|PHOTO: Josh Bilicki Racing|
Johnsonville 180 at Road America
A rare XFINITY-only weekend on the NASCAR calendar sees 42 drivers set to contest the 40-car grid, including many of the “road course ringers” from Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio, including Justin Marks in Chip Ganassi’s #42 Katerra Chevrolet and Sheldon Creed in JD Motorsports' #01. Missing from the list are JD Motorsports' "start-and-park" #15, withdrawn on Wednesday, and Mid-Ohio last-placer Morgan Shepherd in his #89 Racing With Jesus Chevrolet. Shepherd raced in five of the previous seven races at Road America, earning a track-best 19th in the 2010 inaugural.
After the disappointing withdrawal of Obaika Racing from driver Gregory Vandersluis’ home track in Mid-Ohio, the #77 Vroom Brands Chevrolet is again entered with the road racer Vandersluis again behind the wheel. In anticipation of their first start in nearly half a year, the Obaika team has also returned to posting on Twitter @ObaikaRacing.
Among those challenging Vandersluis for a spot in the field will be Timmy Hill. Hill drives in place of John Jackson in Motorsports Business Management’s “start-and-park” #72 Dodge, a team we last saw in July, when Jackson finished last at Loudon. If Hill qualifies, he will be one to watch in the LASTCAR battle along with Jeff Green, who is again entered in RSS Racing’s #93 Chevrolet. MBM’s lead duo this week will be current Trans-Am point leader Ernie Francis, Jr., set to make his series debut in the #13 The Original Frameless Shower Doors Chevrolet and Tim Cowen returning to the #40 Cowen Ford.
Nissan sports car driver Nicolas Hammann, who spotted for Cody Ware at Mid-Ohio, will drive Mike Harmon's #74 Veternas Motorsports, Inc. Dodge. Hammann, a hometown hero in Elkhart Lake, drove for Harmon twice last year including a 36th-place finish here. Cody Ware will slide over to his father Rick's #17 Chevrolet, the first XFINITY attempt for the team since Jeff Green sped to a strong 7th at Daytona in July of last year.
Following a 16th-place finish by Anthony Kumpen at Mid-Ohio, Precision Performance Motorsports is back as well, this time with driver-turned-analyst Parker Kligerman behind the wheel. Kligerman hasn’t made an XFINITY Series start since 2015 at Darlington, where he gave Obaika Racing one of its best runs with a 21st-place finish in the #97 Chevrolet. Kligerman also performed admirably in his most recent NASCAR start last Wednesday in Bristol, where he ran 8th in Charlie Henderson’s #75 Food Country USA / Lopez Wealth Management Toyota. Kligerman brings sponsorship from ComServe Wireless to the #46 team.
B.J. McLeod Motorsports has pieced together the team’s two wrecked cars from Mid-Ohio, and will again have Josh Bilicki in the #8 – this time sponsored by Xtreme Xperience – and defending V8 Masters Series champion Stephen Young in the blue #78 Wealth Recovery International Chevrolet. David Starr remains in the McLeod / SS Green Light Racing #99 Chevrolet, and after a short night in Bristol comes to a track where he’s finished 20th and 24th the last two years.
Welcome back Ryan Ellis, who will drive SS Green Light's primary #07 Chevrolet with sponsorship from SuperLite Cars and Bachtel Excavating. Ellis, who after a handful of Cup starts for Circle Sport and BK Racing the last two years became the Marketing and PR agent for Go FAS Racing, will make his first XFINITY Series start since November 5, 2016, when he finished 33rd for Obaika Racing.
Defending Road America winner Michael McDowell will not be racing this Sunday, and his #2 Rheem Chevrolet will again go to Ben Kennedy. Kennedy, who has split the 2017 season between Richard Childress Racing and GMS Racing, will be making his Road America debut, and looks to improve on a 26th-place finish at Mid-Ohio. Joining him on the Childress team are Scott Lagasse, Jr. in the #3, backed by Bellin Health and the American Cancer Society, as well as series regulars Daniel Hemric, Brandon Jones, and 2014 winner Brendan Gaughan.
James “J.D.” Davison turned in a strong 4th-place finish in his Joe Gibbs Racing debut at Mid-Ohio, and now comes to the scene of his 19th-place run for Mario Gosselin in 2016 in a #20 Toyota sponsored by Hollinger Motorsports, LaSalle Solutions, and Lake Forest Hearing. Joining Davison's "Days of Thunder" inspired paint scheme on the Gibbs contingent is Truck Series regular Christopher Bell, making his third series start in the #18 ToyotaCare Toyota, and Matt Tifft in the #19 Dragon Alliance Toyota. Both Bell and Tifft will be making their Road America debuts.
No Cup Series regulars are entered in Sunday’s race, which includes Penske Racing’s stout #22 Discount Tire Ford. Behind the wheel this week is Truck Series regular Austin Cindric. In the wake of last week’s news that Brad Keselowski Racing will close its doors at the end of this year’s Truck Series schedule, Sunday will be an audition for Cindric, whose background has been in various forms of road racing, including two 12-Hour races in Bathurst. His most recent road course start came at Watkins Glen this past July, where he shared a Lexus with Jack Hawksworth and Robert Alon in the Sahlen’s Six Hours at the Glen.
Next Race: Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington
Sunday, September 3, 2017
Next Race: Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Mosport
Sunday, September 3, 2017