Thursday, February 14, 2019

CUP: Rick Ware Racing sweeps Duel race last-place finishes with McLeod and Ware

PHOTO: Jonathan Ferrey, Getty Images
Cody Ware finished last in Thursday’s Gander RV Duel Race 1 at the Daytona International Speedway when his #52 Winn-Dixie Chevrolet finished under power after 58 of 60 laps.

Ware’s entry into the Daytona 500 came after his Cup Series plate debut last fall at Talladega, where he finished under power in a Cup event for the first time in his brief career. It was the third of four starts that year for the 22-year-old from Greensboro, North Carolina. His best run of the year came in the penultimate round at the ISM Raceway, where driver and crew overcame a wreck that destroyed their only car in practice and long hours preparing a borrowed Chevrolet from Premium Motorsports to ultimately finish a season-best 28th.

Ware would drive the #52 Chevrolet, a team he debuted last summer at the Sonoma Raceway. To guarantee a starting spot for the car, Rick Ware Racing acquired the Charter from TriStar Motorsports’ #72 Chevrolet. One year after barely making it to the Daytona 500 in time to sign in, the #72 was not among the entrants for this year’s running. TriStar’s co-drivers Corey LaJoie and Cole Whitt have since gone on to different things with Whitt retiring at Phoenix and LaJoie moving to Go FAS Racing’s #32. In fact, the Winn-Dixie sponsored car that Ware was to drive bore a striking resemblance to the #72 that LaJoie ran last fall at Talladega.

Ware began the weekend 40th on the speed charts in opening practice and remained in the same spot in Sunday’s qualifying session with a speed of 183.737mph. This would put Ware 21st and last on the grid for Duel Race 1.

When the Duel race started, Ware slotted in behind Landon Cassill’s #00 Permatex Chevrolet, who started on the outside of the row in front of him. While he made the move quickly, Ware was already losing touch with the pack off Turn 2, and was two seconds back of the lead at the end of the lap. During that lap, Ware’s car was bottoming out nearly all the way around the track, sparks spitting from under the car as he continued to lose ground.

By Lap 9, Ware was a half-lap behind the pack, so far back that when Martin Truex, Jr. unexpectedly pitted by himself three circuits later, his #19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota was able to rejoin the pack without falling behind Ware. It was on that same Lap 12, as the field exited Turn 4, that Ware pulled down pit road for a fuel-only stop. This made Ware and not Truex the first driver to lose a lap.

As the rest of the field pitted for fuel, Brad Keselowski incurred a controversial penalty for pitting outside the box, then his #2 Discount Tire Ford was docked a second lap after he sped down pit road. This dropped Keselowski back to 20th by Lap 17, when Matt Tifft’s own speeding penalty dropped his #36 Speedco Ford back to last. When Keselowski finally pulled off pit road on Lap 19, he took the spot from Tifft as he lost a second lap to the leaders.

For the rest of the race, Keselowski grasped onto whoever he could catch on the track. He soon caught Daniel Hemric in the #8 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet. The duo then caught a slowing Ryan Newman in the #6 Oscar Meyer Ford, and the three slipped past Cassill’s #00, who tried, but was unable, to keep up with the trio. Multiple laps down with other drivers only one circuit behind, Keselowski was unable to make up any ground when Kyle Busch spun on the backstretch for the race’s only caution on Lap 27.

On the restart, Keselowski made quick work of Ware, but was still one lap behind the #52. He once again drafted with Newman, then caught polesitter William Byron, who pulled out of line and ultimately finished just outside the Bottom Five. Slowly, the group closed the gap on Ware, who was again running by himself some distance ahead. With six laps to go, Keselowski’s group was in Turn 4 when Ware was at the stripe. Then, with three to go, Keselowski’s group caught and passed Ware off Turn 2, dropping the #52 to last. Ware ran there the rest of the night. As he did, he watched his water temperatures, noticing that the car was running cold.

No drivers fell out of the race. Keselowski remained in 20th with Tifft 19th and the damaged Kyle Busch in 18th. Daniel Hemric rounded out the Bottom Five.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the first last-place finish for car #52 in the Duels since February 11, 1993, when during Race 2, Jimmy Hensley’s turn relieving Jimmy Means in the #52 NAPA Ford ended with an early backstretch wreck with Indy 500 champion Al Unser, Jr. as the pair raced down the backstretch after 10 laps.
*This was only the fifth time a driver finished last while still under power in a Duel race. The last time it happened was on February 20, 2014, when Brad Keselowski’s #2 Miller Lite Ford led 34 laps, then finished three circuits behind in Duel Race 2. A driver hadn’t finished under power in Duel Race 1 since February 17, 2000, when Bobby Gerhart ran three laps down in his #89 Kewadin Casinos Chevrolet.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
21) #52-Cody Ware / 58 laps / running
20) #2-Brad Keselowski / 58 laps / running
19) #36-Matt Tifft / 59 laps / running
18) #18-Kyle Busch / 59 laps / running
17) #8-Daniel Hemric / 59 laps / running

PHOTO: Jonathan Ferrey, Getty Images
Later that night, B.J. McLeod finished last in Thursday’s Gander RV Duel Race 2 at the Daytona International Speedway when his #51 Jacob Companies Chevrolet finished under power after 57 of 60 laps.

McLeod campaigned the Ware team’s flagship #51, which had already leased a Charter from Richard Petty Motorsports just last season. While also balancing the demands of his multi-car XFINITY Series team and driving other races in that series for JD Motorsports, McLeod started 14 of the 36 Cup races run last fall and earned a season-best 28th in the fall race at Las Vegas. By Loudon in July, the team acquired sponsorship from construction firm Jacob Companies, which would later become a brand partner with NASCAR itself. That sponsorship would carry over to SpeedWeeks.

Like his teammate Cody Ware in the #52, McLeod also struggled to find speed in practice and qualifying, running just under Ware’s times in 41st overall both sessions. His qualifying lap of 182.682mph was faster only than Joey Gase, whose run in Motorsports Business Management’s #66 Medic Air Systems, Inc. / Fan Memories Toyota was another half-second off the pace. The speed put McLeod 20th of the 21 cars in Duel Race 2.

Gase’s #66 sat last on the grid, but would soon after be joined by Ross Chastain. Driving Premium Motorsports’ #15 Chevrolet in addition to efforts with Kaulig Racing in XFINITY and Al Niece in Trucks, Chastain had missed the driver’s meeting for the Duels and was penalized as a result. Coming to the start, two more cars dropped to the rear – the “open” rides of Casey Mears, who just picked up sponsorship from skateboard accessory company Rim Ryderz on his unsponsored #27 Germain Racing Chevrolet, and Brendan Gaughan, who needed to race his way in driving Mark Beard’s #62 South Point Casino / Beard Oil Distributing Chevrolet.

On the break, Chastain remained in last, but unlike Ware in Race 1, managed to hang on to Mears running in front of him. On Lap 2, Mears and Chastain pulled past McLeod, who in turn caught back up to the pair and nearly cleared Mears once more on Lap 3. Further ahead, Gaughan and Gase raced side-by-side for the final transfer spot into the Daytona 500 field. Gaughan ultimately prevailed, and by Lap 8 Gase slid back between Mears and Chastain as the group lost touch with the lead pack. According to the team’s PR, Gase was struggling with the car bottoming out much worse than it had in qualifying.

Around Lap 15, Erik Jones entered the last-place battle. Just days after finishing last in the Clash, Jones’ #20 Sport Clips Toyota was tagged with a pit road speeding penalty and dropped back in the pack. That pack caught him by Lap 25, and he slotted into the faster group of machines as they continued on in single-file formation. This allowed Jones to join the rest of the leaders in lapping both Chastain and McLeod as they were lapped under the long green-flag run. Chastain briefly held the spot during this exchange before it fell back to McLeod.

By Lap 33, McLeod was a half-straightaway behind Gase, who had tumbled even further back to the 20th spot. Positions changed five circuits later, however, when Chastain slowed on the back straightaway as he lost a second circuit to the leaders. Completely by himself, Chastain lost a third lap just eight circuits later on Lap 46. Despite Chastain’s struggles, the cars in front of him lost laps at the same rate, allowing him to pass McLeod for 20th one last time on Lap 52, as the leaders took eight laps to go.

As in Race 1, no drivers failed to finish. Gase and Chastain remained on the same lap as McLeod to finish 20th and 19th. Gase failed to qualify along with Ryan Truex, who had been passed by Parker Kligerman late in Duel Race 1. The 18th spot fell to Michael McDowell, who pitted off-sequence in his #34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford late in the Duel, costing him two laps. Mears rounded out the group, the last car one lap down.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the first last-place finish for car #51 in a Duel race.
*This was also the second time in three years that teammates swept the last-place runs. In 2017, JTG-Daugherty Racing teammates A.J. Allmendinger and Chris Buescher were disqualified, taking away the last-place runs by Reed Sorenson and Timmy Hill.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
21) #51-B.J. McLeod / 57 laps / running
20) #66-Joey Gase / 57 laps / running
19) #15-Ross Chastain / 57 laps / running
18) #34-Michael McDowell / 58 laps / running
17) #27-Casey Mears / 59 laps / running

Despite the issues, both McLeod and Ware are locked-in to Sunday’s Daytona 500, the first for either driver, and the first for Ware’s second team. Rick Ware will also be partnered with Spraker Racing as they look to secure Chris Cockrum a spot in Saturday’s XFINITY Series race. McLeod is entered in JD Motorsports’ #15 BT Global Logistics / Run The Race Chevrolet while his own team boasts Matt Mills (#5), Vinnie Miller (#78), and D.J. Kennington (#99).

PREVIEW: The ARCA invasion beefs up Truck Series entry list while the XFINITY Series struggles

PHOTO: @NASCAR_UNDERDOG
Friday, February 15, 2019
TRUCKS Race 1 of 23
NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Travis Kvapil

ENTRY LIST
It is now the Gander Outdoors Truck Series which takes to the track on Friday and an incredible 39 drivers set to contend for 32 starting spots in the season opener. But the title sponsor wasn’t the only big change in the series.

MISSING: #0-Jennifer Jo Cobb Motorsports
TEAM CHANGE: #49-Ray Ciccarelli
A frequent driver of Jennifer Jo Cobb’s second team, the #0 Chevrolet, Ray Ciccarelli has made the jump to team ownership for 2019, fielding his own #49 Chevrolet. It is unclear as of this writing whether or not this is the same #49 Chevrolet fielded up to the end of last year by Jay Robinson of Premium Motorsports before Robinson closed his two-truck operation at the end of 2018. Ciccarelli’s Daytona entry will be sponsored by CMI Installation. Cobb’s #0 Chevrolet, meanwhile, is not entered, while Cobb herself will run her familiar #10. UPDATE: Per our own William Soquet, Ciccarelli's team is in fact the former Premium #49 team.

WITHDREW: #1-Beaver Motorsports
MISSING: #50-Beaver Motorsports
The preliminary entry list for Daytona appeared to show a reunification or number reclamation of team owner Tracy Lowe, who fielded the #1 in past seasons, and Mark Beaver, owner of Beaver Motorsports (the #50 formerly fielded by Beaver and Lowe under MAKE Motorsports). Lowe is still the listed owner of the #1, entered for past series champion Travis Kvapil at Daytona, but the truck was fielded under the “Beaver Motorsports” banner - that is, before it was withdrawn by Wednesday. Beaver’s #50, which Kvapil drove to an early exit in his lone truck start last year, is not entered. Camden Murphy closed out the season for Beaver by relieving Mike Harmon in the #50 at Homestead.

NEW SPONSOR: #7-All Out Motorsports
Korbin Forrister had a handful of solid runs in his partial 2018 campaign with new team All Out Motorsports. Driver and team are back to run the season opener this time, welcoming sponsorship from “Run the Race,” an upcoming film which boasts former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow as its executive producer.

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-NEMCO Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #87-NEMCO Motorsports
Joe Nemechek closed out the 2018 season as the LASTCAR Truck Series Champion, driving his #87 to help keep his underfunded organization going. Looking for more backing, Nemechek has since hired part-timer Angela Ruch to run the #8 at Daytona with JJ Resources as sponsor. Nemechek's son, John Hunter Nemechek, takes the controls of the #87 and eyes track time in preparation for Saturday's XFINITY race with GMS Racing (see below).

RETURNING: #9-CR7 Motorsports
Also returning to the circuit is ARCA part-timer Codie Rohrbaugh, who debuted his team as owner and driver last summer with a 16th-place run at Bristol and a 17th at Texas. Rohrbaugh, who finished a strong 7th in last Saturday’s ARCA opener, looks to make his first NASCAR start at Daytona.

DRIVER CHANGE: #12-Young’s Motorsports
Randy Young’s team continued to make headlines in early January when, on January 9, their new part-time third team was set to go full-time racing in 2019 with two-time ARCA Menards Series winner Gus Dean going for rookie honors. LG Air Conditioning Technologies will back Dean’s effort for eight races and serve as an associate for the balance of the schedule.

DRIVER CHANGE: #13-ThorSport Racing
RETURNING: #27-ThorSport Racing
Following his surprising release from GMS Racing at the end of 2018, Johnny Sauter only just landed his old ride at ThorSport, returning to the #13 Ford previously occupied by Myatt Snider. Snider has himself moved to the team’s second truck – the #27 – whose only start last year was Chase Briscoe’s victory at Eldora. As with Briscoe’s effort, Snider’s will be a part-time campaign for 2019 as the young driver tweeted he will be focusing on his education and interest in aviation. ThorSport also enters a third truck this week, the #99 (see below).

TEAM CLOSED: #15-Premium Motorsports
TEAM CLOSED: #49-Premium Motorsports
Jay Robinson closed his Truck Series effort at the end of last season, removing his #15 Chevrolet from the field. Reid Wilson, who closed out 2018 for the team, is not entered, but will run Al Niece’s #45 in select races later this season (see below).

DRIVER AND SPONSOR CHANGE: #16-Hattori Racing Enterprises
Following Brett Moffitt’s release from the team after his incredible run to the 2018 Truck Series Championship, it was finally announced January 8 that Austin Hill will drive the #16 this year, bringing with him sponsorship from United Rentals. Hill had a quietly strong season 2018, completing his first full season 11th in points with a season-best 5th last fall at Texas.

RETURNING: #17-DGR-Crosley
David Gilliland will once again race his son Todd (in KBM’s #4) as he takes the wheel of his co-owned #17 Toyota. The elder Gilliland won the pole at both Truck Series plate races last year, finishing 21st at Daytona and 3rd at Talladega.

DRIVER CHANGE: #20-Young’s Motorsports
On January 7, it was revealed that Spencer Boyd would move from SS-Green Light Racing’s XFINITY Series effort to Randy Young’s #20 Chevrolet in the Truck Series. This truck was most recently driven by dirt tracker Tanner Thorson, who made 11 Truck Series starts in 2018, including the last six. Thorson is not entered for this Friday’s race.

DRIVER CHANGE: #21-GMS Racing
Much to the driver’s surprise came Johnny Sauter’s release from GMS Racing on January 9, just over two years from his championship season in 2016 and a career-best six wins in 2018 before he finished 4th in the standings. At the time of the release, Sauter’s replacement was still to be announced, but by the next day, none other than Brett Moffitt was signed to drive for GMS, allowing him a chance to defend his series title.

TEAM UPDATE: #22-AM Racing
As reported by Chris Knight on February 5, Austin Wayne Self will run the full 2019 campaign with the AM Racing team in 2019, boasting a new technical alliance with GMS Racing. This is a change from last year, when the #22 was fielded by Al Niece. Self’s #22 earned a season-best 9th in the fall race at Las Vegas.

DRIVER CHANGE: #24-GMS Racing
Following his release from Hattori’s #16 team, defending series champion Brett Moffitt landed at GMS Racing, taking over for Justin Haley in the team’s #24 Chevrolet. The full-time effort which carried Haley to his first career victory affords Moffitt the chance at defending his title.

MISSING: #25-GMS Racing
Mary Gallagher’s #25 team, driven for much of last season by Dalton Sargeant before the two parted ways, is not entered this week.

RETURNING: #28-FDNY Racing
Once again, Jim Rosenblum’s team is back in action, a full year after it had originally been reported that the team was running its final race. Modified star Bryan Dauzat is once again the driver, following an 18th-place run for the team in Daytona, then a 9th at Talladega.

DRIVER CHANGE: #30-On Point Motorsports
MISSING: #35-NextGen Motorsports (now Vizion Motorsports)
Steven Lane’s single-truck operation returns in 2019, and this time boasts former XFINITY Series driver Brennan Poole, who ran his first Truck Series races since 2015 for NextGen Motorsports, running 15th at Texas and 19th at Homestead. Poole takes the place of Jeb Burton, who ran the #30 last fall at Homestead. NextGen’s #35, now entered under Vizion Motorsports, is not entered this week.

RETURNING: #34-Reaume Brothers Racing
Jason White (the Canadian racer, unrelated to the series veteran), who made his series debut last year, will rejoin Josh Reaume’s program this year, this time driving the team’s second truck at Daytona. Powder Ventures Excavations is the sponsor. The team last ran at Mosport, where Jesse Iwuji finished 25th. Team owner Reaume remains in the team’s flagship #33, taking the place of Robby Lyons, who drove at Homestead. TheChallengesBook.com backs Reaume's truck.

MISSING: #41-ThorSport Racing
NEW TEAM: #99-ThorSport Racing
Ben Rhodes slides over from ThorSport’s #41, which isn’t entered this year, to the team’s #99 Ford – a number previously fielded in the series by Matthew Miller’s MDM Motorsports. Rhodes looks to build on a strong 2018 season that saw him earn career-high marks in Top Fives (eight), Top Tens (13), and poles (3).

RETURNING: #42-Chad Finley Racing, Inc.
Chad Finley’s strong run in his team’s debut at Gateway last year was one of the biggest underdog stories of the season. His team announced on January 17 that it would return at Daytona, bringing aboard Robby Lyons to drive at Daytona. The truck will carry Lyon’s backing from Sunwest Construction on an identical white paint scheme to what the driver ran last year at Talladega. The team last appeared last summer at Bristol, where Finley finished 30th due to engine trouble, and now plans on running the whole season.

NEW TEAM: #44-Niece Motorsports
Al Niece will field a full-time entry, and at least for the first three races, will put series fixture Timothy Peters back to the series for the first time since last fall at Martinsville, when he ran 10th for GMS Racing. It also expands Al Niece’s team from two trucks to three for Daytona. The Friends of Jaclyn Foundation will sponsor Peters’ Daytona truck as the driver eyes his second victory at the track. Future driver plans for the #44 beyond these first races are coming together.

DRIVER CHANGE: #45-Niece Motorsports
After the fallout following the closure of Chip Ganassi Racing’s XFINITY team, Ross Chastain earned a ride with Al Niece’s #45 Chevrolet for Daytona with TruNorth as sponsor. Chastain, who takes Justin Fontaine’s spot in the truck, has performed just as brilliantly in the Trucks as he has with limited funding in both Cup and XFINITY. Just last year, he ran 7th for Premium Motorsports at Las Vegas, and earned a 12th at Bristol and 16th at Homestead, driving Niece’s #38 (which is not entered). The ride, however, is not full-time - Reid Wilson, who closed out the year for Premium Motorsports, has also been tabbed to drive for Niece, sharing the #45 with Chastain for the remainder of the year.

RETURNING: #47-Chris Fontaine
Chris Fontaine returns to the track for the first time since a savage wreck last fall at Talladega destroyed perhaps the oldest operating chassis still running in the series. Glenden Enterprises remains the sponsor.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Kyle Busch Motorsports
Christian Eckes returns to the #51 team in place of last week’s ARCA Menards Series winner Harrison Burton, who closed out the team’s 2018 campaign in Homestead. Eckes, who ran strong for KBM’s team last year, came close to winning last week’s ARCA 200 before he was shuffled out of the 2nd spot on the final restart.

DRIVER CHANGE: #54-DGR-Crosley
Natalie Decker is yet another ARCA Menards Series driver making the jump to the Truck Series this weekend as she takes the place of last fall’s driver Chris Windom in the #54 Toyota. Decker eyes her first Truck Series start, but it will not be her first attempt – she missed the cut for Martinsville in the spring of 2016 in a one-off for Mark Beaver.

RETURNING: #68-Clay Greenfield Motorsports
Clay Greenfield and his single-truck operation are back in action this week, one year after a career-best 3rd-place qualifying run at Daytona. He aims to make his first start since last fall at Talladega, where suspension issues left him last in the running order. Rackley Roofing backs the truck.

TEAM UPDATE: #63-MB Motorsports
TEAM UPDATE: #83-Copp Motorsports
The last time we saw D.J. Copp’s team was at Homestead, when they withdrew following Todd Peck’s accident in practice. News then came on New Year’s Eve that Mike Senica, absent from the Truck Series since he was parked last spring at Martinsville, would be returning to the circuit with Copp’s #83. Copp refuted this claim, and both Senica and his sponsorship from Speed Clothing Company are not entered in this weekend’s race. Copp is instead the listed owner of the #63, which in the past has been fielded by longtime team owner Mike Mittler. After partnering with Mittler the last couple seasons, Copp appears to be taking a more active role in the team’s ownership. The Daytona entry, to be driven by ARCA veteran Bobby Gerhart, is listed under “Copp Motorsports” rather than Mittler’s “MB Motorsports.” Mittler himself continues to fight an ongoing illness.

RETURNING: #82-Mark Rette
One week after his ARCA Menards Series driver Grany Quinlan picked up a strong 3rd-place showing in the ARCA 200, Mark Rette aims to give his team its first Truck Series start since this event two years ago with Terry Jones. Driving his #82 Ford is Spencer Davis, who ran five races last year for KBM with a best finish of 7th in this race, followed by three consecutive starts where he qualified 4th.

RETURNING: #92-Ricky Benton Enterprises
Ricky Benton’s team returns, but in place of Parker Kligerman, who prepares to make the Daytona 500 with the Gaunt Brothers, Austin Theriault is the driver of his #92 Ford. Theriault’s lone Truck start last year was Las Vegas in September, where he ran a strong 8th in On Point’s #30 Toyota.

MISSING: #97-JJL Motorsports
Jesse Little and his family’s JJL team will not race at Daytona, and eye their season debut next week at Atlanta.

DRIVER CHANGE: #02-Young’s Motorsports
Tyler Dippel was on January 18 revealed to be the full-time driver of Randy Young’s #02, previously driven by Austin Hill. Dippel parlayed a strong 13th-place run for DGM-Crosley at Eldora into a four-race stint for GMS Racing in the closing part of the year, finishing between 14th and 17th in each race, and completing all but two laps. Such consistency will serve him well in his first full-time NASCAR campaign.

Saturday, February 16, 2019
XFINITY Race 1 of 33
Racing Experience 300 at Daytona
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Austin Cindric

ENTRY LIST
There are 38 teams entered for as many spots as the XFINITY Series scales back from 40 cars to 38 as a “full field” for 2019.

TEAM UPDATE: #0-JD Motorsports
TEAM UPDATE: #4-JD Motorsports
TEAM UPDATE: #15-JD Motorsports
TEAM UPDATE: #01-JD Motorsports
In the aftermath of Chip Ganassi Racing closing their XFINITY Series program, Ross Chastain will make at least three starts in his familiar #4 Chevrolet at Johnny Davis’ stables (in addition to another part-time ride with Kaulig Racing and a Truck Series effort with Al Niece). Chastain’s return apparently came after Blake Koch’s deal to drive the car fell through over the offseason. When Chastain then landed a part-time ride with Kaulig Racing, the #4 then fell to Scott Lagasse, Jr. in still another Daytona one-off with sponsorship from Rimrock Devlin. Lagasse will be joined by Garrett Smithley, once again in his “Number Nuthin” #0, and Stephen Leicht, who on February 2 was revealed as making the move from B.J. McLeod’s #99 Chevrolet to Davis’ flagship #01. McLeod will run the team’s #15 this week.

NUMBER SWAP: #1-JR Motorsports
MISSING: #5-JR Motorsports
RETURNING: #8-JR Motorsports
NUMBER SWAP: #9-JR Motorsports
News broke on January 25 that, in addition to Noah Gragson’s signing with the team to replace the retired Elliott Sadler, Gragson will drive the #9 instead of Sadler’s #1, and that Michael Annett will run the #1 instead of his #5. Justin Allgaier remains in the team’s #7. The #5 is now missing from JR Motorsports, replaced by a returning #8. A deal was worked out between JRM and B.J. McLeod, who ran the #8 last season. According to Dale Jr., the deal had originally been for the #8 to run at Darlington for a throwback paint scheme later this year, but NASCAR prohibiting number swaps meant the change would have to be made now instead. Thus, the #8 was set to make its season debut with Spencer Gallagher, who was originally set to retire from racing at the end of last year. The preliminary entry list shows Chase Elliott in the car instead.  Zane Smith, Jeb Burton, Ryan Truex, and Ryan Preece are among the other drivers scheduled to run the #8 later this season.

DRIVER CHANGE: #2-Richard Childress Racing
With Matt Tifft moving up to a full-time ride in the Cup Series, defending series champion Tyler Reddick moves from JR Motorsports’ #9 to Tifft’s ride in the #2 Chevrolet. The team’s Daytona car will be sponsored by Pinnacle Financial Partners.

MISSING: #3-Richard Childress Racing
Curiously, RCR’s flagship #3 Chevrolet is not on the preliminary entry list for Saturday’s race. The car was driven for much of last season both brothers Austin and Ty Dillon, as well as development driver Shane Lee, who ran at Homestead.

NUMBER CHANGE: #5-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
MISSING: #8-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
TEAM UPDATE: #78-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
TEAM UPDATE: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
On January 11 came news that B.J. McLeod’s team will expand from two to three full-time XFINITY Series cars in 2019. This originally included the #78 and #8, last year’s full-time entries, and the #99, which ran a partial schedule last year. That changed on January 25 when JR Motorsports announced the McLeod team worked out a deal for JRM to run the #8, later changing McLeod’s second car to #5 in a swap with JR Motorsports, which Matt Mills is set to run at Daytona. JF Electric and Thompson Electric will back Mills. The #78 goes to Vinnie Miller, who came over from JD Motorsports to run for McLeod last year. Among the drivers of the third #99 entry is Tommy Joe Martins, making a return of his own at Atlanta with longtime backer Diamond Gusset Jeans as sponsor on a Ryan Pistana-designed scheme. D.J. Kennington is entered in the #99, whose schedule will be filled out this year by McLeod himself and JA Avila, Jr., among others. Kennington's car will be sponsored by Lordco Auto Parts, which has backed his past Daytona 500 efforts.

RETURNING: #10-Kaulig Racing
Kaulig Racing experimented with a second car from their stables last summer at Indianapolis, and will bring a second team once again to Daytona. The persistent Ross Chastain will drive the car with Nutrien Agricultural Solutions as the sponsor of the #10 Chevrolet, and make his debut with the effort at Daytona.

DRIVER CHANGE: #11-Kaulig Racing
Teamed with Chastain in Kaulig’s full-time flagship #11 is Justin Haley, who last we saw at Daytona was denied victory in July for a controversial yellow-line penalty. Haley takes the place of Ryan Truex, who has a Cup ride for Daytona with Tommy Baldwin, with Kaulig’s Leaf Filter Gutter Protection as the continuing sponsor.

RETURNING: #12-Penske Racing
Roger Penske’s part-time XFINITY effort returns at Daytona with Cup regular Brad Keselowski as the listed driver of the #12 Fitzgerald Ford.

TEAM UPDATE: #13-Motorsports Business Management
NEW TEAM: #35-Motorsports Business Management
MISSING: #40-Motorsports Business Management
NEW TEAM: #42-Motorsports Business Management
TEAM UPDATE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Carl Long’s team pledged to increase their focus on the XFINITY Series this year – and to Toyota - and has no less than four cars entered for this weekend’s race. In place of the #40 and Chad Finchum, who ran much of last year in the Smithbilt Homes livery, the team has picked up #42 (from the closed Ganassi effort) and brought back part-timer John Jackson to drive. The #13 team has Max Tullman entered, one year after his three-race stint as part-owner-driver of his #26 Ford (see below). Joey Gase’s #35, last year a Go FAS Racing entry, is this year under Long’s banner with Gase’s Cup sponsors backing the Daytona effort. Rounding out the group in the #66 is Timmy Hill with VSI Racing and Overkill Motorsports logos on the white Supra. The team no longer runs a Dodge as their car was expired by the rulebook at the end of last season.

TEAM CLOSED: #16-Roush-Fenway Racing
TEAM CLOSED: #60-Roush-Fenway Racing
News broke on January 3 that both Roush-Fenway Racing’s XFINITY teams would be closed for next season, choosing instead to focus their efforts on Cup. This puts an end to Ryan Reed’s #16, which lost Lily Diabetes as a sponsor at the end of 2018, and the venerable #60, which had been active on at least a partial basis in the series since 1993.

RETURNING: #17-Spraker Racing / Rick Ware Racing
Chris Cockrum rejoins the XFINITY Series in his familiar #17 Chevrolet with returning backing from Advanced Communications Group. The Georgia driver’s most recent series attempt was this race last year, when he failed to qualify the #25. The preliminary entry list showed Rick Ware as the team’s owner.

DRIVER CHANGE: #18-Joe Gibbs Racing
Last year, Jeffrey Earnhardt and his backing from Xtreme Concepts, Inc., which backed his Cup efforts for Premium Motorsports and Gaunt Brothers Racing, made the jump to Joe Gibbs’ XFINITY program for 2019. Earnhardt will not drive Gibbs’ flagship #18 Toyota Supra at Daytona, the first of nine races scheduled for the driver.

NEW SPONSOR: #22-Penske Racing
Austin Cindric locked-down the #22 entry for 2019 after splitting the ride with the turbulent #60 Roush-Fenway Racing entry last season. MoneyLion, which signed with the team last year and closed out the season at Homestead, is again the sponsor.

DRIVER CHANGE: #23-GMS Racing
John Hunter Nemechek landed the ride at GMS Racing in place of the retired Spencer Gallagher, and brought with him sponsorship from his Truck Series backer Fire Alarm Services, Inc.

MISSING: #26-Tullman Walker Racing
Max Tullman’s part-time operation, which made its most recent start last fall at Homestead, is not entered. Tullman is himself the listed driver of MBM’s #13.

TEAM UPDATE: #35-Motorsports Business Management
On January 16, it was revealed that Carl Long’s team Motorsports Business Management had hired Joey Gase to run full-time in the XFINITY Series, driving one of Toyota’s new Supras. The car will be sponsored by Gase’s longtime backer Eternal Fan, starting at Daytona. Gase makes the move from Go Green Racing, where he ran the #35 in XFINITY just last year.

MISSING: #35-Go FAS Racing
MISSING: #76-SS-Green Light Racing
RETURNING: #07-SS-Green Light Racing
RETURNING: #08-SS-Green Light Racing
Announced at Texas on November 2, the SS-Green Light Racing team takes on a whole new look for 2019. As last year’s driver Spencer Boyd takes his Grunt Style sponsorship to the Truck Series, Gray Gaulding makes the move from Cup back to XFINITY with Texas-based sponsor Pure Global as sponsor. On January 25, it was revealed Gaulding will be teamed with Ray Black, Jr., who brings back SS-Green Light’s #07 Chevrolet. These cars will be entered in place of Boyd’s #76 (tied to 1776 for the patriotic Grunt Style sponsor) and the #35 Joey Gase drove last year under the Go FAS Racing banner (but prepared by SS-Green Light). Car #08 has only four last-place finishes in XFINITY competition, and none since 2012, when Tim Andrews dropped out at Chicagoland.

DRIVER CHANGE: #36-DGM Racing
MISSING: #92-DGM Racing
Josh Williams slides over from Mario Gosselin’s #92 Chevrolet (which he ran at Homestead, but is not entered this week) to the #36 this year, taking the place of Canadian competitor Alex Labbe. This week's car is sponsored by Joe Froyo and All Sports Coffee. Caesar Bacarella remains in the #90, which he ran in last year’s finale.

