Friday, April 27, 2018

PREVIEW: Sponsorship for RSS Racing, return of Beard and Benton headline Talladega entry lists

PHOTO: Ricky Benton Racing's Instagram
Saturday, April 28, 2018
XFINITY Race 9 of 33
Sparks Energy 300 at Talladega
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Ray Black, Jr.

There are 41 drivers entered to attempt Saturday’s 40-car field, meaning that one driver will miss the race.

DRIVER CHANGE: #3-Richard Childress Racing
Jeb Burton finished a solid 12th in his season debut at Richmond. This week, he climbs out of the #3 as Shane Lee returns for the first time since his series debut at Bristol, where he ran 14th. Lee has two ARCA starts at Talladega with finishes of 11th in 2016 and 5th last year.

MANUFACTURER CHANGE: #8 and #78-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
On Tuesday, Tommy Joe Martins revealed that the McLeod team will be running Toyotas instead of Chevrolets this Saturday at Talladega, and at Daytona in July. For Martins, Saturday will be his first XFINITY Series start at Talladega since 2014, when he drove his family-owned #76 Diamond Gusset Jeans / Land No Tax Dodge to a 14th-place finish, still his second-best run in the series. McLeod himself will run as his teammate in the #78 Toyota. Sponsorship has yet to be announced for either car.

Following a 24th-place finish by Tony Mrakovich in his XFINITY Series debut at Richmond, Dylan Lupton returns to the controls of JGL Racing’s #28 Ford. It will be Lupton’s first Talladega start, and comes on the heels of his restrictor-plate debut at Daytona in February, where he ran 27th.

SPONSOR UPDATE: #38, #39, #93-RSS Racing
All three of RSS Racing’s Chevrolets will make full-race runs this Saturday as all three have sponsorship for the race. J.J. Yeley will remain in the #38 (yellow roof and door numbers) with Josh Roberts Trucking and Repairs on the hood. Jeff Green will run the #93 (green roof numbers, white door numbers) with C2 Freight Resources on the hood and quarter-panels. Ryan Sieg runs the #39 (red roof numbers, white door numbers) with Alabama Soda & Abrasive Blasting, along with associate backing from J. Pigg Construction. All three drivers will be ones to watch following the team’s strong overall performance at Daytona and Green’s 18 laps led in this race last year (when he drove for B.J. McLeod).

WITHDREW: #54-NXT Motorsports
The preliminary entry list included 42 drivers until the #54 Toyota team withdrew without a driver or crew chief listed. The team had run the most recent plate race at Daytona, finishing 38th with Gray Gaulding after a rear gear failure.

DRIVER CHANGE: #55-JP Motorsports
On Monday, it was announced that Truck Series driver Jennifer Jo Cobb, back from her NASCAR Euro Series debut in Valencia, driving in place of Stephen Leicht in the #55 Toyota. According to the announcement on, Cobb brings with her sponsorship from the Swamp Daddy Crawfish restaurant and the Show Me Dega Boulevard Club. It will be Cobb’s first XFINITY Series start since last fall at Kansas, and her first in the series at Talladega since she ran 37th for Rick Ware in 2011. Josh Bilicki will remain in the second JP Motorsports entry, the #45 Prevagen Toyota.

DRIVER CHANGE: #60-Roush-Fenway Racing
Ty Majeski has never before started a race on a superspeedway, both in the XFINITY Series and in ARCA. This Saturday, he will make his second start of the season, taking the place of Chase Briscoe in the Ford-sponsored #60. Briscoe makes the move to the #98 this weekend. Majeski made his 2018 season debut in the #60 two weeks ago at Bristol, where a crash left him 34th.

Josh Williams returns to Mario Gosselin’s #90 team after a one-week hiatus for Brandon Brown’s 19th-place performance last week in Richmond. It will be Williams’ first XFINITY Series start at Talladega, but not his first on a restrictor-plate track. He ran the last two series races at Daytona, finishing last in July 2017 and 22nd this past February. He also has five ARCA starts at Talladega with his best finish being his most recent, a runner-up to Gus Dean in 2016. The DGM team has elected not to bring out their second car (#92), as they have in several plates races before.

RETURNING: #98-Stewart-Haas Racing with Biagi-DenBeste
The #98 team makes its return to the XFINITY Series for the first time since Bristol, two weeks ago. Behind the wheel is the same driver who ran that day, Chase Briscoe, who slides over from Roush-Fenway Racing’s #60 to make way for Ty Majeski. Like Majeski, the #98 does not have a listed sponsor other than Ford itself.

The XFINITY Series is without Cup regulars for the third-consecutive race. While the last two rounds were because of “Dash 4 Cash” events, this week will feature Cup drivers in FOX’s second-ever “Driver’s Only” broadcast.

Sunday, April 29, 2018
CUP Race 10 of 36
GEICO 500 at Talladega
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Reed Sorenson

There are 40 drivers entered for 40 spots, meaning that all entrants will start the race. It’s just the second full field of the 2018 season, and the first since the previous plate race in this year’s Daytona 500.

On Wednesday, it was announced that Matt Kenseth would be returning to active Cup Series competition in 2018, and would be bringing additional sponsorship from Wyndham Rewards to the #6 team. Trevor Bayne, who has driven the car since 2015, will share the ride with Kenseth starting at Kansas in two weeks. In the meantime, Bayne is entered both this weekend and next week in Dover.

