Friday, April 20, 2018

PREVIEW: At Richmond, the No. 8 returns, but the Cup invaders don’t

Friday, April 20, 2018
XFINITY Race 8 of 33
ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Jeff Green

There are 40 drivers entered for Friday’s race, down one entry from last week in Bristol. All entered drivers will qualify for the race.

DRIVER CHANGE: #3-Richard Childress Racing
Welcome back Jeb Burton, who this Friday makes his first XFINITY Series start since August 18, 2017, when he ran 29th at Bristol for JGL Racing. Longtime sponsor Estes Express Lines joins the effort. Burton has two previous XFINITY starts at Richmond – a pair of 19th-place finishes in 2016.

DRIVER CHANGE: #18-Joe Gibbs Racing
Friday will also see the XFINITY Series debut of Truck Series upstart Noah Gragson. Gragson takes the place of Ryan Preece, who won a physical race at Bristol last Saturday. Currently 5th in the Truck Series standings, this will be Gragson’s first start at Richmond since September 10, 2015, when he finished 10th in a K&N Pro Series East race won by Austin Hill.

UPDATE: #28-JGL Racing
Tony Mrakovich, who was swapped out for Dylan Lupton following a pair of practice incidents at Bristol, is again entered this Friday for a second attempt at his XFINITY Series debut.

UPDATE: #38, #93-RSS Racing
One week after J.J. Yeley and Ryan Sieg swapped rides following Sieg’s qualifying wreck at Bristol, Yeley was originally entered in the #93 with Jeff Green in the #38. As of Thursday, the two have switched back. Sieg remains in the #39.

DRIVER CHANGE: #60-Roush-Fenway Racing
Ty Majeski was swept up in one of the many accidents last Saturday in Bristol, leaving him 34th at the finish. This week, he hands the steering wheel to Chase Briscoe, who slides over from the Biagi-DenBeste #98. It will be Briscoe’s first start at Richmond.

DRIVER CHANGE: #74-Mike Harmon Racing
Cody Ware was headed to a solid finish in Mike Harmon’s Dodge before an accident knocked him out near the halfway point. Harmon himself is driving this week, and will again field the Dodge in place of his Chevrolet. Troptions is listed as the sponsor along with the Shadow Warriors Project.

Welcome back Brandon Brown, who is set to make his first XFINITY start since his family's team ran 36th in this year's  Daytona opener. This time, Brown takes the place of Josh Williams, who ran all seven races this season for car owner Mario Gosselin with a best of 21st at Las Vegas.

MISSING: #98-Stewart-Haas Racing with Biagi-DenBeste
The #98 team is not entered this week following Chase Briscoe’s 23rd-place finish at Bristol. Briscoe moves to the #60 in place of Ty Majeski.

For the second-straight XFINITY Series race, there are NO Cup Series regulars on the entry list.

Saturday, April 21, 2018
CUP Race 9 of 36
Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Erik Jones

There are 38 drivers entered for Saturday’s 40-car field, meaning that all entrants will start the race. It’s the eighth-consecutive short field of the 2018 Cup Series season and the second-straight 38-car field at Richmond, the shortest Cup fields at the track since 1995.

NEW TEAM: #8-Richard Childress Racing
Eleven years after the “Free The Eight” campaign, the number returns to the Cup Series for the first time since April 5, 2009. With Dale Earnhardt, Inc. fully absorbed into Chip Ganassi Racing, the number will return under the Richard Childress banner as a part-time third team (their second start will be on the Charlotte “Roval” in October). Driving the Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff machine is XFINITY Series regular Daniel Hemric, who last year made the championship four at Homestead. Hemric, currently second in this year’s XFINITY Series rankings, finished 3rd and 4th in the series’ two trips to the track last year. He will run double-duty on Friday with RCR's #21 car in XFINITY.

Last week in Bristol, Gray Gaulding’s #23 had noticeably fewer decals for sponsor Earthwater as both the hood and rear decklid only carried a sticker for BK Racing itself. This week, the team welcomes back, which backed Gaulding for five races last year, most recently at Talladega.

SPONSOR UPDATE: #31-Richard Childress Racing
As with Shane Lee's XFINITY debut last week, Ryan Newman will be sponsored by Childress Vineyards. This points to continued sponsorship issues at RCR, following Newman's Chevrolet Accessories backing at Fontana.

Go FAS Racing welcomes sponsorship from Superior Logistics Services, Inc., which last year backed the efforts of Circle Sport with The Motorsports Group’s #33 Chevrolet. Driver Matt DiBenedetto, who comes off finishes of 16th at Texas and 21st at Bristol, has a best Richmond finish of 28th in this race last year.

SPONSOR UPDATE: #43-Richard Petty Motorsports
Joining the #43 team after Darrell Wallace, Jr.'s strong run at Bristol is Food Lion, a grocery chain that hasn't been a primary sponsor on a Cup car since May 24, 1992, when they backed Dave Marcis at Charlotte.

Harrison Rhodes found himself in the middle of one of Bristol's biggest wrecks on Sunday, destroying his Toyota. He will instead drive a Chevrolet this weekend. Industrial Construction Experts, Inc. will back the effort for a second-straight race.

DRIVER CHANGE: #72-TriStar Motorsports
At Bristol, Corey LaJoie averted his third-consecutive last-place finish of the season and finished 25th, his best run since Pocono last August. Nevertheless, Cole Whitt returns to the seat of the #72 Chevrolet this weekend. Whitt’s best of 7 Richmond starts was a 27th-place finish for TriStar in this race last year.

MISSING: #96-Gaunt Brothers Racing
After back-to-back starts on the short tracks with finishes of 28th and 27th, Gaunt Brothers Racing has not fielded a car for D.J. Kennington this week. However, the hood from their Bristol car fetched $12,000 on Wednesday in a benefit supporting the Humboldt Broncos. Expect GBR to return at Talladega next week as the team last year focused on the restrictor-plate races.

UPDATE: #00-StarCom Racing
With strong finishes of 21st and 20th in his last two starts, Landon Cassill is again entered in Derrike Cope’s #00 Chevrolet this weekend. The team originally listed the return of VRX Simulators as sponsor, but instead Richmond will mark the 2018 debut of the StarCom Fiber paint job the team used in their first races last year. On Tuesday, it was reported that Joey Gase will drive the #00 at Talladega. Cassill's plans are still to be determined.

Friday, May 4, 2018
TRUCKS Race 5 of 23
Dover 200 at Dover
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Camden Murphy

The return of the Truck Series is now two weeks away.

A failed oil seal was the listed cause of exactly one last-place finish in NASCAR history. It occurred on May 29, 1983 during the World 600 at Charlotte. The late Ron Bouchard, who pulled his stunning upset victory at Talladega two years earlier, had qualified 27th in the field of 41 driving Jack Beebe’s #47 Race Hill Farm Buick. His race ended with “oil seal” in the results after just 14 of the 400 laps, three circuits before Tim Richmond’s engine let go. It was the first of only two last-place finishes for Bouchard in 160 career starts. The second occurred at Atlanta on November 2, 1986, this time when his own engine let go after 40 laps of the Atlanta Journal 500.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

#JD70: J.D. McDuffie's Career at Richmond

J.D. at Richmond in 1981, one of his first downsized Pontiacs.
PHOTO: Rich Imlay, Janine Pestel Collection
One of the most interesting measures of J.D. McDuffie’s longevity in the sport is his career at the Richmond Raceway. McDuffie made 39 starts at the track, during which time he made at least one start on all five of its configurations.

McDuffie’s first two Richmond starts were on dirt, a callback to his roots on the clay ovals near his native Sanford. The first of these came on May 15, 1966, when the track was a half-mile bullring known as the Atlantic Rural Fairgrounds. That day, McDuffie lined up 19th in his 1964 Ford and finished 13th in a field of 30, 43 laps down to race winner David
Richmond 1985, with sponsorship from Restore and
Dutch Treats.
PHOTO: Rich Imlay, Janine Pestel Collection
Pearson. His last start on the dirt came that September, where this time he ran 24th of 29.

