Sunday, March 27, 2022

XFINITY: Bayley Currey’s throwback for longtime sponsor ends with early engine trouble

IMAGE: FS1, Screenshot by @FinishLineYT

Bayley Currey picked up the 5th last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Pit Boss 250 at the Circuit of the Americas when his #4 Chasco Constructors Chevrolet lost the engine after 13 of 46 laps.

The finish, which came in Currey’s 80th series start, was his first of the season and first in a XFINITY race since June 12, 2021 at Texas, 25 races ago. In the XFINITY Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 19th for the #4, the 271st from engine issues, and the 589th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 68th for the #4, the 1,115th from engines, and the 1,828th for Chevrolet.

When he was last featured here last June, Currey was enduring a frustrating stretch of races with Mike Harmon Racing, whose performance dropped off in 2021 after he and then-teammate Kyle Weatherman earned several surprising runs during the previous year. By September, Currey had made the move to JD Motorsports, which was itself about to reorganize from a four-car operation to only two. Currey ran 13th in just his second start with JDM in Las Vegas, then ran 17th in Texas and 16th in Kansas. 

When the JDM team scaled back for 2022, Currey’s #15 went away along with the #0 formerly run by a departing Jeffrey Earnhardt. Currey moved to the #4 as teammate to Ryan Vargas in the #6. In these first five races of the season, Currey achieved three more finishes of 20th or better in Daytona, Las Vegas, and Phoenix. And though he finished under power in all five races, he remained just 24th in the standings following a 29th-place showing in Atlanta.

Saturday’s race in COTA was particularly significant, both as Currey’s home track, and for the paint scheme he’d run. He ran a white car with blue door and roof numbers, matching the late model he ran earlier in his career. This was done in recognition of returning sponsor Chasco Constructors, which had backed his racing career since he was fourteen.

Currey was among the 42 drivers entered to attempt the 38-car field at COTA. Currey ran 27th in practice, then timed in 29th with a lap of 88.690mph (2 minutes, 18.415 seconds). Missing the show were Jesse Iwuji in the #34 Equity Prime Mortgage Chevrolet; Josh Williams, whose #78 Alloy Employment Services Chevrolet was bumped out of the field by teammate Stefan Parsons at the end of the session; sports car racer Gar Robinson, who came just six-hundredths of a second short of getting Jimmy Means Racing’s #52 Chevrolet into its first start of the year; and Brennan Poole, whose #47 Mike Harmon Racing Chevrolet dropped debris on the track during his own near-miss.

Rolling off 38th and last was Brandon Jones, whose #19 Menards / Oklahoma Joe’s Toyota was the only car to not complete a qualifying lap after also missing practice. Jones would incur a redundant tail-end penalty for unapproved adjustments, joined by Brett Moffitt in the #02 Home Town Lenders Chevrolet, Landon Cassill in the #10 AGI – Athletic Greens Chevrolet, Will Rodgers in the #38 Kelly Benefits Toyota, Ryan Sieg in the #39 / A-Game Ford, Josh Bilicki in the #45 The Boss / Lemons of Love Chevrolet, J.J. Yeley in the #66 Remote Health Solutions Toyota, and Brandon Brown in the #68 Chevrolet. Rodgers also missed driver introductions while Yeley had spun with six minutes to go in practice.

When the race started, Yeley was last across the stripe, 4.125 seconds back of the lead, but further up, another driver incurred a penalty. Making his first series start since 2019, Patrick Gallagher rolled off 30th in the #28 Belle Haven Ford for RSS Racing, but didn’t line up properly on the start, making an early move to the inside. NASCAR posted Gallagher for a start violation, requiring a pass-through penalty. Before he could reach pit road, Josh Berry smashed the nose of his #8 PUBG Mobile Chevrolet during a spin by teammate Miguel Paludo in the #88 Brandt Chevrolet. Paludo dropped to last before Gallagher served his pass-through, and on Lap 3, both passed Berry, whose crew set to work repairing the nose of his Chevrolet.

By Lap 4, Berry was back on track, though now showing 86.669 seconds back of the lead and 44.907 seconds back of new 37th-place runner Stefan Parsons, who had spun his #99 SOKAL Chevrolet in an unrelated incident. Over the next few green-flag laps, Berry gradually closed the gap on 37th place, drawing to within 38.758 seconds on Lap 7, then 28.626 seconds on Lap 9. During this time, Parsons climbed out of the 37th spot, which was then traded between Yeley and Ryan Vargas in the #6 Twin Liquors Chevrolet. On the 11th circuit, Berry was now just 20.660 seconds back of Vargas, nearly half the deficit he started with eight laps earlier. The next time by, he finally climbed out of 38th during a round of green-flag stops. That time by, the spot fell to Brandon Brown who returned to the track 14.403 seconds back of the 37th-place Berry. Brown remained in last place when the caution fell on Lap 14 to end Stage 1.

It wasn’t until under this caution that Currey entered the last-place battle. As the broadcast went to commercial, NASCAR noticed smoke coming off the #4 and instructed Currey to pull off the track. Running 19th at the time, Currey reported there was no warning before the car erupted in smoke. A tow truck then dragged his Chevrolet back to pit road. As it did, another driver had found trouble. Will Rodgers had pitted his #38 Kelly Benefits Toyota, but had then stalled in the middle of pit lane. As the crew came to get him, there was word of a fuel pump issue. Thus, on Lap 15, it was Rodgers who first took last from Brown as the #4 went behind the wall. At the time, Currey’s crew hoped they could fix the issue, having learned from NASCAR the car didn’t leave any fluid on the track. Rodgers then joined Currey in the garage on Lap 17. On the 19th circuit, NASCAR confirmed Currey was out with engine trouble.

On Lap 24, Rodgers’ team managed to fix their issue and returned the #38 to the track 9 laps down. The moment Rodgers crossed the line, he dropped Currey to last place. Attrition remained much lower than the Truck Series race, however, and Rodgers climbed no further, finishing 12 laps down at race’s end. The only other retiree was Alex Labbe, who started 5th in a sterling qualifying session that saw all three DGM Racing cars roll off in the Top Ten. Labbe’s rear gear failed in the final laps following an unscheduled stop. Josh Bilicki was still on the lead lap when he took 35th in the #45 with Joe Graf, Jr. rounding out the Bottom Five in the#08 G Coin Ford.

The closing stages saw first Jeb Burton, then Jeremy Clements lose bids at 3rd and 4th-place finishes after cutting a corner in separate incidents. Both benefitted Jade Buford, last week’s last-place finisher, who tied his career-best finish of 8th in the #48 Big Machine Spiked Coolers Chevrolet. Also impressive was Parker Kligerman, who showed speed the entire weekend in both Trucks and XFINITY. In the Truck race, he battled with Kyle Busch for the lead most of the day, only to slip to 19th after a late-race incident. On the XFINITY side, where he was a late driver swap for team co-owner Patrick Emerling, Kligerman qualified an underfunded Emerling-Gase Motorsports Toyota in the 11th spot. Kligerman crossed the stripe in 12th, having battled in and around the Top Ten for most of the afternoon.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #4 in a XFINITY Series race since November 8, 2014, when Jeffrey Earnhardt lost the engine on the opening lap of the DAV 200 Honoring America’s Veterans at Phoenix.

38) #4-Bayley Currey / 13 laps / engine
37) #38-Will Rodgers / 34 laps / running
36) #36-Alex Labbe / 41 laps / rear gear
35) #45-Josh Bilicki / 46 laps / running
34) #08-Joe Graf, Jr. / 46 laps / running

1st) Alpha Prime Racing, Big Machine Racing, JD Motorsports, Kaulig Racing, SS-Green Light Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (4)
2nd) Ford (2)


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