MISSING: #8-Richard Childress Racing
Daniel Hemric kept his nose clean in his Cup debut last Saturday in Richmond, finishing 32nd, three laps down to race winner Kyle Busch. While Hemric will have to wait until the September 30 debut of Charlotte’s “roval” for his second Cup start, the driver will continue his regular-season effort in the XFINITY Series, including this Saturday’s 300-miler.

For the second-straight race, was on the preliminary entry list as the primary sponsor for Gray Gaulding's Toyota. For the second-straight time, that is not the case - this time, Earthwater is on the car.

Matt DiBenedetto announced at Talladega that Zynga Poker, which joined the #32 for its fan-funded effort at Phoenix, will return for seven races, plus the All-Star Race in May. Can-Am and Wholey remain the backers at Talladega.

PAINT SCHEME: #43-Richard Petty Motorsports
Darrell Wallace, Jr.’s Medallion Bank Chevrolet will once again carry the traditional bright red and Petty blue colors this weekend, along with the Petty’s Garage logo on the hood. “The King” steered these colors to two Talladega wins – one each in 1974 and 1983 – and finished 15th in his final two starts there in 1992.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Rick Ware Racing
The preliminary entry list showed XFINITY Series regular Cole Custer returning to action for the first time since his Cup debut at Las Vegas. Former FOX News reporter Scott Bolling tweeted on Wednesday that Kevin O'Connell would drive, making his first Cup start since Sonoma last year. But the drover will be Timmy Hill, who goes double-duty with XFINITY. Sponsoring the car is both Keen's Buildings, which sigbed over the offseason, and The latter is an initiative to stop opioid abuse, following a similar effort by J.J. Yeley at Martinsville. Bolling endorsed the run as partner. Hill makes his first Cul start since Fontana and takes the place of Harrison Rhodes, who ran 36th last week in Richmond.

MANUFACTURER CHANGE: #55-Premium Motorsports
Reed Sorenson’s #55 makes the manufacturer switch from Chevrolet to Toyota this week with sponsorship still to be determined. Teammate Ross Chastain in the Chartered #15 is still listed in a Chevrolet. UPDATE: Sorenson's car is a Chevrolet and has new sponsorship from TCL Television.

RETURNING: #62-Beard Motorsports
The last time we saw this team, Brendan Gaughan was in position to threaten for a win late in the Daytona 500. Following a crash and several repairs, the #62 team is back with the same sponsorship from Beard Oil and South Point Hotel & Casino. Gaughan’s best Cup Series finish to date came at this track in 2004, when he led seven laps and finished 4th for Doug Bawel. Driver and team finished 26th and 19th at the track last year.

NOT RETURNING: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Following Mark Thompson’s return in the Daytona 500 and Chad Finchum’s debut in Bristol, Carl Long has not fielded a Cup car this weekend. The team will still be trackside, however, as Finchum and Timmy Hill will run as teammates in Saturday’s XFINITY Series race.

SPONSOR UPDATE: #72-TriStar Motorsports
The unsponsored black-and-white Chevrolet for Cole Whitt appeared in Tallladega with a hood decal for "1950 Clothing Company."

RETURNING: #92-Ricky Benton Racing
Ricky Benton’s Truck Series team returns for their own first Cup effort since David Gilliland brought their former Richard Petty Motorsports Ford home in 14th place. With Gilliland pondering retirement, the wheel has been handed to Timothy Peters, who has been struggling to find rides since the closure of Red Horse Racing. Peters aims to make his Cup debut on Sunday with sponsorship from Advance Auto Parts and a Roush-Yates engine under the hood.

RETURNING: #96-Gaunt Brothers Racing
D.J. Kennington and the Gaunt Brothers team return to action at Talladega, where they missed the cut in qualifying last year. With exactly 40 cars on the list, Kennington is set to make his Talladega debut, though as in their most recent start at Bristol, have not announced a sponsor.

Welcome back Joey Gase, who aims to make his first Cup start since Las Vegas, where he turned in a 32nd-place performance for Premium Motorsports’ #55. This time around, Gase takes the place of Landon Cassill in Derrike Cope’s #00. Cassill, who finished 4th at Talladega in the fall of 2014, is not entered in Sunday’s race. Gase brings with him sponsorship from Sparks Energy, which not only backs Gase’s XFINITY Series #35 Chevrolet from Go FAS Racing, but will also sponsor Saturday’s XFINITY race. Gase drove both Cup races at Talladega last year, finishing 21st for Premium Motorsports in the spring and 32nd for BK Racing in the fall.

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

Next weekend’s tripleheader at the “Monster Mile” will begin with the fifth round of the Truck Series.

Only once in the history of the Talladega Superspeedway did the driver classified last fail to start the race. On May 6, 1979, during the running of the Winston 500, Triangle, Virginia native Travis Tiller had secured a spot in the field, edging out six other drivers, including eleven-time XFINITY Series race winner Chuck Bown. For reasons not listed, Tiller didn’t start his #46 Ring Enterprises Dodge, and was classified last. The DNS prevented him from being involved in a terrible Lap 5 accident that broke out near the lead between Buddy Baker and Cale Yarborough.

The other two Dodge Magnums entered in the race, belonging to owner-drivers Buddy Arrington and Frank Warren, finished a strong 3rd and 8th, respectively. For Arrington, it was the best finish of his winless 560-race Cup career. He led Laps 15 and 16, then finished one spot in front of Richard Petty, from whom he’d purchased his #67 Reid Trailer Sales Dodge. For Warren in the #79 Native Tan Dodge, it was the 29th and final top-ten finish of his 396-race career. Bobby Allison won the race in the late Bud Moore’s Ford.

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