Tuesday, June 18, 2019

ARCA: Dale Shearer finishes last in 2019 debut

Mike Basham driving the #69 earlier this year at Nashville
PHOTO: The Pit Lane
by William Soquet
LASTCAR.info Guest Contributor, ARCA Menards Series

Dale Shearer finished last for the fourth time in his ARCA Menards Series career in Friday’s Shore Lunch 200 at Madison International Speedway when his #69 Shearer Racing Ford dropped out with clutch issues after 2 of 200 laps. The finish came in his 32nd career start, and was his first since Chicagoland in 2016, 32 races ago.

Shearer is a true independent racer who funds his career on his earnings off of his job as a computer programmer. He primarily runs his own #73 or #94, but occasionally runs his equipment with other teams, like Kimmel Racing at Daytona in 2016. A crash in his only start at Salem last year shelved his plans for the rest of the year, and he did not return until this weekend at Madison.

The Madison entry list included 18 cars, now a trendy number for ARCA events. The ARCA short-track ringers returned, including Sam Mayer, who was able to compete in his home state after the K&N East race at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in Connecticut was cancelled. Eric Caudell returned, and another Wisconsin driver, Dick Karth, made his series debut on the season and made his first start since this race a year ago.

In practice, Shearer was last among the eighteen entrants, 4.1 seconds behind leader Christian Eckes and 1.7 seconds behind 17th-place running Dick Doheny. Shearer was nearly five seconds behind pole winner Chandler Smith. Per ARCA timing and scoring, Karth’s #11 machine dropped to the back for the green but then passed Shearer on the first lap, leaving the #69 to run last until it pulled behind the wall.

Looking ahead to the season-long LASTCAR tally, while it was Shearer’s first last-place finish, it furthered Ford’s lead to three races over Toyota, and it put Kimmel Racing into a four-way tie for first in the owner’s championship, which is still wide open. There is also a tie between Brad Smith and Richard Doheny with two last-place finishes on top of the driver’s tables, leaving that battle to be decided after this, the halfway mark of the season.

18) #69-Dale Shearer / 2 laps / clutch
17) #1-Richard Doheny / 10 laps / brakes
16) #11-Dick Karth / 15 laps / handling
15) #48-Brad Smith / 51 laps / engine
14) #06-Tim Richmond / 183 laps / running

1st) Ford (6)
2nd) Toyota (3)
3rd) Chevrolet (1)


Sunday, June 16, 2019

TRUCKS: Victory and adversity still hand-in-hand for Ross Chastain, the Truck Series’ first last-place finisher by disqualification

PHOTO: @ChicagolndSpdwy
Ross Chastain picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series career in Sunday’s M&M’s 200 at the Iowa Speedway when his #44 TruNorth / Paul Jr. Designs Chevrolet was disqualified after winning the race, completing all 200 laps.

The finish came in Chastain’s 69th series start. In the Truck Series last-place rankings, it was the 6th for the #44, the 374th for Chevrolet, and the very first series disqualification. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 60th for the #44, the 1,663rd for Chevrolet, and the 28th disqualification that classified the driver last.

Tyler Ankrum picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series career in Sunday’s M&M’s 200 at the Iowa Speedway when his #87 NEMCO Chevrolet fell out with brake issues after 17 of 200 laps.

The finish came in Ankrum’s ninth series start. In the Truck Series last-place rankings, it was the 10th for the #87, the 26th from brake issues, and the 374th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 53rd for the #87, the 162nd from brake issues, and the 1,663rd for Chevrolet.

Sunday’s disqualification was far from Chastain’s first serious obstacle in his racing career. Last fall, after years of strong runs with Johnny Davis’ JD Motorsports in the XFINITY Series, Chastain turned in breakout performances in Chip Ganassi Racing’s #42 DC Solar Chevrolet. He nearly won his first time out at Darlington before Kevin Harvick wrecked him out of the lead, then bounced back to win in Las Vegas. Ganassi signed Chastain to run the full XFINITY season for him in 2019, but all that came crashing down when sponsor DC Solar collapsed during the FBI’s investigation into allegations of fraud.

Undaunted, the affable watermelon farmer from Florida reunited with JD Motorsports, continued his Cup schedule in Jay Robinson’s underfunded #15 Chevrolet, and also went from part-time to full-time at Al Niece’s Truck Series team. This distinguished Chastain as the only driver to run every race in Cup, XFINITY, and Trucks from the Truck opener at Daytona through the XFINITY race at Michigan. He started the year with his first Top Ten in Cup, finishing 10th in the Daytona 500, then ran a season-best 7th in the XFINITY Series race at Las Vegas.

But while solid in the upper two series, Chastain has been exceptional in Al Niece’s truck. In his first full-time Truck Series campaign since 2012, Chastain opened the year with a 3rd-place finish in the #45 Chevrolet. Then he finished 6th at Atlanta, 10th at Las Vegas, and took a stage victory on his way to a 4th in Martinsville. While 13th in the XFINITY Series points, where he’d declared for the championship, Chastain’s top-ten streak continued on – 7th in Texas, 10th in Dover, and then his first series win at Kansas, where he held off Ben Rhodes.

With another 10th the next race in Charlotte, the decision was made – Chastain would stop running for the XFINITY title and instead go for the championship in Trucks. There were two big problems – the Kansas win wouldn’t lock him into the Playoffs, and he’d have to start from zero points. He would have to win one of the next eight races, and earn enough points by the cutoff round to take 20th in the standings. His next time out at Texas, Chastain did nearly that, finishing Top 10 in all three stages, including a 10th at the checkered flag. The next race was Iowa.

Chastain’s story ended up having much in common with Tyler Ankrum, the original subject of this article after he finished last in Iowa prior to the disqualification. Ankrum, a 19-year-old late model driver from Southern California, has been a quick study in stock cars. Just last year, he joined DGR-Crosley’s effort in the K&N Pro Series East and rolled to the title, taking four wins in fourteen starts and only twice finishing worse than 7th. That same year, he joined DGR’s Truck Series team in the #17, finishing 18th in his debut at Martinsville and then 6th at the ISM Raceway, completing all 350 laps. He returned as the team’s full-time driver in this year’s Martinsville race, and in the six rounds since finished outside the Top 20 only once. This was capped last week in Texas, where he survived a spin off Turn 4 that sent him sliding down pit road. He managed to not hit anything and recovered to finish third – a career-best finish, and his first Top Five. Everything seemed to be headed the right direction.

But on Tuesday, just four days after the Texas race, Ankrum tweeted a video saying he would no longer be running the Truck Series full-time. The reason was sadly familiar – at least one sponsorship deal had fallen through. In his previous starts, May’s Hawaii and the Modern Meat Company had sponsored Ankrum’s efforts. Modern Meat had been backing him since his late model days. Neither would be the sponsor of the #17 at Iowa, where Kyle Busch Motorsports driver Raphael Lessard would drive in Ankrum’s place. Ankrum stated he is still working closely with the DGR-Crosley team on the possibility of running future races. Railblaza, his backer from Texas, has already agreed to run a handful of races later this season.

Tyler Ankrum exits Joe Nemechek's #87 at Iowa
Two days after that came another opportunity. Joe Nemechek’s two-truck effort NEMCO Motorsports had originally entered Iowa with Nemechek himself in the #87. However, as son John Hunter mentioned Sunday, Joe was out of the country for Iowa weekend, leaving an open space in his “start-and-park” Chevrolet. The truck first went to Josh Reaume, who had climbed out of his own #33 to bring on ARCA Menards Series driver C.J. McLaughlin. But by late afternoon, Ankrum took Reaume’s place. Teamed with Ankrum in the NEMCO #8 was Trey Hutchens, swapped in for Camden Murphy after Hutchens wrecked his own #14 truck at Texas.

Ankrum’s Iowa weekend began with just four laps turned in opening practice – fewest of any of the 32 remaining entries – but still managed to rank 25th. He again turned the fewest in Happy Hour, turning only three circuits, but ranked 26th out of the same 32. Only a rained-out qualifying session was the reason he started 31st. Chastain, meanwhile, ran 11th and 12th in the two practices, then lined up 19th. As part of the championship declaration, Chastain was moved from the #45 he’d driven up to that point to Niece’s #38 at Charlotte, then the team’s third #44 truck at Iowa. All three would carry his familiar black-and-white paint scheme with green door numbers.

Exactly 32 drivers took practice times because of two late withdrawals. On top of bringing on C.J. McLaughlin, Josh Reaume had planned on debuting a new third team and bringing Daniel Sasnett aboard to run the new #32 Chevrolet. The team ended up withdrawing, joining another truck that had shown up at the track but wasn’t quite race-ready. This was the #74 Kramer Service Group / A&A Haulers Chevrolet, the former Mike Harmon Racing entry purchased in January by Green Bay native Lou Goss. Goss’ truck was not only missing decals on the front valence, but according to LASTCAR reader Colby Evans who was trackside, the truck didn’t have a fuel cell, and the engine was still missing a few parts. This forced the team to withdraw.

Starting 32nd on Sunday’s rain-postponed race was Jennifer Jo Cobb, who drove her own #0 Driven2Honor.org Chevrolet. Cobb drove this truck instead of her more familiar #10 as she, too, had stepped out for another newcomer, Juan Manuel Gonzalez, who would make his series debut after a DNQ in Martinsville earlier this year. The only truck joining Cobb at the back was Tyler Hill, whose second turn in Hill Motorsports’ #56 Southern Freight Services Chevrolet saw him penalized for unapproved adjustments. The penalty only dropped the #56 two spots from their scheduled 30th place on the grid.

When the race started, Hill drove past Cobb, who held last place on the first lap. In that same first circuit, Tyler Ankrum had already jumped to 28th, and he was out of the Bottom Five by Lap 5. By then, Cobb was 17.066 seconds back of the lead, and nearly two seconds back of new 31st-place runner McLaughlin in the Reaume #33. On Lap 10, Cobb was the first to be lapped by polesitter Chandler Smith in Kyle Busch Motorsports’ #51 Safelite Auto Glass Toyota.

Gonzalez’s run in the #10 didn’t go much better. He fell to last on Lap 17, by which point he was three circuits back of the leaders. He went down a fourth lap on the 19th time by. MRN reported that Gonzalez made one unscheduled stop for a flat right-front tire. It’s unclear whether this stop caused him to lose the four laps around Lap 19, or if the stop occurred on Lap 31, when the Penalty Report showed he was snagged by NASCAR for speeding exiting pit road.

What is known is that by Lap 20, Ankrum had pulled the #87 behind the wall, and had dropped to 29th. Colby Evans reported Ankrum looked visibly frustrated as he climbed from the truck, which took last from Gonzalez on Lap 24. It appeared he would finish there, scoring the first last-place finish in just his ninth series start. It was also going to be the first last-place finish for the #87 at Iowa.

On Lap 60, Ross Chastain took the lead by snatching away the Stage 1 victory from Johnny Sauter. He would go on to lead the rest of the way, sweeping both stages and taking the victory by 2.717 seconds over runner-up Brett Moffitt. In just his second start since declaring Truck Series points, Chastain had apparently accomplished his first of two steps needed to make the Playoffs.

Then the inspection results came back.

Chastain’s truck was found to be “extremely low” in the front, according to NASCAR officials. Under the new Disqualification Procedure for 2019, this results in an immediate disqualification that strips the win and classifies him in the last spot. Under existing LASTCAR rules, this means that Chastain and not Ankrum will be the officially-credited last-place finisher of the race. As of this writing, an appeal is being pursued by team owner Al Niece, and the result of this could change the result once more. In the meantime, rather than extending Chastain’s top-ten streak through all ten of the season’s first races, it ends at nine.

The last-place finish also had the consequence of saving Johnny Sauter from his first Bottom Five of 2019. Sauter was listed 28th in the results when his #13 Tenda Heal Ford was parked by NASCAR for wrecking Austin Hill under caution. The remainder of the Bottom Five stayed the same. Following 31st-place Ankrum was Juan Manuel Gonzalez, who blew a second right-front tire and slammed the Turn 4 wall, drawing the first caution of the race. Trey Hutchens, Ankrum’s teammate, exited after 61 laps with brake issues on the #8. Chad Finley finished 29th with rear end issues on the #42 Auto Value / Strutmasters / Air Life Chevrolet.

Chastain, Ankrum, Gonzalez, and Hutchens all earned their first Bottom Fives of 2019.

*This is the first time a driver was classified last due to disqualification in any of NASCAR’s top three series since April 16, 2005, when Johnny Sauter’s #1 Fleet Pride / Yellow Dodge was docked in the O’Reilly 300, an XFINITY Series race at Texas. It’s the first time it’s happened to the race winner in any of the top three series since August 19, 1995, when Dale Jarrett’s #32 Mac Tools Ford was DQ’d from the Detroit Gasket 200, an XFINITY race at Michigan, where he won the pole and led 89 of the 100 laps. Both Jarrett and Sauter were docked for illegal carburetors.
*The 141 laps led are the most by a driver classified last in any of NASCAR’s top three series. The previous record for the Truck Series was 24 (Rich Bickle at Colorado on June 1, 1998), the XFINITY Series is 89 (Dale Jarrett in the aforementioned Michigan race on August 19, 1995), and in Cup is 95 (Greg Biffle at Darlington on May 10, 2008).
*This marked the first Truck Series last-place finish since May 6, 2016, when Tommy Joe Martins’ suspension failed on his #44 Diamond Gusset Jeans Chevrolet after 26 laps of the Toyota Tundra 250 at Kansas.

32) #44-Ross Chastain / 200 laps / disqualified / led 141 laps
31) #87-Tyler Ankrum / 17 laps / brakes
30) #10-Juan Manuel Gonzalez / 40 laps / crash
29) #8-Trey Hutchens / 61 laps / brakes
28) #42-Chad Finley / 68 laps / rear end

1st) NEMCO Motorsports, Young’s Motorsports (2)
2nd) Copp Motorsports, DGR-Crosley, Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing, Niece Motorsports, Norm Benning Racing, Reaume Brothers Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (9)
2nd) Toyota (1)


XFINITY: Rough afternoon for RSS Racing sees Josh Bilicki jump to second in 2019 LASTCAR standings

PHOTO: @joshbilicki
Josh Bilicki picked up the 4th last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Sunday’s CircuitCity.com 250 at the Iowa Speedway when his unsponsored #93 RSS Racing Chevrolet fell out with electrical problems after 10 of 250 laps.

The finish, which came in Bilicki’s 51st series start, was his second of the year and first since Dover, four races ago. In the XFINITY Series last-place rankings, it was the 43rd for the #93, the 51st from electrical issues, and the 527th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 93rd for the #93, the 123rd from electrical issues, and the 1,664th for Chevrolet.

The finish also jumped Bilicki into second in the 2019 LASTCAR XFINITY Series Championship, where he still trails teammate Jeff Green on a bottom-five tiebreaker of 12-8.

The Wisconsin-born Bilicki has continued to make the most of the opportunities presented him, even when driving for lesser-funded teams. Just last week at Michigan, he welcomed new sponsorship from the Zeigler Auto Group, and picked up a season-best 21st-place finish. It was the first time Bilicki had finished an XFINITY Series race under power since Texas, where he ran 30th. He’s also branched out into NASCAR’s other two top series. The Ziegler Auto Group also backed his first Cup start of the year, also at Michigan, where he ran 33rd for Rick Ware. His lone Truck start of 2019 at Kansas saw him run 18th in Josh Reaume’s #34 Chevrolet. That night, Bilicki beat Reaume himself by two positions.

Bilicki began the weekend 31st of 36 drivers in opening practice, then on Sunday qualified 36th with a speed of 124.985mph (25.203 seconds). As in the Truck Series race, no drivers were sent home following a late withdrawal. On the XFINITY side, it was Rick Ware Racing’s #17, which didn’t have a driver listed. Reports indicated the car was withdrawn to ensure Shane Lee could qualify for brand-new team H2 Motorsports. Lee’s #28 Toyota Supra, the paint scheme designed by David Marrero, carried the race’s sponsor Circuit City. Lee qualified 17th.

Starting 38th and last was Timmy Hill, who this week took the controls of Carl Long’s #13 CrashClaimsR.us Toyota for Motorsports Business Management. The only driver penalized to join him was Justin Haley, whose #11 Leaf Filter Gutter Protection Chevrolet had a new engine. Voluntarily falling to the rear was Morgan Shepherd, whose #89 Visone RV Chevrolet rolled off behind Hill when the race started. During that first lap, Shepherd drove past Hill’s teammate Stan Mullis in the #66 LasVegas.net Toyota. Mullis fell 10.948 seconds back of the lead after three laps, but was then passed for last by another driver diving onto pit road.

Making his first XFINITY Series start of the season, 28th-place starter Ryan Ellis incurred a penalty for jumping the start that forced him to come down pit road on Lap 5. The stop caused Ellis’ #99 Wes Cook Band Toyota to lose two laps. After ten laps, Bilicki came down pit road, then pulled into the garage. The #93 crew was having radio issues at the time, someone saying “rainbows and unicorns” between the interference. Bilicki took last from Ellis on Lap 13.

While Jeff Green has traditionally pulled in his #38 just as early – and did join Bilicki six laps later - Green was beat for the 37th spot by Ryan Sieg in the RSS team’s flagship #39. The team had fuel pressure issues, and the crew spent more than 22 laps trying to diagnose the issue. During this time, all three RSS Racing entries occupied the final three spots. Finally, on Lap 35, Sieg returned to the track under caution and proceeded to use the rest of the race as a test session. By Lap 62, Sieg had climbed out of the Bottom Five, but the impromptu test session was plagued by more fuel pressure issues. Sieg finished 30th, completing 78 laps before the fuel pressure issue ended his day.

Jeff Green finished 37th, just days after it was announced he would sit out the rest of the season after Kentucky due to rotator cuff surgery. Last-place starter Hill took 36th followed two circuits later by Shepherd in 35th. Rounding out the Bottom Five was David Starr, whose #52 Franklin Signs & Graphics Chevrolet erupted in smoke after 30 laps. The incident handed Starr his first Bottom Five of 2019.

*This marked the fifth last-place finish at Iowa for the #93 and comes with its fourth different driver.

38) #93-Josh Bilicki / 10 laps / electrical
37) #38-Jeff Green / 16 laps / electrical
36) #13-Timmy Hill / 21 laps / electrical
35) #89-Morgan Shepherd / 23 laps / brakes
34) #52-David Starr / 30 laps / engine

1st) Motorsports Business Management (5)
2nd) RSS Racing (4)
3rd) DGM Racing (2)
4th) JD Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Rick Ware Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (8)
2nd) Toyota (6)


Thursday, June 13, 2019

PREVIEW: A new team - and a new team owner - among the many stories at Iowa

PHOTO: @Ryan_Repko14
Saturday, June 15, 2019
TRUCKS Race 10 of 23
M&M’s 200 at Iowa
2018 Last-Place Finisher: J.J. Yeley

There are 34 trucks on the preliminary entry list for Saturday’s Truck Series race, meaning two teams will miss the show. UPDATE: Make that 33 for 32 after Josh Reaume's new #32 team was withdrawn (see below).

RETURNING: #0-Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #10-Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing
For just the second time this year, Jennifer Jo Cobb will field two trucks, bringing back the #0 for the first time since Kansas. Unlike at Kansas, where Cobb switched into the truck after a qualifying wreck in her #10, Cobb is entered in the #0, leaving the #10 open for two-time NASCAR FedEx Challenge Series race winner Juan Manuel Gonzalez. Gonzalez looks to make his series debut after a DNQ during his first attempt at Martinsville earlier this year. Illux returns as sponsor for his #10.

MISSING: #14-Trey Hutchens Racing
Last week, Tony Mrakovich got to make his 2019 debut driving for Joe Nemechek, but finished just 26th after brake issues on the #8 Street Stores Chevrolet. Camden Murphy was originally listed to run the #8 this week, but as of Tuesday that changed to Trey Hutchins. Hutchins made his own season debut in his #14 last week, but collided with Spencer Boyd on the backstretch. With the #14 not entered, Hutchins will slide into the #8.

MISSING: #9-CR7 Motorsports
Codie Rohrbaugh was another driver eliminated in a hard crash at Texas, and his #9 is not entered this week.

MISSING: #15-DGR-Crosley
Anthony Alfredo will also not be making the trip to Iowa, nor will DGR-Crosley’s third truck – unfortunate given Alfredo’s 12th-place finish in Texas after leading his first three laps.

Saturday sees the third series start of Raphael Lessard, who finished 14th at Martinsville and 11th at Dover driving Kyle Busch Motorsports’ #46. This time around, Lessard drives DGR-Crosley’s #17, taking the place of Tyler Ankrum, Texas’ 3rd-place finisher (UPDATE: Ankrum to the #87, see below). Sponsorship will come from Rseau dynamique and FRL Express.

MISSING: #25-Ted Minor Motorsports
Ted Minor is not entered this week following his DNQ in Texas. The team’s next attempt is still to be announced.

NEW TEAM / WITHDREW: #32-Reaume Brothers Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #34-Reaume Brothers Racing
Josh Reaume expands his team from two to three trucks for the first time, debuting the #32 Surface Prep Supply Chevrolet with returning driver Daniel Sasnett. UPDATE (June 13): The #32 has withdrawn. Reaume himself is not entered in either of his other two trucks. Taking the wheel of his flagship #33 is C.J. McLaughlin, who’s run the superspeedway portion of this year’s ARCA Menards Series season. McLaughlin, who earned a series-best 10th last week in Michigan, will bring his ARCA sponsor Sci Aps. Rounding out the trio is Mason Massey, who has just two K&N Pro Series East starts back in 2014. Massey takes the place of Scott Stenzel in the #34, and carries sponsorship from Anderson Power Services.

MISSING: #38-Niece Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #44-Niece Motorsports
Al Niece is not fielding the #38 that Ross Chastain steered to a 10th-place finish last week in Texas. The second race of Chastain’s go-for-broke season will move to the #44, driven last week by Angela Ruch before an accident after 33 laps left her 29th. Kyle Benjamin remains the driver of the #45 after an accident of his own left him 31st.

RETURNING: #42-Chad Finley Racing, Inc.
Welcome back Chad Finley and his #42, back on the track for the first time since their 18th-place showing in Charlotte. Finley eyes his first green flag at Iowa since July 11, 2009, when he finished 9th in his only ARCA start here.

RETURNING: #46-Kyle Busch Motorsports
Riley Herbst looks to put a miserable XFINITY weekend in Michigan behind him as he climbs aboard KBM’s returning #46, last run in the series when Herbst finished 9th in Kansas. Monster Energy and Advance Auto Parts join him as sponsors.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Kyle Busch Motorsports
Greg Biffle will not be running this weekend’s race, following his impressive win in Texas. The flagship #51 goes this week to Chandler Smith, a three-time winner in the ARCA Menards Series, most recently at Toledo earlier this year. Smith looks to make his NASCAR national touring series debut with sponsorship from Safelite Auto Glass.

RETURNING: #56-Hill Motorsports
Iowa is the next race on Timmy and Tyler Hill’s single-truck team, and this week Tyler takes the controls while Timmy runs in the XFINITY Series for Motorsports Business Management. Tyler, who ran 20th in his series debut at Dover, will be sponsored by Southern Freight Services.

RETURNING: #74-Mike Harmon Racing / Lou Goss Racing
Also making its return is Mike Harmon’s Truck Series team, which hasn’t been seen trackside since their 31st-place finish last summer at Mosport. This time around, the driver is Green Bay, Wisconsin native Lou Goss, who has a fascinating story of his own. According to this article, found by our own ARCA Guest Contributor William Soquet, Goss purchased Harmon’s truck in January to help Harmon fund his XFINITY car at Daytona. The truck came without an engine or transmission, and Goss has had to sell his short track equipment to lease both. Harmon has since helped Goss prepare the truck, which will make its debut at the track. The team is listed with Kramer Service Group and A&A Haulers. Goss’ team website is also coming together at this link.

On Thursday, Josh Reaume was swapped into Joe Nemechek's #87. UPDATE: And later that same day it became Tyler Ankrum, bumped from the #17, who will this be able to keep up on race attempts.

Jesse Little rejoins the Truck circuit for the sixth time this year and first time since a 14th-place showing in Charlotte. Little has finished inside the Top 10 in both his Iowa starts, running 9th in 2017 and a track-best 6th just last year. Skuttle Tight rejoins the team as sponsor.

MISSING: #04-Roper Racing
Noticeably absent from this week’s list is Cory Roper, who survived at Texas to etch his career-best 9th-place finish.


Sunday, June 16, 2019
XFINITY Race 14 of 33
CircuitCity.com 250 at Iowa
2018 Last-Place Finisher: J.J. Yeley

While 39 were on the original entry list, the withdrawal of Rick Ware Racing's #17 (see below) made it exactly 38 entries for as many spots. No drivers will miss the show.

DRIVER CHANGE: #4-JD Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #15-JD Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #01-JD Motorsports
Denver, North Carolina native Ryan Repko, a late model driver with two ARCA starts with a best finish of 8th at Madison, will make his first start in NASCAR’s top three series. Repko, who has sponsorship from The McLain Group, will drive Johnny Davis’ #01 in place of Stephen Leicht, who moves to the #4 vacated by Ross Chastain. Chastain will not run Sunday and will instead focus on Saturday’s Truck race, ending a streak of 146 consecutive XFINITY Series starts which began November 15, 2014 at Homestead. Also swapping into the JD Motorsports lineup is Tyler Matthews, who we last saw run 24th for the team in Richmond. Then as now, the sponsor is LineTec Services. Matthews takes the place of B.J. McLeod, 19th at Michigan and not entered in Iowa. Garrett Smithley remains in the JD team’s #0.

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-JR Motorsports
Iowa is the next race on Zane Smith’s schedule as he makes his fifth start of 2019 and first since a 9th-place run in Dover. He takes the place of Jeb Burton, 9th last week in Michigan. Sponsorship comes from LaPaz Margarita Mix.

MISSING: #12-Penske Racing
Roger Penske has not entered the #12 car this week, and Cup regular Paul Menard, 4th at Michigan, is also not on the list.

MISSING: #17-Rick Ware Racing
Rick Ware’s #17 was originally on the preliminary entry list for Iowa on Monday, but by Tuesday had been pulled. At the time, there was no driver listed. Bayley Currey drove the car last week in Michigan, yielding a 33rd-place finish. The team had attempted all 13 races this season with just one DNQ at Texas. UPDATE (June 13): Racing-reference.info, which left out the #17, has re-added it, but without a driver. UPDATE (June 14): The #17 has now been withdrawn there as well, still without a driver.

DRIVER CHANGE: #18-Joe Gibbs Racing
With Riley Herbst running the Truck Series after his 37th-place finish in Michigan, Harrison Burton will jump from Trucks to XFINITY this week along with sponsor Dex Imaging. It will be Burton’s second career start in the series and first since Bristol, where he finished 10th.

NEW TEAM: #28-H2 Motorsports
As announced earlier this year, Shane Lee will now drive for a brand-new team, H2 Motorsports. The car carries on it sponsorship from Circuit City, which also took the opportunity to sponsor Sunday’s race. Lee, previously a development driver with Richard Childress Racing, now runs a Toyota and seeks his 14th start. He finished 16th and 13th in last year’s Iowa races. Without Owner Points, Lee was in position to have to qualify on speed for Sunday, but that changed following the early withdrawal of Rick Ware’s #17. Thus, car #28 will make its first XFINITY start since last summer at Pocono, when JGL Racing last fielded the number for Dylan Lupton.

On Tuesday came news that Jeff Green will climb out of the #38 this July for rotator cuff surgery, and will not be racing the rest of this season. Green will run on Sunday as well as the next three races in Chicagoland, Daytona, and his home track in Kentucky before he steps aside. Still leading a three-way tie for the 2019 LASTCAR XFINITY Series championship with John Jackson and Joey Gase, this may end his bid for a third-straight title. This is not the end, however - plans are already in motion for a return in 2020, depending on sponsorship. By far the most prolific driver on this website - and a good guy to boot - we here at LASTCAR.info wish him the best and hope for a speedy recovery.

DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
With Tyler Hill running the aforementioned Truck Series race, the #66 falls to a returning Stan Mullis, Carl Long’s go-to driver for several stand-alone races since 2017. Mullis has three Iowa starts on his record with a best of 32nd in his series debut.

DRIVER CHANGE: #74-Mike Harmon Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #89-Shepherd Racing Ventures
As of this writing, both Mike Harmon and Morgan Shepherd will qualify and race their respective cars this week, Harmon replacing Kyle Weatherman in the #74 and Shepherd in for Landon Cassill in the #89. Cassill finished two spots ahead of Weatherman last week, running 32nd to Weatherman’s 34th.

Alex Labbe seeks his fourth XFINITY start of the season and first since Talladega, where he ran 25th. He takes the place of Dillon Bassett, who ended up with his first last-place finish at Michigan.

DRIVER CHANGE: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Ryan Ellis will make his first XFINITY start of the season and first in the series since a 17th-place showing for B.J. McLeod last summer at Road America. It will be Ellis’ third series start at Iowa and first since 2015, when he finished 35th for JGL Racing. He takes the place of Tommy Joe Martins, a solid 18th in Michigan, and brings with him sponsorship from The Wes Cook Band.


Sunday, June 23, 2019
CUP Race 16 of 36
Toyota / Save Mart 350 at Sears Point
2018 Last-Place Finisher: A.J. Allmendinger

Yes, the official name is the Sonoma Raceway, but the original 2.52-mile Sears Point International Raceway configuration makes its return in two weeks’ time, and I will be there to cover the action of the first road course race of 2019. Included in our coverage will be a second BSGN Starting Grid video, to be posted late Saturday, June 22.

Today in LASTCAR history (June 13, 1997): Kevin Grubb picks up the first last-place finish of his NASCAR Busch Series career in the Winston Motorsports 300 at South Boston Speedway when his #82 Virginia is for Lovers Chevrolet is collected in a six-car pileup after 60 laps. Grubb started 6th, but was collected when Stacy Puryear and Elliott Sadler spun in front of him. The finish came in Grubb’s second series start and was his first of five last-place runs in his career.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

ARCA: Richard Doheny first back-to-back last-placer of 2019

One of Doheny's steel-bodied #1 cars from earlier this season.
by William Soquet
LASTCAR.info Guest Contributor

Richard Doheny finished last for the fourth time in his ARCA Menards Series career during Friday’s VizCom 200 at Michigan International Speedway when his #1 Doheny Racing Ford parked after seven of 100 laps with ignition problems.

The finish came in his 29th series start and his second consecutive in ARCA competition. Doheny became the first driver to record consecutive ARCA last-place finishes since Wayne Peterson had three straight last summer.

At Michigan, Doheny flipped back to his familiar #1 entry, the first of several driver and team changes. Another tenured Fast Track Racing driver, Morgen Baird, took Dohney's place in the #11 entry with local sponsorship from Founders Brewing Company. Tim Richmond continued his drive in the #06 for Wayne Peterson Racing, and C.J. McLaughlin made it to the track after withdrawing from Pocono. Connor Hall ran a #7 Ford in the race as a third Chad Bryant Racing entry, using the owner points of Codie Rohrbaugh. Whelen Euro Series driver Myatt Snider returned to his old stomping grounds, but this time with a new team in Venturini Motorsports, driving the #20 machine. Speedway racers Scott Melton, Brandon McReynolds, Riley Herbst and Ty Majeski were all entered, and former NHRA champion Tanner Gray continued his partial slate with DGR-Crosley to round out the 18-car field. Thad Moffitt was once again entered and withdrawn, making it two in a row for the young Empire Racing pilot.

Snider led practice, which was anchored by Doheny, eight and a half seconds off the pace. There were swaps at both ends of the field for qualifying, with Venturini teammate Michael Self taking the pole and Brad Smith running what his team called a “conservative” lap to secure the last starting spot, this time only seven and three-quarters seconds off the hot lap.

By the end of the first lap, however, Smith was up to sixteenth, passing the cars of Doheny and Richmond. Richmond, in turn, would remain in last place for the first four laps until he would pass Doheny for seventeenth position. Doheny then spent three laps running in last place before he turned in. Tommy Vigh and Connor Hall pulled in after twelve laps, both citing vibrations as their reasons for exit. Electrical issues sidelined Richmond after 16 laps, and Brandon McReynolds rounded out the Bottom Five after a crash just before the midway point of the event.

18) #1-Richard Doheny / 7 laps / ignition
17) #10-Tommy Vigh, Jr. / 12 laps / vibration
16) #7-Connor Hall / 12 laps / vibration
15) #06-Tim Richmond / 16 laps / electrical
14) #28-Brandon McReynolds / 43 laps / crash

1st) Ford (5)
2nd) Toyota (3)
3rd) Chevrolet (1)

1st) Brad Smith Motorsports, Fast Track Racing, Venturini Motorsports (2)
2nd) Kimmel Racing, Mullins Racing, Our Motorsports (1)


Monday, June 10, 2019

CUP: Upstart Kyle Weatherman’s first last-place finish comes at Michigan

Kyle Weatherman picked up the 1st last-place finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 at the Michigan International Speedway when his #51 Jacob Companies Ford was involved in a single-car accident after 69 of 203 laps.

The finish came in Weatherman’s 10th series start. In the Cup Series last-place rankings, it was the 25th for the #51, the 583rd from a crash, and the 692nd for Ford. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 37th for the #51, the 951st for Ford, and the 1,182nd from a crash.

The Missouri-born Weatherman began his racing career at age eight, competing against his brother Clayton in go-karts. By the time he was fifteen, he’d already advanced through Bandoleros and Legends Cars, and on April 28, 2013, made his Menards ARCA Racing Series debut at Salem. Driving a Dodge fielded by his family, Weatherman finished 4th, his run overshadowed by a last-lap battle between Tom Hessert III and Spencer Gallagher. The run was no fluke. That same season, he finished 12th at Toledo, 4th at Winchester, then two consecutive runner-up finishes to Grant Enfinger in Iowa and Kyle Benjamin in Salem.

A ride with the Roulo Brothers followed the next season, where his season-best was a 4th in Berlin. Then a jump to Cunningham Motorsports, where things really took off – his first pole at Nashville, his first win on the road course New Jersey Motorsports Park – all in season where he finished 10th in points despite running just 15 of 20 races, finishing 5th or better ten of those times. The performance earned him his NASCAR debut, where he finished 23rd in the Truck Series finale at Homestead for Lira Motorsports.

A career-best 6th-place rank in the 2016 ARCA standings was followed by a jump to the Cup Series. His debut came at Martinsville, where Rick Ware tabbed him to drive the #51 Chevrolet. Weatherman qualified 38th and finished 35th, seventeen laps down to race winner Kyle Busch. He then finished 34th at Phoenix. He also nearly won in ARCA for his return to Nashville, where he again won the pole and led 134 of 200 laps before Chad Finley took the victory. Then came another partial Cup season, this time for StarCom Racing. Driving the team’s second “open” car, the #99 Chevrolet, Weatherman earned a career-best 26th-place finish at Las Vegas.

Earlier this year, Weatherman made his first XFINITY Series starts, reuniting with Rick Ware for the first time in three years. He ran back-to-back short track races at Bristol and Richmond, steering the #17 East Carolina University Chevrolet to a 28th-place finish in the former and 32nd in the latter. Michigan would see him return to XFINITY – and Cup – for the first time since.

Weatherman’s weekend began with Mike Harmon Racing, where he was switched in for the owner-driver in the #74 The Journey Home Project / Charlie Daniels Chevrolet. He qualified 24th, matching his series-best from Bristol, but alternator issues put him out after only 29 laps, leaving him 34th.

On the Cup side, Weatherman was again driving for Rick Ware, this time in the same #51 driven last week at Pocono by Bayley Currey and a week earlier by Cody Ware in the Coca-Cola 600. As with both races, the car was David Marrero’s P-40 Warhawk paint scheme, though unlike each, the stenciled car numbers were replaced with the Ware team’s traditional bold-faced font. The car ran 32nd of the 36 entrants in opening practice, then 33rd of 34 in Happy Hour. His qualifying lap of 180.900mph (39.801 seconds) ranked him 33rd on the starting grid.

Starting last in the shortest Cup field at Michigan since 1981 was Garrett Smithley, who one year prior finished last in this same race during his Cup debut, driving for the same StarCom #99 team Weatherman joined. This time around, Smithley took over for Ross Chastain, who missed out in his first Cup, XFINITY, or Truck Series race just days after declaring for Truck points. As a result, the #15 Chevrolet carried Smithley’s sponsorship from Victory Lane Quick Oil Change and associate backing from Kendall Oil, former sponsors of Sabco Racing in 1994 and 1995. With rain in the area Sunday, Smithley talked with his crew about his strategy to stay “tucked up” with the cars in front, then said “We've gotta get going, gotta get the Vortex Theory going on!" During these same pace laps, a gathering mist turned to rain, and the field pulled down pit road. As at Dover, the race was eventually postponed to Monday, though this time in the afternoon.

When the race finally went green Monday, no drivers were sent to the rear for pre-race penalties, leaving the #15 in last. On the break, Smithley pulled ahead of 35th-place Quin Houff, whose #77 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet started to his inside. Houff didn’t let Smithley go far, and pulled back alongside him through Turn 1 before relenting off Turn 2. Smithley also made quick work of Weatherman, who fell into Houff’s clutches in Turn 3. Coming around to complete the first lap, Houff pulled alongside Weatherman, and the two ran side-by-side across the stripe. Weatherman got the advantage off Turn 2, then re-passed Smithley in Turns 3 and 4, putting the two black Chevrolets back into the final two spots.

The battle continued on Lap 3, when Houff worked over Smithley, then got by him two circuits later. After seven laps, Smithley was now by himself in last place, 13.1 seconds back of the lead. “Stay in there with 'em if you can,” said his crew. Some distance ahead, the battle was now for 35th between Houff and Josh Bilicki, Weatherman’s Rick Ware Racing teammate in the #52 Chevrolet. By Lap 17, Houff had dispensed with Bilicki, and Smithley was closing in. The advance slowed, then reversed soon after, and the #15 held last place by open track by the first competition caution on Lap 21. At the time, none of the starters had lost a lap – the leaders hadn’t even drawn close to the tail end of the field.

The ensuing caution saw more last-place changes, this time between a pair of drivers who collided on pit road. The right-front of Jimmie Johnson’s #48 Ally Chevrolet struck the left-rear of Matt DiBenedetto’s #95 Toyota Express Maintenance Toyota, causing damage to both cars. First DiBenedetto, then Johnson traded last place as they were pitted in front of one another. DiBenedetto returned to the track first, followed by Johnson, and the #48 returned to pit a second time after the restart was waved-off. This caused Johnson to roll off pit road as the leaders were in Turns 3 and 4 for the restart. By the time the field was at full speed on Lap 26, the #48 was still by himself, 12.1 seconds back of the lead.

On Lap 30, Johnson had lost another second to the lead, but was closing in on the tail end of the field. He finally caught 35th-place Houff seven laps later. This happened just as Houff caught Smithley once more, and the pair ran side-by-side off Turn 4. After Smithley pulled ahead of the #77 once more, Houff’s spotter told him to stay in line to avoid losing more ground to the leaders. The pair caught Bilicki’s #52 on Lap 42, still managing to stay on the lead lap, but unable to catch Weatherman in front of them. At the time, Weatherman was in a two-car draft of his own, following the #00 Superior Essex Chevrolet of his former StarCom teammate Landon Cassill.

Despite Joey Logano’s dominant car, it wasn’t until Lap 54 that he caught Houff and the rest of the tail-end of the field. When he did, the rest of the top-five closed in rapidly, causing a hair-raising moment off Turn 4. Houff pulled low to let Logano by, but just then 2nd-place Aric Almirola pulled his #10 Smithfield / Meijer Ford to Logano’s outside in a bid for the lead. This put Almirola directly behind Smithley’s #15, blocking him in and keeping the #22 out front. Houff pulled lower to avoid trouble while the three sorted themselves out.

At nearly the same moment, Kevin Harvick made an unscheduled stop from the lead pack for a vibration. The move confused Houff’s crew, who thought it was a strategy call. Since Harvick was so far ahead of the now-lapped Houff, it was a moment later when the #4 Busch Light Ford fell to last, just as he pulled back onto the track one lap down. Unlike Johnson’s rally, it took just four laps for Harvick to catch and pass Houff on the frontstretch to drop the rookie back to last once more. Harvick’s bid for the Lucky Dog fell two cars short as he, too, was unable to catch Cassill and Weatherman, now the first two cars one lap down, before the end of Stage 1. Cassill got his lap back instead.

Under this caution, Weatherman briefly took last on Lap 64 while officials also reported a safety violation on teammate Bilicki, who dropped to 35th. Houff took the last spot once more on Lap 65, followed by Harvick, who made another pit stop. Harvick then worked his way through traffic on the Lap 69 restart, dropping Bilicki to last for the first time. Seconds later, the last-place battle came to an abrupt end.

Weatherman had worked his way up the Bottom Five before his car wrecked in Turn 2, knocking off the rear decklid. The cameras caught his car rolling along the apron, the decklid dangling from behind his car on its tether like a kite. When he got to pit road, the crew made a quick diagnosis. “It's over,” someone said. “Can't race without a decklid, boys.” The car pulled behind the wall, out under the Crash Clock, and was pulled from RaceView on Lap 73.

Finishing 35th was a frustrated Clint Bowyer, who also shortened the rear of his #14 Haas Automation / ITsavvy Ford when contact from Chris Buescher sent him into the outside wall for two hard hits. The 34th spot fell to David Ragan, whose #38 Citgard Heavy Duty Engine Oil Ford suffered nose damage early, tangled with teammate Matt Tifft, then slowed again in the final laps, ultimately losing eight laps. Houff managed to stay just one lap down until Lap 105, ultimately finishing 32nd, five circuits back. Bilicki finished 33rd, and joined Ragan and Weatherman in earning his first Bottom Five of 2019.

For more on Kyle Weatherman, check out his website here.

*Weatherman is the first first-time last-place finisher in the Cup Series since last fall’s Homestead finale, where Regan Smith trailed in the Leavine Family Racing #95.
*This marked the first last-place finish for car #51 at Michigan since June 16, 2013, when Bobby Labonte’s #51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet wrecked after 5 laps of the Quicken Loans 400.

36) #51-Kyle Weatherman / 69 laps / crash
35) #14-Clint Bowyer / 130 laps / crash / led 1 lap
34) #38-David Ragan / 195 laps / running
33) #52-Josh Bilicki / 197 laps / running
32) #77-Quin Houff / 198 laps / running

1st) Rick Ware Racing (4)
2nd) Front Row Motorsports (3)
3rd) Chip Ganassi Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (2)
4th) Germain Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, Motorsports Business Management, Richard Childress Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (7)
2nd) Ford (6)
3rd) Toyota (2)


Sunday, June 9, 2019

XFINITY: Latest chapter of sibling rivalry between Bassett brothers sees Dillon score first last-place finish

PHOTO @dgm_racing_
Dillon Bassett picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s LTi Printing 250 at the Michigan International Speedway when his #90 Bassett Gutters & More Chevrolet was involved in a two-car accident after 8 of 125 laps.

The finish came in Bassett’s 2nd series start. In the XFINITY Series last-place rankings, it was the 22nd for the #90, the 324th from a crash, and the 526th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 52nd for the #90, the 1,181st from a crash, and the 1,662nd for Chevrolet.

Dillon and his older brother Ronnie Bassett, Jr. have become an increasing presence in NASCAR’s second-tier series. They grew up in their family’s business, Bassett Gutters and More, Inc., a home improvement business in their native Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The company backed the two racing’s efforts as far back as 2012, when Ronnie finished 12th out of 36 drivers in the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown. The next year, Dillon joined him in the same race and won the pole. Ronnie made it by to finish 4th to Dillon’s 7th.

The friendly rivalry has continued from the K&N Pro Series East and now the XFINITY Series. Ronnie made his K&N debut first, finishing 23rd at Greenville-Pickens on September 2, 2013. But it was Dillon, who started two years later, who reached victory lane first, taking the checkers in just his tenth start at Smithton, Pennsylvania on August 15, 2015. That year marked the only time Dillon bested Ronnie in the K&N East standings, where older brother’s best run was a 3rd in 2017, when he first went to victory lane in the New Smyrna opener.

The battle has continued into this year’s XFINITY Series, where both have traded rides with Mario Gosselin’s DGM Racing. Ronnie made his debut first at Phoenix, again in the colors of his family business. An accident sent him to a backup car, which he steered to a 32nd-place finish with brake issues. Two races later, Ronnie bounced back with a 15th-place finish in Texas. Once again, Dillon was quick to impress, and in his own debut at Richmond matched his brother’s 15th-place finish. Another battle of the brothers was set to take place two races ago in Charlotte, but Dillon failed to qualify the #90 while Ronnie finished 25th in the #92. Michigan would be Dillon’s next start, though again without Ronnie in the field.

Dillon started the Michigan weekend 22nd on the speed charts, then rocketed to 4th in Happy Hour, trailing only the Cup-backed efforts of Christopher Bell, Cole Custer, and Tyler Reddick. He then qualified 19th for the race at a lap of 188.171mph (38.263 seconds), more than enough to make the show. Landon Cassill turned in another fast lap as a last-minute driver change with Morgan Shepherd, steering the #89 VisOne RV Chevrolet to 16th on the grid. With 39 drivers entered for 38 spots, the lone DNQ was itself a surprise – the Richard Childress Racing #21, which ARCA regular Joe Graf, Jr. was to make his series debut.

Starting 38th on Saturday was Garrett Smithley, the first leg of his double-duty weekend coming in JD Motorsports’ #0 Trophy Tractor Chevrolet. Five other drivers would be sent to the back for pre-race penalties. Riley Herbst was sent to a backup car after he tore the rear clip off his #18 Monster Toyota in an accident in practice. The backup managed just 30th on the grid. Unapproved adjustments sent back 36th-place Joey Gase in the #35 Clubfoot Solutions Toyota and 21st-place Tommy Joe Martins in the #99 Diamond Gusset Jeans / The Podgoats Toyota. Bassett’s teammate Josh Williams changed tires on his #36 Star Brite / Star Tron Simcraft Chevrolet, costing him 29th on the grid. Finally, an engine change docked 35th-place starter David Starr in the #52 Pro Waste Services Chevrolet.

By the time the field addressed the starter’s stand, the tail end of the field had again changed. Last-place qualifier Smithley was up to 29th, followed by the five penalized drivers led by the #18 of Herbst. Behind them, three more drivers had voluntarily fallen to the rear: 16th-place Cassill in Shepherd’s #89, 26th-place qualifier Jeff Green in the #38 RSS Racing Chevrolet, and new last-place starter Timmy Hill in the #13 CrashClaimsR.us Toyota.

Heading into the first corner, Hill and Green ran side-by-side for the last spot, and Green pulled ahead to drop Hill to last down the backstretch. Falling into the pair’s clutches was Vinnie Miller, who originally qualified 37th in the #78 1-800-Roll-Off / Pit Viper Chevrolet. Both Green and Hill passed him after the completion of Lap 3, dropping the #78 to last. Moments later, Green pulled down pit road and re-took the spot from Miller.

Seconds later, Basett, who was running around 26th, slid up the track in Turn 4 and made contact with the #07 Isokern Fireplaces & Chimneys / Scuba Life Chevrolet of Ray Black, Jr. While Black backed into the wall, Bassett’s car veered hard left into the grass, destroying the left-front of his splitter. Bassett and Green both made it to pit road before Black, each incurring tail-end penalties for pitting while pit road was still closed. Bassett made it back on track laps down, only to pull down pit road on Lap 12 after the yellow came out for Jeb Burton’s spin down the backstretch. This time, Bassett pulled into the garage, done for the day.

Finishing 37th was Herbst, whose rough day ended with another hit to the outside wall just before Burton’s spin. Green returned to action from his second pit stop, then exited after 17 laps complete to take 36th. Finishing 35th was Tyler Hill, who took over brother Timmy’s #66 MBM Motorsports Toyota before engine issues ended his day after 17 laps of his own. Rounding out the group was Kyle Weatherman, switched into Mike Harmon’s #74 The Journey Home Project / Charlie Daniels Chevrolet earlier in the week. It was the first Bottom Five of the year for Bassett, Herbst, Hill, and Weatherman.

Brandon Brown finished outside the Top 20 for just the second time this year, finishing 26th, but was running around the 18th spot on the final lap when he ran out of fuel.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #90 in an XFINITY Series race at Michigan.
*Bassett is the tenth different driver to finish last in the XFINITY Series race at Michigan.

38) #90-Dillon Bassett / 8 laps / crash
37) #18-Riley Herbst / 12 laps / crash
36) #38-Jeff Green / 17 laps / vibration
35) #66-Tyler Hill / 17 laps / engine
34) #74-Kyle Weatherman / 29 laps / alternator

1st) Motorsports Business Management (5)
2nd) RSS Racing (3)
3rd) DGM Racing (2)
4th) JD Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Rick Ware Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (7)
2nd) Toyota (6)


TRUCKS: Long night in Texas begins with hard crash for Gus Dean

PHOTO: Luis Torres, @TheLTFiles
Gus Dean picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series career in Friday’s SpeedyCash.com 400 at the Texas Motor Speedway when his #12 4P Energy Services Chevrolet was eliminated in a single-truck accident after 10 of 167 laps.

The finish, which came in Dean’s ninth series start, was his second of the season and first since Martinsville, five races ago. In the Truck Series last-place rankings, it was the 5th for the #12, the 150th from a crash, and the 373rd for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 42nd for the #12, the 1,180th from a crash, and the 1,661st for Chevrolet.

The finish also jumps Dean into a close 2nd in the 2019 LASTCAR Truck Series Championship, trailing leader Joe Nemechek on a bottom-ten tiebreaker of 6-4.

In the two months since Martinsville, Dean has continued his up-and-down rookie season. His last-place run came one race before the Trucks’ most recent trip to Texas, where a tangle with Angela Ruch left him 29th. After that came back-to-back 14th-place finishes in Dover and Kansas, each an improvement on his career-best 15th in consecutive races at Daytona and Atlanta. Charlotte saw his struggles return as he again tangled with Ruch and Korbin Forrister, then drew a caution of his own on the restart. The frustrating night left him 26th, 11 laps down.

Dean has fared much better in the ARCA Menards Series, where this year he’s focused on the superspeedways driving for former Truck Series driver Kevin Cywinski. At Daytona, Dean led the second-most laps in to race winner Harrison Burton, only to be caught up in an accident and finish 26th. He returned at Talladega, leading another four laps and finishing 6th. Then at Charlotte, the Thursday after his difficult night in Trucks, Dean finished 3rd behind Ty Majeski and Sheldon Creed. It was Dean’s best finish since he was runner-up to Chandler Smith last September at Salem.

While both ARCA and the Truck Series ran last week, they did so at completely different tracks – ARCA as a companion race for the Cup and XFINITY Series in Michigan while the Trucks ran with IndyCar in Texas. Committed to his full-season ride with Randy Young, Dean was entered to run in only the latter and not the former.

Dean began the Texas weekend 18th in opening practice, improved to 9th in the second session, then back to 17th in Happy Hour. His qualifying lap kept him 17th on the grid at a speed of 181.665mph (29.725 seconds).

With 33 trucks entered for 32 spots, the lone DNQ fell to Ted Minor, who was attempting his return to the series for the first time since the fall of 2017. This time around, Minor entered his own truck, the #25 Xtreme Air / Phoenix Roofing / Prestige Plumbing Chevrolet. Although Minor’s lap of 163.691mph (32.989 seconds) outpaced one other driver, his brand-new team was sent home based on Owner Points.

The one truck Minor beat belonged to Natalie Decker, whose struggles continued with the slowest lap in qualifying, five-hundredths slower than Minor’s #25. Issues with Decker’s #54 N29 Technologies Toyota forced the DGR-Crosley team to make unapproved adjustments to it, and the driver incurred a redundant tail-end penalty. The only other driver incurring a tail-end penalty was Stewart Friesen, sent to a backup after his #52 Halmar International “We Build America” Chevrolet slammed the outside wall in Turn 2 during practice. Among the others to find the outside wall were ThorSport teammates Johnny Sauter and Ben Rhodes, but repairs were made to each without penalties.

When Friday’s race started, Decker passed 31st-place starter Norm Benning in his #6 H&H Transport Chevrolet. By the end of the first lap, Benning completed a pass on Joe Nemechek in the #87 Romco Equipment Chevrolet. Nemechek then caught and passed Scott Stenzel, back in the series for the first time since Las Vegas, this time in Josh Reaume’s #34 Personal Comfort Chevrolet. Benning then fell into Stenzel’s clutches, and a spirited battle developed between the two. At the end of the fifth circuit, Stenzel edged Benning for 31st by 0.021 seconds. Benning got him back at the end of six, then Stenzel after seven. After that, Benning remained in last until two incidents happened at nearly the same time.

At the end of Lap 10, 8th-place starter Tyler Ankrum made an unscheduled stop for a flat tire on his #17 Railblaza Toyota. The truck also had visible damage on the right-rear corner. The stop dropped Ankrum off the lead lap as he returned to competition. The moment he did, trouble broke out off of Turn 2. Gus Dean lost control off the corner and backed into the outside wall. The truck then careened across the track, slamming the passenger side against the inside barrier, and only barely missed passing traffic as it stopped in the middle of the track. Dean appeared uninjured as he climbed from the truck under the first of a record 13 cautions.

Similar accidents filled much of the Bottom Five as the average green flag run was barely over seven laps. In 31st came Kyle Benjamin, whose #45 Spray-on.com Chevrolet was also torn up after a single-truck encounter in Turn 2. The result was Benjamin's first Bottom Five of 2019. Codie Rohrbaugh’s 30th-place finish happened nearly the same was as Dean’s, his #9 Grant County Mulch Chevrolet stopped against the inside wall on the backstretch. Angela Ruch’s #44 The Ruch Life Chevrolet skated up the same corner on Lap 34, leaving her 29th. Nemechek rounded out the group soon after, pulling his #87 behind the wall with a vibration.

After briefly holding last before the Dean caution, Tyler Ankrum recovered to finish a strong 3rd, his first top-five finish in eight series starts. Brennan Poole in the #30 Bad Boy Mowers Toyota finished 7th for All Out Motorsports, his third top-ten finish in the last four Truck Series races. Cory Roper saved his truck from a spin into the Turn 2 wall and was rewarded with a career-best 9th in his #04 Preferred Industrial Contractors Ford, Roper’s first Top Ten.

Two other drivers impressed with career runs in the late stages. Anthony Alfredo’s fifth series start saw him starting up front late in Stage 3 and leading his first laps before he finished in 12th. And owner-driver Jordan Anderson in his black Bommarito.com / Lucas Oil Chevrolet (dubbed “007”) ran as high as 2nd, working over race leader and polesitter Todd Gilliland’s #4 Mobil 1 Toyota as the two battled down the backstretch on a restart. Anderson finished 15th.

Greg Biffle took the win in his first Truck Series start since November 19, 2004. Although Biffle has seven last-place finishes across NASCAR’s top three series, only one came in Trucks – his third-ever start at Phoenix on April 19, 1998.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #12 in a Truck Series race at Texas.

32) #12-Gus Dean / 10 laps / crash
31) #45-Kyle Benjamin / 20 laps / crash
30) #9-Codie Rohrbaugh / 27 laps / crash
29) #44-Angela Ruch / 33 laps / crash
28) #87-Joe Nemechek / 48 laps / vibration

1st) NEMCO Motorsports, Young’s Motorsports (2)
2nd) Copp Motorsports, DGR-Crosley, Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing, Norm Benning Racing, Reaume Brothers Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (8)
2nd) Toyota (1)


Thursday, June 6, 2019

PREVIEW: Return of Biffle, Stenzel, and Minor, plus Chastain's big move top entry list storylines

PHOTO: @ScottStenzel
Friday, June 7, 2019
TRUCKS Race 9 of 23
SpeedyCash.com 400 at Texas
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Todd Peck

There are 33 drivers entered for 32 spots in Friday’s return of the Truck Series, meaning one team will miss the show.

MISSING: #1-Beaver Motorsports
Bayley Currey is not entered this week after the #1 team withdrew in Charlotte.

TEAM UPDATE: #3-Jordan Anderson Racing
In place of his traditional white-and-blue scheme, popular owner-driver Jordan Anderson will bring his black “007” truck to the track this week. Bommarito.com and Lucas Oil remain as sponsors.

RETURNING: #6-Norm Benning Racing
Returning from his own withdrawal at Charlotte is Norm Benning, with sponsorship from H&H Transport on his #6 Chevrolet. Benning eyes his 205th series start and his 19th at Texas, where his best finish is a pair of 17th-place runs in 2010 and 2017.

MISSING: #7-All Out Motorsports
Korbin Forrister and the All Out #7 team are not entered this week, following their most recent 25th-place showing in Charlotte.

Camden Murphy was originally slated to run this truck after running Rick Ware's #17 in the XFINITY Series. That changed by Wednesday with Tony Mrakovich now driving. Mrakovich had previously attempted to qualify his own #43 truck, but DNQ'd at Martinsville and withdrew from Dover.

NEW TEAM: #25-Ted Minor
Ted Minor looks to rejoin the Truck Series for the first time since Phoenix in the fall of 2017, when he finished 31st for the late Mike Mittler. This time around, he is the latest driver to start his own team, campaigning a #25 sponsored by Xtreme Air, Phoenix Roofing, and Prestige Plumbing. As of this writing, it has not been confirmed whether the truck will be a Chevrolet, Ford, or Toyota.

DRIVER CHANGE: #34-Reaume Brothers Racing
Scott Stenzel announced he will be returning to the Truck Series for the first time since his last-place finish in Las Vegas for Copp Motorsports. This time around, he replaces Josh Bilicki in Josh Reaume’s second truck, the #34. As at Vegas, Stenzel will be sponsored by his own mattress company Personal Comfort.

RETURNING: #38-Niece Motorsports
Team owner Al Niece brings back his third truck this week, which T.J. Bell was originally listed to drive. That changed significantly with news Tuesday that Ross Chastain will no longer pursue the 2019 XFINITY Series Championship and instead go for the title in the Truck Series. There’s one significant catch – Chastain’s win at Kansas will not count, as NASCAR rules require he start from zero points. The story is now this – Chastain must win again one of these following eight races to qualify for the Playoffs. Chastain finished 7th at Texas two months ago, his best run to date at the track.

DRIVER CHANGE: #45-Niece Motorsports
Chastain will drive Niece’s #38 and not the #45 he has piloted up to this point, including his win in Kansas. The preliminary entry list instead showed Kyle Benjamin as this week’s driver with International Cellulose as the sponsor. Benjamin’s only two Truck Series starts were both Martinsville races last year, where he finished 2nd and 5th for DGR-Crosley.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Kyle Busch Motorsports
Welcome back Greg Biffle, who as announced earlier this year will make his first start in NASCAR’s top three series since November 20, 2016 at Homestead, and his first in Trucks since November 19, 2004 – also at Homestead – when he finished 8th for Tom Mitchell. Biffle takes the place of last week’s Cup winner at Pocono Kyle Busch, who will focus on Sunday’s race in Michigan.

MISSING: #56-Hill Motorsports
Timmy Hill and his family-run team are not entered this week following Hill’s 16th-place showing in Charlotte.

MISSING: #92-RBR Enterprises
Also not entered is the Ricky Benton-prepared #92 Ford, which Timothy Peters failed to qualify the team’s last time out in Charlotte.

MISSING: #97-JJL Racing
Jesse Little is not in Texas, either, weeks after his 14th-place showing in Charlotte.


Saturday, June 8, 2019
XFINITY Race 13 of 33
LTi Printing 250 at Michigan
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Jeff Green

There are 39 drivers entered in Saturday’s XFINITY race at Michigan, meaning one team will miss the show.

TEAM UPDATE: #4-JD Motorsports
With Ross Chastain’s announcement that he will pursue the 2019 Truck Series Championship, it is likely there will be a new driver in the #4. As of this writing, Chastain is still entered in the car. UPDATE: Chastain is listed to drive Saturday with a new-look blue car sponsored by Contec. The driver's streak of starting every top three race (36 races total) will thus end on Sunday's Cup race.

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-JR Motorsports
Jeb Burton is back with JR Motorsports for the third time this season and first time since Charlotte, where he ran 7th. This time, his sponsor is LS Tractor. Burton takes the place of Cup rookie Ryan Preece, who ran a strong 4th in Pocono.

MISSING: #10-Kaulig Racing
Matthew Kaulig has elected not to bring his second Chevrolet to Michigan this week, the car Austin Dillon steered to a 10th-place finish in Pocono.

RETURNING: #12-Penske Racing
Cup veteran Paul Menard will make his first XFINITY start of the season in the return of Penske Racing’s #12 for the first time since Texas. The #12 team has had a surprisingly difficult start to the 2019 season, failing to finish both of their races this year with Brad Keselowski for finishes of 37th at Daytona and 36th in Fort Worth. Menard will carry sponsorship from Menards and Richmond.

DRIVER CHANGE: #13-Motorsports Business Management
DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsport Business Management
On Wednesday, Tyler Hill was swapped in for his brother Timmy in the MBM Toyota. Timmy then moves back to the team's #13 in place of John Jackson, who was on the preliminary list but is now not entered.

DRIVER CHANGE: #17-Rick Ware Racing
There was originally no driver listed for this car. Camden Murphy, who ran it last week, was slated to run the Truck race for NEMCO, but that changed by Wednesday. The driver will now be Bayley Currey after he was swapped from Ware's #52 Cup car for Josh Bilicki (see below).

DRIVER CHANGE: #18-Joe Gibbs Racing
Riley Herbst is set to make his third XFINITY start of the year and first since his 15th-place showing in Dover. He takes the place of Jeffrey Earnhardt, 22nd at Pocono, and carries returning sponsorship from Monster Energy. Herbst has a pair of ARCA Menards Series starts at Michigan with finishes of 16th in 2017 and a runner-up to Sheldon Creed just last year.

RETURNING: #21-Richard Childress Racing
Joe Graf, Jr., currently 5th in the ARCA Menards Series standings, eyes his first start in any of NASCAR’s top three series this weekend. Graf finished 5th in last year’s ARCA race at Michigan, three spots behind Herbst. This week, he’s the listed driver of RCR’s #21, a car we last saw with Kaz Grala behind the wheel in Dover. “Eat Sleep Race” is the listed sponsor of the Chevrolet.

DRIVER CHANGE: #74-Mike Harmon Racing
Mike Harmon was originally listed as back in his #74, but that changed by Wednesday as Kyle Weatherman will now run double-duty in Michigan.

DRIVER CHANGE: #89-Shepherd Racing Ventures
Revealed on Friday, Landon Cassill will drive in place of Morgan Shepherd, reprising his role from Charlotte.

Alex Labbe was slated to reunite with team owner Mario Gosselin this week, taking the place of Ronnie Bassett, Jr. in the #90 Chevrolet. That changed by Wednesday as Dillon Bassett wil run in his brother's place.

After failing to finish his last five races, “start-and-parking” in four of them, Josh Bilicki has finally landed not one, but two sponsors. Both Ziegler Auto Group and Marriott Companies will back his #93 Chevrolet. As of this writing, teammate Jeff Green’s #38 is yet unsponsored.

DRIVER CHANGE: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Tommy Joe Martins regains the #99 Toyota from Todd Peck, who finished 27th in Pocono. Martins carries returning sponsorship from Diamond Gusset Jeans, indicating he’s likely to run the same car Matt Mills ran in Pocono as a backup, finishing 30th.

CUP INVADERS: #12-Paul Menard

Sunday, June 9, 2019
CUP Race 15 of 36
FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Garrett Smithley

There are just 36 teams entered in Sunday’s Cup race at Michigan, another record-setting short field for the Cup Series. The last time just 36 drivers took the green flag at Michigan was on August 16, 1981.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Premium Motorsports
The aforementioned shift of Ross Chastain to the Truck Series championship has brought Garrett Smithley back to the scene of his brief Cup debut last year, when his ride in StarCom Racing’s #99 ended after early transmission woes following just one lap. Then as now, Victory Lane Quick Lane Oil Change is the sponsor of his ride. It will be Smithley’s first Cup start since Texas when he made his third and most recent start in Spire Motorsports’ #77, yielding a season-best 32nd.

MISSING: #27-Premium Motorsports
Jay Robinson’s team has elected not to bring the #27 team, which Reed Sorenson has driven in seven races this year, most recently his 28th-place showing last week in Pocono.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Rick Ware Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #52-Rick Ware Racing
Cody Ware was originally listed to return to the #51, moving Bayley Currey back to the #52 in place of J.J. Yeley, who isn’t entered. That changed by Wednesday with the #51 going to Kyle Weatherman, who will make his first Cup start of the season. Weatherman will run the P-40 car in its third straight race but with the original RWR numbers on the doors. In place of Currey in the #52 is Josh Bilicki, also making his first Cup start of the season and first since last summer at Watkins Glen.

Today in LASTCAR history (June 6, 1997): Terry Cook picks up the first last-place finish of his Truck Series career in the Pronto Auto Parts 400K at Texas when his #88 PBA Tour Chevrolet loses an engine after 11 laps. The finish came in just the seventh of Cook’s 314 series starts and in just the second season for upstart ThorSport Racing, now a fixture on the tour.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

ARCA: Richard Doheny becomes eighth driver of #11 in as many races

PHOTO: Anthony Liquori, @premium5562
by William Soquet
LASTCAR.info Guest Contributor

Richard Doheny scored the 3rd last-place finish of his ARCA Menards Series career in Friday’s General Tire #AnywhereIsPossible 200 at Pocono Raceway when his #11 Consales Toyota dropped out with rear end issues after completing 3 of 80 scheduled laps.

The finish came in his 28th series start, and was his first since DuQuoin last fall, eleven races ago.

Last week's ARCA feature was also about Doheny. Why then, is this his first last-place finish since last year? After that article was posted, ARCA’s official score sheet later showed that C.J. McLaughlin was listed as a DNS in 25th, which falls under LASTCAR guidelines for a last-place finish. A few words on McLaughlin first: he was a motorcycle racer in his youth who then worked as a pipeline tester. He later found the itch to get back into racing, this time stock cars, and tested at Daytona in 2016 with an ARCA car before later running ACT Tour late models last summer. His ARCA debut came last year with Fast Track Racing at Lucas Oil Raceway, and over the winter signed with Andy Seuss and Our Motorsports, looking to do superspeedways as part of a 2019 that would also include scattered Truck and XFINITY starts with other organizations. He managed to stay on the lead lap at Talladega and came home just outside the top ten before crashing in qualifying at Charlotte, leading to a DNS and subsequently pulling his name off the Pocono entry list as well.

At its peak, 21 cars were on the entry list for Friday's race. Only 18 made it to the track, however, as three cars withdrew: McLaughlin, Thad Moffitt (who’s nursing a broken hand), and Con Nicolopoulos, running a second entry for Wayne Peterson. That left 18 cars, or the number of lead-lap cars in last year’s iteration of this event. Toledo last-placer Hailie Deegan returned for her second of six scheduled starts, local and ARCA mainstay Bobby Gerhart entered his traditional Pocono race, and Tim Richmond entered Wayne Peterson Racing’s #06, which was approved after testing. Raphael Lessard once again teamed up with KBR Development, this time running the team’s flagship #28 machine. Cole Glasson made his first start of 2019 and second overall with Win-Tron Racing, which scaled back to a part-time operation this year. Superspeedway ringers such as Scott Melton, Harrison Burton and Riley Herbst rounded out the entry list.

Ed Pompa returned to the Fast Track #1 car, which pushed Doheny to the 11. It's interesting to note the 11 car had the name of Jonas Fors on the name rails. Fors, a Swede with previous experience in K&N and ARCA, tested the #11 on Wednesday but was never entered for the race.

With qualifying rained out on Friday morning, early afternoon practice served as both practice and qualifying. Harrison Burton’s practice leading/pole winning time of 52.82 seconds would have put him 12th on the board in Happy Hour, better than three-quarters of the Hendrick Motorsports contingent. Doheny completed the slowest lap at a 61.95, a mere two-tenths off of Brad Smith in 17th and a second behind teammate Tommy Vigh Jr. in 16th.

Last place changed hands during pace laps, as Vigh pitted and then was issued a tail-end penalty for pitting before the green. In an accident-free race, the only four drivers who didn’t finish all failed to do so because of mechanical reasons: Doheny out first because of rear end problems, then Vigh with a faulty transmission, Gerhart with electrical issues (after bringing out the race’s only caution), and Smith with a vibration. Tim Richmond rounded out the Bottom Five, twelve laps down as the last car running.

18) #11-Richard Doheny / 3 laps / rear end
17) #10-Tommy Vigh Jr. / 9 laps / transmission
16) #5-Bobby Gerhart / 19 laps / electrical
15) #48-Brad Smith / 47 laps / vibration
14) #06-Tim Richmond / 68 laps / running

*NOTE: All LASTCAR standings below have been updated to reflect the change in Charlotte’s last-place finisher.*

1st) Brad Smith Motorsports, Venturini Motorsports (2)
2nd) Fast Track Racing, Kimmel Racing, Mullins Racing, Our Motorsports (1)

1st) Ford (4)
2nd) Toyota (3)
3rd) Chevrolet (1)


Monday, June 3, 2019

#JD70: J.D. McDuffie honored by New York Associated Press and Watkins Glen Walk of Fame

PHOTO: Charlie Berch
Yesterday saw J.D. McDuffie honored not once, but twice in New York state.

First, congratulations to sports editor Andy Malnoske and his staff at WETM-18 in Elmira, New York, who on Sunday earned multiple awards from the New York State Associated Press Association, including two for their segment on J.D. McDuffie. Not only did “Remembering A Legend: J.D. McDuffie” take First Place for best Sports Feature, but the pre-race program itself, “The Glen All Access: NASCAR 2018,” also took First Place for best Sports Coverage.

This was an honor well-deserved by Malnoske and his staff. Last August, Watkins Glen International refused to let WETM-18 record their segment with Linda McDuffie, Charlie Berch, and myself at the track. Undaunted, Malnoske personally invited us to his studio on Friday night, and his staff worked late into the night getting the segment ready to air.

Second, Sunday also saw the official induction of J.D. McDuffie into the Watkins Glen Walk of Fame. As part of new construction on South Franklin Street, the original front stretch of the 1948 road course, McDuffie’s stone was laid down on the sidewalk in front of Smalley’s Garage, joined by the stone for Tom Smalley himself. It was at Smalley’s that the stone was unveiled during my book signing for J.D.: The Life and Death of a Forgotten NASCAR Legend the night before last year’s Cup race at The Glen. Now, a quarter-century after McDuffie’s passing, his name will be there for all to see.

Thank you again to Smalley’s for their hospitality, and to the staff of the International Motor Racing Research Center for making this happen. As with the staff of WETM-18, I will never forget all they have done.

It’s been an honor to have played a small role in telling the tale of J.D. McDuffie, and to see that his name will be remembered both on screen and in stone. It’s taken hard work, much as it did for the man from Sanford on each #70 for 653 Cup Series starts. But it’s all been more than worth it.

To pick up your copy of my book, J.D.: The Life and Death of a Forgotten NASCAR Legend, click on this link for details.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

CUP: #WhatCarThree – Crash hands Austin Dillon first last-place finish since 2015

Dillon's car pushed to the garage after his early wreck.
PHOTO: Mike Raphael, @Mike_motorsport
Austin Dillon picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Pocono 400 at the Pocono Raceway when his #3 Dow Chevrolet fell out in a single-car accident after 28 of 160 laps.

The finish, which came in Dillon’s 207th series start, was his first since September 20, 2015 at Chicagoland, 130 races ago. In the Cup Series last-place rankings, it was the 17th for the #3, the 582nd from a crash, and the 763rd for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 28th for the #3, the 1,179th from a crash, and the 1,660th for Chevrolet.

In the four seasons since his most recent last-place finish, the older of the two Dillon brothers has shown significant improvement. After rounding out the 2015 season just 21st in points, he jumped to 14th in 2016 on the heels of four Top Fives and thirteen Top Tens, four and nearly three times his previous year totals, respectively. He improved to a career-best 11th in 2017, and in the Coca-Cola 600 parlayed fuel mileage to become the latest driver to score his first Cup Series win in the Memorial Day classic.

The return of Richard Childress Racing’s iconic #3 to victory lane was followed the next February by another marquee win in the Daytona 500. Twenty years after Dale Earnhardt’s lone 500 victory, Dillon dumped race leader Aric Almirola on the final lap and held off Bubba Wallace and Denny Hamlin for the checkered flag. Dillon’s Playoff run lasted through the first round before a wreck at the Roval ended his bid. He still closed the year strong, finishing 11th or better in five of the remaining seven races en route to a 13th-place showing in points.

This 2019 season marks the 50th anniversary of the Richard Childress team, and the arrival of a new rookie teammate in XFINITY Series regular Daniel Hemric in the #8. After a slow start to the season, Dillon picked up the pole at Fontana in unusual circumstances after he and the rest of the Round 3 participants waited too long to turn in a timed lap. His 10th-place finish that day was one of only two top-ten finishes in 2019, the other a 6th in Richmond. Another pole followed in single-car qualifying at Talladega, where this time the Dow Chevrolet ran 14th. He arrived in Pocono just 21st in points, having lost three spots after a late crash with Kyle Larson in his return to the Coca-Cola 600.

On the 2.5-mile track, Dillon began the weekend just 19th in opening practice, but qualified 10th with a speed of 171.661mph (52.429 seconds). He ran 19th again in Happy Hour, then participated in Saturday’s XFINITY Series race in Matthew Kaulig’s part-time #10 car. Dillon started 11th and finished 10th, his second-best finish in three series starts this season. With 10 previous Cup starts at Pocono, but no finishes better than 12th, Sunday’s outcome for the #3 was anyone’s guess.

Starting 37th and last in the shortest Cup field at Pocono since June 16, 1991 was J.J. Yeley, who was making his first Cup start of the season. Yeley took over the Rick Ware Racing #52 ride from Bayley Currey, who moved to the flagship #51 in place of Cody Ware. The car carried both Yeley’s sponsor Steakhouse Elite, which backed Currey’s run at Richmond, and local sponsor Weis Markets, who backed Bubba Wallace’s first last-place run in this race last year. Yeley ended up the only driver to not complete a qualifying lap on Saturday as, running in a three-car group with Quin Houff and Chris Buescher, his #52 spun off Turn 1 and narrowly avoided crashing into the inside wall. Yeley’s flat-spotted tires needed changing, and on race day, he incurred a redundant tail-end penalty as a result.

Joining Yeley at the back of the pack was 22nd-place qualifier Matt DiBenedetto, whose team had changed engines on his #95 Toyota Express Maintenance Toyota. By the last of the parade and pace laps, both DiBeneedetto and Yeley were ahead of two other cars which voluntarily fell to the rear: 35th-place starter Reed Sorenson in the #27 VIPRacingExperience.com Chevorlet and 36th-place Quin Houff in the #77 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet. Though unsponsored in practice, Houff acquired sponsorship by race day from Aireshelta North America, whose logo was on the hood of his Chevrolet.

On the break, Houff held down last, but unlike previous races managed to stay in touch with the back of the field, hugging Sorenson’s rear bumper for the first three circuits. Only after this did the pair of them started to drop back, with Houff 11 seconds off the lead at that point. Over the radio, the Spire Motorsports crew discussed how soon their driver would be lapped, estimating it would take between 20 and 25 laps. Incidentally, in many of my last-place articles, it’s taken an average of 14 laps for the leader to catch the last-place runner. This time around, it took until Lap 16, when polesitter William Byron steered under Houff off Turn 1.

As faster traffic whistled past, Houff struggled with the handling of his car, saying it was plowing off the exit on Lap 18. Two circuits later, after Sorenson had also lost a lap in 36th, the two black Chevrolets were so far apart that the 36th-place Sorenson reached the stripe as Houff was entering Turn 3. Other cars up to the 31st spot were also running by themselves with more than a second’s gap between each. This allowed Kevin Harvick, the first of many drivers to try short-pitting before scheduled cautions, to make a green-flag four-tire stop and come out on the lead lap in 32nd, ahead of two lead-lap cars of 33rd-place Landon Cassill and 34th-place Yeley.

Houff remained in last when the competition caution fell on Lap 22. Yeley, who just lost a lap to Byron, earned the Lucky Dog. Houff remained a circuit back in last, and on the restart entered a tight race with the lead-lap cars of Yeley and Sorenson. Sorenson earned his lap back by taking the wave-around, and on Lap 28 was forced to make a green-flag pit stop when the caution didn’t fall. On Lap 30, as Sorenson returned to action one lap down once more, the caution fell for trouble in Turn 3.

At that moment, Austin Dillon was racing with the leaders in Turn 3, closing in on the #48 Ally Bank Chevrolet of Jimmie Johnson and holding off a closing Paul Menard in the #21 Motorcraft / Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford. According to Dillon, Menard drove into the corner too deep and bumped Dillon up the track. The young driver nearly saved the car, but ran out of race track, and the right side slammed hard into the outside wall. Though the hit was glancing, it tore off the rear decklid and mangled the right-rear corner. He barely drove it back to pit road, and the six-minute Crash Clock began to tick down. With three minutes left on the Clock, the crew realized the damage was too severe to continue, and Dillon climbed out, done for the day. The crew had to push the car nearly halfway down pit road before they pulled into the garage. On Lap 31, Sorenson and Houff’s lapped machines passed Dillon under caution, and the #3 remained there the rest of the afternoon.

Finishing 36th was Corey LaJoie, a disappointing turn of events one week after the second-generation racer equaled his career-best 12th-place finish in the Coca-Cola 600. LaJoie’s #32 Visone RV Ford got some quality TV time from the FS1 booth at the start, but slapped the wall after a flat tire and heavily damaged the right-rear corner of his machine. The damage didn’t appear as visibly bad as Dillon’s, but LaJoie pulled into the garage soon after, done for the day.

The 35th spot fell to last week’s winner Martin Truex, Jr., whose engine seized up on the #19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota, ending a mid-pack run just past the halfway point. It was Truex's first DNF from engine failure since 2017 at Sonoma.

In 34th came Yeley, who spent more than 40 laps in the garage for a loss of brake pressure. The issue arose during a pit stop on Lap 54, and so little pressure remained in the lines that Yeley had to creep his car through Turn 3 just to safely enter the garage. He ended up the last car under power, 50 laps down. Yeley, Truex, and Dillon all picked up their first Bottom Fives of 2019.

Rounding out the Bottom Five in 33rd came Matt Tifft, whose #36 Surface Sunscreen Ford clipped the apron off Turn 2 and spun, nearly collecting Currey’s #51. Like Yeley, Tifft spent multiple laps in the garage area, only to return and finish 18 laps ahead of the #52, but still 32 behind race winner Kyle Busch.

After his close call in the Tifft wreck, Bayley Currey finished 25th in the same P-40 Warhawk decorated car from last week's Coca-Cola 600. It was Currey's best career finish in just his seventh career start and his first better than 31st. One spot ahead of Currey came the flagship Premium Motorsports entry of Ross Chastain, whose 24th-place showing in the #15 LowT Centers Chevrolet was his best in the series since his career-best 10th in this year's Daytona 500.

*This marked the first time car #3 has ever finished last in a Cup Series race at Pocono. As of this writing, the only other single-digit car number to never trail a Cup race at Pocono is the #9.

37) #3-Austin Dillon / 28 laps / crash
36) #32-Corey LaJoie / 68 laps / crash
35) #19-Martin Truex, Jr. / 91 laps / engine
34) #52-J.J. Yeley / 110 laps / running
33) #36-Matt Tifft / 128 laps / running

1st) Front Row Motorsports, Rick Ware Racing (3)
2nd) Chip Ganassi Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (2)
3rd) Germain Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, Motorsports Business Management, Richard Childress Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (7)
2nd) Ford (5)
3rd) Toyota (2)