Wednesday, May 30, 2018

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

J.D. McDuffie at Pocono, June 1991
PHOTO: Sally Berch Daggett
J.D. McDuffie made 22 starts at the “Tricky Triangle” in Pocono, Pennsylvania, starting with the first-ever Cup race held at the track. On Sunday, August 4, 1974, his #70 Chevrolet started 27th in the 35-car field, but lost an engine after 70 laps. His 25th-place finish that day came during a particularly difficult season, and was his fourth of five consecutive DNFs that summer.

Better runs weren’t far away. On July 31, 1977, during the Coca-Cola 500, McDuffie finished 14th, eight laps down to race winner Benny Parsons. He improved the following year with his first top-ten finish – a 10th – this time within six circuits of Darrell Waltrip. It turned out to be McDuffie’s best-ever finish at the track.

Still, in his next six Pocono starts, McDuffie finished inside the Top 20 four times with just a single DNF. He managed to maintain this level of consistency despite NASCAR’s downsizing of its stock cars, forcing the Sanford native to shift from a large Chevrolet Monte Carlo to a much smaller Pontiac Grand Prix or Le Mans. 16th was his best finish after the downsizing, which he accomplished in both 1982 and 1986.

The first of McDuffie’s two last-place finishes at Pocono came on June 10, 1984, during the Van Scoy Diamond Mine 500. Running outside the Top 30, he was caught up in a Lap 6 accident with Jerry Bowman, whose #58 J.B. Racing Ford lost an engine in the first corner. The aftermath of this accident was featured midway through Ken Squier’s feature on McDuffie, aired on CBS during the following year’s Daytona 500.

McDuffie in the Wayne Beahr car, 1985
PHOTO: Janine Pestel Collection
The other last-place finish occurred on July 21, 1985, during the Summer 500. It was McDuffie’s second of three starts driving a beige Ford Thunderbird provided by car owner Wayne Beahr. Sponsorship came from Lockhart Ford and Hanover Printing. Despite the car’s obscurity, running just 10 laps that afternoon before the engine let go, this particular #70 was mass-produced in 1:64 scale by Racing Collectibles, Inc.

In 1991, Pocono was the only track where McDuffie made both its scheduled races. Both times, he ran the burgundy-and-black Pontiac that he would drive at Watkins Glen in August. The quarter-panels carried logos for Classic Trophies, which was based not far from the track. White lettering on each side of the rear bumper read “Tim Patty & Cliff” for the June 16th Champion Spark Plug 500, then “H & M Trucking” for the return on July 21, the Miller Genuine Draft 500 (The story of those sponsors will be in the book).

In the first race, handling issues left McDuffie 34th in the field of 37. In the July return, he finished under power, 27 laps behind Rusty Wallace in 25th. Around Lap 130 of 200, ESPN showed McDuffie on the Long Pond Straight and followed him to the start / finish line. As they did, announcers Bob Jenkins and Ned Jarrett commented on the driver’s run:

BOB JENKINS: “Every person out there has a favorite driver. And for those of you who are J.D. McDuffie fans, here he is. He’s running in 27th position, about 21 laps behind. But you’ve gotta give this guy an ‘A’ for effort and perseverance.”

NED JARRETT: “I tell you, the car looks good, so he has dodged most of the wrecks here today. So, it’s good to see J.D. in a race. He’s had some trouble making some races. He’s from Sanford, North Carolina. But he started 40th, so he has picked up 13 positions so far. He’s still out there circling this race track.”

BOB JENKINS: “The guy comes to just about every Winston Cup race and gives it everything he’s got every time he shows up at the track.”

This footage, without Jenkins and Jarrett’s audio, was used in Benny Parsons’ tribute to McDuffie, aired the following month at Michigan.

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, May 29, 2018

ARCA: Brad Smith perseveres only to fall short at Charlotte

Smith's car at Toledo earlier this month
PHOTO: @DriverBradSmith
by William Soquet Guest Contributor

Brad Smith finished last for the 12th time in his ARCA career in Thursday night’s General Tire 150 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway when his #48 Ford failed to start.

The finish came in the 318th time Smith had qualified for an ARCA race. It was his first since Talladega, two races ago. It was the fourth time Smith did not start, the other three coming with Wayne Peterson Racing.

Smith is a 49-year-old engineer who works for General Motors in Detroit. His racing efforts have often come out of his own pocket, complete with the number 26 and in the sponsor tab since 2001, jumping on the personal website bandwagon early. Smith’s first ARCA start came at Rockford Speedway in Illinois in 1988 as a 19-year-old. After running a handful of races that year, Smith did not return to the series on a frequent basis until 1995, when he teamed up with Wayne Peterson Racing. After on-and-off ventures with Peterson throughout the remainder of the century, Smith ventured out on his own in 2001 and became a mainstay in his #26. He abandoned his own effort in 2012 and worked with several underdog teams throughout the years like Hixson Motorsports, Josh Williams Motorsports, Max Force Racing, and most recently James Hylton Motorsports. Smith and Hylton ran the entire 2017 schedule together, pulling the car with a mini school bus after the team’s hauler was damaged.

2018 looked to be another survival year for the underdog pairing of Smith and Hylton. Optimism was high within the team before the year began. The duo started their season the way most ARCA teams do, getting caught up in somebody else’s mess at Daytona. The season soon turned downright horrible. Early issues forced the 48 out after only 17 laps at Nashville, and a blown engine at Salem forced the team to withdraw. A number of issues plagued the team at Talladega, where the team got the car on the grid only to retire because of oil issues without completing a lap.

It was after this race that struggles turned to tragedy. Team owner James Hylton and his son Tweety died in a crash heading home from the track. The death touched all in the stock car racing community but hit Smith harder than most. In the months that followed, plans for Smith and the 48 came together as thoughts and prayers poured in from the racing community. Originally, the 48 showed up on the Toledo entry list as part of the Kimmel Racing stable with Bill Kimmel in the owner’s spot. That eventually changed, as Smith and the Hylton Motorsports crew acquired a car the week of the Toledo race and got it to the track. Toledo was the team’s first smooth race of 2018, avoiding all problems en route to a 16th-place finish. The team then turned their attention to Charlotte.

Charlotte’s entry list touted 31 drivers with many notable part-time drivers and teams. Jesse Iwuji’s #34 returned, as did plate aces Codie Rohrbaugh, Andy Seuss and Bryan Dauzat. Venturini Motorsports boasted an impressive lineup on paper, with Michael Self, Brandon Lynn and Leilani Munter rounding out the team. Quin Houff and Max Tullman both announced this race months in advance with Mason Michell Motorsports. Brandon Jones and Todd Gilliland were entered in top-flight part-time entries. And in the back portions of the field, Tyler Dippel returned with Chad Bryant Racing, and Austin Hill made his first start in more than three years with Chad Finley’s team. Will Rodgers came in for his second ARCA race of the year, and Tom Berte came out of retirement to run with Fast Track Racing. Three steel-bodied cars rounded out the field: Zach Ralston, in his self-prepared #1, David Sear, the driver of the week in the #69, and Don Thompson, making his first run of the year with Wayne Peterson Racing in the team’s #06 Dodge.

Smith was one of two drivers who didn't make a lap in qualifying, the other being Salvatore Iovino, whose #38 Kayton Travel / Hardcore Hammers machine withdrew after not turning a lap in practice. Kayton Travel was listed as a sponsor even though Iovino had posted on social media earlier this month that the contract with the company, which initially included multiple K&N and ARCA races, had run its course.

Smith and company were helped by another independent, Andy Hillenburg, to get ready in four days for the Thursday race at Charlotte. Unfortunately, a broken driveshaft sidelined the team, sending them packing early. But not too early, as the team tried right up until the green to fix it but unfortunately could not. Con Nicolopoulos fell out after a single lap, likely to preserve his team’s composite body car. His teammate Thompson followed suit 18 laps later, both citing handling issues. Dauzat finished 27th after being turned early in the race, and Iwuji rounded out the bottom five after mechanical issues led to a wreck that also included Dippel.

Venturini Motorsports’ lineup looked good on paper, but never came to fruition. Munter was way off pace, finishing behind Tom Berte, six laps down. Michael Self went to a backup and never fully recovered, while Natalie Decker spun Dauzat in an apparent move of frustration or inexperience after Dauzat pulled away from her down the backstretch. This yielded good results from underdogs, highlighted by owner/driver Bret Holmes in seventh and Rohrbaugh in ninth. The two steel-bodied cars did not fare as well, each finishing six laps down to the winner.

30) #48-Brad Smith / 0 laps / did not start
29) #0-Con Nicolopoulos / 1 lap / handling
28) #06-Don Thompson / 19 laps / handling
27) #57-Bryan Dauzat / 19 laps / crash
26) #34-Jesse Iwuji / 32 laps / crash

1st) Max Force Racing, Darrell Basham Racing, Wayne Peterson Racing, James Hylton Motorsports, Kimmel Racing, Brad Smith Motorsports (1)

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


Sunday, May 27, 2018

CUP: Early crash hands Kevin Harvick his first-ever last-place finish in 1,089 combined NASCAR starts

PHOTO: Michael Harvey, @MrLester88
Kevin Harvick picked up the 1st last-place finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway when his #4 Mobil 1 / Busch Beer Ford was involved in a single-car accident after 83 of 400 laps.

In the Cup Series last-place rankings, it’s the 40th for car #4, the 566th by reason of a crash, and the 681st for Ford. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it’s the 66th for the #4, the 938th for Ford, and the 1,139th by reason of a crash.

Consider how much has changed since 1995.

