Friday, February 23, 2018

PREVIEW: Without Open teams at Atlanta, track sees shortest Cup field since 1976

Jack Donohue loses an engine at Atlanta, 1976
PHOTO: Historical Stock Car Racing Forum
Saturday, February 24, 2018
TRUCKS Race 2 of 23
Active Pest Control 200 at Atlanta
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Todd Peck

There are 34 trucks entered for 32 spots, down four trucks from last week’s race in Daytona. Two trucks will miss the show.

RETURNING: #0-Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing
After her hard crash last week in Daytona, Jennifer Jo Cobb has entered her second truck, the #0, for the first time since last fall at Homestead. The driver is Joey Gase, who despite his developing Cup and XFINITY career has never started a Truck Series race. He was entered in the Cobb truck last year at Kentucky, again in the #0, but was withdrawn. It's as yet unclear whether this team will be a "start-and-park," as it has been used in the past.

DRIVER CHANGE: #1-TJL Motorsports
One week after B.J. McLeod failed to qualify as a last-minute replacement for J.J. Yeley, TJL Motorsports has selected another driver to be announced. UPDATE: Clay Greenfield became the driver on Friday, one week after hos strong qualifying run at Daytona.

MANUFACTURER CHANGE: #3-Jordan Anderson Racing
Jordan Anderson saved his Toyota from disastwr when he spun to safety across the finish line. Nevertheless, he's driving a Chevrolet this weekend.

DRIVER CHANGE: #20-Young's Motorsports
UPDATE: Daytona 500 champion Austin Dillon takes the controls of Young's #20 this weekend, replacing Scott Lagasse, Jr. According to Bob Pockrass, the majority of this truck's season will go to development driver Tanner Thorson.

CLOSED: #28-FDNY Racing
Bryan Dauzat threatened for a Top 10 finish last week in Daytona, only to be involved in a late-race accident that left him 18th. With that, Jim Rosenblum’s Truck Series team has closed its doors after 53 series starts. T.J. Clark picked up their best series finish at Phoenix in 1996, coming home 12th.

MISSING: #47-Chris Fontaine
Chris Fontaine’s electrical issues left him 29th at Daytona, and his next start will likely be Talladega, as it has in all but one year since 2013.

DRIVER CHANGE: #63-MB Motorsports
In place of ARCA veteran Bobby Gerhart, who failed to qualify at Daytona, Mike Mittler brings back Akinori Ogata of Japan to attempt his seventh series start. Ogata finished 30th in this race last year for Beaver Motorsports.

MISSING: #68-Clay Greenfield Racing
A sterling 3rd-place qualifying run in the #PleaseStand Chevrolet ended with a brutal crash in the final 20 laps of Friday’s race, leaving him a disappointing 22nd. The team isn’t entered this week, their return to be announced. UPDATE: Greenfield is driving TJL's #1 truck.

DRIVER CHANGE: #74-Mike Harmon Racing
Mike Harmon returns to the controls of his own #74 Chevrolet, one week after Cody Ware failed to qualify at Daytona.

MISSING: #87-NEMCO Motorsports
NEMCO Motorsports scaled back from two trucks at Daytona to just one this week, parking the #87 that Joe Nemechek drove to a spirited 3rd-place finish last week. The reason for the reduction is John Hunter Nemechek will make his first XFINITY start of the season in Ganassi’s #42 Chevrolet. Joe will take the controls of John Hunter’s #8 on Friday.

RETURNING: #97-JJL Motorsports
After a successful limited schedule in 2017, it was announced January 22 that Chad Little’s son Jesse will run more races this year, starting this week. In place of last year’s black Toyota, the team will run a blue Ford sponsored by JJL Marketing Developments. The team debuted their new website on February 13.

CUP INVADERS: #4-Kyle Busch

Saturday, February 24, 2018
XFINITY Race 2 of 33
Rinnai 250 at Atlanta
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Blake Koch

There are 43 cars entered for 40 spots, down three from Daytona. Three cars will miss the show. UPDATE: Make that 42 with the withdrawal of the McLeod #99 on Friday.

DRIVER CHANGE: #0-JD Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #15-JD Motorsports
After Joe Nemechek turned heads with a strong run at Daytona, and Matt Mills was originally reported to drive the #15 this weekend at Atlanta, the entry list now indicates that Mills will swap rides with Garrett Smithley, putting Mills in the #0 and Smithley in the #15.

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Tommy Joe Martins was at the Daytona 500 last week in the Go FAS Racing pits, and this week makes his first XFINITY start of the season, taking the place of Caesar Bacarella in the #8. Martins made nine series starts last year with a season-best 11th at Iowa.

RETURNING: #12-Penske Racing
Following a disappointing last-place finish at Daytona with Roush-Fenway, Austin Cindric begins his split-season with Penske Racing in the #12 sponsored by Fitzgerald Glider Kits. It promises to be the first XFINITY start for Penske’s #12 since Sam Hornish, Jr.’s runner-up performance at Charlotte last fall.

DRIVER CHANGE: #18-Joe Gibbs Racing
In place of Cup regular Daniel Suarez, who drove the car at Daytona, K&N Pro Series upstart Kyle Benjamin returns to action. In a five-race stint for Gibbs last year, Benjamin took the pole at Pocono and Kentucky and finished a season-best runner-up to teammate Ryan Preece at Iowa. Preece is not entered this week as Brandon Jones and Christopher Bell continue their full-time efforts in the #19 and #20.

MISSING: #25-ACG Racing
Chris Cockrum came up just short of a starting spot in last Saturday’s race, and Jeff Spraker’s team isn’t entered this weekend.

J.J. Yeley and Ryan Sieg swap rides from Daytona with Yeley now in the #93 and Sieg in the #39. Jeff Green remains in the third RSS car, the #38 Chevrolet.

DRIVER CHANGE: #42-Chip Ganassi Racing
The XFINITY Series debut of John Hunter Nemechek is on schedule for this weekend as he takes the place of Kyle Larson in Ganassi’s #42 Chevrolet, sponsored by NEMCO backer Fire Alarm Systems. Nemechek won the Truck Series race at Atlanta two years ago.

MISSING: #54-NXT Motorsports
One week after their rear gear issue at Daytona with Gray Gaulding driving, NXT Motorsports has not entered their #54 Toyota.

DRIVER CHANGE: #60-Roush-Fenway Racing
Taking the controls of the #60 this week is Chase Briscoe, who makes his XFINITY Series debut in an unsponsored Ford. Briscoe finished 25th in the Truck Series race here last year for Brad Keselowski Racing.

MANUFACTURER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
After he was bumped from the Daytona field at the last moment, Timmy Hill returns with a blue Dodge in place of last week's white Toyota

DRIVER CHANGE: #78-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
An overtime tangle with Kyle Larson ended Ryan Ellis’ return to action last Saturday, leaving him 30th in the final running order. Team owner B.J. McLeod takes over the controls while Tommy Joe Martins drives his #8 Chevrolet.

MISSING: #86-Brandonbilt Motorsports
Brandon Brown showed speed last week in Daytona, but his family’s team has elected not to enter Atlanta following their involvement in last week’s backstretch pileup.

MISSING: #88-JR Motorsports
JR Motorsports drops from five teams to four this weekend, leaving out the #88 that Chase Elliott drove to a 12th-place finish.

WITHDREW: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
After Ray Black, Jr. wound up the fastest driver to miss the cut last week in Daytona, McLeod was originally going to enter the #99 - UPDATE: but withdrew on Friday without assigning a driver.

CUP INVADERS: #3-Ty Dillon, #22-Joey Logano, #98-Kevin Harvick

Sunday, February 25, 2018
CUP Race 2 of 36
Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Cody Ware

There are just 36 cars entered for 40 spots as, for the first time in series history, all four Open teams are unused, leaving only the 36 Chartered entries. Just seven times before have that few cars started a Cup race at Atlanta, most recently on November 7, 1976, when Jack Donohue’s engine let go on the first lap.

DRIVER & NUMBER CHANGE: #15-Premium Motorsports
After being used for Danica Patrick’s final start and being entered as car #7, Premium Motorsports’ Chartered entry returns to car #15, the same number it obtained last year from the shuttered HScott Motorsports. Their driver is Ross Chastain, who had an impressive Cup debut at Dover last year, but was withdrawn from what would have been his most recent attempt last fall at Homestead.

STILL THERE: #23-BK Racing
The 36 Chartered teams entered includes BK Racing as they begin to reorganize their program following last Thursday’s judgment. Gray Gaulding returns to drive this weekend, but the car may again arrive without a sponsor as none has yet been announced.

SPONSOR UPDATE: #43-Richard Petty Motorsports
On the heels of his runner-up finish in the Daytona 500, Darrell Wallace, Jr. has picked up sponsorship from the NASCAR Racing Experience. Associate sponsorship arrived Tuesday from Ohio-based E.E. Ward Moving & Storage, at 137 years the oldest African-American-owned business still operating in the United States.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Rick Ware Racing
After a strong 12th-place finish by Justin Marks in the Daytona 500, XFINITY Series regular Harrison Rhodes is scheduled to make his Cup Series debut in the #51 Chevrolet. Rhodes, who has not run since last season's XFINITY finale at Homestead, has three Atlanta XFINITY starts with a best finish of 24th.

MISSING: #62-Beard Motorsports
MISSING: #66-Motorsports Business Management
MISSING: #92-Ricky Benton Racing
MISSING: #96-Gaunt Brothers Racing
All four Open teams from the Daytona 500 are not entered. According to Brendan Gaughan himself, Beard Motorsports’ #62 will return at Talladega, continuing their exclusive focus on the plate tracks. The same is likely to happen with the Gaunt Brothers’ #96, which did so in the first two plate races last year. The next starts for MBM’s #66 and Benton’s #92 are, as yet, unknown. David Gilliland, who finished 14th with Benton in the 500, has indicated he may be done running Cup to focus on son Todd's efforts.

DRIVER CHANGE: #72-TriStar Motorsports
Following Corey LaJoie's disappointing last-place finish in the Daytona 500, Cole Whitt's split season with LaJoie begins this weekend. Whitt, who ran full-time for TriStar last year, finished 20th in this race in 2017, his fourth-best finish of the entire season.

Ever wonder who Jack Zink is, the guy who’s at the very bottom of the LASTCAR rankings? Born on October 17, 1928, Zink was an engineer and racing enthusiast, most notably his family’s efforts at the Indianapolis 500. His lone recorded Cup start came at his home track, a half-mile dirt oval in Oklahoma City, on August 3, 1956. Driving his own 1956 Pontiac, car #88, Zink started 7th in a field of 12, but overheated after just 10 laps to score his lone last-place finish. Zink entered the next race, to be run the following day on a track in Tulsa, but the event was cancelled due to terrible track conditions. At the time the race was cancelled on Lap 34 of 200, Zink had already crashed out, finishing third-from last in his #88. Since the race was cancelled, neither Zink’s start nor Bill Moore’s last-place run are officially recorded. Zink passed away in 2005.

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