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.

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