Thursday, August 18, 2022

PREVIEW: Watkins Glen sees Playoff storylines clash with an international cadre of "road ringers"

IMAGE: Trackhouse Racing / Project 91, posted by @jeff_gluck

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Saturday, August 20, 2022 (3:00 P.M. ET, USA)
XFINITY Race 22 of 33
Sunoco Go Rewards 200 at the Glen at Watkins Glen
2021 Last-Place Finisher: Kyle Tilley

There are 42 drivers entered for 38 starting spots, meaning four will fail to qualify. UPDATE: Make that 41 for 38, meaning three will DNQ and join the withdrawn #13 team (see below).

DRIVER SWAP: #5-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #68-Brandonbilt Motorsports
After a difficult 2022, Josh Williams parted ways with the McLeod team on August 10 and is thus not entered in the #5, which he drove to a 36th-place finish at Michigan. In Williams’ place comes Brandon Brown – 13th in Michigan – whose own Brandonbilt team made news of its own. With Brown already scaled back to a few races in the #68 due to sponsorship issues, nine of this year’s remaining 12 races will go to Kris Wright, released from his Truck Series ride in Niece Motorsports’ #44 on August 13. Wright brings his sponsor F.N.B. Corporation to sponsor the Brandonbilt car, starting this week.

DRIVER CHANGE: #6-JD Motorsports
Road racer Spencer Pumpelly returns for his first XFINITY race since Portland, where he ran 29th after a late-race crash in SS-Green Light Racing’s #08 Ford. This time, he takes the place of 29th-place Michigan finisher Ryan Vargas in the #6, which he most recently ran last year at Road America, where he finished in last place after a crash.

DRIVER CHANGE / WITHDREW: #13-Motorsports Business Management
DRIVER SWAP: #66-Motorsports Business Management
For the second-straight Watkins Glen race, Timmy Hill will carry sponsorship from Mercy Flight Central in a partnership between MBM team owner Carl Long and Craig Partee, owner of Fleur-de-lis Motorsports. Hill was originally slated to run the #13 in place of Michigan DNQ Akinori Ogata, but by midweek had swapped rides with teammate J.J. Yeley. This means the #66 is on Hill’s MBM / Fleur-de-lis Chevrolet with Yeley carrying the #13 on his R Stone / Coble Enterprises Toyota. Yeley has failed to qualify for the last two road course races at Road America and Indianapolis. UPDATE: As of Thursday, Yeley and the #13 team have withdrawn.

RETURNING: #17-Hendrick Motorsports
The first of four Cup Series “invaders” who inexplicably always seem to run this race is William Byron, who seeks his third XFINITY start of the year, his first since a 26th-place run at Loudon, and his first in Rick Hendrick’s #17 Chevrolet.

DRIVER CHANGE: #26-Sam Hunt Racing
Connor Mosack rejoins the circuit for the first time since his 28th-place debut at Portland in Joe Gibbs’ #18 Toyota, where he was eliminated in a late-race crash. This time, Mosack drives for Sam Hunt’s Toyota team in place of 19th-place Michigan finisher John Hunter Nemechek. Mosack will be sponsored by Rad Cats NFTs. 

MISSING: #28-RSS Racing
Not among this week’s entries is the scaled-back part-time third entry from the Sieg effort with which Kyle Sieg took 21st in Michigan.

DRIVER CHANGE / TEAM UPDATE: #32-Jordan Anderson Racing / AM Racing
One week after a slip in qualifying prevented Jordan Anderson from qualifying his new second team into the race at Michigan, Anderson has teamed with AM Racing and put AM’s own Austin Wayne Self behind the wheel, bringing with him sponsorship from AM Technical Solutions. Self seeks his first career XFINITY Series start after 143 career starts in the Truck Series.

