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
LASTCAR.info 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 Fr8Auctions.com 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 Fr8Auctions.com, 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 Fr8Auctions.com, 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.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

#JD70: J.D. McDuffie's Career on All-Star Weekend

(Above and below)
An original 1986 Atlanta Invitational ballot.
PHOTO: James Oldham Collection
Despite his modest statistics, J.D. McDuffie competed in the inaugural runnings of two different NASCAR exhibition races that were invite only. In 1979, he qualified for the first Busch Clash at Daytona due to his only career pole at Dover the year before. And, in 1986, he also participated in the first running of what is now the Monster Energy Open.

The Open, then known as the Atlanta Invitational, was the first new addition to “The Winston,” NASCAR’s all-star event, then in its second year. Ironically, it debuted at the only running of the All-Star Race to not be held at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. As the Invitational’s name implies, it was run at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. What’s more, the race winner didn’t transfer into the main event – the Invitational would be separate 100-lap race held the same day.

Unlike today, where drivers and teams not qualified for the All-Star could compete so long as they made a certain number of attempts in the previous year, the “Invitational” was quite literally that. Just 26 drivers were made eligible, of which only 14 would be allowed to compete. Which 14 drivers made the cut was determined entirely on a fan vote. Ballots like the one seen here (provided by J.D. McDuffie Fan Club president James Oldham), invited fans to select their 14 favorites, and also receive an autographed picture of their favorite driver.

It’s interesting to note the names on the list. The 1986 running of “The Winston” was specifically for winners from the 1985 season only. Thus, past champions like Richard Petty, David Pearson, Bobby Allison, and Benny Parsons (who helped broadcast ESPN’s coverage of “The Winston” that day) made the list. Joining them were Kyle Petty, Rusty Wallace, and Morgan Shepherd – drivers who would’ve been in the 1986 race under today’s rules since they won in the first part of the ’86 season. But all three were still on the list, joined by owner-drivers like Buddy Arrington, Jimmy Means, Dave Marcis, and J.D. McDuffie.

A push by McDuffie’s fan club got the #70 into the Invitational, which was no small accomplishment. The 12 eligible drivers who missed the cut were Mike Alexander, Eddie Bierschwale, Ron Bouchard, Clark Dwyer, Tommy Ellis, Lennie Pond, Bobby Wawak, “The Silver Fox” himself, David Pearson, current broadcaster Phil Parsons, short track veteran Ken Schrader, as well as 1986 race winners Rusty Wallace and Morgan Shepherd.

A busted valve knocked McDuffie out of the Invitational after 37 laps, leaving him next-to-last in the finishing order. Benny Parsons took the win. The following week, when the series resumed at Dover, McDuffie made his 600th career Cup Series start.

McDuffie competed in three of the next five runnings of the event, which became the Winston Open, a qualifier for the main event. His best of those three races came in the race’s return to Charlotte in 1987, where he finished 16th of 34 starters, three laps down to race winner Buddy Baker. He then crashed out of the 1989 race, leaving him 26th of 30, and in 1991 lost an engine after 15 laps, leaving him 28th of 30. That final start on May 19, 1991 came driving the same bright red Pontiac Grand Prix that was wrecked at Dover later that month.

McDuffie falls off the pace in the inaugural Atlanta
Invitational, 1986
PHOTO: ESPN, YouTube cubs604
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 15, 2018

K&N EAST: Colin Garrett’s Cinderella run ends halfway through at South Boston

PHOTO: @Team_HSR18
by William Soquet
LASTCAR.info Guest Contributor

Colin Garrett scored the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR K&N East Series career in Saturday night’s Who’s Your Driver Twin 100s Race 2 when his #18 Propel GPS / Hunt-Sellers Racing Toyota fell victim to mechanical issues after three of 100 laps. The finish came in Garrett’s third series start.

Garrett, 17, is making quick work of racing divisions. He was South Boston Speedway’s Rookie of the Year in 2016, his second year racing. The following year, he broke the track record in the Limited Late Model Stock Car division and won the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track championship. His 2018 schedule for late models includes various events at SoBo, Langley Speedway and Dominion Raceway, plus the prestigious ValleyStar 300 at Martinsville.

In addition, Hunt-Sellers Racing announced that Garrett had been added to its driver development lineup for three K&N Pro Series East races in 2018: an early-season venture at Langley, a mid-season journey out to Iowa Speedway, and a September trip to New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The effort would be backed by Propel GPS, a technical solutions company helping companies that own or manage vehicles. News broke May 4 that the Twin 100s were added to the schedule, and Garrett’s personal website also lists the season finale at Dover.

The name Hunt-Sellers Racing may very well ring a few bells with followers of the sport. The team is co-owned by former drivers Sam Hunt and Peyton Sellers. Hunt ran the full K&N East schedule in 2012 and ran partial schedules every year since, while Sellers has had starts scattered across many years and series. On a high-profile scale, he most recently drove almost half a season for now-defunct XFIINITY Series team Obaika Racing in 2016.

The entry list had 17 drivers, none of which were debuts. Headlining the entry list were four part-time teams: two LASTCAR championship contenders in Chuck Buchanan Jr. and Justin Carroll, and two small teams returning with big drivers: Kyle Busch Motorsports driver Spencer Davis with the #82 Danny Watts Racing team, and Brandon McReynolds with the #74 Visconti Motorsports team. McReynolds came to the track Saturday after spotting for Noah Gragson for his Friday night Truck Series win at Kansas Speedway.

Buchanan's was the only car not to practice in the first session, leaving last to NextGen Motorsports driver Juan Manuel Gonzalez. The 87 got on track for second practice and proceeded to anchor the charts, more than a second off leader Tyler Ankrum’s pace. He also qualified last for the first Twin 100.

The first race had a last-place battle that was decided relatively quickly for a race with no "start-and-parks." Anthony Alfredo spun and collected seven or eight cars, dropping Dillon Bassett to last after 22 laps. After more attrition, Buchanan worked his way up to fifth around the midpoint of the race before fading to ninth, his first K&N Top 10. The first race claimed, among many, McReynolds, who was the only car to not return for the second race.

Buchanan once again trailed the field coming to green, but this time the last-place battle was even shorter. With no live feed and timing and scoring down throughout the night, Race Central Live was NASCAR’s only official news source. There, Davey Segal reported that by Lap 5, Garrett had gone to the garage because of mechanical problems. Almost simultaneously, a tweet from the team announced the end of their night just over an hour after driver wheeled car to a third-place finish.

15th went to Ruben Garcia Jr., who also fell victim to mechanical gremlins. Gonzalez was 14th, 55 laps down and the last car running. Connor Hall was the only crash attrition of the second race, as his night ended early after wrecking in both races. Buchanan rounded out the Bottom Five, eleven laps down at the finish.

16) #18-Colin Garrett / 3 laps / mechanical
15) #6-Ruben Garcia Jr. / 37 laps / mechanical
14) #5-Juan Manuel Gonzalez / 45 laps / running
13) #31-Connor Hall / 45 laps / crash
12) #87-Chuck Buchanan Jr. / 89 laps / running

1st) Bill McAnally Racing, Ronald Bassett Sr., Charles Buchanan Jr., Carroll Motorsports, Hunt-Sellers Racing (1)

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


Saturday, May 12, 2018

CUP: Race-long last-place battle between Hill and McLeod gives way to Ty Dillon edging Blaney at Kansas

PHOTO: @GermainRacing
Ty Dillon picked up the 1st last-place finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career in Saturday’s KC Masterpiece 400 at the Kansas Speedway when his #13 Twisted Tea Chevrolet was involved in a multi-car accident after 247 of 267 laps.

The finish came in Dillon’s 66th series start. In the Cup Series last-place rankings, it’s the 18th for car #13, the 565th by reason of a crash, and the 745th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it’s the 28th for the #13, the 1,138th by reason of a crash, and the 1,596th for Chevrolet.

The younger grandson of Richard Childress, Ty Dillon cut his teeth in Bandoleros and go-karts. He ran his first K&N Pro Series race in 2009, won his first race at Gresham Motorsports Park in 2010, and in 2011 cruised to the ARCA Racing Series Championship with seven wins. Also in 2011, the 19-year-old Ty made his Truck Series debut at Kentucky, finishing 21st.

From there, Ty followed older brother Austin through NASCAR’s top three ranks. At first, he took over his rides each time Austin advanced to the next level. When Austin moved to the XFINITY Series in 2012, Ty took over RCR’s #3 truck and nearly won the next two Truck Series titles, taking three wins along the way. Ty’s XFINITY debut came at Dover in 2012, and his only XFINITY win came at Indianapolis in 2014. Again, he was a championship contender, finishing no worse than 5th in the standings for three consecutive seasons.

When Austin was selected to bring back the #3 to Cup competition in 2014, Ty made his Cup debut in a second RCR car, the #33, at Atlanta on August 31, 2014. Ty finished 25th that day, and improved on that with a 14th-place run with the #33 bunch at Michigan the next summer. In 2016, Ty’s Cup schedule expanded from five races to 11. He split time between Stewart-Haas Racing, where he relieved an injured Tony Stewart for three races, as well as small teams Leavine Family Racing and Tommy Baldwin Racing. His best run that season was a 15th at Phoenix in Stewart’s #14.

It wasn’t until 2017, three years after Austin, that Ty Dillon earned a full-time ride in the Cup Series. With Austin in the #3, Ty wouldn’t drive for Childress this time, but instead Germain Racing, who had entered into a technical alliance with RCR. He took the place of Casey Mears, who had raced Germain’s GEICO-sponsored cars since late in 2010 season. For those seven seasons, Mears helped the Germain team transition from a part-time “start-and-park” to a full-time competitor. He earned a team-best 4th-place finish at Daytona, but managed no better than 23rd in the standings, which he accomplished in 2015.

Ty’s first start for Germain was a 30th-place finish in the 2017 Daytona 500. In the next plate race at Talladega, he improved his career-best Cup finish with a 13th. The next month at Dover, he very nearly took his first career victory, leading 27 laps and pacing the field as late as 40 to go before a late-race crash left him 14th. He finished the year with a new career-best of 11th in the return to Talladega and at Phoenix. But Ty still finished only 24th in the standings, about the same Germain had with Mears.

2018 has been a year of great change for Ty Dillon and Germain Racing. On top of the introduction of Chevrolet’s new Camaro ZL1 model, Germain ended their long relationship with crew chief Robert “Bootie” Barker. Like Mears, Barker had been instrumental in developing the #13 team, joining the effort in 2009 when road racer Max Papis was behind the wheel. In Barker’s place came Matt Borland, the longtime crew chief for Ryan Newman. A crash in the Daytona 500 left Dillon 39th in the opener, and other than a 13th at Texas and a 15th at Talladega, the team has struggled to find consistency. Coming into Kansas, Ty Dillon sat 28th in the point standings. What unfolded would drop him another two spots.

Ty would drive the Twisted Tea car at Kansas, a sponsor that joined Ty and Germain Racing after Brian Scott retired at the close of the 2016 season. In this same Kansas race last year, Ty finished 14th, one of his best runs of the year. This time around, the car struggled for speed. Ty ran 31st in the opening practice, then ran 26th in qualifying with a speed of 182.692mph (29.558 seconds).

Just 38 drivers would start the race, the first short Cup field in Kansas’ history. A 39th entry, Derrike Cope in his #99 StarCom Fiber Chevrolet, was withdrawn on Monday.

Starting last was Timmy Hill, driving the #66 Toyota for Carl Long’s team Motorsports Business Management. Kansas marked the one-year anniversary of Long’s return to Cup competition, and Hill was the third different driver in as many starts to run the #66 in 2018. By Friday, CrashClaimsR.us appeared on the quarter-panels of the black Toyota. Hill was one of six drivers whose cars failed to pass pre-qualifying inspection, and as the lowest-ranked in points of the three, took the last spot. In preparations for the night race, his crew added a pair of light bars to Hill’s pit board, a drawing of the character Timmy from “South Park.”

When engines fired, Hill and the rest of the pack had to move around the #15 LowT Centers Chevrolet of Ross Chastain. Chastain, the last-placer at Bristol, had stalled on pit road and, according to Chris Knight, needed a push. The #15 turned a slow lap on the apron, then returned to his pit stall for repairs. This caused him to miss the start of the race. He pulled down pit road as the leaders completed the first lap, avoiding a “did not start,” but causing him to start the race one lap down.

Despite his mechanical issues, Chastain showed speed early, and was within sight of 37th-place Hill by Lap 8. He caught Hill on the 12th circuit and just made it past on the 13th circuit. Just then, race leader Kevin Harvick passed both of them on the high side of Turn 1, putting Chastain a second lap down and Hill one lap behind. This kept Chastain two laps down until the competition caution on Lap 30, when he took the wave-around to get one of them back. Doing so moved him to 37th during pit stops, dropping to last Rick Ware Racing’s #51 Prefund Capital Chevrolet, driven for the first time this year by XFINITY Series regular B.J. McLeod.

The first 237 laps of Saturday’s race were slowed only by the competition yellow and the ends of each stage. During that time, none of the 38 starters pulled behind the wall, and a tight last-place battle ensued between Hill and McLeod. On Lap 40, McLeod was tracking down Hill for position, both of them two laps down. Hill edged away from McLeod on Lap 48. By Lap 62, McLeod was four laps down, and on Lap 78 he was five down, where he remained at the end of Stage 1.

The stage caution allowed McLeod to restart next to Hill (also five laps down) for the Lap 89 restart, and two circuits later he caught and passed Hill for position. Hill gradually lost laps to the leader as he held 38th. He lost a 6th by Lap 107, a 7th on Lap 114, and an 8th after a pit stop on Lap 128. During this time, McLeod lost laps at the same rate, allowing Hill to this time race him for position on Lap 138. After Kyle Larson lapped the pair a 9th time on Lap 140, Hill drove past McLeod by Lap 145. McLeod lost a 10th lap on Lap 155, then Hill re-took the 38th spot with a pit stop on Lap 164, following the end of Stage 2.

On Lap 168, the final stage started with Hill one lap behind McLeod, so when Hill passed McLeod under green, he still held the 38th spot. On Lap 182, Hill was still last, and now 11 laps behind. McLeod made a green-flag stop on Lap 188 and was 13 laps down, then made a second unscheduled stop on Lap 201 that put him 15 laps behind. This put McLeod a handful of laps behind Hill. But Hill once again kept pace with McLeod, and closed to within one lap on the 226th circuit. That time by, Hill passed McLeod in the tri-oval, but McLeod remained one lap behind Hill – 15 to his 14.

