Thursday, September 1, 2022

PREVIEW: A swap of two Cup invaders - plus two car numbers - among Darlington storylines

IMAGE: @TeamAlphaPrime

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Saturday, September 3, 2022 (3:00 P.M. ET, USA)
XFINITY Race 24 of 33
Sport Clips Haircuts VFW Help a Hero 200 at Darlington
2021 Last-Place Finisher: Gray Gaulding

There are exactly 38 drivers entered for as many spots, meaning all will qualify.

DRIVER CHANGE: #5-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
This week, Tommy Joe Martins will run B.J. McLeod’s #5 with Capital City Hauling as sponsor, which would mark only his 5th XFINITY start of the year and first since the spring race at this same Darlington track, where he ran 17th in his own Alpha Prime #45. Martins will drive one of B.J.'s cars in place of Josh Williams, who inherited the #5 at Daytona after Natalie Decker’s sponsorship issue and the subsequent rain-inflicted DNQ of DGM Racing’s #92. Williams will again run for DGM this week, this time taking the place of Alex Labbe in the #36. Labbe is not entered.

DRIVER CHANGE: #13-Motorsports Business Management
Daytona saw Timmy Hill earn a career-best runner-up finish to Jeremy Clements in just his sixth XFINITY start of the season. This week, Chad Finchum takes Hill’s place in the #13. Finchum has improved in each of his four XFINITY starts at Darlington, climbing from 32nd in 2018 to 30th, then 24th, and most recently a 20th in a show-stopping 1998 Jerry Nadeau “throwback” scheme in 2020.

MISSING: #14-Kaulig Racing
Justin Haley is not entered in the XFINITY race after his newest entry from the Kaulig Racing fleet was collected in one of the night’s wrecks, leaving him in 25th place. Haley, who missed the Playoff cut after threatening for the win in Daytona before the Turn 1 rain, will focus on his Cup ride in Kaulig’s #31.

RETURNING: #17-Hendrick Motorsports
Defending Cup champion and current Playoff contender Kyle Larson looks to crash the XFINITY party again in the Rick Hendrick / JR Motorsports #17 entry with

DRIVER CHANGE: #18-Joe Gibbs Racing
Despite consistently excellent finishes in the Cup races at Darlington, defending Southern 500 winner Denny Hamlin was once again entered in the track’s XFINITY race, taking the place of Daytona last-place finisher Sammy Smith. But that changed by Wednesday, as the neck, back, and hip soreness Hamlin suffered after the Turn 1 pileup in Florida made him reconsider running the race. Does this open the door for an up-and-coming driver? Of course not! Teammate and fellow Playoff driver Christopher Bell will take the wheel.

MISSING: #24-Sam Hunt Racing
MISSING: #28-RSS Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #47-Mike Harmon Racing
MISSING: #77-Bassett Racing
MISSING: #92-DGM Racing
Four of the five teams that were washed out of last week’s race are not entered at all, including the aforementioned #92 that Josh Williams was originally going to run before he climbed aboard the McLeod #5. Joining the #92 are Bassett Racing’s #77, plus the second Sam Hunt Racing entry and third RSS Racing car. The Mike Harmon team was originally not entered as well, but has since joined the list with Brennan Poole taking the place of Daytona entrant and G2G Racing co-owner Tim Viens.

DRIVER CHANGE: #34-Jesse Iwuji Motorsports
Last week’s XFINITY race saw Jesse Iwuji earn a career-best 11th-place finish in a series where he’d never before run better than 22nd in 13 previous starts. This week, Kyle Weatherman again takes the wheel, looking to defend his own 12th-place showing in the spring race here.

DRIVER CHANGE: #35-Emerling-Gase Motorsports
For the first time, the Emerling-Gase team earned back-to-back finishes of 20th or better as Brad Perez’ 20th-place debut in Watkins Glen was followed by a season-best tying 16th-place showing for Joey Gase in Daytona. If the streak continues, it will be with a third different driver. Dawson Cram will make just his second XFINITY start and first since Loudon last year, when he ran for Mike Harmon. Cram brings with him sponsorship from Be Water, which backed his Truck Series team toward the end of 2021.

DRIVER CHANGE: #44-Alpha Prime Racing
It’s been a great week for the Alpha Prime Racing team, which earned its first top-five finish last week when Sage Karam finished a career-best 5th in the team’s #44, followed by the announcement that Josh Bilicki’s #45 Sargento Chevrolet would be the team’s first car to be produced in diecast. Taking Karam’s place in the #44 this week is Ryan Ellis with a dazzling “throwback” scheme – complete with uniform – that resembles Jeff Gordon’s iconic “flames’ paint scheme from 2001-2008. Ellis’ longtime sponsor Keen Parts joins the effort.

DRIVER CHANGE: #45-Alpha Prime Racing
Fresh off a 9th-place finish in Wednesday night’s Window World 125, the CARS late model event during the Racetrack Revival at the North Wilkesboro Speedway, Stefan Parsons has a throwback scheme of his own, running a 1970s-themed #45 Pops Mart Chevrolet. Parsons, who takes the place of 28th-place Daytona finisher Caesar Bacarella, ran 20th at Darlington this past spring, and most recently finished a career-best 12th in Watkins Glen.

DRIVER CHANGE: #48-Big Machine Racing
Scott Borchetta’s team once again swaps one Cup regular for another, putting no less than Cup Playoff contender Ross Chastain in the #48 for the first time, replacing 27th-place Daytona runner Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. Chastain ran the XFINITY race at Watkins Glen two rounds ago, where he finished 28th after his Mario Gosselin entry ran off course into a gravel trap.

TEAM UPDATE: #51-Jeremy Clements Racing
On late Tuesday came news that last Saturday’s Daytona winner Jeremy Clements was assessed a L2 penalty by NASCAR for an infraction relating to the manifold. The team was able to keep the victory, but lost their Playoff spot, 75 driver and owner points, plus a $60,000 penalty for crew chief Mark Setzer. The JCR team has since filed an appeal on Wednesday.

DRIVER CHANGE: #68-Brandonbilt Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #78-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Brandon Brown came up just short of a Cinderella story in Daytona, where he reunited with Larry’s Lemonade as sponsor. Aiming for nothing less than a win, and the chance of his team gaining much-needed funding for a Playoff push, Brown had to settle for 4th. Thus, Kris Wright is back to run eight of the remaining ten races in the #68 with his F.N.B. Corporation sponsorship. Brown will instead run B.J. McLeod’s #78, which nearly had a Top Ten in Daytona before Matt Mills’ career-best run was ruined after he was collected in a late-race wreck.

DRIVER CHANGE: #02-Our Motorsports
Ty Dillon will make his fourth XFINITY start of the year with a third different team and takes the green flag in the series for the first time since his 20th-place showing at Indianapolis for Johnny Davis. This time, Chris Our tabbed Dillon to replace Blaine Perkins, who has steadily improved from 32nd to 29th and 17th in his first three XFINITY starts with the team.

CUP INVADERS: #17-Kyle Larson, #18-Christopher Bell, #48-Ross Chastain, #02-Ty Dillon

Sunday, September 4, 2022 (6:00 P.M. ET, USA)
CUP Race 27 of 36
Round of 16: Race 1 of 3
Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington
2021 Last-Place Finisher: Michael McDowell

Only the 36 Chartered entries will attempt the opening round of the Cup Series Playoffs. This marks not only the 26th short field in 27 races this season, but the fewest ever starters in the Southern 500. While the spring race at Darlington has seen 22 runnings with 36 or fewer starters – including this year – the fewest cars in a Southern 500 grid was 38, set in 1991, 1992, and 2021. Most famously, the race saw NASCAR’s biggest field for a points race – 82 cars in 1951.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Rick Ware Racing
Last week, David Ragan finished 9th and completed the “All 40” challenge, having scored at least one Cup Series finish in each of the 40 currently available positions. This week, J.J. Yeley returns to the driver’s seat with Parts Plus as sponsor. This same weekend will see the Rick Ware effort field its first top fuel dragster with Clay Millican, also sponsored by Parts Plus.

NUMBER SWAP: #23-23XI Racing
NUMBER SWAP: #45-23XI Racing
While Kurt Busch – the originally listed driver – had already announced the withdrawal of his medical waiver, putting him out of the Playoffs, the 23XI team has not given up on this year’s Owner’s Championship. To accomplish this, Bubba Wallace – who missed the Playoffs – will run the #45 in Busch’s place with Ty Gibbs now in the #23. Other than the number swap, both teams will operate as they had before with their same crew chiefs, pit crews, and sponsors.

MISSING: #62-Beard Motorsports
Noah Gragson will not run Sunday’s Cup race following his first career top-ten finish last week in Daytona, his latest start for the Beard Motorsports effort. Gragson will instead focus on his full-time XFINITY campaign, where he seeks a season sweep at Darlington.

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 next week to conclude the Round of 10 at Kansas.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (September 1, 1986): Rounder Saverance picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Busch Grand National Series career in the Gatorade 200 at Darlington when his #88 Inland Timber Oldsmobile was involved in a multi-car crash after 26 laps. Saverance, who started last in the 40-car field, was a native of nearby Timmonsville, South Carolina – home of Cale Yarborough. It was to be Saverance’s second and final start, following a 31st-place showing earlier that year at Rockingham.

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