Sunday, June 23, 2019

CUP: Fuel pump issues hand J.J. Yeley first last-place finish in nearly four years

PHOTO: Brock Beard
J.J. Yeley picked up the 16th last-place finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Toyota / Save Mart 350 at the Sonoma Raceway when his #51 Jacob Companies Chevrolet fell out with a fuel pump issue after 53 of 90 laps.

The finish, which came in Yeley’s 278th series start, was his Cup Series last-place finish of the
season, and first in the series since New Hampshire on July 19, 2015, 141 races ago. In the Cup Series last-place rankings, it was the 26th for the #51, the 16th for fuel pump issues, and the 764th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 38th for the #51, the 27th from fuel pump issues, and the 1,666th for Chevrolet.

Back in 2015, the last time Yeley finished last in Cup, he was a full-time driver in the XFINITY Series for the now-closed JGL Racing. He finished 12th in points that year, his best showing since 2006. He then joined TriStar Motorsports the following season, taking 14th in the series standings the next two years, then ran all but two races in 2018 for RSS Racing. Several of those starts were unsponsored, however, accounting for many of the 20 DNFs Yeley earned that season. He would later part ways with RSS Racing, where Josh Bilicki now runs a similar schedule in the #38.

On the Cup side of 2015, Yeley was driving for BK Racing, a team he’d continue to drive for through its eventual sale to Front Row Motorsports and single-car team owner Johnathan Cohen. Both Front Row and Cohen joined forces with Yeley last fall, fielding a #23 Toyota with sponsorship from the She Beverage Company. Yeley had previously driven for Cohen under the Xxtreme Racing Team in 2014, and also Cohen’s return to the series, starting with a Steakhouse Elite-sponsored #7 Chevrolet in the 2018 Coca-Cola 600. The partnership was to continue this season, where Steakhouse Elite remained as sponsor of Cohen’s Ford Mustang in Daytona. But while Yeley appeared at media day in his #7 uniform, the team has yet to make a start. Yeley commented on that team’s status:

“Nothing new for New York Racing right now. It’s been more of a matter of sitting around waiting for sponsorship to develop. We got to a situation where it was some opportunities to fill in with Rick (Ware) and we actually talked last year about doing something, so we got a couple more races planned, should be at Chicagoland next week, then Daytona after that.”

Yeley was a surprising addition to the Sonoma entry list, having not run a Cup race at the track since 2015. It would also be the seventh different team he’d drive for in eight Cup starts there. Although he was entered with both Jacob Companies and Steakhouse Elite as primary sponsors of his #51, only the Jacob branding was on his blue #51 with red roof, and the scheme did not change all weekend. The scheme was similar to the car Rick Ware fielded last year for Josh Bilicki at Watkins Glen and Stanton Barrett on the Charlotte Roval, though unlike both times was a Chevrolet instead of a Ford. Yeley would be teamed with Cody Ware, who returned to the #52 SBC Contractors Chevrolet he ran at Sonoma last year in the second Ware team’s Cup debut. Incidentally, Yeley’s team radio would be on Ware’s frequency, and vice-versa.

Yeley began the weekend 35th of the 38 entrants in opening practice, then 35th and last in Happy Hour after three drivers didn’t turn a lap. He then qualified 36th with the second-slowest lap of the session at 91.488mph (1 minute, 39.161 seconds).

Starting last was Reed Sorenson, who like Yeley, was making a return to Sonoma after a long absence. His would be a first since 2014, and his fifth in a Cup race on the road course. Sorenson was entered in the Jay Robinson-prepared #27 Chevrolet, a car he’d run in all but one of his eight previous starts in 2019. But the weekend didn’t get off to the best start when, after pulling to the end of pit road for qualifying, his car wouldn’t fire. The reason was a dead battery, and other cars had to swerve around him on their way onto the track. The Premium Motorsports crew retrieved him and pushed him back at the end of Round 1, bringing the #27 more than halfway back the long pit road.

“I didn’t run many laps,” said Sorenson after qualifying. “The tires we used yesterday (in practice) we need to use in the race.” He looked ahead to the race, and his strategy. “I don’t have too many laps out there, but we’ll have plenty of them tomorrow. . .Just use attrition, try to stay out of trouble and keep it on the track and be there at the end.” Sorenson also commented on the challenges of driving for an underfunded effort. “It’s all a challenge, I mean, it’s a very competitive sport, especially at this level. You just gotta make use of what you got and make the best of it and have fun with the guys you’re working with.”

