Monday, September 20, 2021

INDYCAR: Takuma Sato only retiree at Laguna Seca

PHOTO: @RLLRacing

by William Soquet
LASTCAR.info 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.

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

2021 LASTCAR NTT INDYCAR SERIES MANUFACTURERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (9)
2nd) Honda (6)

2021 LASTCAR NTT INDYCAR SERIES OWNERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP
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)

2021 LASTCAR NTT INDYCAR SERIES DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP


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 / HaasTooling.com 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
right-front

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.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*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.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
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

2021 LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
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)

2021 LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (16)
2nd) Ford (10)
3rd) Toyota (3)

2021 LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP


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.

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

THE BOTTOM FIVE
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

2021 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
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)

2021 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (18)
2nd) Toyota (7)
3rd) Ford (1)

2021 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP


TRUCKS: Josh Reaume finishes last after truck loses an important piece

PHOTO: @RBR_Teams

Josh Reaume picked up the 4th last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Thursday’s UNOH 200 Presented by Ohio Logistics at the Bristol Motor Speedway when his #34 DOF Simulator Motion Simulator Toyota was collected in a multi-truck accident after 3 of 200 laps.

The finish, which came in Reaume’s 57th series start, was his first of the season and first since the 2020 finale at Phoenix, 18 races ago. Curiously, this also makes Reaume the 18th different last-place finisher of the 2021 Truck Series season in as many races with just four rounds to go.

In the Truck Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 6th for the #34, the 41st for Toyota, and the 170th from a crash. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 51st for the #34, the 363rd for Toyota, and the 1,272nd from a crash.

On March 31st of this year, Reaume was reinstated by NASCAR following a suspension stemming from a social media post. He returned to action as a driver at Richmond in April, taking 33rd in his #34 truck. While Reaume Brothers Racing has attempted a few XFINITY Series races this year in collaboration with first RSS Racing, then Our Motorsports, before fielding a car of their own at Indianapolis, the team’s focus has remained with their Truck Series team and an ever-changing lineup of drivers. Among these drivers were Keith McGee, NASCAR’s first driver from Alaska, and Armani Williams, the sport’s first driver diagnosed with Autism. 

At Bristol, Reaume would again run the #34 with this time C.J. McLaughlin in the #33. There were some issues with the radios before the start as the team was unclear who was on which channel. It was soon discovered the radios had been switched, so each team had to use the other’s channel. Reaume rolled off 28th with McLaughlin back in 38th. McLaughlin would ultimately finish in 26th.

Rolling off 40th and last on Thursday was Ray Ciccarelli, who drove his own #49 Belimo Ford for the first time since Pocono. During the pace laps, NASCAR expressed concern over smoke coming from 22nd-place starter Danny Bohn in the #30 Rustoleum Toyota, concerns that delayed the initial start. When the race started, Ciccarelli remained in last place after 2 laps, 10.04 seconds back of the lead, and already 2.163 back of new 39th-place runner Jennifer Jo Cobb in the #10 Fastener Supply Company Ford.

By Lap 4, Reaume had slipped to 31st place when trouble broke out off Turn 2. Sam Mayer had rolled off 39th in his #32 Camping World Chevrolet, and while picking up several spots spun into the outside wall, damaging the right-front and right-rear of his truck. Howie DiSavino III was also involved, his #3 Kees Vacations / Bud’s Chevrolet sitting backwards on the apron. FS1’s cameras then showed the nose of a Toyota sitting face-down on the track surface. This belonged to Reaume, who was collected in the incident and came to pit road without the part. While Mayer’s crew dropped their truck on a hammer to bend the nose back in place, joining DiSavino on the track, Reaume was done for the night. Mayer salvaged a 22nd-place finish, six spots ahead of DiSavino.

On the restart, Tate Fogleman rear-ended another truck, rupturing the radiator on his #12 Solid Rock Carriers Chevrolet. He pulled behind the wall, but was not put under the “Crash Clock” and was thus able to return to the track. He completed 16 more laps, climbing from 39th to 37th before he was eliminated in the night’s biggest wreck on Lap 71. The two trucks he passed were Ray Ciccarelli, who cited rear gear issues after only 15 laps, and Tanner Gray, who slapped the Turn 2 wall with the driver’s side of his #15 Ford Performance Ford. Kris Wright rounded out the Bottom Five with a blown engine on the #02 Wright Chevy Chevrolet, putting two Young’s Motorsports entries in the final five spots.

One of the night’s most impressive runs belonged to Doug Coby, the multiple-time NASCAR Modified Series Champion, who made his Truck Series debut in GMS Racing’s #24 Mayhew Tools Chevrolet. Coby climbed from 30th on the grid to finish on the lead lap in 12th.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #34 in a Truck Series race since June 13, 2020, when Bryant Barnhill had transmission issues after 1 lap of the Baptist Health 200 at Homestead. The number had never before finished last in a Truck Series race at Bristol.
*This marks only the second time a Toyota has finished last in a Truck Series race at Bristol, joining Matt Crafton’s first-ever last-place run on August 17, 2016.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #34-Josh Reaume / 3 laps / crash
39) #49-Ray Ciccarelli / 15 laps / rear gear
38) #15-Tanner Gray / 21 laps / crash
37) #12-Tate Fogleman / 30 laps / crash
36) #02-Kris Wright / 59 laps / engine

2021 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Niece Motorsports (5)
2nd) GMS Racing, Rackley-W.A.R., Reaume Brothers Racing (2)
3rd) CMI Motorsports, Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing, Kyle Busch Motorsports, Norm Benning Racing, Roper Racing, Young’s Motorsports (1)

2021 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (14)
2nd) Toyota (3)
2nd) Ford (2)

2021 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP


ARCA: Mason Diaz goes from championship contender to last place at Bristol

Mason Diaz' car at Southern National Motorsports Park in June
PHOTO: VMS_74

by William Soquet
LASTCAR.info Staff Writer

Mason Diaz scored the 1st last-place finish of his ARCA Menards Series career in Thursday’s Bush’s Beans 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway when his #74 Solid Rock Carriers did not finish the race due to battery issues, completing 2 of 200 laps.

The finish came in Diaz’s fifth career series start.

Mason Diaz has been an interesting case in the “backwards is forwards” train of thought. He climbed the traditional ranks of go-karts, Bandoleros and Legends cars before moving on to full-bodied cars. Conveniently, his father, Michael Diaz, co-owns a track, Southern National Motorsports Park. The North Carolina venue was a natural proving ground for a young Diaz, and as early in 2015, Mason was making starts in regional touring series. In 2017, Diaz teamed up with Brandonbilt Motorsports to make his Truck Series debut at Martinsville. The pairing was a good fit, as Brandonbilt team principal Jerry Brown was the other co-owner of Southern National. After qualifying an impressive ninth, Diaz scored stage points in the first stage before a cut tire plagued the rest of his race.

In 2018 and 2019, Diaz made sporadic XFINITY starts for Brandonbilt, scoring a 19th-place finish in his series debut at Richmond. That same year, the Diaz family made a go of running for the then-NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship, making it four races in to the twelve-race schedule before halting the effort. In 2020, Diaz signed with Venturini Motorsports to contest a now shorter East schedule and secured fifth place in the point standings. With that season done, he also ran the final two XFINITY races of the season with Sam Hunt Racing, again finding success at Martinsville. In advance of 2021, Diaz chose to run another year in the East series, focusing on driver development rather than jumping to a higher series. He signed with Visconti Motorsports, a team that did not make it through the year with driver Giovanni Bromante. The pairing yielded considerable success - heading into the season finale for the East Series at Bristol (which happened to be a combination race with the national series), Diaz was still within mathematical contention for the championship, albeit a long shot.

