Thursday, July 12, 2018

PREVIEW: Smithley, Gallagher, and Lyons among the many returning names at Kentucky

PHOTO: @StarcomRacing

Thursday, July 12, 2018

TRUCKS Race 12 of 23
Buckle Up in Your Truck 225 at Kentucky
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Norm Benning

There are 34 trucks entered for 32 spots, meaning that two trucks will fail to qualify.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Premium Motorsports
Kentucky sees the return of Robby Lyons, who has been off the circuit since May with kidney issues. He takes the place of Premium’s Cup driver Ross Chastain, who finished 26th after an early crash at Chicagoland. It will by Lyons’ first Truck start at Kentucky.

DRIVER CHANGE: #20-Young’s Motorsports
Tate Fogleman returns to make his 2nd Truck Series start, following up his 27th-place finish at Gateway, where his series debut ended in a hard crash. He takes the place of Max Tullman, whose own series debut at Chicagoland yielded a 23rd-place finish, four laps down to Brett Moffitt.

DRIVER CHANGE: #50-Beaver Motorsports
Timmy Hill is slated to run all three of this weekend’s races in Kentucky, his Cup and XFINITY efforts for Motorsports Business Management supplemented by a run in the #50 Chevrolet on Thursday. He takes the place of Brian Kaltreider, whose series debut at Chicagoland saw him run 25th after suspension issues. Hill has two previous starts in this race, finishing 15th in 2015 and 23rd in 2016, both for Premium Motorsports.

DRIVER CHANGE: #63-MB Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #83-Copp Motorsports
Mike Mittler and D.J. Copp’s teams switch up drivers this week. Bayley Currey moves from Copp’s #83 to Mittler’s #63, taking the place of J.J. Yeley. Driving in Currey’s place in the #83 is Tyler Matthews, his first start since Gateway and third of the season, with NextGen as sponsor.

RETURNING: #68-Clay Greenfield Motorsports
Kentucky is the next race on the schedule for Clay Greenfield and his team, last seen in action at Texas in June, where he finished 20th. Greenfield’s #68 Chevrolet will again be sponsored by AMVETS and the Please Stand initiative. Greenfield has four previous Truck Series starts in Kentucky, but none since 2013, when he parked a second truck for Norm Benning. His track debut came in 2010 driving a Dodge for Danny Gill, who now serves as his crew chief.

MISSING: #74-Mike Harmon Racing
Mike Harmon will focus exclusively on his XFINITY Series effort this weekend as, for the first time this season, he has not entered his #74 Chevrolet on the Truck side. Harmon finished last in the most recent round at Chicagoland after an oil cooler kept him from completing a lap.

RETURNING: #75-Henderson Motorsports
Welcome back Parker Kligerman and Charlie Henderson’s team, both back on the circuit for the first time since Charlotte in May, both looking for their fifth start of 2018. Kligerman’s Charlotte run was his best of the season so far, a 7th – the same spot he finished in this race last year. In six previous starts in this race, his best finishes are a pair of 2nds – 2011 to Kyle Busch and 2012 to James Buescher.

MISSING: #03-Mike Affarano Motorsports
Mike Affarano has not entered his #03 Chevrolet in this weekend’s race following his withdrawal two weeks ago in Chicagoland. Reports still indicate he will return next Wednesday in Eldora.


Friday, July 13, 2018
XFINITY Race 17 of 33
Alsco 300 at Kentucky
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Brandon Jones

Up until Wednesday, there were 39 drivers entered in this Friday’s race for 40 spots, marking the first short field in the XFINITY Series since 39 took the green at Mid-Ohio on August 16, 2014. But a 40th car has now been added (see below).

DRIVER CHANGE: #3-Richard Childress Racing
Fresh off his first Cup Series Top 10, Ty Dillon will make his fifth XFINITY start of the season, his first since a 4th-place run at Charlotte. He takes the place of Shane Lee, who had a fine run at Daytona and finished 6th, his own career-best.

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
MISSING: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
The McLeod team scales back from three cars to two following a rough night in Daytona. With his #99 not entered, Ray Black, Jr. moves over to the #8 this week, taking the place of Caesar Bacarella. In the #78, Tommy Joe Martins was listed to take the place of Blake Jones, but Martins tweeted on Tuesday that he will not return until next week in New Hampshire. Instead, another driver to be announced will drive the #78, which is a Chevrolet this week in place of a Toyota. UPDATE: Blake Jones is again in the #78.

RETURNING: #12-Penske Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #60-Roush-Fenway Racing
After his spectacular tumble at Daytona, Austin Cindric moves back to the returning Penske #12 this week with sponsorship from the Lasik Vision Institute. Ty Majeski takes Cindric’s place in the #60 Ford for his first start since a 7th at Iowa. Both drivers will be making their first XFINITY Series starts at Kentucky.

DRIVER CHANGE: #18-Joe Gibbs Racing
Bad luck ended Ryan Preece’s run at Daytona, where he won the pole but retired with a punctured radiator. He’s not running this weekend as Kyle Busch drives the #18 with NOS Energy Drink as sponsor.

DRIVER CHANGE: #22-Penske Racing
Penske Racing is swapping one Cup driver for another, putting Paul Menard in place of Ryan Blaney. Four of Menard’s seven Kentucky starts in this series have yielded top-ten finishes, including a track-best 4th in 2014.

Welcome back Spencer Gallagher, who has successfully completed NASCAR’s “Road to Recovery” following his first career victory at Talladega in May. Gallagher takes the place of Chase Elliott, who lost an engine in his most recent relief driver role at Daytona, leaving him 29th.

MISSING: #24-GMS Racing
While Gallagher returns to the track, GMS Racing’s second entry does not. Following his heartbreaking loss at Daytona, Haley will focus on this weekend’s Truck Series race, again in GMS’ #24 Fraternal Order of Eagles Chevrolet.

DRIVER CHANGE: #42-Chip Ganassi Racing
John Hunter Nemechek returns to the XFINITY side this week in place of Kyle Larson. Anderson Columbia Co., Inc. has signed as sponsor. While this is Nemechek’s first XFINITY start at the track, his best of three Truck Series starts here was a runner-up to William Byron two years ago. Nemecchek will run Thursday’s Truck race as well, and looks to improve on that finish.

MISSING: #61-Fury Race Cars, LLC
Noticeably absent from this week’s list is upstart Fury Race Cars and driver Kaz Grala, whose six-race debut was capped by a career-best 5th in a car that was once an Evernham Motorsports car, then a show car for Stewart-Haas Racing. Grala tweeted on Tuesday that sponsorship issues prevented the team from running Kentucky, effectively ending the driver’s bid for the Playoffs. Grala also reported, however, that a sponsor signed for next Saturday’s round in New Hampshire.

MANUFACTURER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
The second part of Timmy Hill’s tripleheader sees him run a Chevrolet in place of last week’s restrictor-plate Toyota.

RETURNING: #79-Jimmy Means Racing
In part, the current four-year streak of 40-car fields has been due to one of two teams entering an extra car: MBM or Jimmy Means Racing. Means takes his turn this week, bringing back the #79 for the 10th time, and the first since June 11, 2016 at Michigan. Behind the wheel is Truck Series owner-driver Josh Reaume, who will now run double-duty.

RETURNING: #89-Shepherd Racing Ventures
Morgan Shepherd has entered his #89 this week, following his withdrawal at Daytona. It will be Shepherd’s 17th start at this track, dating back to 2003. His best finish here is the only one where he’s finished under power, a 25th on June 13, 2009.

CUP INVADERS: #3-Ty Dillon, #18-Kyle Busch, #22-Paul Menard

Saturday, July 14, 2018
CUP Race 19 of 36
Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart at Kentucky
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Jimmie Johnson

One week after the first over-40 entry list of the season, it’s back to 39 Cup cars this week in Kentucky. It’s the 15th short field in 19 races this season and the fifth in the last six races.

DRIVER CHANGE: #6-Roush-Fenway Racing
Matt Kenseth returns to the driver’s seat this week for his fifth Cup run of the year and his first since a 33rd at Michigan. For the first time this year, he runs the Performance Plus Motor Oil scheme that only Trevor Bayne has run in races past. Bayne showed some improvement over the last three races, qualifying 13th at Sonoma and contending for the win at Daytona before he was eliminated in a crash.

DRIVER CHANGE: #7-Premium Motorsports
Making his Cup debut this week is Jesse Little, son of retired Cup driver and now NASCAR official Chad Little. It marks the first time the Little name has run a Cup race since Chad’s 217th and final start at Dover on June 2, 2002. The younger Little secured the ride following his sterling runs in the Truck Series, where his family’s JJL Motorsports team has finished inside the Top 10 in four of their previous five starts. He takes the place of Jeffrey Earnhardt, who earned a career-best 11th last week in Daytona.

TEAM UPDATE: #23-BK Racing / NY Racing Team
The partnership between BK Racing, driver J.J. Yeley, and sponsor Steakhouse Elite continues into this Saturday’s race in Kentucky. In their first race together, the team worked their way from last on the grid to 18th at the finish, two laps down to the leaders.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Rick Ware Racing
B.J. McLeod is set for his fifth Cup start of the season, and his first since Chicagoland. He takes the place of Ray Black, Jr., who ran 16th at Daytona despite persistent issues with the car shutting off. McLeod’s best finish this season remains a 33rd at Charlotte, though he has finished under power in all his Cup starts this season.

MISSING: #62-Beard Motorsports
The Beard Oil crew is apparently sticking to its restrictor-plate only schedule for 2018 as they and driver Brendan Gaughan are not entered this Saturday. Gaughan finished 12th at Daytona, the fourth time in seven starts that driver and team finished inside the Top 20.

RETURNING: #66-Motorsports Business Management
After skipping Daytona, MBM still has their Cup car in one piece, and Timmy Hill will drive it this Saturday with as sponsor. Hill’s first Kentucky race in the Cup Series came last year, where he finished 31st.

MISSING: #92-RBR Enterprises
Ricky Benton’s team is also not entered this week after driver Timothy Peters became the first driver to fail to qualify this season.

SPONSOR UPDATE: #95-Leavine Family Racing
After by far their best race of the season, threatening to snag the victory until the final moments, the Leavine team welcomes a new sponsor for Kasey Kahne: blockchain firm Dark Matter presented by Ionomy. This is the second-straight week a blockchain company will back a Cup car, following Dragonchain’s sponsoring of Corey LaJoie’s #72 in Daytona.

MISSING: #96-Gaunt Brothers Racing
The Gaunt Brothers enjoyed a fine 13th-place run at Daytona, their first race with D.J. Kennington behind the wheel since Talladega. Driver and team aren’t entered this week, and their plans for the season’s second half are still coming together.

DRIVER CHANGE: #99-StarCom Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #00-StarCom Racing
Garrett Smithley returns for the first time since his early exit at Michigan, looking for a proper start to his Cup career. Victory Lane Quick Oil Change is again the sponsor, though this time the door numbers are red in place of the white ones at Michigan. Landon Cassill moves from the #99 back to his Chartered #00, taking the place of Joey Gase, 25th at Daytona. StarCom Fiber once again backs the Cassill car.

Only three times in Cup Series history has the last-place finisher been “parked” by NASCAR. This is distinguished from “flagged,” which has been used 21 times in Cup, but not since 1992, and “too slow,” the more modern incarnation of “flagged” used for cars that fail to maintain minimum speed.

Twice in Cup, a car’s been parked and finished last because the team didn’t have a pit crew present at the track. The most notable example was the first, at Rockingham in 2004, when Joe Ruttman was called in after the opening lap. It happened again in 2009, when Mike Wallace was driving for Larry Gunselman’s team at Pocono. The most recent time occurred at Michigan three years ago, when Timmy Hill’s entry from Premium Motorsports had a persistent oil leak.

It’s also happened three times in the Truck Series, all of them at Martinsville. The first example was April 9, 2005, when Casey Kingsland’s #24 Speed Zone Energy Drink Dodge was parked for spinning too much. In the opening 93 laps, Kingsland drew three of the race’s first six cautions. The other two occurred to Tracy Lowe’s team TJL Racing: Bryce Napier, who had smoke in the cockpit, and Mike Senica, who ignored the black flag.

In the XFINITY Series, only Kevin Lepage has been parked and finished last as a result. That occurred at Memphis on October 25, 2008, when he was driving Derrike Cope’s #73 Germane Red Dodge.

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