Sunday, September 30, 2018

CUP: “Heartburn Turn” ends Stanton Barrett’s first Cup start since 2006

September 30, 2018 at the Roval
PHOTO: Michael Harvey @MrLester88
Stanton Barrett picked up the 4th last-place finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Bank of America Roval 400 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway “Roval” Road Course when his #51 Jacob Companies Ford fell out in a single-car accident after he completed 11 of 109 laps.

The finish, which came in Barrett’s 23rd series start, was his first in a Cup Series race since Martinsville on October 23, 2005, 464 races ago. In the Cup Series last-place rankings, it was the 22nd for car #51, the 685th for Ford, and the 574th from a crash. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 34th for the #51, the 944th for Ford, and the 1,165th from a crash.

Barrett, the second-generation stuntman and movie director from Bishop, California, has been running part-time in NASCAR’s top three series since 1992. A journeyman driver, Barrett has driven for a number of teams, including Donlavey Racing, Front Row Motorsports, and his own operation. Perhaps his most notable NASCAR ride was Roush-Fenway’s #60 team, which he drove for in the first part of the 2003 Busch Grand National season, earning back-to-back poles at Las Vegas and Darlington with a season-best 6th-place finish at the Nashville Superspeedway.

September 21, 2008
Last Cup race Barrett entered (Dover); team withdrew
Now 45 years old, Barrett hadn’t been entered in a Cup race since September 21, 2008, when he last entered Chris Lencheski’s #50 Chevrolet sponsored by NOS Energy Drink, and hadn’t started one since September 24, 2006, when he finished 35th in Jeff Stec’s #61 Oak Glove Co. Dodge – both of these in the fall race at Dover. Instead, Barrett has focused on his film career through his company Barcode Entertainment. The company’s latest film, “Navy Seals vs. Zombies,” was promoted in a number of XFINITY Series starts Barrett made for Rick Ware Racing in 2015. These races were among the 29 combined XFINITY and Truck Series starts Barrett made since 2009, most recently a 27th-place run at Road America for B.J. McLeod’s team on August 27, 2016.

Last Wednesday, Barrett was swapped in for B.J. McLeod as driver of Rick Ware’s #51. It was a return to Cup competition nearly two years in the making – tweeted on January 20, 2017 that Barrett would be part of the Ware team’s lineup along with Cody Ware and Kevin O’Connell. Since that time, Ware obtained a Charter for his flagship #51, and this past June at Sonoma added a second car, the #52. Following Gray Gaulding’s brake issues last Saturday in Richmond, Ware would leave the #52 at the shop and enter Barrett in what, by its glossy blue paint scheme, appeared to be the same #51 Josh Bilicki ran at Watkins Glen.
September 24, 2006
Barrett's most recent Cup start (Dover)
PHOTO: Rubbin's Racin' Forums

Among the 40 entrants, Barrett began the weekend next-to-last in the opening practice, then ran 38th of 39 in the second session with the slowest completed lap. He was again next-to-last in qualifying with a lap of 100.255mph (1 minutes, 21.871 seconds) and did not participate in Happy Hour on Saturday.

Despite struggling for speed, Barrett arrived on the grid Sunday without involvement in any of the weekend’s major incidents. Five drivers were sent to the rear of the field, four of them in backup cars due to hard accidents. Denny Hamlin in the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota endured a miserable Friday where he first popped the “turtles” exiting the backstretch chicane, then in qualifying lost control in the same corner and hit the right-rear on exit, knocking off the rear decklid. Darrell Wallace, Jr. spun out four times on Friday, then early Saturday destroyed his #43 World Wide Technology Chevrolet hitting the tire barrier at the exit of the same chicane. The same barrier caught Erik Jones twice – first on Friday, when he sideswiped the driver’s door, and then on Saturday, when he wrecked the #20 Resers Toyota. Last of the totaled cars was the #2 Alliance Truck Parts Ford of Las Vegas winner Brad Keselowski, who missed the exit of the final chicane and ran head-on into the frontstretch wall. Regan Smith joined the group in the rear for an engine change on the #95 Procore Chevrolet.

Qualified 40th on Friday was Timmy Hill, one of six drivers who ran double-duty in the inaugural “Roval” weekend. After carrying new sponsor to a 32nd-place finish in Saturday’s 55-lap affair, Hill secured the final spot in Carl Long’s Cup car, the #66 Ternio Toyota. After all the penalized drivers fell to the rear, Barrett fell to the back voluntarily, joined by Ross Chastain, who also pulled out of line on Saturday, this time in Premium Motorsports’ #7 SOKAL Media Group Chevrolet. This moved Hill up to the outside of Row 19.

October 23, 2005
Barrett's most recent Cup last-place finish (Martinsville)
On the break, Barrett retained the 40th spot, slotting into line behind Chastain and Hill for the treacherous Tums-sponsored “Heartburn Turn” in the first corner. The next time by, Barrett dove deep into that same turn and managed to pass both Chastain and Hill by the exit, dropping Chastain to last. The next corner, Chastain worked his way past Hill, dropping the #66 to last once more. It was around this time that Barrett flat-spotted at least one of his tires, causing NASCAR’s officials to watch the smoke coming from his machine.

During the same opening run, Denny Hamlin locked-up his brakes in the front chicane, flat-spotting the left-front tire and causing his car to smoke in the same way. Hamlin made an unscheduled stop to change tires and dropped to 40th behind Barrett. By Lap 6, Barrett, who NASCAR had cleared after his earlier smoking, pulled to the low side on the backstretch and slowed. Officials instructed Barrett to pull in to the infield on the backstretch, but the #51 made it onto pit road for a tire change. This dropped Barrett back to last, and also made him the first to lose a lap. The Rick Ware crew reported that the tire was flat-spotted all the way to the cords.

Barrett continued around the track until Lap 13, when the brakes locked up. Much like J.J. Yeley’s incident in XFINITY practice, the car went straight into the barrier, destroying the front of the car. Barrett was agitated on the radio, saying “to the right,” reportedly about an issue adjusting the brake bias. The driver climbed out unhurt, but was done for the day. The car was towed 180 degrees back to the entrance of the garage area, located near pit exit.

The hits kept coming in what was ultimately a physical and wild afternoon. Finishing 39th was the #3 Dow Chemical Chevrolet of Austin Dillon, eliminated from Playoff contention after he first hit the wall in the oval’s fourth turn passing a loose Chris Buescher, then struck the barrier short of the frontstretch chicane on Lap 66. Timmy Hill held the 39th spot for much of the day, returning from an early 14-lap stay in the garage to replace the drive plate, then ultimately finished 38th with a broken axle. The 37th spot fell to Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., who damaged his #17 Sunny D Ford by hitting the wall both in practice and early in the race, then finished it off in Turn 1 on Lap 102, setting up the day’s biggest accident on the Lap 104 restart. Among those collected in that 15-car pileup was 36th-place Bubba Wallace, whose backup #43 World Wide Technology was ranked last of the group.

*Barrett’s mark of 12 years, 11 months, 7 days is the third-longest streak between Cup Series last-place finishes behind 2nd-place Mark Martin (14 years, 11 months, 5 days from 1982 to 1996) and leader Joe Ruttman (15 years, 6 months, 22 days from 1988 to 2004). Barrett’s streak covers the second-most races of that group, his 464 races between Martin’s 440 and Ruttman’s 494.

40) #51-Stanton Barrett / 11 laps / crash
39) #3-Austin Dillon / 24 laps / crash
38) #66-Timmy Hill / 40 laps / axle
37) #17-Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. / 100 laps / crash / led 2 laps
36) #43-Bubba Wallace / 103 laps / crash

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

1st) Chevrolet (16)
2nd) Ford (7)
3rd) Toyota (6)


XFINITY: J.J. Yeley’s country music car the first casualty at the Roval, leading to track’s first last-place finish

Yeley's wrecked primary car after practice on Friday.
PHOTO: @jjyeley1
J.J. Yeley picked up the 6th last-place finish of his NASCAR XFNITY Series career in Saturday’s Drive for the Cure 200 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway “Roval” Road Course when his unsponsored #38 RSS Racing Chevrolet fell out with suspension damage after he completed 6 of 55 laps.

The finish, which came in Yeley’s 309th series start, was his third of the season and first since the night race at Bristol, six races ago. In the XFINITY Series last-place rankings, it was the 14th for car #38, the 14th because of suspension issues, and the 514th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 47th for the #38, the 37th for suspension issues, and the 1,628th for Chevrolet.

Two weeks ago in Las Vegas, Yeley earned a season-best 11th-place finish on the XFINITY side, matching his 11th-place run at Talladega this past spring. It was the first time he’d finished an XFINITY race under power since Daytona in July, where he ran 16th. Following a 25th-place showing in Richmond, Yeley was one of five drivers scheduled to run double-duty at Charlotte’s new “Roval” configuration, giving him a head-start on preparing his Cup ride in the #23 Adirondack Tree Surgeons Toyota fielded by Front Row Motorsports.

Yeley’s XFINITY car would again be one of three from Ryan Sieg’s RSS Racing team, though this time with new sponsorship. Running the same paint scheme Jeff Green trailed with in Road America (only with #38 instead of #93), the car carried logos for country music star Frank Foster, who celebrated his new album “‘Til I’m Gone.” Foster tweeted on Friday with images of the car, and said he would be in attendance to see his car in action. Unfortunately, the Roval had other plans.

During opening practice, Yeley was making his first timed lap, following the #13 OCR Gaz Bar Dodge driven this week by John Jackson. Reports indicate Jackson locked the brakes, perhaps from dropping fluid on the track, and Yeley had trouble avoiding the slowing #13. Footage from the incident showed Jackson already stopped, facing backwards past the exit of Turn 1. In the background, back at the apex of Turn 1, Yeley was still slowing down and appeared to already have damage to the right-front of his car. Yeley struck the barrier with the right-front, destroying his car and shoving the right-front wheel back against the firewall. Yeley was uninjured, but the car was totaled.

The RSS Racing team managed to unload their plain black backup car, but did not wrap it in Frank Foster’s graphics for the race. Instead, the car appeared to have a bright red #38 on each door and the roof. Unlike both Bristol races this year, there did not appear to be any shuffling of cars between the teammates – both Sieg’s fully-funded #39 and Jeff Green’s #93 remained unchanged by race day. This meant, and appeared confirmed on Saturday, that Yeley was not going to run much of Saturday’s race.

Yeley’s backup car qualified 38th with a lap of 94.267mph (1 minute, 27.072 seconds). With 41 drivers set to attempt the 40-car field, the only team sent home was the “newest” one on the circuit – Obaika Racing’s #97 with Tanner Berryhill. Both Obaika and Berryhill had been attempting their return to the XFINITY Series after Obaika acquired some of the assets from the shuttered BK Racing team earlier this year. Though the car did make laps in practice, that effort was foiled when Berryhill did not take a lap in qualifying, sending them home. Also in qualifying, John Jackson was swapped out of the #13 for Cup regular Landon Cassill, who secured 31st on the grid to become the sixth “double-duty” driver in the field.

Starting 40th was Vinnie Miller, who while entered in B.J. McLeod’s #78 Chevrolet appeared to be running his same #01 JAS Expedited Trucking Chevrolet fielded by JD Motorsports, just with McLeod’s yellow door and roof numbers on his machine (Pirelli World Challenge road racer Lawson Aschenbach took Miller’s ride in the #01). Yeley would join Miller at the rear for his backup car penalty, as would Spencer Gallagher, who went through two cars in practice, including Bill Elliott’s ISM Connect Chevrolet from Road America, which hit nearly the same spot in Turn 1 as Yeley. Ryan Truex also went to the back for unapproved adjustments on Kaulig Racing’s #11 Leaf Filter Chevrolet. Playoff contender Ross Chastain also voluntarily fell to the rear from the 16th spot, anticipating early carnage that would involve his #4 JD Motorsports Chevrolet and risk his 18-point cushion in the Playoff standings.

By the end of Lap 1, Miller had retaken the 40th spot in the #78 after starting the race 8.984 seconds back of the lead. Lawson Aschenbach incurred the first in-race penalty of the day when he missed the backstretch chicane, forcing a stop-and-go penalty, but still ran ahead of Miller on the second go-round. Coming to the end of Lap 2, trouble then found Alex Labbe, who had qualified a career-best 5th with DGM Racing. As he steered through the final chicane, the cap on his left-rear wheel came loose, causing the axle and axle grease to fall out on the track. Ty Majeski, running behind him in the #60 Ford, made contact with the slowing Labbe and barely avoided the debris. Labbe then slowed to a stop at the exit of Turn 1, drawing the first yellow of the day.

Labbe lost a lap in the exchange, but was able to return to action after work from the crew, who calmed their driver and said they’d finish repairs at the end of Stage 1. With the entire field still running on Lap 3, Labbe worked his way back into contention and would ultimately get his lap back on Lap 35 and bring it home an impressive 13th. Yeley, however, would pull behind the wall at the end of Lap 6, done for the afternoon.

In the end, all three RSS Racing cars finished inside the Bottom Five. Jeff Green finished 39th following at least two trips to pit road in the race’s early stages. Prior to the event, Green struck the “turtles” exiting the backstretch chicane, damaging the right-front of his splitter. Green didn’t take 39th until Lap 26, when he passed Katherine Legge, who returned from right-front splitter damage after she spun off track in JD Motorsports’ #15 Air Tec Chevrolet.

Ryan Sieg ended up 36th, his goal of running a conservative race in the #39 Night Owl Chevrolet thwarted when he collided with Justin Allgaier’s spun car exiting Turn 1. Sieg’s crew managed to piece the car back together, but soon after, the tape holding the nose let go, causing the remaining pieces to flap up over the windshield. Sieg pulled behind the wall after the debris was removed.

Between the RSS cars in the Bottom Five were 38th place Landon Cassill in Motorsports Business Management #13 and 37th-place Andy Lally in DGM Racing’s #90 Alpha Prime USA Chevrolet. Lally raised the ire of Elliott Sadler in the middle stages for driving too aggressively, and soon after the #90 pulled behind the wall with crash damage.

*This marked the first time car #38 finished last in an XFINITY Series road course race.

40) #38-J.J. Yeley / 6 laps / suspension
39) #93-Jeff Green / 20 laps / brakes
38) #13-Landon Cassill / 30 laps / engine
37)  #90-Andy Lally / 34 laps / crash
36) #39-Ryan Sieg / 37 laps / suspension

1st) RSS Racing (14)
2nd) JP Motorsports (3)
3rd) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Roush-Fenway Racing (2)
4th) Fury Race Cars LLC, Jeremy Clements Racing, JGL Racing, JR Motorsports, Mike Harmon Racing, Shepherd Racing Ventures, SS-Green Light Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (20)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (4)


Thursday, September 27, 2018

PREVIEW: Barrett, Berryhill, Aschenbach, and Obaika make Roval weekend a reunion

My most recent Stanton Barrett mention, 2008.
Saturday, September 29, 2018
XFINITY Race 28 of 33
Round of 12, Race 2 of 3
Drive for the Cure 200 at Charlotte Roval
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Inaugural Race

The first test of the new Charlotte Roval will come with the XFINITY Series, where 41 drivers will compete for 40 spots. One team will miss the show.

DRIVER CHANGE: #3-Richard Childress Racing
Brendan Gaughan rejoins the XFINITY circuit for a third road race start in 2018, taking the place of last week’s 9th-place finisher Shane Lee. Gaughan’s most recent start came at Road America, where he ran 24th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #4-JD Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #42-Chip Ganassi Racing
Ross Chastain rejoins JD Motorsports for the first time since he scored his first XFINITY Series win at Las Vegas. Chastain’s most recent start in the #4 came at Indianapolis, where he ran 12th. Returning to the #42 Chevrolet this week is road racer Justin Marks, who will run double-duty on the Roval (see below). Chevrolet Accessories will back Marks’ Saturday run.

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #74-Mike Harmon Racing
Dylan Murcott rejoins the XFINITY tour for the first time since his misadventure at Mid-Ohio, this time driving B.J. McLeod’s #8 Chevrolet. Murcott takes the place of Ray Black, Jr., who moves over to Mike Harmon’s team to take the owner’s place behind the wheel of the #74 Chevrolet.

DRIVER SWAP: #13-Motorsports Business Management
DRIVER SWAP: #66-Motorsports Business Management
At press time, the preliminary entry list showed Carl Long and Timmy Hill swapping rides this week with Long in the #13 and Hill in the #66. It has already been confirmed that Hill will run double-duty as well, driving Long’s #66 Toyota (see below). UPDATE: As of Thursday, Hill is indeed in the #66 while John Jackson, not Long, will drive the #13.

MISSING: #27-TGT Motorsports
Cody Lane and his team are not making the trip to Charlotte this week, one week after the team’s #27 wrecked on their first practice lap at Richmond, forcing a withdrawal.

RETURNING: #61-Fury Race Cars
Welcome back Kaz Grala and the Fury Race Cars team, who we haven’t seen since their 11th-place performance at Road America, five races ago. Then as now, sponsorship will come from IT Coalition.

DRIVER CHANGE: #78-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #01-JD Motorsports
Pirelli World Challenge standout Lawson Aschenbach will go NASCAR racing for the first time in three years, dating back to a one-off 18th-place run for JD Motorsports at Road America. This time, he takes Vinnie Miller’s place in JD’s #01 Chevrolet. Miller slides over to the primary #78 Chevrolet from B.J. McLeod’s effort with sponsorship from Isokem. Miller’s move displaces Matt Mills, who isn’t entered this week.

MISSING: #88-JR Motorsports
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s one-off at Richmond yielded a stage win and a 4th-place finish. Junior will remain in the booth this week as neither driver nor team are entered.

MISSING: #89-Shepherd Racing Ventures
Also missing from the list is Morgan Shepherd, who trailed last week in Richmond. Of this year's road courses, Shepherd started Mid-Ohio and finished 38th, but withdrew at Watkins Glen and did not enter Road America.

One week after Mason Diaz turned in a solid 19th-place run in his series debut, Andy Lally returns for another bid at an elusive NASCAR road course victory. Last month, Lally finished 15th at Mid-Ohio and 10th at Road America.

RETURNING: #97-Obaika Racing
Two blasts from the past rejoin the XFINITY circuit this week. The first is driver Tanner Berryhill, who hasn’t entered a race in the series since the 2015 opener, where his family’s #17 Toyota was destroyed in a qualifying accident. Berryhill will drive for Victor Obaika, fresh off acquiring assets from BK Racing’s sale earlier this summer. Obaika’s team has been missing in action since this same round last fall, when the team withdrew for the eighth time in 2017.