Mason Diaz on the grid at Bristol.
PHOTO: Bill Goffin, thanks @nascarcatholic

As a combination race with both the East and national series and as one of the best-paying races on the schedule, a stout field of 32 cars populated the initial entry list. With the withdrawal of Eric Caudell, the list was brought down to 31. The East contingent included Rev Racing’s Rajah Caruth, slated for a part-time XFINITY Series schedule with Alpha Prime Racing next year; New Smyrna winner Max Gutierrez; Conner Jones with Cook Racing Technologies; David Gilliland Racing driver Joey Iest; and the eventual champion, Sammy Smith of Joe Gibbs Racing. On the national side, several part-time teams put their best foot forward for Bristol: Don Thompson, Sam Mayer, Kyle Sieg, Greg Van Alst, Andy Jankowiak, Chuck Buchanan Jr., Jason Kitzmiller and Justin Carroll highlighted that group. Jack Wood returned to GMS Racing for a one-off, and Zachary Tinkle began his stint as driver of the Richmond-Clubb Motorsports entry. Venturini Motorsports entered Parker Chase and Jesse Love alongside regular hot shoe Corey Heim, and Fast Track Racing entrants included XFINITY regular Jade Buford, Mason Mingus, D.L. Wilson and Stephanie Moyer.

All 31 cars took a time in practice. Ty Gibbs was the only driver to break the 15-second barrier, and on the other end of the speed charts, Don Thompson’s Wayne Peterson Racing entry was the only car in the 19-second bracket. Qualifying was much of the same, with Gibbs and Sammy Smith securing a Joe Gibbs Racing lockout of the front row and Thompson alone in Row 16. Diaz was solidly mid-pack, clocking in at 15th-quickest in practice and qualifying 12th.

While Thompson recorded the slowest lap in qualifying, ARCA’s provisional system awarded him the 29th starting spot; Buchanan drew the final starting spot.

The race had barely started when a caution flag flew on Lap 2. Diaz ducked on to pit road during the caution and never emerged, done for the evening. Don Thompson’s race was done after a black flag for a lack of speed was shown early in the race. Sam Mayer, already in a backup Bret Holmes Racing entry from earlier in the day, found contact with Jason Kitzmiller and retired less than a quarter of the way in to the race. D.L. Wilson and Stephanie Moyer rounded out the Bottom Five.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
31) #74-Mason Diaz / 2 laps / battery
30) #06-Don Thompson / 14 laps / brakes
29) #23-Sam Mayer / 47 laps / radiator
28) #12-D.L. Wilson / 70 laps / engine
27) #44-Stephanie Moyer / 76 laps / electrical

2021 LASTCAR ARCA MENARDS SERIES MANUFACTURERS CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (7)
2nd) Ford (6)
3rd) Toyota (5)

2021 LASTCAR ARCA MENARDS SERIES OWNERS CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Fast Track Racing (8)
2nd) Young’s Motorsports (2)
3rd) Bull Racing, Greg Van Alst Motorsports, Kimmel Racing, Kovski Racing, Rette Jones Racing, Smith Brothers Racing, Visconti Motorsports, Wayne Peterson Racing (1)

2021 LASTCAR ARCA MENARDS SERIES DRIVERS CHAMPIONSHIP


Thursday, September 16, 2021

PREVIEW: Bristol the next challenge for resurgent Ty Dillon at Our Motorsports, among others

IMAGE: Spencer Davis Motorsports, Graphics Effects render

Thursday, September 16, 2021 (9:00 P.M. ET, FS1)
TRUCKS Race 18 of 22
Round of 10 – Race 3 of 3
UNOH 200 Presented by Ohio Logistics at Bristol
2020 Last-Place Finisher: Trevor Bayne

ENTRY LIST
Tonight’s return of the Truck Series sees 41 entries for 40 spots with Norm Benning on the outside looking in (see below).

DRIVER CHANGE: #3-Jordan Anderson Racing
Howie DiSavino III returns for his fourth Truck Series start of the season and first since Pocono, where he ran a season-best 22nd. Kees Vacations and Bud’s Plumbing return as sponsors as he takes the place of Jordan Anderson, who was 26th in Darlington.

DID NOT QUALIFY: #6-Norm Benning Racing
Norm Benning will not qualify as the 41st-ranked team among this week’s entrants. This marks Benning’s first DNQ since the season opener in Daytona, although he also withdrew from both COTA and Gateway.

RETURNING: #11-Spencer Davis Motorsports
MISSING: #68-Clay Greenfield Racing
Two owner-driver operations collaborate this week in Bristol as Clay Greenfield parks his #68, which ran 19th in its season debut at Darlington, and drives for the team that finished three spots behind him. Greenfield takes the place of Spencer Davis in the #11, and brings backing from both Rackley Roofing and Greenfield Pavement Coatings.

RETURNING: #17-David Gilliland Racing
Taylor Gray returns for his third career Truck Series start, looking to improve on his season-best 12th-place performance at Gateway despite a late-race incident. Following starts on Watkins Glen’s fast road course and the flat Gateway track, the banked Bristol short track will be another new challenge.

DRIVER CHANGE: #24-GMS Racing
After two decades of racing NASCAR modifieds to 31 wins and six championships, Doug Coby III will finally make his NASCAR national touring series debut tonight. Coby takes the place of Jack Wood in the GMS #24 and carries sponsorship from Mayhew Tools. Wood, who ran 30th last time out in Gateway, will miss his first race since Texas in June.

RETURNING: #32-Sam Mayer Racing
Sam Mayer makes his fifth Truck Series start of the year and his first since Watkins Glen, where he scored his third-straight top-ten finish in as many starts with a 9th-place showing. Camping World is the listed sponsor of his Chevrolet.

DRIVER CHANGE: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
After a frustrating afternoon in last week’s XFINITY Series race at Richmond, C.J. McLaughlin returns to the Truck Series, taking the place of 37th-place Ryan Ellis in the #33 Reaume entry. This will be only the fourth start of McLaughlin’s Truck Series career and his first green flag this year since Charlotte, where he ran 27th for the same team.

PAINT SCHEME: #42-Niece Motorsports
Carson Hocevar throws back to mentor Johnny Benson, Jr. and his Exide ride with Bill Davis Racing as he seeks not only his first Truck Series win, but also a chance at making the next round of the Playoffs.

RETURNING: #49-CMI Motorsports
Ray Ciccarelli is back in the field for the first time since Pocono in his own #49.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Kyle Busch Motorsports
Drew Dollar is back in KBM’s #51 for the first time since Nashville, where he only managed a 24th-place finish – his third-straight run of 20th or worse. Dollar looks to rebound as he takes the place of Dylan Lupton, who ran 31st at Darlington.

DRIVER CHANGE: #56-Hill Motorsports
Timmy Hill trades off for brother Tyler Hill in an unsponsored black #56 Chevrolet. This will be Timmy’s 9th Truck Series start of the year and first since Watkins Glen, where he ran 24th. He’s run 17th and 20th in this race the last two years,

RETURNING: #04-Roper Racing
Cory Roper returns for the first time since Gateway and, unlike that night, looks to have a sponsor with a returning Carquest Auto Parts.

