Thursday, November 8, 2018

PREVIEW: Rookies, Canadians, and two last-place title bouts take center stage at ISM Raceway

PHOTO: @jjyeley1
Friday, November 9, 2018
TRUCKS Race 22 of 23
Round of 6, Race 3 of 3
Lucas Oil 150 at ISM
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Mike Senica

The preliminary entry list showed just 31 trucks for 32 spots, threatening the first short field since last fall at Talladega. That changed late Tuesday as MB Motorsports’ #63 became the 32nd entry (see below).

MISSING: #0-Jennifer Jo Cobb
Jennifer Jo Cobb has elected not to enter her second truck, the #0 Chevrolet which was withdrawn last week in Texas for driver Camden Murphy.

MISSING: #7-All Out Motorsports
All Out Motorsports is not making the trip west to Phoenix, one week after Reid Wilson failed to qualify at Texas. Wilson, who was swapped in for Korbin Forrister, is also not entered.

DRIVER CHANGE: #87-NEMCO Motorsports
John Hunter Nemechek returns to the #8 this week, and father Joe moves back to the #87 in place of Timmy Hill, who isn’t entered. With the “start-and-park” strategy often employed by the #87, Joe Nemechek could be in position to take the 2018 LASTCAR Truck Series title outright with a last-place run on Friday. If Nemechek does not trail on Friday, it could go down to Homestead, depending on who is actually entered. Of the 15 other drivers still in contention, just one is entered this week – runner-up Bayley Currey in the #63 (see below).

MISSING: #9-CR7 Motorsports
A third team missing from the Texas entry list is CR7 Motorsports, whose driver Codie Rohrbaugh drove his #9 Ford to a 17th-place finish in Texas.

MISSING: #12-Young’s Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #20-Young’s Motorsports
Randy Young’s team shuffles its driver lineup once again. Tyler Young moves from the #12, which isn’t entered this week following a crash in Texas, to the #20. Young takes the place of Tanner Thorson, who isn’t entered after he ran 21st in Texas.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Premium Motorsports
Welcome back Stefan Parsons, who eyes his second Truck Series start and his first since his debut in the night race at Bristol, where he ran 17th. Then as now, Parsons drives for Premium Motorsports, whose team owner Jay Robinson acquired father Phil Parsons’ Cup team back in 2015. Parsons takes the place of Mike Harmon, who will instead focus on his XFINITY Series effort in the #74 Chevrolet with Veterans 4 Child Rescue as sponsor.

Tyler Ankrum rejoins the DGR-Crosley effort for the first time since his series debut at Martinsville, two races ago, where he ran 18th in the #54. This time around, he drives the #17 piloted last week by David Gilliland. As at Martinsville, May’s Hawaii joins as sponsor along with the logos for DGR-Crosley and Crosley Brands.

RETURNING: #19-Bill McAnally Racing
Despite the Toyota backing and the Joe Gibbs Racing-styled number, this truck is not a Joe Gibbs or KBM entry. It is fielded by Roseville, California-based Bill McAnally Racing, longtime competitors in the K&N Pro Series West. This marks the first time McAnally has fielded an entry in one of NASCAR’s top three series since June 27, 2004, when they made their lone Cup start with Austin Cameron at Sonoma. McAnally himself made three Cup attempts as both driver and owner at Sonoma and Phoenix in 1996 and 1997, but made none of those races. BMR has been absent from the Truck Series since this same race on October 26, 2001, when Brendan Gaughan ran 13th in a Dodge. Driving this week is Derek Kraus, a four-time winner with McAnally in the West Series this year, and 4th in the series standings. Longtime team sponsor NAPA Auto Parts backs the effort.

DRIVER CHANGE: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
Although Josh Reaume was the listed driver on the preliminary chart, Catchfence already reported on Sunday that Canadian driver Jason White would be returning to the team for the first time since his series debut at Mosport in August, where he drove to a 23rd-place finish. Sponsorship will come from and Zimmer Auto Group.

MISSING: #35-NextGen Motorsports
Brennan Poole finished a solid 15th at Texas in NextGen Motorsports’ first Truck Series start. However, both driver and team aren’t entered this week.

DRIVER CHANGE: #38-Niece Motorsports
Following a crash at Martinsville that prevented him from attempting to qualify at Martinsville last month, Landon Huffman is back in the #38 Chevrolet, taking the place of Cup regular Ross Chastain, 26th in Texas. The truck enjoys local backing the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

RETURNING: #46-Kyle Busch Motorsports
Christian Eckes and KBM’s #46 team also return for the first time since Martinsville, where they drove to a 9th-place finish. Mobil 1 rejoins as primary sponsor for the first time since his standout performance at Gateway in June.

DRIVER CHANGE: #49-Premium Motorsports
D.J. Kennington prepares to turn double-duty at Phoenix as he takes the place of Reed Sorenson in Jay Robinson’s #49 SobrietyNation Chevrolet. Though Kennington has been a regular competitor at Phoenix in recent years, this is actually his first Truck Series start at the track since 2013, when he finished last after an early crash while driving for Rick Ware.

Riley Herbst is back for his fourth Truck Series start and his first since Las Vegas, where a crash left him a season-worst 29th. It will be his first start for DGR-Crosley since Bristol, where he ran 15th. He takes the place of Texas last-placer Bo LeMastus with returning sponsorship from Advance Auto Parts, Terrible Herbst, and NOS.

RETURNING: #63-MB Motorsports
The 2018 LASTCAR Truck Series Championship took another interesting turn late Tuesday when Mike Mittler’s MB Motorsports joined the entry list to keep the field at a full 32 trucks. Driving is current championship runner-up Bayley Currey, who drove D.J. Copp’s #83 last week and will once again run double-duty with the XFINITY Series (see below). A last-place finish by the #63 would give Currey the season lead, forcing Joe Nemechek to trail at Homestead to take it back.

DRIVER CHANGE: #83-Copp Motorsports
Taking Currey’s place in the #83 is Dawson Cram, set to make his third Truck Series start and his first at a track other than Martinsville. His season-best remains a 17th in this year’s spring race at the paperclip, when he was driving the #50 for Beaver Motorsports. RGS Products, which backed Cram in the fall Martinsville race, rejoins as sponsor.

MISSING: #97-JJL Racing
Jesse Little finished a strong 7th in Texas. However, with his new sponsorship from Skuttle-Tight not returning until next week’s Homestead finale, both driver and team are not entered this week.

RETURNING: #99-MDM Motorsports
Chase Purdy is still another driver rejoining the circuit for the first time since the fall Martinsville race, where he ran 21st. The Matthew Miller-owned Chevrolet will again be sponsored by Bama Buggies.

MISSING: #04-Roper Racing
Cory Roper and the Roper Racing entry are also not entered this week following their crash midway through last week’s Texas race.


Saturday, November 10, 2018
XFINITY Race 32 of 33
Round of 8, Race 3 of 3
Whelen Trusted to Perform 200 at ISM
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Gray Gaulding

There are once again 40 drivers entered for 40 spots, one week after the XFINITY Series had its first short field since 2014.

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Welcome back Tommy Joe Martins, who we haven’t seen on the XFINITY circuit since Indianapolis in September, where he ran 27th in B.J. McLeod’s #78. This week, he takes Ray Black, Jr.’s spot in the #8 Chevrolet and looks to improve on his 27th-place run in the spring race here driving the same car.

DRIVER CHANGE: #13-Motorsports Business Management
Although the preliminary entry list has Carl Long in the #13 and Timmy Hill in the #66, both cars will actually have rookies making their first-ever XFINITY Series starts. The #13 Dodge will go to Tyler Hill, Timmy’s younger brother, who will make his first-ever start across NASCAR’s top three series. The younger Hill made four ARCA Racing Series starts for Andy Hillenburg at the end of this year’s season, closing out the year with a season-best 7th in the season finale at Kansas. Timmy Hill, who drove the #13 last week, will instead focus on the Cup side of the MBM effort (see below).

TEAM UPDATE: #45-JP Motorsports
Following Josh Bilicki’s hard crash at Texas, JP Motorsports has both its cars, #45 and #55, entered this week. The Texas lineup remains the same with Bilicki in the #45 Toyota and Bayley Currey in the #55 Toyota.

DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
As for MBM’s #66, it was reported on October 12 that Akinori Ogata will be making his XFINITY Series debut in the Phoenix race with sponsorship from SEAVAC – USA, LLC on his Toyota. Born in Kanagawa, Japan, Ogata takes the place of Bobby Earnhardt, 34th after a crash in Texas. Ogata has seven previous Truck Series starts, including a pair at Phoenix, finishing 29th in 2014 and 27th in 2015.

TEAM UPDATE: #89-Shepherd Racing Ventures
Morgan Shepherd will also be back in action following his own crash at Texas. As chronicled by team member Brian Wertman, JD Motorsports once again stepped up, preparing Shepherd’s black-and-gold #89 Chevrolet in their shop. The team loaded up Shepherd’s hauler and headed out to the track on Tuesday.

The large Canadian contingent competing in all three NASCAR races this weekend will include a returning Donald Theetge, who made his XFINITY Series debut this past July in Loudon. Then as now, he will drive for fellow countryman Mario Gosselin in the #90 Chevrolet with backing from car dealerships Mercedes-Benz St-Nicolas and Circuit Acura. He takes the place of Brandon Brown, who ran 18th at Texas, the first car one lap down.


Sunday, November 11, 2018
CUP Race 35 of 36
Round of 8, Race 3 of 3
Can-Am 500 at ISM
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Kyle Larson

There are 39 drivers entered this week at the ISM Raceway, down two cars from last week in Texas. It marks the first short Cup field since Dover, five races ago, and is the 19th short field in 2018.

DRIVER CHANGE: #6-Roush-Fenway Racing
Following Trevor Bayne’s final Cup start in the #6 last week, Matt Kenseth takes over, one year after his most recent Cup win. Following Kurt Busch’s bobblehead last week in Texas, the ISM Raceway will be giving out Kenseth bobbleheads to the first visitors to the new “INfield” on Sunday.

DRIVER CHANGE: #7-Premium Motorsports
In addition to his Truck Series run, D.J. Kennington and Premium Motorsports join forces for Sunday’s race with sponsorship from APC and Northern Provincial Pipelines. He takes the place of Reed Sorenson, who carried new sponsorship from Sustainable Quarry Crypto Mining to a 33rd-place finish at Texas. Kennington made his Cup debut in this same race two years ago, driving Premium’s #55 to a 35th-place finish.

TEAM UPDATE: #23-Front Row Motorsports / BK Racing / NY Racing Team
J.J. Yeley tweeted pictures of his car with new sponsors SHE Beverage Company and Arizona-based Prestige Billiards. However, as pointed out by Guest Contributor William Soquet, the pictures raised some interesting questions about who exactly is fielding his entry. The Toyota’s nose carries logos for both BK Racing, acquired by Front Row Motorsports in August, and the NY Racing Team, the #7 team Yeley briefly drove for in May and June. This is strange as both BK and NY's branding has been virtually absent from the series for months. On top of this, while the car is still listed with Front Row’s Bob Jenkins as team owner, there is no Front Row logo on the car’s nose.

TEAM UPDATE: #48-Hendrick Motorsports
The black "Lowes For Pros" scheme is done for the year. Phoenix sees Jimmie Johnson run the first of two consecutive throwback paint schemes honoring his partnership with Lowe's. On tap this week is the blue "Power of Pride" scheme that Johnson ran at Homestead in 2001.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Rick Ware Racing
While no driver was originally listed in the #51 one week after Joey Gase’s 37th-place finish in Texas, the list was updated Tuesday with Cody Ware back behind the wheel of the #51 Jacob Companies Ford. Ware eyes just his fourth Cup start of the season, his first since Talladega last month, and his first-ever in a Cup Series race at Phoenix.

TEAM UPDATE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
After the team was forced to withdraw at Texas since NASCAR deemed their team a part-time effort and thus, needed to run a new “sealed” engine that they didn’t have, team owner Carl Long said his Cup effort may be done for 2018. However, Long posted on Facebook on Tuesday that the team will be making the trip to the ISM Raceway, where Timmy Hill will again drive the #66 Toyota. Hill is thus still in contention to take the 2018 LASTCAR Cup Series title (see below).

DRIVER CHANGE: #72-TriStar Motorsports
One week after Corey LaJoie extended his lead in the 2018 LASTCAR Cup Series Championship, Cole Whitt returns to the #72 this week with Standard Plumbing Supply as sponsor. While not entered, LaJoie can still lock-up the LASTCAR title on Sunday if Timmy Hill does not finish last. Gray Gaulding, the only other driver mathematically in contention, is not entered, and will be eliminated from the battle if he remains so.

MISSING: #96-Gaunt Brothers Racing
A difficult close to the season for the Gaunt Brothers continues as they’re not entered for this weekend’s race. Although Jeffrey Earnhardt and Xtreme Concepts, Inc. were slated to run 13 of the season’s final 14 races, the deal appeared to fall apart coming into Martinsville. That weekend, D.J. Kennington drove to a 27th-place finish, followed by Parker Kligerman’s 31st in an unsponsored car last week in Texas.

DRIVER CHANGE: #97-Obaika Racing
Tanner Berryhill was announced Wednesday to make his first Cup race in the Obaika Racing #97. Obaika reported earlier this fall that they would be running all three of the final Cup races of the season. The team broke through last week in Texas, in part because of the bizarre withdrawal of MBM’s #66, and David Starr finished 39th after several trips to the garage. Team owner Victor Obaika has five previous XFINITY Series starts at Phoenix with a best of 28th by Josh Bilicki in the fall of 2016.

MISSING: #99-StarCom Racing
Also not entered this week is StarCom Racing’s second “open” car, the #99 that Kyle Weatherman steered to a 34th-place finish at Texas. Weatherman’s Texas car began the week largely unsponsored, instead carrying logos for a StarCom Racing Fan Experience program similar to the VIP Racing Experience promoted by Premium Motorsports. Following the withdrawal of MBM’s #66, a deal was worked out where Weatherman’s car was wrapped in graphics. Landon Cassill remains in StarCom’s Chartered #00, a week after one-off sponsorship from Brookshire’s carried him to a 35th-place finish.

On top of the track’s grand re-opening as the ISM Raceway, Sunday’s Cup race comes five days after the 30th anniversary of the Phoenix track’s inaugural event. It was on November 6, 1988 that the late Alan Kulwicki took his first checkered flag and completed his famous “Polish Victory Lap” around the one-mile oval. Since then, car #7 made all but two fall Phoenix races – 2004 and 2012 – and has been fielded under various team owners, predominately single-car operations like Geoff Bodine Racing, Ultra Motorsports, Robby Gordon Motorsports, and Tommy Baldwin Racing. Through it all, the number has just one last-place finish at Phoenix – October 31, 1993, when Geoff Bodine’s Family Channel Ford was collected in a three-car accident during the Slick 50 300. D.J. Kennington drives the #7 this weekend for Jay Robinson’s two-car team Premium Motorsports.

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