Thursday, September 20, 2018

PREVIEW: A number of returning faces dot the Richmond entry lists

PHOTO: @RyanSiegRacing
Friday, September 21, 2018
XFINITY Race 27 of 33
Round of 12, Race 1 of 3
GoBowling.com 250 at Richmond
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Jeff Green

ENTRY LIST
One week after the entry list just barely reached 40 starters, there are 41 drivers entered for 40 spots this week, meaning one will miss the show.

DRIVER CHANGE: #4-JD Motorsports
Welcome back Quin Houff, who returns to the XFINITY Series for the first time since last fall at Kansas, his final race with Rick Gdovic’s shuttered Precision Performance Racing team. Houff brings with him returning backing from the BeatinCancerWithDuke.org initiative, and takes the place of Landon Cassill in Johnny Davis’ #4. Ross Chastain, last week’s winner, remains in the Chip Ganassi #42 for the first race of the Playoffs.

DRIVER CHANGE: #13-Motorsports Business Management
DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
As of this writing, Carl Long is the listed driver of the #13, though he has been swapped out as a placeholder multiple times in recent weeks. Las Vegas saw Stan Mullis behind the wheel for the third time in 2018, yielding a 37th-place finish. UPDATE: Timmy Hill will drive the car in Mullis' place. Long will drive the #66. Mullis is not entered.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-JD Motorsports
After two successful races at Mid-Ohio and Road America, Katherine Legge is back to make her oval-track debut in NASCAR. She takes the place of B.J. McLeod in Johnny Davis’ #15, the same team she drove for in both races.

MISSING: #26-Tullman Walker Racing
Max Tullman’s team rebounded from a crash in Iowa to finish 23rd in Las Vegas, a new team-best. Neither Tullman nor the Tullman Walker team is entered this week.

NEW TEAM: #27-TGT Motorsports
Florida native Cody Lane has been absent from NASCAR’s top three series since 2015, when he attempted his only Truck Series start at Bristol, but missed the cut. Then as now, he returns to action with an independent team, running the #27, and looking to make his way into his first XFINITY Series race. What's more, the preliminary lust shows him entered in a 2011 Chevrolet, by far theboldest car in the field. Lane has five ARCA Racing Series starts to his credit with a best finish of 14th at Winchester in 2013.

TEAM UPDATE: #55-JP Motorsports
As of this writing, Stephen Leicht is listed as a possible placeholder for the #55 from JP Motorsports. With the Truck Series off for the week, Bayley Currey is likely to drive for a fourth-consecutive race following a 24th-place run in Las Vegas, his second-best of the season. UPDATE: Currey is again driving the #55.

DRIVER CHANGE: #60-Roush-Fenway Racing
Ty Majeski returns for his eighth XFINITY start of the year and first since Road America, where he ran 28th. It will be Majeski’s first series start at Richmond. He takes the place of Chase Briscoe, who suffered a devastating crash on the backstretch in Las Vegas, and is not racing this weekend.

MISSING: #72-Motorsports Business Management
John Jackson kept field at 40 in Las Vegas when Carl Long entered his part-time fourth car, bringing home a 38th-place finish. Neither Jackson nor the #72 are entered this week.

DRIVER CHANGE: #78-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
One week after K&N Pro Series West driver Cole Rouse took home a 21st-place finish in his first national touring series start, Matt Mills will drive B.J. McLeod’s flagship entry. Mills returns to the series for the first time since Michigan, where a mid-race accident left him 36th in his final start for JD Motorsports. Mills’ only previous Richmond start came in the spring of last year, when he steered McLeod’s #8 to a 31st-place finish.

RETURNING: #88-JR Motorsports
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was still under contract with sponsor Hellmann’s Mayonnaise to run this race at the time he announced his retirement in 2017. Thus, on top of his announcer duties for NBC Sports, he will climb back behind the wheel for the first time since his final Cup start last fall in Homestead. Junior led 128 laps here in the spring of 2016 en route to victory, and last fall ran 7th. JR Motorsports worked out a deal with Penske Racing to get T.J. Majors to spot for him, but former crew chief Steve Letarte will stay in the booth. Mike Bumgarner is listed as the crew chief.

