Sunday, July 31, 2022

CUP: Aric Almirola’s first DNF in more than a year sees him crash out at Indy

PHOTO: @ForRaceFansOnly

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Aric Almirola scored the 15th last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Verizon 200 at the Brickyard at the Indianapolis Grand Prix Circuit after his #10 Mobil 1 / Gearwrench Ford fell out with crash damage after 24 of 86 laps.

The finish, which came in Almirola’s 410th series start, was his first of the season and first in a Cup race since May 16, 2021 at Dover, 45 races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 38th for the #10, the 633rd from a crash, and the 723rd for Ford. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 132nd for the #10, the 996th for Ford, and the 1,297th from a crash.

This past January, Almirola announced the 2022 season would be his last as a full-time driver in NASCAR’s Cup Series. After his debut during the ill-fated final weeks of Ginn Racing in 2007, he achieved full-time status with Richard Petty Motorsports in 2012, and has started nearly every race since. The only starts he missed were in 2017, resulting from his injuries suffered in a crash at Kansas. The following year – his first with Stewart-Haas Racing – yielded his career-best 5th in the standings and his second of three career wins. His most recent checkered flag came last fall at Loudon, where he took the checkered flag just before sunset.

This year, Almirola began the season with a 5th-place finish in the Daytona 500, then a strong “West Coast Swing” where he ran 6th in Fontana and Las Vegas, then a 12th in Phoenix. Ever since, he’s struggled for inconsistency with the NextGen car, claiming just two Top Tens in the last 13 races. But at the same time, he’d finished each race under power, running without a single DNF since his most recent last-place finish in Dover. 

At Indy, after running 15th in practice, Almirola qualified 14th with a lap of 98.410mph (1 minute, 29.233 seconds). However, the team had to change engines, incurring him a tail-end penalty along with the unapproved adjustments performed on 33rd-place qualifier Cody Ware in the #51 Nurtec ODT Ford. Both would take last spot from 38th-place qualifier Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., whose #47 Kroger / Go-Gurt Chevrolet was noticeably off the pace, nearly 9 seconds slower than 37th-place Josh Williams in the #78 Alloy Employer Services Ford.

When the race started, the penalized Almirola was last across the stripe, 3.835 seconds back of the lead with Ware already up to 33rd. But heading into Turn 1, Justin Haley spun his #31 Leaf Filter Gutter Protection Chevrolet from around the 17th spot, and suffered critical damage to one side of his splitter. On his way back around to pit road, Haley remained last as 21st-place starter Ross Chastain spun the #1 Worldwide Express Chevrolet. Haley pitted, crossing the stripe 86.32 seconds back of the lead and 73.944 behind new 37th-place runner Josh Williams. He rejoined the pack on Lap 3, only to be immediately mired in ill-handling lead-lap traffic. With the splitter still dragging, the lapped Haley was urged by his team to stay out of trouble so they could make repairs under the next caution. “We don’t need to get caught up racing these idiots,” he was told on Lap 6.

On Lap 8, Ross Chastain spun for a second time, locking his brakes in Turn 1 and collecting Joey Hand in the #15 Built Ford Proud Ford. Both cleared minimum speed the next time by as both made it to pit road, where Chastain endured a sluggish pit stop as the crew had issues with the left-front wheel. Chastain returned to the track in 37th, one lap down on the same circuit as Haley. 

The Haley car was still last on the 12th go-round, when his spotter said, “Oh, wow – 17.” This referred to Chris Buescher, whose #17 Violet Defense Ford suddenly caught fire as he sat on pit road. The crew removed the passenger-side window, where a ball of flame appeared on the passenger side of the dashboard. There were conflicting reports about whether the fire had come from the foam in the passenger side door. Despite the severity of the flames, the extinguisher deployed soon after, and both driver and crew remained calm on the radio. Through it all, Buescher remained behind the wheel. “I can’t see,” said the driver. “Breathe all right?” the crew asked. “We’ve gotta get it cleaned up, obviously.” The crew used a leaf blower to try and blast the white extinguisher powder out of the cockpit, then sent him back out by Lap 15, two laps down as the new last place runner. But much more of the material had collected on the right side of the floorboard, and as Buescher attempted race pace, the dust was now swirling like a swarm of bees within the turbulent air of the cockpit. Some of it trailed out the driver’s window. “Bring it to us if you have to,” said the crew. Seconds later, the caution came out to end Stage 1, at which point Buescher noted his visibility had somewhat improved. Even at low speeds, however, he still couldn’t see to his right.

Under the caution on Lap 16, Buescher called for a vacuum to clean up the extinguisher dust on the floorboard. But the crew couldn’t find a vacuum, and when he pitted again, they made more use of the blower and a high-pressure air hose. By Lap 18, the crew was also cleaning the windows and blasting the dust off the window net. Buescher reported he could see much better. The team waited until the pace car exited Turn 14 to release the #17 back onto the track, their car still in last place, but still under power. 

On the ensuing green-flag run, Alex Bowman cut down a left-front tire on his #48 Ally Chevrolet and had to tip-toe around nearly half the track’s length, eventually returning to pit road with the tire pulled from its rim and the nose of his car damaged. He returned to the track on Lap 23 in 35th and cleared minimum speed. As he did, his teammate Kyle Larson in the #5 Chevrolet collided with Aric Almirola’s Ford in Turn 1. Almirola made it to pit road with a flat left-front tire and a clear toe link issue on the same wheel. Larson’s crew had the hood up on their car. Both fought to clear the “Crash Clock,” but neither were the first to enter the garage area.

That driver was Loris Hezemans, back on the Cup Series tour for the first time since his last-place finish at Road America. On Lap 24, Hezemans’ #27 Sherfick Companies Ford pulled into the garage citing a loss of fuel pressure and a transmission stuck in fifth gear. By Lap 26, Hezemans dropped to 37th and on the same lap as Buescher, who was still logging laps. It was then that Almirola backed up on pit road, and was pushed behind the wall, ending his day under the “Damaged Vehicle Policy.” The next time by, Almirola dropped to 36th behind Buescher, while Hezemans’ crew ruled out the transaxle as a problem. Larson returned to the track on Lap 28, three down to the leaders, and dropped Almirola to 37th the next time by.

On Lap 29, trouble found Hezemans’ new teammate, Formula One driver Daniil Kvyat, who became the first driver from Russia to start a NASCAR Cup Series race. Kvyat’s #26 Hezeberg Systems Toyota with a Dutch-built APP Racing engine under the hood suddenly lost power. The crew walked their driver through restarting the car, telling him to make sure he didn’t climb out. He soon came to a stop on an unused part of the Indianapolis oval, where NASCAR told him to stay until he could be pushed to the garage at the end of Stage 2. Kvyat put the car in neutral, and on Lap 36 was pushed back to his stall, where a crewman climbed through the passenger side window. By then, he was nine laps down in 36th ahead of Almirola and Hezemans.

On Lap 41, after completing radio checks, Hezemans re-fired his engine and was instructed to follow officials’ directions back onto the track. He returned on Lap 42, 18 laps down to the leader in last place. That same time by, NASCAR officials declared Almirola was out of the race due to crash damage while Kvyat’s car was pushed to the garage. “Be respectful to the guys still racing to stay out of their way,” said Hezemans’ team. On Lap 43, as Kvyat’s crew brought a fan to keep their driver cool in the garage, Hezemans dropped Almirola to last place. Before Hezemans could catch him, Kvyat rejoined his teammate on the track on Lap 45, 16 laps down in 36th. Unfortunately, both Hezemans and Kvyat only turned a few more laps before they fell out with a drivetrain and suspension issue, respectively.

The Bottom Five was completed by the hardest wreck of the day. After his tangle with Almirola, Kyle Larson suffered what appeared to be a catastrophic brake failure entering the same Turn 1, where on Lap 58 he collided with Ty Dillon’s #42 Ferris Chevrolet. Both drivers climbed from their cars uninjured, but done for the day.

The race remained chaotic through the final lap, ultimately leading to Tyler Reddick’s second career victory and second in a row on a road course. Not far behind were rookies Harrison Burton and Todd Gilliland, who each earned career-best finishes with their first Top Fives. Burton’s #21 DEX Imaging Ford overcame a spin to take home 3rd, improving his previous best mark of 10th earlier this month in Atlanta. Gilliland’s #38 Ruedebusch Dev. & Construction Ford challenged for a Top Ten in the final stages, then took home 4th – well ahead of his career-best 15th at Darlington. 

Completing the Top Five were Austin Cindric and Bubba Wallace – 1-2 in Daytona – who each continued late-season rallies. Wallace’s 5th-place showing in the #23 Embrace Home Loans Toyota was his third-straight finish of 8th or better. Cindric drove his #2 Discount Tire Ford to his fifth top-ten finish in the last seven races.

Chris Buescher got back on the lead lap after his cockpit fire and finished a strong 10th.

*This was Almirola’s first last-place finish in a Cup race on a road course.
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #10 in a Cup Series race at Indianapolis – both the oval and the infield road course.

38) #10-Aric Almirola / 24 laps / crash
37) #27-Loris Hezemans / 34 laps / drivetrain
36) #26-Daniil Kvyat / 43 laps / suspension
35) #5-Kyle Larson / 57 laps / crash
34) #42-Ty Dillon / 57 laps / crash

1st) Live Fast Motorsports (5)
2nd) Spire Motorsports (3)
3rd) Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Trackhouse Racing (2)
4th) 23XI Racing, Kaulig Racing, NY Racing Team, Penske Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Rick Ware Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing, Team Hezeberg (1)

1st) Chevrolet (10)
2nd) Ford (9)
3rd) Toyota (3)


Saturday, July 30, 2022

XFINITY: Freak mechanical issue keeps Jeb Burton from taking the green at Indy

PHOTO: @OurMotorsports

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Jeb Burton picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Pennzoil 150 at the Brickyard at the Indianapolis Grand Prix Circuit when his #27 Ergodyne Work Gear Chevrolet fell out with track bar issues without completing any of the 62 laps.

The finish came in Burton’s 96th series start. In the XFINITY Series rankings, it was the 1st due to a track bar, the 20th for the #27, and the 600th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 2nd from a track bar, the 58th for the #27, and the 1,851st for Chevrolet.

The finish also came in Burton’s 186th combined Cup, XFINITY, and Truck Series start. With now one last-place finish in each series, Burton has become the 39th driver to complete the LASTCAR Triple Crown. His Truck Series last-place finish came on April 21, 2012 when his #27 State Water Heaters Chevrolet crashed after 2 laps at Kansas. His Cup last-place finish came on October 4, 2015, when his #23 Dr. Pepper / Estes Express Lines Toyota crashed after 186 laps at Dover.

Last Saturday in Pocono, it was Burton whose car was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Coming off Turn 3, he was caught between a wrecking Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and the outer pit wall, sending the #27 onto its roof as it slid across the starting line. Burton was uninjured, but his rollercoaster first season with Our Motorsports continued. 

The offer to drive for Chris Our’s new third team came after Burton’s release from Kaulig Racing, which brought on Landon Cassill in his place. Last year’s Talladega winner joined Brett Moffitt (#02) and Anthony Alfredo (#23). While still without a top-ten finish – something both Moffitt and Alfredo have done in multiple races in 2021 – Burton showed consistency early on, scoring just two finishes worse than 19th in the first 13 races. It’s only in the six races since that he’s struggled, racking up four DNFs including Pocono’s – all due to crashes.

At Indy, Burton joined a stacked entry list of 42 drivers to contest the 38-car starting grid, including no fewer than six full-time Cup Series regulars. All six made the show in qualifying, bumping out four lesser-funded entries including Motorsports Business Management teammates J.J. Yeley in the #66 Elliott’s Trailers & Carts Toyota and Brad Perez, attempting his first XFINITY race in the #13 APEX Coffee Roasters Toyota. Mason Filippi missed the cut in the #90 / Motorized Shade Chevrolet after he and a friend drove to the track from San Francisco in three days. Josh Williams DNQ’d in the #78 Alloy Employer Services Chevrolet, but would return to make his second Cup start for Live Fast Motorsports on Sunday.

Burton ran 22nd in practice and secured 21st on the starting grid with a speed of 95.763mph (1 minute, 31.689 seconds). He’d also have an on-board camera for the race, and would be featured in the lead-up to the green flag to discuss the Pocono accident. In the lead-up to the race, he also handed out signed flags and hats to fans in the infield.

Securing the 38th and final starting spot was Brandon Brown, who due to sponsorship issues ceded his ride in his family’s own team to Cup regular Austin Dillon, who brought Maestro’s Classic as sponsor of the #68 Chevrolet. Brown took the wheel of Mike Harmon Racing’s #47 Chevrolet, replacing Brennan Poole. Both Jones and 20th-place Dillon were among the seven drivers sent to the rear for unapproved adjustments, joining 26th-place Anthony Alfredo in the #23 K&L Ready Mix Chevrolet, 24th-place Kaz Grala in the #48 Chevrolet for Big Machine Racing, 34th-place Bayley Currey in the #4 Hy-Vee Chevrolet, 36th-place Brandon Jones in the #19 Menards / DuPont Air Filter Toyota, and 37th-place Parker Kligerman in the #35 ProMaster Chevrolet. Kligerman was the only driver to not clock in a time on qualifying as he struggled with power steering issues. Also sent to the rear was 19th-place Miguel Paludo for a tire change on his #88 BRANDT Chevrolet.

Before the race even started, two more teams had issues. Chase Briscoe was set to start 6th in the #07 Production Alliance Group Ford for SS-Green Light Racing, and was also reported to have changed tires, incurring a tail-end penalty of his own. But after the first pace lap, Briscoe was on pit road with the hood up, complaining that his car had a “high idle” in the engine due to a possible throttle issue. Briscoe returned to the track, but another car was still sitting in its pit stall. This was Jeb Burton, who reported an issue with the rear track bar. A spotter reported the bar may have come loose on the left-rear. As Briscoe returned to the track, Burton’s car was pushed behind the wall, the driver visibly upset from the on-board camera.

When the green flag dropped, Burton was shown 12.391 seconds back of the lead, but already in the garage with his issue. Brandon Brown held the 37th spot, 4.926 back of the leader with Kligerman 36th and Briscoe already up to 35th after his own pace lap issues. Burton remained in the garage on Lap 5, when Parker Kligerman now had engine issues on the #35, forcing an unscheduled stop that dropped him to 37th. The Emerling-Gase team called for a replacement battery as the gauges shut off, and also removed the rev limiter chip. When Kligerman rebooted the system, the car re-fired and returned to the track laps down on the sixth circuit – only to incur a pass-through penalty for too many crew members over the wall.

On Lap 9, a member of Burton’s crew came over the team radio, saying “We are gonna put it in the trailer,” also saying “Sorry to waste you guy’s time.” On Lap 13, NASCAR declared him out due to a track bar issue, though Burton would later tweet a truck arm had been the culprit. The next time by, Kligerman’s race ended when he lost all brake pressure heading into Turn 7 and collided with Ryan Ellis in the #44 Chevrolet, drawing the caution flag. With heavy damage to the rear clip of his car, Ellis still managed to log another few laps before he had to call it a day, continuing a terrible streak of races for the lead Alpha Prime entry.

Taking 35th was Bubba Wallace, whose #18 Door Dash Toyota made an early stop for overheating issues, then was ultimately retired with a blown engine. Brandon Brown was visibly off the pace in the closing laps, and dropped out with suspension issues just before the finish.

On a combined weekend with the IndyCar Series, A.J. Allmendinger took the victory with two other open-wheelers earning strong runs. After the struggles of his teammate, Sage Karam turned in a career-best 13th-place finish in only his 10th series start. Karam’s #45 Market Rebellion Chevrolet took the checkers four spots ahead of Santino Ferrucci, who had a couple close calls en route to a 17th-place showing in Sam Hunt Racing’s #26 Screamin’ Sicilian / Kroger Toyota. While not a career-best, Ferrucci has now finished 17th or better in six of his nine career starts.

*The only other time a driver finished last in a NASCAR points-paying race due to a track bar issue was on June 30, 2019, when Quin Houff’s #77 Sleep6 Chevrolet fell out after 100 laps at Chicagoland.
*This is the second-straight year a driver failed complete the opening lap of the XFINITY race at the Indianapolis Grand Prix Circuit, following a 2021 race where six drivers ran over a rogue “turtle” speed bump off Turn 6. It’s also the first time the last-place finisher didn’t take the green flag on track since Bayley Currey’s #74 Electric Fence Reel Chevrolet found trouble at Texas on June 12, 2021.
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #27 in a XFINITY Series race since March 16, 2013, when Michael McDowell’s #27 Team Boom Toyota had handling issues after 2 laps at Bristol.

38) #27-Jeb Burton / 0 laps / track bar
37) #35-Parker Kligerman / 11 laps / crash
36) #44-Ryan Ellis / 17 laps / crash
35) #18-Bubba Wallace / 28 laps / engine
34) #47-Brandon Brown / 58 laps / suspension

1st) Alpha Prime Racing (4)
2nd) JD Motorsports, JR Motorsports, Mike Harmon Racing, Motorsports Business Management (2)
3rd) Big Machine Racing, Jesse Iwuji Motorsports, Kaulig Racing, Our Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing, Sam Hunt Racing, SS-Green Light Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (15)
2nd) Toyota (3)
3rd) Ford (2)


Friday, July 29, 2022

TRUCKS: Tangle with Reaume, engine fire end Spencer Boyd’s night at IRP

PHOTO: @burnoutsports

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Spencer Boyd picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Friday’s TSport 200 at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park when his #12 Derm Dude Chevrolet was involved in an accident after 9 of 207 laps.

The finish, which came in Boyd’s 83rd series start, was his first of the season and first in a Truck Series race since October 3, 2020 at Talladega, 43 races ago. In the Truck Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 7th for the #12, the 175th from a crash, and the 424th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 45th for the #12, the 1,296th from a crash, and the 1,850th for Chevrolet.

The 2019 winner at Talladega has still struggled for consistency along with the rest of the Young’s Motorsports team, which continues to rotate its three-truck lineup from one week to the next. Boyd’s last-place finish at Talladega was his only DNF during the 2020 season, but his season-best 14th-place finish was one of only six finishes of 20th or better he’d had all year. He improved in 2021 to take 13th in Daytona and a season-best 7th in Talladega, but ranked four positions worse in points after a pair of DNQs in COTA and Nashville. Results were little better in his return to the XFINITY Series during the season’s second half – his first nine starts since the end of his full-time 2018 campaign for Bobby Dotter. Splitting time between both DGM Racing and Jimmy Means Racing, Boyd finished no better than 25th and failed to qualify for the Phoenix finale.

This year, Boyd has moved from Young’s #20 team to the #12. While qualified for all 16 regular season races, he’s only twice finished inside the Top 20 – an 11th at Daytona and a surprising 16th on the road course in Mid-Ohio. While his best series performances have consistently come at both the superspeedways and at Texas, Boyd was also likely looking forward to short track at IRP. His next-best track in terms of finishes has been Martinsville, where he’s finished 15th in the last three straight fall races.

With 36 trucks entered for as many spots, Boyd and the other entrants would all qualify for the series’ first race at IRP since July 29, 2011. Boyd struggled in practice, running third-slowest in 34th ahead of Reaume Brothers Racing teammates Josh Reaume in the #33 Motorsports Safety Group Toyota and Blake Lothian, making his second start in the #43 The Texas Lawbook Chevrolet.

Boyd remained 33rd in qualifying with a lap of 105.408mph (23.429 seconds), but improved to 29th when four drivers’ times were disallowed: Chase Purdy’s #61 AISIN Toyota dropped from 18th to 33rd, Josh Reaume’s #33 from 32nd to 34th, Chris Hacker’s #30 TJ’s Team Foundation Toyota from 25th to 35th, and Jesse Little’s #20 Shriner’s Childrens Chevrolet from 21st to 36th. Little, whose name was not originally on the entry list on Wednesday, took the last spot from Blake Lothian, who improved to 32nd as a result.

When the race began, Little pulled just ahead of Reaume, whose #33 crossed the stripe 4.068 seconds back of the lead to Little’s 3.899. By Lap 2, both had dispensed with the #30 of Chris Hacker, who remained last on Lap 3, 7.159 back of the leader, but now closing on Blake Lothian’s #43. Hacker passed Lothian on Lap 4, and over the next three laps dropped from 0.219 second to a full 1.633 seconds back of 35th place, now held by his teammate Josh Reaume. Lothian was still holding the 36th spot when trouble broke out just in front of him.

Heading into Turn 1, Josh Reaume was now racing Boyd when both spun into the Turn 1 wall, each backing their trucks into the fence. At first, it appeared Reaume had the worst damage of the two with his tailgate shoved just behind his rear tires. But Boyd had also pushed-in the right-front of his #12, which started to trail smoke. As Reaume passed Boyd on the Turn 3 approach to pit road, Boyd’s engine suddenly erupted in flames, forcing him to start just before pit entry. Boyd climbed from his truck almost immediately, but after lifting the hood, the crews discovered flames raging from the right side of the engine. These were extinguished a few moments later with Boyd sitting on the infield wall, done for the night. 

Reaume managed to stay on the lead lap for most of the ensuing caution, but dropped a circuit to the leaders by the green flag, and would ultimately spin a second time coming off Turn 4. Reaume lost at least 10 laps in the process, but ultimately climbed past teammate Blake Lothian, whose #43 stopped on the track in Turn 3 after the driveshaft failed. Reaume would then be black flagged for not maintaining minimum speed after he passed Lawless Alan, whose #45 AUTOChargit Chevrolet wrecked on the backstretch.

Rounding out the Bottom Five was Colby Howard, who finished 10th in Stage 2 and worked his way to 8th place in the final 10 laps, set to improve on his season-best 9th the last time out at Mid-Ohio. But after bumping Playoff contender Carson Hocevar off Turn 4, Hocevar hooked Howard in the left-rear of hi #91 Gates Hydraulics Chevrolet, sending him spinning into the outside wall and out of the race.

Earning a stunning 7th at the finish - just 1.719 seconds back of race winner Grant Enfinger - was Layne Riggs, son of NASCAR veteran Scott Riggs, in his first-ever NASCAR national series start. Driving for Halmar Friesen Racing’s second team, the same entry which saw Todd Bodine make his 800th and final NASCAR start last week, Riggs’ #62 Puryear Tank Lines Toyota climbed into the Top 20 from the 23rd starting spot and was up to 15th when multiple cautions slowed the final laps. By staying out with others, he jumped to 5th, and only lost two spots on the final green-white-checkered finish. Layne’s father Scott, who also made his Truck debut at IRP in 1999, started 7th and finished 19th.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #12 in a Truck Series race at IRP.

36) #12-Spencer Boyd / 9 laps / crash
35) #43-Blake Lothian / 72 laps / driveshaft
34) #45-Lawless Alan / 147 laps / crash
33) #33-Josh Reaume / 153 laps / too slow
32) #91-Colby Howard / 190 laps / crash

1st) G2G Racing (4)
2nd) Niece Motorsports (3)
3rd) David Gilliland Racing, Reaume Brothers Racing, Young’s Motorsports (2)
4th) AM Racing, Front Row Motorsports, Halmar Friesen Racing, McAnally-Hilgemann Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (8)
2nd) Toyota (6)
3rd) Ford (3)


Thursday, July 28, 2022

PREVIEW: Debuts of Daniil Kvyat and Layne Riggs offset by a slew of Cup invaders at Indy

PHOTO: @kvyatofficial

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Friday, July 29, 2022 (9:00 P.M. ET, FS1) 
TRUCKS Race 17 of 23
Round of 10: Race 1 of 3
TSport 200 at Lucas Oil Raceway (IRP)
2011 Last-Place Finisher: Mike Garvey

The Truck Series kicks off their Playoffs on Friday night with their first race at Indianapolis Raceway Park in 11 years. There are 36 drivers for as many spots, meaning all will qualify.

MISSING: #5-Hill Motorsports
Multiple teams from Pocono’s entry list will not be making the trip to Indianapolis, including the second Hill Motorsports entry, which Tyler Hill drove to a 30th-place finish last Saturday.

MISSING: #6-Norm Benning Racing
Norm Benning is likewise not entered following his third DNQ in as many attempts this year, this time due to rain.

MISSING: #7-Spire Motorsports
Austin Hill is not entered along with the Spire entry with which he took 6th at Pocono. Hill will instead focus on his full-time XFINITY ride for Saturday’s race at the Indianapolis Grand Prix Circuit.

DRIVER CHANGE: #17-David Gilliland Racing
Taylor Gray will make his 10th series start on Friday as he takes the place of 10th-place Pocono finisher Ryan Preece in David Gilliland’s #17 Ford. 

DRIVER CHANGE: #20-Young’s Motorsports
As of this writing, there is no driver yet listed for the #20 Chevrolet for Randy Young’s team. Last week, Jesse Little took home 26th with the team in Pocono.

Austin Wayne Self swaps back in for Max Gutierrez, who finished 21st last week in Pocono. Self will also run the more familiar AM Technical Solutions paint scheme on his #22 Chevrolet.

MISSING: #26-Rackley-W.A.R.
Tate Fogleman is not entered following his 20th-place finish in the second Rackley entry.

MISSING: #28-FDNY Racing
Bryan Dauzat and the Jim Rosenblum team are not running on Friday after rain washed them out of the Pocono field along with Norm Benning.

DRIVER CHANGE: #30-On Point Motorsports
Chris Hacker rejoins the Truck Series for the first time since Nashville, and this time drives for a third different team in just eight starts. He’ll run On Points’ #30 in place of former G2G Racing driver Kaden Honeycutt, who was 25th in Pocono. TJ’s Team Foundation will sponsor Hacker’s Toyota.

RETURNING: #35-McAnally-Hilgemann Racing
Jake Garcia returns for his second career Truck Series start following a 29th-place finish in his Gateway debut, and will again run the McAnally team’s part-time third entry.

RETURNING: #41-Niece Motorsports
Chad Chastain will likewise make just the second start of his Truck Series career, his first since Watkins Glen last year, when he ran 34th in Al Niece’s #45. This time, he run’s Niece’s part-time fifth team, the #41, with sponsorship from

DRIVER CHANGE: #43-Reaume Brothers Racing
Still another second-time series starter is Blake Lothian, who ran 28th in his debut at Martinsville earlier this year. He again drives Josh Reaume’s second entry, this time in place of 31st-place Pocono finisher Armani Williams.

DRIVER CHANGE: #62-Halmar Friesen Racing
Friday will see the NASCAR national series debut of Layne Riggs, son of NASCAR veteran Scott Riggs, who this year has been racking up victories at South Boston in the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series. As with his late model, Puryear Tank Liners will be Riggs’ sponsor as he drives the #62 HFR entry with which Todd Bodine made his 800th – and potentially final – NASCAR start.


Saturday, July 30, 2022 (3:30 P.M., NBC)
XFINITY Race 20 of 33
Pennzoil 150 at the Brickyard at the Indianapolis Grand Prix Circuit
2021 Last-Place Finisher: Brandon Jones

There are 42 drivers entered for 38 starting spots, meaning four will fail to qualify.

DRIVER CHANGE: #5-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Road course racing means a return to action for Scott Heckert, who ran 13th earlier this summer at Portland. Malco will again sponsor his #5 entry as he this time takes the place of Stefan Parsons, Pocono’s 23rd-place finisher. Heckert did not run this race last year.

DRIVER CHANGE: #6-JD Motorsports
The first of no less than six full-time Cup drivers participating in this race is Ty Dillon, who rejoins JD Motorsports for the first time since Road America. He again takes the place of Ryan Vargas in the #6, but unlike the previous two times Vargas was swapped out, he is not this week entered in the #47 for Mike Harmon Racing, and will not run on Saturday. Black Hole Ammunitions is the listed sponsor.

DRIVER CHANGE: #13-Motorsports Business Management
Seeking his XFINITY debut is Brad Perez, who looks to follow-up his two Truck Series starts this year on the road courses in Austin and Sonoma. Perez takes the place of Timmy Hill, the 30th-place finisher in Pocono, and carries sponsorship from Apex Coffee Roasters and

RETURNING: #17-Hendrick Motorsports
Cup regular Alex Bowman seeks his first XFINITY Series start since 2018, when he took home 21st at Michigan for GMS Racing. This time, he’s entered in Hendrick Motorsports’ fleet #17 entry, which made its debut at Road America where defending Cup champion started on pole only to lose to Ty Gibbs on the final lap.

DRIVER CHANGE: #18-Joe Gibbs Racing
Bubba Wallace and sponsor Door Dash make the jump to JGR for Wallace’s first XFINITY start since his 28th-place finish at COTA earlier this year. He takes the place of Sammy Smith, who was eliminated in a late single-car crash at Pocono and finished in 31st.

TEAM UPDATE: #34-Jesse Iwuji Motorsports
Jesse Iwuji hands the wheel back to Kyle Weatherman for both qualifying and racing this week, putting Weatherman into what would be his 75th series start. Weatherman ran 19th last week in Pocono, and this would be his first road course start of the season.

DRIVER CHANGE: #35-Emerling-Gase Motorsports
Mid-Ohio Truck Series race winner Parker Kligerman is back in action on the other side of pit road this week, his first XFINITY race since he ran 12th at COTA earlier this year with the same team. In place of the unsponsored entry at COTA, Kligerman’s car carries sponsorship from ProMaster. Kligerman takes the place of Patrick Emerling, who ran 29th in Pocono.

Patrick Gallagher seeks his fourth XFINITY start following a steady improvement in the previous three, taking 23rd in Mid-Ohio in 2019 before this year’s 22nd at COTA and 19th in Road America. As in his previous two starts, Gallagher drives for RSS Racing, this time bringing his sponsor Belle Haven to the #38 in place of 22nd-place Pocono finisher Kyle Sieg.

DRIVER CHANGE: #44-Alpha Prime Racing
Ryan Ellis and sponsor is back in the XFINITY Series for the first time since Nashville, where he took home 24th. Ellis takes the place of Rajah Caruth, who finished last at Pocono after a Lap 2 tangle with Alex Labbe. Ellis has one previous XFINITY start at Indianapolis – on the oval – when he ran 30th for Obaika Racing in 2016.

DRIVER SWAP: #47-Mike Harmon Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #68-Brandonbilt Motorsports
News broke this week that Brandon Brown, 13th last week in Pocono, will only drive for his family’s Brandonbilt team part-time going forward, citing sponsorship issues. The change begins immediately as this week, the #68 Chevrolet changes hands to still another Cup regular in Austin Dillon. It is thus Brown and not Ryan Vargas who moves to the #47 at Mike Harmon Racing this week in place of Brennan Poole, who failed to qualify at Pocono last week. Brown is expected to run the #68 again in Michigan and perhaps the season’s remaining superspeedway races.

DRIVER CHANGE: #48-Big Machine Racing
Despite a return to road course competition, Scott Borchetta has not enlisted the aid of Jade Buford, the team’s driver in Portland, and remains committed to keeping drivers with Cup experience in his #48 entry. This week, he shifts gears from full-timer Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., who wrecked at Pocono and finished 34th, to part-timer Kaz Grala. This would be Grala’s 40th series start and first since Dover, when he last drove the #48 to a 24th-place finish.

MISSING: #77-Bassett Racing
The big pileup at Pocono proved costly for the Bassett team as it destroyed the front of their Chevrolet, yielding only a 36th-place finish for Ronnie Bassett, Jr. Both driver and team are not entered this week.

RETURNING: #88-JR Motorsports
Following a 9th in COTA and a 26th in Road America, Miguel Paludo makes his third start of this year in the part-time JR Motorsports entry, again with Brandt as a sponsor. Paludo did not race in this event last year.

Mason Filippi and a friend drove their Hyundai from San Francisco to Indianapolis in three days this week in anticipation of his first XFINITY start since his 25th-place run in rainy Portland. This time, Filippi drives Mario Gosselin’s #90 Chevrolet, which so far has only failed to qualify at Daytona and was withdrawn the next week in Fontana. and Motorized Shade join some fan sponsors on his update of Brett Bodine’s “Brick Car” from 2003.

Preston Pardus returns to the track where he started 10th last year and finished 10th in 2020, looking for another strong finish with DGM Racing. In his two previous XFINITY starts this year, Pardus took 14th at COTA and 11th at Road America. He takes the place of Mason Massey, the 24th-place runner in Pocono.

Ross Chastain is yet another Cup regular pulling double-duty, bringing DGM Racing’s #92 back to the track for the first time since Chastain started outside-pole at COTA and finished 17th. Farmer’s Promise backs Chastain’s Chevrolet, two years after Chastain took 6th in this race for Kaulig Racing. 

DRIVER CHANGE: #07-SS-Green Light Racing
Chase Briscoe was one off-course excursion away from scoring his first Cup win at this track last summer. This year, he runs both races, taking the place of his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Cole Custer, the 10th-place runner at Pocono.

DRIVER CHANGE: #08-SS-Green Light Racing
Last year at this track, road race ace Andy Lally took home 10th for B.J. McLeod. He now returns with SS-Green Light Racing, looking to follow up his 14th-place run with this team at Road America.

CUP INVADERS: #6-Ty Dillon, #17-Alex Bowman, #18-Bubba Wallace, #68-Austin Dillon, #92-Ross Chastain, #07-Chase Briscoe

Sunday, July 31, 2022 (2:30 P.M. ET, USA)
CUP Race 22 of 36
Verizon 200 at the Brickyard at the Indianapolis Grand Prix Circuit
2021 Last-Place Finisher: Cody Ware

There are 38 drivers entered in Sunday’s Cup race – the biggest field since Talladega, 12 races ago, but still the 21st short field in the year’s 22 races.

The last three NASCAR Cup Series races scheduled to be run on this date – July 31st – have each seen a first-time winner. These were Chris Buescher at Pocono (rain delayed from July 31, 2016 to August 1, 2016), Paul Menard at the Brickyard 400 (July 31, 2011), and Ken Schrader at Talladega (July 31, 1988). In a season with five first-time winners already, there are just 11 drivers entered in Sunday’s race who are still eligible:

#7-Corey LaJoie
#15-Joey Hand
#21-Harrison Burton
#26-Daniil Kvyat
#27-Loris Hezemans
#38-Todd Gilliland
#42-Ty Dillon
#45-Ty Gibbs
#51-Cody Ware
#77-Josh Bilicki
#78-Josh Williams

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Rick Ware Racing
Joey Hand will make his fifth career Cup start, following a career-best start of 9th at Road America and a season-best finish of 20th in Sonoma. Hand makes his first NASCAR start at Indianapolis, and takes the place of J.J. Yeley, who ran 28th last week in Pocono.

DRIVER CHANGE: #16-Kaulig Racing
Defending race winner A.J. Allmendinger returns to the site of Kaulig Racing’s first Cup Series win in place of 24th-place Pocono finisher Noah Gragson, again with Gold Fish Casino Slots as sponsor.

NEW TEAM: #26-Team Hezeberg
RETURNING: #27-Team Hezeberg
Back at Road America, where Loris Hezemans had a short afternoon in his most recent Cup Series start, news broke of Daniil Kvyat’s interest in running some NASCAR races. That moment comes this weekend as the veteran of 110 Formula One Grands Prix is entered in a second Team Hezeberg entry, a #26 Toyota against Hezemans’ #27 Ford. Kvyat becomes the first Russia-born driver to start a NASCAR Cup Series race. He will also run a Dutch-built APP Racing engine, the first foreign-built engine in Cup since foreign car companies competed occasionally in the 1950s and 60s.

TEAM UPDATE: #45-23XI Racing
While Kurt Busch was on the preliminary entry list, news on Wednesday was that Busch had still not been cleared to race this weekend. This puts Ty Gibbs, 16th in his unexpected Cup debut last week, back on board the #45 Toyota. Amid growing rumors over Busch’s future, Gibbs’ second start will just happen to be in a car sponsored by Monster Energy, his sponsor in XFINITY.

DRIVER CHANGE: #78-Live Fast Motorsports
Sunday’s race sees Josh Williams make his second Cup start - and first on pavement – following his 25th-place finish in the Bristol Dirt Race this past spring. Williams runs in place of B.J. McLeod, who ended a streak of two straight last-place finishes with a 30th-place showing in Pocono.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (July 28, 1990): Jeff Berry picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR Busch Grand National Series career in the Granger Select 200 at the New River Valley (Virginia) Speedway when his #61 Armstrong Racing Buick lost the engine after 23 laps. This was the last of the Tennessee-born driver’s 14 career starts in what is now the XFINITY Series. His best career finish was a 7th at Bristol in 1983.

ARCA: Clubb’s return to the track nets him first ARCA last-place finish since 2020

PHOTO: Clubb Racing on Facebook

by William Soquet and Ben Schneider Staff Writer and Guest Contributor

Alex Clubb finished last for the 3rd time in his ARCA Menards Series career in Friday’s General Tire Delivers 200 at Pocono Raceway when his #03 Clubb Racing Ford fell out with an oil cooler failure after 7 of 68 laps.

The finish came in Clubb’s 23rd career start, and was his first since the season-finale in 2020 at Kansas, 30 events ago.

In the offseason between 2020 and 2021, things were looking up for Clubb, as he formed an alliance with another northern Illinois racing family, the Richmonds. Together, they formed Richmond Clubb Motorsports, which would see Clubb and Tim Richmond split the 2021 ARCA Menards Series schedule behind the steering wheel. At the start, things were bright, with Clubb scoring top-ten finishes in his first two races of the season at Kansas and Toledo. However, success was harder to find throughout the rest of Clubb’s limited schedule, and following his final race at Milwaukee, Clubb and the Richmonds had a less-than-amicable split.

After that, Clubb did what he knew, and went back to running his own team, expanding to a full season operating his own #03 car while bringing in a variety of drivers - including Josh White and Rita Thomason - to drive in some of the races. At Elko a few races ago, Clubb was behind the wheel and barely avoided a last-place finish when his team found a replacement master cylinder at the track and got the car to the grid less than an hour before the start of the race.

A stout 28-car entry list preceded the weekend’s racing, despite only having one debutant in the field. That driver was Jake Finch, son of longtime NASCAR team owner James Finch, who piloted a fourth Venturini Motorsports entry. A number of part-time teams also emerged for the race, with Sean Corr and Empire Racing, Ed Pompa and Jeff McClure Racing, and Christian Rose with Cook Racing Technologies making starts. Brandon Jones offered a rare “NASCAR Invader” start at a track not named Daytona or Talladega. The entry list was supposed to be even bigger, but Richmond Racing felt that there were structural issues with their lone car that would’ve raced Pocono, withdrawing the entry that Con Nicolopoulos was supposed to drive. Nicolopoulos’ sponsors ended up adorning the #48 machine of Brad Smith.

There was a lone practice session that also wound up setting the starting lineup, as qualifying was eventually rained out. Clubb was 27th of 28th in the order, running a fast lap of 1 minute, 3.429 seconds across ten laps. The only car he beat was that of D.L. Wilson for Fast Track Racing, who was about three and a half tenths of a second behind Clubb. Wilson intended to run the full race, only to ultimately suffer engine issues.

Almost immediately after the green flag dropped, Bryan Dauzat was slow on the track, although he was able to continue. Stephanie Moyer also made an early unscheduled pit stop, cycling to last before going out on track and running to the completion of the race.

By Lap 7, the leaderboard showed Clubb as a lap down, and he pulled off the track with a puncture in the oil cooler, done for the day. Dauzat retired with radiator issues having the same number of laps completed. Zachary Tinkle was 25th in the running order, the victim of contact that sent him straight into the Turn 1 wall on Lap 21. He was driving the #06 for Wayne Peterson Racing, WPR’s first start since Iowa earlier this year. Rounding out the Bottom Five were Wilson and Rose, both completing 32 laps.

28) #03-Alex Clubb / 7 laps / oil cooler
27) #57-Bryan Dauzat / 7 laps / radiator
26) #06-Zachary Tinkle / 19 laps / crash
25) #12-D.L. Wilson / 32 laps / electrical
24) #42-Christian Rose / 32 laps / electrical

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

1st) Fast Track Racing, Richmond Racing (3)
2nd) CCM Racing, Jones Racing, Bill McAnally Racing, Clubb Racing Inc. (1)


Tuesday, July 26, 2022

INDYCAR: Rosenqvist crashes on Saturday's start to Iowa double

PHOTO: Colby Evans, The Racing Experts

by William Soquet Staff Writer

Felix Rosenqvist scored the 4th last-place finish in his NTT IndyCar Series career in Saturday’s 250 at Iowa Speedway when his #7 Arrow Chevrolet crashed out after completing 109 of the race’s 250 laps.

The finish came in Rosenqvist’s 56th career start and was his first since Mid-Ohio earlier this year, two races ago.

In the one IndyCar race weekend between Mid-Ohio and Iowa, Rosenqvist performed admirably at Exhibition Place in Toronto, qualifying eighth, finishing third and leading a lap. The performance brought the Swede back into the top ten in series points after falling to 11th in the standings following Mid-Ohio.

The entry list for both Iowa races saw the same 26 cars. Absent again was the A.J. Foyt Racing #11 car, which was originally scheduled to be run by veteran driver J.R. Hildebrand this weekend. However, with no Rokit sponsorship to be found, Hildebrand has turned his attention to securing sponsorship for a potential sports car season in 2023. The one part-time entry was the other oval ringer in the series, Ed Carpenter. While having three Ed Carpenter Racing entries used to be a rare occurrence throughout the course of a season, ECR has scaled up considerably this year as they are the driving force behind the #16 Paretta Autosport entry whenever that hits the track as well. For this event, Carpenter would pilot the #33 machine.

There was only one practice session due to the condensed weekend. Rookie Kyle Kirkwood sat at the bottom of the charts, running a fast lap of 19.29 seconds. Kirkwood was running Sexton Properties logos on his machine again this race, and his lack of pace in practice could be contributed to the sheer lack of oval experience that one accrues on the Road to Indy ladder. In Kirkwood’s lone Indy Lights season last year, only two races were contested on ovals, and those were a doubleheader at Gateway. Fellow rookie Devlin DeFrancesco was 24th on the charts and the other Road to Indy graduate in the field, David Malukas, was 18th-fastest in a less-than-banner showing for IndyCar’s developmental system.

In qualifying for the first race of the doubleheader, Malukas wound up with a sixth-place effort in a remarkable turnaround; he outqualified Rosenqvist in 11th, DeFrancesco in 18th and Kirkwood in 24th. Dalton Kellett was the last-place qualifier, clocking in at 18.7 seconds for the 7/8-mile lap.

Starting alongside Kellett in Row 13 was Graham Rahal, who almost immediately moved past Kirkwood. Kellett remained last at the end of Lap 1, 8.7 seconds back of the lead. Kellett continued to drop back in last until the first caution on Lap 17 for a spinning Jimmie Johnson. At that point in time, many of the cars in the back of the running order hit pit road, and Kellett leapfrogged Ed Carpenter on pit road. Carpenter was unable to pass Kellett and was the last car in the running order until green-flag pit stops commenced on Lap 47, when Simon Pagenaud, Conor Daly, Jack Harvey, Takuma Sato, and Rahal all took turns in the final position.

After pit stops cycled, Kellett retook last. It only lasted for a mere five laps in between Laps 74 and 78, until Carpenter made another pit stop. Simon Pagenaud fell from 19th to 23rd in the span between Laps 83 and 93, when he pitted and took last from Carpenter. He remained there until Rosenqvist, who had settled into the ninth position following the first round of pit stops, lost the rear end of the car going into turn three on Lap 110 and slid into the outside wall, destroying the rear of his car and ending his race.

Carpenter was the only other car that failed to finish the race, victim of another solo crash after 160 laps complete. Colton Herta rounded out the Bottom Three, eight laps down at the finish of the race due to transmission issues.

26) #7-Felix Rosenqvist / 109 laps / crash
25) #33-Ed Carpenter / 160 laps / crash
24) #26-Colton Herta / 242 laps / running

1st) Chevrolet (6)
2nd) Honda (5)

1st) A.J. Foyt Racing (3)
2nd) Arrow McLaren SP, Dale Coyne Racing (2)
3rd) Andretti Autosport, Chip Ganassi Racing, Ed Carpenter Racing, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (1)


INDYCAR: Brake issues push Lundgaard out mere laps before Kirkwood

PHOTO: Parker Hall at

by William Soquet Staff Writer

Christian Lundgaard finished last for the 1st time in his NTT IndyCar Series career in Sunday’s Hy-Vee Salute to Farmers 300 at Iowa Speedway when his #30 Shield Cleansers Honda fell out with a brake failure after completing 112 of the race’s 300 laps.

The finish came in Lundgaard’s 13th career start.

Danish driver Christian Lundgaard began his international karting career in 2012 at age 11 and spent a half-decade in the European karting scene before moving up to Spanish F4 in 2017. After scoring the championship in that series, he moved up to GP3 in 2018 and stayed with that series as it was rebranded as Formula 3 in 2019. Lundgaard finished sixth in the championship points with ART Grand Prix and moved up with the same team to Formula 2 in 2020. 

After one-and-a-half challenging seasons in F2, Lundgaard, sensing that doors were closing in Europe, ran a third Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing entry at the Indianapolis road course race in August as the team auditioned drivers for a third entry in 2022. After an impressive fourth-place qualifying effort and a 12th-place finish in the race, RLL tabbed him for its #30 entry in 2022, replacing the departing Takuma Sato. In his debut season this year, Lundgaard has been a revelation for RLL, which as a team is mired in a terrible slump. Coming into the Iowa doubleheader, Lundgaard had three top-ten finishes on the year and no finishes lower than 19th in a remarkable show of consistency.

Dalton Kellett was once again the final starter on the grid, although Devlin DeFrancesco would join him in Row 13 after qualifying 18th for Saturday’s race. Lundgaard clocked the 17th-fastest lap in the field.

There was a fair amount of shuffling in the running order during the opening lap as 23rd-place starter Graham Rahal fell back to the last spot in the running order. Rahal was seven seconds in arrears to the leaders after two laps and eight seconds back after three. He passed Kellett for 25th on Lap 5 and Kellett eventually evened out at about a second back of Rahal while falling steadily to the leaders. He was 13 seconds back on Lap 11 and 20 seconds back of the lead on Lap 29 before being lapped by Will Power on Lap 31.

Conor Daly moved into last on Lap 40 as he made an early pit stop, but the main early-race storyline emerged when Simon Pagenaud hit the pits on the same lap due to radio issues. Race control black-flagged the #60 Meyer Shank Racing entry because he could not hear his crew chief or spotter, which could lead to a crucial lack of awareness at a short track such as Iowa. The team took roughly 16 laps in the pits to fix the issues before the French driver went back out on the racetrack, even un-lapping himself once during a green-flag pit cycle to go only 15 laps down. He remained last, just behind teammate Helio Castroneves, who was penalized during the first pit cycle and was running 25th.

Quietly, Lundgaard entered the pits on Lap 113 from the 15th position, and the crew eventually took the car right behind the pit wall so as to not take up a pit stall during the next round of pit stops. However, on Lap 117, Kyle Kirkwood went straight into the turn one wall and then rolled down into the inside wall, collapsing the front suspension and ending his day. At this point, the broadcast crew had not mentioned Lundgaard’s problems, and it seemed as though Kirkwood was primed to secure the first last-place finish of his IndyCar career. Kirkwood was being lapped by Josef Newgarden on the frontstretch when Rinus VeeKay, who had just pitted, dove under Newgarden into Turn 1 to unlap himself on fresh tires. Kirkwood entered Turn 1 outside of the racing line and lost traction on the slick track, heading into the wall.

During the ensuing caution, Lundgaard’s team was shown working on the car, indicating that Kirkwood still was the likely last-place finisher, even with more laps completed than Lundgaard. However, the RLL crew eventually found that the issue was terminal and retired the car, handing last place to Lundgaard. Newgarden rounded out the Bottom Three, the victim of a crash when a part failed on the car while leading on Lap 236. After the race, Newgarden fell and hit his head and spent the night in an area hospital, although all brain scans came back clear. He will be evaluated by the IndyCar medical team for fitness to race in this weekend’s Indianapolis Grand Prix on Thursday.

26) #30-Christian Lundgaard / 112 laps / brakes
25) #11-Kyle Kirkwood / 117 laps / crash
24) #2-Josef Newgarden / 235 laps / crash

1st) Chevrolet, Honda (6)

1st) A.J. Foyt Racing (3)
2nd) Arrow McLaren SP, Dale Coyne Racing, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (2)


Sunday, July 24, 2022

CUP: Kyle Busch’s battle for the lead at Pocono ends in double-disqualification with race winner Hamlin

PHOTO: @JoeGibbsRacing
by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Kyle Busch picked up the 9th last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s M&M’s Fan Appreciation 400 at the Pocono Raceway when his #18 M&M’s Toyota crossed the finish line in 2nd, but was then disqualified after completing all 160 laps.

The finish, which occurred in Busch’s 627th series start, was his first of the season and first in a Cup race since July 18, 2021 at Loudon, 35 races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 27th by disqualification, the 36th for the #18, and the 176th for Toyota. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 49th by disqualification, the 50th for the #18, and the 380th for Toyota.
Josh Bilicki picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s M&M’s Fan Appreciation 400 at the Pocono Raceway when his #77 Zeigler Auto / Rich Mar Florist Chevrolet was involved in a crash after 35 of 160 laps.

The finish, which came in Bilicki’s 85th series start, was his first of the season and first since May 2, 2021 at Kansas, 46 races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 39th for the #77, the 633rd from a crash, and the 828th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 52nd for the #77, the 1,296th from a crash, and the 1,850th for Chevrolet.

Still an occasional sight in the Truck Series – but as of this year, no longer in XFINITY, Kyle Busch’s 2022 has featured the release of his biopic “Rowdy” and a single Cup victory in the Bristol Dirt Race, where he capitalized on a last-lap spin between leaders Tyler Reddick and Chase Briscoe. His struggles last week at Loudon, where he spun out twice and finished 12th, have shown how much the two-time Cup Series champion has fought to adjust to NASCAR’s new NextGen car. He entered the season’s 21st race with six top-five finishes and 11 in the Top Ten, but had particularly struggled on the three road course races with a 28th in COTA, 30th in Sonoma, and 29th in Road America.

Pocono, however, promised to be a chance for his first Top Five since Gateway, and his first win since April. The now persistent rumors of where Busch will race next year were spawned by the decision by the M&M / Mars company to end their involvement with NASCAR at the end of the season. The candy company, which backed Busch since he joined Gibbs in 2008, sponsored Sunday’s race, which featured a reunion between Busch and other M&M’s sponsored drivers, including Ken Schrader, Ernie Irvan, and David Gilliland. A four-time Pocono winner who won the series’ most recent race last summer, Busch ran 7th of the 36 entrants in practice, then was just edged for the pole by teammate Denny Hamlin in the #11 FedEx Office Toyota. Busch’s lap of 169.498mph (53.098 seconds), was just 0.154 second behind Hamlin. All the while, Busch ran his familiar yellow version of the M&M's paint scheme in place of the purple used to promote the company's new "Crunchy Cookie" flavor.

In his own five previous Cup starts at Pocono, Josh Bilicki hadn’t finished better than 32nd, which came driving for Tommy Baldwin Racing in 2020. His #77 Zeigler Auto / Rich Mar Florist Chevrolet ranked 35th ahead of B.J. McLeod’s #78 Surface Sunscreen Ford. He then improved in qualifying to secure 31st on the grid with a lap of 164.718mph (54.763 seconds).

Taking the 36th and final spot was Cody Ware, Bilicki’s former teammate, who scraped the wall on his qualifying lap in Rick Ware Racing’s #51 Nurtec ODT Ford. Repairs handed Ware a redundant tail-end penalty for unapproved adjustments, one of five sent to the back for that reason. Ross Chastain, 21st in his #1 Worldwide Express Chevrolet and William Byron, 18th in the #24 Chevrolet both needed repairs after separate spins off Turn 3 in practice. Justin Haley surrendered 30th in his #31 LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevrolet for changing the steering rack. Petty GMS Racing teammates Erik Jones and Ty Dillon both incurred L1 penalties on Saturday for an infraction relating to nonconforming metal screens on the rocker box vent holes. While both Jones and Dillon lost their crew chiefs, plus 35 driver and owner points, only Jones surrendered his 34th starting spot in the #43 FocusFactor Chevrolet. Petty GMS Racing elected to not appeal either driver’s penalties.

But the biggest tail-end penalty was still to come. While both Chastain and Byron manage to avoid contact during their spins in practice, Kyle Busch’s older brother Kurt wasn’t so fortunate. His #45 McDonald’s Toyota spun and slammed the wall with the left-rear, then left-front. Busch walked away, but as the crew prepared the backup, the 23XI Racing team also had a contingency plan for their driver. Ty Gibbs, who enjoyed a competitive late-race battle with Noah Gragson for the win in Saturday’s XFINITY race at Pocono, was on standby to drive in relief. After running the simulator at 1 A.M. local time, Busch followed-up at the infield care center, where he was not cleared to race due to concussion symptoms. Gibbs was brought on board, the backup car adjusted for him, putting the 19-year-old into his first Cup start. As it happened, Noah Gragson – who prevailed in their Saturday contest – was also entered in his previously scheduled run in the #16 Gold Fish Casino Slots Chevrolet for Kaulig Racing.

Cindric (center) after his early spin off Turn 3.
PHOTO: No Tires Just Gas on YouTube
Without any practice laps in a completely different car from that run in XFINITY, Ty Gibbs went through a quick crash course before the green flag. Knowing Gibbs would be sent to the back anyway for the driver change and the backup car, the team had him make an additional pass down pit road. He’d also be told to take the green about 4-5 seconds behind the field so he could get a feel for the car and the sequential shifter. But when the green flag dropped, Gibbs was in 36th spot, 5.003 seconds behind the leader and eight-tenths back of B.J. McLeod’s #78. Cody Ware, the last-place qualifier, was now 34th, another four-tenths ahead of McLeod.

On the first lap, Gibbs began to reel in McLeod and pulled alongside at the stripe, the two just 0.013 apart to complete Lap 1. The next time by, Gibbs cleared the #78 and moved to 35th, McLeod still hanging with him just 0.296 second behind. Gibbs then dispensed with J.J. Yeley in the second Rick Ware entry, the #15 Ollie’s Bargain Outlet Ford, and at the start of Lap 4, McLeod now drew alongside Yeley just 0.023 apart at the stripe. But this time, Yeley held off McLeod and opened an advantage of 0.423 on Lap 5. McLeod wasn’t finished, and over the next lap cut the deficit in half.

On Lap 7, Austin Cindric was running in the 18th spot when his #2 Keystone Light Ford broke loose off Turn 3 and made what appeared to be minor contact with the inside wall. At the moment of caution, Cindric only fell to 34th as he was ahead of both Yeley and McLeod, but the #2 then slipped to last by Lap 8 as he stopped on track. Since he was past pit entrance, Cindric was towed back to his pit stall, causing the bodywork under the car to drag on the track. The crew had to wait until the car was unhooked to begin their work. The team changed tires and sent Cindric back out three laps down, only for the car to suffer a toe link failure in the left-rear, causing the car to drive diagonally through the Tunnel Turn. He returned for a second stop on Lap 11, and by the 12th circuit was down to the final two-and-a-half minutes on the “Crash Clock.” The crew successfully replaced the toe link and Cindric returned to the track just after the restart. This time, the driver said while the rear of the car was better, the front was still toed out, requiring him to steer past the two o’clock position on the wheel. Now six laps down, Cindric still managed to clear the “Crash Clock” on Lap 15 and ran conservatively to get to the end of Stage 1.

Also looking to reach the end of Stage 1 was Aric Almirola, who was fighting a loose condition on his #10 Haas Automation Ford. But on Lap 28, two circuits short of the green-checkered flag, Almirola spun off Turn 3. He managed to avoid hitting the wall, but now had both right-side tires flat. Almirola also elected to not wait for the tow truck, and instead drove to the exit of pit road, entered the wrong way, and stopped in his nearby stall with his car pointing backward. The crew changed tires and sent him back out, where NASCAR handed a commitment line violation to the #10 team. Under the ensuing yellow, Almirola made a second stop on Lap 32 to change one of his tires and to also examine damage to the diffuser. Cindric also made an extended stop to fix the toe issue in the front of the car. Cindric remained six laps down with Almirola in 35th, one down.
Bilicki before the accident in Turn 1.
PHOTO: Dante Ricci / TheRacingExperts

Bilicki didn’t enter last-place contention until after the following restart on Lap 34. One lap later entering Turn 1, Bilicki was running to the outside of Brad Keselowski in the 30th spot when a puff of smoke came off Bilicki’s right-rear wheel. Instantly, the #77 spun backwards and slammed the outside wall with the left-rear corner. Bilicki dropped the window net and climbed out moments later, his day done. He took last from Cindric on Lap 43, and NASCAR declared him out on Lap 65.

Meanwhile, Kyle Busch threatened to take his fifth Pocono win, leading 63 laps until Lap 123, when a lengthy stop for fuel handed the lead to Ross Chastain in the #1 Worldwide Express Chevrolet. Denny Hamlin then passed Busch, dropping him to 3rd before Ryan Blaney’s crash on Lap 136 put the #12 Menards Duracell Ford in 35th. On the Lap 143 restart, this put Hamlin and Chastain on the front row, where both battled side-by-side into Turn 1. Continuing their rivalry from their tangle in Gateway, the two remained locked together until Chastain hit the wall and dropped back, eventually collecting Kevin Harvick’s #4 Busch Apple Ford. From there, Hamlin and Busch remained 1-2 with Hamlin beating his teammate to the checkered flag by 0.927 second. Despite the loss, it was a good points day for Busch, who won Stage 2 in the process.

But post-race inspection revealed a problem in the front facia of both Hamlin and Busch’s cars, one that was discovered after looking under the wraps of both cars. With that, both Hamlin and Busch were disqualified, handing the victory to 3rd-place finisher Chase Elliott in the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet. As the lower-classified of the two at the checkered flag, Busch took last with Hamlin 35th, lifting Bilicki to 34th, Blaney to 33rd, and Chastain to round out the Bottom Five in 32nd. As of this writing, it is yet unknown whether the Joe Gibbs Racing team will appeal their penalty. 

A rare double-disqualification

Just over a week after both Landon Cassill and Noah Gragson were disqualified from taking 3rd and 4th in the XFINITY Series race at Loudon, Sunday marked the first disqualification of more than one Cup car since the inaugural World 600 at Charlotte on June 19, 1960, when six drivers were docked for improperly entering pit road. 

But none of the six drivers disqualified from the 1960 World 600 took the checkered flag in 1st and 2nd. That distinction goes to December 11, 1955, when race winner Joe Weatherly and 2nd-place Jim Reed were disqualified in a 100-miler at West Palm Beach, Florida, handing the victory to 3rd-place runner Herb Thomas (SOURCE: NASCARMAN History). Both Weatherly and Reed were docked for their engines – Weatherly for cams “which did not meet specifications, and grinding and polishing of the intake manifold was also discovered,” while Reed’s had “magnesium valves, not of production type.” Due to encroaching darkness on Sunday’s race day, these inspections weren’t completed until Monday (SOURCE: The Palm Beach Post, December 13, 1955).

For Hamlin, the last time the race winner was disqualified at all happened a little more recently – April 17, 1960 at the Wilson (North Carolina) Speedway, where winner Emanuel Zervakis took the checkered flag, but a disqualification put him last, handing the win to runner-up Joe Weatherly.

For Busch, the last time the 2nd-place finisher was disqualified from a Cup race and classified last was just last summer at Daytona, where on August 28, 2021, Chris Buescher’s #17 Fifth Third Bank Ford was found with an illegal track bar mounting assembly.

Ty Gibbs an impressive 16th in debut

The day’s most surprising run belonged to the driver who took the green in last – Ty Gibbs. Gibbs climbed through the field without incident and reached as high as 15th in the final laps before he crossed the line in 18th. The disqualifications of Hamlin and Busch then lifted him to 16th – a remarkable performance for his first-ever laps in a NextGen car, and on a weekend where so many top drivers were involved in spins.

*This marked the first Cup Series last-place finish at Pocono for the #18 since June 8, 2008, when Kyle Busch’s M&M’s Toyota crashed out after 95 laps. Incidentally, this was Busch’s first last-place finish in the #18 for Joe Gibbs Racing, and his first with sponsorship from M&M’s, a partnership which began that season. Sunday was also only the fourth time the #18 has finished last in a Cup race at Pocono.
*This the first last-place finish by disqualification for a Cup race at Pocono.
*Busch’s disqualification sets a new record for most laps complete by the Cup Series last-place finisher at Pocono, besting the 142 by Dave Blaney on June 8, 2014, when his Amy R. Fochler / Ford finished under power, 18 laps down, in the Pocono 400.

36) #18-Kyle Busch / 160 laps / disqualified / led 63 laps
35) #11-Denny Hamlin / 160 laps / disqualified / led 21 laps
34) #77-Josh Bilicki / 35 laps / crash
33) #12-Ryan Blaney / 135 laps / crash / led 7 laps
32) #1-Ross Chastain / 142 laps / crash / led 16 laps / won stage 2 (by Busch’s DQ)

1st) Live Fast Motorsports (5)
2nd) Spire Motorsports (3)
3rd) Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Trackhouse Racing (2)
4th) 23XI Racing, Kaulig Racing, NY Racing Team, Penske Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Rick Ware Racing, Team Hezeberg (1)

1st) Chevrolet (10)
2nd) Ford (8)
3rd) Toyota (3)


Saturday, July 23, 2022

XFINITY: Rookie mistake leads to Rajah Caruth’s brutal Lap 2 crash with Labbe at Pocono

PHOTOS: Matt Miller, @MGMiller17

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Rajah Caruth picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Explore the Pocono Mountains 225 at the Pocono Raceway when his #44 Martin De Porres Chevrolet was in a two-car crash after just 1 of the race’s 90 laps.

The finish, which came in Caruth’s third series start, was his second of the season and first since Dover, nine races ago. In the XFINITY Series rankings, it was the 29th for the #44, the 366th from a crash, and the 599th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 69th for the #44, the 1,295th from a crash, and the 1,849th for Chevrolet.

Poole behind the wall after his practice crash.
PHOTO: Matt Miller, @MGMiller17

Over the last three months, Caruth has continued to enjoy a strong season in the ARCA Menards Series. Tw weeks after the Dover race, he finished a career-best 2nd at Kansas, less than a second behind teammate Nick Sanchez. He then led 27 laps the next race in Charlotte – also a new career high – and finished 3rd. He’d also made his Truck Series debut at Gateway, where he finished 11th and on the lead lap for Spire Motorsports.

The Pocono race would see Caruth pull double-duty between ARCA and the XFINITY Series. In Friday’s ARCA race, he took home 4th, which is already his fifth Top Five and eighth Top 10 in just 10 races so far this season. On the XFINITY side, Caruth would reunite with Alpha Prime Racing, who he raced for in his previous two starts at Richmond and Dover. The blue-and-white car carried primary sponsorship from the Martin De Porres Youth and Family Services foundation, whose group home for at-risk children and families is located in Jamaica, New York. A video by Caruth is on the foundation’s homepage.

Caruth and Labbe after the crash.
PHOTO: No Tires Just Gas on YouTube

Caruth was one of 39 drivers entered for the XFINITY Series race, meaning just one team would be sent home. That was decided in practice, where Brennan Poole blew a right-front tire and hit the Turn 3 wall in Mike Harmon Racing’s #47 Chevrolet. Interestingly, Poole’s car still carried the Solid Rock Carriers sponsorship that Bobby McCarty, Jr. brought to the team last week in Loudon, where he DNQ’d. Poole didn’t turn a lap in qualifying, and neither did J.J. Yeley, whose team needed to change engines on his #66 Coble Enterprises Ford. Yeley ended up securing the 38th spot with Poole sent home. Caruth, who ran 31st in practice, started just a few spots ahead of Yeley in 32nd with a lap of 162.549mph (55.368 seconds). After Todd Bodine crashed out of the Truck Series race that morning, Caruth’s #44 team bought Bodine’s three remaining sets of tires.

While Yeley incurred a redundant tail-end penalty for the engine change, he was 37th across the stripe when the green flag dropped. He’d pulled three-tenths of a second ahead of teammate Timmy Hill, whose #13 CrashClaimsR.Us Toyota was reported to be smoking on pit road before he rolled off. Hill took the green flag on track, but by the end of Lap 1 had fallen from 3.76 to 7.094 seconds back of the leader, 0.289 behind Yeley. The gap steadily increased through Lap 2, when trouble broke out ahead of them.

Alex Labbe towed away after the crash.
PHOTO: Matt Miller, @MGMiller17
Coming off Turn 3, Caruth had climbed to 27th and racing to the inside of Alex Labbe in the unsponsored gray #36 Chevrolet. Just past corner exit, Caruth’s car broke loose and slid into Labbe’s, sending both sliding head-on toward the inside pit wall. The two slammed nose-first into the barrier just past the attenuator with Labbe’s car briefly coming off the ground. Under the ensuing caution, both drivers climbed from their cars under power, each out of the race. Caruth, classified behind Labbe, immediately took last from Hill, and the #36 was towed to the garage with the #44 following moments later. Caruth immediately took the blame for the accident, saying he’d made a mistake.

The rest of the Bottom Five was filled by another incident off Turn 3 that became a multi-car pileup on Lap 46. The incident began when Santino Ferrucci’s #26 Freedom Alliance Toyota spun off the corner. Lost in the smoke, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. struck Ferrucci’s car with his #48 Big Machine Spiked Coolers Chevrolet, which cut hard to the left. Jeb Burton attempted to thread the needle in his #27 PurYear Tank Lines Chevrolet, only to be struck by Stenhouse and sent rolling onto his roof. All drivers involved walked away without serious injury, including Ronnie Bassett, Jr., whose #77 Jerry Hunt Supercenter Chevrolet was also involved in the Burton wreck.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #44 in a XFINITY Series race at Pocono.

38) #44-Rajah Caruth / 1 lap / crash
37) #36-Alex Labbe / 1 lap / crash
36) #77-Ronnie Bassett, Jr. / 45 laps / crash
35) #26-Santino Ferrucci / 45 laps / crash
34) #48-Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. / 45 laps / crash

1st) Alpha Prime Racing (4)
2nd) JD Motorsports, JR Motorsports, Mike Harmon Racing, Motorsports Business Management (2)
3rd) Big Machine Racing, Jesse Iwuji Motorsports, Kaulig Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Sam Hunt Racing, SS-Green Light Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (14)
2nd) Toyota (3)
3rd) Ford (2)