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.

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