Thursday, February 3, 2022

PREVIEW: Busch Clash battle at the bullring doubles as NextGen debut for Chartered entries

PHOTO: Jacob Ullman, @jacobu

Sunday, February 6, 2022
CUP Exhibition Race
The Busch Light Clash at the L.A. Coliseum
2021 Last-Place Finisher: Martin Truex, Jr. (Daytona Road Course)

To kick off the 2022 season, I will be following the last-place action trackside as NASCAR debuts their NextGen cars! Stay tuned to my Twitter feed at @LASTCARonBROCK all weekend.

Only the 36 Chartered teams are entered to compete in the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum, which for the first time made 40 spots available, just like a regular points race. After four heat races and two last-chance qualifiers, only 23 will compete in the 150-lap main event. This list focuses on the notable driver and team changes for the Chartered 36 of the 39 teams present last fall at Phoenix. Teams and drivers present at Phoenix, but not in this race, are also mentioned. As always, teams not mentioned have the same driver / team combinations from November.

NEW TEAM: #1-Trackhouse Racing
TEAM CLOSED: #1-Chip Ganassi Racing
TEAM CLOSED: #42-Chip Ganassi Racing
NEW TEAM: #45-23XI Racing
NEW CHARTER: #99-Trackhouse Racing
TEAM CLOSED: #00-StarCom Racing
Last November saw the closing of Chip Ganassi Racing, which has been in operation in the Cup Series since Ganassi invested in Felix Sabates’ two-car effort in the summer of 2000. The team’s two Charters have both gone to Trackhouse Racing, which had lost their leased Charter last year. By expanding to a two-car team (with Daniel Suarez remaining in the #99), Trackhouse has retained Ganassi’s #1 and hired Ross Chastain, who ran Ganassi’s #42 last year. Chastain takes the place of Kurt Busch, who will drive 23XI’s new second team, the #45, with returning sponsorship from Monster Energy. Busch’s Charter came from StarCom Racing (by way of Spire Motorsports), which closed down after NASCAR forced them to sell their Charter. StarCom’s three NextGen chasses have been purchased by Rick Ware Racing.

DRIVER CHANGE: #2-Team Penske
TEAM UPDATE / DRIVER CHANGE: #6-Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing
TEAM UPDATE: #17-Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing
After some surprising runs in his part-time Cup Series schedule last year, 2020 XFINITY Series Champion Austin Cindric will contend for Rookie of the Year in the high-powered #2 Ford fielded by Penske Racing. Cindric takes the place of Brad Keselowski, who had been running Cup cars for Penske since 2009, and the flagship #2 since 2011. Keselowski now embarks on his new venture as co-owner of the rebranded Roush Fenway Keselowski (RFK) Racing. He will also drive in that team’s flagship #6, replacing Ryan Newman, who has not yet accepted a part-time opportunity with the team. Chris Buescher remains at RFK Racing in the same #17 entry.

TEAM UPDATE: #10-Stewart-Haas Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Rick Ware Racing
TEAM CLOSED: #37-JTG-Daugherty Racing
MISSING: #52-Rick Ware Racing
MISSING: #53-Rick Ware Racing
Aric Almirola announced he will retire from full-time Cup competition at the end of this season. One possible suitor could be Ryan Preece, who after JTG-Daugherty Racing closed their “Open” #37 entry, was brought on by SHR as a full-time alternate. As part of the deal, Preece will run two Cup races in SHR equipment. As a bonus, Preece will take the place of Garrett Smithley in Rick Ware Racing’s #15 for the Clash as RWR has entered into a technical alliance with SHR. Cody Ware remains in the RWR’s flagship #51 entry, beginning with the Clash, as the team restructures into a two-car effort. Neither RWR’s #52 nor #53 from last season are entered.

MISSING: #13-Motorsport Business Management
MISSING: #66-Motorsports Business Management
No Open teams are currently entered in the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum, including Carl Long’s MBM team, which had two cars entered last November in Phoenix. The team does have its #66 on hand for the Daytona 500, where Timmy Hill will again drive. At least two other teams – the #62 of Beard Motorsports and the new #27 of Team Hezeberg – are expected to join the Daytona 500 entry list. More information on those teams will be part of the next Entry List Storylines article on Tuesday, February 15.

RETURNING: #16-Kaulig Racing
NEW TEAM: #31-Kaulig Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #77-Spire Motorsports
The 2022 season sees Matthew Kaulig enter full-time Cup competition with not one, but two cars, and returns to Cup for the first time since last fall on the Charlotte "Roval." A.J. Allmendinger, who won his second career Cup race on the Indianapolis Grand Prix Circuit, will this year share the #16 with Noah Gragson and Daniel Hemric, the defending XFINITY Series Champion. Allmendinger will run the car in the Clash alongside Justin Haley, who has earned a full-time Cup ride in Kaulig’s second entry, the #31. This marks the first time the #31 has been fielded by a team other than Richard Childress Racing since 1995. Haley thus departs from Spire Motorsports’ #77 he ran last fall, leaving the seat open for a returning Landon Cassill at the Clash. Cassil's most recent Cup start of any kind came last fall at Talladega, where he ran 24th with Gaunt Brothers Racing.

DRIVER CHANGE: #21-Wood Brothers Racing
Also joining this year’s rookie class from the XFINITY Series is Harrison Burton, who takes over the #21 from Matt DiBenedetto, who this year will compete in the Truck Series for Rackley-W.A.R.

DRIVER CHANGE: #38-Front Row Motorsports
Still another rookie is Todd Gilliland, who follows grandfather Butch Gilliland and father David Gilliland into the Cup Series as driver of the #38 Ford. Todd will drive Front Row Motorsports’ second entry, taking the place of last year’s rookie contender Anthony Alfredo.

NEW TEAM: #42-Petty GMS Racing (former #94-GMS Racing)
TEAM MERGER: #43-Petty GMS Racing
Last year, Ty Dillon had signed with Maury Gallagher to bring GMS Racing into the Cup Series for the first time, campaigning the #94 Chevrolet. That plan changed after GMS purchased Richard Petty Motorsports, forming the new two-car team Petty GMS Racing. Ty will now run the #42, which has a long history in the Petty family as driven by Lee, Richard, and Kyle. Erik Jones remains in the team’s flagship #43, which welcomes new 26-race sponsorship from FOCUSFactor.

MISSING DRIVERS FROM PHOENIX 2021: Anthony Alfredo, Josh Bilicki, Matt DiBenedetto, Joey Gase, Timmy Hill, Quin Houff, Ryan Newman, Garrett Smithley, David Starr

LASTCAR STAT OF THE WEEK: The most popular comparison of this weekend’s venue has been to Bowman Gray Stadium, which hosted 29 Cup Series points races from 1958 through 1971. The most recent of these took place on August 6, 1971, just before NASCAR's schedule reduction kicked off the sport's "Modern Era." That day, Detroit-born Bill Shirey quit after turning just one of the 250 laps in his #74 1969 Plymouth. As it happens, Bill Seifert also parked his #45 1969 Ford on the same lap, but Shirey likely took the spot as his #74 was classified ten spots behind Seifert on the starting lineup. This was Shirey’s sixth of his eight career Cup Series last-place finishes. That day’s race saw 29 cars start the race – six more than will run Sunday’s main event, which is also 100 laps shorter.

1 comment:

MarshallDog said...

"Only 23 will compete in the main event."

Based on the qualifying procedure this looks like it will be the first race in quite some time not to feature a provisional or similar system to protect the most popular drivers and teams. This provides a big incentive to the lower-ranked teams to use more bumper to get into the feature for more TV time. One caveat to that is NASCAR potentially enforcing a loosely defined penalty system similar to many local short tracks- if you spin someone you go to the back for the restart. That hasn't been stated as a rule but I wouldn't be surprised if NASCAR is a bit generous with the black flag in the heats to protect the big money drivers.

Another question I have is what about the crash clock? Based on reports I'd be surprised if every team was bringing along two cars in case they crash out in practice or the heats. I would love it if NASCAR just did away with the crash clock for this race (and every race to be honest) and let the cars get smashed up just like they would at a short track. If it can still run, who cares if it looks ugly?