Sunday, June 30, 2019

CUP: On night of Bowman’s first win, Quin Houff the first NASCAR driver to finish last due to track bar issue

PHOTO: @P1_Houff
Quin Houff picked up the 1st last-place finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Camping World 400 at the Chicagoland Speedway when his #77 Sleep6 Chevrolet fell out with track bar issues after 100 of 267 laps.

The finish came in Houff’s ninth series start. In the Cup Series last-place rankings, it was the 32nd for the #77 and the 765th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 45th for the #77 and the 1,667th for Chevrolet. And it was the first-ever time a driver in any of NASCAR’s top three series was classified last in a points-paying race by reason of “track bar.”

A 21-year-old son of an agricultural businessman from Weyers Cave, Virginia, Houff has been racing for more than half his young life. He was a quick study in go-karts, taking not only Rookie of the Year, but twenty race wins and the championship. He’s held a NASCAR license since he was fourteen, and at seventeen was signed by Rob Fuller’s LFR Driver Development Group. This moved him to Super Late Models, where he won in just his fifth series start at the Tri-County Motor Speedway. It also opened opportunities to advance into professional stock car racing.

At the time, Houff had made a lone K&N Pro Series East start at the Greenville-Pickens Speedway, where in 2014 he finished 21st – next-to-last – in a car owned by Cup veteran Ken Schrader. He also finished 11th in the 2015 edition of the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown in Richmond, beating not only Hamlin himself, but Hermie Sadler, David Ragan, and Chase Elliott. Houff’s car carried pink logos that read “BeatinCancer,” a cause that has affected him significantly. Both Houff’s mother and grandmother are fighting the disease, and have made use of aggressive treatments from the Duke Cancer Institute in Durham, North Carolina. This is why many of Houff’s cars soon carried the phrase “BeatinCancer with Duke.”

Houff’s first ARCA Menards Series start at Daytona in 2017 nearly ended with the “BeatinCancer” car in victory lane. Driving for Mason Mitchell, Houff went from 16th on the grid to the lead on Lap 22, then led 23 of 75 laps before he was collected in a late-race crash. Four more ARCA starts followed in 2018 with a best of 6th in Charlotte. At the same time, Houff enjoyed a strong debut in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, finishing 15th at Bristol, then 12th in his third start at Iowa. Both came driving for Precision Performance Motorsports, a single-car effort founded by Rick Gdovic. When PPM shut down, Houff also turned heads with JD Motorsports, finishing 14th at Kansas just last fall.

This year sees Houff make the jump to Cup Series competition for the very first time. The opportunity came about following last year’s closure of Furniture Row Racing, and the sale of much of its assets, including the Charter, to the Spire Entertainment Group. Spire Motorsports was thus founded, campaigning the car #77 that Furniture Row briefly fielded for Erik Jones in 2017. Instead of Toyota prepared in Furniture Row’s shop near Denver, the team would collaborate with Jay Robinson’s Premium Motorsports and field identical black Chevrolets to the ones currently run by Ross Chastain and Reed Sorenson. The rims used by Premium show this three-car partnership with stickers showing the #77 alongside Chastain’s #15 and Sorenson’s #27.

Multiple drivers would run the Spire #77 in 2019, with Houff’s part-time schedule starting at the ISM Raceway. Carrying sponsorship from Premium backer Rim Ryderz, Houff started next-to-last in the 36-car field and climbed to 30th by the checkered flag. Heading into Sunday’s race, Houff had finished better than that only twice – a season-best 28th in the Coca-Cola 600, followed by a 29th at Pocono. But he’d also failed to finish just one of his eight series starts – Dover, where he was flagged off the track for running too slow after earlier contact with the outside wall.

Chicagoland saw Houff debut new sponsorship from mattress company He began the weekend slowest in both practices despite 44 combined laps turned, then managed to climb two spots to 36th in qualifying with a lap of 168.188mph (32.107 seconds). He then gained another spot to 35th early Sunday after 22nd-place starter Matt Tifft saw his time disallowed after his car failed its first pass through inspection. Tifft’s car passed on the second go-round, and the #36 Louis Kemp Crab Delights Ford was officially credited with the 38th and final starting spot.

Two more drivers would join Tifft at the back of the field. William Byron qualified 11th, but had to change engines on his #24 Liberty University Chevrolet. Corey LaJoie was sent back for changing the transmission on the #32 Prospr Ford, costing him 30th on the grid.

During the opening pace laps, Tifft briefly stopped his #36 on the backstretch to straighten the steering wheel. As he caught the tail end of the field, Reed Sorenson dropped behind him. Sorenson’s #27 Chevrolet was going to start last prior to Tifft’s penalty as he’d turned the slowest lap in qualifying. Tifft then moved up another spot when the penalized Byron dropped from the 11th spot and was instructed to take the lower line. Unlike many times before, where smaller teams drop behind faster penalized cars prior to the start, Byron remained in 38th for the green flag, impressive since he’d ultimately lead nine laps and finish 8th.

When the green flag dropped, Byron moved to the high lane and drove around Sorenson entering Turn 1. From there, Sorenson gradually lost touch with the pack, dropping to 13.1 seconds back of the lead after the completion of the sixth circuit. Sorenson was a whole corner behind new 37th-place runner Josh Bilicki in Rick Ware Racing’s #53 Chevrolet when the first caution came for an approaching lightning storm. Sorenson followed the field down pit road just before heavy rains soaked the track, forcing a delay of more than three hours.

When the caution came out in early evening, Sorenson stayed out while a number of other drivers pulled down pit road. This caused last place to change hands between Tifft, Chris Buescher’s #37 Maxwell House / USO Chevrolet, then 13th-place starter Chase Elliott in the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet. Elliott’s stop proved the slowest of all as the team spent nearly a minute working on the left-front suspension. Elliott returned to the track on the lead lap, 65.7 seconds back of the leader, and both Sorenson and Ross Chastain’s #15 Low T Centers Chevrolet dropped behind Elliott just before the start.

Once again, Sorenson held down last on the restart, but this time caught another Rick Ware Racing car, the #51 Jacob Companies Ford of B.J. McLeod. The two raced side-by-side off Turn 4 and across the stripe before McLeod pulled ahead down the backstretch. Once again, Sorenson lost touch with the pack, and began to complain about the car’s handling. At the start of Lap 30, Sorenson was entering Turn 1 as the leaders crossed the stripe. The next time by, race leader Kevin Harvick zipped by him up high, followed by second-place Ryan Blaney down low, and the #27 became the first car one lap down.

Sorenson lost a second lap by the 42nd circuit, and now reported his car had no rear grip. The crew, concerned he would get run over by faster traffic, urged their driver to pit. He didn’t do so until Lap 44, and spent an extended period of time in his stall, one of the last before pit exit. Anxious to return, Sorenson drove off, but was told to stop and back up. The crew jacked the car up again, looking over how many lug nuts were on the wheels, then sent him back out. By then, he’d dropped five laps down as he accelerated down the backstretch.

Wheel and tire problems then reared their ugly head, dropping several front-runners to the rear. Ty Dillon qualified 20th in his #13 GEICO Military Chevrolet, but lost two laps when he had to make an unscheduled stop for a loose wheel. Issues remained after the stop, and Dillon spent a brief stay in the garage, dropping him six down by Lap 60 and taking last from Sorenson. That same time by, Dillon pulled behind the wall a second time and spent more than twenty laps there, leading to the end of Stage 1. The car re-fired on Lap 80 and returned to action 26 laps back in last place. The Germain Racing team would treat the rest of the race as a test session.

The same lap Dillon returned to the track, chaos ensued as both Clint Bowyer and Kyle Busch suffered blown tires. Bowyer’s #14 Toco Warranty Ford suffered the worst damage of the two, spinning through the grass with a destroyed right-rear quarter-panel. After the restart, Bowyer said the right-rear was still rubbing on the tire, and the team elected to add another brace to push the bodywork from the tire. A second blown right-rear sent Bowyer onto pit road on Lap 97, and the brace was added on Lap 104, when he pitted before pit road was open.

Houff’s entry into the last-place battle came as Bowyer pulled into his stall. That same moment, Houff was being pushed back from his stall, complaining of a mechanical issue under the rear of the car. The team went to the garage, where they found a weld had failed in the rear track bar assembly. “The sleeve broke at the weld,” said a crewman. Unable to complete repairs at the track, the Spire team elected to call it a night. “We’re done,” said another crewman on Lap 106. “We can’t fix that.” At the time, Houff was in 34th, six laps down, and 22 laps from taking last from Ty Dillon, who was still on the track.

Another challenger then appeared on Lap 108, when McLeod pulled the #51 into the garage directly next to Houff. This allowed the lapped McLeod to take 37th between the retired Houff and the still-running Dillon. If the Rick Ware Racing team couldn’t complete repairs, and if Dillon completed enough laps, the #51 would finish last for the third-straight Cup race and fourth in the last six. This was averted on Lap 121, when McLeod re-fired the engine and returned to the track. On the same lap as Houff, McLeod dropped Houff to 37th just seconds later, and it was now down to Houff and Dillon. On Lap 130, Dillon made it official, dropping Houff to last place.

