Thursday, August 30, 2018

PREVIEW: Throwback Weekend at Darlington also sees a number of driver and team changes

PHOTO: @XfinityRacing
Saturday, September 1, 2018
XFINITY Race 24 of 33
VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 at Darlington
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Matt Tifft

There are 41 teams entered in Saturday’s kickoff to “Throwback Weekend,” meaning one team will miss the show. There are also several driver changes following last week’s road course race as the regulars of both series return.

DRIVER CHANGE: #4-JD Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #42-Chip Ganassi Racing
DRIVER SWAP: #0-JD Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #01-JD Motorsports
Ross Chastain made headlines last week when it was announced that Darlington would be his first of three XFINITY races in the Chip Ganassi Racing #42 entry. This week, he takes the place of road racer Justin Marks, who was noticeably aggressive at Road America. This week's JD Motorsports lineup sees the remaining two drivers switch rides with Garrett Smithley moving from the #0 to Chastain's #4, Vinnie Miller moving from the #01 to the #0, and Landon Cassill returning to the team for the first time since the 2015 finale at Homestead, driving the #01. Smithley's ride in the #4 will feature a subtle throwback to the late James Harvey Hylton with Hylton's name on the passenger side roof and the #4 stylized the way it looked on Hylton's #48 when he won both his career Cup races in the 1970s.

DRIVER CHANGE: #3-Richard Childress Racing
Ty Dillon rejoins the #3 team for the seventh time in 2018 and his first since a 15th-place showing two weeks ago in Bristol. He takes the place of Brendan Gaughan, who led late at Road America before a spin left him 24th. Daniel Defense is the listed sponsor.

MISSING: #6-Roush-Fenway Racing
After Lilly Diabetes’ controversial decision to not run its logos on Conor Daly’s car for his NASCAR debut, both team and driver are not entered this week.

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #78-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Road ringers Scott Heckert and Ryan Ellis are back out of the twin McLeod entries, and we will see Tommy Joe Martins in the #8 for the first time since Pocono in June. The #78, which Martins has run more recently, will instead go to Cody Ware, who eyes his third XFINITY start of the season and first since a 33rd-place showing at Mid-Ohio.

MISSING: #13-Motorsports Business Management
RETURNING: #72-Motorsports Business Management
MBM’s #72 returns in place of the #13 (basically the same third team from MBM), allowing for a Benny Parsons tribute with the King’s Row Fireplaces paint scheme. Timmy Hill remains the driver after running the #13 at Road America to a 35th-place finish.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-JD Motorsports
Katherine Legge had another strong outing on the road course last week, finishing 14th after recovering from a mid-race spin. This week, B.J. McLeod takes her place in the #15, and will run double-duty with the Cup race (see below).

DRIVER CHANGE: #18-Joe Gibbs Racing
Denny Hamlin swept both last year’s XFINITY and Cup races at Darlington – though both were encumbered victories due to technical infractions. He returns to the driver’s seat this Saturday, taking the place of road racer James Davison, who spun out of a podium finish at Road America.

DRIVER CHANGE: #22-Penske Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #60-Roush-Fenway Racing
Austin Cindric moves from the #22 to the #60, taking the place of Ty Majeski and running a throwback scheme to one of Jack Roush’s early Zakspeed-Roush road racing entries. Brad Keselowski returns to the #22 with Snap-On as the listed sponsor.

Bill Elliott finished 20th after a very physical afternoon in Road America, and this week hands over the wheel to his son Chase. Spencer Gallagher was originally listed to drive, but the same shoulder injury that sidelined him from Mosport will keep him out of the #23 both this Saturday and next week in Indianapolis, where Chase will again drive. This Saturday's "throwback" scheme honors Bobby Allison with one of his Miller American paint schemes from the 1980s.

J.J. Yeley returns to the #38 team after Brian Henderson drove to a solid 18th-place finish at Road America. Jeff Green remains in the #93 this week, and team owner Ryan Sieg’s #39 will run a throwback scheme to Bobby Labonte’s rookie car, Bill Davis’ #22 Maxwell House Ford, in Saturday’s race.

DRIVER CHANGE: #55-JP Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #74-Mike Harmon Racing
After driving for Mike Harmon Racing on the road courses and at Bristol, Stephen Leicht moves back to the #55 for JP Motorsports. Harmon will himself drive the #74 on Saturday. UPDATE: Bayley Currey took Leicht's place in the #55.

MISSING: #61-Fury Race Cars
Fury and driver Kaz Grala will miss their fourth of the last eight races due to sponsorship.

MISSING: #86-Brandonbilt Motorsports
Brandonbilt Motorsports isn’t entered after they withdrew at Road America. Brandon Brown will race, however, as he takes Andy Lally’s place in Mario Gosselin’s #90 with Coastal Carolina University as sponsor. As with last year, Brown’s car will run a tribute to the late Dick Trickle, this time the Miller High Life scheme he ran in 1989 (similar to Landon Cassill’s Bobby Allison car in Sunday’s Cup race, see below).

RETURNING: #89-Shepherd Racing Ventures
Morgan Shepherd returns to “The Lady In Black” after not entering his car at Road America. In this race last year, Shepherd led a lap under caution before he pulled out of the race. Shepherd has 27 XFINITY starts at Darlington with two runner-up finishes to Dale Earnhardt in 1986 and Harry Gant in 1987.

WITHDREW: #92-DGM Racing
Gosselin enters a second car for only the second time this year and the first time since Iowa in July with Josh Williams driving and no sponsor listed. UPDATE: This team withdrew on Friday.

RETURNING: #98-Stewart-Haas Racing with Biagi DenBeste
Kevin Harvick, who led much of this race last year, is back along with the #98 team with a tribute to his days running Wayne Spears’ ride in the Truck Series.

CUP INVADERS: #3-Ty Dillon, #18-Denny Hamlin, #22-Brad Keselowski, #98-Kevin Harvick

Sunday, September 2, 2018
CUP Race 25 of 36
Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Clint Bowyer

Sunday’s crown jewel event sees 40 drivers entered for 40 spots. There were originally 41, the second-straight Cup race and only the third in the last two months where qualifying will send exactly one team home. Despite the many throwback paint schemes running this week, there are relatively few driver swaps and no new teams.

DRIVER CHANGE: #6-Roush-Fenway Racing
2013 Southern 500 winner Matt Kenseth returns to take the place of Trevor Bayne, and brings with him returning Roush sponsor Oscar-Meyer in bright red and mustard yellow scheme.

WITHDREW: #7-Premium Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Rick Ware Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #52-Rick Ware Racing
Reed Sorenson was set to move from the #51 to the #7, taking the place of J.J. Yeley in Jay Robinson’s second car. However, the #7 was withdrawn by Wednesday. Yeley moves to Rick Ware's second car, the #52, in place of B.J. McLeod, who returns to the #51. With the withdrawal of the #7, both Ware cars will qualify after the #52 missed out at Bristol.

Despite the approved sale of both charter and assets to Front Row Motorsports during the off-week, BK Racing is still entered with Joey Gase. Sponsorship comes from Agri Supply, Carolina Cooker, Eternal Fan, and Sparks Energy. The scheme will be nearly identical to the throwback car Gase will run Saturday, a purple-and-black scheme to resemble the championship modified his father Bob ran in 2003. Gase last ran for BK in the 2017 finale at Homestead, where an early crash left him last.

DRIVER CHANGE: #96-Gaunt Brothers Racing
Jeffrey Earnhardt returns in place of Jesse Little in a similar Dale Earnhardt tribute to “The Intimidator’s” Will Cronkrite ride that Ben Kennedy ran in last year’s XFINITY race. Xtreme Concepts, Inc. is the main sponsor. Earnhardt ran 30th in this race last year for The Motorsports Group with Circle Sport.

DRIVER CHANGE: #99-StarCom Racing
Team owner Derrike Cope takes over for Bristol last-placer Gray Gaulding with race sponsor Bojangles’ on his #99 Chevrolet. The scheme is a throwback to Cope’s own Ford Thunderbird he ran in the 1993 campaign for Cale Yarborough’s single-car effort. Cope started 5th in the 1993 Southern 500 and finished 17th. On Sunday, teammate Landon Cassill runs a 1988 Bobby Allison scheme nearly identical to Matt DiBenedetto’s in last year’s race.

Friday, September 14, 2018
TRUCKS Race 18 of 23
World of Westgate 200 at Las Vegas
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Todd Peck

This week, the Truck Series takes a vacation, and returns in two weeks at Las Vegas for the track’s first September triple-header.

The only Cup driver to finish last on this day, August 30, was Wally Dallenbach, Jr., whose turn in the #50 Budweiser Chevrolet ended with engine failure after 169 laps of the Farm Aid on CMT 300 at New Hampshire. It was the sixth and final of Dallenbach’s last-place runs in the series. Among the “throwback” schemes from this weekend that were run that day, Jeff Gordon took the checkered flag (William Byron is running the rainbow scheme on his #24 Axalta Chevrolet), Chad Little ran 14th (Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. runs John Deere’s colors on his #17), Ernie Irvan ran 28th (Kyle Busch is running his #36 Skittles Pontiac scheme from Nelson Bowers’ operation), and Steve Park finished 41st (Joey Logano is running the striped Pennzoil scheme Park ran for DEI from 1998 through the first part of 2003). Among active competitors running this weekend, current XFINITY driver Morgan Shepherd finished 26th for Joe Falk while Derrike Cope failed to qualify in the Gumout Pontiac.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

K&N WEST: Will Rodgers continues season of highs and lows at Gateway

Rodgers at New Jersey
PHOTO: Benjamin Schneider
by William Soquet Guest Contributor

Note: As shown in the previous East/West combo race, LASTCAR points are scored based on series that drivers run the most.

Will Rodgers finished last for the first time in his NASCAR K&N Pro Series West career in Saturday night’s Monaco Gateway Classic at Gateway Motorsports Park when his #10 Port of Tucson / Norman Levin Racing Chevrolet blew an engine after 6 of 120 laps. The finish came in Rodgers’ 27th career start.

