Thursday, May 19, 2022

PREVIEW: Return of Hacker, Holmes, and a Smithley double-header part of Texas All-Star weekend

SCREENSHOT: @TeamAlphaPrime

Friday, May 20, 2022 (8:30 P.M. ET, FS1)
TRUCKS Race 9 of 23 220 at Texas
2021 Last-Place Finisher: Ross Chastain

After the series’ first short field of 2022 with 35 trucks, there are 38 trucks entered for 36 spots, meaning two teams will be sent home.

RETURNING: #3-Jordan Anderson Racing
For the first time since Jordan Anderson withdrew his truck from COTA, five races ago, the #3 team is back in the lineup with Dometic Outdoor as sponsor. The team eyes its first series start since Atlanta, where after a DNQ in Daytona and a 26th-place crash in Las Vegas finished a solid 18th. Myatt Snider will continue to compete in Anderson’s #31 XFINITY entry on Saturday, currently sitting 19th in the series standings.

DRIVER CHANGE: #17-David Gilliland Racing
Ryan Preece rejoins the Gilliland effort for the fourth time in 2022 and for the first time since Darlington. He enters this event with finishes of 4th, 7th, and 7th in his prior three races, and designs on keeping that streak going with Morton Buildings as sponsor of his Ford. Preece takes the place of XFINITY regular Riley Herbst, who finished 12th last week in Kansas.

DRIVER CHANGE: #20-Young’s Motorsports
Garrett Smithley is set to make his 10th career Truck Series start, his first since a one-off for Nice Motorsports at Charlotte on May 26, 2020, where rear end issues left him in 36th. As in that race, Smithley will carry sponsorship from Trophy Tractor, which also backs his Rick Ware Racing #15 in the All-Star Open on Sunday. Smithley takes the place of Matt Mills, who fractured an axle in Kansas and finished in 34th place.

RETURNING: #32-Bret Holmes Racing
Bret Holmes rejoins the Truck Series field for the first time since Martinsville, where he finished 24th, and looks to replicate the 8th-place run in his most recent 1.5-mile track run at Las Vegas this past spring. Holmes brings back his #32 Chevrolet with Holmes II Excavation as sponsor. He has yet to make a Truck Series start at the Texas track.

DRIVER CHANGE: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
“Hackerman,” Chris Hacker, rejoins the Reaume effort for only the second time in 2022 and the first since Atlanta, where he ran 17th in only his second lead-lap finish in five starts. Dal Dirt, his Atlanta backer, rejoins the #33 as Hacker takes the place of team owner Josh Reaume, who finished 30th last time out in Kansas.

RETURNING: #41-Niece Motorsports
Texas sees Ross Chastain back in the part-time fifth Al Niece entry for the first time since Darlington, and returning to the site of his disqualification in the 2021 running. Still tied with William Byron for the most Cup wins this season, Chastain again shares Dean Thompson’s sponsor Worldwide Express on the #41 Chevrolet.

DRIVER CHANGE: #43-Reaume Brothers Racing
It’s been two frustrating weeks for the second Reaume entry, following Akinori Ogata’s tangle with Reaume in the early laps at Darlington and Jesse Iwuji flagged off the track for running too slow in Kansas. Taking the wheel this time is another relative newcomer in Armani Williams, who made his series debut last summer at Gateway, finishing 21st. Williams carries new sponsorship from Ice Cold Technologies.

Returning to his home track is Brennan Poole, who again pilots the #46 G2G entry in place of Ryan Huff, 28th in his series return last week in Kansas. Poole looks to pull double-duty again as his XFINITY ride with Mike Harmon Racing welcomes new sponsorship from apparel company American Scroll. Poole looks to make both starts after he was washed out of Darlington’s XFINITY race.

RETURNING: #62-Halmar Racing
The next step in Todd Bodine’s march to 800 NASCAR starts comes at the track where he’s won more Truck Series races than any other – six in total. Bodine brings back the second Halmar entry with Camping World sponsoring the effort. His last series start here was in 2013, when he finished 18th for ThorSport.

CUP INVADERS: #41-Ross Chastain

Saturday, May 21, 2022 (1:30 P.M. ET, FS1)
XFINITY Race 12 of 33
SRS Distribution 250 at Texas
2021 Last-Place Finisher: Bayley Currey

There are 39 drivers entered for 38 spots, meaning one team will fail to qualify.

DRIVER CHANGE: #26-Sam Hunt Racing
Once again, Jeffrey Earnhardt debuts a new look to his ForeverLawn sponsored entry as he rejoins Sam Hunt Racing in the #26 Toyota. Earnhardt, who we last saw finish runner-up at Talladega for Richard Childress and crew chief Larry McReynolds, takes the place of John Hunter Nemechek, who ran a strong 4th last time out in Darlington.

DRIVER CHANGE: #34-Jesse Iwuji Motorsports
After he was flagged off the track for running too slow in Kansas’ Truck race, Jesse Iwuji returns to the #34 in place of Kyle Weatherman, who finished a team-best 12th in his last outing at Darlington. Iwuji has one previous XFINITY start at Texas on October 24, 2020, when he ran 23rd for B.J. McLeod.

C.J. McLaughlin attempts his first XFINITY race since Las Vegas, where he finished a season-best 24th. He takes the place of Kyle Sieg, who ran 32nd in Darlington. is the listed sponsor.

DRIVER CHANGE: #44-Alpha Prime Racing
Ryan Ellis rejoins Alpha Prime Racing for the first time since Dover, and drives the #44 for the first time since Talladega, this time with Limetree Marketing as sponsor. This will be Ellis’ first XFINITY start at Texas since 2016, when he finished 33rd for Obaika Racing. Ellis takes the place of Josh Bilicki, who finished 28th in Darlington.

DRIVER CHANGE: #45-Alpha Prime Racing
MISSING: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
With the McLeod #99 not entered following his season-best 20th-place finish in a paint scheme resembling his father’s 1988 Talladega winner, Stefan Parsons brings sponsor Sokal to the second Alpha Prime team, replacing team co-owner Tommy Joe Martins in the #45 Chevrolet, also backed by Market Rebellion. The younger Parsons eyes his fourth XFINITY start at Texas, where he finished 18th for McLeod in 2020.

DRIVER CHANGE: #88-JR Motorsports
William Byron, the aforementioned two-time race winner in the Cup Series this season, takes his turn in JR Motorsports’ #88 Chevrolet, washed out of the Darlington field when Chase Elliott was entered.

CUP INVADERS: #48-Tyler Reddick, #88-William Byron

Sunday, May 22, 2022 (5:30 P.M. ET, FS1)
CUP Exhibition Race
NASCAR All-Star Open at Texas
2021 Last-Place Finisher: Daniel Suarez

Four drivers from this list of 16 will transfer into the All-Star Race: winners of the 20, 20, and 10-lap segments, plus a fan vote winner. This entry list – consisting of only the Chartered entries not already qualified – is the second-smallest in the event’s history, trailing only the 14-car grid for the inaugural Atlanta Invitational in 1986. The record for the largest Open field is 36 – the exact number of total Chartered entries today – which was matched in 1994, 1995, and 1996. There were 22 starters last year. Garrett Smithley (#15) and Landon Cassill (#77) return to replace Kansas starters J.J. Yeley and Josh Bilicki, respectively.

#3-Austin Dillon
#7-Corey LaJoie
#8-Tyler Reddick
#15-Garrett Smithley 
#17-Chris Buescher
#21-Harrison Burton
#31-Justin Haley
#38-Todd Gilliland
#41-Cole Custer
#42-Ty Dillon
#43-Erik Jones
#47-Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.
#51-Cody Ware
#77-Landon Cassill 
#78-B.J. McLeod
#99-Daniel Suarez

Sunday, May 22, 2022 (8:00 P.M. ET, FS1)
CUP Exhibition Race
NASCAR All-Star Race at Texas
2021 Last-Place Finisher: Denny Hamlin 

The four transferred drivers from the Open will compete against these 20 locked-in drivers for a total starting field of 24, tied with 2003, 2004, and 2008 for the second-most cars in the history of the event. The record for the most is 27 cars which took the green in 2002. The total length of Sunday’s race is 125 laps split among four stages.

