Thursday, August 16, 2018

PREVIEW: A stacked Truck Series field leads off night race weekend at Bristol

PHOTO: DC2 Designs
Thursday, August 16, 2018
TRUCKS Race 16 of 23
UNOH 200 at Bristol
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Joe Nemechek

Even after two withdrawals by Tuesday, there remains a strong list of 38 trucks competing for the 32 starting spots in Thursday’s race. It’s the second biggest entry list of the season, just one fewer than Eldora. Six teams will miss the show. UPDATE: Make that three withdrawals, making it 37 for 32.

WITHDREW: #0-Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing
Camden Murphy's truck became the third withdrawal of the weekend in the lead-up to qualifying, joining the #12 and #63 (see below).

SPONSOR UPDATE: #3-Jordan Anderson Racing
Jordan Anderson welcomes sponsorship from Rusty's Off-Road Products, which has its logos on the hood and quarter-panels of the #3 Chevrolet. The "Fueled By Fans" fan-supported campaign continues as well with names of other companies and supporters on the rear decklid.

NEW TEAM: #9-CR7 Motorsports
Currently 19th in the ARCA Racing Series standings, Codie Rohrbaugh and his team CR7 Motorsports are making the jump to NASCAR’s top three series for the first time. Grant County Mulch, his backer in ARCA, has joined the effort, where he will run a #9 Chevrolet. The West Virginia native has a pair of K&N Pro Series East starts at Bristol, finishing 22nd in 2015 and 26th in 2016, but has not competed here since.

WITHDREW: #12-Young’s Motorsports
Randy Young’s team had originally entered the #12 for the first time since Eldora, but withdrew the truck by Tuesday without a listed driver.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Premium Motorsports
Stefan Parsons, son of NASCAR veteran, team owner, and TV personality Phil Parsons, is set to make his NASCAR national touring series debut. Sponsorship arrives from Phoenix Construction, the Florida-based firm owned by James Finch of the shuttered Phoenix Racing. This continues a partnership between Finch and Parsons that most recently included Phoenix Construction logos on Parsons’ #98 Ford driven then by Josh Wise.

MISSING: #17-DGR-Crosley
David Gilliland’s team scales back from two trucks to one, leaving behind Bo LeMastus and the #17 team. The #54 stands alone this week, this time with Riley Herbst in place of Matt Mills, who wrecked early at Michigan. Herbst returns to the series for the first time since his series debut at Gateway, where he finished 8th for Kyle Busch Motorsports. Then as now, he will be sponsored by Advance Auto Parts, along with “Terrible Herbst” and NOS Energy.

DRIVER CHANGE: #20-Young’s Motorsports
Tanner Thorson saddles up for his fifth Truck Series start of the season, taking the place of Tate Fogleman, 15th at Michigan. It will be Thorson’s first Bristol start.

NEW TEAM: #30-On Point Motorsports
Scott Lagasse, Jr. returns to Truck Series competition with a new team as well, fielded by crew chief Steve Lane. It is Lagasse's first series start since this year's Daytona opener, where he ran 5th for Young's Motorsports.

DRIVER CHANGE: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
MISSING: #34-Reaume Brothers Racing
Like DGR-Crosley, Josh Reaume’s team has scaled back from two trucks to just one, leaving out both the #34 entry and driver B.J. McLeod. McLeod will instead focus on the XFINITY Series, both as the owner of the #8 and #78, and as driver of the #15 for JD Motorsports (see below). UPDATE: McLeod swapped into the #33 in place of Josh Reaume.

RETURNING: #38-Niece Motorsports
Al Niece’s team brings back its second truck for the first time since Eldora, and this time brings Ross Chastain, who will attempt to run triple-duty along with JD Motorsports’ #4 on Friday and Premium Motorsports’ #15 on Saturday. It would be Chastain’s fourth Truck Series start of the season, following DNFs in the previous three and no finishes better than 26th. The white truck carries quarter-panel sponsorship from Black Rifle Coffee Co.

RETURNING: #42-Chad Finley, Inc.
Welcome back Chad Finley and team, who come back to the circuit since their successful debut together at Gateway in June, where they finished 6th. With his first Truck Series start since 2015 out of the way, Finley now aims for his first Bristol start.

