Thursday, July 8, 2021

PREVIEW: All-star Knoxville inaugural and a noticeably absent Timmy Hill among weekend's storylines

Michael Annett honors his late father this Friday at Knoxville.
IMAGE: @youngsmtrsports

Friday, July 9, 2021 
TRUCKS Race 14 of 22
Corn Belt 150 Presented by Premier Chevy Dealers at Knoxville
2020 Last-Place Finisher: Inaugural Event

There will be 40 entrants in Friday’s first Truck race at the famed black clay oval in Knoxville, and despite the four qualifying heats preceding the race, all of them will make the field.

DRIVER CHANGE: #3-Jordan Anderson Racing
Two-time Canadian Nationals winner Parker Price-Miller is among the dirt track “ringers” joining the action this Friday, taking the wheel of Jordan Anderson’s #3 OTE / Townline Variety Chevrolet. In his most recent bid at the Knoxville Nationals in 2019, Price-Miller finished 16th in the 24-car A-Main. He takes the place of Howie DiSavino III, who ran 22nd in Pocono.

TEAM UPDATE: #6-Norm Benning Racing
During my interview with Norm Benning about his Kansas incident, Benning made clear he was looking forward to this weekend’s dirt track race at Knoxville, and would be “very disappointed if I didn’t get a Top Five.” Benning will run the same truck he used at Bristol, rebuilt after he was eliminated in an on-track tangle.

DRIVER SWAP: #9-CR7 Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #98-ThorSport Racing
Codie Rohrbaugh is back in his #9 for the first time since Darlington as brand new dad Grant Enfinger replaces Christian Eckes in ThorSport’s #98. Eckes finished 12th last time out in Pocono while Enfinger lost an engine in Rohrbaugh’s truck near the lead, leaving him 36th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #17-David Gilliland Racing
Making his NASCAR debut at the track where he won the Knoxville Nationals ten times, ten-time World of Outlaws Series champion Donny Schatz will take the place of Cup regular Ryan Preece in the #17 Ford with Little Giant Ford as sponsor.

DRIVER CHANGE: #20-Young's Motorsports
Update (July 8) - Spencer Boyd has announced that dirt track ace Kyle Strickler will drive in his place. Strickler finished 31st and 18th in the last two Eldora races.

MISSING: #28-FDNY Racing
Bryan Dauzat and Jim Rosenblum will not be tackling the dirt following a 34th-place showing in Pocono.

DRIVER CHANGE: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
Josh Reaume has enlisted the aid of another sprint car racer in Iowa native Devon Rouse, currently driver of the #18 ServiceMaster entry. Rouse had originally been scheduled to make his debut last year at Eldora before the event was cancelled during the pandemic, and sponsorship kept him out of the field earlier this year in Bristol. The #33 was still listed as “TBA” on the initial list before Rouse was added, his truck sponsored by Camping World.

DRIVER CHANGE: #34-Reaume Brothers Racing
Jake Griffin eyes his eighth Truck Series start and fourth in a row on the dirt, looking to improve on his 29th-place run in this spring’s Bristol Dirt Race. Griffin takes the place of Lawless Alan, who ran a solid 20th back at Pocono.

RETURNING: #37-AM Racing
For the first time since July 29, 2017 at Pocono, AM Racing and their development team Win-Tron Racing (owned by series veteran Kevin Cywinski) will enters a second truck, this time the #37 – with Cywinski as the listed owner. Brett Moffitt will make his seventh Truck start of the year and first since Richmond, when he declared for XFINITY points with Our Motorsports. Concrete Supply and Destiny Homes will sponsor his ride.

DRIVER CHANGE: #41-Cram Racing Enterprises
Cody Erickson makes his fifth series start and first since the Dirt Race at Bristol, where he ran 26th with this same Dawson Cram entry. Magnum Contracting will sponsor Erickson once more as he takes the place of Todd Peck, 29th in Pocono.

RETURNING: #44-Niece Motorsports
Veteran dirt racer Morgan Alexander has one ARCA Menards Series East start to his credit, finishing 12th of 16 starters at North Carolina’s 0.400-mile Southern National Motorsports Park. He makes the jump to the Truck Series in Al Niece’s returning #44, last seen in Darlington. Multiple sponsors adorn the Chevrolet, including Geneva Farms, Senoia Raceway, Sugar Creek Raceway, Alexander Produce, Booger Brooks Racing, and Performance Lift.

DRIVER CHANGE: #45-Niece Motorsports
Jett Noland’s third career start will come on the dirt, his first green flag in the series since a career-best 26th at Richmond. He takes the place of Bayley Currey, whose engine failure in the early laps at Pocono left him 37th. Hype Motorsports is the listed sponsor for the #45 Chevrolet.

DRIVER CHANGE: #49-CMI Motorsports
Andrew Gordon’s Truck Series debut in the Bristol Dirt Race gave Ray Ciccarelli his first start of the season and resulted in a 31st-place finish. He rejoins the #49 team in place of Ciccarelli himself, 23rd in Pocono. Staar Trucking is the listed sponsor.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Kyle Busch Motorsports
Five-time Knoxville track champion “Blackjack” Brian Brown makes his NASCAR debut in another high-powered entry, taking the place of Pocono runner-up Kyle Busch in the #51 Casey’s / Rowdy Energy Toyota. Brown boasts 52 career wins in 410 and 360 sprints, plus three consecutive runner-up finishes in the Knoxville Nationals from 2012 through 2014.

MISSING: #56-Hill Motorsports
Not among this week’s entrants is the Timmy and Tyler Hill effort, which up to this point had only missed the spring Atlanta race during the 2021 campaign and finished 24th with Tyler in Pocono. Mike Marlar took 28th with the team during this year’s Bristol Dirt Race.

RETURNING: #62-Halmar-Friesen Racing
After rain washed her out of the field with the cancellation of the heat races in Bristol, Jessica Friesen is back to make her series debut, racing against her husband Stewart in the second Halmar entry.

MISSING: #66-ThorSport Racing
Ty Majeski and the newest ThorSport entry are not among this week’s entries following their 14th-place finish in Pocono.

MISSING: #75-Henderson Motorsports
Parker Kligerman and Charlie Henderson are likewise not in Knoxville this week after they withdrew from Pocono.

DRIVER CHANGE: #02-Young’s Motorsports
XFINITY Series regular Michael Annett will make only his 10th Truck Series start and first since 2014 at Eldora, again tackling the dirt. This time, he takes place of 30th-place Pocono finisher Kris Wright in the #02 Chevrolet. The black #02 will be run in honor of Michael’s father Harrold Annett, who died after a brief illness in March. Harrold founded TMC Transportation in 1986 after turning around the Mickow Corporation Trucking Company, and was himself an accomplished racer. Harrold’s midget is on a logo on Michael’s rear deck, commemorating his 2007 induction into the Knoxville Raceway Hall of Fame.

Cup rookie Chase Briscoe will likewise be carrying names on his rear deck – each in conjunction with a promotion from sponsor Briscoe, who tied his season-best 6th from COTA in last week’s Road America race, returns to the Truck Series for the first time since Kansas, where he ran 19th. The Roper Racing team itself returns to the circuit for the first time since Nashville, where Cory Roper took 31st.

CUP INVADERS: #04-Chase Briscoe

Saturday, July 10, 2021 
XFINITY Race 18 of 33
Credit Karma Money 250 at Atlanta
2020 Last-Place Finisher: Inaugural Event

The XFINITY Series runs a second race at Atlanta for the first time on Saturday. There are 41 drives entered for 40 spots, meaning the #13 of Timmy Hill is on the wrong side of the cutline under metric qualifying (see below).

DRIVER CHANGE: #5-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Matt Mills returns to the McLeod team for the first time since his 23rd-place finish in Pocono. He takes the place of Andy Lally, who ran 13th in the Hendrick Motorsports “throwback” scheme at Road America.

DRIVER CHANGE: #6-JD Motorsports
Following a frustrating last-place finish for Spencer Pumpelly in Road America, Ryan Vargas is back behind the wheel of the #6 with MaintenX rejoining as sponsor.

DRIVER SWAP / DID NOT QUALIFY: #13-Motorsports Business Management
MISSING: #42-Motorsports Business Management
Two of Carl Long’s entries from Road America will not be among the starters on Saturday. The #42 driven to a 20th-place finish last week is not entered, and Timmy Hill was then moved to the #13 in place of 26th-place Stephen Leicht. But that #13 will end up the race’s lone DNQ under metric qualifying.

DRIVER CHANGE: #17-Rick Ware Racing / SS-Green Light Racing
Carson Ware takes over for brother Cody Ware in the #17, looking to improve on his 28th-place showing in his only start in the series in 2021 at Pocono. Cody finished 24th last week in Road America.

DRIVER CHANGE: #23-Our Motorsports
As Ty Dillon looks to add more races to his 2021 calendar, he rejoins Our Motorsports this week in place of 32nd-place finisher Natalie Decker. Ty’s most recent XFINITY start came at Charlotte with the same team, scoring his season-best 7th-place finish. Ty will not be racing Cup this week, however, as the Gaunt Brothers Racing team isn’t running on Sunday (see below).

DRIVER CHANGE: #26-Sam Hunt Racing
Santino Ferrucci is back from Pocono looking to continue his Top 15 streak. He takes the place of Kris Wright, who ran 25th last week in Road America. Pocono sponsor Manatawny Still Works returns as backer.

DRIVER CHANGE: #31-Jordan Anderson Racing
Following the dirt race with Rackley-W.A.R.’s #25 entry, Josh Berry will run in Atlanta for Jordan Anderson’s XFINITY team, taking the place of 18th-place Road America finisher Kaz Grala. and Easy Care are the listed sponsors of the #31 Chevrolet.

DRIVER CHANGE: #61-Motorsports Business Management
“Road ringer” Boris Said was unable to qualify last week in Road America, but David Starr will race on Saturday in his return to the #61 Whataburger Toyota.

DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
After a combined 11 series starts with B.J. McLeod and RSS Racing, C.J. McLaughlin will make his first XFINITY race for Carl Long’s MBM effort, this time taking the place of Road America DNQ Matt Jaskol in the #66 Toyota. McLaughlin brings with him sponsorship from frequent backer Sci Aps, plus SA Recycling.

DRIVER CHANGE: #78-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Jesse Little rejoins McLeod’s #78 team in place of Ryan Ellis, who was 30th in Road America. Little ran 29th his most recent time out in Pocono.

MISSING: #81-Joe Gibbs Racing
Ty Gibbs is not entered along with JGR’s expansion team, the #81, but Kyle Busch will continue to run the #54 with Extra Gum as sponsor.

Ronnie Bassett, Jr. will take another turn in Mario Gosselin’s #90 in a flat black Chevrolet with Butler Trailer Manufacturing Company n the hood. Bassett takes the place of Preston Pardus, who ran 16th with the team in Wisconsin.

DRIVER CHANGE: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Kevin Harvick ran an unsurprising 6th in McLeod’s #99 at Road America, and again focuses on the Cup side of the garage this week. Mason Massey rejoins the effort with Anderson Power Services as sponsor to compete at his home track for the third time. His best finish in three previous starts this year was a 27th in Talladega.

DRIVER CHANGE: #07-SS-Green Light Racing
Josh Bilicki eyed a possible top-ten finish in his last-minute ride at Road America, only for a late-race accident to leave him 29th. Joe Graf, Jr. returns to his familiar ride in the #07 with Z Grills as the listed sponsor. Graf ran 29th here in the spring.


Sunday, July 11, 2021
CUP Race 21 of 36
Quaker State 400 Presented by Walmart at Atlanta
1966 Last-Place Finisher (August): David Pearson

For the first time since 2010, the Cup Series will run a second race at Atlanta, and for the first time since August 7, 1966, that event is scheduled for 400 miles. The event also carries title sponsorship from Quaker State, which moves from the Kentucky event cut from this year’s calendar. There are 38 drivers entered, marking the 16th short field in 21 races in 2021.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Rick Ware Racing
Bayley Currey was a late-announced driver for the RWR #15 driven for much of the year by James Davison, who was 28th in Road America. For Currey, this will be his 12th series start ad first of the season. His only start in 2020 came at Bristol, where he ran 38th in the spring race, though he also relieved J.J. Yeley during the exhausting Daytona Infield Road Course event that summer.

MISSING: #16-Kaulig Racing
A.J. Allmendinger is not entered after his 29th-place showing in Road America, and will instead focus on the XFINITY Series side of the garage with Kaulig Racing.

MISSING: #33-Penske Racing
Likewise missing from Sunday’s field is Austin Cindric, who for the second-straight road course race looked poised for an upset win in the opening stage. This time, rear gear issues left him a disappointing 38th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #53-Rick Ware Racing
Garrett Smithley is back in RWR’s #53 entry for the first time since the Pocono double-header, where he ran 29th and 36th in the two events. He takes the pace of “road ringer” Ryan Eversley, who took the checkers in 39th during his NASCAR debut.

WITHDREW: #66-Motorsports Business Management
On top of his Truck team not in Knoxville and his XFINITY effort on the wrong side of the cut line, Timmy Hill will also not run Sunday’s Cup race as the MBM team has not brought that Toyota to the track.

DRIVER CHANGE: #78-Live Fast Motorsports
B.J. McLeod returns to his co-owned #78 Ford with former The Motorsports Group and Go FAS Racing sponsor Superior Logistics Services as sponsor. McLeod takes over for Kyle Tilley, whose second series start resulted in a 35th-place finish.

MISSING: #96-Gaunt Brothers Racing
Ty Dillon and the Gaunt Brothers are not entered after a 26th-place run in Road America. For this weekend at least, Dillon will instead focus on his XFINITY effort with Our Motorsports.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (July 8, 2001): Brian Weber scored the first last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in the GNC Live Well 200 at Watkins Glen when his #49 Rent-A-Wreck / Jay Robinson Pontiac lost an engine on the opening lap. This car was fielded by the same Jay Robinson whose Premium Motorsports team would make it to Cup in 2014, then ultimately merge with Rick Ware Racing. 

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