#1-Ross Chastain
#2-Austin Cindric
#4-Kevin Harvick
#5-Kyle Larson
#6-Brad Keselowski
#9-Chase Elliott
#10-Aric Almirola
#11-Denny Hamlin
#12-Ryan Blaney
#14-Chase Briscoe
#16-A.J. Allmendinger
#18-Kyle Busch
#19-Martin Truex, Jr.
#20-Christopher Bell
#22-Joey Logano
#23-Bubba Wallace
#24-William Byron
#34-Michael McDowell
#45-Kurt Busch
#48-Alex Bowman

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (May 19, 1991): Mike Skinner is credited with last place in the Winston Open at the Charlotte Motor Speedway when his #13 Glidden Chevrolet, fielded by Thee Dixon, did not start the event. Skinner would ultimately make nine more starts in the Open with a best finish of 3rd in 2003.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

FORMULA E: Antonio Giovinazzi scores a lead lap last-place finish

PHOTO: Motorsport Images

by Ben Schneider Guest Contributor

Former Alfa Romeo Formula 1 driver Antonio Giovinazzi finished last for the second time in his Formula E career in Sunday’s Berlin ePrix Race 2 when his #99 Dragon / Penske Autosport Penske EV-5 finished 1 minute, 1.933 seconds behind race winner Nyck de Vries.

The finish came in Giovinazzi’s eighth career Formula E start.

As is the case in Formula 1, the definition of a last-place finish is a bit more ambiguous than it is in NASCAR, ARCA, or IndyCar. Those that fail to finish the race are simply listed as “retired” at the bottom of the results sheet, or “not classified” if they are still running at the finish but completed less than 90% of the race distance.

The first time Giovinazzi appeared at the very bottom of the race results was in Rome earlier this season when he retired with a technical issue after completing 7 of the race’s 27 laps.

On Sunday, however, Giovinazzi’s last-place finish had another significant distinction: it was also a lead lap finish.

The chaotic and complicated nature of motorsports makes the coexistence of these two things an astonishment. Throughout all disciplines of racing, a majority of race weekends will see at least one caution or safety car period due to an on track incident that takes out at least one starter. The complex technology in racing cars often leads to mechanical issues or engine failures that can end a team’s day early. And even on the rare occasion where every driver is running at the finish, the discrepancy between the top competitors and the backmarkers means that the lower-funded teams and lesser-experienced drivers are prone to getting lapped by the leaders before the race is over.

Formula E, however, is a series with enough parity in the competition and where the races are short enough that Giovinazzi is not even the first driver to accomplish such a feat in the series. Stéphane Sarrazin finished on the lead lap in last place at Berlin four years ago when his #27 Andretti ATEC-03 finished 1 minute and 6.954 seconds behind race winner Daniel Abt.

In Sarrazin’s case, it was his first race back after missing the first eight rounds of the 2017-18 Formula E season, making a surprise return to the series to replace Tom Blomqvist at Andretti. Giovinazzi, meanwhile, has run the complete season so far this year, though his success has been limited; he and teammate Sérgio Sette Câmara are the only drivers yet to record a Top Ten finish this season and score a championship point. While many ex-F1 drivers have made a successful switch to Formula E, Giovinazzi will certainly be looking for some positive momentum when the series returns to action on June 4 in Indonesia.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

ARCA: Arnout Kok unable to overcome qualifying crash at Kansas

ALL PHOTOS: @DnfRacers
by William Soquet Staff Writer

Arnout Kok picked up the second last-place finish of his ARCA Menards Series career in Saturday’s Dutch Boy 150 at Kansas Speedway when his #01 Brand South Africa Toyota did not start the race.

The finish was Kok’s first since Milwaukee in 2021, eight races ago.

Since his engine troubles at Milwaukee, Kok returned to ARCA action at Kansas last year for Fast Track Racing, falling out of the race with rear end troubles. He tested at Daytona with Fast Track at the beginning of this season, and Kansas would mark his first actual start under race conditions. Longtime supporters Brand South Africa, Wild West Jerky, and Polar Bear Coolers supported the effort, plus Space Grill, a sponsor from Kok’s stint with Obaika Racing.

Nineteen other entrants joined Kok on the entry list for Kansas, which shrank by one after the CCM Racing entry of Matt Wilson withdrew. Will Kimmel took over the #69 entry after Scott Melton broke his leg at Talladega, and Ron Vandermeir, Jr. ran one of his own cars using owner points from Richmond Racing. Connor Mosack returned for one of his races in the Bret Holmes Racing machine, and Gus Dean ran one of his scheduled races with Venturini Motorsports. After being charged with felony battery, leading to an indefinite suspension by ARCA, Daniel Dye returned after his charge was reduced to a misdemeanor, his suspension lifted the day before the race. Fast Track Racing completed its lineup with D.L. Wilson, Bryce Haugeberg, and Ryan Huff.

The combined practice/qualifying session was held from 9:45-10:30 AM local time, and around 10:15, reports on social media started to surface that a car crashed, and to add insult to injury, it rolled into a Niece Motorsports hauler after it was taken off the tow truck. Those reports, as it turned out, concerned Arnout Kok and the #01 team. Brad Smith Motorsports crew member Colby Evans, who was at the track, noted that Kok was very upset about the incident and team owner Andy Hillenburg had to console the South African driver. The car was damaged beyond repair for the race that afternoon, but since the car took part in qualifying, ARCA listed the entry as a “did not start” and credited the driver and team with a 19th-place finish with no laps completed.

Finishing 18th was Brad Smith, whose crew was worn down from heat exhaustion throughout the course of the day. Alex Clubb was 17th, completing an even half of the race before falling out. Corey Heim and Drew Dollar rounded out the Bottom Five after Dollar drifted high into Heim in Turn 3 and wrecked them both on Lap 57, leading to a terse round of interviews for drivers and even a car owner after the incident.


19) #01-Arnout Kok / did not start

18) #48-Brad Smith / 31 laps / unknown

17) #03-Alex Clubb / 50 laps / unknown

16) #20-Corey Heim / 59 laps / crash

15) #18-Drew Dollar / 67 laps / crash

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

1st) Fast Track Racing (2)
2nd) CCM Racing, Jones Racing (1)


INDYCAR: A.J. Foyt Racing scores third consecutive 2022 last-place finish at Indianapolis GP

PHOTO: Dalton Kellett via Twitter

by William Soquet Staff Writer

Dalton Kellett finished last for the 4th time in his NTT IndyCar Series career in Saturday’s GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway when his #4 K-Line Insulators USA Chevrolet crashed out of the race after completing 34 of 75 laps in the time-shortened event.

The finish was Kellett’s first since Long Beach, two races ago.

In the one race in between his last-place finish at Long Beach and this one at Indianapolis, Kellett started and finished a quiet 23rd at Laguna Seca, bringing home a clean car for A.J. Foyt Racing.

Fresh off her last-place finish in the previous round at Barber, Tatiana Calderon was the slowest car in Indy's first practice, two seconds behind leader Alex Palou and two-tenths behind teammate Kellett, who was 26th. Speeds generally picked up in the second session, though this time it was Jimmie Johnson who was at the bottom of the charts, almost exactly two seconds behind leader Pato O’Ward. In qualifying, Will Power surged to his 64th career pole, and it was once again Johnson at the back, the lone starter on row 14 for the GMR Grand Prix. Foyt teammates Kellett and Calderon were 26th and 25th, respectively.

At the start of the race, Calderon and Johnson were side-by-side as Kellett gained a couple positions; Johnson soon was able to clear Calderon. However, there was a flurry of activity in the back of the running order. Colton Herta and Takuma Sato pitted on Lap 2; Christian Lundgaard pitted on Lap 3 and assumed the last position in the running order. All three stopped for dry tires, as the race had been started under a declared “wet” condition by IndyCar but some drivers felt that a dry tire would be more suitable for the conditions. The rest of the field pitted on Laps 4 and 5, and defending series champion Alex Palou stalled after an off-track excursion on his out lap, causing a caution.

