Monday, November 12, 2018

INTERVIEW: Fan favorite Jordan Anderson reflects on his first year as owner and driver

Anderson's team loads up at ISM
PHOTO: Brock Beard
After last Friday’s Lucas Oil 150 at the ISM Raceway, I caught up with a number of drivers for the smaller teams in the Camping World Truck Series. In these closing days of the season, a number of them were working on taking the next step in their careers.

Jesse Iwuji, swapped into Mike Mittler’s #63 Chevrolet at the last minute, completed his second series start and his first on an oval. To prepare, the military veteran and K&N Pro Series West competitor made use of his simulator between one and two hours a day. Iwuji ran 27th, just two spots shy of his series debut at Mosport.

Stefan Parsons, whose #15 was prepared by Mike Harmon, Beaver Motorsports, and Premium Motorsports, earned his approval to run mile-and-a-half tracks. Parsons’ father, racer-turned-broadcaster Phil Parsons, was there to congratulate his son on a good 20th-place run despite running an underpowered Chevy SB2 engine, 30-lap scuffed tires, and fighting a tight condition.

Canadian driver Jason White, who piloted the Reaume Brothers’ #33, ran the ISM event with the goal of obtaining approval to run Daytona next year, whether in ARCA or the Truck Series. His venture south of the border was helped by Rob Zimmer of the Zimmer Group, who has backed his effort for more than a decade, and DJK Racing, his team in the Pinty’s Series. YourGMCTruckStore.com, Powder Ventures Excavating, and Gnarly Jerky also had logos on his red truck, which ran 26th.

“The competition is so strong,” said White when asked about the recent influx of Canadian drivers into NASCAR’s top three series, “I would say two-thirds to three-quarters of the drivers in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series can come down and race in these series as well.”

Not far from White’s stall was the hauler belonging to owner-driver Jordan Anderson. Just last year, Anderson was "start-and-parking" RSS Racing's #93 Chevrolet in the XFINITY Series, nearly claiming the LASTCAR title for the division. He's now just days away from completing his first full season as both owner and driver in the Truck Series. I caught up with Anderson as he attempted to fix the sliding door on the back of his trailer.

“We had a long night,” said Anderson of his 23rd-place finish. “This is that point of the season where us as a small team, we run things maybe a little longer than we should, we try and mileage it out. Unfortunately, at Texas last week, a part broke, it bit us and we blew our motor. Tonight, we had the track bar mount kept coming loose on us. The serrated edges are worn out and it kept falling down. We’d start out pretty good and the left side would fall all the way down and tighten the heck out of us. It was one of those nights, we soldiered through. Everybody dug in and made the best of the night. The truck’s in one piece – we’re gonna take that truck and motor to Miami next week.”

Anderson also reflected on the progress his team has made in its first year.

“So, it’s been a heated battle between us, the 45 (Niece Motorsports) and the 49 (Premium Motorsports) for the Top 20 in Owner’s Points, and I think we finished 20th, 21st, and 22nd tonight, so we’re all right there. But I’ve gotta keep things in perspective because our goals this year are a couple of them: to run every race, to finish Top 20 in driver points, and to get one Top 10. And we got two Top 10s this season, we’re 15th in driver points, and we’re one race away from running our first full season as a team. The driver in me wants more and wants to do better, but to keep things in perspective, it’s been an amazing year for us. The thing is next week will be our first year as a team in the books and it’s a pretty humbling and exciting feeling for us.”

“I’m a racer, don’t come from a family that’s in racing. My first year as an owner, I’ve made my fair share of mistakes to learn from, and hopefully we can keep everything together. Cool thing with our team – everybody’s gonna work through the winter. You know, most small teams everybody gets laid off in the winter, but not us, everybody’s gonna keep working over the winter. Hopefully we’ll use the next two, three months to get better and improve our trucks. We got a good group of guys and we win together and we lose together. So we’re gonna make the most of it and hopefully next year will be better.

Already loaded on the upper deck of his hauler was the black “No. 007” chassis that Anderson debuted last week in Texas.

“It’s up there. It’s retired for the year. We ran it at Texas, a new truck for us, a new scheme, I love the truck. We fought some gremlins at Texas with it and with us being on the road, we’re not able to set it up right, not being able to get back to the shop. We kind of, being equal, me and Eagle, my crew chief, kind of made an executive decision to not racer her anymore this year and we’ll get her tuned up and brought back at Atlanta for the second race of the season, and hopefully fire off strong.”

Anderson also discussed the addition of Commercial Property Services as a sponsor for his #3 Chevrolet.

“Yeah, their first race with us. Ken’s our ally, Ken Brogan, is actually from Washington state, and the Knight Fire (Protection) below, they’re from Washington state, so they’re on our truck. It’s a really cool connection. Ken actually came to Daytona with us earlier this year when we got that first Top 10 and he hung out with us, and I think I got the racing bug hooked, and he’s like ‘Hey man, I want to help you into growing your team, how can I help?’ And I said, ‘Well, we’ve got Bristol and we’ve got Martinsville and we’ve got Vegas and Phoenix are a couple races we don’t have partnerships for. We’re always trying to take on sponsorship to grow this team.’ So he’s like ‘All right, cool, well count me in – I want to join you guys and help you grow this team.’”

“He’s a racer himself and then his son used to race back in the day and it’s cool to have him and Randy Knight and Knight Fire and John Bommarito and these guys. I’ve got John’s son Blake and all his college squad here hanging with us tonight. So, it’s so many people involved in this team existing and growing. And we’ll take nights like this and learn from them and we’ll just keep building for the future. So, you know me, man, I’m a racer. Nights like this I always want more – it cuts a little deep when I think we could’ve finished a little better, but the team owner side is like ‘hey, we’ve got the truck in one piece, no damage, this is really a win for us tonight as a small team here.’ We’ll take it and build on it.”

