Friday, September 29, 2017

Entry List Storylines: Dover / Las Vegas

PHOTO: StarCom Racing
Apache Warrior 400 at Dover

It's a full 40-car field for the Cup Series. Rejoining this week is Motorsports Business Management, which we last saw two races ago at Chicagoland. Timmy Hill will drive the #66 Chevrolet, having finished 28th in June.

A new challenger approaches - eventually. For the first time since May, a new Cup Series team has joined the ranks. Welcome aboard StarCom Racing, a team that has apparently taken the Kaulig Racing approach of a driver’s sponsor taking a larger role with the team. StarCom sponsored the latest of Derrike Cope’s 13 starts this season at Richmond and has remained with the driver after he parted ways with Premium Motorsports. The black-white-and-gold Chevrolet will carry car #00, a number absent from the series since David Reutimann lost his ride with Michael Waltrip Racing at the end of 2011. The team made the preliminary entry list, but on Tuesday, personnel hiring forced them to withdraw. StarCom has yet to announce when they will make their debut, but will likely make at least one Playoff race as they prepare for a 2018 run.

Following the withdrawal of StarCom Racing, BK Racing entered their second car, the #83, with Brett Moffitt and sponsor HikVision. Moffitt and his car were missing from the preliminary entry list, but will now join teammate Corey LaJoie in the primary #23 with a new sponsor of his own: FreshBeards.

Dover also sees the return of Ross Chastain to Cup competition for the first time since his impressive 20th-place finish in his series debut here in June. Now as then, Chastain drives in place of Reed Sorenson at Premium Motorsports in the #15 Use Your Melon, Drive Sober Delaware Chevrolet. Sorenson himself slides over to Premium’s #55 Sundance Vacations Chevrolet, his first run in the second Jay Robinson machine since Richmond earlier this month, where he ran 30th.

Mechanical gremlins on a hot New Hampshire afternoon ended the day early for Rick Ware Racing, which also returns to action this Sunday at Dover. Cody Ware is again the driver in what will be his first repeat visit to a Cup Series track. His run at “The Monster Mile” in June left him 35th at the finish, out with handling problems, but ironically his best finish of 2017. The #51 Chevrolet carries sponsorship from Donnie Neuenberger’s Foundation, an organization the NASCAR veteran started to benefit cancer patients and their families. 11 of Neuenberger’s 40 XFINITY Series starts came at Dover with a best finish of 25th in 2007.

Eleven years ago, Richard Childress funded the racing efforts of one of his former employees, Kirk Shelmerdine, by putting the name of his vineyard on Shelmerdine’s car in the 2006 Daytona 500. This weekend, Childress Vineyards was again scheduled to sponsor a car, this time Ryan Newman’s #31. On Thursday, however, last-minute backing came from WasteMasters Solutions. Newman arrives just one point out of a spot in the Round of 12 behind both Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and his own teammate Austin Dillon. Newman has three wins in 31 Cup starts at Dover, and most importantly ended a streak of four finishes of 16th or worse with a 4th-place showing this past June.

Use Your Melon, Drive Sober 200 at Dover

UPDATE (Friday Sept 29): The entry list grows to a full 40 at the last minute as RSS Racing enters a third car, #38, with Gray Gaulding behind the wheel. The series has yet to have a short field in 2017.

39 drivers are entered to drive in Saturday’s companion race, which once again threatens the first short field of the 2017 XFINITY Series season. The list was first shortened by GMS Racing, which again pulled Ben Kennedy’s #96 Chevrolet by the time the preliminary list was posted. News then broke on Monday that a lack of sponsorship forced Dakoda Armstrong to part ways with JGL Racing, and would not enter the #28. The move put the brakes on a season that saw Armstrong 13th in points after Kentucky with a 5th at Iowa and a new career-best 3rd at Daytona. JGL has instead entered the #24, withdrawn at Chicago and missing at Loudon, with Corey LaJoie pulling double-duty. JGL announced that they will run the #24 in place of the #28 for the rest of 2017.

Also returning from a one-week hiatus is Biagi-DenBeste Racing’s #98, driven to a 10th-place run by Darrell Wallace, Jr. at Chicagoland. Casey Mears will drive the #98 GEICO Military Ford for the first time since his 25th-place showing at Richmond.

Josh Bilicki returns to B.J. McLeod's #78 Chevrolet with his sponsor Prevagen. He last drove this car two rounds ago at Chicagoland, where he finished 34th. Meanwhile, Motorsports Business Management has brought Chad Finchum back for the first time since his 28th-place run at Bristol, and will again drive the #40 Chevrolet alongside teammate Timmy Hill in the #13.

At the back of the field, Jeff Green is again in the #93 RSS Racing Chevrolet and eyes his 99th career XFINITY Series last-place finish that would lock up his sixth LASTCAR title. Joining him is Reed Sorenson, who is back in JD Motorsports’ #15 Chevrolet which earned its first last-place run at Chicagoland with Matt Mills. As of this writing, Motorsports Business Management has not entered its own “start-and-park” entry, the #72 driven at Kentucky by Carl Long, but that could change by the weekend to keep the field at 40.

Las Vegas 350 at Las Vegas

UPDATE (Saturday Sep 30) Entry list up to 29 trucks as Al Niece has entered a second truck, the #38 run earlier this year, with primary driver T.J. Bell driving. Travis Pastrana runs the team's primary #45 (see below).

The stand-alone Truck Series race at Las Vegas has, in recent years, seen some of the shortest fields in recent history. This year is no exception as just 28 trucks are entered, tying Texas for the shortest field this year. It's the second straight race where fewer than 30 drivers will start out of a possible 32.

Missing from Loudon’s list are Mike Harmon’s #74 (which was also withdrawn that week) and the second Premium Motorsports #15 for Gray Gaulding.

On the other hand, some good news: Travis Pastrana returns to action Saturday following a successful test at Charlotte in May. Pastrana will drive in place of T.J. Bell for Niece Motorsports, and welcomes sponsorship from Wienerschnitzel and Boot Campaign on a brightly-colored red-and-yellow #45 Chevrolet.

Fresh off his win under the lights in the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville last Saturday, Timothy Peters is back for the first time since his spectacular crash at Texas, when he drove for MDM Motorsports. With MDM’s #99 also not entered, Peters will this time drive in place of Austin Hill in the #02 Randco / Young’s Building Systems Chevrolet, Peters’ third different team this season.

Give a call to Martins Motorsports and Austin Wayne Self, which finished 14th at Loudon and only lost a lap to the leaders in the final laps. It’s the best run by the #44 this year, improving on Self’s 15th-place showing at Michigan. Self returns to the #44 AM Technical Solutions / Don’t Mess With Texas Chevrolet at Vegas, a track where the driver ran 21st last year.

Still entered in the field are three of the current LASTCAR Truck Series contenders for the 2017 title: current leader Joe Nemechek in the #87 D.A.B. Constructors, Inc. Chevrolet; runner-up Todd Peck in the #63 Chevrolet for MB Motorsports; and third-place Mike Senica in the Norm Benning Racing #57. Fourth-place Tommy Regan was originally listed in Jennifer Jo Cobb’s #0 Chevrolet that trailed Loudon with Ray Ciccarelli, but by Thursday was replaced with Matt Mills. With five races to go after Vegas, Nemechek, Peck, and Senica can take the LASTCAR lead if they finish last in Saturday’s race.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

9/18/77: Kenny Brightbill’s tumble at Dover a minor detour for two legendary careers

On September 18, 1977, Kenny Brightbill picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Winston Cup Series career in the Delaware 500 at Dover Downs International Speedway when his unsponsored #84 Makar Enterprises Mercury was involved in a multi-car accident after 12 of 500 laps. The finish came in Brightbill’s fifth series start.

Born in Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania, Brightbill began as a crew member for another team at the nearby Reading Fairgrounds. Unwilling to wait two years to start driving, he started his first race in 1967, the same year Morgan Shepherd began his own ageless career at Hickory. Brightbill was 19 then, and chose that number for his car, fashioning a decal out of strips of tape.

Since his mother didn’t want her youngest of ten sons to race, Brightbill worked on his car at his brother Harry’s house, and competed part-time for the next three years. Success came slowly, but when he went full-time in 1970, he won his first feature in a modified race at Reading. From then until the track’s closure in 1979, another 134 wins would come at that track alone. So began the career of “The Shillington Slingshot,” or “Mr. Outside.”

“As a kid I always cheered for Buzzie Reutimann and that's why I run the double zero number today,” said fellow racer Doug Manmiller. “Watching the races you always knew Kenny Brightbill would be there, racing at the front. He would always get to first, somehow. He always was exciting and a good runner. I cheered for Buzzie so I wanted Buzzie to beat him, but it didn't always work out that way. No matter what, you knew Kenny would get the job done.”

In 1974, as he headed to the first of four track championships at Reading, Brightbill made his first NASCAR start in the inaugural race at Pocono. Making a one-off start in place of owner-driver Walter Ballard, Brightbill rolled off 19th in a field of 35 and grabbed a strong 10th, edging David Sisco for the spot when the race was shortened by rain.

His next start came that fall at Dover, this time driving in place of Ramo Stott on the same Norris Reed team that would go on to win the pole for the 1976 Daytona 500. Again, the rookie impressed, racing from 23rd to 8th at the finish.