Palou was the only entry a lap down until Lap 16, when Josef Newgarden had contact with Sato, Alexander Rossi and Jack Harvey all in quick succession, spinning off the track and puncturing both rear tires. He required a tow back to the garage area and NBC’s Leigh Diffey even declared Newgarden out of the race, seemingly putting the last-place battle to rest. However, ten laps later, Newgarden re-entered the race. Since the car had two flat tires, Newgarden required a tow back to the pits. However, safety procedure prevents cars from being towed with drivers inside of them. Since Newgarden’s car was not terminally damaged, IndyCar made an exception and allowed Newgarden’s crew to make necessary repairs and have him return to the race.

Newgarden plodded along until Lap 35, when Kellett lost control of his car in a quick left-right combo of corners and skidded along the wet grass, eventually contacting the outside wall and ending his race. It was a bittersweet turn of events for Kellett, who even earned a call from the broadcast booth in the early portions of the race for making some aggressive moves. It was a tough scene for A.J. Foyt Racing, which saw Kellett finish last at Long Beach and then Calderon finish last at Barber before the mishap at Indy. It didn’t get better for them throughout the course of the event. Kyle Kirkwood, who ran as high as second near the midpoint of the race, finished 26th when Graham Rahal sent it deep into a corner and spun the #14 car, causing gearbox problems that proved to be the end of Kirkwood’s race. Newgarden rounded out the Bottom Three, fifteen laps down and still running at the finish. The third crash victim of the day was Juan Pablo Montoya, driving in the month of May for a third Arrow McLaren SP entry, who got in the grass and into the wall with about two minutes left in the race (IndyCar switched to a timer when they determined that the 85 laps would not be hit within the series’ two-hour time limit) and finished 24th.

27) #4-Dalton Kellett / 34 laps / crash
26) #14-Kyle Kirkwood / 53 laps / crash
25) #2-Josef Newgarden / 60 laps / running

1st) Chevrolet (3)
2nd) Honda (2)

1st) A.J. Foyt Racing (3)
2nd) Andretti Autosport, Dale Coyne Racing (1)


Sunday, May 15, 2022

CUP: B.J. McLeod among victims of Kansas’ left-rear tire failures as roof hatch deploys during spin

PHOTO: @teamlivefast

B.J. McLeod picked up the 7th last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Advent Health 400 at the Kansas Speedway when his #78 General Formulations Ford fell out in a crash after 32 of 267 laps.

The finish, which came in McLeod’s 96th series start, was his second of the season and first since Martinsville, 5 races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 27th for the #78, the 630th from a crash, and the 718th for Ford. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it as the 41st for the #67, the 990th for Ford, and the 1,288th from a crash.

After a difficult night in Martinsville, the Live Fast Motorsports team brought on Josh Williams, McLeod’s lead XFINITY driver, to make his Cup debut during the Bristol Dirt race. The result was a solid 25th-place finish on the lead lap. While McLeod returned to finish 26th the next week in Talladega – the driver’s third-best finish in the first 12 races of the season – the two races after featured frustrating afternoons with brake issues. McLeod ran next-to-last at Dover when the left-front wheel locked-up, then at Darlington his car caught fire on pit road. McLeod climbed out without injury, but a 32nd-place finish was the result, the team’s fourth DNF of 2022. Last year, the Live Fast team only had four DNFs for the entire season.

At Kansas, McLeod ranked 35th of the 36 entrants, besting Josh Bilicki’s #77 UACC Chevrolet by two-tenths of a second. McLeod climbed to 32nd in qualifying with a ap of 168.251mph (32.095 seconds), but again only beat Bilicki based on time. Three other drivers didn’t turn a lap and thus rounded out the field, each due to blown left-rear tires that sent them into spins: Joey Logano in the #22 Verizon 5G Ford, Chris Buescher in the #17 Castrol GTX Full Synthetic Ford, and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in the #47 Dillons / Louisiana Hot Sauce Chevrolet. Only Logano and Buescher went to backup cars. Stenhouse incurred an unapproved adjustment penalty along with 18th-place starter Denny Hamlin in the #11 Sport Clips Haircuts Toyota and 31st-place Todd Gilliland in the #38 First Phase Credit Card Ford.

By Lap 5, Cody Ware had fallen to last place in his #51 Nurtec ODT Ford as all the penalized drivers now ranked 34th ad higher, Logano already up to 28th. Ware dropped McLeod to last the next time by, and opened up a 0.641-second advantage. Moments later, the first caution came out when Chase Briscoe’s #14 Rush Truck Centers / Cummins Ford spun off Turn 4 and endured a rough ride through the rain-soaked infield grass. Briscoe made it back to pit road without serious damage, but did take last from McLeod in the process on Lap 7. Ware retook the spot the next time by, but an apparent second stop by Briscoe dropped him back to 36th on Lap 9. 

By the 10th circuit, with the race back underway, Briscoe climbed to 34th with Ware two-tenths back of McLeod in the race for 35th. Ware then climbed to 33rd the next time by, dropping the #78 to last once more. From there, McLeod struggled with a car that was loose on both entry and midway through the corner, dropping him 1.253 seconds back of new 35th-place runner Bilicki on Lap 16. The gap continued to grow, increasing to 4.220 seconds on Lap 20, then 5.931 on Lap 22 before McLeod was first to be lapped the following time around. Both Ware and Bilicki were a lap down by Lap 30.

Then on Lap 35, McLeod cut down a left-rear tire as he neared the stripe. While staying off the outside wall, he spun to a stop on the apron with all four tires flat and his roof hatch fully deployed, held against the top of the car by its tethers. Now three laps down, McLeod expressed concern that the underside of his car was damaged in the spin, though he conceded he wasn’t sure how durable the diffuser assembly actually was. “I think we should just quit,” he said to the crew. Moments later, McLeod climbed from the car, saying something was on fire in the cockpit. The crew attempted to hail a flatbed to tow their Ford to the garage, but instead it was bumped to the garage by an equipment truck. While the team wasn’t sure if they were out even though McLeod climbed from the car, on Lap 40, the driver quietly said “We’re done.” The radio went silent until Lap 54, when another crew member confirmed “We’re gonna be done. It did a lot of damage to the car by spinning out. The team instructed the pit crew to pack up their equipment. On Lap 59, NASCAR confirmed McLeod was out, citing “chassis” as the cause perhaps due to McLeod’s concerns about the undertray and diffuser.

Taking 35th was Justin Haley, who during McLeod’s caution exited his pit stall only to lose the left-rear wheel, blocking Denny Hamlin behind him, followed by the left-rear corner of Haley’s car catching fire. Haley’s #31 Leaf Filter Gutter Protection Chevrolet then caught fire a second time around Lap 64, and pulled behind the wall, done for the day. Haley and McLeod were the only two drivers who failed to finish. Cody Ware took 34th, 12 laps down. Daniel Suarez, his #99 CommScope Chevrolet damaged after still another left-front cut down, putting him in the wall, took 33rd. Erik Jones rounded out the Bottom Five after his crew spent seven laps tried everything they could to remove a stuck right-rear wheel from his #43 Focus Factor Chevrolet.

Behind Kurt Busch, who gave the #45 its first Cup Series points race win since 1964, Noah Gragson picked up a career-best 18th-place finish in Kaulig Racing’s #16 Chevrolet, improving on his previous mark of 20th last month at Talldega for Beard Motorsports.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #78 in a Cup race at Kansas.
*This was the first last-place finish due to a “chassis” issue in a Cup Series points race. Prior to Sunday, it had also happened in exactly one XFINITY race (July 4, 2020, when Jeffrey Earnhardt dropped out after 9 laps at the Indianapolis Grand Prix Circuit) and one in Trucks (May 10, 2019, when Joey Gase was swapped into Jennifer Jo Cobb’s damaged truck to park it at Kansas).

36) #78-B.J. McLeod / 32 laps / chassis
35) #31-Justin Haley / 64 laps / electrical
34) #51-Cody Ware / 255 laps / running
33) #99-Daniel Suarez / 256 laps / running
32) #43-Erik Jones / 261 laps / running

1st) Live Fast Motorsports (3)
2nd) Spire Motorsports, Trackhouse Racing (2)
3rd) Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Kaulig Racing, NY Racing Team, Penske Racing, Richard Childress Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (8)
2nd) Ford (4)
3rd) Toyota (1)


Saturday, May 14, 2022

TRUCKS: Sluggish pace and poor handling leave Jesse Iwuji last for the first time


Jesse Iwuji picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Saturday’s Heart of America 200 at the Kansas Speedway when his #43 Equity Prime Mortgage Chevrolet failed to meet minimum speed after 24 of 134 laps.

