Thursday, September 13, 2018

PREVIEW: A triple-header on tap in Vegas, and a LASTCAR title bout in Sonoma

PHOTO: Hendrick Motorsports
Friday, September 14, 2018
TRUCKS Race 18 of 23
Round of 8, Race 2 of 3
World of Westgate 200 at Las Vegas
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Todd Peck

The Truck Series returns to action for the first time since Mosport, three weeks ago, and originally showed 38 drivers for 32 spots. Even after two withdrawals, it is still a significant change from the Truck's stand-alone weekend in Vegas. Four of the last six series races here failed to even fill a 32-truck field. Four teams will miss the show. UPDATE: Make that 37 cars for 32 spots after the withdrawal of the #0.

WITHDREW: #0-Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing
Camden Murphy rejoins the Cobb team’s second truck for the first time since he was withdrawn at Bristol, taking the place of German road racer Justin Kunz, who ran 26th at Mosport. Murphy eyes what would be his sixth Truck Series start of the year if he makes the field. UPDATE: Murphy's entry withdrew by Friday.

RETURNING: #7-All Out Motorsports
Korbin Forrister and the part-time All Out Motorsports are back for the first time since Bristol, where they ran 27th, with designs on their ninth series start of the year. Forrister has failed to finish just once all year, and has led four laps.

DRIVER CHANGE: #12-Young’s Motorsports
Tate Fogleman looks for his fourth Truck start of the year, his first since a season-best 15th at Michigan, as he takes the place of open-wheel veteran Alex Tagliani, 10th at Mosport, in the third part-time Randy Young truck. Fogleman is the fourth different driver to race this truck in as many starts.

DRIVER CHANGE: #20-Young’s Motorsports
Teamed with Fogleman in the #20 is Tanner Thorson, who takes the place of Max Tullman. Tullman will instead focus on the XFINITY Series at Las Vegas, where his family’s team will make its return to the circuit (see below). Thorson’s fifth and most recent Truck start was at Bristol, where he finished 14th. In all five of his starts this year, he has yet to finish out of the Top 20 and has completed all but six of 823 combined laps.

RETURNING: #30-On Point Motorsports
Welcome back Austin Theriault, who we haven’t seen in the series since October 29, 2016, when he finished 20th for Randy Young at Martinsville. This time around, he drives for a returning On Point Motorsports, the single-truck effort that made a brief debut last month Bristol with Scott Lagasse, Jr. before he was eliminated in an early crash. Theriault himself is making his first start at Las Vegas since 2015, when he fractured his lower back in a serious accident coming off Turn 4. Cross Insurance will back the effort.

DRIVER CHANGE: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
Team owner Josh Reaume returns to his familiar #33 this week, taking the place of Canadian driver Jason White, who ran 23rd at Mosport.

MISSING: #34-Reaume Brothers Racing
The Reaume team has decided to leave their second truck back at the shop after its most recent appearance at Mosport, where Jesse Iwuji finished 25th in his national touring series debut.

RETURNING: #38-Niece Motorsports
Returning to a two-truck operation this week is Al Niece’s team, which has put T.J. Bell in the #38 Niece Equipment Chevrolet. We last saw the #38 team in this series at Bristol, where Cup and XFINITY driver Ross Chastain climbed behind the wheel. Both that night, and in the team’s season debut at Eldora with Max McLaughlin, this truck finished a strong 12th.

RETURNING: #46-Kyle Busch Motorsports
KBM also brings back their part-time team with Riley Herbst and sponsor Advance Auto Parts in the #46 Toyota. Herbst aims for his third Truck start of the season following an 8th at Gateway and a 15th at Bristol.

DRIVER CHANGE: #49-Premium Motorsports
In addition to his return to Chip Ganassi’s XFINITY Series team and his Cup effort with Premium Motorsports (see below), Ross Chastain will run triple-duty at Las Vegas. His Truck Series ride will be in Jay Robinson’s primary truck, the #49, where he takes the place of D.J. Kennington. Wendell Chavous, who was swapped out for Kennington at Mosport, will remain in the #15 this week. UPDATE: Chavous moves back to the #49 with Chastain in the #15.