As he had many times before and after, Junie Donlavey took notice of the young talent, and for the following year’s race at Dover hired Brightbill to drive alongside Dick Brooks in a second Truxmore Industries Ford. Not only did Brightbill beat Brooks, who lost an engine and finished 29th, but he again improved his career-best run, taking 7th. Among the drivers in his rear-view mirror were Darrelll Waltrip, Benny Parsons, Cale Yarborough, and Donnie Allison.

To date, Brightbill is the only driver from the modern era (1972 to present) to finish inside the Top 10 in his first three Cup Series starts. He may have earned more success in NASCAR, perhaps with the Donlavey team, but things didn’t work out that way.

“He told me he had three guys in mind at the time,” said Brightbill of Donlavey, “myself, Ricky Rudd and another guy whose name I forgot. . .Rudd's father put up $80,000 for tires so Ricky could get the ride. . .I offered to drive the car for nothing just to get started, but they wanted money. If I had packed my bags and just moved down to North Carolina at that point I might have picked up a ride. At that time, NASCAR didn't pay what they pay the guys now. NASCAR only paid around $2,000 for 10th place. . .I figured I could make a better living if I just kept racing at the local tracks. I have no regrets. I did what I thought was the right thing at that time, and that's the way it was.”

While Brightbill continued to dominate at Reading and other dirt tracks across the northeast, he would go on to make another three Cup Series starts. His return to the series came in 1977, the year which culminated with the race that’s the subject of this article. That season, Brightbill teamed with car owner Jim Makar, who acquired a Mercury from Roger Penske. The New Jersey-based Makar team debuted that year at Atlanta with Jody Ridley, finishing 14th, then Morgan Shepherd put the #84 Mercury 10th at Dover and 13th in the World 600 at Charlotte. Brightbill’s season debut came at Pocono, where he came just short of a fourth-straight Top 10, finishing 12th.

At Dover in September, Brightbill made the field once more, lining up 17th on the grid alongside James Hylton. The only driver sent home after qualifying was the #44 S&S Auto Supply entry of Kentucky native Robin Schildknecht. It was to be the final Cup attempt for the 23-year-old Scchildknecht, who finished 21st and 15th in his only series starts earlier that year at Richmond and North Wilkesboro. 40th on the grid belonged to Minnesota native Steve Stolarek, who was making his series debut in Norris Price’s #07 Chevrolet.

Just twelve laps into the race, disaster struck. Heading into a corner, Brightbill tangled with Jim Hurtubise and Tighe Scott, steering the #84 Mercury nearly head-on into the outside wall. Brightbill struck the barrier so hard that the car switched ends and tumbled down the banking. The driver walked away with minor injuries, but the car was completely destroyed. As an interesting side note, Jim Makar’s 21-year-old son Jimmy was then sent to bring the wrecked Mercury to Robert Gee’s shop in Charlotte, where he worked with Banjo Matthews. Impressed with Makar’s work, the kid was offered a job. In time, Makar became Bobby Labonte’s championship crew chief in 2000 and is now Vice President of Racing Operations at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Brightbill (center) gets on two wheels during his crash at Dover, 1977
Finishing 39th that day at Dover was Hurtubise, whose #0 Avanti CB Ford was wrecked along with Brightbill. 38th went to Marv Acton, who was making his second series start for a new team owned by Californian real estate developer Rod Osterlund – the same Osterlund who hired Dale Earnhardt a year later. Owner-driver Baxter Price next had radiator issues on his #45 Tire King Chevrolet while last-place starter Stolarek rounded out the Bottom Five with a broken wheel.

Brightbill returned to Makar’s team in 1978 at Pocono, where he finished 23rd. It was ultimately the final Cup start for both driver and team.

Back at the dirt tracks in his #19, Brightbill picked up right where he left off, rounding out the 1978 season with another 40 wins. He would win no fewer than three features a season for the next 25 straight years. Among them was the Eastern States 200 in 1980, an event won by both the earlier-featured Gary Balough and Jimmy Horton. Even more incredibly, after six winless seasons, Brightbill returned to his winning ways in 2010, and at age 65 won the 2013 track championship in the Action track USA SpeedSTR division.

A six-time honoree for his accomplishments, including the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame (as a member of the Class of 2012), Brightbill, along with former Makar Enterprises teammate Morgan Shepherd, is currently celebrating his 50th year in racing.

40) #84-Kenny Brightbill / 12 laps / crash
39) #0-Jim Hurtubise / 12 laps / crash
38) #98-Marv Acton / 16 laps / crash
37) #45-Baxter Price / 17 laps / radiator
36) #07-Steve Stolarek / 21 laps / wheel

*This marked the first last-place finish for car #84 in a Cup race at Dover. The number wouldn’t trail at the track again until September 23, 2007, when A.J. Allmendinger picked up his own first last-place run in the #84 Red Bull Toyota.
*This marked the first NASCAR last-place finish for Mercury since August 12, 1973, when Paul Tyler’s #83 Smithville Farms 1971 Mercury had ignition problems after 10 laps of the Talladega 500 at Talladega. The make would finish last in just four more Cup races, the last of on May 25, 1980, when Bill Elliott’s #9 Dahlongea Ford Sales machine wrecked with Lennie Pond after 6 laps of the World 600 at Charlotte.

*Burhrman, Frank. “A Little Ramble in Delaware,”, May 10, 2017
*Kane, Randy. “Kenny Brightbill’s 50-year career will be celebrated Wednesday,” Reading Eagle, July 16, 2017.
*Managing Editor, “Return of Kenny Brightbill To Modified Racing Takes Place Thursday, June 15 at Rescheduled Delaware Internaitonal Speedway STSS ‘Diamond State 50,’, June 5, 2017.
*Minter, Rick. “Joe Gibbs celebrates 25 years in NASCAR racing,” The Flagship, January 27, 2016.
*Kenny Brightbill (YouTube Video), posted by Lenny Swider

Monday, September 25, 2017

OPINION: #TakeTheKnee Supporters Need a Constitutional Crash-Course

PHOTO: New Hampshire Motor Speedway
This past summer, we’ve seen utter devastation from hurricanes and earthquakes, but also the unity of those in Houston, south Florida, and Mexico City as they helped each other survive and rebuild. I had hoped that such stories would make more of us realize that, for all our differences, we're all one people.

But then on Sunday morning, there it was again - #TakeTheKnee. I joined in, too, fed up with it all. I said that the “take the knee” movement was unwelcome in sports because it replaced tribalism for fun with an actual “me versus you” mentality, and that doing it during the National Anthem undermined the ceremony's gesture of national unity. I still feel that way. But one by one, NFL and NBA team owners fell all over themselves to get in line with the protesters. I had hoped that NASCAR would stay out of it, but we’re well past that point now.

I now realize that this moment was inevitable. How couldn’t it have been with NASCAR’s countless patriotic initiatives over the years, from “Operation Desert Support” in 1991 to this year’s “NASCAR Salutes” and yes, every opening ceremony? Like it or not, folks, we were going to be pulled into this, and it shouldn’t be a surprise which side we are on. Richard Petty and Richard Childress may have been the first to speak, but when you get down to it, they speak for much of the sport, this writer included.

For those questioning this stance, let’s take a moment to understand what’s happening. And more importantly in this day and age – what’s not happening.

Before I launch into this, let me put my credentials on the table. In a previous life, back in 2011, I earned my law degree from John F. Kennedy University here in the Bay Area. My best subject was Constitutional Law, where I earned the Witkin Award for scoring top of my class. To be clear, I am not an attorney, but when I say these things about the Constitution, I’m not talking out of my rear end, either.

First of all, “it’s free speech” doesn’t end the conversation. The belief that freedom of speech is an absolute right is one of the biggest misunderstandings of the average citizen, a sad consequence of civics no longer being taught in public schools. It is a fundamental right, yes, and one of our most important, but an alleged infringement isn’t automatically illegal. The U.S. Supreme Court won’t even take your case under consideration unless your speech has been restricted by the state or federal government. An act by a private group, such as a sports team, won't even be looked at. Even if it was, there’s still a test the Court uses to determine which side of the line it falls on. This test is itself merely a set of guidelines that each justice could interpret differently. Thus, even the strongest case can literally come out either way.

It’s also not unconstitutional to say “I have no problem with you protesting, just don’t do it here.” This is the longstanding “time/place/manner” restriction, which is also recognized by the Supreme Court. Simply put, this restricts only where and how you protest. It does not prevent you from expressing your views. It’s the same reason employers have you obey a “code of conduct” as a condition of working for them. You can do what you like on your own time, but when you’re on the clock, you have to follow the rules. I think most people who are against “taking the knee” can agree with this – protesting is fine, just do it somewhere else.

But those on the #TakeTheKnee side aren’t willing to budge. They seem to think a protest only has worth if it’s seen during the NFL pregame. And that’s the biggest mistake of all.

Like it or not, the Constitution doesn’t care whether or not your protest gets seen. Athletes shouldn’t either. No lives are saved or made better just because someone kneels during the National Anthem – only egos. Real change often happens away from the cameras, at soup kitchens and communities ravaged by natural disasters. It’s done by people of all walks of life, of all races and all religions.

If you are truly concerned about your cause, get off your knee and join in.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

CUP: Cody Ware’s Loudon debut ends with a litany of mechanical issues

PHOTO: @RickWareRacing
Cody Ware picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s ISM Connect 300 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway when his #51 Lilly Trucking Chevrolet fell out with rear gear trouble after 74 of 300 laps.

