Thursday, September 30, 2021

PREVIEW: Anderson’s busy Saturday, Bilicki’s “Bandit,” and two Jason Whites on tap for Talladega

Jordan Anderson's rides for Talladega's Truck and XFINITY races.
PHOTO: @j66anderson

Saturday, October 2, 2021 (1:00 P.M. ET, FS1)
TRUCKS Race 20 of 22
Round of 8 – Race 2 of 3
Chevy Silverado 250 at Talladega
2020 Last-Place Finisher: Spencer Boyd

There are 40 drivers entered for as many spots, meaning that all entrants will take the green flag.

DRIVER CHANGE: #3-Jordan Anderson Racing
Jordan Anderson will pull double-duty with his own team this Saturday, attempting a combined 550 miles in his own equipment. His day will start with the Truck Series, where he takes the place of Howie DiSavino III, 26th last week in Las Vegas. U.S. Law Shield will sponsor both entries.

RETURNING: #6-Norm Benning Racing
Norm Benning returns to the track for the first time since the night race at Bristol, and for the first time since Darlington will take the green flag in his #6. This will be Benning’s 11th series start at Talladega and third in a row. He finished 18th and 22nd his last two times.

DRIVER CHANGE: #9-CR7 Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #98-ThorSport Racing
Last week’s first-time winner Christian Eckes will not be among the entrants this Saturday as Grant Enfinger returns to the ThorSport #98, leaving the #9 open for a returning Codie Rohrbaugh. For Rohrbaugh, it will be only his 8th start of the season as a driver and first since Knoxville, where he ran 34th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #11-Spencer Davis Motorsports
Clay Greenfield is back in the #11 as he was under the lights at Bristol, taking the place of Spencer Davis, who ran 15th in Vegas.

DRIVER CHANGE: #25-Rackley-W.A.R.
Welcome back Willie Allen, who has neither attempted nor started a NASCAR national series race since May 16, 2014, when he finished next-to-last in Jennifer Jo Cobb’s second truck at Charlotte. This time around, Allen will drive the Rackley-W.A.R. entry, taking the place of Brett Moffitt, who struggled in Las Vegas to a 25th-place finish. Josh Berry, who has run for this team since the summer, will focus on the XFINITY Series with JR Motorsports following his second win of the season in Vegas.

Jim Rosenblum’s team returns to the circuit for the first time since Pocono but will race with heavy hearts following the death of team member Brent Cole. Bryan Dauzat will drive the team’s red Chevrolet with Cole’s name on the hood.

DRIVER CHANGE: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
Each of NASCAR’s two active drivers named Jason White will run on Saturday. The 48-year-old Canadian will be in the Truck Series race, taking the place of C.J. McLaughlin in Josh Reaume’s #33 Toyota. White takes the place of C.J. McLaughlin, who will still run on Saturday for Mike Harmon Racing’s XFINITY Series #74.

RETURNING / DRIVER SWAP: #41-Cram Racing Enterprises
MISSING: #49-CMI Motorsports
Ray Ciccarelli has not entered his truck this week, days after Keith McGee was flagged off the Las Vegas oval for not maintaining minimum speed. McGee’s literal gamble to earn the ride in the #49 has paid off as this week he drives for Dawson Cram in the #41 entry that was withdrawn from the same Vegas event.

DRIVER CHANGE: #45-Niece Motorsports
Chris Hacker, who finished last after early crash damage in Las Vegas, will return to the circuit in Martinsville. For Saturday, the truck will be driven by Lawless Alan, who like Hacker has also run for the Reaume Brothers this season. Alan’s sponsorship from returns as he looks to build from a season-best 18th in the Bristol night race.

RETURNING: #75-Henderson Motorsports
Past Talladega winner Parker Kligerman is in the show this week as he looks for another strong run with Charlie Henderson’s effort – his own first start since Bristol.


Saturday, October 2, 2021 (4:30 P.M. ET, NBCSN)
XFINITY Race 28 of 33
Round of 12 – Race 2 of 3
Sparks 300 at Talladega
2020 Last-Place Finisher: Michael Annett

There are 41 drivers entered for 40 spots, meaning MBM’s #13 team will again be missing from the lineup.

DID NOT QUALIFY: #13-Motorsports Business Management
Under metric qualifying, it is again Timmy Hill who is missing from the lineup.

DRIVER CHANGE: #17-Rick Ware Racing / SS-Green Light Racing
DRIVER SWAP: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Garrett Smithley will make only his third XFINITY Series start of the season and first since Texas in June. As with the previous two, this will be in the Ware / Dotter #17 entry, which J.J. Yeley drove well in the early laps at Vegas before the Lap 31 pileup left him 37th. Yeley will also run on Saturday as he takes the place of B.J. McLeod in the #99. McLeod will not run on Saturday, and instead focuses on his Sunday effort in his #78 Live Fast Motorsports entry.

DRIVER CHANGE: #26-Sam Hunt Racing
In his first six career XFINITY Series starts this season, Santino Ferrucci racked up four consecutive finishes of 15th or better. The streak ended in his most recent run at Atlanta in July, where he ran 33rd, and he now makes his first superspeedway attempt with the Sam Hunt effort. Ferrucci takes the place of Dylan Lupton, who was likewise involved in the Las Vegas pileup  and finished 35th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #31-Jordan Anderson Racing
Jordan Anderson’s second leg of his Saturday double-header will be in the #31 – his fifth series start as a driver in 2021 and first since a 22nd-place showing at Daytona in August. Anderson takes the place of a resurgent Ty Dillon, who led the Anderson team’s first lap in competition back in Vegas.

DRIVER CHANGE: #52-Jimmy Means Racing
As of this writing, Joey Gase is still entered in the Jimmy Means Racing entry which he steered to the team’s best overall performance – a 5th in 2015. Sparks Energy, the race’s title sponsor, has backed Gase in the past and is again the listed sponsor of both this and his Cup ride for Rick Ware Racing. He would take the place of Carson Ware, who ran a RWR entry in Vegas to a 31st-place finish before electrical trouble. This time, the car will be a Ford belonging to Gase and prepared by Means.

DRIVER CHANGE: #54-Joe Gibbs Racing
John Hunter Nemechek’s only two previous XFINITY Series starts this year came with Sam Hunt Racing, most recently in the fall race at Richmond, where he earned the team their first-ever Top Five with a hard-fought 3rd. This time, he runs the stout JGR #54 in place of Ty Gibbs with a returning Sport Clips Haircuts as sponsor. Just last June, JHN came close to winning the Cup Series race here before a last-corner tangle with Ryan Blaney dropped him back.

DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
The second Jason White – the Virginian with more than 200 combined Cup, XFINITY, and Truck Series starts – is back with MBM this Saturday in what appears to be another partnership with RSS Racing. As at Daytona in August, White carries RSS sponsors CMR Construction & Roofing plus A-Game. Recall that White and RSS’ Ryan Sieg drafted well in the final stages of the Daytona race with White taking 15th.

Caesar Bacarella, future co-owner and co-driver of the #44 team, takes what may be his last start with Mario Gosselin’s team, bringing his AP Regimen and AP Primebites sponsorship onto the #90. Bacarella takes the place of Spencer Boyd, who ran 25th in Vegas.


Sunday, October 3, 2021 (2:00 P.M. ET, NBC)
CUP Race 31 of 36
Round of 12 – Race 2 of 3
YellaWood 500 at Talladega
2020 Last-Place Finisher: Christopher Bell 

For the first time since Daytona, five races ago, and for only the 8th time in 31 races this season, there are 40 drivers entered for 40 starting spots on Sunday.

DRIVER SWAP: #15-Rick Ware Racing
DRIVER SWAP: #53-Rick Ware Racing
The preliminary entry list showed Joey Gase and Garrett Smithley swapping rides at RWR this week, putting Gase in the #53 with his Sparks Energy sponsorship. Smithley, who ran 35th last Sunday, carries returning backing from Boom Mobile.

RETURNING / DRIVER SWAP: #16-Kaulig Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #77-Spire Motorsports
Sunday will mark just the fourth Cup start Justin Allgaier has made since his last full-season run in 2015. As with his most recent run in Pocono, this will be with Spire Motorsports in the #77, and this time with his XFINITY sponsor Brandt Agriculture on his Chevrolet. Allgaier’s return moves Justin Haley to the returning Cup entry from Kaulig Racing, which was most recently run by Kaz Grala in Daytona.

PAINT SCHEME: #52-Rick Ware Racing
Josh Bilicki will run a “Smokey and the Bandit” themed paint scheme on his Junction Fuels Ford, made to resemble the iconic Pontiac from the film.

DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
J.J. Yeley will not run Sunday’s Cup race following a mechanical issue with the right-front wheel that left him last in Las Vegas. The car again goes to David Starr, who most recently ran under the lights at Bristol. This will be Starr’s first Cup start at Talladega. UPDATE: James Davison will run in Starr's place with Rich Mar Florist as sponsor.

RETURNING: #96-Gaunt Brothers Racing
Landon Cassill turned heads with perhaps the fastest car the Gaunt Brothers had all season when he challenged for a good finish at Daytona in August. As promised following the wreck that left him 36th, Cassill will again run the Carnomaly Toyota at Talladega.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (September 30, 1995): In the inaugural Truck Series race at historic North Wilkesboro Speedway, Bob Strait picked up the 1st last-place finish of his career when his #37 Target Expediting Ford had ignition issues after 33 laps of the Lowe’s 150.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

ARCA WEST: Pedroncelli extends championship lead as history-making women struggle

PHOTO: Ethan Smith, @EthanHSmith_

by Ben Schneider Guest Contributor

Paul Pedroncelli finished last for the 3rd time in his ARCA Menards Series West career in Thursday's Star Nursery 150 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Bullring when his #31 Pedroncelli Mobile Bottling Chevrolet suffered brake issues after three laps.

The finish came in Pedroncelli’s sixth career start and was also his third last-place finish in the last four races.

While Pedroncelli’s first laps as a driver came earlier this season at Sonoma, his family has been involved with the West Series for over a decade. His son, Paul Pedroncelli Jr. (better known as “P.J.”), is a series veteran whose debut came in the then-Camping World West Series at Irwindale in 2008. P.J. continued to compete part-time with his father as his crew chief until 2011, when they moved to local divisions as the West Series became too expensive for their family team.

The Pedroncellis started their own mobile wine bottling company in 2014, a business that provided P.J. the opportunity to return to the West Series at their home track of Sonoma two years ago. P.J. had also intended to run the Sonoma race in the series in 2020 before its cancellation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This season, P.J. elected to make the jump to full-time West Series competition, while Paul has also joined his son on the track in every race so far save for the season-opener at Phoenix. P.J. has enjoyed a good amount of success with a pole at Irwindale and three top-three finishes through seven races.

Currently, the Pedroncellis have three cars on hand: a road course car, a short track car, and a backup car driven by Paul Sr. While the father-son duo hardly has a budget comparable to top teams in the series such as Bill McAnally Racing or Sunrise Ford Racing, they are a team that embodies what ARCA is all about: giving part-time racers an opportunity to not only live their dreams, but also to enjoy success.

BMR’s Amber Balcaen followed up the running order in twenty-second as she fell out after 20 laps due to crash damage. Amber Slagle, who suffered contact with the wall in the first corner on the opening lap, lasted 53 laps before her radiator gave out. Bridget Burgess completed two further laps before being taken out in a crash, while series veteran John Wood rounded out the Bottom Five, retiring with radiator issues of his own after 69 laps in Kart Idaho's #08.

Balcaen, Slagle, and Burgess made up three of five female drivers in the race, believed to be a record for the most women ever to compete in a single West Series event. The other two - Mariah Boudrieau and Jolynn Wilkinson - followed up the running order in 18th and 17th respectively. Boudrieau retired with crash damage after 112 laps while Wilkinson was the only woman of the five to be running at the finish, completing 127 of 150 laps after her crew spent time repairing crash damage of her own.

From left to right: Amber Slagle, Bridget Burgess, Jolynn Wilkinson,
Mariah Boudrieau, and Amber Balcaen
PHOTO: Diego Alvarado, @DiegoxAlv

23) #31-Paul Pedroncelli / 3 laps / brakes
22) #19-Amber Balcaen / 20 laps / crash
21) #17-Amber Slagle / 53 laps / radiator
20) #88-Bridget Burgess / 55 laps / crash
19) #08-John Wood / 69 laps / radiator

1st) Chevrolet (6)
2nd) Toyota (1)
3rd) Ford (0)

1st) Pedroncelli Racing (3)
2nd) Young’s Motorsports, Rodd Racing, Kart Idaho Racing, Performance P-1 Motorsports (1)


INDYCAR: Marcus Ericsson a surprise last-place finisher at Long Beach

ALL PHOTOS: Luis Torres, @TheLTFiles

by William Soquet Staff Writer

Marcus Ericsson finished last for the 4th time in his NTT IndyCar Series career in Sunday’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach when his #8 Huski Chocolate Honda crashed out of the race after completing 25 of the race’s 85 laps.

The finish was Ericsson’s first since Gateway in 2020, twenty races ago.

After a formula racing career that spanned from the United Kingdom to Japan, Ericsson joined Formula 1 with the Caterham team in 2014, where he failed to score any points all season. After that team shut down, he spent three years with Sauber (now Alfa Romeo), and this time scored 18 points over three years. The end of 2018 saw Ericsson move to IndyCar, where he ran with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. He scored a runner-up finish at Detroit but missed the Grand Prix of Portland while serving as a reserve driver for Alfa, finishing 17th in the standings. The Swedish driver then moved to Chip Ganassi Racing in 2020, stringing together five straight top-tens in the early portion of the season. He returned to the squad in 2021 and won two races in a breakout year. Heading into Long Beach, he'd only finished outside the top ten in three races.

Ericsson entered the weekend as the only current Ganassi driver not confirmed for 2022 - eventual championship winner Alex Palou and the all-star car of Jimmie Johnson with Tony Kanaan have already inked deals for next year. The entry list held much the same from last week at Laguna Seca; the lone addition was Southern California native Charlie Kimball, driving the same #11 car he drove for the month of May at A.J. Foyt Racing.

Dalton Kellett, Kimball’s teammate at Foyt, trailed the first practice in 28th with Johnson in 27th. The pair swapped positions in practice 2 at the bottom. Ericsson was already having a weekend to forget, placing 17th in first practice and 22nd in final practice. Both Kellett and Johnson picked up their pace in qualifying enough to best Oliver Askew, who looked like a revelation in the third Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing car last week but struggled for speed in Long Beach, compounded by a penalty in qualifying for impeding another driver.

It was not long before the field found trouble. On the first lap, Ed Jones dove to the inside of James Hinchcliffe in a hairpin turn, nudging Pato O’Ward and sending the Mexican driver in to a spin. The field stacked up behind them, and it was Sebastien Bourdais that came across the line last at the conclusion of the first lap. Askew was still 26th, ahead of only Bourdais and O’Ward, and Ericsson was 14th, up three places from his starting spot of 17th. Ryan Hunter-Reay was also among cars with damage in the first-lap melee, and an extended pit stop dropped him to last at the end of Lap 2.

Hunter-Reay, in his last full-time race with Andretti Autosport, stayed in last until Lap 18, when O’Ward stalled at the end of the pit lane with a broken driveshaft. It was a heartbreaking end to a championship bid for the Arrow McLaren SP driver, however unlikely the championship would have been, as he entered the race 35 points back of Palou.

On Lap 26, Ericsson was racing Alexander Rossi for 19th position in a quick left-right set of turns. Rossi gained the inside position for the left-hander, and Ericsson’s car slid wide and wound up in the tire barriers, ending his day.

Callum Ilott, driving for Juncos Hollinger Racing, succumbed to brake issues after 47 circuits, and it looked like that would be the Bottom Three for the day. However, O’Ward’s crew repaired his broken car and sent him back out on track to gain points. He wound up completing 43 total laps, although it was not enough to keep from falling back to third in the point standings.

Ericsson, who had been running a comfortable 12th before the first pit cycle, wound up in last, securing his first last-place finish of 2021. Ed Jones secured the 2021 LASTCAR NTT IndyCar Series drivers championship by virtue of having one more Bottom Three finish than Conor Daly. A.J. Foyt Racing and Andretti Autosport tied for the owners championship with three last-place finishes apiece, and Chevrolet claimed the manufacturers championship via a 9-7 margin over Honda.

28) #8-Marcus Ericsson / 25 laps / crash
27) #5-Pato O’Ward / 43 laps / crash
26) #77-Callum Ilott / 47 laps / brakes

1st) Chevrolet (9)
2nd) Honda (7)

1st) A.J. Foyt Racing, Andretti Autosport (3)
2nd) Arrow McLaren SP, Carlin, Dale Coyne Racing (2)
3rd) Chip Ganassi Racing, Ed Carpenter Racing, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Top Gun Racing (1)

PICTURED: Ed Jones, 2021 LASTCAR IndyCar Series Drivers Champion

Sunday, September 26, 2021

CUP: Unresolved spindle issue leaves J.J. Yeley last in Las Vegas; Joey Gase hospitalized after brutal crash

ALL PHOTOS: Brock Beard

J.J. Yeley picked up the 20th last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s South Point 400 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway when his #66 FatBoy Premium Ice Cream Toyota fell out with handling issues after 76 of 267 laps.

The finish, which came in Yeley’s 333rd series start, was his first of the season and first since October 25, 2020 at Texas, 40 races ago. In the Cup Series last-place rankings, it was the 54th for handling issues, the 64th for the #66, and the 171st for Toyota. Across all three of NASCAR’s top series, it was the 82nd for the #66, the 125th for handling problems, and the 365th for Toyota.

Yeley remains perhaps the most prolific of NASCAR’s journeyman drivers, running for multiple different teams and attempting at least one Cup, XFINITY, and Truck Series race in 2021. He’s been particularly prolific in the XFINITY Series, where he’s most often driven for Rick Ware Racing in conjunction with Bobby Dotter’s SS-Green Light Racing. Despite starting just 11 of the season’s first 27 races, he’s earned a season-best 12th at Homestead and a pair of 13th-place finishes at Phoenix and Daytona. He also earned a 14th in a one-off for Our Motorsports at Dover.

Heading into Las Vegas, Yeley welcomed new backing from social media platform Parler, and had an ECR engine under the hood of the Ware / Dotter #17 Chevrolet. In the early laps, Yeley charged from 33rd on the grid into the Top 10, only to be eliminated in a grinding 12-car pileup that left him 37th. Six tires from DGM Racing’s Alex Labbe, also involved in the crash, would ultimately be acquired by Carl Long, owner of Motorsports Business Management, who would field Yeley a Cup ride on Sunday in the #66. The standard black rims were distinguishable by decals bearing the three DGM team numbers.

Carl Long discussed the tires on Sunday. “Most of the time I'm able to get some (tires) from Gibbs or some of the rest of the big teams, but last night's race everybody used up about everything they had. And the first crash that went out, B.J. McLeod and Rick Ware scuffed up everything - they had deals with those teams, and nobody would help me (laughs).”

According to MBM crewman @WookieAutomoTV, Yeley would drive one of MBM’s newest Cup cars – chassis JGR 685 – which Long had purchased at the end of 2020. Chad Finchum had driven the car at Nashville, where the driver pinpointed what seemed to be a steering box issue. The box was replaced after Finchum dropped out just past half distance into the race. At Vegas, the #66 would be sponsored by FatBoy Premium Ice Cream, which debuted with Yeley in last fall’s Cup race at Texas, where he finished last after an early crash.

Yeley secured the 38th and final starting spot in the field, and on Sunday would incur a redundant tail-end penalty following three pre-race inspection failures. Three other drivers failed inspection twice, and would also be sent to the rear – 3rd-place William Byron in the #24 Axalta / Service King Chevrolet, 4th-place Martin Truex, Jr. in the #19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota, and 17th-place Aric Almirola in the #10 Mobil 1 Ford. All three passed on their third go-round while Yeley did not, meaning the #66’s car chief was ejected and the driver would have to serve a pass-through penalty after taking the green flag.  

When the race started, Yeley was holding the outside lane and drew ahead of both 35th-place Cody Ware in the #51 Nurtec ODT Chevrolet and 37th-place Joey Gase in the #15 NV Donate Life Chevrolet, who represented half of Rick Ware Racing’s four-car lineup. This put Gase in last place until Yeley came down pit road for the pass-through. Yeley returned to the track just in front of Gase, who reported what he believed to be a broken shock. “Feels like something’s broke,” he reported on Lap 5. After a rough run though Turn 4, Gase was told to come in so the crew could look under the hood. This was done on Lap 10, and Gase took over the 38th spot from Yeley when he returned to the track on Lap 12. At the same time, Yeley was lapped a second time, but remained in 37th.

Yeley in the garage.

NASCAR threw their competition caution on Lap 25, when Gase made a second stop with the other lapped drivers. This time, they didn’t look under the hood. He remained in 38th on the Lap 30 restart, when he started ahead of a few other cars. All these cars passed him by the end of that first lap, and the #15 once again trailed by at least two carlengths. On Lap 44, Gase was within sight of 37th-place Yeley, a margin that continued to shrink as the leaders lapped them both in the tri-oval. When Stage 1 ended on Lap 81, Gase had dropped 7 laps down, but was now one lap behind Yeley.

As it turned out, Yeley had pulled into the garage around Lap 80, and pulled into Stall 52 in the Neon Garage – the last stall on the side facing Turns 1 and 2. NASCAR relayed “66 to the garage, mechanical” on Lap 82, and Gase dropped the #66 to last under the stage-ending caution. Long spent some time talking with Yeley while one MBM crew member wiggled the right-front wheel by hand. Soon after, the team took off the DGM tires and put on a set of stickers with MBM logos on them. By then, it was Lap 90, and Long had just confirmed they were out of the race. He spoke to me about what had happened:

“We believe it's a wheel bearing that is going out,” said Long. "The car just gets a bad vibration in it. J.J. can't drive it in the corner. It's not consistent. It won't just push or it won't get loose. It will start to push, it will snap loose. The steering has moved on him.”

He discussed the Nashville issue that Chad Finchum discovered with the car. “So we had this problem at Nashville with this car, and we diagnosed it as a steering box. And so we put a new steering box in it, but this is a set of spindles that we couldn't find bearings that fit anymore. So we had a machine company make us an adapter to go over the spindle so it would fit our hubs and bearings, and that's got to be what the problem is. He can't feel the steering - I mean when it goes in, it's kind of towing out, it's washing around. It's not safe to be out there during the Chase.”

Although the spindle adapter was the cited cause, NASCAR listed the #66 out with “handling” issues. Yeley stayed for at least a half-hour after climbing from the machine, tossing sample ice cream sandwiches to the fans watching from the second floor of the Neon Garage.

Not long after our interview, on Lap 93, the day’s most serious accident occurred. Joey Gase, now running 37th, was again trailing the field on the Lap 88 restart. Heading through Turns 1 and 2, something failed in the left-rear of his car, causing the left-rear wheel to come off at high speed. The rear of Gase’s car stepped out, shedding at least two pieces of debris that smashed the lens of NBCSN’s Turn 2 camera. A moment later, the left-rear of the #15 backed into the wall hard enough to ramp the driver’s side off the ground. The car landed on its three remaining wheels and hit the inside wall several hundred feet from where his loose wheel had stopped against the barrier. Gase did not drop the window net, but when the safety crew dropped it, he was seen moving and throwing the steering wheel onto the dash. After a trip to the infield care center, Gase was then transferred to a local hospital for further evaluation. 

As of this writing, there is no further official word on Gase’s condition from either NASCAR or Rick Ware Racing. NASCAR also has no additional information on the left-front wheel issue that caused the accident.

UPDATE: Shortly after posting, Gase's PR reported he has been released from the hospital and will be further evaluated in Charlotte.

The rest of the race was run without incident, and no other drivers joined Yeley and Gase in the garage area. Josh Bilicki in 36th finished 15 laps down to race winner Denny Hamlin in his #52 Byrna “The Un-Gun” Ford, Two laps ahead of him came the last of the RWR contingent, Garrett Smithley, in the #53 Red Line Chevrolet. Quin Houff round out the group in 34th, one lap ahead of Smithley in the #00 Eagle Rock Wealth Chevrolet.

*This was the first last-place finish for the #66 since March 14th of this year, when Timmy Hill’s run at Phoenix ended with engine trouble after 15 laps. It is also the third last-place run for the #66 in a Cup race at Vegas, following Joey Gase (March 3, 2019) and Timmy Hill (February 23, 2020), both in MBM cars.
*The #66 is also the 10th different car number with which Yeley has finished last in Cup, joined by the 18, 23, 27, 36, 46, 49, 51, 55, and 93.
*This marked Yeley’s first last-place finish in a Cup race at Las Vegas since March 11, 2012, when his #49 America-Israel Racing Toyota had engine trouble after 39 laps.
*Sunday marked the first Cup Series last-place finish by reason of handling issues at Las Vegas, and the first in the series since November 8, 2020, when Quin Houff turned 149 laps of the season finale at Phoenix.

38) #66-J.J. Yeley / 76 laps / handling
37) #15-Joey Gase / 84 laps / crash
36) #52-Josh Bilicki / 252 laps / running
35) #53-Garrett Smithley / 254 laps / running
34) #00-Quin Houff / 255 laps / running

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

1st) Chevrolet (16)
2nd) Ford (10)
3rd) Toyota (4)


Saturday, September 25, 2021

XFINITY: Joe Graf, Jr. prevails in “race” to the garage area after huge Las Vegas wreck; Bayley Currey runs "Lucky 13th."

ALL PHOTOS: Brock Beard

Joe Graf, Jr. picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Alsco Uniforms 302 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway when his #07 Bucked Up Energy Chevrolet was involved in a multi-car accident after 30 of 201 laps.

The finish, which came in Graf’s 59th series start, was his first of the season and first since August 29, 2020 at Daytona, 38 races ago. In the LASTCAR XFINITY Series standings, this marked the 11th for the #07, the 358th from a crash, and the 580th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 22nd for the #07, the 1,274th for Chevrolet, and the 1,807th from a crash.

Graf is closing out his second full XFINITY Series season with Bobby Dotter’s SS-Green Light Racing team, a program that has increasingly cooperated with Rick Ware Racing and their #17 effort. Following an 11th-place finish in this year’s Daytona opener, however, Graf has struggled for much of this season, coming home no better since. He entered Las Vegas with the most Bottom Fives (4) and Bottom Tens (9) of anyone without a last-place finish in this year's XFINITY Series. Four DNFs due to accidents and another under the Damaged Vehicle Policy weighed down his average, and he failed to qualify at Charlotte. He was also swapped out for Ross Chastain at COTA, only for Chastain to himself drop from contention on the first lap. 

However, just last week, Graf came home 17th in a physical Bristol race, his best run since Daytona. He had reason to be excited for a return to Las Vegas, as the 18th-place showing this past March had been his second-best before Bristol. Bucked Up Energy, which had a significant brand presence at the Las Vegas track, would again back his #07, and he’d roll off in 21st.

Starting 40th and last was C.J. McLaughlin, who was back in Mike Harmon Racing’s #74 Sci Aps Chevrolet for the first time since his last-place run earlier this month in Richmond. The team also welcomed back returning sponsorship from Findlay Cadillac and the law firm of Lerner & Rowe. While no drivers were sent to the rear for pre-race penalties, two were briefly stopped on pit road as the field rolled off – 19th-place Tommy Joe Martins for a disconnected hose on his #44 Market Rebellion Chevrolet, and 22nd-place Jeffrey Earnhardt, whose #0 K9 Grass by Forever Lawn Chevrolet needed a push-start. Earnhardt ran nearly full-throttle to catch up to the pack, and soon retook his place in line.

Coming to the green, Carson Ware had dropped to the rear. Ware was running a Rick Ware Racing Toyota sponsored by, the same brand that backed Graf last week in Bristol. The Ware car bore RWR markings on the nose and b-pillar, but was entered under Jimmy Means Racing as the #52 (used by both teams). 

When the race started, Ware slotted in behind McLaughlin and took over the 40th spot. This didn’t last long, however as by the end of the first lap, Ware had worked under McLaughlin in the tri-oval an completed the pass. The #74 then continued to drop back through the opening run until Lap 7, when the gap stabilized. By then, the leaders were starting to bear down on them. On Lap 12, Spencer Boyd had slipped to 38th in the #90 Mini Doge Chevrolet, but there was still open track between the trailing Ware and McLaughlin behind him. On Lap 14, McLaughlin made another charge at Ware, a gap that continued to shrink as the leaders put both a lap down. Ware had just passed Boyd for 38th when the competition caution fell on Lap 25. Ware reassumed the spot after slowly pulling from his pit stall, taking 40th by Lap 28.

On the Lap 31 restart, McLaughlin had retaken last from Ware, and was running to the inside of Josh Williams in the #92 Silverton Hotel & Casino Chevrolet. Just as the cars crossed the line, however, trouble broke out among the leaders.

The problem began around 11th place, where the field fanned out five-wide. In the middle lane, Jeb Burton’s #10 Nutrien Ag Chevrolet came up into Josh Berry’s #1 Pilot Travel Centers Chevrolet, which then clipped the left-rear corner of Riley Herbst’s #98 South Point Hotel & Casino Ford. Herbst spun across the track, which was quickly blocked to rapidly-closing field. Among those were J.J. Yeley, whose #17 Parler Chevrolet had charged from 33rd on the grid into the Top 20 – only to be collected in the ensuing pileup.

"Obviously, just super disappointed," said Yeley. "The other guys at SS-Green Light literally have been fine tuning on this car for three weeks. Having Parler on board, wanted to give them a great effort. Had an ECR engine. All the things that we needed to go out and be a Top Ten car. We started 33rd, drove up to 19th, was running Top Ten lap speeds. Realistically, just kind of cruising. So knowing that we were going to get the competition caution and push it, you get a restart. They go four or five wide. I'm not exactly sure who caused it, but I saw Jeb (Burton) come across the field. I'm on the brakes and think I'm in great shape, and the 26 (Dylan Lupton) was behind me never checked up, never let off the gas until we were plowed into the fence. So, complete surprise - not sure what (Lupton's) problem was, but he took himself out, too. But it sucks. It definitely sucks. Because I think that based off of the small adjustments we needed to make to the car, we had talked about running without attrition or anything else, just going out there and beating really good cars with a small team."

In all, 12 drivers were involved, including Graf, who was trapped in the high line, damaging the left-front corner and rear of his car. His was among the cars that managed to limp their way back to pit road for repairs, each placed on the six-minute “Crash Clock.” First to reach the pits was Brandon Brown in the #68 Chevrolet, followed shortly by the battered Sam Mayer in the #8 Big Machine / Carly Pearce Chevrolet with Riley Herbst’s #98 right behind. Dylan Lupton trailed sparks when his #26 Marques General Engineering Toyota followed after. 

Last place on Saturday was decided by Jeremy Clements (left, top and bottom)
being pushed to the garage before Joe Graf, Jr. (right, top and bottom)

During all this, Graf had also made it to pit road along with Jeremy Clements in the #51 First Pacific Funding Chevrolet. Joining Clements' backers in Las Vegas was Eric Estepp's NASCAR YouTube series "Out of the Groove," which was featured prominently on each side. Both Graf and Clements were the first to pull into the garage through the first pit road entrance off Turn 4 – Clements on Lap 33, followed by Graf on Lap 34. With both drivers on the same lap, this spelled the difference in who would be ranked behind the other. Since Graf arrived after Clements, he was ranked behind the #51, which by Lap 34 had dropped to the final two spots. As the cleanup continued, three other cars were towed into the garage adjoining Turns 3 and 4 from another entrance – Yeley’s #17, Herbst’s #98, and Alex Labbe’s #36 Larue Industrial Snowblowers Chevrolet. Lupton’s #26 was also in the garage by this time along with Jeb Burton’s #10, meaning by then seven destroyed cars were already in different phases of being loaded on their haulers. Labbe, Yeley, and Burton rounded out the Bottom Five.

Finishing a solid 13th was Bayley Currey, who in just his second XFINITY start to complement his runs with Mike Harmon Racing finished 13th – his best series run since a season-best 7th for Harmon in this spring. I caught up with Currey after the race:

Bayley Currey (center, right - in black-and-red) after his 13th-place run.

Bayley Currey finishes “Lucky 13” in Vegas

Finishing a solid 13th was Bayley Currey, who in just his second XFINITY start to complement his runs with Mike Harmon Racing finished 13th – his best series run since a season-best 7th for Harmon in this spring. I caught up with Currey after the race:

“I just feel happy. Really thankful to Johnny Davis for allowing me to come and drive this 15 car this weekend. Guys worked on it hard all day, made all the right adjustments, and ended up P13. I was pedaling like hell trying to keep them other two guys behind (Brett Moffitt and Ty Gibbs), couldn't do it. We short pitted, good strategy and jumped a couple of them in front of us and yeah - Lucky 13!”

As Currey mentioned, he was running in the 11th spot in the final laps before Brett Moffitt for Our Motorsports and Ty Gibbs with Joe Gibbs Racing got by, dropping him to 13th. He also overcame damage to the nose of his car suffered in a rear-end collision with Dylan Lupton earlier in the race. Currey also hopes this run will help him on the sponsorship front, which has been an issue this year both at JD Motorsports and MHR.

“I mean, yeah, hopefully hopefully I did open some eyes and it's one more thing I could put in the marketing deck. We're top 15 car, we're here with JD, and I think we can continue to be that.”

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #07 in a XINITY Series race since November 16, 2019, when Ray Black, Jr. lost the engine after 4 laps at Homestead. The number had never before finished last in a XFINITY race at Las Vegas.

40) #07-Joe Graf, Jr. / 30 as / crash
39) #51-Jeremy Clements / 30 laps / crash
38) #36-Alex Labbe / 30 laps / crash
37) #17-J.J. Yeley / 30 laps / crash
36) #10-Jeb Burton / 30 laps / crash

1st) B.J. McLeod Motorsports (5)
2nd) Mike Harmon Racing (3)
3rd) DGM Racing, JD Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, JR Motorsports, Motorsports Business Management, Our Motorsports, RSS Racing / Reaume Brothers Racing (2)
4th) Brandonbilt Motorsports, Jimmy Means Racing, Sam Hunt Racing, SS-Green Light Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (19)
2nd) Toyota (7)
3rd) Ford (1)


Friday, September 24, 2021

TRUCKS: Chris Hacker eliminated in early crash at Vegas; Tyler Hill frustrated with last-lap tangle; Bret Holmes a strong 11th

PHOTOS: Brock Beard

Chris Hacker picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Friday’s Victoria’s Voice Foundation 200 Presented By Westgate Resorts at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway when his #45 Charred Flags Chevrolet fell out with crash damage after 6 of 134 laps.

The finish came in Hacker’s 2nd series start. In the Truck Series’ last-place rankings, it was the first under the Damaged Vehicle Policy (DVP), it was the 6th for the #45, and the 413th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 4th by DVP, the 40th for the #45, and the 1,806th for Chevrolet.

The 21-year-old Hacker is the latest of a series of Truck Series competitors who have championed the cause of medical conditions they have dealt with in their lives. Following Armani Williams, who was diagnosed with Autism, and both Todd Peck and Natalie Decker, who have fought arthritis, Hacker suffered nerve damage in his left arm from a Brachial Plexus injury. After years of surgery and therapy, Hacker has both raised money and lectured on the topic, and has used his racing career to bring further attention to the cause.

That racing career began at the age of eight in quarter midgets, and by 2020 earned him an ARCA Menards Series West ride with Andy Hillenburg’s Fast Track Racing Team at Phoenix. He finished 15th of the 27 starters, two laps down. Another one-off ARCA national series start came this past summer at Charlotte, where he ran 10th for Kevin Cram. A bid at the Truck Series, announced last August, had originally entered him in a second On Point Motorsports entry at Gateway. When metric qualifying kept that truck out of the race, Hacker jumped aboard Josh Reaume’s #34, and overcame initial mechanical issues to finish 27th.

Las Vegas would be Hacker’s first Truck Series start since the Gateway event, and this time would come in Al Niece’s #45 – an entry suddenly freed up after Brett Moffitt parted ways with the program earlier this year. Hacker brought backing from woodworking website Charred Flags, and the nickname “Hackerman” was on the roof rails of his Chevrolet. He’d line up 27th, again due to metric qualifying.

The preliminary entry list showed 38 trucks entered for 40 spots, but the list shrank to 37 after Dawson Cram didn’t bring his #41 Be Water Chevrolet to the track. Drawing the last spot was Alaska native Keith McGee, whose extraordinary path to CMI Motorsports’ #49 Dirty Goth Boi Ford involved a literal gamble with professional gambler Mikki Mase. The crew had a backup hood with the Dirty Goth logo set aside by the team’s hauler. Several fans of both McGee and XFINITY Series newcomer Matt Jaskol were on hand in a vacant pit stall to send off the #49.

McGee’s late driver swap with CMI team owner Ray Ciccarelli incurred him a redundant tail-end penalty along with 36th-place Dylan Lupton for unapproved adjustments on the #34 Marques General Engineering on the hood. McGee made one more pass down pit road by himself before the race started. When it did, there was a logjam around midway up the inside line, causing 19th-place Chase Purdy’s #23 Chevrolet to drive into the back of the truck in front of him. Purdy continued on, but under the first caution would pit for a patch of tape on the left-front corner of his truck’s nose.

As the race went underway, McGee remained in last place with new 37th-place runner Bret Holmes in the #32 Southern States Bank Chevrolet. Holmes then reeled in 36th-place Jennifer Jo Cobb in the #10 Fastener Supply Company Ford, and Cobb then dropped back toward the approaching McGee. McGee was within striking distance of the #10 when the caution fell for an incident in Turn 4.

Hacker, who was still running near the tail end of the field, spun and backed into the Turn 4 wall, damaging the left-rear corner of his truck and buckling the rear deck. He managed to make it to pit road, where the six-minute “Crash Clock” began to count down. Under the ensuing first caution of the race, the team facilitated repairs, pushing the bent panels and taping them back in place. He returned to the track off the lead lap, but on Lap 9 was seen on camera running off the pace. Back on pit road on the 11th circuit, Hacker’s team was then informed by NASCAR that their “Crash Clock” had expired. The team pushed the #45 behind the wall on the Turn 1 side of pit road, then parked their truck next to their hauler, last in line. Hacker could not be reached for a quote, but his mother indicated he will next run in Martinsville.

A brutal wreck on Lap 71 ended up filling most of the Bottom Five. The incident started when Tyler Ankrum’s #26 Liuna Chevrolet broke loose in Turn 1. Chandler Smith, whose #18 Safelite Auto Glass Toyota was running the high lane, couldn’t avoid contact and skated down to the inside of the track, where Ankrum also collected Chase Purdy’s #23 and Hailie Deegan in the #1 Craftsman Ford. Meanwhile, Sheldon Creed had cut to the apron in his #2 Chevrolet, and collided with Smith at high speed, destroying both trucks and starting a fire under the hood of the #2. Creed, Smith, and Ankrum climbed from their vehicles and were checked and released from the infield care center.

Rounding out the Bottom Five was John Hunter Nemechek, whose metric qualifying pole mirrored his pre-race standing as the presumptive favorite. Nemechek’s #4 Berry’s Bullets Toyota started sputtering with an electrical issue, and would lose multiple laps in the process, finishing 49 laps down, but under power. Another three trucks ahead of him failed to finish, including McGee, who was flagged off the track for not maintaining minimum speed.

Tyler Hill rolls his battered truck to pit road after the race.

Tyler Hill Frustrated With Last-Lap Wreck

The race, which saw Christian Eckes score his first career series win, ended under caution following a last-lap crash. The wreck totaled the unsponsored #56 Chevrolet of Tyler Hill, which happened to be the last 1.5-mile truck in the Hill Motorsports’ stable. While no other 1.5-mile tracks remain in 2021, Hill was less than pleased with how his race ended.

“We were just racing hard for nothing way back in the pack and I think it was the #02 - I believe it was Kris Wright - just felt like a hero on the last lap racing for God knows what probably 18th and just decided he wanted to destroy us on last lap. So this is so unfortunate - this is the last mile-and-a-half truck that we had. At least we don't have any more mile-and-a-halves to go to but just completely wipes us out for the year. And I guess we start start building new trucks for next year.”

I also asked Tyler about the race up to that point.

“We had a great truck - we just unfortunately with our budget we didn't have a set of tires there at the end to put on and we had some trucks that shouldn't have been around us driving up through the field. They get coming on you so fast with tires that they think they can just do anything and unfortunately some drivers just don't have the experience to handle that. It winds up killing some guys that can't be killing trucks and and it's just not a whole lot more you can do about it really. Part of it.”

I have reached out to Young’s Motorsports for a comment from Wright on the incident.

Holmes (second from left) before the start.

Bret Holmes Earns Career-Best 11th

Further up the standings, Bret Holmes had continued his climb through the field from 35th on the grid to finish in 11th – his best-ever finish as a driver by a full 16 spots. I caught up with Holmes after the race:

“Yeah, I mean for me at least,” said Holmes. “Our team has ran a little bit better when Sam (Mayer) raced with us earlier in the year. But yeah, we really needed that. We've had a bad stretch of races here as far as just execution and luck goes all around. And it's been a tough summer for us really so I'm glad. It's been a while. . .I was one off from a Top Ten - I was hoping I could at least get a Top Ten, but I'm satisfied with today's race with how everything's been going for sure.”

I asked how the race played out for him with all the hard crashes throughout:

“I mean it's just on restarts, it's so hard on lane choice, and you make one wrong decision, you can lose five spots just like that. So I feel like I made two wrong decisions on choosing the inside as far as a few laps after the restarts go. So the more races in these trucks, then the better I'll be that instinct or decision making so I'll get better at that and we'll continue to improve for sure. Without practice, our notebook's starting off in the race, so it's been it's been tough but we're getting there.”

Finally, I asked Holmes on his plans for 2022.

“Yeah, plans are still kind of coming together. They're just kind of now starting to talk. . .just kind of more dependent on sponsorship, what we can do so. I definitely feel like we'll be in Trucks for sure, Trucks in some capacity. And then maybe ARCA - I'm not sure about that - but we'll see.”

*This marked the first Truck Series last-place finish for the #45 since June 12th of this year, when Ross Chastain was disqualified for an illegal throttle body. All six of the last-place finishes for the #45 in Truck Series history have come with different drivers – Rich Bickle (1999), Tommy Regan (2014), Ty Majeski (2020), Trevor Bayne (2020), and Chastain (2021).
*Early exits from the Truck Series race at Las Vegas are extremely common – so common, in fact, that the six laps Hacker completed are the fourth-most in the 29 races of the track’s Truck Series history. Conor Daly set the record high with 68 laps this past spring
*There have now been 19 different last-place finishers in as many Truck Series races in 2021 with just three races to go.
*The DVP has now been the official last-place finish reason for at least one Cup, XFINITY, and Truck Series race (four total as of this writing).

37) #45-Chris Hacker / 6 laps / dvp
36) #2-Sheldon Creed / 70 laps / crash
35) #18-Chandler Smith / 70 laps / crash
34) #26-Tyler Ankrum / 70 laps / crash
33) #4-John Hunter Nemechek / 85 laps / running

1st) Niece Motorsports (6)
2nd) GMS Racing (3)
3rd) Rackley-W.A.R., Reaume Brothers Racing (2)
4th) CMI Motorsports, Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing, Kyle Busch Motorsports, Norm Benning Racing, Roper Racing, Young’s Motorsports (1)

1st) Chevrolet (14)
2nd) Toyota (3)
3rd) Ford (2)


Thursday, September 23, 2021

PREVIEW: The return of Cody Ware, a gamble for Keith McGee, and multiple double-duty bids on tap in Las Vegas

PHOTO: Keith McGee

Continuing with my return to trackside coverage in 2021, I will be covering the action in Las Vegas for the first time. Be sure to stay tuned to this website and my Twitter feed @LASTCARonBROCK for updates throughout the weekend.

Friday, September 24, 2021 (9:00 P.M. ET, FS1)
TRUCKS Race 19 of 22
Round of 8 – Race 1 of 3
Victoria’ Voice Foundation 200 at Las Vegas
2020 Last-Place Finisher: Natalie Decker

There are 38 drivers entered for 40 spots in Friday’s race, meaning all will start the event.

TEAM UPDATE: #3-Jordan Anderson Racing
Howie DiSavino III will be racing with a heavy heart this Friday after his mother Dawn DiSavino died last Saturday following a five-year battle with cancer. According to the team’s press release, her last words were to “pass them all” in Friday’s race. DiSavino’s fifth series start, following a 28th-place finish in Bristol, will be his first at the track. Dawn’s name will be on the passenger-side roof rail.

MISSING: #6-Norm Benning Racing
Norm Benning is not entered after he missed the cut under metric qualifying in Bristol.

DRIVER SWAP: #9-CR7 Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #98-ThorSport Racing
Following another strong runner-up finish in Bristol, Grant Enfinger is back out of the #98 and into Codie Rohrbaugh’s #9, replacing Colby Howard who ran 15th, and carrying sponsorship from Blaster. Christian Eckes will again drive the #98 for his ninth start of 2021 and first since Gateway, where he finished 31st.

DRIVER CHANGE: #11-Spencer Davis Motorsports
Clay Greenfield is back out of the field after his collaboration with Spencer Davis yielded a 23rd-place showing in Bristol. Davis himself will run the #11 this week with Inox Supreme Lubricants again as sponsor. This will be Davis’ seventh Truck start of the season and first since Darlington earlier this month, where he ran 22nd.

MISSING: #17-David Gilliland Racing
Taylor Gray is not entered along with David Gilliland’s #17 entry following a 29th-place run in Bristol.

Doug Coby III impressed with a strong 12th-place finish in his Truck Series debut. The modified star hands the wheel back to Jack Wood this week with Martin Auto Color as sponsor on his Chevrolet. This will be Wood’s first start at Las Vegas.

DRIVER CHANGE: #25-Rackley-W.A.R.
For the first time since he took over for Timothy Peters at Texas, Josh Berry will not be running the Rackley-W.A.R. entry this week, just days after an 11th-place showing in Bristol. Instead, the driver will be Brett Moffitt, who will make his first Truck start since Knoxville, where he steered AM Racing’s second entry to a 38th-place finish.

DRIVER CHANGE: #32-Bret Holmes Racing
Last week in Bristol, Sam Mayer managed to pull out a 22nd-place finish despite damage suffered in the early laps. This week, Bret Holmes will drive his own entry for the fifth time this season and first since Charlotte. Holmes, who failed to qualify his most recent attempt at Nashville, ran 37th at this Vegas track in the spring, site of his series debut.

DRIVER CHANGE: #34-Reaume Brothers Racing
Dylan Lupton is back at the track and will pull double-duty with the XFINITY Series (see below). On the Truck side, he takes the place of Josh Reaume, who finished last with this #34 entry after he was collected in Mayer’s wreck. This will be only the second Truck Series start for Lupton in 2021 and first since September in Darlington, where he ran 31st for KBM.

WITHDREW: #41-Cram Racing Enterprises
Dawson Cram's entered #41 was not among those at the track on Friday.

DRIVER CHANGE: #45-Niece Motorsports
Chris Hacker will make his second career Truck Series start and first since Gateway, where he finished 27th despite early mechanical trouble on Reaume’s #34. This time, he runs Al Niece’s #45 in place of Lawless Alan, who earned 18th in Bristol. Charred Flags, which produces woodworking art, is the sponsor of his Chevrolet.

DRIVER CHANGE: #49-CMI Motorsports
Keith McGee may be the true “high roller” in Thursday’s field after he teamed up with professional gambler Mikki Mase to take home $81,000 in casino winnings – enough for McGee to run in the race. McGee will drive the only truck that was still available – the #49 originally entered by owner-driver Ray Ciccarelli, who competed just 15 laps in Bristol. It will be his fourth start of the year and first since Texas, when he ran 29th. Several Las Vegas-based businesses will adorn the truck, including Boyd Gaming, Banger Buddy, and Hey Big Mike. For more on this story, be sure to check out Joseph Srigley’s article at this link.

DRIVER CHANGE: #56-Hill Motorsports
After Timmy Hill climbed from 32nd on the grid to finish 17th, brother Tyler Hill will make his sixth start of 2021 and first since Darlington and will roll off 24th. Tyler’s season-worst finish of 35th came at this track in the spring, where he was involved in a late-race accident. Timmy will not run any of NASCAR’s top three series this weekend as his XFINITY entry is again on the wrong side of the cut line (see below).

MISSING: #75-Henderson Motorsports
Parker Kligerman is not entered following a 21st-place showing for Charlie Henderson in Bristol.


Saturday, September 25, 2021 (7:30 P.M. ET, NBCSN)
XFINITY Race 27 of 33
Round of 12 – Race 1 of 3
Alsco Uniforms 302 at Las Vegas
2020 Last-Place Finisher: Kyle Weatherman

The XFINITY Series Playoffs kick-off with 41 drivers entered for 40 spots, which once again leaves MBM’s #13 team out of the lineup (see below).

DRIVER SWAP: #5-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #15-JD Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #74-Mike Harmon Racing
DRIVER SWAP: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
C.J. McLaughlin will run double-duty with the Truck Series, remaining in Reaume’s #33 entry on Friday while returning to Mike Harmon Racing’s #74 on Saturday for the first time since his last-place run in Richmond. McLaughlin’s return moves Bayley Currey back to the #15 in place of B.J. McLeod, who moves back to his own #99 in place of Matt Mills. Mills will thus return to his familiar #5, taking the place of Stefan Parsons. While Parsons will not race this week, on Tuesday came news that he has locked-up a full-season ride with B.J. McLeod Motorsports for 2022. 

DID NOT QUALIFY: #13-Motorsports Business Management
Timmy Hill will not qualify as the #13 is ranked too low in Owner Points under metric qualifying.

DRIVER CHANGE: #17-Rick Ware Racing / SS-Green Light Racing
DRIVER SWAP: #52-Jimmy Means Racing
J.J. Yeley rejoins the Ware / Dotter effort on the #17 team for the first time since Richmond in what will be the veteran’s 11th series start of 2021, and a double-duty weekend with Cup (see below). On the XFINITY side, Yeley debuts new sponsorship from social media platform Parler. Yeley takes the place of Carson Ware, who moves to Jimmy Means Racing in place of Gray Gaulding, who turned in a much-needed 18th-place finish in Bristol. Ware carries sponsorship from

DRIVER CHANGE: #23-Our Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #31-Jordan Anderson Racing
Blaine Perkins is back in Chris Our’s #23 for the first time since last month’s night race at Daytona, where he ran a season-best 23rd. Perkins takes the place of Ty Dillon, who this week moves to Jordan Anderson’s #31 and carries local sponsorship from South Point Hotel & Casino. Dillon takes the place of IndyCar’s Sage Karam, who survived his first Bristol start to take home 16th, just one spot behind Dillon.

DRIVER CHANGE: #26-Sam Hunt Racing
The second part of Dylan Lupton’s double-duty weekend will come with Sam Hunt Racing, taking the place of 21st-place Bristol finisher Brandon Gdovic. This will be Lupton’s first XFINITY Series start since June 2, 2018, when he finished 23rd for the now defunct JGL Racing. 
Marques General Engineering will sponsor the Lupton effort.

DRIVER SWAP: #61-Motorsports Business Management
DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Matt Jaskol returns to the #66 for his sixth career XFINITY start and first since Texas in June, bringing with him sponsorship from Auto Parts 4 Less. This will also be Jaskol’s first start at Las Vegas, his home track. Jaskol takes the place of David Starr, who moves to the #61 in place of Chad Finchum, who isn’t entered. Starr, who ran three spots ahead of Finchum at Bristol in 30th, carries sponsorship from Angry Crab Shack.

DRIVER CHANGE: #78-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Las Vegas will mark the 10th start of the season for Mason Massey, who we last saw at Richmond driving this same #78 entry to a 17th-place finish, his best of the year. Massey and his Gerber Collision & Glass sponsorship take the place of Jesse Little, who ran 28th in Bristol. Massey finished 29th in his only previous Las Vegas start here in the spring of 2020.


Sunday, September 26, 2021 (7:00 P.M. ET, NBCSN)
CUP Race 30 of 36
Round of 12 – Race 1 of 3
South Point 400 at Las Vegas
2020 Last-Place Finisher: Chad Finchum

There are 38 drivers entered for 40 spots, marking the 23rd short field in 30 races this season. Since the field was cut off at 40 cars in 2016, a Cup race in Vegas has seen 40 cars on the grid only once – the inaugural fall race on September 16, 2018.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Rick Ware Racing
Joey Gase is back in the RWR #15 with NV Donate Life as the listed sponsor. Gase takes the place of James Davison, who at Bristol struggled from the start with an ill-handling car and finished 33rd.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Rick Ware Racing
RETURNING / DRIVER SWAP: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Welcome back Cody Ware, who returns to the Cup Series for the first time since he suffered carbon monoxide poisoning midway through the Southern 500 earlier this month. Ware takes the place of J.J. Yeley, who ran 27th in Bristol. Yeley will instead drive the returning MBM #66, which was added as a late entry as of Monday. Fat Boy Ice Cream, which has sponsored several of Yeley’s runs this past year, will sponsor the #66 Toyota. 

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (September 23, 2006): Chris Wimmer picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Nationwide Series career in the Dover 200 at Dover when his #79 Speedco Chevrolet lost the brakes after 3 laps. This was Wimmer’s fourth and final series start, his only race for a team other than Keith Coleman’s, and his only start where he didn’t drop out because of an accident. His best finish was just 37th at Phoenix on November 12, 2005.

Monday, September 20, 2021

INDYCAR: Takuma Sato only retiree at Laguna Seca


by William Soquet Staff Writer

Takuma Sato finished last for the 15th time in his NTT IndyCar Series career in Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca when his #30 Panasonic / Mi-Jack Honda retired from the race with mechanical issues after completing 83 of the race’s 95 laps.

The finish came in Sato’s 197th series start and was his first since Texas in 2020, 29 races ago.

After an up-and-down Formula One career and over a decade racing IndyCar, 2021 has been a nondescript year for Sato. Barring a win in next weekend’s finale at Long Beach - a track that he has won at before - it will be his first winless season since 2015, and a fourth-place finish in the first Detroit race has been the highlight of the year. While nothing is confirmed, Motorsport has publicly pegged Sato as out at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing for next year, with signs indicating that he will land at Dale Coyne Racing.

With the addition of a couple part-time entries for the season-ending West Coast swing, the entry list stood at a solid 27 cars. The part-timers were Oliver Askew, trying his hand for a full-time ride at RLL next year, and Calum Illott, who is the driver that Juncos Hollinger Racing tabbed for their first IndyCar races since the 2019 Indianapolis 500. That race saw the Juncos team and driver Kyle Kaiser famously bump Fernando Alonso from the race in the Last Row Shootout.

In practice, Illott was the slowest machine with a quick time of 1 minute, 13.739 seconds, a mere .014 seconds off of A.J. Foyt Racing’s Dalton Kellett. Illott was able to shave nearly four-tenths off in qualifying, outpacing Kellett by a quarter-second to grab the last spot in Row 13. Sato was 19th in practice and 23rd in qualifying, the slowest of the three RLL cars in both sessions.

Towards the end of the pace lap, the grid was noticeably late to form up - so much so, in fact, that the last few rows were not in double-file formation by the time the green flag was dropped. This came in to play no later than the opening lap, when Felix Rosenqvist looped his car coming off of Turn 3, but he was able to drive away immediately and slotted in ahead of both Kellett and Illott, running 27th and 26th, respectively. On the following lap, however, Alexander Rossi made a challenge for the lead on his Andretti Autosport teammate Colton Herta, and at the exit of the turn, Rossi’s #27 car jumped out on him, making contact with Herta and sending him in to the sand, stalling the car. Rossi lost a lap in the ensuing refire-and-pit process, leaving him the only car one lap down for a considerable amount of time.

While it was inevitable that eventually somebody else would go a lap down, it came quicker than expected. On Lap 10, Will Power brought his #12 Team Penske Chevrolet to the pits, complaining of an engine misfire. His crew quickly sent him back out, only losing two laps in the process.

Power remained in last place until the incident that would ultimately decide the day’s last-place finisher. During a commercial break with lap numbers in the late-30s, Sato spun going down the corkscrew section of the track and rolled across the track from the apex, backing in to Scott Dixon, who came barreling down the five-story drop. While NBC’s commentators criticized Sato for not locking it down and sitting in the same spot, others praised Sato for clearing the apex of the corner, even if it did result in damage to both his and Dixon’s cars. Dixon kept his car pointed forwards and escaped with some side pod damage, while Sato was able to drive away after a couple more cars passed by. He took his car to the pit lane and emerged three laps down, in last place. Rossi had lost a second lap by this point in time, putting him and Power on the same circuit. Sato soldiered around until he eventually took it to the garage with lingering mechanical gremlins, completing a total of 83 circuits on the day.

Power and Rossi were 26th and 25th, respectively, the only cars two laps in arrears at the end of the race.

Give a call to former NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson, who scored his best career IndyCar finish in 17th near the end of a long learning season for him. Especially impressive was the way he handled himself when Romain Grosjean tire-slammed him down the corkscrew in the closing stages of the race; Johnson readjusted his line through the dirt and was able to continue on mere car lengths behind the #51 car.

27) #30-Takuma Sato / 83 laps / mechanical
26) #12-Will Power / 93 laps / running
25) #27-Alexander Rossi / 93 laps / running

1st) Chevrolet (9)
2nd) Honda (6)

1st) A.J. Foyt Racing, Andretti Autosport (3)
2nd) Arrow McLaren SP, Carlin Dale Coyne Racing (2)
3rd) Ed Carpenter Racing, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Top Gun Racing (1)


Sunday, September 19, 2021

CUP: Ryan Newman scores first Cup last-place finish for #6 at Bristol since 1965

ALL PHOTOS: @roushfenway

Ryan Newman picked up the 12th last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Saturday’s Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at the Bristol Motor Speedway when his #6 Kohler Generators Ford was involved in a multi-car accident after 177 of 500 laps.

The finish, which came in Newman’s 718th series start, was his first of the season and first in the series since October 20, 2019 at Kansas, 69 races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 1st by DVP, the 34th for the #6, and the 713th for Ford. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 3rd by DVP, the 67th for the #6, and the 981st for Ford.

Once again, one of the most experienced veterans in the Cup Series field faces a crossroads in his career. It was announced earlier this summer that Brad Keselowski will take over his ride at Roush-Fenway Racing in 2022, and also become part-owner of the team. This news comes just one year after the last lap of the 2020 Daytona 500, where Newman suffered the latest and most serious of a series of wrecks that also raised questions about the safety of superspeedway racing. This year, he’s scored his first top-five finishes since 2019 – a 5th on Bristol’s dirt race and a 3rd in the physical summer Daytona race last month. But these were the only highlights of a season that saw him sit a distant 25th in the point standings. 

At Bristol, where Newman held the track record for many years, he drew the 24th spot based on metric qualifying. Kohler Generators returned as sponsor or the first time since Road America. The scheme also ran in this year’s Daytona 500, one of only two DNFs Newman was handed in the year’s first 28 races.

Rolling off 38th in the shortest field for the Bristol Night Race since 1996 was David Starr, who was making his first Cup race at Bristol since 2011. Starr carried his familiar Whataburger colors on Motorsports Business Management’s #66 Toyota – a car that hadn’t been entered in the series since last month’s Playoff cutoff race in Daytona. Unlike both the Truck and XFINITY Series races that weekend, there were no reported concerns with a car smoking during the pace laps, though there was some delay with 20th-place starter Chase Briscoe, who had radio issues on his #14 Rush Truck Centers / Cummins Ford.

When the race started, Starr immediately pulled ahead of 37th-place starter James Davison, whose #15 Greatest Generations Chevrolet fielded by Rick Ware Racing ran a special paint scheme in honor of December’s upcoming 80th anniversary of the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. By Lap 4, Davison had already dropped a full 1.533 seconds back of Starr, an interval which grew to 3.7 seconds on Lap 12. By Lap 14, Davison pulled to the high side as he became the first driver to be lapped, lost a second on the 21st circuit, and nearly lost a third before the competition caution fell on Lap 40. Soon after, the team discussed they had sparks coming off the left-front of Davison’s splitter.

After the restart, Davison, Starr, and several other drivers found themselves multiple laps behind the leaders, each running the high lane to try and stay out of the way. On Lap 64, Davison was running a full corner ahead of Starr, but Davison remained in last as he was another lap behind the #66. The group was soon joined by Anthony Alfredo in the #38 Dude Wipes Ford and Justin Haley in the #77 Diamond Creek Water Chevrolet, each suddenly two laps down on the 79th go-round. Haley began to climb out of the Bottom Five by Lap 108, passing the RWR duo of Josh Bilicki in the #52 Insurance King Ford and Garrett Smithley in the #53 Boom Mobile Chevrolet, but Alfredo remained back in 36th.

Newman didn’t enter the last-place battle until Lap 169, when entering Turn 1 his #6 crossed the nose of Cole Custer’s #41 Autodesk / Ford and slammed the outside wall. Custer’s car ended up tangling with Newman’s slowing Ford, putting Newman into the fence a second time. The ensuing accordion effect caused contact between two of NASCAR’s newest teams as the right-front of Bubba Wallace’s #23 McDonald’s Toyota slammed the left-rear of Daniel Suarez in the #99 Coca-Cola Chevrolet. While Suarez, Wallace, and Custer all returned to the track, Newman had an extended stay on pit road as the crew worked on the right-front suspension. He made it back out to complete around seven more laps before his “Crash Clock” expired on Lap 188. By completing these laps, Newman was listed out under the “Damaged Vehicle Policy” or DVP instead of a crash. He’d just taken last from Davison when time expired.

The crew works to repair Newman's damaged

Haley and Alfredo would be eliminated in a similar wreck on Lap 221 when contact from Corey LaJoie’s #7 Schluter Systems Chevrolet sent Alfredo sideways into the Turn 1 wall. Alfredo’s car then bounced back into traffic directly into the path of B.J. McLeod’s #78 Honor and Remember Ford. McLeod’s camouflage-painted machine, decorated in honor of the 13 servicemen lost last month in Afghanistan, was trapped between Alfredo and a fast-closing Haley, destroying both corners of the #78. Alfredo and Haley made it to pit road with significant damage, but McLeod had to climb from his car, done for the night. Haley was done, too – the right-front fender shorn from his Chevrolet – while Alfredo completed nearly 100 more laps before he too dropped out.

Rounding out the Bottom Five was Quin Houff, who brought out two consecutive cautions on Laps 364 and 389. He’d suffered damage to the rear of his #00 Boss Hoss Cycles Chevrolet in the first caution, then struck the outside wall in the second, keeping both front wheels from moving. Like McLeod, Houff climbed from his car, done for the night. Davison ultimately finished 33rd, 26 laps down to race winner Kyle Larson, as only the Bottom Five failed to finish the event.

While the elimination race for the Round of 12 took center stage, two non-Playoff drivers enjoyed strong finishes – each in one of the sport’s two most iconic car numbers. Erik Jones showed speed all night and finished 8th in Richard Petty Motorsports’ #43 U.S. Air Force Tuskegee Airmen Chevrolet. Two spots behind him was Matt DiBenedetto, who ran blue-and-white colors on his #21 Reese / Draw-Tite Ford fielded by the Wood Brothers.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #6 in a Cup Series race at Bristol since July 25, 1965, when “The Silver Fox,” David Pearson, picked up his first-ever Cup Series last-place finish following a crash 8 laps into the Volunteer 500. This race was run 12 years before Newman was even born.

38) #6-Ryan Newman / 177 laps / dvp
37) #78-B.J. McLeod / 215 laps / crash
36) #77-Justin Haley / 216 laps / crash
35) #38-Anthony Alfredo / 313 laps / crash
34) #00-Quin Houff / 375 laps / crash

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

1st) Chevrolet (16)
2nd) Ford (10)
3rd) Toyota (3)


Friday, September 17, 2021

XFINITY: Brett Moffitt’s return from illness ends swiftly in Bristol

PHOTO: @OurMotorsports

Brett Moffitt picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Friday’s Food City 300 at the Bristol Motor Speedway when his #02 Fr8 Auctions Chevrolet was involved in a single-car accident after 9 of 306 laps.

The finish, which came in Moffitt’s 57th series start, was his second of the season and first since the March 20 race in Atlanta, 20 races ago. In the XFINITY Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 7th for the #02, the 357th from a crash, and the 579th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 31st for the #02, the 1,273rd from a crash, and the, 1,805th for Chevrolet.

With Bristol as the site of the XFINITY Series’ regular season finale, Moffitt tweeted before the race, “One more shot. One more opportunity. We’re gonna fight to the finish! Let’s go!” Indeed, Moffitt’s team had been one of the series’ best to not yet reach victory lane, building on an equally impressive 2020. Two races after the last-place run in Atlanta, Moffitt was 8th in Darlington – the team’s fourth of eight Top Tens so far in 2021. But wen he was feeling ill headed into this month’s return to Darlington, Ty Dillon was called in as a last-minute replacement, and would fill in again the next week in Richmond. Bristol would be Moffitt’s first race back since, and he’d roll off in 20th.

Starting 40th and last on Friday was Bayley Currey, who returned to Mike Harmon Racing’s #74 Date Mining / JM Steel Chevrolet. He’d be joined at the back by two others for driver changes – Michael Annett had re-aggravated his leg injury, putting him out of the Playoffs and Josh Berry back into his #1 Pilot / Flying J “Thank A Trucker” Chevrolet. Carson Ware was also swapped into J.J. Yeley’s listed ride in Rick Ware Racing’s #17 Pounds Property Management Chevrolet. But during the pace laps, Currey’s team expressed concern with 39th-place starter Gray Gaulding, who they said was trailing smoke from his #52 Panini American / UFC Prizm Chevrolet. 

When the race started, Currey and Berry had moved up to the 38th and 37th spots, respectively, as two more drivers had dropped to the tail end of the field. B.J. McLeod was set to start 37th in JD Motorsports’ unsponsored #15 Chevrolet, but took the green in 39th, 4.359 seconds back of the lead. Jesse Little, running McLeod’s own #78 David’s Electric Chevrolet, surrendered 25th on the grid to take over last spot, 4.607 seconds back of the lead. 

It was Little who held last place on Lap 5 with McLeod up to 37th, Currey to 34th, and Gaulding’s no longer smoking #52 up to 33rd. By Lap 7, Little had dispensed with Carson Ware, whose #17 now sat 11.789 seconds back of the lead and a half-second back of Little. Moments later, Jeffrey Earnhardt cut a tire and came down pit road for an unscheduled stop, putting his #0 Forever Lawn Chevrolet off the lead lap. As he got back up to speed, the caution flag came out, earning him the Lucky Dog.

This caution was for Moffitt, who while running 19th would later report either the right-front tire had gone down or something happened to the lower control arm behind the wheel. Regardless of cause, the result was clear – the #02 cut straight across the track and pounded the outside wall in Turn 2. The car rolled to the garage trailing sparks, the first car out of the race. Moffitt was checked and released from the infield care center. Ty Dillon, Moffitt’s relief driver and now teammate at Our Motorsports, continued his strong summer run n the #23 Home Town Lenders Chevrolet. Dillon took 15th at the finish, the first car one lap down. Ironically, this was his worst finish in the five past starts with the team.

Taking 39th was Landon Cassill, whose #4 Voyager Chevrolet suffered electrical issues after 40 laps. Bayley Currey’s own run had vaulted him toward the Top 25 in the early laps, but brake issues put him out after 53 laps, leaving him a disappointing 38th. The same issue ended the night for Ryan Vargas, whose #6 JD Motorsports Chevrolet dropped off the pace and took 37th. Matt Mills rounded out the group after his #99 J.F. Electric Chevrolet was turned after contact from Spencer Boyd’s #90 Alloy / Beerpongtoss Chevrolet. This resulted in one of the night’s many memorable moments as Mills threw a water bottle at Boyd that instead ricocheted off an emergency vehicle.

After starting 39th with the reported smoking issue, Gray Gaulding stayed on the lead lap and in the Top 20 for most of the race. He took the green in overtime running 15th before contact from Ty Dillon ultimately dropped him to 18th at the finish, the fourth driver one lap down. While just one spot short of both driver and team’s season-best run of 17th at Mid-Ohio, this was arguably the best overall performance for each, and at a critical time. As of this writing, Jimmy Means Racing is still looking for sponsorship for the final five races of 2021.

Also of note was the surprising performance of open-wheel star Sage Karam, who chose to make his second-ever XFINITY Series start – and first not on a road course – at Bristol. Driving once again for Jordan Anderson in the #31 Montage Mountain Chevrolet, Karam had issues on pit road before the field rolled off to start their pace laps, then struggled outside the Top 30. Late in the event, when leaders Noah Gragson and Justin Allgaier both incurred tail-end penalties for speeding on pit road, Karam bounced between the two faster cars as they tried to claw their way through the field. By the end, Karam crossed the line in 16th – the Anderson team’s best run since Michigan.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #02 in a XFINITY Series race at Bristol.

40) #02-Brett Moffitt / 9 laps / crash
39) #4-Landon Cassill / 40 laps / electrical
38) #74-Bayley Currey / 53 laps / brakes
37) #6-Ryan Vargas / 94 laps / brakes
36) #99-Matt Mills / 108 laps / crash

1st) B.J. McLeod Motorsports (5)
2nd) Mike Harmon Racing (3)
3rd) DGM Racing, JD Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, JR Motorsports, Motorsports Business Management, Our Motorsports, RSS Racing / Reaume Brothers Racing (2)
4th) Brandonbilt Motorsports, Jimmy Means Racing, Sam Hunt Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (18)
2nd) Toyota (7)
3rd) Ford (1)