MISSING: #37-RSS Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #38-RSS Racing
TEAM UPDATE: #39-RSS Racing
TEAM UPDATE: #93-RSS Racing
Josh Bilicki landed a new ride with Ryan Sieg’s team on February 3, taking J.J. Yeley’s place in the #38 Chevrolet. Bilicki, who makes the move from JP Motorsports, debuts new sponsorship at Daytona from Dr. Squatch Man Soap. Ryan Sieg remains in the #39, and has landed a sponsor from Code Rum for next week’s race in Atlanta. LASTCAR fan favorite Jeff Green will continue to run the #93, and will see C2 Freight Resources, Inc. return as his primary sponsor in Talladega. The RSS team’s part-time #37, which Green drove at Homestead, is not entered.

TEAM CLOSED: #42-Chip Ganassi Racing
On January 4, just weeks after the FBI raided the home and headquarters of sponsor DC Solar, and one day after Roush-Fenway closed their two XFINITY teams, Chip Ganassi Racing announced they would close their XFINITY team. The closure put an abrupt end to Ross Chastain’s full-time effort, which was made official in November at the ISM Raceway following his win in Las Vegas.

TEAM UPDATE: #45-JP Motorsports
TEAM UPDATE: #55-JP Motorsports
After a very difficult start to their XFINITY Series program, JP Motorsports is expected to return for their second XFINITY Series season, per a February 5 report by Dustin Albino at Frontstretch.com. However, neither team was yet shown on the preliminary entry list. Per the same source, their debut is still expected later this season.

TEAM UPDATE: #52-Jimmy Means Racing
After no driver was listed in the days leading up to the race, David Starr was listed to stay with Jimmy Means' team, as he had last year.

MISSING: #61-Fury Race Cars, LLC
Kaz Grala and the upstart Fury Race Cars team are conspicuously absent from this weekend’s entry list, just months after their Stewart-Haas Racing show car had a fine showing in last July’s Daytona race. UPDATE: News came on Thursday that Grala has picked up a part-time ride in Richard Childress Racing's #21 Chevrolet this season.

DRIVER CHANGE: #74-Mike Harmon Racing
A variety of patriotic sponsors, headed by Air One Heating & Cooling, backs Mike Harmon this week as he regains his seat from Tim Viens, who was entered in his black #74 Chevrolet last fall at Homestead.

RETURNING: #98-Stewart-Haas Racing with Biagi DenBeste
Chase Briscoe and the Biagi team are back in action – the driver for the first time since Homestead, and the team for the first time since a 30th-place showing in Kansas. Briscoe looks to build on his first series victory last fall on the Roval, and welcomes returning backing from pet food supplier Nutri Chomps.

CUP INVADERS: #8-Chase Elliott, #12-Brad Keselowski

Sunday, February 17, 2019
CUP Race 1 of 36
Daytona 500 at Daytona
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Corey LaJoie

ENTRY LIST
The entry list remained at 42 cars heading into Thursday’s Duel races as both Obaika Racing’s #97 and the NY Racing Team’s #7 failed to present their cars by last week’s deadline.

SPONSOR UPDATE: #27-Germain Racing
Bob Pockrass reported that Rim Ryderz, makers of skateboard rims, will back the previously unsponsored second Germain Racing car. In qualifying, Mears locked himself into Sunday's race along with Tyler Reddick in Richard Childress' #31.

LASTCAR STAT OF THE WEEK
Now a team owner in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, Bobby Dotter picked up the first last-place finish of his Truck Series career at Daytona on February 15, 2002. Driving the #08 he'd carried for most of his 209 starts as an XFINITY Series driver, Dotter's Albertson's / CDS Chevrolet lost the engine after 26 laps. The season marked Dotter's second and final full-time season in Trucks, and he rebounded from the Daytona issue to finish a career-best 14th in points.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

ARCA: Daytona draft gets the best of Willie Mullins

by William Soquet
LASTCAR.info Guest Contributor

Willie Mullins finished last for the 2nd time in his ARCA Menards Series career in Saturday’s Lucas Oil 200 Driven by General Tire at the Daytona International Speedway. The finish came in Mullins’ 14th series start and came two years after his previous last-place finish, which came in the 2017 edition of the Lucas Oil 200.

A native of Virginia, Willie Mullins is a quintessential throwback racer. During the week, he works as a fleet manager for waste trucks in Fredericksburg. In his off time, he races at Dominion Raceway, and puts together his own small ARCA crew. Another adjective often thrown around with these kind of teams is “independent”, but that’s not the case with the Mullins Racing crew. After running ARCA races at New Jersey Motorsports Park in 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012, Mullins Racing formed an alliance with Darrell Basham Racing to use the #34’s owner points in select events - mostly on superspeedways. The first race of the pairing yielded an eighth at Daytona in 2016. Although no other top tens were recorded, the partnership ran two years and seven races. For 2018, Mullins made a different agreement to use Hixson Motorsport’s owner points after that team scaled back operations.

The all-volunteer operation also expanded to a two-car effort, with Andrew Belmont joining the team for Daytona. The first race at Daytona was a resounding success: Mullins finished second and was able to hold off two Venturini Motorsports cars on the final lap. Belmont finished ninth after avoiding the ubiquitous attrition at the end. At Elko, Mullins Racing also brought two cars, putting Virginia development driver Robert Bruce in the second entry. The team scaled back to one car this year at Daytona, and also plans to race Nashville and maybe Talladega. They also brought on Tony Furr as crew chief straight from Cup Series team StarCom Racing.

The 2018-2019 offseason brought both exciting and disappointing news for ARCA. On one hand, MDM Motorsports went from fielding three full-time entries and two part-time entries to not fielding any cars at all. Other teams that consisted a significant portion of the schedule like Patriot Motorsports Group and Darrell Basham Racing have not announced any plans, and full-season teams such as Fast Track Racing, Brad Smith Motorsports and Wayne Peterson Racing have only released partial plans.

But for every down announcement, there was an up announcement. Menards stepped up to be the entitlement sponsor for ARCA, the first one for the series since RE/MAX. A renewed interest in the series was represented by more involvement from large NASCAR teams – GMS Racing announced a partial slate, Richard Petty Motorsports affiliate Empire Racing announced an expanded schedule for Thad Moffitt, and Truck teams On Point Motorsports and Vizion Motorsports (formerly NextGen Motorsports) entered the series. The championship fight looks to be a deep one this year as well, with as many as seven bona fide championship contenders.

Daytona traditionally attracts the highest car count of the year for ARCA. Despite all of the good announcements; the car count slipped three from last year, from 39 to 35. Tommy Praytor’s team, which fielded two cars at Daytona last year (including last-placer Ronnie Osmer), was originally planning to return but never filed an entry after it was revealed that the Praytor family was awaiting the birth of another child. Whelen Modified and Daytona / Talladega mainstay Bryan Dauzat also did not enter. Neither did MBM Motorsports nor Norm Hutton Racing.

On the flip side, a number of teams and drivers made series debuts: Brenden Queen and Paul Williamson with Vizion Motorsports, Connor Hall with Chad Bryant Racing, and Jason White with Fast Track Racing. A number of drivers also moved teams: C.J. McLaughlin kicked off a partial schedule as a teammate to Andy Seuss in a second Our Motorsports entry, Tyler Dippel ran a one-off in the Ken Schrader Racing #52, and Scott Melton formalized his partnership with Kimmel Racing.

Although practice at plate tracks means near nothing, names familiar to LASTCAR readers from last season made early appearances at the bottom of the leaderboard. Brad Smith trailed first practice, his #48 Brad Smith Motorsports team running the familiar red scheme that has become synonymous with the late James Hylton. Tommy Vigh, Jr. was last in second practice; his Daytona debut up to that point not going much better than his tumultuous series debut at Madison last year. Smith and Wayne Peterson Racing driver Con Nicolopoulos qualified on provisional, with Smith slated to take the green in 35th.

The last-place battle initially looked to be over before it started. John Ferrier, driving a third Empire Racing car, stalled on the backstretch during the pace laps. His car was brought on to pit road and stayed there until about Lap 20. He eventually completed 35 circuits before retiring with clutch issues. On Lap 4, however, the lead pack was racing single-file down the backstretch when Michael Self took a peek to the outside. Mullins closed the gap just a bit, and Self came down to just clip the right-front of the #3 machine. That resulted in both cars sliding through the grass, and due to the current state of aerodynamics and downforce in stock car racing, the front ends of both cars were torn up. The Mullins team deemed the damage terminal, pulling into the garage after three laps. Self, running a fully-funded team that is going for the team, also pulled into the garage but eventually went back out to try and gain points, ending up 31st.

