Thursday, July 9, 2020

PREVIEW: Johnson and Decker’s returning from medical absences among the stories at Kentucky

Angela Ruch returns with a new look on her #00 Chevrolet.
IMAGE: The Decal Source
Thursday, July 9, 2020
XFINITY Race 14 of 33
Shady Rays 200 at Kentucky
2019 Last-Place Finisher: Inaugural Race

For the first time since 2017, Kentucky will host two XFINITY races in the same season, and for the first time ever, the track will host both on the same weekend. Unlike in 2017, the first of these two races will be 100 miles shorter than the other. The 15th-place finisher of this race will inherit the pole for Friday’s race after an inversion. There are 36 drivers entered for 40 spots, down two drivers from last week’s race on the Indianapolis Grand Prix Circuit.

DRIVER SWAP: #0-JD Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #15-JD Motorsports
Colby Howard returns to the series for the first time since Homestead to drive the #15 with Project Hope Foundation as sponsor, moving last-place finisher Jeffrey Earnhardt back to the #0 in place of Mike Wallace, who isn’t entered after a 24th-place run in his series return.

DRIVER SWAP: #13-Motorsports Business Management
DRIVER SWAP: #61-Motorsports Business Management
DRIVER SWAP: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Carl Long’s three-driver lineup will swap rides once more. Timmy Hill moves from the #13 to the #61, Stephen Leicht from the #61 to the #66, and Chad Finchum from the #66 to the #13. Leicht enjoyed a strong 21st-place run last week, his first finish under power in 2020 and his season-best finish, improving on a 27th the previous round in Pocono.

MISSING: #16-Kaulig Racing
A.J. Allmendinger is not entered after his 4th-place finish in last Saturday’s thrilling finish on the road course.

MISSING: #26-Sam Hunt Racing
The Sam Hunt team is likewise not entered after Brandon Gdovic ran a strong 12th in his return to the series on Saturday.

Ronnie Bassett, Jr. returns to the team in the #90, moving Alex Labbe to the #36 in place of Preston Pardus, who broke through with his 10th-place finish, his first career top-ten finish in just his third start. Bassett’s most recent start came in Atlanta driving the #36, where he ran a season-best 19th, one lap down. Labbe eyes his third top-ten finish in the last four races.

DRIVER CHANGE: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Mason Massey, who valiantly returned to the track at Bristol after mechanical issues made him miss nearly half the race, returns to drive the McLeod #99. Massey has finished under power in all six of his previous XFINITY starts this year, most recently at Talladega, where he ran a season-best 20th. He takes the place of Josh Bilicki, who finished 23rd with the team at Indy.

DRIVER CHANGE: #07-SS-Green Light Racing
One week after Jade Buford finished a sterling 14th for the team in his first-ever NASCAR start, Garrett Smithley will again pilot the #07 Chevrolet for just his third series start of the season and first since Atlanta. His best of the two previous starts came in that Atlanta race, where he ran 24th.


Friday, July 10, 2020
XFINITY Race 15 of 33
Alsco 300 at Kentucky
2019 Last-Place Finisher: Jairo Avila, Jr.

The starting lineup for this second XFINITY race will be determined by inverting the Top 15 finishers from Thursday.

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-JR Motorsports
Just like at Homestead’s double-header, the JR Motorsports #8 team will employ two different drivers. Daniel Hemric will take the place of Jeb Burton in the car with Poppy Bank as sponsor. Hemric has never finished worse than 9th in his three previous XFINITY starts at Kentucky, including a runner-up finish to Christopher Bell two years ago.


Saturday, July 11, 2020
TRUCKS Race 7 of 23
Buckle Up in Your Truck 225 at Kentucky
2019 Last-Place Finisher: Joe Nemechek 

The Truck Series returns after a one-week hiatus to run this Saturday. As at Pocono, there will be 40 drivers for as many spots, matching the biggest starting field for the series in 2020.

RETURNING: #14-Trey Hutchens Racing
Trey Hutchens will finally make his first start of 2020 after he had the misfortune of being on the wrong side of the cutline at both Charlotte and Atlanta, where qualifying was scrubbed. This will also be Hutchens’ first Truck Series start at Kentucky, and just his third in five starts on a track of over 1 mile in length.

MISSING: #28-FDNY Racing
Not among the entrants is Bryan Dauzat, who weaved his way through the chaos at Pocono to take 26th on the lead lap.

