Thursday, September 19, 2019

PREVIEW: Eleven XFINITY Series teams engaged in a game of musical chairs as several drivers swap rides for Richmond

Hermie Sadler's #93 for this Friday's XFINITY race.
PHOTO: Ryan Daley, @ryandaleydesign
Friday, September 20, 2019
XFINITY Race 27 of 33
Go Bowling 250 at Richmond
Round of 12 – Race 1 of 3
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Morgan Shepherd

ENTRY LIST
There are exactly 38 drivers entered for as many spots in the XFINITY Series race.

DRIVER SWAP: #4-JD Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #15-JD Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #74-Mike Harmon Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #01-JD Motorsports
Richmond will see Ryan Repko make his third start of the year and first at a track other than Iowa, where he finished 22nd and 25th earlier this year. As in both races, he will slide into Johnny Davis’ #01 Chevrolet with The McLain Group as sponsor. This has led to driver changes in three other cars: Repko’s return moves Stephen Leicht from the Davis #01 to the #4 in place of B.J. McLeod. McLeod moves to Davis’ #15 in place of Tyler Matthews. And Matthews moves to Mike Harmon’s #74 Chevrolet in place of Kyle Weatherman, who isn’t entered.

DRIVER SWAP: #5-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #38-RSS Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #78-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #93-RSS Racing
DRIVER SWAP: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
The second round of musical chairs starts with the return of Hermie Sadler, one week after his brother’s final NASCAR start in Las Vegas. Hermie’s first XFINITY start since September 9, 2016 was originally on the preliminary list in the #38 from RSS Racing, but subsequent tweets from the driver himself indicate he will run the RSS #93. The Virginia Lottery will continue its long-standing relationship with Hermie as sponsor. Sadler’s run in the #93 triggers another series of swaps as it displaces C.J. McLaughlin to the #38 in place of J.J. Yeley. Yeley switches teams as a result, moving to B.J. McLeod’s #78 in place of Vinnie Miller. Miller moves to the #5 in place of teammate Matt Mills. And Mills moves to the McLeod #99 in place of Jairo Avila, Jr., who like Kyle Weatherman isn’t entered.

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-JR Motorsports
Zane Smith is back for his eighth start of the season and first since Iowa in July, where he ran 9th. He is again sponsored by PatientPop, the fourth time the company has been his primary sponsor. He takes the place of Ryan Truex, who ran 14th in Las Vegas.

MISSING: #10-Kaulig Racing
One week after Elliott Sadler finished 10th in his final NASCAR start, the second Kaulig Racing entry is likewise not entered in Richmond.

DRIVER CHANGE: #17-Rick Ware Racing
The preliminary entry list had no driver named to take the place of Joe Nemechek, who finished 33rd after steering issues at Las Vegas. That changed by Wednesday, as Mike Harmon will drive the car for the first time since last month at Bristol, where he practiced it following Bayley Currey's suspension before Nemechek started the race. Just this week, Currey was reinstated by NASCAR after completing its "Road to Recovery" program.

DRIVER CHANGE: #18-Joe Gibbs Racing
Harrison Burton makes his fourth XFINITY start of the year and first since his rough outing in Loudon, where late suspension issues left him a season-worst 29th. This time, he takes the place of Riley Herbst, who ran 9th in Las Vegas. DEX Imaging is again Burton’s sponsor.

RETURNING: #21-Richard Childress Racing
Friday marks the fifth attempt and, potentially, the third start of the year for ARCA Menards Series driver Joe Graf, Jr. with his Eat, Sleep, Race sponsorship. We last saw Graf start in in this series at Daytona this past July, where a late crash left him 23rd. His most recent attempt was a DNQ at Bristol in the Kaulig #10.

DRIVER SWAP: #61-Motorsports Business Management
DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Carl Long’s team focuses exclusively on the XFINITY Series this weekend, and has swapped a couple of their drivers. While Stan Mullis remains in the #13, Chad Finchum has moved from the #66 to the #61 in place of Tommy Joe Martins, who isn’t entered. Taking Finchum’s place in the #66 is Mike Marlar, who performed so spectacularly in his Truck Series debut at Eldora earlier this summer. That night, after NASCAR made his team remove the Marathon Oil branding from his Chevrolet, Marlar started 23rd and finished 4th in the Reaume Brothers’ #33.

DRIVER CHANGE: #90-DGM Racing
Ronnie Bassett, Jr. will make his eleventh series start this weekend, once again bringing his Bassett Gutters & More branding to the #90 Chevrolet. He takes the place of Alex Labbe, who earned a respectable 17th-place finish at Las Vegas with Martin & Cain Warehousing as sponsor. UPDATE: Make that Ronnie's brother Dillon Bassett in the #90.

CUP INVADERS: None.

Saturday, September 21, 2019
CUP Race 28 of 36
Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond
Round of 16 – Race 2 of 3
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Gray Gaulding

ENTRY LIST
There are 38 drivers entered for 40 spots in Saturday’s field, marking the 22nd short field in 28 races this season.

TEAM UPDATE: #8-Richard Childress Racing
News broke on Tuesday that Daniel Hemric, still completing his rookie season with RCR, will not be back in the #8 Chevrolet next season. There has been no official word as yet on Hemric’s replacement for 2020.

DRIVER CHANGE: #27-Premium Motorsports
Welcome back Quin Houff, who we haven’t seen on the Cup side since the night race at Bristol, when he steered Premium’s #27 Chevrolet to a 30th-place finish, his best since Pocono in June. This week, he again drives the #27, returning to the track where he ran 34th for Spire Motorsports this past spring. He takes the place of Joe Nemechek, whose most recent turn in the #27 saw him finish 34th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Rick Ware Racing
Another part-timer returning to action is Austin Theriault, whose most recent of three Cup starts this year was a season-best 32nd in the August race at Michigan. Theriault takes the place of B.J. McLeod, who ran 33rd in Las Vegas. Garrett Smithley remains in Ware’s #52.

DRIVER SWAP: #52-Rick Ware Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #53-Rick Ware Racing
J.J. Yeley, 32nd in Vegas, moves from Rick Ware's #53 to the #52 this week, taking the place of Garrett Smithley, who isn't entered. Driving the #53 is Spencer Boyd, who returns to the Cup garage for the first time since that same August race at Michigan where Theriault last ran. Making his series debut that day, he finished last after a crash.

MISSING: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Not making the trip back east is Carl Long’s Cup team, which Joey Gase drove to a 38th-place finish in Las Vegas. Gase will focus on the XFINITY side as he drives his full-time ride in Long’s #35 Toyota.

Saturday, October 12, 2019
TRUCKS Race 20 of 23
Sugarlands Shine 250 at Talladega
Round of 6 – Race 1 of 3
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Clay Greenfield

“Truckadega,” the next round for the pick-ups, is still three weeks away.

LASTCAR STAT OF THE WEEK
Today in LASTCAR history (September 19, 1957): Speedy Thompson picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his Cup Series career during a 200-lap race at the Columbia Speedway, a half-mile dirt track in Cayce, South Carolina. Thompson, who won the Southern 500 seventeen days earlier, started 10th in the 19-car field, but lost an engine on his 1957 Chevrolet after just 7 laps. The following year on August 7, 1958, Thompson would rebound by winning at the Columbia track from the pole.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

ARCA: Third-generation driver Benjamin Peterson finishes last in series debut at Salem

PHOTO: @RNN_All_Access
by William Soquet
LASTCAR.info Guest Contributor

Benjamin Peterson finished last for the first time in his ARCA Menards Series career in Saturday’s Kentuckiana Ford Dealers Fall Classic 200 at Salem Speedway when his #0 Josh’s Eggs Ford retired with brake issues after completing 3 of the race’s 200 laps. The finish came in his series debut.

A third generation of the Peterson ARCA family took the wheel on Saturday. He subbed in place of his grandfather, Wayne Peterson. Michael Peterson, Wayne’s son, has not made an ARCA start but has been a part of the Wayne Peterson Racing team for a long time, including as the listed car owner for entries in the early 2000s.

Peterson joined a number of part-time drivers to complete an entry list that contained 21 drivers. Ed Pompa returned and had the Best Throwback as voted on at the track, a Darrell Waltrip Western Auto tribute on his #11 Fast Track Racing car. Brian Finney made his first start in his #80 since Nashville in 2017. Darrell Basham Racing rolled out a car for Salem with family driver mike behind the wheel, and Colby Howard continued his part-time schedule with Win-Tron Racing. On that same note, Gavin Harlien drove in the last of three planned races in Venturini Motorsports’ #55 machine.

Ty Gibbs commenced his weekend domination in practice, going on top of the leaderboard. Peterson was slowest of the field, his lap of 20.8 seconds more than three off the pace of Gibbs. In qualifying, Peterson was also slowest of cars that took a time, clocking in at 23.3 seconds. However, Brad Smith’s #48 Ford did not take a time, leaving him last on the grid heading into the race.

ARCA’s timing and scoring, however, indicated that three cars dropped behind Smith coming to the green: Peterson, Finney and the #1 of Richard Doheny. Doheny was last at the end of laps one and two, but passed Peterson by the end of lap three, dropping the #0 to last. It was a timely pass, too, as both entries went behind the wall one laps later. Tommy Vigh, Smith, and Finney rounded out the Bottom Five, all retiring with mechanical issues.

With the manufacturers championship locked up for Ford, the finish claimed the owners’ title for Wayne Peterson Racing. The team now has six last-place finishes on the year, double the amount of second-place team Fast Track Racing, an insurmountable gap with only two events remaining on the calendar. The drivers title is still up for grabs, but for either Richard Doheny or Brad Smith to pass current leader Wayne Peterson, they would have to finish last in both of the remaining races.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
21) #0-Benjamin Peterson / 3 laps / clutch
20) #1-Richard Doheny / 3 laps / transmission
19) #10-Tommy Vigh, Jr. / 11 laps / brakes
18) #48-Brad Smith / 40 laps / oil pressure
17) #80-Brian Finney / 49 laps / vibration

2019 LASTCAR ARCA MANUFACTURERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Ford (10)
2nd) Toyota (4)
3rd) Chevrolet (3)
4th) Dodge (1)

2019 LASTCAR ARCA OWNERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Wayne Peterson Racing (6)
2nd) Fast Track Racing (3)
3rd) Brad Smith Motorsports, Kimmel Racing, Venturini Motorsports (2)
4th) KBR Development, Mullins Racing, Our Motorsports (1)

2019 LASTCAR ARCA DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP

Sunday, September 15, 2019

CUP: While Erik Jones makes up nine laps to avoid repeating in Las Vegas, Kurt Busch finishes last for the first time since 2008

PHOTO: @LVMotorSpeedway
Kurt Busch picked up the 6th last-place finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s South Point 400 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway when his #1 Gear Wrench Chevrolet was eliminated in a single-car accident after 187 of 267 laps.

The finish, which came in Busch’s 675th series start, was his first of the season and first since November 16, 2008 at Homestead, 387 races ago. That race, the last NASCAR points race before LASTCAR went live in February 2009, saw Kurt run 207 of 267 laps before his #2 Miller Lite Dodge from Penske Racing was eliminated with crash damage.

In the Cup Series last-place rankings, it was the 35th for the #1, the 589th from crash damage, and the 772nd for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 64th for the #1, the 1,195th from crash damage, and the 1,688th for Chevrolet.

In two decades of competing at NASCAR’s highest level, Kurt Busch has evolved from an outspoken young upstart who ruffled the feathers of many veterans, to a veteran in his own right. Between his fifth and sixth last-place finishes, he’s been released from Penske Racing and rebuilt his career with single-car teams Phoenix Racing and Furniture Row Racing. It was Busch who nearly took an unsponsored Phoenix car to victory at Sonoma, then one year later put Furniture Row into its first Playoff battle. It was this same driver who finally broke through with his first Daytona 500 win in his 16th attempt, building up an expansion team at Stewart-Haas Racing. And it is this driver who has made Chip Ganassi Racing’s #1 Chevrolet his own, edging brother Kyle for victory in Kentucky to earn his spot in still another Playoff field.

Las Vegas marked the start of NASCAR’s postseason, and Busch looked to earn an elusive first victory at his home track. In nineteen previous starts, his best finish was a 3rd back in 2005. Six other times he finished 30th or worse, four of them from crashes. In opening practice, his black Chevrolet sat 23rd on the charts, last among the sixteen playoff contenders. He bounced back in Happy Hour, leading the session with his final lap at speed. He ended up qualifying 5th, best of the Chevrolets, with a lap of 178.112mph (30.318 seconds).

Starting 39th and last on Sunday was Joey Gase, who was back in the #66 Nevada Donor Network Toyota for the first time since his return to Cup at Darlington. Gase’s most recent weekend in Vegas this past spring could not have gone worse – he finished last in both races, crashing out on Saturday and suffering both mechanical and personnel issues in an incident dubbed here as "The Lastover." Gase would be joined at the rear by Reed Sorenson, whose unsponsored Spire Motorsports #77 Chevrolet had a new transmission, and both the #36 Surface / Maui Jim Ford of Matt Tifft and the #37 Natural Light Seltzer Chevrolet of Chris Buescher, both docked for unapproved adjustments.

During the pace laps, Buescher was first to fall to the rear, and selected the outside line. Tifft joined him and slotted behind Gase to take over the 39th spot on the inside line. Next to fall to the rear was Joe Nemechek, who moved toward the rear in Premium Motorsports’ #27 Chevrolet so he was now behind Buescher and to the outside of Tifft in the last full row. Falling behind those two was the penalized Sorenson, who left open some distance between himself and the rest of the field before he closed in just before the start.

When the green flag dropped, Sorenson caught Nemechek on the inside line and drew side by side down the backstretch. Sorenson cleared the #27 into Turn 3, dropping Nemechek to last at the stripe. Nemechek returned the favor two laps later by moving low inside Sorenson in Turn 1, dropping the #77 back to 39th. Two laps after that, Gase slipped behind Nemechek and into the clutches of Sorenson, so the two now ran door-to-door across the stripe. Sorenson cleared Gase in the low lane, dropping the #66 back to his original starting spot. Gase remained in Sorenson’s tire tracks, and on Lap 9 began to set up a move to the inside. Sorenson held him off in Turn 1, then crossed his nose the next time by, but Gase once again looked for a way around the #77.

Meanwhile, Kyle Busch slapped the Turn 2 wall in his #18 M&M’s Hazlenut Spread Toyota and on Lap 12 made an unscheduled stop for the damage to the right side of his car. He returned to action the first car one lap down and in danger of losing a second. It wasn’t until Lap 26 that Busch caught the 38th-place Gase and put the #66 back to last once more. At the time, Gase was still racing Sorenson hard for position, even as race leader Daniel Suarez put both another lap down. Busch retook last from Gase during green-flag stops on Lap 43, but it was Sorenson who took the spot back after his own stop the next time by. Gase, meanwhile, nearly collided with Joey Logano as the #22 Pennzoil Ford worked under him in Turn 4 to get to pit road. Gase took last once more on Lap 53 after a stop of his own.

Garrett Smithley entered the last-place battle on Lap 67 when his #52 Honest Abe Roofing Ford fell five laps down. On the 80th circuit, Smithley caught and passed Gase in the low lane of Turn 1, dropping the #66 to the final spot once more. The battle between Gase and Sorenson resumed at the start of Stage 2 on Lap 87. By Lap 92, Gase had worked his way past Sorenson, this time in the high lane off Turn 2.

Next to enter the battle was Erik Jones, who made a pit stop early in Stage 2. The crew looked under the driver’s side on pit road as the driver complained of a stuck throttle and issues with the transmission sticking between gears. Both issues sent Jones behind the wall by Lap 94, his #20 Craftsman / Gas Monkey Garage Toyota the first car in the field to spend time in the garage. On Lap 102, the crew finished their repairs and hurriedly pushed their car back out of its stall. The next time by, Jones was on pit road, 15 laps down and nine circuits behind the duo of Gase and Sorenson for the next two spots. With just over half the race remaining, Jones’ crew told him to try and catch as many cars as he could for points.

Thus began a fascinating battle at the back of the field as Jones gradually closed the gap on the final few runners. In races past, such battles usually come about when a higher-ranked car falls out of the race ahead of lapped cars still running. While nine laps back of Gase on Lap 103, he closed to within five laps on Lap 142, and within one lap on Lap 180. Although some of this gain could be attributed to Jones’ relative speed to the last few cars running ahead of him, Jones still had issues with his throttle and said it was at times worse than it had been prior to the first pit stop. Jones also gained back two of his fifteen laps, coming within 13 laps of the leader on Lap 184. Two laps later on a restart, Jones’ advance slowed, and he was stuck in the outside lane with several cars passing him.

Only then did Kurt Busch enter the last-place battle. Despite his speed in Happy Hour and qualifying, Busch had around an 8th-place car, and was running around that spot when the green flag came out. As the field fanned out around him, he made contact with Martin Truex, Jr. in the #19 Bass Pro Shops / Tracker Toyota. The contact caused wisps of smoke to come from his Chevrolet as Chase Elliott followed him around the corners. Then, entering Turn 3 on Lap 190, the left-front tire went down, sending Busch hard into the outside wall. The driver climbed out uninjured, but his car was totaled, done for the night under the damaged vehicle policy. With no other cars out or even in the garage, Busch quickly dropped to last on Lap 202.

Jones, meanwhile, continued his charge with designs on escaping the Bottom Five. On Lap 211, shortly after the restart from the Busch caution, Jones passed Gase down low off Turn 2, finally putting the #66 Toyota behind him. By Lap 226, he had also dispensed with Sorenson, reaching the 36th spot. While now within two laps of catching Smithley for 35th, Jones ran out of laps by the finish. However, on Lap 253, he did manage to pass teammate Kyle Busch on the track, even before Busch rammed Smithley and damaged the right-front of his #18. Smithley hung onto his car during the incident, and the Bottom Five remained the same.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the first Cup Series last-place finish for car #1 at Las Vegas since March 5, 2000, when Steve Park’s #1 Pennzoil / Mission to Mars Chevrolet lost an engine, making him the lone DNF from a rain-shortened CarsDirect.com 400. Busch’s Cup debut wouldn’t come for another eight months.
*Busch’s 187 laps complete set a new record for the most laps completed by a Cup Series last-place finisher at Las Vegas. The previous record of 150 was set in the inaugural Cup race here on March 1, 1998 by Hut Stricklin, who had electrical issues on the Stavola Brothers’ #8 Circuit City Chevrolet.
*The time between Busch’s most recent two last-place finishes of 10 years, 9 months, and 30 days is fourth-most behind Joe Ruttman (15 years, 6 months, 22 days from 1988-2004), Mark Martin (14 years, 11 months, 5 days from 1982-1996), and Stanton Barrett (12 years, 11 months, 7 days from 2005-2018).

THE BOTTOM FIVE
39) #1-Kurt Busch / 187 laps / crash
38) #66-Joey Gase / 249 laps / running
37) #77-Reed Sorenson / 250 laps / running
36) #20-Erik Jones / 254 laps / running
35) #52-Garrett Smithley / 255 laps / running

2019 LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Rick Ware Racing (8)
2nd) Stewart-Haas Racing (4)
3rd) Chip Ganassi Racing, Front Row Motorsports (3)
4th) Richard Childress Racing, Spire Motorsports (2)
5th) Germain Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Motorsports Business Management, StarCom Racing (1)

2019 LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (16)
2nd) Ford (9)
3rd) Toyota (2)

2019 LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP

INTERVIEW: Garrett Smithley and sponsor look to run more Cup races

Smithley before his first Southern 500
PHOTO: Brock Beard
In light of Kyle Busch’s comments about lapped traffic following Sunday’s race in Las Vegas, here’s an interview with Garrett Smithley prior to the Bojangles’ Southern 500, where he drove for Rick Ware Racing. Smithley has been racing for JD Motorsports in the XFINITY Series for four seasons in the popular #NumberNuthin. His best finish of 5th at Daytona came last year, leading to his Cup debut at Michigan. His best Cup finish came just last week at Indianapolis, where he ran 28th for Rick Ware Racing in the same #52 car he drove Sunday.

HOW HAVE THINGS BEEN THIS WEEKEND?
“It’s been great. The whole Rick Ware Racing team has been really easy to work with. Obviously, it’s my first start here with Rick, first start for the Southern 500, so it’s a pretty big deal. But I’m having a lot of fun so far.”

HAS YOUR XFINITY EXPERIENCE HELPED YOU PREPARE TO RUN YOUR FIRST SOUTHERN 500?
“I try to watch film, but of course, it’s a whole different package this year than last year. So I think as many laps as you can run on the track, that’s where you learn. I learned a lot yesterday from the XFINITY race so hopefully I can apply from here. I just want to keep it clean. That’s what it’s all about. Not coming in last (laughs). That’s the goal.”

TELL ME MORE ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP WITH QUICK OIL CHANGE.
“It kind of came from a mutual friend, we started to work together. We actually started talking two years ago, and last year they actually did something on my – they did something with StarCom, my first Cup debut. And they just grew it. They ran three races on XFINITY, gonna run three races here in Cup, we’ve got two more left with them. So hopefully we can work with them a bit more. They’ve just been awesome to work with. Really good people based in Michigan. They’re trying to sell franchises. So, if you want to get in the Quick Lane Oil Change business, Victory Lane Quick Oil Change. What better name than Victory Lane?”

YOUR FUTURE PLANS?
“Right now, Rick just called me up and said ‘hey, I want you to drive my car.’ So I’m trying to work out the details with Victory Lane, so I know we’re going to be running the Roval and Texas in the Cup car. Don’t know where yet, but still working on that – probably with Rick. But we’ll hopefully announce before too long.”

XFINITY: Ryan Sieg makes Playoff cut, even after disqualification bumps teammate Yeley out of last place

PHOTO: @RyanSiegRacing
Ryan Sieg picked up the first last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Rhino Pro Truck Outfitters 300 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway when his #39 Lombard Bros. Gaming Chevrolet finished 14th with 199 of 200 laps complete, but was disqualified after post-race inspection.

The finish came in Sieg’s 195th series start, ending another of the longest active streaks without a last-place finish in the XFINITY Series. Fellow underdog Jeremy Clements saw his own streak of 273 races end at Bristol just last year. Curiously, Sieg’s XFINITY Series debut on March 2, 2013 came driving Clements’ #51 Chevrolet at Phoenix.

J.J. Yeley picked up the 10th last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Rhino Pro Truck Outfitters 300 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway when his unsponsored #38 RSS Racing Chevrolet fell out with fuel pump issues after 2 of 200 laps.

The finish, which came in Yeley’s 322nd series start, was his fourth of the season and second in a row. In the XFINITY Series last-place rankings, it was the 5th for fuel pump issues, the 20th for the #38, and the 536th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 28th for fuel pump issues, the 53rd for the #38, and the 1,687th for Chevrolet.

Ryan Sieg is arguably the best XFINITY Series driver to have yet to score his first series victory. Both he and his family’s Georgia-based team have made huge strides ever since they entered NASCAR’s national touring series a decade ago. It was on June 20, 2009 that Ryan made his Truck Series debut at the Milwaukee Mile, the same year he finished 10th in the Snowball Derby. He started next-to-last in a black #39 Chevrolet, and by race’s end climbed to 13th, the last truck on the lead lap. It was a promising start to a journey that continues to this day.

The business model at RSS Racing has hardly changed since then. Sieg has almost always driven the team’s flagship #39, teamed with a second, third, and sometimes fourth entry often fielded as a “start-and-park.” Teammates like Mike Garvey and Dennis Setzer became frequent headliners on this website in 2010, 2011, and 2012, claiming each LASTCAR Truck Series title in that span. The current #38 and #93 teams in RSS’ XFINITY Series program are descendants of these teams, often tasked with short runs to help fund the efforts. Among the last-place headlines garnered by those cars was the 100th XFINITY Series last-place finish of all-time record holder Jeff Green.

Ryan, meanwhile, showed steady improvement. His first of seven top-ten finishes in Trucks came at Gateway on September 12, 2009, where he ran 9th. His best series finish came at Phoenix on November 9, 2012, when he ran 6th in a race won by Brian Scott.

It was in 2013 that Ryan Sieg gave the XFINITY Series a try – first, from the aforementioned drives for Jeremy Clements, and then with the team’s own cars. Once again, Ryan proved a quick study, never finishing worse than 24th in that year’s four-race limited run. The next year, Sieg scaled back dramatically on his Truck Series schedule, and to date has run just six races in the seasons since. The reason has been an almost singular focus on the XFINITY Series, where he has run every race since the 2014 opener at Daytona, another 9th-place run.

Sieg once again turned heads, and proved especially fast on the superspeedways. In the return to Daytona in July 2014, Sieg scored his first top-five finish in NASCAR national series competition, turning in a 3rd-place finish behind Cup regulars Kasey Kahne and Regan Smith. The run earned him a spot in the “Dash 4 Cash” race at Loudon, where he finished 18th. At season’s end, he stood 16th in points, nearly besting his top-ranked 15th points position in Trucks. Two years later, he finished a career-best 9th in the standings, qualifying for the new Playoff system the first year it was introduced for the XFINITY Series. He also took home another 3rd in the July race at Daytona – this time behind Aric Almirola and Justin Allgaier.

While there has been much success, Ryan has also endured through the tragic passing of his older brother Shane Sieg in 2017. Shane’s own national touring career dated back to 2003, when he drove for Gene Christensen, and he earned a best finish of 8th in the 2004 race at Milwaukee. As the RSS team began to develop its own NASCAR program, he raced against his brother, earning a best of 12th in RSS equipment at Darlington in 2011, five spots ahead of Ryan. It was at Darlington, not long after Shane’s passing, that Ryan dedicated his “throwback scheme” to his brother. The car, resembling one of Shane’s late models, finished 22nd.

The 2017 season also saw Ryan make his first five starts in Cup competition, all of them for the now-shuttered BK Racing team. His best finish at the time was his series debut at Dover, where he steered BK’s #83 JAS Expedited Trucking Toyota to a 26th-place finish. It was the car’s fourth-best finish all year. Just last week at Indianapolis, Sieg made his first Cup start since then, this time for Premium Motorsports. Again, he outperformed his equipment, steering the #27 Sci Aps Chevrolet to a 24th-place finish – second-best for the team this year behind an 18th by Reed Sorenson at Talladega.

As Sieg and the RSS team continue to fight for their first victory, countless sponsors have joined driver and team along the way. Companies like Lombard Bros. Gaming, Alabama Soda & Abrasive Blasting, and others coming back for multiple races. Just this past July, CMR Roofing committed to sponsoring Sieg full-time in 2020.

That brings the story to Saturday’s race, where the Playoff field was set. The 2019 season has been on track to be Sieg’s best yet. He’s already set a career mark for Top Fives with two and Top Tens with nine, offset by just four DNFs. Not only did he show speed at Daytona, running 4th in the opener in February, but he also ran 5th at Richmond, 6th in the spring race at Las Vegas, and 8th at both Charlotte and Loudon. With a 10th in XFINITY at Indy to go with his solid Cup finish, Sieg tightened his grip on 12th in the Playoff standings with a chance to go for the title.

At Vegas, the Lombard Brothers returned to sponsor Sieg’s #39, which ran alongside C.J. McLaughlin in the Sci Aps #93 and the unsponsored “start-and-park” entry of J.J. Yeley in the #38. In opening practice, Sieg ran 10th with Yeley not far off in 13th. Yeley didn’t run in Happy Hour while Sieg ranked 15th of the 34 who took time. But in qualifying, it was Yeley who led Sieg – Yeley’s #38 ranked 14th while Sieg put up the 19th-best time of 175.086mph (30.842 seconds), slowed by a slip in Turn 2. McLaughlin’s #93 would start back in 31st.

Taking the 38th spot on the grid was Jairo Avila, Jr., who was returning to action in the XFINITY Series for the first time since a hard crash at Kentucky left him with his first career last-place finish. Then as on Saturday, Avila drove B.J. McLeod’s #99 car with his sponsor Art General Contractors, though this time in a Toyota instead of a Chevrolet. Avila had put up a time in qualifying, but the speed was disallowed since the car didn’t have the mandatory passenger side window in place at the time of his lap. Alex Labbe and Noah Gragson also didn’t take time in qualifying after each spun in separate incidents in Turn 3. Since both their teams outranked Avila’s, they took the 36th and 37th spots in the lineup. With exactly 38 entrants for as many spots, no drivers were sent home.

Turning heads in qualifying was Landon Cassill, who for the fourth time in 2019 took the controls of Morgan Shepherd’s #89 Visone RV Chevrolet. This time running the “throwback” scheme Shepherd has run since Bristol, Cassill steered the machine to 9th on the grid after also running 10th in Happy Hour. Cassill has more than a decade’s worth of experience qualifying underfunded cars into fields, and even hosted online sim racing qualifying competitions to help hone his skills. He has yet to qualify Shepherd’s car worse than 24th all season. However, with limited tires on hand, it was clear Cassill would not be running the full race, and he in fact surrendered his starting spot before the green flag. Joining him were Yeley, who pulled out of his 13th spot in line, and Kyle Weatherman, penalized for an engine change on Mike Harmon’s #74 Chevrolet.

When the race began, Cassill was 3.668 seconds back of the leader. Among those behind him were Yeley in the #38, Weatherman in the #74, 3.800 seconds back, then teammate Joe Nemechek in the #17 RWR Chevrolet, 4.140 seconds back, and Stan Mullis, 4.348 seconds behind in Carl Long’s #13 LasVegas.net Toyota for Motorsports Business Management. At the end of the first lap, it was Mullis who took over last place with Nemechek in 37th and Yeley in 36th. After three laps, Mullis was 14.208 seconds back of the lead when Yeley pulled off the track, then into the garage with mechanical issues. On Lap 12, NASCAR reported Yeley was officially out with fuel pump issues.

Sieg, meanwhile, took the checkered flag in 14th, one lap down to race winner Tyler Reddick. That changed after post-race inspection, when the #39 was found to be too low and was disqualified. Fortunately for the driver, the disqualification came after he’d amassed nearly a 100-point advantage over Gray Gaulding for the final spot in the Playoffs, even after Gaulding parlayed pit strategy to finish 7th. Combined with a points reset for the coming rounds, Sieg took his place among the Playoff contenders and set his sights on Richmond.

Sieg's disqualification bumped Joe Nemechek out of the Bottom Five into the 33rd spot. Behind Sieg in 38th and Yeley in 37th was Cassill, whose run in the Shepherd car lasted just 20 laps as the team still lacks resources to run full races. The driver reported battery issues on the #89, and pulled it straight to the garage without pitting. "Thank you guys, you should be proud of you guys," said someone on the radio. Rounding out the Bottom Five were Motorsports Business Management teammates Stan Mullis and Chad Finchum, their #13 and #66 Toyotas both sponsored by LasVegas.net.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the first XFINITY Series last-place finish for car #39 since November 17, 2012, when Dexter Stacey lost an engine on his Maddie’s Place Ford on the opening lap of the Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead. To date, that remains the final 43-car field in series history.
*While this was Sieg’s first last-place finish in the XFINITY Series, it was not his first in NASCAR national series competition. That came on July 1, 2017, during one of his first Cup Series starts for BK Racing, when his #83 Dustless Blasting Toyota lost an engine after 7 laps of the Coke Zero 400. He remains without a last-place finish in 108 Truck Series starts.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
38) #39-Ryan Sieg / 199 laps / disqualified
37) #38-J.J. Yeley / 2 laps / fuel pump
36) #89-Landon Cassill / 20 laps / overheating
35) #13-Stan Mullis / 22 laps / carburetor
34) #66-Chad Finchum / 52 laps / suspension

2019 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) RSS Racing (8)
2nd) Motorsports Business Management (6)
3rd) Joe Gibbs Racing (3)
4th) DGM Racing, Kaulig Racing (2)
5th) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Brandonbilt Motorsports, JD Motorsports, Jimmy Means Racing, Rick Ware Racing (1)

2019 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (17)
2nd) Toyota (9)

2019 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP

TRUCKS: On a night of engine failures in Vegas, John Hunter Nemechek’s fast truck does not start

Nemechek's truck pushed to the garage after it didn't start.
PHOTO: FOX Sports
John Hunter Nemechek picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series career in Friday’s World of Westgate 200 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway when his #8 Berry’s Bullets Chevrolet did not complete any of the 134 laps due to a loss of fuel pressure.

The finish, which came in Nemechek’s 96th series start, was his first of the season and first since October 22, 2016 at Talladega, 69 races ago. In the Truck Series last-place rankings, it was the 1st due to a loss of fuel pressure, the 8th for the #8, and the 380th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 6th for fuel pressure issues, the 47th for the #8, and the 1,686th for Chevrolet.

Las Vegas marked just the second Truck Series start of the year for the younger Nemechek, and his first since last month at Bristol, where an early crash left him 29th. His focus has been on the XFINITY Series with GMS Racing in the #23 Chevrolet. Despite a streak of three-straight finishes of 21st or worse coming into the weekend, the young upstart placed himself on the verge of Playoff contention with four Top Fives and 12 Top Tens. His best series finish of the year came at the Vegas track this past March, where he ran a close second to Kyle Busch in overtime. Looking to break through, Nemechek welcomed additional backing from longtime NEMCO sponsor Berry’s Bullets, which expanded his backing on the #8 on the Truck Series side to sponsor his #23 for Saturday.

On the Truck Series side, Nemechek showed speed early, putting up the 7th-fastest speed in opening practice to rank second behind Sheldon Creed among non-Playoff drivers. The speed continued in qualifying, where he put up the 11th-best time with a speed of 176.852mph (30.534 seconds). It was a great afternoon for the NEMCO team as his teammate Tony Mrakovich qualified right alongside him in 12th, driving the part-time #87 Street Stores Hardware Chevrolet.

The 32nd starting spot ended up changing hands before the race even started. One of two accidents in qualifying befell Jesse Iwuji, whose turn in the #34 Redlist Chevrolet took a wrong turn coming out of Turn 4. Iwuji lost control and slammed into the inside pit wall nearly head-on, destroying the front clip. Iwuji was uninjured, but the truck was totaled, and the Reaume Brothers Racing team apparently didn’t have a backup ready for the race. A deal was worked out with Kart Idaho, whose #08 Sigma Engineering Toyota with Justin Johnson failed to qualify. Johnson would take the 32nd spot in Iwuji’s place, though with the door numbers altered to resemble the Reaume team’s #34 so it served as the team’s “backup.”

Iwuji thus failed to qualify along with Tyler Hill, whose run in the #56 Belimo / WCIParts.com Chevrolet (the #04 from Mosport fielded by Jordan Anderson) ended when the front valence was ripped away in the grass during his own spin. Also sent home were Cory Roper, the whose #04 Preferred Industrial Contractors Ford missed the show by one spot. Daniel Sasnett who crashed out in his own most recent qualifying attempt at Michigan, was withdrawn in the Jennifer Jo Cobb-prepared #0 Driven2Honor.org Chevrolet.

Prior to the start of Friday’s race, 4th-place qualifier Brett Moffitt incurred a tail-end penalty for changing a tire on his #24 CMR Construction & Roofing Chevrolet after qualifying. Also falling to the rear were 23rd-place Gus Dean in the #12 LG Air Conditioning Technologies Chevrolet and the 27th-place #9 Grant County Mulch Chevrolet of Codie Rohrbaugh. While Rohrbaugh and Dean were lined up in the final row as the field approached the green flag, neither were running in last place as another issue unfolded on pit road.

Following the command to start engines, as NASCAR officials discussed the retrieval of a hat that had fallen onto the track in Turn 2, John Hunter Nemechek’s truck failed to fire. Officials arranged to get Nemechek a push, but this was apparently refused as the NEMCO crew tried to figure out the issue on pit road. “It won’t fire,” said the driver as someone looked behind the driver’s seat for a power switch. “Take it to the garage. Let’s figure out what the fuck is going on.” As the pace laps continued, the NEMCO crew slowly pushed the truck behind the wall, where they continued to work. By Lap 11, someone on the radio said “If it’s over, let’s put it on the ground.” It wasn’t until Lap 48 that NASCAR officials in the garage confirmed Nemechek was out of the race, having never turned a lap or climbed from last.

The next three spots in the Bottom Five were filled by a stunning development in the Playoff battle as all three of ThorSport’s trucks in championship contention suffered nearly identical engine problems. Just six laps after Nemechek’s issues, Grant Enfinger lost a rear seal on his Ilmor engine, sending his #98 ThorSport Racing / Curb Records Ford behind the wall. The truck was then pushed to the garage before it was officially listed out the same time as Nemechek. Iwuji’s wrecked #34 sat a few stalls to the team’s right. Next came simultaneous engine failures for both Johnny Sauter in the #13 Tenda Heal Ford and Matt Crafton in the #88 Fisher Nuts / Menards Ford. Between the two, Sauter managed to return to action by the Lap 67 restart, more than 20 laps down, only to lose the engine completely. Jennifer Jo Cobb, who was originally in 28th behind Sauter and Crafton after her #10 Waldo’s Painting Chevrolet slowed down the backstretch, returned to action around this time and passed both ThorSport trucks. This lifted Cobb to 24th and dropped Jesse Iwuji’s teammate Mason Massey to the last spot in the Bottom Five in the #33 Anderson Power Services Chevrolet. All five drivers earned their first bottom-five finishes of 2019.

As engine issues continued to plague much of the field, several small teams took the opportunity to climb their way up the rankings. Among these were Brennan Poole, who not only extended a streak to six consecutive top-twenty finishes since his runner-up race at Charlotte, but finished 6th. It was the first start for Poole and the #30 On Point team since Bristol last month.

Tony Mrakovich, John Hunter Nemechek’s teammate in the #87 Chevrolet. In all the team’s previous starts this year, NEMCO’s #87 had yet to finish a single race under power, including a pair of “start-and-park” runs by Playoff contender Tyler Ankrum during his sponsorship issues at DGR-Crosley. Mrakovich worked his way into the Top 20, staying on the lead lap into Stage 3, where he reached 14th in the final twenty laps. On a night where John Hunter failed to complete a lap, Mrakovich and the Street Stores Hardware Chevrolet came home 13th.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the first last-place finish for both John Hunter Nemechek and the #8 in a Truck Series race at Las Vegas.
*This was also the sixth time the Truck Series last-placer at Las Vegas failed to complete a single lap. The most recent time it happened was September 30, 2017, when Todd Peck’s #63 Sahlen’s / Fr8Auctions.com Chevrolet was unable to fire his engine in both qualifying and the race, and was likewise pushed to the garage.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
32) #8-John Hunter Nemechek / 0 laps / fuel pressure
31) #98-Grant Enfinger / 6 laps / engine
30) #88-Matt Crafton / 39 laps / engine
29) #13-Johnny Sauter / 40 laps / engine
28) #33-Mason Massey / 63 laps / engine

2019 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) NEMCO Motorsports (4)
2nd) Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing (3)
3rd) Norm Benning Racing, Young’s Motorsports (2)
4th) Copp Motorsports, DGR-Crosley, Halmar Friesen Racing, Hattori Racing Enterprises, JJL Motorsports, Niece Motorsports, Reaume Brothers Racing, ThorSport Racing (1)

2019 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (15)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (2)

2019 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP

Thursday, September 12, 2019

PREVIEW: Elliott Sadler’s final start, the return of several Truck Series teams, and good news for DiBenedetto highlight Las Vegas entry lists

PHOTO: @KauligRacing
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

ENTRY LIST
There are 36 drivers entered for Friday’s return of the Truck Series, meaning four teams will fail to qualify.

WITHDREW: #0-Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing
Returning to action this Friday is Daniel Sasnett, who we last saw in this series at Michigan where a qualifying crash left him out of the race, and the Cobb team down to just two functioning trucks (other than their superspeedway truck). Sasnett takes the place of Ray Ciccarelli, who finished last at Mosport after early engine trouble. UPDATE: The team has withdrawn.

RETURNING: #5-DGR-Crosley
DRIVER CHANGE: #20-Young’s Motorsports
Following a 19th-place finish for Young’s Motorsports at Mosport, Dylan Lupton reunites with DGR-Crosley for the first time since Bristol. He also brings back the Gilliland team’s #5 truck for the first time since Chicagoland, where Lupton impressed with a 10th-place finish. A 5th in the next round at Kentucky remains Lupton’s best finish of the year. Spencer Boyd is listed to return to his ride in the Young’s #20.

MISSING: #6-Norm Benning Racing
Noticeably absent is Norm Benning, who had a spirited duel with Jennifer Jo Cobb at Mosport en route to a 24th-place finish. Benning ran 28th when the series last ran Las Vegas earlier this year.

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-NEMCO Motorsports
Joe Nemechek resumes his ride in the #8 Chevrolet, three weeks after Josh Reaume drove in his place driving one of Reaume’s Toyotas with NEMCO team numbers on the doors and roof. Berrys Bullets resumes sponsorship of Nemechek’s run. UPDATE: Make that John Hunter Nemechek behind the wheel, with Berry's also sponsoring him in XFINITY.

RETURNING: #9-CR7 Motorsports
Codie Rohrbaugh returns for the first time since Michigan, where he ran 17th, for his first attempt since a DNQ at Bristol. Another tall task awaits him this weekend as four teams will be sent home after qualifying. All but two of Rohrbaugh’s seven series starts came on 1.5-mile tracks, but none were at Las Vegas.

RETURNING: #11-Rette Jones Racing
Spencer Davis rejoins the circuit for the first time since his season-best 8th-place run in Kentucky, and as then drives the Rette Jones Racing #11 Toyota. Davis finished 13th in his lone Vegas start in the spring of 2018, driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

RETURNING: #15-DGR-Crosley
Anthony Alfredo eyes his 10th start of 2019 and his first since Michigan, where he ran 26th. His season best remains an 8th back at Charlotte, another 1.5-mile oval, and he ran 18th in Vegas back in the spring. This team last ran at Bristol, where Dylan Lupton earned his aforementioned 27th-place finish after crash damage.

RETURNING: #19-Bill McAnally Racing
Derek Kraus and the McAnally team are back for the first time since Dover, where the K&N Pro Series West driver finished a strong 8th. If they qualify, it will be McAnally’s first Truck Series start at Las Vegas as an owner since 2001, when Brendan Gaughan earned an 11th-place finish in his Dodge.

RETURNING: #30-On Point Motorsports
Brennan Poole goes trucking again for the first time since Bristol, where he and the On Point crew finished 19th after a 9th-place qualifying run. The duo ran 20th here in the spring, and are currently on a streak of five consecutive top-twenty finishes since their runner-up showing in Charlotte.

DRIVER CHANGE: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
Mason Massey is back in the Truck Series for the first time since Eldora, where he ran 23rd in the Reaume Brothers’ #34 Chevrolet. This time, he runs Reaume’s #33 in place of road racer Dan Corcoran, who crashed out in Canada. Anderson Power Services is the listed sponsor.

DRIVER CHANGE: #34-Reaume Brothers Racing
Jesse Iwuji returns to Las Vegas for the first time since this past spring, where he ran 26th in the Fueltrax Chevrolet. He runs for the same team this week, Reaume’s #34, in what will be his fifth start of the year and first since a 21st-place run in Michigan. He takes the place of Jason White, who ran 20th in Mosport.

RETURNING: #38-Niece Motorsports
The #38 Chevrolet from Al Niece’s shop hasn’t run since Michigan with T.J. Bell. Whether or not it will run on Friday depends on Colin Garrett, who attempts his Truck Series debut with Wide Open Entrepreneurs as sponsor. Garrett does have one start in NASCAR national series competition, when he ran 26th in his XFINITY debut at Richmond earlier this year, driving for Motorsports Business Management.

DRIVER CHANGE: #44-Niece Motorsports
Angela Ruch rejoins the Niece team for the first time since her 30th-place showing at Bristol, and looks to end a streak of two consecutive DNFs from accidents. One of her best finishes of the year came the last time the series ran Las Vegas this past spring, where she ran 16th for NEMCO Motorsports. This time, she takes the place of NASCAR Pinty’s Series competitor Gary Klutt, who impressed with a 12th-place finish at Mosport.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Kyle Busch Motorsports
Victory eluded Alex Tagliani at Mosport, both when he was bumped in the final corner of the Pinty’s race by Kevin Lacroix, and then bested by Brett Moffitt by over five seconds in the Truck Series race. As Tagliani now recuperates from a heart condition that made him sit out the most recent Pinty’s race, Christian Eckes will take the controls of the KBM #51, his first series race since a 15th-place showing at Michigan. Following his third ARCA Menards Series win of the year in the most recent round at DuQuoin, Eckes also stands 70 points out of the lead, trailing Michael Self.

DRIVER CHANGE: #54-DGR-Crosley
Natalie Decker is another driver rejoining the Truck Series action this week, around a month following a disastrous evening in Bristol that left her with her eighth DNF due to a crash. She carries new sponsorship this week from Ruedebusch Development, and eyes a solid run like her 13th-place showing at Vegas this past spring. She takes the place of Canadian driver Raphael Lessard, who ran 10th at Mosport.

DRIVER CHANGE: #56-Hill Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #04-Roper Racing
Following the herculean efforts of Jordan Anderson Racing at Mosport, where the owner-driver not only fielded entries for brothers Bobby and Roger Reuse, but rebuilt his own wrecked #3 Chevrolet, the Hill and Roper entries will once again field trucks from their respective shops. Tyler Hill takes Bobby Reuse’s place in the #56 Chevrolet, his first series start since Kentucky, where he ran a season-best 11th. Cory Roper climbs aboard his #04 Preferred Industrial Contactors, Inc. Ford, his own first since a 28th-place run at Michigan. The Reuse brothers both came home under power at Mosport with Bobby three spots ahead of Roger in 22nd.

RETURNING: #87-NEMCO Motorsports
Tony Mrakovich reunites with NEMCO Motorsports for the first time since his most recent series start at Pocono, where he ran a solid 12th. This time, he drives the returning #87 Chevrolet instead of the #8. This second entry from the NEMCO stables last ran at Michigan, where Camden Murphy finished 31st, and has yet to finish a race under power all season.

TEAM CLOSING: #97-JJL Motorsports
News came on Tuesday that the #97 team with driver Jesse Little will be closing down at the end of 2019. Little is currently looking for opportunities with other teams for next year. Driver and team are not entered this weekend, and their best run of the year remains a 13th in Texas in March.

DRIVER CHANGE: #02-Young’s Motorsports
Three weeks after he was wrongly suspended by NASCAR following a routine traffic stop, Tyler Dippel will return to action in Friday’s Truck Series race. He takes the place of D.J. Kennington, who ran 15th in his #02 following a last-lap spin. Dippel, who finished 17th in his most recent Las Vegas start back in the spring, will be sponsored by LOBAS! Productions.

RETURNING: #08-Kart Idaho Racing
The Kart Idaho team makes a surprising return to the Truck Series for the first time since their solid debut at Eldora, where Tim Ward finished 16th. This time, the driver of the #08 Toyota is Justin Johnson, who we haven’t seen in the series since April 22, 2011, the last of a four-race stint for Billy Ballew Motorsports. Johnson, who also has competed in the K&N Pro Series West, carries sponsorship from Sigma Engineering, and seeks his first Las Vegas start.

CUP INVADERS: None.

Saturday, September 14, 2019
XFINITY Race 26 of 33
Rhino Pro Truck Outfitters 300 at Las Vegas
Regular Season Finale
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Michael Annett

ENTRY LIST
There are exactly 38 drivers entered in Saturday’s race, meaning all drivers will qualify.

DRIVER SWAP: #4-JD Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #15-JD Motorsports
Two of Johnny Davis’ four teams will change drivers this week as B.J. McLeod moves from the #15 he ran at Indianapolis back to the #4. This makes way for a returning Tyler Matthews, whose most recent of four XFINITY starts this year came at Bristol driving for Mike Harmon. Matthews carries sponsorship from Lintec on the #15.

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-JR Motorsports
The #8 team looks to continue a streak of strong finishes with a returning Ryan Truex, whose most recent of three series starts this year was a 7th in Loudon. Truex takes the place of Jeb Burton, who followed two of his teammates in a strong 4th-place run at Indianapolis.

DRIVER CHANGE: #10-Kaulig Racing
Saturday is reported to be the final NASCAR start for Virginia’s favorite son, Elliott Sadler. This week, Sadler returns to the Kaulig team for the first time since the spring race at Richmond, where he ran 12th. The Nutrien Ag Solutions Chevrolet carries a pale yellow scheme resembling the #16 late model stock car that both he and brother Hermie Sadler raced in competition. Hermie just brought the original car out of storage this past week, posting it on social media. It will be Sadler’s 855th combined start across NASCAR’s top three series, where he has 17 combined wins and six last-place finishes.

DRIVER CHANGE: #13-Motorsports Business Management
DRIVER SWAP: #61-Motorsports Business Management
DRIVER SWAP: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Carl Long changes the lineup for two of his cars as Timmy Hill returns to action for the first time since Darlington, only this time runs the #13 Toyota in place of Chad Finchum. Finchum slides over to the #66, bumping Tommy Joe Martins to the #61 in place of Austin Hill, who isn’t entered after a sterling 9th-place run in his series debut at Indy with tires from Hattori Racing Enterprises. UPDATE: Timmy Hill is back out of the #13, which will be driven by a returning Stan Mullis.

DRIVER CHANGE: #17-Rick Ware Racing
The preliminary entry list did not have a driver listed for the Rick Ware Racing #17 driven by Kyle Weatherman to a 35th-place finish at Indianapolis. Joe Nemechek will drive this week, attempting triple-duty in Vegas. UPDATE: Just double-duty for Joe as John Hunter will run his truck on Friday.

DRIVER CHANGE: #18-Joe Gibbs Racing
Riley Herbst rejoins the XFINITY circuit for the first time since Iowa in July, where he ran 13th. Monster Energy will back his return, as it had in his previous seven races this year. He takes the place of Kyle Busch, who won his final XFINITY start of the year in a close contest with Justin Allgaier.

DRIVER CHANGE: #89-Shepherd Racing Ventures
Morgan Shepherd’s team reported Monday their driver is “doing some better, but still has a cough” following the bronchial infection that hampered him at Darlington and Indianapolis. Taking the controls this week in Vegas is Landon Cassill, who has consistently showed speed in the #89 car, including his most recent drive for them at Loudon. Cassill looks to pull double-duty, shaking off a brutal crash last Sunday at Indianapolis.

DRIVER CHANGE: #90-DGM Racing
Alex Labbe rejoins the Gosselin team for the first time since Darlington, where he ran 17th in an unsponsored car. He takes the place of Ronnie Bassett, Jr., who was running in and around the 20th spot for most of the day at Indianapolis before he climbed to 15th in the final stretch.

DRIVER CHANGE: #93-RSS Racing
C.J. McLaughlin eyes his third XFINITY Series start with a third different car number, following a 28th at Loudon in RSS Racing’s #39 and a 23rd at Bristol in B.J. McLeod’s #99. As of this writing his primary sponsor is not listed as Sci Aps, which backed him in both those races and  sponsored Ryan Sieg’s return to Cup competition last Sunday in Indy. McLaughlin takes the place of Josh Bilicki, who ran 21st last Saturday.

DRIVER CHANGE: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Speaking of the McLeod #99, Jairo Avila, Jr. is back for the first time since his last-place finish in Kentucky. He takes the place of Stefan Parsons, who drove the car the last two rounds with finishes off 22nd and 19th. Avila ran the spring race at Vegas for this team, finishing 25th.

CUP INVADERS: None.

Sunday, September 15, 2019
CUP Race 27 of 36
South Point 400 at Las Vegas
Round of 16 – Race 1 of 3
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Erik Jones

ENTRY LIST
There are 39 drivers entered for 40 spots, marking the 21st short field in 27 races this season.

TEAM UPDATE: #21-Wood Brothers Racing
SPONSOR UPDATE: #95-Leavine Family Racing
The news broke early Tuesday that Paul Menard will be retiring from full-time NASCAR competition at the end of the 2019 season, closing out a career where he'd never missed a Cup Series race since a DNQ for the 2007 Toyota / Save Mart 350 at Sonoma. Reports indicate that Menard immediately recommended Matt DiBenedetto to take over the ride in 2020, which has also been announced. All this comes on the eve of Barstool Sports' first sponsorship of DiBenedetto's current ride at Leavine Family Racing, a deal that came about following his sterling runner-up finish at Bristol. Barstool will also sponsor DiBenedetto at Talladega.

DRIVER CHANGE: #27-Premium Motorsports
Last week saw a strong run by Ryan Sieg, whose return to Cup competition saw him finish 24th – the #27 team’s second-best finish all season, and best overall on a non-superspeedway. This week, Joe Nemechek is entered in his first Cup race since Darlington, where he ran 31st. As at Darlington, this means the two drivers with the most last-place finishes in Cup Series history will have a chance to break the tie in the same event. Michael McDowell, currently tied with Nemechek for 33 finishes apiece, returns to the Love’s Travel Stops scheme on his #34.

TEAM UPDATE: #51-Rick Ware Racing
The preliminary entry list did not have a driver named to run in place of B.J. McLeod, who ran a team-best 25th among the Ware quartet at Indianapolis. McLeod was confirmed by late Tuesday.

TEAM UPDATE: #52-Rick Ware Racing
The preliminary entry list did not have a driver named to run in place of Garrett Smithley, who ran 28th at Indianapolis. Smithley was confirmed by late Tuesday.

DRIVER CHANGE: #53-Rick Ware Racing
MISSING: #54-Rick Ware Racing
The preliminary entry list likewise did not have a driver named to run in place of Josh Bilicki, who finished 29th at Indianapolis. J.J. Yeley was listed to drive late Tuesday, moving over from the #54, which isn't entered. Yeley ran 26th at Indy after starting last.

RETURNING: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Joey Gase and the MBM team are back in action after taking the Indianapolis weekend off, looking to make their second Cup start in the last three rounds. Gase looks for a turnaround following a frustrating trip to Vegas this past spring, where he finished last in both the XFINITY and Cup Series races.

MISSING: #96-Gaunt Brothers Racing
Not making the trip west this week is the Gaunt Brothers, who had a respectable run going with Parker Kligerman until he was collected in the pileup triggered by Jimmie Johnson, leaving them 36th.

LASTCAR STAT OF THE WEEK
Today in LASTCAR history (September 12, 1987): The only XFINITY Series race yet run on this date was held at the Richmond Fairgrounds Raceway, where Tommy Ellis’ #04 Falk Auto Pontiac lost an engine after 24 laps. It was the second last-place finish of Ellis’ career. The race also saw Mark Martin’s third career series victory, and his last for car owner Bruce Lawmaster in the #31 Fat Boys Bar-B-Q Ford.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

CUP: Frightening crash in first turn leaves Landon Cassill last at Indy

PHOTO: @StarcomRacing
Landon Cassill picked up the 13th last-place finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway when his #00 Sherfick Companies Chevrolet was involved in a hard single-car crash after 40 of 160 laps.

The finish, which came in Cassill’s 314th series start, was his first of the season and first since July 22, 2018 at Loudon, 42 races ago. In the Cup Series last-place rankings, it was the 26th for the #00, the 688th from a crash, and the 771st for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 39th for the #00, the 1,194th from a crash, and the 1,685th for Chevrolet.

Now in their third year in business, the partnership of 1990 Daytona 500 champion Derrike Cope and sponsor StarCom Fiber continues to seek stability in the Cup Series. Landon Cassill’s arrival at the team last spring resulted in just three DNFs in 29 races with a best finish of 18th at Las Vegas. This year, the team shelved their part-time second team, the #99 Chevrolet, and have purchased their leased Charter from Richard Childress Racing to focus on Cassill’s #00. Again, the team has made measured progress – the team best improved to an 11th in the July race at Daytona, and other than a crash in the Daytona 500 and a busted oil cooler in the Coca-Cola 600, Cassill has brought the car home under power in all 24 remaining races.

One of StarCom’s most unique features has been the sheer number of different companies represented on Cassill’s #00. On the back of the team’s hero cards are an advertisement for three different “Star Fan Packages” designed to get new companies involved in NASCAR sponsorship. The result has seen new companies sign on, including Iron Mountain Data Centers, CGS Imaging, Jacob White Construction, Madison Group, and Home Town Lenders. Also signing up were former NASCAR sponsors like Permatex and Mane ‘n Tail shampoo.

Just last week at Darlington, StarCom Fiber sponsored one of the most popular “throwback” schemes of the weekend honoring Sterling Marlin. StarCom Racing donated a portion of t-shirt sales to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. Marlin’s sponsor Coors Light was so enthused by the deal that not only did they pay for tires and provide beer to the #00 crew, but donated $40 to the Foundation for each of the 364 laps Cassill completed.

For Indianapolis, Cassill would run still another new paint scheme on a brand-new car. Latest to join the #00 team was Sherfick Companies, an Indiana-based construction firm. Cassill would also run double-duty at Indianapolis, driving JD Motorsports’ #4 Chevrolet in Saturday’s Indiana 250. He finished 16th in the race, improving from a 34th-place qualifying run. The driver looked for the same improvement on Sunday, running 32nd in opening practice, skipping Happy Hour, then timing in 31st with a speed of 181.386mph (49.618 seconds).

Starting 40th and last on Sunday was J.J. Yeley, who finished last in Saturday’s XFINITY race. Yeley’s #54 Maximum Elevation Off-Road Chevrolet was one of four Rick Ware Racing entries in the field, three of them occupying the final three spots in numerical order. He was joined at the rear by Denny Hamlin, who was sent to a backup car after a hard crash in Turn 4 in Happy Hour that left his #11 FedEx Toyota on fire near the entrance to pit road. Hamlin’s backup could only manage 33rd in time trials, his worst qualifying performance of the year, and would join Yeley at the back of the field.

As the field crossed the stripe, however, Hamlin was no longer in 40th spot, but moved up to 34th, 3.001 seconds back of the lead. The running order behind him, according to NASCAR.com’s leaderboard, were 35th-place Ryan Sieg in the #27 Sci Aps Chevrolet (3.119 seconds back), 36th-place B.J. McLeod in the #51 Jacob Companies Ford (3.302), 37th-place Garrett Smithley in the #52 Honest Abe Roofing Ford (3.312), 38th-place Reed Sorenson in the #77 Go-Parts.com Chevrolet (3.485), the #54 of J.J. Yeley (3.526), and Josh Bilicki in the #53 AQRE.app Ford (3.671).

The start of the race saw last place change hands several times. Bilicki dropped Sieg to last after two laps, and Sieg returned the favor the next time by. On Lap 11, Playoff contender Daniel Suarez made contact with the SAFER barrier in Turn 2, drawing the caution. He dropped behind Bilicki for last the next time by as his crew fought to clear the right side fenders on his #41 Haas Automation Ford. On Lap 13, Suarez pitted a second time, and the position of his stall relating to other drivers dropped Matt Tifft to last in the #36 Southeastern Equipment & Supply / Meijer Ford. Tifft re-passed Suarez, who was on pit road for more than 90 seconds. But by then, another incident had unfolded further up pit road.

Bubba Wallace, who qualified 15th in the #43 World Wide Technology Chevrolet, slowed in the middle of a single-file line down pit road. Unable to avoid Wallace, Chase Elliott’s #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet rear-ended the #43, triggering an accordion effect that collected at least seven cars. Two of the most seriously damaged cars were the #17 Fastenal Ford of Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and the #19 Auto Owners Insurance Toyota of Martin Truex, Jr. Truex, last of the group involved, couldn’t avoid rear-ending Stenhouse, who was pinned between Truex and the #3 Symbicort Chevrolet of Austin Dillon. Repairs dropped Wallace, then Truex to last on Lap 14 with Elliott now running by himself some distance ahead, trying to stay on the lead lap.

On Lap 26, Truex pitted a second time and lost a second lap, then a third by Lap 31. Stenhouse also made repeated pit stops for his own damage and took last during a lengthy stop on Lap 35, eventually returning four circuits back. Four laps later, Stenhouse was more than a full lap behind Truex, and in position to give car #17 its first last-place run at Indianapolis since Darrell Waltrip’s early engine failure in the August 3, 1996 running. That all changed just three laps later.

Cassill didn’t enter the last-place picture until Lap 42, when a right-front tire let go at the worst possible spot. Entering Turn 1, the #00 turned a sharp right and pounded the SAFER barrier hard enough to buckle the roof of the Chevrolet. Thankfully, Cassill was able to climb out under his own power, but the car was utterly destroyed and towed behind the wall between Turns 1 and 2, done for the day. Cassill officially took last from the lapped Stenhouse on Lap 46.

Cassill’s was just the first of several big hits to punctuate the 400-mile race. The next two spots fell to Erik Jones and Brad Keselowski, whose battle near the Top 10 turned to disaster when both spun off Turn 2. While Jones ended up with the rear clip destroyed, Keselowski’s #2 Discount Tire Ford spun backwards into a tire barrier protecting an edge of the inside wall. The tires grabbed Keselowski’s car and stopped it suddenly with the right sides off the ground. Keselowski walked away, but was upset about the safety arrangements at the track and spoke with raceway officials before the day’s end.

Kyle Busch finished a surprising 37th when his #18 Hazlenut Spread M&M’s Toyota lost an engine after a pit stop, then coasted down pit road with smoke pouring from under the hood and flames behind the right-front wheel. Rounding out the Bottom Five was Parker Kligerman, who was enjoying a solid run in the Gaunt Brothers’ #96 TRD 40th Anniversary Toyota until he was caught in the fluid from a wrecking Jimmie Johnson, sending him head-on into the rear of Johnson’s #48 Ally Chevrolet. These were just some of the eight drivers eliminated Sunday in accidents.

After briefly holding last place during the pit road debacle, Matt Tifft recovered nicely to run as high as 11th, threatening to score the first Top 10 of his young Cup Series career. But the strong run ended just short of the finish when contact from Daniel Suarez sent him sliding into the Turn 1 wall with just nine laps remaining.

Premium Motorsports enjoyed a fine run with their cars of Ross Chastain in the #15 Xchange of America / Busey Bank Chevrolet and Ryan Sieg in the #27 Sci Aps Chevrolet running 22nd and 24th, surrounding partner Spire Motorsports’ #77 Go-Parts.com Chevrolet with Reed Sorenson aboard. The team tweeted their good luck charm, a Lucky Bamboo plant given them by the Crowne Plaza hotel where the team was staying. Similarly, all four Rick Ware Racing cars managed to finish 29th or better with B.J. McLeod recovering from his last-place run at Darlington to lead the group in 25th.

But the underdog of the day had to be Bubba Wallace, who after triggering the pit road incident on Lap 13 took a car that was 5th in opening practice to a 3rd-place finish. The run was Wallace’s best overall performance since his victory in the Monster Energy Open this past May, and his best in a Cup points race since he led laps in the spring of last year at Bristol. His previous best points race finish was a 14th, again at Bristol this past August.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the first last-place finish for both Cassill and car #00 in a Cup race at Indianapolis.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #00-Landon Cassill / 40 laps / crash
39) #20-Erik Jones / 48 laps / crash
38) #2-Brad Keselowski / 48 laps / crash
37) #18-Kyle Busch / 87 laps / engine
36) #96-Parker Kligerman / 104 laps / crash

2019 LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Rick Ware Racing (8)
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, StarCom Racing (1)

2019 LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (15)
2nd) Ford (9)
3rd) Toyota (2)

2019 LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP

XFINITY: At Indy, J.J. Yeley finishes last, MBM impresses again, and Mike Harmon makes unexpected headlines

PHOTO: Kyle, @KDuke28
J.J. Yeley picked up the 9th last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Indiana 250 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway when his unsponsored #38 RSS Racing Chevrolet fell out with suspension issues after 7 of 100 laps.

The finish, which came in Yeley’s 321st series start, was his third of the season and first since Road America, two races ago. This gives Yeley the lead in the 2019 LASTCAR XFINITY Series Championship for the first time this year, more than two months after teammate Jeff Green’s surgery cut short his season.

In the XFINITY Series last-place rankings, it was the 17th from suspension issues, the 19th for the #38, and the 535th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 41st for suspension issues, the 52nd for the #38, and the 1,684th for Chevrolet.

Following his last-place finish in the stand-alone event at Road America, Yeley ran double-duty last weekend in Darlington. His XFINITY Series ride for Rod Sieg’s team RSS Racing would be followed by a run in one of three Rick Ware Racing cars, a #52 Chevrolet honoring Daytona Beach Road Course winner Bill Blair. Following a 36th-place finish in the Saturday race, citing axle trouble, Yeley lined up 35th in a field of 39 for the 70th running of the Bojangles’ Southern 500.

We caught up with Yeley during the rain delay prior to Sunday’s action. He first talked about his weekend, and the challenges of running the Cup Series’ controversial 2019 package on such a demanding track:

“So far, it’s been going pretty good,” he said. “We didn’t make a whole lot of laps in practice with this car. The typical situation when you come to Darlington, trying to save as many sets of tires as we have, but with the 550 package, it’s very interesting to me. Obviously, I’ve been coming here quite a while, but the amount of on-throttle time you spend now at this race track is even higher than what you used to. It was hard getting acclimated to – not so much running wide open through one and two – but your entry speed and throttle lifting points into Turn 3 are so different than what they would be normally.”

“So, in a normal situation if we drove into Turn 3 as deep as we are now, everybody would’ve already knocked the fence down. It’s a little bit different getting used to. It’ll be interesting to see how the race plays out. This, to me, is one of the more fun race tracks we get to come out to. But at the same time, the leaders are gonna be coming in a hurry. There’s gonna be a huge difference in speed between the front of the field and the back of the field. There’s certainly no place to hide at this race track. So, we’ll do our best to keep her in one piece and just see how the race unfolds.”

Yeley added that running double duty in Cup and XFINITY was particularly challenging as the differences between each car required two completely different driving styles:

“With the old package, we had so much more horsepower, entry speed was a lot faster than we have now, so we had to lift a lot sooner. Now, because our entry speed is less, you drive a lot farther into the corner before you roll off throttle. You use a lot less brake than what you used to. Like I said, it’s kind of an odd thing to get used to. After yesterday, it was a little more difficult going in and out of the XFINITY car, getting back in the Cup car, and really just overdriving the XFINITY car because of the amount of time and how hard you can run a Cup car now with this package.”

“The XFINITY cars – small spoiler, you still have the speed, the tires fell off, you know, the cars were slipping around quite a bit yesterday. Didn’t have a lot of that yesterday in practice. Usually after one heat cycle in the tires - five laps, seven laps - you go back on the race track and lose two or three tenths, sometimes half a second. Yesterday, we made a three-lap run, came in, checked things out, and actually went faster, which is kind of unheard of when you come to Darlington other than in 2008, the year they repaved it.”

Following a 32nd-place finish in the Southern 500, Yeley would again run both series at Indianapolis. In addition to his “start-and-park” run in RSS Racing’s #38 on the XFINITY side, he’d be moved to a different Rick Ware Racing entry in Cup. He took the place of Garrett Smithley in the #54 Chevrolet, which carried Yeley’s returning sponsor Maximum Elevation Off-Road. The company backed Yeley last fall at Texas under the BK Racing entry acquired by Front Row Motorsports. That same car was run the following week at Phoenix under the Obaika Racing banner with Tanner Berryhill driving.

On the XFINITY side, Yeley started the weekend a strong 20th of 35 drivers in opening practice and didn’t participate in Happy Hour. He put the black #38 Chevrolet 24th on the grid with a lap of 161.152mph (55.848 seconds), just over eight-hundredths off the 23rd-best lap of teammate Josh Bilicki in the RSS #93 Chevrolet.

The final row of the 38-car field belonged to Mike Harmon Racing, a team which gained some unexpected exposure in the lead-up to the race. During final practice, Harmon’s #74 Chevrolet was following the #1 Pilot / Flying J Chevrolet of Michael Annett, driving for JR Motorsports. As the two exited Turn 4, Annett pulled down pit road in front of Harmon. Unable to completely avoid a collision, Harmon swiped the rear of Annett’s car, knocking the TV panel off the rear of Annett’s Chevrolet. While Harmon apologized for the incident, comments by Annett led to a rather heated exchange on social media. The situation appeared resolved by Saturday, where Annett qualified 15th and Harmon in 37th.

The car Harmon drove appeared to be exactly the same “throwback” car he ran the previous week at Darlington, all the way down to the reflective chrome stripe on each side which had to be removed as they interfered with NASCAR’s cameras during inspection. Harmon explained the paint scheme last week in Darlington. “Mid-90s to 2000, we ran it on our late models, super late models, had a lot of success. I’ve always been partial to it. . .It looked kind of flashy.” The veteran also explained his approach to racing at Darlington: “You’ve gotta stay out of the wall, which we all know that. It’s a very fast race track. Just gotta race smart. If you have a lot of respect for other drivers, you expect a lot of respect for yourself. It’s a very challenging track to run. Just running the track will keep your attention. It’s a mental thing – it’s not as bad as Daytona or Talladega, but it’s close. It’s a lot of fun. I like mental challenges. . .Race with the race track, that’s the main thing.”

Prior to Indianapolis, Harmon’s team had steadily improved through August’s stretch of road course races as Dan Corcoran, Aaron Quine, and Nicolas Hammann took turns driving the #74. Hammann’s 15th-place finish at Road America became the team’s best of the season, improving on Harmon’s 23rd-place showing at Talladega:

“Well, Nick (Hammann) did a tremendous job as far as Road America,” said Harmon. “With road racing, knowing the track is about fifty percent of it, and he grew up there three miles away. He’s been riding bicycles around it, driving race cars around it, for twenty-something years. So, he was the one I handed the wheel to. And I don’t say I don’t enjoy [road racing] – it’s not my cup of tea. We didn’t do that much growin up. And at this part of my career, I’m not interested in starting all over doing that. And I like working with the guys, and Aaron (Quine) did a good job as far as Mid-Ohio, got caught up in a crash. And then Dan (Corcoran) did a good job wherever he drove (Watkins Glen). I enjoy seeing other guys get opportunities they never had. I know what it meant to me when I got my first opportunity.”

Harmon also reflected on his team’s progress through the first part of 2019, including their change from the retired Dodges to current Chevrolet Camaros:

“It’s going pretty good. At the beginning of the year, I had zero equipment, basically. We ran the Dodges most all the time last year, and the rules, got caught up with them, so it wasn’t any good anymore. So, we started out the season with one motor and one car, and we’ve got three or four motors now, three or four cars. We’re gaining on it. Actually, it’s been a pretty decent year so far, as a whole. I haven’t got any complaints. Looking forward to the rest of the season – I’ve got some good tracks coming up. And I’ve got some other people coming back. Connor Mackie is gonna do some driving for us. That’s what it takes – it’s dollars, man. Sponsors get dollars. And I’ve got a business to run before I got the race car to drive.”

Starting alongside Harmon’s #74 was the #17 Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet driven by Kyle Weatherman. According to Harmon’s team, Harmon and Ware have been partners “since the beginning,” and have continued that relationship to this day. Thus, while Weatherman’s #17 was entered with Rick Ware as the listed owner, Harmon runs the daily operations of the #17 team. The partnership is represented through the car numbers on the #17, which for weeks have matched the same font as Harmon’s #74. Interestingly, both drivers weren’t originally named as the drivers to their respective cars until after the preliminary entry list was published.

Weatherman’s team changed engines on the #17, and he incurred a redundant tail-end penalty as a result. Joining him in the rear were three other drivers, all for unapproved adjustments: 21st-place B.J. McLeod in the #15 JD Motorsports Chevrolet, 20th-place Ronnie Bassett, Jr. in DGM Racing’s #90 Bassett Gutters & More Chevrolet, and 23rd-place Bilicki in the RSS #93.

When the race began, Yeley took over last from this group, already 3.697 seconds back of the lead with Weatherman in front of him in 37th. Yeley passed Weatherman by the end of Lap 1, and the next time by, the #17 was 12.094 seconds back. After five laps, Weatherman was 18.853 seconds back with 37th-place Morgan Shepherd in the #89 Visone RV Chevrolet, just passed by Yeley who took 36th. At six laps complete, Shepherd fell to last behind Weatherman and remained in that spot until Yeley came down pit road, then pulled into the garage with seven laps in the books. Yeley was the first to be lapped, and NASCAR officials reported “38 to the garage, mechanical,” moments later. Yeley was announced out with suspension issues on Lap 23, officially done for the day. In the next day’s Cup race, Yeley climbed from last on the 40-car grid to finish 26th, three laps down.

Weatherman followed Yeley into the garage on Lap 13, but rejoined the race four laps down around Lap 16. This allowed Weatherman to climb past Austin Dillon, who after qualifying 14th in a one-off in Kaulig Racing’s #10 Ellsworth Advisors Chevrolet stalled his car to draw the first caution of the afternoon. Dillon also returned to action at the end of Stage 1 and ultimately completed two more laps than Weatherman before fuel pump issues ended his race in 34th. Between last place Yeley and 35th-place Weatherman were Shepherd, out with handling issues after 34 laps, and David Starr, who lost an engine on Lap 23, stopping his #52 Northern Builders Chevrolet.

Harmon, meanwhile, earned the race’s first two Lucky Dogs and climbed to 32nd before electrical issues ended his race just before halfway. Annett finished 12th.

PHOTO: MBM Motorsports Facebook
The top underdog of the day was Austin Hill, who made his long-awaited XFINITY Series debut following a disappointing DNQ in the July race at Daytona. Like Timmy Hill’s strong run at Bristol just last month, Austin drove a Carl Long chassis with fresh tires from Hattori Racing Enterprises, who also provided the car’s wrap. And just like Timmy, who steered his car to a 7th-place finish, Austin notched another Top Ten for Motorsports Business Management with a well-earned 9th-place showing. Both runs bookended a pair of 30th-place showings for the #61 at Road America and Darlington with road racer Dick Karth and MBM teammate Chad Finchum trading turns in the car.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the third consecutive last-place finish for RSS Racing in the XFINITY race at Indianapolis, but the first for Yeley, the #38, and suspension issues. The seven previous XFINITY races saw five last-place finishers out due to a vibration and the other two with first-lap engine failures. All seven races saw the last-place finisher complete no more than nine laps.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
38) #38-J.J. Yeley / 7 laps / suspension
37) #52-David Starr / 23 laps / engine
36) #89-Morgan Shepherd / 34 laps / handling
35) #17-Kyle Weatherman / 35 laps / overheating
34) #10-Austin Dillon / 37 laps / fuel pump

2019 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) RSS Racing (7)
2nd) Motorsports Business Management (6)
3rd) Joe Gibbs Racing (3)
4th) DGM Racing, Kaulig Racing (2)
5th) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Brandonbilt Motorsports, JD Motorsports, Jimmy Means Racing, Rick Ware Racing (1)

2019 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (16)
2nd) Toyota (9)

2019 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP

Thursday, September 5, 2019

PREVIEW: Sieg, Bilicki, and Kligerman among those returning to action at Indy

PHOTO: @StarcomRacing
Saturday, September 7, 2019
XFINITY Race 25 of 33
Indiana 250 at Indianapolis
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Jeff Green

ENTRY LIST
There are 38 drivers entered for as many spots, meaning no drivers will fail to qualify.

DRIVER SWAP: #4-JD Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #15-JD Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #01-JD Motorsports
The Johnny Davis team has swapped its drivers around again this week. Landon Cassill moves from the #01 to the #4, moving B.J. McLeod to the #15 and Leicht back to the #01 in place of Cassill. Garrett Smithley is the only of the quartet to remain in his same ride, staying in his “Number Nuthin” #0.

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-JR Motorsports
It was a crowd-pleasing effort last Saturday in Darlington as Dale Earnhardt, Jr. took fifth place in his first XFINITY start of the season. This week, the car goes to Jeb Burton, who last ran the #8 in the Bristol night race, where brake issues left him a frustrating 32nd. State Water Heaters will back his third series start at Indianapolis and first since 2017.

RETURNING: #10-Kaulig Racing
The second Kaulig entry returns from a one-week hiatus, and it’s Cup regular Austin Dillon behind the wheel. Ellsworth Advisors will sponsor the effort.

MISSING: #12-Penske Racing
Penske has not entered the #12 this week following Ryan Blaney’s 3rd-place showing at Darlington.

DRIVER SWAP: #13-Motorsports Business Management
DRIVER CHANGE: #61-Motorsports Business Management
DRIVER SWAP: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Austin Hill returns to the #61 for the first time since his DNQ in the July race at Daytona, and will this time run a car entered by Carl Long’s MBM team. This bumps Chad Finchum back to the #13, which moves Tommy Joe Martins to the #66 in place of Timmy Hill, who isn’t entered.

DRIVER CHANGE: #17-Rick Ware Racing
While no driver was mentioned on the preliminary entry list for the #17 team, by Wednesday Kyle Weatherman was named to make his fourth XFINITY start of the season and first since a 34th-place run for Mike Harmon at Michigan. He takes the place of Joe Nemechek, who ran 34th at Darlington.

DRIVER CHANGE: #18-Joe Gibbs Racing
One week after Denny Hamlin was disqualified, cutting short the celebrations of a sixth victory in twelve starts at the track, Kyle Busch will run the #18. Combos will sponsor Busch, who has won three of his previous six XFINITY starts this season.

MISSING: #28-H2 Motorsports
One week after Shane Lee was released and the Circuit City throwback to Hut Stricklin was withdrawn, the H2 team is not entered this week. Further details on the team’s future are still to be announced.

TEAM UPDATE: #74-Mike Harmon Racing
As of this writing, no driver has been listed in place of Mike Harmon, who drove to a 32nd-place finish at Darlington after early radio issues. UPDATE: Mike Harmon remains in the car.

TEAM UPDATE: #89-Shepherd Racing Ventures
Morgan Shepherd is entered in his own car as he recovers from bronchitis suffered leading into Darlington.

DRIVER CHANGE: #90-DGM Racing
Ronnie Bassett, Jr. rejoins the circuit for the first time since Bristol last month, where he ran 33rd after a crash. He takes the place of Alex Labbe, who traveled from Mosport the previous week with the Pinty’s Series to run 17th in the #90 at Darlington.

DRIVER CHANGE: #93-RSS Racing
Josh Bilicki is another driver rejoining the series this week, his first XFINITY race since a 20th-place finish at Road America. Bilicki takes the place of Camden Murphy, who also ran 20th at Darlington for a new career-best.

CUP INVADERS: #10-Austin Dillon, #18-Kyle Busch

Sunday, September 8, 2019
CUP Race 26 of 36
Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis
Regular Season Finale
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Martin Truex, Jr.

ENTRY LIST
For the first time since the July race at Daytona, eight races ago, and for just the sixth time all season, there are exactly 40 cars entered for as many spots in this Sunday’s Cup race.

DRIVER CHANGE: #27-Premium Motorsports
Ryan Sieg in for Joe Nemechek; Sieg to make first Cup start since July 16, 2017, his fifth and final run for BK Racing. Incidentally, Sieg was also entered at Indy that year, only to be the wrong side of the #83 team’s first withdrawal of the season. Sci Aps is the sponsor.

DRIVER SWAP: #52-Rick Ware Racing
DRIVER SWAP: #54-Rick Ware Racing
J.J. Yeley and Garrett Smithley have swapped rides this week with Yeley going to the #54, entered as a Ford, and Smithley to the #52. Smithley’s car will carry a new sponsor for the Ware team as Honest Abe Roofing will back his Indy run.

RETURNING: #53-Rick Ware Racing
The Ware team has also entered their #53 car, but had no driver named on the preliminary list. That changed by Wednesday as Josh Bilicki will pull double duty, and carry sponsorship from AQRE.app. Bilicki’s most recent Cup start was in the #53 at Bristol, finishing 35th due to exhaustion.

MISSING: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Not making the trip north is Carl Long’s Cup car, which Joey Gase dusted off from May and brought home in 34th, 18 laps down.

RETURNING: #96-Gaunt Brothers Racing
Parker Kligerman returns for his tenth Cup start of the season and first since Watkins Glen, where he finished 26th. This will be Kligerman’s first start in the Brickyard 400, where Jeffrey Earnhardt wrecked in the team’s Indy debut with six laps to go.

SPONSOR UPDATE: #00-StarCom Racing
Derrike Cope’s team has brought still another sponsor into the fold this weekend as Sherfick Companies will back Landon Cassill’s #00 Chevrolet this Sunday.

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

The Truck Series returns next week to decide who will advance past the first round of the Playoffs.

LASTCAR STAT OF THE WEEK
Today in LASTCAR history (September 5, 1983): Bobby Hillin, Jr. picks up the first last-place finish of his Cup Series career in the Southern 500 at Darlington when the engine fails on his #8 Trap Rock Industries Buick after 11 laps. The finish came in Hillin’s fifteenth start, and in the very race where he was honored by Kyle Busch through his third-place finishing “throwback scheme” this past Sunday.