33rd went to Eric Caudell, whose new composite body car went firewall-deep into the SAFER barrier at pit entrance halfway through the race, turned by the 69 of Scott Melton as Caudell was trying to pit. Unlike previous efforts, Caudell’s composite body appeared to have no association with Hixson Motorsports; Hixson’s social accounts made no mention of Caudell and the FS1 commentators mentioned how Caudell and not the Hixson team brought the car across the country to Daytona. Ironically, Melton was the next car to retire, completing 45 laps before falling out with brake issues. The rest of the Bottom Ten was filled with accident victims: Brenden Queen, Paul Williamson and J.J. Pack after separate incidents avoiding a spinning Connor Hall, Thad Moffitt after a tire went down, and Gus Dean, collected in the first big pileup in the late stages of the race.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
35) #3-Willie Mullins / 3 laps / crash
34) #44-John Ferrier / 35 laps / clutch
33) #2-Eric Caudell / 40 laps / crash
32) #69-Scott Melton / 45 laps / brakes
31) #25-Michael Self / 48 laps / running

2019 LASTCAR ARCA OWNERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Mullins Racing (1)

2019 LASTCAR ARCA MANUFACTURERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Ford (1)

2019 LASTCAR ARCA DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP

Sunday, February 10, 2019

CUP: Field-clearing pileup causes last-place starter Erik Jones to finish there

PHOTO: Chris Graythen, Getty Images
Erik Jones finished last in Sunday’s Advance Auto Parts Clash at the Daytona International Speedway when his #20 Sport Clips Toyota was involved in the day’s race-ending 17-car pileup after 55 of 59 laps.

Jones arrived in Daytona as the series’ most recent winner at the track, having taken his first checkered flag in last July’s Coke Zero Sugar 400. The finish earned Jones his first Playoff appearance. Two months later, his second career pole at Las Vegas – which resulted in a last-place finish due to a crash not of his own making – secured him a spot in Sunday’s Clash.

In the lone practice session, Jones ran 11th of the 20 entrants. He then drew the 20th and final starting spot, putting him to the rear of the field. He’d be joined that afternoon by both Chase Elliott in the #9 Mountain Dew Chevrolet and Denny Hamlin in the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, both sent to backup cars following the session’s only wreck on the backstretch.

After Elliott and Hamlin’s penalties, Elliott took the 20th spot, a position no one held for long the rest of the race. By Lap 2, Jimmie Johnson’s #48 Ally Chevrolet took last off Turn 2, then Elliott again on Lap 3, before Austin Dillon pulled to the inside entering the tri-oval to take the spot on Lap 4. The sixth circuit saw Jamie McMurray, making his final Clash appearance, drop to last in the #40 Advent Health Chevrolet. McMurray was still running there when rain stopped the action for the first time after Lap 8.

A round of pit stops under yellow put Kevin Harvick to last for the first time, and his #4 Busch Beer Car2Can Ford had the spot until the Lap 13 restart. He then passed teammate Aric Almirola in the #10 Smithfield Prime Fresh Ford, and last year’s Talladega winner held onto 20th until Lap 18, when Elliott once again fell to the back. The end of the first segment on Lap 26 saw several drivers pit just moments before the caution, and NASCAR spent an extended time trying to figure out where that left scoring.

During the long yellow, Jones fell to last for the first time since the grid, trading the spot with Clint Bowyer. It was during these pit stops that Jones reportedly rear-ended Austin Dillon’s #3 Bass Pro Shops / Tracker Boats Chevrolet, forcing an extended stop for repairs to the nose of his Toyota. Bowyer also made multiple stops on pit road, often coming within moments of losing a lap to the leaders.

The race restarted on Lap 33, and McMurray took the spot a second time and then Elliott for a fourth. The next time by on Lap 34, Ryan Newman took the spot for the briefest of moments before his #6 Wyndham Rewards Ford moved back past Almirola and the field returned to single-file formation. Dillon was 20th as rain stopped the action a second time by Lap 41. Another restart brought into the mix Alex Bowman in the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, who traded the spot with the persistent Elliott as the two competing lines jostled for position.

Jones fell to the rear with 27 to go, then for the first time Daniel Suarez in Stewart-Haas Racing’s #41 Haas Automation Ford. Seven circuits later, with 55 laps complete, Suarez was working his way past Almirola for position when the battle for last-place – and for the win – ended abruptly.

Jimmie Johnson had worked his way from the last spot to second place as the field poured down the backstretch. Sizing up the dominant Paul Menard in the #21 Motorcraft / Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford, Johnson looked low and the two made contact. Johnson managed to keep control, but Menard turned sharply to the right, triggering a wreck that ultimately involved 17 of the 20 starters. Jones came upon the wreck in the 14th spot, once again following the Dillon machine he rear-ended on pit road. As Dillon bumped McMurray into a spin, Jones ducked low, only to find the entire lane completely blocked. Jones hit the brakes and skated into his wrecking teammate Martin Truex, Jr., then slid alongside the #19 Bass Pro Shops / Tracker ATVs Toyota until the pile stopped in the grass. Suarez and Almirola, still locked in their last-place battle, piled in shortly after with Suarez suffering significant damage while Almirola made it through nearly unscathed. Both teams were able to complete repairs, and were not among the eight drivers immediately eliminated in the Lap 55 tangle. Almirola finished on the lead lap in 8th while Suarez came home one lap down in 10th.

Despite this, the wreck once again wreaked havoc with scoring. For a time, NASCAR RaceView showed Clint Bowyer in last, then on Lap 58 showed race leader Paul Menard in the final spot, perhaps since the rest of the field had moved past Menard by the time the wreck ended (which is not consistent with NASCAR scoring when multiple cars fail to complete a lap). Only later did the program correct itself to match the scoring on NASCAR.com’s web page, which showed Jones in 20th virtually from the moment the dust settled. Kyle Larson, Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, and Clint Bowyer rounded out the Bottom Five as the lowest-running drivers who turned just 55 laps.

In all, 11 of the 20 starters – including race winner Johnson – spent at least a moment in the 20th and final spot.

Jones now sets his sights on next week’s Gander RV Duel Races, where he lines up 7th in Race 2.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the third time car #20 has finished last in the Clash, joining Jimmy Hensley (1990) and Joey Logano (2009). The Logano finish was the subject of the first last-place article ever posted on this site.
*Jones’ 55 laps complete breaks the record for most laps run by a Clash last-placer, breaking Jamie McMurray’s mark of 43 laps last year. This is particularly notable since Sunday’s race was also the first Clash ever shortened by rain.
*This marked the first time the last-place finisher of the Clash had drawn the final starting spot in the same race (not counting the eight instances where drivers withdrew, were disallowed, or otherwise did not start the event, as those results do not indicate official starting positions).
*It was Toyota’s first last-place finish in the Clash since February 18, 2012, when Michael Waltrip’s #55 Aaron’s Dream Machine wrecked out after 8 laps.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
20) #20-Erik Jones / 55 laps / crash
19) #42-Kyle Larson / 55 laps / crash
18) #2-Brad Keselowski / 55 laps / crash
17) #11-Denny Hamlin / 55 laps / crash
16) #14-Clint Bowyer / 55 laps / crash

Thursday, February 7, 2019

PREVIEW: A long and wild offseason culminates with late-breaking entry list stories at Daytona

PHOTO: @GoFasRacing32
Sunday, February 10, 2019
CUP Exhibition Race
Advance Auto Parts Clash
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Jamie McMurray

As reported on December 13, this year’s running of the Clash has been expanded to former Daytona 500 winners, which made both Jamie McMurray (2010) and Ryan Newman (2008) eligible and increased the field from 18 to 20 cars.

ENTRY LIST
#1-Kurt Busch
#2-Brad Keselowski
#3-Austin Dillon
#4-Kevin Harvick
#6-Ryan Newman
#9-Chase Elliott
#10-Aric Almirola
#11-Denny Hamlin
#12-Ryan Blaney
#14-Clint Bowyer
#18-Kyle Busch
#19-Martin Truex, Jr.
#20-Erik Jones
#21-Paul Menard
#22-Joey Logano
#40-Jamie McMurray
#41-Daniel Suarez
#42-Kyle Larson
#48-Jimmie Johnson
#88-Alex Bowman


Thursday, February 14, 2019
CUP Exhibition Races
Gander RV Duel at Daytona, Races 1 and 2
2018 Last-Place Finishers: Aric Almirola, Kyle Larson

ENTRY LIST
It was estimated that around 44 drivers are entered for next Sunday’s Daytona 500, but the preliminary list showed 42 cars yesterday, missing the declared #7 of the NY Racing Team and the #97 of Obaika Racing. Regardless of count, the front row will be set after two rounds of single-car qualifying this Sunday, February 10.

DRIVER CHANGE: #1-Chip Ganassi Racing
On December 4, two days after it was announced he would no longer be driving for Stewart-Haas Racing, Kurt Busch was confirmed as the new driver of Chip Ganassi Racing’s #1 Chevrolet in 2019 with Monster Energy as sponsor. Busch replaces Jamie McMurray, who had driven the #1 for nine full seasons dating back to his victory in his first-ever race for them in the 2010 Daytona 500.

DRIVER CHANGE: #6-Roush-Fenway Racing
Ryan Newman ended his fifth full season as driver of Richard Childress’ #31 Chevrolet last season, and in September was announced as the new driver of Roush-Fenway Racing’s #6. Newman takes the place of Matt Kenseth and Trevor Bayne, who ended up sharing the ride last year following ongoing struggles with performance. Kenseth reported late last year he has no plans to race, while Bayne’s plans are also unknown. Oscar Meyer is among the sponsors signed with Newman for 2019.

RETURNING: #7-NY Racing Team
Jonathan Cohen's single-car effort is reportedly back for 2019, but as of this writing, it is unclear if it will be a full or part-time effort. J.J. Yeley, who drove for Cohen in the past, appeared at Media Day wearing a Steakhouse Elite uniform with NY's logos and the #7 on its design. The team was not shown on the preliminary entry list. UPDATE: As of Friday, the team's hauler has not yet arrived at the track.

DRIVER AND NUMBER CHANGE: #8-Richard Childress Racing
Taking Ryan Newman’s place in the #31 is Rookie of the Year candidate Daniel Hemric, who not only made the XFINITY Series Championship 4 the last two years, but also turned in a strong performance in just his second Cup race last fall on the Roval. On December 14 came the surprising news that the #31 team would now be the #8 team, keeping the number Hemric drove during his limited Cup season (BUT the #31 returns as an “open” car, see below). Both he and teammate Austin Dillon will run gold paint schemes in the Daytona 500 to kick off the 50th anniversary season for Richard Childress Racing.

DRIVER CHANGE: #19-Joe Gibbs Racing
Daniel Suarez’ two-year tenure with Joe Gibbs Racing has ended, as November 7 saw the announcement that Martin Truex, Jr. and crew chief Cole Pearn will move from the closed Furniture Row Racing to take over the #19 team. On January 4, Bass Pro Shops announced they would be continuing their sponsorship of Truex, increasing their commitment to 24 of 36 points races. Auto-Owners Insurance followed Truex over as well, announcing on January 8 they would back another eight races. Despite unconfirmed rumors of Truex keeping car #78, the car will retain #19.

NEW TEAM: #27-Germain Racing
On February 5 came news that Bob Germain’s team will field a second car alongside Ty Dillon’s flagship #13 GEICO Chevrolet. Rejoining the team is Casey Mears, who Dillon replaced in 2017. Mears eyes his first Cup start since the 2016 finale at Homestead, and his first in any of NASCAR’s top three series since the XFINITY Series’ Homestead round in 2017, when he drove for Biagi-DenBeste. Mears’ #27 is a collaborative effort with Premium Motorsports owner Jay Robinson, who fielded the #15 and #7 Chevrolets at the end of last season.

“NEW” TEAM: #31-Richard Childress Racing
While the #31 is not a new feature in the Cup Series field, the Charter swap with Richard Chidress Racing’s #8 has turned the team into an “open” entry for this year’s Daytona 500. Not originally slated to enter, it was revealed February 1 that defending XFINITY Series champ Tyler Reddick will attempt to make his Cup debut in the car, running alongside Austin Dillon and Daniel Hemric. Symbicort will sponsor the #31.

DRIVER CHANGE: #32-Go FAS Racing
With Matt DiBenedetto moving to the Leavine Family Racing #95 (see below), taking his place in the #32 is Corey LaJoie. The announcement, which came at the NASCAR Hall of Fame on December 20, included Schluter Systems following LaJoie as sponsor from his previous ride at TriStar Motorsports. After two different paint schemes were hinted at over the offseason, David Marrero's latest scheme was unveiled on February 6, featuring Old Spice as sponsor and LaJoie's face occupying the hood and front valence.

NEW TEAM: #36-Front Row Motorsports
After acquiring the Charter from the now-defunct BK Racing last August, news broke on November 27 that Front Row would return to a three-car lineup for the first time since 2015. Driving the third car will be XFINITY Series full-timer Matt Tifft, who will compete for Rookie of the Year and drive his third different manufacturer in as many years. The car will run #36, a number we haven’t seen on the circuit since Tommy Baldwin Racing shuttered their second car at the end of 2014. Tifft also pointed out he used to race for Ken Schrader, and was pleased he could run one of Schrader’s former numbers from MB2 Motorsports.

NEW SPONSOR: #38-Front Row Motorsports
Select Blinds was revealed as David Ragan’s new backer for Daytona, the first of a four-race deal for 2019.

RETURNING: #40-Chip Ganassi Racing
Following the announcement that he would not drive the #1 in 2019, Jamie McMurray’s plans were yet unknown at the time. By December 12, it was confirmed he would drive in the Clash and the Daytona 500 in a one-off effort, then serve as an analyst for FOX Sports. McMurray will drive car #40, formerly the flagship number of the Ganassi team at the time McMurray made his Cup debut relieving Sterling Marlin in 2002. A render showed Advent Health as the sponsor for the Clash, then longtime partners Bass Pro Shops, Cessna, and McDonald’s on board for the 500. To ensure that McMurray makes his final 500, Spire Motorsports, which acquired the #78’s Charter, has made a partnership with the Ganassi team, securing McMurray what would have been Furniture Row Racing’s spot in the garage.

DRIVER CHANGE: #41-Stewart-Haas Racing
The long-rumored announcement that Kurt Busch would be parting ways with Stewart-Haas Racing after five full seasons was finally confirmed on December 2, shortly followed by his move to Chip Ganassi Racing’s #1. Taking Busch’s place in the #41 is Daniel Suarez, an announcement which finally came on January 7, Suarez’ 27th birthday. Arris follows the driver over from Joe Gibbs Racing in addition to the team’s Haas backing.

NEW SPONSOR: #43-Richard Petty Motorsports
With Click ‘n Close ending its partnership with Bubba Wallace, who drove the sponsor’s logos to a runner-up finish in last year’s Daytona 500, new backer AfterShokz, a headphone manufacturer, will back the #43 Chevrolet.

DRIVER CHANGE: #47-JTG-Daugherty Racing
On September 28, it was announced that Ryan Preece would return to the Cup Series for the first time since a limited run with Premium Motorsports in late 2015. This time, with a pair of XFINITY Series wins for Joe Gibbs Racing, under his belt, he goes full-time and will make a bid for Rookie of the Year. He climbs aboard the #47 Kroger ClickList Chevrolet which for the previous six seasons was driven by A.J. Allmendinger. On December 19 came news that Allmendinger will be a commentator for NBC Sports’ motorsports coverage in 2019.

SPONSOR AND CREW CHIEF CHANGE: #48-Hendrick Motorsports
2019 marks a new era for seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson. Two founding elements of his Cup career, sponsor Lowe’s and crew chief Chad Knaus – have both moved on. Lowe’s is no longer sponsoring any Cup teams, and Ally Bank announced their partnership before the start of last fall’s race in Martinsville. Kevin Meendering is now Johnson’s crew chief as Knaus has been swapped to William Byron’s #24. Johnson’s new paint scheme, revealed on “Good Morning America” (and “leaked” on several of Johnson’s Instagram posts), has something old and something new, retaining the yellow door and roof numbers with new fuschia accents.

