Thursday, April 29, 2021

PREVIEW: While Kaulig and Gaunt aren't in Kansas Cup race after strong Talladega runs, B.J. McLeod will field a new car of his own

IMAGE: Todd Casteel Designs

Saturday, May 1, 2021
TRUCKS Race 7 of 22
Wise Power 200 at Kansas
2020 Last-Place Finishers (July): Kevin Donahue, Bryan Dauzat

There are 41 drivers entered for 40 spots in the Truck Series’ return on Saturday night, but with metric qualifying, the lineup has already been set, and Trey Hutchens’ #14 fails to qualify for their third straight attempt (see below).

DRIVER CHANGE: #3-Jordan Anderson Racing
After Howie DiSavino III struggled to a 34th-place finish in his series debut at Richmond, Jordan Anderson returns to his own #3 Chevrolet, this week sponsored by EasyCare and BG Services in addition to longtime backer Bommarito. Anderson finished 30th an 15th in last year’s double-header at Kansas.

DRIVER SWAP: #9-CR7 Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #98-ThorSport Racing
Kansas will also be the third time in 2021 that Christian Eckes will drive ThorSport’s #98, and the first since his 9th-place run with the team in Las Vegas. As at Vegas, Enfinger moves to CR7 Motorsports, taking the place of Codie Rohrbaugh in a Camping World sponsored #9 Chevrolet. Rohrbaugh finished 36th at Richmond after a crash while Enfinger ran 8th for ThorSport.

DID NOT QUALIFY: #14-Trey Hutchens Racing
As mentioned above, Trey Hutchens fails to qualify for the third time in 2021 and for the second race in a row.

DRIVER CHANGE: #32-Bret Holmes Racing
Bret Holmes’ team turned heads at Richmond, where Sam Mayer charged from last on the grid to finish a sterling 9th place. Holmes himself will take Mayer’s place this Saturday with Southern States Bank as sponsor.

DRIVER CHANGE: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
Jesse Iwuji, the fan vote for Talladega’s iRacing event, rejoins the Reaume Brothers team in the flagship #33. He takes the place of Alaska native Keith McGee, who ran 30th with the team in Richmond.

DRIVER CHANGE: #34-Reaume Brothers Racing
C.J. McLaughlin will make only the second Truck Series start of his career this Saturday, and his first since Iowa on June 16, 2019, when he finished 23rd in Reaume’s #33 entry. This time around, he replaces Reaume in the #34, and will again be sponsored by his XFINITY backer Sci Aps.

DRIVER CHANGE: #44-Niece Motorsports
The first of three Cup regulars in Saturday’s race is Chip Ganassi Racing’s Ross Chastain, who will make just his second start of the year and first since Atlanta, when he ran 7th in a Terry Labonte “throwback” scheme. This time, he takes the place of newcomer Jett Noland, who ran 26th in his second career start at Richmond.

DRIVER CHANGE: #45-Niece Motorsports
After a rough start to the 2021 season with limited sponsorship, Brett Moffitt has elected to switch to XFINITY Series points with his current full-time ride in Our Motorsports’ #02 Chevrolet. As Moffitt’s points reset heading into next Saturday’s Darlington race, Bayley Currey will take his place in the Sharky’s Pub & Grub Chevrolet. Currey, currently full-time in the XFINITY Series for Mike Harmon Racing, makes his first Truck start since Talladega last fall, where he ran 15th in Niece’s #40.

DRIVER CHANGE: #04-Roper Racing
Along with Ross Chastain and a returning Kyle Busch comes Cup rookie Chase Briscoe, back in Cory Roper’s #04 for the first time since the Bristol Dirt Race, where he ran a strong 5th. Briscoe will carry sponsorship from Trick Shot, which previously backed some Cup races for Rick Ware Racing. Roper ran 31st last time out at Richmond.

CUP INVADERS: #44-Ross Chastain, #51-Kyle Busch, #04-Chase Briscoe

Sunday, May 2, 2021
CUP Race 11 of 36
Buschy McBusch Race 400 at Kansas
2020 Last-Place Finisher (July): Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.

There are 39 drivers entered for 40 spots, which marks the seventh short field in 11 Cup races so far this season.

