap, Justin Haley and Christian Eckes triggered the first wreck coming off Turn 4, sending Haley’s #11 Leaf Filter Chevrolet into the outside wall. Haley remained on the lead lap while Eckes lost a lap, but would not fall further than 35th. According to Seth Eggert at Kick’n The Tires, Majeski had internet connection issues during the pace laps which dropped him from the race. Majeski was already classified last without a lap complete when the first full-race rundown was shown on Twitch at Lap 4. The final race results erroneously showed Majeski in the 37th spot with the “Race Control” #02 shown in 36th. This has been corrected for purposes of this article.

Eckes remained in the 35th spot, though not simply from the first-lap incident with Haley. After an apparent “Fast Repair,” his #18 Safelite Toyota bounced off the #15 Fire Alarm Services Chevrolet of Regan Smith down the backstretch, sending Eckes into the inside wall. Pro Invitational runner-up Dale Earnhardt, Jr. took 34th after his #8 Filter Time Chevrolet was caught up in a pair of accidents while two sim racers rounded out the Bottom Five: the #39 of Tim Clauson and the #85 of Jordan Erickson.

Bryan Boris Cook in the #63 turned in the slowest completed lap in qualifying, trailing the pole by 0.428 of a second. He recovered nicely in the race, charging through the pack for a 5th-place finish, following Josh Berry, Josh Williams, William Byron, and Parker Kligerman to the checkered flag.

*Car #45 has not finished last in a Cup Series race since August 12, 2007, when Kyle Petty’s #45 Marathon American Spirit Motor Oil Dodge fell out with a busted radiator after 56 laps of the Centurion Boats at the Glen. The number has not started a Cup Series points race since Petty Enterprises last campaigned it in the 2008 finale at Homestead, where Chad McCumbee finished 39th in a field of 43. The number has never finished last in a Cup race at Kansas.

36) #45-Ty Majeski / +101 laps / internet
35) #18-Christian Eckes / +82 laps / crash
34) #8-Dale Earnhardt, Jr. / +59 laps / crash
33) #39-Tim Clauson / +54 laps / unknown
32) #85-Jordan Erickson / +53 laps / unknown