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.

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