Monday, March 29, 2021

CUP: Anthony Alfredo the first last-place finisher of a Cup Series dirt race since 1970

PHOTO: @BMSupdates

Anthony Alfredo picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Monday’s Food City Dirt Race at the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track when his #38 Dude Wipes Ford was involved in a multi-car accident after 39 of 253 laps.

The finish came in Alfredo’s 7th series start. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 19th for the #38, the 611th from a crash, and the 705th for Ford. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 54th for the #38, the 971st for Ford, and the 1,247th from a crash.

“Fast Pasta” was previously featured on this site following the 2019 Truck Series finale at Homestead, where his DGR-Crosley entry blew a hole in the engine at the command to start engines. He returned to NASCAR on the XFINITY Series side, finishing 6th in his series debut at the 2020 race in Fontana. This was the first of nine top-ten finishes he made in 19 starts that year, topped by a 3rd in his last start at Texas and a 4th in his return to Homestead.

It was on January 6th of this year, after one season each in Trucks and XFINITY that Alfredo was announced as the new driver of Front Row Motorsports’ second car, the #38 Ford. Alfredo took the place of John Hunter Nemechek, who left FRM after his difficult rookie season last year to return to the Truck Series with Kyle Busch Motorsports. Teamed with Michael McDowell, who won his first Cup race in the Daytona 500, Alfredo was collected in the day’s biggest wreck and finished 32nd. In the five races that followed, his best finish was 22nd on the Daytona Road Course.

Sponsored by Dude Wipes, formerly a Go FAS Racing backer, Alfredo ran 21st in the first practice and 18th in Happy Hour. This would have put him 8th on the grid for the first of Saturday’s four heat races. But last weekend’s storm wiped out that part of the schedule, and Alfredo secured 29th on the grid by the rulebook.

When the race was finally set to go on Monday, the 39th starting spot fell to Ty Dillon in the Gaunt Brothers’ #96 Bass Pro Shops Toyota. Polesitter Kyle Larson would drop to the rear for an engine change Friday on his #5 Freightliner Chevrolet, to be joined by 12th-place Matt DiBenedetto in the #21 Menards / Quaker State Ford and 16th-place Michael McDowell in the #34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford, both for unapproved adjustments. DiBenedetto’s team needed to replace a torn fender while McDowell’s had an issue with the throttle body not fully opening.

After the opening lap, 39th place fell to Mike Marlar, who was not only running double-duty with the Truck Series, but making his Cup debut in Motorsports Business Management’s #66 Toyota. The MBM crew advised their driver to “take care of the nose,” and at least one crew member didn’t have access to timing and scoring. By Lap 5, Marlar had dropped 1.224 seconds back of new 38th-place runner Quin Houff in the #00 Mane ‘n Tail Chevrolet, and was in danger of losing a lap by the 8th circuit. Houff then took last from Marlar on Lap 9, and Marlar climbed to 37th past Cody Ware in the #51 Nurtec ODT Chevrolet. Marlar wouldn’t lose a lap until the 31st circuit.

On Lap 11, Kyle Busch made an unscheduled stop for an overheating #18 M&M’s Messages Toyota, which dropped him off the lead lap and into last place. He held the spot until around Lap 19, when Josh Bilicki lost at least two laps in the #52 Junction Fuels Ford. Still under green on Lap 39, Bilicki’s crew reported they couldn’t see the track very well. Two circuits later, this same lack of visibility may have played a role in settling the last-place battle.

Coming off Turn 2, Aric Almirola’s #10 Smithfield Ford was working under the #77 Halmar International Chevrolet of Stewart Friesen, who was making his Cup debut. The hole closed for Almirola, whose left-front clipped the rough dirt on the apron of the track, sending his car sideways. Almirola slid backwards up the track into the path of newcomer Shane Golobic, who destroyed the nose of his #78 Elk Grove Ford / NOS Energy Ford. Alfredo tweeted later that he turned to the right, but skidded right into Almirola’s car, destroying his machine. Corey LaJoie #7 NASCAR Trucks at Knoxville Chevrolet was also collected as Almirola’s Ford skidded to the apron.

Almirola, Golobic, LaJoie, and Alfredo all climbed out uninjured, their cars towed behind the wall. Alfredo, the lowest-classified of the four drivers involved, slipped to last place on Lap 44. It wasn’t until Lap 78 that NASCAR confirmed all four drivers out due to the accident, along with the wrecked Ross Chastain in the #42 Clover Chevrolet and Christopher Bell in the #20 Irwin “Trade Strong” Toyota. Chastain and Bell were collected in the next accident in Turn 2, which also involved Kyle Larson. Chastain, the lowest-classified of that group, rounded out the Bottom Five in the 35th spot.

Two new NASCAR teams turned heads during much of Monday’s race. Bubba Wallace and 23XI Racing nearly rebounded from their disappointing tire gamble at Phoenix, which cost them a shot at a Top Five. This time, Wallace’s #23 Doordash Toyota ran in the Top Ten for nearly the entire distance, and finished 7th in both Stages 1 and 2. He was still running 9th with 35 laps to go when the left-rear tire went down after contact from Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., forcing an unscheduled pit stop. Wallace crossed the line in 27th, two laps down.

Their rivals – Daniel Suarez and Team Trackhouse – did even better. Coming back from their late-race pit road speeding penalty that cost them 6th last Sunday in Atlanta, Suarez climbed to 4th at the end of Stage 1, scoring the organization’s first stage points. He then stepped it up in Stage 2, catching the dominant Martin Truex, Jr. and bumping his #19 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota out of the way on Lap 134. He led the next 58 laps, at one point holding off William Byron’s #24 Liberty University Chevrolet on a restart. Joey Logano’s winning pass on Suarez came with just 58 laps to go in regulation, and he held on to finish 4th in overtime after Truex slipped out of the groove in overtime. The result was Team Trackhouse’s best, improving on their previous mark of 15th at Homestead.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #38 in a Cup Series race on a dirt track since August 25, 1962, when Sammy Packard’s 1961 Ford dropped a piston after running 45 of the 200 laps at the Valdosta 75 (Georgia) Speedway. This was the fourth and final series start for Packard, and came after he started last in Valdosta’s 13-car field.
*The #38 has never finished last in a Cup race at Bristol.
*Alfredo is the first first-time last-place finisher of a Cup Series race since September 27, 2020, when Chad Finchum scored his first at Las Vegas. He’s the first Cup driver to score his first last-place finish in a dirt race since April 3, 1969, when Dick Poling lost the rear end after 1 lap of the Columbia 200 at the Columbia (South Carolina) Speedway.

39) #38-Anthony Alfredo / 39 laps / crash
38) #7-Corey LaJoie / 39 laps / crash
37) #78-Shane Golobic / 39 laps / crash
36) #10-Aric Almirola / 39 laps / crash
35) #42-Ross Chastain / 52 laps / crash

1st) Motorsports Business Management (2)
2nd) Chip Ganassi Racing, Front Row Motorsports, Rick Ware Racing, StarCom Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (3)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (2)


TRUCKS: Early smash-up lands Tyler Ankrum in last place on Bristol’s dirt


Tyler Ankrum picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Monday’s Pinty’s Race on Dirt at the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track when his #26 Liuna Chevrolet was eliminated in a crash after 34 of 150 laps.

The finish came in Ankrum’s 50th series start. In the Truck Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 6th for the #26, the 166th from a crash, and the 404th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, I was the 44th for the #26, the 1,246th from a crash, and the 1,770th for Chevrolet. 

While his background has, like many of his fellow competitors, been predominately with pavement racing, Ankrum ran well in his only previous dirt start. During the most recent Truck Series race at Eldora in 2019, he was the winner of the Last Chance Qualifier and finished 9th in the main event. This came in a career resurgence with the DGR-Crosley team, which he rejoined after a lack of sponsorship forced driver and team to part ways. Ankrum “start-and-parked” for NEMCO Motorsports at Iowa and Gateway, finishing last in the former before Ross Chastain was disqualified.

Ankrum then moved to GMS Racing last season, finishing a season-best 2nd to Kyle Busch at Homestead, and making it all the way to the penultimate round of the Playoffs. Finishes of 34th, 16th, and 12th knocked him out of the Championship Four, though he closed the year with an 8th-place run in the finale. This year, however, has been more of a struggle. Heading into the Bristol race, he’d finished no better than 18th and crashed out at both Daytona and Las Vegas.

Ankrum ran 9th and 8th in the weekend’s two practice sessions, which put him 6th on the grid for Heat Race 1. Unfortunately, the massive storm that has plagued the southeast for much of the week slipped into Tennessee on Saturday, thoroughly soaking the track. NASCAR attempted to get Heat 1 started on Saturday, but after a single lap, Ankrum’s truck was so covered in wet mud that he couldn’t see. The same issue affected the rest of the field, other than leader Mike Marlar in the #56 Chevrolet, and Kevin Harvick’s #17 Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford took last from Austin Hill’s #16 United Rentals Toyota before NASCAR threw the red flag. The heat races for both Trucks and Cup were both cancelled, and Ankrum drew the 19th spot in the field of 40.

The weekend also saw J.R. Heffner, the polesitter for Heat Race 4, withdraw from the event after a practice crash in the #3 A. Colarusso & Son / Upstate Utilities Chevrolet. This was the second time Heffner withdrew from a Truck Series dirt race for pre-race issues, following his 2017 engine failure before the Eldora event, when he was driving for current XFINITY regular Tommy Joe Martins. This opened the door for one of CMI Motorsports’ entries to start a race for the first time this season. The team’s #49 edged the #83 for the spot, decided ultimately by the #83 not running a lap in Daytona time trials due to a dropped drive shaft. This meant that Andrew Gordon would make his series debut in the #49 Staar Trucking Chevrolet, rolling off 40th in the field.

The storm ultimately pushed the race to Monday, with engines fired just before the start of the broadcast at 12 P.M. Eastern. Before the field rolled off pit road, 35th-place starter Jennifer Jo Cobb in the #10 Fastener Supply Co. Chevrolet needed a push to get started. Cobb would later report that she nearly wrecked because the steering was so heavy and was being pushed with the wheels turned one direction. Derek Kraus, the 12th-place starter, also made an unscheduled stop in the #19 Hunter Nation Toyota, which forced NASCAR to wave off the start for another lap. Both Kraus and Cobb dropped to the rear before the start, slotting in behind Gordon’s #49.

