Friday, March 23, 2018

PREVIEW: Several new faces – and some familiar ones – look to make their season debuts at Martinsville

PHOTO: @ryandaleydesign
Saturday, March 24, 2018
TRUCKS Race 4 of 23
Alpha Energy Solutions 250 at Martinsville
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Bryce Napier

ENTRY LIST
There are 36 drivers listed to attempt Saturday’s 32-truck field, meaning that four will miss the show. UPDATE: Down to 34 on Friday after the withdrawals of the #35, #87.

MISSING: #0-Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing
Both Mike Senica and Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing’s second truck, the #0, are missing from this week’s list following a brief appearance in Las Vegas. UPDATE: The #0 is still not entered, but Senica will drive the #1 (see below).

DRIVER CHANGE: #1-TJL Motorsports
XFINITY Series team owner-driver B.J. McLeod ran 23rd for Beaver Motorsports at Las Vegas, and this week moves to the #1 entry owned by Mark Beaver’s former partner Tracy Lowe. McLeod replaces Tommy Regan, who is not entered this week. UPDATE: As of Friday, Mike Senica is driving this truck with returning sponsors  P3 Products, Inc. and Betty Lou's.

DRIVER CHANGE: #4-Kyle Busch Motorsports
Todd Gilliland prepares to make his seventh Truck Series start this weekend and his first since last fall in Phoenix, when he ran 7th. Gilliland ran last fall’s Truck race at Martinsville, finishing 5th in Busch’s #46. This time he drives the #4 truck in place of Spencer Davis, who ran 13th in Las Vegas.

DRIVER CHANGE: #20-Youngs Motorsports
Martinsville has traditionally been the place where drivers aim to make their debut in NASCAR’s top three series, and Saturday is no exception. First of this group is Charlotte native Reid Wilson. Third in the 2014 X-1R Pro Cup Series standings (the top-ranked driver to not run the entire 12-race schedule), Wilson has most recently made eight starts in the K&N Pro Series East with a pair of 6th-place runs at Greenville-Pickens and New Smyrna his career best. Driving in place of Las Vegas driver Michel Disdier, Wilson’s truck will be sponsored by OEM2 Powered by TruNorth.

WITHDREW: #35-NextGen Motorsports
NextGen Motorsports, which made its XFINITY Series debut last year at Kansas with Josh Berry, will now turn its attention to the Truck Series, bringing with it 2003 series champion Travis Kvapil. The team has entered a year-old Chevrolet and does not as yet have a primary sponsor. UPDATE: This team withdrew on Friday.

DRIVER CHANGE: #50-Beaver Motorsports
With B.J. McLeod driving TJL’s #1 truck, the vacancy at Beaver Motorsports falls to Dawson Cram. Last fall, Cram was preparing to make his series debut at Martinsville, looking to qualify in his family’s #11 Bojangles’ / Fluidyne High Performance Chevrolet. Unfortunately, the engine blew in practice, forcing him to withdraw. Team owner Mark Beaver’s experience in the sport should come in handy, and could give the 16-year-old Cram his series debut.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Kyle Busch Motorsports
Kyle Busch’s other hot shoe will be Harrison Burton, who drives in place of Busch himself. Burton makes his Truck Series debut this weekend, his first since this same track last October, when he ran a career-best 4th with this same team. More recently, Burton won the pole for the K&N Pro Series East opener in New Smyrna before finishing 3rd, and on Sunday took the checkers in the Rattler 250 late model race, getting the better of Jeff Choquette.

DRIVER CHANGE: #54-DGR-Crosley
In place of Justin Marks, who earned an 11th-place finish for the team in Las Vegas, 20-year-old Kyle Benjamin will look to make his Truck Series debut. Benjamin has six XFINITY Series starts to his credit driving for Joe Gibbs Racing, including a pair of poles at Pocono and Kentucky and an 8th this past February in Atlanta. The preliminary entry list incorrectly showed team co-owner David Gilliland as Saturday’s driver.

RETURNING: #57-Norm Benning Racing
Norm Benning enters his second truck, the black #57 Chevrolet, for the first time in 2018. However, the truck won’t be driven by Mike Senica, but instead Jeff Zillweger. Zillweger will make a unique jump to one of NASCAR’s top three series, this time from the Super Cup Stock Car Series, a short track circuit with races near his hometown of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. A picture from Benning’s shop shows that Zomongo, which backed B.J. McLeod’s XFINITY Series teams at Daytona, will sponsor the effort.

DRIVER CHANGE: #63-MB Motorsports
There will not be a third-consecutive last-place finish for Scott Stenzel, who is not entered this week, but did drive the Mike Mittler #63 in Las Vegas. In his place at Martinsville is 23-year-old Kevin Donahue, who we last saw in the series finish 29th at Chicagoland last year. If he qualifies, Saturday will be Donahue’s eighth series start.