Ty Dillon on pit road at Kansas
PHOTO: @DnfRacers
The complexion of the race – both for the lead and for last place – changed when Alex Bowman and Daniel Suarez tangled off Turn 2 on Lap 238. While Bowman remained within one lap of the leader, Suarez lost nine laps for repairs, making his #19 Stanley Tools Toyota a threat for a Bottom Five. The ensuing restart caused a second wreck on Lap 248, when Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney tangled in a heated race inside the Top 5. Contact entering Turn 1 damaged the right-rear of Larson’s #42 Clover / First Data Chevrolet, but sent Blaney’s #12 REV Group Ford into the outside wall. With 19 laps to go, Blaney turned his #12 behind the wall, out of the race by virtue of the “Crash Clock” protocol. With McLeod 15 laps down at the time and Blaney on the lead lap when he crashed out, Blaney would take last with four laps to go – if nothing happened to the drivers behind him.

The race restarted on Lap 253, triggering the night’s biggest accident. Coming off Turn 4, William Byron lost control of his #24 Liberty University Chevrolet and swerved into traffic, collecting Clint Bowyer in the #14 Haas 30 Years of the VF1 Ford and Ryan Newman’s #31 Bass Pro Shops / Cabela’s Chevrolet. More drivers piled in on the apron, including Jamie McMurray, Chris Buescher, Matt Kenseth (in his Cup Series return for Roush-Fenway Racing), and Ty Dillon.

Dillon’s car slid to a stop in the grass, the radiator knocked out (according to RacingUnderdogs), ending his race. Due to the night’s long green-flag runs (and damage suffered to the left-rear before the halfway point), Ty was six laps down at the time of the accident, the lowest-ranked of the cars involved in the wreck. On that same lap, Blaney’s eliminated car had fallen six laps down, joining the same lap as Dillon. Though both Dillon and Blaney were on the same lap, and Blaney wrecked first, NASCAR’s leaderboard ranked Dillon beneath Blaney. This meant that Dillon would finish last – again, if nothing happened to the drivers behind him.

Through it all, 38th-place McLeod lost a 16th lap, changing the magic number to three laps to go. When no other drivers fell out, Dillon and Blaney took the final two spots from McLeod and Hill on Lap 264, followed by Kenseth’s #6 Wyndham Rewards Ford on the very last lap. McLeod finished 35th. Rounding out the Bottom Five was Chris Buescher, whose #37 Breyers 2 in 1 Chevrolet was also eliminated in the Byron accident, but was running fewer laps behind than Kenseth or Dillon.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #13 in a Cup Series race since October 9, 2016, when Casey Mears’ #13 GEICO Chevrolet fell out in a crash after 61 laps of the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte.
*This marked the first time the #13 finished last in a Cup Series race at Kansas.

38) #13-Ty Dillon / 247 laps / crash
37) #12-Ryan Blaney / 247 laps / crash / led 54 laps
36) #6-Matt Kenseth / 250 laps / crash
35) #51-B.J. McLeod / 251 laps / running
34) #37-Chris Buescher / 252 laps / crash

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 (1)

1st) Chevrolet (8)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (2)


TRUCKS: Kevin Donahue outpaces brother Kyle in qualifying, but is first out of the race

Kevin Donahue's #63 with brother Kyle's #83 at far left.
PHOTO: Rubbin's Racin' Forums
Kevin Donahue picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Friday’s 37 Kind Days 250 at the Kansas Speedway when his #63 First Responder Racing Chevrolet fell out with transmission problems after failing to complete any of the 167 laps.

The finish came in Donahue’s 9th series start. In the Truck Series last-place rankings, it’s the 18th for truck #63, the 32nd by reason of transmission failure, and the 349th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it’s the 35th for the #63, the 155th by reason of transmission issues, and the 1,595th for Chevrolet.

Kevin is the oldest of three racing siblings in the Donahue family, joined by his younger brother Kyle and sister Angie. Born and raised in Chesterfield, Missouri, the trio have worked their way through Bandoleros and go-karts with eyes on a career in NASCAR. Kevin and Kyle made the jump on October 29, 2016, when the pair raced against each other in the Truck Series race at Martinsville, each sponsored by the Agile Network. Both encountered a steep learning curve. Kyle finished 31st in Mike Mittler’s #63 following an early crash with Josh White. Kevin made it past halfway, but lost the engine on Bobby Dotter’s #07 for SS-Green Light Racing, handing him 30th.

With the exception of a one-off for the now-shuttered Contreras Motorsports, Kevin and Kyle have run partial schedules for both Mittler’s MB Motorsports (between the primary #63 and the often “start-and-park” #36) as well as Copp Motorsports (#83). Due to the close business relationship between Mittler and Copp, this has essentially made the brothers teammates.

While Kevin has three more starts than Kyle, the younger Kyle has enjoyed the best runs of the pair: two 16th-place runs at Martinsville and Gateway last year. Kevin’s best finish in Trucks remains his 20th-place run in the one-off for Contreras two years ago. The pair’s most recent battle came last month at Martinsville, where again Kyle came out on top, steering Copp’s #83 to a 23rd-place finish. Donahue turned 49 laps before Mittler’s #63 pulled out, leaving him 30th. Kansas would see the brothers return with the same teams.

According to MB Motorsports’ press release, Kevin Donahue’s Kansas truck would carry new sponsorship from Fenton, Missouri-based Camp-Zero Coolers. Leading the returning backers was Extreme Brand Products of Cedar Hill, Missouri, joining SP Air USA, Inc., Spanesi Americas, FS Curtis, Leacree, Gateway Kartplex, MARADYNE High Performance Fans, Mayhew Tool, Reikken, Excel Bottling / Ski Soda, Timken, MechanixWear, and WIX Filters.

However, as in many of the Mittler team’s races, Kevin’s truck was still flat white with many of these sponsors crammed onto the space between the door numbers and the rear tires. A much larger logo for “First Responder Racing” occupied the hood. Kevin’s brother Kyle would run a near-identical #83 Chevrolet which, despite being fielded by Copp Motorsports, had Mittler-style red numbers similar to those on the #63, again symbolic of the cooperation between the two teams.

Kevin looked forward to getting another speedway start under his belt. “It’s great to come back to where I made my first intermediate track start,” said the driver in the same press release. “We had a pit road issue that cost us track position and dropped us to a 22nd place finish last year. This time around, I’m hoping to improve on that.” Mittler himself called the elder Donahue “a very conscientious driver,” saying that he “does his best to allow us to roll [the truck] back onto the hauler looking like it did when we rolled it off.” This proved particularly true on Friday.

This time around, Kevin outpaced Kyle in opening practice, ranking 21st ahead of Kyle in 26th. Kevin carried this momentum into qualifying, where he put up the 20th-fastest lap with a 171.681mph (31.472 seconds), more than three seconds better than Kyle in 31st.

Camden Murphy in the lone DNQ for TJL Racing.
Note the taped name in the rear window.
PHOTO: @DnfRacers
The lone DNQ was Camden Murphy, who on Friday morning was named the driver of TJL Racing’s unsponsored white #1 Chevrolet. The deal for Murphy to drive came together so late, that photos from LASTCAR reader @DnfRacers showed Murphy’s name was shambled together on the rear window with strips of white tape. In qualifying, Murphy put up the slowest completed lap of 152.018mph (35.522 seconds), nearly eight-tenths off the next-slowest truck of Kyle Donahue and nearly three full seconds off a guaranteed spot.

Starting last on Friday was Myatt Snider in ThorSport’s #13 Louisiana Hot Sauce Ford. Snider was on a pole lap in Round 1 when he spun off Turn 4. While he failed to turn a lap in the session, Snider did, however, still have his primary truck, and with it earned the final starting spot. Snider incurred a redundant tail end penalty for changing his flat-spotted tires, making him one of four drivers sent to the rear of the field. Joining him were Robby Lyons in Premium Motorsports’ #15 for unapproved body adjustments and both 14th-place starter John Hunter Nemechek and 30th-place Mike Harmon in his #74, both for unapproved adjustments to the electrical system.

Kevin Donahue on the apron.
PHOTO: @DnfRacers
Falling to the rear voluntarily prior to the start was 23rd-place starter Joey Gase in Jennifer Jo Cobb’s #0 Driven2Honor.org Chevrolet. When the race started, Gase was running 5.440 seconds behind the leader, and was in brief control of last place. Brief, that is, as Kevin Donahue encountered transmission issues that first time by. Donahue pulled the #63 behind the wall short of the starting line, preventing him from completing a lap. The issue proved terminal, and Donahue was done for the night. Gase exited 6 laps later to secure 31st.

30th fell to Joe Nemechek, who brought back his second truck, the #87 Fleetwing Chevrolet, for the first time since it was withdrawn at Martinsville. The elder Nemechek then watched over his NEMCO team as son John Hunter rallied from his tail end penalty to finish a strong 4th. 29th belonged to Donahue’s MB Motorsports teammate Bayley Currey, also entered in a “start-and-park” truck, Mittler’s #36 Chevrolet. Rounding out the group was Jamie Mosley, driving Todd Peck’s last-placer from Dover. Mosley’s first Truck Series start since 2009 ended after just 66 laps with overheating issues on Beaver Motorsports’ #50 Crossbar E-Cigarettes Chevrolet.

Kyle Donahue, meanwhile, finished 20th in the #83, his best finish since his pair of 16th-place showings.