On October 15th of that year, Harvick was 19 years old. He made his debut in NASCAR’s new SuperTruck Series, driving in the Spears Manufacturing 200 at the Mesa Marin Raceway in his native Bakersfield, California. Harvick put his family’s #72 Hall Ambulance Chevrolet 27th on the grid and finished there. Through his most recent Truck Series start in 2015, he’d earn 14 wins and a best points finish of 12th in 1999.

And in all 123 of those races, he never once finished last.

Harvick was 23 on October 23, 1999, when he made his XFINITY Series debut at Rockingham, North Carolina for the K-Mart 200. Driving the #2 Invinca-Shield Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing, Harvick started 24th but finished 42nd with engine trouble. Casey Atwood edged him for last by 30 laps. Harvick would go on to earn 47 wins in the series, including a pair of titles in 2001 and 2006.

And in all 343 of those races, Harvick never once finished last.

Following Dale Earnhardt’s tragic death on the last lap of the Daytona 500, a 25-year-old Harvick shouldered the impossible task of following “The Intimidator.” With the black #3 now a white #29, Harvick made his Cup debut on February 25, 2001, during a somber Dura Lube 400 at Rockingham. When rain pushed the finish of the race to Monday, Harvick finished 14th. Just 13 days after, Harvick earned his first of 42 Cup Series wins on his way to Rookie of the Year. He’d join Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014, and straight away clinch his first series title.

And in all 622 of those races, heading into Sunday’s race in Charlotte, Harvick never once finished last.

Of all Harvick’s accomplishments both on and off the track, his ability to avoid finishing last in any points-paying races (his only last-place runs were one each in the Sprint Unlimited (2016) and the All-Star Race (2001)) stands as one of his least-known and most remarkable. As with Kasey Kahne (417), Clint Bowyer (298), and Jimmie Johnson (529), who all saw triple-digit streaks end in recent years, Harvick came close to finishing last several times. He finished next-to-last seven times in Cup, once in XFINITY (his series debut), and five times in the Truck Series.

Chris Buescher edges Harvick in "The Big One" - Daytona 2016
Harvick's crew pieces together wrecked car - Fontana 2018

Coming into Sunday’s race in Charlotte, there was no sign the streak would end. He’d won the previous two consecutive points races at Dover and Kansas, plus last Saturday night’s All-Star Race. Despite an encumbered win at Las Vegas, his four remaining wins placed him atop the Playoff standings as the series arrived for the halfway point of the regular season. He would debut a new paint scheme at Charlotte, a modified version of the Mobil 1 paint scheme with Busch Beer on the quarter-panels. In addition, as part of Memorial Day and the “NASCAR Salutes” program, his #4 carried the name of Lance Cpl. Patrick Ryan Adle of the United States Marine Corps. Lance Cpl. Adle of Bel Air, Maryland joined the USMC when he turned 18, and was was killed in his second tour in Iraq on June 29, 2004.

After Rick Ware Racing canceled the debut of their second team, a #52 Chevrolet to run alongside the Chartered #51, exactly 40 cars were entered for as many starting spots. Of them, Harvick ranked 14th in Thursday’s opening practice, but was unable to back up that time in qualifying when his car failed inspection three times. NASCAR ejected Harvick’s car chief, put the #4 on a 30-minute practice hold, and kept Harvick from qualifying. After a 17th-place run in Happy Hour on Saturday, Harvick set his sights on getting a better run on Sunday, where he’d start 39th in the 40-car field.

Starting 40th was J.J. Yeley, driving for car owner Jonathan Cohen. Cohen was the owner behind Xxxtreme Motorsports (later known as Team XTREME Motorsports) which fielded some spectacular-looking #44 Fords and Chevrolets with sponsorship from No Label Watches and Phoenix Warehouses. This time around, Cohen returned to the circuit under the NY Racing Team, a post-entry not eligible for points due to its late addition to the entry list. NY’s black-and-white #7 Steakhouse Elite Chevrolet was reportedly prepared at Premium Motorsports. At the same time, professional differences arose between Brian Keselowski, who had been working on improving Premium’s Truck Series effort, and Keselowski tweeted that he and his crew parted ways with Premium. Yeley’s #7 was then driven to Charlotte in a Premium Motorsports hauler used by Wendell Chavous’ #49 Truck Series team. Like Harvick, Yeley didn’t turn a lap in qualifying, and earned the 40th spot as a lower-ranked “open” team. Regardless, it would mark Cohen’s first Cup start as an owner since Reed Sorenson’s backup car effort in the 2015 Daytona 500.

On race evening, the back of the field changed just before the start. Incurring pre-race penalties were 35th-place Landon Cassill, whose #00 Dairi-O Chevrolet failed tech inspection, and 24th-place Darrell Wallace, Jr., whose Richard Petty Motorsports team made unapproved adjustments to the #43 Kroger / Coca-Cola Chevrolet. During the pace laps, four more teams voluntarily fell to the rear: Premium Motorsports teammates Ross Chastain (#15) and Jeffrey Earnhardt (back in action for the first time since Fontana, this time in the #55), Motorsports Business Management’s Timmy Hill (#66), and B.J. McLeod for Rick Ware (#51). When the dust settled, Harvick had moved up from 39th to 34th, starting alongside Wallace’s #43. Row 18 now consisted of Hill and Chastain, followed by McLeod and Cassill, then Yeley and Earnhardt rounding out the field.

When the race started, Yeley got a jump on Earnhardt, but Earnhardt pulled alongside Yeley on the backstretch. Earnhardt wrestled 39th away from Yeley off Turn 4, and set to work on 38th-place Timmy Hill. On Lap 2, Hill’s Toyota slipped up high, forced there by a persistent tight condition. By Lap 5, Hill was 13.7 seconds back of the leader and dropping fast, reporting his car was a “seven tight center, then loose on exit.” Polesitter Kyle Busch caught sight of Hill on Lap 12, and the next time by lapped him at the start / finish line. Hill lost a second lap by the 29th circuit.

The first incident of the night occurred on Lap 37. Defending Coca-Cola 600 winner Austin Dillon smacked the wall in Turn 2, damaging the right-rear of his #3 Coca-Cola Chevrolet. Moments later, the right-rear tire blew, knocking out the crush panel as hunks of rubber came off the tire. Under the ensuing yellow, Dillon came down pit road, then the crew sent him back out one lap down with plans of fixing a brace inside the right-rear. Five men came over the wall on a second stop, during which time his left sides were changed. On Lap 39, Dillon returned to the track, then came in again a third time on Lap 40 for an air pressure change. With word of the race restarting, Dillon returned to the track on Lap 41, but came in a fourth time after the restart was waved off. By now, the car was starting to smoke from what the crew believed was rubber wrapped around the rear end housing. He returned again on Lap 42, making it out seconds before the race restarted. A half-lap behind the leaders, Dillon said there was no more smoke. The #3 reached minimum speed, clearing the “Crash Clock.”

But on Lap 48, Dillon pulled down pit road a fifth time, the cockpit completely filled with smoke. As the crew discovered later, the right-rear hub caught fire after the tire failed. The fire was put out, and Dillon, now last, returned to the track 10 laps down. Once again, there were issues in the right-rear of the machine. Dillon complained of something flapping in the right-rear, and also said there were issues with the brake lines. “She’s broke,” said Dillon, and he pulled behind the wall on Lap 58. But the Richard Childress Racing crew wasn’t finished yet, and by Lap 75, they were still hard at work, sealing up the right-rear fender with Bear Bond.

If things stayed the same, it would be just the first time car #3 finished last in a Cup points race at Charlotte since October 8, 1989, when Dale Earnhardt’s broken camshaft resulted in one of his only two 42nd-place finishes, ultimately paving the way to Rusty Wallace defeating him for the championship. But the night would belong to another driver – the very driver who had replaced Earnhardt at RCR, and the one who with his departure to Stewart-Haas caused Childress to bring back the #3.

Harvick in the garage after his wreck
By Lap 83, Kevin Harvick had rallied from 39th on the grid to 4th, and was tracking down Kyle Larson for 3rd when he ran over a piece of debris in Turn 3. Already running the high lane, Harvick’s car cut a left-front tire and smashed into the outside wall, grinding against it for several feet. When Harvick got control and pulled down the banking, the right-front wheel was tucked under the fender, showing heavy suspension damage. Harvick pulled down pit road, then behind the wall, abruptly eliminated from the race under the “Crash Clock” rules. By Lap 86, Harvick’s car was listed “unavailable” on RaceView, and he took 39th from Timmy Hill on Lap 89. The result was significant - if Dillon returned to the track and completed enough laps, Harvick would fall to last for the first time.

The first step occurred on Lap 100, when the RCR team took Austin Dillon’s car off the jacks and pushed it out of the garage. With Stage 1 ended, Dillon returned to the track under yellow on Lap 101, 52 laps down to the field. Now just 34 laps behind Harvick, Dillon would have to complete 35 laps in order to drop the #4 to 40th place. Suddenly, the only thing that would keep Harvick from finishing last was if Dillon retired from the race before he completed enough laps. There was some discussion as to how much longer the #3 would go. When told how far he was behind, Dillon said he could run until Lap 350 and keep passing other cars. But the crew was doubtful they would run that long. Fortunately for the RCR team, Dillon managed to keep a decent pace, and by Lap 113 passed the lapped Corey LaJoie. On Lap 117, Dillon pitted for fresh tires, which allowed him to keep closing the gap.

Finally, on Lap 136, Dillon dropped Harvick to last.

Dillon ended up climbing out of the Bottom Five, not losing another lap and coming home under power in 34th.

Finishing 39th was rookie William Byron, whose #24 Liberty University Patriotic Chevrolet smacked the Turn 2 wall twice, ultimately eliminating him with heavy right-rear damage. J.J. Yeley’s first run for the NY Racing Team carried him 191 laps into the race before the fuel pump failed. 37th went to Matt DiBenedetto, who made his left turn into the garage after fluid discovered to be oil leaked from his #32 Cosmo Motors Ford. Rounding out the Bottom Five was Ryan Blaney, whose early engine troubles ended with a fiery failure that ended his night after Lap 278 laps.

