Saturday, April 30, 2022

XFINITY: Rajah Caruth makes the highlight reel at Dover before early suspension issues

PHOTO: @rajahcaruth_

Rajah Caruth picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s A-Game 200 at the Dover Motor Speedway when his #44 Circle Chevrolet fell out with suspension issues after 58 of 200 laps.

The finish came in Caruth’s second series start. In the XFINITY Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 22nd from suspension issues, the 27th for the #44, and the 592nd for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 49th from suspension problems, the 67th for the #44, and the 1,836th for Chevrolet.

One of the sport’s rising talents, the 20-year-old from Washington, D.C. made the move from iRacing to the real thing, and proved a quick study in late models. He’s won at some of NASCAR’s most historic short tracks, including Greenville-Pickens Speedway and Hickory Speedway. This caught the eye of Max Siegel, who brought him on board for his first full season in the ARCA Menards East Series. There, he ranked 3rd in the series standings behind Sammy Smith and Daniel Dye. His best run in five additional ARCA national series starts was a 3rd in Salem.

This year, now teamed with championship crew chief Brad Parrott, Caruth has moved ever closer to his first career victory. He’s finished no worse than 11th in all three of his ARCA Menards Series starts, including his first ever at Daytona and – just last week – Talladega. The Dover weekend would see Caruth run double-duty between both the ARCA Menards East Series and XFINITY. The former would see him finish 4th. The XFINITY race would be his first since his series debut at Richmond, also with Alpha Prime Racing, where he earned a 24th-place finish.

At Dover, Caruth impressed in practice, ranking 8th of the 39 entries despite running only 13 laps – which was fewer than all seven drivers ranked above him. He then qualified 15th, clocking in at 153.807mph (23.406 seconds). The lone driver who failed to qualify was Brennan Poole, who had rejoined with Mike Harmon Racing in the #47 Chevrolet.

Lining up 38th and last was “Dash 4 Cash” competitor Ryan Sieg, whose #39 A-Game Ford carried the same brand as the title sponsor of the race. A mechanical issue late in the practice session kept Sieg from turning a lap in qualifying, the only driver not to take time. Subsequent unapproved adjustments incurred Sieg a redundant tail-end penalty – the same reason listed for another five starters: 16th-place Brett Moffitt in the #02 Half Off Wholesale Chevrolet, 24th-place Jeremy Clements in the #51 All South Electric Chevrolet, 25th-place Myatt Snider in the #31 Bommarito Automotive Group Chevrolet, 33rd-place Josh Williams in the #78 Alloy Employer Services Chevrolet, and 35th-place Chad Finchum in the #13 Garrison Homes / UNITS Storage Toyota. 

In addition, Caruth himself would also be sent to the back for a tire change along with his Alpha Prime teammate Ryan Ellis, originally set to start 28th in the #45 Costa Oil Chevrolet. Caruth, who would also carry one of FS1’s on-board cameras for the television broadcast, dropped to the rear on the inside line as the field came to the one lap to go signal. Entering Turns 3 and 4, Ryan Sieg pulled to the high lane with Caruth around the 32nd spot, the 38th spot now belonging to Williams in the #78. Sieg slotted into line before the start with Williams last across the starting line.

By Lap 3, Patrick Emerling took over the 38th spot in his season debut driving the #35 Chevrolet. Caruth, meanwhile, earned some screen time. Already up to 28th when Emerling took last, Caruth swept past a stalling Kyle Weatherman in the #34 SELE Foundation Chevrolet, then while racing J.J. Yeley in the #66 CW & Sons Infrastructure Toyota, made a stunning save in Turns 1 and 2, his car locked sideways for several tense seconds before he straightened it out.

Caruth (upper-center) on pit road.
PHOTO: No Tires Just Gas

On Lap 20, Caruth was now 27th and working on Brett Moffitt for position when two cars in front of them came together. David Starr’s #08 Children’s National / Ticket Smarter Ford crossed the nose of Kyle Weatherman’s #34, putting both into the outside wall. As Caruth escaped to the inside, Starr spun down the track, forcing a closing Jeremy Clements to spin into the outside wall. Starr incurred two concurrent tail-end penalties for speeding on pit road - pit road that was also closed before he entered. With Starr now in last behind Emerling, Caruth was up to 24th.

When the race restarted on Lap 27, Starr was 3 laps down in last and Caruth had climbed to 23rd, still fighting a visibly loose car. By Lap 43, Starr was down a fourth lap, and remained in last when Stage 1 ended soon after. Caruth wiggled his car on the track before he followed the rest of the field down pit road, and lined up 22nd for the restart on Lap 55. But the next time by, Caruth suddenly slowed in Turns 3 and 4, and was struggling to keep up the pace down the frontstretch. He rolled to the apron, the race still under green, for what was originally believed to be a flat tire. 

On Lap 60, he returned to the track 3 laps down, just one lap ahead of Starr, but returned to pit road the next time by to serve a pass-through penalty for an uncontrolled tire. This time, he went behind the wall, taking last from Starr a moment later. According to Jonathan Fjeld at, the team tried to repair a right-rear shock, only to discover the lower shock mount had been sheared off. This ultimately ended Caruth’s day.

Finishing 37th was John Hunter Nemechek, whose #18 ACME Toyota suffered a flat tire after the hub or brake rotor failed during the ensuing run. Bayley Currey’s #4 JD Motorsports Chevrolet was the day’s only other DNF, losing the engine in the final stages. Starr climbed to 35th as a result, just behind Mason Massey, the left-front and left-rear of his #91 A-Z Companies Chevrolet damaged in a wreck at the end of Stage 2.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #44 in a XFINITY Series race since October 30, 2021, when Tommy Joe Martins fell out after 36 laps at Martinsville due to rear gear issues. The number hadn’t finished last in a XFINITY race at Dover since October 1, 2011, when Jeff Green took the series’ last-place record from Jeff Fuller after a vibration 1 lap into the OneMain Financial 200. Green is also the most recent driver to finish last in a XFINITY race at Dover due to suspension issues, which occurred on October 3, 2015 after four laps of the Hisense 200.

38) #44-Rajah Caruth / 58 laps / suspension
37) #18-John Hunter Nemechek / 83 laps / brakes
36) #4-Bayley Currey / 154 laps / engine
35) #08-David Starr / 189 laps / running
34) #91-Mason Massey / 191 laps / running

1st) Alpha Prime Racing, Mike Harmon Racing (2)
2nd) Big Machine Racing, JD Motorsports, Kaulig Racing, Sam Hunt Racing, SS-Green Light Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (7)
2nd) Ford (2)
3rd) Toyota (1)


Thursday, April 28, 2022

PREVIEW: Preece returns to Cup at Dover, where many XFINITY newcomers also rejoin the field

IMAGE: @UnitedRentals

Saturday, April 30, 2022 (1:30 P.M. ET, FS1)
XFINITY Race 10 of 33
A-Game 200 at Dover
2021 Last-Place Finisher: David Starr

There are 39 drivers entered for 38 spots, meaning only one team will fail to qualify.

MISSING: #3-Richard Childress Racing
RCR has not entered their #3 entry after Jeffrey Earnhardt’s sterling runner-up finish with crew chief Larry McReynolds in Talladega, a new career-best for the driver. Earnhardt is also not entered in this week’s race.

TEAM UPDATE: #6-JD Motorsports
Ryan Vargas will race with a heavy heart this weekend as he carries the name of young Brentley Ehmann, who passed away two days ago. Like Vargas, Ehmann grew up with Craniosynostosis, a birth defect caused by the premature fusing of bones in the human skull. Vargas' car will carry Ehmann's name above the passenger side window of his #6, and foundation Cranio Care Bears on each side of the rear bumper. The foundation previously sponsored Vargas' earlier rides with Johnny Davis' team in the #15. 

DRIVER CHANGE: #13-Motorsports Business Management
MISSING: #28-RSS Racing
Last week, both MBM’s #13 and RSS’ #28 were among the three DNQs at Talladega. This week, the #28 has swapped points positions with the #13, which has yet to start a race all year. This should secure a start for Chad Finchum in the #13 with Garrison Homes and Units Storage as returning sponsors. The #28, now scaled back to a part-time schedule, was driven last week by C.J. McLaughlin.

DRIVER CHANGE: #18-Joe Gibbs Racing
John Hunter Nemechek makes his fourth XFINITY start of the year and 60th of his career this Saturday, driving the fleet JGR #18 in place of Drew Dollar, who took 13th in Talladega. Nemechek’s most recent XFINITY start this year also came with this team, where he was leading in the final stages at Richmond before he was bumped out of the spot by teammate Ty Gibbs.

DRIVER CHANGE: #34-Jesse Iwuji Motorsports
Following another costly DNQ in Talladega, Kyle Weatherman is again behind the wheel of the #34 SELE Foundation Chevrolet. Weatherman eyes his 8th XFINITY start of the year and first since Martinsville, where he gave the Iwuji effort its best-ever finish in 16th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #35-Emerling-Gase Motorsports
MISSING: #53-Emerling-Gase Motorsports
After he was swapped out of the ride for Parker Kligerman at COTA, Patrick Emerling will attempt to make his first XFINITY start of the season, replacing Joey Gase in the #35 Ford. It was Gase who clocked in the fastest lap in last week’s race in Talladega en route to a 16th-place finish. Emerling eyes his first XFINITY start since October 23, 2021, when he finished 24th for Our Motorsports. This would be Emerling’s first series start at Dover. The team’s #53 entry, driven to a 14th-place showing by Shane Lee, is not entered this week.

Dover marks the latest challenge for a surprising Parker Retzlaff, who will make his fourth series start after an impressive partial schedule so far. Retzlaff will again drive the #38, moving Ryan Sieg back to the flagship #39 in place of Kyle Sieg, who isn’t entered at the track where he made his series debut in 2021.

DRIVER CHANGE: #44-Alpha Prime Racing
DRIVER SWAP: #45-Alpha Prime Racing
Rajah Caruth is back in the XFINITY garage for the first time since his 24th-place series debut in Richmond, and just days after coming close to his first ARCA Menards Series win in Talladega. Caruth’s second series start, where he brings sponsor Circle, moves Ryan Ellis to the #45 in place of Caesar Bacarella, who finished 25th after a crash. Ellis nearly recovered from a costly spin in the early laps last week before a second wreck left him 32nd.

DRIVER CHANGE: #47-Mike Harmon Racing
Last week, Gray Gaulding stepped in as a last-minute substitution and earned a solid 21st-place finish in Talladega with new sponsor Safe Hedge on the #47. This week, Brennan Poole returns to the Harmon effort to attempt his sixth career XFINITY start at Dover and first since 2017, when he finished a track-best 5th with Chip Ganassi. In all five of those starts – both for Ganassi and Harry Scott, Jr. – Poole finished no worse than 15th and completed all but four of the combined 920 laps.

RETURNING: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
As Stefan Parsons returns to the XFINITY Series for the first time since his team scaled back to a partial schedule to help teammate Josh Williams in the #78, news has also broken that Parsons will make some starts for Alpha Prime Racing, starting with a drive in the #45 in Texas.

Sunday, May 1, 2022 (3:00 P.M. ET, FS1)
CUP Race 11 of 36
Duramax Drydene 400 at Dover
2021 Last-Place Finisher: Aric Almirola

It’s back to the 36 Chartered entries this week as not a single “open” team is entered in Dover. This marks the 10th short field out of 11 races this season.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Rick Ware Racing
Ryan Preece will make his first points-paying Cup Series start of 2022, following a one-off for Rick Ware Racing back in this year’s Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum. United Rentals will this time be the sponsor of Preece’s #15 Ford as he takes the place of veteran David Ragan, who earned a 24th-place finish in Talladega. Preece’s last start in a Cup Series points race was the 2021 finale at Phoenix, where he ran 20th for the closing second team out of JTG-Daugherty Racing.

DRIVER CHANGE: #16-Kaulig Racing
A.J. Allmendinger will pull double-duty this weekend in Dover, rejoining the Kaulig team’s Cup effort for the first time since his 24th-place showing in Martinsville. Action Industries, Allmendinger's primary sponsor for his previous four series starts this year, will again back his Chevrolet. This will be Allmendinger’s 23rd series start at Dover and first since 2018, when he finished 22nd in the fall race driving the flagship #47 for JTG-Daugherty Racing. He replaces Daniel Hemric, whose untimely engine failure in Talladega left him wrecked in 36th.

MISSING: #44-NY Racing Team
MISSING: #55-Motorsports Business Management
MISSING: #62-Beard Motorsports
None of the three “open” teams from Talladega are entered this week, including the NY Racing Team, which is trying to diagnose a persistent issue with metal shavings in their brand-new fuel cells that’s causing the fuel pump to fail. J.J. Yeley and Noah Gragson, who ran last week’s Cup race, will compete in Saturday’s XFINITY race. Gragson seeks his second-straight victory.

DRIVER CHANGE: #77-Spire Motorsports
Josh Bilicki and sponsor Zeigler Auto Group are back in the Cup garage, taking the place of 19th-place Talladega finisher Landon Cassill. Bilicki will make his 6th Cup start of the season and first since Martinsville, where he ran 35th. This will be Bilicki’s fourth series start in Dover, where his best finish is 32nd during both races of the 2020 double-header.

Friday, May 6, 2022
TRUCKS Race 7 of 23 200
2021 Last-Place Finisher: Cory Roper

The Truck Series returns next week to kick off “Throwback” weekend in Darlington.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (April 28, 2001): Mike Chase, age 49, picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Busch Series career in the Auto Club 300 at California Speedway when his #91 Kingsford / Glad Chevrolet had a vibration after 3 laps. Chase, who became the lone Winston West competitor to qualify for the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994, was entered in a second car fielded by Tad Geschickter alongside Rich Bickle, who finished 29th in the team’s flagship #59. Chase made two more starts in the #59 at Gateway and Pikes Peak – the last of his Busch career.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

ARCA: Monroe picks up last-place finish as controversy erupts up front


by Ben Schneider Guest Contributor

Tim Monroe finished last for the 2nd time in his ARCA Menards Series career in Saturday’s General Tire 200 at Talladega Superspeedway when his unsponsored #01 Fast Track Racing Ford fell out with rear end issues after he completed 4 of 68 laps.

The finish came in Monroe’s seventh career series start; his other last-place finish came at Lebanon in 2020.

A lack of qualifying gave Monroe a tenth-place starting spot on the grid - however, he dropped to the back of the pack before taking the green flag. By Lap 3, Monroe was scored in 32nd-place of 33 cars, and on Lap 5, his car suffered a right-rear tire failure, causing him to spin out. While FS1 guest analyst Austin Cindric suggested that Monroe’s damage would likely not be terminal, the Fast Track Racing team elected to pull behind the wall after reportedly struggling to get the car’s window net back up.

Following Monroe up the results order was Brian Kaltreider, who lost an engine after completing nine laps. Sean Corr lost an engine of his own after Lap 17, though he returned to the track as a relief driver for Thomas Praytor, who exited the race during a red flag period due to flu-like symptoms. Bryan Dauzat completed just 36 laps to finish 30th, while Tim Richmond rounded out the Bottom Five as the first of many retirements from a frightening Lap 49 crash that left Scott Melton with a leg injury and saw Richard Garvie nearly flip over.

At the front of the field, Nick Sanchez took his second career victory after a controversial ruling from ARCA race control. With the Xfinity race still to run later in the afternoon, it was determined that the race’s upcoming restart with 13 laps to go would be the final one, and that the event would end with the next yellow or checkered flag - whichever came first. The caution was eventually displayed with nine laps remaining as Daniel Dye spun battling for the lead with Corey Heim. As Sanchez was in the lead at the moment of caution, he was declared the winner of the race. Heim, who ended up third behind Sanchez and Bret Holmes was visibly upset with the call in his post-race interview, calling the ending “a joke” and questioning the scheduling of both races considering the NASCAR’s self-imposed time constraints.

33) #01-Tim Monroe / 4 laps / rear end
32) #07-Brian Kaltreider / 9 laps / engine
31) #8-Sean Corr / 17 laps / engine
30) #57-Bryan Dauzat / 36 laps / running
29) #27-Tim Richmond / 48 laps / crash

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

1st) CCM Racing, Jones Racing, Fast Track Racing (1)


Monday, April 25, 2022

ARCA WEST: Pedroncelli retires first again in relatively clean race


by Ben Schneider Guest Contributor

Paul Pedroncelli finished last for the 7th time in his ARCA Menards Series West career in Saturday’s Salute to the Oil Industry NAPA Auto Parts 150 at Kern County Raceway Park when his #31 Pedroncelli Racing Chevrolet fell out with vibration issues after completing 2 of 150 laps.

The finish was Pedroncelli’s seventh in his last nine series starts dating back to last season.

The "start-and-park" procedure has become routine for Pedroncelli, who has completed a total of just five laps in the first three races of the season. The effort continues to help fund his son, P.J., who took pole position for the second time in his career, leading the most laps in the race before fading to a fifth-place finish.

However, the senior Pedroncelli’s LASTCAR dominance may see a brief interruption during the upcoming ARCA West schedule. The West Series’ next two races are the road courses at Portland and Sonoma, tracks where he went the distance and ran the full race in 2021. Pedroncelli finished on the lead lap in both races, running 13th of 22 cars at Sonoma last season before posting a career-best result of ninth at Portland.

Following Pedroncelli up last week's running order was Joey Iest, who retired with an engine failure roughly two-thirds of the way through the event. Tripp Gaylord then pulled off the track with brake issues after completing 123 laps. Andrew Tuttle and Kyle Keller rounded out the Bottom Five.

Up front, Landen Lewis took control of the race on Lap 86 and never looked back, taking the win in his first career series start for car owner Bruce Cook. Series regulars Jake Drew and Cole Moore, still looking for their first career wins, followed behind Lewis in second and third. Drew currently leads the driver standings with 122 points.

18) #31-Paul Pedroncelli / 2 laps / vibration
17) #54-Joey Iest / 103 laps / engine
16) #77-Tripp Gaylord / 123 laps / brakes
15) #39-Andrew Tuttle / 144 laps / running
14) #12-Kyle Keller / 148 laps / ignition

1st) Chevrolet (3)

1st) Pedroncelli Racing (2)
2nd) Jones Racing (1)


Sunday, April 24, 2022

CUP: Hard luck Tyler Reddick snaps timing belt in Talladega's early laps

PHOTO: @RCRracing

Tyler Reddick
picked up the 1st last-place finish of his Cup Series career in Sunday’s GEICO 500 at the Talladega Superspeedway when his #8 Bet MGM Chevrolet lost the engine after 31 of 188 laps.

The finish came in Reddick’s 84th series start. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 31st for the #8, the 708th from an engine issue, and the 824th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 50th for the #8, the 1,116th from an engine, and the 1,835th for Chevrolet.

Just last week in the Bristol Dirt Race, Reddick was just seconds away from scoring his first Cup Series victory. In just his third full-time season, the two-time XFINITY Series champion had already been there many times before. At Texas in 2020, he crossed the stripe an instant behind teammate Austin Dillon in a one-two finish for Richard Childress Racing. At Homestead in 2021, he mounted a spirited late-race charge come up just short to William Byron. This year alone, he’s led the opening stages of this year’s Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum before breaking the transaxle, led nearly half the race at Fontana until a flat left-rear tire and contact from Byron knocked him out of contention, and nearly bested Chase Briscoe in multiple late-race restarts at Phoenix. Briscoe, who held him off that day for his own first win, would make a desperate bid for the lead at Bristol. The two spun, handing the checkered flag to Kyle Busch.

Talladega came next and with it, the opportunity to deliver the game ball to Saturday's USFL game between the Birmingham Stallions and Houston Gamblers. With no practice scheduled for the weekend, Reddick earned the 10th starting spot in qualifying with a lap of 179.329mph (53.399 seconds). 

Securing the 39th and final spot was Landon Cassill, whose #77 FOX Nation Chevrolet was the only car to not take time. Cassill’s car had failed inspection three times, preventing them from qualifying and ejecting car chief J.R. Norris. Cassill would also have to serve a pass-through penalty after taking the green flag. Also dropping to the rear was Noah Gragson, winner of Saturday’s XFINITY race, whose #62 Wendy’s Big Bag Chevrolet was docked for unapproved adjustments.

When the command to engines was given, Cassill’s team also discovered a radio issue, and was instructed by NASCAR to pull next to the pit wall to complete the repair. This ended up taking so long that the crew became anxious - so anxious that someone on the crew insisted they lift the window net and send Cassill onto the track. The thinking was they would fix the issue on their first stop, but the radio wasn’t working at all – a serious issue when navigating traffic on a superspeedway. As Cassill left pit road, the team had just started to discuss hand signals when Cassill’s voice was finally heard on the channel, though with static. NASCAR then stepped in to confirm the radio was indeed working, and the crew prepared to serve their pass-through.

As the race started, Cassill took the green flag in 38th, two carlengths ahead of the penalized Gragson, then let the #62 by as the pair entered the backstretch. Warned not to speed, Cassill slowed and made his pass-through penalty, crossing the line 20.527 seconds back of the lead and 18.484 back of Gragson. By Lap 3, Cassill was back on track, 29.716 back of the lead and 27.775 back of Gragson. Running by himself, Cassill was promptly caught by the leaders as he entered Turn 1 on Lap 9, pulling to the high lane to let traffic by. With the remaining 38 starters all in one pack, Cassill was fortunate to find his way into the draft on the inside lane, around the cars running in 32nd.

On Lap 31, Cassill’s crew said they’d be pitting in the next five to six laps, at which point the field started to sort themselves out by manufacturer. By that point, Cassill had linked up with J.J. Yeley, whose #55 Ford was staying in his tire tracks. But the next time by, Tyler Reddick came down pit road by himself, where the crew lifted the hood. He took over last place from Cassill on Lap 34, showing two laps down, and the crew discovered the issue. “We broke a timing belt, Tyler,” he was told. “We’re done.” Richard Childress came on the radio, saying he thought it was an ignition issue. But when the crew told him it was a timing belt, he said “Oh shit, that ain’t good.” NASCAR declared Reddick out with “engine” issues on Lap 47.

On Lap 57, another Richard Childress engine let go under the hood of Daniel Hemric’s #16 Majestic Steel Chevrolet as he ran the inside lane through Turns 3 and 4. Contact from Austin Dillon sent Hemric onto the apron, then back up the track – directly into the path of Chase Briscoe’s #14 Mahindra Tractor Ford and Chris Buescher’s #17 Fastenal Ford. All three slammed the outside wall, ending their day. Rounding out the Bottom Five was Greg Biffle, who brought out the next caution when his #44 Morehouse College Chevrolet stalled on track and had to be pushed to the garage. The team’s persistent issues with the fuel pump continue - according to the driver, the result of "sandlike debris getting into the fuel cell" which clogs the pump. With the Bottom Five, Biffle now takes the 2022 LASTCAR Cup Series lead over Corey LaJoie, who finished a solid 14th.

Landon Cassill finally got back on the lead lap under a Lap 91 caution triggered by Joey Logano’s wreck in Turn 1. He ran as high as 10th in the final stages and crossed the line in 19th. Erik Jones nearly scored Petty-GMS Motorsports its first win since the merger with GMS Racing, leading off Turn 4 before a shuffle for position opened the door for race winner Ross Chastain. Jones’ #43 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet finished 6th – his second-best run of the season behind his breakout 3rd-place performance in Fontana. Also impressive was Justin Haley, whose #31 Leaf Filter Gutter Protection Chevrolet ran in the Top Five late. Haley finished 12th – his second-best finish of the season behind an 11th in Atlanta.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #8 in a Cup race since July 21, 2019, when Daniel Hemric’s #8 Okuma Chevrolet fell out with crash damage after 110 laps of the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire.
*The #8 hadn’t finished last in a Cup race at Talladega since July 26, 1987, when Bobby Hillin, Jr.’s #8 Miller American Buick, fielded by the Stavola Brothers, lost the engine after 2 laps of the Talladega 500.

39) #8-Tyler Reddick / 31 laps / engine
38) #17-Chris Buescher / 56 laps / crash
37) #14-Chase Briscoe / 56 laps / crash
36) #16-Daniel Hemric / 56 laps / engine
35) #44-Greg Biffle / 79 laps / fuel pump

1st) Live Fast Motorsports, Spire Motorsports, Trackhouse Racing (2)
2nd) Joe Gibbs Racing, Kaulig Racing, NY Racing Team, Richard Childress Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (7)
2nd) Ford (2)
3rd) Toyota (1)


Saturday, April 23, 2022

XFINITY: Chandler Smith's series debut ends with multi-car pileup on Talladega bakstretch


Chandler Smith picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Ag-Pro 300 at the Talladega Superspeedway when his #26 Charge Me / Vital Toyota was eliminated in a multi-car crash after 47 of 124 laps.

The finish came in Smith’s series debut. In the XFINITY Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 15th for the #26, the 153rd for Toyota, and the 363rd from a crash. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 46th for the #26, the 370th for Toyota, and the 1,287th from a crash.

Saturday marked Smith’s first career XFINITY start, coinciding with his fourth Truck Series season with Kyle Busch Motorsports. Smith scored his third and most recent Truck victory earlier this year in Las Vegas, and just last week on the Bristol dirt debuted new sponsor Charge Me and Vital Card, which would follow him to Saturday’s race. As to Talladega, Smith had never made an ARCA start at the track, though his first Truck start there in 2020 resulted in a 3rd-place finish behind Raphael Lessard and Trevor Bayne. He looked forward to his XFINITY debut with the Sam Hunt Racing team, taking the place of Derek Griffith in the #26 Toyota.

With no practice, Smith qualified 30th with a lap of 178.900mph (53.527 seconds). Missing the show were Natalie Decker in the #13 Nerd Focus Ford, Jesse Iwuji in the #34 SELE Foundation Chevrolet, and C.J. McLaughlin in the #28 Sci Aps Ford.

The 38th and final starting spot belonged to Ryan Ellis, whose #44 Heartbeat Hot Sauce Chevrolet earned a redundant tail-end penalty for unapproved adjustments. Also docked for the same reason were 15th-place Brandon Jones in the #19 Menards / Atlas Toyota, 20th-place Riley Herbst in the #98 Monster Energy Ford, 27th-place Matt Mills in the #5 J.F. Electric Chevrolet, 32nd-place Shane Lee in the #53 Kitty Kat Coin Ford, 35th-place David Starr in the #08 Ford, and Ellis’ teammate at Alpha Prime Racing, 23rd-place Caesar Bacarella in the #45 Lilly Finance Chevrolet.

When the green flag dropped, Josh Williams had dropped back from 26th on the grid in his #78 Alloy Employer Services Chevrolet to join teammate Matt Mills in the back of the pack. Williams thus crossed the line in 36th ahead of both Ellis and last-place Mills, who were two-thousandths of a second apart. Mills and Williams linked up during the first lap, taking the final two spots at the end of Lap 1 with Mills 5.24 seconds back of the lead. In front of them, Ellis and Bacarella formed a two-car draft of their own. 

On Lap 4, Williams passed the Alpha Prime duo with Mills still behind them in last place, the four drivers part of a six-car trailing pack more than two seconds back of the rest of the field. Bacarella ran behind Ellis, so Mills caught him on Lap 5, the pair just 0.042 apart at the stripe. Mills completed the pass next time by, followed by Ellis, and on Lap 8, Bacarella and Ellis swapped places with the #44 resuming his hold on last place. From there, spotters tried to get Bacarella to attempt a pass on the three cars in front, now trailed by Shane Lee. But Bacarella and Ellis remained in the final two spots.

On Lap 11, while still running in Bacarella’s tire tracks, Ellis’ left-rear tire went down in Turns 1 and 2, leaving a tire carcass on the banking. Ellis spun, later describing it as “just a passenger in a shopping cart,” and the right-rear went flat as he skidded to the stop without hitting either wall. While he believed there was a driveline issue with his car, Ellis made it to pit road for a tire change and was sent back on track, the only car one lap down. Sensing the rear end was “inconsistent,” along with a persistent vibration that “felt like friction,” according to the driver, the crew left Ellis on the track and prepared to make a repair when Stage 1 ended. “We’ve got a car that can fucking win this thing,” said Ellis on Lap 19. “I just wanna be there at the end.” Another problem arose during this run, as Ellis’ flat tire knocked out a crush panel, making the seat of his car uncomfortably hot. He managed to make it to the end of the stage on Lap 26, earning the Lucky Dog as the only lapped car.

Ellis earned his lap back on the 29th circuit, and his crew prepared to examine his car for a possible tire rub. The crew ended up removing a 3/16th wheel spacer from the left-rear and turned eight rounds in the track bar as a temporary fix. The car did seem to improve, and after the Lap 31 restart, finally climbed out of last, handing the spot back to Josh Williams. The next time by, Jeremy Clements slipped to 37th in the #51 One Stop / ASE Chevrolet, and Williams drew alongside, just 0.043 second apart at the stripe. By the start of the following lap, both had passed Bacarella, putting the #45 back to 38th. Bacarella struggled to stay within a half-second of 37th place until Lap 40, when he dropped Williams to last once again. 

Williams had apparently come down pit roa for an unscheduled pit stop as on Lap 43, he was barely on the lead lap, 47.686 seconds back of the lead and 41.580 back of Bacarella. Stranded without a drafting partner, Williams was promptly caught by the leaders on Lap 44, when he moved to the high lane in Turns 1 and 2 and remained there down the backstretch. Like Ellis, Williams now found himself as the only lapped driver at the perfect time – a wreck on Lap 48.

Coming off Turn 2, Chandler Smith was running around the 20th spot, holding the outside lane by himself. Not far ahead, Mason Massey’s #91 Anderson Power Services Chevrolet slid into Josh Berry’s #8 PUBG Mobile Chevrolet to his outside. Massey slid down the banking and clipped the rear of J.J. Yeley’s #66 RHS USA / Coble Enterprises Chevrolet. With a stout Hendrick engine under the hood, Yeley had led two laps in the early stages, only to wind up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Yeley’s car cut to the right – directly into Smith’s path. Smith cut left, only to be trapped between both Yeley and Berry. Smith bounced off the outside wall, and moments after Massey hit the inside wall, Smith did the same further up the track. 

Both Massey and Smith climbed from their cars, done for the day. Yeley’s team attempted repairs to both ends of the #66, ultimately turning four more laps, only to be eliminated when their “Crash Clock” expired. Another multi-car wreck on the backstretch completed the Bottom Five with Ty Gibbs’ #54 Monster Energy Toyota slamming the inside wall after Daniel Hemric’s #11 Cirkul – Water Your Way Chevrolet crossed his nose trying to get to the high lane. Contact from Ryan Sieg turned Gibbs’ car a moment later. Like Yeley, Hemric was eliminated under the DVP after unsuccessful repairs.

Earnhardt and Graf earn career-best finishes

Jeffrey Earnhardt received intensive coverage for driving Richard Childress’ #3 Forever Lawn Chevrolet, decorated in a black paint scheme with a crew led by a returning Larry McReynolds. Earnhardt earned the pole on Friday, and in the final laps charged to a runner-up finish behind Noah Gragson. This was Earnhardt’s career-best XFINITY finish, improving on his 3rd-place showing for Joe Gibbs Racing at Charlotte in 2019. Also impressive was Joe Graf, Jr., who earned a career-best 8th in the #07 Bucked Up Energy Drink Ford – an improvement on his previous mark of 10th at the same track last fall.

*Smith’s was Toyota’s first last-place finish in a XFINITY race since October 2, 2021 with David Starr driving for Motorsports Business Management.
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #26 in a XFINITY race at Talladega since July 27, 1996, when Derrike Cope’s #26 Badcock Home Furnishings Ford lost the engine after 13 laps of the Humminbird Fishfinder 500K. The number’s most recent last-place run in XFINITY was last year in Charlotte, where Grant Enfinger’s own series debut ended early.

38) #26-Chandler Smith / 47 laps / crash
37) #91-Mason Massey / 47 laps / crash
36) #66-J.J. Yeley / 51 laps / dvp / led 2 laps
35) #54-Ty Gibbs / 76 laps / crash
34) #11-Daniel Hemric / 79 laps / dvp

1st) Mike Harmon Racing (2)
2nd) Alpha Prime Racing, Big Machine Racing, JD Motorsports, Kaulig Racing, Sam Hunt Racing, SS-Green Light Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (6)
2nd) Ford (2)
3rd) Toyota (1)


Thursday, April 21, 2022

PREVIEW: At Talladega, XFINITY teams change strategy while Cup open teams return to action

PHOTO: @NoahGragson

Saturday, April 23, 2022 (4:00 P.M. ET, FOX)
XFINITY Race 9 of 33
Ag-Pro 300 at Talladega
2021 Last-Place Finisher: Bayley Currey

There are 41 drivers entered for 38 spots as the series returns from an off-week following Martinsville, meaning three teams will be sent home.

RETURNING: #3-Richard Childress Racing
For the first time in his career, Jeffrey Earnhardt will drive for Richard Childress Racing – not just that, but the iconic #3 at Talladega, and with Larry McReynolds as crew chief. This marks the first time McReynolds has sat atop the pit box since the 2000 Cup Series finale, when he closed out his third season working with Mike Skinner. ForeverLawn will again sponsor Earnhardt, just as it had in his mot recent start at Atlanta, where he ran 13th for Sam Hunt Racing.

DRIVER SWAP: #13-Motorsports Business Management
C.J. McLaughlin seeks his third start of the season and first since Las Vegas, again driving RSS Racing’s third entry with sponsorship from SciAps. McLaughlin takes the place of Natalie Decker, who ran 35th after brake issues in Martinsville. Decker will also attempt this weekend’s race with MBM, replacing Chad Finchum in the #13. Decker finished 24th in her only other XFINITY start at Talladega last year, when she drove for Our Motorsports.

DRIVER CHANGE: #18-Joe Gibbs Racing
Drew Dollar will make his second career XFINITY start, where he hopes to improve on his early exit at Daytona that left him 36th after a controversial crash. Dollar takes the place of Ryan Truex, who finished 7th in Martinsville, and carries sponsorship from Lynx Capital.

DRIVER CHANGE: #26-Sam Hunt Racing
This Saturday promises to be the XFINITY debut for Chandler Smith, who takes the place of 21st-place Martinsville finisher in Sam Hunt’s #26 Charge Me / Vital Toyota. Smith scored his third career Truck Series win earlier this year in Las Vegas, and remains a close second in the standings behind Ben Rhodes coming into this week’s off-weekend.

DRIVER CHANGE: #34-Jesse Iwuji Motorsports
Over the last two weeks, the Iwuji team has seen measured progress with Kyle Weatherman, whose ride with DGM Racing scaled back to a partial schedule. Finishes of 28th in Richmond and 16th in Martinsville lead into Saturday, where Jesse Iwuji is slated to return as driver. The SELE Foundation is the listed sponsor.

DRIVER CHANGE: #35-Emerling-Gase Motorsports
RETURNING / DRIVER SWAP: #53-Emerling-Gase Motorsports
The Emerling-Gase team brings back its second entry for the first time since Daytona, both cars again sponsored by Kitty Kat Koin. Joey Gase returns to the flagship #35, moving Shane Lee to the returning #53. Lee finished 27th in Martinsville while Gase ran 34th in his most recent race at Richmond.