*This marked the first time the #63 finished last in a Truck Series race at Kansas since July 2, 2005, when Justin Allgaier was driving Mittler’s #63 Dave Porter Truck Sales Ford, which crashed after 68 laps of the O’Reilly Auto Parts 250. It was Allgaier’s first career Truck Series last-place finish.
*Donahue’s 20th-place starting spot is the best by a Truck Series since last July at Eldora, 18 races ago, when Caleb Holman started 9th.

32) #63-Kevin Donahue / 0 laps / transmission
31) #0-Joey Gase / 6 laps / electrical
30) #87-Joe Nemechek / 27 laps / overheating
29) #36-Bayley Currey / 30 laps / transmission
28) #50-Jamie Mosley / 66 laps / overheating

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

1st) Chevrolet (6)


Friday, May 11, 2018

PREVIEW: Kenseth returns to take part in Kansas Speedway's smallest Cup field

PHOTO: @WyndhamRewards
Friday, May 11, 2018
TRUCKS Race 6 of 23
37 Kind Days 250 at Kansas
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Stewart Friesen

The preliminary entry list stood at 30 trucks entered for 32 spots, threatening the first short field of the 2018 Truck Series season, and the first in the series since 31 took the green last fall at Talladega, ten races ago. However, by Tuesday, three late entries were added, bringing the total to 33. One truck will miss the race.

RETURNING: #0-Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing
The #0 team, which withdrew Joey Gase’s entry last Friday, is again entered this week. The preliminary list showed Jennifer Jo Cobb herself as the driver to both trucks, but she is already committed to the #10 (see below). Gase is again entered this week with Driven2Honor.org on board.

The first of three late entries added to the preliminary Kansas list, TJL Racing returns to action after their withdrawal of Ray Ciccarelli’s entry at Dover. Driving this week is to be announced. UPDATE: Camden Murphy makes the move from MB Motorsports' #63, and shares the Crossbar E-Cigarettes sponsor with Beaver Motorsports' #50 (see below).

TEAM UPDATE: #3-Jordan Anderson Racing
Following a costly Turn 2 accident at Dover, Jordan Anderson’s team worked many sleepless nights to prepare one of their few remaining trucks for this Friday’s race. The Bommarito Automotive Group Chevrolet entered this week had no decals on it Sunday, but was finished and loaded by Wednesday evening.

DRIVER CHANGE: #4-Kyle Busch Motorsports
Cup Series regular Kyle Busch returns to the Truck Series for the first time since his win in Las Vegas for his third start of 2018. He takes the place of Todd Gilliland, who isn’t entered this week, and carries sponsorship from Cessna.

MISSING: #7-All Out Motorsports
Korbin Forrister finished 21st for All Out last week in Dover, but driver and team aren’t entered this week.

With the XFINITY Series off, John Hunter Nemechek returns to his father’s #8 for the fourth time this year, and the first time since his victory at Martinsville. His father Joe, who ran 7th last week in Dover, moves over to the team’s second truck, the returning #87 (see below).

SPONSOR UPDATE: #10-Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing
On Monday, Jennifer Jo Cobb unveiled a new paint scheme for her #10 truck, swapping the team’s traditional black scheme for a white one. In addition to Mark One Electric, which has sponsored eight previous of her Truck efforts at Kansas dating back to 2010, the hood and rear decklid carry multi-colored logos for Think Realty, which sponsored the #10 at Atlanta and Las Vegas. Among the other backers shown in the artist’s rendering are Community America, PizzaShoppe.com, Cornell, and IBC.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Premium Motorsports
After Reed Sorenson turned just 15 laps at Dover in an apparent “start-and-park,” Robby Lyons returns to make his fourth start of the season in five Truck Series races. The truck, unsponsored last week, will carry sponsorship from Finke Brothers, Inc. Lyons’ best finish of the season remains his 13th-place showing at Daytona.

SPONSOR UPDATE: #16-Hattori Racing Enterprises
Brett Moffitt debuts a new look on his #16 Toyota with sponsorship from Central Plains Cement Company.

DRIVER CHANGE: #20-Young’s Motorsports
While the preliminary entry list showed Tyler Young as the driver of the #20 Chevrolet, on Tuesday it was announced that Darrell Wallace, Jr. would make his first Truck Series start since his encumbered win at Michigan last summer. Wallace takes the place of Tanner Thorson, who finished 16th at Dover. Go Share returns as an associate sponsor with Andy’s Frozen Custard as the primary.

SPONSOR UPDATE: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
Josh Reaume welcomes a new primary sponsor this week, Colonial Countertops. Reaume arrives woth three consecutive 25th-place finishes, his season-best.

LATE ENTRY: #36-MB Motorsports
The second late entry is the second truck from Mike Mittler’s team, the first appearance for the entry since last fall at Homestead. Driving it will be Bayley Currey, who last week finished 26th for D.J. Copp in the #83. Past performance by this second team indicates this will be a likely “start-and-park” entry.

LATE ENTRY & DRIVER CHANGE: #50-Beaver Motorsports
The third late entry was Beaver Motorsports, which for some reason wasn’t on the preliminary list following Todd Peck’s last-place finish last week in Dover. Peck is not entered this week. In his place is Jamie Mosley, set to make his first Truck Series start since July 18, 2009, when he finished 29th for Joey Sonntag. Sponsorship comes from Crossbar E-Cigarettes.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Kyle Busch Motorsports
Welcome back last week’s XFINITY Series polesitter Brandon Jones, who this Friday makes his first Truck Series start since a 10th-place showing for MDM Motorsports at Bristol last summer. It will be Jones’ first Truck Series start at Kansas since 2015, when he finished 30th for GMS Racing after starting 3rd. This time around, he takes the place of Harrison Burton, who isn’t entered. Sponsorship comes from Lyons Industries and Menards.

Following David Gilliland’s 4th-place run at Dover, Bo LeMastus is back in the Truck Series for the first time since Atlanta, where he scored a season-best 17th. The Kentucky native has a pair of Kansas starts in the ARCA Racing Series, where he finished 13th in 2014 and 18th in 2015.

DRIVER CHANGE: #63-MB Motorsports
Kevin Donahue is set to make his second Truck Series start of the year, following a 30th-place showing with the same team at Martinsville. Taking the place of Camden Murphy, 29th at Dover, Donahue finished 21st in this race last year.

TEAM UPDATE: #74-Mike Harmon Racing
Mike Harmon will drive his Chevrolet for the second-straight race after his entry did not have a driver entered on the preliminary list.

DRIVER CHANGE: #83-Copp Motorsports
Kyle Donahue, Kevin’s younger brother, is listed in place of Bayley Currey, who made the move to the #36. Kyle finished 23rd in his most recent start at Martinsville, and this week makes his first start on a 1.5-mile oval. First Responder Racing sponsors the effort.

RETURNING: #87-NEMCO Motorsports
Joe Nemechek brings back his second truck for the first time since the team withdrew at Martinsville. With his son back behind the wheel of the #8, it’s possible it could be another short race for Joe, as it was in the #87’s most recent start at Las Vegas.

MISSING: #97-JJL Racing
Jesse Little had the best run of his young career at Dover, leading two laps before late trouble left him 9th at the finish. Regardless, driver and team aren’t entered this week as JJL Racing continues to build on its part-time schedule.

CUP INVADERS: #4-Kyle Busch

Saturday, May 12, 2018
CUP Race 12 of 36
KC Masterpiece 400 at Kansas
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Ryan Newman

There are 38 drivers for 40 spots, the tenth short field of 2018 and the first short Cup field in the history of Kansas Speedway.

DRIVER & SPONSOR CHANGE: #6-Roush-Fenway Racing
For the first time since last fall at Homestead, Matt Kenseth is behind the wheel of a Cup Series car. The announcement, which came on April 25 at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, revealed that Kenseth would make his season debut this weekend with Wyndham Rewards as sponsors. Kenseth is a two-time winner at Kansas, though his last race here in 2017 ended with an infamous “Crash Clock” penalty that eliminated him from the Playoffs. On Friday, it was announced Kenseth will drove the car in 6 more races after Saturday, starting with the 600 in two weeks.

TEAM UPDATE: #23-BK Racing
The preliminary entry list showed Gray Gaulding once again in the #23, but this time with no sponsor listed. The entry comes amidst more news on BK Racing’s bankruptcy, and team owner Ron Devine’s efforts to remain involved. On Tuesday, Judge J. Craig Whitley reminded Devine that a court-appointed trustee – not Devine himself – has a management role with the team. The trustee’s plans for the team going forward remain to be known.

SPONSOR UPDATE: #43-Richard Petty Motorsports
As RPM continues to fill in sponsors for Darrell Wallace, Jr. this year, Saturday will see the season debut of World Wide Technology as the primary backer. The scheme, which will once again be in Petty blue-and-red, was revealed at the NASCAR Hall of Fame on May 1.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Rick Ware Racing
Welcome back XFINITY Series regular B.J. McLeod, who made his first eight Cup races for Rick Ware Racing last year. Taking the place of Cody Ware, who wrecked out at Dover, McLeod’s most recent Cup start came at this track last fall, where he finished 30th.

SPONSOR UPDATE: #55-Premium Motorsports
Reed Sorenson has picked up backing from local hotel Harrah’s North Kansas City, the third time driver and team have been sponsored by the hotel at Kansas since the fall of 2016. Sorenson’s best of 16 Cup starts at Kansas remains his 7th-place run in 2007. He finished 25th in both races last year.