CUP INVADERS: None

Friday, September 17, 2021 (7:30 P.M. ET, NBCSN)
XFINITY Race 26 of 33
Regular Season Finale
Food City 300 at Bristol
2020 Last-Place Finisher: Stephen Leicht

ENTRY LIST
There are 41 drivers entered for 40 spots on the XFINITY side as well, where again MBM's #13 team will not make the cut (see below).

DRIVER CHANGE: #5-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #8-JR Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Stefan Parsons returns for his 9th XFINITY Series start of the year and first since a crash at Nashville left him last in the 36-car field. After running both the #99 and #76 for B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Parsons will this time run the #5 in place of 21st-place Richmond finisher Matt Mills, who this week runs the #99. Sam Mayer, who ran the #99 to a 12th-place showing last week, returns to his #8 at JR Motorsports after Dale Earnhardt, Jr. finished 14th in his one-off start at Richmond.

DID NOT QUALIFY: #13-Motorsports Business Management
Timmy Hill did not qualify for the XFINITY Series race under metric qualifying, and will instead focus on today’s Truck Series event.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-JD Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #74-Mike Harmon Racing
With C.J. McLaughlin out of the #74 following his last-place run in Richmond, Bayley Currey is back aboard the #74. Currey last week ran 27th in JD Motorsports’ #15, which this week goes to B.J. McLeod in a double-duty bid with the Cup Series. McLeod finished 22nd in his most recent XFINITY start at Darlington, driving for DGM Racing.

DRIVER CHANGE: #17-Rick Ware Racing / SS-Green Light Racing
Carson Ware is back again for the first time since Darlington, this time in the #17, taking the place of J.J. Yeley, who ran 29th last week in Richmond. Yeley will instead run Saturday’s Cup race (see below). Pounds Property Management is the listed sponsor for Ware this week. 

DRIVER SWAP: #23-Our Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #02-Our Motorsports
Brett Moffitt expected to return from illness from Darlington, replacing Ty Dillon, who moves to Our's #23 in place of Patrick Emerling. After struggling through this season’s first few rounds with Joe Gibbs Racing, Ty has finished no worse than 13th in his latest four starts for Chris Our, highlighted by a 5th in Atlanta. Bristol also happens to be the site of one of Ty's only stage wins in Cup. Home Town Lenders backs the #23 this week.

DRIVER CHANGE: #26-Sam Hunt Racing
Give a call to Sam Hunt Racing, which notched their first top-five finish last Saturday at the hands of 3rd-place finisher John Hunter Nemechek. With JHN focusing on the Truck Series, it will be Brandon Gdovic back in the #26 SnapMobile.shop Toyota. Gdovic also surprised in his most recent start at Loudon, finishing 16th – his second-best of 2021 behind an 8th in the Daytona opener.

DRIVER CHANGE: #31-Jordan Anderson Racing
Sage Karam will be far outside his normal comfort zone at Bristol. Following a 26th-place debut on the Indianapolis Grand Prix Circuit, the open-wheel star will take the place of 24th-place Josh Berry on Bristol’s concrete high-banks. 

DRIVER CHANGE: #52-Jimmy Means Racing
Gray Gaulding returns in place of 34th-place Richmond finisher Akinori Ogata. Under the lights, the #52 will run a return of their special "UFC Prizm" paint scheme for sponsor Panini America.

DRIVER CHANGE: #61-Motorsports Business Management
Chad Finchum steps in for Stephen Leicht with sponsorship from Black Oak Contracting on his Toyota. This will be Finchum’s sixth XFINITY start of the year and first since Charlotte, where he ran a season-best 15th on the lead lap in MBM’s #13.

DRIVER CHANGE: #78-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Another shuffle of the lineup at B.J. McLeod’s team is the return of Jesse Little after a one-week hiatus, back in the #78 for the first time since Darlington. Little and sponsor David’s Electric take the place of Mason Massey, who charged from 34th on the Richmond grid to earn a solid 17th at the finish.

CUP INVADERS: None

Saturday, September 18, 2021 (7:30 P.M. ET, NBCSN)
CUP Race 29 of 36
Round of 16 – Race 3 of 3
Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol
2020 Last-Place Finisher: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.

ENTRY LIST
There are 38 drivers entered for 40 spots in the iconic “Night Race at Bristol,” marking the fewest starters in this event since August 24, 1996, when 39 took the green flag. This is the third-straight short field of the 2021 season and the 22nd in 29 races this year.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Rick Ware Racing
James Davison looks to improve on his Bristol debut of a year ago when he ran 35th in Rick Ware Racing’s #53. This time around, he replaces 33rd-place Richmond finisher Joey Gase in the #15 with Greatest Generations as the listed sponsor.

DRIVER SWAP: #51-Rick Ware Racing
DRIVER SWAP: #53-Rick Ware Racing
J.J. Yeley will run for RWR in Cup instead of XFINITY this week, and this time takes the place of Garrett Smithley in relieving a recovering Cody Ware. Smithley will take Yeley’s ride from last week – the #53 – with Boom Mobile as the listed sponsor of his Chevrolet.

RETURNING: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Rejoining the Cup garage again is Carl Long’s Cup team, which brings David Starr on as driver and The Naked Market as sponsor. On the XFINITY Series side, Starr has not made himself many friends this season, and will be one to watch in his first Cup start at Bristol since 2011, when he ran 27th for the now-defunct Leavine Family Racing team.

PAINT SCHEME: #78-Live Fast Motorsports
B.J. McLeod is running a camouflage paint scheme in honor of the 13 fallen servicemen in Afghanistan. This will be McLeod’s first Cup start at Bristol since the delayed “spring” race last year, when he was looking for a Top 25 before a late wreck not of his doing left him 28th.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (September 16, 1984): Jimmy Ingalls picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Winston Cup Series career in the Delaware 500 at Dover when his #6 U.S. Racing Chevrolet crashed after 32 laps. Ingalls, who brought out the race’s third caution on Lap 33, was making his fourth of five career Cup starts. The last of these came at Rockingham, four races later, where he finished 22nd.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

ARCA WEST: Costner’s series debut ends before it can begin

PHOTO: Luis Torres, @TheLTFiles

by Ben Schneider
LASTCAR.info Guest Contributor

Caleb Costner finished last for the first time in his ARCA Menards Series West career in Saturday’s Portland 112 at Portland International Raceway when his #77 Jan’s / Thin Blue Wine Cellars Toyota did not start the event.

The finish came in Costner’s series debut.

A native of North Carolina, Costner serves as a deputy sheriff in Gaston County. A lifelong racing fan, Costner began his career racing four-cylinder dirt cars before transitioning to asphalt. He currently competes in the Carolina Pro Late Model Series.

Costner joined veteran series owner Joe Nava’s team for the Portland race with a car that paid tribute to the 13 American military service members who lost their lives in the August 26 terrorist attack in Kabul. Costner’s only on-track appearance throughout the weekend came in the first practice session, where he placed fifteenth of eighteen drivers on the timing chart.

The official scoring sheet listed Costner as the eighteenth-place finisher with a status of “did not start.” The first driver to actually take the green flag and fall out of the race was series veteran Todd Souza, whose car initially coasted to a stop on the pace laps. Souza’s team attempted to repair the car’s mechanical troubles behind the wall before eventually retiring from the race altogether with only three total laps completed.

