Thursday, March 31, 2022

PREVIEW: XFINITY Series debuts of Caruth, DiSavino, and Griffith kick off Richmond weekend

PHOTO: Rajah Kirby Caruth, @rajahcaruth_

Saturday, April 2, 2022 (1:30 P.M. ET, FS1)
XFINITY Race 7 of 33
Toyota Care 250 at Richmond
2021 Last-Place Finisher (September): C.J. McLaughlin

The XFINITY Series remains strong this year as the first short track race of 2022 sees 42 drivers entered for 38 spots, meaning four teams will be sent home.

DRIVER CHANGE: #5-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
NEW TEAM: #55-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
In his first year as Stewart-Haas Racing’s reserve driver, Ryan Preece remains busy. On Saturday, he returns to the XFINITY Series for the first time since 2019 at Watkins Glen. While entered under B.J. McLeod’s #5 team, he will run a SHR Ford in place of McLeod’s Chevrolets, and carries sponsorship from Mohawk. Matt Mills, who most often campaigned the #5, save for last week with “road ringer” Scott Heckert, will this week run a new McLeod entry, the #55, with his J.F. Electric sponsorship.

DRIVER CHANGE: #18-Joe Gibbs Racing
John Hunter Nemechek is back in a XFINITY car for the first time since his team-best 5th-place finish for Sam Hunt Racing in Phoenix. This time, he drives JGR’s flagship #18, taking the place of Bubba Wallace, who contended for the lead before transmission issues in COTA left him 28th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #26-Sam Hunt Racing
Speaking of the Sam Hunt team, they will enter 24-year-old Derek Griffith in his first career XFINITY Series start in a Supra sponsored by Toyota Racing. Griffith, who takes the place of Parker Chase, the 19th-place finisher in COTA, has one previous start in NASCAR’s top three national series. This came last summer in Gateway, where he finished 26th after early damage to KBM’s #51 Truck Series entry.

Parker Retzlaff looks to pick up where he left off in his strong Phoenix debut this year, again driving Rod Sieg’s #38 Chevrolet with sponsorship from Ponsse. Retzlaff’s return moves Kyle Sieg to the #28 Ford in place of “road ringer” Patrick Gallagher, who ran 22nd despite multiple spins in COTA. The Engineering Group sponsors Kyle while brother Ryan Sieg carries a black-and-pink scheme on his #39 for team sponsor A-Game. 

DRIVER CHANGE: #34-Jesse Iwuji Motorsports
MISSING: #92-DGM Racing
DRIVER SWAP: #07-SS-Green Light Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #08-SS-Green Light Racing
On Monday came news that DGM Racing will scale back their third entry, the #92 Chevrolet, to a part-time entry shared by their current group of drivers. This came just days after the team enjoyed its second consecutive strong race. Following Kyle Weatherman’s top-ten run in Atlanta, Ross Chastain challenged for the win at COTA the day before his breakthrough first Cup victory, only to be undone by a late-race spin. The 24th-ranked #92 team’s Owner Points will reportedly transfer to Bobby Dotter’s struggling second team, the #08, which sees David Starr return to the seat, moving Joe Graf, Jr. back to the #07 in place of Cup regular Cole Custer. UPDATE (March 31): Weatherman will drive in place of Jesse Iwuji in the #34 as the JIM team looks to rurn around their frustrating start to the year.

DRIVER CHANGE: #35-Emerling-Gase Motorsports
Joey Gase returns to the team he co-owns for the first time since he finished 22nd in Las Vegas. He and his sponsorship from Donate Life Virginia come as the team is on the upswing following Parker Kligerman’s fine showing in COTA, where he took home 12th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #44-Alpha Prime Racing
Welcome to NASCAR national series competition Rajah Caruth, who on Saturday is set to make his first start in the flagship Alpha Prime #44. The 20-year-old Caruth has become a contender in ARCA’s national and regional competition, most recently battling for the lead in Phoenix before he finished 4th. Caruth, who takes the place of Sage Karam - 16th in COTA – carries sponsorship from Virginia State University.

DRIVER CHANGE: #45-Alpha Prime Racing
Joining Caruth as both a first-time XFINITY racer and teammate at Alpha Prime is Howie DiSavino III, who at this track last year kicked off a five-race stint in the Truck Series with a best finish of 22nd in Pocono. DiSavino takes the place of Josh Bilicki, whose rally at COTA was cut short by contact from Brandon Jones, leaving the #45 a distant 35th – last on the lead lap. Both Jones and the JGR team has since reached out to the Alpha Prime team to make amends.

DRIVER CHANGE: #52-Jimmy Means Racing
The Means team continues their fight to make their first start of the season, bringing back Harrison Rhodes after sports car racer Gar Robinson nearly got the #52 into last week’s field in COTA. Rhodes has five XFINITY starts at Richmond, though none since 2017, and has finished under power in each of them with 98.4% of the combined laps completed.

RETURNING: #77-Bassett Racing
Dillon Bassett is likewise determined to get his family’s #77 into the show for the first time in 2022, returning to the site of his 15th-place XFINITY debut in 2019 for DGM Racing. Bassett returned to the Richmond track that fall and improved with a 13th-place finish, a run he’s since matched in his most recent start at the Charlotte oval back in May of 2020.

MISSING: #88-JR Motorsports
Miguel Paludo is not entered along with the part-time fifth JRM entry following a 9th-place showing in COTA.

Mason Massey rejoins the Gosselin effort for the first time since his career-best 6th-place showing in Atlanta. Anderson Power Services, which backed him that day, is again the listed sponsor as he takes the place of road racer Preston Pardus, who ran 14th in COTA.


Sunday, April 3, 2022 (3:30 P.M. ET, FOX)
CUP Race 7 of 36
Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond
2021 Last-Place Finisher: Justin Haley

There are 37 entries, down two from last week in Austin, marking the sixth short field in seven points-paying Cup races this season.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Rick Ware Racing
MISSING: #66-Motorsports Business Management
While the preliminary entry list indicated Garrett Smithley would take the place of “road ringer” Joey Hand, who took 35th after late-race suspension issues in COTA, the ride will instead go to J.J. Yeley. This will mark Yeley’s first run in NASCAR’s NextGen car since this year’s Duel races in Daytona, where while driving for Carl Long, he was edged for the final transfer spot by Kaz Grala. Long’s Cup team finally earned its first Cup start in COTA with Boris Said and finished 26th, but isn’t entered this week.

MISSING: #27-Team Hezeberg
MISSING: #50-The Money Team
In fact, all three returning “open” teams from the Daytona 500, who each competed last Sunday, are not entered this week. While Team Hezeberg is expected to compete in this season’s remaining road course races, future events for both The Money Team and MBM are still to be announced.

RETURNING: #44-NY Racing Team
John Cohen, however, continues to build his notebook this week as Greg Biffle makes the team’s fourth start of 2022 and first since the NY Racing Team’s best-ever finish in Atlanta, taking 20th at the checkered flag. Biffle, who carries a white-and-green paint scheme for Norfolk Sate University, will be making his 30th Cup start at Richmond. His best series finish here was 3rd in the fall of 2005.

DRIVER CHANGE: #77-Spire Motorsports
Josh Bilicki will be in neither the XFINITY nor the Cup Series this week, the latter swapped with a returning Landon Cassill and his XFINITY sponsor Voyager: Crypto for All. This will be Cassill’s 20th Cup start at Richmond and his first since 2019. His best Cup finish at the Richmond short track remains his 19th-place showing for BK Racing in September 2012.

DRIVER CHANGE: #78-Live Fast Motorsports
Although COTA’s last-place finisher Andy Lally was again listed to run the #78 this week, the road racer confirmed on Monday that he’s currently mowing a baseball diamond in his lawn for a wiffle ball tournament this weekend. Team co-owner B.J. McLeod returns as driver this week. McLeod’s best of three finishes at Richmond came in his most recent appearance last fall, when he took home 30th.

Thursday, April 7, 2022
TRUCKS Race 5 of 23
United Rentals 200 at Martinsville
2021 Last-Place Finisher (October): Chase Purdy 

The Truck Series returns in another week for Martinsville.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (March 31, 1963): Jerome Warren picked up the first last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in the Southeastern 500 at Bristol when his #93 1962 Ford dropped out with handling issues. This was the second of five career Cup starts for the Charlotte-born driver, who earned a career-best 18th in his final start at Columbia on May 2nd of that year. It was the only race he finished under power, last among those still running at the finish.

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