Monday, May 18, 2020

PREVIEW: Midweek madness on tap for second and third Darlington races

Chad Finchum's new look this week at Darlington
IMAGE: Motorsports Business Management; Jayski's Silly Season Site
Tuesday, May 19, 2020
XFINITY Race 5 of 33
Toyota 200 at Darlington
2019 Last-Place Finisher: Inaugural Event

It’s the XFINITY Series’ turn to make their first start since the suspension of the season in March with their own race at Darlington. It will also be the first race since NASCAR’s temporary allowance of 40-car fields for both the XFINITY and Truck Series races where there is no scheduled qualifying session. Thus, all 39 entrants will start the race.

DRIVER CHANGE: #0-JD Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #6-JD Motorsports
Jeffrey Earnhardt to run the #0 with sponsorship from Kids First Community, moving B.J. McLeod from the #0 to the #6, taking the place of David Starr, who isn’t entered. A report by Dustin Albino states Starr and JD have parted ways as the driver had lost his limited sponsorship during the pandemic. Earnhardt had been scheduled to run the #15 back at Atlanta before the postponement, but that car will instead be driven by Colby Howard, who also ran it the last time out at Phoenix. Sany America and Ironpeddlers join the Howard effort as sponsors.

SEASON STORY: #9-JR Motorsports
Noah Gragson won this year’s season opener in Daytona and has finishes of 4th at Las Vegas and 7th at Phoenix, keeping him 6th in the series standings. The only setback came at Fontana, where he wrecked on the backstretch, but managed to finish under power in 26th.

SEASON STORY: #10-Kaulig Racing
A frustrating start to the season in Daytona saw the Kaulig Racing team struggling qualifying, sending home two of their three cars. Ross Chastain’s championship run was saved by a purchased ride with RSS Racing, though an incident on pit road left him 38th. Sunday marked the first Cup race where Chastain has not been entered following his relief duties for Ryan Newman, and he instead resumes his season in this race.

MISSING: #12-Penske Racing
Brad Keselowski is not entered after the team ran at Phoenix, and will instead focus on Sunday’s Cup race following his run from the pole on Sunday.

SPONSOR UPDATE: #13-Motorsports Business Management
A new look this week for Chad Finchum as Great Southern Homes sponsors his #13 Toyota Supra this week, complete with a deep green and white paint scheme.

SEASON STORY: #18-Joe Gibbs Racing
SEASON STORY: #19-Joe Gibbs Racing
SEASON STORY: #20-Joe Gibbs Racing
While JGR’s Cup teams struggled in the first three races following Denny Hamlin’s win in the Daytona 500, their XFINITY program was hitting its stride prior to the pandemic. Harrison Burton took his first series victory at Fontana on February 29, where Riley Herbst had a career day with a close 2nd-place finish. Brandon Jones then pulled off a surprising victory at Phoenix, where he bested Kyle Busch in identical equipment. All three will be ones to watch in Darlington, where Denny Hamlin has dominated in recent years (including his win last September before he was disqualified).

DRIVER CHANGE: #21-Richard Childress Racing
Anthony Alfredo returns to the RCR team for the first time since his breakout debut at Fontana in February, where he finished 6th. Myatt Snider, who was originally slated to run the #21 at Atlanta, will instead drive the #93, taking the place of C.J. McLaughlin, the scheduled entrant in Atlanta. Jeff Green ran the #93 when the series last ran at Phoenix, earning a strong 15th.

RETURNING: #26-Sam Hunt Racing
Colin Garrett returns for the first time since the team DNQ’d for the season opener at Daytona, but without crew chief Brian Keselowski, who was released by the team just a few days ago.

Back in Atlanta, Mario Gosselin elected to run two cars instead of three, leaving the #36 at the shop. All three cars are instead entered this week. Labbe makes the move from the #36 he ran at Phoenix to the #90 he was scheduled to run in Atlanta, with Atlanta sponsor Larue Snowblowers on the car. The #36 goes to Ronnie Bassett, Jr., who takes the place of brother Dillon Bassett, who ran the #90 in Phoenix.

RETURNING: #54-Joe Gibbs Racing
Back at Atlanta in March, Kyle Busch was not slated to run the XFINITY race as he prepared for the first “Bounty Race” in the Truck Series. But after this week’s return to action, Busch decided to attempt all seven of the NASCAR events held at Darlington and Charlotte. He will again run the Gibbs #54 he ran at Phoenix, which this time features a red-white-and-blue scheme in honor of frontline workers.

SPONSOR UPDATE: #68-Brandonbilt Motorsports
As in years past, Coastal Carolina University is sponsoring Brandon Brown's Chevrolet for a race at Darlington. This time, the scheme will honor the university's graduating class of 2020.

SEASON STORY: #98-Stewart-Haas Racing with Biagi DenBeste
Chase Briscoe won the rain-delayed Las Vegas race on February 23, besting Austin Cindric by nearly three seconds in the run to the checkers. Briscoe’s sponsor this week is

TEAM UPDATE: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Mason Massey, who was slated to run Atlanta after he was swapped out at the last minute for J.J. Yeley in Phoenix, is again entered in the #99 for the series’ return.

CUP INVADERS: #54-Kyle Busch

Wednesday, May 20, 2020
CUP Race 6 of 36
Toyota 500k at Darlington
2019 Last-Place Finisher: Inaugural Event

The Cup Series holds their second race in four days at “The Lady In Black,” where 39 drivers will this time take the green flag. The Top 20 finishers from Sunday’s race will be inverted, putting 20th-place finisher Ryan Preece on the pole and race winner Kevin Harvick in 20th.

MISSING: #7-Tommy Baldwin Racing
Josh Bilicki is the only team from Sunday not entered in Wednesday’s race. Bilicki finished 34th in Sunday’s 400-miler.

DRIVER CHANGE: #27-Rick Ware Racing
Gray Gaulding takes the place of J.J. Yeley, who isn’t entered after he ran on the lead lap for much of Sunday’s race before he finished 28th, 2 laps down. Gaulding’s run in the #27 carries sponsorship from Panini, which backed some of Gaulding’s XFINITY runs for SS-Green Light Racing last year. Gaulding will run the car and sponsor again in next Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600. This will be Gaulding’s 51st Cup start and his first in the series since April 7, 2019 at Bristol, when he finished 36th in Ware’s #51 after engine trouble.

TEAM UPDATE: #77-Spire Motorsports
Ross Chastain had been rumored to be the driver of the #77 this week, bringing on board the same Advent Health sponsor that will back his run with the team next Sunday in the Coca-Cola 600. Chastain himself denied this in a tweet, saying he’d focus instead on his XFINITY Series race with Kaulig Racing. Chastain is still listed as driver of the Chevrolet, sponsored by Bon Secours #TheRealHeroes, though his tweet will likely hand the ride back to Reed Sorenson. Sorenson ran a solid 29th on Sunday.

TEAM UPDATE: #88-Hendrick Motorsports
On May 16, more than two months after he earned his second career victory at Fontana, Alex Bowman received a contract extension with Hendrick Motorsports that will keep him in the #88 through 2021. The news surely lifted Bowman to his strong 2nd-place finish in Sunday’s 400-mile race, where he led 41 laps – third most behind Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski.

LASTCAR STAT OF THE WEEK (May 18, 1997): Bill Hoff finished last for the first time in his NASCAR Busch Series career in the Core States Advantage 200 at Nazareth when his #86 Mawson & Mawson Chevrolet crashed after 30 laps. The finish came in Hoff’s third series start and first of the ’97 season. He would fail to qualify for another five races that season, all in the Tim Durbin-owned #86. Hoff has remained active in NASCAR through just last season, when he made four starts in his #71. Mawson & Mawson backed his most recent effort at Dover on October 4, 2019, when he finished 12th in a field of 14. Fore more on Hoff, check out Benjamin Schneider's excellent write-up on him at this link.

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