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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Kris Wright will not be in the Truck race after testing positive for COVID. Josh Berry will take his place.