Thursday, September 22, 2022

PREVIEW: Eye-catching paint schemes and the return of Parker Retzlaff among entry list storylines for Texas

PHOTO: @MBMMotorsports

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Saturday, September 24, 2022 (3:30 P.M. ET, USA)
XFINITY Race 27 of 33
Round of 12: Race 1 of 3
Andy’s Frozen Custard 300 at Texas
2021 Last-Place Finisher: J.J. Yeley

There were originally 39 entrants for this week’s XFINITY Playoff opener, but after Mike Harmon Racing withdrew, all 38 remaining cars will qualify.

DRIVER SWAP: #5-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #68-Brandonbilt Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #78-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Welcome back Matt Mills, who's slated to return after missing the last two races due to flu-like symptoms unrelated to COVID. Mills will not run the #78 he was slated to run at Bristol, but instead the #5 in place of Brandon Brown, who after his last-place run at Bristol returns to the #68 in place of Kris Wright, 25th in Bristol. The reason? A new sponsor has come aboard in CAT Trailer Sales, the black, yellow, and blue scheme unveiled on Wednesday. Taking the place of B.J. McLeod, who drove in Mills' relief in the #78 last week for a 34th-place run, is Garrett Smithley, who this week pulls double-duty (see below).

DRIVER CHANGE: #6-JD Motorsports
WITHDREW: #47-Mike Harmon Racing
MISSING: #52-Jimmy Means Racing
Ryan Vargas tweeted on Monday that he will not be running for JD Motorsports this weekend, nor at Homestead and Phoenix, as funded driver will take his place in those events. After it was originally a TBA, that driver is Brennan Poole, who will run all three of those races. Poole, who failed to qualify in Means Racing’s attempted return last week, had originally been listed in the #47, which Dawson Cram also DNQ’d with in Bristol. The #47 has since withdrawn, thus locking the remaining 38 entrants into the race. The sponsor for Poole’s #6 this week is MACC Door Systems. Poole takes the place of Bobby McCarty, who ran 31st in his series debut at Bristol. Still to be announced is the #6 team’s remaining schedule among the other four races still left to be run: Talladega, the Charlotte "Roval," Las Vegas, and Martinsville. 

DRIVER CHANGE: #13-Motorsports Business Management
Another late driver change involved Carl Long’s team Motorsports Business Management, which originally entered Timmy Hill to take the place of Bristol DNQ Chad Finchum. By Wednesday, that had changed to Akinori Ogata, who’s planned rollout of the #13 black-and-yellow Mooneyes Toyota has been moved up to this weekend. Ogata had originally planned to run this race, then moved it to Phoenix after his DNQ in Kansas. That plan has since changed again. With the withdrawal of the #47 team, Ogata is now assured his first XFINITY start on a track more than one mile in length.

DRIVER CHANGE: #18-Joe Gibbs Racing
John Hunter Nemechek and longtime sponsor Romco Equipment team up with the potent Joe Gibbs Racing #18 team this week, taking the place of 14th-place Bristol finisher – and last week’s ARCA Menards Series race winner – Sammy Smith. This will be Nemechek’s first XFINITY start since Darlington earlier this month, where he ran 9th, and his first in the #18 since early brake issues at Dover left him 37th.

TEAM UPDATE #34-Jesse Iwuji Motorsports
Jesse Iwuji’s name is on this week’s entry list, but Kyle Weatherman’s name is on the rear glass of the #34 Chevrolet as it was loaded on Wednesday. 

DRIVER CHANGE: #35-Emerling-Gase Motorsports
Continuing his long-standing efforts with the Donate Life Foundation, Joey Gase will run a vibrant paint scheme on his #35 Toyota, a combined effort with both Donate Life Texas and the Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency (LOPA). Gase, who most recently finished 30th in the rain-shortened Kansas race, takes the place of 27th-place Bristol finisher Patrick Emerling.

Mario Gosselin swaps two of his drivers this week, moving 26th-place Bristol finisher Alex Labbe to the #92 and 21st-place Bristol finisher Josh Williams to the #36. Mason Massey will remain in the #91.

DRIVER CHANGE: #44-Alpha Prime Racing
Tommy Joe Martins returns for the first time since a stray piece of debris through the radiator left him in last place at Darlington earlier this month, and drives one of his own Alpha Prime cars for the first time since the spring Darlington race, where he ran a season-best 17th. Martins takes the place of Ryan Ellis, who finished 19th in Bristol.

MISSING: #77-Bassett Racing
Ronnie Bassett, Jr. is not entered after his family’s team made the show in Bristol and finished 28th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #02-Our Motorsports
News broke recently that Parker Retzlaff had parted way with RSS Racing, with whom the impressive 19-year-old turned in three finishes of 12th or better in his first five career starts. This week, Retzlaff returns to the series for the first time since Nashville in July, and this time takes the wheel of Our Motorsports’ #02 Chevrolet with his Nashville sponsor Funkaway joining the effort. Retzlaff takes the place of Sage Karam, who ran a solid 18th under the lights last week.


Sunday, September 25, 2022 (3:30 P.M. ET, USA)
CUP Race 30 of 36
Round of 12: Race 1 of 3
Autotrader Echo Park Automotive 500 at Texas
2021 Last-Place Finisher: Joey Gase

Only the 36 Chartered entries are headed to Texas, set to form the smallest Cup field in the track’s history (which dates back to 1997). The previous mark was 37 in the spring of 2018. This is the 29th short field in 30 races, a season that while tying the modern era record of 19 different winners saw 40 cars take the green only in the Daytona 500.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Rick Ware Racing
In addition to his run for B.J. McLeod, Garrett Smithley will pull double-duty in Sunday’s Cup race, returning to the site of his run in the 10th-place finish in this year’s All-Star Open. It will be Smithley’s 75th career Cup start and his first since Atlanta in July, where he drove this same #15 team to a 27th-place finish. He takes the place of J.J. Yeley, who after suffering one of the night’s many flat tires at Bristol finished 23rd.

DRIVER CHANGE: #16-Kaulig Racing
Noah Gragson will also run both races, back in the #16 for the first time since his 18th-place showing in Kansas for his 13th career Cup start. This week, he welcomes new backing from the Ed Morse Automotive Group, whose Freedom dealership has a big presence in Texas. Gragson takes the place of A.J. Allmendinger, who ran a strong 7th in Bristol.

TEAM UPDATE: #77-Spire Motorsports
Josh Bilicki tweeted last week that he was not in the race at Bristol due to a hand injury. Bilicki will again be out of the Zeigler Auto / LoJak Chevrolet, which goes to Landon Cassill, 22nd in Bristol.

Saturday, October 1, 2022
TRUCKS Race 21 of 23
Round of 8: Race 2 of 3
Chevy Silverado 250 at Talladega
2021 Last-Place Finisher: Jack Wood

The Truck Series returns next week to kick off Talladega weekend.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (September 22, 1996): Rusty Wallace picked up the 7th last-place finish of his Winston Cup career in the Hanes 500 at Martinsville. After winning the spring race at the track, Wallace started outside-pole and led the first 35 laps, only for his #2 Miller / 25 Years of Racing Ford lost the water pump after 148 laps.

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