DRIVER SWAP: #15-Rick Ware Racing
Joey Gase’s run in the Davey Allison “throwback” #28 was a one-off in Talladega as the third Rick Ware entry returns to its familiar #53 this week. As Gase takes J.J. Yeley's place in the #15 with Branson, Missouri as sponsor, Garrett Smithley takes Gase’s place, set to make his sixth start of the year and first since Richmond. Smithley’s season-best stands at 27th, which he earned on the Daytona Road Course.

MISSING: #16-Kaulig Racing
Kaz Grala not entered after a career-best 6th-place finish in just his third Cup start. However, Matthew Kaulig has since announced he will field a full-time Cup entry in 2022. While no driver has yet been selected, Grala is likely in the conversation.

RETURNING: #33-Penske Racing
With the XFINITY Series off for the week, Austin Cindric will continue his partial schedule with Penske Racing, this time with Money Lion as sponsor of his #33 Ford. Cindric’s fourth Cup start will come at a track where he has yet to win in the XFINITY Series, but last July finished runner-up to Brandon Jones after leading 131 laps.

RETURNING / NUMBER CHANGE: #55-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
A surprising addition to the grid this week is the Cup return of B.J. McLeod Motorsports – apparently separate from McLeod’s co-ownership of Live Fast Motorsports – which will afford XFINITY regular Matt Mills his Cup debut. Mills’ gray Ford will carry sponsorship from his XFINITY backer J.F. Electric along with Siebert Electric. To date, Mills has 79 XFINITY starts and 11 in Trucks. His lone Top Ten came in the summer Daytona race in 2019, when he ran 10th for McLeod on the XFINITY side.

MISSING: #96-Gaunt Brothers Racing
Harrison Burton very nearly had a top-ten finish in his Cup debut last week at Talladega, only to slip to 20th in the final moments. As Burton prepares for the XFINITY race at Darlington, the Gaunt Brothers have not entered a car this weekend.

Saturday, May 8, 2021
XFINITY Race 9 of 33
Steakhouse Elite 200 at Darlington
2020 Last-Place Finisher: Stephen Leicht

The XFINITY Series takes the week off this time and returns in Darlington as part of “Throwback Weekend.”

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (April 29, 2006): Robert Richardson, Jr. picked up the 1st last-place finish of his Truck Series career in the Missouri-Illinois Dodge Dealers Ram Tough 200 at Gateway when his #1 Chevrolet was involved in a crash after 47 laps. This was the first last-place finish for the #1 in the series since March 20, 1999, when Dennis Setzer scored his own first last-place run in Homestead.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

ARCA: Brad Smith scores a rare mechanical last-place at Talladega

PHOTO: @StartAndParkCar

Brad Smith finished last for the 16th time in his ARCA Menards Series career in Saturday’s General Tire 200 at Talladega Superspeedway when his #48 Henshaw Automation Chevrolet fell out with mechanical issues after completing 51 of the race’s 76 laps.

The finish came in Smith’s 368th series start and was his first since Nashville in 2019, 38 races ago.

After soldiering through a 2019 season that included two last-place finishes and 14 bottom-five finishes, 2020 was smoother and a tad more successful for the crew of the #48 car. There were no last-place finishes this time, and while the pandemic hampered the efforts of some teams, the 48 remained a nearly full-time team. In fact, the only race they missed was Phoenix, the race before the pandemic began. Smith even scored his first career top-ten at Winchester, a beacon of hope for underdogs across motorsports. The finish also brought renewed interest from sponsors, including Parker Kligerman, although it is unclear if Kligerman’s backing (or funding from any other new sponsors) made it to the team. Lingering retina problems sidelined Brad for the Daytona race at the start of 2021, but he was back behind the wheel at Phoenix to begin his season.

A total of 29 cars took the track on Saturday, an increase from the 21 that graced the high banks of Talladega last year. Among those who did not return from Daytona included last-place finisher Brittney Zamora, longtime plate racer Willie Mullins, Florida native Scott Reeves, and Derek Griffith, who last time was behind the wheel of a fourth Venturini Motorsports entry. Empire Racing also skipped the second plate race entirely, citing a lack of sponsorship. Of the remaining teams on the entry list, Benny Chastain returned for a second go-around with the Dawson Cram team, and New York racer Andy Jankowiak found sponsorship to give superspeedway racing another go. There was one driver debut and one team debut: Ryan Huff, who ran a number of races for Fast Track Racing last year, entered for the first time in his family’s #36 entry. Motorsports veteran Michael Harper also made his ARCA competition debut in Fast Track’s #01 car after testing at Daytona in January.