Will Rodgers. The name will ring a bell for most diehard NASCAR fans, if not casual fans. He first broke on to the scene last year with a second-place finish to Kevin Harvick in the K&N East race at Sonoma and then winning both K&N East road course races. With that performance, as well as running the full West season en route to a fifth-place points finish, Rodgers seemed locked and loaded for 2018. He announced a partial ARCA schedule with Ken Schrader Racing, which has gone well to date. On the K&N side, things were more uncertain. Rodgers did not secure enough funding for another full West season with Jefferson Pitts Racing, so he joined REF Motorsports for the non-road course races while running with JPR for the three road course races. After winning Sonoma over a few Cup regulars and a commanding win at New Jersey Motorsports Park in the East, Brett Moffitt stole a victory from Rodgers at Watkins Glen. After the road courses, which included an appearance of Jeff Gluck’s podcast, the spotlight once again shone somewhere else, and Rodgers joined Norman Levin Racing, owned by longtime West racers Matt Levin and Ron Norman, to drive the organization’s #10 entry at Gateway.

The last combination race, at Iowa, drew 25 cars. 28 were initially slated to race, but that number dropped to 26 for practice and the race. The NextGen Motorsports #55 entry, which never named a driver, did not participate, as did the MDM Motorsports #41 entry, which had Sam Mayer listed as driver. Mayer was also listed as the driver of the #12, and ran that machine throughout the weekend. A familiar name was at the bottom of the charts for the weekend – Chuck Buchanan Jr., who finished last at Bristol earlier this year. His lap of 36.8 seconds was three seconds slower than Spencer Davis’ fastest lap. That lap also wound up being the pole-winning lap, as qualifying was canceled. Buchanan, then, started last.

The 87 didn’t hold last for long. With six laps complete, Rodgers, who took the place of Levin (initially on the entry list), stopped in turn one, the engine cooked. Andrew Engberson, making his series debut for Patriot Motorsports Group, was next to fall out, citing brake issues. Hailie Deegan was last of the West contenders to fall out, victim of a crash after 75 laps. Takuma Koga and Bill Kann rounded out the West Bottom Five, ten and three laps down respectively.

26) #10-Will Rodgers / 6 laps / engine
25) #36-Andrew Engberson / 62 laps / rear end
23) #19-Hailie Deegan / 75 laps / crash
20) #11-Takuma Koga / 110 laps / running
19) #13-Bill Kann / 117 laps / running

1st) Chevrolet (7)
2nd) Ford (2)
3rd) Toyota (1)

1st) Patriot Motorsports Group (6)
2nd) Bill McAnally Racing, B&B Motorsports, Flyin Dutchman Racing, Norman Levin Racing (1)


Sunday, August 26, 2018

XFINITY: Jeff Green’s #93 has a new look, but same result at Road America

PHOTO: William Soquet, @WilliamSoquet
Special thanks to Guest Contributor William Soquet for his trackside contributions at Road America used in this week's feature.

Jeff Green picked up the 112th last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Johnsonville 180 at Road America when his unsponsored #93 RSS Racing Chevrolet fell out with suspension problems after 2 of 45 laps.

The finish, which occurred in Green’s 503rd series start, was his series-leading tenth of the season and his first since Loudon, five races ago. In the XFINITY Series last-place rankings, it’s the 39th for car #93, the 13th for suspension problems, and the 510th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it’s the 89th for the #93, the 36th for suspension issues, and the 1,622nd for Chevrolet.

It’s now down to a two-car battle for the 2018 LASTCAR XFINITY Series Championship, though the outcome has been all but settled. J.J. Yeley needs to finish last in the next nine of the remaining ten races to take the season lead from Green. Thus, if Yeley fails to finish last in the next two rounds at Darlington and Indianapolis, Green will secure his seventh LASTCAR XFINITY Series championship, no matter where he finishes.

Since his most recent last-place run at Loudon, Green has continued to split time between his #93, reserved for “start-and-park” duty, and the #38, which has most often attempted full-race runs for teammate J.J. Yeley. Green attempted the full race at Iowa, but suffered an ignition problem at the halfway point, leaving him 35th. Green showed promise last week in Bristol, qualifying 29th with returning sponsorship from C2 Freight Resources, but was hampered by body damage, causing the car to overheat in the final laps. Ultimately, a fuel pump was blamed for a 26th-place finish.

At Road America, Green was back in the #93, which carried a different paint scheme for the first time in 2018. The car ran a black, white, and red scheme that seemed to resemble one of teammate Yeley’s Superior Essex paint schemes. Yeley was himself absent from Saturday’s race, swapped out for Brian Henderson. Henderson’s #38 was reportedly the same Friends of Jaclyn Foundation Chevrolet that the road racer ran for DGM Racing at Watkins Glen. Ryan Sieg remained in the team’s primary #39 Chevrolet with returning sponsorship of his own from Lombard Bros. Gaming.

Green did not join Tyler Reddick and a suddenly sponsorless Conor Daly on track during the rainy first practice session, and was the only driver to fail to complete a lap in Happy Hour. Still, thanks to his Past Champions Provisional and the withdrawal earlier in the week of Brandon Brown’s #86 Chevrolet, Green would start along with the remaining 39 entrants. Green ended up 35th in qualifying with a lap of 103.563mph (2:20.715), second-fastest of those locked-in by Owner Points.

Starting last on Saturday was Carl Long. William Soquet, on assignment for at the track, reported that Long and his Motorsports Business Management teammate Chad Finchum (#40) acquired associate sponsorship from Allstate Insurance of Kimberly, Wisconsin, which appeared on both cars’ quarter-panels. Long was also one of three drivers who changed tires before the race, joining Kaz Grala (#61 IT Coalition Ford, returning from an off-week at Bristol), and 8th-place starter Austin Cindric (#22 Menards / Richmond Ford). Also sent to the rear was Garrett Smithley for unapproved adjustments on JD Motorsports’ #0 Flex Tape Chevrolet. Smithley and Grala recovered nicely, finishing 15th and 11th, respectively.

Green was a factor in the last-place battle from the start. As at Watkins Glen, he fell to the rear before the green flag and crossed the stripe in 39th. Long remained last, 6.921 seconds back of the leader, and fell 20.953 back by the end of the first circuit. Green took last from Long the next time around, and crossed the stripe 39.476 seconds back of the lead, a full 4.119 back of new 39th-place driver Vinnie Miller in the #01 JAS Trucking Chevrolet. As it turned out, Green pulled behind the wall as he crossed the stripe, as he never completed another circuit during the race.

James French made his NASCAR debut in JP Motorsports' #55.
PHOTO: William Soquet, @WilliamSoquet
Green locked-up the last spot just seconds before two other drivers found trouble. Brake troubles once again caught the #55 Prevagen Toyota from JP Motorsports. Similar to Dylan Murcott’s misadventure at Mid-Ohio, IMSA regular James French saw his own NASCAR debut take a detour when his car ran off the track and into the gravel in the first corner. At the same time, Long spun and stalled in Canada Corner, watching helplessly as the rest of the field rolled past to put him a lap down. Under the ensuing yellow for French’s incident, Long settled into 39th, completing 3 laps with French in 38th with four laps done.

With four laps complete, Green’s crew came on the radio and told the team to load the #93 on the hauler. However, both Long and French in 39th and 38th both returned to action. Long returned on Lap 10 and passed French for 38th the next time by. French, now one lap behind Long, followed him onto the track on Lap 11. Both drivers soon climbed past Ryan Reed, whose #16 Drive Down A1C / Lilly Diabetes Ford wrecked on a restart after he crossed the nose of Brandon Jones’ #19 Toyota Service Centers / Mobil 1 Toyota as the pair entered Turn 2, sending the #16 head-on into the outside wall. Reed settled into 39th with French taking 38th, turning two more laps than the #16 before his brake issue eliminated him.

Long managed to complete 32 of the race’s 45 laps before the engine let go, ultimately climbing out of the Bottom Five and into the 32nd spot. Rounding out the Bottom Five in his place were Austin Cindric, who parlayed pit strategy to take the lead for two laps, only to pull over while out front with smoke from the right-front wheel, signaling a sudden blown engine. Ahead of 37th-place Cindric was 36th-place David Starr, whose #52 Silver Springs House / Onyx Auto Finance Chevrolet lost oil pressure under the green, forcing the car to the garage with a blown motor. Interestingly, Starr’s crew employed one of team owner Jimmy Means’ old pit boards during the race.

*This marked Green’s fifth last-place run in just nine XFINITY races at Road America, his second in a row at the track, and the third for car #93.

40) #93-Jeff Green / 2 laps / suspension
39) #16-Ryan Reed / 6 laps / crash
38) #55-James French / 8 laps / brakes
37) #22-Austin Cindric / 15 laps / engine / led 2 laps
36) #52-David Starr / 17 laps / engine

1st) RSS Racing (12)
2nd) JP Motorsports (3)
3rd) B.J. McLeod Motorsports (2)
4th) Fury Race Cars LLC, Jeremy Clements Racing, JGL Racing, Mike Harmon Racing, Roush-Fenway Racing, SS-Green Light Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (16)
2nd) Toyota (4)
3rd) Ford (3)


TRUCKS: Joe Nemechek takes 2018 LASTCAR lead at Mosport

PHOTO: Rob Taylor, @drawnbyrobt
Joe Nemechek picked up the 4th last-place finish of his Camping World Truck Series career in Sunday’s Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (Mosport) when his #87 D.A.B. Constructors / Fleetwing Corporation Chevrolet fell out with brake problems after 2 of the race’s 65 laps.

The finish, which occurred in Nemechek’s 51st series start, was his second of the season and first since Gateway, seven races ago. In the Truck Series last-place rankings, it was the 7th for truck #87, the 25th because of brake problems, and the 360th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 50th for the #87, the 155th because of brake problems, and the 1,623rd for Chevrolet.

With six races to go in 2018, Nemechek is now this season’s LASTCAR Truck Series leader by two bottom-five finishes ahead of Bayley Currey, who just took the lead last week at Bristol. The title battle remains anyone’s to win at this point with Nemechek prevailing in a five-way tie over Currey, J.J. Yeley, Todd Peck, and Scott Stenzel, each just one finish ahead of the field.

