|Brandon Brown's unsponsored #86 sits 14th in XFINITY Series points headed to Fontana.|
XFINITY Race 5 of 33
Production Alliance Group 300 at Auto Club (Fontana)
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Mike Harmon
There are 37 drivers entered for 38 spots in Saturday’s race, marking the third short field in five races in 2019 and the second in a row.
DRIVER CHANGE: #8-JR Motorsports
Ryan Preece returns to the XFINITY Series for the first time since his 7th-place run in Atlanta, and brings with him sponsorship from Velveeta Shells and Cheese. Preece takes over for Ryan Truex, who earned his first runner-up finish in the series since 2012 as he followed Kyle Busch to the finish line, 3.025 seconds back. Preece pulls double-duty along with his Cup ride in the JTG-Daugherty #47 Kroger Chevrolet.
DRIVER CHANGE: #13-Motorsports Business Management
John Jackson rejoins Carl Long’s operation for the first time since his last-place showing in Atlanta, three rounds ago. He takes the place of Stan Mullis, who finished next-to-last at the ISM Raceway. Street Toys and LasVegas.net, Mullis’ backers at ISM, are again the listed sponsors this week.
DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Timmy Hill takes over for brother Tyler, who finished a strong 20th in just his second career series start last week in Phoenix. It will be Timmy Hill’s fourth XFINITY Series start in five races this year, and first since a 23rd-place showing in Las Vegas.
GIVE A CALL: #86-Brandonbilt Motorsports
Brandon Brown enters Saturday’s race 14th in points, having finished no worse than 18th in all four races run so far this season. His best finish of the year came in Atlanta, when he ran 13th. Driver and team have accomplished this despite running without primary sponsorship all season long. Saturday will mark Brown’s first XFINITY start at Fontana.
DRIVER CHANGE: #90-DGM Racing
Caesar Bacarella returns to the XFINITY Series for the first time since his career-best run in the Daytona opener, where an almost certain Top 10 ended with a brush with the wall leaving him 29th. Bacarella takes over for Ronnie Basset, Jr., who recovered from a slow start at ISM Raceway to finish 32nd in a backup car.
GIVE A CALL: #08-SS-Green Light Racing
Like the Brandonbilt team, Gray Gaulding has enjoyed a strong start to the 2019 season, holding 16th in the standings. He arrives in Fontana with three consecutive finishes of 16th or better with a best of 12th in Las Vegas. Through Gaulding ran just 34th in the Daytona opener, this was mostly due to a pit road incident in an otherwise event-free race, and came after he qualified a season-best 5th. GGPure.com and Flywheel will again sponsor the Bobby Dotter entry in what will be Gaulding’s first series start at Fontana.
CUP INVADERS: #18-Kyle Busch
Busch is entered in his third-consecutive XFINITY Series race, and on Saturday will have his first opportunity to reach 200 combined wins across NASCAR’s top three circuits.
Sunday, March 17, 2019
CUP Race 5 of 36
Auto Club 400 at Auto Club (Fontana)
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Trevor Bayne
There are 38 drivers entered for 40 spots this week, two more cars than last Sunday’s round in Phoenix, and tied with Las Vegas for second-most in 2019. Regardless, this remains the fourth-consecutive short field in 2019.
RETURNING: #27-Premium Motorsports
For the first time since Casey Mears’ last-place finish in the Daytona 500, car #27 is back in the lineup this week. This time around, the car isn’t entered under Germain Racing, but under Jay Robinson’s Premium Motorsports (which was reportedly the arrangement at Daytona). This time around, Reed Sorenson drives in place of Mears, rejoining the Cup tour for the first time since Las Vegas, where he ran Spire Motorsports’ #77 (also backed by Premium) to a 36th-place finish. Tommy Baldwin, Jr., who most recently tried to get the #71 Chevrolet into the Daytona 500 field, is the crew chief.
GIVE A CALL: #36-Front Row Motorsports
Matt Tifft was one of the biggest surprises in last Sunday’s Cup race at the ISM Raceway when he ran as high as 18th before settling for 20th. Tifft’s three previous Cup starts yielded finishes of just 36th, 28th, and 34th. Surface Sunscreen and Tunity once again sponsor the #36 Ford Mustang.
DRIVER CHANGE: #52-Rick Ware Racing
B.J. McLeod returns to pull double-duty (along with JD Motorsports’ #15 on the XFINITY side) in the #52 Mtel-One Ford. McLeod takes the place of Bayley Currey, who earned a 31st-place finish in his first series start at the ISM Raceway. McLeod will make his first start at Fontana in a Cup car.
RETURNING: #66-Motorsports Business Management
As reported here during the Las Vegas race, Joey Gase and the #66 Cup team are back in action this week, two rounds after a frustrating engine issue left them last. The Nevada Donor Network has picked up team owner Carl Long’s offer to back the ride in Fontana in hopes of giving the sponsor more track time. Like McLeod, Gase has never made a Cup start at Fontana. However, he does have seven XFINITY starts here with a best of 16th just last year.
DRIVER CHANGE: #77-Spire Motorsports
One week after Quin Houff earned a 30th-place finish in his Cup Series debut, Garrett Smithley is back in the Spire entry for the first time since Atlanta, where he ran 36th.
Saturday, March 23, 2019
TRUCKS Race 4 of 23
Alpha Energy Solutions 250 at Martinsville
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Mike Senica
The Truck Series returns next week to lead-off the companion weekend with the Cup Series at Martinsville.
LASTCAR STAT OF THE WEEK
On this day in LASTCAR history (March 14, 1982): Dick May picks up the 13th last-place finish of his Cup Series career when his D.K. Ulrich-prepared #40 Stihl Chain Saw Buick lost an engine after 34 laps of the Valleydale 500 at Bristol. It was the final last-place finish of the Watertown, New York driver’s career, which extended back to 1970 and ended with a 25th-place run at North Wilkesboro on April 21, 1985. May’s best finish came in one of his first starts on May 21, 1971, when he ran 6th at the New Asheville (North Carolina) Speedway.
I wish the mainstream NASCAR media wouldn't laud Rowdy's impending "accomplishment", I think that reinforces a dangerous mindset, one that may have destroyed an entire generation of young drivers before we even got to truly know them, while stagnating the Cup field for years. Even now, we're seeing the effects in the narrative around the current crop of Young Guns.
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