On September 8, 1968, McDuffie was in the 28-car field that was the first to run on the track’s new pavement. He was also the surface’s first last-place finisher, his 1967 Buick losing oil pressure after 12 laps of the Capital City 300. The track, now known as the Virginia State Fairgounds, was now measured at 0.625 of a mile. By his next start on April 13, 1969, it was the Richmond Fairgrounds Raceway and again measured as an exact half-mile. McDuffie finished 6th that day, his first Top Ten at the speedway. A second last-place run came that September, this time due to engine failure. That race marked the first time the Fairgrounds was measured at 0.542 of a mile, its official size for nearly two decades.
Richmond 1986, Rumple Furniture and foil numbers.
PHOTO: Rich Imlay, Janine Pestel Collection

Richmond late 1986 / early 1987 - AC Spark Plug
and backing from Tom Winkle.
PHOTO: Rich Imlay, Janine Pestel Collection
McDuffie finished last four times at Richmond. His third of these took place on September 10, 1972, when the transmission let go after 3 laps. That day, McDuffie wasn’t driving his own #70, but a 1970 Plymouth fielded by Doc Faustina. From 1971 through 1976, Faustina would field cars for several stars of the sport, including Richard Childress, Harry Gant, and the final Cup car Hall of Famer Wendell Scott drove at Charlotte on October 7, 1973. The 1972 Richmond race was McDuffie’s only start for Faustina.

McDuffie’s final last-place run at Richmond took place on September 7, 1980, when a cylinder head issue knocked-out his Bailey Excavating Chevrolet after 44 laps. This finish had historical significance of its own. On that day, he broke a tie with fellow owner-driver G.C. Spencer for the most last-place finishes in NASCAR Cup Series history. McDuffie would hold this record well after his passing. Joe Nemechek exceeded his career mark in 2014.

In all, McDuffie scored eight Top Tens at Richmond and a single Top Five. The latter occurred on October 12, 1975, during a 500-lapper won by Darrell Waltrip. McDuffie finished 5th that day in a car sponsored by the Butler’s, Inc. and Glenn’s Landscaping. His 1975 Chevrolet finished 17 laps down to Waltrip, but was ahead of the likes of Benny Parsons (18th), Cale Yarborough (26th), and Richard Petty, who finished 28th and last due to engine failure. McDuffie also led his only two laps at the track on March 11, 1979 en route to a 7th-place finish.

McDuffie made just one Cup start on the current 0.75-mile configuration. On September 10, 1989, at what was then the Richmond International Raceway, his #70 Rumple Pontiac lined up 32nd in the 36-car field, having bested Greg Sacks for a spot in the field. He finished 31st in that day’s running of the Miller High Life 400, an event dominated by Rusty Wallace. In each of his final three attempts to make the Richmond field, McDuffie was the fastest car to miss the field. This included the 1991 running, when he brought the same dark blue Pontiac to the track that had barely missed out on the Daytona 500 field a week earlier.

This weekend, Richmond debuts yet another new name as "Richmond Raceway" with a new infield. It will be the first incarnation of the facility where McDuffie has not raced.

Reserve your copy of "J.D.: The Life and Death of a Forgotten NASCAR Legend" at Waldorf Publishing, coming July 15, 2018. Click here for more details.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

K&N EAST: Buchanan claims last for the eighth time in crowded Bristol race

Buchanan's car at New Smyrna earlier this year.
by William Soquet Guest Contributor

Chuck Buchanan Jr. picked up the eighth last-place finish of his NASCAR K&N East career in Saturday’s Zombie Auto 150 at Bristol Motor Speedway when his #87 Spring Drug Chevrolet fell out with electrical problems after 19 of 150 laps.

The finish, which came in his 20th series start, was his first since September 4th, 2017, at Hampton, four races ago.

Buchanan has been a perennial underdog in NASCAR. He and his family team have run a partial K&N East schedule since 2011, when Buchanan made his debut at Greenville-Pickens Speedway. In the 19 starts since, he has finished nine of them, and in all of his starts, he has carried funding from Spring Drug, a drugstore mere miles from the Wood Brothers’ former base in Stuart, Virginia.

Buchanan has also been trying to make his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut for five years. Some previously garnered LASTCAR coverage, from a brief mention for his first attempt in the fall of 2014 to being a part of a lengthy list of DNQs in spring of 2017, both times at Martinsville. In fact, all but one of his six attempts to qualify have come at Martinsville, the one outlier coming at Bristol. Unfortunately, all have resulted in four DNQs, in which he was never above 35th in time trials, and two withdrawals.

For 2018, Buchanan switched from his usual K&N number, 19, to the number he had used in all of his Truck attempts (minus one for Jennifer Jo Cobb in 2017), 87. The #19 went to Bill McAnally Racing, which expanded its K&N East effort to three cars. At least for the first two races of the 2018 season, McAnally's #19 has been driven by Hailie Deegan.

The initial entry list at Bristol included 29 drivers. Aside from Jimmy Zacharaias, whose #31 Marsh Racing car withdrew, all entries made the race. In first practice, Buchanan anchored the speed charts with a lap of 17.664, about a tenth off the next driver, Salvatore Iovino, and just about two seconds off of pace setter Harrison Burton.

Starting last on Saturday was Chase Cabre, whose #4 Rev Racing team was the only one to not record a time in qualifying after he crashed on his attempt. Buchanan was the slowest car on time, running an 18.603, a half a second off the fastest car and three and a half off of Noah Gragson, the top qualifier. Interestingly enough, the next-fastest car on time, Anthony Alfredo, hit the wall off Turn 4 and still recorded a lap faster than Buchanan. Alfredo would start 26th but have good help moving up, as his spotter Landon Huffman spotted Zane Smith to an ARCA win last week.

Cabre fired off last, but would not remain there for long. Buchanan took last soon after, eight seconds down after one lap. He would soon surrender the spot to Brandon Oakley, who inherited the spot after a spin on Lap 4. After the ensuing round of pit stops, Cabre found last once more, only to vacate the spot on the restart and hand it to Salvatore Iovino, running his first full East slate this year. Buchanan, running on the same lap as Iovino, retired around Lap 18, though the exact lap is hard to tell because he was laps down when he retired. The decision to retire may have been influenced by a poor-handling car, as he almost turned Noah Gragson while getting lapped.

27th went to Jesse Iwuji, who was the victim of a spin on the backstretch that resulted in Tyler Dippel being called to the NASCAR hauler at the conclusion of the event. Chase Cabre wound up 26th, his awful weekend capped off by a terminal electrical issue a third of the way through the race. Matt Levin took 25th after an accident that did not draw a caution. Rounding out the Bottom Five was Derek Kraus, who encountered multiple issues throughout the day to finish under power 21 laps down.

28) #87-Chuck Buchanan Jr. / 19 laps / electrical
27) #36-Jesse Iwuji / 28 laps / crash
26) #4-Chase Cabre / 55 laps / electrical
25) #10-Matt Levin / 87 laps / crash
24) #16-Derek Kraus / 129 laps / running

1st) Bill McAnally Racing, Charles Buchanan Jr. (1)

1st) Toyota, Chevrolet (1)


Sunday, April 15, 2018

CUP: Early trouble at Bristol hands Ross Chastain first Cup Series last-place finish

PHOTO: Marcus Leno,
Ross Chastain picked up the 1st last-place finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Food City 500 at the Bristol Motor Speedway when his #15 Low T Centers Chevrolet was involved in a multi-car accident after 3 laps.

The finish came in Chastain’s 9th series start. In the NASCAR Cup Series last-place rankings, it’s the 26th for car #15, the 563rd by reason of a crash, and the 741st for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it’s the 38th for #15, the 1,134th by reason of a crash, and the 1,587th for Chevrolet.

A native of Alva, Florida, Chastain has been racing since he was twelve, getting his start in both late models and the Florida Fastruck Series (now the Florida Pro Truck Series). The biggest win of his early career came during the World Series of Asphalt at the New Smyrna Speedway in 2011.

That same year, Chastain made his Truck Series debut at Indianapolis Raceway Park. Driving for Stacy Compton’s Turn One Racing with sponsorship from the National Watermelon Promotion Board (Chastain grew up on his family’s watermelon farm in Alva), Chastain impressed with a 10th-place finish. Chastain’s melon-sponsored machines became a regular sight in the Truck Series for the next two seasons, including a strong partial schedule in 2013 with two poles and a runner-up to James Buescher at Iowa.