The finish came in Iwuji’s 10th series start. In the Truck Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 4th for the #43, the 4th from a truck running too slow, and the 421st for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 8th from running too slow, the 50th for the #43, and the 1,839th for Chevrolet.

As one of the increasing numbers of black drivers to compete in NASCAR, Iwuji has further distinguished himself as the only active member of the U.S. military to compete in NASCAR’s national series. A former college football player at the United States Naval Academy, Iwuji has since risen to the rank of Lieutenant Commander. A chance trip to the Charlotte Motor Speedway got him interested in racing – first in drag racing and road racing before transitioning to stock cars. Iwuji began in what was then the K&N Pro Series West in 2015, but didn’t complete a lap until his third career start at Irwindale, where he took 20th. His first Top Ten came thee rounds later in a 17-car field at the Orange Show Speedway. In the years since, results have been hard to come by as he’s too often struggled for pace.

By 2017, Iwuji transitioned to the Navy Reserve, and branched out to east coast NASCAR venues in Loudon, Bristol, and New Smyrna. A six-race stint in ARCA came the following year, where he earned a career-best 15th on the lead lap at Talladega, the only race where he finished under power. A Truck Series debut followed that summer in Mosport, where he finished 25th for Josh Reaume’s underfunded team. Sometimes, his dual responsibilities have created conflict, as when he had to drive to pull an all-nighter to drive from a race in Las Vegas back to base. There’s also been conflict on the track, including several incidents in qualifying, and a race at Charlotte in 2020, where he lost laps early and accidentally wrecked a pair of lead-lap trucks.

While continuing to drive for Reaume a few times a year in the years since, he’s also made a few XFINITY races for other owner-drivers including Carl Long, B.J. McLeod, and Mike Harmon. This led him to his latest venture – Jesse Iwuji Motorsports, where he and NFL legend Emmitt Smith have fielded the #34 Chevrolet this year. Now both an entrepreneur and diversity advocate, Iwuji selected the #34 purposefully to honor Hall of Fame driver Wendell Scott. Yet Iwuji has still struggled in this series with no finishes better than 23rd. The JIM team has also fought through DNQs and poor showings, buoyed lately by the hiring of Kyle Weatherman as driver. Just last week in Darlington, Weatherman took home a strong 12th-place finish.

Kansas would mark a reunion of sorts for Iwuji and Josh Reaume, who would be teammates in Saturday’s race. This would be Iwuji’s first Truck start of the year, his first in the division since a 30th-place showing at Martinsville last fall. Equity Prime Mortgage, one of JIM’s sponsors in the XFINITY Series, would back Iwuji’s Chevrolet in the race. He ran second-slowest in opening practice, 4.173 seconds off the fastest lap by Zane Smith, and turned the slowest completed lap in qualifying, taking 34th with a lap of 153.868mph (35.095 seconds), nearly five seconds off the pole. After a rough outing for both Reaume teams last week, Iwuji faced another steep challenge.

Starting 35th and last in the year’s first short field was Tate Fogleman, whose black #30 Rangeline Group Toyota was the only truck to not take a time in qualifying. Mechanical issues limited him to just four laps in practice, where he ran the slowest of the entrants, and also handed him a redundant tail-end penalty for the resulting unapproved adjustments. Matt DiBenedetto would also incur the same penalty for adjustments on his 12th-place Rackley Roofing Chevrolet. Also sent to the rear was Stewart Friesen, who after multiple flight delays could not arrive in time for practice and qualifying. Fellow Toyota driver Bubba Wallace came over from the Cup garage to take the wheel of the #52 Halmar International Toyota, ranking 19th in practice and a strong 5th in qualifying. Friesen arrived for the race, and would fall to the rear for the driver change. By the time the field reorganized for the start, Friesen and Fogleman were the last two cars on the inside with DiBenedetto and Iwuji the last on the outside.

Iwuji pulls behind the wall after he is parked.
PHOTO: @DnfRacers

When the green flag dropped, Fogleman was last across the stripe, 3.423 seconds back of the leader and just behind Iwuji, 3.277 back. By Lap 3, Iwuji had fallen to the 35th spot, and was already 1.722 seconds back of Trey Hutchens, back in action for the first time since last summer in Nashville, his #14 Quality Roof Seamers Chevrolet 1.722 seconds ahead. Just two laps later, the gap between the two trucks opened to 4.497 seconds, Iwuji’s entry 15.14 back of the lead. The spotter told him to run the bottom, remarking “they’ll wreck us if we go the middle or top.” But the deficit continued to grow as Iwuji fought to pick up his speed. Regardless, by Lap 8, Iwuji was 25.876 back of the leader and 8.280 behind new 34th-place runner Spencer Boyd in the #12 Freedom Warranty Chevrolet. NASCAR warned Iwuji to pick up his speed as on Lap 10, the #43 became the first truck to lose a lap.

On the 12th circuit, NASCAR informed Iwuji he had to pit for one opportunity to repair his truck and meet minimum speed. “You’ve gotta pit this time,” said the crew. “Pit this time.” Reporting a free condition that kept him three seconds off the leader’s speed, Iwuji only made a brief stop before returning to the track, now three laps down to the leader. But he was still way off the pace, and on Lap 18 was warned by his crew not to drift up into faster traffic. The driver also remarked he couldn’t get his truck to work in traffic, and made a second quick stop on Lap 21 that put him five laps down. “If he doesn’t pick it up, we’re through,” the crew relayed to Iwuji’s spotter on Lap 25. At that point, his best lap of the race was a mere 34.351 seconds to race leader Corey Heim’s 31.482. Iwuji reached the end of Stage 1 six laps down, then pulled behind the wall under yellow, parked for failing to meet minimum speed. The message was relayed to team owner Josh Reaume sometime later.

Finishing 34th was Matt Mills, whose #20 J.F. Electric Chevrolet pulled into the garage twice before falling out with a snapped axle. Corey Heim’s strong run in Stage 1 was undone by mechanical gremlins and contact with the outside wall, leaving his #51 JBL Toyota ten laps down. Blaine Perkins’ #9 Raceline Chevrolet was spun by Tate Fogleman entering Turn 3, but didn’t draw a caution, and lost laps with the resulting green-flag stop. Rounding out the Bottom Five was Spencer Boyd, who briefly ran 34th before climbing to 31st.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #43 in a Truck Series race at Kansas.
*Iwuji is the first Truck Series driver to finish last for being “too slow” since March 20, 2021, when Norm Benning picked up his 17th career last-place finish in Atlanta (LINK).

35) #43-Jesse Iwuji / 24 laps / too slow
34) #20-Matt Mills / 91 laps / axle
33) #51-Corey Heim / 124 laps / running / led 18 laps / won stage 1
32) #9-Blaine Perkins / 126 laps / running
31) #12-Spencer Boyd / 127 laps / running

1st) Reaume Brothers Racing, Niece Motorsports (2)
2nd) AM Racing, David Gilliland Racing Ford, Front Row Motorsports, Young’s Motorsports (1)

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


Thursday, May 12, 2022

PREVIEW: Trey Hutchens, some XFINITY drivers, and Hill Motorsports’ second entry among those returning to action at Kansas

IMAGE: @J23app

Saturday, May 14, 2022 (8:00 P.M. ET, FS1)
TRUCKS Race 8 of 23
Heart of America 200 at Kansas
2021 Last-Place Finisher: Ryan Reed

Saturday’s Truck Series race will see just 35 drivers entered for the 36-truck field, the first short field of the 2022 season, and the first prior to the pandemic’s cancellation of qualifying since August 25, 2019 at Mosport, when 29 took the green in a field open to 32. As of this writing, no team has arrived to fill the field.

RETURNING: #5-Hill Motorsports
For only the second time in the team’s history, Hill Motorsports will enter their new second entry, the #5, and this time Tyler Hill is assured to start following a DNQ in COTA. No sponsor is yet listed for Tyler’s Toyota as he joins brother Timmy in the #56 Capillus / Hair Club Toyota.

RETURNING: #14-Trey Hutchens Racing
Welcome back Trey Hutchens, who along with his underfunded effort have not started a Truck Series race since last summer at Nashville, where he finished 33rd. Two races prior, Hutchens was involved in a violent accident at Charlotte where NASCAR failed to throw a caution for his slowing truck, leading to Johnny Sauter colliding with him. Hutchens returns to where he failed to qualify last year with Quality Roof Seamers again backing his Chevrolet.

DRIVER CHANGE: #17-David Gilliland Racing
An off-weekend for the XFINITY Series sees a couple of that division’s regulars take a turn in the Trucks. First of these is Riley Herbst, who like Ryan Preece before him at Darlington takes advantage of the partnership between David Gilliland’s Truck team and Stewart-Haas Racing. Herbst brings his Monster Energy sponsorship to the #17 for his first Truck start since this year’s Daytona opener, where he ran 12th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #20-Young's Motorsports
Also among the XFINITY regulars is Matt Mills, who for the third time this year and first time since Atlanta brings his J.F. Electric sponsorship to Randy Young’s #20 team. This time, Mills takes the place of Danny Bohn, who finished 22nd in Darlington. Mills made his Cup debut at this same Kansas track last spring, driving the #55 for his XFINITY team owner B.J. McLeod.

MISSING: #41-Niece Motorsports
Ross Chastain is not entered in Al Niece’s part-time fifth team after leading 46 laps in Darlington before slipping to 26th at the finish.

DRIVER CHANGE: #43-Reaume Brothers Racing
With Matt Crafton’s disqualification at Darlington undone earlier today, Akinori Ogata inherited his first last-place finish. Ogata will not run the #43 this week as still another XFINITY driver in Jesse Iwuji returns with his Equity Prime Mortgage sponsorship. This will be Iwuji’s first Truck Series start of the year – his most recent came last fall at Martinsville, when he ran 33rd for Josh Reaume in the flagship #33. Reaume is expected to run the #33 this weekend as Iwuji’s teammate.

The preliminary entry list had no driver listed to run the #46 G2G Staff Toyota, which struggled with electrical gremlins during Brennan Poole’s run last week in Darlington. By Thursday, that has switched to Ryan Huff, who returns to the series for his third career start and first since a two-race effort in 2020. His debut came at this same Kansas track, where he ran a career-best 19th in Josh Reaume’s #00.

MISSING: #62-Halmar Racing
Todd Bodine is not entered following a strong 10th-place finish in Darlington and will return next week at Texas during the support race for All-Star weekend.

MISSING: #75-Henderson Racing
Parker Kligerman is not entered following another strong 6th-place finish under the lights at Darlington.


Sunday, May 15, 2022 (3:00 P.M. ET, FS1)
CUP Race 13 of 36
Advent Health 400 at Kansas
2021 Last-Place Finisher: Josh Bilicki

Kansas marks the 12th short field in 13 races this season, and the third in a row with only the 36 Chartered entries.

Brad Keselowski welcomes new sponsorship from Kings Hawaiian bread, specifically promoting the brand's Pretzel Slider Buns.

DRIVER CHANGE: #16-Kaulig Racing
Another XFINITY regular joining the action in Kansas is Noah Gragson, who will make his fifth Cup start of the season and third for Matthew Kaulig, with whom he most recently ran 27th in the dirt race at Bristol. Gragson takes the place of Daniel Hemric, whose sick engine left him 31st in Darlington.

PAINT SCHEME: #45-23XI Racing
Kurt Busch runs a car with the iconic "Black Cement" elephant print with the Michael Jordan brand on his Toyota.

DRIVER CHANGE: #77-Spire Motorsports
The only other driver change on the entry list is the return of Josh Bilicki for his 7th start of the season and first since Dover, where he struggled in a 32nd-place finish. Taking the place of Landon Cassill, who ran 22nd in Darlington, Bilicki carries a new paint scheme representing the Ukranian American Coordinating Council (UACC).

Saturday, May 21, 2022
XFINITY Race 12 of 33
SRS Distribution 250 at Texas
2021 Last-Place Finisher: Bayley Currey

The XFINITY Series takes the week off and returns the week after as part of the All-Star weekend in Texas.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (May 12, 2001): Larry Gunselman picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series career when his #63 Waterloo Tool Storage Chevrolet overheated after 11 laps of the Darlington 200 at Darlington.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

ARCA EAST: Cosentino takes last for Fast Track Racing in final East standalone

by Ben Schneider Guest Contributor

Tony Cosentino finished last for the 1st time in his ARCA Menards Series East career in Saturday’s Music City 200 at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway when his #12 Fast Track High Performance Driving Chevrolet fell out with brake issues after completing 22 of 200 laps.

The finish came in Cosentino’s fourth career East Series start.

An experienced late model competitor, Cosentino made his debut in the then-K&N Pro Series West in 2019, running three races for owner Kevin McCarty with a best finish of 15th in his debut at Evergreen Speedway. Last season, he joined Andy Hillenburg’s Fast Track Racing team in the ARCA Menards Series, where he has primarily run as a start-and-park entry. His only non-DNF to date is a career-best 10th-place finish at Winchester Speedway in 2021. Cosentino’s schedule so far this season has consisted of the East Series opener at New Smyrna and Saturday’s race at Winchester, where he finished 14th both times.
Cosentino's car in the garage at New Smyrna earlier this year.
PHOTO: RJ Starcevic, @RJStarcevic

Just 17 cars showed up on the entry list, but only 14 actually started the race. Matt Wilson’s #22 CCM entry withdrew from the event, with Wilson eventually moving into Fast Track’s #10 car. Ashton Higgins was also set to return in his #49 entry, but he also withdrew. Finally, Pensacola last-place finisher Nate Moeller was scheduled to return with Wayne Peterson’s #06 team, but an accident in practice left the team unable to start the race. 

After Cosentino, Brad Smith was the next to pull off the track as handling issues sidelined him after 27 laps. Christian Rose and Stephanie Moyer both fell out with transmission problems after completing 90 and 93 circuits respectively. Rounding out the Bottom Five was Ryan Roulette, the final car running at the finish.

At the front of the field, Sammy Smith took his third East Series win in four races this season. Smith currently holds a nine-point lead over Taylor Gray in the championship points standings as the series shifts to combination races with the main ARCA Menards Series for the remainder of the season.

14) #12-Tony Cosentino / 22 laps / brakes
13) #48-Brad Smith / 27 laps / handling
12) #42-Christian Rose / 90 laps / transmission
11) #01-Stephanie Moyer / 93 laps / transmission
10) #11-Ryan Roulette / 182 laps / running

1st) Ford (3)
2nd) Chevrolet (1)

1st) Fast Track Racing (3)
2nd) Wayne Peterson Racing (1)


Sunday, May 8, 2022

CUP: Kyle Larson’s “throwback” weekend results in first Darlington last-place run for the #5 since 1986


Kyle Larson picked up the 9th last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Goodyear 400 at the Darlington Raceway when his #5 Chevrolet fell out with engine issues after 112 of 293 laps.

The finish, which came in Larson’s 271st series start, was his first of the season and first since April 25, 2021 at Talladega, 38 races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 22nd for the #5, the 709th from engine issues, and the 825th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it’s the 36th for the #5, the 1,119th for engine problems, and the 1,838th for Chevrolet.

After claiming his first Cup Series championship in the swan song season for the “Gen 6” car last season, Larson transitioned smoothly into the “NextGen” era by pulling off a dramatic late-race pass to win at the Auto Club Speedway. At the same time, however, Larson has been involved in more than his share of controversial incidents, including both that same Auto Club event, where he tangled with teammate Chase Elliott, and the season opening Busch Clash, where he turned Justin Haley into the barriers. His latest incident in Talladega led to Denny Hamlin remarking about the trend with a meme – one which, in a bizarre twist, led to Hamlin having to complete sensitivity training. Nevertheless, he arrived in Darlington on an upswing, having finished no worse than 6th in the previous three races.

The entire Hendrick Motorsports fleet each debuted a special “throwback” paint scheme for this year’s renewal, including Larson. The #5 would honor the late Tim Richmond to resemble the Hendrick Honda Pontiac that Richmond campaigned at Charlotte in 1984. In practice, Larson ranked 9th of the 36 entrants. He then stepped it up in qualifying to take the outside pole alongside Joey Logano, clocking in at 170.236mph (28.887 seconds). After finishing 2nd in both Darlington races last year, Larson certainly hoped this would be enough to break through.

Rolling off 36th and last would be B.J. McLeod, who decorated his #78 Ford (and his XFINITY entry for Josh Williams) in the same white-and-yellow flame design from his late model. Unapproved adjustments would incur McLeod a redundant tail-end penalty, but he was far from the only driver docked. Chase Elliott’s #9 NAPA Chevrolet, decorated like Jimmy Means’ NAPA Ford from 1993 and 1994, cut a left-rear tire and slammed the wall. The team unloaded a backup car, and like William Byron last week in Dover were only able to apply half of the wrap before the race. Like Elliott and McLeod, Kevin Harvick likewise didn’t turn a lap in qualifying as his #4 Rheem – Chasing a Cure Ford stopped on track in practice with a flat left-rear tire. Also docked for unapproved adjustments was Denny Hamlin, who qualified 22nd in his #11 FedEx Express Toyota decorated in its 2016 scheme, but the team had to change the rear diffuser. 

When the green flag dropped, Hamlin was 31st across the stripe followed by Cody Ware, whose #51 Nurtec ODT Ford honored Mike Stefanik. Elliott’s car crossed the line 33rd ahead of Landon Cassill in the #77 Voyager: Crypto for All Chevrolet, followed by Harvick and McLeod in the final two spots, McLeod 3.633 seconds back of the leader. By Lap 3, McLeod was still in last, now 6.857 seconds back of the leader, when trouble broke out off Turn 2. Brad Keselowski, his #6 Ford decorated like Mark Martin’s Viagra Ford from 2004, spun down the backstretch and ultimately came to pit road with four flat tires. He took last from McLeod on Lap 4, and rejoined the race one lap down for the Lap 8 restart.

Keselowski remained in last place for the following run, looking to secure the Lucky Dog. McLeod, now 35th, remained on the bumper of Landon Cassill’s #77 until around Lap 22, when he slipped to seven-tenths back of Cassill’s Chevrolet. By Lap 31, when McLeod had dropped two seconds back of 34th place, he was lapped by the leaders, snatching away the Lucky Dog from Keselowski when the competition caution fell the next time by. Keselowski remained in 36th, one lap down for the Lap 36 restart and again McLeod lost touch with the rest of the cars on the lead lap. By the 44th circuit, McLeod was 1.021 seconds back of Cody Ware, who had slipped to 34th. Three circuits later, J.J. Yeley, his #15 Ollie’s Bargain Outlet Ford decorated like Clint Bowyer’s 5-hour Energy Toyota from 2012, slapped the wall off Turn 2. No caution came out, and Yeley lost two laps on pit road. Yeley took last from Keselowski on Lap 51, and cleared minimum speed the next time by. During this run, Austin Dillon also fell off the lead lap in the #3 Huk Chevrolet, and Keselowski now had yet another car to catch for the Lucky Dog. Keselowski just managed to do so by Lap 56, when Kyle Larson spun in Turn 4 while battling among the Top Five. Larson, who led 30 laps up to that point, continued on with what appeared to be no clear damage.

With Keselowski back on the lead lap and Dillon taking the wave-around, Yeley remained the only driver off the lead lap in 36th. McLeod reassumed the 35th spot the next time by, and once again started to lose touch with the pack. By Lap 69, he’d now fallen 3.179 back of Cody Ware, again in the 34th spot, and lost a lap on Lap 80. FOX Sports caught the moment McLeod was lapped as he pulled to the inside of Joey Logano and Kyle Busch. This pass allowed Logano to set up Busch for a pass soon after. Yeley couldn’t catch McLeod by the time Stage 1 ended on Lap 91, and in fact lost a second lap in the process. Thus, McLeod received the Lucky Dog for the second time in the race.

Back under green on Lap 97, and once more, McLeod struggled to maintain pace. On Lap 104, he had slipped to 1.287 seconds back of 34th-place Cassill, and 13.624 back of the leaders. He was still running in last when Kyle Larson’s car, still among the leaders, unexpectedly slowed around Lap 113. Larson came to pit road, saying he thought he had an exhaust leak, but now believed his engine was blowing up. The crew looked under the hood, and by Lap 115, Larson had taken last from Yeley. On Lap 120, Larson went behind the wall, crew chief Cliff Daniels still trying to diagnose the issue, but the car wouldn’t refire. On Lap 130, Daniels said, “We’re done, Kyle,” and on Lap 142 NASCAR confirmed him out of the race. Reports indicated that, much like Akinori Ogata’s eventful Truck race on Friday, the spin may have caused damage to the engine, which manifested later in the event.

From there, the race intensified, and several other big names found themselves in the Bottom Five. Taking 35th was Corey LaJoie, whose Marty Robbins themed #7(77) Stacking Pennies Chevrolet clobbered the wall off Turn 2, the car hopping off the ground in the process. Keselowski’s day took a turn for the worse when his #6 also found the Turn 2 wall, this time collecting a closing Kyle Busch in the #18 M&M’s Toyota, designed after Ernie Irvan’s MB2 Motorsports scheme from 1998. Busch’s left-front suspension was destroyed by what seemed like a minor impact, and he climbed from the car when it wouldn’t complete the turn into the garage. B.J. McLeod rounded out the Bottom Five when something failed under the hood, resulting in a frightening fire beneath the right-front of the car. Though appearing to be an engine issue, McLeod was listed out by brake problems.

Taking a strong 3rd-place finish was the #31 Leafe Filter Gutter Protection Chevrolet of Justin Haley, his first Top Five since his upset win at Daytona for Spire Motorsports in 2019, and his first Top Ten of the season. The penalized Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott also recovered nicely to take 4th and 5th, respectively. Among the underdog contingent, Ty Dillon ran 12th in his Lee Petty 1959-themed #42 Chevrolet, his third-best finish of the year for Petty-GMS. Cody Ware also clawed his way from the back off the pack to 19th, tied for his second-best Cup finish in his 67-race career, trailing only his 17th-place showing in this year’s Daytona 500.

Geoffrey Bodine's first-lap exit at Darlington, 1986.
SCREENSHOT: ESPN, video on YouTube courtesy SMIFF TV

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #5 in a Cup race at Darlington since April 13, 1986, when polesitter Geoffrey Bodine’s #5 Levi Garrett Chevrolet broke the camshaft on the initial start of the TranSouth 500, holding up the inside line and triggering a wreck in the back between Davey Allison and Ron Bouchard. 
*Only ten Cup points races at Darlington have seen the last-place finisher complete more laps. The record remains with Greg Biffle, who on May 10, 2008 completed 234 of 367 laps. Larson’s mark is also just under the 400-mile (293 lap) record, which was set by Wally Dallenbach, Jr. on March 27, 1994, completing 131 laps in the #43 STP Pontiac before engine issues.

36) #5-Kyle Larson / 112 laps / engine
35) #7-Corey LaJoie / 152 laps / crash
34) #6-Brad Keselowski / 166 laps / crash
33) #18-Kyle Busch / 167 laps / crash
32) #78-B.J. McLeod / 184 laps / brakes

1st) Live Fast Motorsports, Spire Motorsports, Trackhouse Racing (2)
2nd) Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Kaulig Racing, NY Racing Team, Penske Racing, Richard Childress Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (8)
2nd) Ford (3)
3rd) Toyota (1)


Saturday, May 7, 2022

XFINITY: On “throwback” weekend, Sheldon Creed gives car #2 first last-place run since 1998

PHOTO: @RCRracing

Sheldon Creed picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Mahindra ROXOR 200 at the Darlington Raceway when his #2 Whelen Chevrolet fell out with engine trouble after 16 of 147 laps.

The finish came in Creed’s 15th series start. In the XFINITY Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 5th for the #2, the 272nd from engine trouble, and the 593rd for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 34th for the #2, the 1,118th from engine issues, and the 1,837th for Chevrolet.

Prior to joining fellow Truck Series graduate Austin Hill as teammates at Richard Childress Racing’s XFINITY team, Creed had made just four series starts. He made his first two starts for Johnny Davis’ team on the road courses in Mid-Ohio and Road America, finishing just 34th and 38th, and was involved in a late-race crash when he made a one-off for JR Motorsports in the July 2019 race at Daytona, again placing him 34th. Ironically, he performed much better when he returned to the series with B.J. McLeod Motorsports, yielding a 10th-place showing just last November in the Phoenix finale.

Now driving full-time for RCR, Creed has still earned more inconsistent finishes than he had in his prior Truck Series ride with GMS Racing. He finished in the Top Ten in four of his first six starts, then ran no better than 22nd in the next three in a row before an 8th-place performance last week in Dover. A one-off return to the Truck Series in this year’s race at COTA was equally hot-and-cold – he started on pole, only to finish last with first-lap drivetrain issues.

At Darlington, where he'd run an inverted version of his red-and-white paint scheme, Creed ranked 10th-fastest of the 40 entrants, and secured 10th on the starting grid when rain washed out Friday’s nearly complete qualifying session. The two teams sent home couldn’t have been more different. First was the high-powered #88 Chevrolet fielded by JR Motorsports and driven by last week’s Dover winner Chase Elliott. Kicking off a multi-race deal with defending series champion Kyle Larson and two-time race winner William Byron, the team had everything on its side except enough Owner Points. On the other side was Mike Harmon Racing’s #47 Inspire Real Change Chevrolet, a team that has struggled to both qualify and finish all season. Brennan Poole managed to lock himself in on speed – only for the washed-out qualifying session to void the effort.

With the second round of Darlington’s “Throwback Weekend” for 2022, the 38th and final starting spot fell to Timmy Hill, whose #13 Coble Enterprises Toyota was designed after the late Ricky Hendrick’s old DuPont entry he campaigned in the series back in 1999. Joining him in the back was Ryan Truex, whose unsponsored #18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota struggled with speed in qualifying, and surrendered the 28th starting spot due to unapproved adjustments, specifically a brake rotor change. During the pace laps, 3rd-place starter Justin Allgaier pitted his #7 Hellmann’s Chevrolet for a battery change, and would also roll off in the tail end of the field.

By the green flag, Timmy Hill had reassumed his 38th-place spot due to an impound infraction, and would also serve a pass-through penalty at the end of Lap 1. Hill served the penalty, only to spin on the frontstretch on Lap 10, drawing the first yellow of the race. At the same time, Sheldon Creed had issues. As Creed would tweet later, he shifted from 3rd gear to neutral on the initial start, overrevving the engine. By Lap 17, Creed pulled behind the wall, and would ultimately not return as, much like Akinori Ogata in Friday’s Truck race, the damage to the engine proved too serious to repair.

Finishing 37th was Myatt Snider, whose #31 Capital City Towing Chevrolet, modeled after the iconic Red Baron Pizza Ford that Ken Schrader drove for Junie Donlavey in 1987, wrecked in Turn 3 after contact from Bayley Currey turned him into the outside wall. The only other retiree was Joe Graf, Jr., whose #07 Bucked Up Buckshot Energy Ford, modeled after Roy “Buckshot” Jones’ Georgia-Pacific scheme from the early 2000s, wrecked down the backstretch after contact from Anthony Alfredo’s 2002 Tom Hubert throwback, the #23 Dude Wipes Chevrolet. Brandon Brown took 35th in the #68 BrandonBilt Foundations Chevrolet, five laps down to race winner Justin Allgaier, who rebounded from his battery change. Josh Williams rounded out the Bottom Five, two laps ahead of Brown in the #78 Alloy Employer Service / Coolray Chevrolet.

Finishing a strong 12th was Kyle Weatherman, who reunited with the struggling Jesse Iwuji Motorsports entry in the #34 National Memorial Day Parade Chevrolet. In just four starts with the team since his DGM Racing entry scaled back to part-time, Weatherman has now twice given the Iwuji team their best-ever finish, having previously run 16th in Martinsville. This also stands as Weatherman's third-best XFINITY finish behind his pair of 8th-place runs for both DGM and Mike Harmon Racing.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #2 in a XFINITY Series race since October 31, 1998, when Ricky Craven’s #2 New Holland Chevrolet crashed after 10 laps of the AC-Delco 200 at Rockingham. The number had never finished last in a XFINITY race at Darlington.

38) #2-Sheldon Creed / 16 laps / engine
37) #31-Myatt Snider / 73 laps / crash
36) #07-Joe Graf, Jr. / 135 laps / crash
35) #68-Brandon Brown / 142 laps / running
34) #78-Josh Williams / 147 laps / running

1st) Alpha Prime Racing, Mike Harmon Racing (2)
2nd) Big Machine Racing, JD Motorsports, Kaulig Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Sam Hunt Racing, SS-Green Light Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (8)
2nd) Ford (2)
3rd) Toyota (1)


Friday, May 6, 2022

TRUCKS: Akinori Ogata prevails in epic war of attrition over Brennan Poole; Crafton's disqualification rescinded


Akinori Ogata picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Friday’s Dead On Tools 200 at the Darlington Raceway when his #43 Precision Kyowa Toyota fell out with engine problems after 54 of 149 laps.

The finish came in Ogata’s 13th series start. In the Truck Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 3rd for the #43, the 42nd for Toyota, and the 138th from engine issues. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it’s the 49th for the #43, the 371st for Toyota, and the 1,117th from engine problems.

Matt Crafton picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Friday’s Dead On Tools 200 at the Darlington Raceway when his #88 Jack Links / Menards Toyota finished 5th, but was disqualified after completing all 149 laps.

The finish, which came in Crafton’s 505th start, was his first of the season and first since June 28, 2020 at Pocono, 46 races ago. In the Truck Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 5th for the #88, the 7th from disqualification, and the 42nd for Toyota. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 48th from disqualification, the 58th for the #88, and the 371st for Toyota.

The 48-year-old native of Kanagawa, Japan, Ogata is not one of the most prolific competitors in the Truck Series, having never run more than three races in a season. But as of last Friday, he has now done so for eight consecutive seasons. Active in motorcross since 1987, Ogata made the move to four wheels in quarter midgets and late models. Stateside, he made his Truck Series debut on November 7, 2014 in Phoenix, where he ran 29th for WinTron Motorsports. His series-best finish came the following year at Loudon, where he ran 18th for the late Mike Mittler. He’s also made three XFINITY Series starts – one each for owner-drivers Carl Long, Jimmy Means, and B.J. McLeod. The McLeod race last fall at Martinsville is his most recent, and also yielded a series-best, coming home on the lead lap in 26th.

The final two starting spots in Friday’s race belonged to Ogata and teammate Josh Reaume. Ogata rejoined the Reaume Brothers team in the #43 Precision Kyowa Toyota, one of two to run a “throwback” paint scheme reminiscent of Mike Skinner’s black-and-white #5 Toyota (Ogata running the 2008 version, Tyler Ankrum in the Hattori #16 running the 2005 version). Josh Reaume himself would run the team’s flagship #33 Hardy Boys Consulting entry, an older model Toyota with a black-and-silver Dale Earnhardt scheme. In practice, Reaume ran slowest of the 36 entrants with Ogata second-slowest, through nearly a full second faster. They remained in the bottom two spots in qualifying, though by a wider margin – Ogata 35th with a lap of 159.709mph (30.791 seconds) to Reaume’s 36th-place 153.282mph (32.082 seconds).

Before the race started, Reaume was managing his team from behind the wheel. He confirmed that the tape on the nose of his truck was the same as it had been in practice. He also had an issue with his water bottle, and called for a straw on the next stop, but the crew couldn’t find one. With his #33 pitted next to GMS Racing’s Grant Enfinger, Reaume also reminded his crew that they would try and stay out of his way on pit road. He also wanted to stay mindful of teammate Ogata, and to give each other enough space in the early laps since restarts were so dangerous.

Joining Reaume in the back of the field was 34th-place Tate Fogleman, whose #30 Rangeline Group Toyota was sent to the rear for unapproved adjustments. But by the time the field took the green flag, Fogleman was up to 32nd based on intervals. At that moment, Fogleman was ahead of both Ogata and Reaume, nose-to-tail in the final two spots on the track, plus Dean Thompson in the #40 Worldwide Express Chevrolet. But neither Reaume nor Ogata were in last place.

After a frustrating weekend at Bristol, where their #46 was still registered to Ray Ciccarelli, requiring a last-minute number change, the G2G Racing team entered an old Toyota of their own, decorated similar to Cole Trickle’s green #46 Chevrolet from “Days of Thunder,” though with purple accents instead of yellow. Behind the wheel was Brennan Poole, who had qualified solidly into the XFINITY race for Mike Harmon Racing, only for the lap to be discarded when rain cut short the session. Poole’s problems didn’t end there. reported that Poole’s truck didn’t start at the command, and had to be pushed behind the wall. The leaderboard, however, indicated he crossed the line in 36th and last place, 6.318 seconds back of the leader at the green flag, and 2.5 seconds back of Reaume, who took the green on track. Unless the report was incorrect, Poole apparently exited the garage during the pace laps and re-entered at the start. Either way, the issue was electrical, and the team called for a replacement battery on Lap 5.

Moments later, the Reaume team’s night came undone. Reaume had been trying to pass Ogata for several laps, and was finally let by in Turns 1 and 2. But Ogata didn’t get out of the gas long enough and clipped Reaume’s #33 as it passed, putting both trucks into the outside wall. Reaume ultimately lost one lap under caution and returned to action, but Ogata’s truck stalled. After unsuccessfully trying to push-start it, NASCAR instructed the #43 team to push their truck back to their pit stall. The engine finally re-fired on Lap 11, and Ogata returned to the track 2 laps down in 35th with Reaume now one lap back in 34th. Too many crewmen came over the wall during the fiasco, and Ogata incurred a redundant tail-end penalty.

By the Lap 13 restart, Ogata – who was also having radio trouble – reported he had engine issues. The spotter reported the truck’s engine was sputtering, and had to carefully guide him to the back of the pack. The crew estimated a plug wire had come loose, but since they hadn’t yet cleared the “Crash Clock,” they couldn’t come down pit road to address it. On Lap 15, the crew insistently told Ogata to stay on the track, which he did through the second caution on Lap 21 for Lawless Alan’s single-truck spin in the #45 Chevrolet. It was under this caution that Poole’s engine re-fired in the garage. And though the only gauge working was his tachometer, Poole managed to keep the rpms at 3800 as he rejoined the race, 20 laps down, completing his first circuit on Lap 21.

For the following restart, 35th-place Ogata, now 6 laps down and 14 ahead of Poole, was told “you gotta go hard” by his crew as he had still yet to clear his “Crash Clock.” They then instructed him that he had exactly three laps to run fast enough to continue. On the Lap 25 restart, Ogata’s truck ducked out of line completely out of control, skating sideways on the apron just past the starting line. He somehow managed to keep the truck straight, and even more remarkably cleared the “Crash Clock” the next time by.

Akinori Ogata's #43 goes behind the wall.
PHOTO: Max Neuwirth, @racingfan83

With his own truck back on track – and with fresher tires due to his early trip to the garage – Poole was now running faster than other trucks at the back of the field, and on Lap 34 passed Lawless Alan’s #45, still on the lead lap in 30th place. The next time by, NASCAR informed Ogata that he was not meeting minimum speed. Having just cleared the “Crash Clock” moments earlier, this meant the Reaume team had one opportunity to fix the issue. He came down pit road on Lap 37, when the crew examined the ECU, and finally returned on Lap 41. As the spotter hurriedly found Ogata a spot in line, the #43 was now 13 laps back, eight ahead of last-place Poole. Looking to cool down the engine, Ogata tried to engage the fans, but they’d been disabled in the wreck with Reaume. When Stage 1 ended on Lap 45, Poole remained in last, 21 laps down.

Under this caution, Poole was penalized for equipment over the wall too soon. He rejoined the field as Ogata was instructed by his team to fall back so he wouldn’t be run over by faster trucks. By this point, the Reaume team was working out a plan to bring the #43 to the garage area, at first waiting for the moment the leaders caught him to put their Toyota another lap down. The team believed Ogata may have overrevved the engine, breaking a valve spring. But on Lap 58, they were saved by a caution for Todd Bodine’s single-truck spin down the backstretch. With the engine sounding worse and trucks pulling away faster, Ogata was told to come to the garage. “Ilmor thinks we broke the motor,” the crew told him on Lap 59. “We broke a rocker arm on Piston 1.”

But Poole’s truck then shut down on him again, and he pulled behind the wall on Lap 60. The engine quickly re-fired, and no sooner had NASCAR confirmed he went to the garage that he was rolling again. “You’ve got a bad gremlin in there,” the team told him. Ogata, meanwhile, held off coming to the garage area and dropped to the tail end of the field for the restart. At this point, the #43 was now nine laps ahead of Poole’s #46. The race restarted on Lap 63, and NASCAR’s spotters were again paying attention to how Ogata’s truck was struggling. On Lap 66, the crew called him in, and he pulled behind the wall with mechanical issues. From there, Poole gradually whittled down his deficit to Ogata, and when caution fell on Lap 75 for Tate Fogleman’s spin, Poole was one lap back of Ogata and just two laps from climbing out of last place.

But the next time by, as the leaders came down pit road, Poole was coasting onto pit entry, then taking his own hard left turn into the first garage entrance. Adding even more intrigue on that same Lap 76, Ogata’s team prepared to roll their truck back onto pit road. The #43 rolled back out of the garage exit, crossed the start / finish line---then immediately ducked back into the garage in Turn 1. In so doing, Ogata was now two laps ahead of Poole, meaning Poole would have to return to the track and turn three laps to climb out of last place. 

Then on the lap after, the 77th circuit of the race, Poole’s truck sped out of the garage, completing his own 53rd lap in the process. The G2G team had apparently found the issue, and on the ensuing restart reported Poole had run his fastest lap of the race. With that, on Lap 80, after spending the first 20 laps in the garage, Poole finally clawed past Ogata into 35th place. He’d ultimately climb out of the Bottom Five as well, reaching 30th spot with 125 of 149 laps complete. “We have to keep grinding and our day will come,” Poole tweeted after the race. But for Ogata, his night was done. NASCAR’s garage official was about to make the report on Lap 87, but was instructed to wait until the end of Stage 2. That word then came on Lap 92.
Matt Crafton, classified last by DQ until Thursday's successful appeal.
PHOTO: @ThorSportRacing

The rest of the Bottom Five was filled by late-race accidents. Chase Purdy had one of the night’s biggest hits when his #61 Bama Buggies Toyota pulled up in traffic, slamming him into the Turn 3 wall nearly head-on. Tanner Gray, his #15 Dead On Tools Ford involved in the crash, turned just one more lap, taking 34th to Purdy’s 35th. Kris Wright damaged his #44 VFW Chevrolet in an incident, and fell out past the 100-lap mark, followed by Tate Fogleman after a grinding frontstretch wreck with Blaine Perkins.

That is, until post-race inspection.

Matt Crafton finished 5th, escaping the carnage with his first Top Five finish of the season. But in post-race inspection, Crafton’s #88 was found to be too low in the front. The resulting disqualification dropped Crafton to last place, bumping Ogata up one spot and taking Tate Fogleman out of the Bottom Five.

UPDATE: Then on Thursday, May 12th, Crafton's disqualification was rescinded after a successful appeal found no issue with the offending part of the #88 truck, placing Ogata back into last place.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #43 in a Truck Series race since September 8, 2005, when Johnny Sauter picked up his first career last-place finish in the #43 Menards / Energizer Chevrolet – due to crash damage, at least officially – after 100 laps of the Cheerios Betty Crocker 200 at Richmond. The #43 had never finished last in a Truck Series race at Darlington.

36) #43-Akinori Ogata / 54 laps / engine
35) #61-Chase Purdy / 97 laps / crash
34) #15-Tanner Gray / 98 laps / crash
33) #44-Kris Wright / 105 laps / crash
32) #30-Tate Fogleman / 123 laps / crash

1st) Niece Motorsports (2)
2nd) AM Racing, David Gilliland Racing Ford, Front Row Motorsports, Reaume Brothers Racing, Young’s Motorsports (1)

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