Kyle Sieg is back in action for the first time in Richmond, and just like Phoenix last fall will this week run the RSS team’s flagship #39 entry. This moves Ryan Sieg to the #38 in place of Parker Retzlaff, who has been a factor in the first three of his ten scheduled races, taking home 12th his last time out in Martinsville.

DRIVER SWAP: #44-Alpha Prime Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #45-Alpha Prime Racing
Caesar Bacarella rejoins the Alpha Prime team for the first time since Daytona, where an early engine failure left him in last place. He again drives the #45 with Lilly Finance as sponsor, moving Ryan Ellis to the #44. Ellis takes the place of Howie DiSavino III, who finished 36th after an explosive drive shaft failure during a Martinsville race where Ellis was the fastest car to not qualify. Heartbeat Hot Sauce will sponsor the Ellis effort.

DRIVER CHANGE: #48-Big Machine Racing
As the Big Machine team evaluates their progress going forward, Kaz Grala will drive the #48 both this weekend and next week in Dover. Grala’s most recent XFINITY start was in Phoenix, where he ran 33rd for Alpha Prime Racing.

MISSING: #52-Jimmy Means Racing
MISSING: #77-Bassett Racing
Two of the DNQs from Martinsville will not attempt Talladega, including Jimmy Means Racing at Means’ home track. Harrison Rhodes and Ronnie Bassett, Jr. were the drivers of these two entries in qualifying.

TEAM UPDATE: #78-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
MISSING: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
After a difficult start to the year, the McLeod team has not entered the #99 driven by Stefan Parsons, which will now scale back to a part-time schedule. To improve their fortunes in qualifying, Parsons’ points rank will be swapped with Josh Williams in the flagship #78. Coming off his Cup debut on the Bristol dirt, Williams has yet to finish better than 21st in a XFINITY race this season.

MISSING: #88-JR Motorsports
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is not entered after his one-off in Martinsville, where he ran 11th, and will join the booth for FOX Sports on Sunday.

CUP INVADERS: None (Dash 4 Cash Race)

Sunday, April 24, 2022 (3:00 P.M. ET, FOX)
CUP Race 10 of 36
GEICO 500 at Talladega
2021 Last-Place Finisher: Kyle Larson

There are 39 drivers entered for 40 spots, the ninth consecutive short field since 40 cars took the green in the Daytona 500.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Rick Ware Racing
RETURNING / DRIVER SWAP: #55-Motorsports Business Management
David Ragan returns to the #15 for a third-straight superspeedway race with sponsorship from Envision. This moves J.J. Yeley to the returning second MBM entry, which had previously been Austin Cindric’s backup car at Fontana after Kaz Grala’s last-lap pass in the qualifying race bumped Yeley from the Daytona 500. MBM has not brought back their flagship #66, which ran most recently in COTA with Boris Said.

DRIVER CHANGE: #16-Kaulig Racing
RETURNING / DRIVER SWAP: #62-Beard Motorsports
Daniel Hemric rejoins the Kaulig team for the first time since Las Vegas, where his 22nd-place showing was actually his worst of three starts this year. Hemric takes over for Noah Gragson, who rejoins the Beard team with sponsor Wendy’s announced on Monday. This will be the first-ever start for a Wendy’s sponsored car in a Cup Series points race. In 1999, Morgan Shepherd entered FAIN Motorsports’ #05 Pontiac with the sponsor in the Winston Open at Charlotte. The team failed to qualify for the following week’s Coca-Cola 600.

RETURNING: #44-NY Racing Team
Greg Biffle and the NY Racing team return to action for the first time since their last-place performance in Richmond. Biffle’s best Cup finish at Talladega was his runner-up showing on May 4, 2014, when he followed Denny Hamlin to the finish line under caution.

DRIVER CHANGE: #77-Spire Motorsports
FOX Nation, which sponsored Landon Cassill in this year’s Daytona 500, rejoins the second Spire effort. On the heels of his career-best XFINITY effort at Martinsville, where he ran 2nd to Brandon Jones, Cassill returns to the site of his career-best Cup finish on October 19, 2014, when he drove for Hillman Racing. Cassill takes the place of Justin Allgaier, whose Stage 1 ending crash left him in last place on the Bristol dirt.

DRIVER CHANGE: #78-Live Fast Motorsports
B.J. McLeod carries sponsorship from Motorsport Games as he reassumes driving duties in the #78. Josh Williams finished 25th in his series debut last week.

Friday, May 6, 2022
TRUCKS Race 7 of 23 200
2021 Last-Place Finisher: Cory Roper

The Truck Series returns in two weeks to kick off “Throwback” weekend in Darlington.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (April 21, 2001): Joe Bessey picked up the 6th last-place finish of his NASCAR Busch Series career when his #6 Whelen Engineering Pontiac lost the engine on the opening lap of the NASCAR Subway 300 at Talladega. Bessey made just three more series starts through 2002, 163 in total.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

CUP: Justin Allgaier once again eliminated early in infrequent Cup start on Bristol dirt

PHOTO: @SpireMotorsport

Justin Allgaier picked up the 4th last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway when his #77 Brandt Chevrolet fell out with crash damage after 74 of 250 laps.

The finish, which came in Allgaier’s 80th series start, was his first of the season and first in a Cup race since last fall at Talladega, 14 races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 38th for the #77, the 629th from a crash, and the 823rd for Chevrolet. In NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 51st for the #77, the 1,286th from a crash, and the 1,834th for Chevrolet.

The Bristol Dirt Race marked Allgaier’s first Cup attempt since his last-place showing at Talladega, again driving Spire Motorsports’ #77 Chevrolet with his XFINITY sponsor Brandt Agriculture. The race happened to fall on an off-weekend for the XFINITY Series, where he ranked seventh in points after a difficult 29th-place showing in Martinsville. The Martinsville run was his fourth straight finish outside the Top 10 after his first four were all 10th or better.

Allgaier began the Bristol weekend 30th of the 36 entrants in opening practice, then after a spin in Turn 4 in Happy Hour ranked last overall. This placed him 4th on the grid for Heat Race 2.

The four Cup Series heat races followed those for the Truck Series, each for 15 laps with nine cars apiece. Rounding out the field in Heat Race 1 was Cole Custer in the #41 Jacob Construction / Haas Tooling Ford. By Lap 2, Custer was locked in a side-by-side battle with Martin Truex, Jr. in the #19 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota, the pair 0.037 apart at the stripe. Custer climbed to 6th by Lap 4, while Truex still rounded out the field. Ryan Blaney then slid into 8th place, hooking the apron with his #12 Menards / Dutch Boy Ford. Truex bumped Blaney in Turn 2, then on Lap 9, Blaney spun by himself and took over last. On the restart, Blaney set to work on Corey LaJoie in the #7 Nations Guard Chevrolet, and Truex joined this to form a three-wide battle on the final lap. None finished last, however, as Ross Chastain spun his #1 Advent Health Chevrolet on the final lap. Custer, who started last, took the win and ultimately the pole.

Heat Race 2 saw Daniel Suarez start 9th in the #99 Tootsies Orchid Lounge Chevrolet. The field remained tightly packed at the green flag with Suarez just 0.039 second behind 8th-place running Erik Jones in the #43 Tide Chevrolet. Suarez dropped Jones to last on Lap 3, but Jones then dropped to 9th place Josh Williams, making his Cup debut in B.J. McLeod’s #78 Alloy Employer Services Ford. Williams had just dropped Justin Allgaier to last in his #77 Brandt Chevrolet – the pair 0.096 apart at the stripe – when the caution came out for Suarez, who spun from 6th place. Suarez dropped to last as he re-fired his engine. When the race restarted, Suarez dropped Williams back to last with Kevin Harvick slipping to 8th in the #4 Busch Latte Ford. Both Harvick and Williams lost ground to Suarez by the checkered flag with Williams in last. Allgaier finished 6th, securing him 27th on the grid for the main event.

In Heat Race 3, Noah Gragson rolled off 9th in the #16 Chevy Truck Month Chevrolet for Kaulig Racing. From the start, Gragson raced side-by-side with Denny Hamlin in the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, and began to work to Hamlin’s outside. On Lap 7, Gragson had yet to complete the pass, though he remained within two-tenths of Hamlin’s rear bumper. This persistence paid off on Lap 12, when Gragson cleared the #11, who finished 0.656 back of Gragson’s Chevrolet. “Well, that was fantastic,” Hamlin said with some sarcasm as he was guided back to the garage.

Heat Race 4, the last of the night, began with Harrison Burton rounding out the group in the Wood Brothers’ #21 Dex Imaging Ford. When the race started, Burton was already 0.255 back of Cody Ware in the #51 Nurtec ODT Ford, and Ware was running side-by-side with Aric Almirola in the #10 Cummins / Rush Truck Centers Ford. Almirola held off Ware, who was then caught by Burton on Lap 7. Burton cleared Ware that time by, and Ware dropped seven-tenths back of the #21 two circuits later. The reason, from Ware’s radio, was “zero forward drive,” which kept him two-tenths off the leader’s pace. Ware remained in last for the final few laps, crossing the stripe 6.672 seconds back of the leader and 0.831 back of Almirola, who Burton passed for 7th in the final moments.

When “passing points” were finally tabulated, the four last-place finishers of the heat races would roll off in the final four spots: Ross Chastain, last in Heat Race 1, took 33rd alongside Denny Hamlin, last in Heat Race 3, in 34th. Cody Ware, last in Heat Race 4, took the 35th spot inside Josh Williams, last in Heat Race 2, set to make his Cup debut. “Let’s have some fun,” said the Live Fast team. “Show the what you can do out there.” At the same time, the #78 crew made sure to keep the car cover on hand, knowing there was rain in the area.

The green flag dropped, and Williams crossed the stripe just three-thousandths of a second ahead of Cody Ware. Ware remained last on Lap 4, 8.558 seconds back of the leader, but was still within three-tenths of Williams. The track remained as muddy as it was during the start of the Truck Series race the day before, and three Stewart-Haas Racing teammates struggled immediately. Kevin Harvick’s #4 Busch Latte Ford fell to 34th on Lap 4, then 35th on Lap 6 and last on Lap 7. Five circuits later, as Harvick was lapped on track, polesitter Cole Custer pitted to clear the mud from his #41, followed by Aric Almirola’s #10. This forced NASCAR to throw a competition caution on Lap 15, allowing everyone to clear the noses of their cars. At the time, Custer was nearly three laps down with Almirola down one, on the same lap as Harvick. After much confusion, NASCAR gave Almirola the Lucky Dog, putting him back on the lead lap. NASCAR deemed Harvick ineligible for the Lucky Dog instead of Almirola, saying he was lapped on track instead of the pits. Paradoxically, NASCAR also gave back Custer two of his three laps by Lap 21, which put him on the same lap as Harvick in a new battle for the Lucky Dog.

On Lap 26, Custer restarted the race in last, then passed Harvick for position on Lap 33. Harvick continued to struggle, and his spotter told him his fourth teammate – Chase Briscoe – was in position to put him a lap down. But on Lap 48, Briscoe’s #14 High Point Ford broke loose and slapped the outside wall, ultimately cutting down the right-rear tire and sending him into a spin. Moments before the incident, Briscoe had just lapped both Cody Ware and Josh Williams, so the yellow handed Williams the Lucky Dog. On the restart, Harvick remained in last until Lap 56, when he re-passed Custer for position. Both then pounced on Ware, who was fighting a tight condition on the #51. The next time by, Ware ended up 35th between Custer and Harvick. After Harvick took last around Lap 60, Ware slipped to last two circuits later. Ware now kept clear of the two teammates, who he noticed were racing so hard for the Lucky Dog that they nearly wrecked. Thus, when Stage 1 ended on Lap 75, Ware was still holding 36th.

Moments before Stage 1 ended, Allgaier’s car pushed up the track in Turns 3 and 4, then slammed the outside wall with the right-front. He continued on with damage, but something failed in the steering, causing the car to veer hard left into the inside wall. Anticipating bent suspension parts, the #77 crew called for a hammer – then a big hammer – only to find the control arms and suspension were still intact. The team now believed it was an internal issue, and gathered wrenches as they pulled behind the wall. Though the car did go on jack stands, this was after someone on the crew said “we’re done.” Since scoring was suspended between the stages, Allgaier didn’t take over last place until Lap 77, when he was shown three laps down. NASCAR’s official in the garage confirmed Allgaier was out on Lap 120.

Also confirmed out on Lap 120 was Denny Hamlin, whose engine soured on his #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, then pulled behind the wall around Lap 90. Harvick’s night didn’t go much better, either, as a multi-car pileup on the frontstretch destroyed the right-front suspension on his #4 Ford. Harvick pulled behind the wall on Lap 103. Ross Chastain was running near the front when rain stopped the night’s action – a saving grace as his #1 Advent Health Chevrolet had a failing engine. When the race restarted on Lap 151, Chastain had already pulled behind the wall, done for the night. Chastain dropped behind the lapped Noah Gragson into 33rd on Lap 157. Kurt Busch rounded out the Bottom Five after his #45 Monster Energy Toyota was spun into the outside wall during a chain-reaction incident triggered by a slowing Austin Dillon.

The incident that eliminated Busch also took out J.J. Yeley, who for much of the race was battling inside the Top 25 in Rick Ware Racing’s #15 Georgia Strong / JAG Metals Ford. Yeley was still on the lead lap on Lap 211 when he sideswiped the slowing Dillon entering Turn 1, causing enough damage to end his night in 30th. Meanwhile, Austin’s brother Ty Dillon followed up his Heat Race 4 victory by battling inside the Top 10 for much of the night, ultimately taking home 10th – by far his best Cup finish on a track smaller than 1.5 miles in length. One spot ahead came Michael McDowell, who after taking 12th in the 2021 running finished 9th in the #34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford – his best-ever finish at Bristol.

*This marked the first last-pace finish for the #77 in a Cup Series dirt track race since July 20, 1962, when Larry Frank’s 1962 Ford had an overheating issue after 17 laps around the half-mile Savannah Speedway in Georgia.

36) #77-Justin Allgaier / 74 laps / crash
35) #11-Denny Hamlin / 91 laps / engine
34) #4-Kevin Harvick / 100 laps / crash
33) #1-Ross Chastain / 150 laps / engine
32) #45-Kurt Busch / 211 laps / crash

1st) Live Fast Motorsports, Spire Motorsports, Trackhouse Racing (2)
2nd) Joe Gibbs Racing, Kaulig Racing, NY Racing Team (1)

1st) Chevrolet (6)
2nd) Ford (2)
3rd) Toyota (1)


Saturday, April 16, 2022

TRUCKS: Austin Wayne Self last at Bristol, where entire Truck field comes home under power for the first time in series history

PHOTO: @nascarcasm

Austin Wayne Self picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Saturday’s Pinty’s Truck Race on Dirt at the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track when his #22 AM Technical Solutions Chevrolet finished under power with 143 of 150 laps complete.

The finish, which came in Self’s 135th series start, was his first of the season and first in a Truck Series race since May 13, 2016 at Dover, 138 races ago. In the Truck Series’ last-place rankings, this was the 5th for the #22, the 6th where the finisher was running, and the 420th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 41st for the #22, the 48th while running, and the 1,833rd for Chevrolet.

Self’s only previous Truck Series last-place finish came in his first full season of competition, when he’d just come off a runner-up ARCA campaign behind Grant Enfinger. Still searching for his first career win, having led just one lap so far, which came at Talladega back in 2016, Self has also ranked no worse than 16th in the final point standings. His career-best runner-up finish came in the 2017 opener at Daytona, where he trailed Kaz Grala and was joined in the Top 10 by a rare second entry from the AM Racing stables, driven by 9th-place J.J. Yeley. He also finished 5th at Michigan in 2019. More recently, Self was the center of controversy at Martinsville, when he made contact with Playoff contender John Hunter Nemechek during the final laps of the penultimate race, sending Nemechek into the wall.

Coming into the Bristol Dirt Race, where he finished a strong 10th in the 2021 inaugural, Self’s best finish of the young season was a 9th in Las Vegas, a run he followed by a 10th in Atlanta. He entered the event a solid 15th in points, looking for a possible Playoff berth. On Friday, he ranked 27th of the 38 entrants in opening practice and, after a spin in Turn 2, took 26th in the second session. This placed him 8th on the grid for Heat Race 1.

An early-morning rain on Saturday left the track muddy for the four 15-lap Truck Series heat races, and Heat Race 1 faced the worst of this. Jack Wood rolled off 10th and last in the #24 Chevrolet, but was soon joined by Andrew Gordon in the #49 Trick Shot Products / Staar Trucking Ford. Gordon’s truck had originally been entered as the #46 under G2G Racing, who bought Gordon’s 2021 entry from CMI Motorsports. But since the truck was still registered to CMI, the team had to hastily change the car numbers back to the #49, constructively withdrawing their own #46. Gordon's truck also trailed smoke during the pace laps from what was reportedly clutch fluid getting on the exhaust pipes. This smoke cleared before the start.

When Heat Race 1 started, Gordon broke loose on the apron, but still re-passed Wood, and by the end of Lap 1 had climbed to 7th. Wood then moved closer to a side-by-side battle for 8th between Timmy Hill in the #56 Hill Motorsports Toyota and Blaine Perkins in the #9 Raceline Chevrolet. Perkins moved ahead of Hill, and Wood soon followed, dropping Hill to last on Lap 6. Hill lost nearly two seconds to Wood by Lap 10, when Tanner Gray slowed down the backstretch in an overheating #15 Ford Performance Ford. Gray came to pit road, taking last on Lap 11, and a circuit later was joined by Buddy Kofoid for an overheating #51 Mobil 1 Toyota. These were the only two retirements from the race as Gordon finished 4th, locking himself into the main event. Austin Wayne Self finished 5th, one spot behind Gordon, and secured a solid 11th on the grid for the main event.
The nose of Andrew Gordon's truck before the start
of the main event.
PHOTO: Aaron Bearden, @aaronbearden93

In Heat Race 2, Mike Marlar started last in Josh Reaume’s #33 JDS Technologies Toyota. There were no pre-race tail-end penalties for this 10-truck field. When the green flag dropped, Marlar advanced past Chase Purdy, whose #61 Bama Buggies Toyota was last across the stripe, 1.583 seconds back of the lead. By Lap 6, Purdy had caught the #43 Vulcan Towing & Recovery Chevrolet of Keith McGee, Marlar’s teammate at the Reaume team, and the pair were 0.069 second apart at the stripe. Purdy dropped McGee to last the next time by, and the #43 struggled to break a 20-second lap for the rest of the run. McGee took the checkered flag in last, the team congratulating him on running 1.5 seconds faster than he had in practice.