In a weird twist of scheduling, there was no qualifying on the docket for Friday, and practice on Saturday was washed out. This left no on-track activity before the race, and while all drivers in the field have been approved by ARCA to run, things had the potential to get a little messy at the start of the race. With no owner points to speak of, Ryan Huff was the last car listed on the starting lineup.

The first Last Change occurred relatively early on, as Richard Garvie slipped to 29th dealing with repairs from contact made with Gracie Trotter and Dave Mader III within the first ten laps of the race. Garvie held the position until about 13 laps to go, when Garvie, continuing on track, passed the retired effort of Smith, who had gone to the garage due to mechanical problems.

Smith did not elaborate on his problems besides that it was in the left-front area of the car. The next three spots were filled by John Ferrier, Ty Gibbs and Greg Van Alst, all eliminated when Nick Sanchez bump-drafted Van Alst into a spin in the tri-oval. Richard Garvie rounded out the Bottom Five, twelve laps down but running after he made early contact with the Gracie Trotter machine.

Mader made a late charge for the lead coming down the final front straightaway and wound up second, the first ARCA top-five for the underdog since July 27, 1991 - a race also held at Talladega.

LASTCAR would like to remember James Harvey Hylton and his son "Tweet" Hylton on the third anniversary of their passing, April 28. We also send our best wishes to ARCA competitor Derrick Lancaster, hospitalized as of press time after a fiery crash in the closing stages of Saturday’s race.

29) #48-Brad Smith / 51 laps / mechanical
28) #44-John Ferrier / 61 laps / crash
27) #18-Ty Gibbs / 61 laps / crash
26) #35-Greg Van Alst / 61 laps / crash
25) #11-Richard Garvie / 64 laps / running

1st) Brad Smith Motorsports, Rette Jones Racing, Young’s Motorsports

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


Sunday, April 25, 2021

CUP: Blocked radiator eliminates Kyle Larson early in Talladega


Kyle Larson picked up the 8th last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s GEICO 500 at the Talladega Superspeedway when his #5 Chevrolet lost the engine after 3 of 191 laps.

The finish, which came in Larson’s 233rd series start, was his first of the season and first in Cup since November 17, 2019 at Homestead, 46 races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 21st for the #5, the 702nd from engine trouble, and the 804th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 34th for the #5, the 1,099th from engine problems, and the 1,776th from Chevrolet.

Larson’s return to the Cup Series has also been a throwback of sorts for Hendrick Motorsports, who brought back the iconic #5, the team’s founding entry. Similar to 1984, when Geoffrey Bodine’s win at Martinsville saved the team from closing, Larson has run with limited backing in 2021. Talladega marked the sixth time in ten races that logos for Hendrick’s own dealerships adorned his Chevrolet. The blue-and-white scheme was itself a “throwback” to the XFINITY and Truck Series entries run by Ricky Hendrick and Brian Vickers. The first time the scheme ran in Cup was this year at Las Vegas, where Larson scored his first Cup win since 2019. He very nearly took the checkers again at Atlanta, leading 269 of 325 laps before Ryan Blaney completed a late-race pass.  

Coming into Talladega, Larson sat sixth in the series standings and would line up 12th on the grid. In twelve previous starts, he’d finished inside the Top Ten only twice, and hadn’t run better than 11th since 2016. Three of his previous four cup starts there ended in crashes, including a last-place run in 2018 and a 39th out of 40 – ahead of Spencer Boyd – in the fall of 2019.

Rolling off 40th was Timmy Hill, who after the Motorsports Business Management team wasn’t entered in back-to-back Cup races was set to run double-duty in Talladega. Hill’s #66 Supreme Transportation Toyota would be joined at the rear by 33rd-place Cody Ware, whose #51 Nurtec ODT Chevrolet had multiple inspection failures, and 31st-place B.J. McLeod for unapproved adjustments on his gold-and-white Red Farmer “throwback” scheme by David Marrero, the #78 Long-Lewis Automotive Group Ford.

