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.


Darrin said...

Thank you...always look forward to your previews of the weekend races. You give us everything we need to know!

Brock Beard said...

You're welcome. I always enjoy when there's lots of great stories leading into a race.