Thursday, March 10, 2022

PREVIEW: Two XFINITY Series debuts and Allmendinger's return to Cup on the menu in Phoenix

IMAGE: @Nicksanchez080

Saturday, March 5, 2022 (4:30 P.M. ET, FS1)
XFINITY Race 4 of 33
United Rentals 200 at Phoenix
2021 Last-Place Finisher: Jesse Little

There are 42 drivers entered for 38 spots, meaning four teams will be sent home after qualifying.

TEAM UPDATE: #4-JD Motorsports
While teammate Ryan Vargas will return to JD Motorsports’ familiar red this week, Swedish metal band Ghost and Eric Estepp’s “Out of the Groove” will adorn a new black-and-white paint scheme for driver Bayley Currey. Also joining the effort are Ghost’s partners Loma Vista Recordings, Global Merchandising Services, Revolver Magazine, and Rick Sales Entertainment (RSE).

DRIVER CHANGE: #5-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Saturday sees the NASCAR national touring series debut for Nick Sanchez, who scored his first ARCA Menards Series victory last fall at Kansas en route to a 3rd-place finish in the standings despite running only 18 of the 20 races. The 21-year-old from Miami raced in both West Series races at Phoenix last year, taking 21st in the spring and 4th in the fall. This week, he takes the place of Matt Mills, who finished 35th after a hard crash on the backstretch, as driver of B.J. McLeod’s #5 Chevrolet. Barefoot Rentals is the listed sponsor with associate backing from Brand South Africa.

DRIVER CHANGE: #18-Joe Gibbs Racing
Trevor Bayne climbs back aboard JGR’s #18 for the first time since his 3rd-place return to action at Fontana, again carrying sponsorship from Devotion Nutrition. Bayne takes the place of Ryan Truex, who ran 30th after a late-race crash last week in Las Vegas. This will be Bayne’s first XFINITY start at Phoenix since 2014, when he finished 9th in the fall race for Roush-Fenway Racing.

Also making his NASCAR national touring series debut is Parker Retzlaff, who has comparatively fewer starts than Nick Sanchez. Retzlaff’s best of three ARCA Menards Series finishes was an 8th in his debut at Toledo, and the 19-year-old from Wisconsin has yet to make a start at Phoenix. He will drive RSS Racing’s #38, moving Kyle Sieg to the #28 in place of C.J. McLaughlin, who’s not entered this week.

RETURNING: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
Josh Reaume’s XFINITY team returns following their withdrawal from Las Vegas, looking to make their first start of the year after the back-to-back DNQs that preceded Vegas. This time, Loris Hezemans will drive the team’s Toyota, fresh off his 20th-place finish in his first-ever Truck Series start, also for Reaume’s team. If Hezemans qualifies, this will already be the fifth different XFINITY team he’s raced for in just six career starts. His lone Phoenix start came in this race last year, when he ran 31st for Motorsports Business Management.

DRIVER CHANGE: #35-Emerling-Gase Motorsports
After one start each in Sam Hunt Racing’s two Toyotas, then not running last week in Las Vegas, Jeffrey Earnhardt will run his third different car as he attempts to qualify the #35 in place of team co-owner Joey Gase, 22nd in Las Vegas. Earnhardt brings with him new sponsor Dal Strong knives as he looks to bounce back from a last-place finish here last fall.


Sunday, March 6, 2022 (3:30 P.M. ET, FOX)
CUP Race 4 of 36
Ruoff Mortgage 500k at Phoenix
2021 Last-Place Finisher: Timmy Hill

Only the 36 Chartered entries are in Phoenix - one fewer than last week – marking the third short field in four Cup points races this season.

DRIVER CHANGE: #16-Kaulig Racing
In the first three starts of his Cup Series return, Daniel Hemric has faced no shortage of obstacles to overcome – a pass-through penalty to start the Daytona 500, getting all seven of his laps back after a shifter issue in Fontana, and stoving in the nose of his car during an incident at Las Vegas. This weekend, for the first time this year, A.J. Allmendinger will take the controls, bringing with him sponsorship from Action Industries. It will be Allmendinger’s first Cup start since last fall on the Charlotte “Roval,” where he ran 38th with engine issues, and his first in a Cup race at Phoenix since 2018.

MISSING: #44-NY Racing Team
In their second of as many starts this year, fuel pump issues ended Greg Biffle and team owner John Cohen’s race early, resulting in a 34th-placce finish. The team will not run this weekend. Incidentally, Biffle has 26 Cup starts at Phoenix with no wins and a single runner-up finish in the fall of 2007. Phoenix was also the site of Cohen’s first start as a Cup Series team owner on November 11, 2012, when David Reutimann finished 40th out of 43 with a vibration. 

DRIVER CHANGE: #77-Spire Motorsports
Like his Kaulig Racing teammate A.J. Allmendinger, Landon Cassill will pull double-duty this weekend as he returns to Spire’s #77 for the first time since the Daytona 500. Voyager: Crypto for All rejoins as sponsor for what will be Cassill’s first Cup start at Phoenix since 2019. He takes the place of Josh Bilicki, who ran 29th last week.

Saturday, March 19, 2022
TRUCKS Race 3 of 23
Fr8 Auctions 200 at Atlanta
2021 Last-Place Finisher: Norm Benning

The Truck Series gets a head-start on NASCAR’s return to the east coast next week, when they’ll kick-off a Saturday doubleheader on the newly repaved and reconfigured Atlanta Motor Speedway.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (March 10, 1963): NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Wendell Scott picked up his first career last-place finish when his #34 1961 Chevrolet snapped an axle after 10 laps around the Orange Speedway, a nine-tenths mile dirt track in Hillsborough, North Carolina. Five of Scott’s 12 last-place finishes would come on dirt tracks. This finish came less than nine months before his landmark victory in Jacksonville, Florida. 

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