In 2014, Chastain made his XFINITY Series debut at Charlotte driving for Jimmy Dick. Once again, he impressed his first time out, finishing 18th – the fifth-best finish in the team’s 58 starts. In 2015, he landed his current XFINITY Series ride with Johnny Davis’ JD Motorsports in the #4 Chevrolet. The duo started out with a 9th-place finish in the Daytona opener. Over the next three seasons, driver and team showed measured improvement, culminating with a best points finish of 13th last year and a new career-best XFINITY finish of 4th at Iowa. As of this writing, that Iowa run remains one of only four top-five finishes earned by JD Motorsports.

Last year, it was again time for Chastain to take the next step, and again he excelled. This time, he’d run a tripleheader at Dover, culminating with his Cup Series debut in the 400-miler driving for Jay Robinson’s Premium Motorsports. His #15 carrying the watermelon colors and sponsorship from the Delaware Office of Highway Safety, Chastain was locked-into the field with the Charter acquired from the shuttered HScott Motorsports. After an 8th-place run by Michael Waltrip in the Daytona 500, the car hadn’t finished any better than 21st. Chastain improved on this with a 20th-place run, three laps down to Jimmie Johnson.

This year, Chastain and Premium Motorsports reunited at Atlanta, and the youngster has driven the #15 in every Cup race since. Coming into Bristol, Chastain had finished inside the Top 30 every week with a season-best 18th just last week in Texas, a new career-best for the driver. On the XFINITY side, he entered the weekend 12th in points after his first DNF of the year, a rear gear issue in Fort Worth. Bristol would make his first XFINITY start of the season with the Florida Watermelon Association on his #4 Chevrolet.

At Bristol, Chastain ran 17th and 23rd in Friday’s two XFINITY practices, but Happy Hour was marred by an incident not of his own making. The incident occurred while Chastain and teammate Garrett Smithley in the #0 slowed to avoid a wrecked Tony Mrakovich in Turn 2. At that same moment, Christopher Bell closed on the pair at full speed. Citing a brake issue, Bell couldn’t slow his #20 GameStop / Seagate Game Drive for Xbox Toyota in time and squeezed between the two JD Motorsports cars. Bell sideswiped Smithley, then struck the right-rear of Chastain. All four cars were repaired in time for the race. Chastain’s received a new TV panel while the right-rear quarter-panel was straightened and re-decaled. The team’s hard work was rewarded – Chastain qualified 15th and finished 9th, matching his season-best finish in this year’s Daytona opener.

On the Cup side, Chastain ran 34th in opening practice, didn’t complete a lap in the second session, and ran 33rd in Happy Hour. In qualifying, he jumped to 27th on the grid with a speed of 125.248mph (15.320 seconds), just over three-hundredths of a second from advancing to Round 2. It was Chastain’s best career Cup start, improving on his 31st-place showing a week ago in Texas.

Qualifying 39th and last in Sunday’s short field was Kevin Harvick, the only driver to not turn a lap in Round 1. Harvick had been sent to a backup car after his primary suffered a failure entering Turn 3 on Friday, sending the car hard into the outside wall. On race day, he was joined at the back by fellow Bristol winners Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch. Johnson cut a tire in qualifying while Busch, the outside-polesitter, wrecked with five minutes left in Happy Hour, sending him to a backup car.

When the pace car lights turned off, Harrison Rhodes surrendered his 37th starting spot to drop to the rear, lining up behind Harvick and Busch. When the race started, Rhodes’ Toyota remained in last, watching as Harvick, Busch, and Johnson began to pick their way through the field. The group made quick work of Chad Finchum, making his Cup debut in Motorsports Business Management’s #66 Concrete North, Inc. / Smithbilt Homes Toyota. On Lap 2, Rhodes passed Finchum off Turn 4, and Finchum got past D.J. Kennington in Turn 2. Kennington, his #96 Toyota honoring the lives lost in the Humbolt Broncos tragedy, had just been cleared by the #66 when trouble broke out in front of him.

Up until this point, Las Vegas last-placer Michael McDowell had been enjoying one of the best weekends of his career. He qualified 9th – his second-best starting spot behind a 6th at Talladega in 2014 – and early on was locked in a tight battle with 12th-place starter Daniel Suarez in the #19 ARRIS Toyota. But on Lap 4, as McDowell and Suarez came off the fourth corner, McDowell spun and collected Chase Elliott in the #9 Mountain Dew Baja Blast Chevrolet. At the time, Ross Chastain was slowing off Turn 4 when he rear-ended a slowing Martin Truex, Jr., steering the #78 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota into the pileup.

Chastain in the garage after the Lap 3 wreck.
PHOTO: Bob Pockrass
Chastain steered his car to the apron with heavy damage to the front valence. He turned to the garage area, where the crew began repairs, waiting to see if they could come back out. On Lap 13, the crew reported that NASCAR would not let them return under the new Crash Clock protocol, and their day was done. “We’re done,” said a crew member over the radio. “We’re not allowed to go back out.” McDowell’s #34 ran another six laps before his Crash Clock expired, leaving him a disappointing 38th.

The final three cars in the Bottom Five were eliminated in another multi-car pileup on Lap 116. Contact between the #6 AdvoCare Ford of Trevor Bayne and the #37 Bush’s Beans Chevrolet of Chris Buescher steered Bayne into the #51 Industrial Construction Experts Toyota of Harrison Rhodes. Caught in the right-rear, Rhodes spun up the banking directly into the path of race leader Ryan Blaney’s #12 REV Ford. The accident eliminated Rhodes, Buescher, and Blaney, who led 100 of the first 117 laps. The trio soon took the final three spots in the Bottom Five from the lapped machines of Ty Dillon and Martin Truex, Jr.

*This marked the first last-place finish for car #15 in a Cup race at Bristol.
*This was also the ninth-consecutive last-place run for Chevrolet in a Cup race at Bristol, a streak stretching back to Timmy Hill’s wreck in this race in 2014.

39) #15-Ross Chastain / 3 laps / crash
38) #34-Michael McDowell / 9 laps / crash
37) #51-Harrison Rhodes / 115 laps / crash
36) #37-Chris Buescher / 116 laps / crash
35) #12-Ryan Blaney / 117 laps / crash / led 100 laps

1st) TriStar Motorsports (2)
2nd) BK Racing, Front Row Motorsports, Furniture Row Racing, Premium Motorsports, Roush-Fenway Racing, StarCom Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (4)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (2)


XFINITY: Bristol wreck hands Jeremy Clements his first XFINITY last-place finish in 273rd career start

PHOTO: Marcus Leno,
Jeremy Clements picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 at the Bristol Motor Speedway when his #51 All South Electric / Chevrolet was involved in a multi-car accident after 4 of 300 laps.

The finish came in Clements’ 273rd career start, dating as far back as 2003 and covering all but two XFINITY Series races run since November 20, 2010. In the XFINITY Series last-place rankings, it’s the 7th for car #51, the 314th by reason of a crash, and the 499th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it’s the 32nd for the #51, the 1,133rd by reason of a crash, and the 1,586th for Chevrolet.

Eight months ago, Clements pulled off one of NASCAR’s most popular upsets in recent years. That day at Road America, Clements not only scored his first XFINITY Series win over the heavily-favored Joe Gibbs Toyota of Matt Tifft, but did so despite spinning with Tifft as the two raced toward the white flag. It was the hard-fought reward for Clements and his family’s Spartanburg, South Carolina-based team. The driver made his XFINITY debut on July 26, 2003 at Pikes Peak International Raceway, where he ran 31st in a race won by Scott Wimmer. His father Tony began fielding cars in the series in 2008, and the driver attracted sponsorship from during his tenure with JD Motorsports two years later.

From the 2010 finale at Homestead to today, Clements has made all but two of the XFINITY Series races run during that span. The Jeremy Clements Racing #51 has been a fixture in the garage area since the 2011 opener at Daytona, where Clements finished 16th, propelling him to the first of seven consecutive seasons finishing Top 20 in the points. Prior to Road America, his best finish in the series had been a 4th at Talladega, where he led his only seven laps of the season.