DRIVER CHANGE: #50-Beaver Motorsports
Gray Gaulding looks to pull double-duty at Bristol as the newest driver to take the wheel of Mark Beaver’s #50 Chevrolet. He takes the place of Reed Sorenson, who managed only a 28th-place showing at Michigan due to electrical issues.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Kyle Busch Motorsports
Harrison Burton rejoins the Truck Series circuit in place of Spencer Davis, who finished a disappointing 22nd at Michigan. Hunt Brothers Pizza joins as sponsor, having just revealed their throwback scheme for Kevin Harvick’s XFINITY Series effort at Darlington next month. UPDATE: Harrison Burton was sidelined by illness, so Christopher Bell took over the ride before qualifying.

WITHDREW: #63-MB Motorsports
J.J. Yeley entered in the #63 Chevrolet, but team withdrew for the first time this season. It will mark the first race the team has missed since this year’s Daytona opener, where Bobby Gerhart failed to qualify, and the first where the team hasn’t even entered since last fall at Las Vegas, when D.J. Copp fielded both the #63 and #83. Copp’s #83 will still run at Bristol, where Bayley Currey will again be driving.

RETURNING: #68-Clay Greenfield Motorsports
Clay Greenfield and his family’s #68 AMVETS Please Stand Chevrolet are back in action for the first time since Kentucky, aiming to make their fourth start of 2018. Last year, Greenfield made his first Bristol start in the series since 2013 and finished 26th, his best run since a 16th in 2010.

RETURNING: #75-Henderson Motorsports
Parker Kligerman and Charlie Henderson’s team rejoin the action under the lights in the Food Country USA Chevrolet, continuing Henderson’s long presence at Bristol. Kligerman has four Truck Series starts at Bristol, including an 8th with Henderson last year, and a track-best runner-up in 2012 to his Red Horse Racing teammate Timothy Peters.

MISSING: #87-NEMCO Motorsports
NEMCO Motorsports leaves their second truck in the shop, and Joe Nemechek will not be racing this Thursday, either.

RETURNING: #92-RBR Enterprises
Timothy Peters and team owner Ricky Benton rejoin the action at Bristol with the #92 Ford sponsored by BTS Tire & Wheel Distributors and Carquest Auto. Peters, the aforementioned 2012 winner of the race, has not started this event since 2016, not long before Red Horse closed its doors. He wasn’t even entered last year.

Now with a Cup Series start under his belt – and a second to come on Saturday – Jesse Little rejoins the Truck Series along with the JJL #97 crew. The truck carries sponsorship from Wings Over North Georgia and Visit Kingsport. Little has finished Top 20 in both his starts in this race, finishing 17th in 2016 and 13th last year.

RETURNING: #04-Roper Racing
Cory Roper’s cherry-red #04 is another part-time effort looking to break back into the field this week, eyeing their first green flag in the series since an 18th-place run in Iowa. Like the JJL team, this truck could be one to watch if it makes the field.


Friday, August 17, 2018
XFINITY Race 22 of 33
Food City 300 at Bristol
2017 Last-Place Finisher: David Starr

There are exactly 40 drivers entered for 40 spots, so all entrants will start the race.

DRIVER CHANGE: #3-Richard Childress Racing
Cup Series regulars predominate in Friday’s race, starting with Ty Dillon, fresh off his bizarre incident in last Sunday’s Cup race at Michigan. Dillon takes the place of Brendan Gaughan, who ran 12th last week in Mid-Ohio.

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Ray Black, Jr. rejoins the McLeod team in place of Cody Ware, who was parked at Mid-Ohio after a wreck ripped the passenger-side foam from the door. It will be Black’s sixth XFINITY start of the season and his first since Iowa, when he drove the #8 to a 28th-place finish. His best of four previous XFINITY starts at Bristol is a 14th for SS-Green Light Racing in 2017.

RETURNING: #12-Penske Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #22-Penske Racing
The #12 team is back for the first time since Watkins Glen, and Austin Cindric climbs in the Pirtek Ford. Cindric moves over from the #22, making way for Cup regular Joey Logano, also last seen at Watkins Glen, where he cruised to victory.

DRIVER CHANGE: #13-Motorsports Business Management
Team owner Carl Long takes the place of John Jackson in the third XFINITY Series entry, currently listed as a Toyota. Long has five previous Bristol starts in the XFINITY Series with his best coming just last year in the #13 when it was a Dodge. He finished 27th that day, seven laps down.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-JD Motorsports
B.J. McLeod takes the place of Katherine Legge, who enjoyed a strong showing in her series debut at Mid-Ohio before her car’s engine let go in the final laps. It will be McLeod’s sixth series start at Bristol, a track where he finished 20th this past spring in his own #78.