RETURNING: #98-Stewart-Haas Racing with Biagi DenBeste
Also returning is the Biagi effort, the #98 rejoining the circuit for the first time since Kevin Harvick’s controversial run at Darlington. This time, Chase Briscoe is running the #98 with Nutri Chomps and the Ford Motor Company backing his Mustang. It will be Briscoe’s 14th XFINITY start of the season and his first since Las Vegas, where a crash left him 31st. His lone road race start this year was at Mid-Ohio, where he finished 14th for Roush-Fenway.


Sunday, September 30, 2018
CUP Race 29 of 36
Round of 16, Race 3 of 3
Bank of America Roval 400 at Charlotte Roval
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Inaugural Race

The Cup Series playoffs reach their first elimination race, after which four drivers will be cut from championship contention. On the outside looking in are Clint Bowyer, Jimmie Johnson, Erik Jones, and Denny Hamlin. Those four will be among the 40 drivers competing for the top prize in the series’ seventh-straight full field.

DRIVER CHANGE: #6-Roush-Fenway Racing
Trevor Bayne will get a crack at the Roval this weekend as he takes Matt Kenseth’s place in the #6 with returning sponsorship from AdvoCare Rehydrate. With news of Ryan Newman’s upcoming arrival at the team, Bayne will seek his best road course finish since a 9th at Watkins Glen in 2016.

RETURNING: #7-Premium Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Premium Motorsports
Ross Chastain moves from his typical #15 at Premium to the part-time #7, a car we last saw at Las Vegas, where Reed Sorenson finished 31st. Chastain’s move allows for the return of Justin Marks, who like Chastain will run both races. GoPro Motorplex and Pickers Vodka back Marks’ Chartered Cup ride.

RETURNING: #8-Richard Childress Racing
Daniel Hemric and RCR's new part-time team return to the circuit for the first time since the spring race at Richmond. Hemric is another of the entered drivers running double-duty on the Roval.

DRIVER CHANGE: #23-Front Row Motorsports
One week after Alon Day survived his first oval track start in the Cup Series, finishing 38th, J.J. Yeley will take his place in the #23. Coming along with Yeley is sponsorship from Adirondack Tree Surgeons, which backed Yeley’s drive for Premium Motorsports at Martinsville earlier this year.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Rick Ware Racing
Welcome back stuntman Stanton Barrett, revealed Wednesday as new driver in place of Cole Custer, who wrapped his 2018 season last week with a strong 10th-place qualifying run in Richmond. Both of Barrett’s most recent Cup efforts have come on this same weekend, back when it hosted the fall race at Dover. The last time he was even entered was for the September 21, 2008 running, where his #50 NOS Energy Drink / SKI / SBM Chevrolet withdrew. The last time he started was two years before that, September 24, 2006, where he finished 35th for Jeff Stec.

MISSING: #52-Rick Ware Racing
Rick Ware elected not to enter their second car, which last week at Richmond trailed the field following an apparent brake failure for Gray Gaulding.

DRIVER CHANGE: #72-TriStar Motorsports
Cole Whitt will have competed on all three road courses in 2018 as he takes over for Corey LaJoie this weekend. Rinnai Tankless Water Heaters, one of Whitt’s longtime backers, will sponsor the #72 this weekend.

MISSING: #99-StarCom Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #00-StarCom Racing
Landon Cassill regains his seat in the Chartered #00, and Dairi-O returns as sponsor for the first time since the Coca-Cola 600. Cassill takes the place of Joey Gase, who along with the #99 Chevrolet are not entered this week on the Cup side. Gase will run Saturday’s XFINITY round in his continued full season effort for Go FAS Racing.

Saturday, October 13, 2018
TRUCKS Race 19 of 23
Round of 8, Race 3 of 3
Talladega 250 at Talladega
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Norm Benning

Two more weeks until the Truck Series returns for the elimination race at Talladega.

Stanton Barrett has three career Cup Series last-place finishes, the most recent of them coming at Martinsville on October 23, 2005, following engine trouble on Lap 110. The other two finishes occurred at Dover, including the September 25, 2005 running that also saw Furniture Row Racing make their Cup Series debut.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

9/25/05: Remembering Furniture Row Racing’s first Cup race, thirteen years later

Pictured - the paint scheme Truex should run at Homestead.
On this day thirteen years ago, if you were at “The Monster Mile” in Dover for the MBNA NASCAR RacePoints 400, you were witnessing history. On that day, in the 43rd and final starting spot, Furniture Row Racing made their first-ever Cup Series start.

There wasn’t much press coverage of the brown-and-gold Chevrolet that Kenny Wallace was driving that weekend. At the time, Furniture Row Racing was one of a number of start-up programs which had sprung up after a recession in 2004. As the team looks to finish strong in their final year in operation, we look back today on how it all began.

Furniture Row Racing’s first mention on Jayski came on January 1, 2005, when Joe Garone announced he was leaving his job as Director of Competition for Michael Waltrip Racing to become the new team’s crew chief. Garone, whose resume included work with Bill Elliott and NASCAR’s R&D center, would be paired with fellow Colorado native Jerry Robertson, who won the last two consecutive titles in NASCAR’s Northwest Regional Championship Series.

The founding of the team signaled the ascendancy of Furniture Row itself, a parent company of several furniture store chains belonging to Colorado businessman Barney Visser. Visser began the company in 1972, and over the years acquired specialty stores Sofa Mart, Bedroom Expressions, Oak Express, and Denver Mattress Co. With these properties, Visser opened several furniture mini-malls (or “rows”) – more than forty across the country by the end of 2005. Full-page newspaper advertisements for these stores proudly announced the “Inaugural Season” of Furniture Row Racing, showing Robertson standing next to the new No. 78 Chevrolet. The font on the door numbers has remained the same to this day.

Jerry Robertson and Furniture Row Racing's Inaugural 2005 season
PHOTO: Furniture Row Full-Page Ad
This Inaugural Season was similar to that of many start-up operations of the time – a part-time operation with goals of running full-time the following year. Robertson would start out in what is now the NASCAR XFINITY Series, where he’d made just five starts dating back to 1997, when he ran a career-best 22nd in his debut at Las Vegas. He’d be entered in fifteen of the season’s thirty-four races, starting with the third round in Vegas. Robertson missed the cut that day, third-fastest of the eight drivers who failed to qualify. Driver and team bounced back three races later at the Nashville Superspeedway, where Robertson impressed with a 24th-place starting spot. He’d finish 33rd, out just short of the finish with a blown engine.

Throughout the 2005 campaign, Robertson, Garone, and Visser endured the growing pains of a new operation. Though he matched his career-best 22nd at Fontana, Robertson failed to finish three times because of crashes and failed to qualify another four, including the season finale. Undeterred, Furniture Row eyed the next phase of their development – making the jump to Cup. Ultimately, Robertson would play just a small role in that jump, making a single Cup race at Phoenix with a 41st-place finish. The team’s debut would go to someone else.

The news broke on Jayski on September 22, three days before the race. Furniture Row signed series veteran Kenny Wallace to a five-race deal, again with sights set on a larger commitment for 2006. Tim Weiss, who began the year with Eric McClure, served as crew chief.

“The intention is to compete at the highest level in our sport and this leads us to the Nextel Cup Series,” said Joe Garone. “In building a strong foundation for competitive participation, Kenny Wallace brings with him the talent and experience that any team could use to advance or build a program.”

But for the technical differences between the series, the car Wallace drove was visually identical to Robertson’s machine, the Furniture Row logo on a brown-and-gold Chevrolet. The car also had some difficulty getting out on the track in qualifying. Scheduled to go out 37th of the 48 entered drivers, Wallace went out 43rd. SPEED Channel’s coverage of qualifying returned from commercial just in time to see Wallace complete his run. “You talk about guys who had to come a long way,” remarked Jeff Hammond, “this car here is being kept out in Colorado.” With that, it was on to Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Wallace sat on a best lap of 151.725mph (23.727 seconds), which at the time was only good for 39th on the grid – by no means locked-in. In fact, the lap only locked-in eventual 40th-place starter Stanton Barrett, who was fielding his own unsponsored No. 95 Chevrolet. After Junior locked-up the fourth spot, the team’s eyes were fixed on Hermie Sadler, driving for another new operation – Front Row Motorsports. In the end, Sadler’s No. 92 could only post a best lap of 150.816mph (23.870 seconds), good enough only for 45th. Wallace had made it in by less than two-tenths of a second.
Kenny Wallace starts last at Dover in Furniture Row's first Cup start

“We’ll be testing before every race to make sure the car is competitive, so we do this Cup deal right,” said Wallace during the weekend.

On race day, Wallace climbed aboard the No. 78 for his first Cup start in eighteen races, dating back to a 27th-place effort for Michael Waltrip at Darlington. The starting grid graphic by TNT didn’t use Furniture Row’s now-iconic italicized numbers, only the default font for new teams such as theirs. Wallace gained three spots at the start thanks to pre-race penalties for Mike Bliss, Bobby Hamilton, Jr., and Kenny’s older brother Mike Wallace. And though Kenny was told to pick up his speed on Lap 52, the No. 78 came home under power in 34th, 23 laps down to race winner Jimmie Johnson.

When the checkers fall at Homestead, Furniture Row Racing will have made a combined 450 starts since that day at Dover. But perhaps none were more important than that day in 2005.

*2005 Pepsi 300 at Nashville Qualifying, SPEED
*2005 MBNA NASCAR RacePoints 400 at Dover Qualifying, SPEED
*2005 MBNA NASCAR RacePoints 400 at Dover, TNT
*Furniture Row Full-Page Advertisements, 2005 and 2006
*“Furniture Row center opens,” The Courier, May 10, 2005.
*Jayski’s Silly Season Site
*Jerry Robertson Furniture Row Racing Blog
*Wallenfang, Maureen. “Stores seek bigger, better locations,” Herald Times, November 13, 2005.

K&N EAST: Ruben Garcia Jr. finishes last for the first time after 40 starts

Garcia after bringing out the Lap 24 caution.
PHOTO: Vincent Bruins
by William Soquet Guest Contributor

Ruben Garcia Jr. finished last for the first time in his NASCAR K&N Pro Series East career during Saturday’s Apple Barrel 125 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway when his #6 Max Siegel Inc. Toyota finished running 34 laps off the pace, completing 95 of 129 laps. The finish came in Garcia’s 41st career start.

Mexico City, Mexico-born Ruben Garcia Jr. has been around the block more than one would expect from a 22-year-old. He is a seven-year veteran of the NASCAR Mexico Series and won the championship in 2015 on the day after his 20th birthday. He also currently leads the point standings in that series after seven races. The year before that, Garcia became the youngest Mexican-born driver to start a NASCAR national series race, making three little-publicized starts in 2014: his debut for Rick Ware Racing, and two later starts for SR2 Motorsports. Starting in 2016, Garcia has run for Rev Racing in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series, winning his first race earlier this year at Memphis.
The Apple Barrel 125 was run as part of a New Hampshire tripleheader with the Whelen Modified Musket 250 and the Pinty’s Series Visit New Hampshire 100.

Perhaps because of that, or perhaps not, the entry list for the K&N Pro race was a solid 20 cars strong. Three cars wound up withdrawing: NextGen Motorsports (remember when they were going to run Xfinity and Trucks this year?) scaled back their efforts from three to two cars, Ernie Francis Jr. was unable to make a ride work with Rev Racing, and Bill Hoff had yet another weekend when his #71 machine was unable to compete. On the flip side, some teams expanded their efforts. DGR-Crosley entered four cars, two for regular drivers Tyler Ankrum and Tyler Dippel and two part-time cars: the #1 for Derek Kraus, and the #98 for Riley Herbst. MDM Motorsports ran a second car for Sam Mayer, and NextGen Motorsports fielded two entries: one for regular driver Juan Manuel Gonzalez and one for Frenchman Thomas Ferrando, making his East debut.

First practice was, well, an East practice. Chase Cabre, who up to this point had not shown a lot of speed this year, led the session, with Gonzalez anchoring the field nearly a second and a half behind.

Second practice was even more strung out, with Gonzalez trailing Derek Kraus by 1.6 seconds. The 25 car also qualified last, losing more than 1.9 seconds to Kraus on his qualifying lap.

Garcia started eighth but had worked his way up to sixth by Lap 22, when the team noted a low tire and expressed the need to pit. That opportunity never came, as on lap 24 Garcia spun in to the wall. His car was towed behind the wall for repairs and came back out on track later, out of contention for the rest of the race.

Thomas Ferrando was the only car that failed to finish, his #25 tagging the wall five laps short of the scheduled distance. Gonzalez finished four laps down under power, Ryan Vargas was the only car a lap down and Tyler Ankrum was the last car on the lead lap after having a late incident with his DGR-Crosley teammate Tyler Dippel.

With one race to go, all three LASTCAR championships are up for grabs. Chevrolet and Toyota both have six last-place finishes apiece. Four teams, including two full-time, multi-entrant teams, have two last-place finishes apiece. And for drivers? Colin Garrett, Dillon Bassett and Spencer Davis could all claim the title with a last-place finish. If none finish last and Garrett finishes in the Bottom Five, the title is his. If not, Dillon Bassett will win.

17) #6-Ruben Garcia Jr. / 95 laps / running
16) #25-Thomas Ferrando / 120 laps / crash
15) #25-Juan Manuel Gonzalez / 125 laps / running
14) #2-Ryan Vargas / 128 laps / running
13) #17-Tyler Ankrum / 129 laps / running

1st) Danny Watts Racing, Hunt-Sellers Racing, Rev Racing, Ronnie Bassett Sr. (2)
2nd) Bill McAnally Racing, Chuck Buchanan Jr., Carroll Motorsports, Ace Motorsports, Rev Racing, Rette Jones Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet, Toyota (6)
2nd) Ford (1)


Saturday, September 22, 2018

CUP: Gray Gaulding hands car #52 its first Cup Series last-place finish since 1996

PHOTO: @RickWareRacing
Gray Gaulding picked up the 4th last-place finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career in Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at the Richmond Raceway when his #52 Live! Hotel & Casino Ford fell out with brake failure after he completed 289 of the race’s 400 laps.

The finish, which occurred in Gaulding’s 49th series start, was his third of the season and first since the night race at Bristol, four races ago. In the Cup Series last-place rankings, it was the 26th for car #52, the 77th because of brake failure, and the 684th for Ford. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 52nd for the #52, the 157th from brake failure, and the 943rd for Ford.

The run, Gaulding's third-straight last-place run for as many different teams, vaulted him to 2nd in the 2018 LASTCAR Cup Series Championship, one finish away from taking the lead from Corey LaJoie on a bottom-five tiebreaker.

Following his early exit at Bristol, Gaulding had been slated to run StarCom Racing’s #99 a second time at Indianapolis, but the team withdrew, perhaps in anticipation of the heavy rains that wreaked havoc with the weekend. Richmond would mark the first time Gaulding had been entered in NASCAR since. He would drive Rick Ware Racing’s second “open” car, a ride which debuted at Sonoma. The car was originally slated for B.J. McLeod with sponsorship from Jacob Companies until Gaulding was swapped in on Thursday.

In place of the Jacob backing, Gaulding’s car would carry a new look with sponsorship from the Live! Casino and Hotel outside Baltimore. He would also be teamed with XFINITY Series regular Cole Custer, making his third and final Cup start of 2018. Custer would impress in qualifying, running 14th in Round 1, then jumping to 3rd in Round 2 to make the final round. Custer’s #51 Jacob Companies Ford would line up 10th, far and away the best Cup qualifying effort by Rick Ware Racing (previous was a 26th at Pocono by McLeod earlier this year). The team’s overall best remains 8th, earned both in the Truck Series by Michael Dokken at Loudon on July 8, 2000, and by Kerry Earnhardt in the XFINITY Series’ round at Daytona on July 3, 2009. Custer would finish 26th.

Throughout the weekend, however, Gaulding was unable to match Custer’s pace. He started the weekend 38th on the time sheets in both the first and second practice, then qualified 33rd with a speed of 117.739mph (22.932 seconds). With exactly 40 starters for as many spots, no drivers were sent home after time trials.

The 40th starting spot changed hands after some post-qualifying technical infractions. The spot originally went to Timmy Hill, who turned the slowest overall lap of 116.989mph (23.079 seconds). However, Hill’s #66 Ternio Toyota was lifted to 37th by race day as three other starters lined up behind him: Round 1 winner Daniel Suarez (#19 Comcast Toyota), 33rd-place Regan Smith (#95 FDNY Foundation Chevrolet), and 27th-place David Ragan (#38 The Pete Store Ford). With Suarez, Smith, and Ragan’s laps disallowed, Ragan took the 40th spot on Owner Points. Kyle Busch, originally listed in the 11th spot, was sent to the back for unapproved adjustments after he smacked the wall on his qualifying lap, forcing the team to make repairs.

At the end of the first lap on Saturday, Smith, Suarez, and Ragan were already up to 33rd through 35th with Busch even higher up the rankings. The last spot now belonged to Alon Day, the Israeli champion of NASCAR’s Whelen Euro Series, who was returning to the Cup Series for the first time since his debut at Sonoma last year. Then as on Saturday, Day drove the #23, now under new management with Front Row Motorsports and carrying sponsorship from Best Bully Sticks. Day held last for the opening stint, but was catching 39th-place Hill on Lap 15. The two were still nose-to-tail on the 17th circuit when race leaders Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex, Jr. caught them both in Turn 1, pulled to the outside, and put them a lap down. Day lost a second circuit by Lap 35, and a third by Lap 53.

The next contender was Joey Gase, who was swapped into StarCom Racing’s #00 Eternal Fan Chevrolet, moving regular driver Landon Cassill to the #99 StarCom Fiber Chevrolet. Following a weekend of promotions where Gase’s sponsor celebrated their contributions to Richmond Raceway’s redevelopment, Gase took last by Lap 59 following a pit stop for four tires and a right-rear wedge adjustment. Gaulding then entered the battle on Lap 72, followed by Cassill on Lap 73. Gaulding, who had earlier raced Hill for the 38th spot, retook the 40th spot on Lap 81. He would hold it for the rest of the night, though would not lock up the spot until much later.