Sunday, November 11, 2018

CUP: Timmy Hill’s oil leak sets up two-driver battle with LaJoie for 2018 LASTCAR Cup title

Hill in the garage midway through Sunday's race
PHOTO: Brock Beard
Timmy Hill picked up the 9th last-place finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Can-Am 500 at the ISM Raceway when his #66 Rewards.com Toyota fell out with an oil leak after 40 of 312 laps.

The finish, which came in Hill’s 83rd series start, was his fourth of the 2018 season and his first since Kansas, three races ago. In the Cup Series last-place rankings, it was the 55th for car #66, the 31st from an oil leak, and the 154th for Toyota. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 65th for car #66, the 47th from an oil leak, and the 307th for Toyota.

In the aftermath of the engine fire at Martinsville and the engine-related withdrawal at Texas, there were doubts that Timmy Hill would run on Sunday at all. Though the #66 appeared on the preliminary list, the car was briefly listed as withdrawn on racing-reference.info. It was ultimately a sponsor obligation to Rewards.com that forced their hand, and Carl Long confirmed on Facebook the car would be at the track.

Long’s team, Motorsports Business Management, brought two Cup cars to the track. The primary was the same chassis the team fielded in Indianapolis, where Hill ran 35th. The second, swapped on Saturday into MBM’s XFINITY hauler, was prepped for Homestead next week. The Homestead car differed from the ISM car as it had a white Toyota decal on the rear bumper. One of MBM’s three XFINITY cars was driven by Tyler Hill, Timmy’s younger brother, who made his series debut in the #13 CrashClaimsR.us Dodge. In that race, Tyler recovered from an early spin to bring the Dodge home in one piece in the 31st spot.

To work around the sealed engine issue from Texas, Timmy Hill’s Cup car was entered under the “No. 166” owner points of Mark Thompson, who acquired his own NASCAR owner license to run this year’s Daytona 500. Unlike MBM’s “No. 66” owner’s ranking, Thompson’s still had races eligible to seal an engine for Homestead. This put Hill in contention to challenge Corey LaJoie, who was swapped out for Cole Whitt at TriStar, for the 2018 LASTCAR Cup Series Championship.

Hill began the weekend 38th of 39 entered drivers in Friday’s opening practice and secured the 37th starting spot in qualifying with a lap of 131.114mph (27.457 seconds). Hill was slowest of the 38 drivers who turned laps in Saturday’s first session, then ran 38th of 39 again in Happy Hour.

The 39th driver in those sessions was Cody Ware, who endured a trying weekend at the track. Heading through Turns 3 and 4 on his warm-up lap, Cody Ware’s brake pedal went to the floor. Ware slid up the track and slammed the outside wall with the right-rear corner, then quickly with the left-front. Ware walked away uninjured, but the car, towed back to the garage, was destroyed.  The right-front wheel was marked with blue paint from the outside wall and the right-rear was pushed in several inches. Team owner Rick Ware looked under the hood and immediately noticed brake fluid on the left-front wheel. We caught up with Cody Ware shortly after he was released from the care center:

“I checked it in the dogleg, coming up to my green flag. And as soon as I got into 1 – I guess it’s Turn 3 now, it just went to the floor. I didn’t even make a full lap, I hadn’t even gotten to the checkered flag, or the start / finish line yet. Just got through the dogleg, was heading into Turn 4, or Turn 3. As soon as I got into Turn 3, touched the brakes, and it went straight to the floor. We must’ve lost a bleeder in the left-front with the fluid on the left-front tire.”

Cody Ware confirmed the team didn’t have a backup car in their hauler, meaning they would likely have to withdraw. However, by 3:30 P.M., a deal was worked out. After at least one crewman came by the Premium Motorsports hauler, the team was soon preparing Premium’s backup, putting car #51 on the doors. The car, the #7 Sustainable Quarry Chevrolet that Reed Sorenson piloted last week in Texas, now had the #15 decals from Ross Chastain’s Cup car put in the reverse order, fashioned into a #51 over each #7. However, with only minutes left until qualifying, the car never hit the track to make a lap, and took the 39th spot as a result. On Saturday after the XFINITY Series race, the Ware crew further adjusted the paint scheme, but NASCAR told them to stop applying the roof decals when they worked fifteen minutes after the garage area closed. This work was finally done race morning, at which point the crew polished the car.

Also involved in a practice accident was Paul Menard, who blew a left-rear tire entering the same corner and backed hard into the outside wall. Menard was uninjured, and the Wood Brothers Racing team had already unloaded and begun preparing the backup before the flatbed arrived with the primary. Only Menard and Ware incurred pre-race penalties. While Ware’s penalty didn’t alter his starting spot, Menard had to surrender the 11th spot.

On the break, Ware remained in the 39th spot, and Paul Menard’s early moves dropped D.J. Kennington – driving the primary #7 Chevrolet from Premium Motorsports – to the 38th spot. Ware caught Kennington’s APC / Northern Provincial Pipelines machine, but the #7 pulled away and soon after passed Tanner Berryhill, who was making his Cup Series debut in Obaika Racing’s #97 Excel Therapy / Maxium Off-Road Toyota. Ware had more success catching Berryhill, running alongside him on Lap 8, then completing the pass at the stripe on Lap 11. On Lap 14, race leader Kevin Harvick put Berryhill a lap down, and the newcomer worked his plan to try and stay out of the leader’s way, losing a second lap on the 31st circuit.