*The finish occurred in Harvick’s 623rd Cup Series start, ending the longest active streak without a Cup Series last-place finish. For comparison, that’s just 30 fewer starts than the late J.D. McDuffie ran in his entire Cup career from 1963 to his untimely death in 1991, when he trailed 32 events.
*Among active full-time Cup Series competitors, the longest streak without a Cup Series last-place finish now belongs to Brad Keselowski, who is 0-for-318 dating back to 2008.
*Car #4 hadn’t finished last in a Cup race since October 13, 2007, when Ward Burton lost an engine on Morgan-McClure’s #4 State Water Heaters / Lucas Oil Chevrolet at Charlotte. The only other driver to earn a last-place finish with car #4 at Charlotte was Mike Wallace, whose #4 Lucas Oil Products Chevrolet busted a timing chain after 40 laps of the UAW-GM Quality 500 on October 15, 2005. The number had never before finished last in the Coca-Cola 600.

40) #4-Kevin Harvick / 83 laps / crash
39) #24-William Byron / 139 laps / crash
38) #7-J.J. Yeley / 191 laps / fuel pump
37) #32-Matt DiBenedetto / 257 laps / oil leak
36) #12-Ryan Blaney / 278 laps / engine

1st) TriStar Motorsports (3)
2nd) Premium Motorsports (2)
3rd) BK Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing, Front Row Motorsports, Furniture Row Racing, Germain Racing, Roush-Fenway Racing, StarCom Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (8)
2nd) Ford (3)
3rd) Toyota (2)


ILLUSTRATED BOTTOM FIVE (Photos by Michael Harvey)

XFINITY: B.J. McLeod gives #99 its first XFINITY last-place finish at Charlotte since 2007

McLeod (left) edged Jeff Green (right) for the spot
PHOTO: Michael Harvey, @MrLester88
B.J. McLeod picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Alsco 300 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway when his #99 Chevrolet fell out with a vibration after 3 of the race’s 304 laps.

The finish, which occurred in McLeod’s 79th series start, was his first since July 1, 2016, when he lost an engine after 1 lap of the Subway Firecracker 250 at Daytona. In the NASCAR XFINITY Series last-place rankings, it’s the 11th for car #99, the 134th by reason of a vibration, and the 503rd for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it’s the 29th for the #99, the 206th caused by a vibration, and the 1,598th for Chevrolet.

The Florida-born McLeod has continued to develop his owner-driver operation, at times earning some strong finishes. Last year, he ran 25 of the 33 XFINITY races in both his primary #78 and its team car, the #8, with a best run of 11th at Daytona in July. No less than 11 different drivers shared time in McLeod’s #78 and #8 that season, including last-place record holder Jeff Green, who led 18 green-flag laps at Talladega before finishing 10th, and Tommy Joe Martins, who finished a career-best 11th in a thrilling finish at Iowa. This year, Martins and McLeod also ran strong together at Talladega, threatening for an upset win before a late fuel stop left them 18th and 19th.

During the 2017 season, McLeod’s team entered three cars. The third, the #99 Chevrolet, was a coordinated effort with Bobby Dotter’s team SS-Green Light Racing. David Starr ran the full season in the #99 with his own season-best a strong 5th at Daytona in July. Ironically, Starr wasn’t slated to run that race until his replacement, Korbin Forrister, came down with the flu. According to Lee Spencer’s report for, Starr barely made it to the track on time to practice, then overcame a failing air conditioning system and several crashes to take the spot. Starr’s first top-five finish in a 12-year XFINITY career proved the high point for both driver and team.

This year, Starr has moved to Jimmy Means Racing, taking the place of Joey Gase in the #52 Chevrolet. SS-Green Light Racing has also concentrated their efforts on the #76 Grunt Style Chevrolet (formerly the #07) driven by Spencer Boyd. This led to the #99 becoming a part-time operation from the McLeod stable for 2018. Prior to Charlotte, the car had been entered in only the season’s opening three rounds. Following Ray Black, Jr.’s DNQ at Daytona, the car was withdrawn without a driver at both Atlanta and Las Vegas. Charlotte would see the team return with McLeod himself driving it. Black would rejoin the McLeod team as well, running the #78. Tommy Joe Martins returned to the #8 for his first XFINITY start at Charlotte since 2014.

While McLeod’s #99 didn’t have a primary sponsor, the team did have two associates with round decals placed on the rear quarter-panels. The first, JW Transport LLC of Ripon, Wisconsin, has been McLeod’s primary sponsor in seven races since last fall at Kansas. The other was the team’s caterer, Mellorina’s Catering of Matthews, North Carolina, whose owner was photographed with the #99 in the garage area.

McLeod’s trio of cars brought Charlotte’s entry list up to 43 cars, meaning that three teams would fall short of making the 40-car starting grid. McLeod didn’t practice the #99 in Thursday’s opening session, but turned in the 25th-best time in Happy Hour, ranking him ahead of both Martins (33rd) and Black (37th). In Saturday qualifying, McLeod was again the fastest car on his team, though this time just 30th overall with a lap of 177.410mph (30.438 seconds).

Missing the field in qualifying were Chad Finchum, his first career XFINITY Series DNQ in Motorsports Business Management’s #40 Smithbilt Homes Toyota, plus fellow owner-drivers Morgan Shepherd in the #89 Visone RV Chevrolet and Mike Harmon in the #74 Horizon Transport / Shadow Warrior Project Chevrolet. For Harmon, it was the first time the team fielded a Chevrolet Camaro since the team missed the field at Texas in April.

Starting last in Sunday’s race was Roush-Fenway Racing’s Ryan Reed in the #16 Drive Down A1C Lilly Diabetes Ford. According to Kelly Crandall, Reed’s car failed inspection three times, causing NASCAR to eject crew chief Phil Gould and incur a 30-minute practice penalty for next week’s round in Pocono. Joining him at the rear were 22nd-place starter J.J. Yeley, whose #38 RSS Racing Chevrolet was sent to the back after Yeley missed the driver’s meeting, and Vinnie Miller, sent to a backup car after an incident in JD Motorsports’ #01 JAS Expedited Trucking LLC Chevrolet.

Jeff Green pulls down pit road two laps after McLeod
PHOTO: Michael Harvey, @MrLester88
The last-place battle was settled in the opening 23-lap green-flag run. McLeod was first to go behind the wall, followed two circuits later by all-time last-place leader Jeff Green in the #93 RSS Racing Chevrolet. McLeod tweeted on Sunday that the #99 was a brand-new car from his stables, and a vibration caused him to park it rather than risk a wreck.

38th fell to Josh Williams, who had an oil leak on his #90 Star Tron / Star Brite / Sleep Well Chevrolet. Williams later returned to the track in relief of DGM Racing teammate Alex Labbe, who suffered heat exhaustion in his #36 Can-Am / Wholey / Cyclops Gear Chevrolet. Williams wrecked on the backstretch on Lap 148, leaving the #36 in 34th.

Rounding out the Bottom Five were Chase Elliott, his first week in relief of Spencer Gallagher driving the #23 Hooters 22nd International Pageant Chevrolet ended with transmission issues, closing an afternoon where he’d finished 3rd and 7th in the opening two stages. 36th went to Yeley, who led Lap 49, but suffered a broken fuel pump after 134 laps.

Kaz Grala's #61 during Fury Racing LLC's successful debut.
PHOTO: Michael Harvey, @MrLester88
A strong run was turned in by Fury Race Cars LLC, which made its team debut at Charlotte with Kaz Grala in the #61 NETTTS Ford. Although the car was one of three given to the team by JGL Racing as part of Grala’s severance with James Whitener’s operation, Grala steered the machine to a 10th-place finish, his second-best finish of the 2018 season behind a 4th-place showing at Daytona. It was also the first XFINITY start for a car #61 since August 7, 2010, when Chase Miller finished 39th at Watkins Glen for team owner Charles Shoffner. Fury Racing LLC plans to enter Grala in the next three rounds at Pocono, Michigan, and Iowa, at which point the rest of their 2018 schedule will be determined.

Also turning in a strong run was Talladega last-placer Spencer Boyd, who finished 21st in a new patriotic paint scheme on the #76 Grunt Style Chevrolet. The run is Boyd’s career-best in the XFINITY Series. Ryan Sieg finished 13th in his #39 Night Owl Chevrolet, his second-best finish of the year behind a 6th at Talladega, and his sixth top-twenty finish in the last seven races. The run now puts Sieg within 13 points of catching Michael Annett the final spot in the Playoff rankings (once the suspended Spencer Gallagher drops further in the rankings).

McLeod's weekend continued into Sunday, where he continued his second part-time Cup season for Rick Ware Racing. Originally slated to run a new second car for Ware, the #52, McLeod was again entered in the #51 Chevrolet he ran at Kansas and last week's Monster Energy Open. This time around, McLeod pulled into the garage past the halfway point with a broken wheel stud and returned to action Lap 281 en route to a 33rd-place finish.

*This marked the first XFINITY Series last-place finish for car #99 since August 18, 2017, when David Starr wrecked out after 11 laps of the Food City 300 at Bristol, 22 races ago. It’s the first time the number has finished last in an XFINITY Series race at Charlotte since May 26, 2007, when David Reutimann’s #99 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota lost the engine after 4 laps of the Carquest Auto Parts 300.