Saturday’s race featured several long green-flag runs, and much of the pack found themselves multiple laps down. Gaulding lost his sixth lap on Lap 96, just before the end of Stage 1. He lost his seventh on Lap 130, his eighth by Lap 154, and was up to 11 down after he completed a Lap 175 pit stop. He’d lose a 12th just before the end of Stage 2. Past the halfway point, Gaulding went down a 14th time by Lap 231, a 14th by Lap 249, a 15th by Lap 268, and a 16th after his next pit stop on Lap 275. The 17th came on Lap 283, and an 18th on Lap 300.

Jeff Gluck then reported that Gaulding had flames coming from the right-front wheel of his car, forcing the Ware team to call their driver to the garage. The #52 made the left turn on Lap 309, averting a caution. The crew radioed that they had difficulty summoning fire crews to the scene to extinguish their smoldering brakes, and it was some time before the crew could remove the right-front wheel. The team then said they would let the car “cool down” before inspecting the brake lines. But by Lap 325, Gaulding had been pulled off RaceView, and was listed out on NBC Sports’ leaderboard by the final 35 laps.

Other than a late spin by 37th-place finisher Jeffrey Earnhardt in the Gaunt Brothers’ #96 Xtreme Concepts / iK9 Toyota, the race remained clean to the finish with Gaulding the only retiree. Timmy Hill took the 39th spot, 18 laps down to race winner Kyle Busch. Day ran 38th, one lap in front of Hill, with Earnhardt and 36th-place Landon Cassill another four laps in front of Day.
Jack Sprague's #52 eliminated by a crash at Atlanta in 1996
PHOTO: ESPN, video on YouTube from BigTNASCAR

*Prior to Saturday, the #52 hadn’t finished last in a Cup Series race since November 10, 1996, when Truck Series champion Jack Sprague, driving a Pedigree / Kal Kan Pet Care Pontiac, was involved in a two-car accident after 23 laps of the NAPA 500 at Atlanta. The race was Sprague’s second Cup start, one week after piloting the Rick Hendrick-prepared machine to a 23rd-place run at Phoenix.
*The #52 hadn’t finished last in a Cup race at Richmond since March 8, 1992, when Jimmy Means/ Funshine RV Pontiac lost the engine after 93 laps of the Pontiac Excitement 400.
*The 289 laps completed by Gaulding are the third-most by a Cup Series last-placer at Richmond, trailing only A.J. Allmendinger’s 335 laps on September 7, 2008 and Reed Sorenson’s 390 laps on April 24, 2016.

40) #52-Gray Gaulding / 289 laps / brakes
39) #66-Timmy Hill / 382 laps / running
38) #23-Alon Day / 383 laps / running
37) #96-Jeffrey Earnhardt / 387 laps / running
36) #99-Landon Cassill / 387 laps / running

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

1st) Chevrolet (16)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (6)


XFINITY: Morgan Shepherd helps a fellow driver before a short night in Richmond

PHOTO: Terry Walker
Morgan Shepherd picked up the 18th last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Friday’s GoBowling 250 at the Richmond Raceway when his #89 Chevrolet fell out with handling problems after 22 of the race’s 250 laps.

The finish, which occurred in Shepherd’s 438th series start, was his first of the season, and his first since August 12, 2017 at Mid-Ohio, 39 races ago. In the XFINITY Series last-place rankings, it was the 11th for car #89, the 52nd from handling issues, and the 513th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 33rd for the #89, the 121st for handling issues, and the 1,627th for Chevrolet.

Coming up on his 77th birthday in three weeks, Shepherd has continued to run his humble XFINITY Series operation in an ever-changing sport. This year, with returning sponsorship from Visone RV Used Motorhome Parts and a small trailer, the #89 has debuted its first composite-bodied car, maintaining the gold-and-black paint scheme he ran in his 50th season of competition last year. Shepherd has entered all but two races this year, passing on Road America and Las Vegas, and coming into Richmond took the green flag in 16 of the first 26 races.

Though Shepherd has often exited during Stage 1, garnering finishes no better than 37th, he surprised at Indianapolis by running the opening stage to completion, running as high as 11th before fuel pump issues left him a season-best 32nd. These and other stories have been chronicled this year by Brian Wertman, Shepherd’s crew chief, spotter, and tire specialist, who has posted a number of updates from the #89 team on his Facebook page.

After not making the trip west to Las Vegas, Shepherd looked to make his 24th series start at Richmond, a track where he won an XFINITY race on September 10, 1983, edging Tommy Ellis. Through the first decade of the XFINITY series’ existence, Shepherd earned three top-five finishes and four Top Tens. Since 2003, his best finish at the track was a 24th-place showing on September 9, 2011, when he ran four laps down to Kyle Busch.

On top of preparing the #89, Shepherd’s crew was helping a driver try and make their first NASCAR start. The 41st and lowest-ranked driver on the entry list was “Night Train” Cody Lane, a part-time competitor in the ARCA Racing Series, who had not attempted to make a NASCAR race since 2015. Lane fielded a car from his own team, TGT Motorsports. His Camaro was run on a 2011 Chevrolet chassis, by far the oldest in the field. The only decals on the black car were the TGT team logo on the hood and Cody Lane Racing behind the rear wheels. Lane unveiled the car on his Facebook page this past January.

Lane went out on the track during Friday’s opening practice, but lost control off the second corner and smacked the outside wall with the driver’s side. Lane was apparently uninjured, but his car was damaged too heavily to qualify, forcing the team to withdraw. A photo of the driver’s side showed the left-rear tire flat and pulled from the rim, perhaps the cause of the accident.

Cody Lane's car was withdrawn after this accident at Richmond.
PHOTO: Brian Wertman, special thanks Brandon Chrasta
Lane’s withdrawal secured the remaining 40 cars a spot in the field including Dale Earnhardt, Jr., making his first NASCAR start since he retired from full-time competition last fall at Homestead. Shepherd, lined up next to Earnhardt on pit road, ran a strong 26th in the opening practice, then maintained 26th of the 31 who ran in Happy Hour. The #89 settled into the 33rd qualifying position with a speed of 113.991mph (23.686 seconds), the final car qualified on speed instead of Owner Points.

Starting last was Carl Long, his #66 from his team Motorsports Business Management team the only Dodge in the field. Long had swapped rides with teammate Timmy Hill, who also ran well in the first practice with the 23rd-best time in the #13. Hill, who rolled off 36th, would start last in Saturday’s Cup race, this time driving MBM’s #66.

Before the race started, both 21st-place starter Ryan Reed (#16 Lilly Diabetes Ford) and Las Vegas winner Ross Chastain (#42 DC Solar Chevrolet), scheduled to start 3rd, were sent to the back for unapproved adjustments.

Long remained last when the green flag actually fell, 5.316 seconds back of the lead, with Shepherd having already dropped from 33rd to 39th, 5.013 seconds back. By the end of the first lap, Long held down last by a half-second behind Shepherd with Mike Harmon (#74 Shadow Warriors Project Chevrolet), Timmy Hill, and this year’s LASTCAR XFINITY Series Champion Jeff Green (#93 RSS Racing Chevrolet) rounding out the Bottom Five.

Ultimately, Shepherd was the first to retire from the race, completing 22 laps, edging Green by six laps. According to a video taken by Seth Sharp, Shepherd climbed from his car and got on his bicycle, which he proceeded to ride around the infield.

Hill took 38th, followed by Vinnie Miller, his fifth DNF in the last eight starts, driving JD Motorsports’ #01 JAS Expedited Trucking Chevrolet. Long rounded out the Bottom Five, pulling off the track just short of the 100-lap mark.

Turning in a strong run was David Starr, who averted near-disaster after contact from Matt Tifft nearly sent him into a spin. Piloting Jimmy Means Racing’s #52 Extreme Kleaner Chevrolet, Starr turned in a 20th-place finish, the team’s second top-twenty finish in three races following an 18th-place showing in Indianapolis. The team’s best run of the year remains their 17th in the season opener in Daytona.

One spot in front of Starr came late model racer Mason Diaz, who made his XFINITY Series debut in DGM Racing’s #90 Solid Rock Carriers Chevrolet. One year after finishing 23rd in his Truck Series debut at Martinsville, the Manassas, Virginia driver turned in a 19th-place finish. It was the fifth top-twenty finish for the team in the past seven races. The season-best remains Andy Lally’s 10th-place showing at Road America.

*This marked Shepherd’s first-ever XFINITY Series last-place run at Richmond. He’d finished next-to-last in his previous two starts here in the spring of 2016 and 2018. It was also the first XFINITY last-place run at Richmond for the #89.

40) #89-Morgan Shepherd / 22 laps / handling
39) #93-Jeff Green / 28 laps / vibration
38) #13-Timmy Hill / 85 laps / electrical
37) #01-Vinnie Miller / 91 laps / engine
36) #66-Carl Long / 98 laps / overheating

1st) RSS Racing (13)
2nd) JP Motorsports (3)
3rd) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Roush-Fenway Racing (2)
4th) Fury Race Cars LLC, Jeremy Clements Racing, JGL Racing, JR Motorsports, Mike Harmon Racing, Shepherd Racing Ventures, SS-Green Light Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (19)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (4)


Thursday, September 20, 2018

PREVIEW: A number of returning faces dot the Richmond entry lists

PHOTO: @RyanSiegRacing
Friday, September 21, 2018
XFINITY Race 27 of 33
Round of 12, Race 1 of 3 250 at Richmond
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Jeff Green

One week after the entry list just barely reached 40 starters, there are 41 drivers entered for 40 spots this week, meaning one will miss the show.

DRIVER CHANGE: #4-JD Motorsports
Welcome back Quin Houff, who returns to the XFINITY Series for the first time since last fall at Kansas, his final race with Rick Gdovic’s shuttered Precision Performance Racing team. Houff brings with him returning backing from the initiative, and takes the place of Landon Cassill in Johnny Davis’ #4. Ross Chastain, last week’s winner, remains in the Chip Ganassi #42 for the first race of the Playoffs.

DRIVER CHANGE: #13-Motorsports Business Management
DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
As of this writing, Carl Long is the listed driver of the #13, though he has been swapped out as a placeholder multiple times in recent weeks. Las Vegas saw Stan Mullis behind the wheel for the third time in 2018, yielding a 37th-place finish. UPDATE: Timmy Hill will drive the car in Mullis' place. Long will drive the #66. Mullis is not entered.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-JD Motorsports
After two successful races at Mid-Ohio and Road America, Katherine Legge is back to make her oval-track debut in NASCAR. She takes the place of B.J. McLeod in Johnny Davis’ #15, the same team she drove for in both races.

MISSING: #26-Tullman Walker Racing
Max Tullman’s team rebounded from a crash in Iowa to finish 23rd in Las Vegas, a new team-best. Neither Tullman nor the Tullman Walker team is entered this week.

NEW TEAM: #27-TGT Motorsports
Florida native Cody Lane has been absent from NASCAR’s top three series since 2015, when he attempted his only Truck Series start at Bristol, but missed the cut. Then as now, he returns to action with an independent team, running the #27, and looking to make his way into his first XFINITY Series race. What's more, the preliminary lust shows him entered in a 2011 Chevrolet, by far theboldest car in the field. Lane has five ARCA Racing Series starts to his credit with a best finish of 14th at Winchester in 2013.

TEAM UPDATE: #55-JP Motorsports
As of this writing, Stephen Leicht is listed as a possible placeholder for the #55 from JP Motorsports. With the Truck Series off for the week, Bayley Currey is likely to drive for a fourth-consecutive race following a 24th-place run in Las Vegas, his second-best of the season. UPDATE: Currey is again driving the #55.

DRIVER CHANGE: #60-Roush-Fenway Racing
Ty Majeski returns for his eighth XFINITY start of the year and first since Road America, where he ran 28th. It will be Majeski’s first series start at Richmond. He takes the place of Chase Briscoe, who suffered a devastating crash on the backstretch in Las Vegas, and is not racing this weekend.

MISSING: #72-Motorsports Business Management
John Jackson kept field at 40 in Las Vegas when Carl Long entered his part-time fourth car, bringing home a 38th-place finish. Neither Jackson nor the #72 are entered this week.

DRIVER CHANGE: #78-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
One week after K&N Pro Series West driver Cole Rouse took home a 21st-place finish in his first national touring series start, Matt Mills will drive B.J. McLeod’s flagship entry. Mills returns to the series for the first time since Michigan, where a mid-race accident left him 36th in his final start for JD Motorsports. Mills’ only previous Richmond start came in the spring of last year, when he steered McLeod’s #8 to a 31st-place finish.

RETURNING: #88-JR Motorsports
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was still under contract with sponsor Hellmann’s Mayonnaise to run this race at the time he announced his retirement in 2017. Thus, on top of his announcer duties for NBC Sports, he will climb back behind the wheel for the first time since his final Cup start last fall in Homestead. Junior led 128 laps here in the spring of 2016 en route to victory, and last fall ran 7th. JR Motorsports worked out a deal with Penske Racing to get T.J. Majors to spot for him, but former crew chief Steve Letarte will stay in the booth. Mike Bumgarner is listed as the crew chief.

RETURNING: #89-Shepherd Racing Ventures
Morgan Shepherd is back on the entry list after he did not enter the #89 in Las Vegas. Shepherd is a past series winner at Richmond, taking the checkers over Tommy Ellis on September 10, 1983, and has made 23 starts in the series at “The Action Track.”

It was announced earlier this week that Mason Diaz will make his XFINITY Series debut, just under a year since he ran 23rd in his Truck Series debut at Martinsville. Most recently, Diaz competed in a pair of late model races at Hickory on August 4, finishing 14th in Late Model Stocks and 22nd in Super Late Models. Solid Rock Carriers, which backed his CARS efforts, will sponsor the #90 this week as he takes the place of Josh Williams, who ran 20th in Vegas.

Saturday, September 22, 2018
CUP Race 28 of 36
Round of 16, Race 2 of 3
Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Landon Cassill

There are exactly 40 entrants for the 40-car starting lineup, the sixth-consecutive full field of the 2018 campaign. Just 38 took the green here in the spring.

DRIVER CHANGE: #6-Roush-Fenway Racing
Two-time Richmond fall winner Matt Kenseth returns to the #6 this week in place of Trevor Bayne, who survived Las Vegas to earn a 13th-place finish. It will be Kenseth’s 11th start of the season and first since Indy, where he ran 12th. Roush team backers Performance Plus Motor Oil will be the listed sponsor.

MISSING: #7-Premium Motorsports
Jay Robinson has not entered their second “open” car piloted by Reed Sorenson at Las Vegas to a 31st-place finish. The car had been entered in 11 of the last 13 races and was withdrawn twice in that span. Jeffrey Earnhardt’s 11th-place showing at Daytona in July remains the team’s only run better than 28th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #23-Front Row Motorsports
Welcome back Alon Day, the Israeli star of NASCAR’s Whelen Euro Series. Just over a year since his Cup debut at Sonoma where he ran 32nd, Day rejoins what was BK Racing for his first oval-track start in Cup competition. Previous to this, he has run both Loudon and Homestead in the Truck Series in 2016, finishing 24th and 26th, respectively. Best Billy Sticks is the listed sponsor for the Bob Jenkins-owned effort.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Rick Ware Racing
RETURNING: #52-Rick Ware Racing
B.J. McLeod moves from the #51 Ford to the #52 Chevrolet, making way for XFINITY Series regular Cole Custer. We haven’t seen Custer in the Cup Series since Pocono in June, when he piloted the #51 to a 26th-place finish. Both his and McLeod’s cars are both backed by Jacob Companies. UPDATE: Gray Gaulding will take McLeod's place in the #52 for his first Cup start since Bristol, and welcomes sponsorship from Live Casino. Custer's run in the #51 will be his last Cup start of 2018.

DRIVER CHANGE: #99-StarCom Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #00-StarCom Racing
As at Daytona this past July, Landon Cassill moves from the Chartered #00 to the “open” #99 this week (taking the place of Kyle Weatherman) to make way for Joey Gase. Gase brings with him returning sponsor Eternal Fan, which has partnered with the Richmond Raceway in its recent upgrade.

Saturday, October 13, 2018
TRUCKS Race 19 of 23
Round of 8, Race 3 of 3
Talladega 250 at Talladega
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Norm Benning

The Truck Series returns three weeks from Saturday for “Truckadega,” where two drivers will be eliminated from Playoff contention.

Last week’s Cup Series playoff opener saw a number of tire issues which led to crashes. While the sheer number of crashes caused by tires is inseparable statistically, there are five last-place runs that specifically cited a “tire” or “tires” as the cause. A single “tire” was to blame for Joe Staton’s #94 Nash falling out at Darlington on May 10, 1952, Jimmie Lewallen’s #5 Mercury at Columbia (SC) Speedway on March 26, 1955, and Pepper Cunningham’s #6 Chrysler at Langhorne on April 24, 1955. “Tires” in the plural occurred two other times, capturing Joe Gillow’s Ford at New York’s Wine Creek Race Track on July 4, 1952 and Possum Jones’ #05 Pontiac at Columbia on August 8, 1963. These are separate and apart from the “no tires” reason listed by a frustrated Joe Frasson at Bristol on August 29, 1976.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

OPINION: ARCA needs to suspend Zane Smith for the season

PHOTO: Peyton Turnage
by William Soquet Guest Contributor

Short track racing. We love it because of its close-quarter, fender-banging racing. Sometimes, that leads to wrecks. Oftentimes, those responsible for the wrecks have to go to the back of the field, or, if it is their second or third incident of the night, are sent home. That rule even applies to most prestigious super late model races, as a testament to how much promoters value clean but hard racing. That buck stops once you get into NASCAR-sanctioned competition. Why? Cars are fragile enough that chances are if you spin someone out, you’re also going to have damage. Also, most drivers are mature enough to either not intentionally wreck someone or make it look unintentional.

Bring the ARCA Racing Series in to the equation. Most fans love it because it's the closest you will get to finding a local track-like atmosphere in big league racing. Similarly, local drivers often show up for one-offs at tracks that they race on weekly. It’s also grown notorious for the sanctioning body’s rough-and-tumble way of play, becoming a haven for some of the ugliest on-track confrontations in recent memory. Recall Scott Speed and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.'s tangle in 2008, after which ARCA parked Speed for the remainder of that race, showing that to a certain actions are deemed detrimental and worthy of penalty.

Two races ago at Berlin, Joe Graf, Jr. nudged not one but two cars out of the way for the win. While some viewed the move as too aggressive, others called it plain old short-track racing. While Graf was penalized heavily in the court of public opinion, no ruling came down from the sanctioning body. It was the right move because while the driver was maybe a bit too aggressive, no cars were totaled and the resulting position losses from being moved out of the groove were not enough to call for a penalty.

This brings us to last Saturday's incident in Salem between Michael Self and Zane Smith. Self was, by all accounts, not having the greatest of nights. It was his first ARCA start since Iowa, two months ago, and it was his first appearance at Salem, which is by no means an easy track to master. Needless to say, the driver of the #55 car was using the bumper religiously throughout the race. Early in the race, Smith spun Self out. Later on, Self spun Smith's #41 into the wall.

To be fair, Smith, at this point in the year, was frustrated. A rough couple of dirt races had seen him fall farther and farther behind teammate Sheldon Creed for the points lead. Although point standings from before last night’s race are unavailable, it is safe to say that Smith’s championship hopes purely relied on Creed having mechanical failures. He had also just been wrecked by a driver from his ex-team, one he left thirteen months ago.

But this was where things became unacceptable.

Back in Zane Smith's pit, the MDM Motorsports crew worked feverishly to get its only non-throwback car out on the track for the express purpose of ending Self’s night. When they got the car rolling again with approximately twenty laps to go, Smith slowly motored around the racetrack until the 55 machine passed him, something this author is liable to do in video games. He then set up an approach so that he could create maximum damage in the corner. And sure enough, just like Matt Kenseth at Martinsville, Zane Smith ended Michael Self’s race by hooking him into the wall. Self eventually slid back into the racing groove, liable to be t-boned by the field.

The 41 car then stopped in the 55’s pit to discuss things – you know, just a casual Harvick-Chastain or Harvick-Dillon deal. When later interviewed by MAVTV, Smith bragged about the incident, saying “I went back out and ended his night.” Brendan Gaughan after his run-in with Ross Chastain last year, anyone?

Potentially the worst part about this is the hypocrisy shown on the driver’s end of things. Just weeks after complaining about Joe Graf wrecking people, Smith goes out and demolishes a car. He also posted a “hate me or love me, I had to do it” post, which is about typical for someone his age and background. He was also handing out blocks aplenty on Twitter last night, unable to deal with negative attention. Smith has always been in the best equipment, the epitome of a well-groomed prospect. His cocky attitude has ruffled more than a few feathers within the racing community, and when he tries to show change, he reverses course afterwards with this.

A similar incident in Moto GP a couple weeks ago, where one competitor grabbed another’s brake lever, earned a two-race suspension. So did Kenseth’s actions on Joey Logano at Martinsville 2015. Smith’s actions should garner the same discipline. ARCA can take a stand and show that it will not tolerate unsafe behavior, nor will it be beholden to teams that drive interest. It is utterly inexcusable to do what Zane Smith did and he should be reprimanded accordingly – because real life should not be a video game.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

CUP: Playoff polesitter Erik Jones’ strong Las Vegas weekend ends in the garage

PHOTO: NBC Sports, screenshot by @NASCARONFOX
Big thanks to Guest Contributor William Soquet, who covered the last-place battle as I commuted to the Sonoma Raceway for Sunday’s IndyCar season finale.

Erik Jones picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s South Point 400 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway when his #20 DeWalt Toyota was involved in a two-car accident after he completed 147 of the race’s 272 laps.

The finish, which occurred in Jones’ 66th series start, was his first of the year and first since last summer at Loudon, 44 races ago. In the Cup Series last-place rankings, it was the 29th for car #20, the 151st for Toyota, and the 573rd because of a crash. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 47th for the #20, the 303rd for Toyota, and the 1,164th from a crash.

The promise Jones showed in his rookie Cup season driving a second car from Furniture Row Racing was realized this past July when the 22-year-old took the checkered flag in a wild Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona. The win locked Jones into the Playoffs for the first time, and was followed by six top-ten finishes in the next eight races. Just last Sunday at Indianapolis, Jones was running among the leaders on the final run to the checkers, where he slipped past teammate Denny Hamlin en route to a runner-up finish to Brad Keselowski.

Jones kept the momentum going last week, storming into Las Vegas with the 4th-fastest lap in opening practice, and after turning the 8th-best lap in Round 1 of qualifying, paced both Rounds 2 and 3 to earn his second career pole, his first since last summer at Bristol. His official lap clocked in at 188.121mph (28.705 seconds). Only outside-polesitter Joey Logano joined him above the 188mph mark. Jones ran 6th in Saturday’s second practice, then led Happy Hour with his first of 42 laps clocked. For all intents and purposes, Jones looked like he was going to have a strong run in the first round of the Playoffs.

On the other end of the field, the 40th spot belonged to Reed Sorenson, the only driver who didn’t turn a lap in Round 1. Sorenson was back in the unsponsored #7 Chevrolet which he piloted to a 28th-place run on Monday in Indianapolis. Joining him at the rear prior to the start were 38th-place starter B.J. McLeod for a new rear gear on the #51 Jacob Companies Ford, and 18th-place starter Austin Dillon’s for an unapproved body modification on his #3 DOWFROST Chevrolet.

As William Soquet tweeted, when the race started, the 40th spot fell to Timmy Hill, whose #66 Toyota was one of two “throwback” schemes from Darlington (the other being Landon Cassill’s #00 StarCom Fiber Chevrolet). Hill lost touch with Sorenson, who opened up a two-second gap between the pair, and Hill was the first to lose a lap in the first 12 circuits. Hill went to the garage by Lap 48 with gear issues. By the 100-lap mark, Hill returned to action, 36 laps down. With the rest of the field still running and more than half the race left to run, the last-place battle remained up for grabs.

It then appeared that Ty Dillon was headed to his second last-place run of the year and first since Kansas. Dillon brought out the race’s third caution on Lap 111 when the right-front tire blew in the tri-oval, sending his car hard into the outside wall. He managed to clear the “Crash Clock” and pulled into the garage for more repairs, having turned 119 laps. The crew then worked over the car, clearing metal from the right-front fender, tape-measuring the right-front, and putting on sticker tires. The team then inspected the ball joint, and Dillon got back in the seat when trouble broke out on the track.

On Lap 148, heading into Turn 1, Kevin Harvick blew a right-front tire of his own, his #4 Mobil 1 Ford smashing the outside wall in Turn 1. Erik Jones, running some distance behind Harvick, was committed to the outside lane of the gradient-banked corner. Unable to avoid the wreck, Jones plowed into the back of Harvick, destroying the front of his machine. Both drivers climbed out unhurt, but Jones expressed his frustration by throwing a bag of ice his team had handed him during a pit stop. Jones, running behind Harvick at the time, was classified behind the #4.

Back in the garage, Ty Dillon and crew pieced the #13 together, though they had taken last from Hill on Lap 159. Five circuits later on Lap 164, Dillon returned to the track, 45 laps down. For much of the rest of the race, the crew debated about if, and for how long, the car would run. A bottom-five finish would earn them no more points than they already had. But on Lap 193, Dillon passed both Jones and Harvick, dropping the #20 to last. The #13 spotter and crew remained mindful of other teams running at the back of the field, trying to determine how many more spots could be gained. They ended up 34th, earning three points instead of one.

Accidents plagued the final stage of Sunday’s race, many of them from further tire failures. The 38th spot, however, went to Bubba Wallace, whose #43 World Wide Technology Chevrolet suffered a right-front hub failure that caused a fire behind the wheel, forcing him behind the wall. William Byron ended up 37th after his #24 Axalta Chevrolet failed to clear the “Crash Clock” after banging the Turn 3 fence. Rounding out the group was Playoff contender Chase Elliott, whose #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet was collected by a spinning Jamie McMurray on Lap 212.

When the dust settled, the Top 20 featured a number of drivers and teams in much need of a strong finish.

Regan Smith’s second drive in place of a recovering Kasey Kahne put the Leavine Family Racing team’s #95 Procore Chevrolet in the 12th spot, the team’s best run since the Daytona night race.

Trevor Bayne, though confirmed not to be in the #6 next year, earned a 13th-place finish, his third top-twenty finish in his last four starts, and his second lead-lap run in a row.

Corey LaJoie ran 16th after thinking he’d only be able to race for 32nd on Twitter, not only LaJoie’s best run of the year but the best for TriStar since Texas.

J.J. Yeley ran 17th in only the third race since Bob Jenkins bought BK Racing, giving the #23 Toyota its best run of the year, and Yeley his best run since 2015 at Talladega.

Landon Cassill’s Darlington “throwback” placed 18th at the finish, last on the lead lap for StarCom Racing’s season-best finish, improving on a 20th-place showing at Bristol. It’s also the best-ever finish for Derrike Cope’s start-up team, which was first hit the track less than a year ago.

Rounding out the Top 20 was Ross Chastain, who completed a tremendous triple-header at Las Vegas. One day after earning his first XFINITY Series win by dominating Saturday’s DC Solar 300 and two days after piloting Premium Motorsports’ unsponsored #15 Chevrolet to a 7th-place run in the Truck Series race, Chastain finished 20th in the #15 Xchange of America Chevrolet. It is the second-best finish for the #15 team in 2018 behind Chastain’s 18th-place run in Texas.

