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.

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