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.

*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.

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

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)

1st) Chevrolet (16)
2nd) Toyota (6)
3rd) Ford (5)


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.

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

1st) Patriot Motorsports Group (6)
2nd) B&B Motorsports, Bill McAnally Racing, Flyin Dutchman Racing, Hollis Thackeray, Norman Levin Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (7)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (2)


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

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


*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.

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

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)

1st) Chevrolet (18)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (4)


TRUCKS: Tanner Thorson’s strong qualifying run at his home track ends with early crash

PHOTO: FS1, screenshot by @mjackson918
Tanner Thorson picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Friday’s World of Westgate 200 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway when his #20 Go Share Chevrolet was involved in a single-truck accident after he completed 2 of the race’s 144 laps. The finish occurred in Thorson’s 6th series start.

In the Truck Series last-place rankings, it was the 7th for truck #20, the 146th from a crash, and the 361st for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 46th for the #20, the 1,162nd from a crash, and the 1,625th for Chevrolet.

The 22-year-old driver from Minden, Nevada (which is closer to Reno than to Las Vegas), has already been racing for 18 years. He moved from outlaw karts to national midget racing, earning Rookie of the Year honors in the latter in 2013. 2016 was his biggest year yet. That season, he claimed the USAC National Midget Championship, the Top Gun award, and his second of three consecutive National Midget Driver of the Year awards. He also made his ARCA Racing Series debut at the Illinois State Fairgrounds track, finishing 12th for Venturini Motorsports, and finished 3rd and 5th in a pair of CARS Super Late Model Tour races with David Gilliland.

This year, Thorson has made the jump to NASCAR, sharing a ride in Randy Young’s #20 Chevrolet with Scott Lagasse, Jr., Austin Dillon, Michel Disdier, Ried Wilson, Bubba Wallace, Daniel Hemric, Tyler Young, Tate Fogleman, and Max Tullman. Las Vegas would mark Thorson’s fifth start in 18 races this year, a schedule that began with a 16th-place run at Dover. He improved with a 13th-place run at Iowa, and through his most recent start at Bristol had yet to finish worse than a 19th at Eldora. Go Share, which backed Thorson at Dover and Iowa, would return as sponsor.

Thorson was one of 38 drivers entered for the 32-truck field, an impressive list that dwindled gradually through the week. By Wednesday, Beaver Motorsports had withdrawn the #50 VIPRacingExperience.com Chevrolet for 2003 series champion Travis Kvapil, and Mike Harmon had pulled his own #74 Chevrolet. Then, by Friday, Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing pulled their second truck, the #0 Driven2Honor.org Chevrolet to be raced by Camden Murphy. Cobb herself impressed in qualifying with a 27th-place run in the #10 Waldo’s Painting Company Chevrolet, her best since she started 27th in this same race last year.

Three drivers missed the show after qualifying. Norm Benning turned the slowest lap overall in the #6 H&H Transport Chevrolet. The second was J.J. Yeley, who was swapped in for team owner Josh Reaume in the #33, which itself was switched from a Chevrolet to a Toyota. The fastest truck to miss was the third Young’s Motorsports truck with Tate Fogleman and the #12 Solid Rock Carriers Chevrolet.

Thorson ran 22nd in the opening practice, jumped to 13th in Happy Hour, then did even better in qualifying, turning the 11th-fastest lap in Round 1 and matching it in Round 2 with a speed of 174.933mph (30.869 seconds), equaling his season-best start at Pocono. Austin Hill, driving the only other Randy Young truck in the field, qualified 16th.

Starting 32nd and last was popular driver Jordan Anderson, whose #3 Commercial Property Services Chevrolet turned the second-slowest lap in time trials, but made it in on Owner Points. He was joined at the back by two drivers sent to the rear for unapproved adjustments: Playoff contenders Ben Rhodes in the #41 The Carolina Nut Co. Ford and ThorSport Racing teammate Matt Crafton in the #88 Ideal Door / Menards Ford. While Rhodes had qualified a solid 18th, Crafton, who leased a Roush-Yates Racing motor, had to fall back on Owner Points in 29th.

With one lap to green, Jennifer Jo Cobb surrendered her 27th starting spot and fell to the rear along with Joe Nemechek, lined up 22nd in the #87 Harrah’s Chevrolet. Nemechek held last at the start with Cobb in 31st. Both were still running in those spots, Nemechek 6.8 seconds back of the lead, when the last-place battle ended abruptly.