*This marked the first last-place finish for car #20 in a Cup race since February 26, 2017, when Matt Kenseth’s own turn in the #20 DeWalt Toyota ended when he crashed after 103 laps of the Daytona 500. It’s also the second last-place run for the #20 in a Cup race at Las Vegas, following Tony Stewart’s wreck on March 2, 2008.
*Jones completed the second-most laps of any Cup Series last-placer at Las Vegas, just three fewer than Hut Stricklin’s 150 laps turned on March 1, 1998. Curiously, that day was the inaugural Cup race held at Las Vegas, and Sunday was the inaugural fall race at the track.
*Jones is the first polesitter to ever finish last in a Cup Series race at Las Vegas. He’s the first polesitter to finish last in a Cup race since October 23, 2016, when Martin Truex, Jr. lost an engine at Talladega.

40) #20-Erik Jones / 147 laps / crash
39) #4-Kevin Harvick / 147 laps / crash / led 14 laps
38) #43-Bubba Wallace / 164 laps / front hub
37) #24-William Byron / 210 laps / crash
36) #9-Chase Elliott / 211 laps / crash

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

1st) Chevrolet (16)
2nd) Toyota (6)
3rd) Ford (5)


K&N WEST: Thackeray a victim of track conditions at Las Vegas

Thackeray (foreground) withe Vanderwal (#43) and Shepherd (#27)
by William Soquet Guest Contributor

Hollis Thackeray finished last for the first time in his NASCAR K&N Pro Series West career in Thursday night’s Star Nursery 100 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Dirt Track when his #38 NAPA / Butte Auto Parts / Justeson Farms Toyota fell out with crash damage after 8 of 102 laps. The finish came in his fourth series start.

Hollis Shane Thackeray is not quite your typical NASCAR prospect. The 17-year-old hails from Gridley, California, north of San Francisco, and the one common thread throughout his racing career has been the number 38. From midgets to sprint cars to late models, Thackeray has used the number 38. He was also previously associated with GoShare, which has backed Tomy Drissi’s efforts in sports cars as well as Tanner Thorson’s in the truck series. When that association ended this year, he has since run two races in the #38 for his own family.

Twenty-six cars showed up on the entry list for this event. Per the norm, with this many entries, some withdrew. NextGen Motorsports withdrew one of their cars and Obaika Racing withdrew after a different team failed to follow through on their commitment of prepping a race-ready car. Bill McAnally Racing entered five cars, three for its series regulars and entries for NASCAR XFINITY drivers Christopher Bell and Brendan Gaughan. Sheldon Creed entered a car with Norman Levin Racing, and Vanessa Robinson and Cole Keatts returned with Jefferson Pitts Racing. A slew of drivers made debuts, including Buddy Shepherd, Tim Ward, David Hibbard and Michael Kofoid.

The weekend was quite the sight to behold. The spectacle of cars on dirt did not disappoint for most fans. Hailie Deegan was pegged as one of the favorites going into it and held up to the standard, claiming fast time in practice over Derek Kraus. She claimed the tops spot in time trials as well and won her heat race, claiming the official pole position. At the opposite end of the field was Hibbard, shotgun on the field for his NASCAR debut.

On the start was when everything broke loose. A cloud of dust settled over the back half the field, limiting visibility severely. As Kyle Larson said, it seemed as if those working at the track forgot that water trucks existed. Another attempt was foolishly made on lap six, which resulted in Thackeray, Kody Vanderwal and Shepherd getting tangled in turn one. Thackeray and Shepherd retired on the spot, while Vanderwal was able to repair his car and continued on to complete 59 laps. Both were awarded $1,100 for their efforts and called it a weekend.

24) #38-Hollis Thackeray / 8 laps / crash
23) #27-Buddy Shepherd / 8 laps / crash
22) #84-Rich DeLong III / 17 laps / crash
21) #83-Michael Kofoid / 51 laps / mechanical
20) #43-Kody Vnaderwal / 59 laps / running

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

1st) Chevrolet (7)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (2)


XFINITY: Michael Annett eliminated from Playoffs with first last-place run since 2010

Michael Annett picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s DC Solar 300 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway when his #5 Allstate Parts & Service Group Chevrolet was involved in a single-car accident after he completed 5 of 200 laps.

The finish, which occurred in Annett’s 222nd series start, was his first since April 25, 2010 at Talladega, 285 races ago. In the XFINITY Series last-place rankings, it was the 9th for car #5, the 320th from a crash, and the 512th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 32nd for the #5, the 1,163rd from a crash, and the 1,626th for Chevrolet.

In his second full XFINITY Series season since he returned to the division with JR Motorsports, Annett arrived in Las Vegas in a do-or-die situation. Following a vibration that eliminated him at Indianapolis, Annett had to win Vegas’ regular season finale to advance into the Playoffs. Throughout the 2018 season, Annett had failed to finish four times and led just nine laps. He’d also earned just two top-ten finishes, but each had come in the previous four races with a season-best 7th at Bristol and a 10th at Darlington. He arrived in Las Vegas, where he ran 13th in the spring, running a black-and-white Chevrolet with returning sponsor Allstate Parts & Service Group, which not only backed his XFINITY efforts but also his brief Cup Series ride with the now-shuttered HScott Motorsports.

Annett was one of 39 drivers on the preliminary entry list, a field which grew to a full complement of 40 after Motorsports Business Management entered a fourth car, the #72 CrashClaimsR.Us / James Carter Attorney Toyota with Scottish driver John Jackson behind the wheel. Of those 40 cars, Annett ran 19th in the opening practice and 13th in the second. He then improved steadily through qualifying, timing in 18th in Round 1, 11th in Round 2, and made it to 9th in Round 3 with a lap of 175.103mph (30.839 seconds). It was Annett’s best qualifying performance since Talladega, where he rolled off 5th.

Starting last was another MBM entry, the #13 OCR Gaz Bar Toyota. Driving the #13 was Stan Mullis, who was back on the XFINITY tour since running both Iowa races earlier this summer. Mullis was one of seven drivers who didn’t turn a lap in Round 1, all of them relying on Owner Points to fill out the field. Inspection problems plagued Ryan Preece (#18 Rheem Toyota), Daniel Hemric (#21 South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet), Brandon Jones (#19 Menards Mastercraft Doors Toyota), Matt Tifft (#2 KCMG Chevrolet) and Ryan Truex (#11 LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevrolet). Those five started 34th through 38th with 39th going to Garrett Smithley, sent to a backup car in the #0 Chevrolet. Smithley slammed the wall entering Turn 3 in practice, and needed a moment to catch his breath after climbing out.

Of the drivers starting in the rear for inspection issues, Matt Tifft incurred the heaviest penalty. Just like Brandon Jones at Darlington, Tifft’s #2 failed inspection four times, meaning the car would have to make a pass-through penalty at the start of the race. Tifft did not fall to the tail end of the grid for the start, but this proved moot when he was posted at the green flag and pulled down pit road on the first lap. One lap down, Tifft came out among the leaders and was tracking down race leader Cole Custer when, just like Jones at Darlington, the caution he needed came out.

On Lap 5, Michael Annett was in a tight battle for position on the inside of a three-wide battle with Ryan Preece to his right and the #39 Big Valley Towing Chevrolet of Ryan Sieg. Coming through the fourth corner, Annett broke loose and slid into Preece. The two locked doors, and Preece turned to the left, sending Annett sideway into the grass. Once the car turned toward the infield, the splitter dug in, destroying the nose of Annett’s car. The driver tried to keep going, but was soon trailing fluid and had to stop at the entrance to Turn 1. Annett climbed out, done for the day – and the Playoffs.

Finishing 39th was Jeff Green, now a seven-time LASTCAR XFINITY Series champion, who exited with a vibration on the ensuing green-flag run. 38th fell to John Jackson’s MBM entry, out 12 laps after Green. Mullis finished 37th, the third car in a row to retire citing a vibration. Timmy Hill held 36th for a time after turning 55 laps, threatening to put three of the four MBM cars in the Bottom Five, but returned late in Stage 3 to climb out of the spot. Dropping to 36th in Hill’s place was Matt Tifft, whose #2 was collected in a grinding Turn 4 wreck with Ryan Reed.

Taking the checkers was Ross Chastain, who after he was denied victory at Darlington, recovered in his very next start for Chip Ganassi. Chastain led 180 of 200 laps, winning both stages, and gapping Justin Allgaier by 1.629 seconds. It was Chastain’s 132nd series start and came in his fifth season on the tour.
Adrian Fernandez at Texas, 2005


*This marked the first last-place finish for the #5 in an XFINITY Series race since November 5, 2005, when open-wheel star Adrian Fernandez took a turn with Hendrick Motorsports and scored his first last-place run in the O’Reilly Challenge at Texas, where he crashed out after 15 laps. That race was also the last time a Hendrick car finished last in an XFINITY Series race.

40) #5-Michael Annett / 5 laps / crash
39) #93-Jeff Green / 18 laps / vibration
38) #72-John Jackson / 30 laps / vibration
37) #13-Stan Mullis / 51 laps / vibration
36) #2-Matt Tifft / 63 laps / crash

1st) RSS Racing (13)
2nd) JP Motorsports (3)
3rd) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Roush-Fenway Racing (2)
4th) Fury Race Cars LLC, Jeremy Clements Racing, JGL Racing, JR Motorsports, Mike Harmon Racing, SS-Green Light Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (18)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (4)