Thursday, October 13, 2022

PREVIEW: Deegan’s debut, Jaskol’s return, and two of ARCA’s best among Las Vegas entrants

IMAGE: Joe Gibbs Racing

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

This weekend’s action in Las Vegas marks my return to trackside coverage for the first time since Sears Point. I will be following the last-place action for both the NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Cup Series, so be sure to stay tuned to my Twitter @LASTCARonBROCK for updates!

Saturday, October 15, 2022 (3:00 P.M. ET, NBC)
XFINITY Race 30 of 33
Round of 8: Race 1 of 3
Alsco Uniforms 302 at Las Vegas
2021 Last-Place Finisher: Joe Graf, Jr.

A spot in the Championship Four is at stake for both this weekend’s races in Las Vegas, starting with the XFINITY Series, where 38 drivers will contest the 38-car starting grid, meaning none will be sent home.

DRIVER CHANGE: #5-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Matt Mills returns to the driver’s seat for the first time since his solid 16th-place performance in Texas, taking the place of 22nd-place Charlotte finisher Scott Heckert. Seven of Mills’ previous eight XFINITY starts at Las Vegas have come in this same #5 for B.J. McLeod, including his track-best 24th in this race in 2019.

DRIVER CHANGE: #13-Motorsports Business Management
SPONSOR UPDATE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
For just the second time this year, Matt Jaskol will run a XFINITY Series race, returning for the first time since his career-best 18th at Portland. He will again drive for Carl Long with Auto Parts 4 Less as sponsor, returning to the site where he skydived into the track before last year’s race. Auto Parts 4 Less is among several Nevada-based sponsors to back MBM this week. Teammate J.J. Yeley in the #66 will carry logos for Diamondback Land Surveying, Modern Concrete, Inc., and Rollin’ Smoke Barbecue.

DRIVER CHANGE: #18-Joe Gibbs Racing
It’s a birthday-themed paint scheme for Trevor Bayne as sponsor Devotion Nutrition celebrates their seventh anniversary. Bayne, who takes the place of surprising 4th-place Charlotte finisher James Davison, will run his next-to-last XFINITY race of the season. His only other scheduled start will be next week in Homestead.

DRIVER CHANGE: #26-Sam Hunt Racing
John Hunter Nemechek is back in the XFINITY Series for the first times since Texas, where he was challenging for the lead before a crash off Turn 2. This time, he carries with him sponsorship from Berry’s Bullets, a longtime Nemechek backer, on Sam Hunt’s #26 in place of Daniil Kvyat, who finished a solid 15th on the Roval in his series debut. John Hunter has finished no worse than 12th in his three previous XFINITY starts here.

For the first time since their DNQ from the August Daytona race, RSS Racing is fielding their part-time third entry, the #28, which last took the green at Michigan with a 21st-place finish. Kyle Sieg, who ran that day in Michigan, is again in the #28 Ford this week. Kyle finished 23rd in his most recent XFINITY start at Darlington last month, taking 23rd in RSS’ #38.

DRIVER CHANGE: #34-Jesse Iwuji Motorsports
MISSING: #47-Mike Harmon Racing
Kyle Weatherman is back in Jesse Iwuji’s #34 this week, set to make his seventh Las Vegas start. Weatherman finished a track-best 18th in this race last year, one of his last starts for Mike Harmon Racing, which isn’t entered this week after Gray Gaulding DNQ’d in Charlotte. Weatherman takes the place of Kaz Grala, who was sidelined by a crash in Charlotte that left him 35th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #35-Emerling-Gase Motorsports
Jeffrey Earnhardt welcomes back returning sponsor Kitty Kat Coin on the #35 as he makes his first start since Talladega, where he ran next-to-last as he was lapped by the leaders as they crossed the finish line. Earnhardt has likewise never DNF’d in any of his previous five XFINITY starts at Las Vegas, where his best finish was a 19th in the spring of 2021. He takes the place of Brad Perez, who finished 23rd despite late-race damage on the “Roval.”

MISSING: #92-DGM Racing
One week after Alex Labbe turned in a strong 6th-place finish on the Charlotte “Roval,” he will  not be making the trip to Las Vegas. Also not on the entry list is the #92 entry with which Josh Williams finished next-to-last after track bar issues marred his effort. Williams will run in Labbe’s place in the #36, bringing his Alloy Employer Services sponsor with him.

C.J. McLaughlin returns for the first time since Talladega, where he ran 29th, and again carries the Sci Aps colors on RSS Racing’s second entry, the #38. He takes the place of Patrick Gallagher, who finished 33rd after he lost the engine on the “Roval.” The last time McLaughlin ran on a 1.5-mile track was in Texas, where he finished a career-best 10th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #44-Alpha Prime Racing
Las Vegas marks the fifth career XFINITY start for rookie Rajah Caruth, who must be eager to finish a full race. His last start came in the rain-shortened Kansas event, where he finished 25th, while a mechanical issue and a first-lap mistake handed him last-place finishes at both Dover and Pocono, respectively. Fresh off a strong 3rd-place rank in the ARCA Menards Series, which concluded last week in Toledo, Caruth takes over the #44 for Josh Bilicki, who ran 34th after issues on the “Roval.”

DRIVER CHANGE: #48-Big Machine Racing
Speaking of ARCA, Saturday’s entry list also includes the series’ newly crowned champion, Nick Sanchez, who happens to be Caruth’s teammate at ARCA’s Rev Racing. Sanchez, who finished an impressive 11th his last time out in Texas, takes over for Marco Andretti, whose NASCAR debut ended with a mid-race tangle with Jeb Burton.