The finish, which came in Ware’s fifth series start, was his third of 2017, his first since Pocono, fourteen races ago. It’s also the second in a row for Rick Ware Racing, which trailed at Chicagoland with Ray Black, Jr.

With eight races to go, Cody Ware now takes second in the LASTCAR Cup Series standings, just two finishes from current leader Jeffrey Earnhardt.

To put it mildly, it’s been a challenging year for both Ware and his father’s single-car “open” team. Coming into Sunday’s race, Rick Ware Racing had made 21 of the first 27 rounds with a best finish of just 28th with Timmy Hill at Kansas. Cody Ware’s most recent last-place run at Pocono came in an ill-handling #51 Clemson University Chevrolet as the driver fought back problems. That day was also to be the first of a multiple-race sponsorship agreement with at least two universities: Clemson and ECU. A lack of associate sponsorship caused the team to run the ECU scheme out-of-pocket at Dover, and the deal ultimately fell through.

Without Clemson on hand for their originally-scheduled return at Darlington, the Ware team put together a last-minute “throwback” scheme that was one of the best in show. The team ran a “Days of Thunder” inspired scheme resembling Tom Cruise’s Mello Yello car, an effort that also promoted relief efforts after Hurricane Harvey. Unfortunately, this car crashed out midway through the Southern 500, and a controversial Twitter battle ensued between the driver and Matt DiBenedetto. Following another Harvey benefit scheme at Richmond, Ray Black, Jr. made his Cup debut with the team at Chicagoland. Though Black finished under power, 16 laps down, the track’s third-straight year without a DNF handed the XFINITY Series regular a last-place finish.

Cody Ware wasn’t officially named the driver of the #51 for Sunday’s race on the preliminary entry list. In fact, no one was until just hours before Friday’s opening practice. Ware had yet to make a single NASCAR start at Loudon – Josh Bilicki drove the car home 36th in July – but this past summer had also made two road course starts in the XFINITY Series for Mike Harmon, finishing 34th at Watkins Glen and 23rd at Mid-Ohio (the latter the third-best finish in his 14 series starts). Most importantly, the #51 would be one of just 39 teams entered at Loudon, guaranteeing Ware a spot in the field.

Ware put up the slowest time in Friday’s opening practice, turning in a best lap of 122.434mph that was more than three seconds off Kyle Larson’s session-leading circuit and more than one second behind the next-slowest Jeffrey Earnhardt. Ware then shaved a full half-second off that time in qualifying, but his speed of 124.634mph was the slowest turned in time trials. He would start 38th, however, as Joey Logano was penalized for his #22 Shell / Pennzoil Ford failing inspection four times. Not only did Logano not put up a qualifying lap, but he was forced to sit in his car on pit road for the entirety of Happy Hour. Ware was the only other driver to not participate in that session, having anchored the chart again on Saturday morning.

Prior to the start of the race, Ty Dillon fell to the back, having been forced to a backup car after his primary #13 GEICO Chevrolet biffed the outside wall in Saturday practice. Joining him were both Landon Cassill and Chris Buescher, both dropped to the rear for transmission changes. During the final pace lap, both Ware as well as Jeffrey Earnhardt in the #33 Hulu Chevrolet fell to the back behind the Cassill, Buescher, and Dillon. Thus, when the green flag fell, it was Earnhardt who held the spot for a moment before he passed Ware down the backstretch for the first time.

After only a few laps, Ware reported smoke in the cockpit and was clearly struggling to get around the track. By Lap 6, he was two seconds behind 38th-place Earnhardt, and was lapped by the leaders within the next ten circuits. Kyle Busch put Ware a second lap down on the 25th circuit, then was put a third down by Truex on Lap 43. On Lap 49, NBCSN’s cameras revealed Ware’s car was overheating down the backstretch, the overflow on the hood spraying a constant stream of water. From then until the end of Stage 1 on Lap 77, the water temperature climbed to 250, then 300 degrees.

Under the caution at the end of the stage, driver and crew discussed what to do. The original plan was to make their first pit stop, then come around one more time and go to the garage and cool the engine. It was soon clear that the water was running dangerously low, and on Lap 79, Ware pulled the #51 behind the wall at the opening in front of Matt DiBenedetto’s pit stall. Ware then cut the engine and coasted to a stop in the infield, where the driver requested a Gatorade. The team soon found that not only was the engine damaged beyond repair, but a right-rear axle seal had also failed, perhaps the cause for the cockpit smoke reported earlier.

On Lap 84, the Ware crew said “We’re all done,” and began to pack up. The team listed “rear gear” as the overall reason for their exit. Just as at Chicagoland, the #51 took last virtually unopposed from start to finish.

Jeffrey Earnhardt ended up next-to-last when he was caught up in the afternoon’s most dramatic moment. With one lap to go in Stage 2, contact between Austin Dillon and Kevin Harvick sent Harvick’s #4 Mobil 1 Ford spinning off Turn 2. Harvick’s car then stopped sideways in the middle of the track, causing much of the rest of the field to pick their way through the smoke. Moments after Kurt Busch crashed into his teammate, Earnhardt rear-ended Busch, causing a logjam that blocked much of the track. In all, eight drivers received damage with Earnhardt, Busch, and Harvick eliminated under the “Crash Clock.” Rounding out the Bottom Five was another Playoff driver, Kasey Kahne, who incurred a penalty for drawing the fourth caution of the day on Lap 264.

*This marked the first last-place finish for car #51 in a Cup Series race at Loudon.

39) #51-Cody Ware / 74 laps / rear gear
38) #33-Jeffrey Earnhardt / 143 laps / crash
37) #41-Kurt Busch / 148 laps / crash
36) #4-Kevin Harvick / 148 laps / crash
35) #5-Kasey Kahne / 289 laps / running

1st) Circle Sport with The Motorsports Group (5)
2nd) Rick Ware Racing (4)
3rd) BK Racing (3)
4th) Hendrick Motorsports, Furniture Row Racing, Premium Motorsports, Roush-Fenway Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (2)
5th) Chip Ganassi Racing, Front Row Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, JTG-Daugherty Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports (1)

1st) Chevrolet (14)
2nd) Toyota (8)
3rd) Ford (6)


XFINITY: Jeff Green on the cusp of last-place milestone, 2017 title

PHOTO: Brock Beard
Jeff Green picked up the 98th last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s 300 at the Kentucky Speedway when his unsponsored #93 RSS Racing Chevrolet fell out with a vibration after 16 of 200 laps.

The finish, which came in Green’s 474th series start, was his ninth of the season, his first since Richmond earlier this month, and his third in five races.

With six races to go, Green now carries a four-finish lead over Jordan Anderson for the 2017 LASTCAR XFINITY Series title. He also leads Anderson by an insurmountable 19-6 in Bottom Fives, and is virtually assured of his record-breaking sixth LASTCAR title. Green will officially lock up the title with one more last-place finish in any of the remaining races, or if Anderson fails to finish last next Saturday at Dover. Anderson has not started an XFINITY Series race since the series’ last trip to Dover in June.

Green didn’t participate in Friday’s opening practice, then turned seven laps in Happy Hour, earning the 27th-fastest speed of 38 drivers with a lap of 175.234mph. He lost some speed in qualifying, lining up 30th with a speed of 172.944mph, but with exactly 40 drivers entered to fill the field, would line up next to Quin Houff in Row 15. An unapproved tire change, however, would drop Green to last for the start of the race. Joining him would be Justin Allgaier, whose JR Motorsports team made unapproved adjustments to the #7 Brandt Chevrolet.

Originally scheduled to start last was owner-driver Mike Harmon, whose #74 Dodge turned in the session’s slowest lap of 160.480mph, two-and-a-half seconds slower than Green and more than four full seconds behind polesitter Kyle Benjamin.

However, Green was sent to the rear during the pace laps for an unapproved tire change, and Justin Allgaier’s #7 Brandt Chevrolet followed suit after his JR Motorsports team made unapproved adjustments to the car. Coming to the green flag, more cars also fell to the rear: Morgan Shepherd, whose #89 Visone RV Chevrolet was to roll off 36th, and 31st-place starter Korbin Forrister in the #07 Spectrum Autism Support Chevrolet for SS-Green Light Racing. As the field rolled by the cameras in Turns 1 and 2, Green was again lined up in the last spot, following both Shepherd and Forrister.

On Lap 2, Forrister had re-taken last from Green, and the #93 had climbed to 36th on his new tires. By the sixth lap, Green was 33rd, and last had fallen to 39th-place starter John Jackson in Motorsports Business Management’s #40 O.C.R. Gaz Bar Chevrolet. By the time the broadcast had returned from commercial break, Green had pulled behind the wall under green.

Finishing 39th was Carl Long, who for the first time this year drove the #72 debuted at Loudon by Jackson (though this time a Toyota in place of Jackson’s Dodge). 38th went to Dexter Bean, who had to pull to the apron of the tri-oval in order to avoid the fast-closing leaders putting him a lap down. Behind Bean’s #92 BuckedUp Apparel / Chevrolet for King Autosport was Morgan Shepherd, who pulled in just ahead of Bean on the same lap. Rounding out the Bottom Five was Timmy Hill, who dropped into the Bottom Five after Mike Harmon returned from the garage after fuel pump repairs (ultimately climbing to 34th before his own DNF).

*This marked Green’s fifth last-place finish in an XFINITY Series race at Kentucky, but also his first since 2015, back when he was driving for TriStar Motorsports. The previous three last-place finishers at the track were Matt DiBenedetto, Mike Bliss, and Brandon Jones.

40) #93-Jeff Green / 16 laps / vibration
39) #72-Carl Long / 24 laps / engine
38) #92-Dexter Bean / 27 laps / vibration
37) #89-Morgan Shepherd / 27 laps / handling
36) #13-Timmy Hill / 55 laps / overheating

1st) RSS Racing (15)
2nd) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Shepherd Racing Ventures (2)
3rd) Chip Ganassi Racing, JD Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Kaulig Racing, King Autosport, Motorsports Business Management, Richard Childress Racing, SS Green Light Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (25)
2nd) Dodge, Toyota (1)


TRUCKS: Ray Ciccarelli trails at Loudon as, for the first time in series history, three consecutive last-place finishers fail to complete a single lap

Ray Ciccarelli picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Saturday’s UNOH 175 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway when his #0 Star Sales / Chevrolet fell out with a busted fuel pump without completing any of the 175 laps. The finish came in Ciccarelli’s third series start.

With six races to go in the 2017 LASTCAR Truck Series Championship, Joe Nemechek remains the leader for the second-straight race, but now by one Bottom Five over Todd Peck, 8-7.  Joining Nemechek and Peck for the most last-place runs in 2017 are Mike Senica, two Bottom Fives behind Peck, then fourth-place Tommy Regan, another Bottom Five behind.

The 47-year-old driver from Ellicott City, Maryland made his Truck Series debut earlier this year at Eldora, where he drove in place of Jennifer Jo Cobb in her #10 Chevrolet. Ciccarelli’s turn in the #10 Chevrolet saw him draw three cautions, including both of the last two, but still managed a 22nd-place finish.

In truth, Eldora wasn’t Ciccarelli’s first dirt track race. On top of his short track background, as a part-time ARCA competitor, one of his first starts in the series came at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in 2014, where he ran 22nd for Roger Carter. Now an owner-driver in the series, Ciccarelli earned his series-best finish in his most recent outing at Talladega just this year, running 13th in his #3 Stealth Belts / UOAA Ford. Stealth Belts would back Ciccarelli’s Eldora debut in July, but not his first pavement start in the series at Michigan, where he ran just 11 laps for Cobb and finished 26th.

At Loudon, Ciccarelli and Cobb welcomed new sponsor Star Sales, the Woburn, Massachusetts based distributor of fasteners, power tools, and construction supplies.

Ciccarelli was ranked 21st of 24 drivers in Friday’s opening practice, but the second-slowest to turn at least one lap. His best of fifteen circuits was a speed of 117.857mph, just under a tenth faster than Wendell Chavous in Premium Motorsports’ #49 Chevrolet. He then did not complete a lap in Happy Hour following a spin in Turns 1 and 2. His best lap came in qualifying, where he gained two-tenths of a second for 25th on the grid with a lap of 118.558mph. Still, the lap was more than three full seconds off the pace of polesitter Noah Gragson.

Before Saturday’s race began, teammate Jennifer Jo Cobb and her #10 Chevrolet was one of three entries sent to the rear of the field for unapproved adjustments, joining Jordan Anderson’s #1 Lucas Oil / Chevrolet for TJL Racing and Cody Coughlin, whose team put new tires on the #13 JEGS Toyota. All three drivers had not completed a qualifying lap – Anderson and Coughlin in Round 2, leaving them in 23rd and 24th, and Cobb in Round 1, already placing her last in the 29-truck field. It was the smallest Truck Series field Loudon has yet seen.

The field shrank once more, and without ceremony. During the pace laps, Ciccarelli’s white #0 was not seen at the back of the pack, and in the end did not complete a lap, thus securing last uncontested.

Finishing 28th was Chicagoland last-placer Mike Senica, back in Norm Benning’s black #57 Chevrolet. Monster Jam star Camden Murphy finished 27th, out with early brake issues as Mike Mittler did not have a sponsor for his primary #63 MB Motorsports Chevrolet. Next came Joe Nemechek in his #87 D.A.B. Constructors Chevrolet, while rounding out the Bottom Five came Gray Gaulding in the former Tommy Baldwin Racing truck now under Premium Motorsports as the #15. The entire Bottom Five completed no more than 25 laps with last-place starter Jennifer Jo Cobb missing the cut by just two circuits.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #0 in a Truck Series race at Loudon since September 18, 2004, when Lon Richardson’s #0 Value Tool & Engineering Chevrolet had an oil leak after 40 laps of the Sylvania 200 Presented by Lowe’s.
*This marked the first time in Truck Series history that the last-place finisher of three consecutive Truck Series races failed to complete the opening lap.

29) #0-Ray Ciccarelli / 0 lap / fuel pump
28) #57-Mike Senica / 3 laps / rear gear
27) #63-Camden Murphy / 8 laps / brakes
26) #87-Joe Nemechek / 11 laps / vibration
25) #15-Gray Gaulding / 25 laps / brakes

1st) Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing, Norm Benning Racing (4)
2nd) Copp Motorsports, NEMCO Motorsports (2)
3rd) Halmar Friesen Racing, Henderson Motorsports, MB Motorsports, MDM Motorsports, TJL Motorsports (1)

1st) Chevrolet (17)


Friday, September 22, 2017

Entry List Storylines: New Hampshire and Kentucky

PHOTO: Premium Motorsports
ISM Connect 300 at New Hampshire

After full fields in three of the last four Cup races, New Hampshire will see 39 drivers take the green flag. It’s the 17th time in 28 races that the fewer than 40 drivers are entered.  Missing from Chicagoland is Motorsports Business Management, which will instead be in Kentucky for Saturday’s XFINITY Series race.

The preliminary entry list didn’t have a driver listed for Rick Ware Racing’s #51, the car with which Ray Black, Jr. finished last in his Cup debut last Sunday. With Black slated to run Saturday's XFINITY race for SS-Green Light Racing, it's as yet unclear who will drive for Ware on Sunday.

Premium Motorsports arrives with new sponsorship for both of its teams. Gray Gaulding, who last week used a renumbered version of the Bud Moore throwback from Darlington, has a new green-and-white wrap on the #55 Toyota with sponsorship from waste service firm Wind River Environmental. Gaulding ran 35th for Premium here in July, and will this week run double-duty with the Truck Series in Premium’s #15 Chevrolet. Reed Sorenson remains in the Cup #15 Toyota for Sunday, which has new sponsorship from Ol’ Hick Cooking Pellets by Energex.

Another driver debuting a new sponsor is Michael McDowell, whose #95 Leavine Family Racing Chevrolet welcomes new backer Procore. While this week’s news that Kasey Kahne will replace McDowell in the #95 next season has put McDowell’s 2018 plans less clear, he continues to impress with the team. He’s finished 20th or better in six of the last eight races and has completed a series-leading 99.2% of his attempted laps. His best finish in 14 previous Loudon Cup races is 26th, which he set here last fall and matched this past July.

BK Racing has the same lineup from Chicagoland, though now with two near-identical black-and-yellow Toyotas. Corey LaJoie, 31st here in July, drives the #23 Schroth Racing Toyota alongside Brett Moffitt in the #83 Super Donut Toyota. Super Donut was to sponsor BK back at Watkins Glen, but will debut instead this Sunday for Moffitt’s first Loudon start in Cup since he ran 27th for Front Row Motorsports in 2015.

Front Row’s current lead driver, Landon Cassill, earned a strong 20th-place finish last Sunday, his best performance since a 19th at Daytona in July. He is now set to make his 15th Cup start at Loudon, where his track-best finish was a 23rd here last fall, in a car with team sponsor MDS Transport. Teammate David Ragan, back in the Camping World / Good Sam colors, makes his 22nd Loudon start in the series. Ragan’s lone Top 10 at the track came in 2011, when he finished 7th for Roush-Fenway Racing.

Matt DiBenedetto’s Go FAS Racing entries have remained some of the most colorful on the circuit. One week after his #32 Ford joined Chicagoland’s Nickelodeon / Ninja Turtles promotion, his new Ford EcoBoost scheme has received a thumbs-up on Twitter from Mark Martin. Perhaps joining DiBenedetto as a driver with manufacturer sponsorship is Ryan Newman, who at press time was the only Playoff driver without a primary sponsor.

XFINITY SERIES 300 at Kentucky

Exactly 40 drivers are entered in Saturday’s stand-alone race in Kentucky, and with the Cup Series regulars busy in New England, the night will be a big opportunity for the XFINITY Series stars. Among them will be Kyle Benjamin, back in the series for the first time since Iowa, in Joe Gibbs Racing’s #18 with teammate and Iowa winner Ryan Preece in the #20, as well as the Richard Childress Racing trio of Ben Kennedy (#2), Brian Scott (#3), and Brandon Jones (#33). All five will have their hands full with their teammates Matt Tifft and Brendan Gaughan, near the bottom of the Playoff rankings, who will each seek a round-clearing victory. Best of luck also to Jeremy Clements, who embarks on his first Playoff run thanks to his win at Road America.