DRIVER CHANGE: #18-Joe Gibbs Racing
Kyle Busch looks to claim his 10th XFINITY Series win at Bristol in the NOS Energy Toyota. He takes the place of Kyle Benjamin, who ran 13th at Mid-Ohio.

Chase Elliott returns to GMS Racing’s #23 for the first time since the July race at Daytona, where engine woes left him 29th. He takes the place of Spencer Gallagher, who ran 8th at Mid-Ohio, his first XFNIITY start since Kentucky. Gallagher does not have a ride this weekend.

This year’s spring race at Bristol saw RSS Racing shuffle its driver lineup among its three cars following Ryan Sieg’s crash just hours before the race. It’s something similar this week as Jeff Green drives the #38, which will not be a “start-and-park” effort since he has returning sponsorship from C2 Freight Resources. J.J. Yeley’s full-race status is yet unknown as he takes the wheel of the #93, a LASTCAR mainstay.

DRIVER CHANGE: #42-Chip Ganassi Racing
Kyle Larson climbs aboard the #42 entry on the XFINITY side for the first time since his disappointing 27th-place showing at Watkins Glen, taking the place of Justin Marks, who ran 22nd at Mid-Ohio. Larson, who was denied a victory in this spring’s Cup race after a bump from Kyle Busch, is also 0-for-8 in the XFINITY races here with three runner-up finishes.

DRIVER CHANGE: #55-JP Motorsports
Following a disastrous opening lap at Mid-Ohio for Dylan Murcott, Bayley Currey rejoins JP Motorsports for the first time since Loudon, staying an extra day at the track following his run for D.J. Copp in Friday’s Truck Series race.

MISSING: #61-Fury Race Cars
Kaz Grala and the little team that could are noticeably absent from this week’s entry list, just the third race they’ve missed since their Charlotte debut. Grala finished 38th at Bristol this past spring for JGL Racing, eliminated in a crash after only 26 laps.

DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Timmy Hill regains his XFINITY Series ride from Tim Cowen, who ran 26th at Mid-Ohio. Hill is slated to run a Chevrolet in place of the Dodge most often fielded for this team.

DRIVER CHANGE: #78-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
California’s Jairo Avila, Jr. will make his NASCAR national series debut this Friday, taking the place of Tommy Joe Martins in the #78. Most recently, Avila ran most of the 2016 K&N Pro Series East schedule, including a 22nd-place finish on the Bristol track.

Andy Lally is set to return next week in Road America, where he expects to do more than his 15th-place finish at Mid-Ohio. In his place on the short track is Josh Williams, sponsorship from Sleep Well, and a brand-new paint scheme. Williams has finished 22nd in both of his two previous Bristol starts.

CUP INVADERS: #3-Ty Dillon, #18-Kyle Busch, #22-Joey Logano, #23-Chase Elliott, #42-Kyle Larson

Saturday, August 18, 2018
CUP Race 24 of 36
Bass Pro Shops / NRA Night Race at Bristol
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Jeffrey Earnhardt

There are 41 drivers entered for 40 spots, meaning that for just the second time all season and the first time since July 4th weekend at Daytona, one driver will miss the show after qualifying.

DRIVER CHANGE: #7-Premium Motorsports
J.J. Yeley and sponsor Steakhouse Elite return to the circuit for the first time since last month at Pocono, and join the #7 team for the first time since Pocono’s June race, taking the place of Garrett Smithley, 32nd at Michigan.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Rick Ware Racing
RETURNING: #52-Rick Ware Racing
Rick Ware’s team returns to two-car operation for the first time since Sonoma with no drivers nor sponsors listed as of Tuesday. The #51's driver and sponsor are to be determined while B.J. McLeod and sponsor Jacob Companies move to the #52, a Chevrolet. UPDATE: The #52 will be a Ford. UPDATE2: The #51 will be a Chevrolet and Reed Sorenson will drive with sponsorship from Trading View and a new purple-and-white wrap.

