Sunday, February 28, 2021

CUP: Electrical gremlins leave Timmy Hill with one pound of fuel pressure at Homestead

PHOTO: @WookieAutomoTV

Timmy Hill picked up the 15th last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Dixie Vodka 400 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway when his #66 Motorsports Business Management Toyota fell out with electrical issues after 21 of 267 laps.

The finish, which came in Hill’s 130th series start, was his first of the year and first since October 11, 2020 on the Charlotte “Roval,” seven races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 40th from electrical issues, the 62nd for the #66, and the 168th for Toyota. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 80th for the #66, the 130th for electrical issues, and the 351st for Toyota.

It’s already been a big year for Hill, who’s now a father after his wife Lucy gave birth to their first son, Hudson Grant Hill, on February 22nd. On the track, the defending LASTCAR Cup Series Champion has continued his efforts to compete in all three of NASCAR’s top series. Just last week on the Daytona road course, Hill drove his #56 Chevrolet to a 9th-place finish – already the fourth top-ten finish for the Hill Motorsports team. And with Carl Long’s team Motorsports Business Management, Hill bounced back from a DNQ in the Daytona 500 to run 20th in the XFINITY race, leading four laps in the process, then took 29th in Sunday’s Cup race.

Off the track, Hill’s wife Lucy gave birth to their first son, Hudson Grant Hill, on February 22nd.

Hill would run both Cup and XFINITY at Homestead, each time in one of MBM’s deep blue Toyotas. On the XFINITY side, where teammate David Starr’s flat tire cost him a 12th-place finish, Hill crossed the line in 17th, then took 16th after Tyler Reddick’s disqualification. This was Hill’s best-ever XFINITY finish at the Homestead track, improving on his 21st for Rick Ware Racing back in 2011.

For Sunday, Hill’s unsponsored #66 earned the 33rd spot on the grid.

Rolling off 38th was last week’s last-place finisher Quin Houff, whose StarCom Racing #00 Chevrolet picked up new sponsorship from 8 Ball Premium Chocolate Whiskey. He’d be joined at the rear by four drivers who incurred pre-race penalties. Unapproved adjustments were cited for 13th-place Alex Bowman in the #48 Ally Bank Chevrolet, 25th-place Corey LaJoie in the #7 Marwin Sports Apparel Chevrolet, and polesitter Denny Hamlin in the #11 FedEx Small Business Grant Contest Toyota. James Davison also incurred a tail-end penalty after his unsponsored #15 Chevrolet for Rick Ware Racing failed inspection twice. Ultimately, by the time the field addressed the starter’s stand, Hill had dropped behind all of them to take over the 40th spot.

When the race started, Hill’s spotter reported a car ahead of him was against the outside wall. This was likely B.J. McLeod, whose #78 / Motorsport Games Ford soon pulled down pit road, taking over last place as the leaders began Lap 2. The crew changed tires and looked under the hood, finding that the belt had come off the power steering pump. McLeod returned to the track, unable to keep the car in the high lane, and discussed with his crew whether the repair could be made on pit road or in the garage. By then, he was already two laps down and on the verge of going down a third.

By Lap 10, Hill had dropped to 37th, two laps down, after a green-flag stop of his own. Engine trouble appeared to be the issue, though like McLeod, the crew got him back on the track during the opening run. NASCAR’s competition caution fell on Lap 25, when McLeod dropped Hill to last place. The yellow allowed both drivers to come in for repairs. While McLeod originally planned to get repairs done on pit road, both he and Hill pulled behind the wall on Lap 26. On Lap 28, McLeod’s repair was done first, and he returned to pit road for tires and fuel.

As for Hill, the team hooked up the computer to the car and tried to diagnose what now appeared to be an electrical issue. On Lap 31, Hill fired the engine, but was told to shut it off again as the car reported no fuel pressure. By Lap 38, the team indicated no water pressure and no oil pressure, either. At one point, the car indicated just one pound of fuel pressure. On Lap 52, NASCAR’s garage official reported “66 out, electrical.”

Finishing 37th was James Davison, who after his tail-end penalty had just lost a lap when his engine blew down the backstretch. Corey LaJoie also suffered an engine failure after the halfway point, leaving him 36th. Last-place starter Quin Houff took 35th with B.J. McLeod rounding out the Bottom Five, both of them nine laps down.

Michael McDowell’s streak of top-ten finishes continued with a strong 6th-place finish on Sunday, putting him sixth in the series standings, just 29 out of the lead held by Denny Hamlin. Next week’s race in Las Vegas has historically been a challenge for McDowell, who has run well, only to suffer mechanical issues. He currently has three last-place finishes in the spring race, most recently in 2018

*Hill is the fourth different driver to finish last in a Cup race at Homestead driving the #66, joining Darrell Waltrip (1999), Mike Bliss (2010), and Michael McDowell (2011). Bliss was also the most recent driver to finish last in this race due to electrical issues when, on November 18, 2012, his #19 Plinker Tactical Toyota dropped out after 16 laps.

38) #66-Timmy Hill / 21 laps / electrical
37) #15-James Davison / 61 laps / engine
36) #7-Corey LaJoie / 151 laps / engine
35) #00-Quin Houff / 258 laps / running
34) #78-B.J. McLeod / 258 laps / running

1st) Motorsports Business Management, Rick Ware Racing, StarCom Racing (1)

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


Saturday, February 27, 2021

XFINITY: Runner-up finisher Tyler Reddick disqualified in series return; Starr’s 12th-place run undone by right-front tire


Tyler Reddick picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Contender Boats 250 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway when his unsponsored #23 Chevrolet finished 2nd, but was classified last by disqualification after completing all 179 laps.

The finish came in Reddick’s 85th series start. In the XFINITY Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 13th for the #23, the 14th by disqualification, and the 564th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 41st by disqualification, the 67th for the #23, and the 1,765th for Chevrolet.

Harrison Burton picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Contender Boats 250 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway when his #20 Hunt Brothers Pizza / Dex Imaging Toyota fell out with engine failure after 70 of 179 laps.

The finish, which came in Burton’s 45th series start, was his first of the season and first since October 5, 2019 at Dover, 40 races ago. In the XFINITY Series last-place rankings, it was the 13th for the #20, the 145th for Toyota, and the 266th from engine trouble. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 53rd for the #20, the 351st for Toyota, and the 1,097th from an engine failure.

The last time Reddick started an XFINITY Series race at Homestead, he pulled into victory lane, having claimed his second consecutive series title. The last time Chris Our’s start-up team entered an XFINITY race there, they’d been sent to a backup car after Brett Moffitt crashed their unsponsored primary in Saturday’s first round of a double-header. The next day, Jairo Avila, Jr. started a car borrowed from B.J. McLeod, the #78 of McLeod’s team replaced by Our’s #02, and pulled out after just 15 laps. The very next race was Talladega, where Moffitt finished 5th – the team’s first-ever Top Five. Andy Lally matched that run two more times by season’s end.

This year, Our Motorsports looked to field two XFINITY Series entries, but timing was not on their side. With qualifying washed out, their second entry, the #03, was sent home, unable to be entered until qualifying returned in May. But the team still ran last week on the Daytona road course – again with the help of B.J. McLeod, who entered it in place of his #99 entry. A returning Andy Lally contended for a Top Five, but was bumped back late to 31st.

For Homestead, Our Motorsports was again without a primary sponsor, and entered two matching white Chevrolets with dual racing stripes across the hood, roof, and decklid. The black-striped #02 entry would go to Moffitt while Reddick’s bore red stripes and the #23. This was a collaboration with RSS Racing and Reaume Brothers Racing, whose team finished last on the Daytona road course with Natalie Decker. As with Lally’s run, this was an Our-prepared car, and the duo looked for a strong run on Saturday. Due to metric qualifying, Moffitt lined up 6th with Reddick back in 38th.

Rolling off 40th and last was David Starr in Motorsports Business Management’s #13 Whataburger Toyota. With no drivers sent to the rear before the start, Starr was reminded to hold his line on the outside of the last row until he crossed the start / finish line. 

When the race started, Starr remained in last place, but by the end of Lap 1 had worked his way around Jade Buford in the #48 Big Machine Vodka Spiked Coolers Chevrolet. Buford, now 5.813 seconds back of the lead, held the spot until the fourth circuit, when Josh Williams made an unscheduled green-flag stop in the #92 Starbrite / Star Tron Chevrolet. Due to issues with his dash indicator, Williams sped off pit road in Sections 1-8, forcing him to serve a pass-through penalty. By the time he was back up to speed on Lap 8, he was not only the only driver off the lead lap, but three circuits down.

Unfortunately for Williams, the caution didn’t fall until after race leader Austin Cindric started to lap the tail end of the field, meaning he wouldn’t earn the Lucky Dog. The caution fell on Lap 26 for Stefan Parsons, whose #99 Springrates Toyota spun in Turn 4. Parsons had to complete another lap under yellow with at least one flat tire, causing some minor damage to the bodywork. He dropped to 39th under caution, and was two laps down. Also two down was Brandon Brown, whose engine stumbled due to a loose plugwire on his #68 Brandonbilt Foundations Chevrolet.