Still missing from the list, however, are both JGL Racing’s #24 and GMS Racing’s #96, which were both withdrawn before last week’s race in Chicagoland. JD Motorsports has also chosen to not enter the #15 Chevrolet with which Matt Mills scored his first last-place finish that Saturday.  The JD team returns to its traditional three-car lineup with Garrett Smithley back in the #0, Harrison Rhodes in the #0, and Ross Chastain in the #4.

Motorsports Business Management has entered three cars, including its own “start-and-park” #72 CrashClaimsR.US Chevrolet we last saw withdrawn at Road America. Team owner Carl Long is slated to drive the #72 for the first time this year, moving its July Loudon driver John Jackson to the #40 O.C.R. Gaz Bar Chevrolet. Timmy Hill, who finished next-to-last in Sunday’s Cup race at Chicagoland, reprises his role in the MBM #13 O.C.R. Gaz Bar Dodge.

Also entering an additional car is King Autosport, which fields both its #90 and #92 Chevrolets for the first time since Daytona this past July. Josh Williams, who finished last that night, returns in the #92 alongside the #90 Dexter Bean, who makes his first series start since a 26th-place finish last month at Road America.

Welcome back Precision Performance Motorsports, which we last saw charge to their first Top 10 with in-race reporter Parker Kligerman at Road America. Back behind the wheel is Quin Houff, who himself turned heads his last time out with a 12th at Iowa in June. It will be Houff’s first series start at Kentucky. Also returning is Angela Ruch, who is slated to pull the Kentucky sweep in 2017. After finishing 30th there this past summer, she returns to B.J. McLeod’s #78 Chevrolet with the Give A Child A Voice foundation.

UNOH 175 at New Hampshire

Saturday’s companion race at Loudon sees just 29 drivers for the 32-truck field, the first short grid for the series since Michigan, four rounds ago. This includes the early withdrawal of Mike Harmon’s #74, which was slated to be the third different truck Donnie Levister would drive in 2017. Also missing from the Chicagoland list are Ted Minor in the Boyd Long #14, Mike Mittler’s second truck (#36), and Ricky Benton’s #92 BTS Tire & Wheel Ford for Regan Smith.

Still missing from multiple weeks are Michigan winners MDM Motorsports (though the #99 Chevrolet is expected to be back at Martinsville as Cale Gale makes his first series start since 2013) and the Bolen Motorsports #66.

Returning from a two-race hiatus is Stewart Friesen, whose #52 We Build America Chevrolet is now firmly under its new technical alliance with GMS Racing. Johnny Sauter, in GMS Racing’s flagship #21, holds down second in the Playoff standings, and looks to close his 15-point deficit to leader Christopher Bell.

The preliminary entry list for Saturday’s race did not include a driver for D.J. Copp’s #83 Chevrolet. It has since been announced that Patrick Emerling, fresh off his first modified series win after seven years of trying, will drive.

Kyle Busch Motorsports has put Todd Gilliland back behind the wheel of the fast #51 Pedigree Toyota, which the rookie steered to an 11th-place finish his last time out at Mosport.

Austin Wayne Self looks to build on his 20th-place finish last week at Chicagoland in the same Martins Motorsports #44 AM Technical Solutions Chevrolet.

T.J. Bell makes his 12th Truck Series start of the year, his first since Bristol, as he returns to Al Niece’s #45 Niece Equipment Chevrolet. Austin Hill also makes his return from Bristol in the #02 Ford owned by Randy Young and sponsored by Whitetail Heaven outfitters.

Ryan Truex has another new paint scheme on Shigeaki Hattori’s #16 Toyota as Price Chopper has signed with the team for Saturday.

Many of the LASTCAR contending drivers and teams are back, including last week’s last-placer Mike Senica in the #57 Norm Benning Racing Chevrolet and Joe Nemehcek in his own NEMCO #87 D.A.B. Constructors, Inc. Chevrolet.  Jennifer Jo Cobb, who gained several spots after early mechanical issues at Chicagoland, returns in her #10 Chevrolet. Alongside her in the #0 is Ray Ciccarelli, who makes his second paved-track start following a 26th-place run at Michigan.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

7/14/68: Stories of the rarest number and Ted Christopher share ties with New England racing history

PHOTO: The Boston Globe
This article is dedicated to the life of NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour star Ted Christopher, who lost his life in a plane crash last Saturday.  He was 59.

This weekend’s venue, the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, saw many key moments in Christopher's career.  In 54 modified starts there, he scored five victories, five poles, twenty-one Top Fives, and thirty Top Tens.  He scored another five wins there in what is now the K&N Pro Series East, many times while running his iconic #13 LesCare Kitchens machine.  With that success came a chance to compete in Truck, XFINITY, and Cup Series competition, which he did for a combined 29 starts over a decade.

Incidentally, the Loudon track also saw his only last-place finishes: one each in XFINITY and Cup.  The former, which came on May 9, 1998, was a first step that transitioned car owner Ted Marsh from K&N East to XFINITY, where he would also field cars for Steve Park and Dave Blaney in the early 2000s.  The latter, which occurred on September 19, 2004, came driving for Stan Hover, who at the time was returning to the Cup ownership after several seasons away in ARCA.

It was also Loudon that saw Christopher make his final start in NASCAR's top three series on September 17, 2006.  That day, the driver finished 41st for crew chief turned car owner Kirk Shelmerdine.

Our condolences to Christopher’s family, friends, and fans.


PHOTO: Gary Larson, Pinterest
As we reported on Twitter earlier this summer, car #07 has the fewest last-place finishes of any number in NASCAR Cup Series history (between the currently available 0 through 09).  In fact, the #07 (along with the #86, which has 16 last-place finishes) stand as the only two numbers to have not finished last in NASCAR’s modern era (since 1972).  Last week, we met Danny Byrd, who scored the number's first last-place finish in 1965.  Today, we meet the only other driver to match him.

On July 14, 1968, George Davis picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Grand National Series career in the Northern 300 at the Trenton Speedway when his #07 Malco Auto 1966 Chevrolet had transmission issues on the opening lap of the 300-lap race.  The finish came in Davis’ 25th series start.

While Danny Byrd made his way into NASCAR through ARCA, George Davis’ entry came through the NASCAR Sportsman Series ranks, known today as the NASCAR XFINITY Series.  One of Davis’ earliest recorded modified starts came at the Trenton International Speedway, the same “kidney bean” shaped five-turn doglegged oval that would see his lone NASCAR last-place finish.  On August 22, 1965, Davis finished 8th of 30 drivers in a race won by Ray Hendrick (the same driver represented on Denny Hamlin’s “throwback” scheme at Darlington).  He would go on to finish 8th again the following year at Atlanta.

A veteran of the U.S. Army from Albany, New York, Davis made his Grand National debut on May 19, 1967 at the Beltsville (Maryland) Speedway, a half-mile paved track.  Davis started his #07 Chevrolet 14th in the 16-car field and made his way to 10th, the last car under power, in an event won by Jim Paschal.  Three starts later on June 10th, at Birmingham’s paved oval, he earned his first Top 10 with a 7th-place run, seven laps down to winner Bobby Allison.  The 21-race schedule he ran that season was capped by his lone Top 5 at Savannah (Georgia) Speedway on August 25, where he finished 5th behind Richard Petty, Elmo Langley, “Tiger” Tom Pistone, and Neil “Soapy” Castles.

Davis’ car also ran well when he wasn’t in it.  On June 6, 1967, during the Macon 300 at the half-mile Middle Georgia Raceway, Davis handed the steering wheel to Bobby Allison.  The leader of “The Alabama Gang” had to that point pieced together a strong start to the season with wins at Bowman Gray Stadium and Savannah, and arrived at Middle Georgia with a streak of six consecutive top-five finishes.  When Cotton Owens, Allison’s team owner for much of that streak, didn’t have a car entered in the Macon 300, Davis had Allison climb aboard.  The #07 turned in its best-ever finish with Davis as owner, running 4th, 10 laps down to Richard Petty.  Allison would go on to finish 4th in the series championship, having raced for six different owners in that year alone.

Coming into Trenton in 1968, Davis had made just three of the first 28 rounds of the season with no finishes better than a 17th at Beltsville, Maryland on May 17.  Records indicate that he had, however, obtained sponsorship from Malco Auto at Rockingham the previous week, where a crash left him 35th after just 96 laps.  It was perhaps due to this accident that Davis lined up 36th and last on the grid at Trenton, and the same reason he followed Bill Vanderhoff (driving Roy Tyner’s Chevrolet) to the garage on the very first lap.

Behind Davis and Vanderhoff came 34th-place David Mote, who was making the seventh and final Grand National start of his career.  Driving Ken Cline’s #69 Chevrolet, the 27-year-old had finished no better than 14th at Fonda the previous round, and this time was stopped by a broken sway bar.  Incidentally, Mote was born in Siler City, North Carolina, the same hometown as Wayne Andrews, a fellow dirt tracker who raced against J.D. McDuffie before both were in NASCAR.  Willowdale, Ontario driver Harold “Frog” Fagan finished 33rd, his 1966 Ford involved in a multi-car accident that also involved owner-driver Ed Negre, who rounded out the Bottom Five in his #8 1967 Ford.

Davis made just three more Grand National starts after Trenton, including his lone Southern 500 start that September, where his #07 came home 40th of 44 due to battery issues.  His final Top 10 came in his next start at Beltsville, site of his series debut, where he started 10th and ran 7th.  His final start came the next year in the inaugural Grand National event at Dover on July 6, 1969.  In his lone start for car owner Mack Sellers, Davis parked his #82 1967 Chevrolet after 24 laps, the finishing order indicating he “quit.”

Davis would later move to Maryland, where he opened his own sheet metal business, Sheet Metal Unlimited, in Rockville.  He was also active in many organizations, particularly in street rodding through the Good Guys Street Rod Association.  He and his wife Anna raised two children and two grandchildren.  Davis passed away on March 15, 2005 at age 66.

36) #07-George Davis / 0 laps / transmission
35) #09-Bill Vanderhoff / 0 laps / rear end
34) #69-David Mote / 2 laps / sway bar
33) #23-Frog Fagan / 3 laps / crash
32) #8-Ed Negre / 3 laps / crash

On top of their last-place finishes, Danny Byrd and George Davis were also among the first drivers to run the #07 at all: Byrd was just the fourth driver to run it while Davis’ first NASCAR start was the number’s ninth.

In the years ahead, #07 would build up an even longer streak as it had never won a Cup Series race.  The number would go on to be driven by Coo Coo Marlin, Sterling’s father, into the early 1970s.  Wendell Scott made one of his final starts with the number at Charlotte in 1971.  Jeff McDuffie, J.D. McDuffie’s son, made three starts in the number at North Wilkesboro and Rockingham.  The number flipped wildly during Randy LaJoie’s terrifying Twin 125 crash in 1984, made the inaugural Brickyard 400 with Geoff Brabham in 1994, and carried a shimmering mirror-like wrap under the Ultra Motorsports banner with Sirius Satellite Radio and Ted Musgrave in 2002.

In 2005, Richard Childress Racing campaigned the number with new sponsor Jack Daniel’s, a reference to the liquor company’s “Old No. 7” branding.  After a difficult season with Dave Blaney, Childress tabbed his Busch Series driver, Clint Bowyer, to make a bid for Rookie of the Year in the car in 2006.  The following year, Bowyer and the number would be involved in another spectacular wreck at Daytona, sliding on its roof across the finish line in the Daytona 500.

On September 16, 2007, ten years ago at the site of this weekend’s race, the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Bowyer broke through by winning from the pole, leading 222 of 300 laps in the Sylvania 300 for his first Cup Series victory.  It was a victory not only for Bowyer, but for all the drivers who raced the number before him, including the only two men who, to this day, hold a unique place in NASCAR history.

*Davis, George E. Obituary, 2005
*Legends of NASCAR: George E. Davis

Monday, September 18, 2017

CUP: Ray Black, Jr. wins tight last-place battle in Chicagoland’s third-straight Cup race without a single DNF

PHOTO: @RickWareRacing
Ray Black, Jr. picked up the 1st last-place finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Tales of the Turtles 400 at the Chicagoland Speedway when his #51 ScubaLife Chevrolet finished under power, 16 laps down, after 251 of 267 laps.  The finish came in Black’s series debut.

Black, who earned his first XFINITY last-place finish at Talladega in May, has since made eight more starts in NASCAR’s second-tier division with a new career-best finish of 12th at Daytona in July.  The Commercial Diving Academy, which sponsored Black in the past, tapping into the driver’s passion for scuba diving in his native Florida, has also returned as the team’s sponsor, this time through the school’s underwater welding program.  While Chicagoland would see Spencer Boyd drive in place of Black in SS’s #07 Chevrolet for a second-straight XFINITY race, Black soon found another opportunity for the weekend – the chance to make his Cup Series debut.

For Sunday’s race, Black reunited with team owner Rick Ware, who gave Black his first XFINITY Series start at Texas in 2015.  The Ware team announced the partnership last Friday as an eleventh-hour entry, thus bringing the field from 39 cars on Monday to a full field by the opening practice.  The XFINITY Series driver’s Cup car would be black with the familiar ScubaLife branding from many of his Bobby Dotter-prepared cars, complete with blue waves on both doors.  Black would drive the car at Chicagoland, then rejoin the team again at Texas in November.

Black was slowest in Friday’s opening practice, his best of 18 laps a mere 165.654mph, nearly a second off the pace of second-slowest Timmy Hill and more than three seconds off the pace of session leader Kyle Busch.  He again anchored Happy Hour on Saturday, slipping to 165.315mph, four-tenths off the next-fastest Jeffrey Earnhardt and just under three seconds off Martin Truex, Jr.’s leading time.  His best lap ended up coming in qualifying – 170.218mph. Though eight-tenths off the next-slowest car of Timmy Hill and just under three seconds off Kyle Busch’s pole lap, Black would start his first race 39th in the field of 40.

Starting last on Sunday was Brett Moffitt, who returned to the Cup Series for the first time since his 32nd-place run last month at Michigan.  Moffitt rejoined BK Racing, which didn’t have drivers listed for either of its cars in the preliminary entry list, alongside Corey LaJoie in the #23.  Moffitt didn’t complete a lap in qualifying, so his #83 JAS Expedited Trucking Toyota started shotgun on the field.  He was joined at the rear by his teammate LaJoie, who was set to roll off 33rd but whose crew had made unapproved adjustments.

The race unfolded much like Michigan in June with a tight last-place battle among several tail-end cars.  Black had taken the last spot by Lap 10, and was soon in danger of losing a lap to the leaders.  The first driver to join him at the rear was playoff contender Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., whose #17 Fastenal Ford clipped the Turn 2 wall early, then was forced to make a pit stop for tire issues around Lap 33.  Stenhouse then was assessed a commitment cone violation for his sharp angle entering pit road, and returned to the race two laps down.

Green-flag pit stops followed soon after Stenhouse’s stop, and last place then fell to Gray Gaulding.  Gaulding, back with Premium Motorsports for the first time since the Bristol night race, drove Reed Sorenson’s “throwback” car from Darlington, the Bud Moore-styled numbers changed from #15 to #55.  The car also carried a large hood logo recognizing the U.S. First Responders Association.  By Lap 62, Black re-took last from Gaulding, and he was six laps behind the leaders near the end of Stage 1.  On Lap 123, during Stage 2, Black was still last, and had lost another two laps for a total of eight.

By Lap 140, all 40 drivers were still on the track, and the teams at the back of the field remained evenly matched.  On this particular circuit, Black was eight laps behind, one lap behind the next five drivers: 38th-place Gaulding, 37th-place Timmy Hill in Carl Long’s #66 U.S. Chrome Chevrolet, 36th-place Cole Whitt in TriStar Motorsports’ unsponsored #72 Chevrolet, and 35th-place Corey LaJoie.  Not long after, it appeared that Black made an extended stop on pit road or in the garage, as he jumped from eight laps behind to eleven, gapping the group behind him.  From there until the finish of the race, Black would maintain this three-lap advantage, preventing another change for last place.  He ultimately edged both Hill and Gaulding by those three circuits.  Rounding out the Bottom Five were Brett Moffitt, one lap ahead of Gaulding, and LaJoie, another circuit ahead of Moffitt.

*This marked the incredible third consecutive year that the entire starting field for the Cup Series race at Chicagoland finished under power.  In 2015, last-placer Austin Dillon completed 198 of 267 laps, followed by 2016’s run by Joey Gase, where he turned 254 of 270.
*Black is also the second driver to finish last in his Cup debut this year, joining Cody Ware at Atlanta.  Ware also drove the #51 Chevrolet that day, which is owned by his father.

40) #51-Ray Black, Jr. / 251 laps / running
39) #66-Timmy Hill / 254 laps / running
38) #55-Gray Gaulding / 254 laps / running
37) #83-Brett Moffitt / 255 laps / running
36) #23-Corey LaJoie / 256 laps / running

1st) Circle Sport with The Motorsports Group (5)
2nd) BK Racing, Rick Ware Racing (3)
3rd) Hendrick Motorsports, Furniture Row Racing, Premium Motorsports, Roush-Fenway Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (2)
4th) Chip Ganassi Racing, Front Row Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, JTG-Daugherty Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports (1)

1st) Chevrolet (13)
2nd) Toyota (8)
3rd) Ford (6)


XFINITY: Matt Mills finishes last at Chicagoland when JD Motorsports’ No. 15 withdrawn, re-entered, then parked

PHOTO: NBCSN, Screenshot by Timecard100
Matt Mills picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s 300 at the Chicagoland Speedway when his unsponsored #15 Chevrolet fell out with a vibration after 3 of 200 laps.  The finish came in Mills’ third series start.

Mills has been racing since 2009, when he won rookie of the year in a go-kart circuit.  He again earned rookie honors in asphalt modifieds and earned his first victory in 2013.  From there, the kid from Lynchburg, Virginia eyed a move to NASCAR through ARCA and the K&N Pro Series West before ultimately making his national series debut in the Truck Series race at Bristol on August 17, 2016.  That night, driving for SS-Green Light Racing, Mills started 31st in the 32-truck field and finished 27th.  He’s since improved on that twice over just this year, finishing 17th on two occasions with Faith Motorsports.

With continuing sponsorship from Thompson Electric, Mills made his XFINITY Series debut this year at Phoenix, taking over for Jeff Green in B.J. McLeod’s #8 Chevrolet.  Mills started 24th and finished 30th that day, which as of this writing stand as his career-best in the series.  His next start came with McLeod the next month at Richmond, where he came home two laps down in 31st.  Chicagoland would mark his first XFINITY start since then, and his first in NASCAR’s top three series since a “start-and-park” run for Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing at Pocono – but he wasn’t on the preliminary entry list.

Saturday’s opportunity would come from Johnny Davis’ team JD Motorsports – specifically, the #15 Chevrolet, a “start-and-park” fourth team which Davis has had on hand since the July race at Daytona.  Prior to Saturday’s race, the car had made just four starts, all of them with Reed Sorenson resulting in 38th and 39th-place finishes after 23 laps or fewer.  The car failed to qualify at both Bristol and Darlington (the latter due to transmission issues), and was withdrawn another four times.

In fact, when the preliminary entry list was first posted, the car was already one of three already withdrawn (joining the #24 for JGL Racing and the #96 for GMS Racing).  First tabbed to drive the car was JD Motorsports’ own Garrett Smithley, who was being moved out of his #0 so Vinnie Miller could make his series debut.  The initial withdrawal of the #15 may have been because of the deal Smithley received to drive Motorsports Business Management’s #40 O.C.R. Gaz Bar Toyota in place of team owner Carl Long.

However, in a week that saw the entry list shrink as small as 37 cars, then grow back to 39 with the late additions of Mike Harmon and Morgan Shepherd, the opportunity was once again there to fill the field.  While some anticipated the return of MBM’s #72 Chevrolet, which served that role at Loudon with driver John Jackson, or Mike Harmon’s second entry, the #17 Dodge from Road America, the #15 was instead “un-withdrawn,” ensuring a full field of 40.  With Smithley already signed to drive the #40, however, the driving duty fell to Mills.  His red Chevrolet would have white numbers on the doors and roof, a departure from the yellow numbers used on Davis’ #15 previously.

Mills didn’t participate in Friday’s opening practice, and started but failed to complete a lap in Happy Hour after he got loose in Turn 2 and slapped the wall with the right-rear.  His first completed lap of the weekend came in qualifying, where he ran a lap of 152.203mph.  Though more than two seconds off the pace of the next-slowest car of Mike Harmon, the 40-car entry list guaranteed that Mills would start Saturday’s race.  That race didn’t last long, however, as Mills pulled his #15 behind the wall under green on Lap 4.

Finishing 39th was Jeff Green, who missed out on his 98th series last-place finish by five laps.  With seven races to go, Green retains a three-finish lead over Jordan Anderson, who hasn’t run an XFINITY Series race since June, and is still on track to break a tie with the late J.D. McDuffie for most LASTCAR titles by a single driver in NASCAR history.  Morgan Shepherd next pulled off in his #89 Visone RV Chevrolet, followed by MBM teammates Garrett Smithley and the #13 O.C.R. Gaz Bar Dodge of Timmy Hill.

For more on Matt Mills, check out his website at

*This marked the first last-place finish for car #15 in an XFINITY Series race since July 23, 2016, when Todd Peck’s #15 Keen Portable Buildings / Momo Ford had engine problems on the first lap of the Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis.  The number had never before finished last in an XFINITY Series race at Chicagoland.

40) #15-Matt Mills / 3 laps / vibration
39) #93-Jeff Green / 8 laps / brakes
38) #89-Morgan Shepherd / 23 laps / handling
37) #40-Garrett Smithley / 24 laps / engine
36) #13-Timmy Hill / 33 laps / vibration

1st) RSS Racing (14)
2nd) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Shepherd Racing Ventures (2)
3rd) Chip Ganassi Racing, JD Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Kaulig Racing, King Autosport, Motorsports Business Management, Richard Childress Racing, SS Green Light Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (24)
2nd) Dodge, Toyota (1)


TRUCKS: Mike Senica finishes last at Chicagoland uncontested, but Bottom Five becomes a battle

PHOTO: Robert Taylor
Mike Senica picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Friday’s 225 at the Chicagoland Speedway when his unsponsored #57 Norm Benning Racing Chevrolet fell out with rear gear trouble without completing any of the 225 laps.

The finish, which came in Senica’s fifth series start, was his second of the year and first since Pocono, four races ago.  With seven races to go, Senica joins what is now a four-way tie for the 2017 LASTCAR Truck Series lead, and is tied with Tommy Regan for the third seed.  The LASTCAR title leader is now Joe Nemechek, who takes the lead for the first time in 2017 on a Bottom Ten tiebreaker with Todd Peck, 8-7.  Nemechek, a two-time LASTCAR Cup Series Champion, looks to become the first driver in NASCAR history to claim LASTCAR titles in both Cup and Trucks.

The 51-year-old wrestler turned racer has remained with Norm Benning Racing since his Pocono last-place finish.  He ran 27th of 30 at Michigan, failed to qualify for the first time at Bristol, then ran third from last once more at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.  As at Pocono, Senica would run double-duty with the ARCA Racing Series and the Truck Series.  His weekend thus began in Wayne Hixon’s #3 Bell Plantation Chevrolet on Thursday night in ARCA’s Scott 150 on the 1.5-mile track.  That night, Senica started 26th in the 31-car field and finished 23rd, flagged off the track after 32 laps for running too slow.

Speed has remained an issue for Senica, despite his clear “start-and-park” duty for Norm Benning.  After he didn’t participate in Thursday’s opening practice, he turned a single lap in Happy Hour of just 123.873mph.  The lap was more than eight seconds slower than the next-slowest truck of Tommy Regan and nearly 13 seconds off the top speed by Johnny Sauter.  In qualifying, Senica picked up just over a second, securing the 32nd and final starting spot with a lap of 127.920mph.  Even then, he was still nearly seven seconds off the next-slowest truck of Jennifer Jo Cobb.

When the race started, it appeared that Senica’s did not as the Leaderboard did not indicate a gap from the leader back to the #57, still classified last.  On Lap 2, Gray Gaulding in Premium Motorsports’ new second truck, the #15 Chevrolet, slowed to a crawl on the apron of Turns 1 and 2.  The caution wasn’t thrown until the next time by, at which point the #15 had barely made it to Turn 3.  From that point, FOX Sports 1’s broadcast would show Gaulding’s #15 in last behind Senica, an error that wasn’t corrected until the end of Stage 1.

While Senica never gave up last place that night, the rest of the Bottom Five changed through the first 100 laps.  It all began with another six drivers who appeared to have parked within the first 12 laps.  The first of these was Jennifer Jo Cobb, who was selected as one of the six drivers to carry a Nickelodeon and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles paint scheme.  Under the Gaulding caution, she pulled her orange #10 “Rebel Road” Chevrolet behind the wall, dropping her to 30th ahead of Gaulding and Senica.  She was joined on Lap 7 by Joe Nemechek in an all-black #87 D.A.B. Constructors Chevrolet, then three laps after by B.J. McLeod in Mike Mittler’s second truck, the #36 MB Motorsports Chevrolet.  On that same tenth lap, the caution fell for McLeod’s teammate Kevin Donahue, whose #63 Chevrolet hit the wall in Turn 2, placing him 27th.  The next time by, Mike Harmon pulled his #74 Chevrolet in, edging Tommy Regan, who parked Cobb’s #0 Chevrolet.  At this point, everyone from 25th on back looked to be done for the day with only Donahue’s #63 out from a crash.  By Lap 16, the order of the “behind the wall gang” was as follows:

32) #57-Mike Senica / 0 laps / OUT
31) #15-Gray Gaulding / 1 lap / OFF
30) #10-Jennifer Jo Cobb / 3 laps / OFF
29) #87-Joe Nemechek / 7 laps / OUT
28) #36-B.J. McLeod / 10 laps / OUT
27) #63-Kevin Donahue / 10 laps / OUT
26) #74-Mike Harmon / 11 laps / OFF
25) #0-Tommy Regan / 11 laps / OUT

A few laps later, the three drivers listed as “off” returned to the track.  The first of these was Mike Harmon, who by Lap 17 was back out, six laps down.  He ended up turning just one circuit, moving him ahead of Tommy Regan before he cited transmission problems for his DNF.  The next was Gray Gaulding, who found himself in a similar position with Premium Motorsports at Kentucky after his #55 Cup car broke down on the opening lap.  There, as here, Gaulding returned to the track several laps down on the 61st circuit, allowing him to jump seven spots before fuel pump issues left him 25th.  Not long after, Jennifer Jo Cobb also came back on track, dropping Joe Nemechek to 31st.  In the end, she passed the entire group and edged Gaulding for 24th by two laps.

All this left Nemechek, McLeod, Donahue, and Regan – who didn’t return – to fill out the Bottom Five.

*This marked the first time in two consecutive Truck Series last-place finishers failed to complete the opening lap since July 7, 2016, when Brandon Brown’s engine failure at Gateway was followed by Caleb Roark’s electrical issue at Kentucky.  As of this writing, it has never happened in three straight Truck Series races.
*This marked the first last-place finish for truck #57 in a Truck Series race at Chicagoland.

