Saturday, February 29, 2020

XFINITY: Landon Cassill climbs to 28th before early exit in Fontana; Tommy Joe Martins finishes 18th amid adversity

PHOTO: Brock Beard
Landon Cassill picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Production Alliance Group 300 at the Auto Club Speedway of Southern California when his #89 Visone RV Chevrolet fell out with a loss of fuel pressure after 38 of 150 laps.

The finish, which came in Cassill’s 142nd series start, was his second of the season and second in a row. In the XFINITY Series last-place rankings, it was the 15th for the #89, the 3rd from fuel pressure issues, and the 543rd for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 37th for the #89, the 7th from fuel pressure issues, and the 1,706th for Chevrolet.

As reported here yesterday, while Cassill was assured a starting spot in Sunday’s race as 36 teams attempted to qualify for as many spots, running all 150 laps was not a guarantee. Even with a smattering of hundred-dollar sponsors claiming spots on the quarter-panels of Morgan Shepherd’s red-white-and-blue #89 Chevrolet, this fell short of the funds needed to hire a pit crew and purchase tires. Still, Cassill showed speed, running just one lap in each practice session, but ranking 27th and 15th in each. Running scuffed tires in qualifying, Cassill put up a lap of 172.616mph (41.711 seconds), good enough for 24th on the grid.

Starting 36th and last on the grid was Vinnie Miller, whose #78 Koolbox Chevrolet turned in the day’s slowest lap of 163.302mph (44.090 seconds), more than four seconds off the pole. Joining him would be four teams sent to the rear for pre-race penalties: unapproved adjustments sent back Josh Bilicki in the #99 Lemons of Love Toyota, Bayley Currey in the #47 The Journey Home Project Chevrolet, and Chad Finchum in the #13 Manscaped Toyota. Also penalized was Tommy Joe Martins for the engine change on his #44 AAN Adjusters Chevrolet following his oil line fire in Friday practice.

Before the field even rolled off pit road, however, there was word some of the other drivers were having problems. Radio transmissions from other teams questioned if Bilicki’s car would even start as the team had transmission problems and had to replace the clutch. While Bilicki’s car did roll off with the rest of the field, Austin Hill then had radio problems on the #61 AISIN Group Toyota, and didn’t catch up to the tail end of the field until everyone else had rolled away. Hill pulled to the inside to reassume his spot in line, at which point the final row now consisted of Robby Lyons, driving the #15 Sunwest Construction Chevrolet, and Stephen Leicht in the #66 MBM Motorsports Toyota. By the final pace lap, Cassill had dropped back toward the rear with Bilicki in the final row, taking the place of Leicht alongside Lyons.

When the race started, Bilicki and Lyons ran side-by-side into the first corner before Bilicki pulled ahead, dropping the #15 to 36th spot. On Lap 2, there were reports that Leicht was putting down fluid in the #66. The fluid didn’t draw the caution, but it did get on the windshield of Cassill’s car before he moved past. By Lap 4, Bilicki was now running down Leicht for position, but Lyons was losing touch with the pair. Bilicki completed the pass on Leicht and opened the gap by Lap 8. Lyons then closed the gap on Leicht, and the #15 passed the #66 on the outside on Lap 13, dropping Leicht to the last spot. Lyons then opened the gap on Leicht, who was about to be lapped by the leaders. At the start of Lap 20, the leaders put Leicht the first car one lap down.

As the leaders continued to negotiate lapped traffic, other drivers fell off the pace. On Lap 25, B.J. McLeod dropped to 35th in Johnny Davis’ #0 KSDT CPA Chevrolet. Three circuits later, McLeod passed his teammate Jesse Little, who made an unscheduled stop in his #4 Series Seating Chevrolet. Little lost three laps as a result, and remained in the final spot when Stage 1 ended on Lap 35. Cassill, who couldn’t see because of Leicht’s fluid on his windshield, prepared to come down pit road for a tear-off. Leicht was also struggling, saying his water temperature was at 200 degrees and his car couldn’t hold the low line in Turns 3 and 4.

On Lap 38, Cassill – running 28th at the time – pitted with the rest of the lapped cars, and had to be guided to his stall by his spotter. Two circuits later, he was told to pull his car into the garage area. He drove around the third garage building and pulled up behind Shepherd’s trailer at the far end of the garage area. Cassill took the last spot from Little on Lap 42, then was told to climb out the next time by.

“The car was just really tight, so I was just protecting it,” said Cassill after he climbed out of the car. “Usually – maybe just a little hypersensitive to make sure nothing breaks or falls off it.”

After significant interest from viewers about Shepherd’s sponsorship options, I asked Cassill about the best way to help the team. “Just go on Morgan’s website and reach out to them. If there’s any companies, small businesses that wants to sponsor this 89 team. Reach out to me on Twitter – my DMs are open. I’ve seen a lot of people send some messages offering to help out. Really anything helps Morgan, but really if there’s a small business that wants to jump on board, pay the tire bill for the weekend. It’s $15,000 to do the trick – from $15,000 to $30,000 can elevate this team to where we’re racing competitively.”

Leicht ultimately fell out after 78 laps, citing fuel pump issues. The rear bumper cover was coated in dried black fluid, particularly toward the passenger side. NASCAR officials did not deem Leicht out until Lap 119.

Mike Harmon’s two cars, driving by Bayley Currey and Kyle Weatherman, both spent time in the garage area. Weatherman’s #74 went behind the wall first, where the crew worked under the hood, then sent him back out laps down to the leaders. Currey’s #47 came in a few minutes later, Harmon himself looking over the right-rear after a reported brake caliper issue. Currey, too, managed to return to the track multiple laps down, and followed Weatherman at the back of the pack for a mid-race restart. Currey finished the race 30 laps down in 32nd while Weatherman ultimately fell out with engine trouble to take 34th (also reported by NASCAR on Lap 119). Completing the Bottom Five was Brandon Brown, whose #68 Vero Chevrolet was collected in a pileup on Lap 87, then ultimately dropped out with a blown engine. NASCAR reported Brown was out on Lap 124.

Other teams who struggled in the lead-up to the race enjoyed better showings on Saturday. Austin Hill overcame his radio issues and was running inside the Top 10 until a pit road penalty, then an unscheduled pit stop left him 16th. Tommy Joe Martins ran as high as 11th - at one point tracking down both DGM Racing teammates Josh Williams and Alex Labbe – but a flat tire forced a pit stop just before one of the race’s final cautions, trapping him a lap down in 18th.

“. . .We were in the battle with the 93 (Myatt Snider) really hard to get the Lucky Dog the middle of the race and then finally were able to beat him and get that Lucky Dog and got back on the same lap as everybody, kept making it better," said Martins. "When everybody came in to take tires there at the end, we didn’t  - we decided to kind of gamble and save a set. We played to our strengths there, it was really good. And two laps before that caution came out, we cut a tire down and had to pit under green. It put us a lap down and we just couldn’t get back.”

“And that’s with the guys I’m looking at up here. I don’t have any idea how the 78 (Vinnie Miller) finished 15th, that’s wild – I lapped him under green. We’re scratching our heads. The 61 (Austin Hill) – I drove away from him at the end, the 02 (Brett Moffitt) – I drove away from him, the 90 (Alex Labbe) same thing. . .But I think it shows a lot of guts from this race team. We fired off terrible. I mean, just absolutely pathetic at the start of this race and we just stayed with it. Just kept grinding at it. . .You can look at this car, it looks like it’s been through a demo derby. Dodged two wrecks, but finished the race. That was really our goal was maybe a Top 20 and finish the race, but that’s a couple weeks in a row I could’ve got a Top 15, Top 12 finish with this thing. So, I think we’ve got some better days ahead, I think we’ve got a lot of speed.”

For all the struggles, Martins was proud of what he and his team managed to overcome. “Today was just a complete showing of the heart of this team and facing adversity, and it was just adversity from the beginning of the weekend (laughs), adversity last week, adversity in qualifying and the beginning of the race. And we just kept fighting. So, just a lot of heart – really proud of my guys. Just want to thank our sponsor AAN Adjusters for being so encouraging, even through all the struggles in all of this. . .and so many people who reached out to us through Twitter and social media and everything telling us to keep our head up and believing in us. That meant so much to me. . .”

*This marked only the third instance of an XFINITY Series driver finishing last due to fuel pressure, but it’s the second occurrence in less than seven months. The last time was on August 10, 2019, when Max Tullman’s entry fell out after 2 laps at Mid-Ohio.
*This is the first last-place finish for the #89 in an XFINITY Series race at Fontana.

36) #89-Landon Cassill / 38 laps / fuel pressure
35) #66-Stephen Leicht / 78 laps / fuel pump
34) #74-Kyle Weatherman / 97 laps / engine
33) #68-Brandon Brown / 115 laps / engine
32) #47-Bayley Currey / 120 laps / running

1st) Shepherd Racing Ventures (2)
2nd) SS-Green Light Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (3)


Friday, February 28, 2020

INTERVIEWS: A difficult Friday at Fontana for team owners Shepherd and Martins

PHOTO: Brock Beard
At the far end of the XFINITY Series garage area at Auto Club Speedway closest to Turn 1, two haulers sat by themselves, practically isolated from the rest of the field. They belonged to the #44 of Martins Motorsports, the start-up single-car operation by Tommy Joe Martins, and Shepherd Racing Ventures, Landon Cassill’s current ride in the #89 Chevrolet. At the start of Friday’s opening practice, both cars were still on the scales, and each would only make a brief appearance.

Last Sunday in Las Vegas, Martins was on his way to a solid finish, bouncing back from a disappointing DNQ in the Daytona opener, when the engine let go, sparking a fire behind the left-front wheel. A 32nd-place finish was the result. Martins followed his team’s hard work through the week in Vegas as they took parts off the backup car and swapped out the motor, getting it ready for the trip to Fontana. The team pulled through, and on Friday afternoon, Martins’ second of four laps put him 20th on the speed charts out of 32.

Then, a plume of smoke in Turn 4, and Martins pulled down pit road. The flames returned – this time behind the right-front wheel – and the car returned to the garage area. By the time I arrived at the garage, the team had the wheels off and were crawling all over the engine compartment. The underside of the hood was badly burned, the right edge warped. Fortunately, Martins was uninjured.

“We think it was an oil line or something that came loose and caught fire,” said Martins. “Guys are out there cleaning it up right now, so we’ll kind of assess the damage. Good thing we didn’t hit anything. I know we didn’t hurt the motor because we shut the motor off and the motor was only probably 200 on the water temps, so didn’t hurt the motor it just probably burned up a lot of other stuff in there, and we’ll have to figure out what it is.”

Martins had a backup car ready – the car he’d set aside to close out the West Coast Swing next week in Phoenix – but his quick decision to shut off the motor perhaps saved their weekend. The team didn’t have another engine on hand.

Among those stopping by the Martins hauler was B.J. McLeod, who currently drives for JD Motorsports. One year after Jimmy Means Racing provided a backup car for Caesar Bacarella at DGM Racing, I asked if Martins had been working out a similar arrangement. “No,” said Martins. “He was just offering us some help if we needed to replace some parts or anything on the car, so it was really nice of him. He and I have a really good relationship. There’s a lot of mutual respect there. It was nice of him to offer, but right now we don’t even know what’s messed-up yet. We’ve gotta get in there and take a look at it.”

Landon Cassill didn’t share the same engine troubles as Martins. In fact, Cassill’s single lap in practice ranked him 27th, besting five other teams, and another single-lap run in Happy Hour put him 15th of 33. For him and team owner Morgan Shepherd, the biggest challenge for the #89 team remains sponsorship. While the car carried a few more small sponsors on the rear quarter-panels compared to the team’s season debut at Las Vegas, where Cassill finished last, their financial situation has not yet been solved.

“Those are just small sponsors – some of them are only $100,” said Shepherd. We can’t do much with just a couple hundred dollars, everybody’s helping a little bit. . .We just need some corporate company to come on board.”

Last fall at Homestead, Cassill and Homestead enjoyed a breakout 15th-place finish thanks to the support of longtime backers Dale and Sandra Dietrich: “That was a friend of ours that called me and said ‘would you like to run the last race?’ and I said ‘well sure.’ He said ‘will $10,000 do it?’ I said ‘no – not hardly. The tires will be more than that.’ He said ‘what will it take?’ I said ‘$15,000.’ And so he got up $15,000. Was able to hire a pit crew and also buy the tires we needed. I think the tires was a little over $12,000.” Unfortunately, no major sponsors took notice after Cassill’s run, and the team will continue to “start-and-park” until that changes.

Like other owner-driver operations, Shepherd says he can run competitively for much less than other teams. “We could probably do it for two-and-a-half million and have a team and all of the things we need.” Among the team’s needs is a new superspeedway car, which is why the team didn’t run the opener in Daytona – and why they will likely skip Talladega. “I’ve gotta come up with a car, because it takes a complete different race car.” Shepherd indicated they will have to skip other races this season, but that could change if the sponsorship forecast improves.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

PREVIEW: Multiple tributes - but only a handful of team changes - highlight Fontana entry lists

PHOTO: @blaney
Fontana marks the first race of the season for our trackside last-place coverage, and my first time being credentialed at the track. Stay tuned to this website and my Twitter @LASTCARonBROCK for updates throughout the weekend. And if you’d like to ride along with us, click here to join any level of my Patreon and get your name on our car magnet. You’ll also be entered in a drawing to win it after the race!

Saturday, February 29, 2020
XFINITY Race 3 of 33
Production Alliance Group 300 at Auto Club Speedway of Southern California
2019 Last-Place Finisher: Caesar Bacarella

There are 36 drivers entered for as many starting spots, meaning no teams will fail to qualify.

DRIVER CHANGE: #21-Richard Childress Racing
Myatt Snider moves from the #21 to the #93, taking the place of Joey Gase, who isn’t entered in Saturday’s ace. Snider finished 16th last Sunday following his late-race incident with Noah Gragson, three spots ahead of Gase in 19th. Taking Snider’s place in the #21 is Anthony Alfredo, who will be sponsored by Anderson’s Pure Maple Syrup and Ralph’s Supermarkets. This will be Alfredo’s first XFINITY Series start, and his first in NASCAR’s top three series since his first-lap engine failure at Homestead last fall.

DRIVER CHANGE: #47-Mike Harmon Racing
It was announced Thursday that Bayley Currey will take the place of Joe Nemechek in Harmon's #47.

DRIVER CHANGE: #61-Motorsports Business Management
Back in the #61 for the first time since Daytona is Austin Hill, who takes the place of Timmy Hill, 26th last Sunday in Vegas. Timmy Hill will instead focus on Sunday’s Cup Series race, where he again runs MBM’s #66.

DRIVER CHANGE: #74-Mike Harmon Racing
Team owner Mike Harmon takes the place of Kyle Weatherman, who isn’t entered this week after a 30th-place showing in Vegas. It will be Harmon’s first series start since the Daytona opener, where he ran 16th behind teammate Joe Nemechek in 15th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
After Mason Massey finished 29th in his series debut last week in Las Vegas, Josh Bilicki – the last-place finisher of the Truck Series race the night before – will take his place in the #99 Toyota.

Sunday, March 1, 2020
CUP Race 3 of 36
Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway of Southern California
2019 Last-Place Finisher: Clint Bowyer

There are 38 drivers entered for as many spots, meaning no teams will fail to qualify. On this second leg of the “West Coast Swing,” it is also the exact same roster of 38 drivers and teams that ran last Sunday in Las Vegas.

TRIBUTE: #12-Penske Racing
TRIBUTE: #24-Hendrick Motorsports
TRIBUTE: #96-Gaunt Brothers Racing
Rumors swirled on Monday that William Byron would run a paint scheme honoring the life of Kobe Bryant, whose public memorial service was held at the Staples Center that same day. By Tuesday, it was revealed both Byron and Ryan Blaney will run purple-and-gold schemes in Sunday’s race. Blaney’s has its origins with sponsor BodyArmor, which had both Blaney and Bryant represent the brand. In addition, Daniel Suarez will wear special Kobe-themed gloves and shoes in the race, designed by local artist Kickstradomis.

TRIBUTE: #48-Hendrick Motorsports
There will also be several tributes to Jimmie Johnson as he runs his last race at the scene of his first Cup victory in 2002. Among these are a mural painted on the property and his wife and two children serving as the honorary starters

Saturday, March 14, 2020
TRUCKS Race 3 of 23
Georgia 200 at Atlanta
2019 Last-Place Finisher: Joe Nemechek

The Truck Series returns in three weeks to join the upcoming action at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Today in LASTCAR History (February 27, 1994): The late Billy Standridge scored his first career Cup Series last-place finish on this day when his #47 Johnson Racing Ford was involved in a multi-car accident with Rich Bickle and Bill Elliott after 55 laps of the Goodwrench 500 at Rockingham. This also happened to be Standridge’s Cup Series debut, one week after the Daytona 500 marked his fourth DNQ. Standridge made 23 Cup Series starts in all, capped by the 1998 season, when he qualified his car into all four Winston Cup superspeedway races.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

CUP: Timmy Hill’s last-place run in Vegas follows a memorable week in Daytona

PHOTO: Matt Miller, @MGMiller17
Timmy Hill picked up the 10th last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway when his #66 Manscaped / Toyota fell out with rear end trouble after 175 of 267 laps.

The finish, which came in Hill’s 94th series start, was his first of the season and first in the series since November 11, 2018, when an oil leak ended his run at Phoenix, 39 races ago. In the Cup Series last-place rankings, it was the 57th for the #66, the 60th from rear end trouble, and the 159th for Toyota. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 68th for the #66, the 107th from a broken rear end, and the 327th for Toyota.

After nearly a decade of competing part-time in all three of NASCAR’s top three series, Hill turned out to be one of the biggest stories of SpeedWeeks 2020. The offseason saw the 27-year-old Maryland driver pick up new sponsorship from, allowing him to run double-duty at Daytona in both the XFINITY Series and in Cup. He would run both races for Motorsports Business Management, whose team owner Carl Long looked to field multiple cars in both series.

Both were chances Hill eagerly anticipated - on the XFINITY side, he had never finished worse than 23rd in eight previous Daytona starts, and was vying for a Top Five there last July before an accident left him 20th. But Hill had never made a Cup start in either Daytona race. His lone attempt at the Daytona 500 came in 2017, when his Rick Ware Racing entry fell short of racing into “The Great American Race.”

The week proved a success for both driver and team, though not without challenges. In Saturday’s XFINITY race, Hill qualified the team’s Supra 26th on the grid, though he would race without his crew chief Sebastian LaForge. According to the team, a hired paint shop put a narrow strip of body filler around the headlights without telling anyone at MBM. When NASCAR discovered this during inspection, they suspended LaForge for six races, fined the team $50,000, and docked MBM 75 owner points. With the Bondo stripped away, Hill was allowed to race, and charged to a 3rd-place finish – his new career best. LaForge, watching intently from outside the XFINITY garage, celebrated with his teammates after the race.

For the even bigger goal of the Daytona 500, Hill would drive a Ford in place of MBM’s typical Toyotas, and a Roush-Yates engine was under the hood. While Hill narrowly missed locking himself into the 500 field on speed, he had a good enough car to race for the spot in Duel Race 2. For much of that Thursday night, Hill raced side-by-side with J.J. Yeley, knowing that only one of them would earn a spot in the race. In the end, Yeley wrecked on the backstretch, and Hill squeezed by, finishing 16th. Locked into his first Daytona 500 field, Hill became the week’s media darling with several interviews. He also completed all 200 laps, only to be wrecked in overtime for a 27th-place finish.

Hill would run triple-duty in Las Vegas, combined with his first Truck Series start of the year in the #56 team co-owned by his brother Tyler. After Gus Dean finished 26th in Hill’s truck at Daytona, Hill himself worked his way toward the front, only to overheat in the final laps. Multiple stops dropped Hill off the lead lap, and he ended up pulling into the garage just short of the finish. Rain then washed out qualifying for both the XFINITY and Truck Series race, where Hill was locked into each. His #61, a Toyota Camry, would start 29th in the Saturday race. The #66 Toyota Cup car, ranked lowest in Owner Points among “open teams,” secured the 38th and final spot for Sunday. After just 50 laps on Saturday before rain stopped the day’s action, Hill prepared to run the two races on Sunday.

The Cup race came first, where five drivers dropped to the rear. Headlining the group were three Toyota drivers again caught for illegal body modifications – specifically, an unapproved piece below the Toyota crest on the front of each car. The cars of Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, and Christopher Bell were all penalized for the modification while Martin Truex, Jr. and Erik Jones, both teammates of Hamlin and Busch at Joe Gibbs Racing, did not. Also sent to the rear were Garrett Smithley, whose first turn of the season in Rick Ware Racing’s unsponsored #51 Chevrolet began with the car failing pre-race inspection three times, and Brennan Poole, whose Premium Motorsports team had to change engines on his #15 Goettl Chevrolet.

Coming down the backstretch to take the green, wisps of smoke appeared behind the #96 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Toyota of Daniel Suarez. Just over a week after he failed to make the Daytona 500 following a crash in his Duel, his car sputtered and slowed in Turns 3 and 4, falling out of line and creeping toward the starting line as the rest of the field took off. The caution fell as Suarez lost a lap, then was pushed back to pit road. The crew prepared a battery swap, examined the digital screen readouts and the ECU, then managed to get him back on track just under three laps down.

Next to take the last spot was Garrett Smithley, whose penalized #51 now had a serious overheating problem. The driver made at least two pit stops in the first 14 laps, reporting a water temperature of 247 degrees. The crew pulled all the tape of the grille and sent him back on track, now the last-place runner after 15 laps. Due to a handling issue on top of everything else, Smithley was visibly off the pace as the leaders put him another lap down.

Michael McDowell was the race’s newest challenger when his #34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford became the first car to pull into the garage. The Front Row Motorsports team reported a stuck throttle, requiring several laps for repairs. McDowell dropped to last place on Lap 38, and was in position to not only score his fourth last-place finish in a Cup Series race at Las Vegas, but also break his tie with Joe Nemechek for the most last-place finishes in Cup Series history. McDowell returned to the track on Lap 50, now eighteen laps behind the leaders. Though McDowell remained in last place for much of the race, he gradually closed the thirteen-lap gap on 37th-place Smithley. By Lap 100, the two were 11 laps apart. They were nine apart after 151 laps.

It was during this stretch run that two different Toyotas looked to spoil the party. First was Christopher Bell, who after an incredible save in Turn 4 slammed the backstretch wall laps later with the right-front of his #95 Rheem Toyota. The Leavine Family Racing team managed to keep Bell from losing more than five laps, and somehow completed their repairs with ten seconds left on the six-minute “Crash Clock.” Bell missed the Bottom Five with a 33rd-place finish. Next was Martin Truex, Jr., who after running 2nd to Chase Elliott lost track position for an unscheduled second stop for loose wheels. Truex’s #19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota clipped the wall on Lap 174, then lost a right-front and hit it much harder. Truex, too, cleared the “Crash Clock” and even stayed on the lead lap, ultimately taking 20th.

Hill, meanwhile, lost his first lap shortly after Suarez and Smithley, and was again trying to hold his line as the leaders raced all around him. Hill himself later tweeted that his car was leaking fluid around the halfway mark, then was black-flagged by NASCAR on Lap 185. Already nine laps down, Hill pulled down pit road, then back to the garage. On Lap 193, NASCAR officials reported Hill was the first driver out of the race, citing rear end trouble. Hill took the last spot from McDowell on Lap 198, averting the record run. McDowell climbed to 36th with Smithley taking 35th. Between the pair and Hill came Ryan Preece, who inherited the 2nd spot in the race’s final laps, only to lose the engine on his #37 Natural Light Seltzer Chevrolet. Rounding out the group was Reed Sorenson, 14 laps down in his return to Spire Motorsports’ #77 Chevrolet.

*This marked the second-consecutive last-place finish for the #66 in the spring Cup Series race at Las Vegas. It comes just under one year since “The Lastover,” where Joey Gase famously swept both last-place finishes while the MBM team tried to find a missing crew member.

38) #66-Timmy Hill / 175 laps / rear end
37) #37-Ryan Preece / 222 laps / engine
36) #34-Michael McDowell / 245 laps / running
35) #51-Garrett Smithley / 252 laps / running
34) #77-Reed Sorenson / 253 laps / running

1st) Hendrick Motorsports, Motorsports Business Management (1)

1st) Chevrolet, Toyota (1)


XFINITY: Battered Daniel Hemric manages to squeak past Landon Cassill before the rain in Vegas

PHOTO: Cindy Shepherd
Landon Cassill picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday (and Sunday’s) Boyd Gaming 300 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway when his #89 Visone RV Chevrolet fell out with a vibration after 31 of 200 laps.

The finish, which came in Cassill’s 141st series start, was his first since last fall at Phoenix, three races ago. In the XFINITY Series last-place rankings, it was the 14th for the #89, the 139th from a vibration, and the 542nd for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 36th for the #89, the 213th from a vibration, and the 1,705th for Chevrolet.

Las Vegas marked the 2020 season debut of both Cassill and Morgan Shepherd’s single-car operation. It was also their first start since a breakout performance under the lights at Homestead last fall, where the team made a rare full-race attempt. Thank to support from longtime team backers Dale and Sandra Dietrich, who paid the team’s tire bill, Cassill finished 15th, and even edged race winner Tyler Reddick to the finish line to stay just one lap down.

At the time of the Homestead race, Cassill had planned on helping Shepherd continue to build his program in 2020 while also competing full-time for StarCom Racing in the Cup Series. That changed over the offseason, when Cassill was replaced by Quin Houff in StarCom’s #00, leaving him without a Cup ride. The Shepherd team didn’t attempt the Daytona opener, but planned to run the rest of the season – a year where a further field reduction to just 36 grid spots threatened to make things even more difficult for small teams like his.

Fortunately, exactly 36 drivers were entered in Saturday’s race, and when qualifying was rained out, his #89 secured the final starting spot. The car also carried several new associate sponsors which joined since the end of last season – David’s Electric, Carolina Fire Protection, Inc., and Rollin’ Smoke Barbecue, plus a decal promoting Friday’s Strat 200 Truck Series race. The new logos didn’t get much airtime in practice as Cassill was one of three drivers who didn’t turn a lap in the lone session, but he would start the race.

With rain fast approaching the race track Saturday afternoon, Cassill was joined at the back by two cars sent to the rear of the field – polesitter Myatt Snider, sent to a backup after a spin in practice tore the splitter off his #21 Tax Slayer Chevrolet, and Robby Lyons in the #15 Sunwest Construction Chevrolet. The broadcast also showed other small teams falling to the rear, including the #74 Finlay Cadillac Chevrolet driven this week by Kyle Weatherman and the #66 MBM Motorsports Toyota Camry of Stephen Leicht.

Leicht, making his own season debut, was last across the stripe, 5.6 seconds back of the lead. He was also the first driver to be lapped when the leaders whistled past on the high side on Lap 11. Leicht was still running last on Lap 20 when trouble broke out up front. Daniel Hemric, still another driver returning to the circuit for the first time in 2020, had worked his way up to 4th in JR Motorsports’ #8 South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet. That time by, he was holding off Austin Cindric when the #8 broke loose in Turn 4. The car wobbled down the track, then slid up and slammed the outside wall with the right side. This crash became NASCAR’s competition caution, which had originally been set for Lap 20.

On Lap 23, Hemric returned to the track just as the field took the green flag but was now laps down and behind Leicht for last place. He pitted again on Lap 25, apparently clear of the Crash Clock, and now five laps down. Cassill, meanwhile, was running on the lead lap in 33rd, but then pulled down pit road with 12 laps to go in Stage 1. The car then pulled behind the wall, done for the afternoon. By the time the rain hit after the end of Stage 1, then stopped the race on Lap 50, Hemric had climbed past Cassill into 35th – Cassill 16 laps down to Hemric’s 13. Neither driver would return for the race’s completion on Sunday evening, and they would take the final two positions.

The rest of the Bottom Five was filled out after the Cup Series race. The lapped Stephen Leicht continued on in the early laps, pulling to the apron for the Lap 55 restart, then exited past the halfway mark. Finishing 33rd was B.J. McLeod, who lost several laps of his own in the #0 JD Motorsports Chevrolet, then fell out with ignition issues. Rounding out the group was Tommy Joe Martins, who bounced back from a DNQ in Daytona to qualify his own XFINITY car for the first time in 2020. Martins was headed for a mid-pack finish when he was forced to make an extended stay in the garage area. The engine then let go near the end, triggering a small fire behind the right-front tire.

Although the field was set by points, an offseason Owner Point swap following the closure of Stewart-Haas Racing’s second team meant J.J. Yeley lined up 5th in the #52 Franklin Signs Chevrolet owned by Jimmy Means. He even moved up to 3rd for the initial start after Snider’s penalty dropped the polesitter to the back. It was the best-ever start by a Jimmy Means-owned car in 900 combined NASCAR national touring series starts. Means’ Cup car had a best of 12th at the Nashville Fairgrounds in 1978, then again at Atlanta in 1994. The XFINITY team had never started better than 17th, which came at Daytona in July 2009.

36) #89-Landon Cassill / 31 laps / vibration
35) #8-Daniel Hemric / 34 laps / suspension
34) #66-Stephen Leicht / 101 laps / suspension
33) #0-B.J. McLeod / 132 laps / ignition
32) #44-Tommy Joe Martins / 144 laps / engine

1st) Shepherd Racing Ventures, SS-Green Light Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (2)


TRUCKS: Josh Bilicki’s handling woes give truck #34 first last-place finish since 2002

PHOTO: Sebastian LaForge, @WookieAutomoTV
Josh Bilicki picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series career in Friday’s Strat 200 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway when his unsponsored #34 Reaume Brothers Racing Chevrolet fell out with handling issues after 3 of 134 laps.

The finish came in Bilicki’s 6th series start. In the Truck Series last-place rankings, it was the 4th for the #34, the 18th from handling issues, and the 385th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 47th for the #34, the 122nd from handling woes, and the 1,704th for Chevrolet.

It was with this same Reaume Brothers Racing team that Bilicki, the road course racer turned NASCAR journeyman, made his first Truck Series starts just last year. His series debut came last spring at Kansas, where he finished a season-best 18th. After failing to qualify at Charlotte, he followed this run with two more Top 20 performances, running 19th at Chicagoland and 20th in Kentucky. Electrical issues in the Homestead finale ended the streak with a 30th-place finish.

Over the offseason, Bilicki has shored up his business relationship with sponsor Insurance King, which has backed a number of the driver’s races in all three of NASCAR’s national touring series. Among the perks is a former show car trailer from Gray Gaulding’s tenure with SS-Green Light Racing, which was redecorated as the #53 Bilicki has run in Cup for Rick Ware Racing. The sponsor was again with him last week in Daytona, where in the XFINITY race, he ran 21st for team owner B.J. McLeod.

However, at Las Vegas, Bilicki’s first Truck Series start of the season would come in a #34 Chevrolet with no primary sponsorship, and he’d face some difficulties on the track. This came after a rollercoaster week for the Reaume team in Daytona, where the #34 was forced to withdraw after a part failure in practice, teammate Angela Ruch’s #00 was destroyed in a mid-race accident, but Canadian racer Jason White earned a career-best 10th-place finish in the #33.

Bilicki was one of 35 drivers entered for Friday’s 32-truck field. He turned just one lap in opening practice and was ranked next-to-last, besting only Bayley Currey, who didn’t complete a lap in Ray Ciccarelli’s #49 Springrates Chevrolet. The truck struggled for speed even more in qualifying as Bilicki put up the slowest completed lap at just 144.768mph (37.301 seconds), more than seven full seconds off the pole speed. Still, the #34 team’s rank in Owner Points secured Bilicki the 32nd and final starting spot. Sent home were three trucks in the 31-32 second range: Currey’s #49, Korbin Forrister in the #7 All Out Toyota, and Jennifer Jo Cobb in the #10 Chevrolet. Cobb has yet to qualify for a race in 2020.

Prior to the start, Bilicki was joined at the back by Cory Roper for an engine change on his #04 Carquest Ford, plus unapproved adjustment penalties for the #00 DWF Flooring & Cabinets Toyota of Angela Ruch, who spun coming off pit road for her qualifying lap, Stefan Parsons, a late driver swap on Thursday into Ray Ciccarelli’s #83 Springrates Chevrolet, and Matt Crafton in the #88 Black Label Bacon / Menards Ford.

Friday’s race had barely started when, for the second-straight race, Derek Kraus found trouble early, dropping him to last place. This time, the incident was on Lap 2, when his #19 ENEOS / NAPA Filters Toyota spun in Turn 4 and made contact with the right-rear of his truck. Two laps later under the caution, NASCAR officials reported Bilicki had pulled his #34 behind the wall. Scoring, however, showed the Kraus first lose the last spot to Tate Fogleman, who lost two laps in his #02 Solid Rock Carriers Chevrolet. On Lap 6, Fogleman was then shown in 31st, one lap down, as Bilicki took over the last spot, two circuits back.

While the position would not change again, it was not until Lap 96 – 38 laps to go – when NASCAR officials confirmed Bilicki was out of the race with handling issues.

It took nearly the rest of the race to complete the Bottom Five. Taking 30th and 31st were Raphael Lessard in the #4 Mobil 1 Toyota and last week’s Daytona winner Grant Enfinger in the #98 Protect The Harvest / Curb Records Ford, who brought out the night’s final caution when they spun out racing for position. Finishing 29th was Stefan Parsons, whose turn for Ciccarelli saw him charge into the Top 15 before persistent engine issues which forced several unscheduled stops, leaving them 22 laps down. Rounding out the Bottom Five was Timmy Hill, who parlayed pit strategy to restart among the leaders late in the race, only to lose several laps with unscheduled stops of his own. Hill’s overheating issues on the #56 Hill Motorsports Chevrolet dropped him at least thirteen laps down. When it was clear Parsons couldn’t drop Hill another spot, Hill elected to pull his truck into the garage on Lap 125.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #34 in the Truck Series since November 15, 2002, when the Safelite Auto Glass Chevrolet of Eric Jones (part-time racer from Iowa, no relation to the current Cup Series driver of the #20 Toyota) fractured an axle after 2 laps of the Ford 200 at Homestead. The number had never finished last in a Truck Series race at Las Vegas.
*Handling woes are also a relatively rare reason for a last-place finish in the Truck Series. The most recent time this happened was on August 15, 2015, when Justin Jennings’ run in the #36 Mittler Bros. Machine & Tool Chevrolet ended after 6 laps of the Careers for Veterans 200 at Michigan.

32) #34-Josh Bilicki / 3 laps / handling
31) #98-Grant Enfinger / 89 laps / crash
30) #4-Raphael Lessard / 90 laps / crash
29) #83-Stefan Parsons/ 112 laps / running
28) #56-Timmy Hill / 113 laps / overheating

1st) Niece Motorsports, Reaume Brothers Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (2)


Thursday, February 20, 2020

PREVIEW: Full-time teams take center stage on Las Vegas entry lists

Joey Gase will recognize the Nevada Donor Network in XFINITY and Cup this weekend.
PHOTO: @RSS383993 and The Decal Source

Friday, February 21, 2020
TRUCKS Race 2 of 23
Strat 250 at Las Vegas
2019 Last-Place Finisher: Scott Stenzel

There are 35 drivers entered for 32 spots, meaning three trucks will fail to qualify.

MISSING: #6-Norm Benning Racing
Norm Benning is not entered in his #6 Chevrolet after he was the slowest driver to fail to qualify in Daytona.

MISSING: #8-NEMCO Motorsports
MISSING: #87-NEMCO Motorsports
As reported last week in Daytona, neither of the two NEMCO Motorsports entries are entered this week, just days after both trucks surprisingly failed to make Friday’s season opener.

RETURNING: #11-Rette Jones Racing
Spencer Davis returns driving the #11 Toyota with Hearn Industrial as sponsor. Davis made four Truck starts last year, three of them with Rette, including his season-best 8th-place run in Kentucky.

MISSING: #28-FDNY Racing
Jim Rosenblum’s team not entered after their truck was heavily damaged in a late wreck with Tate Fogleman.

DRIVER SWAP: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #34-Reaume Brothers Racing
Josh Reaume moves from the #34, withdrawn last week after engine trouble, to his team’s primary #33. Into the #34 comes Josh Bilicki, who comes over from his XFINITY run last week in Daytona for B.J. McLeod. Bilicki seeks his first Truck Series start since last fall’s Homestead finale, where he ran 30th with electrical issues. No sponsor is yet listed for either truck.

DRIVER CHANGE: #49-CMI Motorsports
NEW TEAM: #83-CMI Motorsports
Ray Ciccarelli moves from his team’s primary #49, which failed to qualify in Daytona, to a new second team, the #83. A source indicated D.J. Copp is not a part of the #83 effort, one year after he most recently entered the former MB Motorsports team in a Truck Series race, but that Copp and Ciccarelli “will be working closely with one another at some point this year.” Taking Ciccarelli’s place in the primary #49 is Bayley Currey, who made three Truck starts last year, but none since Michigan in August. Both black Chevrolets are sponsored by Springrates – Currey’s #49 with white numbers while Ciccarelli’s #83 has yellow ones. UPDATE: On Thursday, Stefan Parsons was swapped into the #83 in place of Ray Ciccareli.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Kyle Busch Motorsports
Kyle Busch returns to continue his undefeated streak in the series from last year, taking the place of Riley Herbst in the #51 Toyota. CESSNA returns as sponsor.

DRIVER CHANGE: #56-Hill Motorsports
After a career week in Daytona, Timmy Hill will this week drive his team’s #56, taking the place of Daytona starter Gus Dean, 26th in the opener. Hill will attempt triple-duty along with runs in XFINITY and Cup for Motorsports Business Management (see below).

MISSING: #68-Clay Greenfield Racing
Clay Greenfield is not entered after his Jeff Hammond-led team weren’t able to make the cut in Daytona.

MISSING: #96-Peck Motorsports
Todd Peck is likewise not entered after his Daytona DNQ.

MISSING: #97-Diverisifed Motorsports
Also missing is Jesse Little, who avoided several of the night’s accidents before he was collected in one on Lap 99, leaving him in 24th. Little remains in his full-time XFINITY Series ride for JD Motorsports this weekend, again driving car #4.

MISSING: #03-Mike Affarano Motorsports
Tim Viens, who made appearances at Daytona despite his truck withdrawing from the event, is not entered along with the Mike Affarano team.

CORRECTION: #04-Roper Racing
Cory Roper’s Carquest Auto Parts sponsor mentioned in last week’s article did not run on the truck at Daytona, and will instead debut as primary backer this Friday in Las Vegas.


Saturday, February 22, 2020
XFINITY Race 2 of 33
Boyd Gaming 300 at Las Vegas
2019 Last-Place Finisher: Joey Gase

There are exactly 36 drivers entered for as many spots, meaning no drivers will be sent home.

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-JR Motorsports
Daniel Hemric will make his first start of the season, taking the place of Jeb Burton, eliminated in a late wreck at Daytona that left him 23rd at the finish. This will be Hemric’s first start since he clinched Cup Series Rookie of the Year last fall at Homestead, driving the #8 Chevrolet now piloted by new rookie Tyler Reddick. South Point Hotel & Casino – of Brendan Gaughan fame - is the sponsor.

DRIVER CHANGE: #13-Motorsports Business Management
DRIVER SWAP: #61-Motorsports Business Management
DRIVER SWAP: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Stephen Leicht, released from JD Motorsports for David Starr, makes his season debut in the #13. This bumps Chad Finchum from the #13 to the #66, and bumps Timmy Hill from the #66 to the #61, taking the place of Austin Hill, who isn’t entered.

MISSING: #16-Kaulig Racing
Matthew Kaulig’s part-time third team is not entered after the team’s disastrous afternoon in qualifying at Daytona. A.J. Allmendinger is likewise not entered in Saturday’s race.

MISSING: #25-ACG Motorsports
Chris Cockrum is not entered after his mid-race crash at Daytona.

MISSING: #26-Sam Hunt Racing
Colin Garrett is not entered after his Toyota-backed Supra failed to make the cut at Daytona.

MISSING: #36-DGM Racing
Mario Gosselin’s #36 appears to have scaled back to a part-time effort as the car is not entered this week. Alex Labbe, who drove the #36 to a strong 10th-place finish, moves to the team’s #90, taking the place of Caesar Bacarella, who isn’t entered after a 29th-place finish.

MISSING: #38-RSS Racing
The entry Kaulig Racing bought to keep Ross Chastain in Saturday’s race is not entered this week, and Jeff Green will work behind the scenes for the Sieg team. The team has scaled back from “start-and-parking” in non-superspeedway races, and is expected to return at Talladega in April at the earliest.

DRIVER CHANGE: #74-Mike Harmon Racing
The preliminary entry list showed no driver listed for the #74 driven at Daytona by Mike Harmon, who scored a strong 16th-place finish behind teammate Joe Nemechek. Finlay Cadillac is the listed sponsor of the #74 Chevrolet.

RETURNING: #89-Shepherd Racing Ventures
Landon Cassill is back in his west coast swing driving for Morgan Shepherd. This is Cassill’s first NASCAR start since his final Cup run for StarCom Racing, and his first series start since his breakout performance last fall at Homestead, where tire money from longtime backers Dale & Sandra Dietrich culminated in a 15th-place finish. VisoneRV returns as sponsor once again.

Joey Gase takes the place of C.J. McLaughlin, and brings with him sponsorship from his Sunday backer Nevada Donor Network. Interestingly, the rendering of the car showed the RSS Racing door and roof numbers replaced with a font style similar to that currently used by Rick Ware Racing. According to the press release, the scheme will be run in honor of the late Montana Amato, an organ donor.

DRIVER CHANGE: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Mason Massey makes his XFINITY Series debut this week, one year after he made his first seven Truck Series starts for Reaume Brothers Racing with a best season finish of 17th at Pocono. Gerber Collision & Glass is the listed sponsor. Massey takes over for Josh Bilicki, who this week drives for the Reaume Brothers (see above).


Sunday, February 23, 2020
CUP Race 2 of 36
Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube at Las Vegas
2019 Last-Place Finisher: Joey Gase

There are 38 drivers entered for 40 spots, meaning all drivers will qualify. It also marks the first short field of the season, one week after three drivers were sent home before the Daytona 500.

DRIVER CHANGE: #6-Roush-Fenway Racing
Leading all stories this week is the injuries sustained to Ryan Newman in his scary crash while battling for the win of the Daytona 500. On Monday night, Newman remained in serious condition with non-life threatening injuries. On Tuesday, he was able to speak with his family and doctors. And on Wednesday, he walked out of the hospital under his own power. The preliminary entry list showed “TBA” in place of the driver. Newman has not been cleared to run on Sunday, putting an end to his consecutive start streak of 649 races dating back to the 2002 Daytona 500. Driving in his place Sunday is Ross Chastain, who last week drove for Spire Motorsports (see below).

MISSING: #16-Kaulig Racing
Neither Justin Haley nor the RCR-backed Kaulig Racing entry are in this Sunday’s field, one week after Haley recovered from a spin in the day’s biggest pileup to finish 13th. Haley will instead focus on his full-time XFINITY effort, driving Kaulig’s #11.

MISSING: #27-Premium Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #77-Spire Motorsports
Jay Robinson’s second car not entered after Reed Sorenson’s late crash in the 500. Sorenson moves back to the #77 from Robinson’s partners at Spire Motorsports, taking the place of Ross Chastain, who was on Wednesday named the relief driver for Ryan Newman (see above). As in 2019, it’s likely the car Sorenson drives this week will not have the support from Chip Ganassi Racing that Chastain enjoyed last week and Jamie McMurray did in 2019. The car has no listed sponsor.

MISSING: #36-Rick Ware Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Rick Ware Racing
RETURNING: #53-Rick Ware Racing
David Ragan is not entered after his sterling 4th-place finish in the Daytona 500, his first top-five finish since 2015, and best finish at Daytona since his win there in July 2011. Ragan’s car is also not entered - the Charter used to enter his #36 reverts back to its original owner, Rick Ware’s #53, which this week is driven by Joey Gase with matching XFINITY Series sponsorship from the Nevada Donor Network. Gase makes the move from the #51, which this week is driven by Garrett Smithley, his first start of the year. Victory Lane Quick Oil Change and Trophy Tractor will sponsor the Smithley effort for an “expanded schedule” in 2020. Smithley’s most recent Cup start was last fall at Phoenix, where he ran 31st.

MISSING: #49-Motorsports Business Management
Chad Finchum’s car that DNQ’d at Daytona is not entered this week, but Timmy Hill will still drive MBM’s primary #66 on Sunday. Like many drivers not entered in Sunday’s race, Finchum will focus on the XFINITY Series – his ride will be MBM’s #66 (see above).

DRIVER SWAP: #52-Rick Ware Racing
MISSING: #54-Rick Ware Racing
Rick Ware has also not entered his fourth “open” car, and J.J. Yeley moves from that machine to the #52, taking the place of B.J. McLeod, who isn’t entered after a mid-race spin left him 38th in the Daytona 500.

MISSING: #62-Beard Motorsports
Brendan Gaughan is not entered after he, like Justin Haley, recovered from involvement in the late-race pileup to charge back into the lead pack. Making his final Daytona 500 start, Gaughan left the track with a 7th-place finish – his third top-ten since he joined Mark Beard’s effort to run the superspeedways exclusively. Expect driver and team to return to action on the Cup side in Talladega in April.

Today in LASTCAR History (February 20, 1999): Kerry Earnhardt picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in the Alltel 200 at the North Carolina Speedway (Rockingham) when his #40 Channelock Chevrolet fell out with handling issues after 56 laps. Earnhardt qualified seventh for what was his fifth series start.

Monday, February 17, 2020

CUP: William Byron the first driver to finish last in the Daytona 500 after winning his Duel since 2007

William Byron picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s 62nd Annual Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway when his #24 Axalta “Color of the Year” Chevrolet fell out in a single-car accident after 58 of 209 laps.

The finish came in Byron’s 73rd series start. In the Cup Series last-place rankings, it was the 23rd for the #24, the 593rd from a crash, and the 778th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 38th for the #24, the 1,203rd from a crash, and the 1,703rd for Chevrolet.

Last season saw Byron overcome the “sophomore slump” thanks, in part, to a crew chief swap at Hendrick Motorsports. With Chad Knaus now leading the crew, three-time Rookie of the Year Byron scored his first career pole in the season-opening Daytona 500, his first of five poles on the season, and scored a pair of runner-up finishes in the July Daytona race and fall round in Martinsville. Byron earned his first spot in the Playoffs, made it up to the Round of 8, and finished eleventh in points, a twelve-position swing from 2018. Knaus and Byron continued on into 2020, and set their sights on their scoring Byron his first Cup victory.

Byron’s five poles meant his 2020 granted him a spot in the Busch Clash, where his Liberty University car drew the seventh starting spot, but finished 14th after a late-race pileup in the tri-oval. He’d run a much different looking car, sponsored by Axalta, in the 500. Axalta showcased their 2020 Global Automotive Color of the Year winner, Axalta Sea Glass, by making the faded purple shade the car’s primary color. Byron missed out on the pole, but placed eighth on the speed charts with a lap of 192.443mph (46.767 seconds). The fast lap gave Byron the 4th starting spot in Duel Race 2, which he won after he passed Kevin Harvick with three laps to go. The win kept Byron in the 4th spot for the Daytona 500.

Starting 40th and last in the field was Reed Sorenson, who was making his first Daytona 500 start since 2015. This time, he drove for Premium Motorsports in an unsponsored blue #27 Chevrolet, bumped into the field after J.J. Yeley wrecked in Duel Race 2. Another seven drivers joined him in the back of the field, starting with Ryan Blaney’s #12 Peak / Menards Ford and Corey LaJoie’s #32 Ford, both backup cars after wrecks in the Duels. Also dropping back were Denny Hamlin’s #11 FedEx Toyota and Brennan Poole’s #15 Spartan Go / Spartan Mosquito Chevrolet, both for failing inspection twice. Poole had also changed an engine, joining the mechanical penalties for Ty Dillon for a new gear on the #13 GEICO Chevrolet, a transmission change for B.J. McLeod’s re-wrapped #52 Christensen Arms Ford, and unapproved adjustments on Christopher Bell’s #95 Procore Toyota.

After all the pre-race penalties, the final two cars in the lineup were Hamlin and Blaney. Though they started 39th and 40th, they did not line up side-by-side, but from the backstretch to the starting line remained both on the inside lane with Blaney in Hamlin’s tire tracks. Hamlin fell to last at the end of Lap 1, followed on Lap 3 by Justin Haley, making Kaulig Racing’s first Cup start in the #16 Fraternal Order of Eagles Chevrolet. Haley then hitched onto the inside line, dropping Poole to last after four laps. Poole traded the spot with Clint Bowyer in the #14 Rush Truck Centers Ford, who was running last from Lap 6 to around Lap 8, when Poole took it back once more. Poole then lost touch with Bowyer and the rest of the pack, remaining in 40th until rain stopped the day’s action.

When the race resumed late Monday afternoon, the leaders came down pit road, handing the spot to David Ragan in the #36 Select Blinds Ford. Christopher Bell then took the spot on Lap 25, followed by LaJoie on Lap 26 before the race restarted. The spot then changed hands rapidly from Erik Jones’ #20 DeWalt Toyota after 27 laps to Bubba Wallace’s #43 Air Force Chevrolet on Lap 29. By then, Wallace was trailing a single-file pack that was losing touch with the leaders.

Next to fall into the mix was Joey Gase, whose #51 EFX Corp. / Chevrolet took last place for the first time on Lap 42. Gase drafted with Wallace, but the two started to lose touch with 38th-place Jones, who was now 0.668 of a second in front. Three laps later, Gase lost touch with Wallace, complaining that his car was too free in the corners. Completely alone, Gase awaited the leaders catching him before the end of Stage 1. On Lap 52, he stayed in the high line as race leader Chase Elliott pulled his own single-file train past him on the inside lane of the tri-oval. The second trailing pack of cars dropped Gase even further back on Lap 54. The Rick Ware Racing crew was reminding Gase to drag the brake rather than lift the throttle when the caution came out.

On Lap 59, Byron was running in the 4th spot and sizing up the three leaders in front of him. Behind him, 5th-place Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., the polesitter, lined up in the #47 Kroger Chevrolet. First Byron, then Stenhouse peeked out of line, and the two made contact, sending Byron spinning across the track and into the grassy infield. Byron remained in a full four-wheel drift until he slammed head-on into the inside wall, destroying the front of his car. Under the caution, Byron climbed out, and his car was towed to the garage, done for the day.

Finishing 39th was Quin Houff, whose first turn in the #00 Jacob Companies Chevrolet ended when Aric Almirola bumped him into a spin on the backstretch, also collecting the #52 of B.J. McLeod. McLeod slammed into the outside wall, then followed him into the infield grass, where McLeod’s front splitter dug into the grass to cause further damage. Houff was done for the day, but McLeod managed to complete a few more laps, clearing the Crash Clock before he fell out of the race.

The 37th spot fell to Cole Custer, whose first turn in Stewart-Haas Racing’s #41 Ford ended with rear end trouble. Rounding out the group was Brad Keselowski, who like Byron was running among the leaders when a bump from Joey Logano into Almirola sent Keselowski’s #2 Discount Tire Ford into a spin, triggering a nineteen-car pileup that decimated the field.

*Byron is the first driver to finish last in the Daytona 500 after winning his Duel race since 2007, when Tony Stewart won Race 1 in his #20 The Home Depot Chevrolet, led 35 laps in Sunday’s race, then wrecked out of the lead in a tangle with Kurt Busch.
*This is Byron’s second last-place finish in a NASCAR national touring series race. His first came February 27, 2016, when his #9 Liberty University Toyota lost an engine after 59 laps of the Great Clips 200 at Atlanta.
*This marks the first time the #24 finished last in a Cup race with a driver other than Jeff Gordon since November 3, 1991, when Kenny Wallace had steering issues after 1 lap of the Pyroil 500 at Phoenix. The number’s most recent finish in a Cup points race since April 6, 2008, when Gordon’s #24 DuPont Chevrolet crashed after 124 laps of the Samsung 500 at Texas.
*This also marks the first last-place finish for the #24 in the Daytona 500 since February 22, 1970, when Cecil Gordon followed Richard Petty to the garage area the day Pete Hamilton won the race. Gordon’s 1968 Ford fell out with a busted a-frame after 7 laps.

40) #24-William Byron / 58 laps / crash
39) #00-Quin Houff / 89 laps / crash
38) #52-B.J. McLeod / 105 laps / crash
37) #41-Cole Custer / 174 laps / rear end
36) #2-Brad Keselowski / 183 laps / crash / led 30 laps

1st) Hendrick Motorsports (1)

1st) Chevrolet (1)


Sunday, February 16, 2020

XFINITY: Joe Graf, Jr. gives #08 its first series last-place finish since 2012

PHOTO: Luis Torres, @TheLTFiles
Joe Graf, Jr. picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s NASCAR Racing Experience 300 at the Daytona International Speedway when his #08 CORE Development Group Chevrolet was collected in a multi-car accident after 37 of 120 laps.

The finish came in Graf’s 4th series start. In the XFINITY Series last-place rankings, it was the 5th for the #08, the 329th from a crash, and the 541st for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 20th for the #08, the 1,202nd from a crash, and the 1,702nd for Chevrolet.

Graf enters just his second season in the XFINITY Series after a part-time campaign last year. Prior to that, he’d competed full-time in the ARCA Menards Series for Chad Bryant Racing. He scored his lone victory on the short track at Berlin, where he tangled with leader Chandler Smith and held off Zane Smith. Graf finished eighth in the standings that year, then fifth the following year with new sponsor Eat Sleep Race, a motorsports apparel company geared toward kids.

While Graf has never competed in the Truck Series, Eat Sleep Race backed Graf for five races in the XFINITY Series instead. He bounced back from a DNQ at Michigan to make his series debut at Iowa with a 19th-place finish. He drove for Richard Childress in the team’s part-time #21 Chevrolet, running 23rd in the night race at Daytona after a late crash, then 14th in the fall race at Richmond. He also attempted the night race at Bristol for Kaulig Racing, but again failed to qualify.

Graf then landed a ride with SS-Green Light Racing, whose #08 team enjoyed a breakout season last year with Gray Gaulding. Gaulding nearly scored the victory at Talladega and had an outside shot at a spot in the Playoffs until the very last round of the regular season, but reportedly chose to part ways with the team at the end of the year. Even the glass trailer containing Gaulding’s show car ended up redecorated for Josh Bilicki at Rick Ware Racing. Graf’s sponsorship from Eat Sleep Race continued, though late in the offseason new primary backing came from New Jersey solar panel firm CORE Development Group.

Graft was one of 40 drivers entered to attempt a field that had been reduced for the third time in eight years, down from 43 cars in 2012 to 40 in 2013, 38 in 2019, and now just 36. Graf ran 23rd in the opening practice session, did not participate in Happy Hour, and qualified a strong 5th with a lap of 187.790mph (47.926 seconds), backing up the speed Gaulding showed in this same race last year.

Missing the race were Colin Garrett in the second-ever race for Sam Hunt Racing, driving the #26 The Rosie Network Toyota, Tommy Joe Martins in the return of his own team Martins Motorsports with AAN Adjusters as sponsor of his #44 Chevrolet, and most surprising, two cars from Kaulig Racing: part-timer A.J. Allmendinger in the #16 Ellsworth Advisors Chevrolet and full-timer Ross Chastain in the #10 Nutrien Ag Chevrolet. Brake issues were to blame at least for Chastain’s DNQ, which then saw his car catch fire in the garage afterward. A deal was then worked out with RSS Racing, whose part-time driver Jeff Green qualified 23rd in the #38 Chevrolet fully-sponsored by C2 Freight Resources. While Green has run strong in his limited plate race appearances, he stepped aside as the Kaulig team re-decaled his #38 and the in-car camera equipment was installed.

Graf's car unloaded in the garage after the crash.
PHOTO: @Frontstretch
The change sent Chastain and the #38 team to the back of the field, where Joe Nemechek had used his Past Champions Provisional to earn the 36th and final starting spot. Nemechek returned to driving Mike Harmon’s second car, re-numbered #47, with sponsorship from the Patriots PAC of America to promote the re-election of President Donald Trump. Unapproved adjustments sent Nemechek to the rear before the start along with J.J. Yeley, the new driver of Jimmy Means Racing’s #52 Circle Track Warehouse Auction Chevrolet. Scoring also indicated that C.J. McLaughlin had fallen to the rear after qualifying 21st in the #93 Sci Aps Chevrolet along with Mike Harmon, 36th in his #74 Veterans 4 Child Rescue Chevrolet.

On the break, Harmon slipped back into the 36th spot, 4.439 seconds back of the lead. But coming off Turn 4 for the first time to complete Lap 1, 15th-place runner Caesar Bacarella blew a right-rear tire on his #90 Alpha Prime Chevrolet, sending him spinning toward the inside wall. Bacarella avoided a crash, but shed at least one crush panel before he backed into his pit stall. Since he didn’t draw a caution, this cost Bacarella two laps by the time he returned to action, and he nearly lost a third by Lap 9.

On Lap 19, Jeremy Clements was now running in 15th when he noticed his hood begin to come loose down the backstretch. Moments later, the hood of his #51 Chevrolet flapped up and smashed itself over the windshield and roof, breaking the hood into pieces. The impact also knocked loose the roof hatch, which now dangled from its tethers. The caution flew to retrieve the resulting debris, and Clements pulled behind the wall for repairs. While he did go to the garage for damage, this did not apparently trigger the “Crash Clock” as going to the garage did not result in an immediate DNF. While that same rule prevented the crew from replacing the hood, they were able to repair the hatch, and Clements returned to action on Lap 23, three laps down. Air buffeting through the open engine compartment made the car a handful, and the driver would later pit just short of the end of Stage 1 for bear-bond to keep the exposed radiator in place.

Clements was still in last place, three laps down, when another wreck ended the last-place battle. On Lap 38, just after the start of Stage 2, defending race winner Michael Annett spun his #1 AHA / Pilot / Flying J Chevrolet from the 10th position in Turns 1 and 2. As Annett spun up the track, Graf was looking for a way around Austin Hill’s #61 AISIN Group Toyota on the inside line. Hill came down and hooked Graf, spinning the #08 head-on into the outside wall and slamming Hill into Annett’s spinning car. While Annett kept going, both Hill and Graf were eliminated. Graf was running 0.233 second behind Hill at the end of the previous lap – a 1.255 to Hill’s 1.022. This ranked Graf behind Hill and secured him the last-place finish on Lap 42. Hill took 35th.

Completing the Bottom Five was another pileup on the final lap of Stage 2, when Riley Herbst’s #18 Monster Energy Toyota crossed the nose of Josh Williams’ #92 Sleep Well / Harkin Construction Chevrolet on the apron of Turn 3. Herbst slid up the track, collecting polesitter Myatt Snider in the #21 Tax Slayer Chevrolet, then a hard impact from Chris Cockrum in the #25 Advanced Communications Group Chevrolet. Cockrum took the 34th spot with Snider 33rd and Herbst in 32nd.

Two days after locking himself into his first Daytona 500 field, Timmy Hill secured a third-place finish, besting his previous career-best XFINITY finish of 7th he scored three other times, including two XFINITY races at Daytona in 2012 and 2018. The finish came despite last-minute issues in inspection where NASCAR discovered Bondo in the front valence. According to the team, they didn’t know the Bondo was there as it was added by a body shop after the sponsor requested the nose be painted. Repairs left the nose of Hill’s Toyota half-unpainted, but apparently without seriously affecting the aerodynamics.

Brandon Brown also ran strong by running near the front all day and matching his career-best 6th-place finish at Daytona last July. Brown’s #68 Larry’s Lemonade Chevrolet narrowly averted disaster on the final lap when he bumped into Michael Annett’s damaged car, sending Annett into a spin that caused the final wreck which forced the race to end under caution.

*This marked the first last-finish for the #08 in an XFINITY Series race since September 15, 2012, when Tim Andrews’ run in the Dollar General 300 at Chicagoland ended after 9 laps with ignition problems on his Randy Hill Racing Ford.

36) #08-Joe Graf, Jr. / 37 laps / crash
35) #61-Austin Hill / 37 laps / crash
34) #25-Chris Cockrum / 59 laps / crash
33) #21-Myatt Snider / 59 laps / crash
32) #18-Riley Herbst / 59 laps / crash

1st) SS-Green Light Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (1)


TRUCKS: Ty Majeski roof-slides into last place; Anderson, Rohrbaugh, Decker, and White are underdog heroes of Daytona thriller

Ty Majeski picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series career in Friday’s NextEra Energy Resources 250 at the Daytona International Speedway when his #45 Plan B Sales Chevrolet was involved in a spectacular multi-truck accident after 15 of 106 laps.

The finish came in Majeski’s 2nd series start. In the Truck Series’ last-place history, it was the 3rd for the #45, the 156th from a crash, and the 384th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 37th for the #45, the 1,201st from a crash, and the 1,701st for Chevrolet.

Majeski has showed much promise in his rise through the ranks, but has been victim of the sport’s unpredictability. In 2017, he made his national series debut as a development driver with Roush-Fenway Racing, running part-time in the team’s prolific #60 Ford in the XFINITY Series. He made 15 starts over two seasons with a best finish of 7th in Iowa, but was left without a ride after Roush-Fenway ended their XFINITY program at the end of 2018.

Last year, Majeski moved to the ARCA Menards Series to run a six-race slate of speedway races with Chad Bryant Racing. The driver found sure footing once again, finishing no worse than fourth in all his starts and taking three victories – one each at Charlotte, Pocono, and Chicagoland. After the season wrapped up in the fall, Majeski was then invited to make his Truck Series debut at Phoenix, driving for Al Niece in the #44. Again, he excelled, qualifying a strong 5th and finishing 11th. The performance landed him his current full-time effort with Niece, taking the place of Ross Chastain in the #45 that finished second in last year’s championship.

Majeski was one of 41 drivers entered to attempt the 32-truck field, but the list shrank by two entries for qualifying day. First to withdraw was Tim Viens, whose #03 Trump Pence 2020 / Patriots PAC of America Chevrolet was reportedly damaged when the Affarano Motorsports team’s hauler drove into a ditch. The other withdrawal was Josh Reaume, whose #34 Motorsports Safety Group Chevrolet made it onto the track for the second practice session, only to lose the engine.

The seven drivers who failed to qualify were headlined by NEMCO Motorsports, whose two Fords both missed the cut with Joe Nemechek in the #87 and son John Hunter Nemechek in the #8. The remainder of the group were single-truck entries for other owner-drivers: Norm Benning in his #6 H&H Transport Chevrolet, Jennifer Jo Cobb in her #10 Chevrolet, Ray Ciccarelli in his #49 CMI Motorsports Chevrolet, Clay Greenfield’s #68 Racklet Roofing Toyota (with a returning Jeff Hammond as crew chief) and Todd Peck in his family’s #96 Holla Vodka Chevrolet.

Majeski, meanwhile, turned a strong 3rd-fastest lap in opening practice, slipped to 30th in Happy Hour, and qualified 17th with a lap of 178.848mph (50.322 seconds).

Qualifying 32nd and last was Angela Ruch, who over the offseason made the move from Niece Motorsports to Reaume Brothers Racing. Her #00 The Ruch Life Chevrolet was joined at the rear by two trucks penalized for unapproved adjustments: Ruch’s teammate Jason White in the #33 Chevrolet, and second-year driver Natalie Decker, one of Majeski’s teammates, in the #44 N29 Technologies Chevrolet. Both fell to the rear before the start along with Jordan Anderson, who surrendered the 23rd starting spot in his #3 K-Seal / Chevrolet. While Ruch would be eliminated in an accident, Anderson, Decker, and White all bounced back in a big way.

On the break, Decker slipped behind Ruch and Anderson, but remained within a tenth of a second of both trucks. By the end of Lap 2, the last nine trucks in the running order had formed a small pack of their own, led by 24th-place Korbin Forrister in the #7 50 Egg Music Toyota. The lead 23 trucks continued to battle among themselves, though soon after, 23rd-place Bryan Dauzat in FDNY Racing’s #28 FDNY / American Genomics Chevrolet started to lose touch with them and ran by himself in the widening gap between the two packs. By then, Jason White had taken last from Decker.

The next challenger came on Lap 10, when Derek Kraus made an unscheduled stop for a loose window net on his #19 Shockwave Marine Suspension Seating Toyota. He lost a lap in the process, and Cory Roper slipped from the lead pack to 31st place in his #04 Alliance Aviation Ford, lifting Forrister to the 22nd spot. Forrister’s pack finally caught Dauzat, who dropped to 31st place, bringing up the rear of the pack, on Lap 15. The lapped Kraus, however, remained in last place until trouble broke out in Turn 1.

As the field crossed the stripe to begin Lap 16, Majeski was running in the 9th spot, 0.792 of a second behind the leader and leading an inside line of trucks. To his outside were a two-truck tandem of Todd Gilliland and Tate Fogleman with another long outside line to the high side, led by Austin Wayne Self. Exiting the tri-oval, Gilliland’s #38 Black’s Tire & Wheel Ford got Fogleman’s #02 Solid Rock Carriers Chevrolet loose. Fogleman slid up into Self and clipped him, sending Self careening across the track and into Majeski’s door. The impact yanked Majeski’s truck to the right, sending him airborne and sliding down the banking on his roof. Majeski was uninjured and the red flag was drawn to allow him to be safely removed.

It was not until after the yellow flag was displayed on Lap 17 that scoring reset, showing both Majeski and Self out of the race. Self, instructed by NASCAR to not drive his battered truck around the track, was classified just ahead of Majeski at the completion of the previous lap. The gap between the two trucks was just six-thousandths of a second – Self’s 0.786 to Majeski’s 0.792. This proved decisive in deciding which driver was classified last – the spot went to Majeski with Self in 31st.

The rest of the Bottom Five was promptly filled by another multi-truck pileup on Lap 66, which began when Angela Ruch lost control in Turn 3. Joining her in the Bottom Five were Fogleman and Dauzat, who collided on the apron with Fogleman’s battered Chevrolet catching fire. None of the drivers were injured.

After several close calls, one more pileup in the lead pack set up a dramatic finish where several drivers earned career-best runs. Among these were several drivers who contended for last place in the early laps. Jason White, who held the spot before Kraus’ window net issue, recovered to finish 10th, his first top-ten finish in just his fourth series start. Natalie Decker made her way up to the fifth spot after Kraus nipped her for fourth off the final corner, her first career top-five finish and one year after finishing last in the same race.

Two more underdogs threatened to snatch away victory from winner Grant Enfinger. Coming the closest was fan favorite Jordan Anderson, who after his own turn near the rear of the field found himself in 2nd place coming out of Turn 1 after Ross Chastain broke loose in front of him. He charged at Enfinger and moved to the outside lane, where the two made contact all the way to the stripe. This opened the door for a closing Codie Rohrbaugh, who recovered from a Turn 4 spin that didn’t draw a caution and was now pulling up on the inside in his #9 GCM / CR7 Motorsports Chevrolet. One more bump shot Enfinger ahead of Anderson by one-hundredth of a second with Rohrbaugh just over a trucklength behind on the inside. Anderson and Rohrbaugh were elated with their own first Top Five finishes – Anderson’s previous career-best was a 9th while Rohrbaugh’s was a 10th.

*This marked only the third last-place finish for the #45 in Truck Series history, joining Rich Bickle at Martinsville on April 17, 1999 and Tommy Regan at Iowa on July 11, 2014.

32) #45-Ty Majeski / 15 laps / crash
31) #22-Austin Wayne Self / 15 laps / crash
30) #02-Tate Fogleman / 62 laps / crash
29) #28-Bryan Dauzat / 65 laps / crash
28) #00-Angela Ruch / 65 laps / crash

1st) Niece Motorsports (1)

1st) Chevrolet (1)


Thursday, February 13, 2020

CUP: Daniel Suarez misses his first Daytona 500 field after crushing pit entry accident

PHOTO: Getty Images, MRN Radio
Daniel Suarez finished last in Thursday’s Bluegreen Vacations Duel Race 1 at the Daytona International Speedway when his #96 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Toyota was collected in a multi-car accident after 28 of 60 laps.

After finishing just outside of Playoff contention with Stewart-Haas Racing, taking 17th in the standings, Suarez, the 2016 XFINITY Series Champion did not get a contract extension. His ride in the #41 Ford went to SHR’s own XFINITY Series challenger Cole Custer, who would join fellow series standouts Tyler Reddick and Christopher Bell in this year’s Rookie of the Year class.

Suarez now found himself driving for a third different Cup Series team in only his fourth season. It was long rumored over the offseason that Suarez would land at Gaunt Brothers Racing, whose 2019 driver Parker Kligerman had no plans to run any of NASCAR’s top three series in 2020. It was not confirmed until January 28. Suarez would also bring with him sponsorship from Coca-Cola and CommScope, allowing the Gaunt team to attempt their first full-time season. The Gaunt Brothers had only run part-time as an open team, but climbed to the highest-ranked team without a Charter, putting them in position to earn one.

Driver and team’s first step would come at Daytona, where the Gaunt Brothers elected not to enter Suarez in the season-opening Busch Clash. Although this kept Suarez from capitalizing on his pole last summer at Kentucky, it was perhaps for the best – only Austin Dillon and Ryan Newman escaped that race without significant damage, and Erik Jones took the checkers in a battered Toyota.

Suarez showed speed in opening practice, ranking highest of the “open” drivers and eighth overall on the charts. He then slipped to 37th in the second session of the day, leaving it anyone’s guess how the car would perform in qualifying. As the 23rd car on track and last of the “open” cars to time in, Suarez needed to best Brendan Gaughan to become one of the cars locked in on speed. His lap of 185.479mph (48.523 seconds) fell short, locking Gaughan into the show for his final Daytona 500. And for the first time in his brief career, Suarez would have to race his way into the 500 field, starting 19th in the 22-car field of Duel Race 1.

Starting last in Thursday’s first qualifier was Joey Gase, locked in by virtue of one of Rick Ware Racing’s three Charters. Gase drove the team’s flagship #51 Chevrolet with sponsorship from EFX Corp, but turned in the slowest completed lap in qualifying (teammate B.J. McLeod ranked below him when his #52 Ford failed to post a time). Gase would be joined at the back by Ryan Newman, who surrendered 8th on the grid due to a penalty for unapproved adjustments. Not penalized was Brad Keselowski, who still started 12th in his #2 Discount Tire Ford since his incident striking a barrier leaving the garage happened in final practice before qualifying.

Suarez towed behind the wall after his wreck.
PHOTO: Luis Torres, @TheLTFiles
When the race started, Newman found himself side-by-side with Chad Finchum, who like Suarez needed to race his way into the Daytona 500. Finchum’s #49 Garrison Homes Toyota, a second car from Motorsports Business Management, fell to last by the end of the first lap, then worked his way past Gase the next time by. Radio communications indicated Gase apparently slid up the track in the opening laps, which broke his momentum and caused him to lose touch with the pack. He also reported overheating issues around Lap 11, and was the first to be lapped the next time by. By then, Finchum had also lost touch with the pack and lost a lap of his own.

Gase lost a second lap on the 20th circuit, and the lap after reported his water temperature was at 240 degrees with his oil at 206. Gase then pulled to the high lane in Turns 1 and 2 as another draft of lead-lap cars rushed past to his inside. Finchum took over last from Gase during pit stops, and the #49 was still running there when trouble broke out. “They’re wrecking behind you,” said Finchum’s spotter. “96 is done.”

Heading into the tri-oval, Suarez was also running by himself and had been caught by the same draft line of Fords that lapped Gase. As the Fords slowed to head to pit road, a reported miscommunication between Ryan Blaney and his crew chief caused Blaney’s #12 Peak / Menards Ford to collide with Suarez past pit entrance, steering Suarez nose-first into the outside wall. The #96 then careened into the grass, where the splitter dug in and destroyed what remained of the front clip. While Blaney managed to continue on (though he will go to a backup for the Daytona 500), a disgusted Suarez climbed out of his car, done for the night, and out of the Daytona 500 field. Suarez officially took the last spot on Lap 32.

Suarez turned out to be the race’s only retiree. The rest of the Bottom Five was filled by lapped cars, who all at one point pulled out of the draft to let the leaders get by. Gase took 21st, matching the three laps down of Finchum. Finchum’s 20th-place eliminated him from the Daytona 500 field along with Gase. Quin Houff pulled low on the backstretch in the final five laps, putting his #00 Jacob Companies Chevrolet in 19th.

Rounding out the group was Reed Sorenson, whose unsponsored blue #27 Chevrolet benefited from Suarez’ misfortune. Sorenson lost his lap with a pull to the inside with less than three to go. By besting both Finchum and Suarez, Sorenson locked himself into the 500 field.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #96 in the history of the Duels.
*Daytona was also the scene of Suarez' first Cup Series last-place finish, when he was collected in a wreck here last July.

22) #96-Daniel Suarez / 28 laps / crash
21) #51-Joey Gase / 57 laps / running
20) #49-Chad Finchum / 57 laps / running
19) #00-Quin Houff / 58 laps / running
18) #27-Reed Sorenson / 59 laps / running