WITHDREW: #50-Beaver Motorsports
The 2003 series champion Travis Kvapil was set to be back behind the wheel this week, taking the place of Ray Ciccarelli in Mark Beaver’s #50 Chevrolet. However, the team withdrew by Wednesday., a partner at Premium Motorsports, was the listed sponsor.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Kyle Busch Motorsports
Brandon Jones rejoins KBM this week, taking Harrison Burton’s place in the #51 Toyota. Jones looks for his fifth Truck start of the year and his first since Kentucky, where he ran 4th. He looks to continue a streak of four consecutive top-ten finishes following a 9th in Kansas, a 3rd in Charlotte, 5th in Chicagoland, and the 4th at Kentucky. Sponsorship will come from Delta Faucet and Menards.

Chris Eggleston looks to continue a strong part-time season of his own in the second DGR-Crosley truck with H2O Fire Protection returning as sponsor. In his three previous starts, he’s run 13th at Charlotte, 14th at Texas, and 11th at Kentucky. Eggleston takes the place of Bo LeMastus, 22nd at Mosport. Once again, DGR-Crosley’s #17, last seen at Michigan, is not entered. CORRECTION: The #17 has been entered with LeMastus, rejoning the circuit for the first time since that Michigan race.

WITHDREW: #74-Mike Harmon Racing
Mike Harmon pulled his #74 Chevrolet from the field by Wednesday, and will instead focus on his XFINITY Series effort on Saturday.

RETURNING: #83-Copp Motorsports
Bayley Currey rejoins D.J. Copp’s single-truck team this week, two races after an early crash left him last at Bristol. This time around, Currey pulls double-duty with the XFINITY Series, where he will run his third-consecutive start in JP Motorsports’ #55 Prevagen Toyota. It is significant to note that Mike Mittler’s own Truck Series team, MB Motorsports, which has coordinated with Copp’s effort, is not entered for the second-consecutive race following their withdrawal at Bristol.

DRIVER CHANGE: #97-JJL Motorsports
Jesse Little rejoins JJL Motorsports following a one-off at Mosport where Roger Reuse drove the team’s number on a second Jordan Anderson Racing truck, finishing 27th. Little looks to make his seventh Truck start of the year, a season where he’s only twice failed to finish 9th or better.

RETURNING: #04-Roper Racing
Cory Roper had a difficult night under the lights at Bristol, finishing a season-low 25th following some early spins, but looks to rebound this Friday in his return to the circuit. Preferred Industrial Contractors Inc. remains the sponsor on his Ford.


Saturday, September 15, 2018
XFINITY Race 26 of 33
Final Race of Regular Season
DC Solar 300 at Las Vegas
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Inaugural Race

The final race of the XFINITY Series’ regular season originally showed 39 drivers for 40 spots, threatening the first short XFINITY Series field of 2018. However, by Wednesday, a 40th entry was found, and all entrants will start the race.

DRIVER CHANGE: #3-Richard Childress Racing
Shane Lee and Richard Childress’ Childress Vineyards sponsorship return to the XFINITY circuit for a seventh time this weekend, taking the place of Cup regular Ty Dillon. Lee’s most recent start was at Iowa in July, when he finished 13th. He continues a solid streak of finishes between 12th and 16th, plus a season-best 6th at Daytona.

DRIVER SWAP: #4-JD Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #42-Chip Ganassi Racing
Ross Chastain is back in Ganassi’s #42 DC Solar Chevrolet for the first time since victory was snatched from him at Darlington. He takes the place of John Hunter Nemechek, who won a thrilling four-wide finish in Stage 1 at Indy but was eliminated in a late crash. Landon Cassill returns to the #4 from Johnny Davis’ team, as he had at Darlington, and will run double-duty.