RETURNING: #66-Motorsports Business Management
The only addition from last week’s Dover entry list is the return of Motorsports Business Management, back in Cup for the first time since Chad Finchum’s debut at Bristol. While Carl Long was originally listed as driver, Timmy Hill tweeted that he will drive the #66. The car has no sponsor and is flat black, not the green-and-yellow scheme from last year. It will be Hill’s fourth Cup start of the season, the other three coming with Rick Ware at Phoenix, Fontana, and Talladega with a best of 33rd.

SPONSOR UPDATE: #72-TriStar Motorsports
The preliminary list has Schluter Systems back as primary sponsor for the #72 for the first time since Phoenix, where driver Corey LaJoie scored his second of three engine-related last-place finishes. Following the third last Sunday in Dover, LaJoie looks for a better run after finishing 27th in both Kansas races last year. The car will carry a new inverted version of the Phoenix paint scheme with orange over black instead of black over orange.

WITHDREW: #99-StarCom Racing
Last week in Dover, Derrike Cope debuted his new second team, but was involved in a hard crash, leaving him 37th of 38 drivers. This same car was entered at Kansas, where the team made its debut last fall, but was withdrawn on Tuesday. Landon Cassill will fly the flag for StarCom in the chartered #00. On May 9, it was announced Cassill will have another new sponsor, Dairi-O Restaurants, for both next week’s All-Star Race and the Coca-Cola 600.

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

This time, it’s the XFINITY Series which takes a couple weeks off. After four-straight thrillers without Cup regulars in the field, it will be interesting to see what, if anything, will be done when the circuit returns to Charlotte.

The lone last-place finish caused by a busted “time gear” occurred on May 20, 1967, during the Tidewater 250 at the Langley Speedway in Hampton, Virginia. On that day, Dick Johnson (not to be confused with the Australian road racer of the same name) started 14th in the 16-car field driving his #18 1966 Ford. He made it just one lap before the issue arose. It was Johnson’s second last-place finish. Johnson, born in Elverta, California, made 56 career Cup starts from 1967 through 1969. His best finish was a 7th in the Cracker 200 at the Augusta (Georgia) Speedway on March 16, 1969. He passed away in 1997.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

#JD70: J.D. McDuffie's Career at the Nashville Fairgrounds

McDuffie in 1968
PHOTO: Fred Marchman / Tommy Marchman
While Rockingham was J.D. McDuffie’s favorite track, the Nashville Fairgrounds was his best. Nowhere else in his NASCAR Cup Series career did he score more Top Fives or Top Tens. Nowhere did he lead more laps in a single race. And, in 29 starts, not once did he finish last.

McDuffie’s first Cup start on the Tennessee track came on July 30, 1966, a race Richard Petty led flag-to-flag from the pole. McDuffie started 24th in the field of 28 and ended up 23rd following an overheating issue on his 1964 Ford. Two years later, McDuffie finished 11th in his Buick, and for the next five starts ran no worse than 10th.

The driver’s performance remained consistent, even when the banking was lowered from 35 to 18 degrees, and the length changed from a perfect half-mile to a shade over it. In 1970 and 1971, the first two races on the new configuration, McDuffie scored back-to-back 5th-place runs driving a Mercury. When McDuffie made the switch to Chevrolet, he ran 9th in 1973, 7th in 1974, 9th in 1975, and 8th in 1977. In the races between, he finished outside the Top 20 only twice.

When Bailey Excavating sponsored the #70 in the late 1970s, McDuffie was a clear threat for the victory. On July 15, 1978, during the Nashville 420, McDuffie led his first lap at the track – the 39th of the day – quite the accomplishment since Cale Yarborough dominated to lead 411 of the 420 laps.

When the series returned on May 12, 1979, it was McDuffie who now dominated, starting 9th and leading 111 laps, his most ever in a single Cup race. Months after his first pole at Dover and his invite to the inaugural Busch Clash at Daytona, McDuffie looked to be on his way to his first Cup Series victory. He led as late as Lap 276 before a pit stop, then a rain delay, dropped him to 5th at the finish. It was McDuffie’s 12th and final Top Five. Only Richard Petty led more laps than McDuffie that night. Yarborough took the win. That summer, McDuffie picked up his 11th and final Nashville Top Ten, running 8th in a race dominated by Darrell Waltrip and DiGard Racing.

From 1981 onward, when NASCAR downsized its cars, McDuffie finished no better than 16th at Nashville, though finished no worse than 26th. That finish came on May 12, 1984, the next-to-last Cup race ever held at the track. As controversy reigned over which Junior Johnson teammate took the victory, McDuffie finished 26th of 30 starters, the last car under power. He failed to qualify for the final Cup race held there in July, one of six DNQs. It was only the second Nashville race he missed. The other came in 1967.

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.

McDuffie in 1969
PHOTO: source unknown
McDuffie in 1975
PHOTO: Fred Marchman / Tommy Marchman
McDuffie racing with Cale Yarborough in 1979
PHOTO: David Allio