TEAM UPDATE: #51-Rick Ware Racing
TEAM UPDATE: #52-Rick Ware Racing
Bob Pockrass broke news on December 21 that Rick Ware’s team will go from one to two Cup Charters in 2019 (acquiring TriStar Motorsports’ #72 from Front Row Motorsports in addition to their existing Charter from Richard Petty Motorsports), and will also return to the XFINITY Series with a single-car effort. Ware debuted their second Cup car, the #52, last summer at Sonoma and ran it part-time for the balance of the schedule. The team has also acquired Cup chasses from Leavine Family Racing (which this year makes the swap from Chevrolet to Toyota) and Front Row Motorsports. Driving the #51 at Daytona is Cody Ware, who will start his first-ever Daytona 500 following his plate debut last fall at Talladega. Jacob Companies, which backed Ware’s team for much of last year, will sponsor Cody’s car. Winn-Dixie is the listed sponsor for the #52, with B.J. McLeod as the listed driver. UPDATE: As of Thursday, the rides are swapped - McLeod is in the 51 with Cody Ware in the 52.

RETURNING: #62-Beard Motorsports
Brendan Gaughan and the Mark Beard team are back to start their 2019 restrictor plate campaign with returning sponsors Beard Oil Distributing and South Point Hotel and Casino. Gaughan was running inside the Top 10 late in last year's 500 before he was involved in a multi-car crash. Then, as now, the team does not have a Charter.

RETURNING: #71-Tommy Baldwin Racing
After selling his Cup Series assets to Jay Robinson’s Premium Motorsports and turning his attention to the Truck Series, Tommy Baldwin is back in Cup competition, albeit on a part-time basis. Baldwin’s team broke the news on November 26, but did not announce a driver or manufacturer. That changed on January 16, when it was announced that Ryan Truex would drive for TBR in the Daytona 500, and that the car would run #71 in place of the #7 in years past. If he would qualify, it would be Truex’s first Cup start since September 14, 2014 at Chicagoland and his first-ever Daytona 500 (he failed to qualify for the 2014 running). Accell Construction, Inc., a longtime Baldwin backer, returns as sponsor.

STATUS UNKNOWN: #72-TriStar Motorsports
After Corey LaJoie moved to the #32 team, and Cole Whitt, who called it a career last fall at the ISM Raceway, there has since been no new information on TriStar's status for 2019. The team’s Charter, leased from Front Row Motorsports, has since been acquired by Rick Ware Racing for the #52 team (whose Daytona car resembles TriStar's Talladega car from last fall). The team's hauler is currently being used by Tommy Baldwin Racing.

NEW TEAM: #77/40-Spire Motorsports
On December 4, it was announced that Spire Sports & Entertainment had acquired the Charter from the closed Furniture Row Racing, and would field the #77 car in 2019. Spire’s business includes working with sponsors and drivers, yet neither sponsor nor driver were announced at the time the news broke. It was revealed on January 18 that Spire’s Charter would be leased to Chip Ganassi’s #40 to get Jamie McMurray a guaranteed starting spot, but that the #77 would return the following week in Atlanta. Who will drive that weekend is yet unknown, but it was reported January 22 that ARCA and XFINITY Series part-timer Quin Houff will make his Cup debut in the #77 at the ISM Raceway this spring, the first race of a new deal.

TEAM CLOSED: #78-Furniture Row Racing
On September 4, 2018 came the shocking news that Barney Visser would be closing 2017 championship team Furniture Row Racing at the end of the year, citing rising costs and a lack of sponsorship. Thus ended a dramatic 12-year rise through the ranks of XFINITY and Cup Series racing for the Denver-based team. While driver Martin Truex, Jr. and crew chief Cole Pearn have since moved to Joe Gibbs Racing (see above), some of Furniture Row’s employees would work for Visser’s companies Visser Precision and Falci Adaptive Motorsports.

DRIVER AND MANUFACTURER CHANGE: #95-Leavine Family Racing
Matt DiBenedetto took the biggest leap of all when he parted ways with Archie St. Hilaire’s Go Green Racing late last year, closing out two seasons together. On October 10, that gamble was rewarded with a ride in the Leavine Family Racing team’s #95, the car vacated after Kasey Kahne’s critical heat exhaustion forced him into retirement last September. Regan Smith closed out the year in Kahne’s absence. The team also welcomes the technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing that was previously affiliated with Furniture Row Racing. The team thus swaps manufacturers from Chevrolet to Toyota. Procore remains as sponsor, committing to a 12-race deal on January 15, and the team revealed December 5 that they will change the look of their car number for the second time in as many years.

RETURNING: #96-Gaunt Brothers Racing
The Gaunt Brothers are back, revealing a black hauler and a white car in their shop. In place of D.J. Kennington, who has been the team's go-to driver at Daytona, reporter and journeyman Parker Kligerman is expected to rejoin the program. Kligerman finished 29th in his lone Daytona 500 start in 2014, driving a backup car for the shuttered Swan Racing. Sponsorship info has not been revealed.

NOT ENTERED: #97-Obaika Racing
On December 3, Victor Obaika confirmed our report from the ISM Raceway that his single-car operation would go full-time Cup racing in 2019. He added that Tanner Berryhill, who had driven the season’s final two rounds at ISM and Homestead, would drive the car in 2019, perhaps as a Rookie of the Year candidate (despite a single points-race attempt for Identity Ventures Racing in 2015). The team made a late appearance at the Hall of Fame on February 6, revealing that Obaika's Vroom! Brands will sponsor Berryhill's Daytona car as well as sports media firm Wave TV. The team was not shown on the preliminary entry list. UPDATE: As of the Friday, Obaika's hauler is absent at Daytona, and the team has reportedly not been entered in the race.

STATUS UNKNOWN: #99-StarCom Racing
There has been no news of StarCom's second car, which ran most recently at Homestead.

TEAM UPDATE: #00-StarCom Racing
On December 17 came news that Derrike Cope’s team StarCom Racing had purchased its Charter from Richard Childress Racing, and would continue to have Landon Cassill as driver of the #00 Chevrolet. The team also unveiled a new black, white, and yellow scheme designed by Ryan Daley which will run in future races. For Daytona, Permatex will back the #00 Chevrolet. The brand had previously sponsored the ARCA Racing Series, and once backed Clark Dwyer’s Cup ride for U.S. Racing at Michigan on August 12, 1984, where Dwyer finished last with engine problems.

DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
STATUS UNKNOWN: #??-Motorsports Business Management
On December 8 came news that Carl Long’s Motorsports Business Management team would field two cars in the Daytona 500 with one of them going to Timmy Hill. On January 16, Joey Gase was revealed as driver of the second MBM car, including the Daytona 500. Over the offseason, the team had already revealed they had increased its support from Toyota through their in-house engine department debuted last fall at Kansas. Despite the addition of this second car, it’s uncertain if they will run more than one Cup car the rest of the year, and may only do so part-time - MBM reported they would focus more on the XFINITY Series for the rest of 2019 (again with Gase driving). Fluidyne joined the team’s effort on December 22. Reports later indicated that Gase would drive the only MBM car at Daytona, the #66 with Medic Air Systems, Inc. and Fan Memories as sponsors.

MISSING DRIVERS WHO RAN MULTIPLE CUP RACES IN 2018:
A.J. Allmendinger
Trevor Bayne
Matt Kenseth
Regan Smith

LASTCAR STAT OF THE WEEK
On top of being determined by a random draw, winning the pole for the Clash has been no guarantee of success in the main event. In fact, three times the polesitter has finished last in the event. In 1990, Jimmy Hensley faltered from the start in Dick Moroso's #20 Crown Petroleum Oldsmobile, finishing one lap down. The next year, defending 500 winner Derrike Cope crashed his #10 Purolator Chevrolet just past the halfway point. Most recently in 2003, Geoffrey Bodine took brother Brett's #11 Hooters Ford for a spin, then pulled off the track after three laps with suspension issues.