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Ray Black, Jr. rejoins the McLeod team for the first time since an early engine failure left him 37th at Bristol. He takes the place of Caesar Bacarella, who ran 23rd at Indy. Black’s season-best run remains a 19th at Charlotte, his only start this year in McLeod’s #78.

MISSING: #10-Kaulig Racing
Kaulig Racing has not entered their second car following Austin Dillon’s strong 8th-place showing in the team’s debut at Indianapolis. Dillon is himself not running Saturday’s race.

MISSING: #12-Penske Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #22-Penske Racing
Austin Cindric moves from the #12, not entered this week, to the #22, taking the place of Cup regular Ryan Blaney. Cindric looks to turn around a frustrating summer slide that’s seen him fail to finish the last three races, running 37th at Road America, 40th and last at Darlington, then 34th at Indianapolis. Thanks to 13th-place Michael Annett’s engine failure at Indianapolis, Cindric still holds a 57-point advantage on the final spot in the Playoff grid. He can only be bumped from the standings if an eligible driver ranked below him takes the checkers on Saturday.

DRIVER CHANGE: #13-Motorsports Business Management
DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Team owner Carl Long was slated to replace Timmy Hill in the #13 Toyota until mid-week, when it was revealed Stan Mullis will drive the #13 for his third start of 2018 and first since both Iowa races. Hill will move to the #66 to take place of Brandon Hightower, who was eliminated by splitter damage after a spin at Indy. Hill runs double-duty this week, as MBM will also field the #66 Cup car for a fifth-straight race.

Spencer Gallagher rejoins the GMS Racing team at his home track for his first XFINITY start since Mid-Ohio, where he ran 8th. He takes the place of Chase Elliott, who ran three of the four races after Mid-Ohio with a best of 4th last Saturday in Indy. Gallagher, who will run a throwack scheme of sorts with the iconic tilted numbers of T.J. Clark's racing effort, ran 10th at Vegas earlier this year.

RETURNING: #26-Tullman Walker Racing
Max Tullman moves from Trucks to XFINITY this week as the #26 Ford rejoins the circuit for the first time since its debut at Iowa in July, where Tullman tangled with Matt Tifft in the final laps and finished 30th. This time around, is the listed sponsor.

RETURNING: #72-Motorsports Business Management
By Wednesday, the 39-car field became a full 40 after Carl Long's team elected to bring their part-time fourth car, the #72 last entered at Darlington. Behind the wheel will be John Jackson in the / James Carter Attorney Chevrolet.

DRIVER CHANGE: #78-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
While this car was originally entered for Tommy Joe Martins, who ran 27th at Indianapolis after at least one trip to the garage for an early mechanical issue, Cole Rouse was listed by Wednesday. Rouse, currently 4th in the K&N Pro Series West standings with Bill McAnally Racing, will be making his national touring series debut.

MISSING: #89-Shepherd Racing Ventures
Morgan Shepherd isn’t on the preliminary entry list for just the second time in 2018, and the first time since Road America. Shephed just earned his season-best finish at Indianapolis last week, where he ran Stage 1 to completion, moving as high as 17th before fuel pump issues left him 32nd.


Sunday, September 16, 2018 (3:00 P.M. Eastern)
CUP Race 27 of 36
Round of 16, Race 1 of 3
South Point 400 at Las Vegas
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Inaugural Race

The 2018 Cup Series playoffs begin with exactly 40 drivers for 40 spots, marking the fifth-consecutive full field of the season.

DRIVER CHANGE: #6-Roush-Fenway Racing
Trevor Bayne rejoins the #6 team for the first time since Bristol, where he ran 11th, in place of Matt Kenseth, who led 5 laps of the Brickyard 400 but was eliminated from contention when his car fell off the jack on the final pit stop. AdvoCare Rehydrated returns as Bayne’s sponsor.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Rick Ware Racing
MISSING: #52-Rick Ware Racing
Rick Ware brings just one of his two cars west this week after both were involved in the accident that eliminated Bubba Wallace at Indianapolis. B.J. McLeod takes David Starr’s place in the #51 as the #52 is not entered.

TEAM UPDATE: #95-Leavine Family Racing
Regan Smith finished 20th last Sunday in Indy, his first race in relief of Kasey Kahne. Kahne was originally slated to return this week following his recovery from extreme heat exhaustion during the Southern 500 at Darlington. However, it was announced Tuesday that Kahne will be out for at least the next three rounds at Las Vegas, Richmond, and the Charlotte “Roval” as he recovers. Smith will continue to drive in his place.

RETURNING: #99-StarCom Racing
The second StarCom car, withdrawn with Gray Gaulding as the listed driver at Indianapolis, is entered this week with Kyle Weatherman as driver. It will be Weatherman’s fourth Cup start of the season and his first since Pocono in July, when he equaled his season-best 31st-place finish.

Sunday, September 16, 2018 (6:30 P.M. Eastern)
INDYCAR Race 17 of 17
Championship Race
Grand Prix of Sonoma
2017 Last-Place Finisher: James Hinchcliffe

There are 25 drivers entered for the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season finale, where I will be reporting trackside this weekend.

NEW TEAM: #8-Harding Racing
Harding Racing enters a second car for the first time. Teamed with the primary #88 is the new #8 Chevrolet with 19-year-old Patricio O’Ward driving. O’Ward has just locked-up this year’s Indy Lights Championship with Andretti Autosport on the heels of nine victories in 17 starts, including both 35-lap rounds at Portland. He also has a pair of starts this year in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, finishing 8th at Daytona and 13th at Sebring in the Prototype class, one year after taking seven victories in the Prototype Challenge class. O’Ward tested Harding’s #88 at Sonoma on September 6, but that car number will go to another series newcomer (see below).

MISSING: #32-Juncos Racing
Juncos Racing has not fielded their #32 Chevrolet, which this season was driven this year by Rene Binder, Kyle Kaiser, and most recently at Portland, Alfonso Celis. It is the fifth race of the 2018 that the single-car operation has not entered. Their season-best finish will stand at 16th, earned both by Kaiser at Long Beach and Binder in Alabama. Team owner Ricardo Juncos now sets his sights on 2019, where he plans to expand into the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with Cadillac.

DRIVER CHANGE: #88-Harding Racing
Following his new teammate O’Ward from the Indy Lights Series is second-generation racer Colton Herta, the 18-year-old son of IndyCar and CART driver and team owner Bryan Herta. Colton joins the circuit with more laps in Indy Lights than O’Ward, but one less title, having finished 3rd in the 2017 season and runner-up to the Mexico native this year. He still holds six series wins, nine poles, and a combined 20 podiums. It will be interesting to see the two Indy Lights rivals fight for position in their elite series debuts.

In addition to the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship, the 2018 LAST(indy)CAR title will also be settled this Sunday. As the standings below show, it is down to a two-driver battle. Holding the lead is rookie Matheus “Matt” Leist, who has piloted A.J. Foyt’s #4 ABC Supply Co. Chevrolet to three last-place finishes at St. Petersburg, Texas, and Iowa.

The only driver mathematically in contention to beat Leist is Max Chilton, last in back-to-back races at Toronto and Mid-Ohio, and the series leader in bottom-ten finishes with 13. Driving Carlin Racing’s #59 Gallagher Chevrolet, Chilton led his first 10 laps of the season two weeks ago in Portland.

The championship scenario is simple: Chilton must finish last to win the title.

If Chilton finishes last, he will win the title no matter where Leist finishes. If Chilton finishes last and Leist finishes inside the Bottom Five, Chilton wins on a bottom-ten tiebreaker of 14-12. If Chilton finishes last and Leist finishes in the Bottom Ten, but not in the Bottom Five, Chilton wins on a bottom-five tiebreaker of 6-5. If Chilton finishes last and Leist finishes out of the Bottom Ten, Chilton wins on a bottom-ten tiebreaker of 14-11. But if Chilton does not finish last, Leist will win the title no matter where Chilton finishes based on last-place finishes, 3-2.

No comments: