Sunday, September 29, 2019

CUP: Back-to-back last-place finishes knock Erik Jones out of the Playoffs

PHOTO: Michael Harvey, @mlharvey00
Erik Jones picked up the 6th last-place finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Bank of America ROVAL 400 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway “Roval” when his #20 Craftsman Toyota crashed after 23 laps.

The finish, which came in Jones’ 104th series start, was his third of the year and second in a row. In the Cup Series last-place rankings, it was the 32nd for the #20, the 158th for Toyota, and the 588th from a crash. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 51st for the #20, the 324th for the Toyota, and the 1,196th from a crash.

Following his disqualification at Richmond, Jones found himself last in the Playoff rankings, 45 points out of a Playoff berth. To advance, he’d have to win the very next race, the second-ever at the unpredictable Roval. Last year in this race, Jones’ car was the last to finish under power in the 30th spot.

Jones looked to have a fast car, ranking 7th in the opening practice, but timed in just 24th in the second and 20th in Happy Hour. He rebounded somewhat in qualifying, timing in 15th with a speed of 101.887mph (1 minute, 21.973 seconds). Most importantly, he would race with his primary car, something that could not be said of many of his competitors.

Qualifying 40th and last in Sunday’s field was Parker Kligerman, one of three drivers sent to the rear for backup cars. In practice, Kligerman’s #96 TRD 40th Anniversary Toyota struck the barrier exiting “Heartburn Turn” at Turn 1. Joining him in the rear were backups for 28th-place Denny Hamlin, whose #11 FedEx Toyota picked up a banner after backing into the Turn 5 wall, and outside-polesitter Alex Bowman, who wrecked his #88 Nationwide Chevrolet in Happy Hour during a recent illness.

Also dropping back were 8th-place Martin Truex, Jr. for an engine change on the #19 Bass Pro Shops / Tracker Boats Toyota, 32nd-place Landon Cassill for unapproved adjustments on the #00 Coladka Chevrolet, and 31st-place J.J. Yeley, who was swapped in for Cody Ware in the #51 Jacob Companies Chevrolet. Ware started the previous day’s XFINITY race, but extreme heat led to Stefan Parsons taking over midway through. Michael McDowell also climbed back into his #34 Love’s Travel Stops / Delo Ford after kidney stones forced him to have Austin Cindric practice the car. McDowell rebounded by qualifying 22nd and running 5th in Happy Hour. He capped the weekend with a sterling 12th-place finish.

Prior to the start, both 35th-place Garrett Smithley in the #52 Victory Lane / Kendall Oil Chevrolet and 36th-place Matt Tifft in the #36 Louis Kemp Crab Delights Ford fell out of line, then rejoined the pack by the time the field entered the backstretch. Coming to one lap to green, 38th-place Reed Sorenson took over last place in the #77 Aquesta Bank Chevrolet even though he wasn’t one of the penalized drivers. His Spire Motorsports car was soon joined by his Premium Motorsports teammates Ross Chastain in the #15 Empire Auto Group Chevrvolet and the unsponsored #27 of Joe Nemechek, who qualified 37th and 39th respectively. This hoisted last-place qualifier Kligerman past several cars, and Martin Truex, Jr. up to 30th.

When the green flag dropped, Nemechek and Sorenson raced each other into Turn 1, where Sorenson edged ahead. By the backstretch, Nemechek closed on Sorenson as the field checked up for Alex Bowman’s spin, nearly collecting Austin Dillon and Bubba Wallace. Bowman’s #88 took over last place on Lap 2 when he came in for fresh tires. Just past pit entrance on Lap 5, he was informed he’d have to make a pass-through penalty for cutting the chicane during his spin. The pass-through on Lap 6 cost Bowman another 20 seconds to the leaders, but he was still on the tail end of the lead lap, several turns ahead of race leader and teammate William Byron. By then, Bowman was told his was among the three-fastest cars in the field.

On Lap 9, Bowman passed a slowing Corey LaJoie, whose #32 Samaritan’s Feet Ford may have run off-course in Turn 4. As he recovered, LaJoie began to complain that his car was down on power and cited a possible issue with the fuel cell. The Go FAS Racing team looked for their backup cell, which wasn’t designed for road courses, and by Lap 12 planned to replace the module instead of the entire cell. The next time by on Lap 13, LaJoie caught and passed Sorenson, dropping the #77 back to last place. Sorenson was then caught by race leader William Byron in Turn 5, then put the first car one lap down as both returned to the oval. By then, both LaJoie and Bowman were climbing up the pack, dropping Sorenson, Nemechek, and the #66 Motorsports Business Management Toyota of Timmy Hill to the final three spots.

The first caution fell on Lap 20 for a spin by Ryan Preece’s #47 Kroger Chevrolet. By then, Sorenson reported a serious wheel hop as his car entered the backstretch chicane. LaJoie also prepared to make his pit stop, where two crew members would open the trunk and replace the fuel cell module. On Lap 22, Timmy Hill briefly took last on pit road, the last of three cars that were one lap down. Nemechek retook the spot a moment later while LaJoie rejoined the tail end of the field, only to be told he’d be penalized for pitting out of the box. As LaJoie snaked through the chicane to catch the tail end of the field, he passed a slowing Ross Chastain who pulled to the apron of the oval’s third corner. The driver had cycled his system to save energy when the motor cut out. Undeterred, NASCAR let the race restart, only to have the leaders tangle in Turn 1 to draw the caution once more. It was not until this yellow that Chastain got a push back to the pits.