Next to enter the last-place battle was IndyCar star Santino Ferrucci, who made his NASCAR debut Saturday in Sam Hunt Racing’s #26 Stillhouse Whiskey Toyota. Ferrucci ran solidly in the early laps despite slight wall contact, maintaining a spot inside the Top 20. But an unscheduled stop forced him to pit road, and on Lap 50 he incurred a pass-through penalty for running over the air hose. He served the penalty just before NASCAR could stop scoring his car, and took over last on Lap 56.

On Lap 70, the caution was out again for Parsons, whose damaged car was leaking fluid on the track. At the time, Harrison Burton’s #20 Hunt Brothers Pizza / Dex Imaging Toyota was running in 7th, having competed for the lead for much of the race. But that time by, he was suddenly on the apron of the track with smoke trailing from the exhaust pipes. He stopped in Turn 2, and received a push from a service truck to the garage area. On Lap 74 – just one lap after Parsons took last from Ferrucci – Burton took last from Parsons. The next time by, someone on Burton’s channel said “We’re done, right?” The response came back quietly – “Yes, sir.” NASCAR confirmed Burton was out of the race with 74 laps to go, and unofficially took last place.

Meanwhile, Reddick was on the charge. From the early laps, his #23 managed to hold the high line, and he remained inside the Top 10 for much of the night. At first, it appeared the win would go to his teammate, as Brett Moffitt engaged in some tight racing with Noah Gragson for the lead. But after Gragson opened up a lead, Moffitt hit the wall one time too many, cutting down the right-rear tire and forcing him to pit road. This opened the door for Reddick, who had worked his way into the Top Five and led 8 laps. When Gragson wrecked out of the lead with 3 laps to go, Reddick restarted on the front row in overtime with Myatt Snider. On the second attempt, Snider cleared Reddick, who still managed to finish a strong 2nd - barely a carlength behind.

But in post-race inspection, Reddick’s car failed post-race heights, and he was classified in 40th spot, moving Burton up to 39th and bumping Bayley Currey out of the Bottom Five. Finishing 38th was Justin Allgaier, who crossed the nose of Riley Herbst’s Ford on Lap 99, destroying his #7 Brandt Chevrolet. Ty Dillon took 37th in the #54 Bass Pro Shops Toyota, which went behind the wall with a hole in the radiator. Colby Howard stayed out to lead Lap 84-86 and restarted there, but was reported to be leaking fluid. On Lap 111, his #15 Project Hope Foundation Chevrolet was on the apron with a fire coming from the rear gear. 

J.J. Yeley’s first NASCAR start of 2021 ended with a strong 12th-place finish for Rick Ware Racing, whose XFINITY Series program has continued to impress since it returned late last year. Yeley, who started 39th, ran as high as 11th in the #17 Work Pro Chevrolet and overcame a spin to earn the finish.

But of all the night’s underdogs, the strongest run and biggest heartbreak belonged to David Starr. The last-place qualifier had climbed all the way to 14th inside the final 30 laps. By 18 to go, he’d reached 13th, and was getting some screen time from the FS1 broadcast crew. He gained one more spot to 12th after Brett Moffitt’s flat tire, and was still running there as race leader Noah Gragson prepared to lap him. Starr appeared to move down a lane to give Gragson the high lane, but then a right-front tire began to come apart, putting him into the outside wall and immediately in Gragson’s path. The two collided, knocking Gragson out of the race and damaging Starr’s car. Starr made it back to pit road for right-side tires and fuel, and was still 15th on the grid for the second overtime finish, but plummeted to 21st by the checkered flag.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #23 in an XFINITY Series race at Homestead.

40) #23-Tyler Reddick / 179 laps / disqualified / led 8 laps
39) #20-Harrison Burton / 70 laps / engine / led 1 lap
38) #7-Justin Allgaier / 98 laps / crash
37) #54-Ty Dillon / 102 laps / radiator
36) #15-Colby Howard / 109 laps / rear gear / led 3 laps

1st) RSS Racing / Reaume Brothers Racing (2)
2nd) DGM Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (3)


Thursday, February 25, 2021

PREVIEW: Santino Ferrucci's debut, Steve Letarte's return among Homestead storylines

B.J. McLeod's Cup car for this Sunday
PHOTO: @teamlivefast

Saturday, February 27, 2021
XFINITY Race 3 of 33
Contender Boats 250 at Homestead
2020 Last-Place Finisher: Kody Vanderwal (Race 1 of 2, 250 miles)

The preliminary entry list for Saturday’s XFINITY race saw 43 drivers for 40 spots, including three of the four teams that have been on the wrong side of the rank in Owners Points in the first two races of 2021 (see below). All three will again miss the race Saturday.

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-JR Motorsports
Josh Berry returns after a one-week hiatus, looking to improve on his 27th-place finish in the Daytona opener. He takes the place of Miguel Paludo, who charged from 35th on the road course to finish 7th in his return to the series.

DRIVER CHANGE: #17-Rick Ware Racing / SS-Green Light Racing
J.J. Yeley rejoins Ware’s XFINITY team for the first time since last fall at Martinsville, when he outperformed with an impressive 14th-place finish. WorkPro Tools rejoins the team as Yeley takes the place of Cody Ware, 25th last week.

DRIVER SWAP: #23-RSS Racing / Reaume Brothers Racing
DID NOT QUALIFY: #31-Jordan Anderson Racing
DID NOT QUALIFY: #77-Bassett Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
WITHDREW: #03-Our Motorsports
Along with their start-up teams, Jordan Anderson (#31) and Ronnie Bassett, Jr. (#77) will once again not be in the show due to the lack of qualifying. Tyler Reddick was originally slated to take the place of Andy Lally in the withdrawn #03 for Our Motorsports, but the team withdrew for the same reason. Reddick will start the race, this time in the RSS / Reaume effort, the #23 driven by Natalie Decker in last week’s last-place finish. It will be Reddick’s first XFINITY start since the 2019 race at this same track, where he locked-up his second series title. Andy Lally, who was entered in the withdrawn #03 last week before moving to the B.J. McLeod #78 for a 31st-place finish, will this week be replaced by Stefan Parsons with returning sponsorship from Springrates. 

DRIVER CHANGE: #26-Sam Hunt Racing
Making his debut this week is open-wheel upstart Santino Ferrucci, who will carry sponsorship from Stillhouse Whiskey on Sam Hunt’s #26 Toyota. Ferrucci, who will make the first of five consecutive XFINITY starts, takes the place of Kris Wright, who overcame multiple incidents on the Daytona road course to finish 18th in his own series debut.

DRIVER CHANGE: #54-Joe Gibbs Racing
Ty Dillon and the Gaunt Brothers will not be in Sunday’s Cup Series race, but Dillon will be running Saturday’s XFINITY Series race, driving for the team that took the checkers last week. Ty Gibbs, who scored his first series victory in his first-ever start just last week, has since had 14 additional races added to his 2021 schedule. He’ll return to the team for the March 13 round at Phoenix.

DRIVER CHANGE: #61-Motorsports Business Management
Another solid top-twenty finish for Stephen Leicht on the road courses went sour in Saturday’s final moments, where he spun and slipped to 29th. This week, teammate Chad Finchum takes the controls of the #61, looking to improve on his 30th-place showing in this year’s Daytona opener, driving MBM’s #13.

After his fourth entry from DGM Racing wasn’t able to qualify for this year’s Daytona opener, Dexter Bean makes his return on Saturday, this time in the flagship #90. He takes the place of Preston Pardus, whose top-ten run went south with a mechanical failure in the final laps, leaving him 33rd. The fourth #91 team is not entered this week following back-to-back withdrawals.


Sunday, February 28, 2021
CUP Race 3 of 36
Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead
2020 Last-Place Finisher: J.J. Yeley

After back-to-back races in Daytona with 40-car fields, the race taking place just south of the track will see just 38 entries for 40 spots, the first short field of 2021.

TEAM UPDATE: #7-Spire Motorsports
With crew chief Ryan Sparks on COVID-19 protocol, NBC broadcaster Steve Letarte will climb back atop the pit box as a Cup Series crew chief for the first time since the 2014 finale at the same track, when he last called the shots for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. This time, he’ll work for Corey LaJoie, who ran 31st last week after a late-race encounter with the tire barriers.

NOT ENTERED: #16-Kaulig Racing
NOT ENTERED: #96-Gaunt Brothers Racing
Both A.J. Allmendinger and Ty Dillon aren’t entered in this weekend’s Cup race, and each will instead focus their attention on top-tier XFINITY Series rides this Saturday.

DRIVER CHANGE: #78-Live Fast Motorsports
B.J. McLeod will again drive the car he co-owns with Matt Tifft this week, taking the place of Scott Heckert, who ran a solid 28th in his Cup debut last week on the road course. The #78 will carry its third different paint scheme in as many races, this time with and Motorsport Games as sponsor.

Friday, March 5, 2021
TRUCKS Race 3 of 23
Silver State 200 at Las Vegas
2020 Last-Place Finisher: Josh Bilicki

The Truck Series takes the week off and returns a week from Friday in Las Vegas.


TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (February 25, 1995):
L.W. Miller picked up the first last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY (then Busch) Series career in the Goodwrench 200 at Rockingham when his #18 Unifirst Uniforms Ford lost an engine after 2 laps. This was Miller’s second of thirteen career series starts from 1995 through 1996.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

CUP: Quin Houff loses the engine after just three trips around Daytona road course

PHOTOS: Matthew Miller, @MGMiller17

Quin Houff
picked up the 4th last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 at the Daytona Infield Road Course when his #00 Mane ‘n Tail Chevrolet fell out with engine problems after 3 of 70 laps.

The finish, which came in Houff’s 55th series start, was his first since November 8, 2020, last year’s finale at Phoenix, three races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 29th for the #00, the 699th from engine trouble, and the 800th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 44th for the #00, the 1,096th from engine failure, and the 1,764th for Chevrolet.

Houff enters his second season with StarCom Racing looking to improve on his first-ever full-time campaign in Cup. While he earned a career-best 13th last fall at Talladega, he had never finished better than 23rd in any other race. Things didn’t go much better in last week’s Daytona 500. While he made it through the grinding Lap 14 pileup to restart the race after the lengthy rain delay, NASCAR’s decision to not throw a caution for debris off William Byron’s damaged car proved disastrous. Houff was running behind Byron when the rear panel came loose, and the debris punctured a tire. Under green, the tire let go, and he crashed out with Chase Briscoe leaving him 29th. With metric qualifying, this gave Houff 29th on the grid for Sunday’s race.

Rolling off 40th and last was Timmy Hill in the #66 Toyota. After failing to qualify for the Daytona 500 last week, Hill started all three races on the road course, finishing 9th in Trucks on Friday, then 34th in the XFINITY race after his crew changed the right-rear axle on pit road. He’d be joined at the rear by Justin Haley, this week’s driver of Spire Motorsports’ #77 AirMed Care Network Chevrolet, after Haley’s car twice failed inspection.

During the pace laps, Daytona 500 winner and outside-polesitter Michael McDowell felt something strange in his steering, like the air pressure was low in one of his tires. He didn’t report this, and took the green flag with the rest of the field. As he did, his right-front went down further, and he slid out of the groove in Turn 1, dropping out of the Top 20. Now off-line for the entrance to Turn 2, he clipped the grass with the right-front.

Houff's No. 00 hauler leaves the track
with 30 laps to go.

An instant later, Kyle Busch, running just in front of him in the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, also ran wide into the grass, suffering even more damage to his right-front. McDowell slowed to the apron and made it to pit road, taking over last place at the end of the first lap. However, he entered pit road when it was closed as he dropped the tire carcass on the track, drawing the first caution. McDowell also drove through too many pit boxes, which drew a redundant tail-end penalty. During the stop, McDowell’s crew saw the right-front splitter was worn off after dragging the track. This required a packer to be pulled from the right-front. Because his stall was short of the stripe, McDowell had yet to complete the first lap, yet he returned to the track without losing a lap to the leaders.

Kyle Busch took over last on Lap 3, when he pulled down pit road so the crew could cut off part of the right-front fender and tape the hood. At the time, McDowell was again on pit road behind him.

By the Lap 4 restart, McDowell had moved up to 36th, while Busch was 10.763 seconds back of 39th-place Hill. It was only then that Houff entered the last-place battle. He lost power down the backstretch, and reported “66 on the oil pressure, 73 on the fuel.” He came down pit road, and pulled behind the wall for mechanical repairs, taking over last on Lap 5. “I think that’s it, buddy,” said someone on the radio. “That sucks.” The team kept Houff in the car through Lap 8 as they tried to diagnose the issue, but on Lap 9 said “We are finished for the day, sir.” NASCAR confirmed Houff was out with engine issues on Lap 22, and the hauler left the track with 30 to go. Michael McDowell, meanwhile, rebounded to finish 8th, and remained in the Top Ten in points following his 500 win.

Finishing 39th on Sunday was Ross Chastain, whose #42 McDonald’s Chevrolet collided with the wall in Turn 6 after possible contact from Ryan Blaney, destroying the right-front of his car. Tyler Reddick took 38th after both teammate Austin Dillon and William Byron forced him into the grass, destroying the front splitter, sending him into an infield sign, and causing an oil cooler fire on the #8 CAT Rental Store Chevrolet. Matt DiBenedetto apparently blew a right-rear tire with enough force to destroy the back-quarter of his car, and his #21 Motorcraft / Quick Lane Ford made a brief stay in the garage late in the going before he returned to action. Josh Bilicki rounded out the Bottom Five after his #52 Jacob Companies Ford suffered brake failure in the final laps.

A.J. Allmendinger, making his first Cup start since he parted ways with JTG-Daugherty Racing at the end of 2018, rebounded from a disappointing XFINITY race to finish 7th in the #16 Hyperice Chevrolet – his first top-ten finish in the series since the fall Talladega race in 2018. Ryan Preece, who replaced Allmendinger at JTG in 2019, followed-up his 6th-place run in the 500 with a 9th on Sunday, keeping his “open” team high up the standings. Daniel Suarez got sick in his car in the final 15 laps, but still managed to finish 16th in just the second start for Trackhouse Racing, even leading two laps under caution. And both Ty Dillon and Timmy Hill rebounded from their DNQs in the Daytona 500 to finish inside the Top 30, taking 19th and 29th, respectively.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #00 for a Cup race on a road course.

40) #00-Quin Houff / 3 laps / engine
39) #42-Ross Chastain / 26 laps / crash
38) #8-Tyler Reddick / 58 laps / crash
37) #21-Matt DiBenedetto / 65 laps / running
36) #52-Josh Bilicki / 68 laps / brakes

1st) Rick Ware Racing, StarCom Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (2)


Saturday, February 20, 2021

XFINITY: Fluid leak after early spin ends Natalie Decker’s XFINITY Series debut


Natalie Decker
picked up the 1st last-place finish for her NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Super Start Batteries 188 presented by O’Reilly at the Daytona Infield Road Course when her #23 Red Street Records Chevrolet fell out with crash after 3 of 56 laps.

The finish came in Decker’s series debut. In the XFINITY Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 12th for the #23, the 341st from a crash, and the 563rd for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 66th for the #23, the 1,239th from a crash, and the 1,763rd for Chevrolet.

Last year at Daytona, Decker scored her first-ever top-five finish, finishing 5th for Niece Motorsports. It was a huge moment for Decker, who prior to that had finished no better than 13th, and had been fighting rheumatoid arthritis since birth. It was during this partial season for Niece that Decker missed a race for medical reasons for a second-straight season. While set to start last September at Las Vegas, she was not medically cleared to take the green due to high blood pressure. With no driver able to fit in her seat, the entry was pushed behind the wall. She returned to action just one month later at Texas. 

Decker’s ride for Daytona – her first of 2021, and first in the XFINITY Series - was a combined effort between RSS Racing and Reaume Brothers Racing. In 2020, Myatt Snider split time between RSS’ #93 – teamed with Ryan Sieg’s flagship #39 - and Richard Childress Racing’s #21. After Snider’s last start with RSS at Texas, Josh Reaume became a partner in the #93 for the season’s last two races. Reaume himself finished last with the car in the fall race at Martinsville, followed by C.J. McLaughlin at Phoenix.

With RSS Racing’s manufacturer change in 2021 from Chevrolet to Ford, the team also changed the #93 team’s number to the #23, but kept the partnership with Reaume. While Sieg remained in the #39 Ford, which was eliminated by an oil leak, Jason White finished a strong 10th in the #23. For the road course, the #23 would be a Chevrolet with Reaume-styled numbers on the doors and roof. The white car carried a hood logo for musician Jason Crabb’s album “Just As I Am” from Red Street Records, plus a TV panel sponsor in Bigfoot Philly Cheese Steaks. N29 Technologies, her Truck Series backer, had small logos in front of the rear tires.

Thanks to Jason White’s strong run in the opener, Decker secured the 21st starting spot based on metric qualifying. When the starting lineup was posted, however, the car only showed “TBA” in the driver’s spot, even though Decker posted a February 13 video of her driver announcement. Four teams withdrew due to the lack of qualifying: Our Motorsports’ second car, the #03, Jordan Anderson Racing’s #31, Bassett Racing’s #77, and DGM Racing’s fourth car, the #91. Preston Pardus and Andy Lally, slated to run the #91 and #03 respectively, both picked up other rides to start the race.

