Sunday, November 8, 2020

CUP: Quin Houff prevails in thrilling last-place battle against LaJoie and Hill

PHOTO: @StarcomRacing

Quin Houff picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Season Finale 500 at the Phoenix Raceway when his #00 Creek Enterprises Chevrolet fell out with handling issues after 149 of 312 laps.

The finish, which came in Houff’s 53rd series start, was his second of the year and first since Pocono, 22 races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 28th for the #00, the 53rd from handling issues, and the 799th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 43rd for the #00, the 124th from handling, and the 1,759th for Chevrolet.

On July 19th at Texas, Houff became the center of controversy when he made a late entrance to pit road, triggering a multi-car accident that collected Matt DiBenedetto and Christopher Bell. While the accident raised criticisms over a full-time Cup Series driver with no Truck Series starts and only ten in XFINITY, it also marked a turning point in the rookie’s career. Heading into the season finale at Phoenix, Texas was Houff’s only DNF in the 21 races since his last-place run at Pocono. In that time, he also set a new career-best 23rd at Indianapolis, where he slowed to avoid the day’s big wreck on pit road. He matched this under the lights at Daytona, then exceeded it with a 13th in Talladega.

For Phoenix, Houff would drive a brand-new car with a new body on it. He’d be sponsored by Creek Enterprises, which earlier this year sponsored his StarCom Racing entry at Kentucky, the Michigan double-header, and at Kansas. Also joining the effort was the Sungate Kids Foundation for victims of child abuse. The names of 19 donors to the organization were added to the lower rear quarter-panels on both sides. This panel was pushed in during the early laps, moments before Joey Logano pulled up on Houff down the backstretch to clear a piece of debris off his grille. Houff would start the race in 34th.

Rolling off 39th and last was Garrett Smithley, who brought his sponsorship from Victory Lane Quick Oil Change to Tommy Baldwin Racing’s #7 Chevrolet. He’d be joined by two drivers sent to the rear for pre-race penalties, both for inspection failures – 35th-place Brennan Poole in the #15 Goettl Chevrolet and, most significantly, polesitter Chase Elliott in the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet. Poole slotted in behind Elliott, and by the end of Lap 1, the #9 had climbed to 35th spot. Last place then fell back to Smithley, who dropped to 9.277 seconds back of the lead on Lap 4.

On Lap 8, as Smithley was sizing up new 38th-place runner Joey Gase in the #51 Donate Life Arizona Ford, NASCAR alerted Ryan Preece that he had a right-front tire rub on his #37 Honey Nut Cheerios Chevrolet. Preece made an unscheduled green-flag stop for right-side tires and minor repairs, which dropped him to last on Lap 11 and off the lead lap. Preece then lost a second lap on the 14th circuit as the leaders caught him in Turn 3.

Next to join the battle was Timmy Hill, already crowned the 2020 LASTCAR Cup Series Champion last week in Martinsville. On Lap 26, Hill’s #66 RoofClaim.com Toyota dropped to 38th, three laps down, then took over last on Lap 27. Hill’s car had been trailing smoke, and the crew attended to a power steering issue. He returned to the race by the Lap 30 competition caution, but was already six laps down. Hill remained in last place into the middle stages, and by Lap 115 said he was unsure he could meet the minimum sped of 30.60 seconds. On Lap 124, Hill was cleared to come down pit road for more repairs.

Houff entered the last-place battle around this time, and on the same 124th lap was already eight laps down in 38th. “Doesn’t feel right,” said Houff on Lap 126. The crew then responded, “Then bring it in!” The team looked over the track bar while, on Lap 128, Hill returned to the track. Three circuits later, Hill was again vocal on the radio. “We've got a big problem, coming to you. . .something's loose in the housing,” said Hill that time by. “Rear end housing is shifting.” The spotter couldn’t see the issue, but Hill continued to struggle, dropping 13 laps down by Lap 139.

By then, Houff was still in 38th, and was now 11 down, just two laps ahead of Hill. Houff had gone to the garage as the driver said it was laying over on the left-front and the steering was tightening up. On top of this, Houff would also say the car jumped out on him as if an axle was broken, and also felt a vibration. The team wondered if it was a power steering issue similar to Hill, but Houff said the steering wasn’t getting progressively worse. These repairs dropped Houff to last on Lap 143 as Hill continued to try and meet minimum speed.

Yet another challenger then arrived as Corey LaJoie pulled into the garage around Lap 145. LaJoie’s Go FAS Racing team was making its final start as a full-time team, and LaJoie himself was turning his last laps as driver of their #32 Pala Casino Ford. Radio transmissions indicated a possible axle issue, which soon dropped him behind Hill into 38th spot. With Houff’s car still behing worked on a few stalls away, the two cars were 17 laps apart.

Houff’s crew removed the front wheels to check for leaks in the shocks, then on Lap 164 had him return to the track under caution. Houff said “nothing’s changed,” but continued to close in on LaJoie to drop the #32 into last place. He finally did so on Lap 184, but returned to the garage a second time just moments later. By then, Houff was just four laps ahead of LaJoie, meaning if the #32 could just run a few laps, they could avoid the last-place finish. On Lap 200, NASCAR’s official in the garage made a report, which the tower told him to wait on until after the restart. On Lap 202, the message was completed – “00 out, handling.” An instant later, LaJoie passed Houff for last place, and LaJoie continued on 53 laps down.

LaJoie never climbed higher than 38th, however, and ultimately dropped out inside the final 100 laps with suspension issues. Hill, meanwhile, climbed to 36th, the last car under power, a full 24 laps back of the lead. The last car Hill passed was last-place starter Smithley, who cited rear end trouble on the #7. Rounding out the group was Josh Bilicki, whose turn in the #77 DECK Leadership Chevrolet left him 35th, eight laps ahead of Hill, after early radio issues.

Among the many lasts in Sunday’s race were the final starts for both Germain Racing and Leavine Family Racing, two single-car teams with a combined 681 Cup starts dating back to 2009. Unfortunately, both teams would end their careers without a victory in a points-paying Cup race. Christopher Bell finished best of the two in 17th, driving the #95 Rheem / Smurfit Kappa Toyota. Ty Dillon, running Germain’s #13 GEICO Chevrolet, took 21st. Both took the checkered flag one lap down.
LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #00 in a Cup Series race at Phoenix since April 23, 2005, when Carl Long’s #00 Buyer’s Choice Auto Warranties Chevrolet lost the engine after 52 laps of the Subway Fresh 500.
*Houff is the first driver to finish last in a Cup race at Phoenix due to handling issues since October 25, 1998, when Brett Bodine’s #11 Paychex Ford dropped out after 46 laps of the Dura Lube / Kmart 500.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
39) #00-Quin Houff / 149 laps / handling
38) #32-Corey LaJoie / 215 laps / suspension
37) #7-Garrett Smithley / 261 laps / rear end
36) #66-Timmy Hill / 288 laps / running
35) #77-Josh Bilicki / 296 laps / running

2020 LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP - FINAL
1st) JTG-Daugherty Racing (7)
2nd) Motorsports Business Management, Rick Ware Racing (6)
3rd) Chip Ganassi Racing (3)
4th) Hendrick Motorsports, Leavine Family Racing, Penske Racing, StarCom Racing (2)
5th) Beard Motorsports, B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Front Row Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Spire Motorsports, Tommy Baldwin Racing (1)

2020 LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP - FINAL
1st) Chevrolet (23)
2nd) Toyota (9)
3rd) Ford (4)

2020 LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP - FINAL


Saturday, November 7, 2020

XFINITY: C.J. McLaughlin collected in early pileup in Phoenix

PHOTO: Joel Bray

C.J. McLaughlin picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Desert Diamond Casino West Valley 200 at the Phoenix Raceway when his #93 Sci Aps Chevrolet was involved in a multi-car accident after 27 of 206 laps.

The finish came in McLaughlin’s 11th series start. In the XFINITY Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 45th for the #93, the 339th from a crash, and the 561st for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 95th for the #93, the 1,234th from a crash, and the 1,758th for Chevrolet.

McLaughlin made his way into NASCAR’s national competition just last year, when he finished 23rd in his Truck Series debut at Iowa, driving for Reaume Brothers Racing. He then began to run part-time for RSS Racing’s XFINITY program at New Hampshire, swapping car numbers with Ryan Sieg in the flagship #39. He ran 28th that day, eight laps down, then improved to a season-best 23rd at Bristol in a one-off for B.J. McLeod Motorsports. McLaughlin ran a reduced schedule in 2020, continuing to split time with Sieg and McLeod. In his most recent race at Texas, he improved to a new career-best with a 20th-place run in the McLeod #78.

For Phoenix, McLaughlin rolled off 35th in the RSS #93, the same team which finished last just last Saturday in Martinsville with Josh Reaume.

Starting 37th and last was Stan Mullis, who was making his first XFINITY Series start since September 20, 2019 at Richmond. “Let’s have a good clean day here,” Mullis was told on the radio. He was also informed to turn on the brake fans to his #66 Sharelife Vacations Toyota before the start so he wouldn’t have to worry about them under green. With no drivers sent to the rear for pre-race penalties, Mullis remained in the last spot until Lap 2, when the first caution came out.

Coming off Turn 2, Jeffrey Earnhardt was running around the 24th spot when his #0 Contec Chevrolet unexpectedly shut down off the corner, causing B.J. McLeod to rear-end him in the #78 Koolbox Chevrolet. The contact sent Earnhardt spinning into the inside wall, destroying the right-rear of his car and pushing in the right-front. The incident promptly dropped Earnhardt to last, and he was the first to lose a lap as the crew set to work piecing the rear clip back together with bear bond. The team then ran out of tape and sent him back out on Lap 4, when the driver said the car was “still cutting in and out.” Combined with a dragging track bar mount, this forced Earnhardt to pit road a second time. McLeod cleared the “Crash Clock” on Lap 8, then Earnhardt did the same on Lap 10. By Lap 23, when the team received confirmation they reached minimum speed, Earnhardt went to the garage for a battery replacement.

During all this, Earnhardt’s teammate Jesse Little also had issues on the #4 JD Motorsports Chevrolet and dropped at least five laps back. Timmy Hill had a right-rear tire rub on his #13 RoofClaim.com Toyota. And Daniel Hemric pulled into the garage area with a stuck throttle on his #8 Poppy Bank Chevrolet. Hemric returned to action on Lap 24, followed by Earnhardt on Lap 28, when trouble broke out once more.

Heading into Turn 2, McLaughlin was in heavy traffic when he was collected in a multi-car pileup with J.J. Yeley in the #61 Workpro Tools Toyota, Donald Theetge in the #90 Theetge Chevrolet Chevrolet, and Matt Mills in the #5 J.F. Electric Chevrolet. Yeley and Mills were against the outside wall before each started rolling, and Theetge’s heavily-damaged car began to roll on the apron, but McLaughlin was stuck facing the wrong way in the middle of the track. McLaughlin tried to get the car refired, and didn’t climb out as crews arrived, knowing he’d be out of the race if he did. The driver then said he thought the rear end was broken, and confirmed with the crew he had the clutch in. By Lap 31, McLaughlin was back on pit road, where the crew put new tires on it, then went to the garage. At that moment, they were out under the “Damaged Vehicle Policy.” Theetge joined him around the same time, and was classified 36th, with Mills’ car making it nine more laps before damage took him out on Lap 41. It was around this time McLaughlin took last from Earnhardt.

Rounding out the Bottom Five were Tommy Joe Martins, whose #44 Red Angus Chevrolet briefly led by staying out under caution, but lost an engine after 73 laps, and Ryan Vargas, whose #6 Tik Tok Chevrolet lost 82 laps with mechanical issues, then returned to finish under power.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*McLaughlin becomes the fourth different driver to finish last in RSS Racing’s #93 at Phoenix, joining Jeff Green, Jordan Anderson, and Gray Gaulding.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
37) #93-C.J. McLaughlin / 27 laps / crash
36) #90-Donald Theetge / 27 laps / crash
35) #5-Matt Mills / 36 laps / crash
34) #44-Tommy Joe Martins / 73 laps / engine
33) #6-Ryan Vargas / 124 laps / running

2020 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP - FINAL
1st) Motorsports Business Management (9)
2nd) JR Motorsports (4)
3rd) Joe Gibbs Racing, Mike Harmon Racing, RSS Racing (3)
4th) JD Motorsports, Jimmy Means Racing, Shepherd Racing Ventures, SS-Green Light Racing (2)
5th) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Jeremy Clements Racing, Kaulig Racing, Our Motorsports (1)

2020 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP - FINAL
1st) Chevrolet (21)
2nd) Toyota (12)

2020 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP - FINAL


TRUCKS: Josh Reaume finishes last in his third-straight entered race

PHOTO: Reaume Brothers Racing Facebook

Josh Reaume picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series career in Friday’s Lucas Oil 150 at the Phoenix Raceway when his #00 Levrack Chevrolet fell out after 44 of 156 laps because of brake issues.

The finish, which came in Reaume’s 52nd series start, was his second of the season and second in a row. In the Truck Series’ last-place history, it was the 8th for the #00, the 27th from brake issues, and the 399th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 42nd for the #00, the 163rd for brake issues, and the 1,757th for Chevrolet.

With the finish, Norm Benning locked-up the 2020 LASTCAR Truck Series Championship despite not entering the season’s final race. Johnny Sauter and Tanner Gray, the only other drivers with two last-place finishes coming into Friday’s race, finished 11th and 15th, respectively. Reaume’s finish brought him into a five-way tie for the most last-place runs in the series in 2020, joining Bryant Barnhill, who likewise wasn’t entered.

Following a difficult weekend in Martinsville where he finished last in both the Truck and XFINITY Series races, Reaume would again run his #00 in the season finale at Phoenix. The preliminary entry list indicated Reaume would run a Toyota, but NASCAR’s leaderboard showed him in a Chevrolet. This time, his teammate would be Akinori Ogata, who brought sponsorship from Shinano Pneumatic Tools to the #33 Toyota. Reaume drew the 31st starting spot, two places behind Ogata in 29th.

Rolling off 33rd and last in the shortest series field since Gateway in August was Robby Lyons, back in Diversified Motorsports Enterprises’ #97 Sunwest Construction Chevrolet. While no drivers were sent to the rear for pre-race penalties, Reaume dropped from 31st to last as the field crossed the stripe, 4.467 seconds back of the leader and more than six-tenths of a second back of Lyon. By Lap 3, Reaume reported he had a possible brake issue, and he came down pit road under green on Lap 7. The driver first wanted to check tire wear and also the track bar raised three or four rounds, then made a late call for five rounds. The team reported the only made one turn, and the #00 returned to the track at least four laps down.

On Lap 14, Reaume called for the remaining turns on the track bar, and also to check the front tires. He also asked for updates on if any other driver fell out of the race. At the time, the next truck in line was Jennifer Jo Cobb, whose #10 Fastener Supply Company Chevrolet was two laps down. Reaume pitted on Lap 15, then returned by Lap 18. By then, NASCAR was warning him to pick up his speed as he was over the minimum speed of 31 seconds flat. On Lap 21, Reaume pulled behind the wall, making the quick decision to do so in order to avoid receiving the black flag.

With no one else in the garage area, Reaume re-fired the engine on Lap 40 and rejoined the action at least 30 laps down, just moments before the end of Stage 1. His speed on Lap 57 was 30.50 seconds, a half-second under the minimum speed. He pitted once again on Lap 62 for the team to check tire wear, then pulled into the garage a second time. The team then looked for the wedge wrench and looked under the hood to make further adjustments. He re-fired the engine on Lap 87 and was once more on the track just before the end of Stage 2, with still no one else in the garage. By Lap 90, he was 58 laps down with just 59 laps to go, and both driver and team knew there was little chance they could climb out of last place.

On Lap 98, Cobb was still on the track, just a handful of laps down. Reaume was told if she made two more laps, they wouldn’t be able to catch her even if she dropped out. So on Lap 99, Reaume said “Coming in – we’re not gonna make it,” and was reported behind the wall on Lap 101. Just two laps later came the first accident of the night when Carson Hocevar’s #42 Scott’s / GM Parts Now Chevrolet backed into the wall in Turn 2. On Lap 113, Hocevar was declared out by NASCAR for the crash along with Reaume for brake issues.

Cobb and the rest of the field finished under power, her #10 taking the 31st spot, nine laps down. Akinori Ogata, Reaume’s teammate, took 30th, three laps ahead of Cobb, and two laps behind last-place starter Robby Lyons.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #00 in a Truck Series race at Phoenix.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
33) #00-Josh Reaume / 44 laps / brakes
32) #42-Carson Hocevar / 103 laps / crash
31) #10-Jennifer Jo Cobb / 147 laps / running
30) #33-Akinori Ogata / 150 laps / running
29) #97-Robby Lyons / 152 laps / running

2020 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP - FINAL
1st) Reaume Brothers Racing (6)
2nd) Niece Motorsports (3)
3rd) CMI Motorsports, DGR-Crosley, Norm Benning Racing, ThorSport Racing (2)
4th) FDNY Racing, Halmar Friesen Racing, Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing, Spencer Davis Motorsports, Young’s Motorsports (1)

2020 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP – FINAL
1st) Chevrolet (15)
2nd) Ford (5)
3rd) Toyota (3)

2020 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP - FINAL


Thursday, November 5, 2020

PREVIEW: Final starts for Germain, Leavine, Bowyer, and Johnson headline Phoenix season finales

The last Cup Series entry from Germain Racing being prepared at the shop.
PHOTO: @GermainRacing

Friday, November 6, 2020
TRUCKS Race 23 of 23
Championship Race
Lucas 150 at Phoenix
2019 Last-Place Finisher: Joe Nemechek

THE CHAMPIONSHIP FOUR
#2-Sheldon Creed
#21-Zane Smith
#23-Brett Moffitt
#98-Grant Enfinger

ENTRY LIST
Championship Weekend in Phoenix will see just 33 drivers entered for 40 spots, the shortest field the series has seen since Gateway on August 30.

LASTCAR CHAMPIONSHIP
After 22 races, the 2020 LASTCAR Truck Series Championship will come down to three drivers with two last-place finishes apiece. Norm Benning, who isn’t entered, has locked-up the most Bottom Five finishes for 2020 and can only lose the title if either Johnny Sauter or Tanner Gray are classified last at Phoenix. Bryant Barnhill, who also has two last-place finishes, is not entered and is thus eliminated.

MISSING: #6-Norm Benning Racing
As mentioned above, Norm Benning is not entered for the first time since the fall race at Las Vegas. This comes after he finished under power in three of his four most recent starts, finishing between 22nd and 26th each time.

MISSING: #9-CR7 Motorsports
Codie Rohrbaugh is not entered for the third time in the last four races, and will close his season with three top-ten finishes with a career-best 3rd in the Daytona opener.

RETURNING: #17-DGR-Crosley
Dylan Lupton will make his third Truck Series start of the year and first since two rounds ago in Texas, where he ran 8th. That race was also the #17 team’s most recent start.

DRIVER CHANGE: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
Akinori Ogata has made multiple NASCAR runs in recent Phoenix weekends, and will this weekend return to the Truck Series, taking the place of last week’s 22nd-place finisher B.J. McLeod in Josh Reaume’s #33. Shinano Pneumatic Tools is the listed sponsor.

MISSING: #49-CMI Motorsports
MISSING: #83-CMI Motorsports
Both of Ray Ciccarelli’s trucks are not entered in this weekend’s finale, including Tim Viens’ #49, which withdrew at Martinsville, and Ciccarelli’s #83, which recovered from a spin to finish 25th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #56-Hill Motorsports
Tyler Hill will close out Hill Motorsports’ successful 2020 campaign, taking the place of brother Timmy, who ran 14th in Martinsville. Tyler’s 11th and most recent Truck start of 2020 came in Texas, where ran a season-best 11th.

MISSING: #68-Clay Greenfield Motorsports
Clay Greenfield is not entered following a solid 21st-place finish in Martinsville.

MISSING: #75-Henderson Motorsports
Parker Kligerman is likewise not entered after he climbed from last on the grid in Martinsville to finish 24th.

RETURNING: #97-Diversified Motorsports Enterprises
Rejoining the action this week is the former JJL Racing team with Robby Lyons driving and Sunwest Construction as sponsor. We last saw Lyons at Talladega, where he ran 26th.

CUP INVADERS: None

Saturday, November 7, 2020
XFINITY Race 33 of 33
Championship Race
Desert Diamond Casino West Valley 200 at Phoenix
2019 Last-Place Finisher: Landon Cassill

THE CHAMPIONSHIP FOUR
#7-Justin Allgaier
#11-Justin Haley
#22-Austin Cindric
#98-Chase Briscoe

LASTCAR CHAMPIONSHIP
With Timmy Hill’s 17th-place finish last week in Martinsville, Stephen Leicht locked-up the 2020 LASTCAR XFINITY Series Championship despite not running last Saturday’s race. Hill ended up securing a title of his own on Sunday (see below).

ENTRY LIST
There are 37 drivers entered for 40 spots, down two entries from last week in Martinsville.

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-JR Motorsports
Daniel Hemric takes one more shot at trying to score his first-ever NASCAR victory in 2020 as he takes the place of Jeb Burton, who ran 4th in Martinsville. Poppy Bank returns as Hemric’s sponsor.

MISSING: #16-Kaulig Racing
A.J. Allmendinger is not entered after an unscheduled pit stop dropped him to 26th in Martinsville.

MISSING: #17-Rick Ware Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #61-Motorsports Business Management
Rick Ware’s team is not entered after strong runs on the Roval and Martinsville, but this week announced that they will be running two XFINITY cars in 2021 in addition to their four-car Cup lineup. J.J. Yeley, who finished 14th for Ware at Martinsville, moves to MBM’s #61 in place of Chad Finchum, who’s not entered. Curiously, Finchum’s sponsor Smithbilt Homes will back Yeley’s run.

DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Also returning to the MBM team is Stan Mullis, who on Saturday will make his first start of the season and first in XFINITY since September 2019 at Richmond. Sharelife Vacations, which backed Chad Finchum’s Cup ride in the MBM #49, will back Mullis on race day.

DRIVER CHANGE: #93-RSS Racing
Following Josh Reaume’s last-place finish with the team in Martinsville, C.J. McLaughlin will run the #93 this weekend. McLaughlin makes just his fourth start of the year and first since Texas two rounds ago, where he ran a season-best 20th for B.J. McLeod.

DRIVER CHANGE: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Also returning from Texas is Jesse Iwuji, who brings with him sponsorship from TrueCar Military to McLeod’s #99 Chevrolet. Iwuji takes the place of Stefan Parsons, who ran 24th at Martinsville.

DRIVER CHANGE: #07-SS-Green Light Racing
David Starr will close out the season for SS-Green Light Racing’s #07, taking the place of Gray Gaulding, whose Martinsville run was frustrated by electrical issues in the race’s early laps. Starr will thus run on the same weekend as his former Cup ride at Leavine Family Racing, which will make its final start on Sunday (see below).

CUP INVADERS: None

Sunday, November 8, 2020
CUP Race 36 of 36
Championship Race
Season Finale 500 at Phoenix
2019 Last-Place Finisher: Chase Elliott

THE CHAMPIONSHIP FOUR
#2-Brad Keselowski
#9-Chase Elliott
#11-Denny Hamlin
#22-Joey Logano

LASTCAR CHAMPIONSHIP
Timmy Hill secured the 2020 LASTCAR Cup Series Championship last week in Martinsville after Garrett Smithley fell out first. Ryan Preece can still tie Hill for the most last-place finishes if he runs 39th on Sunday, but Hill has locked-up the Bottom Five tiebreaker of 16-6.

ENTRY LIST
There are 39 drivers entered for 40 spots, bringing the season total to 17 short fields out of 36 races in 2020.

DRIVER SWAP: #7-Tommy Baldwin Racing
DRIVER SWAP: #77-Spire Motorsports
Garrett Smithley and Josh Bilicki swap rides this weekend with Smithley moving to the #7 with a returning Victory Lane Quick Oil Change as sponsor, and Bilicki running the RacingForTheTruth.com Chevrolet for Spire. Smithley and the #77 finished last at Martinsville.

FINAL START: #13-Germain Racing
FINAL START: #95-Leavine Family Racing
Phoenix marks the final start for two of the Cup Series’ few remaining single-car teams, both in business for at least a decade, and each without a win in a Cup points-paying race. For Bob Germain, this will be the #13 GEICO Chevrolet team’s 425th start in Cup, while Bob Leavine’s #95 Rheem / Smurfit Kappa Toyota will make their 256th. Both teams’ Charters have already been sold for 2021.

RETIREMENT: #14-Stewart-Haas Racing
RETIREMENT: #48-Hendrick Motorsports
Sunday will also see the final Cup start for two of the series’ most unique personalities. For Clint Bowyer, this will be his 541st and final series start, closing a career with 10 series wins before he joins the FOX broadcast booth next season. As for Jimmie Johnson, this is his 686th Cup start and his last at least a full-time driver. The seven-time series champion whose 83 wins tie him with his hero Cale Yarborough, will move to the IndyCar Series with Chip Ganassi next season. While Bowyer will run his familiar Rush Travel Centers scheme this week, Johnson will run a special silver-painted #48 reminiscent of Jeff Gordon’s final ride in the #24 five years ago.

TEAM UPDATE: #27-Rick Ware Racing
The preliminary entry list showed Cody Ware in the #27, but this has since been updated to show J.J. Yeley once again behind the wheel.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (November 5, 1978): John Kennedy picked up the 4th last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career when his #0 Spohn’s Body Shop Ford did not start the Dixie 500 at Atlanta. Kennedy was set to start 39th in the 40-car field, one spot ahead of Ronnie Thomas.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

CUP: Garrett Smithley’s electrical issues in return to Spire hand Timmy Hill the LASTCAR Cup Series title for 2020

SCREENSHOT: @TAutomovilismo

Garrett Smithley picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s XFINITY 500 at the Martinsville Speedway when his #77 DECK Leadership Chevrolet fell out with electrical issues after 100 of 500 laps.

The finish, which came in Smithley’s 42nd series start, was his second of the year and first since May 27th at Charlotte, 27 races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 34th for the #77, the 39th from electrical trouble, and the 798th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 47th for the #77, the 129th from electrical problems, and the 1,756th for Chevrolet.

Since Ryan Preece did not finish last in Sunday’s race, Timmy Hill locked-up the 2020 LASTCAR Cup Series Championship. One of Hill’s five last-place finishes came in the most recent Martinsville race this past June.

After his most recent feature on this site, Smithley has driven for four of the sister teams under the Rick Ware Racing / Premium Motorsports alliance, including the cars leased to both B.J. McLeod Motorsports and Tommy Baldwin Racing. His best run of the year remains a 24th in the Brickyard 400, driving Ware’s #53 Axele Chevrolet. He’d also made five XFINITY starts for SS-Green Light Racing, most recently at Talladega, where he surprised with a strong 8th-place finish. His one-off Truck Series start remains his only start in the series this year, a 36th for Niece Motorsports.

Smithley would this week run for Spire Motorsports, another team under the Ware / Premium banner. After their surprise win at Daytona last year, the team’s best finishes of 2020 have come with the duo from Kaulig Racing’s XFINITY team. Ross Chastain finished 16th under the lights at Daytona while Justin Haley, who got the team into the All-Star Race with his win, gave the team its best finish of the year in 11th. Of the remaining starts between Reed Sorenson, J.J. Yeley, Josh Bilicki, James Davison, B.J. McLeod, Stanton Barrett, and Smithley, the team had finished no better than 24th.

For Martinsville, Yeley was listed as driver of both the Spire #77 and the Ware #27, but this was then corrected at midweek with Smithley taking over the #77. It would be Smithley’s first start in this car since Loudon on August 2, where he ran 31st. This time around, he had picked up sponsorship from DECK Leadership, a workplace diversity initiative. Smithley started 36th, but would incur a tail-end penalty due to the driver swap with Yeley.

Rolling off 39th and last was Joey Gase, who had been dealing with sponsorship issues all week. On October 27, Gase tweeted a picture of his unmarked black Ford and provided his e-mail address for sponsorship inquiries. On Halloween came backing from Whitetail Smokeless on the C-post, a rear decklid logo from the Gas ‘N Go Podcast, and a B-post sticker from Jwow & Clashin Racing. Gase’s hood was then decorated with logos from the more than 30 different companies that backed him during the season, similar to Clint Bowyer’s own sponsorship “thank you” message on his rear decklid.

In the early laps, both Gase and Smithley dropped Quin Houff to last in the #00 Units Chevrolet. Houff was still running there when Michael McDowell’s left-rear tire started smoking on his #34 Car Parts Ford. Around Lap 11, Jimmie Johnson made contact with McDowell’s left-rear, pushing in the fender and causing the smoke. Stuck on the outside lane, the tire finally came apart after Gase bumped his way by on the inside, forcing the #34 to pit road on Lap 15. McDowell promptly took last place from Houff and lost multiple laps before he returned to the track. When Gase’s car stalled after the team dropped him off the jack on pit road, the #51 wound up on the same lap as McDowell, and the two started trading last place. Gase took the spot on Lap 69, McDowell on Lap 78, then Gase again on Lap 84.

Smithley, meanwhile, had also lost several laps, and was shown five down on Lap 104, when the caution fell. Smithley’s car had slowed entering Turns 3 and 4, then come to a stop against the outside wall near the exit of the fourth corner. The car went behind the wall, and took last from Gase on Lap 107. NASCAR declared Smithley out of the race on Lap 140. Smithley tweeted later that he’d moved up eight spots in the early laps before his issues, and was pleased with the speed of his car.

Finishing 38th was Chris Buescher, who dropped a full lap’s worth of fluid around the track after he rear-ended Daniel Suarez with his #17 Fifth Third Bank Ford. Brennan Poole took 37th after he hit the wall with his #15 Thriv5 Chevrolet, damaging the right-front suspension. James Davison took 36th, ending a solid start to his race in the #53 VIR Ford before the alternator failed, stranding him in Turn 2. William Byron rounded out the group after his #24 Liberty University Chevrolet backed into the outside wall and had to be towed to the garage.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #77 in a Cup Series race at Martinsville since October 15, 2001, when Robert Pressley’s #77 Jasper Engines Ford crashed out after 53 laps of the Old Dominion 500.
*Smithley is only the second Cup driver to finish last at Martinsville due to electrical issues. The only other occurrence came on October 21, 2007, when Aric Almirola scored his first last-place finish in the #01 U.S. Army Chevrolet after 111 laps of the Subway 500.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
39) #77-Garrett Smithley / 100 laps / electrical
38) #17-Chris Buescher / 146 laps / crash
37) #15-Brennan Poole / 184 laps / crash
36) #53-James Davison / 422 laps / electrical
35) #24-William Byron / 439 laps / crash

2020 LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) JTG-Daugherty Racing (7)
2nd) Motorsports Business Management, Rick Ware Racing (6)
3rd) Chip Ganassi Racing (3)
4th) Hendrick Motorsports, Leavine Family Racing, Penske Racing (2)
5th) Beard Motorsports, B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Front Row Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Spire Motorsports, StarCom Racing, Tommy Baldwin Racing (1)

2020 LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (22)
2nd) Toyota (9)
3rd) Ford (4)

2020 LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP


Saturday, October 31, 2020

XFINITY / TRUCKS: Josh Reaume pulls last-place doubleheader at Martinsville; Bohn and Yeley stage impressive rallies

PHOTOS: Josh Reaume Facebook Page, thanks @StartAndParkCar and Nick Teresky

Josh Reaume picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series career in Friday’s NASCAR Hall of Fame 200 at the Martinsville Speedway when his #00 Levrack Chevrolet failed to complete any of the 200 laps due to transmission issues.

The finish, which came in Reaume’s 51st series start, was his first of the season and first since March 29, 2019 at Texas, 40 races ago, where he also didn’t complete a lap. In the Truck Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 7th for the #00, the 37th for transmission issues, and the 398th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 41st for the #00, the 167th for transmission issues, and the 1,754th for Chevrolet.

The next day, Reaume also scored the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Draft Top 250 at the Martinsville Speedway when his turn in the #93 Colonial Countertops Chevrolet ended after 62 of 250 laps because of suspension issues.

This finish, which came in Reaume’s 35th series start, was his first of the season and first since June 19, 2016 at Iowa, 150 races ago. In the XFINITY Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 21st for suspension issues, the 44th for the #93, and the 560th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 45th for suspension problems, the 94th for the #93, and the 1,755th for Chevrolet.

Coming into Martinsville, Reaume was vocal in his outrage at ThorSport driver Ben Rhodes. On the final lap of last week’s Truck Series race at Texas, Rhodes made contact with Reaume’s #00 Texas Mobile Radiology Chevrolet, driven by Josh Bilicki. The contact, which Rhodes blamed on another driver, sent both Rhodes and Bilicki into the outside wall, dropping Bilicki from inside the Top 15 to 19th. Reaume demanded a new truck from the ThorSport shop – or at least a meal for his team as they worked to piece #00 back together – but according to Reaume, nobody from the team reached out to him all week.

The Reaume Brothers Racing team began the year with a strong 10th-place finish with Jason White in the Daytona opener, then scaled back from three entries to two after the team’s #34 last ran at the Homestead weekend in June. Reaume elected to drive on the Virginia short track in his primary #33 and put B.J. McLeod in the #00. By Friday, the two switched rides, putting Reaume in the #00 and McLeod in the #33. Reaume was set to start 31st, but both he and McLeod would have to drop to the rear for swapping rides.

The teammates would take last from Parker Kligerman, who would roll off 37th in Charlie Henderson’s #75 Food Country USA Chevrolet, then rejoin the NBC broadcast team on pit road the following day. Norm Benning would also drop to the rear voluntarily in his #6 H&H Transport Chevrolet, surrendering the 34th starting spot. But by the time this happened, Reaume already had issues.

During the pace laps, Reaume reported he had clutch issues, then stopped on the track. “Dead in the water,” he said over the radio. As the tow truck pushed Reaume to pit road, the crew tried to get brake fluid from another team. The truck then pushed Reaume to the garage near Pit Stall #10, where the team missed the start. Under the noise from the track, the team struggled to hear their driver on the radio, telling him to press the clutch pedal as they added more fluid. “I don’t know what to tell you,” said Reaume on Lap 15. “It’s not engaging the transmission.” The next time by, the team had their tires transferred to McLeod, who would go on to finish 22nd.

By Lap 26, Reaume’s truck was on two jack stands, and was talking about putting it on four so the team could take a closer look at the linkages. On Lap 33, he tried to shift the truck into reverse, and then said they needed to pull the transmission and count the splines. The team didn’t have a backup transmission on hand for either of their trucks, and would have to get one from another team. Reaume was also concerned that they would be retired from the race if he climbed from the truck – the team got confirmation on Lap 41 that he could climb out and keep working.

Work continued until Lap 108, when Reaume’s team said “in 11 laps they can’t catch anybody.” NASCAR’s official in the garage then confirmed Reaume was out on Lap 139, announcing it at the same time as others in the Bottom Five. Reaume tweeted a picture of the clutch near the end of the race, showing that the splines had been sheared away.


Finishing 36th was Tate Fogleman, whose #02 Solid Rock Carriers rear-ended another truck past the halfway point. Playoff contender Austin Hill saw his title hopes go up in smoke when he started losing power, then blew the engine after 117 laps, leaving him 35th in the #16 AISIN Group Toyota. Codie Rohrbaugh pulled behind the wall on Lap 133, ending the evening for the #9 Grant County Mulch Chevrolet due to overheating issues. Rounding out the group was Spencer Davis, whose #11 Polar Bear Coolers Toyota lost the brakes after 135 laps.

For the second-straight fall race at Martinsville, Danny Bohn scored a top-ten finish with the On Point Motorsports team, taking a career-best 7th in the #30 North American Motor Car / Blue Buffalo Toyota. This run was particularly impressive as he suffered significant damage to his truck in the first 45 laps, but clawed his way back into the Top 15 by the middle stages.

Behind Bohn, Austin Wayne Self scored the second-straight top-ten finish of his Truck Series career, following up a 7th in Texas with a 9th at Martinsville. Carson Hocevar finished 9th in Stage 2 driving Al Niece’s #42 Scott’s / GM Parts Now Chevrolet and even led 5 laps by staying out on old tires late in the race. He was then spun at least twice, but still recovered to finish 13th, one spot shy of his career-best this year at Dover. Dawson Cram scored the best finish for his new #41 team, taking 16th in his #41 Magnum Contracting Chevrolet, tied for his third-best finish in the series.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #00 in a Truck Series race since September 29, 2012, when Clay Greenfield’s #00 Obregon Construction Ford, fielded by Rick Lind, fell out with overheating issues after 3 laps of the Smith’s 350 at Las Vegas. The number had never before finished last in a Truck Series race at Martinsville.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
37) #00-Josh Reaume / 0 laps / transmission
36) #02-Tate Fogleman / 115 laps / crash
35) #16-Austin Hill / 117 laps / engine
34) #9-Codie Rohrbaugh / 123 laps / overheating
33) #11-Spencer Davis / 135 laps / brakes

2020 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Reaume Brothers Racing (5)
2nd) Niece Motorsports (3)
3rd) CMI Motorsports, DGR-Crosley, Norm Benning Racing, ThorSport Racing (2)
4th) FDNY Racing, Halmar Friesen Racing, Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing, Spencer Davis Motorsports, Young’s Motorsports (1)

2020 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (14)
2nd) Ford (5)
3rd) Toyota (3)

2020 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP



The Truck Series race was the beginning of a double-header for Josh Reaume, who also took on an associate role with RSS Racing’s XFINITY Series #93 Chevrolet back on June 29th of this year. While helping Myatt Snider in his part-time effort with the team, Reaume would also get a shot running the car at Martinsville. It would be just the second XFINITY start for Reaume in 2020, following up a 33rd-place finish after issues on Mike Harmon’s #47 GPs Tab Chevrolet earlier this month in Kansas. Just as he had on the Truck Series side, Reaume would start 31st, but would drop to the rear for a driver change as Jeff Green was in the #93 on the preliminary entry list. Kyle Weatherman would also surrender 33rd in Reaume’s previous ride, the #47 Chevrolet. 

Reaume and Weatherman would take 39th and last from J.J. Yeley, who brought Rick Ware Racing’s #17 team back to the XFINITY Series for the first time since Cody Ware’s career-best run at the Charlotte “Roval.” Yeley’s #17 WorkPro Ford looked decidedly different from the flagship Fords run by Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric – it resembled either a first-generation Ford Mustang from 2010 or was a current Chevrolet Camaro with Ford decals applied. “Let’s have some fun,” the team told him before the start.

When Saturday’s race started, Reaume took over last place until Lap 2, when Gray Gaulding’s #07 Panini America Chevrolet suddenly lost power in Turn 2. Gaulding reported his “something was messed up” during the pace laps, and the caution fell for him to get a push. The team talked about going to the garage and changing batteries, but the car fired up again, two laps down. The driver was then told to hit the “reset” on Lap 6, at which point it seemed to be running normally.

Next to join the last-place battle was Chad Finchum, whose #61 American Dream Toyota lost a lap by the eighth circuit, and was two down by Lap 13. The Mike Harmon Racing teammates then found trouble – first Kyle Weatherman, who dropped to 37th, nearly two seconds back of the next car in front, then Bayley Currey, who after contact from Joe Graf, Jr. cut a left-front tire and hit the wall in Turn 4 driving the #74 You Are Not Alone Chevrolet. Currey took over last place on Lap 25, just as NASCAR declared minimum speed was set at 23.80 seconds. Currey met minimum speed when he rejoined the field.

On Lap 38, Gaulding re-took the last spot from Currey. Five laps earlier, he’d spun out in a chain-reaction incident with Stefan Parsons and Colby Howard. This caused the #07 to stall once again, and he lost a fourth lap to the leaders before he started rolling again. By Lap 43, Gaulding, Currey, and Finchum were all on the same lap, each occupying the final three spots. Finchum took over last on Lap 53, then reported he had dropped a valve. But as Finchum tried to keep going, Reaume pulled behind the wall on Lap 65. Three laps later, he took last from Finchum, and would remain there for the rest of the race. NASCAR didn’t officially declare Reaume out until Lap 88.

Finchum, Currey, and Gaulding would ultimately finish 37th, 36th, and 35th, respectively – out with an engine failure, a second crash, and electrical problems. Rounding out the group in 38th was Matt Mills, whose #5 J.F. Electric Chevrolet caught fire down the backstretch with a ruptured oil line.

After starting last in the aforementioned Rick Ware entry, Yeley had a spirited run in the early laps, changing tires on Lap 27 and charging up to 13th at the end of Stage 1. He stayed out to lead Stage 2, but was spun in traffic while battling among the leaders. He then rallied a second time and took 14th, backing up Cody Ware’s breakout 7th-place run on the “Roval.”

Behind Yeley, Tommy Joe Martins took 16th, his third finish of 16th or better in the last four races driving his #44 AAN Adjusters / Capital City Towing Chevrolet. Timmy Hill conceded the 2020 LASTCAR XFINITY Series Championship to Stephen Leicht, who wasn’t entered, after Hill finished 17th in the #13 RoofClaim.com Toyota – his fourth Top 20 in the last seven races. And Mason Diaz made good use of his first XFINITY start of the year, steering Sam Hunt Racing’s #26 Prince William Marina Toyota to a 20th-place finish in his first-ever start with the team.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #93 in an XFINITY Series race at Martinsville.
*The 62 laps Reaume completed set a new record for the most laps completed by a last-place finisher of a XFINITY race at Martinsville – in fact, it beats it by just one lap. The previous record of 61 laps was set by Joe Thurman on March 10, 1991.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
39) #93-Josh Reaume / 62 laps / suspension
38) #5-Matt Mills / 103 laps / oil line
37) #61-Chad Finchum / 120 laps / engine
36) #74-Bayley Currey / 178 laps / crash
35) #07-Gray Gaulding / 230 laps / electrical

2020 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Motorsports Business Management (9)
2nd) JR Motorsports (4)
3rd) Joe Gibbs Racing, Mike Harmon Racing (3)
4th) JD Motorsports, Jimmy Means Racing, RSS Racing, Shepherd Racing Ventures, SS-Green Light Racing (2)
4th) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Jeremy Clements Racing, Kaulig Racing, Our Motorsports (1)

2020 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (20)
2nd) Toyota (12)

2020 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP

Friday, October 30, 2020

PREVIEW: Spooky paint schemes, returning drivers, and last-place title clinchers on tap for Martinsville

PHOTO: @dgm_racing_

Friday, October 30, 2020
TRUCKS Race 22 of 23
Round of 8: Race 3 of 3
NASCAR Hall of Fame 200 at Martinsville
2019 Last-Place Finisher: Cody McMahan

ENTRY LIST
Martinsville has traditionally seen some of the largest entry lists on the Truck Series schedule as new drivers and teams look to break into NASCAR’s top three series. Not so this year, as without qualifying, there are 37 drivers entered for 40 spots, up one entry from Texas.

LASTCAR CHAMPIONSHIP
The 2020 LASTCAR Truck Series Championship remains wide-open heading into Martinsville. Norm Benning, Johnny Sauter, Bryant Barnhill, and Tanner Gray remain tied for the lead with two last-place finishes apiece (Barnhill is the only one of those four who is not entered). The remaining 13 drivers with one finish can take the title by sweeping the last two finishes at Martinsville and Phoenix.

RETURNING: #9-CR7 Motorsports
Codie Rohrbaugh returns to action for the first time since his 5th-place run in Talladega. Rohrbaugh’s only previous Truck start at Martinsville was this race last year, but he finished an impressive 10th.

RETURNING: #11-Spencer Davis Motorsports
Spencer Davis and the Max Industrial Toyota are back at the track for the first time since the fall race at Las Vegas, where they ran 19th. Davis finished 20th in the spring race here last season.

MISSING: #14-Trey Hutchens Racing
Trey Hutchens is not entered after early ignition woes left him next-to-last in Texas.

MISSING: #17-DGR-Crosley
Dylan Lupton is not entered along with David Gilliland’s part-time #17 Ford after the duo ran 8th in Texas.

PAINT SCHEME: #23-GMS Racing
Brett Moffitt carries a 1991 Harry Gant throwback scheme on both his Truck Series and XFINITY Series entries, both sponsored by Destiny Homes. At age 51, Gant famously scored his fourth consecutive Cup victory at the Martinsville track, recovering from a mid-race accident.

DRIVER CHANGE: #24-GMS Racing
After completing a five-win part-time season in the ARCA Menards Series, Sam Mayer makes his fifth Truck Series start of the year and first since his victory under the lights in Bristol. He takes the place of Chase Purdy, who ran 12th in Texas. 

DRIVER CHANGE: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
DRIVER SWAP: #00-Reaume Brothers Racing
After a frustrating end to Josh Bilicki’s solid run at Texas following a last-lap bump from Ben Rhodes, B.J. McLeod was originally listed in place of Bilicki in the #00. That has since changed to McLeod running the team’s #33 instead, moving Josh Reaume himself to the #00.

DRIVER CHANGE: #42-Niece Motorsports
James Buescher’s return to the Truck Series last week yielded a quiet 15th-place finish. He won’t run this week as Carson Hocevar returns to the #42 for his first start since Bristol, where he ran 17th.

WITHDREW: #49-CMI Motorsports
Tim Viens’ hard crash at Texas left him in last place, and Ray Ciccarelli decided to withdraw the #49 entry this week.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Kyle Busch Motorsports
XFINITY Series regular Brandon Jones dabbles in the Truck Series for the fourth time in 2020 and first time since his 8th-place run in the second round of the Kansas double-header. He takes the place of Chandler Smith, who ended up 21st in Texas. Magick Woods Vanities is the listed sponsor.

DRIVER CHANGE: #56-Hill Motorsports
Timmy Hill will run all three NASCAR races this weekend, taking the place of brother Tyler Hill in the team’s #56 Hair Club Chevrolet. This will be Timmy’s 10th series start of the year and first since Bristol, where he ran 20th. Timmy finished a strong 5th in this race last year.

RETURNING: #75-Henderson Motorsports
Parker Kligerman will once again have to pass the entire field as the metric awarded him the last starting spot in Charlie Henderson’s return to action for the first time since Kansas earlier this month.

CUP INVADERS: None

Saturday, October 31, 2020
XFINITY Race 32 of 33
Round of 8: Race 3 of 3
Draft Top 250 at Martinsville
2006 Last-Place Finisher: Shane Hall (July 22)

ENTRY LIST
The XFINITY Series’ return to Martinsville for the first time in 14 years sees 39 drivers entered for 40 spots.

LASTCAR CHAMPIONSHIP
The 2020 LASTCAR XFINITY Series Championship will be settled between two teammates at Motorsports Business Management – Stephen Leicht and Timmy Hill. While Leicht is not entered, he can take the title on Saturday merely if Hill doesn’t finish last. Hill’s only path to the title is to finish last at both Martinsville and Phoenix as he trails in Bottom Fives, 16-7.

RETURNING: #16-Kaulig Racing
Martinsville has been perhaps A.J. Allmendinger’s best track outside of the road courses. In 21 Cup Series starts, he scored two runner-up finishes in 2012 and 2016 and took seven top-ten finishes for an overall average finish of 18.6. It’s perhaps less surprising that Matthew Kaulig elected to run Allmendinger in the XFINITY Series again this Saturday, rejoining the circuit for the first time since his rain-soaked thriller on the Charlotte “Roval.”

RETURNING: #17-Rick Ware Racing
Rick Ware also brings his XFINITY entry back to the track for the first time since Cody Ware’s breakout 7th-place finish on the “Roval.” This time, the driver is J.J. Yeley, who will run double-duty with the Cup Series. Workpro is the listed sponsor of the #17 Ford. It will be Yeley’s fifth XFINITY start of the year and first since Homestead, where he ran a season-best 11th for SS-Green Light Racing.

DRIVER SWAP: #21-Richard Childress Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #93-RSS Racing
In addition to his Truck Series effort, Josh Reaume will return to the XFINITY Series for the first time since Kansas. After running for Mike Harmon Racing that night, he will instead run for RSS Racing in the #93. Myatt Snider, who ran the #93 just last week, will take another turn in RCR’s #21 Tax Slayer Chevrolet. Snider takes the place of Anthony Alfredo, who’s not entered after an emotional 3rd-place finish in Texas.

RETURNING: #26-Sam Hunt Racing
Sam Hunt’s single-car team rejoins the XFINITY circuit for the first time since the Daytona infield road course, but this time without Colin Garrett or Brandon Gdovic behind the wheel. Mason Diaz will run the car instead, making his first series start of the year. Diaz’ most recent XFINITY start came under the lights at Bristol last year, when he was involved in a crash and finished last.

DRIVER SWAP: #61-Motorsports Business Management
DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Welcome back Carl Long to the XFINITY Series for his first start as a driver since October 5, 2019, when he ran 28th at Dover. Long takes the place of Chad Finchum, who this week moves to the team’s #61 in place of Austin Hill, who isn’t entered following a 33rd-place finish in Texas following a suspension issue in the rear of the car.

PAINT SCHEME: #74-Mike Harmon Racing
Bayley Currey carries ribbons from donors for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a portion of the sales for each ribbon going to Carolina Breast Friends. Currey comes off a career-best 12th-place finish last week in Texas and makes his first Martinsville start since the 2017 fall race in the Truck Series, where he ran 25th for Mark Beaver.

DRIVER SWAP: #78-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #90-DGM Racing
Donald Theetge returns to the Gosselin team for the first time since April 12, 2019 at Richmond, when he ran 25th, with his own sponsorship listed as Theetge Chevrolet. The DGM team’s three-car effort will each sport dazzling Halloween-themed paint schemes, to be joined by Jeremy Clements’ #51 on Saturday and both Corey LaJoie and Ty Dillon on Sunday. Theetge takes the place of B.J. McLeod, who will instead run his own #78 in place of C.J. McLaughlin, who’s not entered after a quietly impressive 20th. This will be the third different team McLeod has run for in as many XFINITY races.

DRIVER CHANGE: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Teamed with McLeod once more is Stefan Parsons, who takes the place of last week’s 23rd-place finisher Jesse Iwuji. Springrates returns as sponsor for Parsons, who last took the green flag in the fall race at Las Vegas, where he finished 20th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #07-SS-Green Light Racing
Gray Gaulding’s interesting 2020 schedule continues as he jumps aboard Bobby Dotter’s #07 Chevrolet once more, taking the place of David Starr. Panini Trading Cards will once again sponsor Gaulding, who has four Cup starts at Martinsville with a best finish of 29th in 2017.

CUP INVADERS: None

Sunday, November 1, 2020
CUP Race 35 of 36
Round of 8: Race 3 of 3
XFINITY 500 at Martinsville
2019 Last-Place Finisher: Jimmie Johnson 

ENTRY LIST
There are 39 drivers entered for 40 spots after back-to-back races with “full” fields. This marks the 17th short field in 35 races in 2020.

LASTCAR CHAMPIONSHIP
On top of being the only challenger in the LASTCAR XFINITY Championship, Timmy Hill holds a one-finish lead on Ryan Preece, the only other driver in contention for the LASTCAR Cup Series title. Hill, who finished last in the most recent Martinsville race in June, will take the title if Preece doesn’t finish last. Hill leads Preece in Bottom Fives with a score of 16-6, so Preece’s only path to the title is to finish last at both Martinsville and Phoenix.

TEAM UPDATE: #27-Rick Ware Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #53-Rick Ware Racing
DRIVER SWAP: #77-Spire Motorsports
The preliminary entry list for Sunday showed J.J. Yeley entered in both Rick Ware’s #27 and Spire’s #77. That was changed by midweek as Garrett Smithley will run the #77, taking the place of Reed Sorenson, who ran 32nd at Texas. Smithley, who ran the #53 for Ware last week in a 31st-place effort, makes the move to Spire as James Davison returns for the first time since the fall race at Kansas. Davison’s green car will be sponsored by Virginia International Raceway and RacingForHeroes.org along with a returning Tilson and Cruz.

MISSING: #49-Motorsports Business Management
Chad Finchum is not entered on the Cup Series side after he ran Carl Long’s second Cup car in both the most recent rounds at Kansas and Texas, finishing 39th and 35th, respectively.

TEAM UPDATE: #51-Rick Ware Racing
Joey Gase tweeted this week that he was looking for sponsorship on his plain black Ford for Sunday’s race. There are as yet no updates on his sponsorship effort, though Gase also tweeted that his Donate Life car from Texas will be turned around for the race, though with some of its decals removed.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (October 30, 1988): Tommy Sigmon scored the fourth last-place finish of his NASCAR Busch Series career in the Winston Classic at Martinsville, when his #07 Duck Graphics Oldsmobile crashed on the first lap. This same race saw Tommy Houston win from the pole and lead 198 of 200 laps, only to run out of fuel and hand the win to Harry Gant.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

CUP: Crash makes J.J. Yeley the only driver to avoid waiting three days in the Texas mist

PHOTO: @RickWareRacing

J.J. Yeley picked up the 19th last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s portion of Wednesday’s Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway when his #27 FatBoy Ice Cream Chevrolet was involved in an accident after 20 of 334 laps.

The finish, which came in Yeley’s 323rd series start, was his third of the season and first since August 29 at Daytona, eight races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 29th for the #27, the 607th for a crash, and the 797th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 55th for the #27, the 1,233rd from a crash, and the 1,753rd for Chevrolet.

Coming into Texas, Yeley had not failed to finish a race since his engine trouble in Daytona, finishing a best of 30th three times in that span. He’s also switched between three of the Rick Ware Racing-affiliated entries, both his most frequent #27, the Spire #77, and even the #15, which he was brought on for at the last minute at Bristol, taking the place of rookie Brennan Poole. Yeley would run the #27 once more at Texas, where his #27 would carry a distinctive blue-and-white scheme for Casper’s Ice Cream and their FatBoy Ice Cream Sandwiches. Yeley also had a brand-new dark blue driver’s uniform to go with the new-look ride. He’d roll off 33rd on Sunday.

Starting 40th and last was Chad Finchum, back in the same #49 Toyota from Las Vegas and Kansas, but this time with new associate sponsorship from Octane Mania on the quarter-panels. Finchum would incur a redundant tail-end penalty for issues in technical inspection along with 30th-place Daniel Suarez in the #96 The NASCAR Foundation Toyota and 6th-place Martin Truex, Jr. in the #19 Bass Pro Shops / Tracker Boats Toyota. Unapproved adjustments also sent back 36th-place Timmy Hill in the #66 RoofClaim.com Toyota and 38th-place Garrett Smithley in the #53 Victory Lane Quick Oil Change / Kendall Oil Chevrolet. Of the group, Truex suffered the heaviest penalty as NASCAR confiscated the car’s rear spoiler, handing down a 20-point penalty and ejecting the crew chief.

When the tail end of the field re-sorted itself for the start, Truex had already moved to around 33rd, pulling ahead of not only the penalized Hill, Smithley, Suarez, and Finchum, but also 37th-place Reed Sorenson in the #77 Marwin Sports Chevrolet, 34th-place Joey Gase in the #51 Donate Life Texas Ford, and 23rd-place Yeley. Of these three Rick Ware Racing-affiliated cars, Yeley crossed the stripe 2.668 seconds back of the leader, just behind Truex who was 2.537 back, while Finchum remained in last, 3.435 seconds back of the lead.

At the end of Lap 1, Gase had taken last from Finchum, and was still running there when the first caution fell on Lap 5. Chris Buescher, running 17th in the #17 Fastenal Ford, broke loose coming off Turn 2 and backed into the wall with the right-rear corner, then hit again with the right-front. Under caution, Buescher made it to pit road for repairs, the crew saying they were going to “get some screws and try to piece it back together if we can and turn some laps.” Despite coming within less than 90 seconds of falling out due to the “Crash Clock,” Buescher pulled back onto the track on Lap 9, then cleared the clock on Lap 11. At the time, he was at least six laps down with Sorenson now 39th, two down after an unscheduled green-flag stop.

On Lap 19, Yeley was running around the 30th spot when he, too, broke loose in Turns 1 and 2. Unlike Buescher, Yeley backed into the wall squarely with the rear of the car, pushing in the rear clip and stopping the car in the middle of the track. Yeley climbed out, done for the day. The team set to work distributing their remaining tires and loading the hauler. Back on the track, Buescher made another trip to pit road for further repairs, dropping him a few more laps down. This kept the #17 in last until Lap 29, when Yeley finally dropped down to the last spot. Soon after, the persistent mist that plagued these opening laps forced a weather caution, then a red flag. The #27 team’s hauler left the track after nightfall.

It wasn’t until Wednesday afternoon that the race resumed, filling the Bottom Five. Taking 38th and 39th were Bubba Wallace and Matt Kenseth, respectively, after Kenseth’s #42 McDonald’s McDelivery Chevrolet broke loose and collected Wallace’s #43 Door Dash Chevrolet. Both cars suffered serious damage in the wet infield grass with Kenseth’s front clip obliterated by the mud. Joey Gase took 37th, out after 184 laps with suspension woes, while Jimmie Johnson rounded out the group with engine troubles on Noah Sweet’s distinctive paint scheme for the #48 Ally Chevrolet.

Wednesday also marked the final Texas start for Leavine Family Racing, which made its debut at the track nine years ago with David Starr. To mark the occasion, Bob Leavine had Christopher Bell’s #95 Procore Toyota wrapped in Sam Bass’ iconic red-yellow-and-blue scheme Starr ran in 2011. Bell made a spirited charge toward the front in the final stage, leading five laps and for a time running the fastest lap times on the track. He ended up 3rd, just within sight of fellow Toyota drivers Kyle Busch and Martin Truex, Jr. The result was not only Bell’s career-best finish, but the second-best finish for the LFR team, trailing only Matt DiBenedetto’s runner-up at Bristol in August of last year.

With two races to go, the 2020 LASTCAR Cup Series Championship will come down to two drivers – Timmy Hill and Ryan Preece. By trailing in both Bottom Fives and Bottom Tens, Preece’s only path to the title is to finish last at both Martinsville and Phoenix. Thus, if Preece doesn’t finish last on Sunday, Hill will lock-up the title.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #27 in a Cup Series race at Texas.
*This was also the fourth different team with which Yeley has finished last in a Cup Series race at Texas. The others were Joe Gibbs Racing (April 15, 2007, his first last-place finish in Cup), Front Row Motorsports (November 6, 2011), and BK Racing (April 11, 2015).

THE BOTTOM FIVE
37) #27-J.J. Yeley / 20 laps / crash
36) #42-Matt Kenseth / 59 laps / crash
35) #43-Bubba Wallace / 59 laps / crash
34) #51-Joey Gase / 184 laps / suspension
33) #48-Jimmie Johnson / 279 laps / engine

2020 LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) JTG-Daugherty Racing (7)
2nd) Motorsports Business Management, Rick Ware Racing (6)
3rd) Chip Ganassi Racing (3)
4th) Hendrick Motorsports, Leavine Family Racing, Penske Racing (2)
5th) Beard Motorsports, B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Front Row Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, StarCom Racing, Tommy Baldwin Racing (1)

2020 LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (21)
2nd) Toyota (9)
3rd) Ford (4)

2020 LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP


Sunday, October 25, 2020

TRUCKS: Tim Viens’ “Trump Truck” scores first last-place finish in opening laps of physical Texas race

PHOTO: Chris Graythen, Getty Images

Tim Viens picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series career in Sunday’s SpeedyCash.com 400 at the Texas Motor Speedway when his #49 Trump 2020 Chevrolet was involved in a single-truck accident after 29 of 152 laps.

The finish came in Viens’ 14th series start. In the Truck Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 2nd for the #49, the 162nd from a crash, and the 397th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 59th for the #49, the 1,232nd from a crash, and the 1,752nd for Chevrolet.

The 44-year-old driver from Vermont has followed an interesting path into NASCAR. In 2015, he made two one-off starts for Mike Harmon Racing – first in Trucks at Dover, finishing 23rd, and then XFINITY at Homestead, taking 33rd. At the time, he’d only been a part-timer in the ARCA Menards Series, where in 2014 he made half the season’s 20 races, but driving for the underfunded Roger Carter and Wayne Peterson teams, finished under power twice and no better than 20th.

While he’s since run another pair of starts for Harmon at Talladega and in the summer race at Daytona, finishing 36th and 18th, Viens’ focus has been on the Truck Series. He carried backing from the Patriots First of America PAC, which has run advertisements for the re-election of President Trump on some of Harmon’s XFINITY cars and nearly all of Viens’ Truck Series entries. Incidentally, this was separate from the Patriots of America PAC, which has put similar “Trump / Pence 2020” logos on both Corey LaJoie and Timmy Hill’s cars in the Cup Series.

This year, Viens and Patriots First had initially signed with Mike Affarano’s #03 team, a single-truck organization which hadn’t successfully qualified for a race since last year at Eldora. This issue would continue to plague the team as they withdrew from the season opener at Daytona, where during the President’s visit, Viens was interviewed in front of Harmon’s PAC-sponsored #47 Chevrolet, which that week was driven by Joe Nemechek. Back at the Affarano team, the #03 was on the wrong side of the cut line when NASCAR cancelled qualifying as part of their COVID-19 protocol, then was withdrawn from a guaranteed spot at Homestead due to multiple issues in technical inspection. Frustrated, Viens parted ways with Affarano effective immediately, taking his backing with him.

Viens then landed at CMI Motorsports, which had withdrawn one of his entries from Homestead. This occurred following the reaction to team owner Ray Ciccarelli’s comments criticizing NASCAR’s recent string of unilateral decisions in response to influences outside the sport, including Anthem protests and the banning of the Confederate battle flag. It was with CMI that Viens was then able to make his first start of the year the next round at Pocono, finishing 29th, then started running the PAC’s “Trump / Pence 2020” graphics package at Kentucky. In August, when the second CMI truck began carrying similar “Back The Blue” logos to Mike Harmon’s #47 team, both trucks and Viens were featured in a rap video by Forgiato Blow and Bryson Gray.

Texas would mark Viens’ ninth start in the “Trump / Pence 2020” paint job, which since Kentucky has switched between both CMI’s #49 and #83. In those nine starts, Viens has failed to finish five times, including Las Vegas, where he was flagged off the track for not maintaining minimum speed. He’s also worked with three different crew chiefs: Tim Silva, Wes Hopkins, and Matt Cooper, who would lead the team at Texas. Viens drew the 33rd starting spot for Sunday’s race.

Rolling off 37th and last was Trey Hutchens, who was making just his third start of the year and first since Michigan, ten races ago. Vytal Studios came on to sponsor his #14 Chevrolet. With no drivers dropping to the rear at the start, Hutchens held last at the start, then by Lap 2 worked his way past Norm Benning in the #6 H&H Transport Chevrolet. Benning, who was 11.12 seconds back of the lead on Lap 3, a second-and-a-half back of the next truck in line, appeared to be the first to lose a lap during the opening laps.

With nine to go in Stage 1, Benning was now two laps down along with Josh Reaume in the #33 Colonial Countertops Toyota, and Viens was now 35th, one lap down. Viens lost his second lap by five to go, but with three to go apparently lost a right-front tire and pounded the outside wall in Turn 3. With Viens stopped on the apron, the first stage ended under caution, and the #49 was out of the race. Ciccarellis finished 22nd.

Hutchens ultimately made it just 36 laps before he fell out with ignition problems, leaving him 36th. Clay Greenfield took 35th after a scary accident in Turns 1 and 2 where his #68 Rackley Roofing Toyota hit the outside barrier, then briefly caught fire as he hit the inside wall. A track bar issue dropped Ryan Truex back to 34th in the #40 Marquis Chevrolet while Tate Fogleman rounded out the Bottom Five, his #02 Solid Rock Carriers Chevrolet crashing out in the caution after Greenfield’s wreck.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #49 in a Truck Series race since August 16 of this year, when Roger Reuse’s #49 Belimo / WCIParts.com Chevrolet had clutch issues before the start of the Sunoco 159 at the Daytona Infield Road Course.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
37) #49-Tim Viens / 29 laps / crash
36) #14-Trey Hutchens / 36 laps / ignition
35) #68-Clay Greenfield / 42 laps / crash
34) #40-Ryan Truex / 49 laps / suspension
33) #02-Tate Fogleman / 51 laps / crash

2020 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Reaume Brothers Racing (4)
2nd) Niece Motorsports (3)
3rd) CMI Motorsports, DGR-Crosley, Norm Benning Racing, ThorSport Racing (2)
4th) FDNY Racing, Halmar Friesen Racing, Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing, Spencer Davis Motorsports, Young’s Motorsports (1)

2020 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (13)
2nd) Ford (5)
3rd) Toyota (3)

2020 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP


Saturday, October 24, 2020

XFINITY: Timmy Hill sets up LASTCAR battle with Stephen Leicht; Brown, Vargas, Martins, and Currey enjoy career-best runs

PHOTO: Chris Graythen, Getty Images

Timmy Hill picked up the 5th last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at the Texas Motor Speedway when his #13 RoofClaim.com Toyota fell out with engine issues after 6 of 200 laps.

The finish, which came in Hill’s 212th series start, was his third of the season and first since Richmond, six races ago. In the XFINITY Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 9th for the #13, the 144th for Toyota, and the 265th for engine woes. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 34th for the #13, the 350th for Toyota, and the 1,095th from an engine.

It had been an eventful week for Hill, who on Friday announced that his wife Lucy is expecting a baby boy in March of next year. He’d then head to Texas, scene of his iRacing Pro Invitational Series win over William Byron on March 29. Preorders of the 1:24-scale version of the RoofClaim.com #66 had just been sent out to buyers this same week. RoofClaim.com would sponsor Hill for his double-duty effort in Fort Worth, both on his #66 Cup car and #13 XFINITY entry from Motorsports Business Management. Since his last-place run at Richmond, he’d finished 19th or better in three of those five starts with a best of 14th at Talladega.

On top of this, Hill was also one of six drivers still mathematically in contention for the 2020 LASTCAR XFINITY Series Championship if they finished last in all three of the remaining races this year. The others were fellow two-time last-place finishers Kody Vanderwal, Joe Graf, Jr., Brandon Jones, Michael Annett, and Kyle Weatherman. Hill rolled off 25th on Saturday.

Weatherman rolled off 36th and last in Mike Harmon Racing’s #47 FWPDA Chevrolet. While two teams twice failed pre-race inspection, neither 11th-place Brett Moffitt in the #02 Golden Fox Footwear Chevrolet nor 16th-place Jeremy Clements in the #51 Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet Chevrolet were sent to the rear after both passed a third time. Both will, however, lose their pit stall selection for next Saturday’s Martinsville event. Just before the start, one driver did drop to the rear – 32nd-place Jesse Iwuji, whose #99 Notable Live Chevrolet was sponsored by Dallas Cowboys Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith.

When the race started, Weatherman pulled ahead of Iwuji, who by Lap 3 was 1.077 seconds back of new 35th-place driver Kody Vanderwal in the #52 A-1 Performance Warehouse Chevrolet. Vanderwal was himself losing touch with the rest of the field, and on Lap 5 trailed the #78 Surface Wise / Sci Aps Toyota 35th-place C.J. McLaughlin by 2.386 seconds. Timmy Hill abruptly entered the last-place picture on Lap 8, when he took over last from Iwuji and promptly went a lap down. The #13 went behind the wall, the crew saying they were “not sure what we’re gonna do.” A broken crankshaft was the issue, and NASCAR confirmed him as the first car out on Lap 33.

With the finish, the 2020 LASTCAR XFINITY Series Championship will come down to Hill and Stephen Leicht. Hill’s only path to the title is to finish last in both the season’s final rounds at Martinsville and Phoenix. If Hill does not finish last next Saturday, Leicht will take the title, even if he doesn’t start any more races this season.

Taking 35th was David Starr, whose #07 Chasco / Steely Lumber Chevrolet lost an engine after 40 laps, pulling to the apron after his car erupted with white smoke off Turn 2. Chad Finchum, driving in place of Leicht, took 34th with fuel pump issues on the #66 Garrison Homes Toyota, followed by Austin Hill in the MBM / Hattori effort. Austin Hill had been advised at least twice by NASCAR that one of his rear tires was rubbing. One tire blew, forcing him to pit road, and he ultimately dropped out with suspension issues on the #61 AISIN Group Toyota. Rounding out the group was Riley Herbst, whose #18 Monster Energy Toyota nosed into the inside wall down the backstretch.

Overshadowed by the last-lap pass Harrison Burton pulled on Noah Gragson were several stunning performances by the series’ underdogs.

Just weeks after he was eliminated from Playoff contention when he was forced off into a muddy puddle on the Charlotte “Roval,” Brandon Brown scored the first top-five finish of his career, taking 5th in his #68 Jabs Construction Chevrolet. The finish came in his 84th series start and improved on his career-best 6th in the July 2019 race at Daytona. Brown had been in and around the Top 10 for most of the race, and in the final laps held off the high-powered JR Motorsports entry of Michael Annett by 0.226 of a second.

Taking 8th in only his 10th series start was 19-year-old Ryan Vargas, whose growing fan base gained even more attention when the TikTok app joined him as sponsor of Johnny Davis’ #6 Chevrolet back at Talladega. This was also the best finish of the year for JD Motorsports’ #6 team, whose previous best was an 11th by B.J. McLeod in the June race at Bristol. Vargas reached the 9th spot by six laps to go in Saturday’s race, then on the final lap caught and passed Josh Williams’ #92 Allow Employer Services Chevrolet, edging him for the spot by 0.065 of a second. Williams’ 9th-place finish continues a strong late-season charge for he and the DGM team. It’s his third top-ten finish in the last four races, leaving out only a 34th on the “Roval,” where he also ran strong for the first 36 laps before a crash.

Tommy Joe Martins has endured every possible misfortune in his continuing fight to develop his owner-driver operation Martins Motorsports, first in Trucks and now in XFINITY. It was at this same Texas track in the summer that the #44 Chevrolet began to improve, taking a 15th-place finish to match their run at Talladega. He ran 13th on the Daytona infield road course, and 14th just last week in Kansas. On Saturday, Martins moved up to 11th on Lap 62, held 14th at the end of Stage 2, and reached as high as 8th on Lap 179. With three laps to go, he passed Alex Labbe for the 10th spot and was pulling away from him all the way to the checkered flag, the final gap at 2.701 seconds. The result is Martins’ first top-ten finish in 87 series starts, improving on his breakout 11th-place run at Iowa in 2017.

Further back, Bayley Currey took 8th in Stage 1, continuing to build on Mike Harmon Racing’s breakout season in the #74 Hull Supply Chevrolet. After an up-and-down day that saw him fall off the lead lap, then out of the Top 20, Currey charged back near the finish, taking 12th, just 0.542 of a second from passing Labbe for 11th on the final lap. This was Currey’s career-best XFINITY finish – the third time he’s accomplished this in 2020 alone. His previous marks were an 18th at both Charlotte and Atlanta, then a 14th on the Daytona infield road course.

Both Currey and Martins were nearly collected in one of the day’s biggest accidents triggered by Justin Allgaier, Ross Chastain, and Brandon Jones – Currey ran the apron while Martins nearly stopped in the middle lane. Jeremy Clements, who had been running in the Top 15 for much of the day, nearly made it through as well before Jones hooked Allgaier into his path, knocking Clements’ #51 out of the race in 27th.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #13 in an XFINITY Series race at Texas since November 4, 2017, when John Jackson’s turn for MBM in the #13 OCR Gaz Bar Dodge ended after 7 laps with fuel pressure issues during the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
36) #13-Timmy Hill / 6 laps / engine
35) #07-David Starr / 40 laps / engine 
34) #66-Chad Finchum / 55 laps / fuel pump
33) #61-Austin Hill / 107 laps / suspension
32) #18-Riley Herbst / 132 laps / crash

2020 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Motorsports Business Management (9)
2nd) JR Motorsports (4)
3rd) Joe Gibbs Racing, Mike Harmon Racing (3)
4th) JD Motorsports, Jimmy Means Racing, Shepherd Racing Ventures, SS-Green Light Racing (2)
5th) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Jeremy Clements Racing, Kaulig Racing, Our Motorsports (1)

2020 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (19)
2nd) Toyota (12)

2020 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP

Thursday, October 22, 2020

PREVIEW: Eye-catching paint schemes, James Buescher’s return to the Truck Series, and a LASTCAR Championship among the storylines brewing in Texas

PHOTO: @BLeavine

Saturday, October 24, 2020
XFINITY Race 31 of 33
Round of 8: Race 2 of 3
O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas
2019 Last-Place Finisher: J.J. Yeley

ENTRY LIST
There are 36 drivers entered in Saturday’s XFINITY Series race, the same number as last week in Kansas.

DRIVER SWAP: #4-JD Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #15-JD Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #90-DGM Racing
Colby Howard returns to action for the first time since Talladega, taking the place of Jesse Little in the #15, and carrying sponsorship from the NASCAR Foundation. Little moves to the #4, taking the place of B.J. McLeod, who crosses teams this week and will instead run Mario Gosselin’s #90, replacing Dexter Bean, who’s not entered after his 16th-place run in Kansas.

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-JR Motorsports
It’s Jeb Burton and State Water Heaters back on the #8 this week, returning to action for the tenth time in 2020 and first time since Bristol, where he ran 9th. He takes the place of Daniel Hemric, who once again came quite close to scoring his first win in NASCAR’s top three series, driving the John Andretti “throwback” scheme from Darlington.

DRIVER CHANGE: #47-Mike Harmon Racing
Kyle Weatherman returns to his familiar #47 for the first time since his rough outing early at the Charlotte “Roval,” taking the place of Josh Reaume, who finished 33rd after brake issues at Kansas.

DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Chad Finchum takes the place of Stephen Leicht in MBM's #66 Toyota, but Leicht can still clinch the 2020 LASTCAR XFINITY Series title on Saturday if the following drivers do not finish last at Texas: Kyle Weatherman, Timmy Hill, Kody Vanderwal, Joe Graf, Jr., Brandon Jones, and Michael Annett. For any of these drivers to take the title, however, they'll also have to finish last at both Martinsville and Phoenix.

DRIVER CHANGE: #78-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
C.J. McLaughlin also rejoins the XFINITY circuit for the first time since the “Roval,” and runs his third different car in as many starts this year. This time, he takes the place of Vinnie Miller, who isn’t entered after a 31st-place finish in Kansas, driving the #78 Toyota.

CUP INVADERS: None

Sunday, October 25, 2020 (12:00 P.M. Eastern)
TRUCKS Race 21 of 23
Round of 8: Race 2 of 3
SpeedyCash.com 400 at Texas
2018 Last-Place Finisher: Bo LeMastus

ENTRY LIST
There are 37 drivers entered in the first November Truck Series race since 2018, up one entry from last week in Kansas.

RETURNING: #14-Trey Hutchens Racing
Trey Hutchens makes only his third start of the season and first since Michigan in August, when he ran a season-best 29th. Vytal Studios will sponsor his #14 Chevrolet.

DRIVER CHANGE: #17-DGR-Crosley
After Hailie Deegan secured a full-time Truck Series ride for 2021 midway through her 16th-place finish in Kansas, Dylan Lupton will drive the #17 this week. This marks only the second Truck start of the year for Lupton, who was a late entry into the fall race at Las Vegas, finishing 14th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #24-GMS Racing
After David Gravel was swapped into his ride at Kansas, only to be collected in an early crash, Chase Purdy will again take the wheel of the #24 BamaBuggies.com Chevrolet. This will be Purdy’s seventh start of 2020 and first since Talladega, where he was the one collected in an early crash, yielding a 32nd-place finish.

DRIVER SWAP: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
DRIVER SWAP: #00-Reaume Brothers Racing
Josh Bilicki and Josh Reaume will swap rides this week with Bilicki going to the #00 and Reaume to the #33.

RETURNING: #42-Niece Motorsports
Welcome back James Buescher, who makes his first Truck Series start since March 28, 2015 at Martinsville, where he ran 7th for Bob Newberry’s team. FHE Fraclock will sponsor the 2012 series champion as he also brings back Al Niece’s part-time #42 team for the first time since the fall race at Las Vegas.

DRIVER CHANGE: #44-Niece Motorsports
Also welcome back Natalie Decker, back in the race for the first time since she wasn’t medically cleared at Las Vegas. She takes the place of Colin Garrett, who ran 24th with the team in Kansas.

DRIVER CHANGE: #52-Halmar-Friesen Racing
Stewart Friesen is back in his ride after the scheduling conflict in Kansas put Timothy Peters in his truck at Kansas. Peters finished 7th in what was his first series start since October 12, 2019.

MISSING: #75-Henderson Motorsports
Parker Kligerman is not entered after a spirited rally at Kansas, where he was involved in the day’s early multi-truck pileup, only to take 15th at the finish.

CUP INVADERS: None

Sunday, October 25, 2020 (3:30 P.M. Eastern)
CUP Race 34 of 36
Round of 8: Race 2 of 3
Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 at Texas
2019 Last-Place Finisher: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.

ENTRY LIST
There are 40 drivers entered in Sunday’s main event for the Cup Series, the second-straight “full” field in 2020 and the 18th out of 34 races this season.

NEW SPONSOR: #7-Tommy Baldwin Racing
Josh Bilicki will pull double-duty with the Truck Series this weekend, and on the Cup side run a new camouflage paint scheme for sponsor Junction Fuels and the military initiative Camp Hope.

TEAM UPDATE: #14-Stewart-Haas Racing
Just days after Chase Briscoe locked himself into the Championship 4 at Phoenix, it was announced he will take over for a retiring Clint Bowyer in 2021. This was just one of the many 2021 “Silly Season” stories that played out during the week, including Kyle Larson’s reinstatement set for January 1 and Erik Jones moving to Richard Petty Motorsports.

PAINT SCHEME: #48-Hendrick Motorsports
Rising motorsports artist Noah “Lefty” Sweet has designed the look of Jimmie Johnson’s car this week as the seven-time champion nears the end of his final full-time season.

DRIVER CHANGE: #53-Rick Ware Racing
Garrett Smithley returns to Cup after a brief hiatus since the night race at Bristol, replacing James Davison in the #53 with his frequent backer Victory Lane Quick Oil Change and Kendall Oil as sponsors. This is just one of four head-turning paint schemes for the Ware team this weekend, including new backing from FatBoy Ice Cream Sandwiches on J.J. Yeley’s #27.

PAINT SCHEME: #95-Leavine Family Racing
It was at this same Texas track on April 9, 2011 that the #95 team – then known as Leavine Fenton Racing – made its Cup Series debut with David Starr finishing 38th. After not running the team’s red-yellow-and-blue scheme from that year in this season’s “Throwback Weekend” at Darlington, the team will run the scheme this Sunday with Christopher Bell driving. It will be the LFR team’s final start at their home track, and two races before the team closes its doors.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (October 22, 1994): Tommy Houston picked up the 11th last-place finish of his NASCAR Busch Series career in the ’94 season finale, the AC-Delco 200 at Rockingham, when his #6 Red Devil Enamels Ford fell out with handling problems after just one lap. The finish tied Houston with Ed Berrier for the most last-place finishes in the series at that time.