Through it all, Clements had not once finished last in an XFINITY Series race. In fact, just one time did he come within one position of doing so: November 3, 2007 at Texas, where the #36 McGill Motorsports Chevrolet he was driving was involved in a multi-car wreck with Mike Bliss and Brad Baker. On Saturday, another wreck would have a different result.

Clements began the weekend with a new sponsor on the hood of his black-and-red Chevrolet. All South Electric joined the Bristol effort, buying space on the hood. The brand caught some attention in Friday’s opening practice, where the #51 turned the 14th-fastest lap, then held 16th in Happy Hour. In qualifying, Clements dropped a couple more spots to 19th with a speed of 123.865mph (15.491 seconds). It was his second-best starting spot behind a 12th last Saturday in Texas. Clements led his first lap of the season that day and came into Bristol 15th in the standings.

The head photo for this article, taken by Marcus Leno at, shows some damage to the right-rear of Clements’ Chevrolet in the lead-up to the race. Other small teams had even bigger problems with the outside wall.

B.J. McLeod, set to celebrate his 75th XFINITY Series start, clobbered the wall on Friday, destroying his #78 EPIC Racewear Chevrolet. The team literally burned the midnight oil, sending the car back to the shop in Mooresville, preparing the backup, and towing it back to Bristol in time for qualifying on Saturday morning.

The RSS Racing team lines up for the start on the outside lane.
Sieg's #38 in the foreground, Yeley's #39 in back.
PHOTO: Marcus Leno,
As McLeod put his car 26th on the grid, Ryan Sieg lost control off the fourth corner and destroyed his #39 Lombard Brothers Gaming Chevrolet. With the team’s backup set up for 1.5-mile tracks instead of short courses, the decision was made that Sieg would instead drive his teammate J.J. Yeley’s #38. There was only time to change the names on the roof rails of both cars, meaning that Sieg would take the green flag in the #38 with Yeley’s name on the windshield banner. Like McLeod, both drivers would incur tail-end penalties for the swap.

The lone driver who failed to qualify was Morgan Shepherd, the first time he’d failed to make the spring race at Bristol since 2016. Also sent home was ARCA Racing Series competitor Tony Mrakovich, who was originally slated to take the place of Dylan Lupton in JGL Racing’s #28 Smart Emissions Reducer Ford. Mrakovich struggled in opening practice, his best of two laps more than four seconds off the pace after he smashed the wall with the right-rear, and was second-slowest in Happy Hour. Las Vegas last-placer Dylan Lupton returned to qualify and race the car, lining up 33rd.

Starting 40th on Saturday’s grid was David Starr in Jimmy Means’ #52 Chevrolet. The team welcomed sponsorship from Franklin Signs & Graphics, the company that helped design the Means team’s paint schemes and sold them decals. He lined up next to Cody Ware, who stood in for Mike Harmon on Friday. Harmon’s #74 team fielded a Dodge for the first time since their DNQ at Daytona, and carried new sponsorship of their own from Horizon Transport. On race day, the pair were joined at the rear by Yeley and Sieg in each other’s cars, McLeod’s backup #78, and Michael Annett, sent to the back for unapproved adjustments on his #5 Pilot Travel Centers Chevrolet.

By the 5th lap of the race, Cody Ware had taken last when trouble broke out near the front. Third-place starter Christopher Bell slowed on the outside lane off Turn 4, and those running behind checked-up. The logjam started behind 14th-place starter Ty Majeski, whose #60 SunnyD Ford was rear-ended by Kaz Grala’s #24 NETTTS Ford. Clements, running right behind Grala, had nowhere to go. The three cars piled into each other and skated up the track, ultimately collecting another three. When the dust settled, Clements’ #51 was facing backwards with the front valence caved-in, fluids leaking down the banking. Out of all the cars involved, Clements’ was the only one unable to continue, leaving him last.

Kaz Grala’s damaged #24 made it another 22 circuits before he joined Clements in the garage, leaving him 38th. While both Jeff Green and J.J. Yeley exited early to finish 39th and 37th, Sieg wheeled Yeley’s “start-and-park” car to a strong 15th-place finish, Sieg’s best finish of the year. Rounding out the Bottom Five was Chad Finchum, who had engine trouble on Carl Long’s #40 Concrete North, Inc. Toyota.

*This marked the first last-place finish for car #51 in an XFINITY Series race since June 19, 2004, when Stan Boyd’s #51 Ware Racing Enterprises Chevrolet (fielded by current Cup Series car owner Rick Ware) had ignition issues after 2 laps of the Meijer 300 presented by Oreo at the Kentucky Speedway. The number had never finished last in an XFINITY Series race at Bristol.

40) #51-Jeremy Clements / 4 laps / crash
39) #93-Jeff Green / 25 laps / brakes
38) #24-Kaz Grala / 26 laps / crash
37) #39-J.J. Yeley / 47 laps / brakes
36) #40-Chad Finchum / 48 laps / engine

1st) RSS Racing (3)
2nd) Jeremy Clements Racing, JGL Racing, Mike Harmon Racing, Roush-Fenway Racing, RSS Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (5)
2nd) Ford (2)


Friday, April 13, 2018

PREVIEW: Several fresh faces on both the Cup and XFINITY grid at Bristol

PHOTO: Brock Beard
Saturday, April 14, 2018
XFINITY Race 7 of 33
Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 at Bristol
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Jordan Anderson

There are 41 drivers entered to attempt the 40-car field, including both JP Motorsports drivers Josh Bilicki (#45) and Stephen Leicht (#55), who weren’t on last week’s preliminary list. One driver will fail to qualify.

DRIVER CHANGE: #3-Richard Childress Racing
Third in last year’s ARCA Racing Series standings when he drove for Kerry Scherer, North Carolina native Shane Lee is set to make his XFINITY Series debut this Saturday. He takes the place of Cup regular Ty Dillon in Richard Childress’ flagship #3. Childress’ winery will sponsor the effort, as it had both Brian Simo’s strong Cup race at Sonoma in 2005 and Kirk Shelmerdine’s 20th-place finish in the 2006 Daytona 500. Lee has three Truck Series starts on his resume, all of them in 2016 with a best of 16th at Gateway and Texas.

After a one-week hiatus, Tommy Joe Martins is back in McLeod’s #8, and he’s brought with him several new sponsors. Announced on Monday were Knoxville-based AAN Adjusters, Inc., Red Angus, and KT Rental Cabins, which will adorn a black-and-red paint scheme. Martins, who was originally set to debut his own team in this race last year, finished 33rd in last August’s XFINITY race. Additionally, team owner B.J. McLeod will carry sponsorship from EPIC Racewear on his #78.

MISSING: #12-Penske Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #22-Penske Racing
It’s another game of musical chairs at Penske Racing, which has not entered the #12 for Austin Cindric, but instead moved him to the flagship #22 team. The team eyes its third-straight series victory as Cindric takes the place of both Joey Logano, who won Fontana, and Ryan Blaney, who took the checkers last week in Texas.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-JD Motorsports
After Matt Mills failed to qualify at Texas, Joe Nemechek is again listed as driver of Johnny Davis’ fourth car. Nemechek has made 20 XFINITY starts at Bristol, but none since this race in 2014. His best finish at the track came in 1993, when he finished runner-up to Todd Bodine.

Joining Shane Lee as an ARCA driver making his XFINITY Series debut is Tony Mrakovich, the 19-year-old driver from Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. Mrakovich has just four ARCA starts, most recently his 29th-place finish in this year’s Daytona opener, where he drove for series veteran Andy Hillenburg. Mrakovich takes the place of Dylan Lutpon, whose best finish in the season’s first six races was his 17th-place showing last week in Texas. UPDATE: Lupton ended up driving the #28 on Saturday.

DRIVER CHANGE: #42-Chip Ganassi Racing
John Hunter Nemechek eyes his third XFINITY Series start and his first since Fontana, two weeks ago. He again takes the place of Cup regular Jamie McMurray and brings sponsorship from Fire Alarm Services, Inc. The younger Nemechek has made four Bristol starts in the Truck Series with a track-best 3rd in the summer of 2015 and 2017 and no finishes worse than 8th.

SPONSOR UPDATE: #52-Jimmy Means Racing
The Jimmy Means team carries a new look this weekend with Franklin Signs & Graphics as the primary sponsor. In so doing, Franklin builds on their business relationship with Means as decal supplier and paint scheme designer.