Rolling off 40th and last as another “TBA” entry, the #13 Toyota from Motorsports Business Management. David Starr and his sponsor Whataburger came on board by race day. As his Supra rolled off pit road, however, one starter’s car was being pushed to his pit stall. This was 26th-place Noah Gragson, whose #9 Bass Pro Shops TrueTimber / BRCC Chevrolet had fired, then cut off again after the command. The crew set to work changing the ignition box, and had to take off the air filter to do so. They ended up missing the start of the race.

Back on the track, two drivers dropped to the rear to join Starr – 5th-place Daniel Hemric in the #18 Poppy Bank Toyota and 10th-place Matt Mills in the #5 Thompson Electric Chevrolet. Both soon passed Jeffrey Earnhardt, whose #0 Forever Lawn Chevrolet ran off course during the first lap and ripped the front splitter from his car. As Earnhardt came down pit road on Lap 2, Gragson’s engine fired, and he returned to the track just in front of race leader Austin Cindric. On Lap 3, Cindric passed Gragson to put him a second lap down. Earnhardt returned to the track and cleared the “Crash Clock,” though one lap down. This meant Earnhardt and not Gragson would take the Lucky Dog when the first caution fell a moment later.

That caution fell after Decker was involved in an incident in the frontstretch chicane. Entering the turn to complete Lap 2, she tangled with Mills, who was working his way up from the back of the field when he hit Decker in the left-rear. Decker pulled a full 360 and slid over one of the “turtles,” which damaged the underside of her car. She started to leak fluid from the right-rear in the tri-oval – perhaps rear gear fluid – which drew the caution. She was then told by NASCAR to stop at the exit of pit road. She backed up to her pit stall, but the crew told her to go back to the truck instead so they could look under the car. Decker also said something felt broken under the front of the car. NASCAR didn’t rule Decker’s trip to the garage as a mechanical issue, and she was thus out under the “Damaged Vehicle Policy.” The team apparently didn’t realize this until Lap 7, when someone said “Yeah, we’re done.” The team was also frustrated with Mills for the initial contact in the chicane. Decker’s tires were then transferred to their teammate, Ryan Sieg.

Decker backing up on pit road
before going to the garage.
PHOTO: Matt Miller, @MGMiller17

Finishing 39th was Riley Herbst, who cut through the tri-oval grass to avoid Austin Cindric and A.J. Allmendinger’s tangle battling for the win in Stage 1. The splitter of Herbst’s #98 Monster Energy Ford dug into the dirt, causing enough damage to knock him out of the race. Last-place starter David Starr took 38th with transmission problems. Ryan Vargas took 37th, returning to action more than 20 laps down after his Alvin Kamara-backed #6 The Big Squeezy Chevrolet stalled exiting the tri-oval. Rounding out the group was Jade Buford, whose first start for Big Machine Records Racing ended when his own #48 Big Machine Vodka Spiked Cooler Chevrolet stalled after 38 laps.

Ty Gibbs’ stunning victory in his XFINITY Series debut was just one of a number of surprising performances. Miguel Paludo, driving JR Motorsports’ #8 Brandt Chevrolet, overcame a flat left-front tire to finish 7th in his first XFINITY Series start since 2012. Brandon Brown took 8th in his #68 Jabs Construction Chevrolet – his first-ever top-ten on a road course. Both Mike Harmon Racing teammates finished 8th and 9th in Stage 1 with Kyle Weatherman taking 16th at the finish in the #47 Picture Perfect Chevrolet. Josh Williams rebounded from spinning into a tire barrier to finish 17th in his #92 Alloy Employer Services Chevrolet. And Kris Wright overcame multiple spins to finish 18th in his XFINITY debut driving Sam Hunt Racing’s #26 F.N.B. Corporation Toyota.

Others came very close to joining this group, Preston Pardus stoved in the nose of his #90 Chinchor Electric / Danus Utilities Chevrolet in the opening laps, but was running 9th with four laps to go when the rear gear failed. Stephen Leicht was holding down 17th in the final stages driving Carl Long’s #61 Jani-King Toyota, only to be collected in an overtime accident to finish 29th. The same incident collected Cody Ware, whose #17 Nurtec ODT Ford was moving from 11th into the Top Ten, only to fall to 25th. Gray Gaulding briefly held the lead through pit strategy, but contact pushed in a fender, and he slipped to 21st in Jimmy Means Racing’s #52 Panini Trading Cards Chevrolet. Andy Lally worked his way up as high as 3rd at one point, but ended up 31st after late-race contact in the #99 Energy Air Chevrolet. And Ryan Sieg inherited the lead in overtime, only to run wide in Turn 1 and drive through the grass, leaving his #39 CMR Construction & Roofing Ford in the 27th spot.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #23 in an XFINITY Series race since July 4, 2014, when Robert Richardson, Jr.’s #23 Cornboard Chevrolet – a backup car – fell out with rear end trouble after 13 laps on the Daytona oval in the Subway Firecracker 250.

40) #23-Natalie Decker / 3 laps / crash
39) #98-Riley Herbst / 15 laps / crash
38) #13-David Starr / 20 laps / transmission
37) #6-Ryan Vargas / 23 laps / running
36) #16-A.J. Allmendinger / 33 laps / suspension

1st) DGM Racing, RSS Racing / Reaume Brothers Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (2)


Friday, February 19, 2021

TRUCKS: Multiple overtimes, perseverance of Reaume teammates hand Zane Smith last place in Daytona marathon


Zane Smith picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Friday’s BrakeBest Brake Pads 159 presented by O’Reilly at the Daytona Infield Road Course when his #21 / Chevy Accessories Chevrolet was involved in a multi-truck accident after 35 of 51 laps.

The finish came in Smith’s 26th series start. In the Truck Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 10th for the #21, the 164th from a crash, and the 401st for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 38th for the #21, the 1,238th from a crash, and the 1,762nd for Chevrolet.

The last time Smith finished this low in a Truck Series race marked a key turning point in his career. The runner-up to Sheldon Creed in the 2018 ARCA Menards Series Championship, Smith impressed in his ten-race XFINITY Series stint for JR Motorsports, finishing Top Ten in seven of them with a pair of 5th-place runs. Last year, he landed a full-time ride in the Truck Series for GMS Racing in the #21 Chevrolet. But even with the help of longtime sponsor LaPaz Margarita Mix, he arrived in Homestead in an unsponsored truck. That day, he was collected in a wreck with his teammates, and finished next-to-last.

Later that summer, Smith pulled off his first Truck Series victory at Michigan, then followed it up two rounds later with another win at Dover. He made it all the way to the Championship 4 at Phoenix, where – as in ARCA – he came up just one spot short of Sheldon Creed. In between, he also made some daring moves on the track, including a pass on the apron at Charlotte. Now a proven talent in NASCAR’s top three series, Smith entered 2021 with a 16th-place finish in the Daytona opener, and looked for more on the road course. There, Smith drew the 11th starting spot in the first 2021 field set by metric qualifying. With 40-truck fields allowed during events without qualifying, the CMI Motorsports teammates of Roger Reuse and Tim Viens were forced to withdraw.

Rolling off 40th and last on Friday was 21-year-old Lawless Alan, who along with 35tyh-place Jett Noland and 22nd-place Parker Chase was one of three drivers making their first start in any of NASCAR’s top three series. Of the group, Alan had perhaps the least experience, having run a combined five ARCA Menards Series and ARCA Menards West Series races last year, and just two regional races the year before. Alan’s ride would be the second of two trucks fielded by Reaume Brothers Racing, a #34 Toyota sponsored by

On the pace laps, at least two other drivers dropped to the rear before the start. Norm Benning, the defending LASTCAR Truck Series Champion, was already set to roll off 39th in the #6 MDF A Sign Company Chevrolet, but was classified behind Alan on the initial start. Dropping further back was 13th-place Bobby Reuse, driving for the Jordan Anderson Racing team that finished runner-up last week. Reuse’s #3 I Heart Mac & Cheese Chevrolet was seen bringing up the rear by the time the field entered the backstretch chicane prior to the initial start. He was still negotiating the frontstretch chicane when the leaders took the green flag.

Last place quickly changed hands in the first corner. There, 12th-place starter Raphael Lessard spun his #24 Canac Chevrolet, causing the back half of the field to scatter. Reuse pulled past Benning, who stopped for a moment as Lessard turned his truck the right way. Benning then got going again, dropping Lessard to last. By the end of the first lap, Lessard had re-passed Benning, who complained that his truck had no rear grip. The stop had dropped Benning a full 7.952 seconds back of Reuse by the end of that lap, and the drivers from 36th on back were already some distance behind the rest of the leaders.

Jason White on pit road early for brake issue
PHOTO: Matt Miller, @MGMiller17

On Lap 3, Benning passed the other Reaume Brothers entry, the #33 Powder Ventures Excavating Chevrolet, driven for a second-straight week by Canadian racer Jason White. White missed the backstretch chicane and had to serve a stop-and-go penalty, which dropped him to last, 2.662 seconds back of Benning. This was likely due to a brake problem that White had since the initial start, when his pedal suddenly went to the floor. White still managed to pass a struggling Bobby Reuse on Lap 4, but Reuse got by again two laps later. By then, White had missed the backstretch chicane again, and the brake issue had worsened. Because of the wet track, the team was unable to find where the brake fluid was leaking from, and the driver knew he’d soon have to go behind the wall.

White, Benning, and several other teams were also admonished by NASCAR for not keeping their rear brake lights illuminated during wet conditions. White soon discovered that the team had wired his brake fans to the same circuit as the windshield wiper and brake light, meaning that when he switched off the fans, both wiper and light stopped working. When he discovered this issue on Lap 8, he shouted, “We’ve gotta be more professional than this!” On Lap 9, White pulled behind the wall. When he returned, he would have to serve a pass-through penalty for his second time missing the backstretch chicane. The team also had difficulty guiding White to the right entrance to the garage.

On Lap 14, White’s crew reported they found the source of the leak, and the driver re-fired the engine. He hustled around the track to catch the tail end of the field for the restart to begin Stage 2. By then, he was eight laps down with no other drivers in the garage area, and few others off the lead lap. White served his pass-through penalty after the first green-flag lap, and wanted to pit for more adjustments. He couldn’t, as this meant he’d have to serve the penalty on another stop, and he had to wait for the rest of the field to go by before he re-entered the track.

By the 18th circuit, White was again told his brake light was off, and for the first time was told he wasn’t maintaining minimum speed. This speed had been adjusted by NASCAR on Lap 3, when it was set to 164.26 seconds. White lost another lap, and was told he’d be parked if he didn’t get the brake light issue resolved. He made another pit stop on Lap 21, but still the brake light wouldn’t stay on. The Lap 23 caution for a stalled John Hunter Nemechek allowed him to regroup, and by Lap 25, he reported he had half of his brake pressure back. When he hit the brake pedal, however, the truck pulled hard to the left. Now 10 laps down, White decided to try and baby his truck to the finish, though he knew it was unlikely he’d gain any positions by the end of the originally scheduled distance on Lap 44. On Lap 29, with the damp track continuing to dry, NASCAR announced teams no longer had to run the rear brake light.

That same time by, Lawless Alan pulled his truck behind the wall, complaining of a power steering leak. At the time, he was still on the lead lap. Two laps later, the caution fell for Niece Motorsports teammates Ryan Truex and Carson Hocevar, who along with Timothy Peters collided at the tight exit of pit road. All three returned to the race, though Truex incurred a two-lap penalty for too many crew members fixing crash damage. The trio were followed by Alan on Lap 34. With the power steering issue addressed, Alan reported the steering wheel “stumbles at the center,” which the team assured him would improve. With that, Alan returned to action five laps ahead of his teammate White, the pair running 39th and 40th.

Zane Smith didn’t enter the last-place battle until Lap 36, when he was still running in the Top 10. Coming off the fourth corner on the inside of a three-wide battle with Brett Moffitt and Johnny Sauter, Smith pulled left and crossed the nose of Moffitt, putting him head-on into the outside wall. Smith drove straight through the frontstretch chicane and stopped on the apron, his truck done for the day. With eight laps to go in regulation, White was still ten down, set to take last place by a two-lap margin. But that changed when the race went into its third overtime.

Thus, on Lap 46, Smith passed White, taking over last place. In fact, White managed to catch one more driver – Spencer Boyd, whose #20 Credit MRI Chevrolet fell out with transmission issues on Lap 41. Alan also passed Boyd, plus eventual 37th-place Sam Mayer, whose #75 Chevrolet Silverado Chevrolet dug into the muddy grass and ripped the splitter, causing a terminal oil leak. Alan finished 36th, within two laps of Jennifer Jo Cobb’s #10 Fastener Supply Co. Chevrolet.

The race ended up lasting for nearly three hours, but still resulted in some impressive runs for some of the series’ underdogs.

Taking 9th was Timmy Hill, making his first Truck Series start of the year in his unsponsored #56 Chevrolet. Hill climbed from 34th on the grid, and moved from 10th to 9th on the final restart, kicking off a triple-header weekend on the road course. 

Camden Murphy earned the Lucky Dog under the night’s sixth caution on Lap 40 and capitalized, climbing from 37th on the grid to finish 13th in NEMCO Motorsports’ appropriately sponsored #8 Chevrolet. Murphy’s first Truck start since last summer at Bristol became his new career-best, improving on his 17th-place finish for D.J. Copp at Las Vegas in 2017.

Dawson Cram started even further back in 38th, and in just the ninth start for his start-up team earned a 17th-place finish. This equaled his 17th-place showing for MAKE Motorsports in his series debut at Martinsville in 2018, and was just four spots shy of his career-best 13th – also at Martinsville – in the fall of 2019.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #21 in a Truck Series race since April 2, 2016, when Johnny Sauter’s #21 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff Chevrolet – also fielded by GMS Racing - crashed after 43 laps of the Alpha Energy Solutions 250 at Martinsville.

40) #21-Zane Smith / 35 laps / crash
39) #20-Spencer Boyd / 38 laps / transmission
38) #33-Jason White / 41 laps / running
37) #75-Sam Mayer / 41 laps / crash
36) #34-Lawless Alan / 45 laps / running

1st) GMS Racing, Niece Motorsports (1)

1st) Chevrolet (2)


Thursday, February 18, 2021

PREVIEW: Multiple drivers making their series debuts on the Daytona Infield Road Course

PHOTO: @RyanVargas_23

Friday, February 19, 2021
TRUCKS Race 2 of 23
BrakeBest Brake Pads 159 at Daytona Infield Road Course
2020 Last-Place Finisher: Roger Reuse

It’s unfortunate that NASCAR has cancelled practice and qualifying for all but a handful of tracks in 2021. Both the Truck Series and XFINITY Series had more than 40 entries, forcing the extra teams to withdraw. On the Truck side, there were 42 teams entered until CMI Motorsports pulled both their entries from the lineup (see below). The result is a list six entries shorter than last week’s opener.

DRIVER CHANGE: #3-Jordan Anderson Racing
WITHDREW: #83-CMI Motorsports
For the second-straight year, Jordan Anderson was edged for the win at Daytona by a ThorSport entry in a photo finish. After finishing 35th in the inaugural race here last August, he will not run the road course on Friday. Rejoining the team is Bobby Reuse, whose ride with Clay Greenfield Motorsports was withdrawn last year. Reuse’s most recent start was in 2019 at Mosport, where he and brother Roger Reuse ran two Jordan Anderson-prepared trucks. Roger had also been entered in this race for CMI Motorsports, looking to bounce back from his first-lap clutch issues in the 2020 running. Unfortunately, his #49 was withdrawn along with teammate Tim Viens in the #83.

Camden Murphy returns to the Truck Series for the first time since last summer at Bristol, when he made his lone series start of the year, finishing 19th. Then as now, Murphy drives for Joe Nemechek, who failed to qualify last week in Daytona.

MISSING: #11-Spencer Davis Motorsports
Spencer Davis is not entered after he failed to qualify on the Daytona oval.

Riley Herbst makes his first Truck Series start in just over a year, dating back to when he won the pole for the 2020 Daytona opener and finished 12th for Kyle Busch Motorsports. This time, he takes the wheel of the Team DGR #17, taking the place of team owner David Gilliland. Herbst comes into this race after finishing 26th in last week’s XFINITY Series opener.

MISSING: #28-FDNY Racing
Bryan Dauzat is not entered after he parlayed pit strategy to lead two laps in last Friday’s opener, then finished on the lead lap in 19th. This was Dauzat’s best series finish since 2019 at Talladega, when he ran 17th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #34-Reaume Brothers Racing
The preliminary entry list had no driver listed in place of Jesse Iwuji, who failed to qualify last week. By Wednesday, it was revealed that 21-year-old ARCA Menards West Series driver Lawless Alan of Van Nuys, California, who makes his first start in any of NASCAR’s top three series. 

DRIVER CHANGE: #44-Niece Motorsports
Also making his NASCAR debut is 17-year-old late model driver Jett Noland of Orlando, Florida, kicking off a partial schedule in 2021. Hype Motorsports is the listed sponsor. Noland takes the place of James Buescher, who was finished last at Daytona after he was collected in the multi-truck pileup on the initial start.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Kyle Busch Motorsports
The third driver making his debut on Friday is Parker Chase, who just three days before his 20th birthday will take the wheel of KBM’s #51 Vertical Bridge Toyota. Chase, a native of New Baunfels, Texas, has a pronounced road racing background, having competed in the last two runnings of the 24 Hours of Daytona on this same course. He also ran 10th in the ARCA road race here last summer while driving for Chad Bryant. Chase takes the place of Drew Dollar, who ran 10th last week.

DRIVER CHANGE: #56-Hill Motorsports
Timmy Hill returns to drive his own Chevrolet for the first time since last fall at Martinsville, where he closed out a solid 2020 season with a 14th-place finish. He takes the place of Gus Dean, who finished next-to-last in the opener after he was collected in the James Buescher wreck.

MISSING: #68-Clay Greenfield Motorsports
Clay Greenfield is not entered after he failed to qualify last week.

DRIVER CHANGE: #75-Henderson Motorsports
Parker Kligerman narrowly missed the cut last week, turning the fastest lap of the ten drivers who DNQ’d. This week, the Henderson team is locked into the field, and Sam Mayer will drive the #75 Chevrolet. Mayer, last summer’s winner at Bristol, most recently took the green flag in the Phoenix finale, where he ran 17th for GMS Racing.

MISSING: #96-Peck Motorsports
Todd Peck is not entered after he failed to qualify at Daytona.

DRIVER CHANGE: #98-ThorSport Racing
For the first time since 2016, Grant Enfinger is not entered in this week’s Truck Series race. After the team’s reorganization last year, his #98 Toyota will be driven by former KBM driver Christian Eckes, who scored seven top-five finishes in 2020, including three runner-up finishes in four races between Texas, Kansas, and Michigan. He continues his search for his first victory this week.

DRIVER CHANGE: #02-Young’s Motorsports
While Kris Wright was originally reported to be in the #02 again this week, his name was left off the preliminary entry list. By Wednesday, Kaz Grala was instead tabbed to drive, one week after his first Daytona 500 start. It was at this Daytona road course that Grala made his Cup debut, taking the place of a Austin Dillon after a positive COVID-19 test. Wright will instead turn his focus this week to the XFINITY Series (see below).


Saturday, February 20, 2021
XFINITY Race 2 of 33
Super Start Batteries 188 at Daytona Infield Road Course
2020 Last-Place Finisher: Justin Haley

The entry list stood at 44 drivers entered for 40 spots, down just one entry from the opener, but the lack of qualifying led to four teams withdrawing (see below). The remaining 40 drivers will take the green flag on Saturday.

TEAM UPDATE: #6-JD Motorsports
Following his 18th-place finish in last week’s Daytona opener, Ryan Vargas revealed this past Monday that he had no sponsor yet signed for this week’s race. That changed by Wednesday as Alvin Kamara, running back for the New Orleans Saints, signed up to promote his own business, The Big Squeezy. This will be Vargas’ first start on the Daytona infield course.

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-JR Motorsports
Josh Berry enjoyed a strong run for part of last week’s race before a wreck left him a disappointing 27th. This week, the #8 will go to Miguel Paludo, who makes his return to the XFINITY Series for the first time since August 11, 2012, when he finished 13th at Watkins Glen for the now-shuttered Turner Motorspors. Paludo shares sponsorship from Brandt with full-timer and teammate Justin Allgaier.

DRIVER CHANGE: #13-Motorsports Business Management
As of this writing, Carl Long’s #13 team has no driver listed in place of Chad Finchum, who ran 30th last week. The first print of the starting lineup still showed “TBA” rolling off 40th. UPDATE: David Starr will drive, making his first start of the season.

DRIVER CHANGE: #23-RSS Racing / Reaume Brothers Racing
Also without a driver listed was the #23 team fielded by RSS Racing and the Reaume Brothers, set to start 21st on Saturday. The team finished a strong 10th last week with a returning Jason White. Natalie Decker has since been added as the driver, set to make her first XFINITY Series start.

MISSING: #25-ACG Motorsports
Chris Cockrum was the highest-ranked of the five teams who were sent home by the rain last week. ACG Motorsports is not entered this time around.

DRIVER CHANGE: #26-Sam Hunt Racing
Brandon Gdovic turned in a strong 8th-place finish last week on Daytona’s oval – an impressive performance in his first XFINITY oval start since November 2016 at Phoenix. While his two other starts since then were both on road courses, Gdovic is not entered this week. Into the seat comes Kris Wright, last week’s driver of Young’s Motorsports’ #02 Chevrolet in the Truck Series. Wright finished 12th last Friday and will make his XFINITY Series debut.

WITHDREW: #31-Jordan Anderson Racing
Among the four teams forced to withdraw this week after the rain fell is Jordan Anderson’s new XFINITY Series effort. As Anderson tweeted last week, this means his team won’t be able to attempt another race until May.

DRIVER CHANGE: #48-Big Machine Records Racing Team
The Daytona opener saw last-minute replacement Danny Bohn finish 19th in his XFINITY Series debut, the last driver on the lead lap. Cleared to run the road courses where he ran so strong last year for SS-Green Light Racing, Jade Buford is back behind the wheel of the #48 Chevrolet.

DRIVER CHANGE: #54-Joe Gibbs Racing
Saturday will see the NASCAR debut of 18-year-old Ty Gibbs, an eight-time winner in the ARCA Menards Series who came home 5th in points last year, and 4th in last week’s ARCA opener for 2021. Gibbs takes the place of Ty Dillon, who after his Daytona 500 DNQ led two laps in the XFINITY race, and rebounded from a multi-car wreck to finish 14th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #61-Motorsports Business Management
Also among the road racing contingent this week is Stephen Leicht, who like Jade Buford ran solidly in MBM’s road course races last year. He takes the place of Robby Lyons, who ran 25th last week on the oval.

WITHDREW: #77-Bassett Racing
Ronnie Bassett, Jr. and his family team withdrew, and will join Jordan Anderson and the others in the long wait until May.

WITHDREW: #91-DGM Racing
The lack of qualifying also threatened the return of Preston Pardus, who has consistently outperformed in these first few NASCAR starts for DGM Racing. While his entry in Mario Gosselin’s own #91 was scrubbed, he will instead run the flagship #90 in place of Caesar Bacarella, who was a solid 12th last week. Sponsorship from Chinchor Electric and Danus Utilities continue with the Pardus effort. Recall that Pardus most recently ran on this course in January, when he nearly won a Global Mazda MX-5 Cup race before a last-minute four-wide pass entering the tri-oval.

DRIVER CHANGE: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
WITHDREW: #03-Our Motorsports
Also saved by a last-minute driver change is the return of Andy Lally, who has become a regular threat on the road courses. Lally had been slated to run Chris Our’s second team, which was among those sent home by the rain with Tyler Reddick last week. With the #03 withdrawn, Lally was moved to B.J. McLeod’s #99, which had no driver listed in place of 13th-place Daytona finisher Stefan Parsons.


Sunday, February 21, 2021
CUP Race 2 of 36
O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 at Daytona Infield Road Course
2020 Last-Place Finisher: Brendan Gaughan

There are exactly 40 drivers entered for as many spots – down four entries from last week’s Daytona 500 – meaning no drivers will fail to qualify.

MISSING: #13-Motorsports Business Management
DRIVER SWAP: #53-Rick Ware Racing
After his valiant effort to race Carl Long’s second Ford into the Daytona 500 field ended with a tangle between himself, Brad Keselowski, and fellow “open” driver Noah Gragson, Garrett Smithley moves from the MBM #13 to Rick Ware’s #53, taking the place of 20th-place finisher Joey Gase, who isn’t entered.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Rick Ware Racing
The second race of the season is the first Cup start of the year for James Davison, who started his first 15 Cup races last year. This time, Davison drives the #15 team raced last week by Derrike Cope before an unfortunate last-place finish. While Cope’s entry was a second StarCom car, this Chevrolet is expected to be from Rick Ware’s own shop.

DRIVER CHANGE: #16-Kaulig Racing
Much has changed since A.J. Allmendinger last took the green flag of a Cup Series race at Homestead on November 18, 2018. He’s since found a home in the XFINITY Series and with upstart Kaulig Racing, which has become a force to be reckoned with on both the superspeedways and road courses. Allmendinger returns to run double-duty for the team, combining his full-season effort in XFINITY with a road racing effort in the #16 Cup car. He takes the place of Kaz Grala, whose first Daytona 500 came to an end in 28th place due to a fire caused by a leaky brake line. Ellsworth Advisors sponsors Allmendinger.

MISSING: #33-Penske Racing
MISSING: #36-Front Row Motorsports
MISSING: #62-Beard Motorsports
Three of the “open” teams entered in last week’s Daytona 500 are not on this week’s entry list. Austin Cindric finished 15th despite his involvement in the last-lap crash, but was running 5th for much of the closing stages. David Ragan’s run was cut short in the Lap 14 melee, leaving him 37th. Noah Gragson failed to qualify after a crash in his Duel race, and the Beard Motorsports team has elected not to run the road race, which they finished last in during the 2020 running.

TEAM UPDATE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
TEAM UPDATE: #96-Gaunt Brothers Racing
These two “open” entries who both fell short of making the 500 in Duel Race 1 will both make their 2021 debut on Sunday, and with the same drivers behind the wheel. Timmy Hill will round out a triple-duty weekend in the MBM #66 while Ty Dillon will again run for the Gaunt Brothers, looking to improve on his run for 23XI in the Busch Clash.

DRIVER CHANGE: #77-Spire Motorsports
Justin Haley, the last-place finisher of the 2020 XFINITY race here, takes the place of 8th-place finisher Jamie McMurray in his return to Spire Motorsports. Haley last ran Cup last fall at Talladega, where he finished 11th with the same team. AirMed Care Network is the listed sponsor for the team.

DRIVER CHANGE: #78-Live Fast Motorsports
Sunday will mark the Cup Series debut for Scott Heckert, whose most recent NASCAR start was also at this track in last year’s XFINITY race. That day, he finished 19th for B.J. McLeod, who he drives in place of Sunday for McLeod and Matt Tifft’s team Live Fast Motorsports. McLeod finished 23rd last week.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (February 18, 1996): Dick Trickle finished last in the Daytona 500 after his #63 Purina Hi Pro Ford lost an engine after 9 laps. Trickle raced Brittan Schnell’s car into the show to start 28th, but would end up 43rd. This marked the second time in four runnings of the 500 that Trickle finished last for this reason, and was the 5th of his Cup career.  

Monday, February 15, 2021

CUP: Derrike Cope’s last planned start comes to an end on Lap 3; LASTCAR record holder Michael McDowell wins first race in his 358th start

PHOTO: Elyshia Cope

Derrike Cope
picked up the 29th last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s 63rd Annual Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway when his #15 Jacob Industries Chevrolet was eliminated in a single-car accident after 3 of 200 laps.

The finish, which came in Cope’s 428th series start, was his first since October 22, 2017 at Kansas, 113 races ago, the debut of his team, StarCom Racing. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 27th for the #15, the 608th from a crash, and the 799th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 44th for the #15, the 1,237th from a crash, and the 1,761st for Chevrolet.

The full story of Cope’s career is a story for another time. But it’s well known that his life was forever changed at this same Daytona track on February 18, 1990. That day, he was running second in the Daytona 500, following in the tire tracks of a dominant Dale Earnhardt. He’d been running there much of the day in a fast Purolator Chevrolet, fielded by upstart Bob Whitcomb Racing with the leadership of veteran crew chief Buddy Parrott. Heading into the third turn for the final time, Earnhardt’s right-rear tire exploded, and Cope rushed past into the lead. He beat Terry Labonte to the finish line, a first-time winner in only his 72nd start. He’d win again at Dover that June.

Coming into 2021, Cope had started the 500 a total of 14 times. Other than his win in 1990, he’d never finished better than 18th in any of them.

On January 19, 2021, news broke that Cope, now the team manager of StarCom Racing, would be making his first Cup start since September 2, 2018 at Darlington in this year’s Daytona 500. It would be Cope’s first attempt to make the 500 field since 2011, and his first actually starting it since 2004. He knew he’d start thanks to a Charter secured from Rick Ware Racing. Cope was among the last to know of the deal, which had been arranged by his StarCom Racing co-owners for some time. When he’d take the green flag, the 62-year-old Cope would become the second-oldest driver ever to start “The Great American Race,” trailing only 68-year-old Mark Thompson in 2018.

In his media availability, Cope kept his expectations low, saying he was looking to have fun out there, and to take in the spectacle of the 500 along with his wife Elyshia. He did, however, point out that if he was still on the lead lap in the final 20 circuits, “they’re gonna have to deal with me.”

Unfortunately, not much went right for Cope through SpeedWeeks 2021. In Wednesday’s lone practice session, he ran 40th out of the 44 entrants. In qualifying that night, the car wouldn’t fire, and his car was pulled out from 7th in line. A dead battery kept him from making a qualifying attempt, and also kept him from taking his commemorative picture next to the car at the start / finish line.

Lined up 21st of 22 drivers for the second qualifying race, Cope battled side-by-side with B.J. McLeod’s #78 NASCAR Heat Ford for the first two laps, but ultimately lost touch with the draft. Complaining that his car was riding too high off the ground, Cope went down a lap on the 17th circuit, pulling below the yellow line to let the leaders pass. A pass-through penalty for speeding on pit road followed on Lap 33, and he was soon three laps down.

Cope lost one more lap just moments after taking the white flag. On that final lap, his car lost power heading into the backstretch, and he pulled below the yellow line at reduced speed. At that moment, Bubba Wallace and Austin Dillon were setting up a three-wide pass on race leader Martin Truex, Jr. The left-side tires of Wallace’s #23 Door Dash Toyota nearly crossed the yellow line, putting him dangerously close to Cope’s slowing car. Both drivers avoided a collision, but Cope was criticized on social media for the incident.

Cope hoped to work out the car’s handling in Saturday’s final practice session, but rain ended it after just three minutes. Cope ranked 25th this time out of the 27 who completed at least one lap. With his guaranteed starting spot thanks to Rick Ware’s Charter, Cope was set to start 32nd in the Daytona 500, but had little idea how his car would perform. Missing the race were Ty Dillon in the Gaunt Brothers’ #96 Bass Pro Shops Toyota, Noah Gragson in the #62 Beard Oil Distributing Chevrolet, and Motorsports Business Management teammates Garrett Smithley in the #13 Trophy Tractor Ford and Timmy Hill in the #66 VSI Racing Ford.

Taking the 40th and final starting spot was Kaz Grala, who made his Cup debut in Kaulig Racing’s #16 Hyper Ice Chevrolet. He did not come by the spot easily. Unable to lock himself in on speed, he needed to either race his way in or hope that David Ragan’s locked-in #36 Select Blinds Ford would race into the final transfer spot. On Lap 36, Grala was collected in a multi-car pileup off Turn 2 that left his car with damage to the right side. But when the other two “open” entries wrecked out on Lap 57 and Ragan finished 8th, Grala secured the final starting spot.

Ultimately, Grala was one of ten drivers were sent to the rear prior to the start, and one of seven for a backup car following wrecks in Thursday’s qualifying races. Chase Briscoe in the #14 High Point Ford and Anthony Alfredo in the #38 Speedy Cash Ford were involved in the same wreck as Grala on Thursday, surrendering 30th and 36th, respectively. The other backups were 24th-place Brad Keselowski in the #2 Discount Tire Ford, 27th-place Cole Custer in the #41 Ford, and 34th-place Ross Chastain in the #42 Clover Chevrolet. The other three penalized drivers were for technical reasons: Erik Jones surrendered the 31st spot for an engine change on his #43 Armor All Chevrolet, 26th-place Martin Truex, Jr. for a radiator and oil cooler change, and on race day, 6th-place Bubba Wallace’s #23 Door Dash Toyota failed inspection twice, then passed on the third attempt.

When the pace laps began, Cope said “Thanks everyone for your support,” and also gave a special message to his mother-in-law. He also indicated this was his “last ride,” which up until then he’d indicated was only a possibility. The ten penalized drivers moved him up in the rankings, and when the race started, Grala’s backup car dropped Josh Bilicki to last place in his #52 Wisconsin Lighting Labs Ford. Bilicki, the last-place finisher of Thursday’s first Duel race, drafted with teammate Cody Ware in the #51 Nurtec ODT Chevrolet, and the two began to lose touch with the rest of the leaders.

On Lap 2, Denny Hamlin had dropped to 38th place in his #11 FedEx Toyota, but Cope had climbed his way to 22nd. Footage shown later by FOX revealed Cope was holding off drivers trying to pass him. Exiting the tri-oval, Cope moved high, causing William Byron to check up. As Byron cracked the throttle, he was rear-ended by Bubba Wallace, who in turn was bumped in the left-rear by Brad Keselowski. Byron tried again in Turn 3, but Cope moved high, and Cope then inched to the left to hold off Matt DiBenedetto. Reports indicated Cope then made contact with Wallace, which damaged the right-rear tire.

Cope was still running the high lane on Lap 3, as the fans in attendance saluted Dale Earnhardt with the now-famous three-fingered salute from 2001. Moments later, Cope, still running 25th on the outside of Tyler Reddick and Ross Chastain, cut down a tire in Turn 3 and slid into the outside wall. “I got in the fence,” said the driver. Cope held his car against the wall until the field cleared him, and the now last-place car dropped to the apron near the stripe. “Sorry, guys, that wasn’t what I was wanting to do,” said the driver. He stopped on the apron of Turn 1, and was later checked and released from the infield care center. Attention then turned to his own entry, the #00 Mane ‘n Tail Chevrolet of Quin Houff.

It was ironic that Cope was criticized for nearly causing a wreck on Thursday as, barely ten laps later, the leaders triggered one of the largest pileups in recent Daytona 500 history. On Lap 15, a push by 6th-place Kyle Busch’s #18 M&M’s Toyota to teammate Christopher Bell in the #20 DeWalt Toyota made Bell close rapidly on Aric Almirola’s #10 Smithfield Ford, then running 3rd. Bell got out of the gas, but not until after he shunted Almirola, turning the #10 to the right into the path of Alex Bowman’s #48 Ally Bank Chevrolet. Both cars pounded the outside wall, and practically the entire remaining field tried to escape into the grass.

A massive rain storm immediately followed, and it was some time before teams had a chance to fix their cars. When the red flag came out, Jamie McMurray held 39th in the #77 Advent Health Chevrolet, followed by 38th-place William Byron in the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, 37th-place Martin Truex, Jr. in the #19 Bass Pro Shops / Tracker Boats Toyota, and 36th-place Erik Jones in the #43 Armor All Chevrolet. McMurray, Byron, and Truex all managed to complete at least one more lap, dropping Jones to 39th, along with three other drivers who didn’t make it back to pit road after the wreck: Ryan Newman in the #6 Kohler Generators Ford, David Ragan in the #36 Select Blinds Ford, and Daniel Suarez in Trackhouse’s new #99 iFly Chevrolet.

It wasn’t until Lap 30, when the race restarted, that NASCAR declared 12 drivers out of the race, including Cope and the rest of the Bottom Five.


The field-clearing wreck left just 29 drivers to restart the race, and opened the door for some surprising performances through the field. Joey Gase and B.J. McLeod both came within a few positions of besting their top Cup finish by taking 20th and 23rd, respectively. Josh Bilicki’s 24th was his new career-best, improving on a pair of 25th-place runs last year at Indianapolis and Kansas. Austin Cindric ran in 5th for much of the closing stages and led two laps, but his Cup debut was cut short by the last big pileup, leaving him 15th. Corey LaJoie’s 9th-place finish in the #7 Youtheory Chevrolet extends a streak of top-ten finishes in at least one Daytona race for a third straight year. Ross Chastain’s 7th-place finish was his new career-best, improving on his 10th-place run in this same race two years ago for Premium Motorsports.

All of this was secondary to the night’s race winner, Michael McDowell.

Last summer, Michael McDowell had just taken sole possession of the all-time record for most last-place finishes in Cup Series history after an early crash at Pocono. All 34 finishes have been chronicled on this website, dating back to July 2008, when this site wasn’t entirely focused on last-place finishers. Most of these runs came while driving for “start-and-park” teams like PRISM Motorsports and its later incarnations, HP Racing LLC and Phil Parsons Racing, which scored him three consecutive LASTCAR titles from 2011 through 2013. Only after this did he earn full-time rides with Leavine Family Racing in 2014, then Front Row Motorsports in 2018. Both teams allowed him to run full races, and he started to gather lead-lap finishes.

In 357 series starts, he’d never finished better than 4th, but all three of his top-five finishes came on the superspeedways. The first was a 4th for Leavine in 2017, when Aric Almirola took his own first career win in a rain-shortened event. The other two were a pair of 5th-place runs in 2019, starting with the Daytona 500, where he tangled with Clint Bowyer in the closing laps. Perhaps his best overall performance in Cup also came at Daytona on July 7, 2018, where he started 8th and led 20 laps, only to be collected in another driver’s wreck with just five laps to go in regulation. He finished 26th.

Early Monday morning, McDowell was again among the leaders, running third behind the Penske Racing duo of Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski. After multiple laps of single-file racing, McDowell followed Keselowski as he made his move into Turn 3. Contact from one car to the other sent Keselowski into Logano, and McDowell edged Chase Elliott when the caution froze the field. He also led to the stripe, and only minutes later was finally declared the winner. He only led the final lap – just the 89th lap he’d led in 14 years of Cup Series racing.

We here at would like to congratulate Michael McDowell on his victory. This moment captures the best hopes of both myself and our readers – that a last-place driver will one day find their way to the front of the pack.

*This marked the first time the #15 finished last in the Daytona 500. However, the number finished last in two runnings of the summer race. On July 4, 1971, Dr. Don Tarr lost the engine on Tom Pistone’s #15 1970 Ford after 18 laps. On July 2, 1988, Brett Bodine was involved in a multi-car accident on Lap 2 of the Pepsi Firecracker 400, destroying his #15 Crisco / Motorcraft Ford.
*This was Cope’s first last-place finish in the Daytona 500. He did finish last in the 400-mile race one time on July 6, 1996, when his #12 Badcock Ford lost the engine after 63 laps.

40) #15-Derrike Cope / 3 laps / crash
39) #43-Erik Jones / 13 laps / crash
38) #6-Ryan Newman / 13 laps / crash
37) #36-David Ragan / 13 laps / crash
36) #99-Daniel Suarez / 13 laps / crash

1st) Rick Ware Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (1)


Sunday, February 14, 2021

ARCA: Brittney Zamora exits early at Daytona in old Sterling Marlin car

PHOTO: @Brittneyz52 on Twitter

by William Soquet Guest Contributor

Brittney Zamora finished last for the first time in her ARCA Menards Series career in Saturday’s Lucas Oil 200 driven by General Tire at Daytona International Speedway when her #30 SQ1 Flex Ford crashed out after completing seven of the race’s 82 laps.

The finish came in Zamora’s first career series start.

The Pacific Northwest is not necessarily known as a hotbed for NASCAR talent. Long passed over for a race by the Cup Series, only a few big names have come out of the region – Kasey Kahne and Greg Biffle come to mind as some of the most recent stars. But the region nonetheless remains a hotbed for grassroots racing, and out of that scene emerged Brittney Zamora. The 21-year-old Zamora took a traditional route up through the racing ranks, starting in go-karts and working up through mini-stocks all the way to late models. She ran the Northwest Super Late Model Series circuit in 2017 and 2018, and also entered NASCAR-sanctioned weekly contests in her home state in 2018, garnering the Rookie of the Year award for Whelen All-American Series competition in Washington.

This success propelled Zamora to a berth in the 2019 Drive For Diversity combine at New Smyrna Speedway. While she did not land with Rev, Bill McAnally Racing picked her up for a full K&N Pro Series West season and a partial K&N Pro Series East season. Despite earning poles at Tucson Speedway and Evergreen Speedway, her best race finish was third and was not renewed after finishing fifth in the point standings. Zamora returned to super late model racing in 2020 and partnered with Rackley Roofing, turning in an 11th-place performance in the prestigious All American 400. The deal to drive for Rette Jones Racing was a one-off and was announced exactly one week before the race. The car she was slated to drive was chassis CGR 005, a Sterling Marlin chassis utilized on plate tracks from 2000 to 2005. The chassis was the subject of a recent YouTube video by nascarman history and LASTCAR’s own Brock Beard.

Despite the fears of some that the car count would be closer to last season’s 21-entry Talladega race, 36 cars appeared on the initial entry list. Two of these teams later withdrew: Chuck Buchanan Jr.’s car was damaged in a qualifying crash at New Smyrna before the ARCA East race on Monday and was not able to be repaired, and a Cody Efaw-backed entry never named a driver.

Of the 34 drivers that remained, a handful of interesting stories popped out. Former Winston Cup racer Rich Bickle teamed up with Empire Racing for one final shot at Daytona before he retires from racing at the end of 2021. New York modified racer Andy Jankowiak put most of his money into a superspeedway chassis and made it competitive with the help of former ARCA teams Ken Schrader Racing and Andy Seuss Racing. Derrick Lancaster returned to Daytona with his own team after suffering a skull fracture at Kingsport in the middle of last season. Greg Van Alst returned to ARCA for the first time in 20 years, and Toni Briedinger saw her first ARCA action since 2018 in a Young’s Motorsports entry. Kyle Sieg and Jason Kitzmiller returned for partial schedules. Tim Richmond and Alex Clubb formed a new team and will split driving duties this year; Richmond took the wheel at Daytona. 

All 34 cars took a time in practice. Bringing up the rear was longtime Wayne Peterson Racing driver Con Nicolopoulos, driving what some garage personnel pegged as the only legacy engine-powered car in the field. While Nicolopoulos lost seven-tenths of a second from practice to qualifying, he went up in the charts from 34th to 33rd. Anchoring the qualifying lineup was 78-year-old Benny Chastain, who drove the #94 Cram Racing Enterprises car in place of Chris Hacker. 

Coming to the green, one flat black car lagged behind all of the others - the #48 of Owen Smith. Owen Smith was a week-of replacement for longtime underdog Brad Smith, sidelined with a scratched retina. Brad took over crew chiefing duties temporarily. Smith hung back from the lead pack from the start of the race, and remained in last place for the first four laps of the race. Meanwhile, Zamora, who lined up 10th in the inside line on the initial start, sustained front-end damage coming to the green. The driver reported temperature problems by lap three, and the car slid down the leaderboard all the way to last by lap five, presumably when the car was brought to pit road the first time. The #30 machine made seven laps in total before retiring, citing “crash” as the reason out.

Smith was the next entrant out of the contest. His race was done after 17 laps, derailed by fuel pump issues. The Bottom Five was rounded out by Scott Melton, Nick Sanchez and Derek Griffith, all taken out in a Lap 28 accident.

34) #30-Brittney Zamora / 7 laps / accident
33) #48-Owen Smith / 17 laps / fuel pump
32) #69-Scott Melton / 27 laps / accident
31) #2-Nick Sanchez / 27 laps / accident
30) #55-Derek Griffith / 27 laps / accident

1st) Rette Jones Racing (1)

1st) Ford (1)