Thursday, February 28, 2019

PREVIEW: "Something old and something new" the theme of Las Vegas entry lists

Kurt Busch in the Star Nursery-backed
Southwest Tour car, 1999.
PHOTO: Cinde Trebesch's Pinterest
Friday, March 1, 2019
TRUCKS Race 3 of 23
Strat 200 at Las Vegas
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Scott Stenzel

By Tuesday, the preliminary entry list was cut from 33 to just 31 entries this week, marking the first short field of the 2019 Truck Series campaign. UPDATE: Make that 32 following the return of #7.

DRIVER CHANGE: #1-Beaver Motorsports
Back in action is Phil Parsons’ son Stefan Parsons, who we last saw pilot Premium Motorsports’ #15 Chevrolet to a solid 17th at Bristol and 20th at Phoenix last fall. This time around, Parsons takes the place of Travis Kvapil in the Beaver Motorsports entry, a truck that was withdrawn in both this season’s opening rounds in Daytona and Atlanta. It will be Parsons’ first mile-and-a-half track start.

MISSING: #7-All Out Motorsports
Not entered this week is Korbin Forrister, who bounced back from his Daytona DNQ to finish 21st last week in Atlanta. UPDATE: Forrister has since been added to the Vegas entry list, keeping the group at 32 trucks.

NEW TEAM: #15-DGR-Crosley
David Gilliland’s DGR-Crosley operation expands from two trucks to three this week. Driving the new #15 entry is Anthony Alfredo, who finished 17th in his series debut last week in Atlanta. Taking Alfredo’s place in the #17 this week is Ryan Reed, his first NASCAR national touring series start since his XFINITY Series ride at Roush-Fenway Racing shut down over the offseason. Reed will carry sponsorship from diabetes supplier Dexcom. It will be Reed’s first Truck Series start in nearly three years. CORRECTION: First attempt in nearly three years, last start in 2012.

RETURNING: #34-Reaume Brothers Racing
Josh Reaume brings his second truck to the track for the first time since Daytona, and military veteran and K&N West Series competitor Jesse Iwuji will drive it for the first time since Mosport. Like Parsons, Iwuji’s most recent Truck Series effort came last fall at Phoenix, where he ran 27th.

WITHDREW: #42-Chad Finley, Inc.
Following a hauler accident where the driver mistakenly steered the truck into the wrong tunnel leaving Atlanta, Chad Finley’s Las Vegas truck was damaged inside the hauler. Due to the tight timetable, the team has withdrawn from the Las Vegas race. The team will have an additional two weeks to prepare for the season’s fourth round in Martinsville on March 23.

WITHDREW: #49-CMI Motorsports
Like Finley, Ray Ciccarelli withdrew after starting both this season’s first two races, though for reasons not reported. On Monday, Ciccarelli's Facebook page indicated he is now working on his truck for the next round at Martinsville.

DRIVER CHANGE: #63-Copp Motorsports
Defending last-placer Scott Stenzel returns to action this week in Vegas, taking the place of Timmy Hill in the D.J. Copp entry. Hill narrowly averted a last-place run in Atlanta, edged by three laps following Joe Nemechek’s splitter-inflicted accident just three laps earlier. Personal Comfort will sponsor Stenzel.

MISSING: #75-Henderson Motorsports
Parker Kligerman will focus on Sunday’s Cup race in the Gaunt Brothers’ #96 Toyota, which remains the only “open” team to attempt and qualify for all three of the season’s first Cup races. He will not drive Charlie Henderson’s #75 this week as it is not entered, following a 20th-place run in Atlanta.

MISSING: #80-Jacob Wallace Racing
B.J. McLeod will once again run double-duty this weekend in Las Vegas, but only in Cup and XFINITY. The Jacob Wallace team is not entered following their DNQ in Atlanta.

CUP INVADERS: #51-Kyle Busch

Saturday, March 2, 2019
XFINITY Race 3 of 33
Boyd Gaming 300 at Las Vegas
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Dylan Lupton

There are exactly 38 drivers entered for as many spots this week, up one car from last week’s 37-car showing in Atlanta.

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-JR Motorsports
Set to make his NASCAR XFINITY Series debut this Saturday is Huntington Beach, California native Zane Smith, your defending runner-up in the ARCA Menards Series Championship. Smith takes the place of Cup rookie Ryan Preece in the #8 Chevrolet with sponsorship from Las Vegas hotel The Cosmopolitan. It will be Smith’s first start in NASCAR’s top three levels since last summer at Gateway, when he ran 5th in DGR-Crosley’s #54 Toyota Tundra.

RETURNING: #10-Kaulig Racing
Austin Dillon, not Daytona starter Ross Chastain, is the driver tabbed to run Kaulig Racing’s part-time second entry, which rejoins the XFINITY tour for the first time since Daytona.

DRIVER CHANGE: #13-Motorsports Business Management
The game of musical chairs continues in Carl Long’s XFINITY Series team, where Stan Mullis takes the place of John Jackson in the #13 OCR Gaz Bar Toyota. Mullis, a Las Vegas native, last ran in the series in last September’s Vegas round, finishing 37th after a vibration. Jackson is not entered.

DRIVER CHANGE: #18-Joe Gibbs Racing
The second Cup regular in the Saturday field is Kyle Busch, who swaps out Jeffrey Earnhardt one week after Earnhardt’s first top-ten finish in the series. Strangely, the odds-on favorite has just one XFINITY Series win at his home track in 2016, but it came after leading every lap but the 55th, paced by Bubba Wallace.

One Canadian driver swaps in for another as Donald Theetge returns to XFINITY competition for the first time since a career-best 25th last November in Phoenix. Theetge and his sponsors Mercedes-Benz St-Nicolas and Circuit Acura swap in for Alex Labbe, who ran 19th in Atlanta.

DRIVER CHANGE: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Making his 2019 debut this week is Jairo Avila, Jr., who takes over for Atlanta’s 31st-place finisher Tommy Joe Martins. Avila, who will carry sponsorship from Art General Contractors, made his first to XFINITY Series starts with McLeod last year, running 20th at Bristol and 18th in Kansas. After Saturday, he will have already driven three of McLeod’s four different car numbers – the #8, #78, and #99 – with only the #5 to go.

CUP INVADERS: #10-Austin Dillon, #18-Kyle Busch

Sunday, March 3, 2019
CUP Race 3 of 36
Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Michael McDowell

There are 38 drivers entered for this Sunday’s Cup main event in Vegas, up one car from last week’s 37-car field, but still the second-straight short field in 2019.

TEAM UPDATE: #1-Chip Ganassi Racing
Kurt Busch is running a kind of throwback paint scheme this weekend in Las Vegas as he carries sponsorship from Star Nursery. The company, which has never backed a Cup car, sponsored Busch during his time racing in the NASCAR Southwest Tour, when he campaigned the #70 formerly driven by the late Chris Trickle (nephew of Dick Trickle). Busch stormed to the 1999 championship in the car, scoring six victories that year including four in a row. Kurt has yet to win a Cup race at his home track in 18 previous attempts, and his best finish of 3rd came back in 2005.

RETURNING: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Carl Long’s team will bring their Cup car back to the track for the first time since the Daytona 500. Then, as now, Joey Gase will be the driver, running double-duty with the XFINITY Series in MBM’s #35 Toyota Supra. Gase welcomes returning sponsorship from the Eternal Fans initiative on the #66 Toyota. Gase and the #96 Gaunt Brothers entry of Parker Kligerman are the only “open” cars entered in Sunday’s race.

DRIVER CHANGE: #77-Spire Motorsports
Reed Sorenson makes his 2019 Cup debut, taking the place of Garrett Smithley in Spire’s #77 Chevrolet. Sorenson has seven previous Cup starts in Vegas, most recently a 31st for Premium last September, with a track-best of 18th for Chip Ganassi in 2008. Smithley is not entered, and will focus on his XFINITY Series ride with JD Motorsports.

Though the Las Vegas track has only been on the Cup schedule since 1998, just seven of the race’s twenty last-place finishers will start Sunday’s race: Alex Bowman (2015), Aric Almirola (2010), Corey LaJoie (2017), Erik Jones (September 2018), Landon Cassill (2011), Michael McDowell (2013, 2014, March 2018), and Ryan Newman (2006). McDowell, the LASTCAR feature for Atlanta, is the only driver to ever finish last at the track more than once.

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