WITHDREW: #87-NEMCO Motorsports
Joe Nemechek was to drive alongside his son Saturday, but withdrew his #87 on Friday.

RETURNING: #92-Ricky Benton Racing Enterprises
Following a 14th-place finish with David Gilliland in the Daytona 500, Ricky Benton’s Truck Series team aims to make its 2018 season debut. Behind the wheel of the #92 Ford is series veteran Timothy Peters, who we last saw finish 10th for Young’s Motorsports at Homestead last fall. As in the past, the Benton truck will carry several sponsors: BTS Tire & Wheel, Commercial Tire & Service, Advance Auto Parts, Carquest, and Valvoline.

RETURNING: #99-MDM Motorsports
Also looking to make their 2018 season debut is MDM Motorsports, the team which picked up an encumbered win at Michigan last year with Darrell Wallace, Jr. Driving this week is short tracker Tyler Matthews, who seeks to make his Truck Series debut. The Chevrolet will be sponsored by BB&T Scott Stringfellow.

NEW TEAM: #04-Roper Racing
Another new face – and team – this week is Baytown, Texas native Cory Roper, who will run a cherry-red #04 Ford under the banner of his own new team, Roper Racing. The truck will carry sponsorship from Preferred Industrial Contractors, Inc., the same company which has backed Roper’s efforts in Pro Late Models.

CUP INVADERS: None.

Sunday, March 25, 2018
CUP Race 6 of 36
STP 500 at Martinsville
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Jamie McMurray

ENTRY LIST
There are 38 drivers listed to attempt Sunday’s 40-car field, marking the fifth-consecutive short field in the 2018 Cup Series season. It will be the second-straight year this number of cars has started this event.

DRIVER CHANGE: #00-StarCom Racing
Shortly after his 36th-place finish in Fontana, Jeffrey Earnhardt was released by StarCom Racing. In his place will come Landon Cassill, who was announced early Monday to make his Cup debut. The popular Cassill looks for a fresh start after he was released by Front Row Motorsports at the end of last season. Cassill is slated to run this weekend, and in two weeks in Texas. The team has also tweeted a new paint scheme by Ryan Daley with sponsorship from the U.S. First Responders' Organization (USFRA.org).

DRIVER & MANUFACTURER CHANGE: #51-Rick Ware Racing
The revolving door of manufacturers and drivers at Rick Ware Racing continues with a switch back to Chevrolet and XFINITY Series regular Harrison Rhodes, who we last saw in Atlanta in February. It will be Rhodes’ first-ever start at Martinsville. He takes the place of Timmy Hill, who in Fontana finished 33rd, seven laps down. Custom Aircraft Cabinets, Inc. returns for a second race as primary sponsor after backing the car at Phoenix.

DRIVER & MANUFACTURER CHANGE: #55-Premium Motorsports
Welcome back J.J. Yeley, who will make his 2018 Cup debut just as Reed Sorenson did in the car last Sunday in Fontana. It will be Yeley's first Cup start since last August at Bristol. Sponsoring the effort is Adirondack Tree Surgeons. The car also will be a Toyota in place of last week's Chevrolet.

RETURNING: #96-Gaunt Brothers Racing
Two Open teams will compete in a Cup race for the first time since Daytona. Joining Premium's #55 is the #96 of D.J. Kennington, back from a one-week hiatus following Phoenix. Sunday will mark Kennington’s first NASCAR start at Martinsville. Gordon Brothers Investments, another new sponsor to NASCAR, will back the effort.

Saturday, April 7, 2018
XFINITY Race 6 of 33
My Bariatric Solutions 300 at Texas
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Jordan Anderson

The NASCAR XFINITY Series returns in two weeks for the action in Fort Worth.

LASTCAR STAT OF THE WEEK
Because of their rarity, many strange car numbers only scored a single last-place finish. This is particularly true of combinations of letters and numbers, unheard-of in today’s NASCAR. Car number #J12 earned its lone finish on December 30, 1956 at the Titusville-Cocoa Speedway, a 1.6-mile road course set up on a Florida airport. Just fifteen cars took the green flag, fully one-third of them 1956 Fords belonging to 1925 Indianapolis 500 winner Pete DePaolo. The all-star lineup for DePaolo Engineering consisted of Fireball Roberts, Curtis Turner, Marvin Panch, Ralph Moody, and Joe Weatherly. For some reason, four of these drivers ran identical car numbers (only Panch got a number of his own, the #98), so letters were added. Curtis Turner’s #22 was distinguished from Fireball Roberts’ by listing it as “C22,” the “C” likely for “Curtis.” Joe Weatherly’s “J12” or “Joe 12” was separate and apart from Ralph Moody’s #12. Weatherly ran 17 of the 56 laps before the clutch burned out, leaving him last. It was the first of Weatherly’s five Cup last-place finishes.

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