RETURNING: #89-Shepherd Racing Ventures
Morgan Shepherd is back on the entry list after he did not enter the #89 in Las Vegas. Shepherd is a past series winner at Richmond, taking the checkers over Tommy Ellis on September 10, 1983, and has made 23 starts in the series at “The Action Track.”

DRIVER CHANGE: #90-DGM Racing
It was announced earlier this week that Mason Diaz will make his XFINITY Series debut, just under a year since he ran 23rd in his Truck Series debut at Martinsville. Most recently, Diaz competed in a pair of late model races at Hickory on August 4, finishing 14th in Late Model Stocks and 22nd in Super Late Models. Solid Rock Carriers, which backed his CARS efforts, will sponsor the #90 this week as he takes the place of Josh Williams, who ran 20th in Vegas.

Saturday, September 22, 2018
CUP Race 28 of 36
Round of 16, Race 2 of 3
Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Landon Cassill

ENTRY LIST
There are exactly 40 entrants for the 40-car starting lineup, the sixth-consecutive full field of the 2018 campaign. Just 38 took the green here in the spring.

DRIVER CHANGE: #6-Roush-Fenway Racing
Two-time Richmond fall winner Matt Kenseth returns to the #6 this week in place of Trevor Bayne, who survived Las Vegas to earn a 13th-place finish. It will be Kenseth’s 11th start of the season and first since Indy, where he ran 12th. Roush team backers Performance Plus Motor Oil will be the listed sponsor.

MISSING: #7-Premium Motorsports
Jay Robinson has not entered their second “open” car piloted by Reed Sorenson at Las Vegas to a 31st-place finish. The car had been entered in 11 of the last 13 races and was withdrawn twice in that span. Jeffrey Earnhardt’s 11th-place showing at Daytona in July remains the team’s only run better than 28th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #23-Front Row Motorsports
Welcome back Alon Day, the Israeli star of NASCAR’s Whelen Euro Series. Just over a year since his Cup debut at Sonoma where he ran 32nd, Day rejoins what was BK Racing for his first oval-track start in Cup competition. Previous to this, he has run both Loudon and Homestead in the Truck Series in 2016, finishing 24th and 26th, respectively. Best Billy Sticks is the listed sponsor for the Bob Jenkins-owned effort.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Rick Ware Racing
RETURNING: #52-Rick Ware Racing
B.J. McLeod moves from the #51 Ford to the #52 Chevrolet, making way for XFINITY Series regular Cole Custer. We haven’t seen Custer in the Cup Series since Pocono in June, when he piloted the #51 to a 26th-place finish. Both his and McLeod’s cars are both backed by Jacob Companies. UPDATE: Gray Gaulding will take McLeod's place in the #52 for his first Cup start since Bristol, and welcomes sponsorship from Live Casino. Custer's run in the #51 will be his last Cup start of 2018.

DRIVER CHANGE: #99-StarCom Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #00-StarCom Racing
As at Daytona this past July, Landon Cassill moves from the Chartered #00 to the “open” #99 this week (taking the place of Kyle Weatherman) to make way for Joey Gase. Gase brings with him returning sponsor Eternal Fan, which has partnered with the Richmond Raceway in its recent upgrade.

Friday, October 13, 2018
TRUCKS Race 19 of 23
Round of 8, Race 3 of 3
Talladega 250 at Talladega
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Norm Benning

The Truck Series returns three weeks from Saturday for “Truckadega,” where two drivers will be eliminated from Playoff contention.

LASTCAR STAT OF THE WEEK
Last week’s Cup Series playoff opener saw a number of tire issues which led to crashes. While the sheer number of crashes caused by tires is inseparable statistically, there are five last-place runs that specifically cited a “tire” or “tires” as the cause. A single “tire” was to blame for Joe Staton’s #94 Nash falling out at Darlington on May 10, 1952, Jimmie Lewallen’s #5 Mercury at Columbia (SC) Speedway on March 26, 1955, and Pepper Cunningham’s #6 Chrysler at Langhorne on April 24, 1955. “Tires” in the plural occurred two other times, capturing Joe Gillow’s Ford at New York’s Wine Creek Race Track on July 4, 1952 and Possum Jones’ #05 Pontiac at Columbia on August 8, 1963. These are separate and apart from the “no tires” reason listed by a frustrated Joe Frasson at Bristol on August 29, 1976.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