40) #99-B.J. McLeod / 3 laps / vibration
39) #93-Jeff Green / 5 laps / vibration
38) #90-Josh Williams / 26 laps / oil leak
37) #23-Chase Elliott / 98 laps / transmission
36) #38-J.J. Yeley / 134 laps / fuel pump / led 1 lap

1st) RSS Racing (5)
2nd) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Jeremy Clements Racing, JGL Racing, Mike Harmon Racing, Roush-Fenway Racing, SS-Green Light Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (9)
2nd) Ford (2)


Friday, May 25, 2018

PREVIEW: At Charlotte, two teams eye their 2018 debuts

PHOTO: NY Racing Instagram

Saturday, May 26, 2018
XFINITY Race 11 of 33
Alsco 300 at Charlotte
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Stephen Leicht

The preliminary entry list sees 43 cars for 40 spots, meaning that three cars will miss the show in qualifying. This is up two cars from the series’ most recent round at Dover on May 5.

DRIVER CHANGE: #3-Richard Childress Racing
Ty Dillon steps in for Jeb Burton as the first of four Cup drivers to run double-duty this weekend in Charlotte. It will be Dillon’s fourth XFINITY start of the season and his first since a 12th-place showing in Texas.

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Welcome back Tommy Joe Martins, set to make his first XFINITY start since a season-best 18th-place showing in Talladega. Martins takes the place of Ray Black, Jr., who ran 27th in his own return at Dover, but now runs McLeod's #78 (see below). It will be Martins’ first XFINITY start at Charlotte since 2014, when he drove his own Martins Motorsports Dodge to a 31st-place finish.

MISSING: #13-Motorsports Business Management
Timmy Hill not entered in the XFINITY race, nor is Motorsports Business Management’s third car, which returned at Dover earlier this month. Instead, Hill will run MBM’s Cup car on Sunday, following-up his ride in last Saturday’s Monster Energy Open.

DRIVER CHANGE: #18-Joe Gibbs Racing
Kyle Busch steps in for Noah Gragson with NOS Energy Drink as sponsor.

DRIVER CHANGE: #22-Penske Racing
Brad Keselowski gears up for his first XFINITY start since he took the checkers at Phoenix, taking the place of Austin Cindric. Cindric is not entered in Saturday’s race.

As Spencer Gallagher continues NASCAR’s “Road to Recovery,” Chase Elliott steps into his ride in place of Johnny Sauter and brings with him sponsorship from Hooters. The sponsorship is part of a promotion with the restaurant chain’s 22nd International Pageant. It will be Elliott’s first XFINITY start since this year’s Daytona opener, where he ran 12th for JR Motorsports.

As announced a week ago Tuesday, JGL Racing has suspended operations of the #24 team and released driver Kaz Grala. As announced the following Friday, Grala makes the move to the new Fury Race Cars LLC (see below). JGL’s #28 remains entered with Dylan Lupton.

DRIVER CHANGE: #42-Chip Ganassi Racing
The next Cup regular is Jamie McMurray, set to make his third XFINITY start of the year and first since his 7th-place showing in Texas. McMurray, who has not made an XFINITY start at Charlotte since 2010, takes the place of John Hunter Nemechek, who drove the car the last four straight weeks with a best finish of 7th at Talladega.

DRIVER CHANGE: #55-JP Motorsports
On Tuesday, it was announced that Stephen Leicht was released from the #55 team, citing differences of professional opinions. In his place comes Brandon Hightower, whp we last saw run XFINITY for Motorsports Business Management at Fontana in 2017. JP indicates Hightower will run the car the rest of the year. Josh Bilicki remains his teammate in the #45.

NEW TEAM: #61-Fury Race Cars LLC
A new XFINITY Series team hits the track this weekend as Tony Eury, Jr.’s Fury Race Cars LLC fields their first top three division entry for the released Kaz Grala. As reported last week, Grala will be in the car for Charlotte and the three races after, building on the experience of the Fury brand’s short track and modified car business dating back to 2016. NETTTS follows Grala to this new team as sponsor. If the team qualifies on speed, it will mark the first XFINITY Series start for the #61 since August 7, 2010, when Chase Miller ran 39th at Watkins Glen for car owner Charles Shoffner.

DRIVER CHANGE: #74-Mike Harmon Racing
Team owner Mike Harmon returns to the seat of his #74, taking the place of Cody Ware, who failed to qualify after an on-track incident at Dover. Harmon has 8 XFINITY starts at Charlotte with a best of 29th in 2015. The team’s car is listed as a Chevrolet after fielding their Dodge since Bristol.

DRIVER CHANGE: #78-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
On top of Tommy Joe Martins returning to action in McLeod's #8, McLeod himself isn't running his typical #78 this Saturday. In his place is Ray Black, Jr., who ran the #8 its last time out in Dover. McLeod instead runs the team's #99, which returns to action (see below).

Josh Williams returns to the XFINITY Series for the first time since Talladega, taking the place of Brandon Brown in Mario Gosselin’s #90 Star Tron Star Brite / Sleep Well Chevrolet. This will be Williams’ first XFINITY start at Charlotte.

RETURNING: #98-Stewart-Haas Racing with Biagi DenBeste
The Biagi DenBeste #98 team returns to the XFINITY circuit for the first time since Talladega, where Chase Briscoe finished 16th. Briscoe is again the driver this Saturday, looking to make his 6th start of the season. Briscoe’s most recent race at Charlotte was last summer’s Truck Series event, where he ran 11th for Brad Keselowski Racing.

RETURNING: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
B.J. McLeod’s team returns to a three-car operation for the first time since this year’s opening three rounds, where Ray Black, Jr. failed to qualify at Daytona, and the car was withdrawn in the next two races at Atlanta and Las Vegas. McLeod himself drives it this time around.

CUP INVADERS: #3-Ty Dillon, #18-Kyle Busch, #22-Brad Keselowski, #23-Chase Elliott, #42-Jamie McMurray

Sunday, May 27, 2018
CUP Race 13 of 36
Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Jeffrey Earnhardt

For the first time since Talladega, three races ago, and for just the third time in 2018, there will be a 40-car field in Sunday’s Memorial Day classic. In fact, there were originally 41 drivers entered to attempt that field, a first since Bristol last August. Following Wednesday's withdrawal of the second Rick Ware car, qualifying will once again be a formality.

NEW TEAM: #7-NY Racing Team
A picture circulated on Instagram Monday showed a rendering of a new Cup Series effort for 2018. In the post, the NY Racing Team, formerly Johnathon Cohen’s Team XTREME Racing, announced they would be returning to Cup competition in Sunday’s 600. The black-and-white #7 Chevrolet carried sponsorship from Steakhouse Elite and listed J.J. Yeley, one of Team XTREME’s former drivers, behind the wheel. Despite a “multi-race, multi-year deal” on the post, the #7 was not on the preliminary entry list. But by Monday night, it was confirmed through several sources that the #7 team had been added. As it stands, Cohen’s team hasn’t made a Cup start since Reed Sorenson’s 32nd-place showing in the 2015 Daytona 500 and the subsequent controversy behind the team’s backup car hauler being stolen in Atlanta.

TEAM UPDATE: #23-BK Racing
BK Racing’s sponsorship issues have persisted this month. The team carried a multi-colored wrap at Kansas without a primary sponsor, then reverted to #23 decals on the featureless black undercoating in last week’s Monster Energy Open. This week, the team carries another unsponsored wrap similar to the one at Kansas, but in patriotic red white and blue. Gaulding finished 27th in this race last year for BK, then 36th in the fall for Premium Motorsports.

WITHDREW: #52-Rick Ware Racing
Rick Ware Racing was set to debut their new second team this week with B.J. McLeod driving, moving over from the #51 he's driven at Kansas and the Monster Energy Open. By Wednesday, the team withdrew. Its next entry is to be announced.

DRIVER CHANGE: #55-Premium Motorsports
Welcome back Jeffrey Earnhardt, who returns to Cup competition for the first time since he was released from StarCom Racing after Fontana. This time around, he takes the place of Reed Sorenson in the "open" #55 with several sponsors, including Black Rifle Coffee Company, Nine Line Apparel, Xtreme Concepts, Inc., and the Angels of Amerca's Fallen foundation.

SPONSOR UPDATE: #72-TriStar Motorsports
After running without a primary sponsor, Corey LaJoie receives backing from, which was last in NASCAR in 2014, backing a pair of runs by Jake Crum in the Camping World Truck Series. The #72 will be one of the most unique patriotic cars in the field, decorated like a World War II-era bomber. LaJoie made his first Coca-Cola 600 start last year for BK Racing’s shuttered “open team,” the #83, turning in a 32nd-place finish.

RETURNING: #96-Gaunt Brothers Racing
As announced earlier this month, Parker Kligerman is set to attempt his first Cup Series start since April 12, 2014, when he finished 30th at Darlington for the now-defunct Swan Racing. Kligerman has since found success in both the XFINITY and Truck Series, and will drive in place of D.J. Kennington in a #96 Toyota for the Gaunt Brothers. The team still lacks a primary sponsor, though radiator company Spectra Premium re-joined the Gaunt team for  Sunday's effort. Kennington has confirmed he will run more races in the #96 later this season.

Friday, June 8, 2018
TRUCKS Race 8 of 23
Rattlesnake 400 at Texas
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Tommy Regan

The Truck Series takes the Memorial Day weekend off and returns at the start of next month as a companion event to the Verizon IndyCar Series.

TEAM UPDATE: #15, #49-Premium Motorsports
Brian Keselowski tweeted on Thursday that he and a number of he fellow crewmen were released by Jay Robinson's truck team. Keselowski and his group had been instrumental in preparing the team's Chevrolets for Robby Lyons and Wendell Chavous, which have made marked progress over the past year.

