Saturday, August 31, 2019

XFINITY: Denny Hamlin, the first ever to be disqualified at Darlington, takes last from an ill Morgan Shepherd

Hamlin (left) and Shepherd (right) in the last row at the start.
PHOTO: Brock Beard
Denny Hamlin picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 at the Darlington Raceway when his #18 Sport Clips Toyota took the checkered flag as the winner, but was disqualified in post-race inspection.

The finish came in Hamlin’s 161st series start. In the XFINITY Series rankings, it was the 9th disqualification, the 10th for the #18, and the 129th for Toyota. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 32nd disqualification, the 45th for the #18, and the 320th for Toyota.

Morgan Shepherd picked up the 20th last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 at the Darlington Raceway when his #89 VisoneRV Chevrolet fell out with electrical problems after 27 of 147 laps. 

The finish, which came in Shepherd’s 452nd series start, was his first of the season and first since last fall at Texas, 26 races ago. In the XFINITY Series rankings, it was the 13th for the #89, the 53rd from electrical issues, and the 535th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 35th for the #89, the 126th from electrical problems, and the 1,683rd for Chevrolet.

Hamlin entered Saturday’s race riding high off a come-from-behind victory in the most recent Cup Series race at Bristol. Hamlin won the pole, recovered from a series of miscues, and drove around technical partner Matt DiBenedetto with just 12 laps to go, denying DiBenedetto his first career victory. The win was Hamlin’s fourth of the 2019 season, tying him with his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Martin Truex, Jr. for the most this season. He was now ranked second in the Playoff standings between Busch and Truex, positioning both he and his team toward a championship run.

Hamlin also ran double-duty at Darlington, making his 12th start in the XFINITY race there and his fifth in a row. The track had long been one of the driver’s best, earning five victories and finishing no worse than 8th in his first-ever run there in 2004. Victories at “The Lady In Black” accounted for nearly a third of Hamlin’s seventeen XFINITY Series wins, including two of his last four. The Saturday race would also mark his first series start of the season, curiously, after DiBenedetto drove Joe Gibbs Racing #18 Toyota during the Cup off-weekend at Road America.

Despite his success at the track and a 1990s “throwback scheme” honoring the Junior Johnson-prepared Fords of his childhood hero Bill Elliott, Hamlin’s weekend got off to a rough start. He struck the outside wall in opening practice, and though the damage to the right-rear didn’t appear too severe, the crew was quick to prepare the backup. The primary was parked across from the team’s garage stall late Friday with the car cover over it. Still, he managed to earn the second-fastest speed in opening practice, just 0.041 second off the best lap put up by Cole Custer, whose #00 Production Alliance Group Ford honored Roy “Buckshot” Jones. The backup ran 6th-fastest in Happy Hour, but qualified 37th with a conservative lap of 125.763mph (39.102 seconds).

Starting 38th with the slowest lap overall was Morgan Shepherd, who was struggling with bronchitis all weekend. The illness put a damper on a particularly unique “throwback” honoring Shepherd’s first Cup Series win at Martinsville in 1981. In place of his black-and-gold #89 Visone RV Chevrolet, Shepherd debuted a red-white-and-blue machine with glimmering red rims. As Shepherd prepared to race, the team also proudly displayed a collage of David Chobat pictures showing their driver in victory lane nearly four decades ago. Qualifying, however, proved a struggle, as they turned a lap of just 116.869mph (42.078 seconds), putting him on the outside of Hamlin in the last row. He was secured a spot thanks to H2 Motorsports, who earlier in the week withdrew their Hut Stricklin throwback on the #28 Toyota after Shane Lee was released.

When the field rolled off pit road on Saturday, Shepherd lined up next to Mike Harmon, whose own throwback scheme to his late model days had to be altered after the reflective chrome stripes on the sides of his #74 Tribute to Service Chevrolet interfered with NASCAR’s laser inspection process. With the stripes removed, Harmon pulled up next to the #89 while the trailing cars of B.J. McLeod, Vinnie Miller, Matt Mills, and Hamlin soon followed to reassume their spots in line. By the time the field reached the backstretch for the second pace lap, Hamlin had already moved up a few spots. He now started next to 30th-place qualifier J.J. Yeley in RSS Racing’s #38 Chevrolet with Miller, Mills, and Shepherd trailing them. On the third and final pace lap, Hamlin moved up again on the inside lane with McLeod falling behind him to join Mills, then Harmon to the inside of Miller, followed by Tommy Joe Martins in Motorsports Business Management’s #13 Toyota, Yeley, Joe Nemechek in the Mike Harmon / Rick Ware #17 Chevrolet, and Shepherd.

On the first lap, Shepherd and Nemechek ran side by side down the backstretch with Shepherd remaining in the high lane. The next time by, Nemechek widened the advantage over Shepherd and began to battle Harmon for position. On Lap 3, Harmon slipped to 37th and into Shepherd’s clutches. That changed on Lap 4, when Harmon slowed in Turns 1 and 2, then pulled to the inside down the backstretch, taking over last as Shepherd set his sights on Nemechek. Harmon became the first to lose a lap as the leaders streaked by in Turns 3 and 4, then spent an extended time on pit road for problems with the radio. The next time by on Lap 5, Shepherd’s car slowed with the engine sounding sour, and he pulled down pit road. The crew later confirmed that this first stop was for fluids as the driver fought to keep going. Shepherd would ultimately make three stops as the car overheated, joining Harmon on pit road for an extended period of time. Neither car pulled into the garage area. Shepherd returned to the track during the first caution for John Hunter Nemechek’s spin on Lap 13, and Harmon returned sometime after, giving Harmon the advantage for last. John Hunter also continued, running one lap down after his incident in 36th. Yeley then lost laps as well, bumping the #23 up to 35th.

While Harmon continued on in last place, the battle seemed to end on Lap 36, when Shepherd became the first to pull into the garage area on the backstretch. He pulled to the end of the garage area and climbed out, where his wife and team were waiting. Shepherd politely declined an interview as he was handed a sports drink, saying that he was having difficulty speaking. The team looked over the car, then prepared to load it up. On Lap 92, the crew’s equipment was loaded, and two crew members drove the team’s hauler out of the track.

From there, the garage area filled gradually. Harmon remained out on the speedway and clawed his way to a 33rd-place finish, leaving those behind him in the Bottom Five. J.J. Yeley pulled out shortly after Shepherd with axle issues, stopping behind the RSS Racing hauler. Tommy Joe Martins stopped near the entrance to the garage, where all three of the MBM team’s haulers were parked. Joe Nemechek parked in the spot vacated by Shepherd and talked with the crew before he helped prepare the car for loading. Rounding out the group was Brandon Brown, whose #86 Coastal Carolina Chevrolet (a throwback to Terry Labonte’s 1993 car for Billy Hagan) suffered serious damage in a Lap 54 incident with Gray Gaulding and Noah Gragson. Brown ran at a reduced pace for another thirty laps before he pulled into the garage with heavy right-rear damage.

Hamlin, meanwhile, sprinted through the field early with a number of two and three-wide passes to the inside. He finally made it to the lead on Lap 121, and was in position to win when the final caution came out for Josh Williams’ spin in Turn 4 that also collected Landon Cassill, who was on the verge of a top-ten finish. Hamlin maintained first place on the restart, but had to fight off a spirited charge from Cole Custer. Custer nearly completed the pass in the final corners before Hamlin used the lapped machine of Vinnie Miller as a pick, taking the win. It was to be his sixth Darlington win in the XFINITY Series – exactly a fifty percent success rate.

Then Hamlin’s car failed post-qualifying technical inspection.

Just like teammate Christopher Bell’s issue at Chicagoland, the #18 was found to be too low in the left-front and too high in the right-rear. The result relegated Hamlin to last, bumping Shepherd out of the spot and lifting Brown out of the Bottom Five.

Want to see video of the last-place battle playing out (before the disqualification)? Check out this video I took from the XFINITY Series garage!

*Hamlin is the first driver to ever be classified last by disqualification in a Cup, XFINITY, or Truck Series points-paying race at Darlington, and comes during the Southern 500’s seventieth anniversary.
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #18 in an XFINITY Series race since September 7, 2007, when Kevin Conway’s run in the Z-Line Designs / Circuit City Chevrolet ended in a crash after 36 laps of the Emerson Radio 250 at Richmond.

38) #18-Denny Hamlin / 147 laps / disqualified / led 27 laps
37) #89-Morgan Shepherd / 27 laps / electrical
36) #38-J.J. Yeley / 34 laps / axle
35) #13-Tommy Joe Martins / 61 laps / transmission
34) #17-Joe Nemechek / 72 laps / brakes

1st) Motorsports Business Management, RSS Racing (6)
2nd) Joe Gibbs Racing (3)
3rd) DGM Racing, Kaulig Racing (2)
4th) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Brandonbilt Motorsports, JD Motorsports, Jimmy Means Racing, Rick Ware Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (15)
2nd) Toyota (9)


Thursday, August 29, 2019

PREVIEW: Throwback Weekend sees several teams swap drivers along with paint schemes

PHOTO: Karyn Marinella, @KarynMarinella
Saturday, August 31, 2019
XFINITY Race 24 of 33
VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 at Darlington
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Austin Cindric

For the second time in three years, LASTCAR will be covering the back of the pack action live from the Darlington Raceway, concluding a road trip from last week’s Truck Series event at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.

There are 39 drivers entered, meaning one team will fail to qualify. UPDATE: Make that 38 as the withdrawal of H2 Motorsports locks the remaining entrants into the field.

DRIVER CHANGE: #4-JD Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #15-JD Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #01-JD Motorsports
It’s a game of musical chairs for Johnny Davis’ team. Ryan Vargas isn’t entered after his 18th-place finish in Road America, and B.J. McLeod takes his place in the #4 with a Bobby Labonte / Slim Jim throwback scheme. Stephen Leicht moves from the #01 to the #15 vacated by McLeod, and will honor Ricky Craven and his Budweiser scheme. Landon Cassill’s double duty will be in the #01 left open by Leicht, one week after he was not entered at Road America.

DRIVER SWAP: #5-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #78-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
McLeod’s own XFINITY team also swaps drivers with Vinnie Miller returning to the #78 Pit Viper Sunglasses Chevrolet in place of Ryan Ellis, who isn’t entered. Miller’s move allows Matt Mills to return to the #5 J.F. Electric Chevrolet.

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-JR Motorsports
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s return to NASCAR competition will go on as scheduled, just days after he and his family survived their private plane crash outside of Bristol. Taking over for Regan Smith, who ran 13th at Road America, Earnhardt will run the previously announced Ed Negre throwback resembling the car Earnhardt’s father drove in his Cup debut in 1975. Hellman’s Mayonnaise is the primary sponsor.

MISSING: #10-Kaulig Racing
The second Kaulig entry that slid to a disappointing 24th-place finish after A.J. Allmendinger won the pole at Road America is not entered this week.

RETURNING: #12-Penske Racing
Rejoining the list is the part-time Penske entry, this time with Cup regular Ryan Blaney aboard. BodyArmor will sponsor the Mustang.

DRIVER SWAP: #13-Motorsports Business Management
DRIVER CHANGE: #61-Motorsports Business Management
DRIVER SWAP: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Another driver rotation comes at MBM. Road racer Dick Karth finished 30th in his series debut at Road America, but will not run this week as Chad Finchum takes his place in the #61 Toyota. Finchum moves over from the #13, which will be driven by Tommy Joe Martins, who last week ran the #66. Driving Martins’ #66 will be a returning Timmy Hill, his first XFINITY start since his breakthrough 7th-place showing at Bristol.

DRIVER CHANGE: #17-Rick Ware Racing
The preliminary entry list shows the #17 entered without a driver listed, just as it was at Road America. Last week, it was Aaron Quine who was named the team’s driver, but the car was withdrawn. UPDATE: Joe Nemechek will run double duty as he was added to run the car by Thursday.

DRIVER CHANGE: #18-Joe Gibbs Racing
Denny Hamlin joins Dale Jr. in making his first XFINITY start of the season, taking the place of 27th-place Road America finisher Matt DiBenedetto. Sport Clips rejoins Hamlin for his yearly double-header at Darlington.

MISSING: #21-Richard Childress Racing
Kaz Grala finished a strong 5th last week in his fifth race of the season with HotScream as sponsor. Future plans for the season are still ongoing, pending sponsorship.

WITHDREW: #28-H2 Motorsports
Shane Lee was originally entered in Saturday’s race, making his eighth start of the year with the new Matt Hurley team in the #28 Toyota. Those plans changed on Wednesday when Chris Knight reported Lee had been released from the team, citing performance. A new driver is still to be announced. UPDATE: The team has withdrawn as of Thursday, a shame as were going to run a tribute scheme to Hut Stricklin's Stavola Brothers car that nearly won the 1996 Southern 500.

J.J. Yeley moves from the Sieg team’s #38 to the #93 in place of Josh Bilicki, who ran 20th at Road America and was still testing at the track on Thursday. Driving in Yeley’s place in the #38 is Camden Murphy, whose 5th and most recent series start came in the RSS #93 at Iowa, finishing 24th.

MISSING: #43-Pardus Racing, Inc.
Preston Pardus is not entered this week after both driver and team made their debut at Road America, qualifying a strong 15th but falling out early with suspension issues, finishing 36th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #74-Mike Harmon Racing
One week after Nicolas Hammann drove his car to a strong 15th-place finish, besting the team’s season-best of 23rd at Talladega, Mike Harmon will once again drive his #74 for “Throwback Weekend.” Harmon’s black Chevrolet features a foil silver stripe on each side, resembling the #24 he ran on the short tracks earlier in his career.

RETURNING: #89-Shepherd Racing Ventures
Morgan Shepherd rejoins the circuit for the first time since his DNQ at Bristol, and as that day runs his first Darlington “Throwback Scheme” honoring his first Cup victory at Martinsville in 1981.

Alex Labbe returns from a challenging Pinty’s race at Mosport where his Ford suffered engine trouble to drive Mario Gosselin’s #90 Chevrolet in place of Dexter Bean, 32nd in Road America. Labbe eyes his sixth series start of the year and first since Watkins Glen, when he ran a season-best 16th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Loris Hezemans came close to scoring a top-twenty finish in his first career NASCAR start outside of Europe, but was eliminated in the last-minute chaos, bumping him to 22nd. Taking his place this week is a returning Stefan Parsons, who followed up his strong 12th-place run in Daytona with a 21st at Iowa, his most recent start.

CUP INVADERS: #12-Ryan Blaney, #18-Denny Hamlin

Sunday, September 1, 2019
CUP Race 25 of 36
Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Joey Gase

The Bowmanville to Darlington adventure concludes with the 70th Annual Southern 500 during “Throwback Weekend.”

There are just 39 drivers entered for Sunday’s Labor Day Classic, marking the 20th short field in 2019 and the seventh in a row.

DRIVER CHANGE: #27-Premium Motorsports
Welcome back Joe Nemechek, who while focusing on his Truck Series team NEMCO Motorsports has not qualified for a Cup Series race since March 1, 2015, a one-off at Atlanta which came about when Front Row Motorsports needed a replacement driver for David Ragan, who was driving in relief of an injured Kyle Busch. It will be Nemechek’s 29th Cup start at this track, where his best series finish was a 6th in the 1999 Southern 500, twenty years ago. Nemechek takes the place of Quin Houff, who finished 27th when the series last ran under the lights at Bristol. Houff is not entered this week.

DRIVER CHANGE: #52-Rick Ware Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #54-Rick Ware Racing
J.J. Yeley will pull double duty this weekend, moving from Rick Ware’s newest team, the #54, to the #52, running a simple white tribute scheme to Daytona Beach-Road Course winner Bill Blair. Yeley takes the place of Kyle Weatherman, the last-minute relief driver to a suspended Bayley Currey. Taking Yeley’s place in the #54 will be Garrett Smithley, his first start for Ware and first in a Cup race since Michigan last month, where he ran 35th for Spire Motorsports.

MISSING: #53-Rick Ware Racing
Noticeably absent is the third of Ware’s quartet, previously driven by Josh Bilicki at Bristol. The list indicates that Bilicki’s sponsor AQRE will instead be on Smithley’s #54, and is a throwback scheme to Lennie Pond.

RETURNING: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Welcome back Joey Gase and the MBM Cup Series team, back in action after an extended absence. For the team, it will be their first Cup start since this year’s Coca-Cola 600, where Gase finished 32nd. For Gase, it will be his first series start since Daytona in July, when he ran 27th in a one-off for Rick Ware.

Friday, September 13, 2019
TRUCKS Race 19 of 23
World of Westgate 200 at Las Vegas
Round of 8 – Race 3 of 3
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Tanner Thorson

The Truck Series returns for the Round of 8 cutoff race in Las Vegas.

Today in LASTCAR history (August 29, 1970): Longtime independent campaigner Dave Marcis picks up the very first last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in the Halifax County 100 at South Boston Speedway after his #33 1969 Chevrolet, fielded by Wayne Smith, fell out after only three laps. The official reason listed was “quit.” Marcis would continue to run in Cup until his final start in the 2002 Daytona 500, but would only finish last eight more times. Just one of those – his last at Pocono on July 26, 1998 – came after 1993.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

TRUCKS: Stumbling engine sends Ray Ciccarelli home early in Canada

ALL PHOTOS: Brock Beard
Ray Ciccarelli picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series career in Sunday’s Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park when his #0 Chevrolet fell out with engine trouble after 2 of 64 laps.

The finish, which came in Ciccarelli’s 16th series start, was his first of the season and first in the series since November 17, 2017, when he trailed the Homestead finale when engine troubles stopped him on the first lap. In the Truck Series last-place rankings, it was the 48th for the #0, the 155th from engine trouble, and the 379th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 88th for the #0, the 1,074th from engine woes, and the 1,682nd for Chevrolet.

Two weeks ago, Ciccarelli turned heads with his first career top-ten finish, surviving the chaos at Michigan to steer his truck home 9th. He was driving for his own team, CMI Motorsports, which came together after Jay Robinson closed his Truck Series effort at the end of last year, inheriting truck #49. The start-up was formed with the funding of he and his wife’s company CMI Installations, a furniture company with 37 employees which has installed such fixtures as floor-to-ceiling glass walls in his native Maryland. The race team, however, has just two full-time employees, making the Michigan run that much more impressive.

“Yeah, we’re pretty excited,” said Ciccarelli on Sunday. “[W]e don’t have no sponsors or nothing, nor do we have engineers or factory backing, so to be able to run the Top Ten is like a win as far as I’m concerned. Hell, I’m happy if I run 18th or 22nd, ‘cause a lot of these places I haven’t been to and you’re racing some of the best there is I mean between the ThorSport guys, the Kyle Busch guys, and to have a chance to race with them guys is an honor.”

The #49 team was just the latest step in the 49-year-old driver’s career, which has seen him come from dirt cars, asphalt late models, and street stocks to part-time efforts in the K&N Pro Series East and ARCA Menards Series. “We love doing this,” said Ciccarelli of his team. “I ain’t getting no younger and don’t have a lot of years left, so I’m just trying to enjoy a childhood dream. . .It’s a ladder you’ve gotta climb, but at the end of the day, it’s all about money.”

Ciccarelli pulls into the garage area during the race.
Sunday’s race in Canada was Ciccarelli’s first start since that Michigan run, though his CMI team wouldn’t be making the journey. He would instead drive for owner-driver Jennifer Jo Cobb, who gave Ciccarelli his first series start at Eldora in 2017, and all but two of his runs since prior to becoming a team owner. The Cobb team faced adversity in that same Michigan race after Daniel Sasnett wrecked the team’s second truck, the #0 Chevrolet, which also made them the race’s lone DNQ from a 33-truck entry list. The wreck left Cobb with only three functioning trucks in her shop, one of them reserved only for superspeedways. Of the two remaining entries, Cobb’s white #10 was their “Old Reliable,” which ran the last several rounds at Pocono, Michigan, and Bristol. The #0 running in place of Sasnett’s entry had engine issues at Eldora, and the team hoped the issue was fixed for Ciccarelli’s run at Mosport. The truck also ran white wheels with AM Racing’s #22 on the rims.

Both Cobb trucks were guaranteed starting spots in Sunday’s race as just 28 entries for 32 positions made the preliminary entry list. D.J. Kennington joined several of his fellow Pinty’s Series competitors when he was tabbed to replace a suspended Tyler Dippel in the Young’s Motorsports #02 on Saturday. The group also grew to 29 following the late addition of a fourth entry fielded by Josh Reaume. While Reaume was running his own Toyota in place of Joe Nemechek’s #8, Canadians Dan Corcoran ran the #33 and Jason White in the #34, a new #32 joined the roster.

Driving the last-minute #32 entry was Reaume crew chief Greg Rayl, who had a short outing in his series driving debut at Gateway when he crashed in Cobb’s #0. Rayl’s weekend also got off to a difficult start when a dog wandered onto the track. “I don’t know, nobody seems to see me in qualifying. I was on the backstretch and this dog come out of the woods and I clobbered the poor thing. It was terrible. I don’t know if he made it or not.” The affable Rayl looked for better things, and remarked on his nickname “Short Stack,” indicated on the roof rails of his #32. “Beats me,” he said of the nickname’s origin. “Somehow, we go to pancake houses in the morning before races and stuff and order pancakes and somehow they said ‘you’re short stack, that’s your new nickname.’ And I’m short. I’m 5’5” so it kind of fits, and I like pancakes anyway, so I’m good with it.” “Maybe Phoenix, I’ve raced there a couple times, so it would be nice to go back to that track and have some fun.”

The track proved treacherous for others further up the entry list as three separate accidents occurred in Saturday practice. Local hero Stewart Friesen struck the Turn 1 barriers with the right-front of his #52 Halmar International Chevrolet, sending the team to a backup. The same fate awaited Sheldon Creed, who dug up dirt with the splitter of his #2 Chevrolet Accessories Chevrolet as the tires shortened the front end of his machine.

Ciccarelli climbs out of his truck as officials look on.
An even harder hit was suffered by Jordan Anderson, both literally and figuratively, as his #3 / Chevrolet lost its brakes into a corner and backed into the wall hard enough to destroy the rear clip. Worse yet, Anderson didn’t have a backup truck as he was also fielding entries for brothers Bobby and Roger Reuse of sponsor with help from Hill Motorsports and Roper Racing. If the team couldn’t somehow repair Anderson’s truck, he would become the second “did not start” in the Truck Series’ brief history at Mosport, joining Robert Mitten after a similar wreck in 2015. And so, while the Halmar and GMS teams worked on backup trucks, the Anderson team cut away the rear clip and began piecing the Chevrolet back together. By race morning, the team had straightened all the parts nearly perfect again, one-upping Anderson’s scramble to get a battered Bolen Motorsports truck back into the Eldora main event in 2016.

“I ran dirt late models for two years and I felt like I was at the dirt track, because at the dirt track you’ve knock a door in or a quarter panel, just take it back off and knock it out and put it back on the car. And that’s what we did yesterday, I mean, Wally my crew chief, Danie, Cody, Dylan, Kyle, guys from other teams over here – Roper, Roper’s guys, Crag Whitbeck, Chris – so many guys helped us make this thing look like a race truck again. We had the whole back end of the thing cut off and put it back on. We’ve got bear bond, wrap put over the bear bond to make it look blue again. . .it’s a testament to how hard a group of guys we have, how hard they work.” Anderson ultimately finished 16th in a truck whose rear clip has to be cut off again back at the shop.

All of this preceded qualifying, where Norm Benning took the last spot in his own return to the circuit for the first time since Michigan, where he finished last with engine woes. This time, it was Ciccarelli who had problems under the hood. After just two laps in practice, the truck sounded rough as it came by on each of its at least three qualifying laps, sounding like a dropped cylinder as it ran off the pace. His speed of 86.068mph (1 minute, 42.854 seconds) was the slowest completed lap, 3.8 seconds slower than the next-slowest truck of Rayl in the #32. Benning turned laps in qualifying, but no speed was recorded, classifying behind both Ciccarelli and Rayl.

On the first pace lap, Cicarelli moved behind Benning, and Rayl joined him just prior to the start. By the end of Lap 1, Rayl fell behind Ciccarelli, and both trucks were trailing the rest of the field. The gap widened significantly the next time by, when Ciccarelli was sputtering even further back. Rayl didn’t enter the final corners until the leaders lapped him as he came to pit road, then returned to the track. At the end of Lap 3, Ciccarelli was also about to be lapped on track when he pulled down pit road, the made a hard left turn into the garage. The driver climbed out, and they were done for the day.

“Motor problems, man,” said Ciccarelli. “It’s been motor problems since we got here. Supposedly they had the same problems at Eldora and got it fixed, but it was just as bad, so no sense trying to blow the thing up. . .I don’t know if it was a carburetor, a distributor – whatever it is, it ain’t right (laughs).” Despite the disappointment, the driver looked ahead to returning to his team. “I’m probably gonna take my truck maybe to Vegas, if not maybe Phoenix and Miami at the end of the year.” Ciccarelli changed into his street clothes and left the track before the end of Stage 1.

Ciccarelli leaving the track
in Stage 1.
As our interview wrapped, Rayl had already pulled behind his hauler just a few stalls away. The window net remained up, and the crew put a jack and jack stands under the driver’s side to set to work. The issue was a shifter linkage that was stuck, and he returned to the track multiple laps down. In the end, he only turned two more laps than Ciccarelli before he re-entered the garage from the forward entrance near the start / finish line. This time, Rayl was done for the day. He’d soon have to resume his duties as crew chief for the Reaume Brothers team as teammate Dan Corcoran wrecked the #33 Corcoran Excavating / Hughson Batteries Chevrolet. Rayl brought over the team’s jacks and inspected the truck before it was loaded up.

Finishing 26th was Josh Reaume himself, whose run in his own Toyota was saddled with suspension issues that took him out of the race in the final laps. Rounding out the Bottom Five was Roger Reuse in the #04 Belimo Chevrolet after he’d served a black flag for a malfunctioning radio. Brother Bobby finished three spots ahead in the Hill #56.

Flying under the radar the entire weekend was Gary Klutt, who was running double duty with the NASCAR Pinty’s Series. Klutt was brought on to drive Al Niece’s #44 Color Compass Corp. Chevrolet, starting the weekend 17th in opening practice and 16th in Happy Hour. With some aggressive moves off the final corner, Klutt worked his way past Playoff contender Grant Enfinger in the final laps, ultimately finishing a strong 12th. It was also the fourth top-twenty finish for the #44 team in the last six races.

*This marked the fifth last-place finish for the Cobb team at Mosport and the fourth for the #0. Both most recently trailed this event in 2017, when Tommy Regan lost an engine without completing a lap.

29) #0-Ray Ciccarelli / 2 laps / engine
28) #32-Greg Rayl / 4 laps / transmission
27) #33-Dan Corcoran / 27 laps / crash
26) #8-Josh Reaume / 50 laps / suspension
25) #04-Roger Reuse / 58 laps / running

1st) Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing, NEMCO Motorsports (3)
2nd) Norm Benning Racing, Young’s Motorsports (2)
3rd) Copp Motorsports, DGR-Crosley, Halmar Friesen Racing, Hattori Racing Enterprises, JJL Motorsports, Niece Motorsports, Reaume Brothers Racing, ThorSport Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (14)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (2)


XFINITY: J.J. Yeley the only RSS Racing car not to score stage points at Road America

PHOTO: William Soquet, @WilliamSoquet
by William Soquet Guest Contributor

J.J. Yeley finished last for the 8th time in his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s CTECH Manufacturing 180 at Road America when his #38 unsponsored RSS Racing Chevrolet retired with electrical after 2 of 45 laps.

The finish, which came in Yeley’s 319th start, was his second of the season and first since Iowa, four races ago. In the XFINITY Series last-place rankings, it was the 18th for the #38, the 52nd from electrical issues, and the 534th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 51st for the #38, the 125th from electrical problems, and the 1,681st for Chevrolet.

Since Jeff Green’s shoulder surgery, Yeley has become a semi-regular figure around the RSS Racing camp. He has run every race for the team since Iowa Speedway, his most previous XFINITY Series last-place finish. In four of those races, he has piloted the #38, at Bristol with funding, he was in the #93. At Road America, Yeley would be one of two RSS Racing cars without sponsorship, flagship driver Ryan Sieg had no primary sponsor while local driver Josh Bilicki, living in nearby Lomira, Wisconsin, brought on board Wisconsin industrial company Ariens to adorn the car.

In opening practice, Yeley was 22nd of 33 cars that took a time, running a 2 minute, 18.7-second lap in his only lap of practice. After not making a lap in final practice, Yeley qualified 30th, running a lap of 2 minutes, 19.5 seconds.

Starting last on time Saturday was 66-year-old driver Dick Karth, of nearby Grafton, Wisconsin. Despite the identical number to the one MBM ran at Bristol, the 61 machine he was driving was not in a partnership with Hattori Racing Enterprises, but after MBM Motorsports transferred owners points from the 42 to the 61, they could not change it back and so the entry will be numbered 61 for the remainder of the season. On the side of Karth’s car was the Dick Trickle Memorial Project, a cause special to him because Karth actually acquired one of Trickle’s old Heiling-Meyers #90 cars in the mid-2000s. Later on, Karth brought the car to Road America and learned to road race with it. Karth’s lap of 2 minutes, 30.59 seconds was less than three seconds off of Vinnie Miller’s 37th-place lap of 2 minutes, 27.80 seconds.

Karth would actually line up 33rd on the grid, as five tail-end penalties were assessed. Brandon Jones was forced to a backup car after nosing into the wall near Canada Corner during practice on Friday, and Dexter Bean’s #90 machine had to change an engine after qualifying, making for a late thrash effort. Three cars were sent to the back for unapproved adjustments: NASCAR Euro’s Loris Hezemans for rear decklid repairs, Elkhart Lake’s own Nicolas Hammann for fixes in what looked to be the suspension or transmission, and XFINITY Series regular Brandon Brown. Additionally, the cars of Yeley and Chad Finchum dropped to the back before the start of the race, Yeley about three car lengths back from the rest of the field.

After the first lap, Yeley 26 seconds back after first lap, not far off of Karth,  25.2 seconds back. After two laps, Yeley was scored 78 seconds back and the next lap, he pulled into the garage.

Brandon Brown, sent to the back for unapproved adjustments before the race, had a quiet ten laps before retiring with suspension issues. Preston Pardus had an eventful XFINITY Series debut, starting fifteenth and running as high as thirteenth before having an off in turn twelve and later stalling out sideways at the exit of pit road before being towed back to the garage. He was eventually credited with 14 laps completed. Chad Finchum brought his “banana split” car behind the wall after 15 laps, citing transmission issues. Rounding out the Bottom Five was Garrett Smithley, who played pit strategy to run as high as third in the final stage before dropping back on old tires and eventually losing a cylinder before going to the garage.

While Yeley was the first car out, on the whole it was a good day for the RSS Racing organization. Both other cars scored stage points, with Sieg scoring seven total points between two stages and Josh Bilicki finishing tenth in Stage Two.

*This marked the third straight last-place finish for RSS Racing in the XFINITY race at Road America, but the first ever for car #38 at the track.

38) #38-J. J. Yeley / 2 laps / electrical
37) #86-Brandon Brown / 10 laps / suspension
36) #43-Preston Pardus / 14 laps / suspension
35) #13-Chad Finchum / 15 laps / transmission
34) #0-Garrett Smithley / 36 laps / engine

1st) Motorsports Business Management, RSS Racing (6)
2nd) DGM Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, Kaulig Racing (2)
3rd) B. J. McLeod Motorsports, Brandonbilt Motorsports, JD Motorsports, Jimmy Means Racing, Rick Ware Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (15)
2nd) Toyota (8)


PINTY’S: Ryan Klutt's return to Mosport ends with first last-place finish in three years

PHOTO: Brock Beard
Ryan Klutt picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Pinty’s Series career in the Total Quartz 200 at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park when his #42 K-Line / Legendary Motorcar Chevrolet fell out with transmission issues after 2 of 53 laps.

The finish, which came in Klutt’s 10th series start, was his first of the season, and first in the series since May 22, 2016, when he trailed the season opener at the same track following a vibration after five laps.

Two years younger than his brother Gary, who ran double-duty with the Truck Series last weekend, Ryan has run almost exclusively at Mosport with a best finish of 11th in the 2015 season opener. He and Gary would also run the race as teammates with Gary in the #59 and Ryan in a #42 with numerals similar in style to Kenny Irwin, Jr.’s Team SABCO ride from the 2000 season. The team is owned by Gary and Ryan’s father Peter, himself a series veteran with 34 starts back to 2007, including the two most recent starts for the #42 team in the Mosport opener and Toronto.

Ryan began the weekend 15th in opening practice and qualified a solid 13th with a speed of 105.890mph (1 minute, 23.600 seconds). This put him midway through a 25-car field that was the largest so far of the 2019 Pinty’s Series season.

PHOTO: Brock Beard
Starting last in the field was 62-year-old series veteran David Thorndyke, running his own #67 Thorsons EVT Chevrolet for the first time since the season opener at the same track, where he finished last with early fuel pump issues. He held the last spot until Lap 3, when Klutt’s car suddenly stopped in Turn 1. The car had to be picked up by a flatbed, which brought the car back to the series garage in the infield. Klutt said he put the car into third gear and the transmission failed, stopping him out on the track. He also said he does plan to continue his yearly runs at Mosport next season.

Both of the Micks Racing entries ended up joining Thorndyke in the Bottom Five. Mark Dilley’s #64 Leland / Auto Value / NTN Bearings / Sharkbit Ford suffered suspension issues just eight laps after Klutt’s exit. Rookie driver T.J. Rinomato’s difficult season continued late in the event when he wrecked down the frontstretch, destroying the front of the #02 Torino Drywall / HOLR / Watson Building Supply Ford. Filling out the group were Chandler Smith, whose runner-up in the Bristol Truck Series race was followed by electrical issues on top of significant right-front damage to his #26 Qwick Wick / 828 Logistics Chevrolet, an Alex Labbe, whose Jacombs team was trying to fix an engine issue on the #36 Hotel Le Concorde / Silver Wax / Festidrag Ford but ran out of time, leaving them 22nd.

*This marked the first last-place run for the #42 in the Pinty’s Series since Peter Klutt was listed “off track” with four laps remaining in the Ecko Unlimited 100 at Circuit ICAR in Quebec.

25) #42-Ryan Klutt / 2 laps / transmission
24) #64-Mark Dilley / 11 laps / suspension
23) #26-Chandlier Smith / 22 laps / electrical
22) #36-Alex Labbe / 28 laps / engine
21) #02-T.J. Rinomato / 36 laps / crash

1st) Ben Busch, Micks Racing (2)
2nd) Bud Morris, David Thorndyke, Dumoulin Competition, Katherine Almeida, Melissa McKenzie, Peter Klutt (1)

1st) Dodge (6)
2nd) Chevrolet, Ford (2)


Saturday, August 24, 2019

INTERVIEWS: Vargas, Finchum, Williams talk sponsorship, road racing and more

by William Soquet Guest Contributor

Friday at Road America was a busy day, with voluntary pre-practice tech as well as two practice sessions. Throughout the course of the day, we caught up with three drivers in varying scenarios: Ryan Vargas, making his second-ever XFINITY start; Chad Finchum, in his second full-time season for MBM Motorsports; and Josh Williams, who drove most of the season last year but did not attempt an XFINITY road course race until this year. The following interviews have been slightly edited for clarity.

ALL PHOTOS: William Soquet, @WilliamSoquet

A: It’s been honestly really cool. Racing out west with Alec Martinez Racing and out east with Lee Faulk Racing and now I have an opportunity to make a couple starts with Johnny Davis, it’s really neat. It’s a lot of racing this year that I didn’t think I was going to be able to do. Once this offseason came around, I had zero races planned. I didn’t know what this year was going to be, I didn’t know if I was going to be racing, period. It’s really cool to be able to have these type of opportunities.

A: So I knew Joseph for about a year or two, met him for the first time in person 2018 in July at the July 4th race and just became really good friends with him through there. Once the Rev announcement came out and I had the opportunity to race at Irwindale, I knew that wasn’t something we could afford, but Joseph and his family were kind enough to step up and they wanted to do the whole season. Now we have a couple wins to our name this year and it’s been an awesome ride so far.

A: It’s definitely more competitive, and everybody is on their game. I have a lot more to learn, and I figured out a lot of the places that I needed to pick up a lot more speed, and this car definitely has that speed. I just need to go out there and learn more about the car, because I’m not just out here learning the track, I’m also learning the car. This is my second time ever in an XFINITY car. I’m having a lot of fun doing it, you know, learning. That’s the whole thing.

A: Yeah, we’re working on a couple other things, but it all comes down to sponsorship. We’re working hard to get something rolling, and hopefully son we’ll have some more done.


A: Oh man, I love the Packers. One of the first Super Bowls that I watched growing up was when Aaron Rodgers stepped in and overtook the Steelers. That was a cool game to watch. Growing up racing, I was so busy racing that I never got super time-invested into football, but when I did have time I would watch it and that was the only Super Bowl that I watched from the first snap to the last snap and I’m like ‘you know what, I’m sold. I’m a Packers fan.’ And ever since then, I have been.

A: No, I wish I did. The Banana Split is probably top of the charts. Carl (Long, team owner) decided to bring that little old throwback scheme out, he ran something similar to that scheme years ago when he used to race, so when that car needed to be re-wrapped we wrapped it with one of his throwback schemes. We put it online, and people started naming it. No better way than to name it than a banana split, because they taste good too!

A: Well I think any time, for me at least, any time we go to a short track we have an advantage. I have a very strong short track background, a lot of success at short tracks, so of course Richmond, Phoenix, Dover, it’s not necessarily a short track but it has the characteristics of one. I think we’ll be pretty strong at Kansas. We’ve shown a lot of speed at Homestead but haven’t been able to put together a flawless race yet. We showed a lot of improvement from year one to year two of the aero package at Indy, so we’re looking forward to going back there, I think we finished twenty-first or twenty-second last year, so if we could finish top twenty, that would be another improvement. There’s a lot of races left on the schedule that we’re looking forward to.

A: The biggest thing is that when I came here last year, the only practice I had was iRacing. The difference in translating that to real life was a pretty big learning curve. When I came back here this year, I have on track experience, so I feel a lot more comfortable. You know where your braking zones are, where the bumps are at, you can actually feel it, see it and remember it. It still took a couple laps to get the memory refreshed, and everything’s kind of jiving together, hand-eye reflexes and everything. I think any time you come to a track the first time, when you come back the second time, if you can build an improvement. If you go the first time and get a baseline, say you finish twenty-fifth, if you can come back there and do twenty-fourth or better I think that’s an improvement.


A: It’s always fun. I think the road courses, everybody’s like ‘alright, it’s time to go hard’, so it’s fun, it’s a blast, I like it. Everybody’s a little bit rougher here than they are at other tracks, and it makes it interesting.

A: I think they need to pick a motor, in my eyes. I think you need to stick with the Ilmor motor, it’s more popular I think. I think it’d be cool to get them all under one roof with a similar rules package, but the motor deal is going to be really tough. Other than that I think it’s going to be fun.

A: Oh man. It just depends. For us being a small team, sometimes it’s the same day we get here. Harkin Construction, they’re real good people, I’ve known them for a pretty good while now, I used to build some Bandolero and Legend cars for his son and daughter, so I’ve kind of got a long-lasting relationship there. Sponsors, I think, is the hardest thing about racing. Getting to the track and making the cars go, it’s all irrelevant if you don’t have the money to get there.

A: Yeah, I’ve got some Bandoleros. Sold all my Legends cars, I got to get another one of those. We got a couple things in the shop we play around with, I still got all my ARCA stuff too. If it has four wheels and a motor, we work on it and make it go fast. 

After I finished interviewing Williams, he went back under the hood on his own car, just like the independent legends of the past.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

PREVIEW: Road America and Mosport see a slew of ringers, both young and old

PHOTO: Preston Pardus, @PrestonPardus
Saturday, August 24, 2019
XFINITY Race 23 of 33
CTECH Manufacturing 180 at Road America
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Jeff Green

William Soquet, our guest contributor for the ARCA Menards Series, will be covering the action at his home track in Wisconsin. This will be his second-straight year covering the event for For his updates, be sure to follow him on Twitter at @WilliamSoquet.

There are 39 drivers entered for 38 spots in Saturday’s return to Elkhart Lake, meaning one team will fail to qualify. UPDATE: Make that 38 as the #17 has withdrawn, locking the rest of the field jnto the show.

DRIVER CHANGE: #4-JD Motorsports
Ryan Vargas returns to the XFINITY Series for the first time since a 17th-place finish in his series debut at Iowa last month. Then as now, he drives for Johnny Davis, but this time in the #4 Chevrolet, taking over for Landon Cassill, who ran a strong 10th in Bristol.

DRIVER CHANGE: #5-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Ryan Ellis also seeks his first XFINITY race since Iowa, and also drives a different car from the team he ran that day, moving from B.J. McLeod’s #99, which he took to a 23rd-place finish after early issues, to the #5. He takes the place of Matt Mills, who ran 18th in his return last week in Bristol. Ellis has made four starts at Road America since 2012 with a best finish of 17th just last year, again for McLeod. The Wes Cook Band is his listed sponsor.

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-JR Motorsports
Regan Smith rejoins JR Motorsports for the first time since Mid-Ohio, and brings with him the same backing from Fire Alarm Services, Inc. He takes over for Jeb Burton, who suffered brake issues midway through the race and ended up 32nd. Smith has three XFINITY starts at Road America, but none since 2015, when he finished a track-best 8th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #10-Kaulig Racing
Another road race means A.J. Allmendinger is back again, driving Matthew Kaulig’s #10 Chevrolet. Sponsorship this week comes from J.W. Speaker and race sponsor CTECH Manufacturing. Allmendinger has just one XFINITY start here, but made it count, winning from the pole for Penske Racing in 2013. Allmendinger takes the place of Joe Graf, Jr., who failed to qualify this car at Bristol.

DRIVER SWAP: #13-Motorsports Business Management
DRIVER SWAP: #66-Motorsports Business Management
One week after Chad Finchum failed to qualify MBM’s #66 while Tommy Joe Martins saw a solid finish fade with transmission issues, leaving him 31st in the #13, the two drivers have swapped rides. Finchum will run the #13 and Martins the #66, just as both had at Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio. Both times, Martins finished ahead of Finchum.

DRIVER CHANGE: #17-Rick Ware Racing
The preliminary entry list had no driver listed for Rick Ware’s #17 Chevrolet, one week after Joe Nemechek was brought on for Bayley Currey and Mike Harmon to secure a 28th-place start and 35th-place finish in Bristol. Driving this week is Kyle Weatherman, who seeks his first XFINITY start since Michigan in June. UPDATE: Aaron Quine, who drove for Harmon at Mid-Ohio, will drive in Weatherman's place. UPDATE 2: Quine has been withdrawn as of Friday.

DRIVER CHANGE: #18-Joe Gibbs Racing
MISSING: #81-XCI Racing
Matt DiBenedetto gained a large number of fans last Saturday with his runner-up finish at Bristol after dominating the late stages. While the Cup Series is off this week, DiBenedetto will race this weekend, taking over for Kyle Busch in the #18 Toyota. Following Busch’s engine failure after winning Stage 2 in Bristol, DiBenedetto will race with sponsorship from iK9, which moves from the #81 XCI Racing team. The #81 is not entered after Erik Jones’ early crash left him 37th in Bristol.

RETURNING: #21-Richard Childress Racing
Kaz Grala is no slouch at the road courses, including his 11th-place run for Fury Race Cars LLC in this race last season. This time around, he will have a strong car to match, returning to Richard Childress’ #21 Chevrolet for the first time since his 14th-place showing at Loudon. HotScream is again his listed sponsor.

MISSING: #28-H2 Motorsports
Shane Lee and the Circuit City Supra will not be competing this week following a quiet 13th-place finish in Bristol.

Rod Sieg’s team swaps J.J. Yeley from the #93, which he drove to a 16th-place finish at Bristol, back to the #38, which failed to qualify that night with Camden Murphy. Murphy himself is not entered, while Josh Bilicki will return to take over Yeley’s seat in the #93. It will be the fourth different XFINITY team Bilicki has raced for at Elkhart Lake, where his best finish was a 12th with B.J. McLeod in 2017.

NEW TEAM: #43-Pardus Racing, Inc.
Longtime race fans may remember Dan Pardus, the part-time Cup Series competitor from Florida who drove the Midwest Transit Chevrolet, attempting ten races and finishing 36th in his lone start at Daytona in the fall of 1998. Pardus is now a team owner who has fielded an XFINITY car for his son Preston Pardus. So long as they make it in on speed as they do not have Owner Points, the younger Pardus will make his NASCAR debut. The white #43 Chevrolet carries sponsorship from Chinchor Electric Inc. and Danus Utilities Inc.

DRIVER CHANGE: #61-Motorsports Business Management / Hattori Racing Enterprises
Bristol saw the unexpected debut of a new partnership between Carl Long’s Motorsports Business Management and the Hattori Racing Enterprises XFINITY team that failed to qualify at Daytona in July. MBM driver Timmy Hill not only qualified the #61 Supra a strong 7th, but finished 7th as well, equaling his career-best finish. This week, the car will be driven by Dick Karth, who has run on this, his home track, twice in the ARCA Menards Series with a best finish of 21st in his own equipment. The 66-year-old Karth has never made a NASCAR start, and his lone ARCA race this year saw him run 16th of 18 cars at Madison, driving for Andy Hillenburg.

DRIVER CHANGE: #74-Mike Harmon Racing
Nicolas Hammann becomes the third different road racer to run for Harmon in the last three road course races, following Dan Corcoran at Watkins Glen and Aaron Quine in Mid-Ohio. Corcoran will instead run Sunday’s Truck Series race at Mosport (see below). Hammann, an Elkhart Lake native, has made three XFINITY starts including two in this race in 2016 and 2017 with a best of 29th in the latter. His series-best finish is a 28th-place run for Harmon at Watkins Glen three years ago. Hammann also takes the place of Tyler Matthews, who finished 27th in the #74 at Bristol.

MISSING: #89-Shepherd Racing Ventures
Morgan Shepherd and his #89 Chevrolet will not be making the trip to Road America, but is expected to run next week at Darlington. His “throwback scheme” debuted briefly at Bristol before a DNQ, the white-and-blue scheme commemorating the Pontiac that Shepherd raced to his first Cup Series win at Martinsville in 1981.

Welcome back Dexter Bean, who is looking to make his first XFINITY start of the year and first in the series since last summer at Iowa, where he ran 36th in Mario Gosselin’s #92 Chevrolet. This time around, Bean drives Gosselin’s primary #90, taking the place of Ronnie Bassett, Jr., who ran 33rd at Bristol. The team’s sponsor is still to be announced.

DRIVER CHANGE: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Saturday will also see the XFINITY Series debut of Dutch road racer Loris Hezemans, a three-time winner in the Elite 1 division of the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series. Hezemans has three wins in the series, including the most recent two rounds at the Autodrom Most in Czechoslovakia and a 100-lapper at his home track, the Raceway Venray in the Netherlands. Fourth in the standings with six consecutive outside-pole starts in the series, Hezemans will be one to watch this weekend as he takes the place of C.J. McLaughlin, 23rd at Bristol. Koolbox, a past Mike Harmon sponsor, is listed as the primary backer this week.

CUP INVADERS: #18-Matt DiBenedetto

Sunday, August 25, 2019
TRUCKS Race 18 of 23
Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (Mosport)
Round of 8 – Race 2 of 3
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Joe Nemechek

In addition to William’s coverage, I will be working the same weekend at Mosport, marking the first time has worked a track outside the United States. As always, stay tuned to this website and my Twitter at @LASTCARonBROCK for updates throughout.

There are just 28 trucks entered to attempt the 32-truck field in NASCAR’s annual trip north of the border. It is only the second short field of the 2019 season and first since Kansas, where just 30 drivers took the green flag. UPDATE: Make that 29 trucks with a late addition of #32.

RETURNING: #0-Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing
Ray Ciccarelli makes his return to the Truck Series for the first time since he finished 9th at Michigan, his first career top-ten finish. Unlike that day, he will not be driving for his own team, the #49 of CMI Motorsports, but will instead race the second truck for Jennifer Jo Cobb. It was somewhat surprising to see Cobb entering two trucks this week following Daniel Sasnett’s qualifying wreck at Michigan, which heavily damaged one of Cobb’s trucks. It will also be interesting to see what the race strategy will be since Cobb’s team has finished last in this race in four of the previous six runnings, including three by the #0 alone.

RETURNING: #6-Norm Benning Racing
Making his return to the series this week is Norm Benning, who withdrew at Bristol to better prepare for the trip north of the border. According to a member of the team, Benning is expected to run the same truck he ran at Eldora and finished last with at Michigan. Those eager to write Benning off, however, do so at their own risk. Not only has he qualified for all six previous races, but he’s finished no worse than 22nd in each, finished under power each time, and completed all but 18 of the 387 combined laps. His best finish at the track came just two years ago, when he finished 18th.

MISSING: #9-CR7 Motorsports
MISSING: #15-DGR-Crosley
MISSING: #21-GMS Racing
MISSING: #46-Kyle Busch Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #54-DGR-Crosley
MISSING: #68-Clay Greenfield Racing
MISSING: #74-Lou Goss Racing
MISSING: #75-Henderson Motorsports
MISSING: #92-RBR Enterprises
MISSING: #97-JJL Motorsports
The possibility for someone unexpected to earn a good finish is helped by nine teams entered at Bristol not making the trip up north this week. This includes the third entries from DGR-Crosley (#15), GMS Racing (#21), and Kyle Busch Motorsports (#46). Raphael Lessard, who drove the #46 last week, is the only driver from these teams entered in Sunday’s race. This week, he takes the place of Natalie Decker, who struggled under the lights at Bristol to a 25th-place finish, in DGR-Crosley’s #54 Toyota. Lessard is also the first of four NASCAR Pinty’s Series drivers in Sunday’s Truck Series field – in fact, he 12th-place finisher at Bristol won his Pinty’s debut at the Autodrome Chaudiere bullring in June.

DRIVER CHANGE: #20-Young’s Motorsports
Spencer Boyd is again expected back in Randy Young’s #20 Chevrolet this week after Landon Huffman raced in his relief for the second time in a month at Bristol, finishing 16th. This will be Boyd’s first-ever start at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. UPDATE: Dylan Lupton swapped in for Boyd by Thursday.

RETURNING: #32-Reaume Brothers Racing
Added Friday as a 29th entry is the third Reaume truck, to be driven by crew chief Greg Rayl, who crashed out early in his series debut at Gateway and finished last.

DRIVER CHANGE: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
The 61-year-old Dan Corcoran, the aforementioned road course ringer for Mike Harmon’s XFINITY Series team, will make the trip north to race at his home track. The Ontario native takes the place of Ryan Sieg, who finished 14th in the Reaume #33 at Bristol. Carrying sponsorship from his family’s construction firm, Len Corcoran Excavating, this will be Corcoran’s Truck Series debut. He joins series regular Stewart Friesen as the only two Canadian natives in this race not currently active in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series.

DRIVER CHANGE: #34-Reaume Brothers Racing
Jason White makes his return to the Truck Series for the first time since his DNQ in the Daytona season opener and looks to make his third career start in the series. White is also the second Pinty’s Series regular in the field, though he is only 14th in the standings as he has been off the circuit since his 100th series start at Saskatoon. Powder Ventures, which backed White’s previous Pinty’s and Truck Series efforts, rejoins White as his sponsor in the second Reaume truck. He takes the place of J.J. Yeley, who finished next-to-last at Bristol.

DRIVER CHANGE: #44-Niece Motorsports
Gary Klutt is a Pinty’s Series part-timer who won the pole at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park for the Pinty’s season opener on Victoria Day weekend this past May. This weekend, he both returns to the Pinty’s Series in his #59 Dodge, but also will take over for Angela Ruch in the Al Niece-prepared #44 Chevrolet. Klutt has a pair of starts in the Truck Series race here, finishing 11th for KBM three years ago, then 24th for Premium Motorsports in 2017. He also made his Cup debut that year, again for Premium, finishing 31st in the #15 Chevrolet.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Kyle Busch Motorsports
Alex Tagliani is sure to be a favorite in Sunday’s race as he makes his fifth consecutive start in the event. His best finish came in 2015 for Brad Keselowski Racing, when he parlayed his second straight pole into a 5th-place finish. The last two years, he’s driven for Young’s Motorsports, finishing 19th and 10th in those attempts. This time, he takes the place of Bristol runner-up Chandler Smith (who instead will run Sunday's Pinty's Series race) in KBM’s fast #51 Toyota. Sponsorship comes from CanTORQUE, Spectra Premium and RONA. In the Pinty’s Series, he’s carried the RONA branding on his #18 to victory lane in Toronto, and stands 4th in the series standings, 33 markers behind series leader Andrew Ranger.

DRIVER CHANGE: #56-Hill Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #04-Roper Racing
For the first time, two owner-driver operations will not have a family member behind the wheel. Both will be driven this week by brothers Roger Reuse and Bobby Reuse from Alabama. Roger takes over the #04 Preferred Industrial Contractors, Inc. Ford in place of Cory Roper while Bobby takes over Timmy and Tyler Hill’s #56 Chevrolet, bringing with him sponsorship from This marks the first time the Reuses will race against each other in this event, a race each had run once before - Roger ran it last year for JJL Motorsports, finishing 27th in their #97, while Bobby ran it in 2017, finishing 17th in Mark Beaver’s #50. The two have raced against each other in the XFINITY Series before, at Mid-Ohio in 2014, where they ran two cars for Mike Harmon. Bobby finished ahead that time, running 24th, while Roger finished last. Both teams are locked-in to the race due to the short field, locking in the #04 after a DNQ in Bristol, where Timmy Hill ran 17th in the #56.

DRIVER CHANGE #02-Young's Motorsports
Tyler Dippel was suspended indefinitely on Friday after an incident whose details are still coming to light. UPDATE: D.J. Kennnington will drive in his place, joining the other Pinty's drivers in the field.


Sunday, September 1, 2019
CUP Race 25 of 36
Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Joey Gase

The Cup Series takes the weekend off and will return for the Labor Day classic, where I will also be covering the action for the 70th Annual Bojangles’ Southern 500 weekend.

Today in LASTCAR history (August 22, 1993): Dick McCabe picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in the NE Chevy 250 at Loudon when his #0 Fisher Snow Plows Pontiac lost the engine after 18 laps, leaving him last in a 44-car field. It was just the second last-place run for car #0 in the series and the first since Allen Applegate’s engine failure at the Nashville Fairgrounds on May 21, 1988.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

ARCA: Late entrant Wayne Peterson does not sling any dirt at Springfield

PHOTO: WiseGuy on YouTube
by William Soquet Guest Contributor
ARCA Menards Series

Wayne Peterson finished last for the 42nd time in his ARCA Menards Series career in Sunday’s Allen Crowe 100 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds when his #0 Ford did not complete any of the race’s 100 laps before retiring with brake problems.

The finish came in his 107th series start and was his first since Gateway, five races ago.

Once again, Wayne Peterson Racing rolled out two cars for the event. Originally, Buck Stevens was slated to drive the car, but by later in the week, the entry list had been updated to show Peterson in the 0. Up-and-coming driver Tim Richmond continued to diversify his racing portfolio, as the road racer continued his maiden stock car voyage with an appearance on dirt in the #06.

The dirt also brought out some familiar faces to the ARCA dirt scene. “Dirt ringers” Kelly Kovski, Ryan Unzicker and Logan Seavey entered, all three in the same machines they drove in this race a year ago: Seavey in the #20 for Venturini Motorsports, Unzicker in the Hendren Motorsports #24, and Kovski in the Allgaier Motorsports #16. It was a local affair for Unzicker and Kovski, who both hail from Illinois. Will Kimmel drove his team’s flagship entry for the first time this year. Some part-timers also joined the effort. Dale Shearer entered in a second Kimmel Racing car, Bobby Gerhart returned after somewhat of a quiet summer stretch, Eric Caudell continued his partial schedule, and Fast Track Racing entered Richard Doheny in the #1 car and Mike Basham in the #11 machine.

Peterson on track Sunday.
Rolling off on the grid last after qualifying was Peterson, whose lap of 51.7 seconds was twelve seconds slower than Shearer’s next-slowest lap and more than eighteen seconds off of Seavey’s pole time. Coming to the green, Peterson was a noticeable distance behind the field in a white car with rookie stripes on it. The car, however, stayed clean of a first-lap crash with Eric Caudell. The incident relegated Caudell to the garage after officially completing a mere one lap, filling two of the bottom five slots extremely early in the race. Tommy Vigh Jr., Basham, and Shearer filled out the Bottom Five with overheating problems, a common issue with old chassis at dirt tracks. This issue was potentially compounded by a wetter track surface for a majority of the race after an early red flag for rain. Give a call, however, to current LASTCAR championship runner-up Richard Doheny, who finished for the second time in his 34-race ARCA career, three laps down in 12th.

Looking to the LASTCAR championship battle with a mere four races left in the season, the drivers’ championship is still wide open, with Peterson now one of three drivers tied at two finishes apiece. Brad Smith currently leads on a Bottom Ten tiebreaker, 13-12 over Doheny, as both are tied with ten Bottom Five appearances. Ford leads all manufacturers with eight and has all but wrapped up the title; even if Toyota finished last in all four remaining races they could only tie Ford for the lead. As for the owners title, Wayne Peterson Racing holds a 4-3 lead over Fast Track Racing, but there is still a lot of time for things to seesaw one way or the other.

21) #0-Wayne Peterson / 0 laps / brakes
20) #7-Eric Caudell / 1 lap / crash
19) #10-Tommy Vigh Jr. / 17 laps / overheating
18) #11-Mike Basham / 26 laps / overheating
17) #68-Dale Shearer / 33 laps / overheating

1st) Ford (8)
2nd) Toyota (4)
3rd) Chevrolet, Dodge (1)

1st) Wayne Peterson Racing (4)
2nd) Fast Track Racing (3)
3rd) Brad Smith Motorsports, Kimmel Racing, Venturini Motorsports (2)
4th) KBR Development, Mullins Racing, Our Motorsports (1)


Saturday, August 17, 2019

CUP: Kevin Harvick completes fourth-most laps of a Bristol last-place finisher in dramatic duel with Austin Dillon

Kevin Harvick picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career in Saturday’s Bass Pro Shops / NRA Night Race at Bristol at the Bristol Motor Speedway when his #4 Busch Beer Ford fell out with clutch issues after 244 of 500 laps.

The finish, which came in Harvick’s 670th start, was his first of the season and first since May 27, 2018 at Charlotte, 47 races ago. In the Cup Series last-place rankings, it was the 41st for the #4, the 41st for clutch issues, and the 695th for Ford. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 65th for clutch issues, the 67th for the #4, and the 956th for Ford.

The only other time Harvick was featured on this website turned out to be one of only a few setbacks during a strong 2018 season. He scored eight victories that year, though the last at Texas turned out to be the final “encumbered” finish before NASCAR brought back disqualifications. No one knew at the time that race would begin a puzzling losing streak that continued through his championship loss to Joey Logano and the first 19 races of this season. The streak finally ended at Loudon, where he held off a spirited charge by Denny Hamlin, and just last Sunday he scored a second victory with an economy run at Michigan.

At Bristol, where his most recent of two wins came in 2016, Harvick started the weekend 14th in opening practice and 20th in Happy Hour. He improved in qualifying to take 8th on the grid with a speed of 128.434mph (14.940 seconds), second among Fords to his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Aric Almirola in 5th.

Meanwhile, taking the 39th and final starting spot was Ross Chastain, who two days earlier finished 3rd in the Playoff opener for the Gander Outdoors Truck Series. Chastain was again in Premium Motorsports’ #15 Chevrolet with new sponsorship from the Chantz Scott Auto Group. During the pace laps, he was joined by teammate Quin Houff in the #27 Premium Motorsports Chevrolet as Houff surrendered the 34th spot to pull to the outside of the row in front, 38th on the grid.

When the race started, there was a scramble in the outside lane, and at one point, Houff’s car skated up the track just as it had last week in Michigan. Houff briefly held last the first time by, then worked his way past the #00 Permatex Chevrolet of Landon Cassill. It was Cassill who was last by Lap 7, and it was he who became the first car one lap down on Lap 13 when Denny Hamlin worked past him in the high lane in Turn 3. Cassill held the spot until Lap 37, when Cassill raced past former teammate Kyle Weatherman, Bayley Currey’s relief driver in the #52 Belmont Classic Cars Chevrolet.

The night’s first accident threw in a new contender. On Lap 80, Austin Dillon blew a right-front tire in Turn 3, and the trailing Jimmie Johnson in the #48 Ally Bank Chevrolet could not keep from rear-ending Dillon’s #3 Bass Pro Shops / Tracker Off Road Chevrolet. The contact caused Dillon to slam the outside wall with the right-front corner while Johnson caught race leader Hamlin as he passed in the middle lane. All three cars spent an extended time on pit road for repairs, none longer than Dillon. Dillon managed to clear the Crash Clock while Houff and Weatherman traded last place on the restart. That changed by Lap 107, when more repairs for Dillon dropped him to last place. Dillon apparently returned to action for around eight laps, then pulled into the garage near Turn 2. Having cleared the clock, the crew was able to work on Dillon’s car and avoid the #3 scoring its first-ever Cup Series last-place finish at Bristol.

Finally, on Lap 196, Austin Dillon re-fired the engine and returned to pit road at the head of the backstretch, 92 laps down to the leaders. As he got up to speed and passed both Houff and the #53 Chelle Corporation / AQRE Ford of Josh Bilicki, the crew reported no smoke coming from the #3 while the driver said the water temperature was sitting at 232 degrees Fahrenheit. Later in the race on Lap 258, Dillon recalled how strange his accident was, saying the right front “bound up” before it blew and he held the brakes. He also said he likely wouldn’t have hit the wall if Johnson hadn’t rear-ended him.

Harvick's crew stands by during transmission repairs.
PHOTO: NASCAR Streaming Services
Harvick didn’t enter the last-place picture until a routine pit stop near the end of Stage 2. With just two laps to go in the stage, NBC’s cameras caught the #4 being pushed behind the wall with transmission issues. Replays showed the transmission fail after the jack dropped, stopping the car in its tracks. Harvick’s car happened to be one of four in the field with livestream cameras on board, so viewers could watch as the Stewart-Haas Racing team set to work underneath the machine. By Lap 284, Harvick was within 65 laps of being passed by Dillon, who was still on the track. There was also the chance of getting another spot if they returned – Reed Sorenson pulled Spire Motorsports’ #77 Go-Parts Chevrolet off after Harvick, and was the first to retire from the race. If Harvick completed just 26 more laps, he’d finish ahead of the #77, who would inherit last place if Dillon also finished.

On Lap 301, Harvick’s crew seemed to have the car fixed. He was 58 laps down and rolling toward the exit to pit road at Turn 4. Then the car stopped directly in front of the media center. The crew pushed him back, and someone diagnosed a possible clutch issue stemming from a failure in the transmission’s input shaft. It was a clutch issue that also happened to eliminate Sorenson from the race. On Lap 328, Harvick was told he could hop out of the car. Two circuits later, someone on the crew said “We’re done.” And on Lap 336, Harvick’s car was unavailable on RaceView, out with clutch issues.

Harvick stalls in front of the media center after repairs.
PHOTO: NASCAR Streaming Services
Back on the track, Dillon fell 110 laps down, but still managed to catch and pass Harvick for 38th on Lap 353. In the end, he would escape the Bottom Five completely, losing just three more laps in the process en route to a 34th-place finish. Sorenson finished 38th. The next two spots fell to Front Row Motorsports as Michael McDowell’s #34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford and David Ragan’s #38 MDS Ford were collected in a multi-car pileup that brought out the final yellow on Lap 373. Ragan’s finish came after a solid mid-pack run just days after he’d announced his intention to retire from full-time competition at the end of 2019. For McDowell, it was his first Bottom Five of 2019. Rounding out the group was Josh Bilicki, the second Rick Ware Racing driver to fall out due to fatigue this summer. Bilicki tweeted his helmet hose blower broke, forcing him to run with the visor up. The heat continued to get to him until he became sick, forcing him to pull off the track.

UPDATE: Harvick's crew chief Rodney Childers tweeted Monday that a locker in the rear gear failed and not the clutch. However, clutch remains the official cause on record.

Matt DiBenedetto, the 2016 LASTCAR XFINITY Series Champion, earned a career-best runner-up finish in Leavine Family Racing’s #95 Toyota Express Maintenance Toyota. The finish continued a strong summer stretch that began with a previous best 4th-place run at Sonoma. After leading Happy Hour, qualifying 7th, and running Top 10 most of the night, he took 2nd place with a daring three-wide pass on the final restart, then the lead after a door-to-door battle with Erik Jones that ended with Jones in the wall. He led 93 consecutive laps and was trying to hold off polesitter Denny Hamlin until contact with Playoff bubble driver Ryan Newman allowed Hamlin to catch up and get by with just 12 to go. The run came just two days after DiBenedetto confirmed rumors that he would be out of a ride next year, released from the Leavine team likely in favor of a Joe Gibbs development driver. DiBenedetto, who has turned things around after 20 LASTCAR features, still has no plans for 2020.

*This marked the first last-place finish for car #4 in a Cup Series race at Bristol.
*The 244 laps Harvick completed are the fourth-most by a last-place finisher of a Cup Series race at Bristol. The record remains 373 by Jamie McMurray on March 16, 2008.
*Harvick is the first Cup Series driver to fall out due to clutch issues since May 29, 2016, when Reed Sorenson’s World Record Striper Company / Hauling Bass Chevrolet fell out after 200 laps of the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte. Harvick is also the first to finish last at Bristol for this reason since March 30, 1980. When Buck Simmons earned his first last-place finish in the #12 Ramey’s Chevy City Chevrolet during the Valleydale Southeastern 500.
*Harvick is just the third driver to ever lead at least one lap of a Cup Series race at Bristol and finish last in the same event. The only other two instances were March 29, 1981, when Dave Marcis’ #71 Bowlin Coal / Hudson Chevrolet broke the rear end after leading 18 of the first 60 laps, and August 24, 1991, when Rusty Wallace’s #2 Miller Genuine Draft Pontiac led 16 of the first 88 laps before a crash.

39) #4-Kevin Harvick / 244 laps / clutch / led 28 laps
38) #77-Reed Sorenson / 269 laps / clutch
37) #34-Michael McDowell / 368 laps / crash
36) #38-David Ragan / 371 laps / crash
35) #53-Josh Bilicki / 373 laps / fatigue

1st) Rick Ware Racing (7)
2nd) Stewart-Haas Racing (4)
3rd) Front Row Motorsports (3)
4th) Chip Ganassi Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Spire Motorsports (2)
5th) Germain Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Motorsports Business Management (1)

1st) Chevrolet (13)
2nd) Ford (9)
3rd) Toyota (2)


XFINITY: While Tyler Reddick went from last to first at Bristol, Mason Diaz ended up staying there

PHOTO: Ricky Matthews, @WCYB_Ricky
Mason Diaz picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Friday’s Food City 300 at the Bristol Motor Speedway when his unsponsored #68 Brandonbilt Motorsports Chevrolet was involved in a single-car accident after 3 of 300 laps.

The finish came in Diaz’ fourth series start. In the XFINITY Series last-place rankings, it was the 4th for the #68, the 326th from a crash, and the 533rd for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 27th for the #68, the 1,192nd from a crash, and the 1,680th for Chevrolet.

A 19-year-old driver from Manassas, Virginia, Diaz’ journey into NASCAR is a familiar one for many of today’s up-and-comers – go-karts, Bandoleros, then the INEX Legends Series. He made the move to NASCAR through the Whelen All-American Series, first in Limited Late Model class and then to Late Model Stock Cars. All the while, he carried sponsorship from Southern Rock Carriers, themselves sponsors in the CARS Super Late Model Tour. Soon, he was balancing racing with his full-time studies at Old Dominion University, where he pursues a major in business and a minor in motorsports engineering.

Diaz was originally scheduled to run the full K&N Pro Series East schedule this year with MAD Motorsports. He was off to a solid start, coming back from a 14th-place finish in the New Smyrna opener to take 8th at Bristol, placing him 9th in points. But in the next round at South Boston, Diaz crashed in practice trying to pass a lapped car, severely damaging the right-rear of his #24 Ford. To make matters worse, the weekend was a double-header, and by failing to start both races, he dropped out of title contention. The team re-evaluated their travel costs and decided to scale back to a part-time effort.

During his rise through the ranks, Diaz has also competed in two of NASCAR’s top three series. He made his Truck Series debut for Brandonbilt Motorsports at Martinsville on October 28, 2017, qualifying a strong 9th and finishing 23rd. Last year, he made his XFINITY Series debut with Mario Gosselin’s DGM Racing, steering the #90 Chevrolet to a 19th-place finish at Richmond after starting 22nd. Brandonbilt and Diaz then reunited just this year, again at Richmond, and once more he was fast in time trials, taking 16th on the grid. But engine woes ended his night after just 63 laps, leaving him 36th. A crash-filled race at Charlotte was equally unkind, leaving him 30th at the halfway point.

Bristol not only marked Diaz’ third XFINITY start of the season, but the return of his K&N Pro Series East effort for the first time since South Boston. In the lower series, Diaz capitalized by qualifying 4th in the 16-car field and finishing there, following Sam Mayer, Ty Gibbs, and Ruben Garcia, Jr. to the checkered flag. On the XFINITY side, Diaz drove the team’s second car, a red-and-white #68 that resembled the car Will Rodgers drove in his series debut at Iowa. Diaz didn’t participate in the opening practice, then ran 34th of 38 drivers in Happy Hour. But again, he improved in qualifying, taking the 27th spot with a lap of 116.129mph (16.523 seconds).

A strong entry list of 42 drivers added drama to qualifying as four teams were sent home. Just eight-thousandths of a second bumped Chad Finchum from the field in Motorsports Business Management’s #66 Toyota. Next in line was Joe Graf, Jr., who was unable to make it in on time driving Kaulig Racing’s #10 Chevrolet driven to top-five runs this summer by A.J. Allmendinger. Camden Murphy missed the cut in RSS Racing’s #38 Chevrolet while J.J. Yeley, swapped out of the ride, put up the 18th-fastest time in RSS’ #93. Rounding out the group was Morgan Shepherd, who debuted his “throwback” scheme on his Visone RV Chevrolet – a tribute to the Cliff Stewart-owned Performance Connection Pontiac that Shepherd drove to his first Cup win at Martinsville in 1981.

Taking the 38th and final starting spot was Tyler Reddick in the #2 Tame the BEAST Chevrolet. Reddick, the regular season points leader, was not allowed to take a qualifying time after his car failed inspection four times. This also incurred Reddick the same penalty as Matt Tifft in the Cup race at Dover earlier this year, requiring him to take a pass-through penalty at the start of the race. Joining him at the rear was 9th-place qualifier John Hunter Nemechek, whose #23 Midnight Moon Moonshine Chevrolet was sent to the rear for unapproved adjustments. Diaz also surrendered his 27th spot and started alongside Reddick in 37th, moving Nemechek up to the inside of the row in front in 35th.

When the race started, Reddick ducked down pit road as soon as he could, losing one lap in the process. But he didn’t take last as Diaz lost two laps in the race’s opening moments from an apparent trip to pit road. Diaz returned to action four laps back, only to clobber the Turn 2 wall on Lap 6. The car ground to a stop against the fence, the driver reporting something broke in the right-front of his car. “That thing just shot straight into the wall,” said someone on the team shortly after the accident. Diaz went behind the wall, done for the day. The crew continued to look over the right-front, trying to figure out what happened. On Lap 28, they examined the right-front suspension, and on Lap 36 looked over the ball joint. The crew saw something wrong with the upper suspension, but couldn’t determine if it happened before or after hitting the fence.

On that same lap, a pileup ensued in Turn 1, triggered by contact between Matt Mills, running 30th, 1 lap down, as Cole Custer and Christopher Bell raced up behind them. The gap between Mills’ car and the outside wall closed quickly, causing Custer to spin into Bell and slide down the track. Unable to avoid contact were two Cup regulars – Erik Jones in the XCI Racing #81 iK9 Stars and Stripes Toyota and Joey Logano in the #12 Snap-On Tools Ford. First Jones, then Logano slid into Bell’s stopped car, and both were eliminated from crash damage.

It was a rollercoaster weekend for the crew of the #17 Chevrolet fielded by Rick Ware Racing in conjunction with Mike Harmon Racing. Bayley Currey was named as driver for the XFINITY team’s first start since Iowa, but that changed Thursday when Currey was suspended indefinitely for accidentally violating NASCAR’s substance abuse policy. Currey said he’d been taking a sports supplement during his training which he didn’t realize contained the prohibited substance dimethylamylamine. The Ware team originally stated Kyle Weatherman would drive in Currey’s place for both the Cup and XFINITY races, but by Friday, it was Joe Nemechek behind the wheel of the #17. As in other times he’d been called upon during large entry lists, Nemechek stepped up with a 28th-best lap that put the car in the show. However, Nemechek lost at least four laps by the time of the Mills / Bell wreck and exited with a busted oil cooler.

Rounding out the Bottom Five was Justin Haley, who was battling near the Top 5 for the first 79 laps until smoke trailed from the pipes of his #11 Leaf Filter Gutter Protection Chevrolet, forcing him behind the wall with a blown engine. For Haley, Logano, and Jones, it was their first Bottom Five of 2019.

Teams big and small all found adversity in the race’s final stage as blown tires and the outside wall collected many contenders. One of the night’s biggest heartbreaks was suffered by Justin Allgaier, who was leading with 11 laps to go when a tire let go on his #7 BRANDT Professional Agriculture Chevrolet, leaving him 8th. The other was Ryan Sieg, whose top-ten car ran up as high as second inside the final 50 laps. But contact from Brandon Jones put his #39 Lombard Bros. Gaming Chevrolet into the outside wall, forcing an unscheduled pit stop, then a trip to the garage. He finished 25th.

But there were strong runs for underdogs as well, including Diaz’ teammate Brandon Brown, who rebounded after a track bar failure in opening practice put him into the outside wall. The crash forced extensive repairs before qualifying, and his car was even slow getting off the grid and joined the field halfway through the first pace lap. But Brown ran in or near the Top 10 for much of the night. He was 6th on Lap 73, and still held the spot on Lap 108 ahead of the big-dollar efforts of Chase Briscoe and Brandon Jones. Only late in the race did Jones slip off the lead lap for a 12th-place finish. Both he and Gray Gaulding, who impressed with a 6th-place finish in Bobby Dotter’s #08 Pannini Chevrolet, earned the second-best finishes of their young XFINITY Series careers. Gaulding’s run closed him within 97 points of Sieg for the final spot in the Playoffs.

Jeremy Clements finished 4th in his #51 Chevrolet, a return to form for his owner-driver operation at the track that also saw his first career last-place finish. It was the third top-five finish for Clements and his first since his upset victory at Road America two years ago.

And Timmy Hill with Motorsports Business Management made the most out of running the Hattori Racing Enterprises’ #61 entry that broke down in Austin Hill’s qualifying attempt last month at Daytona. Hill was a Top 10 car for much of the night and finished seventh, the first and only car one lap down. This matched Hill’s career-best finish in the series in two Daytona races in the spring of 2012 and fall of 2018.

For more on Mason Diaz, check out his website here:

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #68 in an XFINITY Series race at Bristol. The most recent last-place finish for the number in the series was on April 29, 2011, when Matt Carter’s #68 Morro’s Truck & Welding Chevrolet fell out with a vibration after 6 laps of the Bubba Burger 250 at Richmond.

38) #68-Mason Diaz / 3 laps / crash
37) #81-Erik Jones / 36 laps / crash
36) #12-Joey Logano / 37 laps / crash
35) #17-Joe Nemechek / 43 laps / oil cooler
34) #11-Justin Haley / 79 laps / engine

1st) Motorsports Business Management (6)
2nd) RSS Racing (5)
3rd) DGM Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, Kaulig Racing (2)
4th) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Brandonbilt Motorsports, JD Motorsports, Jimmy Means Racing, Rick Ware Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (14)
2nd) Toyota (8)