Tuesday, August 31, 2021

ARCA: Engine issues at Milwaukee derail South Africa's Arnout Kok in ARCA oval debut

ALL PHOTOS: Max Hazuka, @Slugger7_2451

by William Soquet
LASTCAR.info Staff Writer

Arnout Kok scored the first last-place finish of his ARCA Menards Series career in Sunday’s Sprecher 150 at the Milwaukee Mile when his #10 Brand South Africa / International Rhino Foundation Toyota did not start the race.

The finish came in Kok’s third series attempt.

A native of South Africa, Arnout Kok started his racing career in a way many American drivers do - piloting go-karts. From there, Kok rose through the single-seater ranks, driving Formulas Asia, Ford, Turkish, Junior and GTI. He later made his way to closed-fender cars, working through Legends cars before going to late models, and eventually won the 2017 European Late Model championship.

Kok on pit road with the hood up.

In 2018, Kok announced his United States racing debut with Obaika Racing in the then-NASCAR K&N Pro Series West at the Las Vegas Dirt Track. The effort was hailed as “Team Africa” by driver and team, and the described livery would shine bright with South African and Nigerian flags in honor of Kok and team owner Victor Obaika. Former Haas F1 sponsor Rich Energy was also listed as an associate sponsor in promotional materials. However, on the day of the race, an unnamed team that Kok and Obaika contracted with to procure a turnkey car did not fulfill the agreement, and the team withdrew. Despite indications of future plans for Kok, that announcement never came, and in less than a year, Obaika was out of NASCAR entirely. So was Kok, who did not compete in any national United States series for the next two years.

Enter Andy Hillenburg at Fast Track Racing, who this year brought Kok on board for the Mid-Ohio and Watkins Glen events on the ARCA schedule. Brand South Africa funded the first two efforts, and the International Rhino Foundation, based out of North Texas, hopped on board for Milwaukee.

Tony Cosentino in the Fast Track #11.

Since Milwaukee was a combination race with the ARCA Menards Series East, several drivers joined the series regulars. Sammy Smith, Joey Iest, Parker Retzlaff, Rajah Caruth, Max Gutierrez and Mason Diaz all are primarily running for East points this year. Sam Mayer returned to Bret Holmes Racing to find some magic, and Connor Mosack continued his part-time slate with Young’s Motorsports, perhaps in advance of some higher-level starts next year. Venturini Motorsports filled out its lineup with Jesse Love and Gracie Trotter, and Kok's teammates at Fast Track Racing were Tony Cosentino, Jason Miles and Stephanie Moyer. Independent drivers Eric Caudell and Ron Vandermeir Jr. rounded out the field, the latter coming off of an impressive run in his series debut at Elko.

All 24 entries participated in practice. The Joe Gibbs Racing tandem paced the field, rounded out by Brad Smith, whose lap of 34.8 seconds was about 5.3 seconds off of Sammy Smith’s fast time. In qualifying, three cars didn't take time: the Richmond-Clubb Motorsports entry of Alex Clubb, the Bruce Cook Racing entry of Parker Retzlaff, and the Kok's Fast Track Racing entry. Kok later said on social media that engine issues were to blame for the car’s demise, and that he never made it to the starting grid. Interestingly enough, photographs from Sunday indicate that the 10 machine had a nice stripe on it and spent time on pit road with the hood up during the day. Also, the co-primary sponsor was not Brand South Africa, but Polar Bear Coolers. Former Obaika Racing sponsor Space Grill also had a large decal on the quarter panel to compliment the Rhino Foundation on the hood.

Had the #10 car made the grid, the last-place finisher likely would have been Cosentino, who fell out with a vibration after completing eight laps. Smith and Caudell also fell out early with mechanical issues. No cars fell out of the race due to crash damage, although Stephanie Moyer rounded out the Bottom Five after an incident with Corey Heim. Heim punted Moyer coming off of turn two on lap 118, and although no ankles were broken and no concussions were suffered, it is again disappointing to see such reckless abandon coming from talented racecar drivers who should know better than that.

24) #10-Arnout Kok / did not start
23) #11-Tony Cosentino / 8 laps / vibration
22) #48-Brad Smith / 14 laps / handling
21) #7-Eric Caudell / 31 laps / radiator
20) #12-Stephanie Moyer / 139 laps / running

(NOTE: Standings have been corrected since last week’s article.)
1st) Chevrolet, Ford (6)
3rd) Toyota (4)

1st) Fast Track Racing (8)
2nd) Young’s Motorsports (2)
3rd) Bull Racing, Greg Van Alst Motorsports, Kimmel Racing, Rette Jones Racing, Smith Brothers Racing, Wayne Peterson Racing (1)


Saturday, August 28, 2021

CUP: Late-night disqualification wipes out strong runner-up finish for Chris Buescher; McLeod, Bilicki enjoy career-best runs


Chris Buescher picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Saturday’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 at the Daytona International Speedway when his #17 Fifth Third Bank Ford finished 2nd, but was disqualified after completing all 165 laps.

The finish, which came in Buescher’s 212th series start, was his first of the season and first in Cup since April 24, 2017 at Bristol, 162 races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 32nd for the #17, the 26th from disqualification, and the 711th for Ford. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 45th by disqualification, the 48th for the #17, and the 979th for Ford.

Michael McDowell picked up the 35th last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Saturday’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 at the Daytona International Speedway when his #34 CarParts.com Ford lost the engine after 23 of 165 laps.

The finish, which came in McDowell’s 383rd series start, was his first of the season and first in a Cup points race since June 28, 2020 at Pocono, 47 races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 36th for the #34, the 707th from engine trouble, and the 711th for Ford. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 50th for the #34, the 979th for Ford, and the 1,108th for an engine.

Since he was last featured on here more than four years ago, Buescher has become one of the sport’s most consistent – if unspectacular – mid-pack competitors in the Cup Series. Each year since his upset win at Pocono, he’s finished between 20th and 25th in points with only infrequent DNFs. The 2017 season was his first of three straight years running JTG-Daugherty Racing’s then-new second team, the #37 Chevrolet. His best runs in the car came during the two Daytona races in 2018, when he finished 5th both times.

The 2015 XFINITY Series Champion with Roush-Fenway Racing, the Ford team had kept Buescher in reserve until 2020, when he basically switched rides with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. Stenhouse ultimately ran JTG’s primary #47 while Buescher got the #17 Ford. The results have been much the same with his best runs coming on the Florida superspeedway – a 3rd in the 2020 Daytona 500, and even a 5th later that year on the Daytona Road Course.

This year, Buescher enjoyed one of his best runs at Homestead, where he led 57 laps and took the green-and-white checkers in Stage 1, ultimately taking home an 11th-place finish. This came in what has since become a season of change for the Roush-Fenway organization as Brad Keselowski has since been announced as both team partner and driver of the flagship #6 in 2022. Buescher’s team, meanwhile, had just this week announced a contract extension with sponsor Fifth Third Bank, which would adorn his car on Saturday. The car would start 13th.

Michael McDowell pulled 18th through metric qualifying in his #34 CarParts.com Ford, but on Saturday both he and teammate Anthony Alfredo in the #38 Speedy Cash Ford failed pre-race inspection due to the rear decklid assembly. Both had their crew chiefs ejected on race day. Alfredo’s penalty was made worse by a reported illegal body modification on pit road, which incurred him a pass-through penalty after taking the green flag. Also dropping to the rear for multiple inspection failures were polesitter Kyle Larson in the #5 Valvoline Instant Oil Change Chevrolet, 33rd-place Corey LaJoie in the #7 Built Bar Chevrolet, 37th-place Joey Gase in the #15 Pro Master Chevrolet, and 38th-place Kaz Grala in the #16 Goettl Air Conditioning Chevrolet.

Originally set to start 40th and last on Saturday was David Starr, who made his first Daytona start on the Cup Series side in Motorsports Business Management’s #66 Midwest Mobile Tech Toyota. The run would come just hours after Starr finished 13th in MBM’s #61 car during the rain-postponed XFINITY race. Based on the intervals listed below, Starr ended up taking the green in 35th behind the docked Larson and LaJoie, but ahead of Grala, Gase, McDowell, and Alfredo. Landon Cassill, set to start 39th in his 500th career NASCAR start, drew off 36th in Gaunt Brothers Racing’s #96 Carnomaly Toyota.

33) #7-Corey LaJoie 3.037
34) #5-Kyle Larson (unknown interval, spot confirmed by video)
35) #66-David Starr 3.326
36) #96-Landon Cassill 3.436
37) #16-Kaz Grala 3.712
38) #15-Joey Gase 3.724
39) #34-Michael McDowell 4.126
40) #38-Anthony Alfredo 4.228

The race’s opening minutes saw the last-place battle intensify. Cody Ware’s #51 Nurtec ODT Chevrolet stalled as the field rolled off pit road, but was able to get rolling before the completion of the first pace lap. Alfredo’s team reminded him to take the green flag, then serve his pass-through penalty on Lap 2. After taking the green in last place, Alfredo pulled to the apron in preparations to serve his pass-through. Much to his surprise, another driver followed him in there, moving the #38 out of last place. 