Mosport marked the elder Nemechek’s fifth Truck Series attempt since Gateway and his fourth in his NEMCO Motorsports team’s second truck, the #87. The lone exception came last month at Pocono, when his son John Hunter Nemechek was running the XFINITY Series event at Iowa. Joe finished 10th that day, his third top-ten finish of the year. Joe’s other runs in the #87 have been predominately “start-and-park” efforts. He finished 28th at Chicagoland, failed to qualify at Kentucky, and ran 30th at Michigan. As John Hunter climbed aboard the #8 with designs on repeating his 2016 win at Mosport, Joe drove the #87 once again.

With rain in the area, Joe Nemechek didn’t participate in Friday’s opening practice, then jumped to 20th of the 30 drivers to run Happy Hour after turning just three laps. In qualifying, Joe settled for 29th on the grid as one of the 12 drivers who didn’t turn in a qualifying lap (UPDATE: Reports indicate this large number of non-qualifiers was because the track was damp, and a number of teams either were unable to afford rain tires or saw no use in doing so with better weather forecast for Sunday). With exactly 32 trucks for 32 spots, everyone from 21st-place Bo LeMastus on back was set by the rulebook with Nemechek fourth of the five listed as in by Owner Points.

Starting last was Mike Harmon, whose #74 Chevrolet was a late entry to the lineup, which stood at just 31 trucks on Wednesday. Joining Harmon at the rear were Grant Enfinger, who had to surrender the 11th spot on the grid due to last-minute repairs for an electrical issue. Norm Benning also surrendered the 25th starting spot for unapproved adjustments on his #6 Zomongo / H&H Transport Chevrolet, and Austin Wayne Self’s #22 Go Texan Chevrolet gave up 18th due to an engine change.

Then, just prior to the start, both Joe Nemechek and Harmon pulled to the final two spots with Harmon trailing overall, 7.830 seconds back of the leader at the stripe. At the end of Lap 1, Harmon was now 25.612 seconds back of the lead, this time following Ray Ciccarelli in Beaver Motorsports’ #50 Chevrolet. Ciccarelli held a 17.334 seconds advantage over Harmon at the end of Lap 3, when the #74 was now 48.124 seconds back of the lead.

On the third lap, Joe Nemechek was shown off the track on FS1’s leaderboard. As the rest of the field crossed the stripe, Joe’s truck fell from 30th to last, having pulled into the garage area. On the other side of pit wall, Harmon crossed the stripe in 31st, 68.815 seconds back of the lead. Another 26.810 seconds ahead of Harmon, Ciccarelli had reeled in K&N Pro Series regular Jesse Iwuji, the U.S. Navy veteran turned racer making his first national touring series start. Ciccarelli closed to the rear deck of Iwuji’s #34 Zulu Audio / Silk Title & Escrow Chevrolet, the second Reaume Brothers Racing entry, with just 0.111 second between the pair. Ciccarelli made his way past, and both Harmon and Iwuji were down a lap by the end of Lap 7. Harmon joined Nemechek in the garage after he lost his circuit to the leader, settling in at 31st.

Ciccarelli made his way to 28th before he fell out of the race with a vibration after 34 laps. Between he and Harmon, the Bottom Five was filled by 30th-place Max Tullman, whose #20 Zoomi Chevrolet from the Young’s Motorsports stables stalled at the far end of the course after the transmission failed, drawing a caution. Three laps in front of him came Jennifer Jo Cobb, out with a ruptured oil line in her #10 Chevrolet.

*This was the first last-place finish for both Joe Nemechek and the #87 in a Truck Series race at Mosport.
*It was also Nemechek’s 43rd last-place finish across NASCAR’s top three series, still a distant second in the overall rankings behind Jeff Green, who turned in his 117th at Road America.

32) #87-Joe Nemechek / 2 laps / brakes
31) #74-Mike Harmon / 7 laps / brakes
30) #20-Max Tullman / 29 laps / transmission
29) #10-Jennifer Jo Cobb / 32 laps / oil line
28) #50-Ray Ciccarelli / 34 laps / vibration

1st) MB Motorsports (6)
2nd) Beaver Motorsports, Copp Motorsports (3)
3rd) NEMCO Motorsports (2)
4th) Mike Harmon Racing, Norm Benning Racing, TJL Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (17)


INTERVIEW: Alex Labbe gives his take on super late models, Pinty’s Series cars and Xfinity Series cars

Labbe at Watkins Glen earlier this month.
PHOTO: Brock Beard
by William Soquet Guest Contributor
Reporting from Road America

Alex Labbe is the defending NASCAR Pinty’s Series champion and is in his rookie season with DGM Racing, owned by fellow Canadian Mario Gosselin. We caught up with Labbe after qualifying, where he put in a 27th-place effort.


LABBE: I have pretty big expectations coming in, but we can’t catch a break right now. We just had a struggle in qualifying but the car feels pretty good, I mean we did a top-ten at Mid-Ohio, we want to come here and make another top-ten for sure. Top-fifteen would be good, but I think we can go for another top-ten.


LABBE: A little bit on short tracks, but it’s way different in these big cars with aero and all that stuff. There’s more stuff to take into consideration, just the aero of these cars, they’re really aero dependent. But it’s just being in the racecar, getting some seat time, it’s always good.


LABBE: They’re a little different suspension-wise, but transmission and motor, you got a little less motor, but the transmission feel helps me for the road races we got here. It’s as close as we can get to these cars so it’s good practice.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

INTERVIEW: Garrett Smithley looks to optimize remainder of 2018

Smithley's early exit at Road America in 2016
by William Soquet Guest Contributor
Reporting from Road America

Garrett Smithley is currently in his third season with JD Motorsports in the Xfinity Series, driving the No. 0 car, which gained notoriety for the #NumberNuthin social media campaign that went along with it. This year, Smithley also made his Cup debut and has made three starts to date. About half an hour after second practice ended, Flex Seal decals were being placed on the car as the interview occurred, something I’m told by crew happens more than occasionally.


SMITHLEY: No, it was just race day. We only really did like twenty laps in practice, I think we had a penalty and then rained out the rest of practice so we didn’t get a whole lot of laps. Qualifying was fine, went to start the race and felt something weird in the shifter and didn’t think anything of it, and we went to go from second to third, didn’t go to third, thought I missed a shift, finally got it into third and then it went from third to fourth and the whole thing just dropped. So I was like ‘what the heck’, so we came in and they didn’t have any spares or anything like that. It was unfortunate but I don’t know, I’m talking to you so it counts for something, right?


SMITHLEY: No, so we went and ran StarCom at Kentucky, and then we went to Premium for the second Michigan race. No more Cup races are scheduled, we’re looking at some different options but right now I just want to focus on the Xfinity side, the best finish for points that we can at the end of the Xfinity year. I don’t know, if something pops up I’d love to do it but right now, nothing scheduled.


SMITHLEY: Yeah, that was my first time here and we broke something or blew a tire, it was like lap two, and I think that was my first last-place finish in NASCAR. [Note: It was. He finished 39th three weeks prior at Watkins Glen.] These road courses are so difficult, but they’re fun. They’re a lot of fun. It’s a whole new set of challenges. Really, what I want to do is build off what I’ve already been able to do this year, we finished 23rd at Watkins Glen, going to finish at 19th at Mid-Ohio but we had some type of issue with the carburetor, finished 27th, 28th but we’ve run good at both the road course races so really, I just want to run good, stay on the track, do all the laps, and hopefully that’ll equate to a top-twenty finish.

Friday, August 24, 2018

XFINITY: Lally says Roval race will be "crazy"

PHOTO: @AndyLally
by William Soquet Guest Contributor
Reporting from Road America

Various figures in NASCAR have offered their opinions on the Charlotte ROVAL. It is rare, however, that you’ll find analysis from someone who is more at home on road courses than oval tracks.

Andy Lally knew he was going to run the Roval race. He announced it in February along with Watkins Glen and Road America. The team? DGM Racing, owned by Mario Gosselin. The organization normally is not a top-tier organization, but various drivers (including Lally) had given the car good runs in the past.

So what did Lally think of the new layout that he is going to run?

“I love it, but I know it’s going to be crazy,” Lally said on the topic of the roval. “I think we’re going to have a bunch of different strategies…it’s going to be smart guys who are just going to lay back and hang until the middle of the third stage before they have a chance to go anywhere, but that’s going to be hard,” he noted just before comparing the race to a hypothetical Mickey Thompson off-road race.

It’s one thing when NASCAR drivers used to ovals say that the race will be eventful, but when a veteran road racer who has seen all types of road courses says that people who stick back will be smart, that’s another story.

In the next breath, Lally cautioned against holding back too far. “That’s the thing about NASCAR racing is you kind of can’t let off…in sports car racing you can find your hole and cruise…but there is no hole here.”

When asked about how other oval tracks would transition into Rovals, Lally said “[on] the mile-and-a-half it’s tough to put in what most people consider a competitive infield road course to run.” His insight validates NASCAR’s process of tinkering with the Roval layout throughout the process in an attempt to get the configuration right, something that has left many figures within the sport nonplussed.

If there’s a takeaway, it’s that Lally’s comments only add to the excitement and hype surrounding the Roval weekend. If the hype is lived up to or not remains to be seen.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

PREVIEW: Awesome Bill and the Road Ringers take center stage on Cup off-weekend

Saturday, August 25, 2018
XFINITY Race 23 of 33
Johnsonville 180 at Road America
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Jeff Green

The XFINITY Series leads off the weekend this time, where 41 drivers will attempt to qualify the 40-car field, meaning one team will be sent home. UPDATE: Make that 40 drivers after the #86 withdrew by Friday (see below). In addition, Road America will see guest contributor William Soquet providing coverage in and around the garage area. Stay tuned to his Twitter @WilliamSoquet.

DRIVER CHANGE: #3-Richard Childress Racing
Brendan Gaughan scored his first XFINITY Series win at Road America in 2014, and this week returns to the circuit for the first time since Mid-Ohio, again with sponsorship from South Point Hotel & Casino. He takes the place of Ty Dillon, who ran 15th at Bristol.