Coming to the end of Lap 2, Thorson was in a tight battle running the high lane in Turns 3 and 4. While running on the outside of Myatt Snider’s #13 Century Container Ford. In the exchange, Thorson’s #20 slid up the track and bashed the outside wall in Turn 4. Thorson kept rolling, but more and more smoke poured from the right side of his machine, forcing him to pull to a stop on the apron of Turns 3 and 4. Fire rolled out from behind the right-front wheel as he climbed from the truck, done for the night. A long caution period was needed to clean up fluid that trailed to where the truck stopped.

Thorson then turned his attention back to dirt, where he was running the Calistoga Speedway’s season finale in California. On Saturday, Thorson had driven his way to the transfer spot in his Last Chance Qualifier when, on the final lap, his car started blowing smoke in Turn 1. He was passed entering the backstretch, eliminating his white #3C from the main.

For more on Tanner Thorson, check out his website here.

Finishing 31st was Joe Nemechek in the #87 Harrah’s Chevrolet. Nemechek qualified 22nd in his second NEMCO Motorsports entry and pulled off the track to reprise his role helping his son John Hunter on pit lane. The rest of the Bottom Five was filled by the multiple accidents that slowed the night’s frantic action. 30th went to Bo LeMastus in the second DGR-Crosley truck, his #17 Crosley Brands Toyota out when he wrecked in Turn 3 on Lap 46, followed by 29th-place Riley Herbst in Kyle Busch Motorsports’ #46 Advance Auto Parts Toyota and Wendell Chavous, swapped at the last minute from Premium Motorsports’ #15 back to his familiar #49 Sobriety Nation Chevrolet. Ross Chastain, swapped into the unsponsored #15 in Chavous’ place, finished a strong 7th, his best finish since he ran 7th at Martinsville last year for Bolen Motorsports.

There were other surprising runs by underdog drivers and teams.

Austin Theriault drove at Las Vegas for the first time since injuring his back in a serious crash here in 2015. Driving for On Point Motorsports, which finished next-to-last in its series debut at Bristol, Theriault made his first Truck Series start in nearly two years count, finishing 8th.

Austin Wayne Self finished a season-best 9th, his first top-ten run of the year and first since joining Al Niece’s operation. It’s his best finish since last year at Mosport, where he ran 9th for his family’s AM Racing team.

After her strong qualifying run, and despite falling to the rear for the start, Jennifer Jo Cobb finished 12th. It’s not only her best finish of the season, but the second-best of her career, trailing only a 6th-place run in the 2011 opener at Daytona. According to David PeQueen, this finish came at a perfect time, as it vaulted her #10 team ahead of two teams in Owner Points – the #33 of Reaume Brothers Racing and Norm Benning’s #6 – which both failed to qualify.

Korbin Forrister tied the second-best finish of his career earned with the All Out Motorsports team earlier this year at Kentucky with a 13th-place showing. His career-best in the series remains a 12th in the 2015 Daytona opener, when he was driving for Christopher Long.

Finally, just weeks after missing their first race of the year by not entering the race in Mosport, D.J. Copp’s team returned to action with Bayley Currey running double-duty with the XFINITY Series. Currey brought the unsponsored #83 home in the 16th spot. It’s Currey’s best finish in the series this year, and the team’s third-best behind Nick Hoffman’s 10th-place run in Eldora and Scott Stenzel’s 15th-place showing in Daytona.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #20 in a Truck Series race since July 7, 2011, when Johanna Long’s #20 Panhandle Grading & Paving Toyota crashed after 5 laps of the UNOH 225 at Kentucky. Long also had the only previous last-place run for the number at Las Vegas, when the transmission let go on the opening lap on September 25, 2010.
*This was the first last-place run for Young’s Motorsports since August 2, 2014, when team owner Randy Young fielded a truck for Mike Mittler’s #63 MB Motorsports team with Justin Jennings behind the wheel. Jennings pulled in after 2 laps of the Pocono Mountains 150.
*Thorson’s 11th-place starting spot makes him the highest-qualified last-placer in the series since July 19, 2017, when Caleb Holman started 9th at Eldora before transmission issues.

32) #20-Tanner Thorson / 2 laps / crash
31) #87-Joe Nemechek / 27 laps / vibration
30) #17-Bo LeMastus / 45 laps / crash
29) #46-Riley Herbst / 56 laps / crash
28) #49-Wendell Chavous / 86 laps / crash

1st) MB Motorsports (6)
2nd) Beaver Motorsports, Copp Motorsports (3)
3rd) NEMCO Motorsports (2)
4th) Mike Harmon Racing, Norm Benning Racing, TJL Racing, Young’s Motorsports (1)

1st) Chevrolet (18)