Thursday, September 6, 2018

PREVIEW: A handful of team updates at the Brickyard under shadow of Denver bombshell

PHOTO: The Decal Source (TDS)
Saturday, September 8, 2018
XFINITY Race 25 of 33
Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Jeff Green

There are 41 drivers entered for 40 spots, meaning that one team will be sent home. Time will tell as to if this will be the third-consecutive XFINITY Series race where that 41st team withdrew prior to qualifying.

DRIVER SWAP: #0-JD Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #01-JD Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #4-JD Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #42-Chip Ganassi Racing
One week after a near-perfect run in his very first start with Chip Ganassi Racing, winning the pole and the first two stages at Darlington, Ross Chastain returns to JD Motorsports at Indianapolis, making way for John Hunter Nemechek and sponsorship from Fire Alarm Services, Inc. Chastain reclaims his #4 ride from Garrett Smithley, who returns to the #0, moving Vinnie Miller back to the #01 in place of Cup driver Landon Cassill, who isn’t entered in Saturday’s race.

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #78-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Tommy Joe Martins moves from McLeod’s #8 to the #78 this week, taking the place of Cody Ware, who isn’t entered in Saturday’s race. Taking Martins’ place in the #8 is Caesar Bacarella, back on the circuit for the first time since Daytona in July, looking to make his fourth start of 2018. Bacarella has crashed out of his last two starts, but before that ran 13th in this year’s Daytona opener.

NEW TEAM: #10-Kaulig Racing
Matt Kaulig’s single-car team expands to a two-car operation for the first time, fielding a second Chevrolet alongside full-timer Ryan Truex in the #11 Leaf Filter Gutter Protection Chevrolet. Driving this new #10 car is Cup regular Austin Dillon, who brings with him sponsorship from Phone Skope and Berry’s Bullets.

RETURNING: #12-Penske Racing
DRIVER SWAP: #60-Roush-Fenway Racing
After he wrecked out in the opening laps of Saturday’s race in Darlington, Austin Cindric has finished driving the #60 for the year. This week, Cindric moves to the #12, which last ran three rounds ago at Bristol, and has yet to finish worse than 16th all season. Climbing aboard the #60 this week is Chase Briscoe with returning sponsorship from Nuti-Chomps. It will be Briscoe’s 12th XFINITY start of the season and first since the same Bristol night race.

RETURNING: #13-Motorsports Business Management
DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
MISSING: #72-Motorsports Business Management
The third car from the MBM stables changes back to the #13 after Timmy Hill ran the #72 Benny Parsons tribute at Darlington. Hill will drive the #13 Dodge after Carl Long was originally listed. The #66 Dodge goes to Brandon Hightower, his first start since Iowa. It will be the third different team Hightower has driven for in 2018, following JP Motorsports and JD Motorsports.

DRIVER CHANGE: #18-Joe Gibbs Racing
Ryan Preece rejoins the JGR bunch at Indianapolis with returning sponsorship from Rheem. Preece, set to make his seventh XFINITY start of the season and first since Watkins Glen, will be making his first Indy start since 2016, when he finished 25th for JD Motorsports.

DRIVER CHANGE: #22-Penske Racing
Ryan Blaney steps in for Brad Keselowski, who swept the weekend at Darlington. The #22 will carry sponsorship from Menards and their Richmond brand, which most recently appeared on the car during their bizarre engine failure at Road America. It will be Blaney’s first start in this race since 2015, when he was passed on the final lap by Kyle Busch. Busch is not entered in this race.

TEAM UPDATE: #55-JP Motorsports
Stephen Leicht was the listed driver for JP Motorsports’ second car, but has often been the listed placeholder since he parted ways with the team earlier this year. This week’s driver is Bayley Currey, who ran last week as well as assisting with the Rick Ware team on Sunday.

Josh Williams, whose #92 entry was withdrawn last week in Darlington, returns to Mario Gosselin’s #90 this week, taking the place of Brandon Brown. It will be Williams’ first XFINITY start at Indianapolis.

MISSING: #92-DGM Racing
The aforementioned #92 withdrawn last week at Darlington is not entered this week.

If J.J. Yeley does not finish last in Saturday’s race, Jeff Green will secure his seventh LASTCAR XFINITY Series Championship with eight races to go. Green enters Saturday with 112 career last-place runs in the series, including ten this year. Green is entered in the “start-and-park” #93 this week with Yeley still in the #38.

MISSING: #98-Stewart-Haas Racing with Biagi DenBeste
Also missing this week is the Biagi #98, which Kevin Harvick drove in his controversial incident battling Ross Chastain for the lead at Darlington. Harvick is also not entered, and on Wednesday said he may be done with the series altogether, except for a race "here and there."

CUP INVADERS: #3-Ty Dillon, #10-Austin Dillon, #22-Ryan Blaney, #23-Chase Elliott

Sunday, September 9, 2018
CUP Race 26 of 36
Big Machine Vodka Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Corey LaJoie

There are 41 drivers entered for 40 spots, meaning that one car will be sent home after qualifying. The result will be the fourth-consecutive full field in 2018, and just the ninth in 26 races in 2018. UPDATE: Now just 40 cars after StarCom withdrew the #99 on Thursday.

RETURNING: #7-Premium Motorsports
Reed Sorenson and the #7 team are entered this week after both withdrew prior to Darlington.

DRIVER SWAP: #23-Front Row Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Rick Ware Racing
DRIVER SWAP: #52-Rick Ware Racing
The former BK Racing entry returns this week with J.J. Yeley, who moves from Rick Ware Racing’s #52 to take the place of Joey Gase, who finished last at Darlington and isn’t entered this Sunday. Expect Steakhouse Elite, Yeley’s backer for most of his Cup races this year, to return as sponsor. Taking Yeley’s place in Rick Ware’s #52 is B.J. McLeod, who last week drove Ware’s Russ Wheeler throwback car in the #51. Taking McLeod’s place in the Ware #51 will be David Starr, who will pull double-duty along with his XFINITY Series ride with Jimmy Means Racing. It will be Starr’s first Cup start since last fall’s Homestead finale, where he ran 36th for Motorsports Business Management. Jacob Companies, which backed the #51 last week, is listed as the primary sponsor for both Ware cars this week, and both cars will be Chevrolets (despite the preliminary list showing the #51 as a Ford).

TEAM UPDATE: #32-Go FAS Racing
News broke at Indianapolis on Friday that Matt DiBenedetto will part ways with Archie St. Hilaire's #32 team at the end of this year, closing out his second season in the Go FAS Racing Fords. As of this writing, DiBenedetto's future plans are unknown, adding more fuel to an intensifying Silly Season.

SPONSOR UPDATE: #34-Front Row Motorsports
One week after Darlington, Front Row Motorsports will run another “throwback” scheme of their own, decorating Michael McDowell’s #34 in the Window World scheme driven by John Andretti in 2009. Andretti, who continues to battle cancer, was instrumental in turning FRM from a part-time to a full-time operation that year, running 34 of the season’s 36 races. The paint scheme is also in celebration of the 22nd year of the Kroger Race for Riley, a charity Andretti has supported since it started in 1997.

TEAM UPDATE: #78-Furniture Row Racing
One of the most sport’s most shocking rumors was confirmed early Tuesday when it was announced that Furniture Row Racing, the defending Cup Series Champions, would close their doors at the end of 2018. Martin Truex, Jr. currently sits third seed in the Playoff standings with four wins this year.

DRIVER CHANGE: #95-Leavine Family Racing
On Thursday afternoon came news that Kasey Kahne will not have a chance to defend his 2017 win at the Brickyard due to lingering effects of heat exhaustion from last Sunday in Darlington. Regan Smith has been tabbed as his replacement. It will be Smith's first Cup start since last summer at Dover, when he relieved an injured Aric Almirola, and his first start in the Brickyard 400 since 2016, when he finished 26th for Tommy Baldwin Racing.

WITHDREW: #99-StarCom Racing
Last year, Gray Gaulding survived the chaos at Indianapolis to finish 24th for Premium Motorsports. This week, he was set to return to StarCom Racing for the first time since his last-place run at Bristol to take team owner Derrike Cope’s place in the #99 Chevrolet. However, the team wihdrew on Thursday.

NEW TEAM (SOON): #??-Obaika Racing
Overshadowed by the news of Furniture Row Racing’s impending closure was the announcement Tuesday that Victor Obaika will open a Cup team later this year. Word is they will also return to XFINITY competition, where they debuted in 2015, sometime late in 2018 with eyes on a full 2019 campaign. News of the team’s return came once it was reported that Obaika had acquired some of BK Racing’s assets along with Front Row Motorsports.

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

One more week until the Truck Series returns in Sin City.

Looking over the last-place statistics since 1949 reveals some interesting variables among listed reasons out. For example, an “oil leak” was the listed cause 46 times across all three of NASCAR’s top series. However, there was also exactly one instance of simply a “leak.” That incident occurred on September 23, 1956 on the Portland (Oregon) Speedway, in a combination race with the Pacific Coast Late Model Division (now the K&N Pro Series West). It happened to Portland native Wally Gervais, who was driving his #22N 1956 Oldsmobile. The leak, whatever it was, stopped him after just 6 of the 250 laps, putting him last in the 19-car field. It was Gervais’ third and final Cup Series start. The Portland oval (separate from the road course where IndyCar returned last Sunday) would continue to host K&N Pro Series, NASAR Northwest Series, and Truck Series events into 2000.

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