RETURNING: #6-Roush-Fenway Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #60-Roush-Fenway Racing
For the first time since Bubba Wallacce lost his ride following last summer’s Pocono race, Roush-Fenway Racing is entering the #6 Ford. This time behind the wheel is Verizon IndyCar Series driver Conor Daly, who makes his stock car racing debut. Both he, teammate Ryan Reed in the #16, and Ty Majeski, who replaces Chase Briscoe in the RFR #60, will all carry sponsorship from Lilly Diabetes.

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Scott Heckert returns for his third XFINITY start of the year, returning to the site of a 29th-place performance last summer. He takes the place of Ray Black, Jr., 37th after engine trouble at Bristol. Sponsorship comes from JW Transport on his Chevrolet.

MISSING: #12-Penske Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #22-Penske Racing
Austin Cindric makes the move from the #12, which isn’t entered this week, to the flagship Penske ride, the #22 Ford, replacing Joey Logano. The car promises to be electric yellow with its sponsorship from Menards and their Richmond brand. Cindric, 14th at Bristol, won the pole here last year, but led just one circuit before he finished 16th.

DRIVER SWAP: #13-Motorsports Business Management
DRIVER SWAP: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Carl Long and Timmy Hill swapped rides prior to last week’s race in Bristol. At Road America, they are swapped back once more with Carl Long in the #13 – a Dodge in place of a Toyota – while Timmy Hill regains his ride in the #66 Chevrolet.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-JD Motorsports
Katherine Legge rejoins the fourth Johnny Davis car for the first time since her strong outing at Mid-Ohio was thwarted by mechanical issues. Replacing B.J. McLeod, Legge returns to the site of a devastating crash she suffered during a CART race in 2006, where her car flipped at the exit of Turn 11.

DRIVER CHANGE: #18-Joe Gibbs Racing
James “JD” Davison returns to the #18 in place of Kyle Busch with sponsorship from Tilson Forest Hearing Cruz. For the second-straight year, Davison runs a “Days of Thunder” paint scheme in this race, swapping out Cole Trickle’s Mello Yello scheme for the pink-and-white Superflo colors. Davison led 11 laps here last year before crash damage left him a disappointing 37th.

As reported just hours before his son Chase took his first checkered flag at Watkins Glen, Bill Elliott will return to NASCAR competition for the first time since 2012, ironically taking the place of his son in GMS Racing’s #23 Chevrolet. ISM Connect sponsors the effort which, like Davison’s car, will be a throwback scheme. The red-and-white machine resembles the Budweiser Ford that Elliott drove for Junior Johnson & Associates from 1992 through 1994, complete with Johnson’s team logo on the quarter-panels.

As at Motorsports Business Management, the RSS Racing teammates are swapped back into their original rides with J.J. Yeley in the #38 and Jeff Green in the #93, both without listed sponsors. UPDATE: Brian Henderson drives in place of Yeley in the #38, bringing over his Friends of Jaclyn Foundation backing from his DGM rode at Watkins Glen.

DRIVER CHANGE: #42-Chip Ganassi Racing
Justin Marks makes his fifth Road America start in the series, following a track-best 4th in this race last year. He takes the place of Kyle Larson in the Ganassi machine with sponsorship from Chevrolet Accessories.

SPONSOR UPDATE: #45-JP Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #55-JP Motorsports
After a disastrous first lap at Mid-Ohio, Dylan Murcott is back to try again, rejoining JP’s #55 Prevagen Toyota team in place of Bayley Currey. UPDATE: On Friday, Murcott was replaced by IMSA competitor James French, who will make his own series debut. His teammate Josh Bilicki in the #45 announced that he has several associate sponsors for the weekend on a more vibrant paint scheme. Joining Prevagen are Shopko, Ariens, Marriott Companies, Associated Bank, Trudell Performance, Cedar Valley Cheese, Chimney Mechanix, and Trimtex Drywall.

RETURNING: #61-Fury Race Cars
Kaz Grala and the Fury team are back in action this week after they were unable to secure sponsorship for Bristol. Grala, always one to watch on the road courses, makes his first Road America start this weekend with IT Coalition returning as the team’s sponsor.

DRIVER CHANGE: #78-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Welcome back Ryan Ellis, who brings with him returning sponsors Superlite Cars and Audio Visual Specialists to back the #78 Chevrolet. Ellis’ most recent XFINITY start was this year’s Daytona opener, where he was running in the final laps before one of the late crashes left him 30th. Ellis takes the place of Jairo Avila, Jr., who ran a solid 20th in his series debut last week at Bristol.

WITHDREW: #86-Brandonbilt Motorsports
Brandon Brown withdrew by Friday after being scheduled to drive for his own team in XFINITY for the first time since this year’s Daytona opener, where he ran 36th. It would have been Brown’s first series start since he ran both Richmond and Dover for DGM Racing, finishing 19th and 28th, respectively, and his first-ever Road America start.

MISSING: #89-Shepherd Racing Ventures
For the first time all season, Morgan Shepherd was not entered in an XFINITY Series race. After making 14 starts, Shepherd had withdrawn twice in the last seven races, most recently at Watkins Glen.

Andy Lally wasn’t satisfied with his performance at Mid-Ohio, and has brought back the same car from DGM Racing with new sponsorship from HENRY. Lally hasn’t run this race since 2015, when he finished 15th for SS-Green Light Racing. The year before, he finished 7th.


Sunday, August 26, 2018
TRUCKS Race 17 of 23
Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Mosport
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Tommy Regan

After several large entry lists, just 31 Truck Series teams will cross the border to Canadian Tire Motorsports Park for the 32-truck team, meaning that all will make the field. UPDATE: Make that 32 teams for 32 spots. Among the attendees will be Canadian motorsports artist Rob Taylor, who will be assisting Norm Benning’s crew.

DRIVER CHANGE: #0-Jennifer Jo Cobb
Welcome aboard Justin Kunz, the German-born driver set to make his first NASCAR start on this side of the ocean. Kunz is a competitor in NASCAR’s Whelen Euro Series, where his team owner Jennifer Jo Cobb has competed in recent months. Back in the States, Kunz looks to make his stateside debut, replacing Camden Murphy in the #0 Chevrolet. He brings with him sponsorship from Liqui-Moly, which in the past has backed Franz Engstler’s BMW team in the WTCC, among other European racing efforts.

RETURNING: #12-Young’s Motorsports
The #12, withdrawn without a driver at Bristol, returns this week with Alex Tagliani driving. The longtime open-wheel competitor has made all three of his previous Truck Series starts in this race, yielding a pair of poles in 2014 and 2015 with a best finish of 5th in the latter. He rejoins Young’s team after finishing 19th with them last year.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Premium Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #49-Premium Motorsports
For the first time this year, Wendell Chavous will not drive the #49 Chevrolet. He moves to Premium’s #15, opening a seat for hometown hero D.J. Kennington and sponsorship from APC Auto Parts. Kennington has a pair of starts in this race, finishing 14th both times, and won a Pinty’s Series race here in 2011. Most recently, he finished 4th in the Pinty’s opener here in May.

DRIVER CHANGE: #20-Young’s Motorsports
With both his Truck Series and XFINITY Series debuts now under his belt, Max Tullman rejoins the former circuit, once again driving in place of Tanner Thorson in Randy Young’s #20 Chevrolet. Tullman’s most recent Truck start came at Chicagoland, where he ran 23rd.

On Wednesday came the news that Dalton Sargeant parted ways with GMS Racing, effective immediately. Sargeant had run full-time in the truck this year, ranking 10th in points through Bristol and coming just short of a Playoff berth. As Sargeant looks toward his 2019 plans, Spencer Gallagher will return to the series, driving the #25 for the rest of the season. UPDATE: And now Gallagher is out of the truck for Sunday due to a pre-existing shoulder injury, putting Timothy Peters behind the wheel.

DRIVER CHANGE: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
Sun Peaks, British Columbia native Jason White – not the Jason White who ran the entry in the series – is set to make his Truck Series debut in Sunday’s race, taking the place of B.J. McLeod. In 93 previous Pinty’s Series starts, White’s best finish is a pair of 5th-place runs at Vernon’s half-mile Motoplex Speedway & Event Park in 2012 and St. Eustache’s four-tenths-mile Autodrome in 2013. His best in 11 starts at Mosport was a 6th in 2011. UPDATE: White tweeted that he just passed the criteria to drive on Thursday, the same day his red truck was on the dyno at the Reaume shop.

RETURNING: #34-Reaume Brothers Racing
Welcome aboard Jesse Iwuji, the U.S. Naval Officer from Carrollton, Texas who makes his national touring series debut this Sunday. A frequent feature in LASTCAR’s K&N Pro Series coverage, Iwuji brings back the Reaume team’s second truck, which carries sponsorship from Zulu Audio. Iwuji’s best finish in the K&N Pro Series West came two years ago at the quarter-mile Orange Show Speedway, where he finished 10th. He’s also made six ARCA Racing Series starts this year with a best of 15th at Talladega.

DRIVER CHANGE: #50-Beaver Motorsports
Ray Ciccarelli returns to the circuit for the first time since he finished 27th at Pocono to once again drive for Mark Beaver. This time he takes the place of Gray Gaulding, who failed to qualify at Bristol.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Kyle Busch Motorsports
Harrison Burton, hopefully recovered from his illness at Bristol, returns to take the place of relief driver Christopher Bell with sponsorship from both Hunt Brothers Pizza and Fields. Sunday will mark Burton’s Mosport debut. In fact, he’d never raced a Truck Series entry on a road course before.

Bo LeMastus takes the place of Riley Herbst, who isn’t entered. The DGR-prepared #17 is still not entered.

RETURNING: #87-NEMCO Motorsports
Joe Nemechek is back in the #87 again as his son John Hunter drives the #8. The older Nemechek made his Mosport debut last year, but finished 31st after suspension issues following the first lap.

Roger Reuse in place of Jesse Little, who had a rough night out in Bristol. Sponsorship from Reuse’s longtime backer It will be Reuse’s first Truck Series start, but also his first in one of NASCAR’s top three circuits since 2016. That year, Reuse finished 34th in Mike Harmon’s Dodge at Mid-Ohio.