Bowyer became the night’s only other retiree, ending his night due to the same crash damage that had slowed his #14 to finish 37th. This lifted McLeod to 36th, Dillon to 35th, and Sorenson rounded out the Bottom Five in 34th.

For more on Quin Houff, check out his website here.

Taking the checkered flag on Sunday was Alex Bowman, his first in his 134th Cup Series start. In that career, Bowman has been featured in six LASTCAR articles, most recently his wrecks in the 2018 edition of the All-Star Race and at Kentucky. Since 2014, when he began running full-time for underfunded BK Racing alongside fellow rookie Ryan Truex, to a difficult tenure with Tommy Baldwin Racing that saw him battle Landon Cassill for the 2015 LASTCAR Cup Series Championship, Bowman prevailed through adversity. In 2016, he was tabbed by Hendrick Motorsports to drive in relief of Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and nearly won just his ninth time out at Phoenix. In this, just his second full-time year with Hendrick, Bowman scored three consecutive runner-up finishes at Talladega, Dover, and a bitter loss to Brad Keselowski in Kansas. And in a tight battle with Kyle Larson, who nearly took the win away with eight laps to go, Bowman prevailed, winning by just over half a second. Congratulations to Bowman and the #88 team on a victory well-deserved.

*This marked the first Cup Series last-place finish for the #77 since July 16, 2017, when Erik Jones’ 5-hour Energy Toyota crashed after 40 laps of the Overton’s 301 at New Hampshire. The number had finished last in a Cup race at Chicagoland just once prior – July 10, 2005, when Travis Kvapil picked up his first Cup Series last-place run after engine trouble on his Jasper Engines / Kodak Dodge 13 laps into the USG Sheetrock 400.
*All three last-place finishers last week at Chicagoland picked up their first career last-place finishes in their respective series (joined by Ben Rhodes in Trucks and Christopher Bell in XFINITY).

38) #77-Quin Houff / 100 laps / track bar
37) #14-Clint Bowyer / 172 laps / crash
36) #51-B.J. McLeod / 238 laps / running
35) #13-Ty Dillon / 239 laps / running
34) #27-Reed Sorenson / 249 laps / running

1st) Rick Ware Racing (5)
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, Spire Motorsports (1)

1st) Chevrolet (9)
2nd) Ford (6)
3rd) Toyota (2)


XFINITY: Christopher Bell the first XFINITY driver classified last by disqualification since 2005

PHOTO: Denise Harmon-Mixon, @spotterdhm
Christopher Bell picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Camping World 300 at the Chicagoland Speedway when his #20 Rheem Toyota finished 3rd, but was disqualified after completing all 200 laps.

The finish came in Bell’s 56th series start. In the XFINITY Series last-place rankings, it was the 6th from disqualification, the 12th for the #20, and the 127th for Toyota. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 29th disqualification, the 49th for the #20, and the 317th for Toyota.

Jeff Green picked up the 117th last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Camping World 300 at the Chicagoland Speedway when his unsponsored #38 RSS Racing Chevrolet fell out with electrical issues after 11 of the 200 laps.

The finish, which came in Green’s 528th series start, was his series-leading third of the 2019 season and first since Richmond, seven races ago. The finish allowed Green to break a four-way tie for the 2019 LASTCAR XFINITY Series Championship, where he’d prevailed on a bottom-five tiebreaker with Josh Bilicki, John Jackson, and Joey Gase.

In the XFINITY Series last-place rankings, it was the 17th for the #38, the 52nd from electrical issues, and the 528th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 50th for the #38, the 124th from electrical issues, and the 1,667th for Chevrolet.

Bell has continued to serve notice that he is one of NASCAR’s most promising talents. A development driver with Joe Gibbs Racing and Kyle Busch Motorsports, Bell finished 5th in his first Truck Series start for KBM in 2015, and won his first series race in just his third start at the Eldora dirt track. The Eldora race was very much a throwback to Bell’s impressive short track resume in USAC, most recently his third consecutive victory in the Chili Bowl Nationals in his native Oklahoma.

In 2017, Bell stormed to the Truck Series title, picking up five wins, five poles, 15 Top Fives, and 21 Top Tens in a schedule with only 23 races. That same year, he finished 4th in his XFINITY Series debut at Charlotte, then took his first checkered flag in his fifth series start at Kansas. It seemed certain he would claim his first XFINITY Series title in his first full series season last year. This time out of 33 races, he scored seven wins, five poles, 18 Top Fives, and 20 Top Tens. The seventh win was a must-win in the penultimate round at Phoenix, where he led nearly half the distance. But he finished just 11th at Homestead’s championship race, where he lost the title to Tyler Reddick.

This year, Bell has picked up right where he left off. In the season’s first 14 races, he’d already won four, most recently his dominating performance at Iowa where he led 186 of 250 laps. Already assured his place in the Playoffs, Bell entered Chicagoland as the winningest driver of the season, though still 51 markers behind an equally impressive Reddick in the overall point standings. An announcement that Bell’s contract with Joe Gibbs Racing has been extended into next year has fueled speculation as to which series the driver will compete, and when he will make the jump to Cup.

Bell’s Rheem-sponsored Toyota Supra again showed speed in Chicago, where he ran 3rd in the opening practice, slipped to 15th in Happy Hour, then recovered to take 5th in qualifying with a lap of 176.430mph (30.607 seconds).

Starting 38th and last on Saturday was Jeff Green. Just two races from his planned rotator cuff surgery that will cut short his 2019 campaign, Green didn’t participate in opening practice, then ran 32nd in Happy Hour. He qualified for Saturday’s race with the Past Champions Provisional for his 2000 series title, securing him the 38th and final starting spot. Green’s lap of 166.461mph (32.440 seconds) was slower than two of the three drivers who failed to qualify – teammate Josh Bilicki in the RSS #93 Chevrolet and Joe Nemechek in Motorsports Business Management’s #13 Toyota. The slowest lap was turned by Morgan Shepherd, whose #89 Visone RV Chevrolet was also sent home.

Bilicki would end up starting Saturday’s race in place of Bayley Currey in Rick Ware Racing’s #17 Chevrolet, which Currey put a strong 23rd on the grid after the team withdrew in Iowa. The driver swap sent Bilicki to the rear along with 11th-place starter Chase Briscoe’s #98 Ford Performance Ford and 37th-place Vinnie Miller in the #78 JW Transport Chevrolet for unapproved adjustments, an engine change for Shane Lee’s #28 Titan Mining Rigs Toyota, which lined up 18th, and 24th-place Chad Finchum, whose crew chief Brian Keselowski missed the crew chief’s meeting, docking the #42 NLB Heating & Cooling / Ryan’s Collision Service Toyota. Green would also be sent to the rear for missing the driver’s meeting.

At the end of the first lap, Green re-took last place, running 5.375 seconds back of the lead. The next time by, he’d climbed past Bilicki’s #17, which was now 7.458 seconds behind. Green dispensed with Matt Mills’ #5 J.F. Electric Chevrolet the lap after that, and Bilicki passed Mills by the end of Lap 5. Two circuits later, Green had climbed out of the Bottom Five while Bilicki and Mills passed David Starr, who ran a new blue paint scheme on Jimmy Means Racing’s #52 Dealer Associates / Flurry Chevrolet. After ten laps, Bilicki was back in 37th, but had a two-second advantage on last-place Starr. By then, Starr was 20.673 seconds back of the leader, and already in danger of losing a lap.

During this tight battle for last place, the leaders brought out the first caution of the day. Justin Allgaier’s #7 Brandt Professional Agriculture Chevrolet was running 3rd when he lost control and spun in front of Christopher Bell, who avoided a collision. Under this caution, Green pulled behind the wall, preventing Allgaier from taking last during his stop for fresh tires. In doing so, Green pulled down pit road when it was closed for the Allgaier caution, incurring a penalty. The penalty was moot as he pulled behind the wall, out of the race. At the time, Green was apparently headed toward a tiebreaker in the 2019 LASTCAR XFINITY Series standings, where he’d been tied with Josh Bilicki, John Jackson, and Joey Gase.

Bell, meanwhile, crossed the line in 3rd behind race winner Cole Custer and Joey Logano, and earned strong finishes in both states with a 3rd in Stage 1 and a 2nd in Stage 2. That all changed when inspection results came through. Not only had Bell been cited for the front of his car being “extremely low,” as Ross Chastain’s truck had in Iowa, but the right-rear was “slightly high.” The result was an instant disqualification which classified him last in the field, bumping Jeff Green into 37th and taking Joey Gase out of the Bottom Five.

The rest of the Bottom Five saw Starr’s #52 out with engine trouble after 52 laps, followed three circuits later by Bilicki. Rounding out the group was Timmy Hill, who cited electrical issues on MBM’s #66 OCR Gaz Bar Toyota.

*This marked the first time an XFINITY Series driver had been disqualified since April 16, 2005, when Johnny Sauter’s #1 Fleet Pride / Yellow Dodge was caught with an illegal carburetor following the O’Reilly 300 at Texas. Like Bell, Sauter wasn’t the race winner – he finished 14th.
*It’s also the first time a Toyota has been disqualified from a NASCAR points-paying race in the series’ top three divisions.
*This was not Bell’s first last-place finish across NASCAR’s top three series – on June 10, 2016, he trailed a Truck Series race at Texas after first-lap engine troubles.
*This was also the first XFINITY Series last-place finish for car #20 since November 11, 2000, when Scott Wimmer’s AT&T Pontiac, fielded by Bill Davis Racing, crashed out 13 laps into the Miami 300 at Homestead. The race came nine days before Wimmer made his unexpected Cup debut in the Atlanta finale after rain forced him to miss the weekend’s ARCA finale. The first XFINITY race at Chicagoland wouldn’t be run until the following July.

38) #20-Christopher Bell / 200 laps / disqualified
37) #38-Jeff Green / 11 laps / electrical
36) #52-David Starr / 52 laps / engine
35) #17-Josh Bilicki / 55 laps / vibration
34) #66-Timmy Hill / 71 laps / electrical

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

1st) Chevrolet (8)
2nd) Toyota (7)


TRUCKS: Ben Rhodes’ night at Chicagoland goes up in smoke at the start

Ben Rhodes picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series career in Friday’s Camping World 225 at the Chicagoland Speedway when his #99 Carolina Nut Co. Ford fell out with a blown engine after just 1 of the night’s 150 laps.

The finish occurred in Rhodes’ 85th series start. In the Truck Series last-place rankings, it was the 4th for the #99, the 104th for Ford, and the 128th from engine woes. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 33rd for the #99, the 952nd for Ford, and the 1,071st from engine trouble.

The 2019 season marks the Kentucky-born Rhodes’ fourth full-time season on the Truck Series tour. He first gained national notoriety in 2013, when he won the pole for the “Battle at the Beach exhibition at Daytona, led 87 laps, and finished a hard-fought second to Kyle Larson. That led to both his ARCA Menards Series and Truck Series debuts the following year, both backed by his short track sponsor Alpha Energy Solutions. His Truck debut came first, an 8th at Martinsville with Turner Motorsports, then an 11th in the ARCA race at Madison that August.

Rhodes’ full-time ride in the Truck Series wouldn’t come until 2016, following a ten-race stint in the XFINITY Series for JR Motorsports where he finished 7th in his debut at Iowa and won the pole at Road America. Driving ThorSport’s #41 Toyota, he began the year with a jump from Daytona’s impromptu short track to the full 2.5-mile superspeedway, and finished 7th. He started on the pole in his return to Martinsville just two rounds later, then had a breakout performance at Gateway, coming within eight laps of scoring his first series victory before a late pass by Christopher Bell.

Rhodes avenged his loss the following year, beating Bell to the checkers in Las Vegas. The victory was made even more sweet after Rhodes lost an engine at Kansas earlier in the season, again with eight to go. With the win, he made a late push into the Playoffs, only to be eliminated in the penultimate race at Phoenix after he crossed Austin Cindric’s nose on a restart. The accident also collected Rhodes’ ThorSport teammate Matt Crafton, who secured his own spot in the Championship Four at Homestead.

Last season, Rhodes won a second race in Kentucky, but his Playoff push ended with four races to go at Talladega. Though he finished just eighth in the standings, it was a career-best year for the driver in terms of Top Fives with eight, Top Tens with thirteen, and three poles, as well as 232 laps led. This carried him into the current year, where he switched truck numbers from the #41 to the #99. He entered Kansas winless on the season, but fourth in points on the strength of three runner-up finishes at Martinsville, Kansas, and Iowa. Just last year, the Chicagoland track saw him also finish 2nd to defending series champion Brett Moffitt.

Rhodes was one of 33 drivers entered in Friday’s race. But after Ted Minor withdrew his #25 Chevrolet earlier in the week, all 32 remaining entrants would all start the race. Rhodes was uncharacteristically slow at the track – he ran 13th in opening practice, where just 26 took time, then was 17th and 16th in the final two sessions. He qualified 17th with a lap of 174.859mph (30.882 seconds), more than three-tenths off the pole. The reason, as the FS1 booth reported later, was an oil leak, which raised concerns about the engine.

Starting 32nd and last on Friday was Joey Gase, who was back in Jennifer Jo Cobb’s #0 Chevrolet after Greg Rayl’s brief night last Saturday in Gateway. Gase put up the slowest lap in qualifying, and the only one over 35 seconds, just over five seconds off Austin Hill’s pole. He would be joined at the rear by Matt Crafton, whose #88 Fisher Nuts / Menards Ford qualified 11th but had to change engines, and 23rd-place Camden Murphy for unapproved adjustments on NEMCO Motorsports’ #8 Chevrolet. They would not stay in the back for long.

An instant after the green flag dropped, smoke erupted in the middle of the pack. It was Rhodes, whose Ford was now stuck in the middle of a three-wide battle as a large white cloud puffed from behind his Ford. As he pulled to the low lane down the backstretch, the truck still seemed up at race speed, holding his position ahead of Jordan Anderson and Ross Chastain. But he pulled down pit road that time by, where the crew pushed him behind the wall. The team raised the hood, only to find the issue terminal.

Gase finished in 31st, out with a vibration fourteen laps after Rhodes. Next came B.J. McLeod, who was swapped in Bayley Currey’s seat in the #1 Beaver Bail Bonds Toyota late in the week, and fell out two laps after Gase. Norm Benning’s #6 H&H Transport Chevrolet was parked after a reported miscommunication with NASCAR officials regarding a penalty for not meeting minimum speed. By the time Benning served the penalty, his #6 had been flagged off the track. Joe Nemechek rounded out the Bottom Five in his #87 D.A.B. Constructors Chevrolet.

Friday turned out to be a great night for two of the DGR-Crosley trucks. Not only did Anthony Alfredo finish 9th in the #15, nearly beating his career-best 8th at Charlotte, but the team’s newest entry, the #5, picked up a top-ten finish with a returning Dylan Lupton. Lupton, who had been absent from NASCAR’s top three series following the closure of JGL Racing last summer, made his first Truck Series start since 2016. After qualifying 9th, he defended the 10th spot in all three stages, earning his first-ever stage points in the process. His previous best in the series was a 12th, and his only other top-ten in a NASCAR national touring series race was a 9th at Mid-Ohio’s XFINITY race back in 2015.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #99 in a Truck Series race since February 24, 2017, when Tommy Joe Martins’ #99 MDM Motorsports Chevrolet was collected in a multi-truck accident after 1 lap of the NextEra Energy Resources 250.
*This proved to be a rare last-place finish for Ford in the Truck Series. The manufacturer hadn’t finished last in a race since August 17, 2013, when Ryan Blaney wrecked on the opening lap of the Michigan National Guard 200 at Michigan.
*This also was the first Truck Series last-place finish for ThorSport Racing since August 17, 2016, when Matt Crafton scored his own first last-place finish in his 374th series start.

32) #99-Ben Rhodes / 1 lap / engine
31) #0-Joey Gase / 15 laps / vibration
30) #1-B.J. McLeod / 17 laps / electrical
29) #6-Norm Benning / 35 laps / parked
28) #87-Joe Nemechek / 45 laps / suspension

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

1st) Chevrolet (10)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (1)


Thursday, June 27, 2019

PREVIEW: Changes abound on all three Chicagoland entry lists

Chris Buescher's Maxwell House scheme for this Sunday.
Friday, June 28, 2019
TRUCKS Race 12 of 23
Camping World 225 at Chicagoland
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Mike Harmon

A triple-header weekend begins with 33 drivers entered for 32 spots, meaning one team will miss the show. UPDATE: With the withdrawal of Ted Minor's #25 (see below), all 32 remaining trucks will start the race.

DRIVER CHANGE: #0-Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing
Joey Gase returns to the Truck Series and once again drives for Jennifer Jo Cobb. He replaces Greg Rayl, who finished last in Gateway after a crash ended his series debut.

DRIVER CHANGE: #1-Beaver Motorsports
Bayley Currey was originally slated to run a Truck Series race for the first time since Kansas, taking the place of Cody McMahan, who the team reported broke something in the right-front when he wrecked out of his own series debut at Gateway. But on Wednesday, it became B.J. McLeod, who will run all three races this weekend. The truck will be a Toyota with as sponsor.

NEW TEAM: #5-DGR-Crosley
Welcome back Dylan Lupton, who this week debuts a new fourth team for DGR-Crosley. If he qualifies, it will be Lupton’s third series start and first since November 11, 2016, when he drove this same truck number to a 19th-place finish for the Townley team. His series-best finish is a 12th at Talladega that same year. UPDATE: Team's number is 5, not 05.

DRIVER CHANGE: #13-ThorSport Racing
Johnny Sauter returns to the #13 truck following his one-race suspension for the incident at Iowa. Myatt Snider finished 10th in Sauter’s truck last Saturday.

RETURNING: #15-DGR-Crosley
DRIVER CHANGE: #87-NEMCO Motorsports
Chicagoland will be one of the races where Tyler Ankrum has full sponsorship from Railblaza for his now part-time effort with DGR-Crosley. Ankrum resumes his ride in the #17 following two “start-and-park” races in NEMCO Motorsports’ #87, which Joe Nemechek will drive on Friday. Ankrum’s return to the #17 moves Anthony Alfredo to DGR-Crosley’s returning #15 following a 12th-place showing in Gateway.

WITHDREW: #25-Ted Minor Motorsports
Ted Minor will attempt to qualify his own #25 for the second time this year following a DNQ in Texas. As at Texas, the truck will be sponsored by Xtreme Air and Phoenix Roofing, as well as ERO Exteriors. UPDATE: The team has withdrawn as of Thursday.

DRIVER CHANGE: #32-Reaume Brothers Racing
Daniel Sasnett finished 26th in the debut of Josh Reaume’s new third team at Gateway, but no driver was named for the truck on the preliminary entry list. Mason Massey was then listed by Wednesday, following his 21st-place finish in the Reaume #34 at Iowa.

DRIVER CHANGE: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
Josh Bilicki will race in place of Josh Reaume, who ran 23rd in Gateway. Bilicki finished 18th in Reaume’s #34 at Kansas earlier this year, his series debut, then failed to qualify at Charlotte. Insurance King joins the effort as sponsor.

DRIVER CHANGE: #34-Reaume Brothers Racing
Jesse Iwuji was in Sonoma last week, and this week will be in Chicago to take over for Bryant Barnhill in the #34. After a DNQ in his only previous series attempt, Barnhill finished 22nd at Gateway, best of the three Reaume trucks that night. Iwuji seeks his fifth Truck Series start and third of 2019 following a career-best 17th his last time out in Texas.

DRIVER CHANGE: #44-Niece Motorsports
T.J. Bell was originally listed to rejoin the Al Niece team for the first time since a 26th-place finish at Kansas, where he drove the #38. But on Wednesday, Spencer Davis was entered in his place. Davis' only previous start this year was at Martinsville, where he put Mark Rette's #11 in the show and finished 20th. He replaces Kyle Benjamin in the #44 following Benjamin’s 13th-place showing after leading three laps in Gateway.

MISSING: #46-Kyle Busch Motorsports
KBM has not entered the #46 truck this week, nor does Chandler Smith have a ride after finishing 4th in Gateway.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Kyle Busch Motorsports
Christian Eckes will also not be in Friday’s race following his 14th-place finish after starting on pole in Gateway. In his place will be Brandon Jones, who brings his Menards sponsorship to the #51. Jones finished 13th at Dover and 5th at Kansas in his prior two series starts this year.

RETURNING: #56-Hill Motorsports
The Hill brothers are back in Trucks again with Timmy taking the controls of their Chevrolet sponsored by Southern Freight Services. Hill will run double-duty with the XFINITY Series for Motorsports Business Management (see below).

MISSING: #74-Lou Goss Racing
Lou Goss and his #74 will not be making the trip to Chicago after he finished 31st in his series debut.

MISSING: #97-JJL Racing
Also not entered are Jesse Little and the #97 Ford, which drove to a 21st-place finish at Gateway.


Saturday, June 29, 2019
XFINITY Race 15 of 33
Camping World 300 at Chicagoland
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Kaz Grala


There are 40 drivers entered in Saturday’s XFINITY Series race, meaning two teams will miss the show. UPDATE: Make that 41 with the return of the #17 (see below).

DRIVER SWAP: #4-JD Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #01-JD Motorsports
Stephen Leicht moves from Johnny Davis’ #4 back to his familiar #01 this week, taking the place of Ryan Repko, who ran 22nd in his series debut at Iowa. Taking Leicht’s place in the #4 is Cup regular Landon Cassill, who runs double-duty this weekend. Both cars are sponsored by Gerber Collision and Glass.

RETURNING: #10-Kaulig Racing
Ross Chastain returns to triple-duty this week as Kaulig Racing brings back their second car back for the seventh time this year and first time since Pocono. Chastain last drove this car at Talladega, where a busted gear cooler left him 30th. It will be his third start of the year in the Nutrien Ag Solutions Chevrolet.

RETURNING: #12-Penske Racing
Defending Cup Series champion Joey Logano makes his first XFINITY start of the season as the #12 team makes its fourth start of the year and first since Michigan. Logano is a two-time XFINITY winner at this track in 2009 and 2013.

DRIVER SWAP: #13-Motorsports Business Management
DRIVER SWAP: #66-Motorsports Business Management
In addition to his Truck Series effort on Friday, Joe Nemechek will again drive for MBM, taking over the #13 ride for Timmy Hill. Hill moves to the team’s #66, taking the place of Stan Mullis, who isn’t entered after a 28th-place finish in Iowa.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-JD Motorsports
B.J. McLeod is back behind the wheel of an XFINITY Series car for the first time since Michigan, and takes over the #15 from Tyler Matthews, 20th in Iowa.

RETURNING: #17-Rick Ware Racing
Bayley Currey is entered in what was originally a driver TBA car. The #17 team returns following their withdrawal in Iowa.

DRIVER CHANGE: #18-Joe Gibbs Racing
Riley Herbst and the Monster Energy branding are back on Joe Gibbs’ #18 for the fourth time this year and first since a disappointing 37th-place showing in Michigan. Herbst takes the place of Harrison Burton, 4th in Iowa.

MISSING: #21-Richard Childress Racing
RCR has not entered the #21 team which Joe Graf, Jr. steered to a 19th-place finish in Iowa.

As the XFINITY Series nears the Playoffs, Ryan Sieg secured another new sponsor this week as Big Green Egg backs his #39 Chevrolet.

DRIVER CHANGE: #74-Mike Harmon Racing
Camden Murphy will drive NEMCO’s #8 Chevrolet on Friday in the Truck Series race, and also rejoin fellow owner-driver Mike Harmon to run the #74 Chevrolet on Saturday. Harmon finished 27th last time out in Iowa.

XCI Racing is back in action for the first time since their team debuted with an 8th-place finish at Texas. Jeffrey Earnhardt is again the driver of the Toyota.

DRIVER CHANGE: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Tommy Joe Martins resumes driving duties in the #99 Diamond Gusset Jeans / The Podgoats Toyota, taking over Ryan Ellis, 23rd after a start violation penalty in Iowa. Ellis will return to the car in Road America in two months. Martins finished a season-best 18th his last time out at Michigan.

CUP INVADERS: #4-Landon Cassill, #10-Ross Chastain, #12-Joey Logano

Sunday, June 30, 2019
CUP Race 17 of 36
Camping World 400 at Chicagoland
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Timmy Hill

There are 38 drivers entered for 40 spots in Sunday’s Cup event. This marks the fourth consecutive short field in 2019 and the twelfth out of seventeen races.

Another new look for Corey LaJoie's car this week as Coinlotto has signed as sponsor for this weekend.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Rick Ware Racing
When interviewed at Sonoma following a last-place finish, J.J. Yeley indicated he would be driving for Rick Ware at Chicagoland and next week in Daytona, but the preliminary entry list had no driver listed for either the #51 or #52. On Wednesday, the Ware team announced Yeley will drive the team's #52 at Daytona as part of a new multi-race sponsorship deal with DriveSmart Warranty. UPDATE: B.J. McLeod, originally entered in the #53, will instead drive the #51 this week.

DRIVER CHANGE: #52-Rick Ware Racing
The entry blank was also left open for the #52, which Cody Ware steered to a 36th-place finish before carbon monoxide poisoning forced him out of the race. Monarch Crypto Wallet was later added as the listed sponsor, a company that backed TriStar Motorsports' #72 last summer. UPDATE: Bayley Currey, originally entered in the #1 truck, will drive the #52.

RETURNING: #53-Rick Ware Racing
Ware’s third team returns with B.J. McLeod as the driver once again, a pairing we last saw in the team’s debut at Charlotte, where McLeod ran 29th. UPDATE: Josh Bilicki will go triple-duty this week as he takes over for McLeod in the #53.

DRIVER CHANGE: #77-Spire Motorsports
Quin Houff is back for his ninth Cup start of the year and first since Michigan, where he ran 32nd. Sleep6 is the listed sponsor. Houff takes the place of Justin Haley, who ran 34th last week in Sonoma.

MISSING: #96-Gaunt Brothers Racing
Neither Parker Kligerman nor the #96 team are entered this week after a 30th-place showing on the road course.

Today in LASTCAR history (June 27, 2014): Matt DiBenedetto was the Cinderella story of last Sunday’s Toyota / Save Mart 350. His 4th-place finish brought focus to his challenging journey that brought him to the Leavine Family Racing team. On this day just five years ago, DiBenedetto picked up the first last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career at Kentucky, driving one of the “start-and-park” efforts fielded by Curtis Key’s The Motorsports Group. DiBenedetto joined TMG in 2012, two years after he was running part-time in the series for Joe Gibbs Racing. The #95 now has a technical alliance with JGR, a reunion of both driver and team.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

ARCA: Wayne Peterson finishes last in second team car

PHOTO: Mike Raphael, @Mike_motorsport
by William Soquet Guest Contributor, ARCA Menards Series

Wayne Peterson finished last for the 41st time in his ARCA Menards Series career in Saturday night’s Day-to-Day Coffee 150 at the World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway when his #0 Toyota retired from the race with brake problems without completing any of the race’s 120 laps.

The finish came in Peterson’s 106th series start, and was his first since Salem last fall, 13 races ago.

Peterson’s underfunded team has changed their season strategy for 2019. Last year, Con Nicolopoulos ran nearly a full season for the team, splitting between the 0 and 06 entries. Dale Matchett, Mark Meunier, Don Thompson and Buck Stevens all made starts for the organization, which also kept owner points up for Bret Holmes Racing last summer. This year, Nicolopoulos has returned for a few superspeedway races, but just like what oftentimes happens in NASCAR, a young prospect has aligned with an underdog team to gain seat time. Former road racer Tim Richmond, a 20-year-old Illinois native, started on short tracks and has now been approved for all tracks after testing at Pocono. The Wayne Peterson Racing team has also downsized to one entry for most races this year, the one exception being Gateway, where the second entry went to the team owner. Peterson would drive Richmond's brown car from Pocono with the "6" on the "06" covered up.

The field size finally eclipsed 20 cars, a sign of progress for the series. The short track brigade entered, as did Thad Moffitt, reshaping his schedule from what was originally announced. Tanner Gray and Drew Dollar both ventured over form the K&N Pro Series East to drive Gateway (a track they will see later on in that series). Rick Clifton filled the rotating #11 for Fast Track Racing, and Gavin Harlien made his series debut in the #55 for Venturini Motorsports.

As is becoming a recurring theme for not just ARCA but racing in general in 2019, qualifying was rained out. Points leader Michael Self paced the field in what was then a combined happy hour/qualifying session, and Peterson was last of the 22, timing in at 43.76 seconds, over ten seconds off the pace set by the 25 car.

Peterson pulls behind the wall.
PHOTO: Mike Raphael, @Mike_motorsport
Before the race started, Mike Raphael at the track photographed 7th-place starter Tanner Gray behind the wall with the crew looking under the car. Gray's crew got him back onto the grid for the command, only to be eliminated due to handling issues from a crash, finishing 17th.

When the race actually started, the Bottom Five filled out relatively quickly with the increased field size. As with his 2018 starts, Peterson did not complete a lap before turning in. Clifton and Mike Basham, again driving the 69 this week, were out within the first ten laps. Tommy Vigh Jr. retired after 21 laps, and Tim Richmond completed the Bottom Five sweep of mechanical issues after 28 laps of running.

22) #0-Wayne Peterson / 0 laps / brakes
21) #11-Rick Clifton / 5 laps / driveshaft
20) #69-Mike Basham / 7 laps / vibration
19) #10-Tommy Vigh Jr. / 21 laps / transmission
18) #06-Tim Richmond / 28 laps / brakes

1st) Ford (6)
2nd) Toyota (4)
3rd) Chevrolet (1)

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


Monday, June 24, 2019

CUP: Rising concerns over heat in the cockpit following Cup race at Sonoma

The passenger side cockpit window
made its road course debut
at Sonoma
PHOTO: Brock Beard
An overlooked element of the 2019 rules package for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series has been the required use of passenger-side windows at all tracks. In the past, such windows were run at all tracks except short tracks and road courses. This allowed air to circulate in the cockpit at tracks where speeds are lower and the competition closer. With the windows now required, the entire right side of the car - which faces the sun on banked oval tracks - is sealed up completely other than existing naca ducts. And as the summer stretch begins, concerns are growing over excessive heat in the cockpit.

At Sonoma, where clear skies and hot temperatures are the norm, teams often removed the passenger-side window while the cars were sitting in the garage or in line at inspection. On race morning, teams had the window sitting perpendicular in the opening, and were only fixed into place just before teams rolled off. Once they did, drivers found the heat just about unbearable.

During an interview with Parker Kligerman following his 30th-place finish Sunday, he raised the issue as he reviewed the race itself. “It was hot – very hot,” he said. “The right-side window, I don’t know why we did that. But it has made it atrociously hot.”

While all teams are dealing with the oppressive heat, small teams are hit the hardest. Kligerman drives for Gaunt Brothers Racing, a part-time effort that has made just thirty Cup starts these last three seasons. As an “open team” without a guaranteed starting spot or larger share of the purse, the #96 team has limited resources. Primary sponsorship has come from only Toyota itself, the team’s manufacturer, and only for part of the team’s limited run. This has had an “unintended,” but serious consequence, as Kligerman explained:

“. . .The big teams are now running cool suits, and for smaller teams, it’s a huge investment. And secondly, it’s a huge undertaking to take care of it. So, it’s an 11,000 or 15,000 dollar thing, and you have to have someone who takes care of it and washes it, and if it goes wrong – so, you just handed the big teams another thing the smaller teams can’t keep up with.”

Unable to afford a proper cool suit, nor the expensive maintenance required, small teams are forced to resort to little more than ice packs and whatever cold drinks the crew can give to their drivers. But the Cup race at Sonoma has traditionally required few pit stops, and in recent years has seen few cautions, particularly in Stage 3. Sunday’s race saw no cautions other than the two stage breaks, ending with a 46-lap grind to the finish on the return of Sonoma’s longer, slower 2.52-mile configuration. As if that wasn’t enough, the new aero package gave cars a serious push, meaning drivers had to fight even harder to wrestle cars around the track.

“We were really really tight, and we couldn’t get the drive off,” said Kligerman. “If we loosened it up to be able to turn, we wouldn’t get the drive off, and when we were tight enough to have drive off, we couldn’t turn. So, I think the new aero package kind of threw us for a loop a little bit.”

The effects were immediate, and weren’t felt only by Kligerman. Both Rick Ware Racing drivers J.J. Yeley and Cody Ware struggled with the heat. While in the garage for a fuel pump issue past the halfway point, Yeley sat in a folding chair away from his car, visibly exhausted. He’d been handed ice packs at the start of the race, but they’d lost all effect by Lap 21. Fortunately, the fuel pump issue required multiple pit stops to reset the car’s computer, allowing Yeley to receive more relief. He was handed two large bags of ice during our brief interview in the garage, and was drinking whatever he could get.

A few minutes later, after logging 64 of the 90 laps, Cody Ware pulled the #52 into the garage, stopping behind the team’s hauler across from Yeley. He was helped from the car and sat next it, where he was promptly attended to by his crew. Ice bags were applied, and a damp cloth for his head. His father Rick said he was suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, and track medical staff was summoned to treat him on-site. Ware was conscious as he was being treated, and the team later reported he had recovered and was in good health.

When asked about what small teams could do to fight the heat, he shook his head. “[Ice packs]. That’s all I can do. You know what, for us, I could get one of those [cool suits], it’s just upkeep of it is hard and it just seems like it would be a problem. And then we’re probably looking at getting one of those air bags that the guys used to run, but I just don’t know why at short tracks and these tracks [road courses] we went to the right-side windows, I don’t understand it.”

Sunday, June 23, 2019

CUP: Fuel pump issues hand J.J. Yeley first last-place finish in nearly four years

PHOTO: Brock Beard
J.J. Yeley picked up the 16th last-place finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Toyota / Save Mart 350 at the Sonoma Raceway when his #51 Jacob Companies Chevrolet fell out with a fuel pump issue after 53 of 90 laps.

The finish, which came in Yeley’s 278th series start, was his Cup Series last-place finish of the
season, and first in the series since New Hampshire on July 19, 2015, 141 races ago. In the Cup Series last-place rankings, it was the 26th for the #51, the 16th for fuel pump issues, and the 764th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 38th for the #51, the 27th from fuel pump issues, and the 1,666th for Chevrolet.

Back in 2015, the last time Yeley finished last in Cup, he was a full-time driver in the XFINITY Series for the now-closed JGL Racing. He finished 12th in points that year, his best showing since 2006. He then joined TriStar Motorsports the following season, taking 14th in the series standings the next two years, then ran all but two races in 2018 for RSS Racing. Several of those starts were unsponsored, however, accounting for many of the 20 DNFs Yeley earned that season. He would later part ways with RSS Racing, where Josh Bilicki now runs a similar schedule in the #38.

On the Cup side of 2015, Yeley was driving for BK Racing, a team he’d continue to drive for through its eventual sale to Front Row Motorsports and single-car team owner Johnathan Cohen. Both Front Row and Cohen joined forces with Yeley last fall, fielding a #23 Toyota with sponsorship from the She Beverage Company. Yeley had previously driven for Cohen under the Xxtreme Racing Team in 2014, and also Cohen’s return to the series, starting with a Steakhouse Elite-sponsored #7 Chevrolet in the 2018 Coca-Cola 600. The partnership was to continue this season, where Steakhouse Elite remained as sponsor of Cohen’s Ford Mustang in Daytona. But while Yeley appeared at media day in his #7 uniform, the team has yet to make a start. Yeley commented on that team’s status:

“Nothing new for New York Racing right now. It’s been more of a matter of sitting around waiting for sponsorship to develop. We got to a situation where it was some opportunities to fill in with Rick (Ware) and we actually talked last year about doing something, so we got a couple more races planned, should be at Chicagoland next week, then Daytona after that.”

Yeley was a surprising addition to the Sonoma entry list, having not run a Cup race at the track since 2015. It would also be the seventh different team he’d drive for in eight Cup starts there. Although he was entered with both Jacob Companies and Steakhouse Elite as primary sponsors of his #51, only the Jacob branding was on his blue #51 with red roof, and the scheme did not change all weekend. The scheme was similar to the car Rick Ware fielded last year for Josh Bilicki at Watkins Glen and Stanton Barrett on the Charlotte Roval, though unlike both times was a Chevrolet instead of a Ford. Yeley would be teamed with Cody Ware, who returned to the #52 SBC Contractors Chevrolet he ran at Sonoma last year in the second Ware team’s Cup debut. Incidentally, Yeley’s team radio would be on Ware’s frequency, and vice-versa.

Yeley began the weekend 35th of the 38 entrants in opening practice, then 35th and last in Happy Hour after three drivers didn’t turn a lap. He then qualified 36th with the second-slowest lap of the session at 91.488mph (1 minute, 39.161 seconds).

Starting last was Reed Sorenson, who like Yeley, was making a return to Sonoma after a long absence. His would be a first since 2014, and his fifth in a Cup race on the road course. Sorenson was entered in the Jay Robinson-prepared #27 Chevrolet, a car he’d run in all but one of his eight previous starts in 2019. But the weekend didn’t get off to the best start when, after pulling to the end of pit road for qualifying, his car wouldn’t fire. The reason was a dead battery, and other cars had to swerve around him on their way onto the track. The Premium Motorsports crew retrieved him and pushed him back at the end of Round 1, bringing the #27 more than halfway back the long pit road.

“I didn’t run many laps,” said Sorenson after qualifying. “The tires we used yesterday (in practice) we need to use in the race.” He looked ahead to the race, and his strategy. “I don’t have too many laps out there, but we’ll have plenty of them tomorrow. . .Just use attrition, try to stay out of trouble and keep it on the track and be there at the end.” Sorenson also commented on the challenges of driving for an underfunded effort. “It’s all a challenge, I mean, it’s a very competitive sport, especially at this level. You just gotta make use of what you got and make the best of it and have fun with the guys you’re working with.”

Yeley was one of four drivers who joined Sorenson at the back of the pack due to tail-end penalties, his due to unapproved adjustments. Daniel Suarez qualified 5th in his #41 Ruckus Ford, but had to change engines after Happy Hour. Erik Jones could only take 32nd after damage from a flat left-rear tire in qualifying that resulted in unapproved adjustments to the #20 Craftsman Toyota. And Ross Chastain focused on Saturday’s Truck Series race in Gateway, so Kyle Weatherman practiced and qualified his #15 Low T Centers Chevrolet. Chastain successfully avenged his disqualification in Iowa with a win that night, and arrived back at Sonoma at 3 A.M. on race day. When asked how he’d approach running a track where he’d never turned a lap, he said, “Take the first two stages and learn the track - I've never been here - and just see what we can do.”

During the first pace lap, Sorenson had at least two spotters communicating with one another about which spots they could see the #27. This was critical as Sonoma returned to its original 2.52-mile configuration for this race for the first time since 1997. On the second pace lap, Chastain fell behind Sorenson in the Carousel, followed by Jones in Turn 7. Chastain and Sorenson then pulled behind Jones, who joined Suarez ahead of both cars. Also falling behind Suarez and Jones was Landon Cassill, whose #00 Share Chevrolet was slated to start 35th. Thus, Sorenson and Chastain remained in the last row exactly where they had qualified.

When the race went green, Chastain and Sorenson worked their way past Yeley in Turns 1 and 2. Yeley tried to close on the pair in Turn 2, but fell back, and was trailing by two seconds of open track after the first lap. According to the Ware team, Yeley had an issue with a defective tire, forcing him to make an unscheduled stop after just two laps. Yeley managed to stay on the lead lap, but was now one minute, seven seconds back of the lead. After six laps, Yeley was just under 21 seconds ahead of race leader William Byron, and Byron’s #24 Hertz Chevrolet knocked that down to 12 seconds just three circuits later. By then, Sorenson had also lost touch with the field in 37th, and the final two cars were running practically by themselves.

Byron was within sight of Yeley after 11 laps, and the driver of #51 reported his car was too tight, especially in the right-hand turns. This allowed Byron to make up the deficit on Lap 13, when Byron put the #51 the first car one lap down. He remained in last place when the first stage ended eight laps later, and reported his water temperature was between 215 and 220 degrees. Sorenson was also lapped by Byron, and edged Yeley for the Lucky Dog.

When Stage 2 began, Yeley reported issues with his fuel pressure fluctuating. By Lap 38, the crew became increasingly concerned as it was reading just six pounds of pressure even though the car couldn’t even run with less than 20. Still, Yeley managed to stay out without losing another lap and earned the Lucky Dog, putting him back on the lead lap.

With Yeley back on the lead lap, last place briefly changed hands after a series of pit stops. First was rookie Matt Tifft, making his Sonoma debut in the #36 Acquire Investments Ford, one of many drivers to suffer damage to the nose of his car.

“It was tough,” said Tifft after the race. “It was really challenging. We didn’t have the best-turning cars. We struggled being tight, but got a little nose damage, that didn’t help our situation, made a little mistake there and unfortunately never had the great speed we needed. We were probably okay maybe to get a Top 25 and we just kind of played our strategy for pitting probably just a little bit off, just got a little too far behind. But some good notes from running the Carousel for coming back.”

After 42 laps, Ryan Preece took the spot with damage on the right-rear of his #47 Kroger Chevrolet. Tifft re-took the spot the next time by after another stop, followed soon by Yeley after he, too, came down pit road. As Tifft drove by entering Turn 1, Yeley joined the field. Two stages were complete, and all 38 drivers were still running on the lead lap.

When the race restarted, Yeley didn’t accelerate as fast as the cars in front of him and again trailed by open track. His team continued to try and diagnose the fuel pressure issue, believing it to be a bad sensor. On Lap 48, however, the exhaust note on Yeley’s car sounded off, and he continued to lose ground to the pack. The team decided to bring him in and reset the car’s electronic system, which required Yeley shut off the car on pit road. The team did this quickly, again getting Yeley out on the lead lap, but now with just six seconds to work with on new leader Martin Truex, Jr. Truex caught and lapped Yeley just two laps later in Turn 2.

The fuel pressure issue continued, and after 53 laps, Yeley pulled down pit road once more to reset the system a second time. The driver expressed concerns that he’d blow the engine, but headed back out there one lap down. On Lap 56, the crew said “Let’s take it to the garage,” and the #51 pulled behind the wall at the garage entrance in Turn 11. Yeley pulled into the team’s stall, the very last in the building, and the crew hooked the car up to the computer. As Yeley sat next to his car, rehydrating and picking up more ice packs, he spoke briefly about his run.

“We ran 10, 20 laps in practice, had no issues, felt pretty good with the car. Just a little bit too tight today. It’s just been one of those days – got a flat tire before the green, had to come in and change tires, lost a lap, got back, got the Lucky Dog, then just started running bad and put us in the garage. . .It can do more harm than good running the engine running it at 5 or 7 pounds, so just come in and see if they can find something, but it’s gonna be something like a sensor or something, unfortunately.”

Soon after, the Ware team discovered a fuel line had come loose and was dumping fuel on the back of the engine. Though the issue was found, the team decided against returning to the track. “I'd rather just put the car away,” said the crewman, explaining that he didn’t want their car to be in the way. He was then asked if this was official, and confirmed that it was.

Finishing 37th was Chase Elliott, whose #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet qualified a strong 4th and took the lead early from teammate William Byron, only to lose the engine under green. Yeley’s team had officially declared themselves out of the race over the radio just moments before Elliott’s crew pushed the #9 behind the wall. The last radio transmission from the #51 said that Elliott had fallen out, and that they could gain a spot if they decided to return and make eight more laps. There was no response, and the #51 did not complete another lap.

The 36th spot fell to Cody Ware, who pulled behind the wall shortly after Elliott with symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Ware was conscious as he was helped from the #52 SBC Contractors Chevrolet, and then assisted by track medical staff. The team later reported he had recovered and was in good health. The officially listed reason for the retirement was “fatigue.”

With no accidents or other mechanical failures, the remaining 35 starters finished under power. Rounding out the Bottom Five were Sorenson’s #27 and the #77 Formula One Imports Chevrolet of Justin Haley, back in Cup for the first time since his breakout run at Talladega. Like Sorenson, Haley finished two laps down, having come down pit road with three laps to go.

The race’s final 46 laps were run under green, which played directly into the hands of 19th-place qualifier Matt DiBenedetto. Just three years ago, DiBenedetto took the 2014 LASTCAR XFINITY Series Championship, finishing last in 14 XFINITY races as a “start-and-park” driver for TriStar Motorsports. His previous best Cup finish was a 6th at Bristol two years later, when he was driving for the now-closed BK Racing.

DiBenedetto voluntarily became a free agent last season, and the gamble paid off with a ride for the Leavine Family Racing team and a new Joe Gibbs Racing alliance. In his first race out, he led the most laps in the Daytona 500 only to be collected in a crash, and had finished no better than 12th since. That changed on Sunday, as he earned a career-best 4th behind Martin Truex, Jr., Kyle Busch, and Ryan Blaney. The run was even more significant as it came in one of three throwback paint schemes honoring Darrell Waltrip’s final broadcast for FOX Sports.

“It’s been a tough journey,” said DiBenedetto as he headed back to the garage. “It’s taught me everything and made me appreciate it for sure.”

*This marked the first time car #51 finished last in a Cup Series race at Sonoma, and the first time a fuel pump was the listed cause in a Cup race there. In fact, it was the first time a fuel pump resulted in a Cup Series last-place finish since March 24, 2013, when Mike Bliss fell out after 44 laps at Fontana.
*Yeley is now tied with Kevin Lepage for the ninth-most last-place finishes across NASCAR’s top three series, each with a career total of 27.

38) #51-J.J. Yeley / 53 laps / fuel pump
37) #9-Chase Elliott / 60 laps / engine
36) #52-Cody Ware / 64 laps / fatigue
35) #27-Reed Sorenson / 88 laps / running
34) #77-Justin Haley / 88 laps / running

1st) Rick Ware Racing (5)
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 (8)
2nd) Ford (6)
3rd) Toyota (2)


TRUCKS: Greg Rayl finishes last as one of three hard-luck first-time starters in Gateway

PHOTO: @nascarfan19_YT
Greg Rayl picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series career in Saturday’s CarShield 200 at the World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway when his #0 Chevrolet was involved in a single-truck accident after 2 of 160 laps.

The finish came in Rayl’s series debut. In the Truck Series last-place rankings, it was the 47th for the #0, the 151st from a crash, and the 375th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 87th for the #0, the 1,183rd from a crash, and the 1,665th for Chevrolet.

At 55 years old, Rayl is not your typical newcomer to NASCAR’s top three series. His entry was one of the last to be announced – so late, in fact, that his name didn’t appear at first in the race results on The Salida, California native has 32 starts in the K&N Pro Series West, but none since 2014. Since then, he’s most often worked as a crew chief, including with current Truck Series owner-driver Josh Reaume. Reaume tweeted that he recommended Rayl for the ride after some good-natured ribbing about his driving style. Rayl would have an opportunity to race against his driver, who lined up 21st in his own #33, as driver of Jennifer Jo Cobb’s second truck, #0.

With qualifying rained out, Rayl secured the 29th starting spot on Owner Points earned in two previous starts by the #0 earlier this year. He’d run around that spot in the weekend’s only practice session, putting up the 27th-fastest time of 32 drivers with a best of 126.950mph (35.447 seconds).

Rayl's truck in the garage prior to the race
PHOTO: @nascarfan19_YT
Starting last on Saturday night was Lou Goss, who this time had the former Mike Harmon Racing Chevrolet race-ready. Following Goss’ withdrawal in Iowa, the #74 Kramer Service Group / A&A Haulers Chevrolet turned its first three laps in practice, but could only run six seconds off the pace of session leader Stewart Friesen. Regardless, the 32-truck field guaranteed that he, too, would make his NASCAR national touring series debut along with Rayl and 31st-place starter Cody McMahan. McMahan, tabbed to drive Beaver Motorsports’ #1 Beaver Bail Bonds Chevrolet, had just one previous series attempt, when he DNQ’d at Bristol in a Cobb truck.

Unfortunately, all three drivers had short nights in Gateway. Rayl was joined at the back of the field by 27th-place starter Norm Benning, who missed the driver’s meeting. Just three laps later, Benning’s #6 H&H Transport Chevrolet passed the wreck of Rayl’s #0 following a crash in Turn 1 that ended his night. Goss made just ten more circuits before reporting a vibration, while McMahan exited with crash damage after 32 laps to finish 29th. Filling out the Bottom Five were the two NEMCO Motorsports Chevrolets of 30th-place Tyler Ankrum in the #87 and 28th-place Camden Murphy in the #8, both sponsored by Toenjes Brick Contracting.

The victory went to last week’s last-place finisher Ross Chastain, who became the first driver in the history of NASCAR’s top three series to follow-up a last-place by disqualification with a victory in the very next points race. Along with the $50,000 “The Trip” bonus from title sponsor Gander Outdoors and a smashed watermelon in victory lane, Chastain was awarded a trophy dedicated to the late Mike Mittler. Mittler was also honored with his family and crew giving the command and a salute on Lap 63, his former team number. Chastain returned to run Sunday’s Cup race in Sonoma, where he finished 33rd.

*This marked the first Truck Series last-place finish for the #0 at Gateway since September 6, 2008, when Butch Miller’s #0 ASI Limited Chevrolet fell out with ignition woes after 3 laps of the Camping World 200 presented by Honda Power Equipment.

32) #0-Greg Rayl / 2 laps / crash
31) #74-Lou Goss / 12 laps / vibration
30) #87-Tyler Ankrum / 14 laps / brakes
29) #1-Cody McMahan / 32 laps / crash
28)  #8-Camden Murphy / 47 laps / vibration

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

1st) Chevrolet (10)
2nd) Toyota (1)


Saturday, June 22, 2019

K&N WEST: Dave Smith's battle to go from instructor to full-time racer

Smith examines his ride for today's Procore 200
PHOTO: Brock Beard
On Monday, during a media appearance featuring Michael Waltrip in a new Toyota Supra, another race car driver lined up behind the two-time Daytona 500 winner in a Camry. The driver was 52-year-old Dave Smith, who was preparing to run Saturday’s K&N Pro Series West race. I had the opportunity to ride with Smith as he followed Waltrip’s red car around the track, very much symbolic of Smith’s efforts to reach NASCAR’s elite level of competition.

Smith grew up just ten minutes from the Sonoma Raceway, where he first caught the racing bug in the Skip Barber Racing School. At the time, the school was hosted in an old barn outside Turn 11, where Smith cleaned the floors, then started working on their fleet of Formula Fords. Smith got his opportunity to take the three-day course himself, and earned high marks from his instructor. He considered a driving career of his own, but the costs made him stay a mechanic. For the next seven years, he worked his way up the ranks in Indy Lights, then IndyCar. He even became the crew chief for several drivers, including open-wheel mainstay Oriol Servia and Cup veteran Casey Mears.

But Smith wasn’t content to stay a mechanic, and “hung up my wrenches,” he recalled, in 1999. He returned to the driving school at Sonoma, which was now run by Jim Russel after Skip Barber moved to Laguna Seca. This time, Smith was an instructor, and earned the opportunity to run part-time in multiple road racing disciplines. “I got some one-off opportunities in Trans-Am, ALMS, and Porsche Cup car, Daytona Prototype with Greg Pickett Racing,” said Smith. “Did a lot of 25-hour endurance races at Thunderhill, tested a lot, drove a lot of different race cars – so many, and all that helped me become a better driver.”

But all of these drives were part-time or one-and-done efforts, often with limited practice to become familiar with each car. “[I’ve] never really got that break of being a full-time – in a full-time seat for a full season, where the car’s been personalized to me. I’m always hopping in somebody else’s car at the last minute. . .no testing, no practice.”

This trend has also defined Smith’s current efforts in the K&N Pro Series West, where he’s run no more than two races a year since 2010. This includes his car for today’s Procore 200. Smith’s #35 is a steel-bodied car acquired from Bill McAnally Racing with brand-new parts underneath, including a new motor and transmission. As per usual, Smith had never even seen it, much less driven it, before Friday’s opening practice. “I’m gonna hop in it. First time today and go give it hell. So, it’s gonna be fun. It’s stressful, but as long as the car works, I’ll be okay out there.”

Smith’s car this year is fielded by Dusty Baker – yes, that Dusty Baker, the former manager of baseball’s San Francisco Giants. Baker’s current venture into wine making through Baker Family Wines is one of Smith’s sponsors - along with Sonoma Harvest Olive Oil and Wine of Fairfield, owned by a high school friend - and custom wheel company FIKSE Wheels out of Canada, which bought space on his quarter-panels. Spotters from Michael McDowell’s Cup Series team were also on hand to guide his #35 around the track.

Smith's extensive experience at Sonoma – particularly the 2.52-mile configuration on which he continues to run as an instructor – paid dividends. Out of 32 drivers to take time, Smith ran 17th, and was tied for the third-most laps complete behind Lawless Alan and Austin Thorn.

Many of Smith’s competitors in today’s race are the same age as some of the aspiring racers Smith has trained through his own driver development program. But that hasn’t stopped him from trying to reach NASCAR’s highest echelon. Just this week, he’d been looking to pick up a ride for this Sunday’s Toyota / Save Mart 350. He’d had experience running Cup cars, but never in competition. The effort fell short due to a lack of funds. As such, this Sunday’s main event is the first in several years with no so-called “road course ringers” like Smith in the field.

Looking ahead to the Procore 200 itself – and Sunday’s main event, Smith gave some sage advice on how the races will play out from an instructor’s point of view:

“There’s going to be a lot of passing opportunities, and it’s really gonna be about driving these things cautiously aggressive, keeping the tires underneath you, not getting wheel spin. With the horsepower these things have and the little bit of grip in the tires, you have to be so progressive on the throttle, just really be a good throttle management guy, and keep the tires on the car. Soon as you burn them off, they’re just junk, and you’re slipping and sliding around out there. And then the other thing that is critical is not sticking the gearbox and not missing shifts, and not cooking your brakes, either. ‘Cause now, we’re going to have more braking opportunities – high speed braking opportunities – brakes is gonna be the key determining factor, mark my words, for both series this weekend. Brakes are gonna get smoked because we’re gonna be using them so hard.”

“So it’s gonna be the guy who can be conservative enough and good enough on the braking.”

Thursday, June 20, 2019

PREVIEW: Tributes to DW in Sonoma; youth movement central in Gateway

PHOTO: @roushfenway
Saturday, June 22, 2019
TRUCKS Race 11 of 23
CarShield 200 at World Wide Technology Raceway (Gateway)
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Joe Nemechek

The preliminary entry list of 31 drivers grew to 32 on Tuesday following one withdrawal (#30) and two additions (#1 and #6). All entrants will start the race.

DRIVER CHANGE: #0-Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #10-Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing
Jennifer Jo Cobb returns to her familiar #10, taking the place of Juan Manuel Gonzalez after a difficult morning in Iowa. Cobb’s return to the #10 opens the #0 for another driver to be announced. UPDATE: That driver is Greg Rayl, a 32-time starter in the K&N Pro Series West. Rayl makes his NASCAR national touring series debut after no major racing series starts since 2014.

RETURNING: #1-Beaver Motorsports
Added without a named driver on Tuesday, Mark Beaver’s single-truck effort is back in action for the first time since Kansas, where Bayley Currey steered his Toyota to a 29th-place finish. Beaver Bonding is the listed sponsor. The driver is to be announced. UPDATE: On Thursday, Cody McMahan was named the driver. McMahan has one previous attempt in 2016 when he DNQ'd Jennifer Jo Cobb's truck at Bristol. Saturday will be his series debut.

TEAM UPDATE: #6-Norm Benning Racing
Norm Benning wasn’t entered on the preliminary list, but that changed by Tuesday. No sponsor is currently listed.

TEAM CLOSED(?): #7-All Out Motorsports
News broke on Tuesday that All Out Motorsports, the team Korbin Forrister drove for on a part-time basis, has shut down. All Out, which last ran 25th in Charlotte, made 16 starts since their debut in the 2018 opener at Daytona. Their best finish was a pair of 13th-place runs that season in Kentucky and Las Vegas. UPDATE: Forrister tweeted Thursday that the team is still active, raising questions about the initial report.

Camden Murphy seeks his second Truck Series start and first since charlotte, where he ran 30th in the NEMCO #8. Taking the place of Trey Hutchins, who ran 29th in Iowa, Murphy carries returning sponsorship from Toenjes Brick Contracting, Inc., which backed NEMCO twice last summer at Gateway and Pocono.

DRIVER CHANGE: #13-ThorSport Racing
Following his one-race suspension for wrecking Austin Hill during Sunday's race in Iowa, Johnny Sauter will not start a Truck Series race since November 14, 2008, the season finale at Homestead. In Sauter's place will be a driver to be announced. UPDATE: Myatt Snider became the replacement on Thursday.

Anthony Alfredo will make his sixth start of 2019 and first since his breakout performance in Texas, where he ran 12th. He takes over for 9th-place Iowa finisher Raphael Lessard. Sponsorship comes from Steelsmith, Oxford Energy Group, ASDC, and the Friends of Jaclyn foundation.

WITHDREW: #30-On Point Motorsports
On Tuesday came news that Brennan Poole would not be competing in Gateway as the #30 team withdrew. It is the team’s second withdrawal of the season, the other coming at Kansas.

RETURNING: #32-Reaume Brothers Racing
Daniel Sasnett is again entered in what should be #32’s debut, following the pair’s withdrawal last week in Iowa.

DRIVER CHANGE: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
Josh Reaume resumes driving duties of his team’s flagship #33, taking the place of 23rd-place Iowa finisher C.J. McLaughlin. Colonial Countertops returns as sponsor of his Chevrolet.

DRIVER CHANGE: #34-Reaume Brothers Racing
Bryant Barnhill returns to the site of his Truck Series debut last year, when he steered Premium Motorsports’ #15 Chevrolet to a 31st-place finish following engine trouble. This time, he replaces 21st-place Iowa finisher Mason Massey in another of Josh Reaume’s trucks.

MISSING: #42-Chad Finley Racing, Inc.
Not entered this week is Chad Finley, who saw his race in Iowa end after 68 laps due to rear end issues. It was in this race last year that Finley debuted this team, yielding a career-best 6th-place finish. The run remains his only career top 10 in eight series starts.

TEAM UPDATE: #44-Niece Motorsports
Ross Chastain and team lost their appeal on Wednesday. With his disqualification at Iowa, the race to make the Playoffs continues Saturday.

DRIVER CHANGE: #46-Kyle Busch Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Kyle Busch Motorsports
KBM reloads their lineup with Chandler Smith, fresh off his strong start in Iowa, moving from the #51 to the #46 with sponsorship from iBUYPOWER. Smith takes the place of Riley Herbst, who ran 15th in Iowa and is not entered. Driving Smith’s #51 will be a returning Christian Eckes, who in this race last year started outside-pole and led 34 laps before a wreck left him 28th. SiriusXM sponsors Eckes, who now stands 4th in this year’s ARCA Menards Series standings.

MISSING: #56-Hill Motorsports
Timmy and Tyler Hill will not make the journey to Gateway this week following Tyler’s 26th-place finish in their Chevrolet in Iowa.

TEAM UPDATE: #74-Lou Goss Racing
Lou Goss will race in Gateway after his unfinished truck withdrew in Iowa. It will mark the first laps for the former Mike Harmon chassis since Mosport last summer. Kramer Service Group and A&A Haulers remain as sponsors of the new venture, which now is listed with Goss as team owner.


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

There are 38 drivers entered in Sunday’s first road course race of 2019, meaning all drivers entered will qualify. It is the third short field in a row and the twelfth in sixteen races this season. It’s also the third-straight year Sonoma has seen just 38 drivers take the green flag, the fewest for a Cup race held there.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Premium Motorsports
In addition to his Truck effort at Gateway, where he seeks to shake off the disappointment of a disqualification in Iowa, Ross Chastain will make his first-ever Cup start at the Sonoma Raceway. As in previous Cup efforts, he drives Jay Robinson’s #15 Chevrolet, which does not yet have a listed sponsor. He takes the place of Garrett Smithley, who ran 30th the last time the Cup Series was in action at Michigan. UPDATE: Kyle Weatherman will practice and qualify this car while Chastain runs Trucks at Gateway.

PAINT SCHEME: #17-Roush-Fenway Racing
PAINT SCHEME: #38-Front Row Motorsports
PAINT SCHEME: #95-Leavine Family Racing
At least three cars in Sunday’s field will carry paint schemes saluting the final FOX Sports broadcast for Darrell Waltrip. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.’s #17 Fastenal Ford will carry a scheme resembling Waltrip’s Western Auto Chevrolet he ran from 1991 through 1997, complete with chrome-foil numbers. David Ragan’s #38 #ThanksDW Ford carries a white-and-red scheme with Waltrip’s famous catchphrase on the hood. Matt DiBenedetto is also listed in the orange-and-white scheme Waltrip ran when he ran #95 in 1974. The scheme, unveiled on Wednesday, will again be sponsored by Procore, which will also present Saturday's K&N Pro Series West race at Sonoma.

RETURNING: #27-Premium Motorsports
Jay Robinson has also entered his second car for the first time since Pocono, and again enters Reed Sorenson in the #27 Chevrolet. Sorenson has four Sonoma starts in Cup competition, but none since 2014, when he finished 32nd for Tommy Baldwin Racing. Baldwin continues his role as crew chief for the team.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Rick Ware Racing
J.J. Yeley rejoins Rick Ware Racing, and brings his Steakhouse Elite sponsorship to complement the Ware team’s Jacob Companies backing. He takes the place of Kyle Weatherman, last in Michigan after the P-40 paint scheme wrecked early in Michigan. Yeley has seven Sonoma starts, but none since 2015, when a crash driving for BK Racing left him 41st in the last 43-car field here.

DRIVER CHANGE: #52-Rick Ware Racing
Cody Ware returns to the #52 which he debuted in this same race last year, and local construction firm SBC Contractors will again back the effort. Ware takes the place of Josh Bilicki, who ran 33rd two weeks back in Michigan.

DRIVER CHANGE: #77-Spire Motorsports
Welcome back Justin Haley, who on Sunday will make his first Cup start since his strong run at Talladega ended with a crash not of his doing. It was on this same weekend just last year that Haley scored his first Truck Series victory in Gateway driving for GMS Racing. Formula One Imports will be the sponsor. He takes the place of Quin Houff, driver of the #77 for the last five races, most recently his 32nd-place showing in Michigan.

RETURNING: #96-Gaunt Brothers Racing
Parker Kligerman returns to Cup competition on Sunday, as does the Gaunt Brothers. We last saw them both in the Coca-Cola 600, where Kligerman ran 26th, his second-best finish of the year behind a 15th in the Daytona 500. As at Talladega, the car will carry logos celebrating the 40th anniversary of Toyota Racing Development, likely a tie-in with Toyota’s sponsorship of the race itself.

Saturday, June 29, 2019
XFINITY Race 15 of 33
Camping World 300 at Chicagoland
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Kaz Grala

The XFINITY Series takes the week off and will return next Saturday in Chicago.

Today in LASTCAR history (June 20, 1957): Bob Welborn picked up the first last-place finish of his Cup Series career in a 200-lap event on the Columbia (South Carolina) Speedway when his #49 1957 Chevrolet did not start, leaving him last in the 21-car field. The bad luck didn’t last long for Welborn, the polesitter of the first Daytona 500 two seasons later. That October, he scored the first of his nine Cup wins with a decisive victory in Martinsville. Welborn led 435 of 500 laps that day, just 11 fewer than Brad Keselowski’s mark of 446 this past spring.

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 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)