Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Preliminary Entry List Storylines: Kansas

PHOTO: AutoRacing1.com
Go Bowling 400 at Kansas

For just the fourth time this year and the second race in a row, there will be a full Cup Series field this Saturday as 40 drivers are entered to attempt the 40-car field.  Three Talladega entries: Tommy Baldwin Racing’s #7, Gaunt Brothers Racing’s #96, and Beard Motorsports’ #75, are not entered this week and are unlikely to return before July in Daytona.

A short field was averted thanks to the announcement by XFINITY Series team Motorsports Business Management (MBM) attempting its first Cup attempt with a yet-unsponsored #66 Chevrolet.  MBM, started by Derek White in 2014 and now owned by Carl Long, is in its fourth XFINITY season fielding the #13 and #40.  The team’s best finish so far remains a 13th with Brandon Hightower at Daytona.  As of this writing, a driver for MBM’s #66 has yet to be announced.  This is the first brand-new Open team to enter a Cup race since the Daytona 500.

Timmy Hill, who drives for MBM in XFINITY, is once again entered in Rick Ware Racing’s #51 Chevrolet.  Last Friday at Talladega, Hill and Ware had their first withdrawal of the season, leaving Gaunt Brothers Racing’s #96 of D.J. Kennington as the lone DNQ.  Hill’s best Kansas finish was in his track debut in 2012, when he ran 22nd for Go FAS Racing.  He has not made a Cup start there since a 33rd in the fall of 2014.

Back on the entry list is Derrike Cope, who hasn’t made a Cup start at Kansas since October 5, 2003, when he drove the #37 GBROnline.com Chevrolet fielded by his own team, Quest Motor Racing.  Cope will be one of only six drivers in Saturday’s field who also entered the inaugural Cup race at Kansas in 2001, joining Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr.  As of this writing, there is no sponsor announced for Cope’s #55 Chevrolet, fielded by Premium Motorsports.

Reed Sorenson returns to Premium’s #15 this week, which last Sunday at Talladega survived to finish 21st with Joey Gase.  It was a career-best Cup run for Gase, besting his 23rd for BK Racing in this year’s Daytona 500, and a strong follow-up to Michael Waltrip’s 8th-place finish in his final start.  Sorenson himself finished last on Sunday as, for the second-straight Talladega race, Premium called their car during the opening laps to make post-qualifying adjustments.  This left Sorenson multiple laps down and with a vibration that soon led to a race-ending crash.  Sorenson has 14 previous Kansas starts, but just one finish better than 26th – a 7th back in 2007.

Cole Whitt and TriStar Motorsports came home 16th at Talladega, both driver and team’s best finish of the season.  Car owner Mark Smith hadn’t finished that well on the superspeedway since April 30, 1995, when Loy Allen, Jr. started outside-pole in the #19 Healthsource Ford, led 18 laps, and finished 10th.  Whitt will also likely improve TriStar’s numbers at Kansas this Saturday – the team’s only runs there were “start-and-park” efforts under the Humphrey-Smith Racing banner in 2012 and 2013, none of them better than 36th.

Matt DiBenedetto’s 18th-place finish at Talladega was his best run since his 9th in the Daytona 500 and one position better than his 19th-place performance last month at Bristol.  In four starts at Kansas, his best finish came last fall for BK Racing, when he ran 24th.  He has yet to score a single DNF at the track.  If past performance is any indication, this should help Go FAS Racing, which since 2012 has run no better than 34th.

Jeffrey Earnhardt, who drove for Go FAS last year, will be making his first Cup start at Kansas in the yet-unsponsored #33 Chevrolet for Circle Sport with The Motorsports Group.

Next Race: Hisense 300 at Charlotte
Saturday, May 27, 2017

Toyota Tundra 250 at Kansas

A streak of three consecutive full fields to start the 2017 Truck Series season may be in jeopardy at Kansas as just 31 drivers are thus far entered to attempt the 32-truck field.

The significant omissions from this week’s list are Charlie Henderson’s #75 Food Country USA machine, Joe Nemechek’s #87, and the #23 GMS Racing entry which won Martinsville with Chase Elliott, all of which entered all three of this season’s races.  Richie Wauters’ #5 Toyota, which ran the opening two rounds with Korbin Forrister before withdrawing at Martinsville, has not been entered for the first time this year.  Tim Self’s team isn’t entered either after making Daytona with two trucks, withdrawing Austin Wayne Self’s entry at Atlanta, then a DNQ at Martinsville.  Whether any or all of these trucks joins at the last minute is anyone’s guess.

The superspeedway set – FDNY Racing’s #28, Mark Rette’s #30, Chris Fontaine’s #47, Clay Greenfield’s #68, Mike Harmon’s #74, and Tim Self’s second truck, #32 – have not been entered since Daytona and are also missing from this week’s list.  Based on past performance, Harmon might be a late entry since he DNQ’d here last year.  Greenfield’s part-time schedule has steadily shrunk to just a couple starts per year, but has entered Talladega the last three seasons.  FDNY could return at Charlotte, Pocono, or the fall race at Martinsville, where they were entered in 2016 (Pocono being their only start).

Norm Benning continues to pursue his first Truck Series start of the year.  His DNQ in this race last year marked the first Kansas race he’d missed since 2008, which he didn’t enter.  Benning has not made a Truck Series start since he drove for Mike Mittler at Phoenix last fall, and hasn’t raced his own #6 Chevrolet since last July at Chicago (though Sean Corr and Ryan Ellis qualified his truck earlier that season).  Benning is one of eight drivers on this week’s list whose sponsor is still categorized as “to be determined.”

Bolen Motorsports rolls into Kansas on the heels of back-to-back Top 10 finishes, capped by Ross Chastain’s 7th-place run at Martinsville.  Chastain has just one Kansas start in the Truck Series, when he finished 34th of 36 in 2012 for SS Green Light Racing.  He’s performed much better on the XFINITY side, running 14th in 2015 and 13th last fall.

Todd Peck, the last-place finisher at Atlanta, is again entered in D.J. Copp’s #83 TDS Wraps Chevrolet.  If he qualifies, it will be Peck’s Kansas debut in NASCAR.  Peck’s 18th-place finish in the season opener remains the team’s only finish better than 30th since Copp acquired the assets from Contreras Motorsports.

Also welcome back Travis Miller, who hasn’t run a Truck Series race since November 16, 2012, when he drove for crew chief and former car owner Mike Hillman.  This week, Miller is entered in MDM Motorsports’ #99 Chevrolet, which finished 7th and 5th the last two races with Austin and Ty Dillon.

Jordan Anderson, who entered all three races this year, isn’t entered this week, swapped out for Spencer Boyd in Rick Ware’s #12 GruntStyle.com Chevrolet.  Anderson finished 31st in the rebuilt truck at Martinsville, but without a ride, he will be sitting out for the second-straight week following the withdrawal of his XFINITY Series car at Talladega.  Where could he end up?  Four teams, all campaigning Chevrolets, do not yet have a listed driver: TJL Motorsports’ #1, the Martins Racing / Brandonbilt Motorsports #44, the #50 fielded by Beaver Motorsports, and Mike Mittler’s #63 for MB Motorsports.

1 comment:

Jeremy Siple said...

Word is Carl Long himself will be driving the 66, that his fine has finally been forgiven, and that his car will be painted exactly like the one he drove in the All Star open that had the illegal engine. If so, huge and very welcome middle finger to NASCAR