32) #57-Mike Senica / 0 laps / rear gear
31) #87-Joe Nemechek / 7 laps / vibration
30) #36-B.J. McLeod / 10 laps / electrical
29) #63-Kevin Donahue / 10 laps / crash
28) #0-Tommy Regan / 11 laps / engine

1st) Norm Benning Racing (4)
2nd) Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing (3)
3rd) Copp Motorsports, NEMCO Motorsports (2)
4th) Halmar Friesen Racing, Henderson Motorsports, MB Motorsports, MDM Motorsports, TJL Motorsports (1)

1st) Chevrolet (16)


Friday, September 15, 2017

Entry List Storylines: Chicagoland

Tales of the Turtles 400 at Chicagoland

Based on the preliminary entry lists, Chicagoland was set to mark the first time in 2017 where all three of NASCAR’s top divisions would have short fields.  By Thursday, late additions came to the rescue for all three.

The preliminary list for Sunday’s Cup playoff opener showed 39 cars for 40 spots, which was increased back to 40 by the addition of Rick Ware Racing’s #51 Chevrolet.  Driving for Ware this week is XFINITY Series regular Ray Black, Jr., who after 31 Truck Series starts and 51 in XFINITY will make his Cup debut.  Black finished 28th in last year’s XFINITY race at the 1.5-mile oval, but will not run double-duty with the SS-Green Light team on Saturday as Spencer Boyd will drive the #07.

Both of BK Racing’s cars made the preliminary entry list, but the drivers weren’t updated until Tuesday.  Corey LaJoie returns to the #23 for the first time since Darlington to make his first NASCAR start at Chicagoland.  While his XFINITY ride for JGL Racing was withdrawn (see below), LaJoie’s Cup ride will carry sponsorship from Jewel Osco.  Driving the #83 at BK is Brett Moffitt, who we haven’t seen in Cup since his 32nd-place finish last month at Michigan.  Moffitt has one Cup start at Chicagoland in 2015, when he finished 31st for Front Row Motorsports.

Moffitt takes the place of Gray Gaulding, who after a two-race stint with BK at Darlington and Richmond will return to Premium Motorsports for the first time since Bristol. Gaulding’s #55 Toyota will be sponsored by the U.S. First Responders Association, and he will also run for Premium in Friday’s Truck Series race (see below).  Reed Sorenson remains in Premium’s #15 Low T Centers Chevrolet for Sunday, a track where his best series finish was a 7th in 2006. Sorenson drives in place of Derrike Cope, who parted ways with Premium after Richmond.

Timmy Hill will drive for Motorsports Business Management at Kansas with U.S. Chrome as sponsor for the #66 Chevrolet.  It will be Hill’s first Cup start at Chicagoland since 2015, when he ran 41st for Premium Motorsports, and his first with U.S. Chrome at the track since 2013, when he drove for Go FAS Racing.

Congratulations to Michael McDowell and Leavine Family Racing, whose series of strong runs have been rewarded with not one, but two new sponsor announcements.  Debuting on the car this week is Devour Frozen Meals (whose tagline is the cheeky “Food You Want To Fork”), followed by a multiple-race sponsorship from Procore starting next Sunday in New Hampshire.  McDowell is still looking for a strong run at Chicagoland, where his best finish in six starts was a 32nd in 2014, and where last year a flat tire on his #95 drew a controversial late-race caution.

With The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as the title brand for Sunday’s race, there will also be a collection of special paint schemes with the stylized characters.  Among them will be Matt DiBenedetto’s #32 Incredible Bank Ford and Jeffrey Earnhardt’s #33 Hulu Chevrolet.

XFINITY SERIES 300 at Chicagoland

As of this writing, the XFINITY Series entry list stands at 40 cars, narrowly averting the first short field in 2017.  Monday’s preliminary list promised to be even shorter following a season-high three preliminary withdrawals from a list of 40.  On top of GMS Racing’s #96 for Ben Kennedy (the team’s third withdrawal of the season) and JD Motorsports’ “start-and-park” #15 for Garret Smithley (the team's sixth withdrawal, see below), Chicagoland saw the first withdrawal of the season for JGL Racing’s #24, which had up to this point run every race this season.  Corey LaJoie, originally slated to drive for JGL this Saturday, will instead focus on Sunday’s Cup race for BK Racing.

Bringing the entry list from 37 to 39 were the late additions Tuesday of owner-drivers Mike Harmon for Veterans Motorsports, Inc. in the #74 Dodge as well as Morgan Shepherd in his #89 Visone RV Motorhome Parts Chevrolet.  Harmon’s best finish in 10 XFINITY starts at Chicagoland was a 22nd-place run in 2003.  He will also run Friday’s Truck Series race (see below).  Shepherd’s best in eight starts were a pair of 25th-place runs in 2010 and 2011.

Getting the list to 40 cars took until just yesterday, when JD Motorsports re-entered the withdrawn #15 with Matt Mills driving. Garrett Smithley, originally slated to run the #15 before it withdrew, will instead drive a one-off in MBM's #40 Toyota alongside Timmy Hill in the #13. Driving in place of Smithley in the JD #0 is first-year K&N Pro Series East and ARCA driver Vinnie Miller, making his series debut. Smithley is expected to return to the #0 next week.

Welcome back Chris Cockrum and Jeff Spraker’s #25 Advanced Communications Group Chevrolet, a driver and team we haven’t seen in the series since their 26th-place finish at Daytona in July.  Cockrum’s speedway-exclusive schedule carries him into his first series start at Chicagoland.  Also making his first Chicagoland start in the series is Canada’s Mario Gosselin, who is currently listed as the driver of his own #90 Chevrolet for his first start since Indianapolis.

Following finishes of 28th, 29th, and 12th during last month’s three road courses, Josh Bilicki makes his first oval-track start in the series since Michigan in B.J. McLeod’s #78 Prevagen Chevrolet.  McLeod himself, replaced by Ray Black, Jr. at Rick Ware Racing in Cup, will return to his own #8 Chevrolet, leaving Tommy Joe Martins without a ride following his 29th-place run at Richmond.

Road America winner Jeremy Clements has been solid at Chicagoland in recent years, finishing inside the Top 20 in four of his last five starts, including a track-best 13th in 2014.

The Nickelodeon / Ninja Turtle group in XFINITY includes Matt Tifft (#19) and Darrell Wallace, Jr. (#98).  Wallace’s “Green Slime” scheme will be on Biagi-DenBeste Racing’s Ford.  Wallace’s best finish in three XFINITY starts at Chicagoland was a 3rd in the fall of 2015, when he trailed Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth.

Contesting Saturday’s win will be Cup Series regulars Austin Dillon (#2), Ty Dillon (#3), Daniel Suarez (#18), Erik Jones (#20), Ryan Blaney (#22), and Kyle Larson (#42).

TRUCK SERIES 225 at Chicagoland

30 trucks made Monday’s preliminary list for Friday’s first race of the weekend, but Tuesday’s addition of two trucks has now set a full field of 32.  Joining the preliminary list are Ted Minor, who we last saw finish 27th at Iowa in June, back behind the wheel of his #14 Edge-Guard Chevrolet, and Mike Harmon’s #74, which returned to battle two weeks ago at Mosport, with Harmon himself making his first Truck start since Eldora.  Weeks ago, Mike Affarano was originally slated to make his return to the series for the first time since 2015, but he has since decided not to enter his #03 Chevrolet.

Friday will see Kevin Donahue’s first Truck Series start since he ran 28th at Iowa in June (driving the #63 Mittler Brothers Chevrolet alongside B.J. McLeod in the #36), Myatt Snider’s first start with KBM since his 16th-place run at Kentucky, and will also see Regan Smith and Ricky Benton’s #92 Ford make their first start since a 14th-place finish at Bristol.  Justin Fontaine returns to the series for the first time since Pocono, this time driving Al Niece’s #45 Chevrolet.

Five trucks are missing from Mosport.  Tim Self’s #22 isn’t in the field, so driver Austin Wayne Self will return to Martins Motorsports’ #44 which was withdrawn in Canada.  Bolen Motorsports’ #66 is missing for the third time in four races despite finishing 15th their last two times out.  MDM Motorsports’ #99 is not entered for just the third time this year and the first since Pocono.  The other missing trucks are Charlie Henderson’s #75 and Gaunt Brothers Racing’s #96.

For the first time in their three years in the series, Premium Motorsports will enter two trucks in the same race.  Joining Wendell Chavous, who makes his Chicagoland debut in Jay Robinson’s primary #49 is Cup rookie Gray Gaulding, who will pull double-duty for the same team in Cup and Trucks.  On Friday, Gaulding will drive a #15 Chevrolet.  It will be Gaulding’s first Truck Series start since October 31, 2015, when he finished 21st for Kyle Busch Motorsports at Martinsville.

Chicagoland is also expected to be the last race missed by Stewart Friesen as his Halmar Friesen Racing team finishes its support transition from Tommy Baldwin Racing to GMS Racing.

As he did at Pocono, Mike Senica will pull double-duty between ARCA and the Truck Series, driving for Wayne Hixson in the former and Norm Benning in the latter.  At Mosport, Senica continued his bid to climb the LASTCAR rankings as clutch issues parked him after two laps, ranking him just ahead of Joe Nemechek and Tommy Regan.  Both Nemechek and Regan are entered again for Friday in the same #87 and #0, respectively.  The 2017 LASTCAR lead remains with Todd Peck, who isn’t entered, by virtue of a bottom-five tiebreaker with Nemechek and Regan.

Finally, kudos to both NEMCO Motorsports and particularly Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing, which both secured wraps for the Nickelodeon / Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles weekend. John Hunter Nemechek's #8 will run a green paint scheme while Jennifer Jo Cobb's #10 will be bright orange.