Friday, March 2, 2018

PREVIEW: Premium Motorsports brings Cup field up to 37 starters, shortest in Cup history at Las Vegas

PHOTO: Stephen Borodkin
Friday, February 24, 2017
TRUCKS Race 3 of 23
Stratosphere 200 at Las Vegas
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Inaugural Event

There are 32 trucks for 32 spots, meaning that all listed entries will qualify for the race. It’s one fewer entry than last week in Atlanta, but three more than the last Truck Series race here last fall, when just 29 took the green.

DRIVER CHANGE: #0-Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing
Mike Senica is set to make his season debut, driving in place of Joey Gase in the second Cobb truck. Senica brings in sponsorship from offseason from Betty Lou’s and P3 Power Products. Norm Benning Racing has yet to field Senica’s 2017 ride, the #57 Chevrolet, this season.

DRIVER CHANGE: #1-TJL Motorsports
TJL Motorsports wasn't originally listed on the preliminary entry list, but by Tuesday the team posted that they were loading up a white Chevrolet for Tommy Regan to run this weekend. Clay Greenfield, who was flagged off the track last week, doesn't have a ride this weekend.

DRIVER SWAP: #4, #51-Kyle Busch Motorsports
Spencer Davis and Kyle Busch have swapped rides this week with Davis in the #4 and Busch in the #51.

MISSING: #7-All Out Motorsports
The #7 team and Korbin Forrister finished 16th at both Daytona and Atlanta, but are not entered this week.

RETURNING: #87-NEMCO Motorsports
With Kyle Larson returning to the seat of Ganassi’s #42 XFINITY Series ride, John Hunter Nemechek returns to his #8 on the Truck Series side, and his father Joe will be move back behind the #87 not entered last week.

DRIVER CHANGE: #20-Young’s Motorsports
Last week, Daytona 500 winner Austin Dillon managed a 10th-place finish in the Young team’s #20. This week, French driver Michel Disdier makes his first series start since the 2016 Daytona opener, where he ran 11th for Bobby Dotter. Tyler Young had been the listed entry until Thursday.

UPDATE: #49-Premium Motorsports
Wendell Chavous is again entered in his #49 Chevrolet after he fell ill at Atlanta and had to hand the wheel over to Ross Chastain.

DRIVER CHANGE: #50-Beaver Motorsports
B.J. McLeod will turn double-duty this weekend in place of Travis Kvapil, who finished last at Daytona and failed to qualify at Atlanta.

55-year-old Bo LeMastus isn’t entered this week following finishes of 30th and 17th in the season’s first two rounds. In his place will be Justin Marks, who we last saw finish 12th in the Daytona 500. As of this writing, we are still awaiting the entry of DGR-Crosley’s second truck, the #17, and the series return of K&N Pro Series West standout Chris Eggleston.

DRIVER CHANGE: #63-MB Motorsports
In place of Akinori Ogata, who wrecked last week in Atlanta, Mike Mittler has tabbed Bayley Currey to drive the #63 this weekend. The Texas native made his series debut in three of the last four races in 2017, finishing a season-best 10th for D.J. Copp at Phoenix.

DRIVER CHANGE: #74-Mike Harmon Racing
After Tim Viens failed to qualify last week in Atlanta, Mike Harmon will drive his own truck.

CUP INVADERS: #51-Kyle Busch

Saturday, March 3, 2018
XFINITY Race 3 of 33
Boyd Gaming 300 at Las Vegas
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Jordan Anderson

There are 40 cars entered for 40 spots, meaning that all teams will start. That is down three entries from last week in Atlanta.

DRIVER CHANGE: #3-Richard Childress Racing
The Dillon brothers swap Richard Childress’ #3 car with Austin Dillon moving in place of Ty, who ran 13th last Saturday.

MISSING: #12-Penske Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #60-Roush-Fenway Racing
Austin Cindric recovered from his disaster at Daytona with a 7th-place run at Atlanta. This week, Penske Racing’s #12 isn’t entered, so he moves back to Roush-Fenway’s #60, taking the place of 15th-place finisher Chase Briscoe.

DRIVER CHANGE: #18-Joe Gibbs Racing
A stacked field of Cup invaders is headed by Las Vegas native Kyle Busch, who takes the place of last week’s 8th-place finisher Kyle Benjamin.

ADDED: #22-Penske Racing
In place of Penske’s #12 Ford will be the returning #22, which has brought with it Cup regular Joey Logano. UPDATE: As of Friday, the driver is now Ryan Blaney.

DRIVER CHANGE: #42-Chip Ganassi Racing
John Hunter Nemechek finished a strong 4th last week in Atlanta. Regardless, he’s out of the car this week and Cup regular Kyle Larson is in.

MISSING: #98-Stewart-Haas Racing with Biagi-DenBeste
After Kevin Harvick cruised to the first part of his double-header sweep at Atlanta, both he and the #98 team are not entered this weekend, capping the Cup invaders at four.

WITHDREW: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
McLeod's third car is entered, but withdrawn without an entered driver for the second straight race. By bringing the field down to 40 cars, this effectively locked in Josh Bilicki, whose #45 from JP Motorsports failed to qualify for the first two rounds.

CUP INVADERS: #3-Austin Dillon, #18-Kyle Busch, #22-Ryan Blaney, #42-Kyle Larson

Sunday, March 4, 2018
CUP Race 3 of 36
Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube at Las Vegas
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Corey LaJoie

There are 37 cars entered for 40 spots, meaning that all entered drivers will qualify. It’s the second-consecutive short field in 2018, but one team more than last week in Atlanta. Regardless, Sunday will set the record for the shortest Cup field at Las Vegas, beating the previous record of 39 cars in the last two runnings.

LATE DRIVER ANNOUNCEMENT: #15-Premium Motorsports
Ross Chastain’s unexpected tripleheader weekend in Atlanta was capped by an uneventful 30th-place finish last week. He returns for his second-straight start this week, added to the roster by Wednesday.

SPONSOR CHANGE: #43-Richard Petty Motorsports
As RPM’s sponsorship for Darrell Wallace, Jr. continues to come together, the team will continue the tradition of programs sponsored by local hotels and attractions as “The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas” will back the #43 effort.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Rick Ware Racing
While originally listed under Justin Marks, Cole Custer will drive in place of fellow XFINITY Series regular Harrison Rhodes. Rhodes finished 33rd last week, though he showed speed early when racing Jeffrey Earnhardt and Ross Chastain for position. Custer’s car will be a Ford in place of a typical Ware-prepared Chevrolet. Reports indicate Custer’s Ford will be prepared by his XFINITY car owner Stewart-Haas Racing, much as Kerry Earnhardt’s 2000 Cup debut was in a DEI car fielded by Dave Marcis.

ADDED: #55-Premium Motorsports
Just like in 2016, Premium Motorsports is helping fill short fields by fielding the first new Open team of 2018. Premium last fielded the #55 at Kansas last fall, though they’d entered a second Open car – the ex-Tommy Baldwin #7 – as recently as last fall at Phoenix. Sunday’s driver will be the same one from Phoenix, Joey Gase, who brings with him sponsorship from the Nevada Donor Network. Gase’s most recent Cup start was last year’s Homestead finale, when he finished last for BK Racing.

Coming into this weekend’s Cup race, the #55 is tied with the #19 for the second-most last-place finishes in series history with 46 apiece. The number’s first last-place run came with none other than Junior Johnson on May 12, 1956, during a 200-lapper at the Hickory Speedway. Johnson started 3rd that day, but burned a piston on his 1956 Pontiac after only nine laps. The number has since finished last with Don Hamilton, Tiny Lund, Jimmy Thompson, Jerry Draper, Earl Brooks, John Banks, Tommy Ellis, Benny Parsons, Phil Parsons, Jimmy Hensley, Kenny Wallace, Bobby Hamilton, Michael Waltrip, Michael McDowell, Dave Blaney, Jeff Green, J.J. Yeley, Travis Kvapil, Brian Vickers, and most recently last spring at Talladega by Reed Sorenson.

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