Yeley was one of four drivers who joined Sorenson at the back of the pack due to tail-end penalties, his due to unapproved adjustments. Daniel Suarez qualified 5th in his #41 Ruckus Ford, but had to change engines after Happy Hour. Erik Jones could only take 32nd after damage from a flat left-rear tire in qualifying that resulted in unapproved adjustments to the #20 Craftsman Toyota. And Ross Chastain focused on Saturday’s Truck Series race in Gateway, so Kyle Weatherman practiced and qualified his #15 Low T Centers Chevrolet. Chastain successfully avenged his disqualification in Iowa with a win that night, and arrived back at Sonoma at 3 A.M. on race day. When asked how he’d approach running a track where he’d never turned a lap, he said, “Take the first two stages and learn the track - I've never been here - and just see what we can do.”

During the first pace lap, Sorenson had at least two spotters communicating with one another about which spots they could see the #27. This was critical as Sonoma returned to its original 2.52-mile configuration for this race for the first time since 1997. On the second pace lap, Chastain fell behind Sorenson in the Carousel, followed by Jones in Turn 7. Chastain and Sorenson then pulled behind Jones, who joined Suarez ahead of both cars. Also falling behind Suarez and Jones was Landon Cassill, whose #00 Share Chevrolet was slated to start 35th. Thus, Sorenson and Chastain remained in the last row exactly where they had qualified.

When the race went green, Chastain and Sorenson worked their way past Yeley in Turns 1 and 2. Yeley tried to close on the pair in Turn 2, but fell back, and was trailing by two seconds of open track after the first lap. According to the Ware team, Yeley had an issue with a defective tire, forcing him to make an unscheduled stop after just two laps. Yeley managed to stay on the lead lap, but was now one minute, seven seconds back of the lead. After six laps, Yeley was just under 21 seconds ahead of race leader William Byron, and Byron’s #24 Hertz Chevrolet knocked that down to 12 seconds just three circuits later. By then, Sorenson had also lost touch with the field in 37th, and the final two cars were running practically by themselves.

Byron was within sight of Yeley after 11 laps, and the driver of #51 reported his car was too tight, especially in the right-hand turns. This allowed Byron to make up the deficit on Lap 13, when Byron put the #51 the first car one lap down. He remained in last place when the first stage ended eight laps later, and reported his water temperature was between 215 and 220 degrees. Sorenson was also lapped by Byron, and edged Yeley for the Lucky Dog.

When Stage 2 began, Yeley reported issues with his fuel pressure fluctuating. By Lap 38, the crew became increasingly concerned as it was reading just six pounds of pressure even though the car couldn’t even run with less than 20. Still, Yeley managed to stay out without losing another lap and earned the Lucky Dog, putting him back on the lead lap.

With Yeley back on the lead lap, last place briefly changed hands after a series of pit stops. First was rookie Matt Tifft, making his Sonoma debut in the #36 Acquire Investments Ford, one of many drivers to suffer damage to the nose of his car.

“It was tough,” said Tifft after the race. “It was really challenging. We didn’t have the best-turning cars. We struggled being tight, but got a little nose damage, that didn’t help our situation, made a little mistake there and unfortunately never had the great speed we needed. We were probably okay maybe to get a Top 25 and we just kind of played our strategy for pitting probably just a little bit off, just got a little too far behind. But some good notes from running the Carousel for coming back.”

After 42 laps, Ryan Preece took the spot with damage on the right-rear of his #47 Kroger Chevrolet. Tifft re-took the spot the next time by after another stop, followed soon by Yeley after he, too, came down pit road. As Tifft drove by entering Turn 1, Yeley joined the field. Two stages were complete, and all 38 drivers were still running on the lead lap.

When the race restarted, Yeley didn’t accelerate as fast as the cars in front of him and again trailed by open track. His team continued to try and diagnose the fuel pressure issue, believing it to be a bad sensor. On Lap 48, however, the exhaust note on Yeley’s car sounded off, and he continued to lose ground to the pack. The team decided to bring him in and reset the car’s electronic system, which required Yeley shut off the car on pit road. The team did this quickly, again getting Yeley out on the lead lap, but now with just six seconds to work with on new leader Martin Truex, Jr. Truex caught and lapped Yeley just two laps later in Turn 2.