DRIVER CHANGE: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
A lack of tire money kept Bryant Barnhill from running many laps his last time out at Homestead, leaving him in last place. This week, he returns to the Reaume team and takes the place of 28th-place Jesse Iwuji in the #33 Toyota.

DRIVER CHANGE: #40-Niece Motorsports
Ross Chastain will miss his first Truck Series start of 2020 as he is not entered in any of Al Niece’s trucks. Taking his place in the #40 after a 6th-place run in Pocono is a returning Ryan Truex, who finished 13th in his lone start this year at Atlanta. Returning sponsorship from Marquis will adorn his Chevrolet.

DRIVER CHANGE: #44-Niece Motorsports
Natalie Decker has been cleared to race after a medical emergency prevented her from competing at Pocono. She takes the place of relief driver Bayley Currey, who isn’t entered following a 16th-place run in Pocono. N29 Capital Partners is again the sponsor.

DRIVER SWAP: #49-CMI Motorsports
DRIVER SAWP: #83-CMI Motorsports
Ray Ciccarelli and Tim Viens will swap rides this week with Ciccarelli in the #83 and Viens in the #49.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Kyle Busch Motorsports
Brandon Jones will not go for a second-consecutive victory in his part-time Truck Series schedule as Chandler Smith will return to the #51 for his first start of the season. Smith has four previous Truck Series starts, all from last year, and none resulting in a finish worse than 8th.

RETURNING: #55-Long Motorsports
Dawson Cram returns to the series for the first time since Homestead and will again drive the #55 Chevrolet. In his previous start, Cram finished 32nd in the 38-truck field after transmission issues during the final stage.

MISSING: #97-Diversified Motorsports Enterprises
The #97 team is not entered this week following Robby Lyons’ 20th-place showing in Pocono. This will mark the third race the team will skip this year, joining Las Vegas and Homestead.

DRIVER CHANGE: #00-Reaume Brothers Racing
Angela Ruch returns after sponsorship issues relating to the pandemic, taking the place of team owner Josh Reaume. The truck will be sponsored by The Wounded Blue, an organization dedicated to helping police officers who were injured in the line of duty. The same #BackTheBlue hashtag from Mike Harmon’s XFINITY team will also be on the truck.


Sunday, July 12, 2020 
CUP Race 17 of 36
Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart at Kentucky
2019 Last-Place Finisher: B.J. McLeod

There are 38 drivers entered for 40 spots, down two cars from last week in Indianapolis.

MISSING: #7-Tommy Baldwin Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #77-Spire Motorsports
The two teams not entered this week are both part-time operations who managed to avoid the early pit road accident and record finishes inside the Top 25. First of these is the TBR team, which Josh Bilicki steered to a 25th-place finish last Sunday. This marked Bilicki’s best series finish in 20 starts, improving on a 29th-place showing in the same Indy race in 2019. Bilicki will have another chance to improve as he takes the place of Ross Chastain in Spire Motorsports’ #77 Chevrolet, which carries sponsorship from the Austin Hatcher Foundation. Chastain also finished well at Indy, taking the 17th spot.

TEAM UPDATE: #48-Hendrick Motorsports
On Wednesday came news that Jimmie Johnson has cleared his required COVID-19 tests and will return to racing this weekend. After missing his first Cup start since 2001 at a track where he’s won five times, he will now compete at one of only two venues on the current calendar where he has never won (following news that Chicagoland and Watkins Glen’s dates have been cancelled). Justin Allgaier, who was collected in the pit road accident and left in 37th, will again have to wait for another chance to run in Cup. He competes in both XFINITY races this weekend.

MISSING: #78-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
The other team not entered this week is B.J. McLeod’s #78, which pulled a team-best 22nd-place finish at Indianapolis. This stands as McLeod’s best finish on a non-superspeedway race, trailing only his 19th-place showing in last year’s Daytona 500. Like Allgaier, McLeod will turn his attention to the XFINITY Series as he continues to drive for JD Motorsports.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (July 9, 1983): Pete Silva scored the first last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in the Mello Yello 200 at the Orange County (North Carolina) Speedway when his #1 Pontiac failed to finish after 69 of 200 laps. The official reason out is not listed, and is categorized as a mere “DNF.” The Maine-born Silva competed in 31 of the season’s 35 races and finished 7th in points for a second consecutive season. But he would never again compete in more than four races a season for the rest of his career, taking his final green flag at Hickory on April 15, 1995.

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