OPINION: ARCA needs to suspend Zane Smith for the season

PHOTO: Peyton Turnage
by William Soquet
LASTCAR.info Guest Contributor

Short track racing. We love it because of its close-quarter, fender-banging racing. Sometimes, that leads to wrecks. Oftentimes, those responsible for the wrecks have to go to the back of the field, or, if it is their second or third incident of the night, are sent home. That rule even applies to most prestigious super late model races, as a testament to how much promoters value clean but hard racing. That buck stops once you get into NASCAR-sanctioned competition. Why? Cars are fragile enough that chances are if you spin someone out, you’re also going to have damage. Also, most drivers are mature enough to either not intentionally wreck someone or make it look unintentional.

Bring the ARCA Racing Series in to the equation. Most fans love it because it's the closest you will get to finding a local track-like atmosphere in big league racing. Similarly, local drivers often show up for one-offs at tracks that they race on weekly. It’s also grown notorious for the sanctioning body’s rough-and-tumble way of play, becoming a haven for some of the ugliest on-track confrontations in recent memory. Recall Scott Speed and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.'s tangle in 2008, after which ARCA parked Speed for the remainder of that race, showing that to a certain actions are deemed detrimental and worthy of penalty.

Two races ago at Berlin, Joe Graf, Jr. nudged not one but two cars out of the way for the win. While some viewed the move as too aggressive, others called it plain old short-track racing. While Graf was penalized heavily in the court of public opinion, no ruling came down from the sanctioning body. It was the right move because while the driver was maybe a bit too aggressive, no cars were totaled and the resulting position losses from being moved out of the groove were not enough to call for a penalty.

This brings us to last Saturday's incident in Salem between Michael Self and Zane Smith. Self was, by all accounts, not having the greatest of nights. It was his first ARCA start since Iowa, two months ago, and it was his first appearance at Salem, which is by no means an easy track to master. Needless to say, the driver of the #55 car was using the bumper religiously throughout the race. Early in the race, Smith spun Self out. Later on, Self spun Smith's #41 into the wall.

To be fair, Smith, at this point in the year, was frustrated. A rough couple of dirt races had seen him fall farther and farther behind teammate Sheldon Creed for the points lead. Although point standings from before last night’s race are unavailable, it is safe to say that Smith’s championship hopes purely relied on Creed having mechanical failures. He had also just been wrecked by a driver from his ex-team, one he left thirteen months ago.

But this was where things became unacceptable.

Back in Zane Smith's pit, the MDM Motorsports crew worked feverishly to get its only non-throwback car out on the track for the express purpose of ending Self’s night. When they got the car rolling again with approximately twenty laps to go, Smith slowly motored around the racetrack until the 55 machine passed him, something this author is liable to do in video games. He then set up an approach so that he could create maximum damage in the corner. And sure enough, just like Matt Kenseth at Martinsville, Zane Smith ended Michael Self’s race by hooking him into the wall. Self eventually slid back into the racing groove, liable to be t-boned by the field.

The 41 car then stopped in the 55’s pit to discuss things – you know, just a casual Harvick-Chastain or Harvick-Dillon deal. When later interviewed by MAVTV, Smith bragged about the incident, saying “I went back out and ended his night.” Brendan Gaughan after his run-in with Ross Chastain last year, anyone?

Potentially the worst part about this is the hypocrisy shown on the driver’s end of things. Just weeks after complaining about Joe Graf wrecking people, Smith goes out and demolishes a car. He also posted a “hate me or love me, I had to do it” post, which is about typical for someone his age and background. He was also handing out blocks aplenty on Twitter last night, unable to deal with negative attention. Smith has always been in the best equipment, the epitome of a well-groomed prospect. His cocky attitude has ruffled more than a few feathers within the racing community, and when he tries to show change, he reverses course afterwards with this.

A similar incident in Moto GP a couple weeks ago, where one competitor grabbed another’s brake lever, earned a two-race suspension. So did Kenseth’s actions on Joey Logano at Martinsville 2015. Smith’s actions should garner the same discipline. ARCA can take a stand and show that it will not tolerate unsafe behavior, nor will it be beholden to teams that drive interest. It is utterly inexcusable to do what Zane Smith did and he should be reprimanded accordingly – because real life should not be a video game.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

CUP: Playoff polesitter Erik Jones’ strong Las Vegas weekend ends in the garage

PHOTO: NBC Sports, screenshot by @NASCARONFOX
Big thanks to LASTCAR.info Guest Contributor William Soquet, who covered the last-place battle as I commuted to the Sonoma Raceway for Sunday’s IndyCar season finale.

Erik Jones picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s South Point 400 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway when his #20 DeWalt Toyota was involved in a two-car accident after he completed 147 of the race’s 272 laps.

The finish, which occurred in Jones’ 66th series start, was his first of the year and first since last summer at Loudon, 44 races ago. In the Cup Series last-place rankings, it was the 29th for car #20, the 151st for Toyota, and the 573rd because of a crash. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 47th for the #20, the 303rd for Toyota, and the 1,164th from a crash.

The promise Jones showed in his rookie Cup season driving a second car from Furniture Row Racing was realized this past July when the 22-year-old took the checkered flag in a wild Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona. The win locked Jones into the Playoffs for the first time, and was followed by six top-ten finishes in the next eight races. Just last Sunday at Indianapolis, Jones was running among the leaders on the final run to the checkers, where he slipped past teammate Denny Hamlin en route to a runner-up finish to Brad Keselowski.

Jones kept the momentum going last week, storming into Las Vegas with the 4th-fastest lap in opening practice, and after turning the 8th-best lap in Round 1 of qualifying, paced both Rounds 2 and 3 to earn his second career pole, his first since last summer at Bristol. His official lap clocked in at 188.121mph (28.705 seconds). Only outside-polesitter Joey Logano joined him above the 188mph mark. Jones ran 6th in Saturday’s second practice, then led Happy Hour with his first of 42 laps clocked. For all intents and purposes, Jones looked like he was going to have a strong run in the first round of the Playoffs.

On the other end of the field, the 40th spot belonged to Reed Sorenson, the only driver who didn’t turn a lap in Round 1. Sorenson was back in the unsponsored #7 Chevrolet which he piloted to a 28th-place run on Monday in Indianapolis. Joining him at the rear prior to the start were 38th-place starter B.J. McLeod for a new rear gear on the #51 Jacob Companies Ford, and 18th-place starter Austin Dillon’s for an unapproved body modification on his #3 DOWFROST Chevrolet.

As William Soquet tweeted, when the race started, the 40th spot fell to Timmy Hill, whose #66 Rewards.com Toyota was one of two “throwback” schemes from Darlington (the other being Landon Cassill’s #00 StarCom Fiber Chevrolet). Hill lost touch with Sorenson, who opened up a two-second gap between the pair, and Hill was the first to lose a lap in the first 12 circuits. Hill went to the garage by Lap 48 with gear issues. By the 100-lap mark, Hill returned to action, 36 laps down. With the rest of the field still running and more than half the race left to run, the last-place battle remained up for grabs.

It then appeared that Ty Dillon was headed to his second last-place run of the year and first since Kansas. Dillon brought out the race’s third caution on Lap 111 when the right-front tire blew in the tri-oval, sending his car hard into the outside wall. He managed to clear the “Crash Clock” and pulled into the garage for more repairs, having turned 119 laps. The crew then worked over the car, clearing metal from the right-front fender, tape-measuring the right-front, and putting on sticker tires. The team then inspected the ball joint, and Dillon got back in the seat when trouble broke out on the track.

On Lap 148, heading into Turn 1, Kevin Harvick blew a right-front tire of his own, his #4 Mobil 1 Ford smashing the outside wall in Turn 1. Erik Jones, running some distance behind Harvick, was committed to the outside lane of the gradient-banked corner. Unable to avoid the wreck, Jones plowed into the back of Harvick, destroying the front of his machine. Both drivers climbed out unhurt, but Jones expressed his frustration by throwing a bag of ice his team had handed him during a pit stop. Jones, running behind Harvick at the time, was classified behind the #4.

Back in the garage, Ty Dillon and crew pieced the #13 together, though they had taken last from Hill on Lap 159. Five circuits later on Lap 164, Dillon returned to the track, 45 laps down. For much of the rest of the race, the crew debated about if, and for how long, the car would run. A bottom-five finish would earn them no more points than they already had. But on Lap 193, Dillon passed both Jones and Harvick, dropping the #20 to last. The #13 spotter and crew remained mindful of other teams running at the back of the field, trying to determine how many more spots could be gained. They ended up 34th, earning three points instead of one.