Hill entered the last-place picture when he pulled into the garage area around Lap 42. The driver confirmed the #66 had an oil leak, and the team had difficulty figuring out where it was coming from. In their garage stall near the end of Garage Building #5, the team jacked up the driver’s side, then did the same with the passenger side and put the car on jack stands. On Lap 94, he was joined in Garage #4 by J.J. Yeley in the #23 She Beverage Company Toyota, a coordinated effort between the NY Racing Team and Front Row Motorsports. Yeley’s car also had a leak, originally called a mechanical issue by NASCAR officials. The driver thought the smoke he smelled was from Menard’s backup car, but it turned out his own engine was on the brink. Yeley climbed from his car, and shortly thereafter the team brought out the cargo straps to load it in the hauler.

With a 48-lap margin between Hill and Yeley’s machines, Hill had until Lap 263 – 49 laps to go - to get back on track if he was to pass Yeley for 38th. But by Lap 204, the #66 was listed as “unavailable” on RaceView, and shortly after was listed as “out” on the official timing and scoring. At that point, the MBM team was still working on the car, and had removed the shifter and gearbox from under the machine. The team prepared to load up the #66 after that, done for the day. Long elected on Saturday to move Hill’s Cup car for Homestead to their XFINITY hauler, so Hill’s car from Sunday’s race would join Akinori Ogata’s XFINITY #66 that ran 33rd on Saturday.

During this time, the action picked up on the track with several top teams suffering tire-related accidents. Just as Yeley pulled into the garage, a blown left-rear sent Joey Logano’s #22 Shell / Pennzoil Ford into a spin entering Turn 1, ending his day after 95 laps. Daniel Suarez fell out just one lap later after his #19 Stanley Tools Toyota rear-ended eventual 7th-place finisher Matt Kenseth, destroying the nose of the #19. It was some time before Logano’s car finally made it back to the garage on a flatbed, but when it did, Clint Bowyer suddenly rolled into the garage, the rear decklid trailing behind his #14 ITsavvy Ford following still another wreck on Lap 134.

LASTCAR CHAMPIONSHIP UPDATE
With Hill’s fourth last-place finish, he remains the only challenger still in contention to take the 2018 LASTCAR Cup Series Championship. The scenario is simple – Hill must finish last to take the title. Otherwise, Corey LaJoie will claim it, even if he isn’t entered in the race.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the first last-place finish for car #66 in a Cup race at Phoenix since April 10, 2010, when Michael McDowell’s #66 PRISM Motorsports Toyota fell out with overheating problems after 149 laps of the Subway Fresh Fit 600. McDowell, now driving for Front Row Motorsports, led four laps that day, making him one of only three Cup Series last-placers at Phoenix to lead laps.
*This was the first Cup Series last-place finish caused by an oil leak since March 29, 2015, when A.J. Allmendinger fell out after 117 laps at Martinsville. The issue had never been the listed cause of a Cup Series last-place finish at Phoenix.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
39) #66-Timmy Hill / 40 laps / oil leak
38) #23-J.J. Yeley / 88 laps / oil leak
37) #22-Joey Logano / 95 laps / crash
36) #19-Daniel Suarez / 96 laps / crash
35) #14-Clint Bowyer / 133 laps / crash

2018 LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) TriStar Motorsports (5)
2nd) Motorsports Business Management, StarCom Racing (4)
3rd) Premium Motorsports, Rick Ware Racing (3)
4th) BK Racing, Front Row Motorsports, Furniture Row Racing, Penske Racing (2)
5th) Chip Ganassi Racing, Germain Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, JTG-Daugherty Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports, Roush-Fenway Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

2018 LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (18)
2nd) Toyota (9)
3rd) Ford (8)

2018 LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP

XFINITY: Jeff Green last early at ISM Raceway, but will return in 2019

Jeff Green's car in the garage with shop after he exited the race.
PHOTO: Brock Beard
Jeff Green picked up the 114th last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Whelen Trusted to Perform 200 at the ISM Raceway when his #93 RSS Racing Chevrolet fell out with brake issues after he completed 18 of 200 laps.

The finish, which came in Green’s 512th series start, was his series-leading twelfth of 2018 and his first since Indianapolis, seven races ago, the same race where he clinched the 2018 LASTCAR XFINITY Series title. In the XFINITY Series last-place rankings, it was the 41st for car #93, the 56th from brake trouble, and the 518th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 91st for the #93, the 159th from brake issues, and the 1,637th for Chevrolet.

Green, who has run no better than 34th since his most recent LASTCAR feature, rejoined teammates Ryan Sieg and J.J. Yeley for the weekend at the ISM Raceway. When interviewed on Friday morning, Green indicated that he will be back driving the #93 Chevrolet for RSS Racing in 2019. He will continue to run as a “start-and-park” with the exception of the restrictor-plate races unless a sponsor can be found. Green indicated that he runs the same equipment as his teammates and can run full races for less than other teams. Green’s goal is to run between ten and twelve full races if a sponsor is found. A crowdfunded effort was also suggested to meet that goal.

In practice, Green once again impressed in his #93. Despite running just three laps in the first session, he ranked 17th-fastest overall, outpacing both his teammates. After skipping Happy Hour, he came just short – just under nine-hundredths of 24th-place Joey Gase – of making Round 2 in qualifying. Instead, he settled for the 25th starting spot with a lap of 127.537mph (28.227 seconds).

The back of the garage area was a busy place Friday morning. At the far end of the XFINITY garage, no fewer than seven lower-funded cars were sitting out in the open, many with their crews applying decals. Mike Harmon’s crew applied logos for Veterans 4 Child Rescue on the quarter-panels. To Harmon’s left at the JP Motorsports hauler, Bayley Currey’s car still had the yellow #45 numbers on his Toyota, and the team had to hurry cover those numerals each with a white #55. The same white font was on Josh Bilicki’s #45, which on Friday morning was still a flat black backup car. Bilicki himself was helping the crew apply the several decals by hand, and the crew threw together a setup virtually from scratch.

Ultimately, Bilicki couldn’t make it out onto the track for qualifying, and secured the 40th and final starting spot. Just ahead of him were two drivers who didn’t make it out in Round 1 because their cars failed inspection three times: Playoff contender (and eventual race winner) Christopher Bell in the #20 GameStop Just Cause 4 Toyota and Ty Majeski in the #60 Ford. Redundant tail-end penalties for all three kept the final three positions in the same order for the start.

The green flag that flew on Saturday was Akinori Ogata’s first in the XFINITY Series. The Japanese driver was brought on to drive Carl Long’s #66 SEAVAC – USA, LLC Toyota, a car that bore a striking resemblance to PRISM Motorsports’ Cup cars in 2009 and 2010. Ogata, whose name on the windscreen appeared cut from rectangular decals one character at a time, had seven previous Truck starts, including a pair at Phoenix. But the transition from trucks to cars wasn’t a smooth one. Heading into Turn 1, Ogata found his car to be too loose, and he spun backwards into the outside wall.

Under the first caution of the day, Ogata pulled into his pit stall, where the crew made quick work on the left-rear corner of the machine that was bent out of place. Also making a trip to pit road was 24th-place starter David Starr, who was black-flagged for jumping the start on the ISM Raceway’s new reversed configuration. Starr’s #52 Whataburger Chevrolet served its penalty on Lap 4, and Ogata rejoined the action laps down with several strips of black tape holding the wounded left-corner of the car together. Ogata cleared the Crash Clock, averting a last-place finish. He’d eventually climb to 33rd, utterly exhausted from the handling of his wounded machine.

On the ensuing restart and 42-lap green-flag run, the first three spots in the Bottom Five filled up. Jeff Green pulled the #93 behind the wall first, his car parked directly alongside the XFINITY Series garage building. Next came Morgan Shepherd, who after his Texas wreck was further helped by JD Motorsports, who prepared his #89 Visone RV Chevrolet in their shop. Shepherd faced one more hurdle in Phoenix when his hauler broke down within a half-hour’s drive of the track. The truck made it to the track, and Shepherd qualified and started the race, only to pull off the track and park his machine behind the hauler after 22 laps.

Finishing 38th was Stephen Leicht, who by Lap 89 had his #99 Chevrolet parked in the final pit stall in the XFINITY garage. A single crewman from SS-Green Light Racing was working on the machine, which was soon after put on jack stands. The team later put on the chrome rims used as shop wheels for this third entry from B.J. McLeod Motorsports.

The 37th spot fell to Chad Finchum, who after struggling with the handling on his #40 Smithbilt Homes Toyota spun the right-rear wheel on a late restart and started leaking axle grease, forcing him behind the wall on Lap 151.

Rounding out the group was Vinnie Miller, whose run in B.J. McLeod’s #78 CorvetteParts.net / JW Transport Chevrolet was hampered by a persistent ignition problem. Miller pulled in on Laps 113 and 165 before he was done for the day in the final laps, joined shortly after by Tommy Joe Martins with a blown engine on the final McLeod car still running. Martins ended up just outside the Bottom Five in 35th.

With one race to go, Green is now one finish away from matching the exact number of last-place runs he earned in 2017.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marks the second time in his career that Green has swept both last-place finishes at Phoenix. The other time occurred in 2015.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #93-Jeff Green / 18 laps / brakes
39) #89-Morgan Shepherd / 22 laps / brakes
38) #99-Stephen Leicht / 27 laps / suspension
37) #40-Chad Finchum / 143 laps / rear gear
36) #78-Vinnie Miller / 144 laps / ignition

2018 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) RSS Racing (15)
2nd) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, JP Motorsports (3)
3rd) Hendrick Motorsports, Roush-Fenway Racing, Shepherd Racing Ventures (2)
4th) Fury Race Cars LLC, Jeremy Clements Racing, JGL Racing, Mike Harmon Racing, SS-Green Light Racing (1)

2018 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (24)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (4)

2018 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP

TRUCKS: Joe Nemechek secures LASTCAR Truck Series championship with early exit at ISM Raceway

PHOTO: Brock Beard
Joe Nemechek picked up the 5th last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Friday’s Lucas Oil 150 at the ISM Raceway when his #87 D.A.B. / Fleetwing Chevrolet fell out with electrical problems after he completed 11 of 150 laps.

The finish, which came in Nemechek’s 55th series start, was his series-leading third of the season and first since Mosport, five races ago. In the Truck Series last-place rankings, it was the 8th for truck #87, the 35th for electrical problems, and the 364th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 51st for the #87, the 121st for electrical woes, and the 1,636th for Chevrolet.

Since Mosport, Nemechek ran back-to-back races in the #87, most often on “start-and-park” duty, finishing 31st at Las Vegas and 30th despite a strong 7th-place qualifying run at Talladega, both due to vibrations. At Texas, it was Timmy Hill who gave the #87 a strong 11th-place qualifying run, the best of his NASCAR national series career, before he too parked the truck. In the same race, Joe ran his son John Hunter’s #8, and with sponsorship from Tweaker Energy and Romco Equipment, started 18th and finished there. John Hunter returned to the #8 for the ISM Raceway, and Joe would regain his seat in the #87.

Joe didn’t turn a lap in opening practice, but despite running the fewest laps of anyone in Happy Hour – five – he ranked a strong 21st of 32 drivers. He matched that lap in Round 1 of qualifying, putting up the 21st-best lap, then ran the slowest completed lap in Round 2 at 130.714mph (27.541 seconds), just one-thousandth off the lap of Austin Wayne Self. Stefan Parsons, driving Premium Motorsports’ #15 VIPRacingExperience.com Chevrolet that was brought to the track by Mike Harmon, didn’t turn a lap in Round 2.

The preliminary entry list saw Bayley Currey as a late 32nd entry for the #63 MB Motorsports entry, averting the first short field in the series since last fall at Talladega. However, by Friday morning, it was Jesse Iwuji in the Mittler machine, bringing with him sponsorship from Zulu Audio and JBJE Transportation. According to a crewman on Iwuji’s team, the deal to drive the #63 came together at the last minute on Thursday. The LASTCAR implications were enormous - Currey had been the only driver entered who was mathematically in contention to take the LASTCAR Truck Series lead from Joe Nemechek with a last-place finish. However, with Currey not entered, Nemechek now controlled his own destiny and was in position to put the title out of reach with a third last-place run in 2018.

It was Iwuji who secured the 32nd and final starting spot in qualifying with a lap of 122.699mph, nearly two-tenths off the next-slowest truck belonging to Jennifer Jo Cobb. As the field rolled off pit road for the pace laps, Iwuji stopped briefly on the apron of Turn 2, then got going again as D.J. Kennington passed him in the #49 SobrietyNation Chevrolet. Iwuji regained his 32nd spot, but both Jordan Anderson’s #3 Commercial Property Services Chevrolet and the #15 VIPRacingExperience.com Chevrolet of Stefan Parsons fell to the rear, followed shortly by Joe Nemechek. Meanwhile in the garage area on the first pace lap, the Young’s Motorsports hauler for Tanner Thorson, another last-minute driver swap, began to back out of its stall. The tractor unhooked, then parked at the far end of the garage area.

When the green flag fell, Nemechek briefly held the 32nd spot, but passed Iwuji by Lap 2, on Lap 4 had dispensed with the #10 Driven2Honor.org Chevrolet of Jennifer Jo Cobb, and on the 5th circuit passed the #33 YourGMSTruckStore.com / Zimmer Auto Group Chevrolet of Canadian driver Jason White. Iwuji and Cobb continued to lose touch with the rest of the pack, and on Lap 9, race leader Noah Gragson put Iwuji a lap down. Cobb followed soon after, pulling to the inside on the dogleg to let the faster traffic move to her outside.

Then on Lap 12, Nemechek slowed in Turn 2 and began to give those spots back. Moments later, he pulled into the garage area. He originally made for the row of haulers closest to Turns 1 and 2, then made a hard right turn and parked where the NEMCO team worked on son John Hunter Nemechek’s #8 Hostetler Ranch / Stonefield Home Chevrolet. Nemechek dropped the window net, then climbed out as at least four NASCAR officials arrived. The driver brought out a flashlight and looked under the hood, then inside the cockpit. The crewman assisting him said it was to remove parts that belonged to NASCAR. Nemechek was done for the night. He was already wearing a headset, no doubt talking to his son, who was running 4th at the time.

Finishing 31st was Jennifer Jo Cobb, who first pulled behind the wall under the first caution with a blown header. The crew jacked up the right side of the truck and worked on it for several laps before getting her back on the track on Lap 39. Cobb’s truck still sounded rough on the track and ultimately pulled behind the wall a second time, this time done for the night.

30th went to Austin Hill, who made at least one unscheduled stop early, then ran slow on the apron of the dogleg before he retired his #02 Young’s Building Systems / Randco Chevrolet.

Finishing 29th was John Hunter Nemechek, who worked his way from 4th to the lead, gambling on a two-tire stop to take the top spot. On Lap 128, while holding off a charging Grant Enfinger, Nemechek lost control off Turn 4 and spun to the apron, flattening both right-side tires on his #8 Hostetler Ranch / Stonefield Home Chevrolet. The truck suffered further damage as he rolled around the apron, forcing him to call it a night. He slipped to 29th with 8 laps to go.

Rounding out the Bottom Five was Justin Haley, whose #24 Fraternal Order of Eagles Chevrolet suffered a catastrophic oil leak under the Nemechek caution that encircled the entire track, forcing a red flag to complete the cleanup.


With the finish, Nemechek secured the 2018 LASTCAR Truck Series Championship. Though there is one race remaining, two-time last-placers Bayley Currey, J.J. Yeley, Todd Peck, and Scott Stenzel are mathematically eliminated, unable to prevail in a bottom-five tiebreaker even if any of them trails Homestead. It is the elder Nemechek’s third LASTCAR title, joining the Cup Series titles in 2008 and 2010.

We caught up with Joe Nemechek after the race and talked about the challenges of operating an underfunded Truck Series team beyond John Hunter Nemechek’s move to the XFINITY Series.

BEARD: Where is NEMCO Motorsports right now as to 2019?
NEMECHEK: [It] depends on where we’re at and what we’re doing with what we have to do to get to the race track. We were fortunate to have some sponsorship this week with Stonefield Home. It’s just so hard to make it right now. We’ve had a tough year in terms of finding sponsorship. It’s taken its toll on me and the team. But we keep showing everybody each and every week, we come to the track and we have trucks to beat. And we’re trying to figure out what we’re going to do next year. John Hunter’s working on a lot of his stuff, so we’re trying to find another driver who has money who wants to come and race. We’re capable of running two trucks, so we just gotta keep trying to figure it out. But in this business it does take money to keep this thing rolling. We do a lot with a little here and it shows every week.

BEARD: Is there anything your fans can do to help?
NEMECHEK: Man, we need a corporate sponsor to step up here and spend some money and keep us on the right track. We have a lot of great people on this team – I guess I shouldn’t say a lot of us, there are four of us on this team – we work our guts out. We know what we need to do to win. Between my three key guys here, myself, and two others, we have so much experience and we’ve been doing this a long time. We know how to educate young kids, just like John Hunter. We know how to educate them and teach them the right way to race and give them competitive trucks. And you gotta figure that out over the time. And we’re looking for the next kid in there and make him a star. . .I don’t know how much John Hunter’s gonna run next year. He’ll probably run some, but we’re trying to find somebody who wants to run full-time and wants to go after a championship.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the first Truck Series last-place finish for both Joe Nemechek and the #87 at the ISM Raceway.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
32) #87-Joe Nemechek / 11 laps / electrical
31) #10-Jennifer Jo Cobb / 30 laps / header
30) #02-Austin Hill / 57 laps / engine
29) #8-John Hunter Nemechek / 128 laps / suspension / led 31 laps
28) #24-Justin Haley / 131 laps / oil leak

2018 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) MB Motorsports (6)
2nd) Beaver Motorsports, Copp Motorsports, NEMCO Motorsports (3)
3rd) Clay Greenfield Motorsports, DGR-Crosley, Mike Harmon Racing, Norm Benning Racing, Reaume Brothers Racing, TJL Racing, Young’s Motorsports (1)

2018 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (21)
2nd) Toyota (1)

2018 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP

Thursday, November 8, 2018

PREVIEW: Rookies, Canadians, and two last-place title bouts take center stage at ISM Raceway

PHOTO: @jjyeley1
Friday, November 9, 2018
TRUCKS Race 22 of 23
Round of 6, Race 3 of 3
Lucas Oil 150 at ISM
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Mike Senica

ENTRY LIST
The preliminary entry list showed just 31 trucks for 32 spots, threatening the first short field since last fall at Talladega. That changed late Tuesday as MB Motorsports’ #63 became the 32nd entry (see below).

MISSING: #0-Jennifer Jo Cobb
Jennifer Jo Cobb has elected not to enter her second truck, the #0 Chevrolet which was withdrawn last week in Texas for driver Camden Murphy.

MISSING: #7-All Out Motorsports
All Out Motorsports is not making the trip west to Phoenix, one week after Reid Wilson failed to qualify at Texas. Wilson, who was swapped in for Korbin Forrister, is also not entered.

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-NEMCO Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #87-NEMCO Motorsports
John Hunter Nemechek returns to the #8 this week, and father Joe moves back to the #87 in place of Timmy Hill, who isn’t entered. With the “start-and-park” strategy often employed by the #87, Joe Nemechek could be in position to take the 2018 LASTCAR Truck Series title outright with a last-place run on Friday. If Nemechek does not trail on Friday, it could go down to Homestead, depending on who is actually entered. Of the 15 other drivers still in contention, just one is entered this week – runner-up Bayley Currey in the #63 (see below).

MISSING: #9-CR7 Motorsports
A third team missing from the Texas entry list is CR7 Motorsports, whose driver Codie Rohrbaugh drove his #9 Ford to a 17th-place finish in Texas.

MISSING: #12-Young’s Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #20-Young’s Motorsports
Randy Young’s team shuffles its driver lineup once again. Tyler Young moves from the #12, which isn’t entered this week following a crash in Texas, to the #20. Young takes the place of Tanner Thorson, who isn’t entered after he ran 21st in Texas.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Premium Motorsports
Welcome back Stefan Parsons, who eyes his second Truck Series start and his first since his debut in the night race at Bristol, where he ran 17th. Then as now, Parsons drives for Premium Motorsports, whose team owner Jay Robinson acquired father Phil Parsons’ Cup team back in 2015. Parsons takes the place of Mike Harmon, who will instead focus on his XFINITY Series effort in the #74 Chevrolet with Veterans 4 Child Rescue as sponsor.

DRIVER CHANGE: #17-DGR-Crosley
Tyler Ankrum rejoins the DGR-Crosley effort for the first time since his series debut at Martinsville, two races ago, where he ran 18th in the #54. This time around, he drives the #17 piloted last week by David Gilliland. As at Martinsville, May’s Hawaii joins as sponsor along with the logos for DGR-Crosley and Crosley Brands.

RETURNING: #19-Bill McAnally Racing
Despite the Toyota backing and the Joe Gibbs Racing-styled number, this truck is not a Joe Gibbs or KBM entry. It is fielded by Roseville, California-based Bill McAnally Racing, longtime competitors in the K&N Pro Series West. This marks the first time McAnally has fielded an entry in one of NASCAR’s top three series since June 27, 2004, when they made their lone Cup start with Austin Cameron at Sonoma. McAnally himself made three Cup attempts as both driver and owner at Sonoma and Phoenix in 1996 and 1997, but made none of those races. BMR has been absent from the Truck Series since this same race on October 26, 2001, when Brendan Gaughan ran 13th in a Dodge. Driving this week is Derek Kraus, a four-time winner with McAnally in the West Series this year, and 4th in the series standings. Longtime team sponsor NAPA Auto Parts backs the effort.

DRIVER CHANGE: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
Although Josh Reaume was the listed driver on the preliminary chart, Catchfence already reported on Sunday that Canadian driver Jason White would be returning to the team for the first time since his series debut at Mosport in August, where he drove to a 23rd-place finish. Sponsorship will come from YourGMCTruckStore.com and Zimmer Auto Group.

MISSING: #35-NextGen Motorsports
Brennan Poole finished a solid 15th at Texas in NextGen Motorsports’ first Truck Series start. However, both driver and team aren’t entered this week.

DRIVER CHANGE: #38-Niece Motorsports
Following a crash at Martinsville that prevented him from attempting to qualify at Martinsville last month, Landon Huffman is back in the #38 Chevrolet, taking the place of Cup regular Ross Chastain, 26th in Texas. The truck enjoys local backing the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

RETURNING: #46-Kyle Busch Motorsports
Christian Eckes and KBM’s #46 team also return for the first time since Martinsville, where they drove to a 9th-place finish. Mobil 1 rejoins as primary sponsor for the first time since his standout performance at Gateway in June.

DRIVER CHANGE: #49-Premium Motorsports
D.J. Kennington prepares to turn double-duty at Phoenix as he takes the place of Reed Sorenson in Jay Robinson’s #49 SobrietyNation Chevrolet. Though Kennington has been a regular competitor at Phoenix in recent years, this is actually his first Truck Series start at the track since 2013, when he finished last after an early crash while driving for Rick Ware.

DRIVER CHANGE: #54-DGR-Crosley
Riley Herbst is back for his fourth Truck Series start and his first since Las Vegas, where a crash left him a season-worst 29th. It will be his first start for DGR-Crosley since Bristol, where he ran 15th. He takes the place of Texas last-placer Bo LeMastus with returning sponsorship from Advance Auto Parts, Terrible Herbst, and NOS.

RETURNING: #63-MB Motorsports
The 2018 LASTCAR Truck Series Championship took another interesting turn late Tuesday when Mike Mittler’s MB Motorsports joined the entry list to keep the field at a full 32 trucks. Driving is current championship runner-up Bayley Currey, who drove D.J. Copp’s #83 last week and will once again run double-duty with the XFINITY Series (see below). A last-place finish by the #63 would give Currey the season lead, forcing Joe Nemechek to trail at Homestead to take it back.

DRIVER CHANGE: #83-Copp Motorsports
Taking Currey’s place in the #83 is Dawson Cram, set to make his third Truck Series start and his first at a track other than Martinsville. His season-best remains a 17th in this year’s spring race at the paperclip, when he was driving the #50 for Beaver Motorsports. RGS Products, which backed Cram in the fall Martinsville race, rejoins as sponsor.

MISSING: #97-JJL Racing
Jesse Little finished a strong 7th in Texas. However, with his new sponsorship from Skuttle-Tight not returning until next week’s Homestead finale, both driver and team are not entered this week.

RETURNING: #99-MDM Motorsports
Chase Purdy is still another driver rejoining the circuit for the first time since the fall Martinsville race, where he ran 21st. The Matthew Miller-owned Chevrolet will again be sponsored by Bama Buggies.

MISSING: #04-Roper Racing
Cory Roper and the Roper Racing entry are also not entered this week following their crash midway through last week’s Texas race.

CUP INVADERS: None.

Saturday, November 10, 2018
XFINITY Race 32 of 33
Round of 8, Race 3 of 3
Whelen Trusted to Perform 200 at ISM
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Gray Gaulding

ENTRY LIST
There are once again 40 drivers entered for 40 spots, one week after the XFINITY Series had its first short field since 2014.

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Welcome back Tommy Joe Martins, who we haven’t seen on the XFINITY circuit since Indianapolis in September, where he ran 27th in B.J. McLeod’s #78. This week, he takes Ray Black, Jr.’s spot in the #8 Chevrolet and looks to improve on his 27th-place run in the spring race here driving the same car.

DRIVER CHANGE: #13-Motorsports Business Management
Although the preliminary entry list has Carl Long in the #13 and Timmy Hill in the #66, both cars will actually have rookies making their first-ever XFINITY Series starts. The #13 Dodge will go to Tyler Hill, Timmy’s younger brother, who will make his first-ever start across NASCAR’s top three series. The younger Hill made four ARCA Racing Series starts for Andy Hillenburg at the end of this year’s season, closing out the year with a season-best 7th in the season finale at Kansas. Timmy Hill, who drove the #13 last week, will instead focus on the Cup side of the MBM effort (see below).

TEAM UPDATE: #45-JP Motorsports
Following Josh Bilicki’s hard crash at Texas, JP Motorsports has both its cars, #45 and #55, entered this week. The Texas lineup remains the same with Bilicki in the #45 Toyota and Bayley Currey in the #55 Toyota.

DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
As for MBM’s #66, it was reported on October 12 that Akinori Ogata will be making his XFINITY Series debut in the Phoenix race with sponsorship from SEAVAC – USA, LLC on his Toyota. Born in Kanagawa, Japan, Ogata takes the place of Bobby Earnhardt, 34th after a crash in Texas. Ogata has seven previous Truck Series starts, including a pair at Phoenix, finishing 29th in 2014 and 27th in 2015.

TEAM UPDATE: #89-Shepherd Racing Ventures
Morgan Shepherd will also be back in action following his own crash at Texas. As chronicled by team member Brian Wertman, JD Motorsports once again stepped up, preparing Shepherd’s black-and-gold #89 Chevrolet in their shop. The team loaded up Shepherd’s hauler and headed out to the track on Tuesday.

DRIVER CHANGE: #90-DGM Racing
The large Canadian contingent competing in all three NASCAR races this weekend will include a returning Donald Theetge, who made his XFINITY Series debut this past July in Loudon. Then as now, he will drive for fellow countryman Mario Gosselin in the #90 Chevrolet with backing from car dealerships Mercedes-Benz St-Nicolas and Circuit Acura. He takes the place of Brandon Brown, who ran 18th at Texas, the first car one lap down.

CUP INVADERS: None.

Sunday, November 11, 2018
CUP Race 35 of 36
Round of 8, Race 3 of 3
Can-Am 500 at ISM
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Kyle Larson

ENTRY LIST
There are 39 drivers entered this week at the ISM Raceway, down two cars from last week in Texas. It marks the first short Cup field since Dover, five races ago, and is the 19th short field in 2018.

DRIVER CHANGE: #6-Roush-Fenway Racing
Following Trevor Bayne’s final Cup start in the #6 last week, Matt Kenseth takes over, one year after his most recent Cup win. Following Kurt Busch’s bobblehead last week in Texas, the ISM Raceway will be giving out Kenseth bobbleheads to the first visitors to the new “INfield” on Sunday.

DRIVER CHANGE: #7-Premium Motorsports
In addition to his Truck Series run, D.J. Kennington and Premium Motorsports join forces for Sunday’s race with sponsorship from APC and Northern Provincial Pipelines. He takes the place of Reed Sorenson, who carried new sponsorship from Sustainable Quarry Crypto Mining to a 33rd-place finish at Texas. Kennington made his Cup debut in this same race two years ago, driving Premium’s #55 to a 35th-place finish.

TEAM UPDATE: #23-Front Row Motorsports / BK Racing / NY Racing Team
J.J. Yeley tweeted pictures of his car with new sponsors SHE Beverage Company and Arizona-based Prestige Billiards. However, as pointed out by LASTCAR.info Guest Contributor William Soquet, the pictures raised some interesting questions about who exactly is fielding his entry. The Toyota’s nose carries logos for both BK Racing, acquired by Front Row Motorsports in August, and the NY Racing Team, the #7 team Yeley briefly drove for in May and June. This is strange as both BK and NY's branding has been virtually absent from the series for months. On top of this, while the car is still listed with Front Row’s Bob Jenkins as team owner, there is no Front Row logo on the car’s nose.

TEAM UPDATE: #48-Hendrick Motorsports
The black "Lowes For Pros" scheme is done for the year. Phoenix sees Jimmie Johnson run the first of two consecutive throwback paint schemes honoring his partnership with Lowe's. On tap this week is the blue "Power of Pride" scheme that Johnson ran at Homestead in 2001.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Rick Ware Racing
While no driver was originally listed in the #51 one week after Joey Gase’s 37th-place finish in Texas, the list was updated Tuesday with Cody Ware back behind the wheel of the #51 Jacob Companies Ford. Ware eyes just his fourth Cup start of the season, his first since Talladega last month, and his first-ever in a Cup Series race at Phoenix.

TEAM UPDATE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
After the team was forced to withdraw at Texas since NASCAR deemed their team a part-time effort and thus, needed to run a new “sealed” engine that they didn’t have, team owner Carl Long said his Cup effort may be done for 2018. However, Long posted on Facebook on Tuesday that the team will be making the trip to the ISM Raceway, where Timmy Hill will again drive the #66 Toyota. Hill is thus still in contention to take the 2018 LASTCAR Cup Series title (see below).

DRIVER CHANGE: #72-TriStar Motorsports
One week after Corey LaJoie extended his lead in the 2018 LASTCAR Cup Series Championship, Cole Whitt returns to the #72 this week with Standard Plumbing Supply as sponsor. While not entered, LaJoie can still lock-up the LASTCAR title on Sunday if Timmy Hill does not finish last. Gray Gaulding, the only other driver mathematically in contention, is not entered, and will be eliminated from the battle if he remains so.

MISSING: #96-Gaunt Brothers Racing
A difficult close to the season for the Gaunt Brothers continues as they’re not entered for this weekend’s race. Although Jeffrey Earnhardt and Xtreme Concepts, Inc. were slated to run 13 of the season’s final 14 races, the deal appeared to fall apart coming into Martinsville. That weekend, D.J. Kennington drove to a 27th-place finish, followed by Parker Kligerman’s 31st in an unsponsored car last week in Texas.

DRIVER CHANGE: #97-Obaika Racing
Tanner Berryhill was announced Wednesday to make his first Cup race in the Obaika Racing #97. Obaika reported earlier this fall that they would be running all three of the final Cup races of the season. The team broke through last week in Texas, in part because of the bizarre withdrawal of MBM’s #66, and David Starr finished 39th after several trips to the garage. Team owner Victor Obaika has five previous XFINITY Series starts at Phoenix with a best of 28th by Josh Bilicki in the fall of 2016.

MISSING: #99-StarCom Racing
Also not entered this week is StarCom Racing’s second “open” car, the #99 that Kyle Weatherman steered to a 34th-place finish at Texas. Weatherman’s Texas car began the week largely unsponsored, instead carrying logos for a StarCom Racing Fan Experience program similar to the VIP Racing Experience promoted by Premium Motorsports. Following the withdrawal of MBM’s #66, a deal was worked out where Weatherman’s car was wrapped in Rewards.com graphics. Landon Cassill remains in StarCom’s Chartered #00, a week after one-off sponsorship from Brookshire’s carried him to a 35th-place finish.

LASTCAR STAT OF THE WEEK
On top of the track’s grand re-opening as the ISM Raceway, Sunday’s Cup race comes five days after the 30th anniversary of the Phoenix track’s inaugural event. It was on November 6, 1988 that the late Alan Kulwicki took his first checkered flag and completed his famous “Polish Victory Lap” around the one-mile oval. Since then, car #7 made all but two fall Phoenix races – 2004 and 2012 – and has been fielded under various team owners, predominately single-car operations like Geoff Bodine Racing, Ultra Motorsports, Robby Gordon Motorsports, and Tommy Baldwin Racing. Through it all, the number has just one last-place finish at Phoenix – October 31, 1993, when Geoff Bodine’s Family Channel Ford was collected in a three-car accident during the Slick 50 300. D.J. Kennington drives the #7 this weekend for Jay Robinson’s two-car team Premium Motorsports.