A snapped fan belt can be a costly repair, particularly in the world of stock car racing. But only once in NASCAR’s top three series has a fan belt been the actual listed reason out for a driver who finished last. That time was August 16, 1959, during the Western North Carolina 500 at the Asheville-Weaverville Speedway. A 41-car field filled the half-mile oval that day, including 32nd-place starter Brownie King in his #31 1957 Chevrolet. The Tennessee-born King, competing in his fourth season on the tour, made it just 44 laps before his fan belt let go. He edged Joe Weatherly for last place as Weatherly’s engine failure occurred on the same circuit. King made 97 Cup starts in his career with a pair of 5th-place runs – one each at Columbia and Hickory – as his best.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

#JD70: J.D. McDuffie's Career at the Charlotte Motor Speedway

McDuffie's Ford at Charlotte, circa 1969
J.D. McDuffie made 30 starts in Cup points races at Charlotte – 16 in the Coca-Cola 600, and 14 in the fall's 500-miler, to be replaced this September with the track’s new “Roval.”

Although he started running Cup races in 1963 and lived within a two-hour drive of the speedway, McDuffie didn’t qualify for a race at Charlotte until the 10th annual World 600 on May 25, 1969. Even then, it was by the skin of his teeth - his 1967 Buick rolled out next-to-last in the 44-car field. But in the four-and-a-half-hour marathon, McDuffie climbed his way up to the 15th position, one spot behind last-place starter (and fellow owner-driver) Roy Tyner. LeeRoy Yarbrough took the win.

Three times at Charlotte, McDuffie drove for other teams, each time for other independents. His second-ever start there on October 12, 1969 came driving in a second car prepared by future pace car driver Elmo Langley. McDuffie ran 24th in the #84, out with a burned clutch, while Langley came home 13th. On October 10, 1971, during the National 500, McDuffie climbed aboard the 1971 Ford fielded by second-year driver Raymond Williams. This time, McDuffie finished 22nd in a rain-shortened event won by Bobby Allison. The third occasion was the 1980 renewal of the 600 on May 25 of that year, where this time he drove Californian D.K Ulrich’s #40 Chevrolet 145 laps before the engine let go, leaving him 30th.

McDuffie before the 1976 Coca-Cola 600
PHOTO: source unknown
McDuffie failed to finish nine of his Charlotte starts, but never finished last. His average finish of 20.9 was buoyed by a pair of top-ten runs in the mid-1970s. The first came in the 1974 World 600, where he charged his Chevrolet from 32nd to 10th at the finish. David Pearson edged Richard Petty by less than a second in one of their famous battles. The following year, in the National 500 on October 5, 1975, McDuffie earned a track-best 9th, again working his way from 35th on the grid. Petty and Pearson settled the score once again, this time with the STP Dodge coming out on top.

The Sanford driver very nearly finished in the Top Ten once more on October 8, 1978, during the NAPA National 500 won by Bobby Allison. McDuffie earned a better starting spot, rolling off 22nd in the Bailey Excavating Chevrolet, and finished 11th. The 10th-place finisher, Dick Brooks, broke a fuel pump in on Junie Donlavey’s Mercury, and came within just two laps of losing the spot to the closing McDuffie. From there, Car #70 remained consistent at the 1.5-mile oval, turning in Top 20 performances in five of his next eight starts.

McDuffie pits during his final Cup start at Charlotte, 1986
PHOTO: Original JPS Broadcast
As speeds increased and, with it, the depth of the starting fields, McDuffie began to struggle to make the starting grid in 1983, when he joined four other drivers on the early ride home from the October race. After that, he made just two more Charlotte starts. First was his final Coca-Cola World 600 on May 26, 1985. Carrying the Rumple Furniture colors, McDuffie bested 10 drivers for the 38th starting spot, then finished 39th, out with an early ignition problem. His final Charlotte start came the following fall on October 5, 1986, in the Oakwood Homes 500. As it happened, he closed out his career at the track in much the same way he started it, charging from 42nd and last on the grid to finish 20th, 12 laps down to a victorious Dale Earnhardt.

McDuffie attempted 8 of the following 9 Charlotte races, and while he didn’t make any of them, the DNQ for the 1988 Coca-Cola 600 was particularly significant. It was there that the driver made his first qualifying attempt since his serious burns suffered in the Twin 125s at Daytona, just three months earlier.

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, May 22, 2018

ARCA: Will Kimmel finds Kimmel Racing’s first last-place in a season marked by early start-and-parks

Kimmel at Talladega earlier this season
PHOTO: Kimmel Racing Facebook
by William Soquet Guest Contributor

Will Kimmel recorded the 6th last-place finish of his ARCA Racing Series career in Sunday’s Menards 200 presented by Federated Car Care at the Toledo Speedway when his #69 FASS Diesel Fuel Systems / Kimmel Racing Ford fell out after 19 laps due to mechanical issues.

The finish came in Kimmel’s 113th series start and was his first since Elko last year, 19 races ago.

By now, the Kimmel family name has become almost synonymous with the ARCA series. Frank Kimmel, of course, has had arguably the most successful career of anyone who has driven in the series, and is still hard at work as a crew chief. His relatives have soldiered on from their Clarksville, Indiana base. Bill and Will Kimmel have traditionally run a relatively competitive team on a small budget, always putting on strong shows at their beloved home track, Salem Speedway. Last year, the team campaigned a number of drivers, including Kimmel and Kevin Hinckle for eight races apiece to fill out the majority of the schedule.

Unfortunately, like all race teams, this one is not immune to financial problems. Before the season, Kimmel and the team announced a seven-race slate with sponsor FASS Diesel Fuel Systems as well as plans for Hinckle and David Sear to run a couple races. The team also announced an alliance with Finney Racing Enterprises for that team to utilize the owner points of the #69 in select races. Still, however, not all the races were covered. In an effort to likely keep valuable owners points up and to receive extra funding from the sanctioning body for attempting all races, Will Kimmel has been forced to "start-and-park" races not covered by any of the aforementioned scenarios. This weekend was one of these, as the team said in a Monday Facebook Live from the shop that Toledo would be a "start-and-park" effort due to insufficient funding.

The initial entry list for Toledo had 24 cars. Not among them for the first time in over 100 races was Thomas Praytor, who announced earlier this month that his #9 Max Force Racing team would scale back to a partial schedule in 2018. Also, for the second-straight race, Chad Bryant Racing withdrew their #22 entry without ever naming a driver, bringing the entry list down to 23. They did, however, confirm plans for a full season with driver Joe Graf, Jr. Two debut drivers also showed up on the entry list: Venturini Motorsports development prospect Eddie Fatscher in the #55 and KBR Development driver Carson Hocevar. Former ARCA champion Grant Enfinger returned to the series, teaming up with another former champion, Mason Mitchell.

The lone practice session saw 63-year-old Rick Clifton take last on the speed charts. Toledo was Clifton’s second race of the year with Andy Hillenburg’s Fast Track Racing team. His lap was about a second slower than session leader Chandler Smith’s time. Alas, qualifying was washed out by the rain that moved through that afternoon, so by virtue of practice speeds, Smith lined up first and Clifton last.

The last-place battle was hampered by the malfunction of ARCA timing and scoring for the opening handful of laps. Kimmel was the first to retire, going out after completing 19 laps. Con Nicolopoulos followed him 13 laps later. Immediately farther up the leaderboard saw big names fall to tire failures – Christian Eckes, Gus Dean, Riley Herbst and Sheldon Creed all fell victim to some kind of problem.

23) #69-Will Kimmel / 19 laps / mechanical
22) #06-Con Nicolopoulos / 32 laps / unknown
21) #15-Christian Eckes / 70 laps / tire
20) #32-Gus Dean / 92 laps / tire
19) #18-Riley Herbst / 155 laps / running

1st) Max Force Racing, Darrell Basham Racing, Wayne Peterson Racing, James Hylton Motorsports, Kimmel Racing (1)

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


Saturday, May 19, 2018

CUP: Alex Bowman scores Hendrick’s first All-Star last-place finish since 1995

Alex Bowman finished last in Saturday’s Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway when his #88 Axalta Chevrolet was involved in a single-car accident after 68 of 93 laps.

Bowman’s fourth season in the Cup Series has found the 25-year-old from Tucson, Arizona the center of attention. After two difficult seasons driving for underfunded BK Racing and Tommy Baldwin Racing, it was Bowman who was tabbed to replace a retiring Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in Hendrick Motorsports’ high-powered #88 Chevrolet. His audition came in 2016, when Earnhardt’s concussion symptoms led to Bowman sharing driving duties with Jeff Gordon. Bowman won his first pole in the car at Phoenix and very nearly took the checkered flag before a late-race tangle with Matt Kenseth.

This year, with Earnhardt retired and Chevrolet introducing the new Camaro ZL1 model, Bowman has been showing steady improvement. He began the year by earning the pole for the Daytona 500, then scored six-straight finishes inside the Top 20 before an opening-lap wreck at Texas. He impressed again the next week at Bristol, finishing a season-best 5th, and two weeks later ran 8th at Talladega. Coming into the All-Star break, Bowman sat 14th in the point standings.

Bowman began the weekend 6th in Friday’s opening practice and secured 3rd on the grid for the Monster Energy Open when qualifying was rained-out. In Stage 1, Aric Almirola appeared headed to a convincing victory until 7 laps to go, when Bowman caught, then passed Almirola’s tightening car in Turn 1. As the rest of the field continued to figure out the new aero package introduced in last summer’s XFINITY race at Indianapolis, Bowman cruised to the stage win, advancing him to the All-Star Race, where he’d start 18th. Bowman would be joined by fellow Open racers Daniel Suarez, A.J. Allmendinger, and fan vote winner Chase Elliott.

Elliott started last in the All-Star main, but was joined at the rear by Jamie McMurray, whose #1 Bass Pro Shops / Tracker Boats Chevrolet was sent to the rear due to an engine change. When the race began, McMurray moved past Suarez, who was now locked in a side-by-side battle with Elliott. Suarez fell to last by the end of the first lap, then tried to pick a lane to catch Elliott. On Lap 3, he had caught Elliott just as Kurt Busch lost control in front of him, backing the #41 Monster Energy Ford into the outside wall. Suarez passed Elliott, who checked-up to avoid Busch. Busch fell to last behind the pair, and lost a lap for repairs on pit road before rejoining the pack under caution on Lap 4.

On the Lap 6 restart, Busch managed to work his way past the cars of Ryan Newman, Matt Kenseth, and Austin Dillon in three laps. But by Lap 10, all three had passed him back, and the wounded #41 Ford began to lose touch with the field again. Busch managed to not lose a second lap before the first stage ended, and he was awarded the Lucky Dog to put him back on the same circuit as the leaders.

At the start of Stage 2, Kurt Busch managed to stay closer to the tail end of the pack, but steadily lost ground under green. By Lap 35, he was 3.7 seconds behind. Busch held the last spot until Lap 45, when A.J. Allmendinger came down pit road. Allmendinger, who won the final stage of the Monster Energy Open, had made a pair of daring moves in his #47 Kroger ClickList Chevrolet, and was making exceptional use of the high lane, charging into the Top Five from 20th in Stage 1. Unfortunately, he smacked the wall off Turn 4, forcing the pit stop and costing him a lap. Like Busch, Allmendinger got the lap back with a Lucky Dog at the end of the stage.

In the caution before Stage 3, Allmendinger made a second pit stop, keeping him in last after Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Ryan Newman took turns briefly holding it. The repairs seemed to help, and when Lap 51, Allmendinger was doing a better job than Busch of keeping up with the field. The next time by, Allmendinger had raced past Clint Bowyer in the high lane, dropping Bowyer’s #14 Stewart-Haas Racing Fan Club Ford to last. On Lap 55, the spot fell to polesitter Matt Kenseth, running Roush-Fenway Racing’s throwback to Mark Martin’s 1998 All-Star winner. Kenseth was still in the spot when the next caution fell on Lap 56.

Bowman played a role in this fourth caution of the night, having made contact with the #95 Dumont Jets Chevrolet of Kasey Kahne. The contact turned Kahne’s #95 hard into the outside wall, wrinkling the right side of his throwback scheme to his 2008 All-Star winner. Kahne made it back to pit road, where he spent three laps under yellow for repairs. Kahne looked like he was certain to finish last until Lap 59, when he rolled down pit road, then stopped at pit exit to let the restarting field pass by for a fourth time. Now running by himself, Kahne was last, but still on the track.

What ended the night for Bowman came on Lap 68, when the #88 was running 10th. Racing Brad Keselowski for 9th off of Turn 2, Bowman lost control and whacked the outside wall, causing heavy damage to the rear clip and right side of his Chevrolet. The crew told him to pull behind the wall, which he did, ending his night under the “Crash Clock” protocol. The wreck forced Stage 3 into overtime, and the lengthy caution allowed Kahne to drop Bowman to last under yellow on Lap 72.

The rest of the Bottom Five was filled by the night’s biggest accident on the ensuing restart. Heading through Turn 4, a four-wide battle went awry when Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. made contact with Martin Truex, Jr.’s #78 5-hour Energy / Bass Pro Shops Toyota. The contact sent Truex up the track directly into the closing pack, collecting seven other drivers. Truex ended up the highest ranked of the four drivers whose damage eliminated them from competition. The other three were Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, and Brad Keselowski. Of the Bottom Five, only Truex and the #2 Discount Tire Ford of Keselowski had not taken turns in last earlier that night. Both led for a combined 20 laps.

*This was Hendrick Motorsports’ first All-Star last-place finish since May 20, 1995, when Ken Schrader’s turn in the #25 Budweiser Chevrolet ended after 32 laps of the Winston Select following a tangle with Jimmy Spencer, Dale Earnhardt, and Terry Labonte. Schrader’s #25 team became the current #88 team when Dale Earnhardt, Jr. joined Hendrick in 2008.
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #88 and for Bowman in the All-Star Race.

21) #88-Alex Bowman / 68 laps / crash
20) #2-Brad Keselowski / 74 laps / crash / led 3 laps
19) #14-Clint Bowyer / 74 laps / crash
18) #41-Kurt Busch / 74 laps / crash
17) #78-Martin Truex, Jr. / 76 laps / crash / led 17 laps

CUP: Reed Sorenson becomes first repeat Open last-placer since 1998

PHOTO: John Harrelson, LAT Images
Reed Sorenson finished last in Saturday’s Monster Energy Open at the Charlotte Motor Speedway when his #55 Internetwork Engineering Chevrolet finished under power and on the lead lap at the conclusion of the 50-lap event.

The finish marked Sorenson’s second last-place finish in the Open. The other occurred in 2016, where he also finished under power in Premium Motorsports’ #55, then sponsored by World Record Striper Company and Hauling Bass. With the finish, Sorenson becomes just the third driver in the history of the Open to finish in the event more than once, joining Trevor Boys (1985, 1986) and Andy Hillenburg (1996, 1998).

Sorenson reprised his role in Premium’s #55, which he’d driven in seven races this season, including each of the last six. His best finish of the year came just last Saturday in Kansas, where he ran 27th. As with previous preliminary entry lists, the #55 was listed as a Toyota, but arrived as an identical black Chevrolet to teammate Ross Chastain’s #15. The cars further resembled themselves by race day as each shared sponsorship from Internetwork Engineering. Sorenson’s car ran without sponsors in practice.

Sorenson didn’t turn a lap in Friday’s opening practice, and a washed-out qualifying session meant he’d start 20th in the 21-car starting field, ranked by Owner Points. Starting last would be the only other “open team” in the starting field – Motorsports Business Management’s #66 Toyota for Timmy Hill, which debuted a brand-new black-and-purple wrap from debuting sponsor SentinelOne.

At the start of Saturday’s Open, Hill hugged the inside lane in a door-to-door battle with Sorenson. The #55 lost ground off Turn 4, dropping Sorenson to last. Though a gap opened between the two drivers, Sorenson began to catch Hill on Lap 6, caught him on Lap 8, then fell back again on Lap 10, when he was now 17 seconds back of the leaders. The rubber band effect continued for the rest of Stage 1: Sorenson caught Hill again on Lap 15 as the pair closed on Landon Cassill’s #00 Dairi-O Chevrolet. Sorenson worked over Hill on Lap 17, but the #66 held him off at the Lap 20 end of Stage 1.

Alex Bowman took the Stage 1 win in the #88 Axalta Chevrolet and transferred to the All-Star main. His 20 laps complete technically classified him last in the 21-car field.

Among the 20 remaining starters, Cassill briefly took last under the ensuing yellow when his car was the last off pit road. Hill retook it seconds later, followed by Kansas last-placer Ty Dillon, who had a long pit stop in the #13 GEICO Chevrolet. The tail end of the field shuffled once more coming to one lap to go with Cassill and Chastain running in the final row.

When Stage 2 began, Chastain lost touch with the pack as it pulled away in front of him. By Lap 23, Chastain had caught up to Sorenson, beginning a friendly battle between teammates. Chastain worked high in the corners while Sorenson ran low until the #15 made it by both Sorenson and Hill. By Lap 26, Sorenson was last and once again was catching up to Hill. This time, he made it by, passing him low off Turn 4 on Lap 31. Sorenson held off Hill to the end of Stage 2 on Lap 40, but Sorenson lagged back down the backstretch.

Daniel Suarez took the Stage 2 victory in the #19 ARRIS Toyota, classifying him 20th in the final running order as he transferred to the All-Star Main with Bowman.

Once again, Ty Dillon had a long pit stop on the #13. The field lapped him under yellow, but since the laps didn’t count, he left pit road with one to go on the same circuit as the leaders. This time, Dillon incurred a penalty for too many men over the wall, sending him to the back of the field.

Sorenson pulled behind Dillon for the restart on Lap 50, and this time held the last spot from wire to wire in Stage 3. Sorenson remained in the tire tracks of Timmy Hill, and this time was two carlengths behind the #66 as the pair crossed the stripe.

A.J. Allmendinger took the win – his third in the Open - and was soon joined by Fan Vote winner Chase Elliott – his third in a row.

Omitting Stage 1 and 2 winners Bowman and Suarez, the Bottom Five from 19th on up consisted of drivers who all completed the entire 50-lap distance. Behind 19th-place Sorenson and 18th-place Hill was Ross Chastain, who held down 17th. B.J. McLeod took 16th for Rick Ware Racing in the #51 Prefund Capital Chevrolet, the driver returning to the team after his Cup season debut at Kansas. Rouning out the group was defending Open last-placer Corey LaJoie in TriStar Motorsports’ unsponsored #72 Chevrolet.

*Sorenson is the only driver to finish last under power in the Open and the only driver to finish last in the #55.

19) #55-Reed Sorenson / 50 laps / runnning
18) #66-Timmy Hill / 50 laps / running
17) #15-Ross Chastain / 50 laps / running
16) #51-B.J. McLeod / 50 laps / running
15) #72-Corey LaJoie / 50 laps / running

TRUCKS: In and out of the garage, J.J. Yeley extends Mittler team’s last-place streak

PHOTO: Max Neuwirth, @racingfan83
J.J. Yeley picked up the 4th last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Friday’s North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway when his #63 Fr8Auctions Chevrolet fell out with transmission problems after 21 of 134 laps.

The finish, which came in Yeley’s 31st series start, is his first since last summer at Iowa, 21 races ago. In the Truck Series last-place rankings, it’s the 19th for truck #63, the 33rd by reason of transmission failure, and the 350th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it’s the 36th for the #63, the 156th by reason of transmission failure, and the 1,597th for Chevrolet.