Heat Race 3 saw Matt DiBenedetto start 9th and last in the #25 TW Frierson / Rackley Roofing Chevrolet. He’d be joined by the second tail-end penalty of the day as 4th-place starter Hailie Deegan had been sent to a backup truck following a crash in practice. Deegan’s #1 Wastequip Ford, lined up last on the outside lane, pulled ahead of DiBenedetto’s truck at the start. On Lap 4, DiBenedetto caught Ben Rhodes, whose #99 Tenda Toyota worked to the outside of Kris Wright in the #44 Big Dog Energy Chevrolet. A three-wide battle ensued with Wright in the middle breaking loose and slipping to last behind the other two. The caution then fell on Lap 7 as Deegan spun from 6th place and stalled on the apron. When the race restarted, last place fell to Norm Benning, who was attempting his first race of 2022 with new sponsorship from Circle B Diecast. Benning’s #6 Chevrolet dropped behind Wright around Lap 10, and was 1.253 seconds behind Wright two circuits later. At the finish, Benning crossed the stripe 2.549 back of Wright, and was ultimately the first truck eliminated from the main event. Benning was frustrated that his truck wouldn’t pick up grip until two-thirds the way around the corner, and that both the mud and the restart didn’t help his chances.

The final two spots of the nine-truck Heat Race 4 belonged to Stewart Friesen and his wife Jessica, who competed against each other for the second-straight Truck Series dirt race, each in identical blue Toyotas sponsored by Halmar International. No drivers were sent to the rear, so Stewart’s #52 lined up behind Jessica’s #62. Both made quick work of Spencer Boyd, whose #12 Rimtyme Chevrolet slipped to last on Lap 3. Boyd was told by his crew to run more aggressively, especially on corner entry, and at one point cut a couple tenths off his deficit to Jessica. Jessica, in turn, needed to pass one more truck to qualify for the main event. She came within a couple trucklengths of catching LASTCAR Truck Series championship leader Dean Thompson in the #40 Worldwide Express Chevrolet, but joined Norm Benning on the DNQ list. Boyd, who was fighting a tight condition, finished last in the heat.
Self on pit road after the incident.
PHOTO: Matt Miller, @MGMiller17

Boyd would line up 34th in Saturday’s main event, one spot ahead of Tanner Gray, who finished last in Heat Race 1. Keith McGee secured the 36th and final starting spot after his own last-place run in Heat Race 2. The pre-race penalties incurred by both Hailie Deegan and Andrew Gordon in the heat races would likewise carry over to the main event, dropping Deegan from 26th and Gordon from 22nd. Gordon’s right-front fender had been damaged during his heat, requiring a large patch of black bear-bond to cover the headlight on his white truck. To make sure the truck number was still visible, the team placed a small red square with what appeared to be ordinary black mailbox numbers on the sticker.

When the race started, Chase Purdy was last across the stripe as his #61 Bama Buggies Toyota trailed the outside line. By Lap 4, he’d climbed past Tanner Gray, putting the #15 in last, around a half-second behind McGee in 35th. Purdy dropped McGee back to last on Lap 7, and the crew encouraged him to reel in the new 35th-place runner, which was now Spencer Boyd in the #12. McGee closed within a half-second of Boyd, but was soon in peril of losing a lap. On Lap 14, McGee dropped to 0.870 back of Boyd as the leaders looked to his inside. By Lap 17, McGee was first to lose a lap to the leaders, followed by Boyd. Three circuits later, the leaders had also lapped Kris Wight in the #44 Big Dog Energy Chevrolet and his Niece Motorsports teammate Lawless Alan in the #45 Chevrolet. Through it all, McGee was told he was faster than the five trucks ahead of him, but he struggled to catch any of them.

The first caution on Lap 25 fell for Andrew Gordon, who after his unapproved adjustments penalty had once again shown how fast his renumbered #49 had bee. He was running around the 27th spot when he spun off Turn 4, showing damage to the right-rear corner of his truck. Gordon took last from McGee under the caution as he struggled to re-fire the engine, citing a possible fuel pressure issue. By the time he made it to pit road, he was two laps down, but thankfully with the water temperature holding at 190 degrees. Not so fortunate was Jack Wood, whose #24 pitted for a cool-down under the same caution, dropping him off the lead lap into 35th.

Gordon remained excitable on the radio for the ensuing run, at one point saying something exploded in his car that “about gagged me.” He also indicated the water temperature gauge wasn’t working, though it eventually reset to show the water at 190. He remained last when Stage 1 ended on Lap 41, and held the spot on the restart. Kris Wright drew the next yellow on Lap 55, his #44 pointed the wrong way after a spin in Turn 2. Wright gently guided his car down the slippery banking, but revealed a flat left-rear tire as he slapped the inside wall. By Lap 56, Wright had taken over last place, showing the same two laps down as Gordon. Wright lost a third lap when he failed to beat the pace truck off pit road, and had to line up at the tail end for the restart. On Lap 78, Wright lost a fourth lap when the leaders caught him off Turn 2, his #44 holding serve in the low lane. 

The nose of Self's truck after the race.
PHOTO: Jordan Bianchi, @Jordan_Bianchi

Wright was still running in last place on Lap 98, when the strangest incident of the night occurred. Working their way through Turns 3 and 4, Matt DiBenedetto’s #25 attempted to complete a three-wide pass to the inside of Austin Wayne Self, who had Joey Logano’s #54 Planet Fitness Ford to his outside. As DiBenedetto came up, he suddenly slowed, and Self got into the back of the #25. Instead of causing a spin, the two remained hooked together for nearly a lap. The pair stopped on the backstretch, drawing the caution flag, then ultimately the red on Lap 101. Self tried to slam his truck into reverse, but the two were still stuck fast. 

Just before the red came out, Self and DiBenedetto dropped to the final two spots, lifting Wright to 34th. Self, who now held last place, expressed frustration over the crews tearing up the nose of his truck to try and separate them. Of particular concern was his radiator as the #22 was now spraying water. By the time the two were separated by means of a tow truck, DiBenedetto was briefly credited with last place as he returned to line up with the rest of the field. Wright re-took last on Lap 104 when he came in for bear-bond to be applied to his damaged nose. At that point, Wright was now one lap behind DiBenedetto, and seven behind the leaders. When the race restarted, Self remained in last, seven behind, and two laps back of 35th-place DiBenedetto. 

Keith McGee made another bid for last place on Lap 114, when he came down pit road after backing into the outside wall in Turn 4. He returned to the track three laps down in 31st, but NASCAR forced him to make another stop for some bars that were sticking out of the bodywork. He then served a pass-through penalty, which dropped him four laps down in 34th. By then, McGee was in 34th – on the same lap as Kris Wright, but one and three laps ahead of DiBenedetto and Self, respectively.

The race restarted with just 31 laps to go, and all 36 trucks still under power. Two more cautions would fall by the time it was over, but neither accident was enough to even knock any of the five combined drivers off the lead lap. Coming around to the checkered flag, another wreck did collect a few other trucks – including Andrew Gordon – but none were listed as DNFs, and each were unable to unseat Self as the last-place runner. With that, the #22 secured the 36th and final spot, a mere seven laps short of completing the full race distance. DiBenedetto, McGee, Wright, and Gordon rounded out the Bottom Five.

Carson Hocevar in the #42 Premier Security Solutions Chevrolet was once again tantalizingly close to scoring his first career Truck Series victory, only to be passed in the final stages by defending series champion Ben Rhodes. Hocevar led 55 laps on Saturday – the only 55 that Rhodes himself did not lead. Also impressive was Parker Kligerman, who earned another Top Five for hometown team Henderson Motorsports, taking 4th in the #75 Food Country USA / Bounty Chevrolet.

*This marked the first last-place finish of the #22 in a Truck Series race at Bristol – paved or on dirt. The number had not finished last in a Truck Series race since Self’s most recent last-place showing at Dover in 2016.
*This marked the first time in Truck Series history that every entrant that started the race took the checkered flag under power. Such a thing hasn’t happened in the Cup Series since November 18, 2018 at Homestead, while in the XFINITY Series, it hasn’t occurred since August 15, 1998 at Michigan.
*This is actually the second time a last-place finisher of a Truck Series race at Bristol finished under power. The other occurrence was on June 20, 1998, when Rick Crawford was still running despite completing just 20 of the 206 laps of the Loadhandler 200. Crawford missed the start due to a clutch issue, and returned to the track in the final moments. He took the checkered flag just 12 laps short of dropping Stacy Compton to last place. Compton was one of eight drivers who failed to finish.

36) #22-Austin Wayne Self / 143 laps / running
35) #25-Matt DiBenedetto / 145 laps / running
34) #43-Keith McGee / 146 laps / running
33) #44-Kris Wright / 146 laps / running
32) #49-Andrew Gordon / 146 laps / running

1st) Niece Motorsports (2)
2nd) AM Racing, David Gilliland Racing Ford, Front Row Motorsports, Young’s Motorsports (1)

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


Thursday, April 14, 2022

PREVIEW: Bristol Dirt heralds return of Cup invaders, XFINITY visitors, and Norm Benning

PHOTO: @NormBenning6

Saturday, April 16, 2022 (8:00 P.M. ET, FS1)
TRUCKS Race 6 of 23
Pinty’s Dirt Truck Race at Bristol
2021 Last-Place Finisher: Tyler Ankrum

As both drivers and teams hope for better weather in the return to the temporary dirt track at Bristol, there are now 38 drivers entered for 36 spots in the Truck Series race, meaning two will be sent home after the qualifying races (Saturday at 4:30 P.M. Eastern, FS2).

RETURNING: #6-Norm Benning Racing
Welcome back Norm Benning, who has not attempted a Truck Series race since he entered a Niece Motorsports entry in the 2021 finale at Phoenix. Benning has since picked up sponsorship from Circle B Diecast to back his #6 Chevrolet. Benning made the field for both dirt races last year but finished 37th at Bristol when he was parked in the middle stages. The preliminary entry list did not have Benning himself listed as driver, indicating “TBA.”

DRIVER CHANGE: #7-Spire Motorsports
On Tuesday came news that the #7 Chevrolet, with which William Byron steered to victory at Martinsville, will return to action in Bristol with yet another Hendrick Motorsports driver in Chase Elliott. This will be Elliott’s first Truck start since last summer in Texas, when he finished runner-up to John Hunter Nemechek in a one-off for GMS Racing.

MISSING: #13-ThorSport Racing
Not among the entrants this week is Johnny Sauter, who finished a strong runner-up to Byron in his reunion with ThorSport at Martinsville. Sauter finished 32nd in last year’s inaugural dirt race at Bristol.

DRIVER CHANGE: #17-David Gilliland Racing
Also coming over from the Cup Series is Harrison Burton, who has struggled in the first few rounds of his rookie campaign with the Wood Brothers. Burton takes the place of Taylor Gray in what would be his first Truck Series start since the 2019 finale at Homestead, when he closed out the year with Kyle Busch Motorsports.

DRIVER CHANGE: #20-Young’s Motorsports
Still another Cup invader is Austin Dillon, who finished 3rd after a season-best race under the lights at Martinsville. Dillon, who won a preliminary race on the Bristol dirt track last year, most recently ran a Truck Series entry at Martinsville on March 23, 2019. That day, he finished 4th in a one-off for NEMCO Motorsports. This time, Dillon takes the place of newcomer Dillon Steuer in Randy Young’s #20 Chevrolet, an entry which continues to bring in different drivers.

DRIVER CHANGE: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
Mike Marlar, who competed in both last year's Cup and Truck Series races on the Bristol Dirt Track, returns to competition in the primary Josh Reaume entry that was shown as "TBA" until Tuesday. Marlar takes the place of Chase Janes, who finished 25th in his series debut at Martinsville. JDS Technologies, Inc. joins as sponsor.

MISSING: #35-McAnally-Hilgeman Racing
Jake Garcia is not entered after his part-time second entry from the McAnally shop was among the three entries sent home by the rain in Martinsville.

DRIVER CHANGE: #43-Reaume Brothers Racing
Keith McGee seeks to make his 2022 debut after a five-race stint last year with the Reaume Brothers, Jordan Anderson Racing, CMI Motorsports, and Cram Racing Enterprises. The last of these at Talladega saw him score his first career top-ten finish, taking 10th after four runs no better than 29th. The Alaska-born McGee takes the place of Blake Lothian, who finished 28th in his series debut at Martinsville.

WITHDREW: #46-G2G Racing
MISSING: #47-G2G Racing
RETURNING: #49-CMI Motorsports
With Matt Jaskol parting ways with G2G Racing heading into Martinsville, where a crash left Kaden Honeycutt a distant 34th in his series debut, the #46 Toyota entry goes to Andrew Gordon, who ran this same Bristol race last year for CMI Motorsports. G2G’s #47 entry is not entered this week after it was withdrawn prior to Martinsville. UPDATE (April 15): Gordon's #46, a Ford in place of G2G's Toyotas, has had its numbers changed to #49 representing the 2022 return for CMI Motorsports. According to NASCAR, the #46 was wothdrawn.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Kyle Busch Motorsports
Defending USAC National Midget Series champion and TRD development driver Buddy Kofoid will make his NASCAR debut this weekend, taking the place of team owner Kyle Busch in the fleet #51 Mobil 1 Toyota. Kofoid has one previous dirt track start in NASCAR, taking 21st at the Las Vegas dirt track during a K&N Pro Series West event in 2018.

RETURNING: #54-David Gilliland Racing
A fourth Cup invader for Saturday’s race is none other than defending Bristol Dirt Race winner Joey Logano, who brings sponsorship from Planet Fitness to David Gilliland Racing. The team brings back their #54, previously entered under the team’s DGR-CROSLEY era. This would be Logano’s first Truck Series start since March 28, 2015 at Martinsville – a race he won for Brad Keselowski Racing.

RETURNING: #62-Halmar-Friesen Racing
Jessica Friesen made her NASCAR Truck Series debut last summer in Knoxville, where she was finally able to race alongside her husband Stewart in a second HFR truck. She’s back in the Bristol race, where she was rained out last year, and looks to improve on her 26th-place showing in Knoxville.

PAINT SCHEME: #75-Henderson Motorsports
Likely inspired by the dirt track, Parker Kligerman welcomes new sponsorship from Bounty Paper Towels on his #75 Chevrolet, a truck which has often only carried the colors of team owner Charlie Henderson’s Food Country USA. That brand will still have a place on the truck’s quarter-panels.

MISSING: #90-Terry Carroll Motorsports
Newcomer Justin S. Carroll and his family’s #90 team are not entered after he was rained out of the Martinsville field last week.

DRIVER CHANGE: #02-Young’s Motorsports
Kaz Grala, just now named to drive a pair of XFINITY races for Big Machine Racing in Talladega and Dover, will replace Jesse Little in the Randy Young #02. Little finished 27th last week.

CUP INVADERS: #7-Chase Elliott, #17-Harrison Burton, #20-Austin Dillon, #54-Joey Logano

Sunday, April 17, 2022 (7:00 P.M. ET, FOX)
CUP Race 9 of 36
Food City Dirt Race at Bristol
2021 Last-Place Finisher: Anthony Alfredo

Only the 36 Chartered entries will tackle the Bristol dirt race, set to compete in Saturday’s qualifying races (6:00 P.M. Eastern, FS2).

DRIVER CHANGE: #16-Kaulig Racing
Back in the #16 for the first time since his last-place run in Atlanta, Noah Gragson looks for a better finish with Kaulig Racing during an off-weekend for the XFINITY Series, replacing 24th-place Martinsville finisher A.J. Allmendinger.

PAINT SCHEME: #42-Petty-GMS Motorsports
PAINT SCHEME: #43-Petty-GMS Motorsports
In a combined effort with race sponsor Food City, two competing detergent companies will back the Petty-GMS teammates. Erik Jones brings back the Tide scheme he ran last year on the #43 while teammate Ty Dillon carries Gain on the #42.

DRIVER CHANGE: #77-Spire Motorsports
Joining Gragson among the XFINITY drivers in Sunday’s field is Justin Allgaier, who reunites with Spire Motorsports for the first time since his last-place showing last fall in Talladega. Allgaier replaces Josh Bilicki, who finished 35th in Martinsville.

DRIVER CHANGE: #78-Live Fast Motorsports
Congratulations to Josh Williams, B.J. McLeod’s full-time driver in the XFINITY Series, who will make his Cup debut with the team McLeod co-owns. Replacing the team co-owner, who finished last in Martinsville, Williams brings with him his sponsor Alloy Employment Services.

Saturday, April 23, 2022
XFINITY Race 9 of 33
Ag-Pro 300 at Talladega
2021 Last-Place Finisher: Bayley Currey

The XFINITY Series takes the weekend off and returns to action in Talladega.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (April 14, 1985): Part-time ARCA competitor Jeff Hooker of Valley City, Ohio picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Winston Cup Series career in the TranSouth 500 at Darlington when his #53 Smith’s Auto Service Oldsmobile lost the engine after 11 laps. This turned out to be the last of Hooker’s five career Cup starts, the best of which a 20th-place run in his 1984 debut at the Nashville Fairgrounds.