Cobb took over last place at the end of Lap 1, and was encouraged by her crew to drive her truck in deeper. She was the first to lose a lap on the 11th circuit, at which point she and 39th-place Spencer Boyd in the #20 Eco Twist Chevrolet were trailing 38th-place Norm Benning in the #6 MDF A Sign Co. Chevrolet Chevrolet by 3.119 seconds. When the first caution fell for a spinning Tanner Gray, whose #15 Ford Performance Ford slipped to 38th on Lap 14, Cobb decided not to mess with her brakes and instead sling her truck into the corners for the next run. On Lap 16, Kraus took last from Cobb, followed by Benning on Lap 18. Cobb set her sights on Kraus as she opened up a gap on Benning.

Next to enter the battle was Carson Hocevar – 2nd in opening practice – whose #42 Scott’s / GM Parts Now Chevrolet was decorated in honor of the late Bryan Clauson. Hocevar slowed down the backstretch and pulled to the apron, taking over last from Benning on Lap 24. At the time, he was 2.795 seconds back of Benning’s #6. “Did it lock up on you?” asked Hocevar’s crew as he made it to pit road, steam billowing from the overflow valve. On Lap 28, the team saw the radiator was packed with dirt, and hooked up the cool-down machine to bring the water temperature from 260 degrees down to 180. He returned to the track on Lap 29, three laps down, and trailed the field as they headed to the green.

On Lap 35, Ankrum was running back in the pack when Austin Wayne Self’s #22 AM Technical Solutions / Go Texan Chevrolet bumped Chandler Smith’s #18 JBL Toyota into a spin in Turn 2. Smith’s truck was facing the wrong way and slowly pulling closer to the outside wall when Ankrum arrived on the scene. As Ankrum skated sideways through the corner, he was pinned to the middle lane with two trucks to his outside – Hailie Deegan’s #1 Monster Energy Ford and Kyle Larson’s #44 Rich Mar Florist / Circle B Chevrolet. Unable to pull any higher, Ankrum’s left-front slammed into the left-front of Smith’s truck.

Ankrum apparently attempted to get rolling again, but his truck pulled to the left and was stuck against the wall. On Lap 38, as a tow truck was summoned to the scene, Ankrum’s team said, “We’re done. We’re done. Steering arm’s broken off it.” The truck was pulled behind the wall at Turn 3, where they prepared to put a caster on the right-front before loading up. At the time, the crew remarked that the “outwear” protecting the radiator was clean. The team loaded up on Lap 42, the same lap NASCAR’s garage official reported “26 out, accident.”

Derek Kraus’ rough start to the race took a turn for the worse on Lap 49, when he and Timothy Peters’ #25 Rackley Roofing Chevrolet tangled in Turn 2, just moments after John Hunter Nemechek’s #4 Mobil 1 Toyota was spun by Matt Crafton’s #88 Denali Aire / Menards Toyota entering the corner. Nemechek managed to avoid hitting the outside wall, and appeared to be awaiting a spot in line when Kraus slammed into Nemechek’s right-front with Peters just behind. Peters managed to keep going, but Kraus and Nemechek were done. Benning took 37th, having cut a left-rear tire when he was running by himself on Lap 71. He returned to the track seven laps down, only to be collected in a four-wide battle heading into Turn 3, further damaging his truck. He was parked soon after. Rounding out the Bottom Five was Danny Bohn, whose #30 North American Motor Car Toyota slammed hard into Kyle Larson’s #44 after a collision with a slowing Mike Marlar on Lap 99.

After losing three laps with his radiator issue, Carson Hocevar recovered to finish on the lead lap in the 21st spot. Tanner Gray likewise recovered from his spin, climbing from 38th to 13th at the finish, while Austin Wayne Self, who bumped Chandler Smith in the wreck that collected Ankrum, finished in 10th. Joining Self in the Top 10 were Cup rookie Chase Briscoe, who gave Cory Roper’s team a strong 5th-place finish, and Parker Kligerman, who ran 8th in Charlie Henderson’s #75 Food Country USA Chevrolet.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #26 in a Truck Series race since August 12, 2000, when the late Tony Roper lost an engine on Mike Mittler’s #26 Mittler Tool Ford after 14 laps of the Federated Auto Parts 250 at the Nashville (Fairgrounds) Speedway.

40) #26-Tyler Ankrum / 34 laps / crash
39) #4-John Hunter Nemechek / 48 laps / crash
38) #19-Derek Kraus / 49 laps / crash
37) #6-Norm Benning / 72 laps / parked
36) #30-Danny Bohn / 98 laps / crash

1st) GMS Racing, Niece Motorsports (2)
2nd) Norm Benning Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (5)


Thursday, March 25, 2021

PREVIEW: Dirt ringers, Cup invaders, new teams, and a husband-and-wife duo ready to battle in Bristol

PHOTO: @RickWareRacing

Saturday, March 27, 2021
TRUCKS Race 5 of 23
Pinty’s Dirt Truck Race at Bristol
2020 Last-Place Finisher: Inaugural Event

There are 44 drivers entered for 40 spots in Saturday’s kickoff to NASCAR’s dirt double-header in Bristol, meaning four entries will not make the show after the four qualifying heats. These four 15-lap qualifying heats for the Truck Series will run from 4:30 P.M. – 5:30 P.M. Eastern, followed by another four 15-lap qualifying heats for the Cup Series at 6:00 P.M. – 7:00 P.M. Eastern.

DRIVER CHANGE: #3-Jordan Anderson Racing
J.R. Heffner is just one of several “dirt ringers” joining this weekend’s action. The three-time starter of the Truck Series race at Eldora last took the green flag there in 2018 and has a best finish of 15th in 2016. After driving for Tommy Joe Martins, and Premium Motorsports, and the late Mike Mittler, Heffner will this time run for Jordan Anderson in the #3, once again sponsored by A. Colarusso & Son, plus Upstate Utilities.

DRIVER CHANGE: #11-Spencer Davis Racing
There’s also no fewer than seven Cup Series regulars entered in Saturday’s race, though not one of these is last week’s winner Kyle Busch. Driving in place of Spencer Davis, whose team acquired the Owner Points of NEMCO Motorsports’ #8 team to run the rest of the season, is Bubba Wallace. The 2014 winner of Eldora’s Truck Series race – third of his six series victories – Wallace will make his first series start since March 29, 2019 at Texas, where he ran 20th for the Self team. Columbia Outdoor Clothing follows Wallace from the 23XI Racing team.

MISSING: #14-Trey Hutchens Racing
Trey Hutchens is not entered after his Camping World-sponsored entry was unable to qualify last week in Atlanta. Driver and team are still looking to make their first start of 2021.

DRIVER CHANGE: #17-David Gilliland Racing
Kevin Harvick looks to make his first Truck Series start sine August 1, 2015 at Pocono, when he finished runner-up to Kyle Busch. The 14-time series winner takes the place of Bill Lester, who struggled in his own series return at Atlanta, finishing 36th. Hunt Brothers Pizza continues as Harvick’s sponsor.

MISSING: #32-Bret Holmes Racing
Bret Holmes will not be running the dirt race after his 32n-place finish in Atlanta.

DRIVER CHANGE: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
While the XFINITY Series takes the week off, Myatt Snider looks to make his first Truck Series start since June 22, 2019 at Gateway, when he finished 10th for ThorSport. He takes the place of Akinori Ogata, who finished 37th in Atlanta.

DRIVER CHANGE: #34-Reaume Brothers Racing
When the Truck Series last ran on the dirt in Eldora in 2019, Jake Griffin got Mike Affarano’s #03 Chevrolet into the main event and finished 26th of 32 starters, seven laps down. He returns to make his fist start since then, taking the place of Ryan Ellis in the #34 Chevrolet. He takes the place of Ryan Ellis, who finished 34th in Atlanta, and will be sponsored by Great Escapes RV Center.

NEW TEAM: #39-DCC Racing
Ryan Newman makes his first Truck Series start since the 2018 renewal at Eldora, and this time does so with a brand-new team. Brad Means, the son of longtime NASCAR team owner Jimmy “Smut” Means, fields his own Ford entry with sponsorship from Coca-Cola and Aggressive Hydraulics.

DRIVER CHANGE: #41-Cram Racing Enterprises
Cody Erickson looks to make his fourth series start and first since last summer, when he finished 30th on Bristol’s concrete surface. For his dirt race attempt, he’ll carry sponsorship from multiple backers: Thunder Seed, Magnum Contracting, Inc., Braseth Construction, Performance Auto, and Erickson Farms. Cram finished 31st with the team last week in Atlanta.

DRIVER CHANGE: #44-Niece Motorsports
The 2016 Eldora winner - among his many accomplishments on dirt – Kyle Larson eyes his first Truck Series start since the ’16 finale at Homestead, when he finished 4th for GMS Racing. He takes the place of the driver of his former ride at Chip Ganassi Racing, Ross Chastain, who charged from last on the grid at Atlanta to finish in 7th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #49-CMI Motorsports
Ray Ciccarelli has elected to give two drivers their first attempt at competing in NASCAR’s top three series. Driving the #49 that was sent home with Ciccarelli himself prior to Atlanta is Andrew Gordon, who has ten starts in the X-1R Pro Cup Series with a best finish of 7th at Southern National Motorsports Park in 2012. He also attempted to make a late model race at Eldora in 2014, but failed to qualify. The #83, most recently entered by Tim Viens on the Daytona Road Course, goes to Trevor Collins, who failed to qualify for the 2018 Truck Series race at Eldora driving for Mike Harmon.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Kyle Busch Motorsports
Coming into Saturday’s race, Martin Truex, Jr. has just two career Truck Series starts – a 19th on the Milwaukee Mile in 2005, and a 34th at Michigan on June 17, 2006. Both starts came driving for Billy Ballew. This time around, Truex takes the place of his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch, who won with the #51 team last time out in Atlanta, but is not entered this week. Auto-Owners Insurance, which has sponsored Truex in several starts, sponsors his Toyota.

RETURNING / DRIVER CHANGE: #56-Hill Motorsports
In 2019, Mike Marlar was one of the best underdog stories of the Eldora Dirt Derby, finishing 4th for the Reaume Brothers after NASCAR forced him to remove longtime sponsor Marathon Oil from his entry. He then had a short night in his XFINITY debut at Richmond that September, crashing on the opening lap. Back in NASCAR for the first time since then, Marlar runs double-duty in two entries that share ties with iRacing legend Timmy Hill. His Truck Series ride is Hill’s own team, which didn’t enter Atlanta after brother Tyler’s wreck in Las Vegas. Marlar's Cup ride will be Timmy’s #66 (see below).

NEW TEAM: #62-Halmar Friesen Racing
The Halmar team fields a second Truck Series entry on Saturday, and will also set up a rare head-to-head battle between husband and wife. While 2019 Eldora Dirt Derby winner Stewart Friesen continues to run his full-time #52 (and will make his Cup debut on Sunday, see below), his wife Jessica Friesen will run the new #62. Jessica has an impressive racing resume of her own, having competed in big-block and small-block modifieds, and finishing runner-up to her husband last summer in Fonda, New York. If Jessica makes the main event, it will be the first series start for the #62 since November 15, 2013, when Brendan Gaughan last raced the number in the Homestead finale.

DRIVER CHANGE: #02-Young’s Motorsports
After nearly finishing 6th in last week’s Cup race at Atlanta before a late-race pit road speeding penalty, Daniel Suarez is set to make his first Truck Series start since the 2016 finale at Homestead, when he drove for Kyle Busch Motorsports. This time, he takes the place of Josh Berry, who himself relieved Kris Wright at Atlanta after Wright’s positive COVID-19 test, in the Randy Young-owned #02. Berry finished 22nd in Atlanta.

DRIVER CHANGE: #04-Roper Racing
Rookie contender Chase Briscoe, the 2018 winner of the Eldora Dirt Derby, returns to the Truck Series for the first time since the 2019 running, when he finished 7th after starting on pole. This time, he takes the place of Cory Roper, who ran 27th in Atlanta.

CUP INVADERS: #11-Bubba Wallace, #17-Kevin Harvick, #39-Ryan Newman, #44-Kyle Larson, #51-Martin Truex, Jr., #02-Daniel Suarez, #04-Chase Briscoe

Sunday, March 28, 2021
CUP Race 7 of 36
Food City Dirt Race at Bristol
2020 Last-Place Finisher: Inaugural Event

Sunday marks the first Cup Series race on dirt since September 30, 1970, but still marks the fifth-straight short field in 2021 in seven races. It also happens to be the largest field for a Cup Series dirt race since June 14, 1959, when 40 drivers started the race at the Lakewood (Georgia) Speedway. The all-time record remains a 64-car field at Langhorne Speedway on September 26, 1954. 

By popular vote in my Patreon, I will also be producing a Starting Grid Video for this 250-lap main event, to be posted on my YouTube channel between late Saturday and early Sunday.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Rick Ware Racing
James Davison became one of the week’s biggest surprises. Video posted by R.J. Starcevic showed him sliding sideways trying to hold off teammate Cody Ware in the final laps of his 32nd-place finish in Atlanta. He then won a heat race for Wednesday’s iRacing event on the Bristol dirt track, leading several laps and finishing in 5th spot. Regardless, Davison will not be in Sunday’s field, as it was previously announced that Chris Windom will make his Cup debut. Windom’s five previous NASCAR starts all came in the Truck Series, yielding a best of 14th in the 2018 Eldora Dirt Derby. NOS Energy Drink is the listed sponsor.

MISSING: #33-Penske Racing
Austin Cindric is not entered after his quiet 22nd-place finish in Atlanta.

DRIVER CHANGE: #53-Rick Ware Racing
Taking the place of 35th-place Joey Gase from Atlanta is J.J. Yeley, who will make his first Cup start of the season after he was swapped out at Phoenix. While no stranger to the Cup Series – Sunday will be his 326th series start – Yeley should not be overlooked for his extensive dirt track background. In a three-year span from 2001 through 2003, Yeley won two National Sprint titles, two in Silver Crown, and one in the National Midget Series.

DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
In the second round of his double-header, Mike Marlar takes the place of Timmy Hill, 36th in last Sunday’s Atlanta race, to make his first Cup Series start. Marlar carries sponsorship from Auto Parts For Less.

DRIVER CHANGE: #77-Spire Motorsports
The #77 will carry the familiar Halmar colors of Stewart Friesen, who on Sunday will make his first Cup Series start. Friesen takes the place of Justin Haley, who ran 30th last week in Atlanta.

DRIVER CHANGE: #78-Live Fast Motorsports
Fremont, California’s Shane Golobic make his first Cup Series start on Sunday, and like fellow first-timer Chris Windom will carry sponsorship from NOS Energy Drink (plus Elk Grove Ford). Golobic will drive Live Fast’s #78 in place of B.J. McLeod, who ran 34th last week in Atlanta. Golobic boasts an extensive dirt track resume dating back to at least 2007, scoring 83 feaure wins and running at Knoxville just last summer. He also has three ARCA Menards Series West starts from late 2013 with a best finish of 8th at the California short tracks in Roseville and Bakersfield.

RETURNING: #96-Gaunt Brothers Racing
Ty Dillon returns to the Cup Series for the first time since he finished a solid 19th on the Daytona Road Course last month, bouncing back from his disappointing DNQ in the Daytona 500. The Bristol track was the site of Dillon’s first stage victory in 2019, when he edged Clint Bowyer on the concrete.

Friday, April 9, 2021 
XFINITY Race 7 of 33
Spring NASCAR XFINITY Series Race at Martinsville
1994 Last-Place Finisher (Spring): Kevin Lepage

The XFINITY Series will not be in Bristol for the dirt race, and will return to action in two weeks at Martinsville.

LASTCAR STAT OF THE WEEK: The most recent Cup Series race held on a dirt track occurred on September 30, 1970. The Home State 200 at the half-mile North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, North Carolina was the 42nd race of 48 on the 1970 NASCAR Grand National calendar. The last-place finisher of the 23-car field was John Sears, who won the pole in his #4 1969 Dodge and led the opening ten laps before his engine let go six laps later. This turned out to be the fifth and final last-place finish of Sears’ career, which covered 318 races from 1964 through 1973. On November 1, 1999, the racer from Ellerbe, North Carolina died at age 63.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Dirt Track Rankings (1949-1970)

Cup Series points races only. Does not include races on the Daytona Beach-Road Course, nor the cancelled race at Tulsa on August 4, 1956.


(9) Buck Baker, Junior Johnson 

(7) Jim Paschal 

(6) Tiny Lund, Jack Smith, Roy Tyner 

(5) Jimmie Lewallen, Jimmy Pardue, Lee Petty, Richard Petty, Wendell Scott 

(4) Neil Castles, Stick Elliott, Larry Frank, Fred Harb, Jimmy Helms, Cotton Owens, Blackie Pitt, Billy Rafter, Eddie Skinner, G.C. Spencer, Donald Thomas, Curtis Turner, Doug Yates 

(3) Johnny Allen, Dick Beaty, Curtis Crider, Fred Dove, Fonty Flock, Ned Jarrett, Bobby Johns, Dick Johnson, Brownie King, Ralph Liguori, Lloyd Moore, Billy Myers, Tom Pistone, Dick Rathman, Jim Reed, Gober Sosebee, Gwyn Staley, Speedy Thompson, Joe Weatherly, Bob Welborn, Rex White, Cale Yarborough 

(2) George Alsobrook, Bill Amick, Jimmy Ayers, Buddy Baker, Rodney Bottinger, Perk Brown, Scotty Cain, Billy Carden, Bob Cooper, Pepper Cunningham, Bob Derrington, Darel Dieringer, Joe Eubanks, Tim Flock, Dick Getty, Wayne Gillette, Larry Hess, Bobby Isaac, Bobby Keck, Elmo Langley, Ed Livingston, Owen Loggins, Harold Mays, J.D. McDuffie, Ralph Moody, Bud Moore, Bunk Moore, Arden Mounts, Frank Mundy, George Parrish, Bennie Rakestraw, Shorty Rollins, Ermon Rush, Slick Smith, Joe Staton, Marshall Teague, Larry Thomas, E.J. Trivette, Emanuel Zervakis 

(1) Bobby Allison, Eddie Anderson, Jack Anderson, Ole Anderson, Don Angel, Bob Apperson, Buddy Arrington, Woody Arrington, Bruce Atchley, L.D. Austin, Johnny Beauchamp, Jim Bennett, Bill Benson, Leo Bergeron, Max Berrier, Jim Bickerstaff, Don Biederman, Art Binkley, Bunkie Blackburn, Bill Blackwell, Bill Blair, Doug Branson, Barry Brooks, Len Brown, Dick Burns, Cannonball Brown, Woody Brown, Andy Bruni, Al Bonnell, Bob Burdick, Danny Byrd, Wally Campbell, Ted Cannady, Pete Cardenas, Don Carr, Crash Carson, Raymond Carter, Ted Chaimberlain, Bill Champion, George Clark, Sherman Clark, Allan Clarke, June Cleveland, Ed Cole, Hal Cole, Leland Colvin, R.L. Combs, Jim Cook, Joe Cote, Doug Cox, Spook Crawford, Charlie Creger, Lloyd Dane, Bay Darnell, Gene Darragh, Hugh Darragh, Dizzy Dean, Jim Delaney, Arnold Denley, Bud Diamond, C.H. Dingler, Francis Dionne, John Dodd, Jr., Jerry Draper, Ray Duhigg, Glenn Dunaway, Ralph Dutton, Bud Erb, Erik Erickson, Herbert Estes, Rod Eulenfeld, Lou Faver, Lou Figaro, Ken Fischer, Pat Flaherty, Walt Flinchum, Jimmy Florian, Bubba Furr, Walson Gardner, Dick Garlington, Shorty Gibbs, Joe Gillow, Cecil Gordon, Matt Gowan, Jim Graham, Eddie Gray, George Green, Dick Grice, Bill Hall, Jack Harden, Rock Harn, Jack Hauher, Harvey Hege, Buddy Helms, Harvey Henderson, Ray Hendrick, Boyce Hildreth, Elton Hildreth, Morris Hill, Ray Hill, Jack Holloway, Harland Holmes, Paul Dean Holt, Lee Hough, Curtis Hunt, Dick Hutcherson, Jack Ingram, Bubba Into, Tommy Irwin, Bill Jarlick, Frank Jischke, Joe Lee Johnson, Ken Johnson, Britton Jones, Jim Jones, Possum Jones, Richard Jones, Ed Jordan, Reds Kagle, Tex Keene, Glenn Killian, Harold Kite, Mike Klapak, Sonny Lamphear, Bill Latham, Coleman Lawrence, Dawson Lechlider, Ted Lee, Irv Leitch, Dick Linder, Virgil Livengood, Sterling Long, Clyde Lynn, Johnny Mackinson, Emory Mahon, Chuck Mahoney, Bill Majot, Larry Mann, Larry Manning, Dave Marburger, Dick Martin, Otis Martin, Jimmy Massey, Lyle Matlock, Roy Mayne, Joe Bill McGraw, Joe Merola, Joe Million, Artie Mitchell, Tommy Moon, Earl Moss, Charles Muscatel, Ed Negre, Gus Newman, G.T. Nolan, Whitey Norman, Ed Normi, Ken Pace, Samy Packard, Marvin Panch, Ed Paskovich, Peck Peckham, Dell Pearson, Gene Peltier, Julian Petty, Maurice Petty, Andy Pierce, Dick Poling, Hank Pollard, Marvin Porter, Bob Price, Ray Pruitt, J.T. Putney, Jack Reynolds, Bert Robbins, Robbie Robinson, Fireball Roberts, Bob Rose, Bob Ross, Ken Rush, Jim Russell, Leon Sales, Lucky Sawyer, John Sears, George Seeger, Bill Seifert, Graham Shaw, Gene Simpson, Gordon Smith, John Soares, Cy Spencer, Fred Starr, Pete Stewart, Bill Stickler, Dick Stone, Victor Strassburg, Bill Tanner, Frank Tanner, Dave Terrell, Herb Thomas, Jabe Thomas, Jimmy Thompson, Johnny Thompson, Roscoe Thompson, Cliff Timberman, Ray Untiedt, Bill Vanderhoff, Bobby Waddell, Jack Wade, Kenneth Wagner, Bryant Wallace, Gayle Warren, Bill Weiman, Robert Weisemeyer, Al White, J.C. White, Bill Whitley, Bill Widenhouse, Dink Widenhouse, Felix Wilkes, Jerry Wimbish, Don Woodard, Cliff Woodson, Bailey Wynkoop, Steve Young, Jack Zink 


(15) #11
(14) #6
(13) #4
(11) #34
(10) #9, #14
(9) #17
(8) #30, #59
(7) #2, #18, #19, #28, #41, #64, #80, #93
(6) #7 #8, #23, #25, #42, #43, #44, #55, #86, #88, #97, #99
(5) #1, #20, #27, #49, #54, #66, #68, #75, #77, #87, #91
(4) #0, #5, #12, #22, #33, #47, #62, #63, #72, #94, #96, #98
(3) #10, #13, #21, #36, #38, #48, #51, #56, #61, #71, #76, #82, #01, #06
(2) #3, #24, #29, #31, #32, #37, #45, #46, #52, #60, #85, #90, #09, #100, #110, #120, #171, #188
(1) #2jr, #4-X, #7A, #12N, #16, #26, #39, #50, #53, #58, #67, #69, #70, #73, #74, #78, #79, #81, #83, #84, #89, #92, #00, #02, #04, #05, #07, #08, #104, #107, #108, #111, #112, #118, #122, #126, #135, #137, #162, #196, #203, #264, #285, #297, #302, #303, #310, #349, #420, #421, #480, #711, #791, #B-29
(0) #15, #35, #40, #57, #65, #95, #03
(29) Unknown


(134) Ford
(89) Chevrolet
(55) Oldsmobile
(44) Plymouth
(33) Hudson
(32) Dodge
(27) Mercury
(23) Pontiac
(17) Chrysler
(8) Studebaker
(6) Buick
(5) T-Bird
(3) Nash
(2) Packard, Rambler
(1) Cadillac, Henry J, Kaiser, Lincoln, Tucker
(5) Unknown


(67) crash
(60) engine
(41) overheating
(16) oil pressure
(14) piston
(12) disqualified, rear end
(11) carburetor
(10) radiator, transmission
(9) did not start
(8) axle
(7) brakes, clutch, fuel pump
(6) a-frame
(5) bearing, distributor, head gasket, spindle, wheel
(4) driveshaft, gas line, handling, hub, oil line, right-front hub, right-rear axle, shocks, steering, tie rod
(3) crankshaft, flagged, quit
(2) ball joint, fire, fuel line, gas tank, gasket, ignition, mount, tire, tires
(1) alternator, bell housing, coil, differential, electrical, engine mount, fan, fuel tank, injury, left-front wheel, left-rear axle, manifold, mechanical, mud, oil leak, oil pump, push rod, right-rear hub, right-rear wheel, rocker arm, rods, running, stalled, suspension, sway bar, time gear, timing, tortion b, withdrew
(72) Unknown

Sunday, March 21, 2021

CUP: Kurt Busch’s strong run at Atlanta ended by ill-timed bump in Turn 1

Kurt Busch limps onto pit road after his crash.
PHOTO: Michael Harvey, @mlharvey00

Kurt Busch picked up the 8th last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway when his #1 Monster Energy Chevrolet was involved in a crash after 113 of 325 laps.

The finish, which came in Busch’s 726th series start, was his first of the year and first since August 22, 2020 at Dover, 18 races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 37th for the #1, the 610th from a crash, and the 801st for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 68th for the #1, the 1,245th from a crash, and the 1,769th for Chevrolet.

Paired with new teammate Ross Chastain at Chip Ganassi Racing, Kurt Busch has continued to run strong in his #1. He entered the Atlanta race 10th in the point standings, having finished 4th on the Daytona road course and 8th at Homestead, completing all but six laps of the season’s first five races. Sunday would mark his 30th Cup start at Atlanta, a track where he’d won three times, most recently in 2010. He’d also led at least one lap in the previous three Cup races held at the track, highlighted by a 3rd-place finish in 2019 and a 6th just last summer. He drew 11th on the grid for Sunday’s race.

Rolling off 39th and last was Austin Cindric, back in the Cup Series for the first time since his breakout run in the Daytona 500. Cindric’s #33 Pirtek Ford would be joined by three drivers sent to the rear for pre-race penalties: unapproved adjustments dropped Quin Houff back from 35th on the grid in the #00 8 Ball Chocolate Whiskey Chevrolet, 5th-place Chase Elliott twice failed inspection on the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, and 38th-place Timmy Hill filed inspection three times in the #66 Supreme Transportation Group Toyota. Hill’s penalty resulted in the ejection of the car chief, plus a pass-through penalty to be served after taking the green flag.

When the race started, Elliott and Houff were the last two cars in line on the inside with Hill trailing the outside line. First Elliott, then Houff passed Hill as the field got up to speed, and the #66 pulled down pit road to serve his penalty. Hill lost a lap as he got back up to speed, but had barely taken last from Houff when Josh Bilicki pulled behind the wall on Lap 2. Bilicki said his #52 Insurance King Ford suddenly lost power. “It just died,” said Bilicki in the garage. “It shut off.”

Bilicki took last from Hill on Lap 4, but the Rick Ware Racing crew managed to get him back out on the 13th circuit. By the time he was up to speed, Bilicki was 13 laps down, but still running with the rest of the field. He fought a tight condition until the competition caution on Lap 25, then was loose by Lap 86.

Kurt Busch, meanwhile, had one of the fastest cars on the track. He ran around the 4th spot for much of Stage 1, led on Lap 64, and restarted 6th for the Lap 113 restart. Unfortunately, this put him behind brother Kyle Busch, whose #18 M&M’s Messages Toyota spun the tires and stacked up the outside line. Chase Elliott rear-ended Kyle as Kurt rear-ended Elliott, causing the outside line to fan out behind him. Kurt attempted to hold the middle lane, but Denny Hamlin’s #11 FedEx Express Toyota bumped him entering Turn 1, steering the #1 hard into the outside wall. No other cars were involved, and Busch rolled back to pit road with the right-front wheel locked in place.

On pit road, Busch’s crew attempted to put a new right-front tire on, but on Lap 11, someone said “Cut it off. Cut it off. We’re done.” Busch called for a hat and jacket from his PR person as he climbed from the car, done for the day. The crew pushed the machine behind the wall. Regardless of his struggles, Busch has still finished inside the Top 10 in exactly half his Atlanta starts – 15 of 30 – and Sunday marked just his fourth DNF at the track, his first since 2009.

Chase Elliott took 38th after his engine suddenly blew on the frontstretch, and Bilicki just managed to climb past him to 37th, ahead by 65 laps at the checkered flag. Hill took 36th, 20 laps ahead of Bilicki, with Joey Gase rounding out the group in the #53 Donate Life Georgia Chevrolet.

Matt DiBenedetto finished 11th, marking the first time he’d finished better than 25th in five previous Cup starts at Atlanta. He ran much better than that for much of the race, at one point entering the Top 5 before falling out of the Top 10 in the late stages.

Most impressive was Daniel Suarez, who gave Team Trackhouse their best overall performance of the season so far. Suarez worked his way into the Top 10 in Stage 2, earning the team their first stage point, and ran even better in the final stage. His #99 CommScope Chevrolet was running 6th with 61 laps to go, only to be caught speeding on pit road soon after. The costly green flag penalty dropped him off the lead lap, and he came home in 17th.

*This marked Busch’s first last-place finish in a Cup race at Atlanta.
*The #1 most recently finished last in a Cup race at Atlanta on March 11, 2001, when Steve Park’s #1 Pennzoil Chevrolet lost an engine after 81 laps. This happened to be the same Cracker Barrell 500 where Kevin Harvick scored his memorable first Cup victory.

39) #1-Kurt Busch / 113 laps / crash / led 1 lap
38) #9-Chase Elliott / 220 laps / engine
37) #52-Josh Bilicki / 285 laps / running
36) #66-Timmy Hill / 305 laps / running
35) #53-Joey Gase / 308 laps / running

1st) Motorsports Business Management (2)
2nd) Chip Ganassi Racing, Rick Ware Racing, StarCom Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (3)
2nd) Toyota (2)
3rd) Ford (1)


Saturday, March 20, 2021

XFINITY: Brett Moffitt collected in wreck battling for stage points at Atlanta

PHOTO: Jerry Jordan, @JerryJordan_KTT

Brett Moffitt picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s EchoPark 250 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway when his #02 Fr8 Auctions Chevrolet was collected in a multi-car pileup after 39 of 163 laps.

The finish, which came in Moffitt’s 38th series start, was his first of the year and first since October 10, 2020 on the Charlotte “Roval,” ten races ago. In the XFINITY Series last-place rankings, it was the 6th for the #02, the 344th from a crash, and the 565th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 30th for the #02, the 1,244th from a crash, and the 1,768th for Chevrolet.

One year ago, Moffitt was brought on by Chris Our to run the first few races of the season for the start-up Our Motorsports team. By the summer, he was their regular driver, yielding a season-best 5th at Talladega among seven top-ten finishes. He did all this while running the full Truck Series season, where he nearly took the title until a late-race caution handed it to GMS Racing teammate Sheldon Creed. 

Over the offseason, Moffitt committed to a full XFINITY and Truck Series schedule in 2021, moving to Niece Motorsports’ #45 on the Truck side and full-time in Our’s #02 in XFINITY. He’d originally been slated to be joined by a teammate in the #03 Chevrolet. But when rain cancelled qualifying at Daytona, and the next several races used metric qualifying, the team looked to acquire a second entry instead. At Homestead, they collaborated with the RSS Racing / Reaume Brothers #23, which Tyler Reddick drove to a runner-up finish before he was disqualified for failing post-race heights. Prior to that, Moffitt was also in contention for the win before a late-race tire issue left him 7th. Both did this without a primary sponsor on their white Chevrolets.

Moffitt would have a sponsor in Atlanta in Fr8 Auctions, which was also the presenting sponsor for the Truck Series race he’d run earlier that Saturday. Set to roll off 10th, the team then discovered an engine issue and pushed his #45 Overton’s Chevrolet behind the wall to change it out. They barely got the truck back to the grid in time for the command to start engines. After incurring a pre-race tail-end penalty, Moffitt recovered to finish 9th. He’d line up 8th in the day’s XFINITY race.

Rolling off 40th and last was Chad Finchum, who this week drove Motorsports Business Management’s unsponsored #13 Toyota. The preliminary entry list showed him in the #61 with teammate David Starr in the #13, but by the time the teams loaded up, it was revealed the two had swapped rides, putting both Finchum and 38th-place Starr to the tail end of the field. Also joining them was A.J. Allmendinger, whose #16 Ellsworth Advisors Chevrolet failed inspection three times due to a rear camber issue, costing him 3rd on the grid.

Gray Gaudling goes behind the wall early.
PHOTO: Michael Harvey, @mlharvey00

When the race started, it was B.J. McLeod’s team once again in the final spot, following up a difficult afternoon last week in Phoenix. This time, it was Matt Mills in the #5 J.F. Electric Chevrolet running 40th after Lap 1, then teammate Mason Massey in the #99 Gerber Collison & More Toyota. By Lap 5, the spot fell to Dexter Bean, whose #90 Badger Environmental & Earthworks Chevrolet was fighting a loose condition. By Lap 15, Bean became the first driver one lap down.

On Lap 22, during pit stop under caution, the spot fell to Joe Graf, Jr. in the #07 Chevrolet. But Graf sped past Bean on the Lap 25 restart, and the #90 remained a handful. So much so, in fact, that on Lap 36, he spun off Turn 2 and brought out a caution of his own, the left-rear tire flat. That same time by, another driver immediately entered the battle. Gray Gaulding’s #52 SVS Vision Chevrolet had been eligible for the Lucky Dog until he pulled behind the wall with an apparent carburetor issue. Thus, while Bean returned to the track, Gaulding took over last place on Lap 37.

Moffitt didn’t enter the last-place battle until Lap 40 - the one-lap sprint to end Stage 1. Heading down the backstretch, Moffit was running in 5th when Brandon Jones’ #19 Menards / Pentair Toyota pulled to his outside, then attempted to complete a pass. The two cars came together, and Jones spun back into traffic, slamming Moffitt into the outside wall and triggering a multi-car pileup in Turn 3. Of those involved, only Moffitt was eliminated. Jones managed to clear the clock with heavy right-front damage to finish 37th. 

Meanwhile, Gaulding’s engine re-fired in the garage area on Lap 45, and he returned to action 11 laps down. After a pit stop for fuel, he rejoined the tail end of the field, and dropped Moffitt to last place on Lap 51. NASCAR didn’t confirm Moffitt out officially until Lap 71. Also declared out that time by was Finchum, who pulled behind the wall on Lap 61 with brake issues. Completing the Bottom Five was Josh Berry, who spun off Turn 4 n Lap 38, then made an ill-fated right-hand turn into the grass, obliterating the nose of his #8 Tire Pros Chevrolet.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #02 in an XFINITY Series race at Atlanta.

40) #02-Brett Moffitt / 39 laps / crash
39) #13-Chad Finchum / 59 laps / brakes
38) #8-Josh Berry / 130 laps / crash
37) #19-Brandon Jones / 132 laps / running
36) #52-Gray Gaulding / 150 laps / running

1st) RSS Racing / Reaume Brothers Racing (2)
2nd) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, DGM Racing, Our Motorsports, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (4)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (1)


TRUCKS: Handling issues cost Norm Benning speed in Atlanta

PHOTO: Michael Harvey, @mlharvey00

Norm Benning picked up the 17th last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Saturday’s FR8 Auctions 200 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway when his #6 MDF A Sign Company / Overton’s Chevrolet was flagged off the track for running too slow after 72 of 130 laps.

The finish, which came in Benning’s 234th series start, was his first of the year and first since August 21, 2020 at Dover, 14 races ago. In the Truck Series’ last-place history, it was the 3rd for running too low, the 16th for the #6, and the 403rd for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 7th for “too slow,” the 64th for the #6, and the 1,767th for Chevrolet.

For the second time in as many races, the underfunded Benning participated in one of the sponsorship promotions put forward by Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis. In Vegas, he redecorated his black Chevrolet in Camping World blue-and-gold, then avoided an early tangle with a spinning Cory Roper to finish 33rd. This came after Benning picked up his first new backer in years – MDF A Sign Company – to start the season in Daytona. He failed to qualify for the season opener, then ran 32nd on the road course with the names of several supporters on his rear decklid.

The Atlanta promotion put forward by Lemonis was with the Overton’s company and also a tie-in with Women’s History Month. While many of the participants re-wrapped their trucks for the effort, Benning’s kept the blue-and-gold Camping World scheme, but with the new sponsor decals on the hood and quarter-panels. Benning drew the 37th starting spot. 

Rolling off 40th and last was Ross Chastain, who ran a “throwback” to Terry Labonte’s 1984 NASCAR Winston Cup Championship paint scheme with Billy Hagan and Piedmont Airlines. Chastain’s #44 Chevrolet would be joined by teammate Brett Moffitt, whose team had to change engines the morning of the race, pushing the #45 Overton’s Chevrolet onto the grid just before the command. Also dropping to the rear was Josh Berry, a last-minute driver change in the #02 Kris Wright Motorsports Chevrolet after Kris Wright had a positive COVID test on Friday.

When the race started, Berry was last across the stripe with Moffitt in 39th and Benning back one spot to 38th. At the end of Lap 1, both Berry and Moffitt had passed Benning, who believed he had a loose wheel. The driver struggled to communicate this due to a radio issue. By Lap 9, the last spot had passed to Chandler Smith, whose #18 Safelite Auto Glass Toyota made an unscheduled stop after the driver reported his truck was riding the splitter. He, too, had trouble communicating with his crew, and on Lap 12 shouted “Hitting the splitter everywhere on the race track!” The Kyle Busch Motorsports team would chase the issue the rest of the afternoon, even taking photographs which didn’t indicate visible wear on the splitter. He’d narrowly miss a spot in the Bottom Five by taking 35th.

Smith dropped Benning back to last on Lap 15, when both were two laps down. Benning then lost more ground with a lengthy stop on the 19th circuit, during which the team was unable to squeeze a spring rubber into the spring. On Lap 27, Benning was nearly hit by last-place starter Chastain, who charged his way to 5th and pulled high to pass him off Turn 4. Still struggling with his handling, Benning pitted on Lap 30, electing to take the tail-end penalty for pitting when pit road was closed. Still on pit road on Lap 32, the #6 crew reported the only spring rubber they had was too big to fit, and the crew thought about going behind the wall. The crew managed to fit it in by Lap 36, changed the right side tires, and also took between six and eight turns of adjustment into the left-rear. By then, he was nearly 10 laps down, but still running with the rest of the field.

On Lap 82, Benning was posted by NASCAR for not maintaining minimum speed. Apparently, this wasn’t their first warning, and they were promptly instructed to go to the garage. Benning pitted on Lap 88, which the crew seemed to think was a regular stop for adjustments, but the message was communicated that they had to go behind the wall. Done for the day, Benning reported his truck was “horrible loose” and the tires were wore out. Worse, even if they hadn’t received the penalty, they didn’t have any more tires, so they couldn’t have kept going anyway. The team indicated handling issues were the reason for their DNF, but NASCAR listed it as “too slow.”

The only other DNF on Saturday was Raphael Lessard, whose #24 Richelieu Chevrolet suffered transmission faiure in the final laps. Jennifer Jo Cobb finished 38th when she, too, was making multiple stops to improve her handling on the #10 Fastener Supply Company Chevrolet. With 20 to go, Cobb said she “can’t put any wheel in it at all,” and made a green-flag stop, where she was caught speeding on pit road. Akinori Ogata finished 37th in his first start of the season, six laps ahead of Cobb in his #33 Kyowa Industrial Chevrolet. Rounding out the Bottom Five was Bill Lester, making his return to the Truck Series on the 15th anniversary of his Cup debut at the same track. Lester’s #17 Camping World Ford dropped back early and finished on the same lap as Ogata, seven down to the leaders.

Carson Hocevar tied his second-best Truck Series finish on Saturday by finishing 12th in the #42 Overton’s Chevrolet, which also happened to be his first series start at Atlanta.

*Benning and the #6 haven’t finished last in a Truck Series race at Atlanta since February 28, 2015 when the rear gear failed after 12 laps.
*Benning was also the most recent driver to be classified last due to being “too slow,” which occurred on May 3, 2019 at Dover.
*Other than Johnny Sauter’s disqualification after his 17th-place finish in this race last year, Benning’s 72 laps completed are the most of any Truck Series last-placer at Atlanta.

40) #6-Norm Benning / 72 laps / too slow
39) #24-Raphael Lessard / 115 laps / transmission
38) #10-Jennifer Jo Cobb / 117 laps / running
37) #33-Akinori Ogata / 123 laps / running
36) #17-Bill Lester / 123 laps / running

1st) Niece Motorsports (2)
2nd) GMS Racing, Norm Benning Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (4)


Thursday, March 18, 2021

PREVIEW: Atlanta entry lists feature the returns of Bill Lester, Ryan Ellis, and – Martin Truex, Jr.?

PHOTO: @NieceMotorsport

Saturday, March 20, 2021 (2:30 P.M. Eastern)
TRUCKS Race 4 of 23
FR8 Auctions 200 at Atlanta
2020 Last-Place Finisher: Johnny Sauter

There were 42 trucks entered for 40 spots as the series returned from a one-week hiatus. That changed after a par of withdrawals by the two teams on the wrong side of the cutline (see below). While Bill Lester (#17) is among those still carrying sponsorship from Camping World, Marcus Lemonis has again stepped in to back several unsponsored entries in Overton’s purple and white in recognition of Women’s History Month. Zane Smith, for example, was about to run a plain white truck similar to GMS Racing teammate Sheldon Creed before both were signed Tuesday.

#2-Sheldon Creed
#3-Jordan Anderson
#6-Norm Benning
#21-Zane Smith
#34-Ryan Ellis
#40-Ryan Truex
#41-Dawson Cram
#42-Carson Hocevar
#45-Brett Moffitt
#75-Parker Kligerman

DRIVER CHANGE: #9-CR7 Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #98-ThorSport Racing
Codie Rohrbaugh returns to his familiar Grant County Mulch Chevrolet after Grant Enfinger edged Rohrbaugh’s season-best 8th at Daytona with a 7th in Las Vegas. Enfinger slides back into his more familiar #98 entry at ThorSport, which he’ll continue to share with Christian Eckes the rest of the season. 

RETURNING: #11-Spencer Davis Motorsports
Spencer Davis returns to action for the first time since Daytona last month, where he failed to qualify for the season opener. With Hill Motorsports not entered this week (see below), Davis is assured his first start since he ran 23rd in last year’s Phoenix finale, and will roll off in 39th.

RETURNING / DID NOT QUALIFY: #14-Trey Hutchens Racing
Davis edged these two teams, who have also yet to start a race in 2021 and have already been sent home. Trey Hutchens was to be sponsored by Camping World, while Ray Ciccarelli had been entered in his own #49.

DRIVER CHANGE: #17-David Gilliland Racing
Saturday’s race will be exactly 15 years to the day that Bill Lester made his Cup debut at Atlanta, then driving the #23 Waste Management Dodge for Bill Davis Racing. Thanks to sponsorship from Marcus Lemonis at Camping World, Lester’s planned return to the Truck Series will be a reality as he drives in David Gilliland’s place in the #17 Ford. Lester, who recently published his memoir, will make his first start in any of NASCAR’s top three series since August 11, 2007, when he finished 20th for Billy Ballew at the Nashville Superspeedway.

DRIVER CHANGE: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
Akinori Ogata also returns to action for the first time since last fall at Phoenix, again as driver of Josh Reaume’s #33 Chevrolet. He takes the place of Jesse Iwuji, who ran 31st with the team in Las Vegas. Kyowa Industrial is the listed sponsor.

DRIVER CHANGE: #34-Reaume Brothers Racing
Still another driver returning to the driver’s side of the garage is Ryan Ellis, who hasn’t driven in NASCAR’s top three series since August 24, 2019 at Road America, where he ran 21st for B.J. McLeod, and hasn’t in Trucks since August 27, 2016 at Michigan, where he finished last with Norm Benning. This time around, Ellis takes the place of B.J. McLeod in the second Reaume entry.

DRIVER CHANGE: #44-Niece Motorsports
Ross Chastain makes his first Truck Series start of the season on Saturday, taking the place of Conor Daly, who finished last after a brutal wreck in Las Vegas. This will be Chastain’s first Truck start since last summer at Bristol, where he ran 8th, and comes after he finished 6th in this race last year. What's more, Chastain will run a "throwback" paint scheme on his Circle B Diecast Chevrolet, reminiscent of the Carolina Blue-and-white Piedmont Airlines Chevrolet that Terry Labonte drove to the 1984 Winston Cup Championship.

MISSING: #56-Hill Motorsports
Timmy Hill announced earlier this week that his team will not be entered in this week’s race at Atlanta as the team repairs their truck damaged in Las Vegas, and focuses ahead to Mike Marlar’s run with the team in the upcoming dirt race at Bristol.

DRIVER CHANGE: #02-Young's Motorsports
Late breaking news Friday saw Kris Wright test positive for COVID, putting him out of the #02. Driving in his place will be Josh Berry. For Berry, it will be just his 2nd Truck start and first since 2016, when he finished 13th at Chicagoland for Carlos Contreras.

CUP INVADERS: #44-Ross Chastain, #51-Kyle Busch

Saturday, March 20, 2021 (5:00 P.M. Eastern)
XFINITY Race 6 of 33
Echo Park 250 at Atlanta
2020 Last-Place Finisher: Kody Vanderwal

There are 43 drivers entered for 40 spots, and once again the same three entries ho haven’t seen a single green-flag lap in 2021 are not in the show. (see below).

DRIVER SWAP: #13-Motorsports Business Management
DRIVER CHANGE: #61-Motorsports Business Management
One week after he was swapped out for David Starr, Chad Finchum is swapped back into his ride in MBM’s #61, moving David Star back to the #13 since his eventful night in Homestead. Starr takes the place of Loris Hezemans, who isn’t entered after a 31st-place finish in his return to the series with a combined effort between MBM and the Reaume Brothers. UPDATE: Finchum and Starr have since again swapped rides with Starr in the #61 and Finchum in the #13.

DRIVER CHANGE: #17-Rick Ware Racing
After J.J. Yeley’s strong 13th-place finish in the XFINITY race at Phoenix last week, Cody Ware returns to the #17 for the first time since the Daytona road course, where he ran 25th. Nurtec ODT, Ware’s sponsor on the Cup side, will back the effort. This will be Ware’s first XFINITY start at Atlanta since 2016, when he ran 31st for the same team.

DID NOT QUALIFY: #31-Jordan Anderson Racing
DID NOT QUALIFY: #77-Bassett Racing
DID NOT QUALIFY: #03-Our Motorsports
Anderson, Bassett, and the original second team for Chris Our are all once again out of the field. Of course, Our still has two cars in the field after the earlier acquisition of the #23, formerly of RSS and Josh Reaume’s effort, and Blaine Perkins will again be the driver after his debut last Saturday. Incidentally, Ronnie Bassett, Jr. was slated to run the #77 in place of his brother Dillon at Phoenix.

DRIVER CHANGE: #54-Joe Gibbs Racing
Two-time XFINITY Series champion and last week’s Cup race winner Martin Truex, Jr. will on Saturday make his first XFINITY start since November 20, 2010, when he ran 12th for Michael Waltrip Racing in the Homestead finale. Carrying sponsorship from Stanley Tools, Truex will take the place of Ty Gibbs in the stout JGR entry, one week after Gibbs followed up his Daytona win with a runner-up at Phoenix.

DRIVER CHANGE: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Taking the place of Stefan Parsons, 18th last week in Phoenix, is a returning Mason Massey, who ran ten races for B.J. McLeod last season. Saturday will be his first series start since last fall’s double-header at Richmond, where he ran 27th in the first race and 21st in the second.

CUP INVADERS: #54-Martin Truex, Jr.

Sunday, March 21, 2021
CUP Race 6 of 36
Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta
2020 Last-Place Finisher: B.J. McLeod

There are 39 drivers entered for 40 spots on Sunday, marking the fourth-straight short field in five races, but ending a streak of three consecutive 38-car fields.

RETURNING: #33-Penske Racing
Austin Cindric returns for his first Cup start since his breakout run in this year’s Daytona 500, where he ran among the leaders for several laps before he was collected in the final-lap tangle. The start will come less than a week after he won another XFINITY race at Phoenix, following up his championship-clinching victory in 2020. He rolls off 39th and last this Sunday.

DRIVER CHANGE: #53-Rick Ware Racing
Joey Gase makes his third start of 2021 and first since Las Vegas, where he ran 34th. This time, he runs Ware’s #53, just as he did in this year’s 20th-place finish in the Daytona 500. He takes the place of Garrett Smithley, who was a late driver change with J.J. Yeley last week in Phoenix. Smithley ran 34th that day, the last car under power.

TEAM UPDATE: #78-Live Fast Racing
Scott Heckert was originally slated to rejoin this team for the first time since the Daytona Road Course, but team co-owner Matt Tifft confirmed that B.J. McLeod will again be the driver of the #78 Surface Sunscreen Ford.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (March 18, 1979): Hueytown, Alabama native Keith Davis picked up the first last-place finish of his NASCAR Winston Cup career in the Atlanta 500 at Atlanta when his #53 Davis Racing Chevrolet, which started last in the 40-car field, broke the rear end after 15 laps. This marked the first last-place finish for the #53 in a Cup race since June 2, 1966 by Jimmy Helms. Davis had planned to make his debut the previous year at Talladega, but he and team owner Harold Miller were suspended by NASCAR when a bottle of nitrous oxide was found in the car. Davis did return to Talladega in ’79 to make his only other Cup start. Again, he dropped out early – this time with engine trouble – and finished 30th out of 39. His last Cup attempt came at Pocono on July 22, 1984, where he was the race’s only DNQ.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

ARCA: First-lap pileup leaves Toni Breidinger the odd one out in Phoenix

PHOTO: @ToniBreidinger

by William Soquet Guest Contributor

Toni Breidinger finished last for the first time in her ARCA Menards Series career when her #02 Young’s Motorsports Chevrolet crashed without completing any of the 150 laps in the General Tire 150 at Phoenix Raceway.

The finish came in her fifth series start.

Tenured followers of the ARCA Menards Series will remember the name Toni Breidinger. The California native started climbing the racing ranks with her twin sister, Annie, and both moved up to the USAC ranks. There, Toni eventually earned the title of “Winningest Female in USAC”. Her first ride in ARCA was a three-race slate with Venturini Motorsports in 2018, a partnership that yielded a top-ten in her debut race at Madison. After an unsuccessful bid to become a W Series participant in late 2018 and early 2019, she ran a season of late model races with GMS Racing as part of the Drivers Edge Development program in 2019 and ran for David Pletcher’s DLP Motorsports in the Carolina Pro Late Model Series in 2020. For the 2021 season, Breidinger aligned with Young’s Motorsports for a limited schedule in the ARCA Menards Series and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

Since the General Tire 150 was a combination race with the ARCA Menards Series West, a stout 30-car entry list arrived at the track on Saturday. A strong West contingent showed up, including a three-car Bill McAnally Racing stable, two Sunrise Ford Racing entries, longtime independents like Todd Souza, Bridget Burgess and Bobby Hillis, established pairings such as Zane Smith and Steve McGowan, and a host of new driver-team pairings. Takuma Koga moved from Performance P-1 Motorsports to Pitts Racing, and Tony Toste took over the 77 machine. Dean Thompson and High Point Racing made their series debut, and Paul Pedroncelli, Jr. entered his first West race since 2019. The national ARCA contingent made a strong showing as well. Jack Wood increased his slate with GMS Racing from just the Sioux Chief Showdown to the entire schedule. Tim Richmond, Drew Dollar and Thad Moffitt continued part-time schedules in their cars. Fast Track Racing fielded two series debuts: USAC and dirt midget racer Mark Lowrey drove the #10 machine, and 17-year-old North Dakota sprint car racer Bryce Haugeberg drove the #12 car.

Noticeably absent was Wayne Peterson Racing, which didn't field a car in an ARCA race for the first time since Daytona in 2014. Plans for the team are still unknown going forward this season.

In the only practice session of the day, Bobby Hillis Jr. was the slowest, only getting one lap in at a time of about 51 seconds. The broadcast mentioned that Hillis had encountered issues in practice and brought out a caution flag, perhaps explaining the lack of laps. Of those that got to speed, Brad Smith was slowest, clocking in at just over 33 seconds. Qualifying was cancelled due to rare desert moisture, and Hillis claimed the 30th and final starting spot.

The start of the race was also delayed a while due to intermittent showers. When the race did commence, it was an even start, with no notable stragglers at the tail end of the field. The field made it about fifteen seconds before the last-place battle was settled for the race. Gracie Trotter, continuing a part-time schedule for Venturini Motorsports in the Mobil 1 machine, washed up a little bit in turn one and Zane Smith held his line, sending both cars spinning in the middle of the turn. Wood, who started the race right behind Smith in eighth, was collected almost immediately. After a handful of cars dived low and high to avoid the incident, Breidinger stayed in the middle of the track and plowed in to Trotter in a hood-to-hood collision that terminally damaged both cars, smoke spewing from the hood of the 02. Wood and Smith both retired as a result of the incident as well, wiping out a handful of formidable contenders. Brad Smith rounded out the Bottom Five, scoring his third-straight DNF (dating back to the 2020 season). The team cited the differential gear as the reason for the early exit, which occurred after 15 laps.

Attrition continued even after the bottom five filled up. An indecisive Drew Dollar punted Haugeberg as the latter was running the preferred racing line through turns three and four, ending the North Dakotan’s night after 32 laps. Hillis and Koga both found the wall with the rear ends of their respective race cars. In the closing stages of the race, the MAVTV cameras panned late to a destroyed Nick Sanchez machine in turn one.’s Jim Utter reported that Mark Lowrey made contact with Sanchez to spark the incident. Sanchez claimed he was clipped by the 10, and that may well have happened, although without a replay it is impossible to place blame on either driver.

30) #02-Toni Breidinger / 0 laps / crash
29) #21-Jack Wood / 0 laps / crash
28) #17W-Zane Smith / 0 laps / crash
27) #25-Gracie Trotter / 0 laps / crash
26) #48-Brad Smith / 15 laps / differential

1st) Rette Jones Racing, Young’s Motorsports (1)

1st) Chevrolet, Ford (1)


Sunday, March 14, 2021

CUP: Timmy Hill, MBM have finished last in three of previous six Phoenix starts

PHOTO: Dominic Aragon,

Timmy Hill picked up the 16th last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Instacart 500 at the Phoenix Raceway when his #66 / Diamondback Surveying Toyota fell out with engine trouble after 15 of 312 laps.

The finish, which came in Hill’s 132nd series start, was his second of the year and first since Homestead, two races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 63rd for the #66, the 169th for Toyota, and the 1,097th from engine trouble. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 81st for the #66, the 353rd for Toyota, and the 1,097th from engine woes.

As at Homestead, Hill’s Phoenix weekend began with a strong run in the XFINITY Series race. Carrying sponsorship from Interstate Batteries for the first time, Hill surged late in the race to finish 14th. This was a new season-best and track-best – his previous an 18th in 2011. It was also a recovery from his first DNF of the season at Las Vegas, where he finished 37th. That weekend, his Hill Motorsports team in the Truck Series was one of the last to join Marcus Lemonis’ Camping World challenge, the team wrapping the truck until early race morning. Timmy’s brother Tyler drove that night, but finished 35th after a pair of accidents.

On the Cup side, however, Timmy Hill and Motorsports Business Management have continued to struggle just to finish. He started last in Las Vegas and climbed just two spots before the finish, coming home 36th as the final car under power. The team then turned around his blue Toyota to run at Phoenix. They ran the same paint scheme from Vegas, but Diamondback Land Surveying only had its logo on the hood. The two decals on both doors were removed. The car pulled 37th through metric qualifying.

James Davison drew the 38th and final spot in his return to Rick Ware Racing’s #15 Smart Sanitizer Chevrolet, but he wouldn’t start there on Sunday. No fewer than six drivers were sent to the rear for various pre-race penalties. On Saturday, three were docked for twice failing pre-race inspection: 2nd-place Kyle Larson in the #5 Chevrolet, 10th-place William Byron in the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, and 31st-place Cody Ware in the #51 Nurtec ODT Chevrolet. Garrett Smithley in 34th was sent to the rear as J.J. Yeley was on the preliminary entry list to run the #53 Turf Sellers Chevrolet. On Sunday, NASCAR officials found issues with the side skirt of Chase Elliott’s #9 UniFirst Chevrolet, dropping the defending champion from 6th for unapproved adjustments. Quin Houff rounded out the group in his #00 Mount-N-Lock Chevrolet, dropping him from 36th for unapproved adjustments of his own.

By the time the field took the green, however, Timmy Hill had dropped to last place, and followed Cody Ware on the inside line. Ware had reported a possible engine issue during the pace laps, but still held off Hill at the start. By Lap 7, Hill caught Davison, and the pair were side-by-side, just 0.022 seconds apart at the stripe. On Lap 11, both passed Smithley, and again, Hill was just ahead of him at the stripe.

On Lap 16, Smithley was the first driver to lose a lap followed by Hill, but as the spotter navigated him through traffic, Hill pulled down pit road. Hill dropped to last place the next time by as the crew diagnosed an engine issue. “Check the spark plug wires, guys,” said Hill’s radio channel on Lap 21. “It smell like it blew up, Tim?” There was little radio traffic afterwards, and on Lap 43, NASCAR’s garage official confirmed “66 out, engine.”

Finishing 37th was Anthony Alfredo, who lost a lap early in his #38 MDS Ford, then tangled with Cody Ware in Turn 2. Ware’s car slid up the track into Alfredo, putting both hard into the outside wall. Alfredo was done, and at first it seemed Ware’s race was over, too. “It is what it is,” said Ware on pit road. “You guys built a fast race car. Just got into it with a lapped car, what are you gonna do?"

But the Ware crew managed to get the #51 back on track, and cleared the “Crash Clock” with around two minutes remaining. Unfortunately, it was after this that the engine issue from earlier returned, and the car started to lose power. “You want me to ride it until it blows up?” the driver asked. Despite this, when he pulled into the garage on Lap 114, NASCAR officials deemed him out of the race due to a crash instead of engine failure. Alfredo was officially declared out on Lap 118.

Rounding out the Bottom Five were Josh Bilicki, whose #52 Junction Fuels Ford lost power steering in the final laps, and teammate Garrett Smithley, who was the final driver to finish under power, 12 laps down to race winner Martin Truex, Jr.

Although he ended up finishing well back in the order, Corey LaJoie stretched his fuel and tires late in Stage 2 to lead 12 green-flag laps. This almost doubled his career total of 13 laps led in Cup, which all came last year, and marked the first time he’d led more than six laps in any one Cup race. LaJoie finished 27th, one lap down.

Bubba Wallace also enjoyed perhaps his best run since this year’s Daytona 500, his #23 McDonald’s Toyota leading a season-high four laps and driving his way up as high as 7th, passing Kevin Harvick late in the final stage. A gamble to stay out on old tires didn’t pay off, though it did put him into the lead. Taking on fresh tires after still another caution allowed him to salvage a 16th-place finish – a new season-best. Prior to Sunday, Wallace had only finished on the lead lap in two Phoenix races with a track-best 10th-place finish in 2018.

*Motorsports Business Management has now finished last in three of the last six Cup races held at Phoenix. All three were with Hill, who now has four last-place runs at the track along with his November 15, 2015 run with Premium Motorsports.

38) #66-Timmy Hill / 15 laps / engine
37) #38-Anthony Alfredo / 87 laps / crash
36) #51-Cody Ware / 101 laps / crash
35) #52-Josh Bilicki / 258 laps / power steering
34) #53-Garrett Smithley / 300 laps / running

1st) Motorsports Business Management (2)
2nd) Rick Ware Racing, StarCom Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

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


XFINITY: Jesse Little beats teammate for last place; Brown and Currey lead several impressive underdog performances in Phoenix

IMAGE: FS1, Screenshot by No Tires Just Gas on YouTube

Jesse Little picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Call 811 Before You Dig 200 at the Phoenix Raceway when his #78 Skuttle Tight Toyota was involved in an accident after 44 of 200 laps.

The finish came in Little’s 38th series start. In the XFINITY Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 8th for the #78, the 145th for Toyota, and the 343rd from a crash. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 38th for the #78, the 352nd for Toyota, and the 1,243rd from an accident.

In 2020, after his family’s JJL Motorsports team in the Truck Series was sold to Logan Puckett to form Diversified Motorsports Enterprises, Little made the jump to the XFINITY Series full-time. Driving for JD Motorsports in the #4 Chevrolet, he finished a season-best 10th at Pocono in June, then matched that run that August in Daytona. Among his backers was Skuttle Tight, which sponsored him in Trucks and also followed him this past offseason to B.J. McLeod Motorsports.

Skuttle Tight would back Little again in Saturday’s race, already his fourth different paint scheme in as many races this year. His season-best came on the Daytona infield road course, where he ran 14th after a 17th in the season opener on the oval. He then struggled on the 1.5-mile tracks, finishing two laps down at both Homestead and Las Vegas for finishes of 32nd and 26th, respectively. He finished 21st and 29th in both Phoenix races last year, and would start 23rd on Saturday by metric qualifying.

Rolling off 40th and last was Loris Hezemans, making his second series start and first since last summer at Road America, where he too ran for B.J. McLeod. After Our Motorsports acquired the RSS Racing / Reaume Brothers Racing #23, the Reaume team joined forces with Motorsports Business Management’s #13 team, putting Hezemans in a Hezeberg Systems Chevrolet with Reaume’s number font on the doors and roof. The preliminary entry list showed Chad Finchum in the #13 instead, which meant Hezemans would incur a redundant tail-end penalty prior to the start.

Hezemans had some issues prior to the start. The team couldn’t hear him on the radio, and told him to move the microphone closer to his mouth. The car then wouldn’t fire, but before NASCAR could bring out the push truck, the team told him to “put it in second gear and mash the clutch in.” He caught the tail end of the field, pulled to the apron to index the wheel, and turned on the brake fans as the field prepared to take the green. He remained in last for the start, 4.9 seconds back of the lead. “No pressure out back,” the spotter told him.

Matt Mills on pit road early at Phoenix.
PHOTO: Paul Vicinanza, @philvicinanza

On Lap 4, Matt Mills dropped to last place, his #5 J.F. Electric Chevrolet 10.711 seconds back of the lead and 0.475 back of Hezemans. The next time by, Mills was 3.630 seconds back of Hezemans, though the team soon told him “You’re running Top 20 lap times here.” Next to enter the last-place battle was Josh Williams, who was running flat-out in his #92 DGM Racing Chevrolet as the car wouldn’t pull down the straightaway. By Lap 13, Mills had dropped Williams to last, and the #92 team spotter said it sounded like a carburetor issue.

But it was Mills who first trailed smoke on Lap 15, pulling to the apron as the driver said “I think we’re done here.” He made it to pit road, and after the crew looked under the hood, was pushed behind the wall around Lap 19. NASCAR confirmed this on the 22nd circuit. “You think we’re done here?” asked someone on his channel. “No, we’re fixing to get it running again.” The crew discovered a line had come loose and touched the wire to the alternator, causing a short.

Meanwhile, Little had also dropped off the pace and made it to pit road on Lap 24. The crew topped off the fluids, then sent him back out so they wouldn’t lose a lap. With the competition caution out on the track, the team checked for a leak, then sent him back out. Meanwhile, Williams went behind the wall on Lap 26 to address his engine issue. The DGM crew made quick repairs, and his #92 returned by the next lap, when he was four down in 39th. Little and Mills both continued on laps down to the leader while the crew continued to work on Mills’ car.

But on Lap 47, as the caution fell to end Stage 1, Mills’ radio reported “Hey, Dave, if you’re still on, one car did wreck so there’s a spot.” This turned out to be Little, who apparently lost the brakes heading into Turn 1 and backed hard into the outside wall. Little climbed out without serious injury, but his car was done for the day. “Just trying to get caught up so we could work on it,” said Little’s team on Lap 50. 

Looking to gain at least one spot on the day, Mills’ team re-fired the engine on Lap 52 and returned to the track, still trailing smoke. The smoke started to clear up two laps later, and after another pit stop, he was 28 laps from catching Little. The team also decided to run scuffed tires for the rest of the race, and the driver looked to nurse the car home as it was otherwise handling well. On Lap 84, Mills dropped Little to last place. Mills would ultimately climb to finish 35th.

Engine failures in the first half eliminated JR Motorsports teammates Noah Gragson in the #9 Bass Pro Shops / True Timber Camo and Michael Annett in the #1 Pilot / Flying J Chevrolet. Gragson’s car began dropping fluid on an early restart, and a small fire developed before he pulled behind the wall, out of the race. By staying out on old tires, Ryan Sieg briefly took the lead in the #39 CMR Construction & Roofing Ford, only to be put in the wall in Turn 1, ending his run. Rounding out the group was still another JRM entry, and the car who wrecked Sieg – Josh Berry – whose #8 Chevrolet Accessories Chevrolet was bounced into the wall by Santino Ferrucci, then hit again by Blaine Perkins before a hard driver’s side crash in Turn 4. A displeased Berry climbed from his car and gave a “double bird” to passing traffic.

Ferrucci went on to finish 15th – his second straight top-fifteen finish following a 13th last week in Vegas. His was just one of several impressive underdog performances.

Brandon Brown scored a career-best 3rd, taking just his second top-five finish in the #68 Larry’s Hard Pink Lemonade Chevrolet. Just a week after picking up a last-minute sponsor in Las Vegas, Brown now sits 9th in points with just one finish worse than 11th in the season’s first five races. Brown was running 11th when the final caution fell with 8 laps to go.

Bayley Currey earned a career-best 7th-place finish, his first Top 10 in his 55th XFINITY Series start. His bright yellow #74 Lerner & Rowe Chevrolet was turned around quickly from last week’s race in Las Vegas, and was soon battling inside the Top 15. The finish is a new team-best for Mike Harmon Racing, which broke through last year after many strong runs with Currey and teammate Kyle Weatherman. It was Weatherman who scored the team’s first top-ten finish with an 8th last summer in Kentucky.

Jeremy Clements finished 10th in his #51 First Pacific Funding Chevrolet, which is already his third top-ten finish in only five races this season.

J.J. Yeley earned still another impressive finish for Rick Ware Racing and SS-Green Light Racing’s XFINITY program in his first NASCAR start of the year. From 33rd on the grid, he climbed to the Top 20 in Stage 1, then his #17 Diamondback Land Surveying Chevrolet engaged in a spirited battle with Riley Herbst for 11th place with 11 to go. He briefly entered the Top 10, holding 9th with 8 laps to go, before he slipped to 13th on the final restart – a run made all the sweeter by coming on his home track.

Timmy Hill charged from 39th on the grid to finish 14th – a new season-best to improve on his 16th at Homestead. Running a black Toyota with Interstate Batteries on the hood, Hill peaked in the final laps, earning a new track-best finish for him in the series. His previous best of 18th came back in 2011, when he drove for Rick Ware. Prior to Saturday, he’d finished no better than 23rd at the track since then, but only once failed to finish.

Behind these drivers, Colby Howard finished 16th despite missing the rear panel on his #15 Project Hope Foundation Chevrolet. Tommy Joe Martins overcame contact with the Turn 2 wall to finish 17th in his #44 Diamond Gusset Jeans Chevrolet. Stefan Parsons and Jeffrey Earnhardt found their way into the Top 10 with Parsons rebounding from his rough Las Vegas race to take 18th in the #99 Sokal Digital Toyota, followed by Earnhardt’s #0 KSDT CPA Chevrolet. 

Finishing 20th was Jade Buford, who in the final stage was running much better than that. In fact, his #48 Big Machine Spiked Coolers Chevrolet was running around 10th place inside the final 50 laps. He re-took the 10th spot with 29 to go, but with 21 to go bounced off the outside wall while racing Riley Herbst for 11th. The team still managed to keep him on the lead lap and ahead of several other fast cars.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #78 in an XFINITY Series race at Phoenix. The number’s most recent last-place run in the series came August 23, 2020 at Dover with Vinnie Miller behind the wheel.
*This streak of six consecutive first-time XFINITY last-place finishers is the longest since March 5 through May 5, 2005, when nine consecutive races saw first-time last-placers. Three other nine-race streaks occurred from August 27, 1982 through February 26, 1983; February 22 through April 19, 1997; and July 8 through September 7, 2001. The all-time record stands at 18 - the first 18 XFINITY races ever run back in 1982.

40) #78-Jesse Little / 44 laps / crash
39) #9-Noah Gragson / 67 laps / engine
38) #1-Michael Annett / 93 laps / engine
37) #39-Ryan Sieg / 133 laps / crash / led 2 laps
36) #8-Josh Berry / 146 laps / crash

1st) RSS Racing / Reaume Brothers Racing (2)
2nd) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, DGM Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (3)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (1)