It was also Yeley’s 22nd last-place finish across NASCAR’s top three series, breaking a tie with Mike Harmon for 12th in the all-time rankings. Curiously, Harmon would play a role in Friday’s finish.

As through much of his NASCAR career, Yeley has remained a journeyman across the sport’s top three series. Since 2014, his focus has been on the XFINITY Series, where this year he moved from TriStar Motorsports to RSS Racing, teamed with Ryan Sieg and all-time last-place leader Jeff Green. Yeley’s best XFINITY finish was his 11th-place showing at Talladega, where Sieg and Green all finished in the lead pack. He’d also made a single Cup start at Martinsville, driving Premium Motorsports’ #55 Chevrolet to a 31st-place finish.

Prior to last Friday, Yeley’s most recent start in the Truck Series came last fall at Texas, where he ran 29th for MB Motorsports in the #63 Chevrolet. Despite their past history, Yeley was a last-minute driver change on for Charlotte. Up until Friday, Camden Murphy had been entered in the #63 truck, following a last-minute ride with TJL Racing in the #1 Chevrolet last week in Kansas. But Murphy was swapped out before opening practice, leaving him without a ride.

The driver swap at MB Motorsports was the latest of several driver and team swaps through the week. The preliminary entry list for Friday’s race saw 38 entries, meaning that six trucks would miss the cut. But on Wednesday, two teams withdrew: TJL Racing’s #1 Chevrolet, which hadn’t picked a driver for Charlotte, and Clay Greenfield, who was slated to return to his family’s #68 AMVETS Please Stand Chevrolet for the first time since his strong run at Daytona. By Friday, Joe Nemechek had withdrawn the #87 Chevrolet he was slated to run.

The remaining drama of the resulting 35-truck list went away with steady rain on Friday, cancelling qualifying and setting the field on Owner Points. The three teams washed out of the field were part-time efforts with strong entries. Korbin Forrister and All Out Motorsports have been solid in 2018, but the #7 Now Matters More Chevrolet missed out in their first attempt since Dover. Series race winner Timothy Peters was sent home with RBR Enterprises’ #92 BTS Tire & Wheel Distributors / Carquest Ford, marking the first time he’d missed the series race at Charlotte since 2007. Last to miss was Bo LeMastus, who was set to debut DGR-Crosley’s new second team, the #17 Crosley Brands Toyota.

With qualifying rained out, Yeley and the #63 team took the final starting spot on Owner Points. The truck showed some speed in practice - Yeley ran 25th of 35 trucks in Friday’s opening session, then 27th of 35 in Happy Hour.

Yeley’s truck was sponsored by, an infrequent backer of Front Row Motorsports’ Cup operation. The auction company had sponsored both Yeley’s most recent truck race at Texas, but also two other starts with Copp Motorsports’ #83 Chevrolet. As with the Mittler’s #63 and Copp’s #83 last week in Kansas, both decorated with MB Motorsports graphics, Charlotte would show cooperation between the two teams. Bayley Currey would run Copp’s #83, which carried sponsorship this time from the Ingersoll-Rand corporation.

On race night, Yeley rolled out last, but was joined at the rear by Austin Wayne Self, who was sent to a backup truck after wrecking Al Niece’s primary #22 Don’t Mess With Texas / AM Technical Solutions Chevrolet. Falling to the rear voluntarily was Timmy Hill, tabbed to pull double-duty in the #50 Crossbar E-Cigarettes Chevrolet for Beaver Motorsports. When the race started, it was Hill who was classified last, 4.293 seconds back of the leader. Hill lost another two seconds at the end of the first lap, still holding down 32nd, 6.059 seconds back.

After the completion of Lap 2, NASCAR’s leaderboard was slow in updating the intervals for the final four trucks of Yeley, Jennifer Jo Cobb, Robby Lyons, and Hill. The issue, similar to the tracking of Mike Senica’s run at Martinsville earlier this year (LINK), was likely caused by the trucks running off the pace and being lapped in the very early going. On Lap 4, Cobb’s #10 Think Realty Chevrolet was moved to last, 13.051 seconds back with a speed of just 160.815mph - more than 20mph slower than Matt Crafton’s top speed in practice of 181.129mph. On Lap 5, Yeley was classified last, having slowed onto pit road with a lap of just 105.064mph. The running order was refreshed on that circuit to show Yeley two laps down. Cobb, warned by NASCAR to pick up the pace, pulled down pit road after Lap 9, placing her 31st.

On Lap 22, the first caution fell for tire debris off Grant Enfinger’s #98 Champion Power Equipment / Curb Records Ford. By the next time by, both Cobb and Yeley had returned to the track. Yeley was still last, 19 laps down, with Cobb 8 down, 11 laps in front of Yeley’s #63. On the ensuing restart, Yeley picked up his pace from earlier, improving on his sluggish best of 168.713mph to a 170.686. Cobb, meanwhile, could only improve slightly on her best, putting up a 161.329mph.

When Stage 1 ended on Lap 32, Mike Harmon entered the last-place battle. Harmon had started 31st that night, placing him alongside Yeley in the final row. At the end of the stage, Harmon had fallen to 30th, two laps down to the leaders in his #74 Koolbox / Horizon Transport Chevrolet. Harmon continued to lose laps during the caution and through the restart, dropping him down the rankings. On Lap 38, when Stage 2 began, Harmon took 31st from Cobb, who was now nine laps down. If things stayed the same, Yeley would pass Harmon on Lap 48, dropping Harmon’s #74 to last.

But on Lap 43, Yeley, then 20 laps down, lost a 21st circuit. Then a 22nd the next time by. Just eight laps from losing last to Harmon, Yeley was now widening the gap between his truck and the #74, apparently from another trip to the garage. With 10 laps to go in Stage 2, the FS1 leaderboard showed Yeley and Harmon off the track while Cobb, still 30th, was still logging laps. Harmon returned to action on Lap 60, just before the end of Stage 2. When Yeley still didn’t return to the track, this opened up the margin between the two trucks.

Still another competitor entered the picture when Norm Benning suffered crash damage after 55 laps, dropping his #6 Zomongo / H&H Transport Chevrolet into the Bottom Five. On Lap 67, Benning took 30th from Cobb. Harmon, who continued to keep his truck running after his Lap 60 return to action, passed Benning soon after, leaving Benning’s #6 in 31st. But Benning would fall no further. By Lap 68, FS1’s leaderboard indicated that J.J. Yeley was out of the race, having not turned another lap since the 43rd circuit. Thus, Yeley secured last place by 34 laps over Benning.

Finishing 30th was Justin Fontaine, whose #45 ProMatic Automation / Superior Essex Chevrolet backed into the Turn 4 wall on Lap 82. Fontaine’s truck was the last one Harmon’s #74 passed before the finish, doing so by just two laps. Harmon came just two laps from passing 28th-place finisher Timmy Hill, who lost an engine on the #50 in the final laps.

*This marked the second-straight truck race at Charlotte where MB Motorsports’ #63 finished last. In 2017, it was Todd Peck behind the wheel. The Mittler team has now finished last in three of the most recent five Truck Series races this season.
*UPDATE (May 21): Yeley's 21 laps completed are the most by a Truck Series last-placer since the 2016 Homestead finale, where Ryan Truex completed 49 laps before engine woes. In that span, only two other times did the last-place finisher complete more than 8 laps: Caleb Holman at Eldora and Stewart Friesen at Kansas.

32) #63-J.J. Yeley / 21 laps / transmission
31) #6-Norm Benning / 55 laps / crash
30) #45-Justin Fontaine / 97 laps / crash
29) #74-Mike Harmon / 99 laps / running
28) #50-Timmy Hill / 100 laps / engine

1st) MB Motorsports (3)
2nd) Beaver Motorsports (2)
3rd) Copp Motorsports, TJL Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (7)


Friday, May 18, 2018

PREVIEW: As new teams join the Truck Series, a small field prepares for All-Star Saturday

PHOTO: Ryan Daley, @StarcomRacing
Friday, May 18, 2018
TRUCKS Race 7 of 23
North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Todd Peck

Following three withdrawals, there are 35 drivers entered for 32 spots, meaning that three will miss the show.

MISSING: #0-Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing
Charlotte has traditionally had some of the largest entry lists of the season, and 2018 is no exception. As a result, two “start-and-park” efforts aren’t entered. First of them is Jennifer Jo Cobb’s second truck, driven to a 31st-place finish last week by Joey Gase.

WITHDREW: #1-TJL Motorsports
One week after his last-minute drive for TJL resulted in a 29th-place finish at Kansas, Camden Murphy will not be driving Tracy Lowe’s #1 Chevrolet this week as he moves to MB Motorsports’ #63. The team did not have another driver listed before it was withdrawn on Wednesday.

DRIVER CHANGE: #4-Kyle Busch Motorsports
Kyle Busch Motorsports returns to a four-truck effort this weekend, and all but Kansas winner Noah Gragson’s #18 will have different drivers. Replacing Kyle Busch in the #4 is Todd Gililand, back in the series for his third start of the season and his first since a 10th-place showing in Dover. Pedigree will sponsor the truck. Busch moves to the #51 (see below).

RETURNING: #7-All Out Motorsports
All Out Motorsports returns with designs on their fourth Truck Series start this year, their first since Korbin Forrister’s 21st-place run at Dover. Forrister’s truck is entered with “Now Matters More” in the sponsor slot. Forrister has not made a Truck Series start at Charlotte since 2015, when he finished 29th for Christopher Long.

NEW TEAM: #17-DGR-Crosley
DGR-Crosley expands to two trucks for the first time in 2018. The team brings driver Bo LeMastus over from the primary #54 Toyota to get it into its first race. LeMastus’ run leaves the #54 open for Chris Eggleston, who eyes his series return (see below).

DRIVER CHANGE: #20-Young’s Motorsports
After Darrell Wallace, Jr. finished 14th in Kansas, Daniel Hemric takes a turn in the #20 Chevrolet for his first Truck Series start since the 2016 finale at Homestead. Overkill Motorsports and Death Wish Coffee join the effort.

MISSING: #36-MB Motorsports
The second “start-and-park” missing from this week’s list is the second Mike Mittler truck, driven last week by Bayley Currey. Currey moves to the sister team, Copp Motorsports, to drive the #83 Ingersoll-Rand Chevrolet (see below).

RETURNING: #46-Kyle Busch Motorsports
KBM’s #46 team returns to the Truck Series for the first time since Todd Gilliland’s 5th-place run at Martinsville last fall. With Gilliland in the #4 this week, Brandon Jones will drive the Mobil 1 Toyota, moving over from the #51 team. Jones finished 9th last week in Kansas.

DRIVER CHANGE: #50-Beaver Motorsports
On Friday, Timmy Hill was entered in place of Jamie Mosley, who finished 28th in his series return last week in Kansas. Hill eyes his first Truck Series start sinfe 2016 at Kentucky, when he drove for Premium Motorsports.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Kyle Busch Motorsports
With Gilliland in the #4 and Jones in the #46, the #51 is freed up for – who else – Kyle Busch. Busch, who was defeated by teammate Noah Gragson last week, is the lone Cup full-timer in Friday’s race. CESSNA returns as sponsor.

With Bo LeMastus in DGR-Crosley’s new #17, it’s time to welcome back Chris Eggleston to the Truck Series. Eggleston last ran a truck race on July 11, 2014, when he finished 19th at Iowa for SS-Green Light Racing. Over the following three years, Eggleston moved to the K&N Pro Series West, where he and Bill McAnally Racing enjoyed tremendous success. Teamed with Todd Gilliland, Eggleston won eight races and the 2015 title. He now returns for his first Truck Series start at Charlotte since 2011, when he ran 29th for Steve Urvan. Sponsorship comes from Globe Sprinkler and H2O Fire Protection.

DRIVER CHANGE: #63-MB Motorsports
One week after Kevin Donahue scored his first last-place finish in Kansas, Camden Murphy moves from TJL Racing’s #1 to take his place. With returning sponsorship from, Murphy looks to make his first Truck Series start at Charlotte. UPDATE: J.J. Yeley was entered in Murphy's place on Friday.

WITHDREW: #68-Clay Greenfield Motorsports
Friday was to see the return of Clay Greenfield, who we last saw finish 28Th in Atlanta for TJL Racing. He was entered in his family’s #68 AMVETS Chevrolet for the first time since the Daytona opener, where he started 3rd and enjoyed a career run before a wreck left him 22nd. The team withdrew on Wednesday. As it happens, Greenfield has just one Truck Series start at Charlotte – May 18, 2012, when he finished last.

RETURNING: #75-Henderson Motorsports
With news of his upcoming Cup return next week in the Coca-Cola 600, Parker Kligerman is back in action on the Truck Series side, looking to make his fourth start of 2018 and first since a 28th-place run at Dover. Kligerman’s best of four Charlotte starts was his first in 2011, when he finished 8th for Brad Keselowski Racing.

DRIVER CHANGE: #83-Copp Motorsports
Moving from the “start-and-park” #36 to the #83 is Bayley Currey, replacing Kyle Donahue. Ingersoll-Rand is the listed sponsor for the effort. It will be Currey’s first Truck Series start at Charlotte.

WITHDREW: #87-NEMCO Motorsports
A third withdrawal came Friday as NEMCO pulled their second truck for Joe Nemechek.

RETURNING: #92-RBR Enterprises
Ricky Benton’s team rejoins the circuit this week with Timothy Peters, a first for both driver and team since Peters’ Cup debut with Benton at Talladega. Peters has 12 prior Charlotte starts in the Truck Series. In his last four, he’s finished no worse than 7th, including a pair of track-best 5th-place runs in 2014 and 2017.

RETURNING: #97-JJL Motorsports
Jesse Little’s part-time effort roars into Charlotte following finishes of 8th in Atlanta and 9th at Dover. It will be the youngster’s first Truck Series start at the track.

CUP INVADERS: #51-Kyle Busch

Saturday, May 19, 2018
Monster Energy Open at Charlotte
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Corey LaJoie

There are 21 drivers entered in this Saturday’s Open race to qualify for the All-Star main event. It’s the fewest starters in this event since the inaugural Atlanta Invitational in 1986, where only 14 drivers were invited to start. The previous record was 22 in 2012. Four of the following drivers will transfer: the three winners of each stage (Lap 20, Lap 40, and Lap 50), plus the All-Star Fan Vote winner. The other 17 will fail to qualify. Many of those will use this as a test session for next week’s Coca-Cola 600.

#9-Chase Elliott
#10-Aric Almirola
#13-Ty Dillon
#15-Ross Chastain
#19-Daniel Suarez
#20-Erik Jones
#21-Paul Menard
#23-Gray Gaulding
#24-William Byron
#32-Matt DiBenedetto
#34-Michael McDowell
#37-Chris Buescher
#38-David Ragan
#43-Darrell Wallace, Jr.
#47-A.J. Allmendinger
#51-B.J. McLeod
#55-Reed Sorenson
#66-Timmy Hill
#72-Corey LaJoie
#88-Alex Bowman
#00-Landon Cassill

Ross Chastain, William Byron, Darrell Wallace, Jr., and Harrison Rhodes are set to make their first-ever starts in the All-Star Open. Rhodes, the only driver on this list who didn’t run Kansas last Saturday, makes his first Cup start since Richmond, where he ran 36th in Rick Ware’s #51. UPDATE: B.J. McLeod is entered in the #51, meaning all Kansas entrants are in the race (McLeod makes his All-Star debut). Premium Motorsports and StarCom Racing have only entered one of their two eligible teams (see below). CORRECTION: Premium has entered their second car, the #55 Toyota, with Reed Sorenson. Landon Cassill, in StarCom’s #00, welcomes new sponsorship from Dairi-O, which will also back the team in the Coca-Cola 600. Timmy Hill has new backing from Sentinal ONE on Motorsports Business Management’s #66 Toyota, including a brand new wrap for the car. William Byron debuts new sponsorship from Hertz Car Rentals on his #24, the beginning of a two-year part-time sponsorship deal. As of this writing, Gray Gaulding does not have a sponsor listed on the #23 Toyota for BK Racing, just as they didn’t in Kansas. Cole Whitt is not entered as Corey LaJoie remains in the #72 for TriStar Motorsports.

#8-Richard Childress Racing
#62-Beard Motorsports
#92-RBR Enterprises
#96-Gaunt Brothers Racing
#99-StarCom Racing

Saturday, May 19, 2018
Monster Energy All-Star Race at Charlotte
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Matt Kenseth

There are 17 drivers qualified for the 2018 All-Star Race. Joining these 17 will be the three stage winners from the Monster Energy Open and the All-Star Fan Vote winner for a starting field of 21. Despite the record small field for the Open, Saturday will be the biggest All-Star field since 2014, when 22 took the green.

#1-Jamie McMurray
#2-Brad Keselowski
#3-Austin Dillon
#4-Kevin Harvick
#6-Matt Kenseth
#11-Denny Hamlin
#12-Ryan Blaney
#14-Clint Bowyer
#17-Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.
#18-Kyle Busch
#22-Joey Logano
#31-Ryan Newman
#41-Kurt Busch
#42-Kyle Larson
#48-Jimmie Johnson
#78-Martin Truex, Jr.
#95-Kasey Kahne

The biggest standout on the list is Matt Kenseth, whose deal to run Roush-Fenway’s #6 has included the All-Star Race, which he won in 2004. Roush Industries is the listed sponsor of Kenseth’s car, which will be a throwback scheme to Mark Martin's Eagle One Ford that won the 1998 All-Star Race. Other notable sponsors on the preliminary list are the “Stewart-Haas Racing Fan Club” for Clint Bowyer’s #14 Ford, Hawk and Carlisle on Joey Logano’s #22 Ford, and Dumont Jets for Kasey Kahne’s #95 Chevrolet. Kahne's car will also be a throwback to his 2008 All-Star paint scheme for Gillett-Evernham.

Saturday, May 26, 2018
XFINITY Race 11 of 33
Alsco 300 at Charlotte
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Stephen Leicht

The XFINITY Series returns next week in the lead-up to the Coca-Cola 600.

Kaz Grala tweeted on Tuesday night that his contract with JGL Racing will not be honored for the rest of 2018. His best finish of what was supposed to be a full-time ride was a 4th at Daytona. A new driver has yet to be announced. UPDATE: Reports indicate that JGL will shut down the #24 for the time being, the second time JGL has done so in as many years.

NEW TEAM: #61-Fury Race Cars
Grala did not stay out of a ride for long. On Friday, Fury Race Cars announced they will field a #61 Ford for Grala in the next four races, starting with Charlotte. The Mooresville-based Fury team is new to the XFINITY Series, but by no means are they a start-up. Fury, whose crew includes former DEI crew chief Tony Eury, Jr., have been building short track stock cars and modifieds since 2016.

In 10 of 32 runnings, the All-Star Open’s last-place finisher failed to complete a single lap. Four times in a row from 1991 through 1994, the last-place finisher didn’t start the race. Four other times, the last-place finisher took the green, but failed to complete the opening lap due to crashes or mechanical issues. Delma Cowart was disallowed from starting the 1997 running for allegedly not going through inspection. Just as perplexing was 2002, when Frank Kimmel was apparently entered in Travis Carter’s #26 Ford, didn’t turn a lap in qualifying and was withdrawn, but for some reason is still classified last in the final running order.