Wednesday, July 31, 2019

PREVIEW: Dirt trackers and road ringers rise again at Eldora and Watkins Glen

PHOTO: Mike Rector, @Iaracefan
Thursday, August 1, 2019
TRUCKS Race 15 of 23
Eldora Dirt Derby at Eldora
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Norm Benning

There are 32 drivers entered for as many spots, but for the season’s lone dirt track race, these aren’t the same 32 drivers and teams from last Saturday at Pocono.

MISSING: #0-Jennifer Jo Cobb
The second Cobb truck is not entered this week, days after Daniel Sasnett finished 29th at Pocono.

DRIVER CHANGE: #3-Jordan Anderson Racing
One week after tying his season-best 13th-place finish at Pocono, Jordan Anderson will not be behind the wheel of his own #3 Chevrolet for the first time in 2019. In his place will be the first of many new faces in the race, 16-year-old Carson Hocevar. The Michigan-born late model racer has already turned heads in the ARCA Menards Series, where he has six Top Fives in just eleven series starts for Mike Bursley. Scott’s, GM Parts Now, and Precision Fleet Image are among the team’s sponsors on a slightly new look to the white Chevrolet.

Joe Nemechek has a ringer of his own as Colt Gilliam, a Super Stock competitor at the Carolina Speedway in Gastonia, North Carolina, will take the controls of the fleet NEMCO #8 Chevrolet that Tony Mrakovich steered to a strong 12th-place run in Pocono. Several sponsors have followed Gilliam to NASCAR, including Business Machines Company and Hoopaugh Grading.

MISSING: #15-DGR-Crosley
Anthony Alfredo will not run this Thursday’s race as the Crosley team has not fielded the #15, one week after his 31st-place finish following his Lap 1 tangle with Stewart Friesen.

DRIVER CHANGE: #20-Young’s Motorsports
Spencer Boyd was originally entered to continue his full-season effort in Eldora, but on Tuesday came word he’d injured his back in a non-racing related accident. Driving in relief this week is Landon Huffman, who we haven’t seen in the series since last fall at Phoenix, when he steered Al Niece’s #38 to a 25th-place finish.

RETURNING: #27-ThorSport Racing
Fresh off his win in last Saturday’s XFINITY race at Iowa, Chase Briscoe sets his sights on a second-straight win at Eldora following a thriller last summer. Then as now, he drives the returning ThorSport #27 team, and this time has sponsorship from DiaEdge.

MISSING: #28-FDNY Racing
Bryan Dauzat and the Jim Rosenblum team are not entered in this week’s race after they recovered from an early crash to finish 24th at Pocono.

DRIVER SWAP: #32-Reaume Brothers Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #34-Reaume Brothers Racing
Mason Massey finished 17th last week at Pocono and will again run for Josh Reaume under the lights at Eldora. This week, he moves from the #34 to the #32, leaving the other two Reaume trucks open for two more dirt trackers. Taking over Massey’s #34 is Devin Dodson, a 20-year-old racer from Maryland who competes in both Dirt Modifieds and a combined six starts in ARCA and K&N Pro Series competition. His best of these runs was a 6th-place showing in an East race at Tucson just last year. The #33 goes to fellow Dirt Modified racer Mike Marlar from Tennessee, who earlier this month scored his sixth DIRTcar Summer Nationals victory in a door-to-door battle with Brian Shirley.

DRIVER CHANGE: #38-Niece Motorsports
Last week, Al Niece entered this truck at the last minute to guarantee a 32-truck field, and T.J. Bell steered it to a 26th-place finish before handling issues. This week, the truck is again entered, and will also be a joint effort with Jordan Anderson Racing (along with Anderson’s own #3). Driving this week will be Mark Smith, the 2014 and 2016 360 sprint car champion and a winner in four different open wheel divisions at the Selinsgrove Speedway in his native Pennsylvania. It will be Smith’s NASCAR national touring series debut.

DRIVER CHANGE: #44-Niece Motorsports
Jeffrey Abbey seeks his third-straight start in the Eldora Dirt Derby after finishing 14th for Al Niece in 2017, then 17th for the Reaume Brothers just last year. In that time, Abbey has since made a pavement start in the Truck Series, finishing 22nd at Martinsville. He takes the place of Bayley Currey, who ran 23rd in Pocono.

PAINT SCHEME: #45-Niece Motorsports
After weeks of running plain white trucks, last week’s Pocono winner Ross Chastain carries a throwback scheme this Thursday, resembling the #21 J.W. Hunt Produce modified raced by Jack Hewitt. Interestingly, this will also be Chastain’s first-ever start in the Eldora Dirt Derby.

MISSING: #49-CMI Motorsports
Ray Ciccarelli and his owner-driver operation are not among the entrants at Eldora following a 19th-place showing in Pocono.

It was Kyle Strickler, “The High Side Tickler,” who last year became the final driver to run Mike Mittler’s #63 Chevrolet at Eldora, finishing 31st after a late-race accident. In the years prior, Bobby Pierce had come closer than perhaps any other driver had to putting MB Motorsports into victory lane. Pierce was not among this year’s entrants, and cited Mittler’s passing as the reason. Strickler, however, will be running this week, taking the place of a struggling Natalie Decker in the #54 Toyota. It marks the first race without Decker in the field since Texas in March, where Anthony Alfredo finished 28th after a crash.

RETURNING: #74-Lou Goss Racing
A surprising return to the entry list is the former Mike Harmon truck now owned by Lou Goss, who made his series debut at Gateway in June. Goss has put behind the wheel Darwin Peters, Jr., who worked with Harmon as crew chief at TJL Motorsports at Atlanta in 2017. It will be Peters’ first series start as a driver. Alan Collins, Jr. will take over as his crew chief, replacing Tim Goulet, who presided over the Goss effort in Gateway.

RETURNING: #80-Jacob Wallace Racing
Justin Shipley eyes his fourth consecutive start in the Eldora Dirt Derby, and his fourth in a row with Tracy Wallace’s #80 Ford. His best finish in those three starts was a 25th two years ago, carrying the same sponsorship from Roger’s that joins them this week. We’d seen this #80 team twice before this year, when B.J. McLeod failed to qualify at Atlanta, and when the team withdrew at Martinsville without a listed driver.

MISSING: #87-NEMCO Motorsports
Joe Nemechek will not be driving in Thursday’s race and will instead focus on Colt Gilliam’s effort in his primary #8 Chevrolet.

RETURNING: #03-Mike Affarano Motorsports
One year after John Provenzano failed to qualify for this race, and five years after team owner Mike Affarano finished last in it, the #03 team is back in action with another driver behind the wheel. Jake Griffin finished 4th in this race in 2016 for Red Horse Racing, and will make his first start in this race since. Sponsorship comes from the Clayne Crawford Foundation.

NEW TEAM: #08-Kart Idaho
Eldora will also see the debut of a new Truck Series team. Driving for the new Kart Idaho team is IMCA Dirt Modified driver Tim Ward, who finished 14th in the K&N Pro Series West race on the Las Vegas dirt track just last year. His black #08 Chevrolet will carry sponsorship from Country AF Radio. The team shook down the truck at the SportsPark Raceway in Iowa on Monday.


Saturday, August 3, 2019
XFINITY Race 20 of 33
Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Tommy Joe Martins

There are 37 drivers entered for 38 spots, threatening the sixth short field of the 2019 season and first since Talladega in April. Barring any late entries, this will be the fewest starters in the XFINITY race at The Glen since June 30, 1996, when Randy Porter finished last in another 37-car field.

DRIVER CHANGE: #4-JD Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #01-JD Motorsports
Stephen Leicht, 16th in Iowa, moves from Johnny Davis’ #4 back to the #01, taking the place of 25th-place finisher Ryan Repko, who isn’t entered. The move opens the #4 for a returning Ross Chastain, who after running Thursday’s dirt race in Eldora will make his first start for JD Motorsports since June at Michigan.

DRIVER CHANGE: #5-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Scott Heckert seeks his first XFINITY start of the season, and his first in the series since a 29th-place showing last summer at Road America. He takes the place of Matt Mills, who not only finished 18th in Iowa but had run every race this season in the #5 with only two DNFs. Mills’ streak looks to end Saturday as he is not entered for the first time in 2019.

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-JR Motorsports
First of the Cup drivers to pull double duty is Ryan Preece, who takes over for Iowa’s 9th-place finisher Zane Smith in the #8 Chevrolet. Louisiana Hot Sauce, a brand most often identified with Myatt Snider in the Truck Series, will sponsor the Preece effort.

RETURNING: #10-Kaulig Racing
A.J. Allmendinger rejoins the XFINITY tour for the first time since his disqualification last month in Daytona. This time, the 2014 winner of the Cup race here will be sponsored by Death Wish Coffee, a brand which backed Daniel Hemric in this race two years ago.

RETURNING: #12-Penske Racing
Ryan Blaney attempts the double, bringing Roger Penske’s #12 team back to the XFINITY circuit for the first time since Loudon. It promises to be Blaney’s first XFINITY start of the year, following a four-race campaign in 2018 where he never finished out of the Top Five and won at Texas. Pirtek sponsors the car.

DRIVER SWAP: #13-Motorsports Business Management
DRIVER CHANGE: #42-Motorsports Business Management
Chad Finchum gets moved from his more familiar #42 to the #13, taking the place of Timmy Hill, who isn’t entered this week. The move allows Stanton Barrett to attempt his first XFINITY Series start since the 2016 race at Road America, where he ran 27th for B.J. McLeod. Barrett has since made a pair of Cup starts, finishing last on the Roval last year, then 35th this season at Talladega.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-JD Motorsports
Speaking of B.J. McLeod, he is back in Johnny Davis’ #15, taking over for Ryan Vargas, who ran a solid 17th in his series debut at Iowa.

MISSING: #17-Rick Ware Racing
Rick Ware has elected not to enter his #17 this week, just days after Mark Meunier’s wreck in qualifying caused him to be the only DNQ in Iowa.

DRIVER CHANGE: #18-Joe Gibbs Racing
Kyle Busch will make his fifth XFINITY start of 2019 and first since his victory in Texas back in April. Taking over for Riley Herbst, 13th in Iowa, Busch will be sponsored by iK9, a company noticeably absent from the circuit since XCI Racing withdrew Jeffrey Earnhardt’s car at Daytona last month.

MISSING: #28-H2 Motorsports
Shane Lee turned heads with a team-best 7th last Saturday in the H2 team’s return to the track where they made their debut in June. However, driver and team aren’t entered this week.

DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Watkins Glen sees Tommy Joe Martins make his first start with Carl Long’s MBM effort, taking the place of Iowa’s 23rd-place finisher Stan Mullis. Diamond Gusset Jeans follows as sponsor on a brilliant silver-colored Toyota Supra. Martins looks for improvement after an early brake failure left him last in this race last year.

MISSING: #68-Brandonbilt Motorsports
The BMS team has elected not to bring their second car to The Glen, one week after Will Rodgers’ debut at Iowa was saddled with mechanical issues, leaving him 28th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #74-Mike Harmon Racing
Mike Harmon finished 34th last week in Iowa, but no driver was yet listed to take the wheel of the #74 at Watkins Glen. UPDATE: Dan Corcoran of Ontario will make his first NASCAR start of any series this weekend, and guaranteed a starting spot with the 38-car entry list.

MISSING: #89-Shepherd Racing Ventures
One year after withdrawing from this race, Morgan Shepherd has not entered his #89 in Saturday’s race. Shepherd finished 36th last week in Iowa.

The #90 car got some screen time late last Saturday when Dillon Bassett collided with a street sweeper during a late round of pit stops at Iowa, leaving him 26th. Taking the wheel this week is a returning Alex Labbe, who we last saw in action at Loudon with a 22nd-place finish.

Josh Bilicki reunites with the Rod Sieg team this week, taking the place of Camden Murphy, 24th in a white Chevrolet at Iowa. Bilicki last drove for RSS at Kentucky for a 32nd-place finish, then failed to qualify at Loudon. The Glen also saw him make his lone Cup start last year, finishing 36th for Rick Ware Racing with an electrical issue.

DRIVER CHANGE: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Cody Ware returns to action in NASCAR’s top three series for the first time since he suffered carbon monoxide poisoning in the Cup race at Sonoma. He takes the place of Iowa’s 22nd-place finisher Stefan Parsons, who drove in relief of Ware at Daytona in his series debut.

CUP INVADERS: #8-Ryan Preece, #12-Ryan Blaney, #18-Kyle Busch

Sunday, August 4, 2019
CUP Race 22 of 36
Go Bowling at the Glen at Watkins Glen
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Joey Logano

For the third straight year, there are only 37 entrants in the Cup race at Watkins Glen. It will also be the 17th short field in 22 races this season and the fourth in a row.

DRIVER SWAP: #15-Premium Motorsports
MISSING: #27-Premium Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #77-Spire Motorsports
As Jay Robinson leaves his “open” #27 team at the shop, Reed Sorenson moves from that car to the Spire Motorsports #77, originally bumping Quin Houff to Robinson’s #15 in place of Ross Chastain. Chastain was then re-added by Tuesday in Houff's place, averting the first Cup race without Chastain in the field since Michigan in June.

Corey LaJoie has forgone one month's pay to get his favorite charity, Samaritan's Feet, on the hood of his Ford this Sunday. The charity's objective is to provide shoes to impoverished children.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Rick Ware Racing
Rick Ware did not have a driver on the preliminary entry list to run in place of 33rd-place Pocono finisher B.J. McLeod. The driver is to be announced, though Cody Ware indicated he would run one of the two cars on Sunday. By Tuesday, it was Ware listed in the #51, making his return to Cup for the first time since Sonoma.

DRIVER CHANGE: #52-Rick Ware Racing
Last Sunday, Austin Theriault finished his second-straight Cup race in 34th spot, but no driver was on the preliminary entry list for the #52 car. Josh Bilicki was then named by Tuesday, his second-straight start in the Cup race at Watkins Glen. Bilicki finished next-to-last in 2018 after his engine soured late due to an electrical issue.

MISSING: #53-Rick Ware Racing
The Ware team has not entered the #53 car this week, which Josh Bilicki ran at Pocono before a late-race driveshaft failure. Bilicki is instead focused on Saturday’s XFINITY race with RSS Racing (see above).

RETURNING: #96-Gaunt Brothers Racing
The lone “open” car in Sunday’s lineup belongs to the Gaunt Brothers, whose driver Parker Kligerman has made eight Cup starts this year, most recently a 31st in the rain-shortened July race in Daytona. His season-best remains a 15th in the Daytona 500. The #96’s paint scheme will once again salute the 40th anniversary of Toyota Racing Development.

Today in LASTCAR history (July 31, 1955): Crash Carson picked up the first last-place finish of his Cup Series career – not from a crash – but from a loss of oil pressure on his #7 1955 Ford after 8 laps at the Bay Meadows Speedway in San Mateo, California (around 70 miles south-west of LASTCAR headquarters). It was the first and only career NASCAR start for Carson, who was born in nearby Oakland, and just the third-ever for car #7. The 250-lap race, held on a one-mile dirt track, was extended by two laps to 252 due to a scoring error, and Tim Flock was credited with the win by a full circuit over Oregon driver Johnny Kieper.

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