MANUFACTURER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Timmy Hill to run a Toyota after fielding a Chevrolet at Michigan. A photo from the Rick Ware Racing shop showed the #66 from Michigan in the background, perhaps indicating that the Chevy was once a Ware car. Hill has struggled in his three previous Cup starts here, finishing no better than 37th and finishing last in the spring of 2014.

SPONSOR UPDATE: #72-TriStar Motorsports
The rising popularity of blockchain technology continues this weekend as a third different firm in the industry is backing the #72 team. This time around, it’s custom blockchain solutions. In addition,, the primary sponsor on Timmy Hill’s Cup car last week at Michigan, has purchased space for their logo on the rear decklid.

DRIVER CHANGE: #96-Gaunt Brothers Racing
Jesse Little is back in the Cup Series for the first time since his series debut at Kentucky, and this time takes Jeffrey Earnhardt’s place in the Gaunt Brothers’ #96 Toyota. Sponsorship for the effort is still to be announced.

Last Sunday’s Cup race saw a bizarre incident where the battery came out of Timmy Hill’s Chevrolet and Ty Dillon ran over it, ending his day with a hard crash. While definitively cited as a crash (and also not a last-place finish), the confusion over what Dillon struck stirs memories of another reason out – “no reason.” In all of NASCAR last-place history, there is perhaps no finish more mysterious. It occurred only once, October 5, 1963 at the quarter-mile Tar Heel Speeedway, where Richard Petty won that day on his home track in Randleman, NC. Roy Tyner made eight laps, but the reason why his #8 1962 Chevrolet ran no further has been lost to history, cited only as “no reason.” Tyner would go on to be one of NASCAR’s longest-running independents, making 311 starts from 1957 to 1970. Curiously, he’s tied with “The King” for 15 Cup Series last-place finishes.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

K&N WEST: Series debut ends early for Armani Williams

PHOTO: Luis Torres, Motorsports Tribune
by William Soquet Guest Contributor

Armani Williams scored the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR K&N Pro Series West career in Saturday night’s NAPA 175 at Evergreen Speedway when his #34 / Patriot Motorsports Group Ford fell out with overheating issues after 64 of 175 laps.

Although Saturday marked Williams’ series debut, the eighteen-year-old already has a handy racing resume. Like many drivers, he started in the go-kart ranks before progressing up to Bandolero cars. Williams later moved to the ARCA SuperTruck Series in 2016, becoming the most successful African American ever to compete in that divison. He drove five Pinty’s Series races last year in the #28 machine as a teammate to current Cup part-timer D.J. Kennington, recording two lead lap finishes on the year. 2018 brought a deal with Calabrese Motorsports to become a part of their driver development program with forthcoming starts in both K&N Pro and ARCA. So far the driver has not started any ARCA races and only one race for Calabrese altogether, at Memphis in K&N East. He teamed up with Patriot Motorsports Group for this weekend’s effort. And all that experience isn’t even taking into account what he’s done off the track – Williams is the first openly autistic driver and can be found making appearances to motivate others to overcome whatever obstacles they have to face.

With three weeks gone since the last race at Iowa Speedway, West teams had an ample amount of time to prepare for the event at Evergreen Speedway outside Seattle. Fifteen cars showed up to race, led by juggernauts Bill McAnally Racing and Bob Bruncati Racing and followed by the usual cast of part-time and rotating rides. Jefferson Pitts Racing’s two cars went to Cole Keatts and Tyler Tanner, respectively. Tanner made his first appearance since the Texas truck race in 2015 and managed to avoid the Bottom Ten, something to write home about when there are only five cars that don’t. Williams took over the #34, and Sonoma winner Will Rodgers returned to the #4 with REF Motorsports.

Practice results were about the norm for a K&N event, with a large disparity between the front and the back. Williams was slowest of the 15 drivers, 1.8 seconds behind the leader. On a 2-mile track like Michigan, that may not be considered too far off the pace, but it was 1.8 seconds off at a 0.65-mile short track. Williams also qualified shotgun on the field, though he shaved a second off his practice lap, drew within 1.1 seconds of the leader and was three-hundredths of a second off the next car in line, Takuma Koga.