MISSING: #52-Jimmy Means Racing
The Jimmy Means effort will not be in Las Vegas after Brennan Poole came up short of making the cut on the “Roval.”

DRIVER CHANGE: #78-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
For the first time since November 10, 2018 at Phoenix, Brandon Brown will not be starting a XFINITY Series race. Taking Brown’s place in the #78 with which he finished 20th in Charlotte is Garrett Smithley, who carries continuing sponsorship from Top Tier Solar Solutions on the Chevrolet. Smithley has seven prior XFINITY starts in Las Vegas with a best finish of 18th twice in 2018 and 2019.

Mason Massey returns to the driver’s seat for the first time since his unusual last-place finish at Talladega, where his crew diagnosed an electrical fault and got him back on track, only to finish 38th in a race where everyone’s car was still running. Massey takes the place of Preston Pardus, who finished 21st on the Roval after a late-race spin down the backstretch.

DRIVER CHANGE: #02-Our Motorsports
Parker Retzlaff never got to show what he could do for Our Motorports at Texas, where damage to the nose on the initial start put him multiple laps down. For the first time since, he again runs the #02, one week after Sage Karam ran 3rd for much of the “Roval’s” late stages, only to fall back to 30th after a spin. Saturday will be Retzlaff’s seventh career XFINITY start.

DRIVER CHANGE: #07-SS-Green Light Racing with Jeff Lecourt
Making many headlines already is the announced XFINITY debut of Truck Series driver Hailie Deegan, who this week takes the wheel of the #07 with sponsorship from Pristine Auction. Deegan, whose best finish in 44 Truck Series starts is a 6th two weeks ago in Talladega, takes the place of Joe Graf, Jr., who finished 27th in Charlotte.

DRIVER CHANGE: #08-SS-Green Light Racing with Jeff Lecourt
Joining Deegan at the SS-Green Light team is David Starr, who takes the place of 31st-place “Roval” finisher Andy Lally. Starr carries sponsorship from Amptricity in what will be his first XFINITY start since a 25th-place showing in Talladega. It will be Starr’s 11th XFINITY start at Las Vegas, a track where his best run of 17th came in 2015 for TriStar Motorsports.


Sunday, October 16, 2022 (2:30 P.M. ET, NBC)
CUP Race 33 of 36
Round of 8: Race 1 of 3
South Point 400 at Las Vegas
2021 Last-Place Finisher: J.J. Yeley

The Cup Series sees just the 36 Chartered drivers entered for 40 starting spots, marking the 32nd short field in 33 races this season, and the smallest-ever field for a Cup race at Las Vegas.

DRIVER SWAP: #15-Rick Ware Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Rick Ware Racing
After his ankle injury from Texas sidelined him from the Charlotte “Roval,” Cody Ware is set to return in Las Vegas, where he earned a track-best 26th there this past spring. He takes the place of teammate J.J. Yeley, who after a 32nd-place “Roval” run slides back to the RWR #15 in place of Joey Hand, sidelined by a tangle with Austin Cindric that left him 38th.

TEAM UPDATE: #16-Kaulig Racing
TEAM UPDATE: #48-Hendrick Motorsports
The Las Vegas race was set to be hometown driver Noah Gragson’s next in the #16 car, but that will change as Alex Bowman tweeted on Wednesday he would not run these next three races following his concussion from Texas and subsequent elimination from the Playoffs. Bowman's status for Phoenix is still to be determined. Gragson will instead run the #48 for a third-straight race, keeping 4th-place “Roval” finisher A.J. Allmendinger in the #16 for another week.

MISSING: #26-Team Hezeberg
MISSING: #27-Team Hezeberg
MISSING: #50-The Money Team
The three “open” teams that brought the Roval field to 39 cars are not entered this week. Of these, Loris Hezemans finished best in the Hezeberg #27, taking 33rd ahead of 34th-place Daly for The Money Team and last-place Daniil Kvyat in the #26.

DRIVER CHANGE: #77-Spire Motorsports
Landon Cassill will pull double-duty this weekend as he returns in place of 29th-place “Roval” finisher Mike Rockenfeller in the #77 Chevrolet, bringing Voyager: Cryptos for All as sponsor once more. This will be Cassill’s 10th Cup start in Vegas, a track where his best finish of 18th came with StarCom Racing in 2018.

DRIVER CHANGE: #78-Live Fast Motorsports
B.J. McLeod resumes driving duties this week, returning to the Cup garage for the first time since his 33rd-place showing in Talladega. He takes the place of Josh Williams, who focuses on XFINITY this week for DGM Racing after a 31st-place finish on the “Roval.”

Saturday, October 22, 2022
TRUCKS Race 22 of 23
Round of 8: Race 3 of 3
Baptist Health 200 at Homestead
2020 Last-Place Finisher: Bryant Barnhill

Next week, the Truck Series returns in Homestead to set their own “Championship Four.”

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (October 13, 2002): Jason Hedlesky picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Winston Cup Series career in the UAW-GM Quality 500 at Charlotte – the same race where Jamie McMurray won in just his second start. Hedlesky drove for Junie Donlavey in the #90 Lucas Oil Ford – Donlavey’s 863rd and final as a Cup Series team owner. Hedlesky, who drove for Donlavey in ARCA, has since become a spotter for various NASCAR teams. 

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