In addition, six of the seven Toyota teams – excluding only 9th-place Kyle Busch in the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota – dropped to the rear for unapproved adjustments on pit road relating to their a-posts. Of these Toyotas, Harrison Burton, making his Cup debut in the Gaunt Brothers’ #96 Dex Imaging Toyota, was ultimately the last car to cross the stripe when the green flag dropped, 3.531 seconds back of the lead.

PHOTO: @RandomNascar

Burton remained in last at the end of Lap 1, but by the start of Lap 3, Larson pulled to the high lane and dropped off the pace. Larson reported his water temperature had spiked, and made an unscheduled green-flag stop. As the crew looked under the hood, they discovered a protective panel had been left on the radiator after the team unloaded, causing the temperature to climb to over 300 degrees. The panel was removed, but when Larson returned to the track on Lap 5, three laps down, his car was still off the pace. On Lap 7, Larson reported his car slowed down, and he said his car stopped running as he came to pit road. With smoke trailing from behind his car, Larson came to his pit stall a second time, then was pushed to the garage. NASCAR Officials declared him out of the race on Lap 24.

Finishing 39th was Joey Logano, who walked away from a frightening wreck on Lap 60. While battling for the lead at the end of Stage 1, Logano’s #22 Autotrader Ford was turned sideways and caught air, tumbling to the stop on the apron. Alex Bowman, last week’s Richmond winner, whose #48 Ally Chevrolet made it 123 laps before he was eliminated by the Damaged Vehicle Policy following a spin with teammates William Byron and Chase Elliott through the infield grass. Quin Houff suffered damage entering pit road, then wrecked his #00 Permatex Chevrolet on Lap 172 following a right-front tire failure. Rounding out the Bottom Five was Josh Bilicki, who ended up 11 laps down in Rick Ware Racing’s #52 Jacob Companies Ford.

Making only his third Cup start, and only the fourth in the series for Kaulig Racing, Kaz Grala charged from 38th on the grid to finish an impressive 6th in the #16 Hyperice Chevrolet. His was one of a number of impressive runs by underfunded efforts, including Ryan Preece, whose #37 Kroger / Reese’s Chevrolet led nine laps and was in the Top Five for much of the day before finishing 14th, J.J. Yeley, who got the #15 Arrowhead Brass Chevrolet up to 10th briefly in the final stage, and Harrison Burton, who battled into the Top Ten in the final laps before finishing 20th in his Cup debut.

*This marked Larson’s second last-place finish in a Cup race at Talladega, and first since April 29, 2018, when he crashed out after 71 laps of this same spring race.
*This was the first last-place run for the #5 since October 11, 2015, when Kasey Kahne – driving another throwback paint scheme, this time honoring Geoffrey Bodine’s 1984 car – was eliminated in a crash after 58 laps of the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte. The number last finished in the back in a Cup race at Talladega on April 26, 2009, when Mark Martin’s Carquest / Kellogg’s Chevrolet was collected in a multi-car crash after 6 laps of the Aaron’s 499.

40) #5-Kyle Larson / 3 laps / engine
39) #22-Joey Logano / 59 laps / crash / led 10 laps
38) #48-Alex Bowman / 123 laps / dvp
37) #00-Quin Houff / 168 laps / crash
36) #52-Josh Bilicki / 180 laps / running

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

1st) Chevrolet (6)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (2)


Saturday, April 24, 2021

XFINITY: Bayley Currey overheats in rain-shortened Talladega sprint

PHOTO: @RandomNascar

Bayley Currey picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Ag-Pro 300 at the Talladega Superspeedway when his #74 Children's National Chevrolet fell out with overheating problems after 34 of 90 laps.

The finish, which came in Currey’s 58th series start, was his first of the season and first in the series since August 8, 2020 at Road America, 23 races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 12th for the #74, the 36th for overheating, and the 567th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 52nd for the #74, the 178th for overheating, and the 1,775th for Chevrolet.

Since he was last featured here, Currey and his teammate Kyle Weatherman at Mike Harmon Racing have continued to shown flashes of brilliance. One week after his last-place run at Road America, Currey rebounded to finish 14th on the Daytona Infield Road Course, where the two teammates were on the front row for a late restart, then took 12th in the fall race at Texas. Just last month at Phoenix, Currey ran even better, returning to the site of his lone DNQ in 2020 to finish a career-best 7th – his first top-ten run in the series. This also happened to be the second of three races where Currey ran a bright yellow paint scheme with sponsorship from the Lerner & Rowe law firm, just one measure of MHR’s improving fortunes with sponsorship.

For Talladega, Bret Baier of FOX News got the Children’s National Hospital Foundation in touch with MHR for a special paint scheme. The black, red, and, white Chevrolet would carry the hospital’s logo on the hood, a donation the link on the sides, and several multi-colored handprints reminiscent of many of Joey Gase’s paint schemes promoting organ donation. The Currey car would roll off 25th on the starting grid.

Taking 40th and last was Jason White, back in the XFINITY Series for the first time since Daytona. In place of the former RSS Racing / Reaume Brothers Racing #23 in February, White’s pink-and-blue A-Game Ford was renumbered to the #13 under Carl Long’s Motorsports Business Management team. While no drivers were penalized to start in the rear, by the one to go signal, four cars were behind him in the outside line, including the three B.J. McLeod Motorsports entries: 31st-place Mason Massey in the #99 Special Olympics Georgia Toyota, 34th-place Jesse Little in the #78 Skuttle Tight Chevrolet, and 36th-place Matt Mills in the #5 J.F. Electric Chevrolet. While ranked ahead of his two teammates, it was Massey who lined up last in the outside line behind Little and Mills.

Just 39 drivers took the green, however, as FOX reported Joey Gase had pulled behind the wall with mechanical issues. Gase’s latest organ donation paint scheme was also a “throwback” paint scheme to the #28 Havoline Ford, specifically the version Davey Allison, himself an organ donor, raced from 1991 until his tragic death in 1993. Unfortunately, Gase’s #28 Ford lost fuel pressure and couldn’t get re-fired. It wasn’t until Lap 5 that he returned to action, the only driver off the lead lap.

Joey Gase in his Davey Allison throwback
PHOTO: @RandomNascar

Despite a lingering threat of rain, the early stages of the race had few crashes and even fewer cars pull behind the wall for mechanical issues. Gase got two of his laps back when Stages 1 and 2 ended without incident. He was still running in 40th until around Lap 35, when Currey reported his car was overheating with temperatures over 280 degrees. Currey pulled behind the wall, and Gase dropped him to last by Lap 41. Jason White, the last-place starter, joined him in the garage early in Stage 3 when a reported tire going down turned out to be a left-front suspension issue. Gse would ultimately climb past him as well, and despite late-race contact with the inside wall finished in 36th place. Between Gase and White were Caesar Bacarella in the #90 AP Sports Regiment / Maxim Chevrolet and Brandon Jones in the #19 Menards / Tuscany Faucets Toyota, both collected in the day’s only wreck on Lap 85.

The Lap 85 wreck signaled the end of a surprisingly strong run for Joe Graf, Jr., who finished last in both XFINITY races at Daytona just last year. Graf entered the Top 10 on Lap 59, climbing up to 8th. He was still in the Top 15 when a possible cut tire caused him to slide up the track off Turn 2, triggering a seven-car accident. Graf’s team managed to get him back on the track to finish in 33rd before rain cut short the event at 90 laps.

Just before the red flag, other underdogs had positioned themselves for strong runs, and would ultimately leave with their cars intact. Both Tommy Joe Martins in the #44 AAN Adjusters Chevrolet and Timmy Hill in the #66 Auto Parts 4 Less Toyota were running around the 18th spot for most of the race, and had climbed to 11th and 13th, respectively, when rain cut the race 23 laps short. Colin Garrett in the #26 11/11 Project Toyota finished 15th for Sam Hunt Racing, just one spot short of a career-best. David Starr, Timmy Hill’s teammate at MBM, finished a season-best 16th in the #61 Whataburger Toyota. Jade Buford, who NASCAR denied a run in Daytona for the Big Machine team, finished 18th in his first Talladega start in the #48 Big Machine Spiked Coolers Chevrolet. Rounding out the Top 20 were JD Motorsports teammates Colby Howard and Landon Cassill, who started 37th and 32nd, respectively.

40) #74-Bayley Currey / 34 laps / overheating
39) #13-Jason White / 51 laps / suspension / led 1 lap
38) #90-Caesar Bacarella / 84 laps / dvp
37) #19-Brandon Jones / 84 laps / crash
36) #28-Joey Gase / 85 laps / running

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

1st) Chevrolet (6)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (1)


Thursday, April 22, 2021

PREVIEW: Unexpected throwback schemes have “The Alabama Gang” set to ride again at Talladega

IMAGE: @JoeyGaseRacing

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

There are 43 drivers entered for 40 spots, including the same three teams that have been on the wrong side of the cut line since the rain fell in Daytona – Jordan Anderson Racing’s #31, the Bassett brothers’ #77, and the original second Our Motorsports #03 entry.

DRIVER CHANGE: #13-Motorsports Business Management
Jason White will run the familiar looking pink-and-blue A-Game paint scheme from his return to XFINITY competition this past February in Daytona, where he came home a strong 10th. Since his former ride - the RSS Racing #23 shared with Reaume Brothers Racing – has since been acquired by Our Motorsports, White will instead run for Motorsports Business Management. White takes the place of Matt Jaskol, who ran 28th in his series debut with MBM at Martinsville.

DRIVER CHANGE: #23-Our Motorsports / Reaume Brothers Racing
When Our Motorsports acquired the aforementioned #23 team, Reaume Brothers Racing has apparently maintained their existing portion of the schedule for Natalie Decker, who on Saturday returns to the ride for the first time since her last-place finish on the Daytona Road Course. Decker takes the place of Blaine Perkins, who finished 35th in his most recent start at Martinsville. Red Street Records returns as sponsor.

DRIVER CHANGE: #26-Sam Hunt Racing
Colin Garrett makes his first XFINITY start of the season and first since Kansas last year, when he ran 16th. His only DNF of the 2020 season came at this Talladega crash, where his Sam Hunt Racing entry was destroyed in a crash. Garrett takes the place of Brandon Gdovic, SHR’s 8th-place finisher in this year’s Daytona opener, who finished a solid 17th at Martinsville. The 11/11 Project sponsors Garrett’s ride.

Rick Ware Racing unveiled a poignant tribute to the late Davey Allison, who lost his life in a helicopter crash at the Talladega track in 1993. Both Ware’s #17 XFINITY team and #53 Cup team have been renumbered to the #28, the Fords each decorated to resemble Allison’s iconic Havoline Ford at Robert Yates Racing. Taking the place of J.J. Yeley in the XFINITY car is Joey Gase, whose cars will both carry the phrase “Register Me” in connection with Gase’s continued commitment to the cause of organ donation. Allison was himself an organ donor, and after his death saved others, including one of his fans. NASCAR Race Hub produced this short documentary on the subject in 2018.

DRIVER CHANGE: #54-Joe Gibbs Racing
Ty Dillon returns to the driver’s seat for the first time since Las Vegas in Joe Gibbs Racing’s #54 Toyota, this week sponsored by Mobil 1. Dillon, who is a past stage race winner on the Cup side at Tallaega, takes the place of Ty Gibbs, who ran 4th at Martinsville and led 28 laps. This will mark Dillon’s sixth XFINITY start at Talladega and his first since 2017, when he finished 14th for Richard Childress Racing.

Caesar Bacarella continues his superspeedway stint for Mario Gosselin in the #90 Chevrolet, this week sponsored by AP Sports Regimen and Maxim. Bacarella returns to the series for the first time since his career-best 12th-place run in this year’s Daytona opener. He takes the place of George Gorham, Jr., who ran a solid 18th in his first NASCAR start in Martinsville.

DRIVER CHANGE: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Mason Massey will take his turn in the #99 entry for just the second time this season and first since Atlanta, when he ran 32nd. Taking the place of Stefan Parsons, who ran 20th at Martinsville, Massey carries logos for Special Olympics Georgia.

Sunday, April 25, 2021
CUP Race 10 of 36
GEICO 500 at Talladega
2020 Last-Place Finisher (June): Matt Kenseth

There are 40 drivers entered for as many spots, marking just the third full field in 2021 and first since the Daytona Road Course, eight races ago.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Rick Ware Racing
Jennifer Jo Cobb’s previously announced Cup debut with Rick Ware Racing has been postponed for now after NASCAR declined her eligibility. She was originally set to take the place of James Davison, who ran 33rd at Richmond, with sponsorship from Arrowhead Brass. Taking her place will be J.J. Yeley, who was out of his XFINITY ride at RWR this week to make way for Joey Gase’s “double-duty” weekend. Yeley most recently ran a Cup race here in this event last June, when he ran 36th in Ware’s #53.

RETURNING: #16-Kaulig Racing
Matthew Kaulig’s Cup team is back in action for the first time since this year’s Daytona 500, where a fire in the rear of the #16 Hyper Ice Chevrolet resulted in a 28th-place finish. Kaz Grala will again drive with the same sponsor, and hopes for a better finish in his third series start. Grala’s most recent Talladega start came in the Truck Series race last fall, when he finished 9th for Niece Motorsports.

As with XFINITY, Joey Gase takes the place of Richmond’s 35th-place finisher Garrett Smithley in the #53, which is now renumbered as the #28 in a matching Davey Allison tribute car.

MISSING: #33-Penske Racing
Austin Cindric contended for the win in February’s Daytona 500, but he and his fourth Penske Racing entry are not entered after his 28th-place finish at Richmond. Cindric will instead focus on the XFINITY side, where he starts Saturday’s race on pole.

PAINT SCHEME: #43-Richard Petty Motorsports
Erik Jones runs the same Tuskegee Airmen paint scheme which David Marrero designed for the debut of Rick Ware Racing’s #53 team in May 2019. Last year, during his final season with Joe Gibbs Racing, Jones finished 5th and 2nd in the two Talladega races.

RETURNING: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Timmy Hill made his triumphant return to the iRacing Pro Invitational Series on Wednesday, and this time was allowed to run MBM’s #66 Toyota. He came home a strong 4th. This Sunday, he’ll run in the main event after the team was missing in action at both Martinsville and Richmond. Supreme Transportation is the listed sponsor for Hill’s first Cup start sine Atlanta, where he ran 36th.

PAINT SCHEME: #78-Live Fast Motorsports
To go with Gase’s Davey Allison car, B.J. McLeod will run a Red Farmer throwback on his #78 Ford. Sponsoring McLeod’s entry is Long-Lewis Ford Lincoln, the Alabama-based car dealership which backed Farmer’s original entry. Sunday will mark the first time Long-Lewis sponsored a Cup car since August 17, 1975, when Farmer finished 44th in a field of 50.

RETURNING: #96-Gaunt Brothers Racing
While Jennifer Jo Cobb’s Cup debut was moved off Sunday’s Talladega race, Harrison Burton will make his own Cup debut in the Gaunt Brothers’ #96, which is back in the field for the first time since Ty Dillon’s 26th-place run in the Bristol Dirt Race. Harrison brings his familiar Dex Imaging sponsorship which carried him to his first four XFINITY Series victories last year. His father Jeff Burton made 40 Talladega starts in the Cup Series and led 158 laps, but never won. He came closest in the fall of 2011, when then-teammate Clint Bowyer edged him off the final corner.

Saturday, May 1, 2021
TRUCKS Race 7 of 22
Kansas 200 at Kansas
2020 Last-Place Finishers (July, 2 Races): Kevin Donahue, Bryan Dauzat

The Truck Series takes the week off after Richmond and will return in Kansas. They will compete in one race in place of last year’s two, and the event will be held under the lights.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (April 22, 2001): Chad Knaus was atop the pit box when his driver, Stacy Compton, won the pole for the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega in Melling Racing’s #92 Kodiak Dodge. On this day – the day of the race itself – Compton led the opening two laps, but dropped out with engine trouble after 116 laps of the caution-free event. His was one of only three DNFs in the 43-car field.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

CUP: Justin Haley completes fewest laps of a Cup race at Richmond since 1994

PHOTO: @SpireMotorsport

Justin Haley picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 at the Richmond Raceway when his #77 Diamond Creek Water Chevrolet fell out with engine problems after 1 of the race’s 400 laps.

The finish came in Haley’s 12th series start. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 35th for the #77, the 701st from engine trouble, and the 803rd for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 48th for he #77, the 1098th from engine trouble, and the 1,774th for Chevrolet.

Despite his upset win at Daytona in 2019, Haley has remained an infrequent competitor in the Cup Series. Last year, he made just three Cup starts, finishing 13th in the Daytona 500, 14th in his first All-Star Race at Bristol, then 11th in the Playoff race at Talladega. The Daytona 500 run came with his current XFINITY team, Kaulig Racing, kicking off a strong season where he scored his first three XFINITY wins – all of them on superspeedways – and finishing 3rd in the series standings. The Cup race at Talladega came with Spire Motorsports’ #77 Chevrolet, the same organization he won with in 2019.

For 2021, Haley continues his full-time effort in the XFINITY Series with Kaulig, but has also committed to more Cup races with Spire. The Richmond race would mark his seventh start in nine races this year. He’d finished under power in all but one of those starts – last week in Martinsville, he was collected in the day’s biggest wreck and finished 35th. His best in the series so far remains a 24th at both the Daytona Road Course and at Phoenix. He’d start 34th in Sundays race, two spots ahead of teammate Corey LaJoie in the #7 Schluter Systems Chevrolet.

Starting 38th and last on the grid was Austin Cindric, back in the fourth Penske Racing entry for the first time since Atlanta. No drivers were sent to the rear for pre-race penalties, and when the race went green, Haley pulled ahead of 37th-place starter Garrett Smithley in the #53 Trophy Tractor Ford, 4.185 seconds back of the leader. 

On that same first lap, Haley’s car abruptly shut off, and he coasted down pit road. “Feels like no power at all,” he said as he completed the first lap. The team had selected Stall 22, the fourth stall past the start/finish line, which allowed him to complete the first lap by the time he reached it. The driver reported he “spiked the rpms,” and the crew put the car on jack stands as he continued to lose laps. With the car’s digital dash now shut off, the crew took the car off the stands and pushed it behind the wall on Lap 7, which NASCAR reported as a mechanical issue.

“I think it’s killed,” said Haley on Lap 18. “Like it just fuckin’ grenade the motor.” The driver also reported his car apparently came out of gear. By Lap 28, the crew gave two sets of their sticker tires to teammate Corey LaJoie. Work continued until around Lap 35, when the team posted on Twitter that they were done for the day “due to mechanical failure.” The official word from NASCAR came soon after, declaring him out with engine trouble.

Haley turned out to be the race’s only retiree as the rest of the field remained within 16 laps of race winner Alex Bowman. The next three spots belonged to three-fourths of Rick Ware Racing’s team: Josh Bilicki in the #52 Insurance King Ford, Cody Ware in the #51 Nurtec ODT Chevrolet, and Garrett Smithley in the #53 Trophy Tractor Ford. The fourth member, James Davison in the #15 Jacob Companies Chevrolet, edged Quin Houff in the final laps to drop the #00 Mount-N-Lock Chevrolet into the 34th spot.

*This marked the fewest laps a Cup Series driver has completed in a race at Richmond since March 6, 1994, when Dick Trickle’s #32 Mett’s Tours Chevrolet crashed out after 1 lap of the Pontiac Excitement 400. A Cup Series last-place finisher hasn’t failed to complete a lap at Richmond since September 13, 1981, when Mike Alexander’s #37 Rogers Auto Leasing Buick had wiring issues in the Wrangler Sanfor-Set 400.
*Haley now has three last-place finishes – one in each of NASCAR’s top three series. Sunday joined the October 31, 2015 Truck Series race at Martinsville and the August 15, 2020 XFINITY race on the Daytona Infield Road Course. He thus becomes the 37th driver to complete the LASTCAR Triple Crown:

38) #77-Justin Haley / 1 lap / engine
37) #52-Josh Bilicki / 384 laps / running
36) #51-Cody Ware / 385 laps / running
35) #53-Garrett Smithley / 389 laps / running
34) #00-Quin Houff / 390 laps / running

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

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


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.