Overton’s 301 at New Hampshire
For the first time since Sonoma and the 13th time in 2017, there aren’t enough cars to fill this Sunday’s 40-car field. Motorsports Business Management, fresh off a 31st-place finish for Timmy Hill at Kentucky, has not entered its #66 Chevrolet this weekend, leaving the grid at 39 cars – the shortest Cup field to ever take the green in its 24 years on the circuit.
Pending the outcome of today’s test at Charlotte, New Hampshire will be the scene of Aric Almirola’s return to Cup Series competition since his brutal accident at Kansas two months ago. Though he finished last here in September 2015, that finish remains Almirola’s only DNF at Loudon, where his best finish at the track was a 5th in 2013. Despite a last-lap wreck with Matt Kenseth, Darrell Wallace, Jr. performed admirably in his fourth Cup start at Kentucky, finishing a season-best 11th.
The other team with the driver “to be announced” is Rick Ware Racing. Last week, the Ware team selected B.J. McLeod to make his first Cup start since 2015, resulting in a 32nd-place finish. Although not confirmed, McLeod could potentially drive again as he made his Cup debut at Loudon for Circle Sport and will be at the speedway for Saturday’s XFINITY Series race.
Give a call to Premium Motorsports, who as reported here on Saturday, averted a near disaster that would have prevented them from completing a single lap of the race, ultimately finishing 35th. Gray Gaulding will again be piloting the #55 Toyota in the second race of his two-race deal – as of this writing, the team’s driver for Indianapolis and onward has yet to be announced. Teammate Reed Sorenson quietly finished 28th Saturday in Premium’s #15, the best finish by that car since its season-best 25th at Kansas.
A pair of blown tires put Joey Gase out of the race last week, and he won’t be back in BK Racing’s #23 Toyota until next month at Bristol. In the meantime, the team has returned to its Coke Zero 400 lineup with Corey LaJoie in the #23 and Ryan Sieg in the #83. Sieg finished 27th last Saturday, one spot short of his season-best 26th at his Dover debut. LaJoie returns to the scene of his own Cup debut for Randy Humphrey Racing in 2014, when he finished 41st in the #77 Fochler Veterans Law / Valor4Vets.com Ford.
It’s been a rough summer for TriStar Motorsports as driver Cole Whitt has failed to finish five of his last seven starts, four of them due to blown engines. His best finish at Loudon in five previous starts was a 24th two years ago for Front Row Motorsports. It will be just the fourth Cup Series entry at Loudon for team owner Mark Smith, whose three finishes were 32nd (Greg Sacks in the 1993 inaugural), 42nd (Reed Sorenson in 2012), and 43rd (Mike Bliss in 2013).
Overton’s 200 at New Hampshire
For the first time this season, there aren’t enough XFINITY Series teams to fill the 40-car field. Just 39 drivers will take the green flag, the shortest field for the series at this track since 38 lined up on May 12, 2001 (and last-place finisher Mark Green did not start).
Among the missing are Quin Houff for Precision Performance Motorsports in the #46 Chevrolet, the Biagi DenBeste Racing #98 for Casey Mears, and Ben Kennedy’s GMS Racing #96 (Kennedy will instead drive Richard Childress Racing’s #2 Richmond / Menards Chevrolet in place of Paul Menard). There are also two fewer Cup Series interlopers with the omission of both Ryan Blaney (#12 for Penske Racing) and Kevin Harvick (#41 for Stewart-Haas Racing). Unfortunately for the rest of the field, they will still have to deal with Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Ty Dillon, and Kyle Larson.
Also pulling double-duty is Reed Sorenson, who this week takes his turn in JD Motorsports’ #15. Though this car has been withdrawn every time it has been entered (both at Daytona and Kentucky), this week’s short field will likely keep it in the show. Best of the Johnny Davis team last Saturday in Kentucky was Ross Chastain, who finished 20th ahead of Garrett Smithley (26th) and Harrison Rhodes (28th), the first race where all three finished under power since Michigan.
Welcome back Tommy Joe Martins, who will drive B.J. McLeod’s #78 Chevrolet for the first time since his breakthrough 11th-place finish at Iowa. Reports indicate that Martins may again attempt to field his ow #45 Diamond Gusset Jeans Chevrolet next week in Indianapolis. Joining Martins on the return from Iowa is Dylan Lupton, who finished 15th that night in JGL Racing’s #24 Nut Up Toyota.
Also returning this week is Martin Roy, who we last saw finish 32nd at Talladega. Roy returns to Mario Gosselin’s #90 Cote / Gamache Truck Center Chevrolet and looks to improve on his season-best 25th at Fontana. King Autosport's second entry, #92, remains missing in action since Josh Williams’ crash at Daytona.
Next Race: Aspen Dental 150 at Eldora
Wednesday, July 19, 2017