Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Preliminary Entry List Storylines: Pocono and Iowa

Derrike Cope's 2006 Sundance Vacations Dodge
PHOTO: Motorsport.com
Overton’s 400 at Pocono

Pocono will see the 13th short Cup field of 2017, but just the second in the last five races.  Three teams from Indy’s list are missing: Tommy Baldwin Racing’s #7, which has committed to only a handful of races outside the plate tracks; Rick Ware Racing’s #51, which fought both handling issues and Cody Ware’s back injury here in June; and Motorsports Business Management’s #66, which turned in a stellar 14th-place finish at Indy in Timmy Hill’s 200th NASCAR start.  Hill will instead be in Iowa, where he and Carl Long will compete for MBM in the XFINITY race, while Ware is entered in the Truck Series race.

EDIT (Wednesday): Timmy Hill and Carl Long will not drive in Iowa. Stan Mullis and Bobby Dale Earnhardt will run in their place, both making their series debut.

Among the 38 that remain are both BK Racing cars.  One week after Ryan Sieg’s entry in the #83 was withdrawn at Indy, the car is entered, but with Sieg in Iowa for the XFINITY race, there is no driver yet listed, nor a sponsor in the blank.  Corey LaJoie, whose early crash left him last at the Brickyard, is again behind the wheel of the #23.

Premium Motorsports nearly had a career day at Indianapolis until both cars, driven by Joey Gase and Gray Gaulding, were gobbled-up in the Lap 164 tangle triggered by Michael McDowell and Trevor Bayne.  This week, the team has apparently returned to their roster from much of the season’s first half with Reed Sorenson in the #15 and Derrike Cope, absent since the June race at Pocono, back in the #55.  Cope ran 33rd that day, two positions behind Sorenson.  While Sorenson’s sponsor is still to be determined, Cope will be backed by Sundance Vacations, the same company which backed Cope’s Cup Series ride with Raynard McGlynn in 2006.

EDIT (Wednesday): This entry list did not account for Gray Gaulding driving the #15 at Pocono announced on July 19. Sponsorship will come from La Colombe Coffee. Sorenson will not drive this weekend.

While the critical moment in Sunday’s race proved to be Kasey Kahne’s pit stop as Clint Bowyer’s wreck unfolded on Lap 151, a nearly-identical situation for Landon Cassill proved both disastrous and controversial.  When the McDowell-Bayne wreck unfolded, Cassill pulled his #34 CSX “Play It Safe” Ford down pit road.  Scored 15th at the time, NASCAR apparently misinterpreted Cassill’s stop as an attempt to complete service under the red and parked the car, dropping him to 22nd.  Sunday, Cassill returns to the site of his team’s improbable win with Chris Buescher last year, and will again be sponsored by Love’s Travel Stops.  Buescher arrives in Pocono after a strong 9th at Indy.

Cole Whitt’s 12th-place finish on Sunday was a tremendous boost for both driver and team, following five engine failures in the previous eight races.  One of those blown engines was at the Pocono track in June, where he came just five laps short of completing the 400 miles.  With his Indianapolis car intact, however, this should benefit the #72 team over the many others who left with battered race cars.

While Jeffrey Earnhardt was unable to avoid Sunday’s carnage, he did manage an unheralded 26th-place finish, patiently passing the many big-name drivers who crashed out at the Brickyard.  The finish tied Earnhardt’s season-best finish in the Daytona 500, where he was bidding for a Top 10 before a late-race accident.  Starter, the company which backed Earnhardt’s Daytona run, is back on the #33, and it will be interesting to see if the car will be Hulu green or the silver-and-black from earlier this season.

U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa

There are once again 40 drivers for 40 spots in the XFINITY Series field, and after a series of surprising runs by the regulars here in June, Saturday’s event will be another golden opportunity.  The only Cup driver pulling double-duty is Reed Sorenson, who will again be driving the “start-and-park” #15 Chevrolet for JD Motorsports.  Among those missing from June’s entry list are polesitter Christopher Bell, who will be running Trucks in Pocono, and 12th-place finisher Quin Houff along with the Precision Performance Motorsports #46.