Cale Yarborough loses the engine at Daytona,
July 1983

This was the #00 UNITS Chevrolet of Quin Houff, who on the opening lap heard his car “make a loud noise.” Something had failed in Houff’s roof hatch, forcing extensive repairs on pit road. The team confirmed they were not on the “Crash Clock” on Lap 5, then pulled behind the wall on the 11th circuit. There, the crew needed a pry bar to re-open the hatch, and pieced together the brackets to hold it in place. By Lap 22, Houff was wondering if they could just use a bungee cord to hold the hatch in place.

Then, on Lap 24, Houff’s team reported “something broke on the 34.” Moments later, still under caution, Michael McDowell’s car was seen smoking on the apron of Turns 3 and 4. Prior to the issue, McDowell had climbed his way to around the 26th spot, 8.96 seconds back of the lead. On Lap 25, NASCAR reported McDowell had pulled behind the wall with mechanical issues. Houff returned to action on Lap 29, 27 laps down and 22 behind McDowell. Houff dropped McDowell to last on Lap 52, and NASCAR confirmed the #34 was out on Lap 60. With that, McDowell was set to become the first Daytona 500 winner to finish last in the summer race since 1983, when polesitter Cale Yarborough lost an engine 5 laps into the 400-mmiler.

The middle stages of the race remained competitive, but clean, and Houff climbed no further than 39th. That is, until post-race inspection was completed.

Up until the early morning hours, Buescher had been celebrating a much-needed runner-up finish. After running back in the order, he moved into the lead pack at the right time, and led twice in the final 11 laps, pacing the field for seven of them. It was Buescher on who Ryan Blaney had to make the winning pass on Lap 164. It was the 45th lead change that night, the most the event had seen since 2011. Buescher also joined Blaney and third-place Bubba Wallace as among the few who cleared the last-lap, last-corner pileup in Turn 4. But that came undone when Buescher’s car failed post-race inspection for an illegal track bar mounting assembly. The penalty dropped Buescher to last, moving McDowell to 39th and Houff to 38th.

Rounding out the Bottom Five were two teams collected in a backstretch pileup on Lap 147. William Byron, the defending winner of the race, suffered damage to his #24 Liberty University Chevrolet that sent him behind the wall under caution. And Landon Cassill overcame his pre-race penalty to charge into the Top 20, where he was swept up in the same wreck, leaving him 36th.

For all the frustrating the night created, there were two exceptional underdog performances that were improved even more following Buescher’s disqualification. B.J. McLeod had already earned he and Matt Tifft’s team Live Fast Motorsports its first top-ten by claiming 10th in the #78 Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures Ford. This run was then improved to 9th, a new career-best for both driver and team. McLeod’s previous career-best Cup finish in 75 previous starts was 19th in the 2019 Daytona 500, and his team’s best was 23rd in this year’s 500.

Sliding into 10th was Josh Bilicki, who narrowly avoided a Lap 141 wreck that collected all three of his Rick Ware Racing teammates. Bilicki’s first top-ten finish came in his 61st series start, and was also a team-best for the RWR #52 entry. Bilicki’s previous best in Cup was 18th just two rounds ago in Indianapolis.

*This marked Buescher’s second last-place finish in the summer race at Daytona. The other occurred July 2, 2016, when he was ironically running McDowell’s current ride in the #34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford, and crashed out after 89 laps of the Coke Zero 400.
*This was the first last-place run for the #17 in a Cup Series race since November 3, 2019, when Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. wrecked out after 52 laps at Texas. The number had never before finished last in a Cup points race at Daytona.
*Four out of the five occurrences where the last-place finisher of a points race at Daytona led at least one lap were all in this summer 400-mile race. The only time it happened in the 500 was on February 18, 2007, where Tony Stewart led a last-place record 35 laps. Buescher joins Cale Yarborough (July 1980 and July 1983) and Denny Hamlin (July 2007) among the remaining four.

40) #17-Chris Buescher / 165 laps / disqualified / led 8 laps
39) #34-Michael McDowell / 23 laps / engine
38) #00-Quin Houff / 136 laps / running
37) #24-William Byron / 146 laps / crash / led 12 laps
36) #96-Landon Cassill / 146 laps / crash

1st) Rick Ware Racing (5)
2nd) JTG-Daugherty Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (4)
3rd) Spire Motorsports (3)
4th) Chip Ganassi Racing, Motorsports Business Management (2)
5th) Front Row Motorsports, Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Roush-Fenway Racing, StarCom Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (15)
2nd) Ford (8)
3rd) Toyota (3)


XFINITY: Brandon Jones’ engine lets go on first night of Daytona gauntlet

PHOTO: David PeQueen, @CarSDS2078

Brandon Jones picked up the 6th last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday and Sunday’s Wawa 250 at the Daytona International Speedway when his #19 Menards Patriot Lighting Toyota fell out with a blown engine after 17 of 100 laps.

The finish, which came in Jones’ 192nd series start, was his second of the year and first since the Indianapolis Grand Prix Circuit, two races ago. In the XFINITY Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 32nd for the #9, the 151st for Toyota, and the 267th from a blown engine. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 81st for the #19, the 362nd for Toyota, and the 1,107th from an engine.

With the run, Jones now takes the lead in the 2021 LASTCAR XFINITY Series standings with 10 races to go, besting David Starr on a bottom-five tiebreaker of 7-4.

Following the Turn 6 incident that collected him and multiple other drivers in Indy, Jones rebounded nicely at Michigan, finishing runner-up to A.J. Allmendinger in the overtime scramble to the finish. He looked to keep the momentum going in Daytona, where an early crash in February left him a distant 38th in the running order. In five previous attempts, he had yet to finish better than 12th in the summer race there. He’d start 3rd under metric qualifying – his second-best start at the track behind his pole in the 2017 season opener for Richard Childress Racing.

Rolling off 40th and last was Tim Viens, who was making his first XFINITY start of the season in Mike Harmon Racing’s #74 Barnes Law Chevrolet. After minor radio issues on pit road, Viens rolled off with the rest of the field, and was soon joined at the back by at least three other drivers who dropped back voluntarily: 10th-place Jade Buford in the #48 Big Machine Spiked Coolers Chevrolet, 11th-place Ryan Sieg in the #39 CMR Construction & Roofing / A-Game Ford, and 35th-place Jason White in the #66 A-Game / CMR Construction Ford. Although White’s entry was fielded by Motorsports Business Management, it was likely a second RSS Racing Ford teamed with Sieg, much as White had done in February when RSS shared an interest in the #23 team now run exclusively by Our Motorsports.

By the time the field crossed the stripe, two more drivers had also dropped toward the rear – B.J. McLeod Motorsports teammates Matt Mills in the #5 J.F. Electric Toyota and Mason Massey in the #78 Brunt Workwear Toyota. Cup regular Chase Briscoe, who lined up 37th in the McLeod #99, took the green a full second in front of the duo. With this final shuffle in the order, Viens reassumed last place as the final car to cross the stripe. The intervals for the bottom six runners were as follows:

35) #66-Jason White 5.235
36) #5-Matt Mills 5.400
37) #39-Ryan Sieg 5.586
38) #78-Mason Massey 5.625
39) #48-Jade Buford 5.885
40) #74-Tim Viens 6.088

At the end of the first lap, Viens was already struggling to keep up with the draft, reporting “It’s hard to turn!” By then, he was already 0.575 second behind the new 39th-place runner Spencer Boyd in Jimmy Means Racing’s #52 Wheelhouse Bicycle Chevrolet. By Lap 4, Boyd had himself lost touch with 38th-place Mason Massey, and Viens was told Boyd would be dropping back so he could pick up Viens as a pusher. The next time by, Viens reported he couldn’t see because something was on his windshield, and both cars ended up losing more ground to the pack.

Meanwhile, near the front, Brandon Jones was leading the inside line, trying to defend his 3rd starting spot. But on Lap 7, Viens’ radio reported that Jones was spraying water from the overflow, and that he might not make it to the competition caution on Lap 15. The television broadcast soon noticed the water spraying from Jones’ car, and the debris on his grille that was causing it. On Lap 9, Jones pulled to the apron down the backstretch and pitted to get the debris removed. He returned to the track, still spraying water. Still, Jones wouldn’t fall to last place until the 11th circuit, and wouldn’t lose a lap until the 13th. When the leaders caught him, Jones again led a line on the inside – this one around the 15th spot. The now 39th-place Viens, meanwhile, continued to struggle with handling and visibility issues. Both made it to the competition caution.

Under yellow, Jones earned the Lucky Dog, but came down pit road for more work under the hood. The crew hooked-up the “cool-down” machine to address the overheating issue, but it was too late. As rain fell on the backstretch, forcing the red flag that would ultimately postpone the race to Sunday morning, Jones’ crew pushed him behind the wall, done for the night. “Fuck,” said someone on Jones’ radio. “Should’ve caught that sooner.” NASCAR reported “19 to the garage, mechanical” under caution on Lap 19, then confirmed he was out nine minutes later.

Viens and the 38 remaining starters – still on the lead lap – would return on Saturday to complete the race distance. Eliminated in an early crash was Austin Cindric, whose contact from Myatt Snider sent his #22 Car Shop Ford into the outside wall exiting the tri-oval. Spencer Boyd, who struggled to keep up with the draft the night before, lost the engine after 71 laps, the same number Colin Garrett completed before his #26 Stillhouse Toyota wrecked coming off Turn 4. Rounding out the group was Caesar Bacarella, who suffered left-rear damage in the draft, then crashed trying to merge into traffic on the backstretch, leaving his #90 AP Regimen / AP Prime Bites Chevrolet in the 36th spot.

Brandon Brown earned one of his best runs in recent weeks by pacing the field for 9 laps in his #68 Original Larry’s Hard Lemonade Chevrolet, even fending off the challenges of several strong Chevrolet teams. His run was undone when he ran out of fuel just before the end of Stage 2, costing him multiple laps and leaving him a distant 34th in the running order.

Back up front at the finish was J.J. Yeley, who finished a strong 13th in Rick Ware Racing and SS-Green Light Racing’s #17 Figgers Wireless Chevrolet. Just one spot behind him came David Starr, who lost the draft early on Saturday, then surged late to take 14th in MBM’s #61 Whataburger Toyota. One spot behind Starr was Jason White, who finally linked up with Ryan Sieg in the final laps, only to finish 15th and 16th.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #19 in a XFINITY Series race at Daytona since February 19, 2000, when Mike Skinner’s #19 Pameco Chevrolet was collected in a crash with Jeff Green after 13 laps of the NAPA Auto Parts 300.

40) #19-Brandon Jones / 17 laps / engine
39) #22-Austin Cindric / 27 laps / crash
38) #52-Spencer Boyd / 71 laps / engine
37) #26-Colin Garrett / 71 laps / crash
36) #90-Caesar Bacarella / 82 laps / crash

1st) B.J. McLeod Motorsports (5)
2nd) DGM Racing, JD Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, JR Motorsports, Mike Harmon Racing, Motorsports Business Management, RSS Racing / Reaume Brothers Racing (2)
3rd) Brandonbilt Motorsports, Our Motorsports, Sam Hunt Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (15)
2nd) Toyota (7)
3rd) Ford (1)


Thursday, August 26, 2021

PREVIEW: Landmark start for Landon Cassill among stories in return to Daytona

PHOTO: @carnomaly

Friday, August 27, 2021 (7:30 P.M. ET NBCSN)
XFINITY Race 23 of 33
Wawa 250 at Daytona
2020 Last-Place Finisher: Joe Graf, Jr.

There are 42 drivers entered for 40 spots in Friday’s return to Daytona. More metric qualifying awaits, however, meaning both Motorsports Business Management’s #13 and the Bassett Racing’s #77 are already bumped from the field.

DRIVER CHANGE: #1-JR Motorsports
Michael Annett’s push to get back into the Playoffs will reportedly resume this week, as he again entered in the #1 in place of his latest relief driver, Josh Berry. At Michigan, Berry came close to scoring his second XFINITY Series win before ultimately finishing 4th behind A.J. Allmendinger. Berry is not entered in Friday’s race.

DID NOT QUALIFY: #13-Motorsports Business Management
Timmy Hill will not run in the XFINITY Series as his #13 team is again too low in Owner Points. Hill will likewise not run Saturday’s Cup race at Daytona, site of he and then-teammate Garrett Smithley’s DNQs for MBM back in February.

DRIVER CHANGE: #17-Rick Ware Racing / SS-Green Light Racing
J.J. Yeley rejoins the XFINITY Series for just the ninth time in 2021, bringing new sponsorship from Figgers Wireless. He takes the place of Carson Ware, who ran 28th last week in Michigan.

DRIVER CHANGE: #23-Our Motorsports
Daytona will mark Blaine Perkins’ fifth series start and first since Pocono. Raceline will sponsor him once more as he looks to improve on his 24th-place showing in his series debut at Phoenix. He takes the place of Cup regular Tyler Reddick, who ran 16th in Michigan.

DRIVER CHANGE: #52-Jimmy Means Racing
Spencer Boyd returns to the XFINITY Series for the second time in 2021, and like his previous start at Loudon will run for Jimmy Means. Wheelhouse Bicycle is the listed sponsor of his red-and-white Chevrolet. Boyd takes the place of Gray Gaulding, who finished runner-up in this same race last year for SS-Green Light Racing.

DRIVER CHANGE: #54-Joe Gibbs Racing
Friday will not be without Cup Series “invaders” as Christopher Bell – already locked-into the Playoffs by winning the second race of the season on the Daytona Road Course – will drive the #54 for the first time since his dominant and unsurprising win at Loudon. Bell will thus take the place of Ty Gibbs, whose wins included that weekend’s XFINITY event, and finished 13th at Michigan. Reser’s Fine Foods is the sponsor.

DRIVER SWAP: #61-Motorsports Business Management
DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Jason White continues his superspeedway-exclusive season in the XFINITY Series, rejoining the circuit for the first time since his 39th-place finish at Talladega in MBM’s #13. This time, he drives the #66 with sponsors A-Game and CMR Construction remaining from his 10th-place Daytona effort with RSS Racing. White’s return moves David Starr – 22nd at Michigan – to the #61 which Bubba Wallace drove to a strong 10th-place finish despite damage from an early crash.

DRIVER CHANGE: #74-Mike Harmon Racing
While Kyle Weatherman will remain in Mike Harmon’s #47 Chevrolet, the #74 will go to Tim Viens instead of 34th-place Bayley Currey, the latter struggling with electrical issues at Michigan. Viens will make his first series start of the season following an 18th-place run in this race last year. Barnes Law is the listed sponsor.

Dillon Bassett was entered in what would have been the Bassett team’s first attempt since Texas in June. Due to a low rank in Owner Points, however, the team will not make their second start of the year and first since COTA, joining Timmy Hill on the DNQ list.

DRIVER CHANGE: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
The second Cup regular in the lineup will be Chase Briscoe, who will run his second XFINITY start of the year and first since running for this same #99 team at Charlotte in May. Briscoe finished 6th that day. HaasTooling.com is the listed sponsor as Briscoe takes the place of Jesse Little, collected in a late accident at Michigan en route to a 32nd-place finish.

CUP INVADERS: #54-Christopher Bell, #99-Chase Briscoe

Saturday, August 28, 2021 (7:00 P.M. ET NBC)
CUP Race 26 of 36
Regular Season Finale
Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona
2020 Last-Place Finisher: J.J. Yeley

There are 40 drivers entered for as many spots this week, marking just the 7th “full” field in 26 races this season and first since Indianapolis, two races ago.

DRIVER CHANGE: #7-Spire Motorsports
With Michael Annett returning to JR Motorsports’ #1 in XFINITY, Corey LaJoie will likewise return to Spire’s #7 Chevrolet for the Playoff cutoff race, again replacing Josh Berry. Built Bar returns as the team’s sponsor for the first time since Las Vegas. LaJoie may be a good dark horse pick as he’s finished Top 10 in three of his last four Cup starts at Daytona, including a career-best 6th in this race in 2019.

RETURNING: #16-Kaulig Racing
Kaulig Racing returns to the Cup Series for the first time since A.J. Allmendinger’s breakthrough win at Indianapolis. Driving this week is Kaz Grala, who last ran this entry at Talladega, where he finished a strong 6th. Goettl Air Conditioning, previously a sponsor with Premium Motorsports, will back the team this weekend.

RETURNING: #66-Motorsports Business Management
David Starr is back in the Cup Series for the first time since Nashville, and runs MBM’s #66 for the first time since the Coca-Cola 600. Midwest Mobile Tech is the sponsor for what will be Starr’s first Cup start at Daytona.

RETURNING: #96-Gaunt Brothers Racing
Welcome back Landon Cassill, who on Saturday returns to the Cup Series for the first time since the 2019 finale at Homestead, where he closed out his last season with StarCom Racing. Cassill, who nearly won this race that year before following Kurt Busch onto pit road before a rain delay, will carry sponsorship from Carnomaly. In what will be Cassill’s 500th NASCAR start (and 325th in Cup), he will drive for the Gaunt Brothers, who most recently withdrew Ty Dillon’s entry from Indianapolis.

Sunday, September 5, 2021
TRUCKS Race 17 of 22
Round of 10 – Race 2 of 3
Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Darlington
2020 Last-Place Finisher: Bryant Barnhill

The Truck Series takes the week off and returns on Labor Day weekend for their second race of the season in Darlington, the second-straight year it replaces the cancelled race in Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (August 26, 1995): On the same night that Terry Labonte wrecked across the finish line after contact from Dale Earnhardt, Ricky Rudd finished last for the 5th time in his Cup Series career in that Goody’s 500 at Bristol. Rudd dropped out after 138 laps with crash damage on his #10 Tide Ford. This was Rudd’s first last-place finish as an owner-driver of Rudd Performance Motorsports.

Monday, August 23, 2021

ARCA: One weekend, two last-place finishes for the Fast Track Racing #01 car


by William Soquet
LASTCAR.info Staff Writer

Owen Smith finished last for the sixth time in his ARCA Menards Series career in Sunday's Allen Crowe 100 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds when his #01 Fast Track Racing Chevrolet exited after 5 of the race’s 100 laps with clutch problems.

The finish was Smith’s first since Winchester, three races ago, and came in his 18th series start.

Springfield saw Smith back behind the wheel for the first time since Winchester earlier this month, where carburetor issues hampered the team and led to a last-place finish. Driving the Fast Track Racing #01 at Springfield, Smith took the place of Tony Cosentino, who did not start the race at Michigan and finished last.

Several dirt ringers highlighted the entry list for the back end of a weekend doubleheader for the ARCA Menards Series. Last year’s winner, Ryan Unzicker, returned to defend his win with Hendren Motorsports, and NASCAR Xfinity Series driver and former ARCA champion Justin Allgaier hopped behind the wheel of the Kovski Racing car annually driven by Kelly Kovski. Will Kimmel, once a frequent competitor in ARCA, made his first start of the season with his family team. Jesse Love and Toni Breidinger filled out the Venturini Motorsports stable, and DGR-Crosley was down to just one car, as Taylor Gray took over the wheel of the 46 machine since Thad Moffitt was unable to secure sponsorship for this race. Zachary Tinkle entered his fourth race with Wayne Peterson Racing, and Alex Clubb, who had three previous Springfield starts, ran for his Richmond Clubb Motorsports team. Fast Track Racing fielded Tim Monroe in the flagship #10 car, D.L. Wilson in the #12 car, and Canadian racer Mike Goudie in the #11 car, who made his first series appearance since 1995. Rev Racing elected to take Nick Sanchez off of a full-time schedule and instead loaned its #2 owner points to Rette Jones Racing, who fielded an entry for Landen Lewis’ series debut. Lewis comes to the ARCA Menards Series following success most notably in the hotly contested Legends circuit in the Southeast.

Only 14 of the 16 entered cars took time in practice with Owen Smith and Zachary Tinkle not completing a lap. Unzicker picked up right where he left off, leading the session, while Brad Smith trailed the field, just over five seconds slower than Unzicker. In qualifying, it was Brad Smith who was the only car to not make a lap, while Tinkle was the slowest of the cars that did, running about four seconds slower for the mile lap than polesitter Corey Heim.

The last row was one of Smiths, as even though Owen Smith qualified 12th, he elected to drop to the rear of the field along with Brad Smith. The 01 and 48 settled into 15th and 16th, respectively, until Smith pulled off the track on Lap 6, done for the day. The rest of the Bottom Five was filled out with mechanical issues, as Alex Clubb, Brad Smith, Ryan Unzicker and Zachary Tinkle all exited the race before the halfway point.

The weekend for Fast Track Racing ended with a terrible hauler fire on Sunday night. While traveling back to the shop along Interstate 24, one of the trailers caught fire, and while no one was injured, team owner Andy Hillenburg reported that a lot of the team’s equipment was destroyed. However, in the next breath, Hillenburg promised to be at the next race, in Milwaukee in a week’s time.

16) #01-Owen Smith / 5 laps / clutch
15) #27-Alex Clubb / 10 laps / handling
14) #48-Brad Smith / 12 laps / vibration
13) #24-Ryan Unzicker / 23 laps / radiator
12) #06-Zachary Tinkle / 39 laps / brakes

1st) Chevrolet (7)
2nd) Ford (5)
3rd) Toyota (1)

1st) Fast Track Racing (7)
2nd) Young’s Motorsports (2)
3rd) Greg Van Alst Motorsports, Kimmel Racing, Rette Jones Racing, Smith Brothers Racing, Wayne Peterson Racing (1)


ARCA: Tony Cosentino’s Michigan race a no-go

PHOTO: Tony Cosentino via Facebook

by William Soquet
LASTCAR.info Staff Writer

Tony Cosentino scored the 1st last-place finish of his ARCA Menards Series career in Friday’s Henry Ford Health System 200 at the Michigan International Speedway when his #01 unsponsored Chevrolet did not start the race.

The finish came in Cosentino’s eighth series attempt.

Tony Cosentino has followed dual paths in the racing world. On the one side, he has served as a crewman for Stewart-Haas Racing, Rick Ware Racing, and the infamous Obaika Racing, where he was the Director of Pit Crew Development. On the other, he has worked his way through the late model ranks, and made three NASCAR K&N Pro Series West starts in 2019. Before 2021, Cosentino founded his own team in the Carolina Pro Late Model Series, aiming to be a driver development team in the series. He also made his ARCA debut for Fast Track Racing at Toledo in May, retiring with handling problems after 11 laps. In his only full race so far, at Winchester, Cosentino turned in a 10th-place finish, a highlight amidst a string of start-and-park efforts this year.

With 20 cars entered at Michigan, this year’s field was the biggest for an ARCA race at the track since 2018. Sam Mayer returned to Bret Holmes Racing, and Gracie Trotter continued her partial slate with Venturini Motorsports. Greg Van Alst, Scott Melton and Jason Kitzmiller filled out the superspeedway brigade, and Kyle Sieg ran another race with his family team. Zachary Tinkle teamed up with Wayne Peterson Racing for another ARCA effort, and Tim Richmond strapped in to the Richmond-Clubb Motorsports entry again. Jeffrey MacZink returned with his family team to make his first series start in four years, and Connor Mosack made his series debut, teaming with Young’s Motorsports. Fast Track Racing filled out its team with D.L. Wilson, Morgen Baird, who is a traditional Michigan driver for the team, and Brandon Varney, another Michigan native.

Only 18 cars took a time in practice, with MacZink and Cosentino remaining in the garage. Wilson was the slowest of cars that ran, clocking in at 47.8 seconds - nine seconds off of Ty Gibbs’ session-leading pace. There was no scheduled qualifying, leaving the lineup to be set by owner points. MacZink, with no points either this year or last in his #65 entry, was set to roll off last.

During the pre-race ceremonies, timing and scoring never picked up Cosentino’s entry as on-track, and the 01’s blank white car was conspicuously absent from the inside of the sixth row of the starting grid. Despite the car never seeing the track, it was still listed in the official results as having participated in the event, albeit with 0 laps complete.

Wilson was the first car that took the green flag to exit the race, falling victim to oil line issues after eight laps. Drew Dollar and Tim Richmond were 18th and 17th after Thad Moffitt punted Dollar in the middle of turn three, who then slammed Richmond as both headed towards the outside wall. The move came as retaliation for an incident on the first lap of the race, when Dollar pushed Moffitt up into the outside wall in turn four. Richmond got the worst of it, with a thoroughly destroyed racecar, a mangled pinky finger, and a broken leg and ankle.

As I wrote in 2018, ARCA has long been far too lenient with a “boys-will-be-boys” attitude. The court of public opinion already turned against the series following the Berlin event earlier this season, in which Taylor Gray dumped Daniel Dye on the frontstretch and gave the driver of the 21 a concussion. This latest incident is just another ugly black eye on a series that has way too many in the past half-decade. Tim Richmond had nothing to do with this feud at all, and his small team now has a destroyed racecar and a driver that is out of action for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, Dollar moves on to his next Truck Series start with Kyle Busch Motorsports and Moffitt will continue to drive for David Gilliland Racing on a partial schedule this year, unaffected by the incident. One is an anomaly, two is a coincidence, and if no message is sent by the sanctioning body, the next step in the old adage is that three is a pattern – and people who want to see intentional wrecks go to Bowman Gray, not your weekly ARCA race.

Mosack rounded out the Bottom Five, his series debut hampered by fuel pump issues. The Young’s Motorsports team, however, was complimentary of the Ilmor representatives at the track for their quick diagnosis and work on the issue.

20) #01-Tony Cosentino / did not start
19) #12-D.L. Wilson / 8 laps / oil line
18) #15-Drew Dollar / 18 laps / crash
17) #27-Tim Richmond / 20 laps / crash
16) #02-Connor Mosack / 33 laps / fuel pump

1st) Ford, Chevrolet (6)
3rd) Toyota (1)

1st) Fast Track Racing (6)
2nd) Young’s Motorsports (2)
3rd) Bull Racing, Greg Van Alst Motorsports, Kimmel Racing, Rette Jones Racing, Smith Brothers Racing, Wayne Peterson Racing (1)


Sunday, August 22, 2021

CUP: Joey Gase’s last-minute driver swap followed by hard hit at Michigan

PHOTO: @RickWareRacing

Joey Gase picked up the 8th last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 at the Michigan International Speedway when his #15 Lisa Express Chevrolet was involved in a single-car crash after 29 of 200 laps.

The finish, which came in Gase’s 81st series start, was his first of the season and first in a Cup race since August 23, 2020 at Dover, 36 races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 28th for the #15, the 618th from a crash, and the 813th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 45th for the #15, the 1,268th from a crash, and the 1,800th for Chevrolet.

Last season saw Gase run the most Cup Series races he’s run in any one season – 33 of the 36 rounds – and earned a career-best 17th in the fall Talladega race. This year, Gase made his third Daytona 500 start and managed to avoid the early pileup in Turn 4, drafting with his teammates to the finish for a 20th-place showing. He’s run just five races since then, most recently at Nashville, where his 29th-place run was his best run since the 500.

On Thursday, Gase reported he would be running the #15 in place of James Davison, having finalized a sponsorship deal with The Lisa Foundation, an organization that raises awareness of brain aneurysms. By Sunday, Bob Pockrass reported Gase will then drive one of Rick Ware Racing’s cars in all but two of the remaining 11 races in 2021, excluding only Bristol and the Charlotte “Roval.” 

Gase would line up 34th on the grid, but was one of two drivers sent to the back on Sunday for driver changes. The other was for Josh Berry, who ended up running triple-duty over the weekend after Corey LaJoie was swapped out due to COVID-19 protocols. Berry had lined up 24th in LaJoie’s Spire Motorsports entry, the #7 Nations Guard Chevrolet.

Rolling off 37th and last was another Rick Ware Racing entry, the #51 team that had finished last in the preceding two Cup races at Watkins Glen and Indianapolis. After the command to start engines, driver Cody Ware immediately had a problem – a crewman had accidentally knocked the hose off his coolbox, meaning he’d start the late summer race without air conditioning. Ware did not come down pit road for repairs, and addressed the starter’s stand for the green flag.

The penalized Gase was the last driver across the stripe, 3.409 seconds back of the lead behind Ware and Berry. Gase lined up last on the inside line, and gradually lost touch with the pack. By Lap 3, he was already 1.451 seconds behind 36th-place teammate Josh Bilicki in the #52 Ziegler Auto Group Ford. “Keep digging here, bud, keep digging!” said Gase’s crew the next time by. Regardless, Gase dropped to 3.448 seconds back of 36th place on Lap 7. By then, the 36th-place driver was the fourth member of the RWR team – Garrett Smithley – whose #53 Kendall Motor Oil Chevrolet had also lost touch with the tail end of the pack.

Both Gase and Smithley were running by themselves when the leaders caught them on Lap 15. The frontrunners ran the middle lane, then moved by to Gase’s inside. Smithley, several seconds ahead, was now 8.562 seconds back of 35th-place driver Quin Houff in the #00 YMCA / Creek Chevrolet. The leaders didn’t catch Smithley until just before the Lap 20 competition caution, which prevented Gase from getting his lap back. During the caution, Gase’s crew made several adjustments to fix a car that was loose all around the track, particularly at the entrance to Turn 3.

When the race restarted, Gase indicated his car was handling better. But on Lap 31, while coming off Turn 2, something broke in the right-front of the #15, sending Gase hard into the outside wall. “Hold onto it, bud – stay up, stay up, stay up,” said the team’s spotter as Gase stopped in the middle of the backstretch. The caution came out, and after a few moments, Gase climbed out of his car, done for the day. On Lap 34, as Gase’s car was towed to the garage, the team relayed the driver’s comments: “Said it felt like something broke under him, and it just took off in Turn 2. . .shot him straight into the wall, a pretty hard hit." NASCAR’s officials confirmed Gase was out on Lap 50.

Finishing 36th was a disappointed Austin Dillon, whose #3 Breztri Chevrolet was one of the fastest cars on the track. After battling Kyle Larson for the race lead en route to a 3rd-place finish in Stage 1, Dillon edged Brad Keselowski for 6th in Stage 2, only for Keselowski’s left-front to hook Dillon’s right-rear, sending Dillon head-on into the outside wall. Dillon walked away uninjured, but tumbled into the Bottom Five.

Dillon was passed in the late laps by Ross Chastain, whose #42 Moose Fraternity Chevrolet pulled into the garage with a reported fire in the rear end of his car. Also sent to the garage for mechanical woes was Anthony Alfredo, whose crew attended to the left-rear of his #38 TheGoldenNuggetCasino.com Ford. Alfredo returned to the track before Chastain, and the pair crossed the line in 34th and 35th. Rounding out the Bottom Five was Joey Logano, who appeared to break a tie rod in the right-front after he spun out of the Top 10 on Lap 188. Logano’s six-minute “Crash Clock” expired, making him the only retiree from the seven-car incident.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #15 in a Cup race at Michigan since August 13, 2017, when Derrike Cope’s #15 StarCom Fiber Toyota lost the engine after 107 laps of the Pure Michigan 400.
*The last seven of Gase’s eight Cup Series last-place finishes have all come in different numbers. From oldest to newest, these were the #32, #83, #23, #66, #7, #51, and #15.

37) #15-Joey Gase / 29 laps / crash
36) #3-Austin Dillon / 120 laps / crash / led 2 laps
35) #42-Ross Chastain / 152 laps / running
34) #38-Anthony Alfredo / 178 laps / running
33) #22-Joey Logano / 188 laps / dvp

1st) Rick Ware Racing (5)
2nd) JTG-Daugherty Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (4)
3rd) Spire Motorsports (3)
4th) Chip Ganassi Racing, Motorsports Business Management (2)
5th) Front Row Motorsports, Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, StarCom Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (15)
2nd) Ford (7)
3rd) Toyota (3)


Saturday, August 21, 2021

TRUCKS: Jennifer Jo Cobb loses power before the track does at Gateway

PHOTO: @RealJaredHaas

Jennifer Jo Cobb picked up the 9th last-place finish of her NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Friday’s Toyota 200 Presented by CK Power at the World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway when her #10 Fastener Supply Company Ford lost the engine after 28 of 163 laps.

The finish, which came in Cobb’s 225th series start, was her first of the season and first since September 10, 2020 at Richmond, 23 races ago. In the Truck Series last-place rankings, it was the 21st for the #10, the 112th for Ford, and the 135th from engine trouble. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 130th for the #10, the 978th for Ford, and the 1,106th from an engine.

The finish also continues a streak of 16 different last-place finishers in as many races this season. She also jumps to the lead in the 2021 LASTCAR Truck Series Championship. Tied with Norm Benning on Bottom Fives and Bottom Tens, she leads by a single Bottom Fifteen, 11-10.

Now in her 14th season in Truck Series competition, the veteran owner-driver is looking to improve her team’s performance. Coming into Gateway, she’d ended a streak of five consecutive DNFs, a DNQ at COTA, and a withdrawal at Nashville to finish under power at Texas, Pocono, Knoxville, and Watkins Glen. 

Although she’s run Chevrolets for her most recent seasons, Cobb has since acquired an old Ford from ThorSport Racing, and is now campaigning it in the series. The Ford made its 2021 debut at her home track in Kansas, marking the first time she’d raced a Ford since 2013. She finished 37th with it that day, then ran 31st at Texas and Pocono before a 36th in Watkins Glen. At Gateway, the black nose of the Ford added a new accent to her traditionally white paint scheme, which would roll off in the 35th spot.

Which nose a team ran ended up a story in the garage area at Gateway, specifically involving fellow owner-driver Norm Benning. Benning unloaded his #6 MDS A Sign Co. Chevrolet in the garage area, only to be told by NASCAR officials that the 2018 nose on his Chevrolet was illegal to run. According to NASCAR, as of June 30 of this year the 2018 nose could only be run on dirt tracks and road courses, not paved ovals like Gateway. A statement from Norm Benning Racing was that NASCAR told Benning one of his three trucks was made illegal by the rule, but indicated it was not the truck he’d brought to Gateway. With no on-staff fabricator on the NBR team and all his fabrication work done in Charlotte, the #6 team had no choice but to withdraw.

Benning’s was already one of two withdrawals late in the week, joined by Spencer Davis and his family’s #11 Inox Supreme Lubricants Toyota. This further frustrated two other teams who had originally been entered in what, until mid-week, had been a 42-truck entry list for 40 starting spots. Davis’ withdrawal would have put Clay Greenfield into his first race of 2021 in the #68 Rackley Roofing Toyota while Benning’s would put in On Point Motorsports’ second entry, to be driven by Chris Hacker. While Hacker was able to find another ride in Josh Reaume’s #34, Greenfield was left on the outside looking in, unable to make the show on Owner Points due to the lack of practice or qualifying. With that, there were only 38 starters out of a possible 40.

Rolling off last on the grid Friday night was Dawson Cram, who late in the week welcomed sponsorship from KSDT onto his patriotic-painted #41 Chevrolet. But as the field rolled off the grid, Cobb had already fallen to the rear, and would incur an unapproved adjustment penalty prior to the start of the race. When the race did start, Cobb was on pit road with her truck’s hood up, and she immediately assumed the 38th spot. The crew then pushed her #10 behind the wall, and finally rolled down pit road on Lap 4. The next time by, she completed her first lap, and was shown three laps down to the leaders.

The aforementioned Chris Hacker was next to enter he last-place battel on Lap 15, when his #34 ARS Construction Toyota was pushed behind the wall for a hole in the oil line that caused the truck to smoke. Cobb dropped Hacker to last on Lap 18, then nearly tangled with Kris Wright’s #02 Wright Chevy Chevrolet in Turn 1. By Lap 27, Cobb was six laps ahead of Hacker in 39th, and Hacker was joined by Watkins Glen last-place finisher Chandler Smith, who that time by went to the garage with a hub failure on his #18 Safelite AutoGlass Toyota.

Cobb restarted with the field on Lap 30, but after slowing down the backstretch returned to pit road on Lap 32. Hacker returned to the track on Lap 34, showing 21 laps down, and the still-rolling Cobb dropped Smith to 37th on Lap 41. Hacker then dropped Smith to last on Lap 48, and Cobb was back on pit road when Stage 1 ended on Lap 56. On Lap 62, Smith had just re-fired the engine and rejoined the race 36 laps down when a power outage stopped scoring and forced a nearly one-hour red flag. It wasn’t until after scoring resumed that the caution laps before the red flag were counted, dropping Cobb to last place, two laps back of Smith on Lap 65. The race ultimately restarted and was run to completion, but Cobb was the only driver to not rejoin the event. Chris Hacker climbed to finish 27th, one spot ahead of Chandler Smith.

Jordan Anderson, racing in the hometown of sponsor Bommarito Automotive Group, had engine issues as early as Lap 2 and spent several laps behind the wall in his #3 Chevrolet. He ultimately dropped out after completing 68, leaving him 37th. Danny Bohn went to the garage at least twice in On Point’s #30 North American Motor Car Toyota before calling it a night. Zane Smith led 19 laps – one of the race’s only three leaders – but the rear gear failed past the halfway point, leaving him 35th. Rounding out the group was Jake Griffin, whose #45 Great Escapes RV Center Chevrolet crossed another truck’s nose in the chain-reaction caused by John Hunter Nemechek’s sudden loss of power entering Turn 1.

In this opening round of the Playoffs, Carson Hocevar served notice by finishing a hard-fought 8th despite right-front damage suffered in one of the night’s pileups. Jack Wood, the last-place finisher at Pocono, earned a career-best 10th-place finish in his #24 Chevy Accessories Chevrolet – his first top-ten finish in seven career Truck starts. Tyler Hill’s 11th-place finish in the #56 Hair Club Chevrolet tied his own career-best for a third-straight year, following Kentucky in 2019 and Texas in 2020. And making only his second series start, Taylor Gray finished 12th in his #17 Ford for David Gilliland Racing, and was about to follow brother Tanner Gray into the Top 10 before Tanner was involved in a late-race crash, leaving him 19th.

*This marked Cobb’s second last-place finish in a Truck Series race at Gateway. The other occurred on June 17, 2017, when her $10 ASAP Appliance Service / Driven2Honor.org Chevrolet had suspension issues that prevented her from completing a lap.
*With the finish, Cobb moves into a tie with Joe Nemechek and Chris Lafferty for the fifth-most last-place finishes in Truck Series history.

38) #10-Jennifer Jo Cobb / 28 laps / engine
37) #3-Jordan Anderson / 68 laps / engine
36) #30-Danny Bohn / 94 laps / engine
35) #21-Zane Smith / 99 laps / rear gear / led 19 laps
34) #45-Jake Griffin / 112 laps / crash

1st) Niece Motorsports (5)
2nd) GMS Racing, Rackley-W.A.R. (2)
3rd) CMI Motorsports, Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing, Kyle Busch Motorsports, Norm Benning Racing, Reaume Brothers Racing, Roper Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (13)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (2)


XFINITY: Brandon Brown scores first XFINITY last-place finish in “Baby Doge” car


Brandon Brown picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s New Holland 250 at the Michigan International Speedway when his #68 Baby Doge Coin Chevrolet was collected in a multi-car accident after 35 of 139 laps.

The finish came in Brown’s 108th series start. In the XFINITY Series rankings, it as the 5th for the #68, the 355th from a crash, and the 576th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 28th for the #68, the 1,267th from a crash, and the 1,799th for Chevrolet.

Heading into the Texas race this past June, Brandon Brown gained much attention on social media with his entertaining car salesman parody, advertising the available sponsorship space on his family’s Brandonbilt Motorsports #68 Chevrolet. Brown has worked every bit as hard on the track, where since 2016 he’s developed into a steady mid-pack contender in the XFINITY Series. Since going full-time in 2019, Brown and team have shown improvement each year, taking 15th in the ’19 standings with their first top-ten run at Daytona, then 11th last year with their first Top Five at Texas.

This year, the “For Sale” sign scheme at Texas was one of six races where the team either lacked primary sponsorship or carried the logos of his family’s Brandonbilt Foundations company. Most recently at last week’s Indianapolis Grand Prix Circuit, Brown ran without sponsorship at all, and finished third-from last when he was among the drivers to run over the errant “turtle” off Turn 6 on the opening lap. This kept him 14th in the series standings, just two spots and 42 points out of a spot in the Playoffs.

Brown would start 25th at Michigan, his second race carrying the pastel-hued “Baby Doge Coin” cryptocurrency paint scheme on the #68. Prior to the race, and on behalf of his sponsor, Brown would present $100,000 to the Best Friends Animal Society, which the press release indicates is the United States’ largest no-kill animal sanctuary.

Rolling off 40th was Gray Gaulding in the #52 SVS Vision Chevrolet for Jimmy Means Racing. No drivers were sent to the back for technical infractions, but Josh Berry’s unexpected triple-header weekend put him back into Michael Annett’s #1 Pilot / Flying J / TMAF Chevrolet, dropping him back from the 17th starting spot.

After the race went green, Gaulding re-assumed the last spot, and was closing on the new 39th-place driver Caesar Bacarella in DGM Racing’s #90 AP Sports Regimen / Maxim Chevrolet. Gaulding passed Bacarella on Lap 7, and both they and 38th-place Joe Graf, Jr. in the #07 Power Weld Chevrolet lost touch with each other in the back of the pack. By Lap 13, Bacarella had dropped to 5.436 seconds back of Gaulding, and was lapped just seconds before the competition caution fell on Lap 16. This gave the #90 the first Lucky Dog of the afternoon.

During caution flag pit stops on Lap 18, last spot briefly fell to David Starr in the #66 Sinex Transport Toyota before a penalty dropped Tyler Reddick to last in the #23 Ohio Logistics Chevrolet. Bacarella then took last on Lap 20 as the free pass recipient. On the ensuing restart, Bacarella was in a tight race with Graf when he drove high into the second groove entering Turn 3. Bacarella spun and backed into the outside wall, drawing the second caution of the day. The crew made at least two pit stops to push down the rear decklid and also tape the decklid to the quarter-panel. This dropped Bacarella off a lap for the second time in the race.

At the same time, Bayley Currey was losing power in his black #74 Fort Worth Screen Printing Chevrolet. During an extended stay on pit road, the crew looked over the left-rear corner of the car for an apparent battery and electrical issue – the same issue that kept them from starting the Texas race back in June. Bacarella returned to the track by Lap 25, when he dropped the #74 to last place for the first time. On Lap 31, Currey’s crew reported their battery was “melting,” and they soon cobbled together a new electrical connection from parts they had on hand.

On Lap 34, Sam Mayer entered the last-place battle when his #8 QPS Employment Group Chevrolet pulled behind the wall with transmission issues. “Oh, we got one,” said Currey. The next time by, Currey’s engine re-fired, and he returned to the track 13 laps down, 10 laps back of Mayer. No sooner had Currey returned to the track when trouble broke out on the backstretch.

Lap 36 saw the restart to begin Stage 2, putting some surprising names into the Top Ten. Among these was Tommy Joe Martins, who put his #44 AAN Adjusters Chevrolet into the first spot with Brandon Brown restarting behind him in 3rd. When the green flag dropped, Brown pushed Martins into the entrance of Turn 1, but the faster outside line gained momentum through the corners. Brown backed off Martins and skated up the track, nearly colliding with Justin Allgaier in the #7 Brandt Chevrolet as he pulled to the outside line.

At the same instant, directly to Brown’s inside, Ty Gibbs in the #54 Sport Clips Toyota made contact with Myatt Snider’s #2 Superior Essex Chevrolet, causing Snider’s car to cross the nose of Austin Cindric’s #22 Menards / NIBCO Ford and pinch Brown into the outside wall. The ensuing pileup collected several frontrunners, including Cindric’s #22 and Daniel Hemic in the #18 Poppy Bank Toyota. Brown had barely enough time to pull his car straight when Hemric spun him to the apron, where Joe Graf, Jr. nearly collided with him a second time.

Brown’s car was the first of those involved in the wreck to pull into the garage, done for the day under the “Damaged Vehicle Policy” on Lap 36. Hemric and Graf followed on the next two consecutive laps. By Lap 39, Currey was 14 laps down in 40th with Mayer’s transmission issues putting him 39th and Brown now slipping to 37th, lowest-ranked of the wrecked drivers. Cindric’s crew removed the nose of the #22 on pit road, and he turned another six laps trailing smoke before he was finally flagged off the track under the DVP. Four laps after that, both Snider and Bacarella were also docked under the DVP on Lap 51.

Meanwhile, Currey didn’t drop Mayer to last place until Lap 47. But Mayer’s engine re-fired on Lap 59, and he returned to action 27 laps down. At the time, Mayer was just four laps back of Brown, who had since slipped to 39th behind Currey. On Lap 63, Mayer, too, passed Brown for the 39th spot, and the #68 took over last place. Both Mayer and Currey climbed out of the Bottom Five, climbing past Baccarella, Snider, Cindric, Graf, and Hemric to finish 33rd and 34th, respectively. Currey would ultimately be involved in a late-race wreck with Jesse Little in the #99 B.J. McLeod Motorsports Toyota.

At the finish, Jade Buford scored a season-best 9th-place finish in the #48 Big Machine Spiked Coolers Chevrolet – one spot shy of Buford’s career-best 8th last fall on the Charlotte “Roval,” and the best for the first-year Big Machine Motorsports team. One spot behind him came Bubba Wallace, who steered Motorsports Business Management and Hattori Racing Enterprises’ #61 AISIN Toyota to a 10th-place spot despite left-front damage suffered in the same wreck that eliminated Brandon Brown.

Among the surprises just outside the Top 10 were Matt Mills, who was running in the Top 15 all day in B.J. McLeod Motorsports’ #5 J.F. Electric Chevrolet. Mills finished 14th, his third-best finish in the series and best-ever at Michigan, besting a previous mark of 24th back in 2019.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #68 in a XFINITY Series race at Michigan.

40) #68-Brandon Brown / 35 laps / crash
39) #18-Daniel Hemric / 36 laps / crash
38) #07-Joe Graf, Jr. / 37 laps / DVP
37) #22-Austin Cindric / 41 laps / DVP
36) #2-Myatt Snider / 45 laps / DVP

1st) B.J. McLeod Motorsports (5)
2nd) DGM Racing, JD Motorsports, JR Motorsports, Mike Harmon Racing, Motorsports Business Management, RSS Racing / Reaume Brothers Racing (2)
3rd) Brandonbilt Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Our Motorsports, Sam Hunt Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (15)
2nd) Toyota (6)
3rd) Ford (1)


Thursday, August 19, 2021

PREVIEW: Many drivers make first Michigan starts in XFINITY; Gateway Truck Series race features a few debuts

PHOTO: @dawsoncram41

Friday, August 20, 2021 (9:00 P.M. ET FS1)
TRUCKS Race 16 of 22
Round of 10 – Race 1 of 3
Toyota 200 Presented by CK Power at World Wide Technology Raceway (Gateway)
2020 Last-Place Finisher: Johnny Sauter

As the Truck Series Playoffs begin in Missouri, there are 42 drivers entered for 40 spots. But with the return of metric qualifying, two teams are already eliminated from the lineup (see below) - plus another two wothdrew for a field total of 38.

DRIVER CHANGE: #3-Jordan Anderson Racing
This weekend, Jordan Anderson will attempt double-duty in both the Truck Series race at Gateway and the XFINITY event in Michigan, each time driving for his own team. On Friday, he’ll step in for Bobby Reuse in the #3 Bommarito Automotive Group Chevrolet. Anderson’s best of 6 Gateway finishes was in 2016, when he ran 11th for Bolen Motorsports. Anderson takes the place of Bobby Reuse, who handed the wheel to Anderson during the race at Watkins Glen en route to a 29th-place finish.

WITHDREW: #6-Norm Benning Racing
Benning arrived at the track Friday, only to be told by NASCAR that the 2018 nose on his truck had been banned on all but dirt tracks and road courses as of June 30 of this year. Benning had no choice but to withdraw.

DRIVER CHANGE / WITHDREW: #11-Spencer Davis Motorsports
Spencer Davis and the #11 team are back in action for the first time since Nashville, where they finished in 25th. Inox Supreme Lubricants is again the sponsor of their Toyota. UPDATE: Not this week - the team has withdrawn as of Friday.

Chase Purdy is expected to be off COVID-19 protocol this weekend, and is again entered in his #23 BamaBuggies.com Chevrolet. A.J. Allmendinger, last week’s Cup winner in Indy, drove the truck to a 27th-place finish.

NEW TEAM / DID NOT QUALIFY: #31-On Point Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #34-Reaume Brothers Racing
Gateway was to mark the first time that On Point Motorsports would enter a second truck, the #31, to join Danny Bohn in the #30. However, the large entry list has put the #31 on the wrong side of the cut line, moving the originally scheduled driver Chris Hacker to Josh Reaume’s second truck, the #34. Hacker, who takes the place of Lawless Alan, will be making his first start in NASCAR’s top three series. Most recently, he finished 10th in this year’s ARCA race at Charlotte.

DRIVER CHANGE: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
Piloting Reaume’s flagship #33 in place of the owner himself is Armani Williams, who will become the first NASCAR driver diagnosed with Autism. Williams, who hails from Detroit, has competed part-time in other NASCAR regional series since 2017, and most recently finished 10th in the 2020 ARCA race at Michigan driving for Andy Hillenburg. 

DRIVER CHANGE: #41-Cram Racing Enterprises
Dawson Cram was about to be without sponsorship this week until KSDT came on board on Wednesday. He takes the place of Will Rodgers, who after early trouble was classified last at Watkins Glen until Chandler Smith was disqualified.

DRIVER CHANGE: #45-Niece Motorsports
Great Escapes RV Center will sponsor Jake Griffin in his third Truck start of the season and first on a paved track since this same Gateway event in 2016, when he finished 30th for the late Mike Mittler at the team’s home track. Griffin takes the place of Chad Chastain, who ran 34th in his series debut at Watkins Glen.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Kyle Busch Motorsports
The latest development driver to make his Truck Series debut with KBM is Derek Griffith, who finished 5th in his most recent ARCA start at Kansas earlier this year. Griffith takes the place of Corey Heim, who ran 18th at Watkins Glen, and brings Hudson Speedway sponsorship in addition to KBM’s backing from JBL.

DRIVER CHANGE: #56-Hill Motorsports
Tyler Hill will swap in for brother Timmy this Friday as Hair Club will again sponsor the #56 Chevrolet.

DRIVER CHANGE: #66-ThorSport Racing
Ty Majeski will make his fourth Truck Series start of 2021 on Friday, looking to continue a streak of finishing no worse than 14th in ThorSport’s newest #66 entry. Majeski takes the place of Paul Menard, who climbed from 39th on the grid at Watkins Glen to finish 8th.

RETURNING / DID NOT QUALIFY: #68-Clay Greenfield Racing
For the third time in 2021 and the first since his latest attempt in Nashville, Clay Greenfield will not qualify in his #68 Rackley Roofing Toyota. Greenfield has yet to make a start so far this year. Ironically, Greenfield would have started Friday's race had Davis and/or Benning's withdrawals come earlier.

MISSING: #72-CMI Motorsports
Ray Ciccarelli has elected not to enter their third team, the #72, which missed the cut at Watkins Glen with Samuel Lecomte driving.

MISSING: #75-Henderson Motorsports
Parker Kligerman is not entered following a charge from 38th to 5th at Watkins Glen that netted his fans $1 hoodies, courtesy of sponsor Fast.co.

DRIVER CHANGE: #02-Young’s Motorsports
Following a series of XFINITY races for Sam Hunt Racing, Kris Wright makes his tenth Truck Series start of the year and first since Pocono, again with Randy Young’s #02 Chevrolet. Wright Chevy is the listed sponsor as he takes the place of Kaz Grala, 12th after early trouble at The Glen.

RETURNING: #04-Roper Racing
We haven’t seen the #04 team since Knoxville, nor Cory Roper driving it since Nashville, but both are back in action in Gateway. In fact, this will mark Roper’s first series start at the track.


Saturday, August 21, 2021 (3:00 P.M. ET NBCSN)
XFINITY Race 22 of 33
New Holland 250 at Michigan
2019 Last-Place Finisher: Dillon Bassett

There are 41 drivers entered for 40 spots in the XFINITY Series’ first race at Michigan in two years. With the return of metric qualifying, MBM’s #13 team will not qualify for the 11th time in 22 races (see below).

DRIVER CHANGE: #0-JD Motorsports
After multiple road course races, many XFINITY Series teams return to their familiar oval-track lineups. Among this is Johnny Davis’ team, which puts Jeffrey Earnhardt back in the #0 for the first time since – ironically – Watkins Glen. Earnhardt takes the place of Spencer Pumpelly, who was running 10th in the final 16 laps of last week’s Indianapolis race before he dropped to 24th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #1-JR Motorsports
Michael Annett’s continued recovery from his leg injury kept him out of the car at Indianapolis, putting Chase Elliott behind the wheel and Annett out of the Playoffs. Annett will slip even further back this weekend for the same reason. Taking his place on Saturday is Josh Berry, fresh off signing a full-season deal with JR Motorsports for 2022.

DRIVER CHANGE: #5-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Matt Mills returns to the #5 for the first time since Watkins Glen, taking the place of James Davson, who an 18th at Indy.

DRIVER CHANGE: #6-JD Motorsports
Ryan Vargas is back in his #6 for the first time since Loudon, and will make his first series start at Michigan. He takes the place of Ryan Eversley, who failed to qualify at Indianapolis.

DRIVER CHANGE / DID NOT QUALIFY: #13-Motorsports Business Management
Timmy Hill is the listed driver to take the place of Stephen Leicht, who failed to qualify during time trials at Indianapolis. The result will be the same as Hill’s team is too low in Owner Points to qualify this week.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-JD Motorsports
Colby Howard is back in his #15 for the first time since Watkins Glen, taking the place of Mike Skeen, who like Eversley failed to qualify at The Glen. Like Vargas, this will be Howard’s first XFINITY start at Michigan.

DRIVER CHANGE: #17-Rick Ware Racing / SS-Green Light Racing
Carson Ware will make just the third XFINITY start of his 2021 season and first since the July weekend in Atlanta, where he ran 36th. He will again run the Rick Ware Racing car partnered with SS-Green Light Racing, taking the place of J.J. Yeley, who was 22nd in Indy. This will likewise be Ware’s first XFINITY start at Michigan, and only his third series start at a track larger than 1.5 miles in length (he has two starts at Pocono).

DRIVER CHANGE: #23-Our Motorsports
It’s a swap of Richard Childress Racing teammates at the second Chris Our team as Tyler Reddick takes the place of Austin Dillon in the #23 Ohio Logistics Chevrolet. This will be Reddick’s 6th XFINITY start of the year, his first since Nashville, and comes as he tries to hold off Dillon for the 16th and final spot in the Cup Series Playoffs.

MISSING: #24-Sam Hunt Racing
Will Rodgers is not entered in this weekend’s XFINITY race, and neither is the new second team Sam Hunt debuted in Indy with a 28th-place finish.

DRIVER CHANGE: #26-Sam Hunt Racing
With Kris Wright running the Truck Series race in Gateway, Colin Garrett will reassume the #26 for SHR marking just his second XFINITY start of 2021 and first since Talladega, where he ran 15th. As on the superspeedway, the 11/11 Project will sponsor his #26 Toyota Supra. Garrett is still another driver making his first series start at Michigan.

DRIVER CHANGE: #31-Jordan Anderson Racing
Jordan Anderson’s aforementioned double-header will carry on in Michigan, where he takes the place of open-wheel star Sage Karam, 26th after electrical woes in Indianapolis.

MISSING: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
Loris Hezemans is not entered following his DNQ in Indianapolis, and the Reaume Brothers team will instead focus on their two-truck lineup in Gateway.

MISSING: #42-Motorsports Business Management
Giorgio Maggi is not entered after his own DNQ in Indy, and the MBM team has elected not to enter their fourth car this week.

DRIVER CHANGE: #61-Motorsports Business Management
MBM will, however, field a car for the only other Cup regular joining Tyler Reddick in the XFINITY Series race. With Austin Hill committed to Friday’s Truck Series race and the Playoffs, Bubba Wallace has stepped forward to run the partnered effort with Hattori Racing Enterprises. This marks Wallace’s first XFINITY start since September 16, 2017 at Chicagoland, where he ran 10th. It will also be his first XFINITY race in Michigan since 2016, when he ran 9th for Roush-Fenway Racing.

DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
David Starr will rejoin MBM in the #66 entry, taking the place of Matt Jaskol, who failed to qualify at Indianapolis. Starr makes his first start since Loudon, and welcomes another new sponsor in Sinex Transport.

DRIVER CHANGE: #78-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
One week after Andy Lally turned in an impressive 10th-place finish for B.J. McLeod Motorsports in the XFINITY race at Indianapolis, Mason Massey will pilot the #78 for the first time since last fall at Richmond. This will be Massey’s first XFINITY start since his last-place run at Loudon this past summer.

Caesar Bacarella makes just his third series start of the year and first on a non-superspeedway, following a 12th-place run in Daytona and 38th in Talladega. He takes the place of Preston Pardus, who was among the victims of Indy’s Turn 6 “turtle” on Lap 1, leaving him 35th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Cup regular Kevin Harvick is not in this week’s XFINITY race, and Jesse Little – most often in McLeod’s #78 entry this year – will instead pilot the #99. Little made his most recent series start at Watkins Glen, finishing 27th, and will on Saturday make his first series start at Michigan.

DRIVER CHANGE: #07-SS-Green Light Racing
Joe Graf, Jr. carries sponsorship from Power Weld as he returns to the #07 for the first time since The Glen. He takes the place of road racer Josh Bilicki, who ran 25th with the team at Indianapolis.

CUP INVADERS: #23-Tyler Reddick, #61-Bubba Wallace

Sunday, August 22, 2021 (3:00 P.M. ET NBCSN)
CUP Race 25 of 36
FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan (200 laps)
2020 Last-Place Finishers: Joey Gase (161 laps August 8), Brad Keselowski (156 laps August 9) 

There are 37 drivers entered for 40 spots, the 19th short field in 25 races, and the fewest starters for a Cup race here since June 10, 2019, when 36 took the green.

DRIVER CHANGE: #7-Spire Motorsports
On Thursday came news that Corey LaJoie will be out of his Cup ride on Sunday due to COVID-19 protocols. Driving in his place will be Josh Berry, who will now run all three races this weekend - two in relief of other drivers.

MISSING: #16-Kaulig Racing
Conspicuously absent on this week’s entry list is the driver and team that took the checkered flag in last week’s upset victory. Michigan is not among the races for A.J. Allmendinger and Kaulig Racing this year, as both will instead focus on Saturday’s XFINITY race.

MISSING: #33-Penske Racing
Austin Cindric is likewise not entered as Indianapolis marked his 7th and final scheduled Cup start of the season, yielding an impressive 9th-place finish. He, too, will instead contest Saturday’s XFINITY race with the Penske Racing team.

MISSING: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Timmy Hill is again shut out of this week’s activities as his brother runs in the Truck Series, his XFINITY car is ranked too low in points, and his Cup car isn’t entered. Timmy finished 27th at Indianapolis after starting 40th and last on the grid.

DRIVER CHANGE: #78-Live Fast Motorsports
B.J. McLeod returns to the seat of his #78 for the first time since Loudon, taking the place of Andy Lally, who himself relieved Kyle Tilley at Indianapolis and finished 39th with rear gear trouble.

MISSING: #96-Gaunt Brothers Racing
Ty Dillon is not entered after the Gaunt Brothers team withdrew in Indianapolis.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (August 19, 1995): Scott Lagasse picked up the first last-place finish of his NASCAR Truck Series career when his #24 DuPont Refinishes Chevrolet crashed after 5 laps of the Stevens Beil Genuine Car Parts 150 at Flemington, New Jersey. Lagasse, who started 4th, drew the first of 11 cautions in the 151-lap race won by Ron Hornaday, Jr.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

OPINION: Kaulig’s rapid rise to Cup success a breath of fresh air in the Charter Era

PHOTO: @KauligRacing
by Ben Schneider
LASTCAR.info Guest Contributor

On Sunday afternoon at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Kaulig Racing picked up the team’s first victory in NASCAR’s Cup Series with A.J. Allmendinger. It was already Kaulig's eleventh win in NASCAR overall, accounting for their ten Xfinity Series wins.

It’s easy to forget just how young the team is. Just over two years ago, the team was still in search of their first Xfinity win and only running one car in the series full-time. Team owner Matt Kaulig is the owner of LeafFilter, which originally entered the sport in 2014 - just seven years ago - as a sponsor of Blake Koch at TriStar Motorsports. In 2016, Kaulig began fielding his own startup team with Koch as the driver. The team hired Ryan Truex in 2018, who scored the team’s first top-five finish at Mid-Ohio that season.

The 2019 season marked Kaulig’s breakout year. They hired Justin Haley as the flagship No. 11 team’s driver, a position he holds to this day. They started a second part-time team, the No. 10, after running a single race with Austin Dillon the previous year. The biggest highlight of the season, however, would come in a one-off third entry, the No. 16, driven by Ross Chastain to the team’s first-ever win at Daytona. Allmendinger, who has since emerged as the team’s veteran leader, would score a second win on the Charlotte Roval later that year. This would re-ignite Allmendinger's passion behind the wheel, and he’s back full-time in NASCAR, truly enjoying his role in the team's rapid growth.

In 2020, Haley and Allmendinger added three and two wins respectively, while Haley made the  Championship Four at Phoenix, finishing third in the final point standings. Kaulig also entered Haley in a one-off Cup entry in the Daytona 500. Now, three full-time Kaulig entries are going "trophy hunting" - each capable of winning on any given Xfinity weekend. In the Cup Series, they have launched a part-time program with the intention of running full-time in 2022, having secured not one, but two charters for next season. And now they have a Cup win of their own.

In an era of mergers, short fields and disappearing teams, it has been hard for fans of the underdog to keep the faith. The era of the Charter System has seen the closures of many small teams their Charters were supposed to protect.

There has arguably never been a harder time to be an underdog in this sport. Costs are higher than ever, and the current business model has virtually locked out any team not among the 36 who possess Charters from competing at the top level on Sundays.

And yet, in the midst of it all, Kaulig has found a way to grow from a midfield, independent, single-car Xfinity program into a championship-contending Xfinity team with a startup Cup program that already has a race win on their résumé - a first for “open” teams in the charter era.

It’s truly the perfect underdog story: a driver whose passion and entire career has been completely rebuilt by a team that, in less than half a decade, has gone from struggling to crack the top-ten to competing for wins in each of NASCAR’s top two divisions.

For fans of the underdog looking for someone to support, is there really any need to look anywhere else?