Jones on pit road with damage from an early crash.
PHOTO: Michael Harvey, @mlharvey00
It was during this wreck that Jones received the damage that would shorten his day. While Jones restarted 8th, several rows back Chris Buescher’s #37 Velveeta Chevrolet careened into the cars in front of him, triggering a multi-car pileup. Jones, near the front of this line as the leaders made the hard left turn, was caught by a sliding Alex Bowman and spun 180 degrees, striking the wall with the left-rear and left-front. Jones made it back to pit road, where the damage at first didn’t appear so serious. Further back, Chastain’s crew looked over the battery and the alternator, losing a lap when the car’s gauges read no volts. The team took their time with the issue, losing a second lap in the process before he rejoined the race.

But Jones lost laps as well, and soon returned to the pits, then made a hard left into the garage area. His day was done – off RaceView by Lap 27, then confirmed out by accident by NASCAR officials on Lap 29. And so, for the second-straight season, last-place finishes knocked Jones out of the first round of the Playoffs.

In the wild race that followed, Sorenson took the 39th spot with electrical issues on the #77. Finishing 38th was Josh Bilicki, who broke a rear track bar mount on the #53 Chevrolet, not long after he avoided a spin in the infield portion of the track. Kyle Busch took home 37th, losing multiple laps from a flat left-front that damaged his suspension. He was still running when Garrett Smithley’s broken axle on the #52 Victory Lane / Kendall Oil Ford dropped fluid in the oval’s third corner, ending his day. On the hot afternoon, Busch turned back up pit road and drove the wrong way back to the garage area, his #18 M&M’s Hazlenut Spread Toyota done for the day. Smithley edged Busch to round out the Bottom Five.

*Jones is the first driver to finish last in consecutive Cup Series races since March 26, 2017, when Jeffrey Earnhardt followed a transmission issue at Phoenix with engine trouble in Fontana.
*This marked the first Cup Series last-place finish for the #20 on a road course since June 13, 1976, when Ron Esau’s #20 Peralta Ford burned a clutch after 6 laps around Riverside International Raceway.

40) #20-Erik Jones / 23 laps / crash
39) #77-Reed Sorenson / 66 laps / electrical
38) #53-Josh Bilicki / 83 laps / suspension
37) #18-Kyle Busch / 99 laps / suspension
36) #52-Garrett Smithley / 100 laps / axle

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

1st) Chevrolet (16)
2nd) Ford (9)
3rd) Toyota (4)


XFINITY: Means Racing’s bid to get Starr back on track hands Yeley his second-straight last-place finish on the Roval

PHOTO: @jjyeley1
J.J. Yeley picked up the 10th last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Drive for the Cure 200 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway “Roval” when his #78 Toyota was involved in a crash after 5 of 67 laps.

The finish, which came in Yeley’s 324th series start, was his series-leading fourth of the 2019 season and first since Indianapolis, three races ago. In the XFINITY Series last-place rankings, it was the 6th for the #78, the 131st for Toyota, and the 328th from a crash. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 34th for the #78, the 323rd for Toyota, and the 1,195th from a crash.

The run at Indianapolis gave Yeley the lead in the 2019 LASTCAR XFINITY Series Championship standings, and came with the prolific RSS Racing team’s #38 Chevrolet. But last time out at Richmond, Yeley picked up a ride with B.J. McLeod Motorsports in the team’s #78 Toyota. The ride came together through the Christian student initiative “Bring Your Bible to School,” sponsoring Yeley at both Richmond and the Roval in anticipation of the group’s event on Thursday, October 4. Yeley drove a white Toyota Supra to a 21st-place finish at Richmond, and would run a black version of the scheme at the Roval.

Yeley started the weekend 27th in opening practice and didn’t participate in Happy Hour. He then qualified 29th on the grid with an average speed of 95.450mph (1 minute, 27.501 seconds).

The 38th and final starting spot went to Bayley Currey, who was making his return to NASCAR competition for the first time since a pre-workout supplement caused him to fail a drug test at Bristol. Currey drove Yeley’s previous ride, the unsponsored #38 RSS Racing Chevrolet, which carried bright yellow numbers on the doors instead of the previous white. The car didn’t post a qualifying lap, and with only 38 entrants, secured the final spot. Currey’s teammate Josh Bilicki in the #93 Insurance World Chevrolet was just one of several drivers to find trouble in practice as his crew had to rebuild the entire right-front and right-rear corner for the race. Bilicki managed 28th on the grid. JR Motorsports teammates Michael Annett and Noah Gragson were both sent to backup cars after their Chevrolets wrecked hard in Turn 5 and Turn 3, respectively. Cody Ware, Yeley’s teammate in B.J. McLeod’s unsponsored #99 Chevrolet, was also sent to a backup after he hit the barriers in Turn 3, his car towed back to the garage.

Listed as a backup was Preston Pardus, who was making his first series start since his debut at Road America. However, after nosing into the Turn 5 wall, his family’s team bolted on a new nose, and with not enough time to re-decal the new pieces (other than a hand-made #43 on the flat gray nose), Pardus qualified the car an impressive 16th. Pardus was sent to the rear along with the backups of Annett, Gragson, and Ware. In the race, Pardus worked his way to 15th with three laps to go before he spun, leaving him 27th. Also docked for adjustments were 17th-place Gray Gaulding in the #08 SS Green Light Racing Chevrolet, 22nd-place Harrison Burton in the #18 DEX Imaging Toyota, 33rd-place Joey Gase in the #35 Agri Supply Toyota, and last-place Bilicki. This kept Bilicki in the final row after all the tail-end penalties were sorted. With one lap to green, he remained next to Chad Finchum, who voluntarily fell to the rear in Motorsports Business Management’s yellow #13 Toyota to retain his 37th starting spot.

On the break, Currey edged ahead of Finchum heading into the first corner, dropping the #13 to last. He was still running in Currey’s tire tracks when trouble broke out in the backstretch chicane. Heading into the braking zone, Yeley locked up the brakes as he drew up on the inside line of cars including the #93 of Bilicki and the #4 Contec Chevrolet of Garrett Smithley. When a car slowed in front of Bilicki, Yeley rear-ended Smithley, who turned Bilicki. The incident caused Smithley to miss the chicane, and he joined outside-polesitter Tyler Reddick in stopping on the frontstretch. Bilicki continued on with the rear TV panel flapping behind his car. Yeley, meanwhile, came down pit road with the nose of his #78 caved in. The crew attempted repairs as they promptly inherited last from Finchum.

After three laps, David Starr’s #52 / Circle Track Warehouse Chevrolet broke a driveshaft and stalled on the apron of the oval’s third turn, drawing the first caution of the day. This dropped Starr behind Yeley, who returned to the track in his damaged machine and picked up the Lucky Dog. This meant both Starr and Yeley were each one lap down. As repairs continued on the Starr machine, a pit stop for Playoff contender Justin Haley turned disastrous as the crew discovered a broken track bar mount under the rear of the #11 Leaf Filter Chevrolet. Haley pulled his car into the garage and dropped to 37th behind Yeley, two laps ahead of Starr. Yeley returned to action two laps down by Lap 9, when he passed Haley and dropped him to 37th. But Yeley pulled out of the race soon after, done for the day in 36th. Haley and Starr rejoined the event, each multiple laps down. Haley lost six laps as the crew welded the track bar assembly in place and managed to climb to 31st. Starr didn’t return to action until the start of Stage 3, 39 laps down, when he finally dropped Yeley to last. Starr finished in 34th.

Currey and Finchum stayed at the back of the field on the restart from Starr’s incident and fell out by the start of Stage 2. Finishing 35th was a frustrated Tommy Joe Martins, who worked his way up to 11th on the first restart only to fall out with suspension issues on the #61 Diamond Gusset Jean Co. Toyota. As reported by David PeQueen, Martins’ 18th-place qualifying run marked the first time in the MBM team’s history that one of their cars qualified Top 20 in four consecutive XFINITY Series races. Teammate Timmy Hill earned a solid 18th-place finish in his 300th NASCAR start, which marked his third Top 20 finish since his breakout run under the lights at Daytona in July.

Another impressive run belonged to Alex Labbe, who has quietly capitalized on a part-time schedule with Mario Gosselin’s DGM Racing. One year after a full-time season with DGM, Labbe has struggled in his return to the NASCAR Pinty’s Series, going winless into the season finale at Jukasa Motor Speedway with a sixth-place rank in points. He skipped the Jukasa race to run the Roval, and welcomed sponsorship from Larue and Hotel le Concord on the #90 Chevrolet. Driving what appeared to be the same car Chris Dyson wrecked at Mid-Ohio, Labbe qualified a strong 6th, ran in the Top Five for much of the race, then finished in 6th. It was a new career-best for Labbe in the series and first top-ten finish since last summer at Mid-Ohio, where he ran 9th.

Sports car racer Lawson Aschenbach’s return to the XFINITY Series saw him inside the Top 10 at the start of Stage 3. His drive in an unsponsored #0 Chevrolet for JD Motorsports saw him in the middle of a four-wide battle into “Heartburn Turn,” which he survived to climb to 6th. He was still running 11th with 19 laps to go when he crossed the nose of Ray Black, Jr. off Turn 1, dropping him to 14th at the finish. The finish improved on Aschenbach’s best NASCAR finish of 18th in his series debut at Road America four years ago.

*This marked the first XFINITY Series last-place finish for the #78 since November 17, 2018, when Vinnie Miller’s turn in the #78 JAS Expedited Trucking Chevrolet ended with clutch failure after 10 laps of the Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead.

