Thursday, July 4, 2019

PREVIEW: Fireworks in store at Daytona thanks to two stacked entry lists

PHOTO: @JoeyGaseRacing
Friday, July 5, 2019
XFINITY Race 16 of 33
Circle K Firecracker 250 at Daytona
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Josh Bilicki

There were 42 drivers entered in Friday’s return to Daytona, but by Wednesday that list shrank to 41, meaning three drivers will miss the show.

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-JR Motorsports
Welcome back Sheldon Creed, who hasn’t made an XFINITY Series start since a pair of runs with JD Motorsports in 2017 with a best finish of 34th at Mid-Ohio. Now a Truck Series regular with GMS Racing since last fall, Creed returns to the circuit in the fleet JR Motorsports machine sponsored by Chevrolet Accessories. He takes the place of Zane Smith, who ran 17th in Chicagoland.

DRIVER CHANGE: #10-Kaulig Racing
NEW TEAM: #16-Kaulig Racing
Matthew Kaulig’s team expands from two to three cars for the first time ever, debuting a new #16 Chevrolet sponsored by Ellsworth Advisors. Ross Chastain will drive this new car in place of his familiar part-time effort in the #10. The #10 will instead go to a returning A.J. Allmendinger, absent from NASCAR’s top three series since his tenure with JTG-Daugherty Racing ended at the close of last season. Allmendinger’s #10 will be sponsored by Cornerstone Produce Group.

MISSING: #12-Penske Racing
Not making the trip to Florida is Penske Racing’s #12 team, which Joey Logano steered to a runner-up finish in Chicagoland.

MISSING: #17-Rick Ware Racing
Rick Ware has elected not to enter his XFINITY Series car this week, a car previously entered with Bayley Currey at Chicagoland before Josh Bilicki took over after his DNQ with RSS Racing. Bilicki was slated to return to RSS in the #38 with Green in the #93 with backing from Ziegler Auto Group. That changed by Tuesday as Scott Lagasse, Jr. will run the sponsored #93 with Green taking Bilicki’s place in the unsponsored #38. Bilicki tweeted he will not be racing due to a lack of sponsorship. C2 Freight Resoruces, one of Green’s past sponsors, will instead back Ryan Sieg’s flagship #39.

RETURNING: #21-Richard Childress Racing
Now fifth in the ARCA Menards Series standings after Chicagoland, Joe Graf, Jr. will attempt his second XFINITY Series start in the #21 Eat, Sleep, Race Chevrolet. Graf finished 19th his last time out at Iowa following a DNQ at Michigan.

RETURNING: #25-ACG Motorsports
After running Rick Ware’s #17 at both this season’s previous restrictor plate races with a 31st at Daytona and a career-best 10th at Talladega, Chris Cokrum will reunite with Jeff Spraker in fielding a #25. As in Cockrum’s previous superspeedway starts, Advanced Communications Group will back the effort.

DRIVER SWAP: #35-Motorsports Business Management
DRIVER SWAP: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Timmy Hill and Joey Gase have swapped rides at MBM. Hill will drive a hand-painted #35 Toyota Supra while Gase will run Hill’s former #66. Both cars will be sponsored by VSI Racing and Overkill Motorsports.

TEAM UPDATE: #42-Motorsports Business Management
Brian Keselowski tweeted on Tuesday that he has parted ways with MBM. Doug Richert will take over crew chief duties for driver Chad Finchum.

NEW TEAM: #61-Hattori Racing Enterprises
For the first time since November 14, 2015, when Ross Kenseth finished 33rd at Phoenix, Shigeaki Hattori will field an XFINITY Series entry. As leaked in a Japanese newspaper earlier this summer, the car will be #61 with sponsorship from AISIN Group. Hattori’s current Truck Series driver Austin Hill, who seeks his XFINITY Series debut at the track he won in Trucks this past February. The last time Hattori fielded an XFINITY car in the July race at Daytona in 2014, Johnny Sauter steered it to a 15th-place finish.

DRIVER CHANGE: #74-Mike Harmon Racing
Mike Harmon returns to his familiar #74 in place of Camden Murphy, who finished 31st in Chicagoland.

WITHDREW: #81-XCI Racing
A surprising turn of events came Wednesday when Jeffrey Earnhardt tweeted he would not be running the XCI Racing entry this Friday. The team had withdrawn, dropping the entry list from 42 to 41.

MISSING: #89-Shepherd Racing Ventures
Morgan Shepherd has not been entered in this weekend’s race following a DNQ in Chicagoland. Shepherd also didn’t field a car in this season’s prior two plate races at Daytona and Talladega.

The last time Caesar Bacarella raced at Daytona, he qualified 12th this past February and nearly scored a career-best top-ten finish before he slapped the wall late, leaving him 29th. This time, he is back with added sponsorship from the Fisher House Foundation in addition to existing sponsorship from Alpha Prime. Bacarella takes the place of Ronnie Bassett, Jr., 30th in Chicagoland.

DRIVER CHANGE: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Friday will see Cody Ware back behind the wheel of a NASCAR stock car for the first time since he suffered carbon monoxide poisoning two weeks ago in Sonoma. This time, he drives the #99 fielded by B.J. McLeod, taking the place of Chicagoland 28th-place finisher Tommy Joe Martins. Jacob Companies follows Ware from his Cup ride to this XFINITY effort. Ware finished 21st in his only previous XFINITY start this season, again driving this car, at Talladega. UPDATE: Ware will not be driving the car as Stefan Parsons was brought on on his place Thursday. Parsons will thus attempt his XFINITY Series debut.

CUP INVADERS: #4-Landon Cassill, #16-Ross Chastain, #66-Joey Gase

Saturday, July 6, 2019
CUP Race 18 of 36
Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Ryan Blaney

For the first time since the Coca-Cola 600 and for just the fifth time in eighteen races this season, there will be a 40-car field in the Cup Series. Exactly 40 drivers are entered, so all will qualify.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Premium Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #27-Premium Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #77-Spire Motorsports
All three of the Jay Robinson entries – including team partners at Spire Motorsports – will have different drivers behind the wheel. The preliminary entry list showed Garrett Smithley in Ross Chastain’s place behind the wheel of the #15 with Reed Sorenson in the #27 and Justin Haley returning to the #77 for the first time since Sonoma. By Tuesday, Haley was still in the #77, but Smithley was replaced by Quin Houff in the #15 backed by The Elease Project and Sorenson by Chastain in the #27 with Xchange of America as sponsor. Haley, again backed by the Fraternal Order of Eagles, looks to follow-up his strong Cup debut at Talladega and avenge his yellow-line penalty in last summer’s XFINITY race here. Chastain looks to follow-up his first Cup Series top-ten finish in this year’s Daytona 500, and will do so in the car that finished last that night with Casey Mears. Houff looks to come back from his first last-place finish by making his first laps in a car other than Spire’s #77.

DRIVER CHANGE: #52-Rick Ware Racing
As announced a couple weeks back, J.J. Yeley will drive the #52 in the first of a multi-race sponsorship deal with Yeley takes over for Bayley Currey, who ran 32nd last week in Chicagoland. Yeley has seven previous starts in the Coke Zero Sugar 400, including an event-best 13th in 2013 and an 18th for BK Racing just last year.

DRIVER CHANGE: #53-Rick Ware Racing
Joey Gase goes double-duty this weekend as he becomes the third driver in as many points races to run Rick Ware’s new #53 car. Sponsorship on the red-white-and-blue Chevrolet comes from Connected Claim Services and Action Restoration. Gase takes the place of Josh Bilicki, who ran 33rd last week in Chicagoland.

RETURNING: #62-Beard Motorsports
Superspeedways mean the return of Brendan Gaughan and the Beard team, who again have two black-and-white Chevrolets ready for action. Earlier this year, Gaughan finished 23rd in the Daytona 500 following a late-race crash, then recovered to finish a strong 8th at Talladega, leading five laps. Gaughan’s best finish in a Cup race at Daytona was one better – a 7th in this race two years ago.

RETURNING: #96-Gaunt Brothers Racing
Also returning is Parker Kligerman and his TRD 40th Anniversary scheme from his most recent start at Sonoma. Kligerman has yet to start the July race at Daytona, but has finishes of 29th and 15th in his two Daytona 500 starts.

Thursday, July 11, 2019
TRUCKS Race 13 of 23
Kentucky 225 at Kentucky
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Tyler Matthews

The Truck Series takes the week off and will return next week in Kentucky.

Today in LASTCAR history (July 4, 1985): Rusty Wallace picks up the first last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in the Pepsi Firecracker 400 at Daytona after his #2 Alugard Pontiac lost an engine after just two laps. Rusty, who was competing in just his second full season at the time, was driving for Cliff Stewart, who happened to field the #2 the driver would later make famous with Penske Racing. This was the very same race that saw Greg Sacks pull off one of the sport’s biggest upsets, steering DiGard Racing’s research and development car to a 23.5-second margin of victory. It was Sacks’ 41st series start.

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