The fuel pressure issue continued, and after 53 laps, Yeley pulled down pit road once more to reset the system a second time. The driver expressed concerns that he’d blow the engine, but headed back out there one lap down. On Lap 56, the crew said “Let’s take it to the garage,” and the #51 pulled behind the wall at the garage entrance in Turn 11. Yeley pulled into the team’s stall, the very last in the building, and the crew hooked the car up to the computer. As Yeley sat next to his car, rehydrating and picking up more ice packs, he spoke briefly about his run.

“We ran 10, 20 laps in practice, had no issues, felt pretty good with the car. Just a little bit too tight today. It’s just been one of those days – got a flat tire before the green, had to come in and change tires, lost a lap, got back, got the Lucky Dog, then just started running bad and put us in the garage. . .It can do more harm than good running the engine running it at 5 or 7 pounds, so just come in and see if they can find something, but it’s gonna be something like a sensor or something, unfortunately.”

Soon after, the Ware team discovered a fuel line had come loose and was dumping fuel on the back of the engine. Though the issue was found, the team decided against returning to the track. “I'd rather just put the car away,” said the crewman, explaining that he didn’t want their car to be in the way. He was then asked if this was official, and confirmed that it was.

Finishing 37th was Chase Elliott, whose #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet qualified a strong 4th and took the lead early from teammate William Byron, only to lose the engine under green. Yeley’s team had officially declared themselves out of the race over the radio just moments before Elliott’s crew pushed the #9 behind the wall. The last radio transmission from the #51 said that Elliott had fallen out, and that they could gain a spot if they decided to return and make eight more laps. There was no response, and the #51 did not complete another lap.

The 36th spot fell to Cody Ware, who pulled behind the wall shortly after Elliott with symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Ware was conscious as he was helped from the #52 SBC Contractors Chevrolet, and then assisted by track medical staff. The team later reported he had recovered and was in good health. The officially listed reason for the retirement was “fatigue.”

With no accidents or other mechanical failures, the remaining 35 starters finished under power. Rounding out the Bottom Five were Sorenson’s #27 and the #77 Formula One Imports Chevrolet of Justin Haley, back in Cup for the first time since his breakout run at Talladega. Like Sorenson, Haley finished two laps down, having come down pit road with three laps to go.

The race’s final 46 laps were run under green, which played directly into the hands of 19th-place qualifier Matt DiBenedetto. Just three years ago, DiBenedetto took the 2014 LASTCAR XFINITY Series Championship, finishing last in 14 XFINITY races as a “start-and-park” driver for TriStar Motorsports. His previous best Cup finish was a 6th at Bristol two years later, when he was driving for the now-closed BK Racing.

DiBenedetto voluntarily became a free agent last season, and the gamble paid off with a ride for the Leavine Family Racing team and a new Joe Gibbs Racing alliance. In his first race out, he led the most laps in the Daytona 500 only to be collected in a crash, and had finished no better than 12th since. That changed on Sunday, as he earned a career-best 4th behind Martin Truex, Jr., Kyle Busch, and Ryan Blaney. The run was even more significant as it came in one of three throwback paint schemes honoring Darrell Waltrip’s final broadcast for FOX Sports.

“It’s been a tough journey,” said DiBenedetto as he headed back to the garage. “It’s taught me everything and made me appreciate it for sure.”

*This marked the first time car #51 finished last in a Cup Series race at Sonoma, and the first time a fuel pump was the listed cause in a Cup race there. In fact, it was the first time a fuel pump resulted in a Cup Series last-place finish since March 24, 2013, when Mike Bliss fell out after 44 laps at Fontana.
*Yeley is now tied with Kevin Lepage for the ninth-most last-place finishes across NASCAR’s top three series, each with a career total of 27.

