Sunday, February 24, 2019

XFINITY: John Jackson’s “Zombie Toyota” trails smallest XFINITY field since 1999

PHOTO: FOX Sports screenshot by
David PeQueen, @CarSDS2078 ‏ 
John Jackson picked up the 4th last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Rinnai 250 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway when his #13 Fluidyne / Toyota fell out with suspension issues after 14 of 163 laps.

The finish, which came in Jackson’s 30th series start, was his first since November 4, 2017 at Texas, 37 races ago. In XFINITY Series last-place history, it was the 6th for car #13, the 15th from suspension trouble, and the 122nd for Toyota. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 29th for the #13, the 39th from suspension issues, and the 309th for Toyota.

The finish also gave Jackson an early lead in the 2019 LASTCAR XFINITY Series Championship by virtue of picking up a Bottom Ten in both of the season’s first two rounds. He now leads last week’s 38th-place finisher Stephen Leicht by that single Bottom Ten.

Jackson has continued his relationship with Carl Long and the Motorsports Business Management team into Atlanta, where his blue-and-white #13 would carry the hood logo of new team sponsor Fluidyne. The Scotsman took the place of Max Tullman, not entered in Saturday’s race following a 28th-place showing in the Daytona opener.

Unlike Tullman, Jackson would be driving what photographer David PeQueen referred to as a “Zombie Toyota.” In the spirit of the team’s now-retired Dodge, the “Zombie” was an older Toyota Camry run in place of the manufacturer’s new Toyota Supra. The car also ran the old driver name banner at the top of the windshield with Jackson’s name on white tape over someone else’s name.

A second “Zombie” was to be driven by Jackson’s MBM teammate Timmy Hill. Hill ran the #66 on the gold-and-white Benny Parsons tribute car run last fall in Darlington (and numbered #72 that day). Neither Jackson nor Hill were among the 30 drivers who made it on track for the weekend’s first practice session. Both were locked-into the field, however, as just 37 drivers arrived in Georgia to make the 38-car field. Hill took 33rd with Jackson 34th. It was the smallest XFINITY Series field to take the green since June 12, 1999, when 33 started the Texilese Medique 300 at South Boston.

Starting 37th on Saturday was Morgan Shepherd who was making his 2019 XFINITY Series debut. Following a disastrous late-fall stretch that began with a practice accident in Texas, and continued through a hauler breakdown in Phoenix, the black #89 Visone RV Chevrolet was back in the garage area, rolled out of its humble white trailer. Jackson joined Shepherd at the back of the pack for missing driver introductions, and was also joined by Daytona last-placer Stephen Leicht due to unapproved adjustments on the #01 JD Motorsports Chevrolet.

Jackson soon retook the spot under green when he pulled the #13 behind the wall, done for the day with suspension issues.

No other drivers fell out of the race until after the end of Stage 1. First to do so was all-time last-place record holder Jeff Green, his #93 the first of two unsponsored RSS Racing entries to fill the Bottom Five. Green was followed 45 laps later by teammate Josh Bilicki, who cited ignition issues on the #38 Chevrolet. Shepherd ran between them in 35th, out three laps after Green with brake issues. Rounding out the group was Mike Harmon in the #74 Time For A Hero Chevrolet, citing electrical issues. Harmon was the only member of the group to have finished Bottom Five in each of the season’s first two races.

Turning in a career-best run on Saturday was Brandon Brown, who in 21 previous series starts had never finished better than 17th, nearly two years ago in Dover. Driving for his family’s Brandonbilt Motorsports team, Brown finished 13th and on the lead lap, backing up his solid 18th-place showing in this year’s Daytona opener.

Similarly, Gray Gaulding followed-up his strong qualifying run in Daytona with a 16th-place finish, charging up from the 35th starting spot in just his second start for SS-Green Light Racing.

Also of note was Bayley Currey, tabbed at the last minute to replace Chris Cockrum in an unsponsored black #17 Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet. In just his 12th series start and his first since last fall at Phoenix, Currey finished 22nd, just one spot shy of matching his series best of 21st for JP Motorsports at Texas.

*This marked the first time car #13 finished last in an XFINITY Series race at Atlanta.
*Jackson trailed the shortest Atlanta field in XFINITY Series history. Prior to Saturday’s 37-car field, never had fewer than 40 cars taken the green at the track.

37) #13-John Jackson / 14 laps / suspension
36) #93-Jeff Green / 42 laps / vibration
35) #89-Morgan Shepherd / 45 laps / brakes
34) #38-Josh Bilicki / 87 laps / ignition
33) #74-Mike Harmon / 90 laps / electrical

1st) JD Motorsports, Motorsports Business Management (1)

1st) Chevrolet, Toyota (1)



JW said...

Great article! One minor mistake I noticed. You say that John Jackson leads the standings with two bottom tens because he finished in the bottom ten at Daytona. Then you say both Shepherd and Jackson made their 2019 debuts at Atlanta. Otherwise, very well written and informative article. You do a great job bringing attention to drivers who otherwise may not get any.

Brock Beard said...

You are correct - thank you for catching that. Jackson ran both the season's first two races, where Shepherd did not.