Thursday, November 7, 2019

PREVIEW: Several teams and drivers return to compete in ISM Raceway's semi-final weekend

PHOTO: @j66anderson
To close out our trackside coverage for 2019, I will be covering the action from the ISM Raceway for their last semi-final weekend before the track hosts the Championship Round in 2020.

Friday, November 8, 2019
TRUCKS Race 22 of 23
Lucas Oil 150 at ISM Raceway (Phoenix)
Round of 6 – Race 3 of 3
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Joe Nemechek

To lead off the triple-header weekend, there are 34 drivers entered for 32 spots, meaning two will miss the show.

Joe Nemechek holds the lead in the 2019 LASTCAR Truck Series Championship, and will secure his second-straight title if he finishes in the Bottom Five on Friday. Norm Benning, second in the standings, is not entered, but so long as Nemechek doesn’t finish in the Bottom Five at Phoenix, Benning can still win the title if he finishes last at Homestead as he leads Nemechek in Bottom Tens. Third-ranked Gus Dean, who trails in Bottom Fives, can only take the title if he finishes last at both Phoenix and Homestead. Thus, if Dean does not finish last on Friday, he will be eliminated from contention.

MISSING: #0-Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing
The Cobb team has not entered their second truck this week following the early issues that left Cody McMahan in the garage before the Martinsville race started.

Dylan Lupton returns to make his sixth Truck Series start of the year and first since Las Vegas, where he finished 10th. If past performance is any indication, Lupton will be one to watch on Friday as he’s only once finished outside the Top 20 in his part-time effort this year. Shreddy is on board as sponsor.

MISSING: #6-Norm Benning Racing
Not among the entrants this week is Norm Benning, whose truck suffered heavy damage in the closing stages of the last round in Martinsville, where he ran 24th. Benning has nine starts here, most recently this race two years ago, but a crash left him 22nd.

NEW TEAM: #7-DGM-Crosley
In addition to Lupton’s return, David Gilliland’s team will enter a fifth truck for the first time this year, fielding a #7 Toyota sponsored by Honda Generators. Driving this new entry will be Tanner Gray, ran a solid 20th in his series debut at Martinsville. This moves Gray out of the #15, which allows Anthony Alfredo to return to action for the first time since Talladega. Sponsorship will come from Steelsmith and the JDRF.

MISSING: #9-CR7 Motorsports
Codie Rohrbaugh not entered after his strong 10th-place finish at Martinsville.

RETURNING: #19-Bill McAnally Racing
Returning to action is California team Bill McAnally Racing, who brings Derek Kraus back to the site of his Truck Series debut last year. Kraus finished a strong 8th that night, and looks for more this year in a Toyota sponsored by ENEOS and NAPA Filters. Driver and team last ran at Las Vegas this summer, where transmission woes left them 27th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
Following his ARCA Menards Series debut at Kansas last month, Carson Ware, Cody Ware’s brother, will make his NASCAR national touring series debut at Phoenix, driving for Josh Reaume. Ware takes the place of Dawson Cram, who isn’t entered after he drove a decades-old chassis to a 13th-place finish at Martinsville.

DRIVER CHANGE: #34-Reaume Brothers Racing
Joining Carson in making his series debut is 23-year-old Georgia driver Kyle Plott, a five-time starter of the Snowball Derby with a best finish of 18th. Plott’s only previous stock car experience was a pair of ARCA Menards Series starts in 2016, where he ran 29th at the Nashville Fairgrounds and qualified a strong 5th at Salem before finishing 23rd. Plott takes the place of team owner Josh Reaume, who ran 31st with brake issues in Martinsville.

DRIVER CHANGE: #44-Niece Motorsports
The latest chapter in Ty Majeski’s evolving racing career continues this Friday, where he will make his Truck Series debut driving for Al Niece. It will mark the first NASCAR start for Majeski since this same race weekend last year, when he made his final XFINITY start for the soon-to-be-closed Roush-Fenway Racing #60 team and ran 18th. Since then, Majeski has closed out a successful part-time ARCA Menards Series season, winning three of his six starts with no finishes worse than 4th. Majeski takes the place of Jeb Burton, who ran 9th at Martinsville.

RETURNING: #46-Kyle Busch Motorsports
Welcome back Chandler Smith, who rejoins the Truck Series for the first time since this year’s Bristol night race, where he ran runner-up to Brett Moffitt. Smith drives KBM’s part-time #46 truck, an entry which hasn’t run since Raphael Lessard’s 12th-place finish in that same Bristol race. As in previous races, Smith carries sponsorship from iBUYPOWER and 822 Logistics.

MISSING: #49-CMI Motorsports
Ray Ciccarelli indicated at Mosport that he was planning on entering his #49 at both Phoenix and Homestead. However, the team is not entered following their 21st-place finish at Martinsville.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Kyle Busch Motorsports
Not long after his first XFINITY Series victory at Kansas, Brandon Jones returns to the Truck Series for the first time since his 23rd-place run in Kentucky, again driving the KBM #51. This time, he carries sponsorship from DuPont Air Filtration.

DRIVER CHANGE: #56-Hill Motorsports
Jordan Anderson Racing and Hill Motorsports will coordinate an entry as they had at Mosport, and this time put Carson Hocevar behind the wheel of the #56 Scott’s / GMPartsNow Chevrolet. Hocevar made his series debut driving for Anderson this past summer at Eldora and finished 25th. The Hill team enters this race off the high of Timmy Hill’s career-best 5th-place finish at Martinsville.

RETURNING: #87-NEMCO Motorsports
Joe Nemechek will run against his son in all three races this weekend. The triple-header begins Friday, where the two will run as teammates at NEMCO. Joe brings back his #87 for the first time since Talladega, where Timothy Peters finished 23rd after a crash. It will be the first time Nemechek has himself driven the entry since Pocono, where he ran 28th. John Hunter runs the flagship #8, which he steered to a 7th-place run at Martinsville despite early crash damage.

RETURNING: #97-JJL Motorsports
For the first time since news broke September 10 that the team will shut down at the end of this season, Jesse Little and the #97 team are back in action in the Truck Series. Driver and team last ran at Bristol, where they ended up in last place after an early crash. Little’s only previous start at Phoenix came two years ago, when he ran 18th. Skuttle Tight is the listed sponsor.


Saturday, November 9, 2019
XFINITY Race 32 of 33
Desert Diamond West Valley Casino 200 at ISM Raceway (Phoenix)
Round of 8 – Race 3 of 3
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Jeff Green

There are 38 drivers entered for as many spots in Saturday’s semi-final race.

J.J. Yeley secured the title last week in Texas.

DRIVER CHANGE: #4-JD Motorsports
Ryan Vargas looks to make his third XFINITY start of the season and first since Road America, where he ran 18th. As on the road course, he will drive Johnny Davis’ #4 Chevrolet, taking the place of B.J. McLeod, who will run Sunday’s Cup race instead (see below).

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-JR Motorsports
Zane Smith will make his tenth XFINITY start of the year as he rejoins JR Motorsports for the first time since the fall race at Dover, where he ran 9th. LaPaz Margarita Mix will sponsor Smith for the first time since Iowa, where he ran a season-best 5th. Smith takes the place of Jeb Burton, who followed-up his 9th-place Truck Series finish at Martinsville with another 9th in XFINITY at Texas.

MISSING: #10-Kaulig Racing
Not among the entrants this week is the second Kaulig Racing entry, which Ross Chastain will run full-time in 2020. Chastain finished runner-up to Christopher Bell last week in Texas.

DRIVER SWAP: #13-Motorsports Business Management
DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Tommy Joe Martins rejoins the XFINITY Series for the first time since his 35th-place run on the Charlotte Roval, and will this time run the #61 Toyota that Chad Finchum ran to a strong 14th-place run last week in Texas. Diamond Gusset Jean Co. will continue their sponsorship of Martins this Saturday. Finchum moves to the MBM team’s #13 in place of Timmy Hill, who isn’t entered.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-JD Motorsports
Tyler Matthews makes his eighth XFINITY start of the season and first since Kansas, where he ran 28th. He takes the place of Stefan Parsons, who ran 23rd at Texas.

DRIVER CHANGE: #17-Rick Ware Racing
The second leg of Joe Nemechek’s triple-header comes in the Rick Ware Racing / Mike Harmon Racing entry, taking the place of Kyle Weatherman, 34th in Texas. Nemechek’s most recent XFINITY start also came with this team, when he ran 30th in the fall race at Dover.

DRIVER CHANGE: #18-Joe Gibbs Racing
With the announcement that Riley Herbst will drive this car full-time in 2020, Herbst will take the place of Texas 7th-place finisher Harrison Burton in the #18 this Saturday. Herbst will make his first series start at Phoenix with iK9 as sponsor of his car. His most recent series finish came at Las Vegas, where he ran 9th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #74-Mike Harmon Racing
Mike Harmon returns to the seat of his #74 Chevrolet this week with Valley Fire & Water Restorations as sponsor. He takes the place of Bayley Currey, who ran a strong 20th with the team in Texas. Currey will instead focus on the Cup Series this week, driving for Rick Ware Racing (see below).

Dexter Bean makes just his second XFINITY Series attempt of the season and his first since Road America, where he drove Mario Gosselin’s #90 Chevrolet to a 32nd-place finish. This time, Bean drives the team’s second car, the #92, which scored a team-best 16th-place finish its last time out with Dillon Bassett at Kansas.


Sunday, November 10, 2019
CUP Race 35 of 36
Bluegreen Vacations 500 at ISM Raceway (Phoenix)
Round of 8 – Race 3 of 3
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Timmy Hill

There are 39 drivers entered for 40 spots in Sunday’s main event, marking the 25th short field in 35 races this season and the first since Martinsville two weeks ago.

B.J. McLeod returns to Cup competition this Sunday to join Erik Jones and Michael McDowell, meaning all three drivers tied for the 2019 LASTCAR Cup Series Championship will be in the field. McLeod can clinch the title on Sunday if he finishes last as he leads Jones and McDowell in Bottom Fives. If either Jones or McDowell finish last on Sunday, they will take the lead, but will not clinch the title as either driver would still trail McLeod in Bottom Tens. Thus, if either Jones or McDowell finish last on Sunday, McLeod can take the title back with a last-place run at Homestead.

PAINT SCHEME: #2-Penske Racing
Brad Keselowski will run a second incarnation of his "ugly sweater" paint scheme from this race last year, this time with blue over white.

DRIVER SWAP: #15-Premium Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #27-Premium Motorsports
Joe Nemechek’s third race of the weekend will this week be in the #27 Chevrolet as Ross Chastain moves back to the #15. This will be Nemechek’s 29th series start at Phoenix and his first since 2014, when he finished 40th for Jay Robinson. His best finish at the track is a 10th in the spring of 2005, driving for MB2 Motorsports.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Rick Ware Racing
B.J. McLeod returns to the Cup side of the garage for the first time since Martinsville, and will again drive the #51 Jacob Companies Chevrolet. This will be McLeod’s first Cup start at Phoenix. UPDATE: Garrett Smithlry was tabbed as the last-minute replacement on Friday. This means McLeod cannot clinch the title on Sunday.

DRIVER CHANGE: #52-Rick Ware Racing
Bayley Currey returns to the site of his Cup Series debut this past spring, where he finished 31st in the Rick Ware Racing #52. He drives for the same team this week, taking the place of Garrett Smithley, who ran 36th after a crash at Texas. Pit Boss Grills is the listed sponsor.

DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Joey Gase returns to the MBM Cup team for his 11th Cup start of the season and first since Kansas, where he finished 38th. As at Talladega, Fan Memories is the listed sponsor and will carry the theme of a different race track. While the Talladega car recognized Richmond, his Phoenix car will salute Watkins Glen. This will be Gase’s fifth Cup start at Phoenix and first since this race two years ago.

DRIVER CHANGE: #77-Spire Motorsports
Reed Sorenson returns after missing his first race since Michigan in August, and takes the place of Quin Houff, 33rd in Texas. Sorenson has 13 previous Cup starts at Phoenix, and in his most recent start in the spring of 2017 led his second lap at the track, his first since 2007. He hasn’t taken the green in the fall race since 2016, when he finished 36th.

MISSING: #96-Gaunt Brothers Racing
Parker Kligerman is not entered this week following a quiet 22nd-place showing in Texas.

Today in LASTCAR history (November 7, 1998): Glenn Allen, Jr. picks up the first last-place finish of his NASCAR Busch Grand National Series career in the Stihl 300 at Atlanta when he crashes his #99 Luxaire Chevrolet after 26 laps. It will be the only last-place finish in Allen’s 113-race career in the series from 1992 through 2000.

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