Accidents plagued the final stage of Sunday’s race, many of them from further tire failures. The 38th spot, however, went to Bubba Wallace, whose #43 World Wide Technology Chevrolet suffered a right-front hub failure that caused a fire behind the wheel, forcing him behind the wall. William Byron ended up 37th after his #24 Axalta Chevrolet failed to clear the “Crash Clock” after banging the Turn 3 fence. Rounding out the group was Playoff contender Chase Elliott, whose #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet was collected by a spinning Jamie McMurray on Lap 212.

When the dust settled, the Top 20 featured a number of drivers and teams in much need of a strong finish.

Regan Smith’s second drive in place of a recovering Kasey Kahne put the Leavine Family Racing team’s #95 Procore Chevrolet in the 12th spot, the team’s best run since the Daytona night race.

Trevor Bayne, though confirmed not to be in the #6 next year, earned a 13th-place finish, his third top-twenty finish in his last four starts, and his second lead-lap run in a row.

Corey LaJoie ran 16th after thinking he’d only be able to race for 32nd on Twitter, not only LaJoie’s best run of the year but the best for TriStar since Texas.

J.J. Yeley ran 17th in only the third race since Bob Jenkins bought BK Racing, giving the #23 Toyota its best run of the year, and Yeley his best run since 2015 at Talladega.

Landon Cassill’s Darlington “throwback” placed 18th at the finish, last on the lead lap for StarCom Racing’s season-best finish, improving on a 20th-place showing at Bristol. It’s also the best-ever finish for Derrike Cope’s start-up team, which was first hit the track less than a year ago.

Rounding out the Top 20 was Ross Chastain, who completed a tremendous triple-header at Las Vegas. One day after earning his first XFINITY Series win by dominating Saturday’s DC Solar 300 and two days after piloting Premium Motorsports’ unsponsored #15 Chevrolet to a 7th-place run in the Truck Series race, Chastain finished 20th in the #15 Xchange of America Chevrolet. It is the second-best finish for the #15 team in 2018 behind Chastain’s 18th-place run in Texas.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the first last-place finish for car #20 in a Cup race since February 26, 2017, when Matt Kenseth’s own turn in the #20 DeWalt Toyota ended when he crashed after 103 laps of the Daytona 500. It’s also the second last-place run for the #20 in a Cup race at Las Vegas, following Tony Stewart’s wreck on March 2, 2008.
*Jones completed the second-most laps of any Cup Series last-placer at Las Vegas, just three fewer than Hut Stricklin’s 150 laps turned on March 1, 1998. Curiously, that day was the inaugural Cup race held at Las Vegas, and Sunday was the inaugural fall race at the track.
*Jones is the first polesitter to ever finish last in a Cup Series race at Las Vegas. He’s the first polesitter to finish last in a Cup race since October 23, 2016, when Martin Truex, Jr. lost an engine at Talladega.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #20-Erik Jones / 147 laps / crash
39) #4-Kevin Harvick / 147 laps / crash / led 14 laps
38) #43-Bubba Wallace / 164 laps / front hub
37) #24-William Byron / 210 laps / crash
36) #9-Chase Elliott / 211 laps / crash

2018 LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) StarCom Racing, TriStar Motorsports (4)
2nd) BK Racing, Furniture Row Racing, Penske Racing, Premium Motorsports (2)
3rd) Chip Ganassi Racing, Front Row Motorsports, Germain Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, JTG-Daugherty Racing, Motorsports Business Management, Richard Petty Motorsports, Rick Ware Racing, Roush-Fenway Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

2018 LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (16)
2nd) Toyota (6)
3rd) Ford (5)

2018 LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP

K&N WEST: Thackeray a victim of track conditions at Las Vegas

Thackeray (foreground) withe Vanderwal (#43) and Shepherd (#27)
PHOTO: picluck.net
by William Soquet
LASTCAR.info Guest Contributor

Hollis Thackeray finished last for the first time in his NASCAR K&N Pro Series West career in Thursday night’s Star Nursery 100 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Dirt Track when his #38 NAPA / Butte Auto Parts / Justeson Farms Toyota fell out with crash damage after 8 of 102 laps. The finish came in his fourth series start.

Hollis Shane Thackeray is not quite your typical NASCAR prospect. The 17-year-old hails from Gridley, California, north of San Francisco, and the one common thread throughout his racing career has been the number 38. From midgets to sprint cars to late models, Thackeray has used the number 38. He was also previously associated with GoShare, which has backed Tomy Drissi’s efforts in sports cars as well as Tanner Thorson’s in the truck series. When that association ended this year, he has since run two races in the #38 for his own family.

Twenty-six cars showed up on the entry list for this event. Per the norm, with this many entries, some withdrew. NextGen Motorsports withdrew one of their cars and Obaika Racing withdrew after a different team failed to follow through on their commitment of prepping a race-ready car. Bill McAnally Racing entered five cars, three for its series regulars and entries for NASCAR XFINITY drivers Christopher Bell and Brendan Gaughan. Sheldon Creed entered a car with Norman Levin Racing, and Vanessa Robinson and Cole Keatts returned with Jefferson Pitts Racing. A slew of drivers made debuts, including Buddy Shepherd, Tim Ward, David Hibbard and Michael Kofoid.

The weekend was quite the sight to behold. The spectacle of cars on dirt did not disappoint for most fans. Hailie Deegan was pegged as one of the favorites going into it and held up to the standard, claiming fast time in practice over Derek Kraus. She claimed the tops spot in time trials as well and won her heat race, claiming the official pole position. At the opposite end of the field was Hibbard, shotgun on the field for his NASCAR debut.

On the start was when everything broke loose. A cloud of dust settled over the back half the field, limiting visibility severely. As Kyle Larson said, it seemed as if those working at the track forgot that water trucks existed. Another attempt was foolishly made on lap six, which resulted in Thackeray, Kody Vanderwal and Shepherd getting tangled in turn one. Thackeray and Shepherd retired on the spot, while Vanderwal was able to repair his car and continued on to complete 59 laps. Both were awarded $1,100 for their efforts and called it a weekend.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
24) #38-Hollis Thackeray / 8 laps / crash
23) #27-Buddy Shepherd / 8 laps / crash
22) #84-Rich DeLong III / 17 laps / crash
21) #83-Michael Kofoid / 51 laps / mechanical
20) #43-Kody Vnaderwal / 59 laps / running

2018 LASTCAR K&N PRO SERIES EAST OWNERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Patriot Motorsports Group (6)
2nd) B&B Motorsports, Bill McAnally Racing, Flyin Dutchman Racing, Hollis Thackeray, Norman Levin Racing (1)

2018 LASTCAR K&N PRO SERIES EAST MANUFACTURERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (7)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (2)

2018 LASTCAR K&N PRO SERIES EAST DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP

XFINITY: Michael Annett eliminated from Playoffs with first last-place run since 2010

PHOTO: NBC Sports
Michael Annett picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s DC Solar 300 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway when his #5 Allstate Parts & Service Group Chevrolet was involved in a single-car accident after he completed 5 of 200 laps.

The finish, which occurred in Annett’s 222nd series start, was his first since April 25, 2010 at Talladega, 285 races ago. In the XFINITY Series last-place rankings, it was the 9th for car #5, the 320th from a crash, and the 512th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 32nd for the #5, the 1,163rd from a crash, and the 1,626th for Chevrolet.

In his second full XFINITY Series season since he returned to the division with JR Motorsports, Annett arrived in Las Vegas in a do-or-die situation. Following a vibration that eliminated him at Indianapolis, Annett had to win Vegas’ regular season finale to advance into the Playoffs. Throughout the 2018 season, Annett had failed to finish four times and led just nine laps. He’d also earned just two top-ten finishes, but each had come in the previous four races with a season-best 7th at Bristol and a 10th at Darlington. He arrived in Las Vegas, where he ran 13th in the spring, running a black-and-white Chevrolet with returning sponsor Allstate Parts & Service Group, which not only backed his XFINITY efforts but also his brief Cup Series ride with the now-shuttered HScott Motorsports.

