|PHOTO: Brock Beard|
by Brock Beard
In this article, a follow-up to my regular weekly feature last Saturday, I wanted to provide an accurate and detailed account of the events surrounding the G2G Racing team at the Sonoma Raceway. I would like to thank Travis McCullough, Mason Filippi, Stefan Parsons, and G2G Racing team manager and crew chief Tim Silva for their interviews. Included also are my own observations while working trackside that weekend.
I. TRAVIS MCCULLOUGH
Travis McCullough lives and works less than a two hours’ drive east of the Sonoma Raceway. His race shop in Lodi is just a few miles south of his Galt, California home. From there, he’s fielded entries in NASCAR Pro Late Models, the NASCAR Southwest Tour, ARCA, and more recently the SRL touring series between the open-wheel Modifieds and Pro Late Models. He’s occasionally competed on the East Coast and on ovals, but has more often raced closer to home, preferring the excitement of the road courses where he got his start.
Through it all, McCullough’s goal has been to make it into NASCAR national competition – and he’s become even more determined due to his father’s health issues. “We've worked our entire lives of just racing, in hopes to get into a Truck or a XFINITY car,” said McCullough. “Being in Cup is no longer an option. It would have been until they did this new change (to the NextGen car). So now we're just looking at getting into something that's around NASCAR.”
To take a step toward this goal, McCullough reached out to his friend in NASCAR – Brett Bodine. “Brett Bodine and I have known each other for quite some time,” said McCullough. “He's my guy I've always talked to - and which most drivers have to technically new to the series. So, I called him and I said, ‘Hey, I want to do this deal. What do you think?’ And he goes, ‘Here's the thing - you want to do Sonoma, you want to do some of these other tracks, that's fine. The only thing I'm not clearing you for is in the Chase. When we're in the Playoffs, I'm not going to clear you unless you have at least a race under your belt.’ And I said, ‘That's not going to be a problem. We should have no issue. We're going to Sonoma on June 11. I think we'll be fine.’ He says, ‘No problem. I'm gonna clear you. You're all good.’ I have the e-mails to show it. This has nothing to do with (being) pulled out of the truck due to experience.”
With Bodine’s support, McCullough looked up different teams. Looking to run the Truck Series race in Sonoma, he soon landed on G2G Racing.
II. G2G RACING
According to Tim Silva, crew chief and team manager for G2G (“Glory 2 God”) Racing, Tim Viens and Billy Shear bought out Ray Ciccarelli’s two-truck operation CMI Motorsports at the end of last year. At the time, CMI had an inventory of Toyotas, Fords, and Chevrolets. The reincorporated G2G effort chose to sell everything other than their Toyotas, including some that were purchased by Viens from Kyle Busch Motorsports. The transition has not been entirely smooth. Among the team’s Toyotas was the one Andrew Gordon ran in this year’s Bristol Dirt Race which, due to an oversight, had not yet been properly transferred from CMI to G2G. This required a last-minute number change, awarding Ciccarelli owner points to a team he no longer owns. Gordon finished 32nd that night.
When including Gordon’s run at Bristol, the G2G team has qualified at least one of its trucks in each of the season’s first 11 races heading into Sonoma. In fact, at Atlanta, they managed to get both trucks into the show with Matt Jaskol taking a team-best 19th ahead of Brennan Poole in 28th. But Jaskol left the team just days later, taking with him his sponsorship from AutoParts4Less.com. Johnny Sauter, who gave the team its first start in the Daytona opener, has likewise not run for the team since electrical issues left him a disappointing 34th. Such mechanical gremlins have plagued the team more often than not, including at Darlington, where Brennan Poole made multiple trips to the garage area for a truck that constantly lost power. Poole earned the team’s best finish since Jaskol’s departure when he took 23rd at Texas. But the team entered Sonoma after back-to-back DNFs at Charlotte and Gateway, both due to mechanical failures in the first half of the race.
“And so we're trying to build our fleet,” said Silva. “As a small team, we're trying to get our chassis is up to date, where they are. Most of our trucks that we have are KBM trucks. So, it just takes a lot of money to do it. And that's what we do is sell rides to drivers. And we, the owners wound up putting the money back into the team to build our inventory up to be competitive. With the inventory that we have, the owners that we have, the employees that we have here at G2G, we could be a Top 15 truck every week. But the problem of it is, is the owners are funding this out of their pockets as of right now. If we could get somebody to come on board with a driver with some money or a sponsor step up and put it all over the truck, we could be a Top 15 truck every week with the inventory that we have.”
Sometime between the end of February and early March 2022, McCullough entered into a contract to drive for G2G at Sonoma. “I did all this (deal with G2G) myself,” he said. “I have a problem with allowing people to do my work for me. I work 20 or 22 hours a day, have my own family, have my own companies - I work a lot, so I can also do this. Like right now, I'm talking to you and working here with my earpiece and everything. So I tend to go out on my own. I do have people I talk to. But I've actually never been to a Truck (Series) race.” McCullough also said, as of Monday, June 13, he’s yet to meet Tim Viens in person and has only corresponded with him by phone.
As announced by the team on June 7, McCullough would run G2G’s #47 Toyota at Sonoma. California Tank Pneumatics (CTP), the primary sponsor of his own cars, is McCullough’s business which he operates with his father, brother, mother, and uncle. CTP builds systems for the transportation of food, cement, and other goods from ships to trains, trucks, and plants. Among the company’s business partners are longtime customers California Rock and Ready Mix and one of the country's largest transporters of sugar and molasses, Vernon Transportation. Vernon’s logo would be on the hood of the #47. “We didn't actually get all the stickers on the truck due to timeframe there with (the team) running behind,” said McCullough of the truck he was scheduled to run. “But we have a lot of sponsors that were part of this deal besides ourselves.”
McCullough would also have a teammate. Just one week prior, Mason Filippi made his NASCAR XFINITY Series debut at the Portland International Raceway in a one-off for DGM Racing. Prior to that, Filippi had already made a name for himself in sports car racing, particularly in the Pirelli World Challenge and IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, which host races of similar lengths to those in NASCAR. Despite sporadic heavy rainfall on a track the series had never competed, Filippi finished under power in 25th, three laps down. Filippi’s #91 was sponsored by OpenFender.com, which would follow him to Sonoma as backer of the #46 Toyota. Like McCullough, Filippi would run a Toyota with the pre-2022 nose.
III. THE HAULER IS LATE, THE 47 ISN’T READY
Friday, June 10 at Sonoma had a reduced schedule of just two afternoon practice sessions – one each for the Camping World Truck Series and ARCA Menards Series West. By lunchtime, the teams that had arrived were unloading. At the far end of the paddock, however, both Travis McCullough and Mason Filippi stood with helmet bags in hand – McCullough with nine hand-picked members of his own crew – waiting for the G2G Racing hauler to arrive.
“The hauler was late by almost roughly three hours,” said McCullough. “So immediately, when 12:30 P.M. came when the hauler was supposed to be there. . .it did not show up. We sent out another text to (Tim Viens) at 12:30, just verifying the hauler. We never heard any more. Then one o'clock, 1:30, no hauler. We were getting ready to start loading up our stuff. We're getting ready to leave, because that's when we figured at that point, something happened there was a scam here. Mason (Filippi) and I were standing there like this, ‘I guess we're going home. We don't have trucks.’ And we were both lost. And then the hauler showed up. . .an hour and 10 minutes before practice.”
Silva addressed the delay. “On the way here – it’s such a long trip for especially small teams and everything – our tractor-trailer broke down three or four times on the way here,” he said. “So it put us behind the eight ball a little bit. But after we got here, we had the trucks unloaded and getting ready to go through the inspection, went through the inspection getting ready to go on the racetrack for practice.” Silva was one of just four crew members the G2G team brought to the track. While the other three set to work on Filippi’s #46, the fourth – Ryan Bell, a crew chief for Mike Harmon Racing – would join McCullough’s nine crewmates on the #47. “Most of these guys are great, but I only met one of them,” said McCullough. “And that was Ryan Bell, and he wasn’t even a part of the team. He was just called in as an outside gentleman that come help for the weekend. And he was probably the best guy I talked to on that team.”
McCullough’s truck was unloaded first, followed by Filippi’s. Right away, McCullough noticed something was wrong. “We're missing side skirting,” he said. “All the electronics were still parked inside the truck. We lifted it up (on jack stands), took to both tires and wheels off of it, realized that majority of electronics were not even hooked up on the engine, lines were loose on power steering. We had oil leaking out all over the place because the lines are leaking and elevations up and down in the balancing and stuff. And we got to work on it. No brake duct hoses to the brakes, which is as you know, as I do on road courses – huge, mandatory. Well, we had one line feeding from the front to the brake duct - one individual, not even a three pack. So I'm like, we're probably not going to make but about 15 laps in this thing. And we're going to have this in either toasted or we’ll burn the brakes out of it.”
“So I was like, ‘We’ll look into that. Let's just get the truck on for practice.’ And then I'll go over to the race guys, because I know Front Row Motorsports with my one of my real good friends works with them. So I said, ‘We’ll go get everything we need from them. We'll get it slammed into this thing to at least keep the brakes cool. I don't care about anything else. We've got to keep brakes underneath it over this weekend.’ And so I went to work with all my guys and that's when we noticed a rat's nest of just parts missing, bolts missing, bolts not tight. We were missing parts on the truck. Jumped in it, hit the brake pedal, it went right to the floor. There was no fluid in anything.”
“And we put in an hour and 10 minutes into it, which was just five minutes shy of basically practice time, when we realized there was no lead. There was no setup, springs. NASCAR was starting to get a little a little perturbed over things that we're seeing. ILMOR was there trying to figure out what was going on because the engine didn't match to what they had originally had in it. So that had to be worked. After we said ‘We're done,’ and that was it. There's no way this truck’s going to track and even Ryan Bell stated that this is not going to happen today. I said, ‘No problem. It is what it is. We're going back to our motorcoach up on top of the hill. We're gonna go revisit the situation at hand and then I'll come back and see you guys.’”
By rule, NASCAR prohibits a rookie driver from making their first laps in qualifying or the race, so McCullough missing practice put an end to his weekend. “When practice started. . .I walked through the garage - the Cup garage - and we were just watching practice I had to go kind of get away. I wouldn't say vent, but get away. . .I was a little wound up solid by seeing what was delivered to the track and realizing that we probably - chances are we're not gonna get on the track over the weekend. It was a lot of effort and a lot of time - a lot of money put into this to literally have nothing in the end. . .It was just a complete waste of a trip for them. And I don't understand.”
McCullough did say the #47 presented for inspection some time on Friday. It didn’t go well. “So at some point, they continued working on it when time permitted. And by that night, they actually had the truck able to roll - not fire - but roll by hand. The team had to push it in line to get it to tech and it made it two minutes. By the time they jumped on the truck, and NASCAR tech, and they told basically in lack of words, they basically told me to ‘Get this effing thing out of the lineup. It's not even anywhere near close.’ We didn't even get through the first line item and you failed. And I immediately was like, ‘You gotta be kidding me.’ And the airbox was not correct up on the carburetion side for the throttle body. I mean, there was just loads of it. So they took it back. And I believe at that point, after we seen that, we just we went back up to the motorhome. We watched, they just covered the trucks. And that was it for the night.” Unable to clear inspection for any other driver to qualify it on Saturday, the #47 team withdrew, locking the remaining 36 entrants into the race.
“I feel sorry for Travis in this situation,” said Bell in a statement G2G published on June 17. “It is very unfortunate, as I was looking forward to working with him at Sonoma.”
“I like being thrown in the corner,” said McCullough. “I like the odds stacked against me because I always prove it wrong. That's me. So, if you give me something set up and it's perfect, (saying), ‘you're gonna go out there and win, no problem. I think we got you handled,’ I'll probably mess it up. You say, ‘hey, there's a potential chance that setup’s not right. You're gonna have to really wheel the heck out of this car to get into victory lane.’ I'll win it every time. I like that. I like the odds stacked against me. This was too many odds stacked against me. This deal was not good from the start once we were at the track.”
The truck wasn’t McCullough’s only issue that weekend.
IV. THE DRUG TESTS ARE LATE
Some time after he entered into the deal with G2G, McCullough had undergone a drug test in anticipation of his race at Sonoma. This was on top of his regular tests for competing in the SRL and other local series. However, NASCAR refused to honor this test because it wasn’t through NASCAR's vendor, Drug Free Sports (DFS). With that, McCullough completed still another drug test through DFS, and understood that he’d have the results before opening practice on Friday. But on Friday morning, he’d yet to receive these results, and was thus not cleared to participate in practice even if his truck had been ready to run.
According to Silva, it was this reason that forced G2G to withdraw the #47. “NASCAR has some rules,” he said. “The rules as far as driving, you have to be through drug testing and impact testing and everything. And Travis' drug tests never came back in time for him to get on to the racetrack. So we were hoping that we would get it back sometime late yesterday afternoon, so we can at least get them in to qualify today. NASCAR still hasn't got the drug test back. So at that time, I had no choice but to withdraw the 47. I kind of hate it. We were looking forward to Travis. This is Travis' home track and we felt like Travis would do a great job for us. . . It's nobody's fault. It ain't Travis's fault. It's not NASCAR’s fault. It's the outside source that does our results. And based on the information they get, and they try to get it back as quick as they can. In this case, it just didn't happen in time. Being a Friday race, most places closed down Friday afternoon and being on the West Coast, we're out here at two o'clock and back home, they're closed. So it kind of put us in a bind and we hate it. We hope we can do something with Travis down the road at another road course. But NASCAR has his rules, and we have to follow the rules.”
Silva also said the tight turnaround time for drug testing peculiarly affects small teams since they often change drivers from one week to the next. “The thing of it is that a lot of people think that the small teams, we try to cut our deals as far along as possible. Being in small teams, we don't have the same drivers that come every week. So we're kind of in a crunch and being in a crunch and cutting deals at the last moment with drivers that specialize in road courses, ovals or something like that - we're at the mercy of the drug enforcement that NASCAR uses. So it's their rules, we got to follow them. We hate it. We were really looking forward to Travis driving. . . We would love to get drivers a lot sooner and get the NASCAR protocol done a lot faster. But sometimes it just don't happen. You got drivers that work on sponsors, and they want to do the deal and they commit to the deal but they gotta wait until their money comes in to do the deal. And sometimes dealing with companies and stuff, it takes them a little bit longer to get the money to commit to drive our trucks for small teams and stuff like that. . . . Your bigger teams, they sign the driver with money and they're locked in for the whole year. So it makes it tough when you're changing driver to driver.”
A representative of DFS ultimately got back to McCullough the Monday after the race to explain the situation. “And they received my drug test on Monday, the week of the race, which would be (June 6), and that something took place in the calibration. . .and / or someone failed in the grouping of tests that went through. And when that happens, they have to resend all of them back through to verify it wasn't an issue with a machine calibration.” This second run of McCullough’s test proved critical as it moved the completion date past Friday. “We're just waiting on some lab technician in Missouri to release information and they're just looking at the clock hit five o'clock and they're going home - not realizing out here on the West Coast.”
While the delay in McCullough receiving his test results was not an indication of the result itself, it upset him when some on social media misunderstood what was happening. He even tweeted his results when they came back on Monday. “We hire ex-cons here my facilities,” he said. “We give them another start. We work with them. I've never tried a drug in my entire life. I'm like one of the very few that can actually do even through my younger years. I mean not even marijuana or anything. Compared to a lot of people that we know. And then I work with these guys to stay clean. . . there's so much to life than to be high. It makes no sense to do that. So, I never liked anything to ruin my life and then to see this come out and people mislead it as typical on social media. And that that really that brought me down harder than the truck not being ready.”
“I like NASCAR. I like following them. I like the rules. The rules program is very black-and-white. There is no in between or possible way of change over the weekend. We have seen that in the local series and actually large traveling series like I'm part of some rules do get changed. I call it like ‘writing on the water,’ which is a little irritating. NASCAR, they straight came out and told me, ‘Look, here's the deal. You don't have a drug test. I'm sorry. I'd love to put you out on the track. You are offering me everything else. We see that you are clean. Rules are rules. We can't allow this.’ And like I told him, I shook his hand, I said, ‘Thank you. All I'm asking - I figured I was going home. We thought we’d just have a discussion with you, and you're telling me that the rules are the rules and you're not going to make it change even if my drug test came in on Saturday morning.’ So I liked that. I like rules. I'm big on rules. And granted, it was gonna hurt me. All in all in the weekend, it was probably better I never gotten that truck, which never would have been ready anyways. Clearly, we didn't even see it make any laps of qualifying on Saturday with Stefan which was a little disheartening because we had our own sponsors on the truck and they couldn't even get on the track.”
McCullough wasn’t the only driver awaiting test results. On Monday, June 6, the same day DFS received McCullough’s sample, Colin Garrett was in Michigan when he was called about the opportunity to drive for On Point Motorsports. He’d take the place of Tate Fogleman in the #30 11/11 Veteran Project / Un Broken Toyota. The next day, Garrett performed NASCAR’s required drug test through DFS, and was told he’d get the results in enough time to be cleared to practice that Friday. But when the day came, Garrett, too, was prohibited from practicing on Friday as he had not yet received the results of his drug test. Ultimately, he had to watch from pit road as Josh Bilicki climbed into his truck for Saturday qualifying. “It's not (NASCAR’s) fault,” he said after leaving the grid. “They're not the ones doing it. We're all working together trying to come up with solution. So, it's kind of crazy and a little unacceptable. . .it is what it is.”
After the Sonoma weekend, both McCullough’s and Garrett’s tests came back negative.
V. MASON FILIPPI LEAVES, STEFAN PARSONS ARRIVES
Among the people looking under the hood of the truculent #47 was Stefan Parsons, who wasn’t entered in any of the weekend’s races. Parsons was instead brought to the track as a spotter for all three events, including Todd Bodine’s team in the Truck Series race and Michael McDowell’s in Cup. But before he’d even left the airport, Parsons got a phone call from G2G. “I landed and I got the call,” he said. “They said that Travis (McCullough) was having some trouble - I think his drug tests hadn’t been processed yet, and they might need somebody to drive that truck. So I said ‘sure.’ We lined somebody up to spot for Todd and I ended up being able to drive. . .”
When I first arrived at the G2G Racing hauler at 2:14 P.M. on Friday, Parsons was already looking over the #47, his MotorsportGames.com uniform from the XFINITY Series laying across the rear deck. By Saturday, a Camping World Truck Series patch covered Parsons' XFINITY logo, though the adhesive started to come loose. The truck was parked to the right of the G2G hauler next to the toolboxes. The wheels were still on and the hood open. Nearby, two NASCAR officials were standing at the rear of the truck, one of them holding open the flap at the rear decklid. During practice at 3:20 P.M., the #47 was on jack stands with all four wheels removed, the hood still open, and no one working on it. McCullough’s helmet bag was sitting next to the truck, and several tools were spread about the rear deck, including shop towels, two shocks, and the airbox. After practice at 4:04 P.M., the hood was closed.
“Stefan is a diehard racer,” said Tim Silva. “So, no matter what - whether he's racing, or whether he's at home - he'll find a way to get to the racetrack if it’s to come out here and help spot for another team. But he always brings his stuff because you never know that somebody might get sick, somebody might get hurt, or you never can tell the situation what happened. So, Stefan is one of those drivers - and the garage is full of them - that if you ever run short, there's always somebody in the garage that you could go get that has their helmets and fire suits and everything. So. if a situation pops up, thank God Stefan was in the garage. Somebody brought him down on the spot for him in the ARCA (West) race, and he was available to help us out. And that's just what these racecar drivers do. They want to get in a seat as much as they can no matter if they're running a full season or not. And they want to get experience no matter if it's the Truck Series, XFINITY Series, or Cup Series. And it's just not about themselves, but it's about the experience that they could get to help themselves grow. So, Stefan and a bunch of other drivers show up in the garage, and they're there. And a lot of the drivers that are here will actually go to teams and let you know that “hey, man, if anything happens, I'm here.” NASCAR is a close-knit family, so we know that if we run into a situation who we could call and who would help you out. And because of that Stefan stepped up and wanted to drive to get to experience more into trucks. So we've gave them the opportunity.”
“I was a little confused with Stefan, and why he was there,” said McCullough. “Great driver comes from a long history of racing background. So with Stefan being there, that was the problem. I didn't know why he was there. So I guess, the owner of G2G, already called him Friday morning, way before the hauler even got there. . .So (G2G) already had a backup plan to this. So why I wasn't involved in it is beyond me when it was our money. So there's a lot that's going into this.”
After being told of McCullough’s issue before he arrived at the track, Parsons was surprised he'd be replacing Mason Filippi instead. Silva said that, by the time Parsons arrived Friday afternoon, the #47 had already been withdrawn, and Filippi had stepped away from the #46. When asked why Filippi had left, Parsons said, “I honestly don’t have any idea.” Interestingly, the G2G team also had a second relief driver on hand by Saturday – Keith McGee, who previously drove for CMI before his current part-time efforts with Reaume Brothers Racing.
According to Silva, Filippi was unsatisfied with his own performance. “Filippi was doing a good job yesterday, and he just felt like that he just wanted to perform a little bit better,” he said. “And he just needs a little bit more experience in the Truck Series. He drove the XFINITY car, and he did a good job on it. But the Truck Series and the XFINITY cars are completely different. The Trucks don't have any downforce, they don't brake as easy as the XFINITY (cars). In the Truck Series, it's more momentum into the corners. You’ve gotta back up the corners a lot to get into the corner to get your momentum off. In the Cup Series and XFINITY Series, they’ve got more horsepower that you could drive it in deep and in the center of the corner, they have more horsepower when they get off the corner a lot better. In our series, if we do that, we lose momentum and it takes such longer time to get your momentum up. So Filippi – I hope we can do something with him. He just needs a little bit more experience in the Truck Series. And he’s just gotta get used to them.”
Silva continued, saying Filippi’s struggles showed the need for NASCAR to increase the amount of practice time. “The way the schedules are where they turn around and they crunch everything in one day, and when you got rookies and they're trying to get into a series that they're not familiar with that do a great job and another series. . .it's just a complete(ly) different beast. So, I wish we could get a little bit more practice or they would give us an area where we could test when we got a rookie driver, so they could get familiar with it. But here again, NASCAR is doing what they can to save the small teams money. And we appreciate what they do. But we just wish that we could get a little bit more experienced with rookie drivers to help the small teams out as well as the driver itself.”
When I asked Filippi about this on Thursday, he said the issue was the truck, and not his inexperience. After multiple repairs on his own truck, including a new center section end housing, Filippi was slowest in the opening practice. His best of 16 laps was a mere 1 minute, 26.901 seconds (82.439mph), which was 5.861 seconds off the pole and 1.329 off the next-slowest entry of Spencer Boyd. “The truck was not prepared to race competitive so we chose not to drive the 46,” said Filippi.
VI. LAST PLACE IN THE RACE
In the lead-up to Saturday’s race, Parsons was still helping the G2G team on both the #46 and #47 entries – the latter, according to Silva, to prepare it for a future race. At 9:38 A.M., two crew members were still working under the hood of the #47. By 9:50 A.M., what appeared to be the alternator was now sitting on the truck’s rear deck. Six minutes later, just before qualifying, another NASCAR official stood by as a crew member continued to work under the hood. I interviewed Silva after qualifying concluded. At 3:52 P.M., about an hour before the start of the Door Dash 250, the #47 was alone once more, its hood down, a shock propped under the right-front wheel.
At 12:38 P.M., McCullough made his first tweet from the track, stating DFS “lost or had some issue with receiving my Drug screening from lab in time,” and that “47 Truck was not ready either.” Ten minutes later, his second tweet was more critical of the team’s preparedness. “I also like everyone to know, 47 Truck wasn’t even ready for the track. Clearly it never made a lap at Sonoma or passed tech. Even if my drug screening cleared on time, no laps could have been made in a pile of bolts. Learning the hard way.”
In the June 17th statement from G2G, Ryan Bell refuted McCullough’s tweets. “Travis has stated to multiple new sources that the truck was not prepared for the race. We, the team, were ready to practice, qualify, and race [emphasis added].”
According to McCullough, the only HANS devices G2G had on hand were expired, so he lent Parsons his instead. “So I'm like, ‘well, just take my brand-new HANS device, just go do what you got to do. I'm doing this strictly for you, Stefan, because you come from a long big-name history of racers. And I love that about you.’”
With McCullough’s HANS and Filippi’s truck, Parsons managed to qualify 35th on the grid for the Door Dash 250, outpacing Spencer Boyd’s #12 Grofully Chevrolet by nearly a full tenth of a second. However, at 12:27 P.M., at least one G2G crew member was still working under the hood of the #46 in the impound lot, meaning they would incur a tail-end penalty for unapproved adjustments. Parsons’ truck fired at the command, but immediately had to make an unscheduled stop. “We were just working on our throttle a little bit, working on our airbox, trying to get that right. But I don't think that had anything to do with what happened,” said Parsons, referring to the issue that would later take him out of the race.
Parsons left pit road moments before the leaders exited Turn 11 to take the green flag, leaving him nearly 12 seconds behind 35th place. Nearby, a leaderboard at the track still showed the #46 being driven by Mason Filippi, whose name was on the rear glass. On Lap 4, Parsons was told he was catching the trucks in front, saying “they’ll come back to you.” The next time by, the #46 locked the right-front through Turn 11. On the seventh go-round, Parsons was told he was faster than the five trucks ahead of him, and was told to turn on the radiator fan. But by Lap 9, Parsons had fallen 21 seconds back of 35th place and worse, now smelled smoke in the cockpit. Believing the issue to be the rear gear, the team told Parsons to pull into the garage the next time by. The message had hardly been relayed when the #46 began trailing smoke in Turn 2. Anticipating a caution, Carson Hocevar pitted to allow his driver swap with Daniel Suarez. But the yellow didn’t fall, and at 5:07 P.M., Parsons pulled behind the wall at the Turn 11 entrance.
When the G2G crew lifted the hood, there was oil splattered against the inside of the hood and even more in the engine compartment itself. As the crew began to spray the compartment with engine cleaner, I spoke with Parsons. “I’m not 100% sure,” said Parsons when asked what happened. “I think a line got up against the power steering and cut a hole in it. So unfortunate, but appreciative to G2G and Tim Viens and everybody for giving me an opportunity. . . You hate that this we had this result but anytime you can get an opportunity to get laps, especially a cool place like here at Sonoma, is a good opportunity.”
“That’s one thing I like about Stefan,” said McCullough. “He wasn't going to say anything. That's being classy and smart and letting the other person tell the story. The story kind of told itself over the weekend after having two trucks show up, and both drivers not be in the field, and one truck being down, and watching the kind of show that happened behind in the garage area was just - for us, we're embarrassed. We're embarrassed that we're part of it.”
In his June 17 statement, Tim Viens stated, “Tim Silva, crew chief of the No. 46 truck, invited the primary and associate sponsors to pit road for the race, in which (they) accepted and had an amazing experience. . .I instructed Silva to get their contact information and we would place them on our trucks at a later date at no additional cost.”
As of this writing, Viens has not responded to my request for an interview.
Travis McCullough corresponded with me at the track, and I was able to interview him the Monday after the race. At the time, he was still figuring out what to do next.
“We all had our discussions this morning (Monday) with it because I will be actually writing them all their money back for this deal,” said McCullough. “We couldn't hold up our end because of what happened there. So, we will we'll give them all their money back, which is not an issue because I'll just turn around and write it right back once I'm back in the seat again. But we do this to keep everybody honest. We're an honest group. We've been family owned and ran company for over 35 years, so it will remain that way. And we're very honest people because of it. So I just feel bad for them. I mean, these poor guys put a lot of time and effort and all their guys flew out and got him tickets to this deal. And we couldn't supply him with anything on the track.”
“But my thing is here is because this is a top tier NASCAR division - we were really shocked to find out that there's teams out here like this, causing this kind of issues. . . So I'm trying to protect people coming into the sport at this point. For the simple fact that if you are new to the series, like we are - we were new. . . And what we've seen from this team - this is not a professional team, by no means. I mean, they need to be staying at home in Charlotte running street stocks at their local track. And that's on the side if they can even keep up with that. I was really shocked that NASCAR has allowed this team to even participate or even putting NASCAR on the side of their hauler with what happened.”
“And this is bad. This is not what NASCAR needs. NASCAR and I have already talked about it. And there's a few of the bigger guys in NASCAR that I have to contact. And we've had our discussion today about this. And this is not what they need. This is not good publicity for NASCAR. Not in these series. If we're in a lower local home track series, this kind of stuff happens.”
At the same time, another door had opened at Sonoma as he reunited with an old friend on the grid.
“Josh Reaume. . .contacted me to drive one of their trucks after this weekend. And he was trying to figure out what was going on. And I actually know somebody very close to that team. And we actually just re-met over the weekend after probably 13, 14 years of not seeing each other. And he was crew. chiefing the 43 of Brad Perez’ truck (Greg Rayl). He's actually from here, Roseville, the Altamont Raceway back in the day. And then he moved back east with them. So I've known him since I was a kid. He either helped me with racing years ago or we raced against each other whenever he decided to go in and play around or something. And then he had that little four cylinder modified rental deal he did, and then back in the early years of 2000, I actually had the YouRaceIt.com Racing School at the Altamont Raceway and stuff. That was me. that's how I met with him back years ago.”
“A lot of these guys reached out to me when this happened, and they see and what they’d seen who I was with, and they immediately were like ‘just watch out,’ and I feel. . .guys are about three hours a little late on that one because we just found out the hard way (laughs).”