DRIVER CHANGE: #60-Roush-Fenway Racing
Welcome back Ty Majeski, who makes his first XFINITY start of 2018 following a three-race stint last season. Majeski takes the place of Chase Briscoe, who ran 11th last week in Texas. Majeski will carry sponsorship from SunnyD, a brand shared by his Roush-Fenway Cup teammate Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.

UPDATE: Harmon's team brought out the Dodge for the first time since Daytona and Cody Ware drove in place of Harmon.

DRIVER CHANGE: #98-Stewart-Haas Racing with Biagi-DenBeste
Chase Briscoe moves from the Roush-Fenway #60 to the #98 this week, taking the place of Cup regular Kevin Harvick, who isn’t entered. Briscoe looks to keep up a solid start to the year with not only last Saturday’s 11th-place finish, but a 15th in Atlanta.


Sunday, April 15, 2018
CUP Race 8 of 36
Food City 500 at Bristol
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Chris Buescher

There are 39 drivers entered for Sunday’s main event, the most starters since the Daytona 500, but still the seventh-straight short Cup field in 2018. In this race last year, 39 drivers also took the green.

SPONSOR UPDATE: #51-Rick Ware Racing
After running without a primary sponsor last week, Rick Ware Racing’s entry for Harrison Rhodes has Industrial Construction Experts, Inc. listed as the backer. Rhodes finished a season-best 22nd last Sunday in Texas.

RETURNING: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Carl Long’s single-car operation makes its first attempt since this year’s Daytona 500 (after withdrawing from Texas). Behind the wheel is Chad Finchum, set to make his Cup debut. Finchum has 13 XFINITY starts on his resume with a best finish of 28th twice, one of them at Bristol last summer. Sponsorship from Concrete North, Inc. and Smithbilt Homes will back both his #66 Toyota on Sunday as well his XFINITY ride in MBM’s #40 on Saturday.

LASTCAR UPDATE: #72-TriStar Motorsports
This Sunday, Corey LaJoie returns to TriStar for the first time since Phoenix, when he scored his second early engine failure in as many starts driving the #72 Chevrolet. Curiously, these have been the TriStar team’s only DNFs in 2018. Will the car hold together this time, as it did last Sunday for Cole Whitt? Or will LaJoie finish last for the third time in as many starts in 2018?

RETURNING: #96-Gaunt Brothers Racing
D.J. Kennington and the GBR team continue to build their short track notebook this weekend as they return to action for the first time since Martinsville. As of this writing, the team does not have a primary sponsor listed. UPDATE: The car, as well as a decal on Michael Annett's XFINITY entry, will honor the lives of the lost members of the Humboldt Broncos hockey team.

UPDATE: #00-StarCom Racing
On Monday, Landon Cassill announced that, following his 21st-place finish in Texas, he’s going to drive Derrike Cope’s #00 again this Sunday. After two weeks with sponsorship from the U.S. First Responders’ Association, another new sponsor has signed – TW Cable.

Friday, May 4, 2018
TRUCKS Race 5 of 23
Dover 200 at Dover
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Camden Murphy

It’s now just under a month until the Truck Series returns at “The Monster Mile.”

Think Kevin Harvick struggled last week on pit road? Exactly one time in NASCAR history, a driver finished last with the listed cause of “lug bolts.” The date was Independence Day, July 4, 1962, during the Firecracker 250 at Daytona. Bob Welborn, who won the first Daytona 500 pole three years earlier, was entered in a 1962 Pontiac #12. The car was fielded by Cliff Stewart, who two decades later would enter Pontiacs for the likes of Rusty Wallace, Geoffrey Bodine, and Morgan Shepherd. On this day, however, the #12 made it just one lap around the track before the car fell out, citing the lug bolt issue. Welborn edged Tommy Irwin for the spot after Irwin’s #27 lost oil pressure.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

#JD70: J.D. McDuffie's Career at Bristol

McDuffie's final qualifying attempt at Bristol, April 1991
PHOTO: Dave Chobat
Bristol, Tennessee was the site of J.D. McDuffie’s first NASCAR start on a track still on the Monster Energy Cup Series Schedule. The day was Sunday, July 28, 1963, just the sixth race run at “Thunder Valley.” McDuffie campaigned the #76 that day – his first Cup start in his traditional #70 wouldn’t come until three years later at Rockingham – and started his Ford 33rd on the 36-car grid for the Volunteer 500. McDuffie finished the race under power in 19th, 75 laps down to a victorious Fred Lorenzen.

Statistically, Bristol was one of McDuffie’s best tracks. Only the Nashville Fairgrounds, site of last Saturday’s ARCA Racing Series event, saw McDuffie earn more Top Fives and Top Tens. Appropriately, according to, he completed just a fraction over 70% of the laps he ran there – 13,389 of a possible 19,119.

McDuffie earned his first Bristol Top Ten on July 21, 1968 with a 10th-place showing in his 1967 Buick, this time 37 laps behind a dominant David Pearson. Over the next ten Bristol races run through 1973, McDuffie would earn another six runs of 10th or better. The streak was capped by a pair of 5th-place showings, his best at the short track. The first, a Bobby Allison victory on July 9, 1972, saw McDuffie drive a 1970 Dodge fielded by Dr. Don Tarr with sponsorship from Pepsi and the nearby Johnson City Sheraton. The second came the following year, July 8, 1973, when Benny Parsons bested future XFINITY Series standout L.D. Ottinger by seven laps. McDuffie’s own 1972 Chevrolet was 27 laps down that day.

Three times, McDuffie’s day at Bristol ended with a last-place finish, though none occurred after November 2, 1975, when his engine let go after 7 laps (the other two were another blown engine after 27 laps on March 23, 1969 and a loose oil line after 18 laps on March 28, 1971). In fact, he finished half of the 22 Bristol races he started from 1976 onward, including all seven from 1981 through 1984. His ninth and final top-ten run at the track came on August 26, 1978, the day Cale Yarborough led 327 laps. McDuffie’s Bailey Excavating Chevrolet ran 8th that time, 19 laps down. Among those he bested were Bobby Allison and Neil Bonnett.

Qualifying issues caught McDuffie Racing by 1985, and he made just three more starts from the spring race onward. His final green flag there took place on April 8, 1990, the day Davey Allison edged Mark Martin in a thrilling photo finish. McDuffie, meanwhile, started 30th in the 32-car field, edging Chad Little and Larry Pearson for a spot in the field. He finished 27th, his Pontiac out with engine trouble after 290 laps. The following spring, McDuffie made his final Bristol attempt, and his first of the 1991 season driving the burgundy-and-black colors. He and fellow owner-drivers Jimmy Means and Dave Marcis failed to make the field.

Reserve your copy of "J.D.: The Life and Death of a Forgotten NASCAR Legend" at Waldorf Publishing, coming July 15, 2018. Click here for more details.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

ARCA: Mike Basham falls out first in Darrell Basham Racing’s 2018 debut

Basham's car at Kentucky in 2017
by William Soquet Guest Contributor

Mike Basham picked up the first last-place finish of his ARCA Racing Series career in Saturday night’s Music City 200 at Nashville Fairgrounds Raceway after he fell out of the race in his #34 Darrell Basham Racing Chevrolet after 1 of 200 laps. The finish came in his 45th series start.

The Basham family has long been a part of America’s short track racing scene. Patriarch Darrell Basham made a lone Cup start at Nashville Fairgrounds in 1979, starting and finishing 24th in a 28-car field. Dating back over two decades, he has also made over 300 ARCA starts, running full seasons from 2002 to 2012, and garnering a best point rank of 10th in 2011. After 2012, he scaled back his schedule and has let his sons, Mike and Jason, drive. A shop fire in November 2010 and a tornado in 2012 took its toll on the team and after Darrell and Jason split a full 2013 schedule, the team scaled back to part-time in 2014 and 2015 but returned nearly full-time in 2016 with Mike driving in 17 events, finishing tenth in points, while Willie Mullins fielded his car at the two restrictor-plate tracks and at New Jersey Motorsports Park. Darrell was also diagnosed with cancer that year, from which he is still recovering. The arrangement continued in 2017, as Mullins ran both plate tracks, Nashville, and Elko with Mike covering the remaining 16 races on his way to a 13th-place points finish.

2018 has brought changes to both sides of the 34 car. Mullins, expanding to two teams, decided to partner with Hixson Motorsports. In came K&N West racer Jesse Iwuji (who was featured on this site last month) and his Patriot Motorsports Group, who reached an agreement to use the No. 34 to at big tracks while the Basham family would run short tracks. The first entry for the Basham side for Nashville was filed with Darrell driving, but he said in an interview with that one of his sons would probably drive.

The entry list showed 28 cars, including four drivers making their series debuts. 15-year-old Chandler Smith had announced a partial schedule with Venturini Motorsports. Joe Graf Jr. had announced a six-race slate with Chad Bryant Racing. With less publicity, two Texans showed up on the entry list for their debuts. D.L. Wilson, of Waco, was set to run a second Fast Track Racing car, the #11. Tovia Grynewicz, of Clyde, entered his own #40 Grynewicz Motorsports machine. Wilson raced super late models at Central Texas Speedway with current XFINITY and Truck driver Bayley Currey, and tested with Henderson Motorsports at Daytona at the beginning of last year. Grynewicz mainly raced in Pro Trucks. He has experience in the Southern Pro Am Truck Series and had made the trek to Florida for Snowball Derby week, finishing 24th of 36th in 2017.

The weekend included only one practice session, which was anchored by Wayne Peterson, entered in his team’s composite car #0. Peterson, 79 years young, turned a fastest lap of 25.501, more than six seconds off the pace set by Chandler Smith at a 19.003. ARCA has made news in the past for inconsistencies in enforcing minimum speed rules, and Peterson looked to be at the mercy of the sanctioning body if times held steady. Grynewicz was next-slowest, at a 24.959, and decided to withdraw before qualifying. Sources within the industry have confirmed that the team is looking at Toledo and IRP but has not confirmed either date as a return.

Qualifying looked surprisingly like a NASCAR event. Riley Herbst’s Joe Gibbs Racing team had to change an engine and didn’t attempt a lap. Harrison Burton, Will Kimmel and Thad Moffitt couldn’t get past inspection. Peterson spun his car on the frontstretch and backed his team’s only composite car into the wall, forcing his team to withdraw. That left 26 on the board, and of the four that didn’t attempt a lap, Will Kimmel was credited with the last starting spot.

Between the qualifying session and race, the best action of the night took place. A super late model race sanctioned by the CARS Tour took place and included Stewart Friesen’s late model debut as well as former NASCAR drivers Mason Mingus and Steven Wallace. Mingus, driving for former Truck owner Richie Wauters, was wrecked by Wallace after 11 of the race’s 100 laps. Wallace was parked for rough driving after the incident and after both had gotten to the infield, Mingus’ crew jumped members of Wallace’s party, which resulted in a semi-viral video of the fight. Wallace, in a statement posted by Matt Weaver, declared war on Mingus after someone allegedly hit Wallace’s wife. Mingus struck a similar tune to Brendan Gaughan after his encounter with Ross Chastain last year, saying in a Tweet that many drivers had sent thank-yous for standing up to Wallace. That action set the stage for what seemed to be a promising night of short track racing.

Alas, the last-place battle was over almost as soon as the race started. Basham retired after a lap, followed by Kimmel and Wilson seven laps later. Con Nicolopoulos, Peterson’s other driver, fell out after eleven laps and Brad Smith, James Hylton’s driver, went behind the wall after seventeen laps. Due to the quick nature of the bottom five falling out all within the first ten minutes of the race, and due to the policy that ARCA does not always publicly release DNF reasons, the entire Bottom Five left the racetrack with no cause listed. Smith’s camp declined to list a pecific reason, saying that a number of issues were to blame. Wayne Peterson Racing and Fast Track Racing had no comment on their teams’ issues, while Kimmel Racing didn’t even have the race on their original schedule and their social media platforms had zero mention of the team even being at the racetrack. (UPDATE: Will Kimmel tweeted that the #69 at Nashville was indeed a start-and-park effort).

A special shout-out goes to winner Zane Smith’s spotter Landon Huffman, an underdog in the Truck Series who is another Tommy Joe Martins-like driver on social media, not being afraid to be honest and (when necessitated) criticize sanctioning bodies.

26) #34-Mike Basham / 1 lap / unknown
25) #11-D.L. Wilson / 8 laps / unknown
24) #69-Will Kimmel / 8 laps / unknown
23) #06-Con Nicolopoulos / 11 laps / unknown
22) #48-Brad Smith / 17 laps / unknown

1st) Max Force Racing, Darrell Basham Racing (1)

1st) Ford, Chevrolet (1)


Sunday, April 8, 2018

CUP: Devastating hit leaves Martin Truex, Jr. unhurt, but last in Texas

Martin Truex, Jr. picked up the 7th last-place finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway when his #78 Bass Pro Shops / 5-hour Energy Toyota was involved in a hard single-car accident after 80 of 334 laps.

The finish, which came in Truex’s 448th start, was his first in a Cup Series race since November 13, 2016 at Phoenix, 44 races ago. In the Cup Series last-place rankings, it’s the 22nd for car #78, the 147th for Toyota, and the 562nd by reason of a crash. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it’s the 30th for the #78, the 295th for Toyota, and the 1,132nd by reason of a crash.

Truex’s rise since he joined Furniture Row Racing in 2014 has been well-documented. His debut with the team was a last-place run in the Daytona 500, where his backup car lost the engine after 30 laps. A year later, he ended a nearly three-year winless streak with a win at Pocono, then made the final four at Homestead. A switch to Toyota brought four wins and another championship run in 2016, but another blown engine at Talladega left him an also-ran. That all changed last year, when he capitalized on the new stage racing format to score eight wins and the first Monster Energy Cup.

Truex arrived in Texas with a streak of five consecutive top-five finishes, including a dominant victory in Fontana. He ran 10th-fastest in Friday’s opening practice, then ran 6th in Round 1 of qualifying with a lap of 195.979mph (27.554 seconds), which became his official starting spot when rain washed out the final two rounds. He then ran 11th in Saturday’s morning practice then improved to 5th in Happy Hour.

Lining up last on the grid was Reed Sorenson, back in Premium Motorsports’ “open team,” the #55 Chevrolet (originally reported to be a Toyota) for the first time since Fontana. Sorenson was the only driver to not turn a lap in Round 1 of qualifying, but with just 37 cars for 40 spots, he still made the show.

As usual, there were some position changes during the pace laps. The first time by, David Ragan slowed in his #38 Ford, and on the second pace lap, Ross Chastain stopped his #15 LowT Center Chevrolet on the apron of Turn 1. Both cars rejoined the field in the 29th and 31st spots, respectively.

With one lap to green, the four drivers who incurred pre-race penalties went to the back. Heading through Turn 3, Kyle Larson pulled his #42 Credit One Bank Chevrolet to the outside, sent back after his car failed inspection three times. On the backstretch, Matt DiBenedetto fell back in his #32 Can-Am / Wholey Ford for a transmission change, joining William Byron’s #24 Liberty University Chevrolet, which had a new engine. Also sent to the rear was Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., who for the third time in four races was sent to a backup car following a wreck in practice. Coming to the line, Sorenson had dropped back once more, holding down 37th with Byron and DiBenedetto forming the row in front of him.

On the first lap, Sorenson held down last, but was keeping pace with William Byron as he followed the #24 through the first two corners. To Byron’s outside was Landon Cassill, who lined up 35th in StarCom Racing’s #00 Chevrolet. By the completion of the first lap, Sorenson had passed Cassill, and was now working over the #51 Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet of Harrison Rhodes. Coming to the completion of Lap 2, Cassill was still in last when he suddenly steered the car down pit road, avoiding a wreck unfolding off Turn 4.

In trouble was 16th-place starter Alex Bowman, who got loose on the apron and spun in the middle of the pack, leaving several drivers with damage. As Bowman’s #88 Nationwide Insurance Chevrolet spun to the outside, Paul Menard was slowing down in his #21 Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford and veering to the left. This closed the door on an approaching Daniel Suarez in the #19 Stanley “Racing for a Miracle” Toyota. Suarez’s left-front slammed into the right-rear of Menard, leaving both drivers with heavy damage. Bowman, Suarez, and Menard joined Austin Dillon, who suffered front valence damage, to pit under the yellow.