38) #51-J.J. Yeley / 53 laps / fuel pump
37) #9-Chase Elliott / 60 laps / engine
36) #52-Cody Ware / 64 laps / fatigue
35) #27-Reed Sorenson / 88 laps / running
34) #77-Justin Haley / 88 laps / running

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

1st) Chevrolet (8)
2nd) Ford (6)
3rd) Toyota (2)


TRUCKS: Greg Rayl finishes last as one of three hard-luck first-time starters in Gateway

PHOTO: @nascarfan19_YT
Greg Rayl picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series career in Saturday’s CarShield 200 at the World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway when his #0 Chevrolet was involved in a single-truck accident after 2 of 160 laps.

The finish came in Rayl’s series debut. In the Truck Series last-place rankings, it was the 47th for the #0, the 151st from a crash, and the 375th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 87th for the #0, the 1,183rd from a crash, and the 1,665th for Chevrolet.

At 55 years old, Rayl is not your typical newcomer to NASCAR’s top three series. His entry was one of the last to be announced – so late, in fact, that his name didn’t appear at first in the race results on The Salida, California native has 32 starts in the K&N Pro Series West, but none since 2014. Since then, he’s most often worked as a crew chief, including with current Truck Series owner-driver Josh Reaume. Reaume tweeted that he recommended Rayl for the ride after some good-natured ribbing about his driving style. Rayl would have an opportunity to race against his driver, who lined up 21st in his own #33, as driver of Jennifer Jo Cobb’s second truck, #0.

With qualifying rained out, Rayl secured the 29th starting spot on Owner Points earned in two previous starts by the #0 earlier this year. He’d run around that spot in the weekend’s only practice session, putting up the 27th-fastest time of 32 drivers with a best of 126.950mph (35.447 seconds).

Rayl's truck in the garage prior to the race
PHOTO: @nascarfan19_YT
Starting last on Saturday night was Lou Goss, who this time had the former Mike Harmon Racing Chevrolet race-ready. Following Goss’ withdrawal in Iowa, the #74 Kramer Service Group / A&A Haulers Chevrolet turned its first three laps in practice, but could only run six seconds off the pace of session leader Stewart Friesen. Regardless, the 32-truck field guaranteed that he, too, would make his NASCAR national touring series debut along with Rayl and 31st-place starter Cody McMahan. McMahan, tabbed to drive Beaver Motorsports’ #1 Beaver Bail Bonds Chevrolet, had just one previous series attempt, when he DNQ’d at Bristol in a Cobb truck.

Unfortunately, all three drivers had short nights in Gateway. Rayl was joined at the back of the field by 27th-place starter Norm Benning, who missed the driver’s meeting. Just three laps later, Benning’s #6 H&H Transport Chevrolet passed the wreck of Rayl’s #0 following a crash in Turn 1 that ended his night. Goss made just ten more circuits before reporting a vibration, while McMahan exited with crash damage after 32 laps to finish 29th. Filling out the Bottom Five were the two NEMCO Motorsports Chevrolets of 30th-place Tyler Ankrum in the #87 and 28th-place Camden Murphy in the #8, both sponsored by Toenjes Brick Contracting.

The victory went to last week’s last-place finisher Ross Chastain, who became the first driver in the history of NASCAR’s top three series to follow-up a last-place by disqualification with a victory in the very next points race. Along with the $50,000 “The Trip” bonus from title sponsor Gander Outdoors and a smashed watermelon in victory lane, Chastain was awarded a trophy dedicated to the late Mike Mittler. Mittler was also honored with his family and crew giving the command and a salute on Lap 63, his former team number. Chastain returned to run Sunday’s Cup race in Sonoma, where he finished 33rd.

*This marked the first Truck Series last-place finish for the #0 at Gateway since September 6, 2008, when Butch Miller’s #0 ASI Limited Chevrolet fell out with ignition woes after 3 laps of the Camping World 200 presented by Honda Power Equipment.

