Thursday, June 18, 2020

PREVIEW: Series veterans return to tackle Talladega while Davison eyes Cup debut - in Pocono

PHOTO: Spire Motorsports
Saturday, June 20, 2020
XFINITY Race 11 of 33
Unhinged 300 at Talladega
2019 Last-Place Finisher: Joey Gase

There are 39 drivers entered for 40 spots in Saturday’s race, an increase of one team from Sunday’s second Homestead race. The series has still yet to host a 40-car field since NASCAR’s temporary field increase in May.

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-JR Motorsports
When Jeb Burton last started an XFINITY Series race, he started 4th in this year’s Daytona opener and had a strong run going before a late crash left him 23rd. He returns for the first time since then and will again run with LS Tractor on the sponsor of the #8. He takes the place of Daniel Hemric, who was left 31st on Sunday in Homestead after a hard crash on the backstretch.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-JD Motorsports
Robby Lyons returns to the XFINITY garage for the first time since Fontana in February and will again run the #15 for Johnny Davis. He takes the place of Colby Howard, who ran 17th on Sunday in Homestead. This will be Lyons’ first XFINITY start at Talladega.

Jeff Green will not have to worry about his ride getting sold to another driver this Saturday, and will again campaign the C2 Freight Resources Chevrolet for RSS Racing’s part-time third team. Green has scored three top-ten finishes on the superspeedways in the last four seasons.

DRIVER CHANGE: #47-Mike Harmon Racing
Another dark horse veteran will be Joe Nemechek, who returns to take the place of Kyle Weatherman. Weatherman ran strong early in both XFINITY races at Homestead before problems under the hood, including a fire on Sunday, left him back in the running order. Nemechek has not won an XFINITY race at Talladega since 2000, but has finished 6th as recently as 2014. Saturday will be his first series start there since 2018, when he ran 31st for Johnny Davis. UPDATE: And now Tim Veins will run the car as of Thurrsday. Viens had just parted ways with Truck Series team Mike Affarano Motorsports after a costly withdrawal in Homestead. This will be Viens' 2nd series start and first since 2015 at Homestead, when he also raced for Harmon.

DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
John Jackson will make his season debut on Saturday, rejoining the MBM team after seven starts with them last year. He takes the place of Stephen Leicht, who last weekend ran one of the team’s former superspeedway cars before it was converted to a downforce track setup, taking last place on Sunday. Jackson has just one previous XFINITY start at Talladega back in 2016, when he ran 32nd for MBM.

DRIVER CHANGE: #74-Mike Harmon Racing
Mike Harmon is back behind the wheel of his own #74 Chevrolet for the first time since this year’s Daytona opener, where he ran a strong 16th. He takes the place of Bayley Currey, who snatched up a stage point by finishing 10th in Stage 1 at Homestead. This will be Harmon’s 14th series start at Talladega, where his best finish remains a 17th in 2008. He ran 23rd last year, his best finish at the track since that day.

DRIVER CHANGE: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Engine problems left Stefan Parsons back in the order for both races at Homestead last week. This time, he hands the wheel back to Mason Massey, who will make his superspeedway debut in the McLeod car. Massey most recently took the green in the first four races since the series’ return in May, capped by a season-best 21st at Charlotte.

DRIVER CHANGE: #07-SS-Green Light Racing
Still another dark horse has to be Gray Gaulding, who came within just a few moves of scoring his first career NASCAR victory in this race last year, taking 2nd to Tyler Reddick. Gaulding raced for this same team in that race, though in their second car, the #08. After a solid season where Gaulding even had an outside chance at making the Playoffs, he rejoins SS-Green Light for the first time since the 2019 finale. He’s since made four Cup starts with Rick Ware Racing, and will drive for them Sunday as well (see below). Gaulding takes the place of Ware’s younger son Carson, who ran 28th in Homestead on Sunday.

Sunday, June 21, 2020
CUP Race 13 of 36
GEICO 500 at Talladega
2019 Last-Place Finisher: Michael McDowell

There are 40 teams entered for as many spots in Sunday’s race, meaning all will qualify.

MISSING: #7-Tommy Baldwin Racing
The Baldwin team is not entered in Sunday’s race after Reed Sorenson’s entry was withdrawn for last week’s Homestead race.

DRIVER CHANGE: #27-Rick Ware Racing
DRIVER SWAP: #53-Rick Ware Racing
Gray Gaulding runs double-duty this weekend, taking the place of J.J. Yeley in the #27 with returning sponsorship from Panini America. Yeley moves to Ware’s #53, taking the place of Josh Bilicki, who isn’t entered after a vibration left him 37th at Homestead.

RETURNING: #62-Beard Motorsports
Talladega marks the second round of Brendan Gaughan’s four-race retirement tour on the superspeedways. In Daytona, he recovered from a wreck and narrowly avoided Ryan Newman’s terrible crash, taking the checkers in 7th place. Sunday will also mark Newman’s first Cup start on a superspeedway since that night. Gaughan had a scary crash of his own at this track last fall, and looks to improve on his career-best 4th in the fall of 2004.

DRIVER SWAP: #77-Spire Motorsports
RETURNING: #78-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
B.J. McLeod’s team returns to the Cup Series after back-to-back withdrawals at Martinsville and Homestead. McLeod himself will drive, moving over from the Spire Motorsports #77. In his place comes James Davison, who will make his Cup Series debut with sponsorship from Oil Fire Rye Whiskey on the Chevrolet. Davison’s most recent NASCAR start came two years ago in the XFINITY race at Road America, where he finished 8th. Since all four of his NASCAR starts were on road courses, Talladega will also mark Davison’s first oval-track start outside of IndyCar. This team and this race also saw Justin Haley make his series debut last year, a debut soon followed by his first Cup victory at Daytona. UPDATE (June 18): On Thursday came news that Davison will not run Talladega due to the lack of practice and qualifying. He will instead make his debut at Pocono at the end of the month. McLeod will move from his own car back to the #77, and put Garrett Smithley in his own #78. Baker Camp Arnold Capital Management will back Smithley's run in the #78.

Saturday, June 27, 2020
TRUCKS Race 6 of 23
Pocono Organics 150 to Benefit Farm Aid at Pocono
2019 Last-Place Finisher: Bayley Currey

The Truck Series takes the week off and returns at the end of the month as part of a stacked weekend in Pocono.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (June 18, 1999): Lonnie Rush, Jr. picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR Truck Series career in the Grainger Industrial Supply 225K at the Portland International Raceway when his engine failed on the #17 Hastings Premium Filters Ford after 3 laps. Rush typically drove the identical #27 Ford at the Mike Albernaz team, but that day handed the wheel to Rob Rizzo, who finished 21st. Rush also finished last in his 55th and final series start at Phoenix on March 18, 2000.


UnderdogFan89 said...

I saw someone ask a good point. How is James Davison cleared to run Cup at Talladega? He Hs only 4 NASCAR starts to his name that I can see, all at road courses in Xfinity.

Kuku h said...

Maybe he did some testing in the past at a plate-style track?

UnderdogFan89 said...

To answer my own question, I just saw an article that NASCAR told Davison he is not eligible to race, especially with no practice now scheduled for Talladega. He will instead make his debut at Pocono.