Thursday, April 25, 2019

PREVIEW: At Talladega, small XFINITY teams land big sponsors while a team and driver make their Cup debuts

PHOTO: The Decal Source
Saturday, April 27, 2019
XFINITY Race 9 of 33
Money Lion 300 at Talladega
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Spencer Boyd

The preliminary entry list had just 36 drivers entered to fill the 38-car field in Saturday’s race in Talladega, the fifth short field of 2019. Had Mike Harmon not joined late Tuesday, bringing the list to 37, it would have been the fewest XFINITY Series cars to take the green flag in a race since July 17, 1999, when D.J. Hoelzle trailed a 35-car show in Myrtle Beach. Even with Harmon's addition, this remains the second-smallest XFINITY field at Talladega, trailing only the 36-car show in the inaugural Fram Filter 500k on July 25, 1992.

DRIVER CHANGE: #4-JD Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #10-Kaulig Racing
Continuing his streak of running every Cup, XFINITY, and Truck Series race, Ross Chastain rejoins the Kaulig effort, looking for more after his victory in Stage 2 back in Daytona. He takes the place of Elliott Sadler, 12th two weeks ago in Richmond, and not entered this week. Taking Chastain’s spot in JD Motorsports’ #4 Chevrolet is Landon Cassill, who also runs double-duty with his Cup effort in StarCom Racing’s #00 Chevrolet.

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-JR Motorsports
Defending Truck Series champion Brett Moffitt makes just his third career XFINITY Series start and first in the series on a track other than Iowa, where he ran 9th in 2012 and 11th in 2017. He also drives for his third different XFINITY Series team, taking the place of Richmond’s 8th-placer Zane Smith in JR Motorsports’ #8 ISM Connect Chevrolet.

DRIVER SWAP: #13-Motorsports Business Management
DRIVER SWAP: #42-Motorsports Business Management
DRIVER SWAP: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Max Tullman reunites with Carl Long’s XFINITY Series team this week, rejoining the circuit for the first time since a 28th-place run in Daytona driving MBM’s #13. This time, he runs the #42 with sponsorship from Top Tier and Pit Viper. Tullman’s effort bumps Chad Finchum from the #42 to the #13, and Finchum moves Timmy Hill from the #13 to the #66. Not entered is Colin Garrett, 26th at Richmond in the #66 that Hill drives Saturday.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-JD Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
B.J. McLeod moves from his own #99, which he piloted to a 30th-place finish in Richmond, to the #15, taking the place of Tyler Matthews, 24th on the short track, and not entered on Saturday. The move opens the #99 for a returning D.J. Kennington, who like Tullman returns to the XFINITY Series for the first time since Daytona. Again sponsored by Lordco Auto Parts, Kennington ran 33rd in this year’s season opener. UPDATE: Kennington's name was later pulled from the entry list, along with the Lordco sponsorship. Cody Ware ultimately drove the unsponsored machine.

DRIVER CHANGE: #17-Rick Ware Racing
Chris Cockrum is another returning plate-track driver in the field, looking to improve on his 31st-place showing in Daytona. He takes the place of Kyle Weatherman, who with Bayley Currey have kept the #17 in the field in all but one XFINITY Series race this season. Weatherman ended a streak of three consecutive DNFs with finishes of 28th at Bristol and 32nd at Richmond.

DRIVER CHANGE: #18-Joe Gibbs Racing
Back to double-duty this weekend is Jeffrey Earnhardt, who’s back in the XFINITY Series for the first time since an 8th-place run in Texas. Earnhardt, who brings XCI Racing to Cup on Sunday (see below), will on Saturday run the #18 for the first time since his season-best 6th in Atlanta. He takes the place of Riley Herbst, 9th at Richmond.

MISSING: #21-Richard Childress Racing
MISSING: #89-Shepherd Racing Ventures
Two weeks ago, Kaz Grala and RCR’s #21 team made it into Richmond’s starting lineup after Morgan Shepherd withdrew, leading to a 14th-place finish for Grala. This time around, both Shepherd and Grala are not entered. It’s just the second race Shepherd hasn’t entered, following Daytona.

MISSING: #92-DGM Racing
After a sponsor fell through for him in Richmond, StarTron RV care products increased their backing of Josh Williams at Talladega, where he’ll not only return to the #36, but run a colorful new paint scheme. The Mario Gosselin team has not entered the #92 team that Williams failed to qualify at Richmond.

TEAM UPDATE: #74-Mike Harmon Racing
Mike Harmon wasn’t on the preliminary entry list, but was added by Tuesday evening. Harmon led a lap in this race last year, his first at Talladega since 2001, and finished 33rd.

PAINT SCHEME: #78-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Another new paint scheme this week belongs to Vinnie Miller, who shares Max Tullman’s sponsorship from Pit Viper on his green #78. Miller finished 17th in this race last year while driving for JD Motorsports.

DRIVER CHANGE: #86-Brandonbilt Motorsports
Two weeks ago, Brandon Brown’s one-off for RSS Racing, a swap with Josh Bilicki to keep Brown in the Playoff hunt, yielded a strong 20th-place finish. Brown now returns to his Brandonbilt team for his first Talladega start. He takes the place of Mason Diaz, who lost an engine in his own one-off, finishing 36th.

Alex Labbe is listed in the #90 this week, two weeks after Dillon Bassett’s 15th-place debut in the series. It will be Labbe’s third XFINITY start of 2019, following a 19th in Atlanta and 31st at Bristol. He ran 24th in his lone Talladega start last year.

As in recent years, all three RSS Racing cars all fully-sponsored on the plate tracks, including Josh Bilicki, who returns to the #93 in place of Brandon Brown. Bilicki, who ran 28th here for JP Motorsports last year, carries sponsorship from CMR Construction & Roofing, Ryan Sieg has Alabama Soda & Abrasive Blasting on the #39, and Jeff Green’s #38 sees a returning C2 Freight Resources.


Sunday, April 28, 2019
CUP Race 10 of 36
GEICO 500 at Talladega
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Kyle Larson

For the first time since the Daytona 500, nine races ago, there will be a 40-car field for Sunday’s race. Exactly 40 teams are entered, meaning none will be sent home after qualifying.

RETURNING: #27-Premium Motorsports
Reed Sorenson returns to Cup competition for the first time since he equaled his season-best 34th-place finish at Texas. He will again drive Premium Motorsports’ #27 Chevrolet, this week sponsored by longtime team sponsor Low T Centers.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Rick Ware Racing
Last fall, Talladega saw Cody Ware finish under power in a Cup race for the first time. This week, he takes the place of Jeb Burton, 31st in Richmond, and will make his first Cup start since last month’s last-place run in Martinsville.

DRIVER CHANGE: #52-Rick Ware Racing
Last year on the Roval, Stanton Barrett took his first green flag as a Cup driver since the 2008 qualifiers at Daytona. Unfortunately, the day ended after just 11 laps with a wreck in the Tums Heartburn Turn. This week, Barrett returns to the Cup Series, taking the place of Bayley Currey, who isn’t entered in either the Cup or XFINITY race this weekend. Barrett will make his first Cup start at Talladega, carrying sponsorship from Huski Chocolate.

RETURNING: #62-Beard Motorsports
Plate racing sees the return of Brendan Gaughan and the Mark Beard team. Gaughan finished 23rd in this year’s Daytona 500, collected in one of the night’s last pileups. He finished 22nd in this race last year, and ran 12th in the fall.

MISSING: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Carl Long’s team will focus on the XFINITY Series this weekend, two weeks after Joey Gase’s ride in the Sam Bass tribute car yielded a 33rd-place finish.

DRIVER CHANGE: #77-Spire Motorsports
Making his Cup debut this week is Justin Haley, who was one yellow-line penalty away from securing his first XFINITY Series win last July in Daytona. As in his previous XFINITY and Truck Series efforts, Haley will carry sponsorship from the Fraternal Order of Eagles. He takes the pace of Quin Houff, who ran 34th in Richmond.

NEW TEAM: #81-XCI Racing
After just one XFINITY start at Texas earlier this month, the Joe Gibbs Racing-affiliated XCI Racing makes the jump to Cup racing for the first time this weekend. Then as now, the driver is Jeffrey Earnhardt, who will be sponsored by team backer Xtreme Concepts, Inc. It will mark the first Cup start for car #81 since April 21, 2013, when Elliott Sadler drove a different Gibbs car to a 40th-place finish (out of 43) at Kansas.

RETURNING: #96-Gaunt Brothers Racing
Also returning are the Gaunt Brothers and Talladega Truck Series winner Parker Kligerman. It will be the first start for both driver and team since Texas, when Kligerman drove to a 27th-place finish. As at Daytona, the car will be sponsored by Toyota itself, this time the 40th anniversary of Toyota Racing Development.

Friday, May 3, 2019
TRUCKS Race 6 of 23
JEGS 200 at Dover
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Todd Peck

The Truck Series returns next Friday as the circuit heads north to “The Monster Mile.”

Today in LASTCAR history (April 25, 1992): Jason Keller picks up the first last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career when his #54 Kel Racing Buick overheated after 34 laps of the Nestle Chilled Beverages 300 at the Lanier (Georgia) Speedway. The win went to Bobby Labonte, the defending series champion at the time. Keller was making just the second of his 519 career XFINITY starts across two decades, following a 29th-place run in the previous year’s race at Lanier.

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