38) #78-J.J. Yeley / 5 laps / crash
37) #38-Bayley Currey / 10 laps / rear gear
36) #13-Chad Finchum / 26 laps / brakes
35) #61-Tommy Joe Martins / 26 laps / suspension
34) #52-David Starr / 28 laps / running

1st) RSS Racing (8)
2nd) Motorsports Business Management (7)
3rd) Joe Gibbs Racing (3)
4th) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, DGM Racing, Kaulig Racing (2)
5th) Brandonbilt Motorsports, JD Motorsports, Jimmy Means Racing, Rick Ware Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (17)
2nd) Toyota (11)


Thursday, September 26, 2019

PREVIEW: Five drivers set to run both this weekend’s Roval races, including all three from Rick Ware Racing

PHOTO: @RPMotorsports
Saturday, September 28, 2019
XFINITY Race 28 of 33
Drive for the Cure 200 at Charlotte Roval
Round of 12 – Race 2 of 3
2018 Last-Place Finisher: J.J. Yeley

There are 38 drivers entered for as many spots in Saturday’s return to the Roval.

DRIVER CHANGE: #0-JD Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #4-JD Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #01-JD Motorsports
Road racer Lawson Aschenbach rejoins the XFINITY circuit this week and drives the #0 Chevrolet, marking the first time he’d run two XFINITY races in the same year. Aschenbach, 28th at Mid-Ohio, bumps Garrett Smithley to the #4, and Smithley bumps Stephen Leicht from the #4 to the #01. Leicht bumps out Ryan Repko from the #01, who isn’t entered. B.J. McLeod remains the driver of the #15.

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-JR Motorsports
Ryan Truex will make his fifth XFINITY start of the year and first since Las Vegas earlier this month, where he finished a season-worst 14th. He takes the place of Zane Smith, who ran 8th in Richmond.

RETURNING: #10-Kaulig Racing
Another road race means A.J. Allmendinger is back, along with the second part-time Kaulig Racing team. Allmendinger carries sponsorship from Digital Ally this time around, one year after he finished 7th in the Cup race on the Roval.

DRIVER SWAP: #13-Motorsports Business Management
DRIVER CHANGE: #61-Motorsports Business Management
Tommy Joe Martins returns to action in the #61, bumping Chad Finchum back to the #13. Finchum takes the place of Stan Mullis, who isn’t entered.

MISSING: #17-Rick Ware Racing
DRIVER SWAP: #74-Mike Harmon Racing
The preliminary entry list did not show the Rick Ware #17 among the entrants and had no driver listed for Mike Harmon’s #74, which wrecked last week with Tyler Matthews driving. By Wednesday, it was Joe Nemechek, who ran the #17 last week, who will attempt double-duty starting in Harmon’s #74. This marks the first time Nemechek has driven for Harmon.

MISSING: #21-Richard Childress Racing
Not making the trip this week is RCR’s part-time #21 team, which Joe Graf, Jr. drove to a 14th-place finish in Richmond.

Welcome back Bayley Currey, who takes the place of C.J. McLaughlin in a deal worked out with Rick Ware Racing. This will be Currey’s ninth XFINITY start of the season and first since he was withdrawn at Bristol due to a failed drug test caused by a pre-workout supplement.

RETURNING: #43-Pardus Racing, Inc.
Preston Pardus and his family’s team are back in action for the first time since their strong qualifying run at Road America. Pardus’ #43 Chevrolet carries sponsorship from Chinchor Electric Inc.

DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Timmy Hill returns to drive the #66 in place of Mike Marlar, who isn’t entered after his last-place finish at Richmond. Leith Cars returns as sponsor after backing Hill in this race last year, where Hill finished 32nd, and will also back Bubba Wallace in the Cup race. Hill also runs double-duty for MBM in Cup (see below).

RETURNING: #68-Brandonbilt Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #86-Brandonbilt Motorsports
Will Rodgers returns to action in the #86 with Kelly Benefit Strategies as sponsor. Rodgers’ return bumps Brandon Brown from his familiar #86 to the returning part-time #68, one week after a rare engine failure left Brown 34th at the finish in Richmond. Brown carries sponsorship from Mid Atlantic Wrecker Service.

MISSING: #89-Shepherd Racing Ventures
Landon Cassill will focus on the Cup side of the garage this weekend as Morgan Shepherd has elected not to enter the Roval race.

Alex Labbe is in for Dillon Bassett, who had a fine run in Richmond, finishing a career-best 13th. The Gosselin team has also attracted new sponsorship for the weekend as Labbe carries backing from Dilly’s and teammate Josh Williams in the #36 will welcome back his Mid-Ohio and Road America sponsor Harkin Construction.

One week after Hermie Sadler earned a 24th-place finish in Richmond, Josh Bilicki is back with the Sieg team for another run on a road course. Bilicki seeks his 20th XFINTIY start of the year and first since Indianapolis, where he finished 21st. That run was his third-straight finish of 21st or better in the series. Bilicki ran 24th in this Roval last year for JP Motorsports.

DRIVER CHANGE: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Cody Ware will go double-duty on the Roval, taking the place of Matt Mills who isn’t entered for the first time since Road America. It will be Ware’s third XFINITY start of the year and first since Watkins Glen, where he drove for the same team. He finished 21st that day, matching his season debut in Las Vegas.


