Wednesday, August 31, 2022

ARCA: Unknown mechanical failure leads to massive impact for Alex Clubb

ALL PHOTOS: William Soquet

by William Soquet Staff Writer

Alex Clubb scored the 4th last-place finish of his ARCA Menards Series career in Sunday’s Sprecher 150 at the Milwaukee Mile when his #03 Clubb Racing Ford crashed after completing 2 of the race’s 150 laps.

The finish came in his 27th series start and was his first since Pocono, five races ago.

Since his previous last-place finish, Clubb and his team have endured the highs and lows that come with a full-season effort. A well-handling car at IRP was sidelined with overheating issues. Road course ringer Casey Carden took the wheel at Watkins Glen and brought home a 15th-place finish. Clubb himself finished 11th at the Springfield Mile, the team’s best result of the year. Milwaukee brought what is pretty much the closest thing to a home race for the team, just over two hours away from Morris, Illinois.

As Milwaukee counted for points on both the ARCA and ARCA East schedules, a stout field of 28 cars arrived at the track. Among them was Tim Richmond, driving the #06 in a car prepped by his family team but run with Wayne Peterson Racing’s number. Another was Nate Moeller, running a full Wayne Peterson Racing entry. Moeller made his ARCA East debut at Five Flags earlier this year, and said before the race that he has dirt racing experience as part of the University of Northwestern Ohio motorsports program. “This track is not banked at all like Five Flags, so it’s a completely different track. Getting used to the flatter corners is an adjustment for me, although I think that if I had a couple more hours to figure out the track, we could be a lot faster,” he said in regards to his thoughts about his second asphalt race weekend. Moeller stated that his main goal was to stay out of the way of the leaders and run “what feels right.”

Fast Track Racing, as always, had a load of stories behind its entries. Tim Monroe, driving a "start-and-park" entry in the #10, had the shortest backstory of the week. Bryce Haugeberg, still in tip-top shape after the harrowing crash at Springfield a week ago, took over the helm of the 11. The car carried none of the sponsors that typically back Haugeberg’s efforts, but when asked prerace about his plans, the North Dakota driver said that it would be a full-race effort. Multiple Fast Track crew members indicated that the car involved in the Springfield accident will never see a racetrack again. 

Zachary Tinkle also climbed aboard an unsponsored car, the #12 machine. Tinkle and Wayne Peterson Racing parted ways following the Springfield race, and Tinkle said that Milwaukee may very well be his last full race of 2022 while his focus turns to finding the right 2023 opportunity. Rounding out the usual four-car team was Stephanie Moyer, who despite running the chassis she owns was only due for a "start-and-park" entry, according to her crew chief. Some of the team’s resources, however, were going towards the #44 entry of Mike Goudie. Goudie’s McClure Racing entry was prepared and crewed jointly with Fast Track, as the McClure team does not have enough employees to be a full unit at the track.

Brad Smith (left) recognized for his
400th career ARCA start.

Smith also made headlines for making his 400th ARCA start at Milwaukee. The series presented him with a signed checkered flag complete with signatures of fellow drivers as well as ARCA staff members. In the media center to receive his present, Smith told those assembled that the car he made his first ARCA start with at Rockford, Illinois in 1988 was the same chassis that won the 1974 Daytona 500 with Buddy Arrington as the driver. The tale was a quintessential ARCA moment, a crazy thread of chassis history and a tributary mention of a recently-departed legend.

Practice was cut short by about 15 minutes due to rain moving in. Clubb was 25th with a best lap of 34.077 seconds, and Moeller was last with a single lap of 48.6 seconds. The main story coming out of practice was Amber Slagle, whose car returned to the pit lane with significant damage to the front right side of the car. The Cook Racing Technologies team wound up replacing part of the right-side body, causing the entry to miss qualifying. However, since less than 36 cars were entered, all cars would take the starting grid. Slagle’s car passed inspection and was pushed to the starting grid with plenty of time before the start of the race.

Moeller went to the back of the field at the start - possibly a consequence of missing driver introductions or perhaps by choice. Leland Honeyman went to the back as well, his Young’s Motorsports car the subject of post-qualifying adjustments. Eric Caudell joined those two, dropping back from his 23rd qualifying spot.

At the end of the first lap, Moeller was a ways behind the 27th-place running car of Thomason. Coming off Turn 4, the Great Railing machine pulled off the track and stopped in the Tim Richmond pit stall. A Wayne Peterson Racing mechanic came over to check on the car, but never actually touched it. A short time after the yellow came out on Lap 3, Moeller re-fired the car and went back out on track.

The caution was for Clubb, who said before the race that he expected to be about a 20th-place car in the race, and backed that up by qualifying 21st. But going into turn one on Lap 3, Clubb said that the car “just went straight,” and said that it was definitely something mechanical, not tire-related. When asked about the future of the car, he was pessimistic, telling me that there was little to no chance of that chassis running again. “The plan was to have me running all of the races for the rest of the year, but after this, I’m not sure,” Clubb said.

Moeller wound up pulling in after 9 circuits were completed, near the end of the initial caution period. Tim Monroe was first of the Fast Track cars out, followed by Stephanie Moyer. Moyer’s crew chief, Dallas Freuh, said before the race that he expected Moyer to run 25 to 30 laps before pulling in, and her lap count in the end was 32. Around the time Moyer came in, Thomason made a stop on pit road and then made another one in short order, only to be pushed back to the garage area. A crew member for the Tim Goulet Enterprises team told me that the legacy engine in the car didn’t help the team’s pace, and that Thomason struggled in traffic. He noted that this was Thomason’s second-ever oval race, and that the first one at Berlin was abbreviated due to an accident.

As for Brad Smith, he said after the race that it “didn’t go the way we wanted it to,” but the #48 car finished the race, 14 laps down in 21st. It was certainly a race befitting of a driver who has admirably fought any and all adversity for decades.

28) #03-Alex Clubb / 2 laps / crash

27) #0-Nate Moeller / 9 laps / transmission

26) #10-Tim Monroe / 16 laps / transmission

25) #31-Rita Thompson / 24 laps / engine

24) #01-Stephanie Moyer / 32 laps / brakes

1st) Chevrolet (7)
2nd) Ford (5)
3rd) Toyota (3)

1st) Fast Track Racing (5)
2nd) Richmond Racing (3)
3rd) Clubb Racing (2)
4th) Bill McAnally Racing, CCM Racing, Jones Racing, Smith Brothers Racing, Wayne Peterson Racing (1)


ARCA: Milwaukee a learning experience for Amber Slagle and Mandy Chick

Amber Slagle's #24 after receiving repairs at Milwaukee
PHOTO: William Soquet
by William Soquet Staff Writer

A week after the NASCAR Cup Series made headlines for its diverse field featuring drivers from seven countries, the ARCA Menards Series and ARCA Menards Series East rolled into the Milwaukee Mile touting a unique field of its own – six of the 28 drivers were women. Much ink has been spilled about how each of the drivers wound up in this exact race, but the stories of two of these drivers shared many similarities: Amber Slagle and Mandy Chick.

Both drivers originally hail from the Midwest - Slagle from just outside of Detroit and Chick from De Soto, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City. Both eventually worked their way into the late model ranks, Slagle first in the Champion Racing Association (CRA) and later the NASCAR Weekly Series. Chick began late model competition at I-44 Speedway in Lebanon, Missouri and also later raced in the CRA. Chick’s family also previously owned Team Chick Motorsports, which competed in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck and Busch Series in the early 2000s.

But that is where their paths diverge. One of Slagle’s late model teams was Bruce Cook Racing, which also made her the crew chief of the team’s ARCA operation. That led to a full season as crew chief for Parker Retzlaff in 2021, plus a couple ARCA West starts under the McGowan Motorsports banner, a team that has an affiliation with Cook. The 2022 season has also seen Slagle make sporadic West starts with MMI.

For Chick, 2022 signaled the start of her spring semester as a sophomore at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. She then spent the summer interning with Toyota Forklift. Her family purchased some racing equipment from Visconti Motorsports, and set their sights on running ARCA instead of super late models. Her debut race wound up being at Indianapolis Raceway Park, which was cut short when Colton Collins missed a shift directly in front of Chick on a restart, resulting in a crash.

Both Slagle and Chick continued to face adversity in Milwaukee. The sole practice session was so hampered by rain showers that it was cut short, a significant loss for two drivers with minimal experience on mile-and-above tracks. Slagle's #24 Sun West Construction / MMI Services Chevrolet clocked in 16th, just ahead of 17th-place Chick in the #74 Dynamic Drivelines / JRC Tax Toyota.

An incident suffered in practice forced Slagle’s Cook Racing Technologies team to replace a body panel over the right-front wheel, and the crew was under the hood for so long that they missed qualifying. Hours later, the car passed inspection and was pushed to the grid during a super late model race that preceded Sunday's main event.

With Slagle starting last on the grid, the Sprecher 150 promised to be a struggle. However, an early restart played into both car and driver’s strengths. “We were pretty good the first few laps, got through traffic pretty well,” Slagle commented after the race. Instead, it wasn't inexperience but changing conditions that threw a curveball in Slagle’s race. She finished 28th, two laps behind Cook teammate Christian Rose. “It progressively got plowing tight on me to the point that it was pretty uncontrollable. We worked on it on both stages and we got it pretty good at the end, but this is a big track for me,” she explained.

Meanwhile, Chick qualified fourteenth and finished sixteenth, three laps down. Milwaukee was a relatively quiet race, and she preferred it that way. “It was really nice to be able to finish the race and have a car in one piece, and learn a lot.”

Both drivers emphasized how much they had learned. 

“This is my first mile, and it’s the biggest track I’ve ever been to," said Slagle. "So it was a learning experience, learning aero tight and all that. I think I learned [a lot] the last few laps, we got the car a lot closer. I want to learn more, and I hope to run more of these bigger tracks to be able to do that." 

“I had a lot of really good time behind other people and just learned a lot from other racers," said Chick. "I’ve been able to talk to a lot of them as well. 150 laps will definitely do big things for our program, and I’m excited to take this forward to Salem.”

As for what’s next? For Slagle, the path forward is uncertain, at least behind the wheel. “Seat time is important in these things, and it takes sponsorship to get that, and unfortunately we just don’t have that – I can’t thank Sunwest Construction and MMI Services enough for their support this weekend.” For Chick, she said her team will finish out the season by running Salem and Toledo before gearing up for a potential full 20-race schedule in 2023.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

CUP: Kyle Larson goes from first to last at Daytona; Surprise Top Ten includes Cassill, Ware, and McLeod

PHOTO: Sean Gardner, Getty Images

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Kyle Larson picked up the 10th last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 at the Daytona International Speedway when his #5 Chevrolet lost the engine after 14 of 160 laps.

The finish, which came in Larson’s 285th series start, was his second of the season and first since Darlington, 14 races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 23rd for the #5, the 713th from an engine, and the 828th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 37th for the #5, the 1,126th from an engine, and the 1,855th for Chevrolet.

Larson entered the Daytona weekend fresh off a weekend sweep at Watkins Glen. It was his first win since Fontana in February, where he again locked wheels with his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott in the final laps. Coming off a 10-win championship season, the gap between Larson’s two wins has been surprising, as was his incident at the Indianapolis Grand Prix Circuit, where what looked like a brake failure leading to his collision with Ty Dillon was instead explained as “a big mistake.” That race saw Larson’s only DNF since the blown engine in Darlington.

Just 37 drivers arrived to contest last weekend’s race – the fewest for a Cup Series points race (excluding the qualifying races) since July 4, 1967. Persistent rain cancelled both practice and qualifying, which secured Larson the pole, per the rulebook. It was originally reported that B.J. McLeod would incur a pass-through penalty for multiple inspection failures, but ultimately no one in the field received a pre-race penalty, including McLeod’s 36th-place #78 NASCAR Rivals Ford.

Rolling off 37th and last was Noah Gragson, who reunited with Beard Motorsports for the first time since Talladega. Further up, 20th-place Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in the #47 NOS Chevrolet had an issue with the radio, requiring a change to the wiring harness. Just before NASCAR directed them to stop in their pit stall, Stenhouse fired the engine and resumed his original starting spot. 

Gragson’s #62 Beard Oil / South Point Chevrolet remained last across the stripe at the green flag, 3.364 seconds back of the lead. By the end of Lap 1, the spot fell to McLeod, who was side-by-side with Landon Cassill’s #77 Voyager: Crypto for All Chevrolet just 0.054 apart at the stripe. Gragson resumed the spot on Lap 3, 0.055 back of Cassill, then Kyle Busch pulled to the high lane on the backstretch, dropping his #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota toward the rear. Busch took the spot on Lap 4, 0.166 back of Cassill. Busch re-passed Cassill on Lap 6, but the #77 drew back alongside the next time by, just 0.055 apart. Busch vaulted out of the Bottom Five by Lap 8, with Cassill now alongside new 36th-place runner Daniel Hemric in the #16 Cirkul Chevrolet. 

Cassill then gained a couple spots by Lap 9, when Hemric fell to last behind 36th-place David Ragan in the #15 Select Blinds Ford. The circuit after, last place fell to Cody Ware in the #51 Nurtec ODT Ford, who was 0.145 of Cassill, who had slipped back to 36th once again. Ware’s crew was discussing a wedge adjustment, and prepared to check with their driver for more details. But on Lap 15, NASCAR officials reported “Keep an eye on the 5.”

Through the opening laps, Larson seemed to be struggling with his car’s handling, at one point banging wheels with Chris Buescher’s #17 Fifth Third Bank Ford entering Turn 3. By the 15th circuit, Larson had pulled out of line reporting a possible overheating issue. He slowed so suddenly that Austin Cindric’s #2 Menards / Maytag Ford was caught behind him, causing both to lose the draft. Larson then pulled to the apron with a small but noticeable trail of white smoke coming from the exhaust pipes. He came to pit road with a sour-sounding engine, and promptly took over last place on Lap 16. By Lap 18, crew chief Cliff Daniels told the crew to push him behind the wall, and he said “We’re done, guys” on Lap 26.

Much like Saturday’s messy XFINITY race, a series of progressively larger multi-car pileups filled the Bottom Five. Both 36th-place Christoper Bell in the #20 Rheem Toyota and 35th-place Brad Keselowski in the #6 Castrol Ford tried to clear the “Crash Clock” after they were among those involved in a stack-up near the front off Turn 2. First Bell, then Keselowski were eliminated under the “Damaged Vehicle Policy.” Both 34th-place William Byron in the #24 Axalta Chevrolet and 33rd-place Ross Chastain in the #1 Jockey Chevrolet were collected in a Lap 102 wreck entering Turn 3, leaving Chastain’s car stopped on the apron with clear suspension issues.

Underdogs dominate Daytona's Top Ten

When the dust settled, just ten drivers finished on the lead lap, including several underdogs who were among the few to keep their cars intact. Leading the brigade was the Spire Motorsports #77 of Landon Cassill, who tied his career-best 4th at Talladega on October 19, 2014, when he drove for Hillman Racing. Noah Gragson picked up a career-best 5th, scoring his first top-ten finish in only his 11th series start with the first Top Five in Beard Motorsports’ 20 Cup starts. Cody Ware was up to 3rd entering Turn 3 on the final lap before he slipped to 7th, still yielding his first Top 10 in his 81st career Cup race. One spot behind came current LASTCAR Cup Series leader B.J. McLeod, who earned his own career-best 7th at the site of both he and Live Fast Motorsports’ first Top Ten last summer. Rounding out the group was 2011 winner David Ragan, Cody Ware’s teammate in the #15 Select Blinds / Jacob Companies Ford, who followed his 8th in this year’s Daytona 500 with a 9th on Sunday.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #5 in a Cup points-paying race at Daytona. In fact, the number has only finished last in one Duel race – February 12, 1998, when Daytona 500 outside-polesitter Terry Labonte’s Kellogg’s Corn Flakes Chevrolet quit after 5 laps of Race 2.
*Although qualifying was cancelled, Larson is still the first driver to start in 1st place and finish last in a Cup race at Daytona since July 4, 1983, when Cale Yarborough’s #28 Hardee’s Chevrolet lost the engine after 5 laps.

37) #5-Kyle Larson / 14 laps / engine
36) #20-Christopher Bell / 30 laps / crash
35) #6-Brad Keselowski / 31 laps / dvp
34) #24-William Byron / 101 laps / crash
33) #1-Ross Chastain / 101 laps / crash

1st) Live Fast Motorsports (6)
2nd) Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Spire Motorsports (3)
3rd) Penske Racing, Trackhouse Racing (2)
4th) 23XI Racing, Kaulig Racing, NY Racing Team, Richard Childress Racing, Rick Ware Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing, Team Hezeberg (1)

1st) Chevrolet, Ford (11)
2nd) Toyota (4)


Friday, August 26, 2022

XFINITY: Sammy Smith’s crash the first of many as Jeremy Clements and Timmy Hill headline a Daytona night for the underdogs

SCREENSHOT: USA, captured by @William_Nagel_

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Sammy Smith picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Friday (and Saturday)’s Wawa 250 Powered by Coca-Cola at the Daytona International Speedway when his #18 Pilot / Flying J Toyota crashed after 14 of 118 laps.

The finish came in Smith’s fifth series start. In the XFINITY Series last-place rankings, it was the 12th for the #18, the 156th for Toyota, and the 369th from a crash. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 51st for the #18, the 382nd for Toyota, and the 1,302nd from a crash.

The 18-year-old racer from Johnston, Iowa has enjoyed a rapid rise through the ranks of professional stock car racing. In 2019, he made a splash in late models, claiming the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing championship at the New Smyrna Speedway. Signed into a development program with Kyle Busch Motorsports, he nearly scored his first CARS Pro Late Model Tour victory at Jennerstown, where he finished runner-up to Bubba Pollard. This was followed by a breakout 2021 in ARCA regional and national competition, where he scored three wins on the short tracks. Two more ARCA short track wins came this year, which has seen him skip the Truck Series and try his luck in the XFINITY Series.

With continuing backing from TMC, Allstate Peterbilt Group, and Pilot / Flying J – brands which each became synonymous with Michael Annett during his own NASCAR career – Smith made his XFINITY debut at Road America. He qualified 8th and was on his way to a solid finish when his engine blew in the final three laps. He started 5th at Pocono, but this time he crashed hard in Turn 1, leaving him 31st. Finally, at Michigan, he led his first lap and came home in 12th. This led to a breakout performance just last week at Watkins Glen, where he avoided the typical road course chaos to finish 3rd behind Cup veterans Kyle Larson and A.J. Allmendinger. 

Coming into Friday, Smith had yet to make a superspeedway start, and was set to learn under the lights of Daytona. Unfortunately, the inevitable late summer rains washed out both practice and qualifying, meaning he’d have to roll off 3rd without a single lap on track.

With 43 entrants for 38 spots, Friday also turned out to be a short afternoon for the five teams that failed to qualify. This group included C.J. McLaughlin in the third RSS Racing car, the #28 Sci Aps Ford, Joe Nemechek in the second Sam Hunt Racing car, the #24 Fleetwing Toyota, plus Ronnie Bassett, Jr. in the #77 Jerry Hunt Supercenter Chevrolet, Tim Viens – swapped in for Brennan Poole in the #47 Barker Construction Chevrolet – and Josh Williams. Williams had just reunited with DGM Racing in his old ride, the #92 Alloy Employer Services Chevrolet, but the part-time effort missed the cut. Williams would still race Friday as he took the place of Patrick Emerling in an unsponsored #5 Ford for B.J. McLeod Motorsports – a ride left without backing after Natalie Decker’s CBD sponsor failed to receive NASCAR approval in time. The driver change would incur Williams a tail-end penalty, joined by three others for unapproved adjustments: 16th-place Daniel Hemric in the #11 Cirkul – Water Your Way Chevrolet, 34th-place Jesse Iwuji in the #34 Coca-Cola Zero Sugar Chevrolet, and original 38th and last-place starter Justin Haley in the #14 DaaBin Store Chevrolet. Haley was entered in a new fourth team for Kaulig Racing, which still secured a starting spot thanks to his win in this very race last year.

After further track drying efforts pushed the command to start engines to 10:38 P.M. local time, Haley had further issues – this time with the radio. He made at least two stops during the pace laps, but the issue wasn’t entirely resolved. While he could hear his team, he could do so only barely over irritating static. Coming to the green flag, another driver had issues. This time, it was 28th-place J.J. Yeley in the #66 IEC / My Electric Career Chevrolet. A reported power steering issue was to blame, and he returned to the track nearly a half-lap behind when the green flag dropped. Crossing the stripe, Yeley was a full 21.082 seconds back of the leader, and at the end of Lap 1 was a full 13.110 seconds behind the car in 37th, teammate Timmy Hill in the #13 Coble Enterprises / VSI Racing Chevrolet.

Over the next several laps, the stranded Yeley continued to lose touch with the rest of the field, even as the last few cars in the lead pack began to trail off into single-file lines. By Lap 4, Yeley reported his car was “hitting the splitter pretty good down the backstraightaway,” but was handling well in the corners. Hill, meanwhile, had dropped Matt Mills to 37th in the #78 J.F. Electric Toyota, though Mills got back by on Lap 10. The next time by, Yeley had dropped to 30.764 seconds back of the lead and 25.048 back of 37th-place Hill. Yeley’s team anticipated a wreck would draw the caution, saving them from losing a lap – which is exactly what happened.

Coming down to complete Lap 16, Sammy Smith was fifth in line on the inside lane, having crossed the stripe just 1.435 seconds back of the lead the previous time by around the 19th spot. Fighting a loose-handling car since the drop of the green flag, Smith broke loose off the fourth corner and slammed the SAFER barrier just before the pit road entrance. Smith’s car skated to a stop in the grass with heavy damage to the left-front and left-rear corners. He climbed out with no apparent injury, and in his interview took the blame for the incident, saying he’d made a mistake.

Smith remained the only driver out of the race until the final 16 laps, when the first of five massive multi-car accidents dwindled the field to just a few survivors, forcing an already delayed race into three overtime finishes. The Bottom Five was promptly filled by 37th-place Joe Graf, Jr., whose #07 GTECHNIQ Ford t-boned a wrecking Sheldon Creed in the 36th-place #2 Whelen Chevrolet in a pileup that also collected 35th-place John Hunter Nemechek in the #26 Freedom 13 Toyota. Rounding out the group was Sam Mayer, whose #1 Accelerate Pros Talent Chevrolet crashed in a separate incident involving all but one of his JR Motorsports teammates.

Jeremy Clements and Timmy Hill headline a night for the underdogs

Coming out victorious was Jeremy Clements, whose #51 One Stop / ASE Chevrolet crossed the stripe well after midnight – and thus five years to the day of his equally dramatic first win at Road America.

Timmy Hill and J.J. Yeley – who in the early laps battled for last place – both found themselves running nose-to-tail behind race leader Austin Hill for what turned out to be the final restart of the race. A reported electrical issue caused Austin to stall in front of the duo when the green flag dropped, ultimately dropping Austin to 14th and Yeley to 9th. But Timmy stayed with the leaders, and even inched past A.J. Allmendinger when Riley Herbst’s spin caused the race to finish under caution. With that, Timmy Hill finished 2nd – just the second Top Five of his XFINITY career and a new career-best, improving on his 3rd-place run in February of 2020.

After last year’s debacle sparked by a chant that was erroneously attributed to him, Brandon Brown reunited with his longtime sponsor Larry’s Lemonade, which promised to work out a deal to back the Brandonbilt Motorsports team should they pull off the win. Multiple times throughout the race, Brown contended for the lead, only to come up just short. On the final overtime finish, he was again in the right spot, only to run out of time and finish 4th. This stands as Brown’s second top-five finish of the year, following his 3rd-place showing at Loudon.

Taking 5th despite significant damage to the splitter of his #44 Clermont Lakes / Alt-Tab Capital Chevrolet was Sage Karam, his first top-five finish in just his 11th series start. His best run prior was 13th, just last week in Watkins Glen.

Ryan Vargas earned a career-best 6th-place finish in his white #6 National Metering Services Chevrolet – just the second Top Ten of his XFINITY career and first since his sterling 8th-place showing at Texas in the fall of 2020. Prior to Friday, Vargas had never finished better than 18th at Daytona.

One week after a brutal wreck exiting the Esses at Watkins Glen, Alex Labbe finished 8th in his #36 Can-Am Chevrolet, a new season-best and the second Top Ten of 2022, following his 10th in Portland.

Kyle Sieg was involved in at least two of the night’s cautions, at one point losing the hood of his #38 Trouble Spirits / Mafe Ford. Undaunted, Sieg still took home 10th – his first career Top Ten in just his 15th career start. His previous best finish was 16th, which came twice earlier this year at Las Vegas and Atlanta.

In 29 combined Truck and XFINITY Series starts, active serviceman and NASCAR team co-owner Jesse Iwuji had never once finished better than 17th. In fact, his best XFINITY finish was just 22nd at Road America earlier this year. But with sponsorship from race sponsor Coca-Cola Zero Sugar as part of a military initiative, Iwuji managed to avoid the night’s chaos and finish a strong 11th. This is now the second-best finish by Jesse Iwuji Motorsports, trailing only the 8th-place Loudon finish by co-driver Kyle Weatherman.

Myatt Snider left Daytona in February after a terrifying flip into the catchfence that ended the race under the caution. This time around in the #31 TaxSlayer Chevrolet, Snider overcame a spin in Turn 1 to finish 12th for Jordan Anderson Racing, a team still struggling to expand to two cars after back-to-back DNQs by their #32 entry. While not a season-best finish, it is Snider’s best since his runner-up finish on the rainy Portland track in June.

Also quietly consistent was Joey Gase, who matched his season-best 16th-place finish from Talladega in the #35 Ford for his co-owned Emerling-Gase Motorsports effort. Combined with Brad Perez’ 20th-place debut last week at Watkins Glen, that means the first back-to-back Top 20 finishes for the team since this spring’s races at Atlanta and COTA.

Among the drivers who very nearly joined this group was David Starr, whose #08 EVERFI / Special Report Ford worked its way into the Top Ten before it was collected in a pileup entering the tri-oval on Lap 99. That same wreck collected Anthony Alfredo, who seconds earlier had pulled his #23 Pit Boss Grills Chevrolet to 2nd place behind Daniel Hemric. Matt Mills, another contender for last place in the early laps, was still running around the 10th spot a full ten laps into “overtime” when a crashing Landon Cassill crossed his path in Turn 3, leaving Mills a disappointing 24th.

*This marked the first XFINITY last-place finish for the #18 since October 5, 2019, when Harrison Burton’s #18 DEX Imaging Toyota crashed after 2 laps of the Drive Sober 200 at Dover. The number had never before finished last in a XFINITY race at Daytona.

38) #18-Sammy Smith / 14 laps / crash
37) #07-Joe Graf, Jr. / 82 laps / crash 
36) #2-Sheldon Creed / 82 laps / crash
35) #26-John Hunter Nemechek / 82 laps / crash
34) #1-Sam Mayer / 91 laps / crash

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

1st) Chevrolet (17)
2nd) Toyota (4)
3rd) Ford (2)


Thursday, August 25, 2022

PREVIEW: Josh Williams back with DGM, a battle of the Nemecheks, and McGruff The Crime Dog kick off Daytona action

PHOTO: @MBMMotorsports

by Brock Beard Editor-In-Chief

Friday, August 26, 2022 (7:30 P.M. ET, USA)
XFINITY Race 23 of 33
Wawa 250 Powered by Coca-Cola at Daytona
2021 Last-Place Finisher: Brandon Jones

There are 43 drivers entered for 38 spots, meaning five will fail to qualify.

DRIVER CHANGE: #5-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #68-Brandonbilt Motorsports
The preliminary entry list had Natalie Decker set to take Brandon Brown’s place in the #5 Ford for B.J. McLeod Motorsports, bringing with her sponsorship from CBD company Diesel Beverages. But Decker tweeted Wednesday evening that the deal came together at the last minute, and Diesel didn’t have enough time to complete NASCAR’s testing for CBD-related products. This now puts Patrick Emerling in an unsponsored #5 in Decker’s place. Brandon Brown, who was 32nd in Watkins Glen, rejoins his family’s #68 team that ran 34th last week with Kris Wright. Wright will make eight of the season’s remaining ten races. Brown finished 10th at Daytona in February.

DRIVER CHANGE: #6-JD Motorsports
Ryan Vargas reunites with the Johnny Davis team in place of Spencer Pumpelly, who failed to qualify at Watkins Glen. Carrying sponsorship from National Metering Services, Vargas runs for the first time since Michigan, where he ran 29th. Vargas’ best finish in three prior Daytona starts was 18th, which he matched in the 2021 and 2022 season openers.

DRIVER SWAP: #13-Motorsports Business Management
DRIVER SWAP: #66-Motorsports Business Management
After his car was withdrawn prior to qualifying at Watkins Glen, J.J. Yeley returns to his #66 this week with sponsorship from the Florida West Coast Chapter of the Independent Electrical Contractors. Yeley finished a solid 13th at Daytona in February. Timmy Hill – a strong 14th in the #66 last week at The Glen – returns to the #13 in a beach-themed paint scheme for sponsors VSI Racing and Cole Enterprises.

NEW TEAM: #14-Kaulig Racing
Friday sees Justin Haley return to the XFINITY Series for the first time since his 5th-place showing in last year’s championship race at Phoenix, and this time in a brand-new fourth entry for the Kaulig team, running the #14. Should he qualify, this will mark the first start for the #14 in a XFINITY Series race since TriStar Motorsports last ran it in the 2017 finale at Homestead, taking 22nd with J.J. Yeley. DaaBIN Store is the listed sponsor.

MISSING: #17-Hendrick Motorsports
MISSING: #88-JR Motorsports
William Byron not entered and neither is Glen winner Kyle Larson in the identical Chevrolets.

RETURNING: #24-Sam Hunt Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #26-Sam Hunt Racing
Joe Nemechek and John Hunter Nemechek – father and son – are set to race against each other as teammates at their home track. For John Hunter, this would be his 8th start of 2022 and first since Michigan, where he came home in 19th. He again runs the flagship #26, this time with as the sponsor, taking the place of 15th-place Watkins Glen finisher Connor Mosack. Joe Nemechek – himself a two-time XFINITY winner at Daytona – aims for his 454th XFINITY Series start and first since October 3, 2020, when he finished 16th for Mike Harmon Racing. This time, Joe drives Sam Hunt’s returning #24 entry, which hasn’t made a start since Jeffrey Earnhardt at Daytona this past February, and carries sponsorship from Fleetwing.

C.J. McLaughlin is back for the first time since his hard hit at Michigan, which left him 37th, and looks to improve on his 35th-place finish in another crash at Daytona back in February. McLaughlin will attempt to qualify RSS Racing’s part-time third effort, the #28, which last took the green flag at Michigan with Kyle Sieg taking a 21st-place run. Kyle is in on this week’s list, too, replacing 36th-place Glen finisher Patrick Gallagher in the #38 Ford.

MISSING: #32-Jordan Anderson Racing / AM Racing
Austin Wayne Self is not entered after his Jordan Anderson-backed entry missed the cut at Watkins Glen.

TEAM UPDATE: #34-Jesse Iwuji Motorsports
Jesse Iwuji is listed in place of Kyle Weatherman this week, which would mark Iwuji’s 9th start of the year and first since Atlanta, where he ran 32nd. Iwuji was 27th in the Daytona race this past February, but earned his second and most recent DNQ at Talladega.

DRIVER CHANGE: #35-Emerling-Gase Motorsports
“McGruff The Crime Dog” adorns the #35 Ford of Joey Gase, part of the “Go For Real” promotion cautioning others about the dangers of counterfeit products. Gase takes the place of Brad Perez, who turned in a strong 20th-place finish in his XFINITY debut with the team at Watkins Glen. Gase, who most recently finished 26th at Atlanta, also took 26th in the Emerling-Gase #53 entry at Daytona in February.

DRIVER CHANGE: #44-Alpha Prime Racing
Sage Karam returns for more superspeedway racing as he takes the place of Stefan Parsons, who tied his career-best 12th-place finish at Watkins Glen. Clermont Lakes Dental Care and Alt-Tab Capital will sponsor Karam’s effort, which would be his first since a season-best 13th on the Indianapolis Grand Prix Circuit. Most significantly, it will be Karam’s first XFINITY start at Daytona.

DRIVER CHANGE: #45-Alpha Prime Racing
Racing in Florida means local driver and Alpha Prime co-owner Caesar Bacarella is back, this time in the Clear Cryptos Chevrolet. Bacarella has yet to finish better than 25th in his three previous superspeedway starts this year as he takes the place of 17th-place Watkins Glen finisher Josh Bilicki. Bilicki, who earned his first Cup Series Top Ten with a 10th-place finish here last year, is not entered in either of this weekend’s races.

DRIVER CHANGE: #47-Mike Harmon Racing
After Stanton Barrett was unable to qualify at Watkins Glen, Brennan Poole rejoins the Harmon effort, seeking his sixth start of the season and first since a season-best 31st-place run at Atlanta in July.
UPDATE: Tim Viens will return to the driver's seat with Barker Construction as sponsor.

DRIVER CHANGE: #48-Big Machine Racing
Joining Justin Haley among the “Cup Invaders” is Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., who’s back in action on the XFINITY side for the first time since his big crash with Jeb Burton at Pocono. Stenhouse, who contended for the lead late in this year’s Daytona 500, takes the place of last week’s 5th-place finisher Kaz Grala.

RETURNING: #77-Bassett Racing
Ronnie Bassett, Jr. takes the wheel of his family’s #77 this week as the team looks to make its first superspeedway start. Ronnie was third-slowest of the nine DNQs here in February.

DRIVER CHANGE: #78-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Matt Mills climbs aboard McLeod’s #78 entry for the first time since his last-place finish at Michigan, once again with J.F. Electric as sponsor. Mills takes the place of Scott Heckert, who finished 23rd in Watkins Glen.

Also resuming his part-time schedule shared with “road course ringers” is Mason Massey, who failed to qualify at Daytona this past February, but ran 25th here last August for McLeod. Massey takes the place of Preston Pardus, who was 21st at Watkins Glen.

Josh Williams has been welcomed home back to Mario Gosselin’s #92 entry – a team that had to scale back after his replacement, Kyle Weatherman, had sponsorship issues after a promising start to the year. Williams carries his familiar Alloy Employment Services sponsorship as he takes over for Cup regular Ross Chastain, who was stuck in a Watkins Glen gravel trap en route to a 28th-place finish.

DRIVER CHANGE: #07-SS-Green Light Racing
Joe Graf, Jr., 29th in this year’s Daytona opener, seeks his 85th XFINITY Series start as he takes his #07 entry back from Cup regular Cole Custer, 11th at The Glen. Graf finished a track-best 11th in February of 2021. GTECHNIQ is the listed sponsor this week.

DRIVER CHANGE: #08-SS-Green Light Racing
David Starr, who ran 35th after his right-front hub caught fire at Michigan, returns to Daytona, where his was the fastest car to DNQ in February. Starr takes the place of Andy Lally, who finished 19th at Watkins Glen.

CUP INVADERS: #14-Justin Haley, #47-Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.

Saturday, August 27, 2022 (7:00 P.M. ET, NBC)
CUP Race 26 of 36
Regular Season Finale
Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona
2021 Last-Place Finisher: Chris(topher) Buescher

A measly 37 drivers are entered in Saturday’s final race of the Cup regular season, marking the fifth-smallest field for a Cup Series points race at Daytona. It’s the fewest since July 4, 1967, when Bill Champion lost the engine on the opening lap of the Firecracker 400, leaving him last in a 39-car field. All eight of the smallest Cup fields for points races at Daytona – excluding qualifying races – occurred in the summer race, the fewest seeing just 30 starters on July 4, 1961. No Daytona 500 field has yet seen fewer than 40 starters. 

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Rick Ware Racing
David Ragan is back in the Cup garage for the first time since Talladega, where he finished 24th, and looks to build on his 8th-place run in this year’s Daytona 500. He again drives for Rick Ware Racing, this time in place of Joey Hand, who enjoyed another strong run on the Watkins Glen road course before he slipped to 31st following a late-race crash.

DRIVER CHANGE: #16-Kaulig Racing
Daniel Hemric returns to Cup for the first time since Darlington, where he finished 31st, and takes the place of Watkins Glen runner-up A.J. Allmendinger. Hemric, who pulls double-duty with his full-time XFINITY effort, made this year’s first three Cup races in this #16 entry, beginning with a 12th in the Daytona 500 and a surprising 9th at Fontana, where he came back from losing multiple laps with a mechanical issue.

MISSING: #26-Team Hezeberg
MISSING: #27-Team Hezeberg
The Hezeberg duo of Watkins Glen 33rd-place finisher Loris Hezemans and 36th-place Daniil Kvyat are not entered this week, just six months after Jacques Villeneueve earned a respectable 22nd in the team’s debut in this year’s Daytona 500. Hezemans finished one lap down at Watkins Glen in 33rd, his first Cup start where he finished under power.

TEAM UPDATE: #45-23XI Racing
As previously announced, Kurt Busch will not return to competition this week in Daytona, but hopes to make the Playoff opener next week. Ty Gibbs remains the driver following his 26th-place showing in Watkins Glen. UPDATE: Big news on Thursday as Kurt will NOT make the Playoff opener and has withdrawn his waiver, nearly locking Ryan Blaney into the Playoffs and moving Martin Truex, Jr. to the bubble.

RETURNING: #62-Beard Motorsports
Noah Gragson makes his 11th Cup start of the year and first since Richmond, when he finished 24th. But this time makes his third start of the year for the Beard Motorsports entry, his first since a 20th-place run in the Wendy’s car at Talladega. South Point will sponsor this week’s car.

DRIVER CHANGE: #77-Spire Motorsports
After a 30th-place finish for Mike Rockenfeller’s NASCAR debut at Watkins Glen, Landon Cassill will pull double-duty at Daytona. Cassill finished 15th in this year’s Daytona 500 and ran 30th in his most recent Cup start at Richmond.

DRIVER CHANGE: #78-Live Fast Motorsports
B.J. McLeod promotes the new video game “NASCAR Rivals” on his #78 Ford as he takes the place of Kyle Tilley, who finished last at Watkins Glen. Like the aforementioned Josh Bilicki, last August’s Cup race at Daytona saw McLeod score the first Top Ten of his Cup career, finishing 9th.

MISSING: #91-Trackhouse Racing
Kimi Raikkonen and the “Project91” entry are not entered after Kimi’s solid Cup debut ended with an unfortunate tangle involving teammate Ross Chastain and Loris Hezemans halfway through the Watkins Glen race, leaving him 37th.

Friday, September 9, 2022
TRUCKS Race 19 of 23
Round of 10: Race 3 of 3
Wise Power 200 at Kansas
2021 Last-Place Finisher (May): Ryan Reed

The Truck Series will return in two weeks to conclude the Round of 10 at Kansas.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (August 25, 1962): Sammy Packard picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Grand National Series career in a 200-lap race on the Valdosta 75 (Georgia) Speedway when his #38 1961 Ford burned a piston after 45 laps around the half-mile dirt track. This was Packard’s fourth and final Cup start, and came in a race with only 13 starters. Seven other races had just 12 starters in each – the fewest for a Cup Series points race.

OPINION: ARCA is not perfect, but knee-jerk reactions are not warranted

Longtime series veteran Brad Smith will
make his 400th ARCA Menards Series
start this weekend at Milwaukee
PHOTO: @DriverBradSmith 

by Ben Schneider Guest Contributor

On Sunday, the ARCA Menards Series race at the Illinois State Fairgrounds came to an abrupt end when a frightening accident occurred on the frontstretch. As Venturini Motorsports teammates Jesse Love and Buddy Kofoid found themselves in a heated battle for the lead in what had become a timed race, Kofoid ran into the back of Bryce Haugeberg’s car, which had slowed rapidly. The result was a massive crash that red flagged and, in effect, ended the race, with scoring reverting back to the previous lap. Most importantly, both Kofoid and Haugeberg walked away unharmed.

Within 24 hours, Twitter users took to social media to offer up their hot takes on how the series is supposedly a laughingstock. Many questioned series officials and race control before even seeing a replay of the incident. And one even went so far as to assert without evidence that the series has been in financial trouble for the better part of a decade and ask his viewers if they should “just get rid of it entirely.”

Let me be unequivocally clear: I would not exactly consider the ARCA Menards Series “a clean bill of health” in its current state. I’ve made no secret of my frustrations seeing short fields almost every week. I believe the discrepancy in speed between the series’ front-runners and its low-budget independents can, at times, be dangerous. I imagine it was very hard on the series’ teams to run two races in three days in completely different parts of the country, especially considering how much (or perhaps how little) prize money is currently available.

But that does not mean the series is on life support. In almost every race this season, car counts have been slightly up year-to-year. The independents are doing the best they can with what they have and sometimes even surprise us with an unexpected strong run. Charlie Krall, ARCA’s PR director, has made it clear the series is just as frustrated as the fans are with the scheduling issues and having to end races before their scheduled distance has been run. And while the race purses are not exactly ideal, “giving away more money” in any situation is much, much easier said than done.

Through its flaws, ARCA still has a clear, defined purpose as a place for both younger talent (such as Love) to gain experience before moving up the ranks and older veterans (such as Brad Smith, who will make his 400th series start at the Milwaukee Mile this weekend) who simply love to race. These are opportunities that cannot be taken for granted and are much harder to attain in NASCAR’s Truck or Xfinity Series. We cannot let our knee-jerk reactions (something the author of this very article is admittedly still prone to having from time to time) shape the opinions we share and the arguments we make with our viewers, readers, and listeners.

In the case of Sunday, I am struggling to see why it appears to have been the straw that broke the camel’s back for some people. ESPN’s Ryan McGee once wrote, “Let your mind digest what your eyes have seen.” Anyone who followed that advice would have watched the replay and seen that Sunday’s accident was simply a case of unfortunate timing that progressed so quickly that it was almost certainly unavoidable. Is that not something that happens in every motorsport series imaginable from time to time?

No doubt, we can always push to make improvements in safety and race control. But this business will always carry an element of risk that needs to be accepted by those who participate. One bad accident should not dictate one’s opinion of the series as a whole.

I do believe there is work to be done to improve the state of ARCA on multiple levels. But I also think we need to be thoughtful and precise in how we go about voicing our concerns. Uploading a video full of baseless claims less than 24 hours after the fact that is little more than a crash compilation is, as Krall put it, “irresponsible.” Calling for the series to shut down without offering up any kind of solution does nothing to help matters. So while we should not be passive and pretend everything is perfect, let’s spend our time working to find those solutions rather than shouting down the series and its personnel who spend countless hours working for the chance to do what they love.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

ARCA WEST: Handling issues strike Smotherman as Pedroncelli’s absence leads to a new last-place finisher

Smotherman on track Saturday at Evergreen Speedway.
PHOTO: @EthanHSmith_

by Ben Schneider Guest Contributor

R.J. Smotherman finished last for the 1st time in his ARCA Menards Series West career in Saturday’s Evergreen 150 at Evergreen Speedway when his #21 Blue Valor Whisky / Stoney’s Roadhouse Ford retired with handling issues after 16 of 150 laps.

The finish came in Smotherman’s West Series debut.

Smotherman grew up racing in Las Vegas, winning a championship in the Bandolero Class by the time he was eleven years old. He also raced junior late models in Madera, California, competing in the Junior Late Model Series, a series for ten to sixteen-year-olds funded by Madera Speedway owner Kenny Shepherd and NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch. Now seventeen, Smotherman made his debut in the West Series on Saturday in the Kart Idaho Racing #21 entry, which had only made one other start earlier this season at Irwindale Speedway when Stafford Smith drove it to a fourteenth-place finish.

This past weekend at Evergreen marked the milestone 1,000th race in the history of the West Series, which can trace its history back to 1954 when it was known as the Pacific Coast Late Model Circuit. After several rebrands for sponsorship reasons, the West Series became known as the ARCA Menards Series West following NASCAR’s acquisition of ARCA in 2018. What had most recently become the K&N Pro Series West was rebranded under the ARCA Menards Series banner beginning with the 2020 season.

Entering the weekend, two cars were noticeably absent from the entry list. Defending LASTCAR ARCA Menards Series West champion and weekly last-place favorite Paul Pedroncelli elected not to make the trip to Evergreen, while his son P.J. skipped the event as well. With only four races remaining in the season, Paul Sr.’s four last-place finishes will almost certainly still be enough to defend his title due to his six Bottom Five finishes, coupled with the fact that this season’s other last-place finishers are all on part-time schedules themselves. In place of the Pedroncellis were the debuts of Smotherman and Sean Hingorani, who qualified seventh in Eric Nascimento’s #4 car. Canadian David Smith was the third newcomer to the series, bringing up the field in the fifteenth and final starting spot.

At the start of the race, West Series regular Bridget Burgess tagged the wall coming off of turn 4 to complete Lap 1, bringing the caution out as she suffered a flat tire. Burgess dropped to last place as she had to pit for repairs, but as the field was slowed under caution, she only lost one lap to the leaders. Burgess had regained a handful of positions by the time Smotherman pulled behind the wall as the first retirement with 16 laps completed. (An Instagram post from Smotherman later confirmed the entry was intended as a “start-and-park.”) Hingorani and Smith were the next retirements, falling out with crash damage after 71 and 117 laps respectively. Rounding out the Bottom Five were Chris Lowden and Andrew Tuttle, both of whom brought out cautions for single-car incidents during the race but managed to keep their cars running at the finish.

Up front, Sunrise Ford Racing continued their winning streak, although Tanner Reif was the one who went to Victory Lane this time, breaking Jake Drew’s stretch of three consecutive series victories. The win moves Reif up to second in the championship point standings, albeit 44 back of Drew’s total of 361.

15) #21-R.J. Smotherman / 16 laps / handling
14) #4-Sean Hingorani / 71 laps / crash
13) #05-David Smith / 117 laps / crash
12) #11-Chris Lowden / 128 laps / running
11) #39-Andrew Tuttle / 141 laps / running

1st) Chevrolet (6)
2nd) Ford (1)

1st) Pedroncelli Racing (4)
2nd) Jones Racing, Brian Kamisky Racing, Kart Idaho Racing (1)


Tuesday, August 23, 2022

INDYCAR: Electronics issues sideline Rinus VeeKay at Gateway

PHOTO: Ed Carpenter Racing

by William Soquet Staff Writer

Rinus VeeKay finished last for the 2nd time in his NTT IndyCar Series career in Saturday’s Bommarito Auto Group 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway when his #21 Bitoin Racing Team with Bitnile Chevrolet fell out of the race with mechanical issues after completing 53 of the race’s 260 laps.

The finish came in VeeKay’s 44th career start and was his first since the Indianapolis 500 earlier this year, nine races ago.

Since his crash at Indianapolis, VeeKay has had quite the eventful summer. For a few fleeting weeks, he was considered the hottest free agent on the IndyCar market - that is, before silly season became the craziest in recent memory. VeeKay locked in a multi-year extension with Ed Carpenter Racing, a well-deserved one in the middle of a season that has VeeKay outperforming other team entries on a regular basis. Those efforts included fourth-place runs at Mid-Ohio and Iowa and a handful of laps led on the streets of Toronto.

After campaigning for more ovals on the schedule during the early portion of the weekend, Jimmie Johnson anchored the charts in practice, about a tenth of a second off the pace of Dalton Kellett. Felix Rosenqvist was the last car on the starting grid. His #7 Arrow McLaren SP spun during qualifying and since there is single-shot qualifying on ovals, he did not list a time. In fact, IndyCar’s qualifying report went so far as to denote that Rosenqvist failed to qualify for the race, although that was not, in fact, true.

Starting alongside Rosenqvist in the final row was Ed Carpenter, making his final oval start of the year. Carpenter struggled throughout 2022, only mustering a 19th-place finish in the Indianapolis 500 and showing a noticeable lack of speed at all other ovals on the schedule. However, the duo both passed Jimmie Johnson on lap one, who fell five seconds back of the leaders at the end of the first lap. He gradually fell back and was lapped during the opening green-flag run on Lap 39. Jack Harvey cycled to last as green-flag pit stops began on Lap 47, and VeeKay went to last on Lap 51. Carpenter briefly took last on Lap 52 as VeeKay went back out on track, but he was in the pits one lap later with electronic issues.

VeeKay later said that his entire dashboard froze, forcing him to shift gears on feel and not on what the dash said. He brought the machine into pit road to do a power cycle, which would reset the car, but the car wouldn’t shift into neutral, eliminating one option at a fix. The car was taken to the garage, where it was retired.

The Dutch driver was the only one that failed to finish the race. Alexander Rossi was 25th, his race derailed after running out of fuel under green. Harvey rounded out the Bottom Three after contact with the outside wall during the mid-portion of the race led to an extended repair period on pit lane.

26) #21-Rinus VeeKay / 53 laps / mechanical
25) #27-Alexander Rossi / 226 laps / running
24) #45-Jack Harvey / 239 laps / running

1st) Chevrolet (8)
2nd) Honda (6)

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


Sunday, August 21, 2022

CUP: Kyle Tilley’s steering trouble leaves him last in international Watkins Glen field

PHOTO: @teamlivefast on Twitter

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Kyle Tilley picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Go Bowling at the Glen at Watkins Glen International when his #78 Brush Creek Valley Farms Ford fell out with steering issue after 15 of 90 laps.

The finish came in Tilley’s fifth series start. In the Cup Series last-place rankings, it was the 24th from steering issues, the 30th for the #78, and the 725th for Ford. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 31st from steering problems, the 45th for the #78, and the 998th for Ford.

A member of Era Motorsport’s LMP2 class winner in the 2021 Rolex 24 at Daytona, Tilley had successfully finished all four of his previous Cup Series starts, each as a “road ringer” for Live Fast Motorsports in the #78 Ford. Most recently, he’d matched his career-best 30th-place finish at Road America – his first in NASCAR’s NextGen car. Last year at Watkins Glen, Era Motorsport sponsored Tilley’s first XFINITY ride, fielded by Live Fast co-owner B.J. McLeod. But on a Lap 12 restart, contact from another car turned Tilley into the wall, and the resulting overheating issues ultimately left him in last place due to the “Damaged Vehicle Policy.”

The England-born Tilley represented one of a series-record seven different countries represented in Sunday’s field, headlined by 2007 Formula One World Champion Kimi Raikkonen of Finland. Raikkonen’s “Project91” entry, fielded by Trackhouse Racing, debuted with the intent of bringing even more international drivers into Cup races. As of this writing, both this year’s Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson and 2009 Formula One World Champion Jenson Button have expressed interest.

In opening practice, Tilley was slowest of the 39 entered drivers, then despite running off-course in the chicane improved to 37th in qualifying with a lap of 117.403mph (1 minute, 15.126 seconds). This was still the slowest lap of the session as two other drivers didn’t take time – Christopher Bell, who during practice lost the engine in the Esses on his #20 DeWalt Toyota, and Cody Ware who took the last starting spot in the #51 Nurtec ODT Ford. Both Ware and Tilley were docked for unapproved adjustments along with 4th-place William Byron in the #24 Chevrolet, 16th-place Ty Gibbs in the #45 Toyota SmartPath Toyota, and 36th-place Daniil Kvyat in the #26 Hezeberg Systems Toyota. Kyle Busch, set to roll off 10th after running off-course on his timed lap, would also be penalized for an engine change on his #18 Snickers Toyota.

First lightning, then a steady rain delayed the start of Sunday’s race. As water puddled in several corners during the initial pace laps, at least two teams had issues with their windshield wipers. Loris Hezemans, set to start 34th, saw his wiper motor short out, smoke, then fail to respond. As Hezemans struggled to see his way around the track in the #26 Hezeberg Systems Ford, Mike Rockenfeller’s wiper spun in a complete circle and failed, making the laps equally treacherous for the #77 NationsGuard Chevrolet. NASCAR called off the start and brought the field back to pit road, where both crews made repairs – though Hezemans’ crew wasn’t sure if they could fix it. The rain eased, but a damp track still confronted the 39-car field, which addressed the starter’s stand single-file, per NASCAR regulations.

When the green flag dropped, Tilley was 36th across the stripe ahead of Aric Almirola, whose #10 Go Bowling Ford was to start 35th, followed by 38th-place Kvyat and 39th-place Ware, 19.425 seconds back of the lead. But heading into the chicane for the first time, Almirola missed the turn and served a stop-and-go in the access lane, dropping him to last, 2.317 seconds back of Tilley to start Lap 2. Heading back into Turn 1, Austin Cindric’s #2 Menards Richmond Ford got into A.J. Allmendinger’s #16 Action Industries Chevrolet, sending Allmendinger into a spin. Shortly after, both Harrison Burton’s #21 DEX Imaging Ford and Corey LaJoie’s #7 Raze Energy Chevrolet spun in the same corner, both narrowly avoiding the stopped Allmendinger. Allmendinger rejoined the field in 34th while Burton took over last from Almirola on Lap 4.

On Lap 5, Justin Haley made an unscheduled stop for a loose window net on his #31 LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevrolet, dropping 2.049 seconds back of the now 38th-place Burton. The next time by, Haley had dropped to 6.881 seconds back of Burton and was now nearly a minute behind the leader, a full 57.228 seconds in arrears. By Lap 8, Haley had climbed to 37th with Tilley now back to 38th as Almirola made a pit stop for slick tires, dropping his #10 to last for a second time. On the 10th go-round, Almirola was now a lap behind the leaders, but running laps five seconds faster than he had on rain tires. By Lap 12, he was still the only driver lapped, and remained just in front of then 3rd-place runner Chase Elliott.

By now, the track was starting to dry, and other drivers came in for green-flag stops to change to slick tires. Cody Ware’s stop dropped him to last on Lap 13, when Daniil Kvyat incurred a penalty for speeding on pit road. Burton retook last on Lap 14, followed soon after by Kvyat after he served his pass-through penalty. Tilley, too, sped on pit road, and served his penalty the next time by, dropping the #78 back to last on Lap 16. As he came back up to speed, however, Tilley reported an issue with the steering, and the crew instructed him to pull behind the wall. This was done on Lap 18, when NASCAR reported his car first to enter the garage. On Lap 28, as Kvyat sat on pit road for an issue with the power steering, NASCAR declared Tilley out of the race. 

Kvyat’s faulty power steering force him to pull into the garage twice more, including a camber change on his second stay. He still finished under power in 36th, though 32 laps down to race winner Kyle Larson. The first car he passed was Todd Gilliland, whose #38 took the lead under green and led for five laps, only to suddenly slow with an apparent transaxle issue coming out of Turn 5. Kimi Raikkonen’s Cup debut included his own bid for a Top Ten in his #91 Recogni Chevrolet. But on Lap 45, during a stack-up exiting the chicane, Raikkonen was sideswiped by Loris Hezemans, putting him nose-first into the wall and out of the race. Bubba Wallace rounded out the Bottom Five with late-race suspension issues on his #23 SiriusXM Toyota.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #78 in a Cup race at Watkins Glen.
*This was the first time the last-place finisher of a Cup race fell out with steering issues since May 23, 2021 at COTA, where Justin Haley’s #77 Fraternal Order of Eagles Chevrolet dropped out after 12 laps.

39) #78-Kyle Tilley / 15 laps / steering
38) #38-Todd Gilliland / 28 laps / rear axle
37) #91-Kimi Raikkonen / 44 laps / crash
36) #26-Daniil Kvyat / 58 laps / running
35) #23-Bubba Wallace / 83 laps / running

1st) Live Fast Motorsports (6)
2nd) Joe Gibbs Racing, Spire Motorsports (3)
3rd) Hendrick Motorsports, Penske Racing, Trackhouse Racing (2)
4th) 23XI Racing, Kaulig Racing, NY Racing Team, Richard Childress Racing, Rick Ware Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing, Team Hezeberg (1)

1st) Chevrolet, Ford (10)
2nd) Toyota (4)


Saturday, August 20, 2022

XFINITY: Justin Allgaier scores first XFINITY last-place finish in 394th start, completing LASTCAR Triple Crown


by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Justin Allgaier picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Sunoco Go Rewards 200 at the Glen at Watkins Glen International when his #7 Brandt Chevrolet crashed after 4 of 82 laps.

The finish came in Allgaier’s 394th series start. In the XFINITY Series rankings, it was the 14th for the #7, the 368th from a crash, and the 602nd for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 53rd for the #7, the 1,301st from a crash, and the 1,854th for Chevrolet.

With the finish, Allgaier also becomes the 40th driver to complete the LASTCAR Triple Crown for scoring at least one last-place finish in each of NASCAR’s national touring series. Allgaier’s first Truck Series last-place finish came at Kansas on July 2, 2005. His first in the Cup Series came at Charlotte on May 24, 2015.

While his XFINITY Series career began with Penske Racing in 2008, Allgaier has enjoyed most of his success in bright orange Chevrolets sponsored by Brandt Agriculture. The driver-sponsor pairing began in 2011, when Allgaier began his tenure for Turner Motorsports after the acquisition of Braun Racing. It continued through two frustrating years in the Cup Series, when HScott Motorsports’ two-car effort became the subject of multiple LASTCAR articles. And it blossomed in 2016, when both joined JR Motorsports and returned to championship form. While a XFINITY title continues to elude Allgaier, who finished runner-up in 2020, he has become a regular sight in Victory Lane, scoring 19 wins as one of the series’ top regulars.

But Allgaier’s weekend at Watkins Glen began with a brake issue in practice, where he ran 11th-fastest. He managed to make the second round in qualifying, but didn’t turn a lap, securing him 10th on the grid with no speed registered. The needed repairs incurred him a tail-end penalty for unapproved adjustments along with 3rd-place Kyle Larson in the #88 Chevrolet, 24th-place Patrick Gallagher in RSS Racing’s #38 Belle Haven Ford, 30th-place Brandon Brown in the #5 B.J. McLeod Motorsports Chevrolet, 32nd-place Scott Heckert in McLeod’s #78 Malco Automotive Chevrolet, 33rd-place Andy Lally in the #08 Refology Ford, 35th-place Timmy Hill, who changed transmissions on the #66 R Stone / Coble Enterprises Chevrolet, and 37th-place Bayley Currey in the #4 Hy-Vee Chevrolet.

Securing the 38th and final starting spot was Blaine Perkins, whose #02 Robinson Fresh Chevrolet spun in Turn 1 during practice. Prior to the start, NASCAR moved Perkins up to fifth from the end of the left lane ahead of the penalized Allgaier, McLaughlin, Brown, and Heckert with the right lane now trailed by Preston Pardus – originally 31st in the #91 Chinchor Electric / GSD Chevrolet – ahead of the docked Larson, Lally, Hill, and Currey. This would put Heckert and Currey side-by-side in the final row. But when the green flag dropped, both Heckert and Currey crossed the stripe just before Brown and Lally with Lally 4.576 seconds back of the leader.

By the end of Lap 1, Lally had climbed to the 37th spot, butting Currey back to last, a full 10.792 seconds back of the leader and 0.370 back of the #08. Lally then climbed past Heckert, who Currey caught on Lap 2. By the time they crossed the stripe to start the third circuit, Heckert was back to last, 5.409 back of the lead. Currey now set his sights on Lally, who had opened up more than a full second’s advantage. On Lap 5, Heckert had just caught and passed Currey, putting the #4 back to last, when trouble broke out in the Esses.

During the first five laps, Allgaier climbed from 30th across the stripe to 20th and challenged Jeremy Clements for position. Through the Esses, Clements’ #51 Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet – decorated in a “throwback” to Dale Earnhardt’s first pink race car – appeared to break loose, causing Allgaier to pull to his outside. But Allgaier himself was out of control, and after a long slide slammed nose-first into the guardrails between Turns 3 and 4. Though he nearly collected Josh Bilicki’s #45 Sargento Chevrolet, no other drivers were involved, and the caution came out. Allgaier attempted to return to pit road, trailing fluid down the backstretch as Currey passed him for last heading into the "Inner Loop." Allgaier cut through the corner, then stopped halfway through Turn 5, where he climbed out, done for the day.

Taking 37th was Jeb Burton, whose #27 Ergodyne Work Gear Chevrolet lost the brakes entering the Inner Loop and collected Myatt Snider’s #31 Bommarito Automotive Group Chevrolet. Burton pulled behind the wall, eliminated under the “Damaged Vehicle Policy” for the incident despite minor damage to his car. The 36th spot fell to Patrick Gallagher, whose rear gear caught fire down the backstretch, forcing him to stop in the Inner Loop. That same spot later saw Alex Labbe grind to a halt after his #36 Larue Industrial Snow Blowers Chevrolet pounded the outside guardrail off Turn 4 with the driver’s side. Labbe climbed out gingerly, and was brought to the medical center. Rounding out the Bottom Five was Kris Wright, whose #68 F.N.B. Corporation Chevrolet had a driveshaft failure exiting Turn 1.

Through the many spins, crashes, and lengthy cautions, several drivers enjoyed strong runs. Stefan Parsons tied his career-best 12th-place finish from his series debut at Daytona in 2019, this time driving Alpha Prime Racing’s #44 Kelly Mitsubishi Chevrolet. Five spots behind him came teammate Josh Bilicki, whose #45 Sargento Chevrolet ranked 17th – his best-ever XFINITY finish at Watkins Glen. In between came Timmy Hill, who after the aforementioned transmission change took 14th for his best XFINITY finish of the season, and his first run better than 27th all year. Also taking 20th was Brad Perez, whose XFINITY Series debut in the #35 WEISS Toyota for the Emerling-Gase Motorsports effort came one year after his ARCA debut at the same track.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #7 in a XFINITY Series race since August 11, 2012, when Danica Patrick also finished last at Watkins Glen – hers for a crash after 2 laps of the Zippo 200. These remain the only two last-place finishes for JR Motorsports’ #7 team.

38) #7-Justin Allgaier / 4 laps / crash
37) #27-Jeb Burton / 8 laps / crash
36) #38-Patrick Gallagher / 14 laps / rear gear
35) #36-Alex Labbe / 26 laps / crash
34) #68-Kris Wright / 30 laps / driveshaft

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

1st) Chevrolet (17)
2nd) Toyota (3)
3rd) Ford (2)