32) #0-Greg Rayl / 2 laps / crash
31) #84-Lou Goss / 12 laps / vibration
30) #87-Tyler Ankrum / 14 laps / brakes
29) #1-Cody McMahan / 32 laps / crash
28)  #8-Camden Murphy / 47 laps / vibration

1st) Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing, NEMCO Motorsports, Young’s Motorsports (2)
2nd) Copp Motorsports, DGR-Crosley, Niece Motorsports, Norm Benning Racing, Reaume Brothers Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (10)
2nd) Toyota (1)


Saturday, June 22, 2019

K&N WEST: Dave Smith's battle to go from instructor to full-time racer

Smith examines his ride for today's Procore 200
PHOTO: Brock Beard
On Monday, during a media appearance featuring Michael Waltrip in a new Toyota Supra, another race car driver lined up behind the two-time Daytona 500 winner in a Camry. The driver was 52-year-old Dave Smith, who was preparing to run Saturday’s K&N Pro Series West race. I had the opportunity to ride with Smith as he followed Waltrip’s red car around the track, very much symbolic of Smith’s efforts to reach NASCAR’s elite level of competition.

Smith grew up just ten minutes from the Sonoma Raceway, where he first caught the racing bug in the Skip Barber Racing School. At the time, the school was hosted in an old barn outside Turn 11, where Smith cleaned the floors, then started working on their fleet of Formula Fords. Smith got his opportunity to take the three-day course himself, and earned high marks from his instructor. He considered a driving career of his own, but the costs made him stay a mechanic. For the next seven years, he worked his way up the ranks in Indy Lights, then IndyCar. He even became the crew chief for several drivers, including open-wheel mainstay Oriol Servia and Cup veteran Casey Mears.

But Smith wasn’t content to stay a mechanic, and “hung up my wrenches,” he recalled, in 1999. He returned to the driving school at Sonoma, which was now run by Jim Russel after Skip Barber moved to Laguna Seca. This time, Smith was an instructor, and earned the opportunity to run part-time in multiple road racing disciplines. “I got some one-off opportunities in Trans-Am, ALMS, and Porsche Cup car, Daytona Prototype with Greg Pickett Racing,” said Smith. “Did a lot of 25-hour endurance races at Thunderhill, tested a lot, drove a lot of different race cars – so many, and all that helped me become a better driver.”

But all of these drives were part-time or one-and-done efforts, often with limited practice to become familiar with each car. “[I’ve] never really got that break of being a full-time – in a full-time seat for a full season, where the car’s been personalized to me. I’m always hopping in somebody else’s car at the last minute. . .no testing, no practice.”

This trend has also defined Smith’s current efforts in the K&N Pro Series West, where he’s run no more than two races a year since 2010. This includes his car for today’s Procore 200. Smith’s #35 is a steel-bodied car acquired from Bill McAnally Racing with brand-new parts underneath, including a new motor and transmission. As per usual, Smith had never even seen it, much less driven it, before Friday’s opening practice. “I’m gonna hop in it. First time today and go give it hell. So, it’s gonna be fun. It’s stressful, but as long as the car works, I’ll be okay out there.”

Smith’s car this year is fielded by Dusty Baker – yes, that Dusty Baker, the former manager of baseball’s San Francisco Giants. Baker’s current venture into wine making through Baker Family Wines is one of Smith’s sponsors - along with Sonoma Harvest Olive Oil and Wine of Fairfield, owned by a high school friend - and custom wheel company FIKSE Wheels out of Canada, which bought space on his quarter-panels. Spotters from Michael McDowell’s Cup Series team were also on hand to guide his #35 around the track.

Smith's extensive experience at Sonoma – particularly the 2.52-mile configuration on which he continues to run as an instructor – paid dividends. Out of 32 drivers to take time, Smith ran 17th, and was tied for the third-most laps complete behind Lawless Alan and Austin Thorn.

Many of Smith’s competitors in today’s race are the same age as some of the aspiring racers Smith has trained through his own driver development program. But that hasn’t stopped him from trying to reach NASCAR’s highest echelon. Just this week, he’d been looking to pick up a ride for this Sunday’s Toyota / Save Mart 350. He’d had experience running Cup cars, but never in competition. The effort fell short due to a lack of funds. As such, this Sunday’s main event is the first in several years with no so-called “road course ringers” like Smith in the field.

Looking ahead to the Procore 200 itself – and Sunday’s main event, Smith gave some sage advice on how the races will play out from an instructor’s point of view:

“There’s going to be a lot of passing opportunities, and it’s really gonna be about driving these things cautiously aggressive, keeping the tires underneath you, not getting wheel spin. With the horsepower these things have and the little bit of grip in the tires, you have to be so progressive on the throttle, just really be a good throttle management guy, and keep the tires on the car. Soon as you burn them off, they’re just junk, and you’re slipping and sliding around out there. And then the other thing that is critical is not sticking the gearbox and not missing shifts, and not cooking your brakes, either. ‘Cause now, we’re going to have more braking opportunities – high speed braking opportunities – brakes is gonna be the key determining factor, mark my words, for both series this weekend. Brakes are gonna get smoked because we’re gonna be using them so hard.”

“So it’s gonna be the guy who can be conservative enough and good enough on the braking.”

Thursday, June 20, 2019

PREVIEW: Tributes to DW in Sonoma; youth movement central in Gateway

PHOTO: @roushfenway
Saturday, June 22, 2019
TRUCKS Race 11 of 23
CarShield 200 at World Wide Technology Raceway (Gateway)
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Joe Nemechek

The preliminary entry list of 31 drivers grew to 32 on Tuesday following one withdrawal (#30) and two additions (#1 and #6). All entrants will start the race.

DRIVER CHANGE: #0-Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #10-Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing
Jennifer Jo Cobb returns to her familiar #10, taking the place of Juan Manuel Gonzalez after a difficult morning in Iowa. Cobb’s return to the #10 opens the #0 for another driver to be announced. UPDATE: That driver is Greg Rayl, a 32-time starter in the K&N Pro Series West. Rayl makes his NASCAR national touring series debut after no major racing series starts since 2014.

RETURNING: #1-Beaver Motorsports
Added without a named driver on Tuesday, Mark Beaver’s single-truck effort is back in action for the first time since Kansas, where Bayley Currey steered his Toyota to a 29th-place finish. Beaver Bonding is the listed sponsor. The driver is to be announced. UPDATE: On Thursday, Cody McMahan was named the driver. McMahan has one previous attempt in 2016 when he DNQ'd Jennifer Jo Cobb's truck at Bristol. Saturday will be his series debut.

TEAM UPDATE: #6-Norm Benning Racing
Norm Benning wasn’t entered on the preliminary list, but that changed by Tuesday. No sponsor is currently listed.

TEAM CLOSED(?): #7-All Out Motorsports
News broke on Tuesday that All Out Motorsports, the team Korbin Forrister drove for on a part-time basis, has shut down. All Out, which last ran 25th in Charlotte, made 16 starts since their debut in the 2018 opener at Daytona. Their best finish was a pair of 13th-place runs that season in Kentucky and Las Vegas. UPDATE: Forrister tweeted Thursday that the team is still active, raising questions about the initial report.

Camden Murphy seeks his second Truck Series start and first since charlotte, where he ran 30th in the NEMCO #8. Taking the place of Trey Hutchins, who ran 29th in Iowa, Murphy carries returning sponsorship from Toenjes Brick Contracting, Inc., which backed NEMCO twice last summer at Gateway and Pocono.

DRIVER CHANGE: #13-ThorSport Racing
Following his one-race suspension for wrecking Austin Hill during Sunday's race in Iowa, Johnny Sauter will not start a Truck Series race since November 14, 2008, the season finale at Homestead. In Sauter's place will be a driver to be announced. UPDATE: Myatt Snider became the replacement on Thursday.

Anthony Alfredo will make his sixth start of 2019 and first since his breakout performance in Texas, where he ran 12th. He takes over for 9th-place Iowa finisher Raphael Lessard. Sponsorship comes from Steelsmith, Oxford Energy Group, ASDC, and the Friends of Jaclyn foundation.

WITHDREW: #30-On Point Motorsports
On Tuesday came news that Brennan Poole would not be competing in Gateway as the #30 team withdrew. It is the team’s second withdrawal of the season, the other coming at Kansas.

RETURNING: #32-Reaume Brothers Racing
Daniel Sasnett is again entered in what should be #32’s debut, following the pair’s withdrawal last week in Iowa.

DRIVER CHANGE: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
Josh Reaume resumes driving duties of his team’s flagship #33, taking the place of 23rd-place Iowa finisher C.J. McLaughlin. Colonial Countertops returns as sponsor of his Chevrolet.

DRIVER CHANGE: #34-Reaume Brothers Racing
Bryant Barnhill returns to the site of his Truck Series debut last year, when he steered Premium Motorsports’ #15 Chevrolet to a 31st-place finish following engine trouble. This time, he replaces 21st-place Iowa finisher Mason Massey in another of Josh Reaume’s trucks.

MISSING: #42-Chad Finley Racing, Inc.
Not entered this week is Chad Finley, who saw his race in Iowa end after 68 laps due to rear end issues. It was in this race last year that Finley debuted this team, yielding a career-best 6th-place finish. The run remains his only career top 10 in eight series starts.

TEAM UPDATE: #44-Niece Motorsports
Ross Chastain and team lost their appeal on Wednesday. With his disqualification at Iowa, the race to make the Playoffs continues Saturday.

DRIVER CHANGE: #46-Kyle Busch Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Kyle Busch Motorsports
KBM reloads their lineup with Chandler Smith, fresh off his strong start in Iowa, moving from the #51 to the #46 with sponsorship from iBUYPOWER. Smith takes the place of Riley Herbst, who ran 15th in Iowa and is not entered. Driving Smith’s #51 will be a returning Christian Eckes, who in this race last year started outside-pole and led 34 laps before a wreck left him 28th. SiriusXM sponsors Eckes, who now stands 4th in this year’s ARCA Menards Series standings.

MISSING: #56-Hill Motorsports
Timmy and Tyler Hill will not make the journey to Gateway this week following Tyler’s 26th-place finish in their Chevrolet in Iowa.

TEAM UPDATE: #74-Lou Goss Racing
Lou Goss will race in Gateway after his unfinished truck withdrew in Iowa. It will mark the first laps for the former Mike Harmon chassis since Mosport last summer. Kramer Service Group and A&A Haulers remain as sponsors of the new venture, which now is listed with Goss as team owner.


Sunday, June 23, 2019
CUP Race 16 of 36
Toyota / Save Mart 350 at Sears Point
2018 Last-Place Finisher: A.J. Allmendinger

There are 38 drivers entered in Sunday’s first road course race of 2019, meaning all drivers entered will qualify. It is the third short field in a row and the twelfth in sixteen races this season. It’s also the third-straight year Sonoma has seen just 38 drivers take the green flag, the fewest for a Cup race held there.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Premium Motorsports
In addition to his Truck effort at Gateway, where he seeks to shake off the disappointment of a disqualification in Iowa, Ross Chastain will make his first-ever Cup start at the Sonoma Raceway. As in previous Cup efforts, he drives Jay Robinson’s #15 Chevrolet, which does not yet have a listed sponsor. He takes the place of Garrett Smithley, who ran 30th the last time the Cup Series was in action at Michigan. UPDATE: Kyle Weatherman will practice and qualify this car while Chastain runs Trucks at Gateway.

PAINT SCHEME: #17-Roush-Fenway Racing
PAINT SCHEME: #38-Front Row Motorsports
PAINT SCHEME: #95-Leavine Family Racing
At least three cars in Sunday’s field will carry paint schemes saluting the final FOX Sports broadcast for Darrell Waltrip. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.’s #17 Fastenal Ford will carry a scheme resembling Waltrip’s Western Auto Chevrolet he ran from 1991 through 1997, complete with chrome-foil numbers. David Ragan’s #38 #ThanksDW Ford carries a white-and-red scheme with Waltrip’s famous catchphrase on the hood. Matt DiBenedetto is also listed in the orange-and-white scheme Waltrip ran when he ran #95 in 1974. The scheme, unveiled on Wednesday, will again be sponsored by Procore, which will also present Saturday's K&N Pro Series West race at Sonoma.

RETURNING: #27-Premium Motorsports
Jay Robinson has also entered his second car for the first time since Pocono, and again enters Reed Sorenson in the #27 Chevrolet. Sorenson has four Sonoma starts in Cup competition, but none since 2014, when he finished 32nd for Tommy Baldwin Racing. Baldwin continues his role as crew chief for the team.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Rick Ware Racing
J.J. Yeley rejoins Rick Ware Racing, and brings his Steakhouse Elite sponsorship to complement the Ware team’s Jacob Companies backing. He takes the place of Kyle Weatherman, last in Michigan after the P-40 paint scheme wrecked early in Michigan. Yeley has seven Sonoma starts, but none since 2015, when a crash driving for BK Racing left him 41st in the last 43-car field here.

DRIVER CHANGE: #52-Rick Ware Racing
Cody Ware returns to the #52 which he debuted in this same race last year, and local construction firm SBC Contractors will again back the effort. Ware takes the place of Josh Bilicki, who ran 33rd two weeks back in Michigan.

DRIVER CHANGE: #77-Spire Motorsports
Welcome back Justin Haley, who on Sunday will make his first Cup start since his strong run at Talladega ended with a crash not of his doing. It was on this same weekend just last year that Haley scored his first Truck Series victory in Gateway driving for GMS Racing. Formula One Imports will be the sponsor. He takes the place of Quin Houff, driver of the #77 for the last five races, most recently his 32nd-place showing in Michigan.

RETURNING: #96-Gaunt Brothers Racing
Parker Kligerman returns to Cup competition on Sunday, as does the Gaunt Brothers. We last saw them both in the Coca-Cola 600, where Kligerman ran 26th, his second-best finish of the year behind a 15th in the Daytona 500. As at Talladega, the car will carry logos celebrating the 40th anniversary of Toyota Racing Development, likely a tie-in with Toyota’s sponsorship of the race itself.

Saturday, June 29, 2019
XFINITY Race 15 of 33
Camping World 300 at Chicagoland
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Kaz Grala

The XFINITY Series takes the week off and will return next Saturday in Chicago.

Today in LASTCAR history (June 20, 1957): Bob Welborn picked up the first last-place finish of his Cup Series career in a 200-lap event on the Columbia (South Carolina) Speedway when his #49 1957 Chevrolet did not start, leaving him last in the 21-car field. The bad luck didn’t last long for Welborn, the polesitter of the first Daytona 500 two seasons later. That October, he scored the first of his nine Cup wins with a decisive victory in Martinsville. Welborn led 435 of 500 laps that day, just 11 fewer than Brad Keselowski’s mark of 446 this past spring.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

ARCA: Dale Shearer finishes last in 2019 debut

Mike Basham driving the #69 earlier this year at Nashville
PHOTO: The Pit Lane
by William Soquet Guest Contributor, ARCA Menards Series

Dale Shearer finished last for the fourth time in his ARCA Menards Series career in Friday’s Shore Lunch 200 at Madison International Speedway when his #69 Shearer Racing Ford dropped out with clutch issues after 2 of 200 laps. The finish came in his 32nd career start, and was his first since Chicagoland in 2016, 32 races ago.

Shearer is a true independent racer who funds his career on his earnings off of his job as a computer programmer. He primarily runs his own #73 or #94, but occasionally runs his equipment with other teams, like Kimmel Racing at Daytona in 2016. A crash in his only start at Salem last year shelved his plans for the rest of the year, and he did not return until this weekend at Madison.

The Madison entry list included 18 cars, now a trendy number for ARCA events. The ARCA short-track ringers returned, including Sam Mayer, who was able to compete in his home state after the K&N East race at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in Connecticut was cancelled. Eric Caudell returned, and another Wisconsin driver, Dick Karth, made his series debut on the season and made his first start since this race a year ago.

In practice, Shearer was last among the eighteen entrants, 4.1 seconds behind leader Christian Eckes and 1.7 seconds behind 17th-place running Dick Doheny. Shearer was nearly five seconds behind pole winner Chandler Smith. Per ARCA timing and scoring, Karth’s #11 machine dropped to the back for the green but then passed Shearer on the first lap, leaving the #69 to run last until it pulled behind the wall.

Looking ahead to the season-long LASTCAR tally, while it was Shearer’s first last-place finish, it furthered Ford’s lead to three races over Toyota, and it put Kimmel Racing into a four-way tie for first in the owner’s championship, which is still wide open. There is also a tie between Brad Smith and Richard Doheny with two last-place finishes on top of the driver’s tables, leaving that battle to be decided after this, the halfway mark of the season.

18) #69-Dale Shearer / 2 laps / clutch
17) #1-Richard Doheny / 10 laps / brakes
16) #11-Dick Karth / 15 laps / handling
15) #48-Brad Smith / 51 laps / engine
14) #06-Tim Richmond / 183 laps / running

1st) Ford (6)
2nd) Toyota (3)
3rd) Chevrolet (1)