Sunday, September 15, 2019

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)


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