MISSING: #7-All Out Motorsports
MISSING: #9-CR7 Motorsports
MISSING: #30-On Point Motorsports
MISSING: #38-Niece Motorsports
MISSING: #42-Chad Finley, Inc.
MISSING: #63-MB Motorsports
MISSING: #68-Clay Greenfield Racing
MISSING: #75-Henderson Motorsports
MISSING: #83-Copp Motorsports
MISSING: #92-RBR Enterprises
MISSING: #04-Roper Racing
No less than eleven teams entered at Bristol, many of them part-time efforts with the big exception of MB Motorsports and Copp Motorsports, will not be racing this weekend. Clay Greenfield’s #68 incurred a post-race penalty from Bristol for losing ballast on the race track. Greenfield tweeted that his team will return to the circuit at Talladega.


Sunday, September 2, 2018
CUP Race 25 of 36
Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Clint Bowyer

The Cup Series is off this weekend, and will return on Labor Day weekend for the penultimate round of the regular season – “Throwback Weekend” at Darlington.

TEAM CLOSED: #23-BK Racing
As of this writing, BK Racing is no more. On Tuesday, August 21, news came that BK’s assets were sold for a total of $2,380,000 with most of the assets, including the Charter, going to Front Row Motorsports. FRM outbid GMS Racing, which had put up $1,800,000. According to Bob Pockrass’ report, Matthew Smith, trustee for BK, has also sold “secondary assets” to Obaika Racing and a tractor to Rick Ware Racing.

BK’s #23 is the eighth Chartered team to close since the Charter program was introduced in 2016. The other seven, which were awarded Charters prior to the 2016 Daytona 500, were HScott Motorsports’ two cars (#15, #46), Richard Petty Motorsports’ #44, Roush-Fenway Racing’s #16, Tommy Baldwin Racing’s #7, Richard Childress Racing’s #27 and BK Racing’s own #83, which became an “open” team before it was closed just last year. In addition, Circle Sport’s #33 ran full-time in 2015 and was awarded a Charter for 2016, but never fielded a car. Instead, team owner Joe Falk leased his Charter to Leavine Family Racing’s #95. Not even three years into the program, fully one-quarter of the original Chartered 36 teams are no longer in existence.

While the Cup Series is off this weekend, the series did run at the same Road America venue once before, way back on August 12, 1956. Finishing last that day was none other than legendary driver and owner Junior Johnson, who started 3rd in one of five Pete DePaolo-prepared 1956 Fords. Johnson started 3rd in his car #296, but was out after just one lap due to clutch issues, dropping him to the rear of the 26-car field. Tim Flock cruised to a victory of over 17 seconds ahead of teammate Billy Myers.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

ARCA: Two years after terrifying crash, Richard Doheny falls out first at Springfield

Doheny at Salem earlier this year
PHOTO: The Pit Lane, @thepitlanearca
by William Soquet Guest Contributor

Richard Doheny scored the second last-place finish of his ARCA Racing Series finish in Sunday’s Allen Crowe 100 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds when his #11 Fast Track High Performance Driving School / Fast Track Racing Ford fell out with transmission issues after 1 of 106 laps. The finish came 26 races after his other last-place finish, at Madison in 2017.

Doheny has been somewhat of a frequent competitor the last few years, at least by ARCA standards. Little is widely available on him outside of his ARCA results, which include 20 starts across six years, with a career-high eight starts coming in 2016. All but one have come for Andy Hillenburg’s Fast Track Racing. The one that wasn’t resulted in one of the worst weekends of his career. Entered for Max Force Racing and Thomas “Moose” Praytor at this same track in 2016, a vicious crash saw Doheny knock out the gate in turn four and hit a pole outside the track, completely destroying the front end of the #23 machine.

Doheny's starts with Hillenburg have been less eventful, all but one ending prematurely in the garage, but no less important as the ARCA equivalent of MBM Motorsports soldiers on - a journeyman driver-turned-owner at the helm, running all manufacturers, bringing in a rotation of young guns and wily old vets and being one of the longest-tenured and most-respected operations in the ARCA garage.

The entry list at Illinois fluctuated in the preceding weeks, as teams shuffled drivers in entries right up until the days before. 24 cars were listed on the online entry list, including a number of returns and familiar faces to ARCA. Most notably, Kelly Kovski and his Allgaier Motorsports crew returned for their first race of the year, as did Alex Clubb and his own team. Adding to the “first-time-this-year” list was Ryan Unzicker and Hendren Motorsports. Several part-time drivers and teams also returned. Tommy Vigh Jr. made his second start and Bryan Dauzat deviated from his normal superspeedway schedule to run Springfield. USAC sensation Logan Seavey made his first of two scheduled starts with Venturini Motorsports, and Wayne Peterson Racing originally had Con Nicolopoulos in its 06 car before shuffling him to the 0 and entering “Buck S.” in the 06. Buck turned out to be James “Buck” Stevens, set to make his ARCA debut. To cap off the shuffling, Bret Holmes returned to the Ken Schrader Racing stable and Dale Shearer made their returns to the series after both went through a hiatus, respectively. Not on the entry list was Thomas Praytor, who after shutting down his team after Talladega promised a return to dirt.

Practice proved to be eventful. On Buck’s first lap, the engine on his car blew, quite possibly setting the record for shortest debut weekend ever. Will Kimmel’s engine also decided to let go, and his shoestring operation decided to let go. Con Nicolopoulos’ #0 machine never made it on track, as did Shearer’s #73. Shearer messaged his fans that he was recuperating from an illness, and that his car is ready to run in the following dirt race at DuQuoin. The slowest in practice was Doheny, his lap of about 43 seconds ten seconds slower than leader and dirt ace Sheldon Creed.

Qualifying was a hotly contested session at the front, with the pole margin at three-thousandths of a second. That wasn’t the case at the back of the field, as current LASTCAR championship runner-up Brad Smith failed to make a lap, securing the last starting spot. Doheny ran a lap of 41 seconds, the slowest of cars to take time.

The race started mid-afternoon Sunday, and like many ARCA races, the last-place battle was over just as the race began. Doheny fell out after one lap, citing transmission issues. Mike Basham pulled in after 18 laps, and although no official cause was released, right-rear damage may have been the culprit. Chase Purdy suffered an oil line failure around the quarter mark of the race, Zane Smith had to retire with an overheating machine midway through and Joe Graf Jr. crashed out after 87 laps to complete the Bottom Five. All other cars were running at the conclusion of the event.

20) #11-Richard Doheny / 1 lap / transmission
19) #34-Mike Basham / 18 laps / unknown
18) #8-Chase Purdy / 24 laps / oil leak
17) #41-Zane Smith / 56 laps / overheating
16) #77-Joe Graf Jr. / 87 laps / crash

1st) Wayne Peterson Racing (5)
2nd) Kimmel Racing, Wayne Peterson Racing-Fast Track Racing, Fast Track Racing (2)
3rd) Max Force Racing, Darrell Basham Racing, James Hylton Motorsports, Brad Smith Motorsports (1)

1st) Ford (7)
2nd) Chevrolet (6)
3rd) Toyota, Dodge (1)


Saturday, August 18, 2018

CUP: Gray Gaulding’s late hit in Lap 2 pileup ends second StarCom car’s night in Bristol

PHOTO: Nigel Kinrade Photography
Gray Gaulding picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career in Saturday’s Bass Pro Shops / NRA Night Race at the Bristol Motor Speedway when his #99 StarCom Fiber Chevrolet was crashed out in a massive pileup after he completed just 1 of the 500 laps.

The finish, which came in Gaulding’s 48th series start, was his second of the season and first since Atlanta, 22 races ago. In the Cup Series last-place rankings, it’s the 17th for car #99, the 571st because of a crash, and the 753rd for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three divisions, it’s the 31st for the #99, the 1,159th from a crash, and the 1,621st for Chevrolet.

It was perhaps poetic that Gaulding should be the featured driver this week, as Saturday had special significance to his former team, BK Racing. Gaulding started the season with BK, which had scaled back from two cars to just their Chartered #23. Amid gathering reports of the team’s insolvency, Gaulding arrived at Daytona in an unsponsored car, a car which then carried logos from Earthwater, which reportedly paid its sponsorship dues with bottles of their product.

Through the season’s first 17 races, Gaulding never finished on the lead lap and ran no better than a 20th at Texas, and Earthwater’s logos disappeared. Despite putting forth a positive attitude on the team’s radio, Gaulding was released from the team after a 31st-place at Chicagoland.

While J.J. Yeley, Blake Jones, and Spencer Gallagher split time in the #23, each bringing sponsorship for one-off starts, Gaulding was absent from the Cup Series until last Sunday at Michigan, where he ran 33rd in StarCom Racing’s second car, the #99 StarCom Fiber Chevrolet. In doing so, Gaulding joined another rotating group of drivers including Garrett Smithley, Kyle Weatherman, teammate Landon Cassill, and team owner Derrike Cope.

Gaulding would return to the #99 at Bristol, and was set to run double-duty in the Truck Series, but his #50 Chevrolet from Beaver Motorsports failed to qualify. On the Cup side, Gaulding ran 38th in the opening practice and anchored the charts in Happy Hour, 41st and last. This made qualifying even more tense, as his #99 was one of the five “open” teams competing for the final four spots. A tight battle ensued between Gaulding, Timmy Hill, and B.J. McLeod, who ran more laps – 12 – than anyone in Round 1. Hill’s final lap bumped him ahead of Gaulding, who edged McLeod for the final “open” spot by exactly one-hundredth of a second. McLeod, driving Rick Ware Racing’s second car, the #52 Jacob Companies Ford, was sent home.

The BK Racing crew's names on Blake Jones' #23 at Bristol
PHOTO: @CBlakeJones_
The 40th and final starting spot belonged to Blake Jones, who reprised his role driving BK Racing’s #23 Toyota. In addition to carrying sponsorship from the Tennessee XXX Shine Company, Planet Fitness, KBM Commercial Properties, and Champion Machinery, among others, the quarter panels carried the names of the BK Racing crew. As it turned out, Saturday would mark the final race for the #23 under the BK banner as the team and its Charter would be sold the following Tuesday. Jones, who made his series debut with the team at Loudon, joined Alex Bowman, Landon Cassill, Matt DiBenedetto, Corey LaJoie, David Ragan, J.J. Yeley, and Gaulding as drivers starting Saturday’s race who had also run Cup races for BK.

Joining Jones at the back of the field was Austin Dillon, his #3 Dow NORKOOL Chevrolet slated to start 18th until it failed pre-race inspection three times before passing on the fourth. Car chief Greg Ebert was ejected from the track. By the time the green flag dropped, however, Gaulding’s teammate Landon Cassill had lagged back in 39th in the #00 StarCom Fiber Chevrolet, as had Timmy Hill’s #66 Beef Jerky Outlet Toyota, now back in 40th. This proved fortunate just a few seconds later, when trouble broke out among the leaders.

Coming off a disappointing crash while leading Friday’s XFINITY race, Kyle Busch was racing under Ryan Blaney for 6th when Busch lost control off the fourth corner and stopped near the apron of the track. Thirteen other cars piled in after, including Michael McDowell and Jesse Little, who both struck the driver’s side of Busch’s stopped car. Gaulding was still well back of the wreck as it started, but was closing much too fast. He struck the right-rear of McDowell’s #34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford, then bounced into the right-front of A.J. Allmendinger’s damaged #47 Kroger ClickList Chevrolet.

Damage to Gaulding's right-front after the crash.
PHOTO: @StarcomRacing
When the dust settled, all cars involved started moving again with the exception of Gaulding and Allmendinger, both stopped in the middle of the track. Gaulding’s car was first to be towed back to the garage. Similar to Pocono last summer, RaceView and NBC both showed Gaulding move from 40th to 39th as the tow moved him past Allmendinger. The #47 was then towed in on Lap 7, apparently set for his first last-place finish since Sonoma. However, the leaderboard correctly indicated Gaulding, running behind Allmendinger the lap before the crash, was properly classified last with the #47 in 39th. NBC corrected the error by the checkered flag.

In the same crash, Bubba Wallace suffered heavy front end damage to his #43 Medallion Bank / Petty’s Garage Chevrolet, but rolled around for two caution laps before he stopped on pit road and climbed out, securing him 38th in the running order. McDowell turned seven more laps under yellow before he, too, pulled into the garage and out of the race, leaving him 37th. 36th looked to go to Corey LaJoie, who suffered left-front damage to his #72 Blockchain Solutions Chevrolet as he negotiated the outside lane during the crash. But LaJoie returned to action 99 laps down, dropping to 36th the #21 Menards / Knauf Ford of Paul Menard, who clobbered the Turn 4 wall due to a vibration after the restart. Menard took the spot from LaJoie on Lap 128.

Blake Jones' BK Racing car finished 27th, the team's best run since Daytona in July.

Gene Hobby's #99
PHOTO: Legends of NASCAR
*This was the first time the #99 finished last in a Cup race at Bristol since March 22, 1964, when Gene Hobby’s #99 M.E. Whitmore, Inc. 1962 Dodge started last and was flagged off the track after 2 laps. The car, which Hobby purchased that year from Larry Thomas, is featured in this excellent article on Legends of NASCAR.

40) #99-Gray Gaulding / 1 lap / crash
39) #47-A.J. Allmendinger / 1 lap / crash
38) #43-Bubba Wallace / 3 laps / crash
37) #34-Michael McDowell / 10 laps / crash
36) #21-Paul Menard / 28 laps / crash

1st) StarCom Racing, TriStar Motorsports (4)
2nd) Penske Racing, Premium Motorsports (2)
3rd) BK Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing, Front Row Motorsports, Furniture Row Racing, Germain Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, JTG-Daugherty Racing, Motorsports Business Management, Richard Petty Motorsports, Rick Ware Racing, Roush-Fenway Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (16)
2nd) Ford (5)
3rd) Toyota (3)


XFINITY: J.J. Yeley trades rides at RSS, trails night race at Bristol

PHOTO: @KauligRacing
J.J. Yeley picked up the 5th last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Friday’s Food City 300 at the Bristol Motor Speedway when his unsponsored #93 RSS Racing Chevrolet fell out with brake trouble after 9 of 310 laps.

The finish, which came in Yeley’s 304th series start, was his second of the season and first since Iowa, eight races ago. In the XFINITY Series last-place rankings, it was the 38th for car #93, the 55th for brake issues, and the 509th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 88th for the #93, the 154th from brake trouble, and the 1,620th for Chevrolet.

With the finish, Yeley takes the second spot in the 2018 LASTCAR XFINITY Series championship from Josh Bilicki. However, Yeley would need to finish last in eight of the remaining eleven races - and have Jeff Green not finish last again - to take the title.

Yeley was originally scheduled to be one of three drivers to attempt all three races at Bristol last weekend, joining Ross Chastain and B.J. McLeod. That effort ended earlier in the week when Yeley’s Truck Series ride in Mike Mittler’s #63 Chevrolet was withdrawn along with Jennifer Jo Cobb’s #0 Chevrolet, to be driven by Camden Murphy, and the driverless #12 from Young’s Motorsports. Instead, Yeley would run Saturday’s Cup race for Premium Motorsports in an inverted paint scheme on his black-and-white #7 Steakhouse Elite Chevrolet. Before that, he would continue his XFINITY Series effort with RSS Racing.

At RSS, Yeley swapped rides with teammate Jeff Green, taking the controls of the “start-and-park” #93. Green, with returning sponsorship from C2 Freight Resources, would take over the #38 and attempt the full race, joining Ryan Sieg in the flagship #39 Cook’s Comfort Systems Chevrolet. While without sponsorship, Yeley’s #93 would feature red accents on the sides in place of the all-black scheme run for the last several weeks. It resembled the scheme run on the #93 earlier this season but for the glossy black base coat in place of a dark grey pattern.

Yeley started the weekend 34th of 36 drivers in the opening practice and improved to 29th of 40 in Happy Hour. With exactly 40 drivers entered for as many spots, every driver who practiced would start the race. Yeley secured 33rd on the grid – slowest of the drivers who didn’t need to fall back on Owner Points – with a lap of 115.271mph (16.646 seconds).

Starting last on Friday was owner-driver Morgan Shepherd, whose #89 Visone RV Chevrolet ran the slowest lap overall of 109.897mph (17.460 seconds), nearly four-tenths slower than 39th-place Stephen Leicht in the Mike Harmon #74 Chevrolet and 2.1 seconds off Kyle Busch’s pole lap. Prior to the start, Yeley joined Shepherd at the rear, having missed the driver’s meeting, perhaps due to Cup qualifying, which was run just before the event. Green, who timed in 29th, also joined Yeley, the #38 team having changed tires after qualifying. Also sent back were 22nd-place Michael Annett (#5 Pilot / Flying J Chevrolet) and 37th-place Josh Bilicki (#45 Prevagen Toyota) for unapproved adjustments.

Shepherd was shuffled back to last by Lap 5, and was the first to lose a lap on Lap 9. That time by, Yeley ducked down pit road and into the garage, and Shepherd followed him in. Since the garage entrance was short of the starting line, both Shepherd and Yeley were credited with 8 completed laps. Shepherd, by virtue of running last at the time, held 40th with Yeley 39th. But on Lap 12, Shepherd returned to the track and turned three more laps, dropping Yeley to last on Lap 13. Only then did Shepherd re-enter the garage for a second time, retiring in 39th with a vibration. In the process, Yeley was credited with one more completed lap for a total of 9.

The 38th spot went to Timmy Hill in the #13 Smithbilt Homes Toyota. Like Shepherd, Hill made an early trip to pit road on Lap 16, then rejoined the action multiple laps down, completing a total of 22 circuits before calling it a night. Hill’s teammate Chad Finchum held 37th for much of Stage 1 after a brake line issue sent him behind the wall in the #40 Smithbilt Homes / The Preserve Toyota. Finchum returned to action 60 laps in arrears and ultimately crashed out, leaving him 30th. Finchum’s rise dropped to 36th spot polesitter Kyle Busch, who led 69 of the opening 74 laps before a blown tire sent him into the wall and out of the race.

Yeley’s weekend continued into Saturday, where he qualified 34th. And while he made it within 100 laps of the finish, it ended with a hard crash. On Lap 432, after contact between Kyle Busch and Martin Truex, Jr. sent Truex spinning into the inside wall, the #78 came back up the track into Yeley's path. The two made contact, destroying the left-rear of Yeley's car and sending him spinning backward into the outside wall. While Yeley had difficulty extricating himself, he climbed out under his own power.

*While this was Yeley's first XFINITY last-place finish at Bristol, it was the second in four Bristol races for RSS Racing's #93, joining Jordan Anderson's run in the spring race last year.

40) #93-J.J. Yeley / 9 laps / brakes
39) #89-Morgan Shepherd / 12 laps / vibration
38) #13-Timmy Hill / 22 laps / overheating
37) #8-Ray Black, Jr. / 36 laps / engine
36) #18-Kyle Busch / 74 laps / crash / led 69 laps

1st) RSS Racing (11)
2nd) JP Motorsports (3)
3rd) B.J. McLeod Motorsports (2)
4th) Fury Race Cars LLC, Jeremy Clements Racing, JGL Racing, Mike Harmon Racing, Roush-Fenway Racing, SS-Green Light Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (15)
2nd) Toyota (4)
3rd) Ford (3)


TRUCKS: Bayley Currey’s off-camera tangle with Lagasse leaves him last at Bristol

PHOTO: @BayleyCurrey
Bayley Currey picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Thursday’s UNOH 200 at the Bristol Motor Speedway when his #83 Chasco Constructors Chevrolet was collected in a crash after 13 of 200 laps.

The finish was Currey’s second of the season and his first since Pocono, two races ago. In the Truck Series last-place rankings, it was the 6th for truck #83, the 145th because of a crash, and the 359th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 31st for the #83, the 1,158th from a crash, and the 1,619th for Chevrolet.

With the finish, Currey takes the 2018 LASTCAR Truck Series lead from J.J. Yeley, who he now leads by one bottom-five and six bottom-ten finishes with seven races to go. But the battle remains so close that a last-place finish by any of the five drivers behind him could drop him to second place.

Following the Pocono weekend, Currey reunited with D.J. Copp’s sister team to Mike Mittler’s MB Motorsports, driving Copp’s #83 Nutriblade Chevrolet to a 27th-place finish at Michigan. The Bristol weekend would see him in the #83 once again, part of a double-header at the concrete short track. Currey was slated to make his third XFINITY start of the season and his second as driver of JP Motorsports’ #55 Prevagen Toyota.

Back at the shop, Currey and the Copp Motorsports team burned the midnight oil to get the white #83 Chevrolet ready for Bristol. Currey tweeted a picture of the team loading the then-unsponsored truck onto the back of the hauler around 11:30 P.M. before heading to the track. The crew arrived in time, and by daybreak, the truck carried hood and quarter-panel logos from Chasco Constructors.

Currey's truck loaded up at the shop
late Wednesday night.
PHOTO: @BayleyCurrey
On Thursday, Currey anchored the charts in Friday’s opening practice session with a lap of 112.977mph (16.984 seconds), 1.6 seconds off the fastest lap turned by Myatt Snider. He then improved to 33rd of 37 drivers in Happy Hour, a good sign since even after three teams withdrew, five more teams would be sent home after qualifying. Currey ended up relying on Owner Points in time trials, fastest of the five to do so with a lap of 121.029mph (15.854 seconds), an improvement by more than a second since the first session.

The five drivers who missed the race were Gray Gaulding in Beaver Motorsports’ #50 / Image Tech Chevrolet, 2012 winner Timothy Peters in Ricky Benton’s #92 BTS Tire & Wheel / Carquest Auto Parts Ford, B.J. McLeod who was swapped into owner-driver Josh Reaume’s #33 Steve King Foundation Chevrolet, Jennifer Jo Cobb in her #10 Chevrolet, and Norm Benning in his #6 Zomongo / H&H Transport Chevrolet. According to artist Rob Taylor, who works on Norm Benning’s team, the veteran was driving his repaired truck from Eldora, and will run it again at Mosport. Benning nearly was collected again at Bristol when Matt Crafton routed him out of the way in practice.

Starting 32nd on Thursday night was Wendell Chavous in Premium Motorsports’ #49 SobrietyNation Chevrolet. Joining him at the back were Austin Wayne Self, who lined up 24th in the #22 AM Technical Solutions / Go Texan Chevrolet, and 29th-place Jordan Anderson’s #3 Rusty’s Off Road / Chevrolet, both for unapproved adjustments. Both made quick work of Chavous at the start, and the #49 held down the 32nd spot through the race’s early laps.

On Lap 13, however, Chavous pulled to the apron of the track as trouble broke out in front of him. Though the start of the wreck was missed by the FS1 cameras, 22nd-place starter Scott Lagasse, Jr. spun down the frontstretch with a flat left-rear tire. Lagasse was entered in a brand-new team, On Point Motorsports, which fielded an unsponsored Toyota owned by his crew chief Steven Lane.

As the replay rolled on, Currey’s truck was seen running past in the high lane just in front of the camera. Though unclear at the time, Currey’s radio traffic indicated that the #83 had made contact during the incident, punching out the radiator. The next time by, Currey came down pit road and incurred a penalty for pitting when the lane was closed. This was served in the garage as the #83 went behind the wall, the truck parked under the “Crash Clock.” On Lap 20, someone over the radio said “We’re done,” and the team’s night was over. Lagasse returned to action, but his truck was never the same, and he pulled off the track just four laps after the ensuing restart, leaving him 31st.

Finishing 30th was Chad Finley in his own #42 Auto Value Certified Service Centers Chevrolet. Finley was making his first series start since his successful return to Truck Series competition at Gateway, where he ran an impressive 6th. Finley once again impressed at Bristol, this time in qualifying, where he went from 22nd in Round 1 to 12th in Round 2, moving his team all the way to the final Round 3, where this time he ranked last of the group by six-hundredths of a second. Unfortunately, his luck ran out on race night, where the engine let go just 61 laps in.

Two other top qualifiers rounded out the Bottom Five. In 29th came Myatt Snider, who spun and crashed out of a 15th-place run at the end of Stage 2 after he made contact with Noah Gragson off the fourth corner. Snider’s #13 The Carolina Nut Co. Ford returned to the track at a reduced speed, only to pull into the garage with power steering issues. A power steering failure also saddled the effort of polesitter Christopher Bell, who qualified in relief of an ailing Harrison Burton in the #51 Hunt Brothers Pizza Toyota. Bell led 31 laps, but ended up 28th, 16 circuits behind at the checkered flag.

Currey returned to action in Friday night’s Food City 300, where he steered JP Motorsports’ #55 Toyota to a 27th-place finish, the last car to finish under power.

*This marked the first Truck Series last-place finish for the #83 at Bristol.

32) #83-Bayley Currey / 13 laps / crash
31) #30-Scott Lagasse, Jr. / 24 laps / crash
30) #42-Chad Finley / 61 laps / engine
29) #13-Myatt Snider / 161 laps / power steering
28) #51-Christopher Bell / 184 laps / running – had power steering issues too

1st) MB Motorsports (6)
2nd) Beaver Motorsports, Copp Motorsports (3)
3rd) Mike Harmon Racing, NEMCO Motorsports, Norm Benning Racing, TJL Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (16)


Thursday, August 16, 2018

PREVIEW: A stacked Truck Series field leads off night race weekend at Bristol

PHOTO: DC2 Designs
Thursday, August 16, 2018
TRUCKS Race 16 of 23
UNOH 200 at Bristol
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Joe Nemechek

Even after two withdrawals by Tuesday, there remains a strong list of 38 trucks competing for the 32 starting spots in Thursday’s race. It’s the second biggest entry list of the season, just one fewer than Eldora. Six teams will miss the show. UPDATE: Make that three withdrawals, making it 37 for 32.

WITHDREW: #0-Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing
Camden Murphy's truck became the third withdrawal of the weekend in the lead-up to qualifying, joining the #12 and #63 (see below).

SPONSOR UPDATE: #3-Jordan Anderson Racing
Jordan Anderson welcomes sponsorship from Rusty's Off-Road Products, which has its logos on the hood and quarter-panels of the #3 Chevrolet. The "Fueled By Fans" fan-supported campaign continues as well with names of other companies and supporters on the rear decklid.

NEW TEAM: #9-CR7 Motorsports
Currently 19th in the ARCA Racing Series standings, Codie Rohrbaugh and his team CR7 Motorsports are making the jump to NASCAR’s top three series for the first time. Grant County Mulch, his backer in ARCA, has joined the effort, where he will run a #9 Chevrolet. The West Virginia native has a pair of K&N Pro Series East starts at Bristol, finishing 22nd in 2015 and 26th in 2016, but has not competed here since.

WITHDREW: #12-Young’s Motorsports
Randy Young’s team had originally entered the #12 for the first time since Eldora, but withdrew the truck by Tuesday without a listed driver.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Premium Motorsports
Stefan Parsons, son of NASCAR veteran, team owner, and TV personality Phil Parsons, is set to make his NASCAR national touring series debut. Sponsorship arrives from Phoenix Construction, the Florida-based firm owned by James Finch of the shuttered Phoenix Racing. This continues a partnership between Finch and Parsons that most recently included Phoenix Construction logos on Parsons’ #98 Ford driven then by Josh Wise.

MISSING: #17-DGR-Crosley
David Gilliland’s team scales back from two trucks to one, leaving behind Bo LeMastus and the #17 team. The #54 stands alone this week, this time with Riley Herbst in place of Matt Mills, who wrecked early at Michigan. Herbst returns to the series for the first time since his series debut at Gateway, where he finished 8th for Kyle Busch Motorsports. Then as now, he will be sponsored by Advance Auto Parts, along with “Terrible Herbst” and NOS Energy.

DRIVER CHANGE: #20-Young’s Motorsports
Tanner Thorson saddles up for his fifth Truck Series start of the season, taking the place of Tate Fogleman, 15th at Michigan. It will be Thorson’s first Bristol start.

NEW TEAM: #30-On Point Motorsports
Scott Lagasse, Jr. returns to Truck Series competition with a new team as well, fielded by crew chief Steve Lane. It is Lagasse's first series start since this year's Daytona opener, where he ran 5th for Young's Motorsports.

DRIVER CHANGE: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
MISSING: #34-Reaume Brothers Racing
Like DGR-Crosley, Josh Reaume’s team has scaled back from two trucks to just one, leaving out both the #34 entry and driver B.J. McLeod. McLeod will instead focus on the XFINITY Series, both as the owner of the #8 and #78, and as driver of the #15 for JD Motorsports (see below). UPDATE: McLeod swapped into the #33 in place of Josh Reaume.

RETURNING: #38-Niece Motorsports
Al Niece’s team brings back its second truck for the first time since Eldora, and this time brings Ross Chastain, who will attempt to run triple-duty along with JD Motorsports’ #4 on Friday and Premium Motorsports’ #15 on Saturday. It would be Chastain’s fourth Truck Series start of the season, following DNFs in the previous three and no finishes better than 26th. The white truck carries quarter-panel sponsorship from Black Rifle Coffee Co.

RETURNING: #42-Chad Finley, Inc.
Welcome back Chad Finley and team, who come back to the circuit since their successful debut together at Gateway in June, where they finished 6th. With his first Truck Series start since 2015 out of the way, Finley now aims for his first Bristol start.

DRIVER CHANGE: #50-Beaver Motorsports
Gray Gaulding looks to pull double-duty at Bristol as the newest driver to take the wheel of Mark Beaver’s #50 Chevrolet. He takes the place of Reed Sorenson, who managed only a 28th-place showing at Michigan due to electrical issues.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Kyle Busch Motorsports
Harrison Burton rejoins the Truck Series circuit in place of Spencer Davis, who finished a disappointing 22nd at Michigan. Hunt Brothers Pizza joins as sponsor, having just revealed their throwback scheme for Kevin Harvick’s XFINITY Series effort at Darlington next month. UPDATE: Harrison Burton was sidelined by illness, so Christopher Bell took over the ride before qualifying.

WITHDREW: #63-MB Motorsports
J.J. Yeley entered in the #63 Chevrolet, but team withdrew for the first time this season. It will mark the first race the team has missed since this year’s Daytona opener, where Bobby Gerhart failed to qualify, and the first where the team hasn’t even entered since last fall at Las Vegas, when D.J. Copp fielded both the #63 and #83. Copp’s #83 will still run at Bristol, where Bayley Currey will again be driving.

RETURNING: #68-Clay Greenfield Motorsports
Clay Greenfield and his family’s #68 AMVETS Please Stand Chevrolet are back in action for the first time since Kentucky, aiming to make their fourth start of 2018. Last year, Greenfield made his first Bristol start in the series since 2013 and finished 26th, his best run since a 16th in 2010.

RETURNING: #75-Henderson Motorsports
Parker Kligerman and Charlie Henderson’s team rejoin the action under the lights in the Food Country USA Chevrolet, continuing Henderson’s long presence at Bristol. Kligerman has four Truck Series starts at Bristol, including an 8th with Henderson last year, and a track-best runner-up in 2012 to his Red Horse Racing teammate Timothy Peters.

MISSING: #87-NEMCO Motorsports
NEMCO Motorsports leaves their second truck in the shop, and Joe Nemechek will not be racing this Thursday, either.

RETURNING: #92-RBR Enterprises
Timothy Peters and team owner Ricky Benton rejoin the action at Bristol with the #92 Ford sponsored by BTS Tire & Wheel Distributors and Carquest Auto. Peters, the aforementioned 2012 winner of the race, has not started this event since 2016, not long before Red Horse closed its doors. He wasn’t even entered last year.

Now with a Cup Series start under his belt – and a second to come on Saturday – Jesse Little rejoins the Truck Series along with the JJL #97 crew. The truck carries sponsorship from Wings Over North Georgia and Visit Kingsport. Little has finished Top 20 in both his starts in this race, finishing 17th in 2016 and 13th last year.

RETURNING: #04-Roper Racing
Cory Roper’s cherry-red #04 is another part-time effort looking to break back into the field this week, eyeing their first green flag in the series since an 18th-place run in Iowa. Like the JJL team, this truck could be one to watch if it makes the field.


Friday, August 17, 2018
XFINITY Race 22 of 33
Food City 300 at Bristol
2017 Last-Place Finisher: David Starr

There are exactly 40 drivers entered for 40 spots, so all entrants will start the race.

DRIVER CHANGE: #3-Richard Childress Racing
Cup Series regulars predominate in Friday’s race, starting with Ty Dillon, fresh off his bizarre incident in last Sunday’s Cup race at Michigan. Dillon takes the place of Brendan Gaughan, who ran 12th last week in Mid-Ohio.

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Ray Black, Jr. rejoins the McLeod team in place of Cody Ware, who was parked at Mid-Ohio after a wreck ripped the passenger-side foam from the door. It will be Black’s sixth XFINITY start of the season and his first since Iowa, when he drove the #8 to a 28th-place finish. His best of four previous XFINITY starts at Bristol is a 14th for SS-Green Light Racing in 2017.

RETURNING: #12-Penske Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #22-Penske Racing
The #12 team is back for the first time since Watkins Glen, and Austin Cindric climbs in the Pirtek Ford. Cindric moves over from the #22, making way for Cup regular Joey Logano, also last seen at Watkins Glen, where he cruised to victory.

DRIVER CHANGE: #13-Motorsports Business Management
Team owner Carl Long takes the place of John Jackson in the third XFINITY Series entry, currently listed as a Toyota. Long has five previous Bristol starts in the XFINITY Series with his best coming just last year in the #13 when it was a Dodge. He finished 27th that day, seven laps down. UPDATE: Long and Timmy Hill swapped rides at the track with Hill in the #13.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-JD Motorsports
B.J. McLeod takes the place of Katherine Legge, who enjoyed a strong showing in her series debut at Mid-Ohio before her car’s engine let go in the final laps. It will be McLeod’s sixth series start at Bristol, a track where he finished 20th this past spring in his own #78.

DRIVER CHANGE: #18-Joe Gibbs Racing
Kyle Busch looks to claim his 10th XFINITY Series win at Bristol in the NOS Energy Toyota. He takes the place of Kyle Benjamin, who ran 13th at Mid-Ohio.

Chase Elliott returns to GMS Racing’s #23 for the first time since the July race at Daytona, where engine woes left him 29th. He takes the place of Spencer Gallagher, who ran 8th at Mid-Ohio, his first XFNIITY start since Kentucky. Gallagher does not have a ride this weekend.

This year’s spring race at Bristol saw RSS Racing shuffle its driver lineup among its three cars following Ryan Sieg’s crash just hours before the race. It’s something similar this week as Jeff Green drives the #38, which will not be a “start-and-park” effort since he has returning sponsorship from C2 Freight Resources. J.J. Yeley’s full-race status is yet unknown as he takes the wheel of the #93, a LASTCAR mainstay.

DRIVER CHANGE: #42-Chip Ganassi Racing
Kyle Larson climbs aboard the #42 entry on the XFINITY side for the first time since his disappointing 27th-place showing at Watkins Glen, taking the place of Justin Marks, who ran 22nd at Mid-Ohio. Larson, who was denied a victory in this spring’s Cup race after a bump from Kyle Busch, is also 0-for-8 in the XFINITY races here with three runner-up finishes.

DRIVER CHANGE: #55-JP Motorsports
Following a disastrous opening lap at Mid-Ohio for Dylan Murcott, Bayley Currey rejoins JP Motorsports for the first time since Loudon, staying an extra day at the track following his run for D.J. Copp in Friday’s Truck Series race.

MISSING: #61-Fury Race Cars
Kaz Grala and the little team that could are noticeably absent from this week’s entry list, just the third race they’ve missed since their Charlotte debut. Grala finished 38th at Bristol this past spring for JGL Racing, eliminated in a crash after only 26 laps.

DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Timmy Hill regains his XFINITY Series ride from Tim Cowen, who ran 26th at Mid-Ohio. Hill is slated to run a Chevrolet in place of the Dodge most often fielded for this team. UPDATE: Hill and Carl Long swapped rides with Long in this #66.

DRIVER CHANGE: #78-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
California’s Jairo Avila, Jr. will make his NASCAR national series debut this Friday, taking the place of Tommy Joe Martins in the #78. Most recently, Avila ran most of the 2016 K&N Pro Series East schedule, including a 22nd-place finish on the Bristol track.

Andy Lally is set to return next week in Road America, where he expects to do more than his 15th-place finish at Mid-Ohio. In his place on the short track is Josh Williams, sponsorship from Sleep Well, and a brand-new paint scheme. Williams has finished 22nd in both of his two previous Bristol starts.

CUP INVADERS: #3-Ty Dillon, #18-Kyle Busch, #22-Joey Logano, #23-Chase Elliott, #42-Kyle Larson

Saturday, August 18, 2018
CUP Race 24 of 36
Bass Pro Shops / NRA Night Race at Bristol
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Jeffrey Earnhardt

There are 41 drivers entered for 40 spots, meaning that for just the second time all season and the first time since July 4th weekend at Daytona, one driver will miss the show after qualifying.

DRIVER CHANGE: #7-Premium Motorsports
J.J. Yeley and sponsor Steakhouse Elite return to the circuit for the first time since last month at Pocono, and join the #7 team for the first time since Pocono’s June race, taking the place of Garrett Smithley, 32nd at Michigan.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Rick Ware Racing
RETURNING: #52-Rick Ware Racing
Rick Ware’s team returns to two-car operation for the first time since Sonoma with no drivers nor sponsors listed as of Tuesday. The #51's driver and sponsor are to be determined while B.J. McLeod and sponsor Jacob Companies move to the #52, a Chevrolet. UPDATE: The #52 will be a Ford. UPDATE2: The #51 will be a Chevrolet and Reed Sorenson will drive with sponsorship from Trading View and a new purple-and-white wrap.

MANUFACTURER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Timmy Hill to run a Toyota after fielding a Chevrolet at Michigan. A photo from the Rick Ware Racing shop showed the #66 from Michigan in the background, perhaps indicating that the Chevy was once a Ware car. Hill has struggled in his three previous Cup starts here, finishing no better than 37th and finishing last in the spring of 2014. UPDATE: The team has acquired primary sponsorship once again with the Beef Jerky Outlet on the hood and quarter-panels.

SPONSOR UPDATE: #72-TriStar Motorsports
The rising popularity of blockchain technology continues this weekend as a third different firm in the industry is backing the #72 team. This time around, it’s custom blockchain solutions. In addition,, the primary sponsor on Timmy Hill’s Cup car last week at Michigan, has purchased space for their logo on the rear decklid.

DRIVER CHANGE: #96-Gaunt Brothers Racing
Jesse Little is back in the Cup Series for the first time since his series debut at Kentucky, and this time takes Jeffrey Earnhardt’s place in the Gaunt Brothers’ #96 Toyota. Sponsorship for the effort is still to be announced.

Last Sunday’s Cup race saw a bizarre incident where the battery came out of Timmy Hill’s Chevrolet and Ty Dillon ran over it, ending his day with a hard crash. While definitively cited as a crash (and also not a last-place finish), the confusion over what Dillon struck stirs memories of another reason out – “no reason.” In all of NASCAR last-place history, there is perhaps no finish more mysterious. It occurred only once, October 5, 1963 at the quarter-mile Tar Heel Speeedway, where Richard Petty won that day on his home track in Randleman, NC. Roy Tyner made eight laps, but the reason why his #8 1962 Chevrolet ran no further has been lost to history, cited only as “no reason.” Tyner would go on to be one of NASCAR’s longest-running independents, making 311 starts from 1957 to 1970. Curiously, he’s tied with “The King” for 15 Cup Series last-place finishes.