B.J. McLeod remains the driver of his #8 Chevrolet, and while none has yet been listed for his #78, signs again point to Tommy Joe Martins.  It was at this Iowa track that Martins made a bid for his first career Top 10 finish, ultimately finishing 11th.  If given the opportunity, Martins will be anxious to put behind him a frustrating Wednesday in Eldora, where his Truck Series driver J.R. Heffner lost the team’s only motor in qualifying and was forced to withdraw.

Welcome back Brett Moffitt, who is slated to make his first XFINITY Series start his lone series effort here with RAB Racing in 2012.  Moffitt, who finished 9th that night, will this week drive in place of Ben Kennedy in GMS Racing’s #96 Chevrolet.  Kennedy will himself be driving Richard Childress Racing’s #2 RTP / Rheem Chevrolet, the car which battled William Byron all the way to the wire last week in Indianapolis.

Fresh off that win at Indy, Byron will be looking for a season sweep at Iowa against several other new names in fast cars.  Among them are former Cup driver Brian Scott in Childress’ #3 Daniel Defense Chevrolet, the Joe Gibbs trio of Kyle Benjamin (#18), Matt Tifft (#19), and Loudon runner-up Ryan Preece (#20).  Perennial Iowa contender Sam Hornish, Jr. is back behind the wheel of Penske Racing’s #22 Discount Tire Ford, looking to shake off the frustrating accident that took him out of the race in June.  And don’t forget about Ty Majeski, now with sponsor Bit-O-Honey on Roush-Fenway’s #60 Ford – he will be one to watch after his challenging series debut last month.

Overton’s 150 at Pocono

After another spectacular night in Eldora, the Truck Series faces its first short field since Gateway and its third of 2017.  Just 30 trucks have made the preliminary entry list, which would mark the smallest field at the track since 2011.

Saturday’s field is short despite that both Jennifer Jo Cobb and Norm Benning have again entered two trucks each.  Cobb will herself drive the #10 Driven2honor.org Chevrolet, and has this week tabbed Rick Ware’s son Cody Ware to pilot the #0.  B.J. McLeod is slated to run double-duty between XFINITY and Trucks, and is currently listed as the driver of Benning’s black #57, an entry which Tommy Regan ran conservatively at Eldora.  Fresh off a 13th-place finish on the dirt, Benning will himself drive the #6 that Sean Corr drove to a 30th-place run at Pocono last year.

Welcome back to Jim Rosenblum and FDNY Racing as the red #28 Chevrolet makes its first attempt since this race last year.  A frequent sight in the Pocono garage, Rosenblum will this week put Whelen Southern Modified Tour veteran Bryan Dauzat behind the wheel.  Dauzat’s lone Truck Series start came with Rosenblum at Bristol in 2014, where he pulled out with suspension issues after four laps.

Also back is fan favorite Jordan Anderson, who will return to TJL Racing’s #1 Chevrolet.  The team struggled on the dirt last week as Brandon Hightower managed a 24th-place finish in the 32-truck field, but Anderson has two strong finishes at “The Tricky Triangle” – an 18th in 2015 for his mentor Mike Harmon and a 14th last year for Bolen Motorsports.  Bolen’s driver this week is Justin Fontaine, who will make his first Truck Series start since his series debut last fall at Martinsville, where he finished 26th for Tim Self.

Much of the rest of the field is again a return to the familiar.  Faith Motorsports resumes operation of the #44 for the first time since Gateway, and Matt Mills will drive under that banner for the first time since Dover.  Monster Jam racer Camden Murphy is back with MB Motorsports, and Mike Mittler is also the listed owner of Travis Kvapil’s #36.  Josh Reaume rejoins Beaver Motorsports in the #50, T.J. Bell returns to Al Niece’s #45, Austin Hill rejoins Randy Young’s #02 team for the first time since Kentucky, and at D.J. Copp Motorsports, Todd Peck is slated to run the same Pulse Transportation / National Arthritis Foundation sponsorship that backed him at Daytona.

1 comment:

Chris said...

Gray Gaulding will be in the #15 this weekend with sponsorship from Draft Latte.