Annett was one of 39 drivers on the preliminary entry list, a field which grew to a full complement of 40 after Motorsports Business Management entered a fourth car, the #72 CrashClaimsR.Us / James Carter Attorney Toyota with Scottish driver John Jackson behind the wheel. Of those 40 cars, Annett ran 19th in the opening practice and 13th in the second. He then improved steadily through qualifying, timing in 18th in Round 1, 11th in Round 2, and made it to 9th in Round 3 with a lap of 175.103mph (30.839 seconds). It was Annett’s best qualifying performance since Talladega, where he rolled off 5th.

Starting last was another MBM entry, the #13 OCR Gaz Bar Toyota. Driving the #13 was Stan Mullis, who was back on the XFINITY tour since running both Iowa races earlier this summer. Mullis was one of seven drivers who didn’t turn a lap in Round 1, all of them relying on Owner Points to fill out the field. Inspection problems plagued Ryan Preece (#18 Rheem Toyota), Daniel Hemric (#21 South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet), Brandon Jones (#19 Menards Mastercraft Doors Toyota), Matt Tifft (#2 KCMG Chevrolet) and Ryan Truex (#11 LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevrolet). Those five started 34th through 38th with 39th going to Garrett Smithley, sent to a backup car in the #0 FAME-USA.com Chevrolet. Smithley slammed the wall entering Turn 3 in practice, and needed a moment to catch his breath after climbing out.

Of the drivers starting in the rear for inspection issues, Matt Tifft incurred the heaviest penalty. Just like Brandon Jones at Darlington, Tifft’s #2 failed inspection four times, meaning the car would have to make a pass-through penalty at the start of the race. Tifft did not fall to the tail end of the grid for the start, but this proved moot when he was posted at the green flag and pulled down pit road on the first lap. One lap down, Tifft came out among the leaders and was tracking down race leader Cole Custer when, just like Jones at Darlington, the caution he needed came out.

On Lap 5, Michael Annett was in a tight battle for position on the inside of a three-wide battle with Ryan Preece to his right and the #39 Big Valley Towing Chevrolet of Ryan Sieg. Coming through the fourth corner, Annett broke loose and slid into Preece. The two locked doors, and Preece turned to the left, sending Annett sideway into the grass. Once the car turned toward the infield, the splitter dug in, destroying the nose of Annett’s car. The driver tried to keep going, but was soon trailing fluid and had to stop at the entrance to Turn 1. Annett climbed out, done for the day – and the Playoffs.

Finishing 39th was Jeff Green, now a seven-time LASTCAR XFINITY Series champion, who exited with a vibration on the ensuing green-flag run. 38th fell to John Jackson’s MBM entry, out 12 laps after Green. Mullis finished 37th, the third car in a row to retire citing a vibration. Timmy Hill held 36th for a time after turning 55 laps, threatening to put three of the four MBM cars in the Bottom Five, but returned late in Stage 3 to climb out of the spot. Dropping to 36th in Hill’s place was Matt Tifft, whose #2 was collected in a grinding Turn 4 wreck with Ryan Reed.

Taking the checkers was Ross Chastain, who after he was denied victory at Darlington, recovered in his very next start for Chip Ganassi. Chastain led 180 of 200 laps, winning both stages, and gapping Justin Allgaier by 1.629 seconds. It was Chastain’s 132nd series start and came in his fifth season on the tour.
Adrian Fernandez at Texas, 2005
PHOTO: motorsport.com

LASTCAR STATISTICS 

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #5 in an XFINITY Series race since November 5, 2005, when open-wheel star Adrian Fernandez took a turn with Hendrick Motorsports and scored his first last-place run in the O’Reilly Challenge at Texas, where he crashed out after 15 laps. That race was also the last time a Hendrick car finished last in an XFINITY Series race.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #5-Michael Annett / 5 laps / crash
39) #93-Jeff Green / 18 laps / vibration
38) #72-John Jackson / 30 laps / vibration
37) #13-Stan Mullis / 51 laps / vibration
36) #2-Matt Tifft / 63 laps / crash

2018 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) RSS Racing (13)
2nd) JP Motorsports (3)
3rd) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Roush-Fenway Racing (2)
4th) Fury Race Cars LLC, Hendrick Motorsports, Jeremy Clements Racing, JGL Racing, Mike Harmon Racing, SS-Green Light Racing (1)

2018 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (18)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (4)

2018 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP