Sunday, June 14, 2020

XFINITY: Stephen Leicht’s dazzling new paint scheme out early at Homestead

PHOTO: Motorsports Business Management Facebook
Stephen Leicht picked up the 6th last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Sunday’s Contender Boats 250 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway when his #66 Jani-King Toyota fell out with handling issues after 9 of 177 laps.

The finish, which came in Leicht’s 140th series start, was his second of the season and first since Darlington, five races ago. In the XFINITY Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 8th for the #66, the 53rd for handling issues, and the 134th for Toyota. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 72nd for the #66, the 53rd from handling woes, and the 333rd for Toyota.

Leicht has driven for Motorsports Business Management in nearly every race since NASCAR’s return in May, excepting only the season’s sixth round in Charlotte. He returned at Bristol and finished 34th, then ran next-to-last at Atlanta, both times exiting in the first 23 laps citing mechanical issues.

Homestead, however, would be different. After running MBM’s Toyota Camry in all his previous starts, he would debut a new Toyota Supra. (UPDATE: New to the team, that is. According to crew member @WookieAutomoTV, this was a Red Bull Racing chassis from 2010 that was first used on the superspeedways, then converted to a downforce track car. Prior to Saturday, Joey Gase ran this same chassis on the XFINITY Series' three superspeedway races in 2019).

The car also had sponsorship from Jani-King on a brilliant deep blue and neon orange paint scheme designed by Jay Lopez. “You lookin’ good, man!” said someone over the team radio. “Even Ray Charles can see your ass, man!” It proved to be a short afternoon. He pulled off the track after 49 laps with handling issues and finished 36th, saving the car for Sunday’s second race of the doubleheader. Since he finished outside the Top 15, Leicht would start exactly where he finished on Saturday in 36th place.

Starting 38th on the grid was A.J. Allmendinger in the #16 Ellsworth Advisors Chevrolet. The Atlanta winner was the only team added to the entry list that didn’t run on Saturday, thus placing him behind 37th-place Kody Vanderwal. Vanderwal ran a backup #52 car after yesterday’s second-consecutive engine failure, and did not carry the previous day’s sponsorship from Advanced Dairy Service.

Vanderwal’s backup car would send him to the tail end before the start with five other drivers. Jairo Avila, Jr. was sent to the rear both for the driver change at Our Motorsports and the backup #02 Chevrolet, which was provided to them by B.J. McLeod Motorsports after the two teams collided in yesterday’s race. Carson Ware (#07 Jacob Companies Chevrolet) and Daniel Hemric (#8 Poppy Bank Chevrolet) were also sent to the rear for driver changes, replacing J.J. Yeley and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., respectively. Last to drop back was Noah Gragson, whose JR Motorsports team – including teammate Justin Allgaier – worked to repair the damaged right-rear quarter panel of his #9 PUBG Mobile Chevrolet late Saturday.

When all the penalized drivers had dropped to the back, Leicht had pulled in behind them. He was last across the stripe, 5.017 seconds back of the lead. By the end of Lap 1, Leicht had driven past Avila, and on the lap after passed Carson Ware to reach 36th. On Lap 8, Leicht slipped back to 37th, and the team prepared him to come to pit road and stop in his stall before heading to the garage. On Lap 11, Leicht pulled in, and Carl Long told him to take it straight to the truck. NASCAR Officials reported “66 to the garage, mechanical” on Lap 12, then reported he was out with handling issues on Lap 32. A few laps later, @RandomNASCAR tweeted a picture of the team preparing to load Leicht’s car on the hauler.

Declared out at the same time was Avila, who pulled off the track after 15 laps with “electrical” issues as the officially listed cause. Taking 36th was Brandon Brown, who started outside-pole after the inversion, but pulled into the garage with engine issues on Lap 51. Brown’s team told him to climb out on Lap 62, saying “We’re done.” He was declared out with overheating issues at Lap 70.

Finishing 35th was Kyle Weatherman, who for the second-straight day battled for stage points at the end of Stage 1. Weatherman’s #47 #BackTheBlue Chevrolet broke into the Top 10 with 4 to go in the stage, but reported a miss in the engine. As he started to drop back, teammate Bayley Currey took the 10th spot in the #74 Mutt & Jeff Porkskins Chevrolet, briefly putting both Mike Harmon’s cars in the Top Ten. Currey held on, reaching 9th before settling into 10th, but Weatherman slipped to 11th. Weatherman was told he could run faster with the miss, but was declared out on Lap 113 with “fire” as the official reason. Weatherman was disappointed, saying “I want to actually finish where you guys deserve.” The team said “You’re proving all our hard work is working.” Currey overcame two improper fueling penalties to finish 26th, four laps down. One spot in front of him was Leicht’s MBM teammate Timmy Hill, who edged Currey by a position at the end of Stage 1 in his #61 Toyota.

In 34th marked the end of another strong underdog performance by B.J. McLeod. Driving the #6 KSDT CPA Chevrolet for JD Motorsports, McLeod kept his nose clean and climbed up to 18th. He was still running in 18th when the clutch failed on Lap 118, sending him to the garage. McLeod thanked his crew for giving him a “hot rod,” and thanked every member of the Johnny Davis team. “Most appreciative driver in the garage area,” said a crew member. McLeod fell into the Bottom Five when Stefan Parsons ran the distance after losing several laps for a distributor cap replacement. Parsons went behind the wall on Lap 69, returned to the track on Lap 89, and managed to climb to 32nd in the #99 Racing Jobs / Springrates Toyota.

Parsons passed both McLeod and Kody Vanderwal on his way to the finish. Vanderwal was listed out with power steering issues, referencing still another issue with smoke midway through the race. Vanderwal also had trouble with the throttle pedal sticking during the pace laps. In the closing laps, Vanderwal struggled to maintain minimum speed as he was losing battery power. He was warned by NASCAR on Lap 141, then posted on Lap 144, told to go to the garage.

Myatt Snider, fresh off his announcement of running the full XFINITY season, nearly scored a Top Five with RSS Racing before settling for 7th in the #93 Louisiana Hot Sauce Chevrolet. This marked the first top-ten finish of the season for RSS’ second car, improving on Snider’s 11th-place run at Fontana. Josh Williams earned a strong 12th-place finish and led during a late exchange of pit stops, giving TV time for a new paint scheme saluting his longtime sponsors Starbrite and Star Tron. Colin Garrett finished 14th for his career-best XFINITY Series finish, improving on his 21st-place run at the same track last November.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #66 in a XFINITY Series race at Homestead.
*Leicht has now finished last with two different models, trailing in the Camry at Darlington and the Supra at Homestead.

38) #66-Stephen Leicht / 9 laps / handling
37) #02-Jairo Avila, Jr. / 15 laps / electrical
36) #68-Brandon Brown / 49 laps / overheating
35) #47-Kyle Weatherman / 84 laps / fire
34) #6-B.J. McLeod / 117 laps / clutch

1st) Jimmy Means Racing, Motorsports Business Management, Shepherd Racing Ventures (2)
2nd) JD Motorsports, Jeremy Clements Racing, JR Motorsports, SS-Green Light Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (8)
2nd) Toyota (2)


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