Bridget Burgess followed up the finishing order in sixteenth, completing 51 of the race’s 58 laps. After some early contact, Burgess climbed to as high as fourth in the running order before spinning out with Bobby Hillis Jr. late in the race. Burgess subsequently retired from the race, telling GRID Network’s Joe Samaniego that a spark plug wire failure led to her early exit.

Despite their struggles this weekend, Souza and Burgess have both enjoyed past road course success in the West Series. Souza’s lone career victory came in 2008 at Utah Motorsports Campus, then known as Miller Motorsports Park. Burgess, whose family-run team frequently spends time testing at the Utah track, had one of the best runs of her young career at Sonoma Raceway earlier this season. She ran as high as fifth and finished eighth in the twenty-two car field.

The Bottom Five was rounded out by Hillis and Dave Smith, who suffered a fuel issue on the final lap of the race.

Costner’s last-place finish also marked the first LPF for a Toyota this season, breaking Chevrolet’s streak of five consecutive to open the season.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
18) Caleb Costner / 0 laps/ did not start
17) Todd Souza / 3 laps / fuel
16) Bridget Burgess / 51 laps / mechanical
15) Bobby Hillis Jr. / 57 laps / running
14) Dave Smith / 57 laps / fuel

2021 LASTCAR ARCA MENARDS SERIES WEST MANUFACTURERS CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (5)
2nd) Toyota (1)
3rd) Ford (0)

2021 LASTCAR ARCA MENARDS SERIES WEST OWNERS CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Pedroncelli Racing (2)
2nd) Young’s Motorsports, Rodd Racing, Kart Idaho Racing, Performance P-1 Motorsports (1)

2021 LASTCAR ARCA MENARDS SERIES WEST DRIVERS CHAMPIONSHIP


Saturday, September 11, 2021

CUP: Kurt Busch clobbers wall early at Richmond

PHOTO: @Cole_Cusumano_

Kurt Busch picked up the 10th last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 Salute to First Responders at the Richmond Raceway when his #1 Monster Energy Chevrolet was involved in a single-car accident after 40 of 400 laps.

The finish, which came in Busch’s 748th series start, was his third of the season and first since the Coca-Cola 600, 13 races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 39th for the #1, the 620th from a crash, and the 814th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 70th for the #1, the 1,271st from a crash and the 1,804th for Chevrolet.

Busch’s last-place run in the 600 kicked-off a strong late-season rally where he finished no worse than 20th in the final 11 races leading into the Playoffs. A 4th-place finish at Road America was followed by a breakthrough win in Atlanta, the final race on the track’s aging 1997 surface. The win came thanks in part to teammate Ross Chastain, who held up brother Kyle Busch during their battle for the lead. Kurt ran just as strong in the races that followed, finishing no worse than 16th, and in the Playoff opener at Darlington took home a strong 6th. He’d line up 4th at Richmond, matching his current rank in points. He entered the race 54 points back of leader Kyle Larson, but only 26 points ahead of the cutoff.

Rolling off 37th and last was J.J. Yeley, who returned to the Cup garage in Rick Ware Racing’s #53 Fat Boy Chevrolet. Yeley would be joined in the back by Kyle Larson, whose #5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet was slated to start in first place before it failed pre-race inspection. Also dropping to the rear was Cole Custer, whose #41 HaasTooling.com Demo Day Ford had originally lined up 21st. Custer was last across the stripe, 3.853 seconds back of the leader and three-tenths back of Larson.

When the race started, Martin Truex, Jr. inherited Larson’s first-place spot in the #19 Bass Pro Shops Red White & Blue Toyota, but crossed the line ahead of his teammate Denny Hamlin, the outside-polesitter. This resulted in a pass-through penalty Truex served under green on Lap 4, dropping him to last place behind Garrett Smithley. Smithley, who drove in relief of Cody Ware following carbon monoxide poisoning in Darlington, had taken last on Lap 1 in the #51 9/11 Chevrolet. When Truex returned to the track, he was 9.680 seconds back of Smithley. Truex made up that interval in around 12 laps, dropping Smithley to last again by Lap 16.

On Lap 21, Smithley was the first driver to lose a lap to the leaders, and he held the spot until Lap 34, when Quin Houff took over the spot during pit stops under the competition caution. Houff’s #00 Trucker Appreciation Chevrolet held the spot until the field passed the “Choose Cone,” pulling Houff ahead of Joey Gase in the #15 Donate Life VA Chevrolet. On the restart, Gase was still battling Houff for the last spot when the caution fell once again.

In the early laps, Kurt Busch was still among the leaders, and took over the lead with a fast pit stop under the competition caution. On that Lap 37 restart, footage showed the left-rear tire had the “Goodyear” logos rubbed off the sidewall, and the tire appeared soft. On Lap 41, Busch had dropped to 3rd place, and was dealing with a loose condition. Heading into the first corner, the left-rear tire cut down, sending him spinning into the outside wall. Busch smacked the wall nearly flush with the driver’s side, but eventually climbed out under his own power. His car was towed to the garage, done for the night. He’d finish the race tied with Alex Bowman for the Playoff bubble headed into the first elimination race next Saturday in Bristol.

Just like the spring Richmond race, only the last-place finisher fell out of the race with the rest of the field completing the distance within nearly the same number of laps of the leader – 16 in the spring, and 15 on Saturday. The 36th spot fell to Josh Bilicki in the #52 Firetruck Scheme Ford, one lap behind Houff and Yeley. Another lap ahead came 33rd-place Gase, who rounded out the Bottom Five.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This was the first time the #1 finished last in a Cup race at Richmond since May 3, 2003, when Steve Park’s #1 Pennzoil Chevrolet crashed after 42 laps of the Pontiac Excitement 400. This was the same race weekend where Jerry Nadeau suffered his career-ending crash in the same corner where Kurt hit on Saturday. 
*This marked the first time in Kurt Busch’s career that he’s finished last in a Cup race on a track less than one mile in length, and only the second time he’s finished last on a track shorter than 1.5 miles.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
37) #1-Kurt Busch / 40 laps / crash
36) #52-Josh Bilicki / 385 laps / running
35) #00-Quin Houff / 386 laps / running
34) #53-J.J. Yeley / 386 laps / running
33) #15-Joey Gase / 387 laps / running

2021 LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
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 (2)
5th) Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Roush-Fenway Racing, StarCom Racing (1)

2021 LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (16)
2nd) Ford (9)
3rd) Toyota (3)

2021 LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP


XFINITY: Minimum speed penalty leads to C.J. McLaughlin’s accident; Tommy Joe Martins nearly victorious in Stage 1

SCREENCAP: NBCSN

C.J. McLaughlin picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Go Bowling 250 at the Richmond Raceway when his #74 Sci Aps Chevrolet was involved in a two-car accident after 111 of 250 laps.

The finish, which came in McLaughlin’s 14th series start, was his first of the year and first since November 7, 2020 at Phoenix, 25 races ago. In the XFINITY Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 14th for the #74, the 356th from a crash, and the 578th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 54th for the #74, the 1,270th from a crash, and the 1,803rd for Chevrolet.

Saturday marked just the third start of the season for McLaughlin, who after running for B.J. McLeod Motorsports and RSS Racing / Reaume Brothers Racing in 2020 made a pair of runs for Motorsports Business Management this summer. Bringing his sponsorship from Sci Aps, McLaughlin made his season debut at Atlanta in the MBM #66, but was relieved during the event by teammate David Starr, who crossed the line in 37th. McLaughlin himself completed the next round in Loudon, finishing 37th once more, but this time in the garage area with electrical issues.

McLaughlin trailing smoke at the start.
PHOTO: @adamncheek

For Richmond, McLaughlin would drive for still another team in Mike Harmon Racing, whose #74 entry has struggled for sponsorship in recent weeks. Bayley Currey started the season in the car, looking to build on a solid 2020 where he and teammate Kyle Weatherman showed improvement. At first, he seemed to pick up where he left off, finishing 7th at Phoenix and leading laps at Martinsville. But Currey failed to qualify for four of the next 17 races, and was swapped out of three more starts for Jesse Iwuji, Dawson Cram, and Carson Ware. By Richmond, Currey had moved to JD Motorsports in the #15, making way for McLaughlin. McLaughlin drew the 39th spot for Saturday under metric qualifying.

Taking 40th and last on the grid was Akinori Ogata, who for the first time would drive for Jimmy Means Racing. Ogata also missed driver introductions, incurring a redundant tail-end penalty prior to the start. Ogata’s #52 Kyowa Precision Chevrolet would be joined by two other entries due to mid-week driver changes: the #02 Fr8Auctions Chevrolet of 19th-place Ty Dillon, who was again called in for Brett Moffitt following his medical issue at Darlington, and 28th-place Bayley Currey, who after running Harmon’s #74 was swapped in for Colby Howard in JD Motorsports’ unsponsored #15 Chevrolet.

When the field rolled off pit road, McLaughlin radioed that he had clutch issues, and was smoking during the pace laps. He reported his clutch pedal wasn’t working, and was soon stopped on the track. He made it to pit road by the start, and had to be pushed behind the wall around Lap 2. The crew discovered McLaughlin had run over something on the track which had knocked some lines and fittings off his transmission, causing the car to lose transmission fluid. Looking for more fluid and a replacement plug, the crew went to work, but on Lap 25 they believed the issue would take too long to fix. Mike Harmon pointed out the car could start and run without the clutch, and walked his driver through the steps. After checking to make sure no fluid was on the tires, the engine re-fired on Lap 30, and he returned to the track.

Meanwhile, Stephen Leicht had issues on his #61 Jani-King Toyota, and had come down pit road with the hood up. Five laps down on the 32nd go-round, the team looked over the tie rod, and addressed a concern where the driver felt his wheel was five inches left of where it had been at the green flag. On Lap 38, Leicht incurred a tail-end penalty for too many crewmen over the wall, though at the time many teams had difficulty hearing radio traffic from NASCAR officials. Coming to the restart, Leicht was in front of Currey, and Leicht wanted a message sent to the #74 team warning them that his car was running off the pace.

Stephen Leicht with the hood up early.
PHOTO: @RPPM353660

From there, both Leicht and McLaughlin logged laps in the final two positions. Leicht reported his car wasn’t turning any better, and on Lap 66 was black flagged by NASCAR to make further repairs as he’d dropped below minimum speed. These repairs required a trip to the garage area, and the crew changed tires before returning to the track on Lap 87, by then 28 laps back of the leader. At the time, McLaughlin was still rolling, and had drawn within 5 laps of dropping Leicht to last place. Leicht then incurred a second tail-end penalty for too many crew members over the wall.

Things stayed the same until Lap 144 – just six laps before the end of Stage 2 – when NASCAR posted McLaughlin for not maintaining minimum speed. This required a stop like the one Leicht had served, and the crew made preparations. However, the spotter had issues finding a hole for the #74 to make it to pit road. On Lap 147, McLaughlin suddenly slowed, perhaps from a mechanical issue, and cut two lanes across the track to make it to pit road. Unfortunately, Jade Buford was already committed to the inside line, and McLaughlin collided with the right-front of Buford’s #48 Big Machine Spiked Coolers Chevrolet. “We’ve got something going down,” said McLaughlin’s spotter, relaying the message quickly. “We’ve got something broke. We’re done.”

McLaughlin made it to pit road, and was soon pushed behind the wall. The driver apologized for the incident with Buford, but both the spotter and Harmon were upset with NASCAR for black flagging their car so close to the end of a stage, when they couldn’t make it safely to pit road. Regardless, the #74 didn’t return to the track and was done for the day. Buford continued on with the damage suffered in the incident, finishing four laps down in 36th to round out the Bottom Five. Leicht climbed to 38th place to finish under power, moving past Landon Cassill, whose #4 Voyager Chevrolet suffered an ignition failure and stalled at the entrance to pit road. 

Tommy Joe Martins turned in the most surprising run of the day, debuting the same #44 Alpha Prime Chevrolet paint scheme that he’ll campaign full-time in 2022. Using a fresh set of tires, Martins clawed his way from 24th on the grid to pass A.J. Allmendinger for the lead near the end of Stage 1. Martins led five laps, only to be edged by Allmendinger for the stage win after Martins was blocked by David Starr, whose #66 Sharelife Vacations / Helluva Ranch Toyota was fighting to stay on the lead lap. Martins restated back in the pack, and after recovering from a spin, was eliminated with a tire failure that put him in the wall. He finished a disappointing 37th.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #74 in a XFINITY Series race at Richmond since September 5, 2014, when Kevin Lepage’s #74 Kengor Metals Dodge crashed after 2 laps of the Virginia 529 College Savings 250.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #74-C.J. McLaughlin / 111 laps / crash
39) #4-Landon Cassill / 179 laps / ignition
38) #61-Stephen Leicht / 220 laps / running
37) #44-Tommy Joe Martins / 227 laps / crash / led 5 laps
36) #48-Jade Buford / 246 laps / running

2021 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) B.J. McLeod Motorsports (5)
2nd) Mike Harmon Racing (3)
3rd) DGM Racing, JD Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, JR Motorsports, Motorsports Business Management, RSS Racing / Reaume Brothers Racing (2)
4th) Brandonbilt Motorsports, Jimmy Means Racing, Our Motorsports, Sam Hunt Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

2021 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (17)
2nd) Toyota (7)
3rd) Ford (1)

2021 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP


Thursday, September 9, 2021

PREVIEW: Richmond double-header sees return of some fan favorites

IMAGE: @SpencerBoyd

Saturday, September 11, 2021 (2:30 P.M. ET, NBCSN)
XFINITY Race 25 of 33
Go Bowling 250 at Richmond
2020 Last-Place Finishers: Chad Finchum (Race 1), Timmy Hill (Race 2)

ENTRY LIST
Leading off a Saturday double-header at Richmond is the XFINITY Series with 41 drivers entered for 40 spots. With metric qualifying, this again leaves out the Carl Long’s #13 entry (see below).

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-JR Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
For his lone XFINITY Series start of the year, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has selected this Saturday at Richmond to run the #8 Unilever “United For America” Chevrolet, his first series start since Homestead last year. Junior takes the place of Sam Mayer, who moves to the #99 entry with his QPS Employment Group sponsorship. Mayer takes the place of Ryan Ellis, who was 35th in Darlington.

DRIVER SWAP: #13-Motorsports Business Management
DRIVER CHANGE: #61-Motorsports Business Management
DRIVER SWAP: #66-Motorsports Business Management
It’s another game of musical chairs at MBM, where Stephen Leicht returns to run the #61 at a track where he finished a solid 22nd his last time out last fall. Leicht and his Jani-King sponsorship move David Starr to the #66, which in turn moves Timmy Hill to the #13 in place of Chad Finchum, who isn’t entered. Hill’s #13 is the lone team that will not qualify, one week after his 36th-place run in Darlington.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-JD Motorsports
On Friday came news that Colby Howard had parted ways with JD Motorsports' team, putting previous Mike Harmon Racing driver Bayley Currey into the #15 this week. Howard had himself revealed the day before a full-time Truck Series deal with Bill McAnally Racing in 2022.

