Thursday, February 24, 2022

PREVIEW: Cup "open" teams and XFINITY teammates not among Fontana entries


This weekend, I will be returning to the track to cover the “battle” for last place in both the XFINITY and Cup Series as NASCAR returns to the two-mile oval. Be sure to follow my Twitter feed @LASTCARonBROCK for updates from the garage all weekend long!

Saturday, February 26, 2022 (5:00 P.M. ET, FS1)
XFINITY Race 2 of 33
Production Alliance Group 300 at Auto Club
2020 Last-Place Finisher: Landon Cassill

Following three withdrawals, there are still 41 drivers entered for 38 spots, meaning three drivers will be sent home after qualifying.

DRIVER CHANGE: #18-Joe Gibbs Racing
As announced just days before the Daytona 500, Trevor Bayne has signed a part-time deal to drive JGR’s #18 Toyota, the same entry Daniel Hemric took to the championship just last year. The first of Bayne’s seven slated races will be this Saturday, where he takes the place of Drew Dollar, 36th in Daytona. The result is Bayne’s first XFINITY Series start since August 6, 2016, when he ran 5th for Roush-Fenway Racing at Watkins Glen.

MISSING: #24-Sam Hunt Racing
DRIVER SWAP: #26-Sam Hunt Racing
Many of the mid-tier XFINITY teams which entered two cars have scaled back to just one car this weekend, starting with Sam Hunt’s Toyota effort. Jeffrey Earnhardt moves from the #24, which isn’t entered, to the flagship #26, replacing Ryan Truex., a faith-based organization, has joined Forever Lawn as sponsor of Earnhardt’s car.

TEAM UPDATE: #31-Jordan Anderson Racing
Myatt Snider has been medically cleared to race this Saturday following his frightening last-lap flip into the Daytona catchfence.

DRIVER CHANGE: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
The Reaume team will enter their XFINITY car which failed to qualify for the Daytona opener with Natalie Decker. Taking the wheel is Will Rodgers, who eyes his 8th series start and first since last fall on the Charlotte “Roval,” when he ran for Sam Hunt. Kelly Benefits is the listed sponsor. This would be Rodgers’ first XFINITY start at Fontana.

DRIVER SWAP: #35-Emerling-Gase Motorsports
WITHDREW: #53-Emerling-Gase Motorsports
On Tuesday, the Emerling-Gase effort elected to leave the #53 in the shop, moving team co-owner Joey Gase to the #35 in place of Shane Lee. It was at this same Fontana track two years ago that the hauler for H2 Motorsports, the ill-fated team which once fielded cars for Lee, was sighted in the infield in the hands of new owners. One Legacy will sponsor Gase, who finished 26th in Daytona ahead of Lee in 33rd.

WITHDREW: #90-DGM Racing
Also on Tuesday, Mario Gosselin pulled his flagship #90 entry, which was set to be driven by Dexter Bean for his season debut. Bean had been slated to take the place of Alex Labbe, who returns to his familiar #36 this week in place of Josh Bilicki. Bilicki, who ran a career-best 9th last week in Daytona, will not run the XFINITY race, but is instead set to run in Cup for Spire Motorsports (see below).

C.J. McLaughlin was the center of some controversy when his spinning car cut to the right late in the Daytona race, eliminated several other contenders. McLaughlin is not in the car after his 35th-place finish, and has somewhat surprisingly been replaced by Timmy Hill. Hill, who for years has driven for Carl Long, will instead steer the #38 Ford with new sponsor Tahoe Blue Vodka. This will be Hill’s first XFINITY start for RSS Racing.

DRIVER CHANGE: #45-Alpha Prime Racing
Fresh off racing The Money Team into the Daytona 500, Kaz Grala will take the place of Daytona last-place finisher Caesar Bacarella in the second Alpha Prime entry. Ruedebusch joins Lilly Finance as sponsor as Grala eyes his first XFINITY start since last fall at Texas, when he ran 15th for Jordan Anderson. Grala finished 14th in his only previous XFINITY start at Fontana back in 2018.

DRIVER CHANGE: #47-Mike Harmon Racing
MISSING: #74-Mike Harmon Racing
Mike Harmon will not bring the #74 to the west coast after both his cars failed to qualify in Daytona, meaning it will be at least another week before the team can rebound from its offseason testing penalty. The #47 will make the trip, but it will not be run by Gray Gaulding or Tim Viens, the teammates from Daytona. In fact, the driver’s name remained blank on the entry list until Wednesday. Taking the wheel will be Brennan Poole, who when NASCAR last arrived at this track in 2020 was just beginning his rookie season in Cup with Premium Motorsports, soon to be merged with Rick Ware Racing. Poole has not made a XFINITY start since he closed out the 2017 season at Homestead with Chip Ganassi Racing.

WITHDREW: #52-Jimmy Means Racing
For the last nearly 300 consecutive XFINITY Series races covering just over eight full seasons, Jimmy “Smut” Means has entered his #52 with several up-and-coming drivers. Most recently, he entered Harrison Rhodes, who missed the cut last week in Daytona driving a plain black car with practically zero sponsorship. Rhodes was slated to try again this week, but by Wednesday, Means withdrew his entry. Saturday marks the first time since November 16, 2013 at Homestead where the #52 is not in the garage area. Whether the team will attempt the rest of the “West Coast Swing” is still to be determined.

MISSING: #77-Bassett Racing
The opening of the 2022 season looks too much like that of 2021 for upstart Bassett Racing. Last year, the #77 failed to qualify for the opener, then along with Jordan Anderson and the cancelled #03 entry of Our Motorsports, was entered for multiple races where they wouldn’t have a chance to qualify. While practice and qualifying are back, the standings’ reliance on attempts is not, and the #77 is this time not even entered in Fontana after Ronnie Bassett, Jr. missed the cut in Florida.

DRIVER CHANGE: #07-SS-Green Light Racing
DRIVER SWAP: #08-SS-Green Light Racing
The lone Cup regular in Saturday’s field is Cole Custer, who carries race sponsor Production Alliance Group on Bobby Dotter’s #07 Ford. Custer takes the place of Joe Graf, Jr., who moves to the #08 entry with which David Starr failed to qualify in Daytona. Graf ran 29th last week.

CUP INVADERS: #07-Cole Custer

Sunday, February 27, 2022 (3:30 P.M. ET, FOX)
CUP Race 2 of 36
Wise Power 400 at Auto Club
2020 Last-Place Finisher: Christopher Bell

Just as in the Clash at the Coliseum earlier this month, only the 36 Chartered entries will venture west in the first Cup race at the Auto Club track in two years. The result is the first short field of 2022, and the fewest entries to ever take the green flag in the track’s Cup race.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Rick Ware Racing
While the preliminary entry list first showed David Ragan still in the #15, following up his strong 8th-place run in last week’s 500, it has since been reported that Garrett Smithley will rejoin RWR to run all of the “West Coast Swing.” Jacob Companies will sponsor the car this week.

MISSING: #27-Team Hezeberg
MISSING: #44-NY Racing Team
MISSING: #50-The Money Team
MISSING: #55-Motorsports Business Management
MISSING: #62-Beard Motorsports
MISSING: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Not one of the six “open” entries from last week’s Daytona 500 has elected to run Fontana, including both Motorsports Business Management entries that failed to qualify for the big race. Beard Motorsports has only once attempted a non-superspeedway race while Team Hezeberg and The Money Team are likely to return in COTA. The NY Racing Team’s status remains unknown, though Greg Biffle has reportedly been in discussions to run further races.

TEAM UPDATE: #42-Petty GMS Motorsports
Ty Dillon carries sponsorship from Allegiant Airlines, Maury Gallagher’s airline that has sponsored his GMS Racing team since its inception. The sponsor was last seen in Cup for Spencer Gallagher’s only Cup race at Watkins Glen in 2018.

DRIVER CHANGE: #77-Spire Motorsports
The preliminary entry list showed Landon Cassill in the #77, as he’d been in both the Clash and the 500. However, Sunday will see the season debut of Josh Bilicki, who brings with him sponsorship from Pacific Coast Termite, his backer at Sonoma last year. This will be Bilicki’s first-ever Cup start at Fontana, though he does have three XFINITY starts here with a best finish of 29th in both 2019 and 2020.

Friday, March 4, 2022 
TRUCKS Race 2 of 23
Bucked Up 200 at Las Vegas
2021 Last-Place Finisher: Conor Daly

The Truck Series takes the week off and will return in Las Vegas.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (February 24, 2002): Stacy Compton picked up the 4th last-place finish of his NASCAR Winston Cup Series career in the Subway 400 at Rockingham when his #14 Conseco Pontiac, fielded by A.J. Foyt Racing, lost the engine after 25 laps. For Compton, who had started 42nd in the field of 43, this would be his final Cup Series last-place finish. 

No comments: