Saturday, April 17, 2021

TRUCKS: Ryan Truex gives #40 its first Truck Series last-place finish since 2008

PHOTO: @NieceMotorsport

Ryan Truex picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Saturday’s ToyotaCare 250 at the Richmond Raceway when his #40 Marquis 900 Wishes Chevrolet fell out with rear gear trouble after 44 of 250 laps.

The finish, which came in Truex’s 57th series start, was his first of the year and first since November 18, 2016 at Homestead, 98 races ago. In the Truck Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 6th for the #40, the 12th from rear gear issues, and the 405th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 40th for the #40, the 43rd from rear gear trouble, and the 1,773rd for Chevrolet.

The younger Truex was last featured here last fall at Kansas, where he lost the engine in his most recent XFINITY Series start for JR Motorsports. A year later, he was completing his first series of Truck starts since 2017, all of them for Niece Motorsports in the #40 Chevrolet. His season-best 12th-place finish also came at Kansas. 

Truex returned to the team for a full-time effort this year, and kicked off the season with a sterling 4th-place run in the Marquis Spas entry during the opener at Daytona. This was Truex’s first top-five finish in the series since the 2017 Homestead finale, when he also finished 4th for Hattori Racing Enterprises. The following races didn’t go as smoothly. He crunched the nose on his Chevrolet on the damp Daytona Road Course, was eliminated with crash damage in Las Vegas, then finished 15th and 20th at Atlanta and the Bristol Dirt Track. He entered Saturday’s race 17th in points. The Niece team had also been struggling with their #44 team already last twice in the first five races – James Buescher on the Daytona oval and Conor Daly in Vegas.

Marquis Spas would rejoin Truex’s effort for the first time since Daytona. As one of the sponsorship partners with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the company would also put the names of 900 children whose wishes Marquis had granted over the last two decades. The truck would roll off 16th on Saturday.

Starting 40th and last was Sam Mayer, back in the series for the first time since last fall’s season finale at Phoenix. The 2020 Bristol night race winner would this time drive for Bret Holmes in the new team Holmes himself debuted at Las Vegas and Atlanta earlier this year. No drivers were sent to the rear to join Mayer’s #32 QPS Employment Group Chevrolet, but Mayer quickly passed another truck in the opening moments.

That truck belonged to 21st-place Cory Roper, whose #04 Preferred Industrial Contractors Ford had a stuck throttle on the initial start, forcing him to pit road and off the lead lap. He returned to action around Lap 6, and was soon told by his team he was running as fast as drivers in the Top Five. During this opening run, Roper managed to not lose additional laps, but Norm Benning wasn’t so fortunate. His blue-and-gold #6 Chevrolet, its Camping World logos removed, was on the verge of three laps down by the 32nd circuit.

During this run, trouble found Howie DiSavino III, making his series debut in Jordan Anderson’s #3 Kees Vacations / Bud’s Chevrolet. DiSavino had apparently been running well without any word on the radio. It wasn’t until later the team discovered that was because the radio wasn’t working at all. He came down pit road for repairs and took last from Roper on Lap 38. He then pulled behind the wall on Lap 52 and returned to action on Lap 56, by which point he was 23 laps down.

Truex had also been having issues since the early laps. Very early in the race, NASCAR’s spotters were taking note of smoke coming off the right-rear of his truck, but believed it to be a tire rub. By Lap 47, however, Truex was off the pace on the backstretch and coming to pit road. The driver reported he had a rear gear issue, and said they were done for the day. He pulled behind the wall, and he team put his truck on jack stands. Truex remained behind the wheel as the crew tracked down the source of leaking gear oil. Truex took last from DiSavino on Lap 70.

Five laps later, Truex’s team was concerned that timing and scoring indicated they were “out” of the race even though they were still continuing repairs. Another crewman said they had a NASCAR official with them, who was making sure Truex remained inside the truck. Repairs continued until Lap 93, when the team declared themselves out, and Truex climbed from the truck. NASCAR declared Truex officially out with the rear gear issue on Lap 108.

Taking 39th was Tate Fogleman, who on Lap 85 was racing his #12 Solid Rock Carriers Chevrolet on the outside of Hailie Deegan’s #1 Built Ford Tough Ford heading into Turn 3. Deegan appeared to push up into Fogleman, who locked his brakes as he slammed the outside wall with the right-front corner. Fogleman climbed from his truck uninjured and upset, pointing at his head as Deegan rolled by under caution. Fogleman had just slipped to 38th when Truex climbed from his truck on Lap 93, and was declared out at the same Lap 108 transmission as the #40.

Finishing 38th was Jennifer Jo Cobb, whose #10 Fastener Supply Company Chevrolet was involved in at least three incidents. Two of them occurred with Norm Benning – first with Benning spinning Cobb down the backstretch, then Cobb slamming doors with Benning in Turn 4. The latter incident saw Cobb go behind the wall, out of the race under the DVP, while Benning continued on to finish 32nd with damage to his driver’s door. Brett Moffitt made two surprising trips to the garage area for handling issues that left him 37th in the unsponsored #45 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet while Codie Rohrbaugh closed out the Bottom Five after he backed his #9 Grant County Mulch Chevrolet into the wall on Lap 196.

A tight battle around the 10th spot in the final laps led to a few surprising runs. Last-place qualifier Sam Mayer made it up to 10th, lost a couple spots, then surged back to finish 9th – his first top-ten finish since his win at Bristol. Carson Hocevar also continued his impressive early season in Al Niece’s #42 Scott’s / GM Parts Now Chevrolet, this time keeping his nose clean to finish 12th.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #40 in a Truck Series race since February 15, 2008, when Chad Chaffin’s #40 Key Motorsports Chevrolet was involved in a multi-truck accident after 18 laps of the Chevy Silverado 250 at Daytona.
*This was the first Truck Series last-place finish by reason of rear gear trouble since May 17, 2019, when Joe Nemechek’s #87 Romco Equipment Co. / TMS Titanium Chevrolet dropped out after 19 laps of the North Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte.

40) #40-Ryan Truex / 44 laps / rear gear
39) #12-Tate Fogleman / 82 laps / crash
38) #10-Jennifer Jo Cobb / 168 laps / DVP
37) #45-Brett Moffitt / 186 laps / handling
36) #9-Codie Rohrbaugh / 195 laps / crash

1st) Niece Motorsports (3)
2nd) GMS Racing (2)
3rd) Norm Benning Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (6)


Thursday, April 15, 2021

PREVIEW: This weekend sees the return of Ryan Reed, Josh Reaume, and the spring Richmond race

Noah "Lefty" Sweet's paint scheme for Ryan Reed's return to the Truck Series
PHOTO: @CMIMotorsports

Saturday, April 17, 2021
TRUCKS Race 6 of 22
Toyota Care 250 at Richmond
2020 Last-Place Finisher (September): Jennifer Jo Cobb

There are 41 drivers entered for 40 spots, down three entries from the last Truck event on the Bristol Dirt Track. With metric qualifying still in place, this has already bounced from the field Trey Hutchens (see below).

DRIVER CHANGE: #3-Jordan Anderson Racing
Jordan Anderson continues to give up-and-coming drivers a shot at the Truck Series, this time by bringing 20-year-old Virginia native Howie DiSavino III. In just three ARCA Menards Series tarts, DiSavino has already scored two top-ten finishes on the short tracks of Elko and IRP and will now compete on his home track. Kees Vacations and Bud’s are the listed sponsors. He takes the place of J.R. Heffner, who was forced to withdraw from the Bristol Dirt Race after a practice crash.

DRIVER CHANGE: 11-Spencer Davis Racing
The number of Cup Series invaders drops from seven to just one this week, accounting for several driver changes at Richmond. Spencer Davis returns to his own #11 Inox Supreme Lubricants Toyota in place of 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace, who ran a strong 11th with the team on the dirt. This will be Davis’ second start of the season, his first since a 20th at Atlanta.

RETURNING / DID NOT QUALIFY: #14-Trey Hutchens Racing
For the second time this season, Trey Hutchens is on the wrong side of the cut line along with his #14 Chevrolet. As at Atlanta, when he was set to run a Camping World paint scheme, he will not be racing on Saturday.

MISSING: #17-David Gilliland Racing
Following Kevin Harvick’s 15th-place finish in the Bristol Dirt Race, the Richmond event was to see 16-year-old ARCA competitor Taylor Gray make his series debut in the #17 Ford, competing against brother Tanner Gray in the DGR #15. That changed on April 8, when it was reported Taylor had suffered multiple fractures in a single-car traffic accident. The team withdrew over the off-week and was not shown on the preliminary entry list. Reports indicate Taylor is expected to make a full recovery.

RETURNING: #32-Bret Holmes Racing
Sam Mayer returns to the Truck Series for the first time since the Daytona Road Course, where he ran 37th for Henderson Motorsports. This time, he takes the place of defending ARCA Menards Series Champion Bret Holmes, who last fielded this #32 entry back at Atlanta, finishing 32nd. QPS Employment Group is the listed sponsor.

DRIVER CHANGE: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
Alaska’s Keith McGee has five West Series starts on his resume with a best finish of 10th at both Idaho’s Meridian Speedway and the All-American Speedway in Roseville, California. This Saturday, he will tackle the Truck Series for the first time, taking the place of Myatt Snider in Josh Reaume’s primary #33 Chevrolet.

DRIVER CHANGE: #34-Reaume Brothers Racing
Speaking of Josh Reaume, the owner-driver will be back behind the wheel for the first time since his reinstatement by NASCAR, ending a suspension which came about over a social media post. Reaume will run his second entry, the #34, taking the place of Jake Griffin, who ran 29th on the dirt at Bristol.

MISSING: #39-DCC Racing
Not making the trip to Richmond is the Brad Means-owned entry that was to be driven by Ryan Newman at Bristol before rain cancelled the heat races.

DRIVER CHANGE: #41-Cram Racing Enterprises
Dawson Cram climbs aboard his #41 for the first time since his 31st-place run at Atlanta, taking the place of Cody Erickson, who ran 26th on the dirt. Good Sam joins the team as sponsor for a red-and-gold paint scheme, another backing from Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis along with CMI's #49 (see below).

DRIVER CHANGE: #44-Niece Motorsports
Jett Noland rejoins the Truck Series for the first time since a late-race spin spoiled a solid run on the Daytona Road Course earlier this season. He takes the place of Kyle Larson, who was eliminated in a crash with Danny Bohn during the Bristol race. Hype Motorsports is the listed sponsor.

DRIVER CHANGE: #49-CMI Motorsports
Ray Ciccarelli was originally listed to run his #49 this week, taking the place of Andrew Gordon, 31st in the CMI team's first start of 2021 back at the Bristol Dirt Track. But by midweek, Ryan Reed was the surprise addition, making his first Truck Series start since March 1, 2019, when he came home 9th for DGR-Crosley at Las Vegas. Noah "Lefty" Sweet is behind the team's Camping World paint scheme, following up his Jimmie Johnson car from last fall at Texas.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Kyle Busch Motorsports
Two weeks after Martin Truex, Jr. dominated the Bristol Dirt Race, Kyle Busch will also be running his own high-powered #51 Toyota.

DRIVER CHANGE: #56-Hill Motorsports
Still another team owner returning to action at Richmond is co-owner Timmy Hill, replacing dirt ringer Mike Marlar in the #56 Chevrolet. Hair Club has returned as sponsor, this time debuting an even more distinctive paint scheme reminiscent of Corey LaJoie’s famous “Face Car.”

MISSING: #62-Halmar-Friesen Racing
Jessica Friesen didn’t have an opportunity to compete against her husband on the Bristol Dirt Track, but it has since been confirmed she will return to the #62 for the series’  upcoming Knoxville race.

MISSING: #75-Henderson Motorsports
Parker Kligerman is not entered along with Charlie Henderson’s effort after a 28th-place run on Bristol’s dirt track.

MISSING: #83-CMI Motorsports
Trevor Collins is not entered after he was unable to qualify Ray Ciccarelli’s second truck at Bristol when the heats were cancelled.

DRIVER CHANGE: #02-Young’s Motorsports
Kris Wright rejoins Randy Young’s team in the #02, previously run at Bristol by Team Trackhouse’s Cup regular Daniel Suarez. This will be Wright’s third start of the season and first since Las Vegas, where he ran 25th with the team.

DRIVER CHANGE: #04-Roper Racing
Cory Roper completes the owner-driver reunion trend at Richmond as he takes the place of Cup rookie Chase Briscoe in his own #04 Ford. The Texan looks to turn around a difficult season after his near-miss at a win at Daytona. Since that  night, he’s failed to finish twice and come home no better than 27th.

CUP INVADERS: #51-Kyle Busch

Sunday, April 18, 2021
CUP Race 9 of 36
Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond
2019 Last-Place Finisher: Kyle Larson

There are 38 drivers entered for 40 spots in Sunday’s main event, one more entry than at Martinsville, but the seventh short field in nine races in 2021.

RETURNING: #33-Penske Racing
With the XFINITY Series off for the week, Austin Cindric is back in the Cup field for the first time since Atlanta, and for the first time since his breakout run the Daytona 500 will run the Verizon 5G paint scheme on his Ford.

DRIVER CHANGE: #53-Rick Ware Racing
Garrett Smithley returns for his fifth Cup start of 2021 and first since Phoenix, once again driving Rick Ware’s #53. He takes the place of J.J. Yeley, who survived the chaos at Martinsville to earn a 25th-place finish with the team. This will be Smithley’s first-ever Cup start at Richmond.

Saturday, April 24, 2021
XFINITY Race 8 of 33
Ag-Pro 300 at Talladega
2020 Last-Place Finisher (June): John Jackson

The XFINITY Series takes the week off this time and returns on the superspeedway in Talladega.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (April 15, 2012): Grant Enfinger, then making only his fifth Truck Series start, picked up his first last-place finish in the Good Sam Roadside Assistance Carolina 200 at Rockingham when his unsponsored #60 Turn One Racing Chevrolet fielded by series veteran Stacy Compton lost the transmission after 12 laps. This was the very same Rockingham race that saw NASCAR return to the track for the first time since 2004, thanks to then-owner Andy Hillenburg.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

CUP: Corey LaJoie’s strong 11th-place run fouled by wreck during late-race pit stop

PHOTO: @SpireMotorsport

Corey LaJoie
picked up the 8th last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Saturday and Sunday’s Blu-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at the Martinsville Speedway when his #7 Chevrolet was eliminated in an accident after 374 of 500 laps.

The finish, which came in LaJoie’s 137th series start, was his first of the year and first since November 4, 2018 at Texas, 82 races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 42nd for the #7, the 612th from a crash, and the 802nd for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 50th for the #7, the 1,249th from a crash, and the 1,772nd for Chevrolet.

Since LaJoie was last featured in an article here, he’d competed in two full-time Cup seasons with Go FAS Racing. While his first career victory has continued to elude him, those two years also netted him his first three top-ten finishes – each on the superspeedways of Daytona and Talladega, with a best of 6th in the summer race in Florida in 2019. Two of his stand-out runs last year came at this same Martinsville track. In the summer race, driving a masked version of his famous “Face Car,” he kept Denny Hamlin a lap down, led 5 laps, and finished 18th. In the fall, driving a Halloween-themed Ford, he stayed out on old tires to lead 6 more laps, then dropped back to 25th.

With Go FAS scaling back to a part-time schedule after the loss of their Charter, LaJoie has moved on to the new second team fielded by Spire Motorsports. He would run the #7 full-time in 2021, joining the team’s original #77 descended from the shuttered Furniture Row Racing effort. In their first race together, LaJoie showed speed in qualifying, starting 16th in the Daytona 500 and finishing 9th. But in the six races after, he’d finished no better than 27th, capped by a wreck in the Bristol Dirt Race driving a paint scheme promoting the upcoming Truck Series event in Knoxville.

The Knoxville scheme was one of many eye-catching paint jobs he’s run so far in 2021. He promoted Kevin James’ NASCAR-themed sitcom “The Crew” on the Daytona Road Course, represented the NFL Alumni organization with a patriotic football-themed car at Atlanta, and for Martinsville would welcome returning Blockchain sponsorship from with a distinctive black-and-red scheme.

LaJoie started 34th, but along with Spire teammate Justin Haley in the #77 Diamond Creek Water Chevrolet incurred a tail-end penalty for multiple inspection failures. Also docked for that reason was last-place qualifier James Davison, who returned to the #15 Jacob Companies Chevrolet for the first time since Atlanta. Tyler Reddick, who was set to start 13th in the #8 Childress Vineyards Chevrolet, also ell back for an unapproved adjustment while 11th-place Daniel Suarez was also sent to the rear and his crew chief ejected for a weight found on his #99 Camping World Chevrolet during inspection.

After several pace laps and with rain in the area, the race started Saturday night with Justin Haley’s #77 the last car across the stripe. After two laps, he’d dropped to 37th the #51 Nurtec ODT Chevrolet of Cody Ware, who was 8.03 seconds back of the leader. By Lap 4, Ware set his sights on catching Davison until the 9th circuit, when Quin Houff slipped to 36th in his #00 Gardner Marsh Chevrolet. Ware passed Houff as he crossed the stripe to complete Lap 11, and Houff was then the first driver to be lapped around Lap 14. While dealing with a “brake shake,” Houff followed the tire tracks of then-leader Denny Hamlin, the crew telling him to study his braking.

On Lap 37, Ware was running on the low line to pass Davison when his #51 broke loose and bumped Davison into a spin, sending Davison’s #15 backing into the Turn 4 wall with the left-rear corner. It was during this first caution of the night that rain ultimately drew the red flag, pushing the resumption of the race to Sunday. At the time, Davison had taken over last place from Houff, having lost two laps after the tangle with Ware.

When the race restarted, Davison remained in last until Lap 68, when teammate J.J. Yeley in still another Rick Ware Racing entry lost multiple laps for unscheduled stops. Yeley’s #53 Fatboy Ice Cream Chevrolet remained in last until Lap 165, when B.J. McLeod became the first to pull behind the wall. McLeod cited suspension issues on his #78 Ford, specifically a failed left-front upper control arm. He remained in the garage area until Lap 179, when he returned to action in 37th place. During this time, Ryan Preece’s 19th-place run went south when his #37 Louisiana Hot Sauce Chevrolet came down pit road with an alternator issue. Preece returned to action with a new battery by Lap 182, placing him in 35th ahead of Yeley and McLeod. Still, the battery continued to wind down as the alternator failed to recharge it.

From there, all 37 starters remained on the track, and McLeod managed to not lose further laps to the leaders. During this time, LaJoie had worked his way to 11th place with 130 to go – easily his best run since the Daytona 500. After some television time on FS1, LaJoie came down pit road under the 13th caution of the day following a wreck involving Erik Jones, Ross Chastain, and Brad Keselowski. After LaJoie’s crew finished work, he pulled into traffic, only to collide with Tyler Reddick, who was pinned in the low lane by Chris Buecher’s #17 Fastenal Ford. The contact ripped the nose from LaJoie’s Chevrolet and ruptured the radiator, causing the #7 to billow clouds of steam. The crew attempted repairs and removed the nose, but ultimately pulled out of the race. The team was careful to save the damaged nose of LaJoie’s car, knowing they could likely save the brake fans attached to it. 

LaJoie didn’t have a chance to take last from McLeod before the afternoon’s biggest wreck unfolded on Lap 386. Triggered by Buescher and Kyle Busch off the second corner, the wreck collected ten other cars. Among them was LaJoie’s teammate Haley, who the team had been preparing to give their final unused set of sticker tires. Haley was eliminated in the wreck along with the lapped Preece, plus Alex Bowman, Brad Keselowski, Daniel Suarez, and Michael McDowell. Interestingly, the drivers ranked 36th to 31st were all exactly one lap apart, placing Bowman’s #48 Ally Chevrolet and Keselowski’s #2 Auto Trader Ford into the Bottom Five by a slim margin.

LaJoie – and the drivers involved in the big wreck – were all officially declared out by NASCAR on Lap 401. The #7 had taken over last place from McLeod on Lap 396. McLeod recovered to finish 29th with Yeley 25th, Houff 24th, and Davison 22nd in the final running order.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #7 in a Cup Series race at Martinsville since October 28, 2018, when Hermie Sadler’s Virginia Lottery Chevrolet fell out with brake issues after 230 laps.
*The 374 laps completed by LaJoie ties the fourth-most completed by a Cup Series last-place finisher at Martinsville, equaling the mark set by Dave Blaney, whose #22 Caterpillar Toyota dropped out with a blown engine on March 30, 2008.

37) #7-Corey LaJoie / 374 laps / crash
36) #37-Ryan Preece / 382 laps / crash
35) #77-Justin Haley / 383 laps / crash
34) #48-Alex Bowman / 384 laps / crash
33) #2-Brad Keselowski / 385 laps / crash

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

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


XFINITY: Brutal race for JD Motorsports leaves Ryan Vargas last, three teammates not far behind

PHOTO: @JDMotorsports01

Ryan Vargas picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Friday and Sunday’s Cook Out 250 at the Martinsville Speedway when his #6 SEM Products Chevrolet was involved in an accident after 97 of 250 laps.

The finish came in Vargas’ 19th series start. In the XFINITY Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 16th for the #6, the 345th from a crash, and the 566th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 65th for the #6, the 1,248th from a crash, and the 1,771st for Chevrolet.

The popular 20-year-old from California enters his third season with JD Motorsports, and his first as a full-time driver. In 2018, he made the jump from Bandoleros and late models to the K&N Pro Series East, finishing a season-best 6th at Milville and taking sixth in the series standings.

The next year saw Vargas’ XFINITY Series debut at Iowa, his first race for Johnny Davis at JD Motorsports. Born with craniosynostosis, which left a distinct scar on his right temple, Vargas’ #15 entry increased awareness of the condition by carrying logos on his cars for FACES - the National Craniofacial Association - and the Cranio Care Bears initiative. He finished a solid 17th, just one lap down, then ran 18th on the tricky road course in Road America.

Vargas gained increased notoriety last season, when the social media app Tik Tok joined Vargas and JD as team sponsor starting with the fall race at Talladega. Despite suspension issues that left him 30th, the exposure – and Vargas’ frequent use of the app – led to the company staying on for the remaining five races of the season. This included Texas, where he climbed to 9th with six laps to go, then edged Josh Williams for the 8th spot by just 0.065 of a second at the stripe. 

This year, Vargas enters his first full-time season, but has struggled in these first few races. While he finished each race under power, his season-best stood at an 18th in the Daytona opener with no other runs better than 23rd. His effort has continued to gain interesting sponsors, including “The Big Squeezy” at the Daytona Infield Road Course, a company owned by Alvin Kamara, running back for the New Orleans Saints. 

In most of Vargas’ starts this year, his car has been painted a traditional JD Motorsports red – paint that was originally provided to them after Evernham Motorsports’ Dodge effort closed its doors. The paint is now provided by SEM Products, the company which would carry its logo on the hood of Vargas’ #6. The car would roll off 35th.

Mills missing the start due to distributor issues
PHOTO: @TurnerEdwin

Starting 40th and last on Friday night was racing instructor and multi-sport athlete Matt Jaskol, who took the wheel of Motorsports Business Management’s #13 Auto Parts 4 Less Toyota. Before the start, Jaskol had accidentally flicked the radio switch with his arm and was asking the team about how to properly operate the brake fans.

Further up pit road, another driver had even bigger problems. Matt Mills, set to start 36th in the #5 J.F. Electric Chevrolet, was in his pit stall with the hood up. The team tried to push-start his car, but it didn’t fire, so they pushed the car to the garage. “Well get the jump box to try and turn it over, try to crank it,” said someone on the B.J. McLeod-owned team. The race started without Mills, immediately dropping him to last. By Lap 4, the crew diagnosed a distributor issue and prepared to re-enter the race. He was up to speed by the 6th lap, and finally completed his first lap the 8th time by. At the time, Mills was the only driver off the lead lap, but he was ineligible for the Lucky Dog because he’d yet to complete a lap at when the yellow fell.

As Mills got back up to speed, frontrunner A.J. Allmendinger had issues in his #16 Ellsworth Advisors / Hyperice Chevrolet. A flat tire around Lap 11 forced him up the track, and he plummeted to the tail end of the line by the time he reached pit entrance. He cut across the track, nearly colliding with Jaskol’s #13, and ultimately lost two laps. The crew ended up looking under the hood after he cut down another right-front tire, and ultimately discovered an unhooked bolt on the track bar. This repair wouldn’t be made until Sunday, however, as rain stopped the race after 91 laps. At the time, Mills was still in last place.

Just one lap after the race restarted, Vargas was running in a pack of traffic when his brake pedal went to the floor, causing him to rear-end another driver. The FS1 cameras didn’t catch the incident, and only showed Vargas slowing down the backstretch with the nose of his car stoved in. It was a frustrating turn of events for Vargas, who later tweeted he’d tested his brakes during the pace laps. “I don’t even know what to tell you on that wreck,” said someone on his channel. He then pulled behind the wall, NASCAR declaring “6 to the garage, DVP.” “We are out of the race,” the team then said. Mills dropped Vargas to last on Lap 106 and ultimately climbed to 33rd by the checkered flag.

This began an unusually awful race for the entire JD Motorsports team as all four of the team’s Chevrolets ended up in the Bottom Five, out due to various issues. Next was Colby Howard, whose #15 Project Hope Foundation Chevrolet was hit by Kyle Weatherman entering Turn 3, spinning him into the outside wall. Howard dropped his window net, then at the team’s urging quickly held it back up so he could come in for repairs. He cleared the “Crash Clock,” lost the rear bumper panel, then ultimately pulled out of the race around Lap 161 with suspension issues, taking 39th. Landon Cassill’s #4 511 Auction Chevrolet lost the engine on Lap 201, followed just 14 laps later by Jeffrey Earnhardt after the suspension failed on his #0 KSDT CPA Chevrolet. Earnhardt had finished 9th in Stage 1 and was declared out on Lap 226, nine laps after Cassill.

Vargas behind the wall
PHOTO: @conrail_1

The only non-JD Motorsports car in the Bottom Five was Joe Graf, Jr., who backed his #07 Responsible Gold Chevrolet into the wall after a tangle with Blaine Perkins’ #23 Raceline Chevrolet. Graf was originally declared out under the DVP after he pulled into the rear garage entrance entering Turn 3. Perkins, who was running 16th before he pulled behind the wall for a fluid leak after losing an axle on Lap 111, recovered from the wreck to finish the last car under power in 35th.

Bad luck also caught up other underdogs who were enjoying strong runs in part due to tire strategy on Sunday.

Bayley Currey finished 10th in Stage 1 in the #74 JM Steel Chevrolet, following up his great finish a couple weeks ago in Phoenix. He stayed out to lead Lap 180 and held the spot for three green flag laps before eventual race winner Josh Berry moved him off the inside line off Turn 4. He slipped to 26th at the finish, one spot behind his teammate Kyle Weatherman.

Tommy Joe Martins gained several spots before the rain came on Friday night, then continued his march up the leaderboard on Sunday, running several laps in the Top 10 and taking 6th in Stage 2. His #44 Diamond Gusset Jeans Chevrolet was running 11th with just 78 laps to go when something shorted out in the car’s electrics, causing the engine to shut down. He was pushed behind the wall on Lap 177, then returned to the track on Lap 186. He finished 34th, 19 laps down.

J.J. Yeley and the Rick Ware Racing effort followed-up their strong run in last fall’s Martinsville XFINITY Series race by finishing 8th in both Stages 1 and 2. But his #17 Alcova / Chevrolet lost ground in the final sage and slipped to 24th at the finish, one lap down.

Among those who were able to salvage solid runs were Jeremy Clements, whose rebound in 2021 continued with a 14th-place finish. Clements’ #51 First Pacific Funding Chevrolet came home two spots ahead of Josh Williams, whose #92 DGM Racing Chevrolet took 16th after he cut a tire and was penalized for deliberately drawing the caution flag. Brandon Gdovic overcame an early spin to finish 17th in the #26 SnapMobile.Shop Toyota for Sam Hunt Racing while George Gorham, Jr. – 9th in Stage 2 - took 18th in his NASCAR debut in the #90 Blackburn’s BBQ / Francisco’s Chevrolet. Rounding out the Top 20 were Jade Buford and Stefan Parsons, who both had incidents before Friday’s rainout. Buford’s #48 Big Machine Spiked Coolers Chevrolet was the last car on the lead lap, just ahead of Parsons’ #99 Sokal Digital Toyota.

*This marked the first XFINITY Series last-place finish for the #6 since February 17, 2007, when David Ragan’s Discount Tire Ford crashed after 4 laps of the Orbitz 300 at Daytona. The number hadn’t finished last in an XFINITY race at Martinsville since September 22, 1990, when Tommy Houston’s Rose’s Stores Buick crashed after 33 laps of the Zerex 150.

40) #6-Ryan Vargas / 97 laps / crash
39) #15-Colby Howard / 153 laps / suspension
38) #07-Joe Graf, Jr. / 179 laps / crash
37) #4-Landon Cassill / 197 laps / engine
36) #0-Jeffrey Earnhardt / 213 laps / suspension

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

1st) Chevrolet (5)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (1)


Thursday, April 8, 2021

PREVIEW: At Martinsville, Jaskol and Gorham set for NASCAR debuts, but MBM's Cup team conspicuously absent

Matt Jaskol's paint scheme for Friday's XFINITY race.
PHOTO: Matt Jaskol Facebook Page, scheme by SMD

Friday, April 9, 2021 
XFINITY Race 7 of 33
Cook Out 250 at Martinsville
1994 Last-Place Finisher (March): Kevin Lepage

There are 43 drivers entered for 40 spots in Friday’s first spring race at Martinsville for the XFINITY Series since 1994, but without qualifying, it’s the same three teams once again out of the field – Jordan Anderson’s #31, Bassett Racing’s #77, and the now-replaced second Our Motorsports entry, the #03.

DRIVER CHANGE: #13-Motorsports Business Management
Following the trend of multi-sport athletes entering NASCAR, such as Big Machine’s driver Jade Buford, Carl Long’s team has welcomed Matt Jaskol to make his first-ever start in NASCAR’s top three series. Like Buford, Jaskol is no stranger to racing, having spent two decades as both racer and instructor. He made five Indy Lights starts in 2007, taking a pair of 7th-place finishes at Indianapolis and Sonoma. Jaskol takes the place of Chad Finchum, who isn’t entered after brake issues left him 39th in Atlanta. Auto Parts 4 Less is the listed sponsor.

DRIVER CHANGE: #17-Rick Ware Racing / SS-Green Light Racing
When the XFINITY Series returned to Martinsville last fall, J.J. Yeley enjoyed a spirited run in one of Rick Ware’s old Mustangs, leading five laps and finishing in 11th. On Friday, he takes the place of teammate Cody Ware, who ran 23rd his last time out in Atlanta.

DRIVER CHANGE: #26-Sam Hunt Racing
Santino Ferrucci finished 15th back in Atlanta, already his third-straight top-15 finish in just his fourth series start. Ferrucci’s run will remain part-time, however, as teammate Brandon Gdovic returns to the #26 or the first time since his own strong 8th-place finish in this year’s Daytona opener. SnapMobile Shop is the listed sponsor for Gdovic’s Toyota.

DRIVER CHANGE: #54-Joe Gibbs Racing
Martinsville will also see the return of Daytona Road Course winner Ty Gibbs for the first time since his equally strong runner-up finish to Austin Cindric at Phoenix. He takes the place of Martin Truex, Jr., who dominated the Atlanta race, only to lose to series regular Justin Allgaier. Neither Truex, nor any other Cup regular, is entered in Friday’s race.

Joining Matt Jaskol in making his NASCAR debut is George Gorham, Jr. The Florida native will make his first start at Martinsville, but is no stranger to short tracks as a standout in late model and street stock competition. While originally unsponsored when the deal was announced, Blackburn’s BBQ has followed him over from his familiar black #03 with additional backing from Francisco’s. He takes the place of Dexter Bean, who isn’t entered after a 35th-place finish with the team in Atlanta.

DRIVER CHANGE: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Stefan Parsons will make his 20th career XFINITY start on Friday with Sokal Digital rejoining as sponsor of his #99, just as it had in his most recent start at Phoenix, where he ran 18th. He takes the place of Mason Massey, who ran 32nd in Atlanta. With the same team, Parsons finished 24th in last fall’s XFINITY race at Martinsville.


Saturday, April 10, 2021
CUP Race 8 of 36
Blue Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville
2020 Last-Place Finisher (June): Timmy Hill

There are 37 drivers entered for 40 spots, marking not only the sixth short field in eight races this season, but the shortest Cup field at Martinsville since this race two years ago, when 36 took the green flag.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Rick Ware Racing
This week, James Davison tweeted that he may not be running this year’s Indianapolis 500, but has “found a home in NASCAR.” He returns to competition on Saturday in place of Chris Windom, whose sick engine on the Bristol dirt left him a disappointing 33rd. Davison made his first Cup start at Martinsville last fall, when he ran 36th in Rick Ware’s #53.

MISSING: #66-Motorsports Business Management
NASCAR’s controversial Charter System is entirely to blame for the lack of the #66 Toyota on this week’s entry list, two weeks after Mike Marlar’s 31st-place run on the dirt in Bristol. With his driver, Timmy Hill, the breakout star of last season’s iRacing Pro Invitational Series, team owner Carl Long had counted on Hill being invited back this year to give his team more exposure to sponsors. When Hill was snubbed because MBM didn’t hold a Charter – a requirement which wasn’t in place last season – Long indicated his team would have to scale back to a part-time schedule. Even after the #LetTimmyRace effort got Hill into the race (where he finished 8th), he had to run the Chartered Penske Racing #2 in place of MBM’s #66, still keeping the team out of the televised event. Plans for MBM’s remaining Cup schedule are still to be determined as the Charter System continues to suffocate “open” teams.

DRIVER CHANGE: #77-Spire Motorsports
Following Stewart Friesen’s 23rd-place finish in his Cup debut on the dirt in Bristol, Justin Haley returns to the #77 for the first time since Atlanta, were he ran 30th. Haley’s season-best remains a pair of 24th-place finishes on the Daytona Road Course and at Phoenix. This will be his first Cup start at Martinsville. Diamond Creek Water is the listed sponsor.

DRIVER CHANGE: #78-Live Fast Motorsports
After Shane Golobic’s Cup debut ended in the big backstretch pileup on the dirt at Bristol, B.J. McLeod returns to the #78 this week with former Go FAS Racing sponsor Keen Parts on the hood of his #78 Ford.

MISSING: #96-Gaunt Brothers Racing
Not making the trip to the short track are the Gaunt Brothers with Ty Dillon, who finished 26th despite heavy damage on the Bristol Dirt Track.

Saturday, April 17, 2021
TRUCKS Race 6 of 23
Toyota Care 250 at Richmond
2020 Last-Place Finisher (September): Jennifer Jo Cobb

The Truck Series returns next week in Richmond for their first-ever spring race.

LASTCAR STAT OF THE WEEK (April 8, 2006): Carl Edwards picked up the first last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in the O’Reilly 300 at Texas when his #60 Henkel Ford, which started 42nd in the 43-car field, lost an engine after 75 laps. The finish, which came in Edwards’ 43rd series start, was one of only two in the series. The other occurred May 9, 2008 at Darlington after his pole-winning car was eliminated in a Lap 4 crash.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

PREVIEW: Short track action set to continue after NASCAR off-weekend

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

Saturday, April 10, 2021
CUP Race 8 of 36
Blue Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville
2020 Last-Place Finisher (June): Timmy Hill

Saturday, April 17, 2021
TRUCKS Race 6 of 23
Toyota Care 250 at Richmond
2020 Last-Place Finisher (September): Jennifer Jo Cobb

It’s no April Fools’ joke – all three of NASCAR’s top series will not be competing this weekend. The XFINITY and Cup Series return to action next week in Martinsville, where the XFINITY Series hosts its first spring race on the track since 1994. Both races are scheduled to be run under the lights, which made its debut last summer. The Truck Series will not return until the week after during Richmond weekend, and will host a spring race at the track for the first time.

LASTCAR STAT OF THE WEEK (April 1, 2006): Steve Park finished last for the 2nd time in his Truck Series career at the Kroger 250 at Martinsville when his #59 Harris Trucking Dodge crashed out in Turn 1 after 62 laps. The two-time Cup Series race winner made ten starts that year with James Harris’ team, but only once finished inside the Top Ten – a 10th at Mansfield on May 27.