Thursday, June 9, 2022

PREVIEW: Cup regulars and road ringers set to do battle in both Sonoma races

PHOTO: @bradxperez

by Brock Beard Editor-In-Chief

Trackside coverage returns at Sears Point (aka Sonoma Raceway), where I will be joined by Guest Contributor Ben Schneider in covering this weekend’s action. Be sure to follow both our Twitter feeds at @LASTCARonBROCK and @bcschneider53 for more. At the same time, at Road America, Staff Writer William Soquet will also be covering the IndyCar action at his own home track.

Saturday, June 11, 2022 (7:30 P.M. ET, FS1)
TRUCKS Race 12 of 23
Door Dash 250 at Sears Point
1998 Last-Place Finisher: Bryan Reffner

For the first time since October 11, 1998, the Camping World Truck Series competes in Sonoma, and for the first time the race will be a support event for the Cup Series. After a single withdrawal, there are 37 drivers entered for 36 spots, meaning one team will fail to qualify. Among these entrants, three will also run the ARCA Menards Series West race that morning: Jack Wood (#21 in the West race), Dean Thompson (#40), and Colby Howard (#91).

MISSING: #3-Jordan Anderson Racing
First of the four teams to not make the long trip west is Jordan Anderson’s team, which nearly claimed its first XFINITY victory last week in Portland with Myatt Snider. Anderson himself finished 16th in his #3 Chevrolet last week in Gateway.

MISSING: #5-Hill Motorsports
TEAM UPDATE: #42-Niece Motorsports
Also not entered is the second Hill Motorsports entry, which was destroyed in a frightening two-truck accident on the final lap where Tyler Hill struck the driver’s side door of Carson Hocevar’s #42. After sketchy reports throughout the week regarding his ankle, Hocevar is still entered in the #42 Worldwide Express Chevrolet this week, but on Wednesday revealed Daniel Suarez will be on standby as relief driver.

DRIVER CHANGE: #7-Spire Motorsports
No fewer than five (or maybe six) Cup Series regulars will invade the Truck Series field, starting with Las Vegas winner Alex Bowman in the #7 Chevrolet. This entry was driven last week by Rajah Caruth, who overcame multiple setbacks to finish an impressive 11th in his series debut. The run did not go unnoticed – news broke on Tuesday that Caruth will make at least three more Truck starts at Richmond, Bristol, and Phoenix in addition to his part-time XFINITY effort with Alpha Prime Racing.

MISSING: #13-ThorSport Racing
Johnny Sauter returned to form at Gateway with a season-best 5th in the part-time ThorSport entry, scoring his ninth finish of 5th or better in 10 starts on the oval. However, neither he nor his #13 will make the trip to Sears Point.

DRIVER CHANGE: #17-David Gilliland Racing
The next Cup regular is struggling rookie contender Harrison Burton, who takes the place of Gateway last-place finisher Taylor Gray. As in Burton’s only previous Truck start this year, when he ran 20th in the Bristol Dirt Race, Hunt Brothers Pizza will sponsor the effort as he takes his first laps on the Northern California road course. 

DRIVER CHANGE: #20-Young's Motorsports
Third among the Cup invaders is Austin Dillon, who like Harrison Burton seeks his second Truck Series start of the season and first since his 14th-place showing in the Bristol Dirt Race. Then as now, the sponsor is K&L Ready Mix. He takes the place of XFINITY regular Matt Mills, who failed to qualify at Gateway.

WITHDREW: #22-AM Racing
Austin Wayne Self’s family-run effort was withdrawn midway through the week with news that Austin’s wife Jennifer is expecting to deliver their first child in the next week. As a precautionary measure, the AM Racing team is not making the long trip west. This marks the first Truck Series race Self has missed since March 29, 2019 at Las Vegas.

DRIVER CHANGE: #30-On Point Motorsports
A late driver change came on Wednesday as Colin Garrett will make just his third series start and first since October 17, 2020 at Kansas, where he finished 24th. While his previous two starts came with Niece Motorsports, Garrett will this time run for the On Point effort taking the place of 21st-place Gateway finisher Tate Fogleman. This will be Garrett’s first start in NASCAR’s national competition since October 30, 2021, when he closed out a five-race stint for Sam Hunt Racing’s XFINITY effort with a 14th-place showing at Martinsville.

DRIVER CHANGE: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
Josh Reaume’s two-truck effort has some of the weekend’s most interesting storylines. Driving the flagship #33 with which Mason Maggio took 27th for his series debut at Gateway is none other than Jade Buford. It was Buford who last week in Portland rejoined the Big Machine Racing team for his only remaining scheduled start in the XFINITY Series’ regular season. Under rainy conditions, Buford was first given a “double bird” by an angry Sheldon Creed following an incident on a restart. He then restarted on the front row late, only to suffer a fender rub that dropped him to 14th. Spiked Coolers will follow Buford to the #33 team in what will be his Truck Series debut.

MISSING: #35-McAnally-Hilgemann Racing
Jake Garcia took 29th and finished under power in his series debut at Gateway, rebounding from his rain-inflicted DNQ in Martinsville. While the Sonoma track is a home race for the McAnally team, which has a shop in nearby Roseville, the #35 entry will not be among this week’s entrants.

RETURNING: #41-Niece Motorsports
Saturday will mark the 100th career Truck Series start for Ross Chastain, who will be one of three teams to share sponsorship from Worldwide Express. The Cup Series points leader won his fourth and most recent Truck Series start at Charlotte following the misfortune suffered by teammate Carson Hocevar. Hocevar’s injury in Gateway leaves open the possibility that Chastain will compete alongside his Trackhouse Racing teammate Daniel Suarez, who’s standing by as relief driver.

DRIVER CHANGE: #43-Reaume Brothers Racing
The last six races for the second Reaume entry have been nothing less than a nightmare. It began under the lights in April’s Bristol Dirt Race, where Keith McGee was first to lose a lap and after multiple incidents yielded only a 34th-place finish. At Darlington, Akinori Ogata’s attempt to let teammate Josh Reaume by led to both of them crashing, and Ogata ultimately finished last with a blown engine. Next came Kansas, where Jesse Iwuji was flagged off the track for running too slow and sliding into lead-lap traffic. McGee returned at Charlotte, where a broken shock put him out before the halfway point, a run bracketed by a pair of DNQs – one each by Armani Williams and Blake Lothian.

But this week, the #43 has been the subject of a determined grassroots effort. Climbing behind the wheel for the second time in his career is Brad Perez, the Spec Miata racer and Truck Series crew member who last year made his ARCA debut at Watkins Glen for Josh Williams. Perez’ Truck debut came at COTA, where he received television time from the FS1 crew, including an interview with Michael Waltrip. He finished 20th that day, second only to Thad Moffitt’s 18th in the Daytona opener for the best run by the #43 all year. Perez eyed a start at Sonoma since he’d run more laps at the track, and looked for a way to make it happen.

Enter the band “I Set My Friends On Fire,” where Perez has worked as a guitar tech and Nate Blasdell does backing vocals, lead guitar, and keyboard on top of managing several NASCAR drivers. The catalyst was Jared Bokanoski’s fictional render of the Reaume #43 with pink-and-white logos for the band’s name. The scheme was only posted as a joke, but soon t-shirts were made, which along with sponsor Apex Coffee Roasters raised the necessary funds to actually enter the truck in Saturday’s race. The news broke on Tuesday, along with an invitation for additional sponsorship. This website has joined that effort, and the same logo on the b-post of Norm Benning’s truck last fall at Phoenix will be on the rear deck of Perez’ truck.

Mason Filippi – not to be confused with Mason Maggio, who ran Reaume’s #33 at Gateway – made his XFINITY debut last week in Portland. Driving the #91 in place of Mason Massey – the XFINITY part-timer not to be confused with the other two – Filippi finished 25th, three laps down. The same sponsorship from Portland follows Filippi to the #46 team driven last week by Brennan Poole, whose rear gear failed after 77 laps around Gateway.

RETURNING: #47-G2G Racing
The G2G team withdrew their second entry in Gateway, which hasn’t attempted to qualify since COTA, where Samuel LeComte failed to qualify. Trying his hand at his own series debut is Travis McCullough, a late model and modified racer from nearby Lodi, California.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Kyle Busch Motorsports
Kyle Busch – a two-time winner of the Cup race at Sears Point – has elected to make Saturday his fifth Truck Series start of the season, taking the place of last week’s Gateway winner Corey Heim, now a two-time winner this year.

TEAM UPDATE: #56-Hill Motorsports
SBC Contractors, a regular sight sponsoring smaller teams during West Coast venues, joins Timmy Hill as sponsor of the #56 Chevrolet. Hill finished 17th last week in Gateway, and was 22nd in the previous road race at COTA.

RETURNING: #62-Halmar Racing
Todd Bodine’s march toward 800 combined NASCAR starts continues at Sears Point, a track where even he has never competed in the Truck Series. Bodine does have five Cup starts at the track from 1994 through 2003, most recently a 23rd-place finish for BelCar Racing. His best finish was an 8th in 1995, when he drove for Butch Mock.

RETURNING: #75-Henderson Motorsports
Saturday will mark the farthest west that Charlie Henderson’s team has ever ventured. Only once has the team run in Las Vegas, which came last year with Parker Kligerman in an 8th-place finish. Kligerman is back, following his season debut on the Cup side at Gateway with a 31st-place finish for Rick Ware. This will be Kligerman’s sixth start of the season and first since Darlington, where he ran 6th.

MISSING: #90-Carroll Racing
Justin S. Carroll is not entered after Gateway handed he and his family-owned team their second-straight DNQ.

DRIVER CHANGE: #02-Young's Motorsports
Kaz Grala joins the road racing experts in his fourth Truck Series start of the year and first since the Bristol Dirt Race, where he ran 26th. His best series finish of the 2022 season came in COTA, where he ran 14th. Cellar Scout is Grala’s sponsor as he takes the place of Jesse Little, who was 20th in Gateway.

CUP INVADERS: #7-Alex Bowman, #17-Harrison Burton, #20-Austin Dillon, #41-Ross Chastain, #42-Daniel Suarez (if needed for relief), #51-Kyle Busch

Sunday, June 12, 2022 (4:00 P.M. ET, FS1)
CUP Race 16 of 36
Toyota / Save Mart 350 at Sears Point
2021 Last-Place Finisher: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.

There are only the 36 Chartered entries, resulting in the shortest ever field at Sears Point and the 15th short field in 16 races this season. The previous mark was 37 cars just last year, where the only “open” entry was Ryan Preece in the second JTG-Daugherty Racing entry. Among this year’s missing “open” teams are the NY Racing team, plus all three that attempted the previous road race in COTA: The Money Team, MBM, and Team Hezeberg.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Rick Ware Racing
Taking Parker Kligerman’s place in the #15 is one of only two “road course ringers” on the Cup Series side. Joey Hand, born in nearby Sacramento, has run the last two road races on the Cup side, taking 27th on the Charlotte “Roval” and 35th after suspension issues earlier this year in COTA. “Built Ford Proud” is the listed sponsor as Hand’s Mustang is decorate in dark blue.

NASCAR gave Chris Buescher a medical exemption for championship purposes after a COVID-19 test kept him out of the seat in Gateway. Buescher’s one-race replacement, Zane Smith, finished an impressive 17th in his unexpected Cup debut. Smith will return to focus on his Truck Series effort on Saturday, seeking his fourth win of the year and second on a road course.

TEAM UPDATE: #19-Joe Gibbs Racing
For the second time since leaving the JGR team as Martin Truex, Jr.'s crew chief, Cole Pearn will reunite with the #19 team. This time, Pearn will serve as engineer in place of Nick Burton, who will be off this week to attend a wedding. Truex remains winless through the season's first 15 races, but has won at Sears Point three times, including two of the last three.

DRIVER CHANGE: #78-Live Fast Motorsports
Following B.J. McLeod’s 30th-place showing in Gateway, he has again tabbed road course competitor Scott Heckert, who just last week finished 13th in McLeod’s #5 Chevrolet for the XFINITY Series.

Saturday, June 25, 2022
XFINITY Race 15 of 33
Tennessee Lottery 250 at Nashville
2021 Last-Place Finisher: Stefan Parsons

The XFINITY Series takes the next two weeks off and returns to action for the Nashville triple-header.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (June 9, 1974): Newly awarded NASCAR Hall of Fame member Hershel McGriff scored his first career Cup Series last-place finish at Riverside International Raceway when his #26W 1973 Almost Heaven, West Virginia Chevrolet suffered a driveshaft failure after one lap of the Tuborg 400. The run came in McGriff’s 49th of 87 career Cup starts, the last of which coming at Sears Point on May 16, 1993, where he also finished in the final position.

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