TEAM UPDATE: #34-Jesse Iwuji Motorsports
While the preliminary entry list showed Jesse Iwuji’s name on the entry blank, it will be Kyle Weatherman behind the wheel, looking to keep up the momentum after a strong Michigan weekend that saw him qualify a team-best 8th and finish in 16th. Weatherman’s only previous XFINITY start at Watkins Glen was last year, when electrical issues on Mike Harmon’s Chevrolet left him 34th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #35-Emerling-Gase Motorsports
Late this week came news that Brad Perez will make his second attempt at his XFINITY Series debut, this time taking the place of Patrick Emerling, the 25th-place finisher last time out in Michigan. Just last year at this track, Perez made his ARCA debut for Josh Williams’ team, finishing 24th. 

The Sieg team welcomes back Patrick Gallagher for what would be his fourth XFINITY start of the season, again with sponsor Belle Haven. Gallagher’s season-best finish came at Road America, where he took home 19th, and he’s finished on the lead lap in all three of his starts. Gallagher takes the place of C.J. McLaughlin, who finished next-to-last at Michigan after an early crash with Matt Mills.

DRIVER CHANGE: #44-Alpha Prime Racing
Stefan Parsons seeks his first XFINITY start since Pocono, his first with Alpha Prime since Nashville, and his first on a road course since the rainy afternoon in Portland. Those were Parsons’ three most recent starts, where he ran 24th, 15th, and 23rd. Kelly Mitsubishi is the sponsor this week as Parsons takes the place of Ryan Ellis, who took 27th at Michigan.

SPONSOR UPDATE: #45-Alpha Prime Racing
Josh Bilicki literally picked up a sponsor in Road America when his avoidance of the day’s biggest wreck resulted in a Sargento banner sticking to the front of his Alpha Prime Chevrolet. While not running Sunday’s Cup race, he will run the Sargento colors on Alpha Prime’s second car. Bilicki’s best finish in four previous XFINITY starts at The Glen came last year, when he ran 24th for Rick Ware Racing.

DRIVER CHANGE: #47-Mike Harmon Racing
Stanton Barrett, soon to be featured in the next episode of my YouTube series “Rise of the Field Fillers,” teams up with Mike Harmon Racing for what would be his first XFINITY start since this same race in 2019. That day, when he finished 23rd for Carl Long, Barrett was sponsored by Horseheads Brewing, which returns this year to back the #47. Barrett takes the place of Brennan Poole, who was the fastest driver to miss the show in Michigan. This would be Barrett’s 205th series start.

MISSING: #77-Bassett Racing
Not making the trip this week are the Bassett brothers, who most recently in Michigan saw Dillon qualify an impressive 14th before he slipped to 34th in the final running order.

DRIVER CHANGE: #78-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Taking the place of Michigan last-place finisher Matt Mills is a returning Scott Heckert, who brings his Malco Automotive sponsorship back to the McLeod team’s flagship #78. Heckert, who earlier this year drove for McLeod’s Cup team at Sonoma, finished 31st in his most recently XFINITY start at Indianapolis.

RETURNING: #88-JR Motorsports
Kyle Larson runs the #88 for the first time this year, sharing the same sponsorship with William Byron in the #17.

Preston Pardus returns to tackle another NASCAR road course race, again with Mario Gosselin’s team and in the #91 Chevrolet driven at Michigan by 24th-place Mason Massey. This will be only the second XFINITY start at The Glen for Pardus, who finished 23rd in Gosselin’s #90 last year.

Ross Chastain seeks his 195th XFINITY Series start and third of the year, his first since a 4th-place finish at Indianapolis, as Mario Gosselin brings back his part-time #92 effort.

DRIVER CHANGE: #07-SS-Green Light Racing
Cole Custer rejoins the XFINITY Series for the first time since his 10th-place showing at Pocono, taking the place of 23rd-place Michigan finisher Joe Graf, Jr. Bucked Up Energy Drink remains as the sponsor.

DRIVER CHANGE: #08-SS-Green Light Racing
Andy Lally has finished no better than 14th in his previous three road course starts this year, and on Saturday seeks his first XFINITY start at Watkins Glen since 2007, when he finished 10th for Tad Geschickter. Lally takes the place of David Starr, who finished 35th with a hub failure in Michigan, running the same #08 entry he’s piloted at both Road America and Indianapolis.

CUP INVADERS: #17-William Byron, #88-Kyle Larson, #92-Ross Chastain, #07-Cole Custer

Sunday, August 21, 2022 (3:00 P.M. ET, USA)
CUP Race 25 of 36
Go Bowling at the Glen at Watkins Glen
2021 Last-Place Finisher: James Davison

There are 39 drivers entered for 40 spots, including drivers from a record seven different countries. The result is the largest Cup field since Talladega in April – though still the 24th short field in 25 races in 2022. Among the 39 entrants are drivers from a series-record seven different countries.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Rick Ware Racing
Joey Hand returns to the Cup circuit for the first time since his 29th-place finish on the Indianapolis Grand Prix Circuit, looking to improve on his career-best 20th earlier this summer at Sonoma. He takes the place of J.J. Yeley, who finished 32nd at Richmond.

DRIVER CHANGE: #16-Kaulig Racing
Road racing means the return of 2014 Watkins Glen winner A.J. Allmendinger, who hopes his team has figured out his malfunctioning cool suit. Allmendinger finished 7th his last time out at Indianapolis, and rejoins the Cup field at The Glen for the first time since 2018, when he finished 18th. The Dinger takes the place of Noah Gragson, who was 24th in Richmond.

RETURNING: #26-Team Hezeberg
RETURNING: #27-Team Hezeberg
Also returning for the first time since Indy is the Team Hezeberg duo of Dutch racer Loris Hezemans and Formula One veteran Daniil Kvyat of Russia. Hezemans again runs the flagship #27 Ford, still looking for his first finish under power after running no better than 34th due to three different issues in his three previous starts. Kvyat runs the #26 Toyota that took a 36th-place finish after suspension issues in Indy.

TEAM UPDATE: #45-23XI Racing
As of this writing, Kurt Busch is slated to make his first Cup start since the concussion suffered in a Turn 3 crash at Pocono. This comes after Ty Gibbs made his first four Cup Series starts, yielding both his first top-ten finish at Michigan and first last-place run at Richmond. This would be Busch’s 777th series start. UPDATE: On Thursday came confirmation that Kurt will NOT race this week nor next round at Daytona, and seeks to return in the Playoffs.

DRIVER CHANGE: #77-Spire Motorsports
Mike “Rocky” Rockenfeller of Germany –  a championship road racer who in 2010 won both the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 24 Hours of Le Mans – will make his NASCAR debut in Spire Motorsports’ second entry, carrying sponsorship from Nations Guard. Rockenfeller takes the place of Landon Cassill, who finished 30th in Richmond. 

DRIVER CHANGE: #78-Live Fast Motorsports
Kyle Tilley, last year’s XFINITY last-place finisher at Watkins Glen, takes over for B.J. McLeod in the #78 Ford with Brush Creek Valley Farms as sponsor. This will be Tilley’s fifth Cup start and second of the season, following his 30th-place run at Road America. It will be Tilley’s first Cup start at The Glen.

NEW TEAM: #91-Trackhouse Racing
Sunday sees the debut of Trackhouse’s “Project 91,” a part-time third team designed to bring more international drivers into NASCAR’s elite series. Kicking things off is no less than 2007 Formula One World Champion Kimi Raikkonen, fresh off a test at Virginia International Raceway. Kimi made both his XFINITY and Truck Series debuts back in 2011, taking 15th and 27th at Charlotte. Kimi carries sponsorship from artificial intelligence company Recogni and iLOQ, a keyless lock company based in his native Finland.

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 does not return to Watkins Glen this year and will return to action in three weeks to conclude the Round of 10.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (August 18, 1986): Mike Porter picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR Busch Grand National Series career in the L.D. Swain 150 at the Orange County Speedway when his #3 Adventure Land Video Pontiac started outside-pole, only to lose the engine after 34 laps. Porter made 87 Busch starts from 1982 through 1992 with a best finish of 3rd earlier in the ‘86 season at Martinsville on March 23rd, trailing Morgan Shepherd and Larry Pearson.

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