Thursday, June 30, 2022

PREVIEW: Road ringers look to hold the line against Cup regulars at Road America

IMAGE: @JoeyHandRacing

by Brock Beard Editor-In-Chief

Once again, our Staff Writer William Soquet will be working trackside this weekend at Road America. William isn’t on social media, but he and I will be co-writing this weekend’s last-place features for the XFINITY and Cup Series races.

Saturday, July 2, 2022 (2:30 P.M. ET, USA)
XFINITY Race 16 of 33
Henry 180 at Road America
2021 Last-Place Finisher: Spencer Pumpelly

There are 41 drivers entered for 38 spots, meaning three will be sent home from the road course.

DRIVER SWAP: #5-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #07-SS-Green Light Racing
Much like the Truck Series race at Sonoma, the XFINITY grid at Road America will feature multiple Cup Series regulars – four in total. The first of these is Fontana winner Cole Custer, who rejoins Bobby Dotter’s #07 team for the first time since COTA, where he ran 3rd. Custer moves 37th-place Nashville finisher Joe Graf, Jr. to B.J. McLeod’s #5, where he’ll take the place of last Saturday’s 6th-place runner Ryan Preece. Preece is not entered in either race this weekend.

DRIVER SWAP: #6-JD Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #47-Mike Harmon Racing
The next Cup regular is Ty Dillon, who’s set to make his first XFINITY start of the season and first in the series since last fall on the Charlotte “Roval,” where he ran 26th for Our Motorsports. This time, Dillon runs Johnny Davis’ #6 with sponsorship from Black Hole Ammo, bumping Ryan Vargas back to his ride from Portland, the #47 for Mike Harmon Racing. Vargas’ reunion with Harmon bumps Brennan Poole, who failed to qualify in Nashville.

DRIVER CHANGE: #13-Motorsports Business Management
DRIVER SWAP: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Among the “road course ringers” this Saturday is west coast standout Will Rodgers, who looks to improve on his only XFINITY start this year at COTA, where he finished a distant 37th for RSS Racing. This time, Rodgers drives MBM’s #13 that ran 5th-fastest in Nashville practice with J.J. Yeley aboard. Yeley moves back to his familiar #66 Coble Enterprises Toyota at a track where he finished 5th in 2014 while driving for JGL Racing.

RETURNING: #17-Hendrick Motorsports
With now all artifice stripped away, Hendrick Motorsports is the listed owner of a “trophy hunting” #17 Chevrolet with as sponsor, putting no less than defending series champion Kyle Larson behind the wheel. This is Larson’s first XFINITY Series attempt since August 17, 2018, when Larson took the checkers for Chip Ganassi at Bristol.

DRIVER CHANGE: #18-Joe Gibbs Racing
Road America marks the XFINITY Series debut of Sammy Smith, his first of eight scheduled starts in 2022. Smith took the lead in this year’s ARCA Menards Series East with wins in three of the season’s first four races and sponsor All State Peterbilt Group will sponsor him on the Wisconsin road course. Smith takes the place of Trevor Bayne, who ran 2nd during last Saturday’s scorcher in Nashville.

DRIVER CHANGE: #26-Sam Hunt Racing
John Hunter Nemechek rejoins SHR for the first time since his 4th-place run in Darlington and will again be backed by Stillhouse Vodka. Nemechek hasn’t been the only driver to excel in the #26 Toyota this season, and in fact reunites with them on the heels of an impressive 7th-place performance by Jeffrey Earnhardt, who overcame a spin in Nashville.

MISSING: #28-RSS Racing
Not among this week’s entrants is the third RSS Racing entry with which Parker Retzlaff continued his impressive part-time schedule with a 12th-place finish in Nashville, his fourth consecutive finish of 17th or better in just five series starts.

DRIVER CHANGE: #35-Emerling-Gase Motorsports
Welcome back Trans-Am standout Chris Dyson, who returns to the NASCAR XFINITY Series for the first time since August 10, 2019 at Mid-Ohio, when he ran for DGM Racing. This time around, Dyson runs for the Emerling-Gase team in place of Patrick Emerling, who ran 26th in Nashville. Concord American Flagpole is the listed sponsor.

Still another returning “road ringer” is Patrick Gallagher, who trades the McLaren 720S GT3 he raced at Daytona and Sebring for the second Ford Mustang fielded by RSS Racing, replacing 25th-place Nashville runner Kyle Sieg. Carrying his continuing sponsorship from Belle Haven Investments, Gallagher ran 22nd earlier this year at COTA in the RSS #28 and 23rd in 2019 at Mid-Ohio for B.J. McLeod.

DRIVER CHANGE: #44-Alpha Prime Racing
Josh Bilicki will pull double-duty at his home track, starting with his fourth XFINITY start of the year and first since Darlington, where he ran 28th with this same #44 entry from Alpha Prime Racing. Bilicki takes the place of Ryan Ellis, who had to settle for a 24th-place finish in Nashville after the rim failed on one of his wheels in the closing stages. Gravely is the listed sponsor.

DRIVER CHANGE: #45-Alpha Prime Racing
Teamed with Bilicki in the second Alpha Prime Chevrolet is returning open-wheeler Sage Karam, whose most recent series start was a 16th in the #44 at COTA earlier this year. Carrying sponsorship from Rich Mar and Green Line Automotive, Karam takes the place of Stefan Parsons, who ran a solid 15th at Nashville.

MISSING: #77-Bassett Racing
Last week was a big step forward for Ronnie Bassett, Jr. and brother Dillon after the latter finally qualified the #77 for its first XFINITY Series race since Austin Dillon’s one-off in the inaugural XFINITY race at COTA. The team is not entered this week following a 30th-place finish.

RETURNING: #88-JR Motorsports
Road course racing means the return of JRM’s part-timer Miguel Paludo in the #88 BRANDT Chevrolet, a driver who backed up his 7th-place run on the Daytona Infield Road Course with a 9th earlier this year in COTA. This would be Paludo’s first XFINITY start at Road America since back in 2012, when he led four laps and finished 29th for Turner Motorsports.

Spec Miata maestro Preston Pardus rejoins the XFINITY Series garage for the first time since his 14th-place showing at COTA, again in Mario Gosselin’s #91 Chevrolet with Danus and Chinchor Electric as sponsors. This would be the fourth different car number Pardus has raced in the XFINITY event at Road America and the third for DGM Racing, with whom he earned a track-best 8th in 2020.

Returning to the XFINITY Series for the first time since COTA is Gosselin’s scaled-back #92 entry, previously driven by Kyle Weatherman during his strong start to 2022. With Weatherman still driving in place of Jesse Iwuji in the #34, Dexter Bean is entered for the first time since Fontana, when his run in the #90 was withdrawn. Bean has twice qualified the #90 at Road America in 2017 and 2019, finishing 26th and 32nd, respectively. Badger Environment & Earthworks, which backed his ’17 run, rejoins as sponsor with IUOE Local 139.

MISSING: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
B.J. McLeod has not entered the #99 with which Matt Mills failed to qualify at Nashville following an incident on his timed lap.

DRIVER CHANGE: #08-SS-Green Light Racing
Rounding out the half-dozen “road course ringers” entered for Saturday is Andy Lally, who ran much better at rain-soaked Portland than his 17th-place result indicated. He led three laps that day in Alpha Prime’s #44 Clear Cryptos Chevrolet. This week, Lally switches to Ford, taking the place of David Starr in Bobby Dotter’s #08 Special Report with Bret Baier entry. This would be Lally’s sixth XFINITY start at Road America – a track where he’s never finished worse than 15th, completing every lap, and in 2020 earned a track-best 5th with Our Motorsports.

CUP INVADERS: #6-Ty Dillon, #17-Kyle Larson, #48-Tyler Reddick, #07-Cole Custer

Sunday, July 3, 2022 (3:00 P.M. ET, USA)
CUP Race 18 of 36
Kwik Trip 250 Presented by Jockey at Road America
2021 Last-Place Finisher: Ryan Preece

There are 37 drivers entered for 40 spots, continuing streak of 17 consecutive short fields since the Daytona 500. But the grid also sees the first “open” entry since the Coca-Cola 600, four races ago.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Rick Ware Racing
Joey Hand arrives at his favorite track following a solid run in Sonoma where he battled A.J. Allmendinger for much of the race. He’ll have another opportunity this weekend as he reunites with Rick Ware Racing, which finished 28th with J.J. Yeley last week in Nashville. is the listed sponsor of a slightly different variant of his Sonoma scheme.

RETURNING: #27-Team Hezeberg
The lone “open” entry on Sunday’s list is Team Hezeberg, whose planned road course schedule did not include Sonoma earlier this month. The driver is Loris Hezemans, who follows up on his Cup debut from COTA, where he ran 34th before rear gear trouble.

DRIVER CHANGE: #78-Live Fast Motorsports
Taking the place of B.J. McLeod, who ran 32nd in Nashville, is a returning Kyle Tilley. The Englishman made his first three Cup starts last year, all in the Live Fast #78, with a best finish of 30th at Watkins Glen. His 35th-place finish at Road America last summer was his worst of the trio. The Patriot Military Family Foundation is the listed sponsor of his Ford.

Saturday, July 9, 2022
TRUCKS Race 15 of 23
O’Reilly Auto Parts 150 at Mid-Ohio
2021 Last-Place Finisher: Inaugural Event

The Truck Series takes the week off and returns for some road course racing of their own in Mid-Ohio.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (June 30, 1963): Roy Mayne of Sumter, South Carolina picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Grand National career in the Dixie 400 at Atlanta when his #33 1963 Dodge, fielded by C.L. Kilpatrick, lost the engine after 3 laps. This was Mayne’s 12th start of his rookie season. He would make 139 starts through 1974 with a best finish of 4th in the 1965 Southern 500 – the same race Ned Jarrett won by more than 14 laps.

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