Thursday, March 21, 2019

PREVIEW: Two new owner-driver teams among the entrants at Martinsville

PHOTOS: @TimmyHillRacer, Tony Mrakovich Racing
Saturday, March 23, 2019
TRUCKS Race 4 of 23
TruNorth Global 250 at Martinsville
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Mike Senica

The preliminary entry list for Saturday’s return of the Truck Series stood at 37, but soon after posting, two teams withdrew (#80, #87), dropping the count to 35. On Tuesday, three more teams were added (#9, #11, #43), two of which revealed on social media earlier in the week, bringing the list back up to 39 trucks. As it stands, seven trucks will be sent home after qualifying, equaling the season-high mark set at Daytona. UPDATE: Make that 38 after the #34 withdrew.

DRIVER CHANGE: #1-Beaver Motorsports
Travis Kvapil is entered in Mark Beaver’s #1 truck for the first time since he was withdrawn at both Daytona and Atlanta. He takes the place of Stefan Parsons, who gave Beaver’s team its debut at Vegas, but was sidelined with carburetor issues in a 31st-place finish.

Recuperating from his illness at Fontana, Austin Dillon is back in the Truck Series for the first time since February 24, 2018 at Atlanta, where he ran 20th for Young’s Motorsports. This time, he takes over Joe Nemechek’s #8 Chevrolet, replacing Vegas 16th-place finisher Angela Ruch. It will be Dillon’s first Truck Series start at Martinsville since his championship season in 2011, when he finished 7th in the spring and 3rd in the fall.

RETURNING: #9-CR7 Motorsports
Codie Rohrbaugh attempts his first Truck Series start since he failed to qualify in Daytona. Longtime backer Grant County Mulch remains his sponsor.

DRIVER CHANGE: #10-Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing
As of this writing, Jennifer Jo Cobb is not listed as the driver of her own #10 Chevrolet she has driven through the season’s first three rounds, and the driver name entry has been left blank. UPDATE: Juan Manuel Gonzalez, a two-time winner in Mexico's NASCAR FedEx Challenge Series, was tabbed to make his first Truck Series attempt.

Mark Rette’s team switched truck numbers from the #82 to the #11 this week, but it’s still KBM driver Spencer Davis behind the wheel of the team’s Ford. Davis seeks his first Truck Series start on a short track following five starts at tracks 1.5 miles long and larger.

MISSING: #15-DGR-Crosley
Anthony Alfredo competed in Tuesday night’s eNASCAR online race, but is not entered in this Saturday’s event, nor is David Gilliland’s new third truck, the #15.

Tyler Ankrum returns to the site of his Truck Series debut last fall, when he finished 18th in DGR-Crosley’s #54 Toyota. This time around, he moves to the team’s #17, taking the place of Ryan Reed, who ran a solid 9th in Las Vegas. May’s Hawaii rejoins Ankrum as sponsor.

RETURNING: #19-Bill McAnally Racing
Welcome back Derek Kraus, who returns to Truck Series competition for the first time since his outstanding 8th-place series debut last fall at the ISM Raceway. He once again drives for Bill McAnally Racing, and as reported here, the team has at least three trucks in their shop. NAPA Auto Parts continues its partnership with the team’s efforts with primary backing from ENEOS.

For the first time this year, Austin Wayne Self is not the listed driver of the #22 Go Texan / AM Technical Solutions Chevrolet. After the driver's name was left blank earlier in the week, Bubba Wallace was added on Wednesday to run double-duty. The two-time Truck Series winner at Martinsville has not taken the green in the series since May 11, 2018, when he ran 14th in Kansas.

RETURNING: #27-ThorSport Racing
Myatt Snider and the #27 team are another returning duo from Daytona, where they finished 21st following one of the night’s many crashes. Snider made his first two Martinsville starts last year, finishing 6th in the spring and 3rd in the fall.

DRIVER CHANGE: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
WITHDREW: #34-Reaume Brothers Racing
Daniel Sasnett looks to make his Truck Series debut despite making just one start in the ARCA Menards Series – a 34th-place finish in the 2018 opener in Daytona. The 41-year-old driver from Florida drives in place of Jesse Iwuji, who reported for duty immediately after he finished 26th in the last round in Las Vegas. Standard Sand and Silica, which backed Sasnett in Daytona, is the listed sponsor. UPDATE: The #34, which now has the Owner Points of NEMCO's #87, has withdrawn Thursday. Sasnett will drive in place of Josh Reaume in the team's primary #33.

MISSING: #42-Chad Finley Racing
Chad Finley’s team is not entered this week following their withdrawal in Las Vegas which resulted from the team’s hauler accident leaving the Atlanta track.

NEW TEAM: #43-Tony Mrakovich Racing
When we last saw Tony Mrakovich in NASCAR, he had made his XFINITY Series debut in Richmond last spring, finishing 24th for the now-defunct JGL Racing. It was a solid finish given that he’d been swapped out of his ride the week before at Bristol. Still with just six ARCA Menards Series starts on his resume, Mrakovich has now become an owner-driver in the old school way, fielding a #43 with returning sponsorship from Street Stores Hardware.

DRIVER CHANGE: #44-Niece Motorsports
Reid Wilson seeks his 2019 series debut this Saturday, returning to the site of his career-best 16th-place finish in his series debut last spring. This time around, he drives for Al Niece, taking over the #44 Chevrolet from Las Vegas 12th-place finisher Timothy Peters.

RETURNING: #46-Kyle Busch Motorsports
17-year-old Raphael Lessard, the 2016 CARS Super Late Model Tour champion from Quebec, eyes his Truck Series debut this week. Slated to drive KBM’s #46, a team which made its most recent start last fall at the ISM Raceway with Christian Eckes, Lessard carries sponsorship from Spectra Premium and an 8th-place finish in the ARCA event at Five Flags Speedway earlier this month.

RETURNING: #49-CMI Motorsports
Ray Ciccarelli’s owner-driver operation is back in action this week after the team withdrew from Las Vegas. Ciccarelli aims to make his first Truck Series start at Martinsville in his #49 sponsored by CMI Installations and Cool Weld.

Team part-owner David Gilliland returns to the Truck Series for the first time since his 13th-place showing in Daytona, and takes over for Natalie Decker, 13th in Vegas. Gilliland aims to make his first Truck start at Martinsville since 2015, when he finished 23rd for Ricky Benton.

NEW TEAM: #56-Hill Motorsports
Still another owner-driver operation opened its doors earlier this month as NASCAR part-timer Timmy Hill and brother Tyler Hill now have their own Truck Series effort. Running the same #56 that their father Jerry Hill ran in Cup in the early 1990s (a separate team from the current effort), the Hill brothers acquired two trucks from MDM Motorsports, and look to run about 10 races in 2019. According to Hill’s interview with Catchfence, Jerry Hill, Carl Long, and Rick Ware are among those who have helped get the effort off the ground. Southern Freight Services is the listed sponsor.

DRIVER CHANGE: #63-Copp Motorsports
On the same night Derek Kraus turned heads in BMR’s truck at the ISM Raceway, Dawson Cram quietly finished a career-best 16th, and has yet to finish worse than 24th in his Truck Series career. This week, Cram aims for his first start since that night, returning to the site of his 17th-place showing for Mark Beaver last spring. He takes over for Scott Stenzel, who was sidelined early in Las Vegas en route to a last-place finish.

WITHDREW: #80-Jacob Wallace Racing
First of the withdrawals during the week, Jacob Wallace’s team pulled out of what would have been their first attempt since a DNQ in Atlanta earlier this year. The team had by far the most unique primary sponsor from the Sinister Suite Haunted Hotel.

WITHDREW: #87-NEMCO Motorsports
NEMCO Motorsports elected to withdraw their second truck, which team owner Joe Nemechek was slated to drive.

RETURNING: #92-RBR Enterprises
Ricky Benton’s team and driver Austin Theriault are still another pair returning to action for the first time since a DNQ in Daytona. Theriault has just one Truck Series start at Martinsville – a 20th for Young’s Motorsports back in the fall of 2016.

MISSING: #97-JJL Racing
Jesse Little and the JJL Racing team aren’t entered this week following a 19th-place showing in Las Vegas.

CUP INVADERS: #8-Austin Dillon, #51-Kyle Busch

Sunday, March 24, 2019
CUP Race 6 of 36
STP 500 at Martinsville
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Landon Cassill

After two straight years of running just 38 cars, the spring race at Martinsville falls to just 36 starters with no “open” teams entered. It is the smallest Cup field at Martinsville since September 22, 1996, a race which had 42 entrants and six DNQs. It is also the fifth-straight short field in 2019.

MISSING: #27-Premium Motorsports
One week after the #27 team returned to action in Fontana with Reed Sorenson, who finished 34th, neither driver nor team are entered in Martinsville.

Jeb Burton will make his second-straight Cup start at Martinsville, and his second in a row for Rick Ware Racing at the track following a 33rd-place showing last fall. This time around, he drives Ware’s second car, the #52, and is listed in a Chevrolet in place of the Mustang run on the “West Coast Swing.” The Ford will instead go to teammate Cody Ware, who runs the #51.

MISSING: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Although the XFINITY Series is off this weekend, Carl Long’s team has not entered their Cup car this weekend at Martinsville, one week after Joey Gase finished 35th in Fontana.

DRIVER CHANGE: #77-Spire Motorsports
Last year, D.J. Kennington ran both Martinsville races as part of his part-time Cup campaign, finishing 28th in the spring and 27th in the fall for Gaunt Brothers Racing. The latter was a last-minute deal where he was swapped in for Jeffrey Earnhardt. This time around, the Gaunt Brothers aren’t entered, and Kennington takes over for Fontana 36th-place finisher Garrett Smithley in Spire Motorsports’ #77 Chevrolet.

Saturday, March 30, 2019
XFINITY Race 6 of 33
My Bariatric Solutions 300 at Texas
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Jeff Green

It’s the XFINITY Series’ turn to take the week off. The series returns a week from Saturday for a triple-header weekend in Texas.

This day in LASTCAR History: (March 21, 1976): Bill Elliott picks up the first last-place finish of his Cup Series career at his home track, the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Making just his second career start that day, Elliott’s #9 Dahlongea Ford Sales Ford broke the driveshaft after 21 laps, leaving him last in the 36-car field. David Pearson won the race. While Elliott would have to wait until 1983 to claim his first Cup win, he wouldn’t finish last again for more than four years.

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