Williams’ problems continued the most unfortunate of seasons for Patriot Motorsports Group, which has claimed the LASTCAR Owners’ Championship. The 34 car overheated after 64 laps, handing PMG its sixth last-place finish on the K&N West season. The race stayed quiet after that as a Derek Kraus domination until around Lap 115, when the 16 machine ran out of fuel. Soon after, a multi-car wreck eliminated the contenders of Takuma Koga, Will Rodgers, Todd Souza and Nick Joanides. While a replay of the crash was not available, Koga was presumed to be one of the parties at fault, as on-site reporter Luis Torres captured this NSFW video involving a shouting match between Koga and crew members from other teams. 

All cars outside the Bottom Five finished the event.

15) #34-Armani Williams / 64 laps / overheating
14) #14-Takuma Koga / 118 laps / crash
13) #4-Will Rodgers / 120 laps / crash
12) #13-Todd Souza / 120 laps / crash
11) #77-Nick Joanides / 121 laps / crash

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

1st) Patriot Motorsports Group (6)
2nd) Bill McAnally Racing, B&B Motorsports, Flying Dutchman Racing (1)


Monday, August 13, 2018

CUP: Engine woes drop Corey LaJoie to last place for a fourth time in 2018

PHOTO: @CoreyLaJoie
Corey LaJoie picked up the 6th last-place finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Consumer Energy 400 at the Michigan International Speedway when his #72 Schluter Systems Chevrolet fell out with engine problems after 37 of 200 laps.

The finish, which came in LaJoie’s 47th series start, was his series-leading fourth of the 2018 season and his first since Dover, 12 races ago. In the Cup Series last-place rankings, it was the 16th for car #62, the 683rd for engine trouble, and the 752nd for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 31st for the #72, the 1,062nd from engine trouble, and the 1,618th for Chevrolet.

LaJoie and teammate Cole Whitt have continued to share time behind the wheel of TriStar Motorsports’ #72 Chevrolet. Since Dover, LaJoie has driven in 9 of 12 races, starting with Kansas, where sponsor Schluter Systems debuted a new inverted version of the black-and-orange paint scheme. The 24th-place finish LaJoie earned that night stands as his season-best, offsetting an uneasy start to 2018 that saw him blow engines in three of his first four starts, finishing last each time, and a hard crash in Pocono’s third turn.

The orange Schluter scheme returned for Michigan, where LaJoie would be one of 40 starters to fill the 40-car field. He began the weekend 33rd in the opening practice session and improved to 27th of 38 in the second. He qualified 32nd with a lap of 193.553mph (37.203 seconds) and ran 24 laps in Happy Hour, ranking 34th of 36.

Starting last was Daniel Suarez, a surprise given his career-best runner-up finish at Pocono and his top-five showing in Watkins Glen. Suarez showed speed in the opening practice, ranking 3rd behind Denny Hamlin and Kurt Busch, but in Round 1 of qualifying slapped the wall in Turn 2. Knowing their car was fast, the Joe Gibbs Racing crew decided to fix the #19 rather than roll out the backup. The repairs and lack of a completed timed lap meant that the #19 would have to roll out 40th and last on the grid.

On Sunday, Michigan saw last place change hands before the race even began. After the first pace lap, Watkins Glen last-placer Joey Logano pulled his #22 Shell / Pennzoil Ford down pit road. The Penske Racing crew had discovered in inspection that they had installed the wrong left-front shock in the Ford, forcing the crew to make the switch on pit road. This cost Logano his starting spot, and he closed in on the tail end of the field.

Logano didn’t hold last for long, however, as several drivers were sent to the back. While Ross Chastain competed in Saturday’s XFINITY Series race, where he got in a scuffle with Joey Gase after the checkered flag, Reed Sorenson practiced and qualified his #15 Solomon Plumbing Chevrolet. Chastain returned to compete on Sunday, and the driver change sent him to the back. Also sent back there were Blake Jones (#23 Tennessee XXX Moonshine Toyota) and David Ragan (#38 Louis Kemp Crab Delights Ford), both sent to the rear for transmission changes.

Two other drivers fell back voluntarily: 37th-place starter Timmy Hill, whose Motorsports Business Management team not only switched from Toyota to Chevrolet, but acquired new sponsorship from, and Jeffrey Earnhardt, returning to the Gaunt Brothers’ #96 Xtreme Concepts, Inc. / Project K9 Hero Toyota.

Thus, when the race started, Logano was already ahead of five drivers and lined up 35th on the inside of Gray Gaulding (#99 StarCom Fiber Chevrolet), back in Cup for the first time since his release from BK Racing.

When the race began, Gaulding made contact with the #51 Jacob Companies Chevrolet of B.J. McLeod, causing a tire rub on Gaulding’s car. Behind them in 40th, Blake Jones had taken last on the break, but was quickly reeling in Timmy Hill’s #66. On Lap 3, Jones drove past Hill near the start / finish line, dropping the #66 to the last spot. Hill only held this spot briefly as Gaulding dropped behind both cars, preparing to make an unscheduled stop due to the tire rub. Gaulding returned to action on Lap 6, when he was two laps down. McLeod made an unscheduled stop of his own the next time by and lost one lap. He was saved from falling two down by a spinning Erik Jones off Turn 4, the incident drawing the first yellow of the day.

On the restart, Gaulding was still in last when trouble once again broke out among the leaders. This time, it was Martin Truex, Jr., whose #78 5-hour Energy / Bass Pro Shops Toyota was knocked into a Turn 1 spin after William Byron’s #24 Liberty University Chevrolet broke loose under him. While Truex managed to avoid any contact, Byron did not, backing the #24 into the outside wall. Both cars came down pit road, where they again faced different outcomes. While Truex managed to stay on the lead lap after minor repairs, Byron lost two laps and took last from Gaulding on Lap 18.

Byron managed to return to competition for the restart, and on Lap 22 passed Gaulding for 39th coming off Turn 4. Though still two circuits behind, Gaulding began to show competitive speed as on Lap 24, he caught and passed Jeffrey Earnhardt’s 33rd-place car that was still on the lead lap. Byron earned the Lucky Dog when a competition caution came soon after, then retook last from Gaulding when he stopped at pit entrance just prior to the restart. Despite the lost ground, Byron caught and passed Timmy Hill by the end of the next lap, and looked to gain the one-circuit deficit he had on 39th-place Gaulding.

LaJoie didn’t enter the last-place battle until Lap 38, when he slowed suddenly down the backstretch, then turned into the garage area. With all other cars still running, LaJoie took last from Byron on Lap 40, and would hold it the rest of the afternoon. While the TriStar team looked to get the #72 back on track, puzzled by a dropped cylinder, what the driver later tweeted as a “broken valve spring retainer” proved to be enough to end their race. The car was pulled off RaceView at the end of Stage 1 on Lap 60, then listed as “OUT” on NBCSN’s leaderboard by Lap 73.

Jeffrey Earnhardt finished 39th, citing engine trouble of his own on the Gaunt Brothers entry. Earnhardt’s twitter feed showed him give his driving gloves to two young fans in the infield as he left the garage. 38th-place Ty Dillon encountered the day’s scariest incident, when his #13 GEICO Chevrolet struck what appeared to be either a piece of tungsten ballast or a battery, exploding beneath the car and sending him hard into the Turn 3 wall. Timmy Hill’s first race with ended with electrical woes while William Byron lost a total of 13 laps before he crossed the line 36th, the final car under power.

*This marked the first Cup Series last-place finish for the #72 since June 20, 2004, when owner-driver Kirk Shelmerdine’s #72 Fairfield Inn by Marriott Ford had handling woes after 13 laps of the DHL 400.

40) #72-Corey LaJoie / 37 laps / engine
39) #96-Jeffrey Earnhardt / 102 laps / engine
38) #13-Ty Dillon / 131 laps / crash
37) #66-Timmy Hill / 138 laps / electrical
36) #24-William Byron / 187 laps / running

1st) TriStar Motorsports (4)
2nd) StarCom Racing (3)
2nd) Penske Racing, Premium Motorsports (2)
3rd) BK Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing, Front Row Motorsports, Furniture Row Racing, Germain Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, JTG-Daugherty Racing, Motorsports Business Management, Richard Petty Motorsports, Rick Ware Racing, Roush-Fenway Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (15)
2nd) Ford (5)
3rd) Toyota (3)


XFINITY: Dylan Murcott’s NASCAR debut ends in China Beach after only four corners

Dylan Murcott picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Rock ‘n Roll Tequila 170 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course after his #55 Prevagen / Pets For Warriors Toyota was involved in a single-car accident on the opening circuit of the 75-lap race.

The finish occurred in Murcott’s series debut. In the XFINITY Series last-place rankings, it was the 13th for car #55, the 121st for Toyota, and the 318th because of a crash. Across NASCAR’s  top three series, it was the 61st for the #55, the 300th for Toyota, and the 1,157th because of a crash.

The 26-year-old from Ancram, New York came to Mid-Ohio having already earned two IMSA championships, including last year’s IMSA Continental Tire Series GS Championship. That same season, he claimed a victory in Dillon Machavern’s RS1 Porsche at Virginia International Raceway. On August 7, it was announced that Murcott would make his NASCAR debut at the Mid-Ohio course, where this past May he competed in the Lamborghini Super Trofeo Championship. That same circuit saw Kevin Conway, the NASCAR’s 2010 Cup Series Rookie of the Year, take the World Championship in 2014.

Murcott’s first NASCAR ride would be the second JP Motorsports Toyota, teammate to Josh Bilicki’s #45. The #55 had been driven for much of the year by Stephen Leicht and Brandon Hightower, but since Hightower parted ways with JP last month, has seen even more drivers run one-off starts. Bayley Currey made his series debut in the car at Loudon. Peter Shepherd III returned to the series after a 12-year absence to run Iowa. David Levine was scheduled to run Watkins Glen, but the team withdrew and left the car on the hauler. Murcott was tabbed for Mid-Ohio, where he likely drove the same car JP withdrew at The Glen.

Murcott’s weekend began with a seven-lap run in opening practice, where he ranked 34th of the 39 drivers to take time. He was not among the six drivers to take time in Happy Hour, then settled on 34th on the grid in qualifying with a lap of 90.827mph (1:29.498), the first driver locked-in on Owner Points.

Starting last was Morgan Shepherd, whose #89 Visone RV Chevrolet was back in action after withdrawing at Watkins Glen. Shepherd’s qualifying lap of 80.818 mph  (1:40.582) was more than six seconds off the next-slowest car and 16 seconds off the pole speed.

Prior to the start, Shepherd was joined at the rear by four drivers sent to the rear for unapproved adjustments: JD Motorsports teammates Garrett Smithley (#0 Wheeling Nailers Chevrolet) and Vinnie Miller (#01 JAS Trucking Chevrolet), plus Alex Labbe (#36 Larue Chevrolet) and Murcott’s teammate Josh Bilicki in the #45. Bilicki would rebound impressively, finishing 20th in the race - his new season-best.

In addition to the four penalized drivers, Stephen Leicht had fallen to 40th by the green flag. Leicht, the lone DNQ at The Glen, was making his second-straight attempt in Mike Harmon’s #74 Horizon Transport Dodge. With no teams sent home after time trials, Leicht was locked-in, but faced a 34.139 second gap back of the lead at the start, 29.360 seconds back of Shepherd.

As Leicht looked to close the gap, trouble broke out in front of him. At the time, Murcott’s #55 was running 34th when he drove off the course into the gravel trap known as “China Beach.” From what the driver later reported to be a brake failure, the car overshot Turn 4 and drove along the left side of the pit. Whether the car was out of control or simply traveling too fast, the result was the same – the #55 slammed head-on into the tire barriers. Fortunately, Murcott climbed out unhurt, but his day was done. The car also had noticeable damage around the left-rear wheel, but it was unclear what brought that about.

The garage filled gradually through the rest of Stage 1. Finishing 39th was Jeff Green in the #93 RSS Racing Chevrolet, citing brake issues after six laps. Shepherd wound up 38th with overheating. Leicht took 37th, two circuits after Shepherd. Three laps after Leicht, Vinne Miller rounded out the Bottom Five after only 14 laps.

*This marked the first XFINITY Series last-place finish for car #55 since April 25, 2014, when Jimmy Weller III lost the engine on SS-Green Light Racing’s Chevrolet at Richmond. The number had never before trailed the XFINITY race at Mid-Ohio.

40) #55-Dylan Murcott / 0 laps / crash
39) #93-Jeff Green / 6 laps / brakes
38) #89-Morgan Shepherd / 9 laps / overheating
37) #74-Stephen Leicht / 11 laps / clutch
36) #01-Vinnie Miller / 14 laps / brakes

1st) RSS Racing (10)
2nd) JP Motorsports (3)
3rd) B.J. McLeod Motorsports (2)
4th) Fury Race Cars LLC, Jeremy Clements Racing, JGL Racing, Mike Harmon Racing, Roush-Fenway Racing, SS-Green Light Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (14)
2nd) Toyota (4)
3rd) Ford (3)