Sunday, September 29, 2019
CUP Race 29 of 36
Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte Roval
Round of 16 – Race 3 of 3
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Stanton Barrett

There are 40 drivers entered for as many spots, marking the first “full” field since Indianapolis, three races ago, and just the seventh 40-car grid all season.

SPONSOR UPDATE: #3-Richard Childress Racing
Austin Dillon carries sponsorship from Jack Daniel’s, who backed RCR’s #07 car from 2006 through 2009. The Roval marks the first time the brand has backed a Cup car since the Homestead finale on November 22, 2009, where Casey Mears finished 19th.

TEAM UPDATE: #17-Roush-Fenway Racing
TEAM UPDATE: #37-JTG-Daugherty Racing
On Wednesday came news of Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.’s release from the Roush-Fenway Racing team at the end of 2019, ending a partnership that began in the XFINITY Series in 2009. Taking Stenhouse’s place will be Chris Buescher, who will make the move from the JTG-Daugherty Racing #37 five years after he earned an XFINITY title with Roush-Fenway in 2015. Buescher’s replacement at JTG has not been announced yet.

DRIVER CHANGE: #27-Premium Motorsports
Joe Nemechek will run double-duty this weekend as he takes the place of Quin Houff, who ran 35th last week in Richmond.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Rick Ware Racing
Cody Ware’s double-duty includes driving for his father’s team on Sunday, taking the place of 32nd-place Richmond finisher Austin Theriault.

DRIVER CHANGE: #52-Rick Ware Racing
As reported earlier this month on LASTCAR, Garrett Smithley is back in action at the Roval for his next race with Victory Lane Quick Lane Oil Change as sponsor. Smithley takes the place of J.J. Yeley, who ran 33rd in Richmond.

DRIVER CHANGE: #53-Rick Ware Racing
The preliminary entry list did not have a driver listed to take the place of Spencer Boyd, who finished 34th in his second Cup start last week in Richmond. By Wednesday, it was Josh Bilicki on the list, joining Cody Ware, Joe Nemechek, Timmy Hill, and Garrett Smithley in running both Roval races. It will be Bilicki’s seventh Cup start and first since Indianapolis, where he ran a season-best 29th.

RETURNING: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Timmy Hill takes a turn in MBM’s Cup car this week after Joey Gase ran the team’s most recent two rounds in Darlington and Las Vegas. The result is Hill’s first Cup start since this past spring in Kansas, where he ran 39th. Duracap Asphalt joins the team as sponsor.

SPONSOR UPDATE: #77-Spire Motorsports
Aquesta Bank has joined Reed Sorenson as sponsor this week, backing the #77 Chevrolet.

TEAM UPDATE: #95-Leavine Family Racing
On Tuesday came official confirmation of the long-rumored Cup debut in 2020 for Christopher Bell, who brings his Rheem sponsorship to the LFR team next year.

RETURNING: #96-Gaunt Brothers Racing
Parker Kligerman is back in Cup for the first time since Indy, but unlike Spire and MBM, still does not have a listed sponsor for the Gaunt Brothers Toyota. This will be Kligerman’s first race on the Roval.

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

The Truck Series returns two weeks from Saturday.

Today in LASTCAR history (September 26, 1987): Morgan Shepherd picked up the second last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in the Nationwise 150 at Martinsville when his #09 Burnette Racing Oldsmobile fell out with handling issues after 1 lap. It was the first XFINITY last-place finish for car #09, and one of only four for the number in series history. The number hasn’t finished last in the series since May 23, 1992 when Scott Herberg’s Luck’s Foods Pontiac crashed after 10 laps at Charlotte.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

CUP: Erik Jones the first Cup Series driver classified last by disqualification since 1992

Jones' car in post-race inspection late Saturday night.
PHOTO: Bob Pockrass, @bobpockrass
Erik Jones picked up the 5th last-place finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career in Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at the Richmond Raceway when his #20 Craftsman Toyota finished 4th, but was disqualified after completing all 400 laps.

The finish, which came in Jones’ 103rd series start, was his second of the year and first since Charlotte, 15 races ago. In the Cup Series rankings, it was the 23rd disqualification, the 31st last-place finish for the #20, and the 157th for Toyota. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 34th disqualification, the 50th for the #20, and the 322nd for Toyota.

Reed Sorenson picked up the 18th last-place finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career in Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at the Richmond Raceway when his #77 Chevrolet was involved in a single-car accident after 233 of 400 laps.

The finish, which came in Sorenson’s 322nd series start, was his second of the season and first since Watkins Glen, six races ago. In the Cup Series last-place rankings, it was the 34th for the #77, the 689th from a crash, and the 773rd for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 47th for the #77, the 1,197th from a crash, and the 1,689th for Chevrolet.

When Jones was last featured here in May, rumors were swirling about his future at Joe Gibbs Racing. Though he’d finished 3rd in both the Daytona 500 and at Kansas, he’d led just 44 laps and was still searching for his second career victory. Meanwhile, the Gibbs team was trying to figure out what to do with their next talent, Christopher Bell, who in the previous round at Dover had already scored his third win of the XFINITY Series season. But Jones responded quickly, scoring four straight top-five finishes from July into August, including a runner-up to teammate Denny Hamlin at Pocono. Then, while running a throwback paint scheme to his late model days, Jones scored an impressive victory in the Southern 500 at Darlington, outdueling his other teammate Kyle Busch. Just four days after the checkered flag, which locked him into this year’s Playoff field, Jones signed a contract extension, keeping him in the #20 for 2020.

But the races that followed were unkind to Jones. At Indianapolis, he was collected in an early wreck with Brad Keselowski, one that sent Keselowski’s #2 Discount Tire Ford hard into a nearby tire barrier. Then in the Playoff opener at Las Vegas, Jones was sidelined by a stuck throttle and a jammed transmission, sending him to the garage for 15 laps. Undeterred, Jones returned to the track and gained nine laps on the trailing cars, earning back two of the 15 laps he’d lost in the process. The rally averted a last-place finish, and saw him charge to 36th by the checkered flag.

Next came Saturday’s race at Richmond, where Jones entered 16th and last in the Playoff standings, 26 points short of the cutoff spot held by Aric Almirola. Strong runs in both stages and a good finish would go a long way to improving Jones’ odds of making the Round of 12. However, this was a track where he’d finished no better than 6th, and finished last driving Furniture Row Racing’s short-lived second team in 2017.

Mindful of the challenge, Jones started strong, ranking 7th in opening practice. He then dropped to 16th in Happy Hour, then stayed 16th in qualifying with a lap of 124.902mph (21.617 seconds). The lap was still enough to best four other Playoff contenders – Ryan Newman (19th), Alex Bowman (20th), William Byron (25th), and Joey Logano (28th).

On the other end of the field, the 38th and final starting spot fell to Quin Houff, who was returning to action in Cup for the first time since his 30th-place run in the night race at Bristol. Houff’s unsponsored #27 Chevrolet from Premium Motorsports was then joined by two other drivers whose cars failed post-qualifying technical inspection on Saturday – 31st-place Bubba Wallace in the #43 Victory Junction Chevrolet and 33rd-place J.J. Yeley in Rick Ware Racing’s #52 Byrna Ford. Since Wallace outranked Yeley in Owner Points, Yeley inherited last place with Wallace 37th, then Houff lifted to 36th. Houff would eventually take the green in 35th on the inside of Wallace despite a tail-end penalty for unapproved adjustments.

On the first pace lap, Yeley’s teammate Spencer Boyd, returning to action in Cup for the first time since his last-place run at Michigan, dropped to the rear in Ware’s #53 Chevrolet, lining up to the inside of Yeley in the final row. When the green flag fell, Yeley cleared Boyd on the backstretch, but the two followed each other at the end of a seven-car train led by the #00 University of Richmond Chevrolet driven by Landon Cassill. This train started to come apart by Lap 6, and on the 14th circuit, Boyd was already in danger of losing a lap to the leaders. Brad Keselowski caught Boyd on Lap 22, looking high in Turn 1, then pulling low to move past in Turn 2.

Moments earlier, on Lap 18, Boyd’s spotter told his driver that Reed Sorenson was “really overworking his brakes.” Sorenson, driving Spire Motorsports’ #77 Chevrolet, had dropped back from his 33rd-place qualifying spot to 36th by Lap 30, and was soon joined by both Houff and teammate Ross Chastain in the #15 Premium Motorsports Chevrolet. This allowed Boyd to reel in the trio by Lap 46. But as Boyd made his move through traffic, last place changed hands after the start of a series of early green-flag stops. First to come in was Chris Buescher, who started 23rd in the #37 Fast Lane to Flavor Chevrolet. Matt Tifft took last from Buescher on Lap 54 after pitting his #36 Surface Sunscreen Ford. Bubba Wallace took the spot for a moment on Lap 58, but Sorenson took it for the first time when he pitted his own car.

By then, Sorenson confirmed the Ware spotter’s concerns, saying his brake pedal was going to the floor: “Brakes are cooked,” said Sorenson as he slowed under caution at the end of Stage 1. “Brakes are absolutely terrible. I've gotta pump em up about six times. Tight in the center, just lose the grip off. . .brakes go all the way to the floor.” Sorenson came in for major adjustments on Lap 105, but quite suddenly passed Chastain for the 37th spot.

As it turned out, Chastain had the same brake issues as Sorenson, and was now the first car in the garage area, pumping his brakes as the crew put the car on jack stands. The Premium crew traced the issue to the right-front brake caliper, and had to remove a brake duct to access it. At this point, the crew considered parking the car for the night and transferring their tires to teammate Houff’s #27. Multiple attempts seemed to have little effect, as Chastain said his pedal was still slowly going to the floor after he’d pumped them. Finally, on Lap 136, the Premium crew dropped the hood and Chastain returned to the track, 38 laps down. He blended back into traffic two circuits later. By Lap 181, Chastain was clocking laps that were among the fastest 12 in the field, once timing in at 110.479mph (24.439 seconds). On Lap 226, Chastain was passing cars on the inside lane as he clocked in at 113.794mph, faster than any car up to 25th-place Alex Bowman.

Despite this, the #15 crew continued to second-guess running on the track: “It's questionable that we would even keep running,” said someone on Chastain’s crew over the radio at the halfway point. “They don't like lapped cars out there. Plus, we're burning through cash. . . We don't really want to race them too much, considering our situation.”

During this whole time, Sorenson stayed on track with his same brake issues, and managed to stay within ten laps of the leaders. That all changed on Lap 243, when Sorenson’s right-front failed, sending him bouncing off the wall in Turn 1. Sorenson was uninjured, but drove his car into the garage are with flames licking from behind his right-front wheel. Done for the night under the Damaged Vehicle Policy, Sorenson’s car was unavailable on RaceView by Lap 248.

Even then, it was not guaranteed that Chastain would be able to drop Sorenson to last. On Lap 260, Chastain was informed that Houff needed to pit for fresh tires, again raising the issue whether Chastain would park so his tires would be surrendered to Houff. It was later discovered that Houff had two sets of tires ready to go for the final stage. On the 267th lap, Chastain lost his first lap since the brake issue put him behind the wall, putting him 39 laps back of the leaders. He then pitted for fresh tires on Lap 274, and two circuits later finally dropped Sorenson to last. On Lap 303, Chastain’s crew once again raised the subject of parking the car. “I don’t know if they want us out here doing this,” said the #15 crew. Four laps later, and still 30 laps from catching a still-running Houff, Chastain pulled into the garage area. NASCAR’s official channel indicated the reason was a mechanical issue, and was not parked by officials. On Lap 310, Chastain was done for the night, the crew saying “See you boys in Charlotte.” One set of tires from Chastain went to Houff’s stall, giving him three sets for the final green-flag run. Houff finished 36th, 16 laps down to race winner Martin Truex., Jr. Boyd took 35th, four laps ahead of Houff, with Yeley 34th, another three ahead of Boyd.

Had the results been made official, Sorenson would have owned three of the ten-most laps completed by a last-place finisher of a Cup Series race at Richmond, including the all-time record of 390 laps set in 2016. But then came the results from technical inspection, where a disqualification bumped Yeley back out of the Bottom Five.

Around an hour after the race, Bob Pockrass tweeted the above picture of NASCAR officials taking a long time looking over Jones’ #20, which had just finished fourth to round out the first-ever top-four sweep by the Joe Gibbs Racing team. Further reports from team members, including Jimmy Makar, confirmed the reason why – Jones’ car had failed inspection for a rear toe issue. Under the 2019 rules, this was tantamount to a disqualification.

The disqualification not only dropped Jones to last place, moving Reed Sorenson out of the spot, but also broke Sorenson’s record for most laps complete by a Cup Series last-place finisher at Richmond. It also marked the first last-place finish by disqualification in the Cup Series since October 11, 1992, when Bobby Hillin, Jr. was docked at Charlotte for a cylinder head and intake issue, 935 races ago.

Credited with last-place points, Jones went from finishing 9th and 4th in the two stages, 3 points off the cut line to 45 points below, meaning he’d have to win next Sunday’s race on the Charlotte Roval to make the next round.

*This marked the first last-place finish for car #20 in a Cup Series race at Richmond since February 23, 1975 when Rick Newsom’s Newsom Racing 1973 Ford lost an engine after 5 laps of the Richmond 500. Only 22 cars started that race, where Richard Petty won by leading 444 of 500 laps.
*This marked the first last place finish by disqualification in a Cup Series race at Richmond, and the first time car #20 finished last by disqualification in any Cup race.

38) #20-Erik Jones / 400 laps / disqualified
37) #77-Reed Sorenson / 233 laps / crash
36) #15-Ross Chastain / 265 laps / brakes
35) #27-Quin Houff / 384 laps / running
34) #53-Spencer Boyd / 388 laps / running

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

1st) Chevrolet (16)
2nd) Ford (9)
3rd) Toyota (3)


XFINITY: A short night for dirt track ace Mike Marlar in his XFINITY Series debut gives #66 first last-place finish since 2004

Mike Marlar picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Friday’s Go Bowling 250 at the Richmond Raceway when his #66 Tri Rivers Enterprises / Jones Oil Co. Toyota was involved in a single-car crash after 1 of 250 laps.

The finish came in Marlar’s series debut. In the XFINITY Series last-place rankings, it was the 6th for the #66, the 130th for Toyota, and the 327th from a crash. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 67th for the #66, the 321st for Toyota, and the 1,196th from a crash.

Marlar, last year’s World of Outlaws Late Model Series champion, made his NASCAR debut this past July at Eldora. Driving for Josh Reaume in the #33 Chevrolet, Marlar was slated to be sponsored by his longtime backer Marathon Oil, but NASCAR intervened and forced the Reaume team to remove the logos from his truck. Last-minute backing from Smithfield Homes ran in its place. Undeterred, Marlar went on to finish 4th in the Eldora Dirt Derby, following Stewart Friesen, Sheldon Creed, and Grant Enfinger. It was the first, and to date, only top-five finish for Reaume Brothers Racing, besting a 6th by Reaume himself in this year’s opener at Daytona. The run opened the opportunity to try his hand at XFINITY Series racing at Richmond.

Marlar’s ride this time was the #66 Toyota Camry fielded by Carl Long’s Motorsports Business Management, and in a Richmond race held on Long’s 52nd birthday. The deep blue car, nicknamed “Big Blue” by the crew, had changed drivers and car numbers multiple times this season. It was most recently run as the #61 last Saturday in Las Vegas, where Tommy Joe Martins finished ahead of Long’s other three cars in 25th place. Following the sponsorship issue in Eldora, there would be no Marathon Oil logos on the car, which was instead carried Tri Rivers Enterprises logos on the quarter-panels and Jones Oil Company on the hood and TV panel. Photos of the car showed Marlar’s name was added to the windshield on a separate rectangular white decal, covering up the previous driver’s name beneath.

In Friday’s lone practice session, paced by a surprising Gray Gaulding in SS-Green Light Racing’s #08 Panini Chevrolet one week after Gaulding just missed the cut for the Playoffs, Marlar ran 64 laps and timed in 36th of the 38 entrants, besting C.J. McLaughlin in RSS Racing’s #38 Sci Aps Chevrolet and Marlar’s teammate Stan Mullis in the #13 Toyota. He then improved in qualifying, taking the 31st spot with a lap of 113.051mph (23.883 seconds).

Starting 38th and last on Friday was John Hunter Nemechek, whose mechanical issues from last week’s Truck Series race in Las Vegas carried over into his XFINITY ride with GMS Racing. While the other Playoff contenders all timed in 13th or better, the ignition failed on Nemechek’s #23 Safeway Chevrolet. The team was put on the five-minute clock, but the ignition box couldn’t be swapped out in time, leaving Nemechek as the only driver to not take a qualifying time. The completed repairs also handed the #23 team an unapproved adjustments penalty, the same penalty that docked 36th-place C.J. McLaughlin. Joining the two in the trip to the rear for the start were outside-polesitter Justin Allgaier for a tire change on his #7 Brandt Professional Agriculture Chevrolet and 26th-place Dillon Bassett, swapped in for brother Ronnie Bassett, Jr. in the #90 Bassett Gutters & More / Superior Trailer Chevrolet, both for tire changes. Allgaier’s penalty allowed eventual race winner Christopher Bell to start on the front row.

When the race started, both Allgaier and Nemehek were already ahead of at least three cars. Two had dropped to the rear before the start – 35th-place Stan Mullis and Landon Cassill, who continued his impressive streak of qualifying Morgan Shepherd’s #89 Visone RV Chevrolet in the top half of the field. Back in Shepherd’s familiar black-and-gold paint scheme, Cassill qualified 9th after an 18th-place showing in practice. However, as in his previous starts, the team still lacked the resources to make a full-race run.

Marlar, meanwhile, was slow on the start as much of the inside line drew away as the green flag dropped. Heading down the backstretch, Marlar reportedly spun and suffered damage to the right-front corner of his car, just enough to cause something to drag beneath as the car steered onto pit road with one roof flap stuck upwards. NBC Sports did not have a replay of the incident, but it was clear from his subsequent pit stop that the contact was enough to tweak the right-front corner of the nose enough to drag it on the track. The team found the damage too much to continue, and were done for the night.

Stan Mullis’ night ended in the ensuing green-flag run, out with suspension issues. Cassill pulled Morgan Shepherd’s car off the track six laps after that. Rounding out the Bottom Five were a pair of engine failures by Vinnie Miller, swapped into B.J. McLeod’s #5 J.F. Electric Chevrolet, and Brandon Brown, whose difficult September continued with a blown motor on his #86 Vector Security Chevrolet.

Billy Parker earned car #66's most recent last-place finish in XFINITY on May 29, 2004.
*This marked the first XFINITY Series last-place finish for car #66 since May 29, 2004, when Billy Parker’s Duraflame Dodge fielded by Rusty Wallace, Inc. crashed out after 13 laps of the Carquest Auto Parts 300 at Charlotte. The number had never before finished last in an XFINITY Series race at Richmond.

38) #66-Mike Marlar / 1 lap / crash
37) #13-Stan Mullis / 18 laps / suspension
36) #89-Landon Cassill / 24 laps / handling
35) #5-Vinnie Miller / 50 laps / engine
34) #86-Brandon Brown / 55 laps / engine

1st) RSS Racing (8)
2nd) Motorsports Business Management (7)
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)

1st) Chevrolet (17)
2nd) Toyota (10)


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

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 CHANGE: #78-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
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.

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.


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

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.

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 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.

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

1st) Ford (10)
2nd) Toyota (4)
3rd) Chevrolet (3)
4th) Dodge (1)

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)


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.

*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 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).

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

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)

1st) Chevrolet (16)
2nd) Ford (9)
3rd) Toyota (2)


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.

“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.”

“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.”

“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?”

“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 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

*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.

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

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)

1st) Chevrolet (17)
2nd) Toyota (9)


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.
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 / 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 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.

*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 / Chevrolet was unable to fire his engine in both qualifying and the race, and was likewise pushed to the garage.

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

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)

1st) Chevrolet (15)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (2)