Thursday, October 21, 2021

PREVIEW: Kansas sees the Cup return of Ellis, Kligerman, Finchum, and "Stroker Ace"

IMAGE: @SpireMotorsport

Saturday, October 23, 2021 (3:00 P.M. NBC)
XFINITY Race 31 of 33
Round of 8 – Race 2 of 3
Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas
2020 Last-Place Finisher: Noah Gragson

There are 41 drivers entered for 40 spots, and under metric qualifying, the #13 team is once again not in the field. 

In the LASTCAR XFINITY Series Championship, no driver is in position to lock-up the title on Saturday. However, if current leader David Starr finishes last, the only remaining contenders would be two-time last-placers Brandon Jones, Bayley Currey, Gray Gaulding, Brett Moffitt, and Noah Gragson. Those five drivers would then only be able to take the title by sweeping the last-place finishes at Martinsville and Phoenix. Of that group, Gragson and Moffitt may need extra help if Starr earns more Bottom Fives or Bottom Tens.

DID NOT QUALIFY: #13-Motorsports Business Management
Timmy Hill was the listed driver for the MBM #13 team’s 13th consecutive DNQ and 17th overall this season. Hill will likewise not run Sunday’s Cup race (see below).

DRIVER CHANGE: #17-Rick Ware Racing / SS-Green Light Racing
The preliminary entry list showed Carson Ware in place of Texas last-place finisher J.J. Yeley with Jacob Companies as sponsor. That changed Wednesday with news of Ware’s arrest on misdemeanor charges, leading to his indefinite suspension. SS-Green Light Racing made a statement indicating Garrett Smithley will drive, his first XFINITY start since a 19th earlier this month at Talladega.

DRIVER CHANGE: #23-Our Motorsports
Patrick Emerling returns for his third XFINITY start of the season and first since last month in Richmond, where he ran 32nd. He will again be sponsored by Spirit Snorkeling. Emerling takes the place of Tanner Berryhill, who finished 37th after he was involved in a wreck at Texas.

DRIVER CHANGE: #31-Jordan Anderson Racing
Following the 15th-place finish by Kaz Grala in a Halloween-themed car at Texas, team owner Jordan Anderson is back behind the wheel of his own #31 for the first time since his season-best 5th in Talladega. This will be Anderson’s first XFINITY start in Kansas.

PAINT SCHEME: #44-Martins Motorsports
Tommy Joe Martins will run a second "preview" scheme of the soon-to-be rebranded Alpha Prime Racing in 2022 - a "Stealth Fighter" scheme on his #44 Alpha Prime Chevrolet. The last time Martin ran a similar scheme was last month at Richmond, where he nearly won Stage 1.

DRIVER CHANGE: #54-Joe Gibbs Racing
Ty Gibbs and sponsorship from Monster Energy return to the #54 team that cruised to victory in Texas, where John Hunter Nemechek led 92 of 200 laps. After a breakout part-time season with three wins, Gibbs has only once finished in the Top 10 since his most recent victory at Watkins Glen – a 7th in Richmond.

DRIVER CHANGE: #61-Motorsports Business Management
Chad Finchum was originally entered in MBM’s #61 Toyota, taking the place of Austin Hill who ran 20th in the Hattori Racing Enterprises partnership at Texas. It would have been Finchum’s 7th start of the year and first since the night race at Bristol, but he’ll be running Cup on Sunday instead. By Wednesday, Loris Hezemans was swapped into his XFINITY ride, rejoining the team for the first time since his 35th-place run on the Charlotte “Roval.”

MANUFACTURER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
David Starr remains in the #66, which is a Ford for just the eighth time in 2021. The previous seven were in the spring Las Vegas race, July in Atlanta, both Darlington races, and the four superspeedway events.

DRIVER CHANGE: #74-Mike Harmon Racing
Gray Gaulding is back in the #74 for the first time since his last-place run on the Charlotte “Roval,” taking the place of C.J. McLaughlin, who was 35th after a difficult race in Texas. McLaughlin’s sponsor Sci Aps is still the listed backer.


Sunday, October 24, 2021 (3:00 P.M. ET, NBCSN)
CUP Race 34 of 36
Round of 8 – Race 2 of 3
Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas
2020 Last-Place Finisher: Matt Kenseth

For the first time since Talladega, and for only the ninth time all year, there are exactly 40 drivers entered for as many starting spots in a Cup Series race.

The LASTCAR Cup Series Championship remains wide-open heading into Kansas, where Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch, and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. each have a season-leading three last-place finishes and are practically tied in Bottom Fives and Bottom Tens. The next 10 drivers in the standings all have more Bottom Fives and Bottom Tens than the three leaders. Of them, Justin Haley, Joey Gase, Ryan Newman, and Timmy Hill only need one last-place finish to take the lead. Josh Bilicki, Quin Houff, Cody Ware, Anthony Alfredo, Corey LaJoie, and James Davison need two.

PAINT SCHEME: #7-Spire Motorsports
PAINT SCHEME: #77-Spire Motorsports
Plan B Diecast will sponsor a pair of "throwback" paint schemes representing the cars driven by actors Burt Reynolds and Parker Stevenson in the 1983 film "Stroker Ace." Corey LaJoie will run the red #7 of the title character while Justin Haley stands in for nemesis Aubrey James in the #77.

DRIVER SWAP: #13-Motorsports Business Management
DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Chad Finchum will make only his second Cup start of the year and first since Nashville, where he ran 33rd. Finchum will again run the #66 for MBM with sponsor Smithbilt Homes, moving David Starr – 23rd in Texas - to the #13 in place of 27th-place finisher Timmy Hill, who isn’t entered. Both drivers will run Fords in place of their typical Toyotas. Starr will make his first Cup start at Kansas.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Rick Ware Racing
Welcome back Ryan Ellis, who on Sunday will make his first Cup start since November 6, 2016. This time, he’ll take the pace of Garrett Smithley, who ran 24th last Sunday. Smithley will not run Sunday’s race, but has since been swapped into the #17 XFINITY ride (see above). According to an article by Joseph Srigley, Ellis’ deal to run this Sunday came about after the XFINITY race at Mid-Ohio, where contact from Cody Ware accidentally sent Ellis spinning out of a career-best finish.

RETURNING: #96-Gaunt Brothers Racing
Parker Kligerman makes his own return to the Cup Series for the first time since November 3, 2019 at Texas, and will run for the Gaunt Brothers, which hasn’t started a Cup race since Landon Cassill’s 24th-place run earlier this month at Talladega. Kligerman will bring sponsor Fast Checkout into the Cup Series for the first time. Following up driver and sponsor’s successful promotion at Watkins Glen, Kligerman’s car is decorated in QR codes for fans to purchase the company’s $1 hoodie sweatshirts.

Saturday, October 30, 2021
TRUCKS Race 21 of 22
Round of 8 – Race 3 of 3
United Rentals 200 at Martinsville
2020 Last-Place Finisher: Josh Reaume

With Jack Wood the only two-time last-place finisher of 2021 following his run at Talladega, and with two races left to go, Wood can lock-up the LASTCAR Truck Series title with a third last-place finish in Martinsville. Jennifer Jo Cobb, Norm Benning, and Talladega winner Tate Fogleman all have more Bottom Fives than Wood, and can take the lead by finishing last at Martinsville. All remaining drivers with one last-place finish can take the lead by finishing last at both Martinsville and Phoenix. If Wood remains the leader after Martinsville, at least 16 drivers who have yet to score a last-place finish would still be in mathematical contention if they finish last at both Martinsville and Phoenix, including Johnny Sauter, who has just one Bottom Five and four Bottom Tens.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (October 21, 2000): Hank Parker, Jr. picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Busch Series career when his #53 Team Marines Chevrolet crashed in Turn 3 after 24 laps of the Sam’s Club 200 at Rockingham. The race, which came in Parker’s 60th series start, was the first last-place run for the #53 in a Busch Series race since April 20, 1985 with Ronnie Thomas at South Boston, and the last until Max Tullman at Mid-Ohio on August 10, 2019.

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