Under the ensuing caution, Bowman took last from Cassill and was the first driver to be lapped by the leaders. Bowman made it back on track with the rest of the group, trying to beat NASCAR’s six-minute “Crash Clock.” On Lap 5, Daniel Suarez’s team was taking extra time repairing the damaged left-front of the #19, costing them a lap of their own. When Bowman pulled into the pits that time by, stopping two stalls in front of Suarez, the #19 fell to last place. On the Lap 7 restart, Suarez was just coming off pit road, now three laps behind. Much like Kevin Harvick at Fontana, he waited until the whole field had exited Turns 1 and 2 and pulled onto the track by himself, about a half-lap behind.

Suarez was still not up to speed, and on Lap 18 lost a fourth circuit to race leader Kevin Harvick, who sped by to his inside off Turn 2. The Joe Gibbs Racing team called Suarez back to pit road on Lap 22, and didn’t return until Lap 35, by which point he was 19 circuits behind. He then lost a 20th lap as he got up to speed, then returned to pit road for a green-flag tail end penalty for too many crew members over the wall. Suarez stopped yet again on Lap 51, at which point he was 22 laps down to the leaders.

While Suarez was once again sitting on pit road, Alex Bowman pulled his damaged #88 behind the wall, the first driver on Sunday to do so. On Lap 59, Bowman was 12 laps down, 17 laps ahead of Suarez. Suarez was the first of the two to return to action, doing so on the 67th go-round, then made another pass-through penalty for too many men over the wall the next time by. At this point, Suarez was now 39 laps down, putting him in position for car #19’s first last-place finish since July 14, 2013.

Martin Truex, Jr., meanwhile, was looking to turn adversity into an advantage. He’d been forced to make an unscheduled stop, but had cycled back up to the runner-up position on Lap 80, poised for a good finish when Stage 1 ended five laps later. But coming off the fourth turn, the right-front tire went down without warning, steering the #78 hard into the outside wall. As the caution flew, allowing Kevin Harvick to take the Stage 1 win uncontested, Truex climbed from his car unhurt. His Toyota was towed behind the wall, then loaded up, done for the afternoon.

By Lap 82, during the Truex caution, Alex Bowman had returned from the garage area. He was now just seven laps from Suarez passing him for 36th, dropping the #88 to last. Instead, with both Bowman and Suarez running, the two gradually closed on the retired Truex. On Lap 88, Truex’s car was pulled off the RaceView app. On Lap 112, Bowman passed Truex. And on Lap 121, Suarez dropped Truex to last.

The rest of the Bottom Five proved to be an “all-star” affair as several other top drivers found themselves involved in accidents. Finishing 36th was Kyle Larson, who like Truex was running in the Top Five when he blew a right-front and slammed the Turn 1 wall. His car was still smoldering as it was towed to the garage. The remaining three spots went to Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, and Brad Keselowski, who tangled in Turns 3 and 4 on Lap 176 after Hamlin ran up on a slowing Aric Almirola. Like Truex, the group gradually fell down the rankings below the lapped Bowman and Suarez, who finished 28th and 29th, respectively.

With so many big names struggling, other small teams enjoyed strong runs. Top of the list was Darrell Wallace, Jr., who came home 8th, his best finish since his runner-up showing in the Daytona 500. Michael McDowell recovered from his disappointing engine failure at Las Vegas to finish 14th, his best run since he was 9th in the 500. Behind McDowell were Chris Buescher, Matt DiBenedetto, Kasey Kahne (driving for Leavine Family Racing with heavy left-front damage from a blown tire), Ross Chastain, Cole Whitt, and Gray Gaulding, who all left Texas with top-twenty finishes. Landon Cassill and Harrison Rhodes, 21st and 22nd, came within one and three laps of challenging this group, but still left with their best finishes of the year. Prior to Sunday, neither driver had finished better than 33rd with Cassill finishing last in his Martinsville season debut.

*This marked the first last-place finish at Texas for both Truex and car #78. It’s Truex’s fourth last-place finish with Furniture Row Racing.

37) #78-Martin Truex, Jr. / 80 laps / crash
36) #42-Kyle Larson / 126 laps / crash
35) #48-Jimmie Johnson / 175 laps / crash
34) #11-Denny Hamlin / 177 laps / crash
33) #2-Brad Keselowski / 178 laps / crash

1st) TriStar Motorsports (2)
2nd) BK Racing, Front Row Motorsports, Furniture Row Racing, Roush-Fenway Racing, StarCom Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (3)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (2)


XFINITY: Jeff Green scores seventh Texas last-place finish in eight years

PHOTO: Dominic Aragon,
Jeff Green picked up the 105th last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s My Bariatric Solutions 300 at the Texas Motor Speedway when his unsponsored #93 RSS Racing Chevrolet fell out with electrical issues after 13 of 200 laps.

The finish, which came in Green’s 270th series start, was his third of the year and his first since Phoenix, two races ago. In the LASTCAR XFINITY Series rankings, it’s the 30th for car #93 (breaking a tie with the #91 for second-most in the series), the 498th for Chevrolet, and the 45th by reason of electrical failure. Across the top three series, it’s the 80th for #93, the 1,585th for Chevrolet, and the 112th by reason of electrical failure.

Following his next-to-last-place finish in Fontana, Green reprised his role in the third RSS Racing Chevrolet, teamed with Ryan Sieg (#39) and J.J. Yeley (#38). Green didn’t participate in Friday’s opening practice, then turned exactly one lap in Happy Hour, good enough for 30th on the charts. He improved in qualifying in part due to other teams not making it on track in time, securing 29th on the grid with a lap of 181.494mph (29.753 seconds). It was the sixth-slowest lap turned in Round 1.

While the preliminary entry list indicated exactly 40 cars for 40 spots, this did not count JP Motorsports teammates Stephen Leicht and Josh Bilicki, who both qualified for the race. Sent home by the duo were Matt Mills in JD Motorsports’ #15 Chevrolet and Fontana last-placer Mike Harmon in the ##74 Shadow Warrior Project Chevrolet.

Starting 40th and last on Saturday was Cup regular Kevin Harvick, back with the Biagi-DenBeste team for the first time since his dominant win at Atlanta in February. Harvick was one of seven drivers who failed to complete a lap in qualifying due to inspection issues, meaning that the entire group lined up according to Owner Points. Though the Biagi team only runs part-time, Harvick secured the spot based on the Past Champions’ Provisional for his 2006 series title. Prior to the start, Harvick was joined at the rear by Spencer Gallagher, whose #23 Allegiant Airlines Chevrolet was penalized for unapproved adjustments.

Two cautions slowed the first 13 laps of the race. First to find trouble was Chad Finchum in the #40 Smithbilt Homes / TLC Resorts Toyota. Finchum, set to make his Cup debut for MBM next Sunday in Bristol, spun on Lap 3 but kept going, only to back into the fence on Lap 81, shortening the rear clip for a 34th-place finish. Cup regular Jamie McMurray then found trouble in Turn 4 on Lap 10, but managed to recover to finish 7th. It was during McMurray’s caution that Green pulled behind the wall. Last-place starter Harvick ultimately finished just 19th, two laps down to race winner Ryan Blaney.

Finishing 39th was Vinnie Miller, who wrecked Johnny Davis’ #01 JAS Expedited Trucking Chevrolet in the second corner on Lap 17, drawing the third yellow of the afternoon. 38th fell to Morgan Shepherd, who made his 1,000th start across NASCAR’s top three divisions in his #89 Visone RV Chevrolet. Shepherd turned 33 laps before suspension issues ended his race. JP Motorsports’ Stephen Leicht in the #55 Jani-King Toyota had electrical issues of his own 20 laps after Shepherd, followed the next time by with Timmy Hill in Motorsports Business Management’s #66 Chris Kyle Foundation / Dodge. For Leicht, Hill, and Miller, it was their first bottom-five finish of 2018.

*Jeff Green has now finished last in exactly one XFINITY Texas race every year since 2011 with the exception of last year, when Jordan Anderson and John Jackson took the position. Saturday was his sixth finish at the track.

40) #93-Jeff Green / 13 laps / electrical
39) #01-Vinnie Miller / 15 laps / crash
38) #89-Morgan Shepherd / 33 laps / suspension
37) #55-Stephen Leicht / 53 laps / electrical
36) #66-Timmy Hill / 54 laps / fuel pump

1st) RSS Racing (3)
2nd) JGL Racing, Mike Harmon Racing, Roush-Fenway Racing, RSS Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (4)
2nd) Ford (2)


Friday, April 6, 2018

PREVIEW: Texas set to host first short Cup Series field in track’s history

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

There are 40 drivers for 40 spots, meaning that all entered drivers will start Saturday’s race. The XFINITY Series has not had a short field since August 16, 2014, when 39 drivers took the green at Mid-Ohio. UPDATE: List grew to 42 cars with the late additions of JP Motorsports' Josh Bilicki (#45) and Stephen Leicht (#55), who continue their full-season run.

DRIVER CHANGE: #3-Richard Childress Racing
The Dillon brothers trade spots once again with younger brother Ty taking over for Austin, who finished 4th last time out in Fontana.

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Set to make his XFINITY Series debut this Saturday is Bayley Currey, who takes over for Tommy Joe Martins, 24th at Fontana. Currey will make his series debut at his home track (he was born in Driftwood, Texas), having made four Truck Series starts since last fall. His best series finish was 10th last November at Phoenix, to date the only Top 10 for Copp Motorsports.

RETURNING: #12-Penske Racing
Austin Cindric’s ride-swapping season continues Saturday as he drives Penske’s #12 Mazak Ford for the first time since Atlanta. Cindric, who drove the #60 last time out in Fontana, had another rough outing that day, finishing 28th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-JD Motorsports
Series veteran Joe Nemechek returns to the controls of JD Motorsports’ fourth car, his first start in the series since a 23rd-place performance in the Daytona opener. He takes the place of Matt Mills, who doesn’t have a ride this weekend. UPDATE: Mills was added in place of Nemechek for race day.

DRIVER CHANGE: #22-Penske Racing
Another Cup driver swap headlines the primary Penske Ford with Ryan Blaney taking the place of Joey Logano, who dominated the Roseanne 300 two weeks ago.

DRIVER CHANGE: #42-Chip Ganassi Racing
After a freak incident left caused John Hunter Nemechek’s hood to fly up in Fontana, leaving his fast Chevrolet 29th, Cup regular Jamie McMurray returns for his second XFINITY start of the season. McMurray came home 5th last month in Phoenix.

DRIVER CHANGE: #60-Roush-Fenway Racing
Taking the place of Austin Cindric in the #60 Nutri Chomps Ford is Chase Briscoe, his first XFINITY start since he ran 15th with the team in Atlanta. Briscoe ran 2nd and 4th in last year’s Truck Series races in Texas.

RETURNING: #98-Stewart-Haas Racing with Biagi-DenBeste
Rounding out the group of Cup invaders is Kevin Harvick and the Biagi-DenBeste #98 Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford, who both were last seen dominating the field in Atlanta, leading 141 of 163 laps for an easy victory.

CUP INVADERS: #3-Ty Dillon, #22-Ryan Blaney, #42-Jamie McMurray, #98-Kevin Harvick

Sunday, April 8, 2018
CUP Race 7 of 36
O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Jeffrey Earnhardt

There are 37 drivers entered for 40 spots in Sunday’s Cup race. It’s the sixth-consecutive short field this season and the first short field in the history of either of Texas’ two Cup dates. The track had 40-car fields in all four races since the 2016 reduction.

DRIVER & MANUFACTURER CHANGE: #55-Premium Motorsports
After J.J. Yeley’s season debut ended with a 31st-place finish in Martinsville, Reed Sorenson is listed to return to Jay Robinson’s Open team for the first time since Fontana. Sorenson drove Premium’s Chartered #15 in both of last year’s Texas races, finishing 35th in the spring and 31st in the fall. The team also makes the switch to Toyota for the first time since last fall in Kansas.

WITHDREW: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Carl Long was entered in his #66 Toyota for what would have been MBM’s first Cup start since Mark Thompson’s effort in the Daytona 500. By the time the preliminary list was posted, however, the car was withdrawn. News already broke on March 27 that MBM will return next Sunday in Bristol, where the team’s XFINITY Series driver Chad Finchum will make his Cup debut at his home track. Finchum will run double-duty that weekend, paired with an XFINITY run in the #40 Concrete North, Inc. Toyota.

MISSING: #96-Gaunt Brothers Racing
D.J. Kennington survived his first short track Cup race at Martinsville, coming home 28th with the #96 Toyota in one piece. Driver and team are not entered this week, but appear to be building their notebook at tracks where they’ve never competed.

MISSING: #99-StarCom Racing
Sources indicated earlier this season that StarCom would field their second car, the #99, this weekend at Texas. However, despite the short field, the car was missing from the preliminary entry list.

UPDATE: #00-StarCom Racing
This is the second and final scheduled race for Landon Cassill’s two-race stint with StarCom Racing. Plans for driver and team at Bristol and beyond are still in the works.

Friday, May 4, 2018
TRUCKS Race 5 of 23
Dover 200 at Dover
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Camden Murphy

The Truck Series’ first of two trips to Texas isn’t until June, and their next race this season comes next month in Dover.

In NASCAR’s early days, dirt tracks provided several unique hazards. This was particularly true of the Richmond Fairgrounds (today the Richmond Raceway), which hosted races on clay until 1968. During one particular running of the Richmond 200 on May 22, 1955, the track also saw the only instance of a Cup driver falling out because of “mud.” The victim was sixth-place starter Jimmie Lewallen of Archdale, North Carolina. Lewallen’s #88 made it just three laps before wet soil was specifically blamed for the end of his day. According to historian Greg Fielden, the track surface grew worse in the closing stages, turning so "rutted and choppy" that mud "clogged fuel lines and choked off radiators." Years later, Lewallen was the subject of a 2014 film, “Red Dirt Rising,” co-produced by his son Gary.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

#JD70: J.D. McDuffie competed in a handful of Texas races

J.D. McDuffie in his Bailey Excavating cap, circa 1975
PHOTO: source unknown
Though he raced years before the opening of the Texas Motor Speedway, J.D. McDuffie made several trips to the Lone Star State in his career.

McDuffie competed in seven of the eight races run at the Texas World Speedway in College Station, missing only the inaugural event in 1969. Today, the mammoth two-mile oval stands empty, and most recently was the staging ground for vehicles damaged during Hurricane Harvey. But on December 12, 1971, the #70 Mercury lined up 44th on the grid of a tremendous 49-car field. In a race won by Richard Petty, McDuffie climbed up to 19th at the finish, 39 laps down to The King.

In those seven starts, McDuffie never finished last. In fact, one of his 106 career top-ten finishes happened there. On June 10, 1973, another race won by Petty, McDuffie finished 10th. Though the #70 came home 12 laps down that afternoon, he was in good company – Petty had lapped the entire field not once, but twice, besting runner-up Darrell Waltrip by more than two full circuits. He also finished ahead of Bobby Allison, Dave Marcis, and Richard Childress, among others.

McDuffie very nearly finished in the top-ten again during the series’ final visit to the track on June 7, 1981. That day, he finished 11th, one spot and two laps behind 10th-place Harry Gant. This time, the group in his rear view included polesitter Terry Labonte, Ricky Rudd, Darrell Waltrip, and Morgan Shepherd. Benny Parsons took the win, his second of three for the late Bud Moore. It was also the day Kirk Shelmerdine made his Cup Series debut as a driver.

Interestingly, McDuffie also competed at a second Texas venue. Car #70 was one of 14 entrants who competed in the Space City 300, a 300-lapper at the Meyer Speedway, a half-mile paved bullring in Houston. Held on June 23, 1971 – the Wednesday between the summer rounds at Riverside and Greenville-Pickens – McDuffie started 6th and finished 10th, the next-to-last driver to finish under power. Cruising to victory that day was Bobby Allison, who inherited the lead when Richard Petty had early mechanical issues.

Reserve your copy of "J.D.: The Life and Death of a Forgotten NASCAR Legend" at Waldorf Publishing, coming July 15, 2018. Click here for more details.