DRIVER CHANGE: #17-Rick Ware Racing / SS-Green Light Racing 
DRIVER SWAP: #78-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
J.J. Yeley returns to the #17 for his tenth start of the season and first since his strong 13th-place showing under the lights in Daytona. Yeley’s return moves Mason Massey to B.J. McLeod’s #78 in place of Jesse Little, who isn’t entered after a 32nd-place finish in Darlington. Massey ran 18th in that race in the #17.

DRIVER CHANGE: #23-Our Motorsports
Patrick Emerling will make his third career XFINITY start and first since Loudon this July, bringing back his Spirit Snorkeling sponsorship to the Our #23 entry. Emerling, who ran 31st on “The Magic Mile,” takes the place of Cup regular Tyler Reddick, who quietly took 7th in Darlington.

DRIVER CHANGE: #26-Sam Hunt Racing
One to watch may well be John Hunter Nemechek, who with the Truck Series off will make just his second XFINITY start of the year following a 32nd-place finish in Dover. Nemechek will carry sponsorship from Safeway as he takes the place of Colin Garrett, who recovered nicely 

DRIVER CHANGE: #31-Jordan Anderson Racing
Josh Berry continues his journeyman role in 2021 as he rejoins the Jordan Anderson team for the fourth time this year and first time since Atlanta in July, when he ran 23rd. He takes the place of Cup regular Austin Dillon, who finished 29th in Darlington.

DRIVER CHANGE: #52-Jimmy Means Racing
Akinori Ogata will run in place of Gray Gaulding as the Means team looks for sponsors to secure the final five races of the season. Kyowa Precision is the listed sponsor this week as Ogata has also this week unveiled models of his first produced diecast of his Reaume Brothers entry from the Truck Series.

DRIVER CHANGE: #54-Joe Gibbs Racing
Richmond marks the next round for Ty Gibbs’ impressive 2021, his 13th start in 26 races this season. Gibbs, who takes the place of 12th-place Cup regular Denny Hamlin, will make his first series start at Richmond.

DRIVER CHANGE: #74-Mike Harmon Racing
C.J. McLaughlin rejoins the circuit this week, replacing Carson Ware in MHR’s flagship #74 entry. McLaughlin brings much-needed sponsorship from his backer Sci Aps for what marks his third XFINITY start f 2021 and first since Loudon, where he ran 37th. Carson Ware ran 31st in this car last week.

DRIVER CHANGE: #90-DGM Racing
Spencer Boyd, who most recently drove for Jimmy Means, will this week run for Mario Gosselin with previous Brandonbilt Motorsports sponsor Mini Doge as sponsor. Boyd takes the place of B.J. McLeod, who ran 22nd with this team in Darlington during a double-duty weekend.

TEAM UPDATE: #02-Our Motorsports
Ty Dillon will drive in relief of Brett Moffitt for a second straight week. Moffitt was swapped out of his car just before last Saturday's race due to medical reasons.

CUP INVADERS: None

Saturday, September 11, 2021 (7:30 P.M. ET, NBCSN)
CUP Race 28 of 36
Round of 16 – Race 2 of 3
Federated Auto Parts Salute to First Responders 400 at Richmond
2020 Last-Place Finisher: Timmy Hill 

ENTRY LIST
There are 37 drivers entered for Saturday’s 40-car field, the fewest Cup cars for a race at Richmond since April 13, 2019. This marks the 21st short field in 28 races this season.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Rick Ware Racing
On Friday came news that Cody Ware will be out of the #51 for both this week in Richmond and next week in Bristol as he continues to recover from carbon monoxide poisoning suffered last Sunday in Darlington. Garrett Smithley will pilot the #51 this Saturday.

DRIVER CHANGE: #53-Rick Ware Racing
J.J. Yeley will pull double-duty on Saturday, attempting all 650 combined laps in cars fielded by Rick Ware Racing. His ride for the Cup race will be the #53 previously run by James Davison, who crashed in the early stages of the Southern 500 and finished next-to-last in 36th. Yeley’s most recent Cup start came at Nashville, where he ran 27th in the RWR #51. In his combined five previous starts, he has completed all but 21 of his 1,537 attempted laps and crossed the line no worse than 29th.

Thursday, September 16, 2021
TRUCKS Race 18 of 22
Round of 10 – Race 3 of 3
UNOH 200 Presented by Ohio Logistics at Bristol
2020 Last-Place Finisher: Trevor Bayne

The Truck Series takes this weekend off and returns to kick off the action in Bristol next week.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (September 9, 1973): Baxter Price scored the first last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in the Capital City 500 at the Richmond Fairgrounds Raceway when his #33 Price Racing 1972 Chevrolet triggered a massive crash. A recent Facebook post by Christian Wilson reports that Price, the last-place qualifier in the 34-car field, suffered first-degree burns in an explosion after Dick Brooks struck the rear of his spinning car. The ensuing pileup eliminated eight other starters, including outside-polesitter Darrell Waltrip. Price, who was making his Cup debut on the day of the accident, would recover from his injuries and return to the circuit two years later. He’d make 90 series starts with a best finish of 11th at Martinsville in 1978.

Monday, September 6, 2021

ARCA: Kelly Kovski first victim of vicious DuQuoin track

PHOTO: Jay Hardin; Thank you @nascarcatholic

by William Soquet
LASTCAR.info Staff Writer

Kelly Kovski finished last for the first time in his ARCA Menards Series career in Sunday’s Southern Illinois 100 at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds Racetrack when his #16 Schluckebeier Farms Chevrolet did not start the race.

The finish came in Kovski’s 32nd series attempt.

Kelly Kovski's name is a familiar one to longtime ARCA followers. The Springfield, Illinois native made his series debut in 2004 for Andy Hillenburg’s Fast Track Racing and was a crew member of Justin Allgaier’s ARCA team in the mid-to-late 2000s. A dirt racer in the stock car and modified ranks, Kovski continued to make ARCA starts on the dirt throughout the 2010s, not finishing outside the top ten from the end of 2009 to mid-2013. While Kovski traditionally ran with Roulo Brothers Racing, he switched to the Allgaier Racing team for 2012 and has stuck with the #16 car since then.

However, in early 2017, Kovski was badly injured at Volusia Raceway Park when a sprint car barreled into the pit area. He emerged from a coma two and a half weeks later, and Grant Enfinger took the wheel of the car as he recovered, winning at Springfield. Kovski returned for the dirt races in 2018 and still had not finished outside of the Top Ten from then until the end of 2020. Justin Allgaier took over the #16 for this year’s first dirt race, at Springfield, and the owner name changed from Mike Allgaier to Roy Kovski, signaling a changing of the guard. Kovski reassumed driving duties for DuQuoin, ready to perhaps follow in Ryan Unzicker’s footsteps and pull a surprise win on the field.

Fifteen other cars joined Kovski's on the entry list for the second and final dirt race of the season. Noticeably absent was Daniel Dye, whose GMS Racing entry has run part-time on the short tracks. Thad Moffitt also missed the race, as he was unable to secure funding for his David Gilliland Racing ride. Richmond-Clubb Motorsports also debuted a new face, as former Wayne Peterson Racing driver Zachary Tinkle debuted with the Latino Immigration Center as sponsor. A few dirt ringers filed entries, as Unzicker made his return with Hendren Motorsports, Will Kimmel entered with his own team, and Landen Lewis returned for the Rette Jones Racing with Austin Theriault Driver Development team using owner points from Rev Racing. Ken Schrader also hopped behind the wheel of a Fast Track Racing car as part of a loaded racing weekend which saw him take part in all three races contested on the mile-long oval. Venturini Motorsports brought in Toni Breidinger and Jesse Love for its cars, and Fast Track Racing filled out its team with Tim Monroe, Owen Smith and D.L. Wilson.

Fifteen of the sixteen entrants took time in practice, with Kimmel the only one left out. Wayne Peterson was slowest, as his only timed lap was a minute and 17 seconds long, equating to about 47 miles per hour. Jesse Love led the charts and Kovski was second, but both cars found trouble in the session. Heavy rains made the track extremely heavy, and while Love’s team was able to put a new front end on (one that looked suspiciously like an old Michael Self nose), Kovski’s team elected to withdraw the entry. While Kovski was not listed on the TrackPass leaderboard, he was listed on the official scoresheet as a “did not start”.

The decision to withdraw, in hindsight, was probably a good one. Peterson’s entry also did not make the starting grid, and both Brad and Owen Smith retired in the first ten laps. Toni Breidinger rounded out the Bottom Five, done after 35 laps. The track monster kept on claiming victims, most notably Corey Heim, who tied his worst result of the year in seventh after spending significant time on pit road after he went airborne in the middle of the turn.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
16) #16-Kelly Kovski / did not start
15) #06-Wayne Peterson / did not start
14) #48-Brad Smith / 7 laps / unknown
13) #01-Owen Smith / 9 laps / unknown
12) #25-Toni Breidinger / 35 laps / unknown

2021 LASTCAR ARCA MENARDS SERIES MANUFACTURERS CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (7)
2nd) Ford (6)
3rd) Toyota (4)

2021 LASTCAR ARCA MENARDS SERIES OWNERS CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Fast Track Racing (8)
2nd) Young’s Motorsports (2)
3rd) Bull Racing, Greg Van Alst Motorsports, Kimmel Racing, Kovski Racing, Rette Jones Racing, Smith Brothers Racing, Wayne Peterson Motorsports (1)

2021 LASTCAR ARCA MENARDS SERIES DRIVERS CHAMPIONSHIP


Sunday, September 5, 2021

CUP: Michael McDowell the first driver to win Daytona 500 and finish last in Southern 500 in the same year

PHOTO: @bobpockrass

Michael McDowell picked up the 35th last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Cook Out Southern 500 at the Darlington Raceway when his #34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford crashed after 30 of 367 laps.

The finish, which came in McDowell’s 384th series start, was his first of the season and first in a Cup points race since June 28, 2020 at Pocono, 48 races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 36th for the #34, the 619th from a crash, and the 712th for Ford. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 50th for the #34, the 980th for Ford, and the 1,269th from a crash.

Darlington marked the beginning of McDowell’s first-ever Playoff run, thanks to his dramatic first career Cup victory in February’s Daytona 500. Following an 8th-place run the next week on the Daytona Road Course, than a 6th at Homestead, McDowell scored just two more top-ten finishes – a 3rd at Talladega, followed by a 7th the next month at COTA – but otherwise struggled to keep up his consistency. He remained the lowest-ranked winning driver in the Playoffs for much of that time until Aric Almirola took the checkers in Loudon. Last week’s regular season finale at Daytona nearly saw McDowell match Cale Yarborough’s mark in 1983 of winning the Daytona 500, then finishing last there in the summer. McDowell ultimately moved up a spot later that night when runner-up Chris Buescher was disqualified.

With metric qualifying returning at Darlington, McDowell secured a spot in the Top 16 due to his Playoff spot, but ranked second-lowest in 15th due to the run in Daytona. Only Brad Keselowski, who struggled at Darlington in the spring, ranked lower in 16th.

Rolling off 38th and last was Quin Houff in StarCom Racing’s #00 Units Chevrolet, just four days after the team sold their Charter to another team. Houff would be joined in the back by 21st-place starter Austin Dillon for multiple inspection failures on his #3 Bass Pro Shops / Tracker Off Road Chevrolet. By the end of Lap 1, both Houff and Dillon had passed Joey Gase, whose #15 Donate Life South Carolina Chevrolet dropped to 6.096 seconds back of the leader. Gase reported he was tight though the center of Turns 3 and 4, and dropped 0.762 back of Houff by Lap 4.

On Lap 9, Houff bounced his car off the wall and made an unscheduled stop to pull away bodywork on the right-rear. This made Houff the first driver to fall off the lead lap, and he returned to action three laps down. As Houff got up to speed, NASCAR reported a right-front tire rub on Alex Bowman’s #48 Ally Bank Chevrolet. Bowman then hit the wall in Turn 3, and was sideswiped by teammate William Byron in the #24 Axalta Chevrolet. Both made it to pit road under caution, by which time Bowman had also cut down a left-rear tire.

By the 16th circuit, Bowman and Byron returned to the track on the lead lap with Houff still in last, multiple laps down and Gase one behind. By then, Houff reported his car was “wandering” on the straightaways and even wondered if he’d lost second gear. He restarted the race on Lap 29 with 35th-place Josh Bilicki dropping behind him in an early 1990s Rusty Wallace “throwback” scheme on his #52 Junction Fuels Ford. 

McDowell, meanwhile, had worked his way toward the front of the field, aiming for a top-fifteen finish to keep him in Playoff contention. On Lap 31, heading off Turns 1 and 2, McDowell had just cleared Erik Jones, whose #43 Petty’s Garage Chevrolet had just stayed out on old tires. McDowell was running the inside line off Turn 2, a carlength ahead of Jones, when the back end of his car got away and the right-rear clipped the outside wall. The car then slid across the apron and slammed the inside wall with the right-front corner. Done for the day, McDowell climbed from his car, which was towed behind the wall. McDowell took last from Houff on Lap 33 and NASCAR declared him out on Lap 37. 

Taking 36th was James Davison, whose #53 Jacob Companies Chevrolet broke loose entering Turn 2 and backed into the outside wall. Teammate Cody Ware spun to avoid Davison in his #51 Nurtec ODT Chevrolet, then cut down a right-front tire and shredded the fender. Kyle Busch finished 35th after contact from Austin Dillon put his #18 M&M’s Toyota into the wall off Turn 2. An angry Busch pulled behind the wall through an opening blocked by traffic cones, causing several people to scatter as he drove to his hauler.

William Byron’s car was destroyed in a second accident on Lap 201, leaving him 34th. Cody Ware exited the race due to carbon monoxide poisoning, which sent him behind the wall near the end of Stage 2. Ware was checked out later that night after treatment in the infield care center.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the first time in NASCAR history that the winner of the Daytona 500 finished last in the Southern 500 in the same year. He is also the seventh Daytona 500 winner to finish last in the Southern 500 in any year, joining Junior Johnson (1965), Cale Yarborough (1967), David Pearson (1984, 1985), Richard Petty (1986), Derrike Cope (May 2006), and Trevor Bayne (2016).
*McDowell finished last in a Cup race at Darlington once before on May 7, 2011, when he dropped out of the Showtime Southern 500 after 7 laps due to a vibration on his #98 K-Love Radio Ford.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
37) #34-Michael McDowell / 30 laps / crash
36) #53-James Davison / 50 laps / crash
35) #18-Kyle Busch / 125 laps / crash
34) #24-William Byron / 199 laps / crash
33) #51-Cody Ware / 209 laps / crash

2021 LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Rick Ware Racing (5)
2nd) JTG-Daugherty Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (4)
3rd) Spire Motorsports (3)
4th) Chip Ganassi Racing, Front Row Motorsports, Motorsports Business Management (2)
5th) Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Roush-Fenway Racing, StarCom Racing (1)

2021 LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (15)
2nd) Ford (9)
3rd) Toyota (3)

2021 LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP


TRUCKS: Catastrophic mechanical issue hands Tate Fogleman first last-place finish

PHOTO: @youngsmtrsports

Tate Fogleman picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Sunday’s In It To Win It 200 at the Darlington Raceway when his #12 Doge Cola Chevrolet fell out with a rear gear issue after 22 of 147 laps.

The finish came in Fogleman’s 43rd series start. In the Truck Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 6th for the #12, the 13th from rear gear trouble, and the 412th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 44th for the #12, the 44th for rear gear issues, and the 1,802nd for Chevrolet.

Tate Fogleman is the 21-year-old son of Jay Fogleman, a ten-time Hooters Pro Cup Series race winner. Jay also has 19 XFINITY Series starts to his credit, capped by a best finish of 8th in two 1991 short track races driving the #5 Innkeeeper Buick. Jay’s car was one of the few second-tier series cars that diecast manufacturer Racing Champions produced at the time. Tate worked his way up the ranks from late models, and on August 5, 2017, scored his first checkered flag at the Hickory Speedway in a car his father owned. His Ford carried the iconic #00 Thomas Brothers Country Ham paint scheme in honor of Sam Ard, Jay’s former team owner and himself a NASCAR champion, who died that April.

The younger Fogleman made his Truck Series debut at Gateway on June 23, 2018, where he drove Randy Young’s #20 Chevrolet to a 27th-place finish after a late-race crash. This began a three-race stint with Young’s Motorsports, which concluded with a career-best 15th at Michigan. A full-time ride with the team opened up in 2020, where he drove the #02 with sponsorship from Solid Rock Carriers. In his return to Michigan, he again improved on his best finish by taking 13th. He now runs his second full season in Young’s #12, and earned his first Top Ten with a 9th on the dirt in Knoxville. At Darlington, Fogleman rolled off in the 24th spot.

Drawing the 38th and final starting spot was Clay Greenfield, who was finally able to make his first Truck Series start of the year after three DNQs. Greenfield’s #68 Rackley Roofing Toyota wouldn’t be joined in the back by drivers with pre-race penalties, but 32nd-place Ryan Ellis in the #33 Levrack Toyota had dropped to the back, and would start in the final row. This moved Greenfield up a spot so Ellis took the green alongside original 37th-place starter Norm Benning. Following a costly withdrawal at Gateway, Benning’s #6 MDS A Sign Co. Chevrolet sported a new nose to comply with NASCAR’s technical regulations. The team had yet to paint the nose, so the upper nose and hood remained white on his black truck.

When the green flag dropped, Ellis edged ahead of Benning, who was 4.887 seconds back of the leader across the stripe. By the end of Lap 1, both had passed Jennifer Jo Cobb in her #10 Fastener Supply Co. Ford. Cobb’s truck struggled with a loose condition in Turns 3 and 4, and by Lap 4, the driver was already 2.286 seconds back of the rest of the field. On Lap 7, Cobb was worried she wouldn’t meet minimum speed, also believing a plug wire had come loose, and she decided to come to pit road. She pulled to the apron the next time by and received four rounds down on the track bar. The crew also looked under the hood before sending her back out four laps down. By then, the field had strung out so much that the spotter struggled to find her a spot in line.

The competition caution fell on Lap 15, and Cobb reported that her truck was now too tight. The spotter indicated her truck “sounds different than everybody else’s truck up here,” which again signaled a possible issue under the hood. “I don’t know what you wanna do here,” said someone on her team. “NASCAR’s gonna start raisin’ hell on us.” Despite this, NASCAR had only been warning Cobb’s spotter to watch for faster traffic, and had not yet warned her to pick up her speed. 

On the Lap 20 restart, Cobb lined up at the back of the pack with Ellis now 37th, three laps down and one lap in front of her after a stop of his own. Just two laps later, the caution came out for debris, and Cobb reported she may have hit a piece of it. This was from Tate Fogleman’s #12, which had pulled to the inside on the frontstretch before dropping large pieces of white-painted metal from the back of his truck. Fogleman, who had been running around the 26th spot at the time of the incident, pulled down pit road. With pit stops taking place under the ensuing yellow, he had to wait for other drivers to leave before he could be pushed to the garage area on Lap 24. Cobb passed Ellis on Lap 27, dropping the #12 to last place. After several laps of silence on his channel, Fogleman’s team reported on Lap 50 “We’re done here, as far as the tires.” There had been a clean break of the yoke in the rear end, putting them out of the race. NASCAR officially declared him out on Lap 54.

Also declared out on Lap 54 was Ellis, who was going to pull his #33 behind the wall on Lap 25, but decided to wait after Colby Howard spun his #9 GCM / Highland Construction Chevrolet off the second corner. Ellis pulled into the backstretch garage entrance on Lap 32, and was declared out with transmission issues by NASCAR. 

The following run was again marked by controversy over minimum speed. While Cobb had been struggling to keep up the pace since the first lap, Norm Benning was black flagged for the issue first around Lap 68. Benning returned to the track after repairs. On Lap 82, NASCAR advised Ben Rhodes, who’d been involved in multiple incidents, to pick up his speed in the #99 Bombardier LearJet 75 Toyota. At the time, Benning’s repaired truck had been running faster speeds than Rhodes. Benning also reported he was outpacing Jack Wood in the damaged #24 Chevy Accessories Chevrolet, passing him twice. But on Lap 86, two laps after Cobb was black-flagged and parked for not maintaining minimum speed, Benning was also parked for the same reason. “I hope everyone is listening to this,” said Benning as he pulled behind the wall. “We were running with the 24. That's a GMS truck, and we passed him twice."

NASCAR confirmed Benning and Cobb were out on Lap 117, saying “10 and 6 out, parked – minimum speed.” Both were listed as “too slow” in the results. Rhodes rounded out the Bottom Five.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marks the first last-place finish for the #12 in a Truck Series race since June 7, 2019, when Gus Dean crashed out after 10 laps of the SpeedyCash.com 400 at Texas. The number had never before finished last in a Truck race at Darlington. This is also the first time a rear gear issue resulted in a Truck Series last-place finish at Darlington.
*The most recent time a Truck Series driver finished last due to rear gear issues was April 17, 2021, when Ryan Truex dropped out after 44 laps at Richmond.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
38) #12-Tate Fogleman / 22 laps / rear gear
37) #33-Ryan Ellis / 28 laps / transmission
36) #10-Jennifer Jo Cobb / 75 laps / too slow
35) #6-Norm Benning / 86 laps / too slow
34) #99-Ben Rhodes / 140 laps / running

2021 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
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, Young’s Motorsports (1)

2021 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (14)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (2)

2021 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP