Saturday, September 24, 2022

XFINITY: Jeffrey Earnhardt eliminated early in hard crash at Texas; Nick Sanchez and C.J. McLaughlin impress

SCREENSHOT: USA, capture by @NASCARONFOX

by Brock Beard
LASTCAR.info Editor-in-Chief

Jeffrey Earnhardt picked up the 5th last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Andy’s Frozen Custard 300 at the Texas Motor Speedway when his #26 YesWay / ForeverLawn Toyota was eliminated in a crash after 17 of 200 laps.

The finish, which came in Earnhardt’s 142nd series start, was his first of the year and first in a XFINI0TY Series race since November 6, 2021, 27 races ago. In the XFINITY Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 16th for the #26, the 157th for Toyota, and the 371st from a crash. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 47th for #26, the 384th for Toyota, and the 1,306th from a crash.

After parting ways with JD Motorsports last year, Jeffrey Earnhardt has scaled back to a part-time effort in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. Most notably was his effort at Talladega, where he and sponsor ForeverLawn made a one-off start for Richard Childress Racing. Running the iconic #3 with crew chief Larry McReynolds back atop the pit box for the first time since 2000, Earnhardt won the pole and finished a close 2nd to Noah Gragson – a new career-best. 

Other than another one-off with Emerling-Gase Motorsports at Phoenix, Earnhardt has shared the Sam Hunt Racing with seven different drivers. His best run in Hunt’s Toyota came this past summer at Nashville, where he crossed the line in 7th. For Texas, he’d carry associate sponsorship from YesWay and Allsup’s, two different convenience store chains based in nearby Fort Worth.

The preliminary entry list for Texas showed 39 cars, but by Wednesday that list was cut to 38 after the withdrawal of Mike Harmon Racing’s #47. Brennan Poole had been set to rejoin the Harmon effort after attempting to qualify Jimmy Means Racing’s #52 last week in Bristol, but secured a three-race deal to run the #6 Chevrolet for JD Motorsports, leading to the #47 team’s withdrawal. With that, the remaining 38 entrants were assured spots in Saturday’s field. Of these, Earnhardt ran 17th in practice and secured 27th on the track with a lap of 179.009mph (30.166 seconds).

Taking the 38th and final starting spot was Akinori Ogata, who rejoined Motorsports Business Management in the black-and-yellow #13 Mooneyes Toyota. Ogata ran slowest in practice when his engine picked up a stumble, and ended up not taking a lap in qualifying. Ogata’s team did not change engines, but Garrett Smithley’s team did as his #78 Trophy Tractor Chevrolet was the only car to not complete a timed lap in practice. With neither taking laps in qualifying, Smithley outranked Ogata for the 37th spot, and both would incur redundant tail-end penalties for their repairs. Also docked for unapproved adjustments were 8th-place Ty Gibbs in the #54 Interstate Batteries Toyota, 28th-place J.J. Yeley in the #66 Precision Construction & Roofing Ford, 29th-place Tommy Joe Martins in the #44 Market Rebellion Chevrolet, and 18th-place Bayley Currey in the #4 Hy-Vee Chevrolet. Currey would also have to serve a pass-through penalty after the green flag. Currey bounced back to come home 12th, following up his strong 11th-place showing last week in Bristol.

Shortly after the green flag dropped, all eyes were on polesitter Brandon Jones, who pulled off a dramatic save on the apron of Turn 1 after Daniel Hemric bumped his #19 Menards / Pelonis Toyota. Further back on the inside line, Parker Retzlaff’s #02 Funkaway Chevrolet ran in the back of a car in front of him, causing significant nose damage. As Currey came down pit road to serve his pass-through penalty, Retzlaff also came in and stopped in his stall, where his crew completed repairs. Retzlaff, making his first start since he parted ways with RSS Racing, returned to the track by Lap 10 a full seven laps down with Currey ahead of him in 37th, just one lap behind. This moved last-place starter Ogata up to 36th, though he was still about three seconds behind 35th place and the rest of the field.

On Lap 18, Jeffrey Earnhardt was up to 33rd and racing inside of Currey’s lapped car off Turn 2 when his #26 broke loose and smashed into the inside wall. Earnhardt climbed out uninjured, but his car suffered heavy damage to both ends of his car, and he was done for the afternoon. Retzlaff continued after his earlier damage, ultimately dropping Earnhardt to last on Lap 27. Retzlaff came home in in 21st, the last car under power, aided by two massive multi-car pileups that eliminated many of the leaders on consecutive restarts. The first of these wrecks happened after the Bottom Five was completed.

Taking 37th was David Starr, whose #08 CANTERA Design / TOP MFG Ford bounced off the wall coming off Turn 2. Jeremy Clements, whose Playoff spot was reinstated after his Daytona penalty was overturned, suffered a frustrating electrical issue that put his #51 Straitline Nitro Chevrolet behind the wall before the halfway point. Akinori Ogata took 35th due to suspension issues after his #13 trailed smoke down the backstretch late in the race. Rounding out the group was J.J. Yeley, whose #66 Ford lost the water pump.

Nick Sanchez enjoys breakout run; C.J. McLaughlin scores first Top Ten

C.J. McLaughlin overcame an early spin off Turn 2 and earned a career-best 10th in Saturday’s race – his first career top-ten finish in just his 26th series start. McLaughlin came home one spot behind teammate Ryan Sieg, giving RSS Racing their second double top-ten of the season, following Sieg and Parker Retzlaff’s 9th and 10th-place runs in Richmond.

But by far the biggest surprise was current ARCA Menards Series point leader Nick Sanchez, who in just his fourth career XFINITY start and one week after struggling in the early laps at Bristol enjoyed a career run in Big Machine Racing’s #48 Big Machine Spiked Coolers Chevrolet. During the first major pileup, Sanchez raced through a minefield of spinning cars down the backstretch and found himself challenging for a top-five finish. He ultimately finished one lap down in 11th, a massive improvement over his previous best of 26th.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the first last-place finish for both Earnhardt and the #26 in a XFINITY Series race at Texas.
*Early attrition is so common in the XFINITY races at Texas that just six of the previous 43 series races run there saw the last-place finisher complete more than Earnhardt’s 17 laps.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
38) #26-Jeffrey Earnhardt / 17 laps / crash
37) #08-David Starr / 77 laps / crash
36) #51-Jeremy Clements / 79 laps / ignition
35) #13-Akinori Ogata / 99 laps / suspension
34) #66-J.J. Yeley / 99 laps / water pump

2022 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Alpha Prime Racing (4)
2nd) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, JR Motorsports (3)
3rd) JD Motorsports, Mike Harmon Racing, Motorsports Business Management, Our Motorsports, Sam Hunt Racing (2)
4th) Big Machine Racing, Jesse Iwuji Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Kaulig Racing, Richard Childress Racing, SS-Green Light Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

2022 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (20)
2nd) Toyota (5)
3rd) Ford (2)

2022 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP


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
LASTCAR.info 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

ENTRY LIST
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.

DRIVER SWAP: #36-DGM Racing
DRIVER SWAP: #92-DGM Racing
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.

CUP INVADERS: None

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

ENTRY LIST
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.

Monday, September 19, 2022

OPINION: If F1 wanted an American driver badly enough, they would have one by now

PHOTO: @AutoRacing1

by Ben Schneider
LASTCAR.info Guest Contributor

On Thursday, I noticed a tweet from Sports Business Journal’s Adam Stern that stated, “@F1 is working on a yet-to-be-revealed plan to increase driver diversity in the series.” The tweet included a quote from Las Vegas Grand Prix CEO Renee Wilm, who stated: "Our focus is really on creating a more diverse pipeline of drivers. We’d love to see an American driver, women drivers, more drivers of diversity generally."

It was the first part of that last sentence that caught my attention. For anyone who has been following Formula One this season, the words “we’d love to see an American driver” ought to ring especially hollow for multiple reasons.

First, there’s the ongoing situation regarding Andretti Global. After their bid to purchase a stake in the current Alfa Romeo team fell through at the 11th hour, Mario and Michael Andretti, the United States’ most recent F1 World Champion and podium finisher respectively, have made plans to enter a brand new team beginning in 2024 that would not only be based in America, but would also employ an American F1 driver. While the group unveiled plans for a 575,000 square foot headquarters in Indiana as recently as last month, the team’s plans are subject to a license being granted them by the FIA.

For the most part, F1’s existing teams have made no secret about their desire to keep Andretti off the 2024 grid. In particular, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has argued that Andretti would need to prove their value beyond simply paying the nine-figure entry fee, as adding an 11th team to the grid would “dilute” the prize fund allocated to the existing ten. More recently, he has gone on record to say that a proposed Audi entry for 2026 would be a better option should the grid expand. As of right now, seven months after Mario revealed that Michael had submitted an application to the FIA, the proposed team’s status is still unclear at best.

Second, and perhaps more timely, is the ongoing battle to get Andretti Autosport’s IndyCar Series driver Colton Herta a FIA Super License. F1’s current rules require drivers to obtain a minimum of 40 Super License points in other major motorsports championships around the world over a three-year-period. While Formula 2’s top three points finishers are awarded the full 40 points required, only IndyCar’s champion is awarded 40 points, with points significantly decreasing for the rest of the top ten in the championship (see page 60 here for the full breakdown).

After finishing third in 2020’s championship, Herta faded to fifth in the points standings in 2021 before falling all the way to tenth in 2022. Due to the pandemic impacted 2020 season, drivers are currently allowed to take their three best results from the last four seasons. A seventh-place points finish in 2019 means Herta is currently sitting on 32 points. After 2023, Herta will only be able to use his results from the last three seasons, meaning he’ll have only five points to add onto his total from next season.

In short, with Red Bull and AlphaTauri now abandoning their efforts to get the FIA to grant him an exemption, Herta will essentially need to win the 2023 IndyCar championship to qualify for a Super License.

To be clear, Herta did have a down year by his standards. But it’s also important to remember that the IndyCar Series is perhaps the most competitive series in the world due to its diversity of track types and the strength of its competitors, many of whom are active Indianapolis 500 winners and series champions in the primes of their career.

On the contrary, F2’s drivers are almost all in their late teens and early 20s, only having experience in junior categories. With no disrespect to F2’s top drivers, should such a series really offer more Super License points than a series like IndyCar?

Herta’s talent has not gone unnoticed. At the age of 22, he already has seven wins in his first four seasons. McLaren’s F1 team have signed him as a test driver. And reports indicate that AlphaTauri are even willing to offer him a race seat next season should he be granted a Super License exemption from the FIA. But the FIA granting such an exemption appears to be unlikely.

Editorially, I believe that, in the vast majority of circumstances, drivers should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. If a team is willing to offer a contract to a driver, that decision should be a business deal between those two parties with little to no outside influence. Yet in its current form, the FIA have a system in place that does not grant IndyCar’s drivers the amount of respect they deserve.

For comparison’s sake, NASCAR’s Chase Elliott won the 2020 championship and finished fourth in points last season, worth 15 and seven Super License points respectively. Should Elliott win the Cup Series championship again this year, he will have 37 points to his name, five more than Herta’s current total.

Are we really supposed to believe that Elliott’s résumé in stock cars is more deserving of an F1 deal than Herta’s résumé in single-seater open-wheel cars?

Current points totals aside, it is clear that Herta is deserving of a seat in F1 given multiple teams’ interest in him. Even if McLaren and AlphaTauri weren’t interested, Herta would be a near lock for one of the two hypothetical Andretti Global seats in 2024.

Given the uncertainty surrounding either’s ability to enter F1 at the moment, it’s going to take quite a bit of work for F1 to convince me “we’d love to see an American driver.”

Sunday, September 18, 2022

CUP: Bristol Night Race sees intense last-place war with Playoff implications

PHOTO: @speedwaydigest

by Brock Beard
LASTCAR.info Editor-in-Chief

Martin Truex, Jr. picked up the 9th last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Saturday’s Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway when his #19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota fell out with steering issues after 198 of 500 laps.

The finish, which came in Truex’s 614th series start, was his first of the season and first since September 10, 2018 at Indianapolis, 147 races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 25th from steering issues, the 47th for the #19, and the 178th from Toyota. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 32nd from the steering, the 84th for the #19, and the 383rd for Toyota.

Saturday’s race marked the first time Truex has finished last in Joe Gibbs Racing’s #19 entry, a car he took over from Daniel Suarez in the 2019 season following the closure of Furniture Row Racing. That year saw him continue his championship form of the previous two seasons, scoring seven wins and finishing runner-up to his new teammate Kyle Busch. After scoring his lone win of the pandemic-affected 2020 campaign in Martinsville, he won another four times last year and was just one caution – and one pit stop – from beating Kyle Larson’s dominant Chevrolet for his second season title.

But, while still consistent on paper, this year’s campaign in the NextGen car has proven a struggle. Most noticeable has been his poor performance on the road courses – once the bread-and-butter of his best seasons. Following a 7th-place finish in COTA, he was just 26th in Sonoma, 13th in Road America, 21st at Indianapolis, and 23rd in Watkins Glen. While winless in a season with a record number of winners, he scored the second-most points of any winless driver through 26 races. Unfortunately, that still wasn’t quite enough to make the Playoff cut. After both he and challenger Ryan Blaney wrecked at Daytona, Blaney edged him for the spot. At Darlington, where hie led 48 laps only to suffer a late-race water pump failure, he looked on the verge of tears as he recalled the frustrations of this uncharacteristic season.

Truex’s weekend in Bristol began with the 24th-fastest lap of the 36 entrants, then qualified 22nd with a lap of 126.071mph (15.220 seconds). 

Rolling off 36th and last was J.J. Yeley in Rick Ware Racing’s #15 World Supercross Championship Ford. While no drivers were sent to the back for pre-race penalties, Yeley still took the green flag one-tenth ahead of 35th-place starter Landon Cassill, who raced in place of Josh Bilicki in the #77 Zeigler Auto / LoJack Chevrolet. By Lap 5, Cassill was still in last, 5.795 back of the lead, and now 0.251 back of new 35th-place runner B.J. McLeod in the #78 Down ‘n Dirty Ford. By Lap 10, Cassill pulled side-by-side with McLeod at the stripe and completed the pass two circuits later. Due to reception issues, McLeod’s crew had trouble checking timing and scoring as they gradually lost touch with Cassill and on Lap 27 became the first car one lap down, passed by polesitter Aric Almirola through Turns 3 and 4.

On Lap 39, Harrison Burton’s #21 Motorcraft Quick Lane Ford bounced off the wall in Turn 4, and two circuits later was told “We’ve gotta change that tire.” As Burton made it to pit road, the caution fell on Lap 43 as Yeley’s #15 also lost a tire and ran slow in the high lane. Yeley, already lapped at the moment of caution, took last from McLeod on Lap 44 as he fell two down. Yeley’s crew checked for evidence of tire rub, only to be told that the tire failed for reasons outside their control. On the restart, Yeley’s car was snapping loose on corner exit, but still ran his fastest lap of the race around Lap 56. By Lap 71, McLeod had also fallen two laps down, but their battle for last soon became a race for 34th.

Blaney (center) during his extended
stay on pit road
PHOTO: Austin Stombres

On Lap 82, Yeley was warned of a slow car off the corner. This was Austin Cindric, who was running inside the Top Ten when his #2 Freightliner Ford came down pit road with a flat right-front tire. Cindric made clear he didn’t make contact with another driver, and that the tire just went down. The green flag stayed out, and Cindric lost four laps as a result, putting him last on Lap 88 as he met minimum speed. Then on Lap 92, Cindric’s Penske teammate Ryan Blaney found trouble when his #12 Menards / Pennzoil Ford lost a right-front tire and bounced off the Turn 4 wall with Aric Almirola’s #10 Ford BlueOval City Ford spinning into the wall moments later. Blaney made it to pit road, only for the crew to leave the left-rear wheel loose and rolling down pit road. Both Blaney and Almirola’s crew checked the steering and returned to the track with Almirola on the lead lap in 30th and Blaney down to 32nd, one lap down. But Blaney’s damage proved much worse, and by Lap 105, his car was dragging sparks from beneath the rear diffuser. He made a quick pit stop on Lap 113 and fell four laps down, but the issue still wasn’t resolved. The next time by, NASCAR black-flagged Blaney for not meeting minimum speed. The resulting stop caused Blaney to take last from Cindric on Lap 116.

Blaney ended up spending several laps on pit road, sitting in one of the first stalls off Turn 4. He was there on Lap 126, when Stage 1 ended, and on Lap 130, a crewman said he couldn’t reattach the toe link because the suspension was so badly bent. By Lap 143, Blaney’s crew lifted the hood, and on Lap 172 had fallen 60 laps down to the leaders. 

Back on track on Lap 173, Bubba Wallace’s #45 MoneyLion Toyota erupted in smoke from behind the right-front, the driver saying he couldn’t turn the car. Wallace pulled into his stall – just a few stalls in front of Blaney’s – and on Lap 183 was joined by teammate Ty Gibbs, citing power steering issues on his #23 Monster Energy Toyota. On Lap 185, Blaney – now 72 laps down – backed up on pit road and became the first car to go behind the wall, where the team’s toolbox was waiting. Gibbs followed by Lap 195 while Wallace returned to the track 20 laps down in 35th. 

34) #23-Ty Gibbs OFF
35) #45-Bubba Wallace -20L
36) #12-Ryan Blaney OFF

On Lap 200, as Wallace was making up the ten laps he needed to pass Gibbs, NASCAR relayed that Martin Truex, Jr. had gone behind the wall. Truex reported he’d blown the seal out of the power steering system and lost all the fluid. During his interview, 35th-place Wallace returned to the garage area – just as he caught up to the same lap as 34th-place Gibbs. On Lap 215, Truex’s on-board camera was shut off, his #19 in 33rd a full 18 laps down. On Lap 240, Truex’s car was being loaded on the hauler, and the #19 was declared out on Lap 241. At that moment, he was still just 33rd – the cars of Wallace, Gibbs, and Blaney were still being worked on. Wallace’s crew replaced the entire steering rack.

33) #19-Martin Truex, Jr. OUT
34) #45-Bubba Wallace OFF
35) #23-Ty Gibbs OFF
36) #12-Ryan Blaney OFF

On Lap 257, Blaney was the first to return to the track. After serving a stop-and-go penalty incurred during his earlier repairs for too many crewmen over the wall, he merged into traffic 152 laps down – still in last place, but now under power and catching 23XI Racing teammates Wallace and Gibbs with Truex farther ahead. On Lap 270, the caution fell as Kyle Busch’s #18 M&M’s Toyota erupted in smoke – the result of his second engine failure in three races. Busch promptly pulled into the garage and climbed out, done for the day. Under the ensuing caution on Lap 273, as Busch’s car was pushed to the hauler, Wallace re-fired his engine and returned to the track 91 laps down in 35th place. Wallace immediately passed Gibbs, who was still in the garage, and now in 34th set his sights on Truex with Kyle Busch further ahead.

32) #18-Kyle Busch OUT
33) #19-Martin Truex, Jr. OUT
34) #45-Bubba Wallace -91L
35) #23-Ty Gibbs OFF
36) #12-Ryan Blaney -152L

Then on Lap 277 came the biggest wreck of the night, triggered by a spinning Daniel Suarez in the #99 Tootsies Orchid Lounge Chevrolet. The multi-car pileup aggravated a power steering issue on Alex Bowman’s #48 Ally Chevrolet, sending his smoking car behind the wall on Lap 280. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. – clipped by the spinning Suarez – joined him soon after in the #47 Kroger / Thomas’ Chevrolet. The wreck also damaged both Richard Childress Racing teammates Austin Dillon in the #3 Bass Pro Shops / Tracker Off Road Chevrolet and Tyler Reddick in the #8 Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen Chevrolet. Reddick was able to return to the track with the right-front fender removed and cleared the “Crash Clock” on Lap 292. But Dillon’s clock expired with both left-side wheels still off his Chevrolet, ending his night. He pulled behind the wall on Lap 300 – out under the Damaged Vehicle Policy (DVP). On Lap 332, NASCAR confirmed Dillon, Stenhouse, and Bowman were out along with Kyle Busch. All four were now positions to be gained by the closing Blaney and Wallace, who were still on track with more than 100 laps to go.

29) #3-Austin Dillon OUT
30) #48-Alex Bowman OUT
31) #47-Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. OUT
32) #18-Kyle Busch OUT
33) #19-Martin Truex, Jr. OUT
34) #45-Bubba Wallace -91L
35) #23-Ty Gibbs OFF
36) #12-Ryan Blaney -152L

On Lap 311, Blaney was within 25 laps of climbing past Ty Gibbs into 35th when Gibbs re-fired his engine and returned to the track. By Lap 317, Gibbs was back up to speed, 132 laps down – 21 laps ahead of Blaney and 15 laps from catching 34th-place Truex. Gibbs passed Truex and on Lap 354, Blaney finally dropped Truex to last, which the #19 would hold for the rest of the night. Blaney would incur a speeding penalty and cut down another tire, but remain on the track to the finish. This was problematic for Playoff contenders Kyle Busch and Austin Cindric, who after both struggled were now competing for the final spot in the “Round of 12.” But while Cindric was still running laps down, Busch was out – and completely at the mercy of the closing Blaney, Wallace, and Gibbs.

29) #3-Austin Dillon OUT
30) #48-Alex Bowman OUT
31) #47-Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. OUT
32) #18-Kyle Busch OUT
33) #45-Bubba Wallace -91L
34) #23-Ty Gibbs -132L
35) #12-Ryan Blaney -156L
36) #19-Martin Truex, Jr. OUT

On Lap 364, Wallace dropped Busch to 33rd, and on Lap 382, Gibbs was within around 20 laps of dropping Busch to 34th. But on Lap 402 – within just five laps of passing Busch – Gibbs pulled behind the wall and up to the hauler, done for the night. When Gibbs came down pit road, Joey Logano fell off the lead lap when his #22 Shell / Pennzoil Ford came down pit road with a flat right-front tire. In the same exact manner as teammate Blaney earlier in the race, Logano spent multiple laps in his stall as his crew attempted a toe link replacement on the right-rear. This may have helped Cindric secure his Playoff spot – but not as much as Blaney’s gradual rise through the field. 

29) #3-Austin Dillon OUT
30) #48-Alex Bowman OUT
31) #47-Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. OUT
32) #45-Bubba Wallace -92L
33) #18-Kyle Busch OUT
34) #12-Ryan Blaney -162L
35) #23-Ty Gibbs OUT
36) #19-Martin Truex, Jr. OUT

By Lap 430, Blaney had passed both Gibbs and Kyle Busch. On Lap 463, Logano’s crew still couldn’t get the toe link in place, and instructed Logano to go to the exact same spot in the garage as Blaney for further repairs. But after running a slow lap and pulling in on Lap 469, there were now just 31 laps to go – and likely more than 100 laps of repairs to complete. With that, Logano was done, settling for 27th. Both Wallace and Blaney managed to climb past the wrecked trio of Dillon, Bowman, and Stenhouse, but advanced no further, taking 29th and 30th, respectively. Reddick held onto 25th, but joined Busch, Dillon, and Harvick as the three drivers eliminated from the Playoffs. All three Penske Racing teammates of Cindric, Blaney, and Logano have advanced to the next round.

29) #45-Bubba Wallace -92L
30) #12-Ryan Blaney -162L
31) #3-Austin Dillon OUT
32) #48-Alex Bowman OUT
33) #47-Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. OUT
34) #18-Kyle Busch OUT
35) #23-Ty Gibbs OUT
36) #19-Martin Truex, Jr. OUT

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #19 in a Cup race at Bristol since March 17, 2013, when Mike Bliss’ #19 Humphrey-Smith Racing Toyota fell out with a blown engine after 3 laps of the Food City 500. Bliss also scored the number’s most recent last-place finish in the night race the previous August, where he had power steering issues after 6 laps.
*Truex is only the second driver to finish last in a Cup race at Bristol due to steering issues (as opposed to specifically listed power steering issues). The other was Dave Blaney, whose #66 PRISM Motorsports Toyota fell out after 33 laps of the Food City 500 on March 22, 2009.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
36) #19-Martin Truex, Jr. / 198 laps / steering
35) #23-Ty Gibbs / 265 laps / steering
34) #18-Kyle Busch / 269 laps / engine
33) #47-Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. / 276 laps / crash
32) #48-Alex Bowman / 277 laps / crash

2022 LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Live Fast Motorsports (6)
2nd) Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing (4)
3rd) Spire Motorsports (3)
4th) Penske Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing, Trackhouse Racing (2)
5th) 23XI Racing, Kaulig Racing, NY Racing Team, Richard Childress Racing, Rick Ware Racing, Team Hezeberg (1)

2022 LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet, Ford (12)
2nd) Toyota (5)

2022 LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP


Friday, September 16, 2022

XFINITY: Brandon Brown qualifies strong but wrecks out early at Bristol; Parsons and Currey impress

PHOTO: @TeamBJMcLeod

by Brock Beard
LASTCAR.info Editor-in-Chief

Brandon Brown picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Friday’s Food City 300 at the Bristol Motor Speedway when his unsponsored #5 B.J. McLeod Motorsports Chevrolet was involved in an accident after 45 of 300 laps.

The finish, which came in Brown’s 145th series start, was his first of the season and first in a XFINITY race since August 21, 2021 at Michigan, 37 races ago. In the XFINITY Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 13th for the #5, the 370th from a crash, and the 605th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 39th for the #5, the 1,305th from a crash, and the 1,861st for Chevrolet.

It's been an emotional rollercoaster for Brandon Brown, who not long after his only XFINITY last-place finish scored a thrilling first career victory at Talladega. After climbing from the car, an unrelated chant from fans overheard expressing their displeasure with President Biden gave the win added media coverage – but the attention ended up doing Brown more harm than good. He lost sponsor Larry’s Lemonade and was unable to capitalize on the Talladega phenomenon through a cryptocurrency NASCAR may or may not have approved, only to rescind that approval. Despite several solid finishes in 2022, Brown then found himself in exactly the same desperate situation where he’d found himself last year before the win – without a sponsor.

By August, Brown could no longer run for his own family’s Brandonbilt Motorsports effort full-time as the team needed to bring on funded driver Kris Wright to take his place. One of the few races Brown would run in the #68 was last month at Daytona, where he reunited with Larry’s as sponsor and found himself in position to take the win from Jeremy Clements – only for the caution to freeze him in a disappointing 4th. Otherwise, since Wright’s arrival from the Truck Series in August, Brown has pieced together his remaining schedule with Mike Harmon Racing, Our Motorsports, and at Bristol, B.J. McLeod Motorsports. As at Watkins Glen, Brown would run McLeod’s #5 with no primary sponsorship – this time in a plain white Chevrolet. He'd be teamed with McLeod himself, who stood in as relief driver for Matt Mills, whose flu-like symptoms kept him out of the #78 J.F. Electric Chevrolet for a second-straight race.

Brown was one of 41 drivers entered for 38 spots. Of that group, he climbed from just 30th in practice to an impressive 13th in qualifying, securing the inside of the seventh row with a lap of 120.195mph (15.964 seconds). The fastest of the three cars sent home belonged to Brennan Poole, who in the return of Jimmy Means Racing drew within just 0.023 second of getting the #52 team into its first race since October 30, 2021 at Martinsville. Instead, Poole’s #52 Chevrolet failed to qualify along with Dawson Cram in the #47 Michael Waltrip Brewing Co. Chevrolet and Chad Finchum in the #13 Finishing Touch / Food City Toyota.

Starting 38th and last in Friday’s field was Bobby McCarty, who after his DNQ with Mike Harmon Racing at Loudon made his XFINITY Series debut in JD Motorsports’ #6 Solid Rock Carriers Chevrolet. Joining McCarty in the rear of the field were two drivers docked for unapproved adjustments: 14th-place starter Stefan Parsons in the #45 Pursuit Church / Sokal Chevrolet and 37th-place Joe Graf, Jr. in the #07 Bucked Up LFG BURN Ford.

When the race started, Graf held down 38th place, about five seconds back of the leader. By Lap 4, the spot fell to C.J. McLaughlin in the #38 Sci Aps Ford. McLaughlin dropped Graf back to last on Lap 5, when the first caution fell. Nick Sanchez, making just his third career start, climbed aboard Big Machine Racing’s #48 Big Machine Racing Spiked Coolers Chevrolet, only to lose a right-front tire and nearly hit the Turn 2 wall. Sanchez came back to pit road without serious damage, returned on the lead lap, then came in for a second stop on Lap 9 for a wheel spacer. The team expressed concern that one of their tires was rubbing against the sway bar. Sanchez returned to the track, just barely catching the tail end of the field for the Lap 10 restart, and quickly dropped Graf back to last. 

Brown's wrecked car (center) in the
garage at Bristol.
PHOTO: Austin Stombres

On Lap 13, Sheldon Creed made contact with the #98 Resorts World Ford of Riley Herbst, and while Herbst avoided a spin, the caution came out for a second time. Here, too, Sanchez came down pit road for his third stop. “Put another eighth on it, inspect the inside of the tire, please,” said the crew. “No wedge or nothing.” The crew also cautioned Sanchez to not run so hard on the restarts. “You’re not gonna pass ‘em all in one corner,” they told him. As the caution period continued on Lap 15, the spot fell back to last-place qualifier Bobby McCarty, followed by Graf on Lap 16, when Sanchez made his fourth stop. “We’ll have to glue up this right-rear probably,” said the crew. Sanchez retook last on Lap 17 and remained in the spot through the Lap 19 restart, only dropping McCarty back to 38th on Lap 21.

On Lap 26, McCarty was encouraged by the team to track down new 37th-place runner Ronnie Bassett, Jr. in the #77 Jerry Hunt Supercenter Chevrolet. He was also told to hug the bottom lane as the leaders were fast approaching, ultimately putting the #6 the first car one lap down on the 31st go-round. Four laps later on Lap 35, trouble again found Nick Sanchez, who spun off Turn 2 but once again avoided contact. The driver reported he was free coming off the corner, and came in for four tires with the right-front flat-spotted. He took over last on Lap 36. Despite a lack of visible damage, one of these incidents had knocked a crush panel loose. The team considered taping it back in place, then called for a saws-all to cut it out. Now lapped as a result of both the spin and stop, Sanchez once again took his time climbing through the pack, passing McCarty for 37th on Lap 42.

On Lap 45, Brandon Brown had only lost five spots since the start, holding down the 18th spot when he apparently broke loose off Turn 2 and slammed into the inside wall with both the front and rear of his car, knocking the rear decklid loose so it dangled from its tethers. Brown made it to pit road, where the crew set to work, not knowing exactly how much time they had on the “Crash Clock.” They held off changing tires to jack up both sides of the car and drop the bent splitter on a lead block. They ultimately put right-side tires on during Lap 50, when they estimated they had 90 seconds remaining. He returned to the track on Lap 53, and while the team feared time had expired, NASCAR instead reportedly advised them to pick up their speed. But the crew wasn’t satisfied with their car, believing something else was broken. On Lap 56, Brown pulled behind the wall, one of the pace cars pulling out of the way to allow him to pass. “I don’t know,” said someone on the crew on Lap 75, “I don’t see anything obvious that would’ve caused it. Too late now.”

Attrition remained low, which played a direct role in determining the final few spots in the XFINITY Playoffs. Around the 100-lap mark, Landon Cassill’s #10 Voyager Chevrolet was running 10th when he suddenly slowed with what looked like a flat tire. But soon, his right-front hub caught fire, and he went behind the wall for lengthy repairs. The crew worked on the brake system, then the hub, then ultimately replaced the entire right-front spindle. Back on track, a bump from Noah Gragson sent Ty Gibbs’ #54 Monster Energy Toyota crashing into Sheldon Creed’s #2 Whelen Chevrolet, taking both out of the race. Cassill returned to the track on Lap 219, needing to pass both Gibbs and Creed to stay within striking distance of Ryan Sieg for the final Playoff spot. While three more drivers fell out in the final 100 laps, Cassill was 112 laps behind – too far back to catch any of them and settled for 35th. Cassill ultimately fell just five points short of taking a Playoff spot from Sieg. B.J. McLeod rounded out the Bottom Five after brake issues, still 42 laps ahead of Cassill at the checkered flag.

Stefan Parsons and Bayley Currey impress with strong performances

In a race dominated by Playoff storylines, a couple drivers outside the hunt earned surprising runs. One month after earning a career-best 12th at Watkins Glen, Stefan Parsons went one step further with his first career Top Ten. He bounced back from his pre-race penalty to charge to 8th at the finish, driving what was reportedly an old chassis the Alpha Prime team acquired from TriStar Motorsports. 

Not far behind in 11th came Bayley Currey, whose #4 Alka-Seltzer Chevrolet led for four laps on old tires, then held fast to 3rd for much of the run before he gradually slid back. The result is the best for JD Motorsports since Ryan Vargas’ 6th-place showing at Daytona last month and Currey’s best since his 10th in Loudon – all while coming in Currey’s 100th XFINITY start.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marks the first last-place finish for the #5 in a XFINITY Series race at Bristol.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
38) #5-Brandon Brown / 45 laps / crash
37) #2-Sheldon Creed / 128 laps / crash / led 34 laps
36) #54-Ty Gibbs / 129 laps / crash / led 89 laps / won stage 1
35) #10-Landon Cassill / 188 laps / running
34) #78-B.J. McLeod / 220 laps / brakes

2022 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Alpha Prime Racing (4)
2nd) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, JR Motorsports (3)
3rd) JD Motorsports, Mike Harmon Racing, Motorsports Business Management, Our Motorsports (2)
4th) Big Machine Racing, Jesse Iwuji Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Kaulig Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Sam Hunt Racing, SS-Green Light Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

2022 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (20)
2nd) Toyota (4)
3rd) Ford (2)

2022 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP


Thursday, September 15, 2022

TRUCKS: Debate over the DVP hands Spencer Boyd last place in Bristol; Ty Majeski scores emotional first victory

PHOTO: @SpencerBoyd

by Brock Beard
LASTCAR.info Editor-in-Chief

Spencer Boyd picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Thursday’s UNOH 200 Presented by Ohio Logistics at the Bristol Motor Speedway when his #12 Rimtyme Chevrolet was eliminated with crash damage after 25 of 200 laps.

The finish, which came in Boyd’s 86th series start, was his second of the season and first since IRP, three races ago. In the Truck Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 8th for the #12, the 177th from a crash, and the 427th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 46th for the #12, the 1,304th from a crash, and the 1,860th for Chevrolet.

With the finish, Boyd takes the lead in the 2022 LASTCAR Truck Series Championship by a single bottom-five finish over Dean Thompson with just three races to go. Thompson had led the standings since his last-place finish in this year's Daytona opener.

Boyd’s most recent last-place finish occurred during an already difficult stretch of his 2022 season with Young’s Motorsports. He finished 32nd in the previous round at Pocono, then just 32nd and 33rd in the next races at Richmond and Kansas. For Bristol, he’d welcome back sponsor Rimtyme, which most recently backed his #12 at Nashville. Of the 37 entries, he ranked 36th ahead of Josh Reaume, who turned a session-fewest two laps in his #43 Colonial Countertops Toyota. Boyd then qualified 33rd with the second-slowest completed lap – again ahead of Reaume – clocking in at 116.673mph (16.446 seconds). The lone DNQ was Justin S. Carroll, who for the fifth time in as many attempts missed the show in his #90 Carroll’s Automotive Toyota.

Practice proved particularly wild for two Playoff contenders. Zane Smith ranked 20th in his #38 Speedco / Luber Finer Ford, but suffered a rear end seal failure that caused a leak, requiring repairs that kept him from turning a lap in qualifying. Also kept from qualifying was John Hunter Nemechek, whose #4 Pye-Barker Fire & Safety Toyota was 13th in practice. Nemechek looked to have a right-front tire go down in Turn 4 near the end of the session, putting him into the outside wall. His crew rolled out the backup, which interestingly was instead decorated with sponsorship from Mobil 1 and door numbers that were blue in place of the primary’s white. Pye-Barker’s logos were much smaller, placed on the lower quarter-panels of the flat black Toyota. Smith would roll off 35th with Nemechek 36th. 

Nemechek’s backup and Smith’s repairs would incur both redundant tail-end penalties along with the unapproved adjustments for 22nd-place Blaine Perkins in the #9 Raceline Chevrolet and Reaume Brothers teammates Chris Hacker, set to start 30th in the #33 Prima Chevrolet along with teammate Reaume in the sluggish #43. Reaume’s truck was last across the stripe, 4.366 seconds back of the leader and already nearly seven-tenths back of 35th-place Nemechek, who made quick work of Hacker’s #33 en route to a 12th-place finish. By Lap 4, Reaume was still 0.889 back of Hacker, but drew within 0.330 two circuit later. On Lap 11, Hacker clawed past Boyd for 34th, dropping Boyd’s #12 to within just 0.195 second of the still-closing Reaume. The gap stayed about the same around Lap 14, when Reaume was lapped by polesitter Derek Kraus who pulled to the high lane through Turns 3 and 4. Boyd, too, was lapped by the 17th circuit. On Lap 19, Reaume’s spotter found him an open spot in traffic, but he was soon caught by faster traffic once more. This was followed on Lap 24 by a message, “Got one slow on the front up high.”

The slow truck was Boyd’s, which had bounced off the outside wall with smoke coming from behind his right-front wheel. Reaume passed him for last on Lap 25, and someone on the #12 crew radioed, “It’s on fire. Right-front’s on fire.” An argument then ensued between two crew members – one reporting that the caliper was on fire and they needed to go behind the wall, while another reminded him that doing so would put them out of the race under the Damaged Vehicle Policy (DVP). The response was, “It don’t matter. I’ve gotta see why it’s on fire.” Now six laps down as Boyd made it to pit road, the #12 pulled behind the wall, where NASCAR radioed, “12 to the garage, DVP.” As Boyd radioed that “the brake pedal’s been stupid since the beginning,” and it was now on the floor, the first crew member who urged him to the garage asked, “How do you get a DVP for a flat tire?” The topic was further discussed on Lap 35. “I’m not sure how (DVP) works with brushing the wall – hell, everyone’d be under DVP at Darlington.” Boyd’s crew said “We’re done” on Lap 41, and NASCAR confirmed him out on Lap 65.

On Lap 37, Reaume’s night also took a turn for the worse when he lost control racing Blaine Perkins and backed into the outside wall. Seconds later, 14th-place Rajah Caruth spun his #7 Circle Chevrolet and slammed door-to-door with the side of his truck. According to Caruth’s crew, the spotter had warned Caruth of the accident, but the driver didn’t hear the message. Caruth said his spotter didn't say anything. Caruth avoided t-boning Reaume’s truck, but not a slide into the driver’s door, sending Reaume to a local hospital for further evaluation. Caruth reported a vibration in the driveline, the exhaust pipe exposed from the right side of his truck, and pulled behind the wall on Lap 47, out under the DVP. Both Caruth and Reaume were declared out by NASCAR in the same Lap 65 report with Boyd. 

Hacker took 33rd after suspension issue following a spin while Dean Thompson completed the Bottom Five. Thompson nursed old tires to one of his best runs of the year, climbing as high as 10th. But when throwing a block on Tanner Gray with just 20 laps to go, Gray held his line, putting Thompson rear-first into the outside wall and out of the race.

Ty Majeski scores emotional first victory

A few years ago, Ty Majeski was one of NASCAR’s most highly-anticipated prospects in stock car racing, a member of both the 2016-2017 class of NASCAR Next and the inaugural Alan Kulwicki Driver Development Program. He even hailed from Kulwicki’s home state of Wisconsin. After graduating from go-karts, Majeski’s #91 dominated the ARCA Midwest Tour, racking up four consecutive championships. He’s also won a Snowball Derby, two Slinger Nationals, and a trio at Oktoberfest in La Crosse. But despite a trio of ARCA Menards Series wins, the jump to NASCAR national competition wasn’t nearly so smooth. From 2017 to 2018, he languished in the closing years of Roush-Fenway’s XFINITY program, even while sharing the ride with Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric, now winners in the Cup Series. He didn’t perform much better in the Truck Series with Al Niece, ultimately losing his ride midway through a turbulent 2020. There were questions whether he’d truly make it in the sport.

But all that started to change just last year when Majeski earned a part-time ride with ThorSport Racing in the #66. His 7th-place finish in his debut at Charlotte was already a new career-best, followed by another Top Ten in Nashville. A full-time ride followed, as did sponsorship from multiple backers, most prominently Road Ranger. And after winning the pole and finishing 7th at Daytona – a race where two years earlier he finished last after sliding on his roof – he has ranked no worse than 8th in points all season. He’s run his fastest since the start of the Playoffs, leading 71 laps at IRP, 73 at Richmond, and 14 at Kansas – each a victory that just slipped from his grasp. He led another 45 on Thursday, and this time it included the one that counted most. 

In his 40th Truck Series start, Ty Majeski is a winner. He even completed a “Polish Victory Lap” afterwards at the track where Alan Kulwicki scored two of his Cup wins en route to the Winston Cup Championship, and where he was mourned following his death in a airplane crash in 1993. Appropriately, this same win has punched Majeski’s ticket into the Championship 4, to be settled this November at Phoenix – site of Kulwicki’s maiden Cup win in 1988.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #12 in a Truck Series race at Bristol.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
36) #12-Spencer Boyd / 25 laps / crash
35) #43-Josh Reaume / 34 laps / crash
34) #7-Rajah Caruth / 44 laps / crash
33) #33-Chris Hacker / 165 laps / suspension
32) #40-Dean Thompson / 178 laps / crash

2022 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) G2G Racing (4)
2nd) Niece Motorsports, Reaume Brothers Racing, Young’s Motorsports (3)
3rd) AM Racing, David Gilliland Racing (2)
4th) Front Row Motorsports, Halmar Friesen Racing, McAnally-Hilgemann Racing (1)

2022 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (11)
2nd) Toyota (6)
3rd) Ford (3)

2022 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP


PREVIEW: Jesse Little's finale, Means team's return, and McCarty and Honeyman's debuts just some of many Bristol storylines

Jesse Little's #02 Chevrolet for tonight's race.
IMAGE: RaceArtist.com, posted on @youngsmtrsports

by Brock Beard
LASTCAR.info Editor-in-Chief

Thursday, September 15, 2022 (9:00 P.M. ET, FS1)
TRUCKS Race 20 of 23
Round of 8: Race 1 of 3
UNOH 200 Presented by Ohio Logistics at Bristol
2021 Last-Place Finisher: Josh Reaume

ENTRY LIST
There are 37 drivers entered for 36 spots, meaning one will fail to qualify.

MISSING: #5-Hill Motorsports
The first of four teams which attempted the most recent race at Kansas but will not be in Bristol is the second Hill Motorsports entry with which Tyler Hill earned a 29th-place finish.

RETURNING: #7-Spire Motorsports
One week after running the XFINITY race at Kansas, taking 25th for Alpha Prime Racing, Rajah Caruth is back to attempt his third career Truck Series start and first since Richmond, where he finished 25th. As in that race – the most recent by the Spire #7 entry – Caruth carries sponsorship from Circle, and is the first of six drivers running both this week’s ARCA Menards Series race and at least one of the NASCAR national series races at Bristol this weekend.

MISSING: #14-Trey Hutchens Racing
Trey Hutchens III is not entered following his DNQ in Kansas, site of his lone Truck start this year in the spring, where he finished 29th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #17-David Gilliland Racing
Taking the place of Stewart-Haas Racing reserve driver Ryan Preece is Taylor Gray, who returns for the first time since his career-best 6th-place showing in Richmond. Dead On Tools is the listed sponsor for Gray, who will also run the ARCA race. Gray ranks 2nd in the East Series and 10th nationally.

DRIVER CHANGE: #20-Young's Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #02-Young's Motorsports
Two of Randy Young’s teams will represent career beginnings and endings. Driving the #20 – which until Wednesday had only “TBA” on the entry list – is 17-year-old Phoenix native Leland Honeyman, Jr. Running part-time in Young’s ARCA entries, Honeyman finished 6th earlier this year at Iowa and 11th on the Milwaukee Mile. LH Waterfront Construction, his ARCA sponsor, follows him to the #20. Honeyman takes the place of Jesse Little, who finished 28th in Kansas and this week takes the place of Kaz Grala in the #02 with sponsorship from David’s Electric. Little tweeted Wednesday evening that this will be his final race as a driver, following eight years of making a combined 104 Cup, XFINITY, and Truck Series starts (tonight will mark #105). He twice finished a career-best 6th in Trucks, twice finished a series-best 10th in XFINITY, and claimed 35th in a pair of Cup races back in 2018. The 25-year-old wrote, in part, “I’ll still be at the track, and I look forward to seeing you all there.”

DRIVER CHANGE: #22-AM Racing
Austin Wayne Self returns to the driver’s seat for the first time since his 27th-place run at Richmond, taking the place of Kansas last-place finisher Brett Moffitt.

MISSING: #26-Rackley-W.A.R.
The second Rackley entry of Tate Fogleman will not be in Bristol following their DNQ in Kansas.

DRIVER CHANGE: #32-Bret Holmes Racing
Connor Mosack seeks just the second Truck Series start of his career and first since his 34th-place series debut at Mid-Ohio, where he also drove Bret Holmes’ #32 with Nic Tailor as sponsor. Mosack reunites with both team and sponsor following a 15th-place finish in his most recent NASCAR outing – the XFINITY race at Watkins Glen. Mosack will also run the ARCA race in the #23 for Stacy Holmes.

DRIVER CHANGE: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
“Hackerman,” Chris Hacker, returns for his ninth Truck Series start and first since IRP, where he ran 24th for On Point Motorsports. This time, he reunites with Reaume Brothers Racing for the first time since Nashville, and pilots the flagship #33 with sponsorship from PrimaFlyers.com. Hacker takes the place of Mason Maggio, who finished 32nd last week in Kansas. The Bristol track holds a special place in Hacker’s life, as just seven years ago, his parents surprised him with tickets to Bristol as a birthday present.

RETURNING: #35-McAnally-Hilgemann Racing
Jake Garcia returns in the part-time third entry for the McAnally team with returning sponsor Quanta Services. This would be Garcia’s fourth series start and first since Richmond, where he earned a career-best 20th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #43-Reaume Brothers Racing
After Josh Reaume took over for Armani Williams during the early laps at Kansas, where he ultimately took home 35th, Reaume will run the #43 from the start this week. He is the defending last-place finisher of this race.

MISSING: #46-G2G Racing
Not among the entries is G2G Racing, who during the dirt race here in the spring had a paperwork fowl-up, ultimately forcing their #46 to be entered as the #49 under the now-defunct CMI Motorsports. Brennan Poole, who finished 34th for the team last week in Kansas, is not entered and instead focuses on XFINITY (see below).

RETURNING: #90-Terry Carroll Motorsports
Justin S. Carroll continues his search for an elusive NASCAR national touring series debut in what will be his fifth attempt of the year in the #90 Carrroll’s Automotive Toyota. He is also entered in the ARCA race, where he’ll campaign the #91.

CUP INVADERS: None

Friday, September 16, 2022 (7:30 P.M. ET, USA)
XFINITY Race 26 of 33
Regular Season Finale
Food City 300 at Bristol
2021 Last-Place Finisher: Brett Moffitt

ENTRY LIST
There are 41 drivers entered for 38 spots, meaning three will fail to qualify.

DRIVER SWAP: #5-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #45-Alpha Prime Racing
DRIVER SWAP: #78-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #02-Our Motorsports
A game of musical chairs unfolded this week among four different Chevrolet teams. Kicking things off is a returning Sage Karam, back in a XFINITY car for the first time since his career-best 5th-place finish at Daytona. This time, Karam drives the #02 for Our Motorsports, replacing Brandon Brown, who was 17th in Kansas. Brown lands back in the #5 for B.J. McLeod, replacing Garrett Smithley, himself a last-minute substitute at Kansas for a flu-suffering Matt Mills. Mills was slated to run the #78 for McLeod this week, but on Wednesday reported he’s still feeling the after effects of his illness, putting McLeod himself in the #78. Mills hopes to be back for the upcoming race at Texas. The Mills / McLeod swap already replaced Stefan Parsons, the 26th-place runner in Kanas, who has landed in the Alpha Prime #45 in place of Rajah Caruth. Caruth will not run this week’s XFINITY race as he focuses on both ARCA and the Truck Series.

DRIVER CHANGE: #6-JD Motorsports
When we last saw late model driver Bobby McCarty, he’d failed to qualify at Loudon driving for Mike Harmon Racing. Now, McCarty makes his second attempt with JD Motorsports, replacing 33rd-place Kansas finisher Ryan Vargas. Vargas is excited about the next few races he has coming up in October, including the paint schemes.

DRIVER CHANGE: #13-Motorsports Business Management
Chad Finchum returns to his home track, looking to bounce back from his DNQ in his last attempt at Darlington in the #13, which also failed to qualify last week at Kansas with Akinori Ogata. Finchum carries sponsorship from Finishing Touch and longtime Bristol sponsor Food City on Carl Long’s white Toyota.

DRIVER CHANGE: #26-Sam Hunt Racing
We haven’t seen Jeffrey Earnhardt in a XFINITY car since the July race at Atlanta, where he finished 19th in Sam Hunt Racing’s #26 Toyota. This week, he returns, taking the place of 27th-place Kansas finisher Derek Griffith. Earnhardt has eight previous XFINITY starts at Bristol with a best finish of 12th in 2014.

TEAM UPDATE: #34-Jesse Iwuji Motorsports
Kyle Weatherman is entered in the #34, which he practiced and qualified 18th last week in Kansas before Jesse Iwuji took over and finished 36th. This week, Weatherman will be wearing a pair of the iconic Skeleton Gloves in support of the Dale Jr. Foundation – gloves that will be signed by both Weatherman and Earnhardt before they are auctioned off for charity. This will be only the fourth Bristol XFINITY start for Weatherman – a track where he earned a track-best 28th in his 2019 debut for Rick Ware Racing.

DRIVER CHANGE: #35-Emerling-Gase Motorsports
Patrick Emerling is back in the #35 for the first time since his 25th-place showing at Michigan, and returns to the site of a controversial crash in his only previous XFINITY start here in 2020. During the early days of Our Motorsports, Emerling’s XFINITY debut that evening came to an abrupt end when contact from Bayley Currey put him into the inside wall, leaving him 29th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #36-DGM Racing
RETURNING: #92-DGM Racing
Mario Gosselin brings back its part-time #92 entry for Josh Williams to run, moving over from the #36 with which he took 24th last week in Kansas for a returning Alex Labbe. Labbe brings returning sponsor Can-Am onto his Chevrolet for his first XFINITY start since his season-best 8th in the August race at Daytona. For Williams, this is a return to the site of his Cup Series debut this past spring, when he ran on the dirt surface for Live Fast Motorsports.

DRIVER CHANGE: #44-Alpha Prime Racing
Ryan Ellis rejoins the Alpha Prime team for the first time since his 22nd-place finish at Darlington in the Jeff Gordon “throwback” paint scheme. KeenParts.com is again the sponsor as Ellis takes the place of Howie DiSavino III, who ran 28th with this team in Kansas. This will be Ellis’ third XFINITY start at Bristol and first since 2016, when he ran 35th for Obaika Racing.

DRIVER CHANGE: #47-Mike Harmon Racing
RETURNING / DRIVER SWAP: #52-Jimmy Means Racing
Also returning to XFINITY for the first time since Darlington is Dawson Cram, who this time takes the wheel of Mike Harmon’s #47 with sponsorship from Michael Waltrip’s brewery. This would be just the third career XFINITY start for Cram and his first for Harmon since his 2021 debut at Loudon. Brennan Poole, who has run for MHR for much of this year, moves over to a returning Jimmy Means Racing, whose #52 has been absent from the series since Martinsville in April. The #52 team was entered in six of the season’s first eight races, failing to qualify for seven and withdrawing from Fontana.

DRIVER CHANGE: #48-Big Machine Racing
Current ARCA Menards Series point leader Nick Sanchez – a three-time winner on the circuit this year – will make his third career XFINITY start this week. Unlike his prior two with B.J. McLeod Motorsports at Phoenix and Charlotte, he will this time run for Big Machine Racing, taking the place of Cup regular Ross Chastain in the #48 Chevrolet.

TEAM UPDATE: #51-Jeremy Clements Racing
On Tuesday came news that Jeremy Clements’ L2 penalty from his Daytona win has been overturned, locking his underdog team back into next week’s Playoffs.

DRIVER CHANGE: #77-Bassett Racing
Ronnie Bassett, Jr. looks to make his first XFINITY start since his 36th-place finish after he was collected in Pocono’s multi-car crash off Turn 3. Dillon Bassett timed into the last two races for the #77 team, taking 34th at Michigan and 29th last week in Kansas.

DRIVER CHANGE: #07-SS-Green Light Racing w/ Jeff Lefcourt
Joe Graf, Jr. returns to the #07 this week in place of Brett Moffitt, who finished a strong 10th in the rain-shortened Kansas race. Two of Graf’s three XFINITY starts at Bristol saw him finish in the Top 20 with a 13th in 2020 and a 17th last summer.

CUP INVADERS: None

Saturday, September 17, 2022 (7:30 P.M. ET, USA)
CUP Race 29 of 36
Round of 16: Race 3 of 3
Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol
2021 Last-Place Finisher: Ryan Newman

ENTRY LIST
For the first time since August 26, 1995 - the night of Terry Labonte and Dale Earnhardt’s first of two last-lap tangles - only 36 cars will take the green in the Bristol Night Race. But unlike that 1995 race, which saw 43 drivers attempt to qualify, sending seven fully-funded teams home, only the Chartered teams fill the field. This marks the 28th short field in 29 races this season, and will determine the first four drivers eliminated from the Cup Series Playoffs.

DRIVER CHANGE: #16-Kaulig Racing
Defending XFINITY race winner at Bristol A.J. Allmendinger takes the place of 18th-place Kansas finisher Noah Gragson as he pulls double-duty for the Kaulig team.

DRIVER CHANGE: #77-Spire Motorsports
Josh Bilicki makes his 17th Cup start of the season and first since his 21st-place finish at Bristol as he takes the place of 24th-place Kansas finisher Landon Cassill. Zeigler Auto and LoJack return as sponsor as Bilicki seeks to improve his track-best finish of 31st here last summer – his only one of three career Cup starts at Bristol where he finished under power.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (September 15, 1985): Bennie Davis of Canton, North Carolina picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Busch Grand National Series career in the Coca-Cola 300 at North Wilkesboro when his #66 Davis Racing Pontiac lost the engine after 12 laps. Davis made just 14 series starts, and this was his only race at North Wilkesboro. His best finish was 7th at Hickory on June 11, 1983.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

INDYCAR: Dream weekend for Ilott unravels midrace at Laguna Seca

PHOTO: Motorsport.com

by William Soquet
LASTCAR.info Staff Writer

Callum Ilott scored the 1st last-place finish of his NTT IndyCar Series career in Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey when his #77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet retired with mechanical issues after completing 37 of the race’s 95 circuits.

The finish came in Ilott’s 19th career start.

Callum Ilott may have come into the season finale sitting just third in the IndyCar Rookie of the Year standings, but he has garnered his share of attention in a crowded freshman field. It wasn’t supposed to be that way, as the ex-Formula 2 driver and former Alfa Romeo reserve was perhaps the least-heralded prospect coming into the season. Longtime Road to Indy and sometimes IndyCar team owner Ricardo Juncos partnered with businessman Brad Hollinger to put a car on the grid for the last three races in 2021, for which they tapped Ilott. With opportunities in Europe running out, Ilott came across the pond for the full 2022 season with the fledgling team, which was rumored to have a partnership with Carlin for the season until Carlin eventually sold most of its operations to Juncos team before the season started.

The early part of the season went about as one would expect, with Bottom Three finishes in three of the season’s first five races. Ilott crashed in the Indianapolis 500 and had to miss the final Belle Isle race, where Santino Ferrucci delivered a 21st-place run in his place. But after his return, Ilott made Round 2 of qualifying in the next three races and placed solidly in the midfield at both Iowa contests. More recently, he grabbed his second career IndyCar top-ten finish in the last race at Portland, buoyed by the announcement that he would return for another year in the #77 Chevrolet and that he would have a yet-to-be-named teammate in 2023.

Ilott raised many eyebrows when he put his Chevrolet in the fifth position for first practice at Laguna Seca, though the track was one on which he did compete during his limited 2021 slate. The race’s lone part-time entrant, Simona de Silvestro, was last in opening practice, trailing Jimmie Johnson by a tenth of a second. Ilott was ninth in second practice, showing a consistent pace that was surprising for IndyCar’s lone single-car team.

Ilott was fifth in Group 2 of qualifying, and then was the last car to qualify for the Fast Six, edging David Malukas by eight-thousandths of a second. A great lap during the final round of qualifying placed him second on the grid, only two-hundredths seconds behind polesitter - and eventual series champion - Will Power.

Starting last on Sunday was de Silvestro, who was the slowest in Group 2. She was late pulling up alongside Josef Newgarden in Row 13 for the start, but made it there eventually for a side-by-side start.

On Lap 1, Ilott was swallowed up in a horde of drivers with a case to make, be they championship ambitions or otherwise. He dropped to fourth but stayed there for most of the opening stint before passing Alexander Rossi for third position near the end of the first stint. Last place flipped from de Silvestro, who was 11.3 seconds in arrears after the first lap, to Johnson, who was 14.7 seconds back after two, then back to de Silvestro, and after to Dalton Kellett. Kellett was spun by Jimmie Johnson in the middle of Lap 5, and a couple of laps later, Johnson was assessed a tail-end penalty by race control for avoidable contact, dropping him to last. After the penalty was assessed, Johnson was running 41 seconds back of leader Will Power.

Green-flag pit stops brought a shakeup to the last-place battle. Once again, Meyer Shank Racing led the undercut cars, bringing Helio Castroneves in for a stop on Lap 9. Several drivers came in on the following lap, but Colton Herta’s crew had issues with a wheelnut, leaving the driver on pit road for around an extra eight seconds and dropping him to last. Herta eventually worked his way up to a top-ten running position, but Kellett lost it in the final turn just two laps later, taking a long trip through the sand runoff and dropping himself to a 1 minute, 8 second gap before his first pit stop. The stop came four laps later on Lap 16 and dropped the A.J. Foyt Racing driver to lap-down status. He maintained last for most of the second stint, the only car a lap down and about 35 seconds behind Johnson, who was running 25th.

On Lap 28, the last-place battle was almost settled. Marcus Ericsson shoved Simon Pagenaud into the grass off of a right-hand turn, sending the #60 car careening towards a tire barrier. Pagenaud was able to get the car pointed straight and drove parallel to the barrier until the next corner and continue on, averting near disaster.

Cars continued to pit throughout the race, depending on if they were on a three-stop or four-stop strategy. Ilott made a stop on Lap 37, but exited the pit lane slowly - so slowly, that the car eventually faltered and came to a stop just outside the exit of pit lane. In typical fashion, IndyCar stranded the #77 machine on the track for a couple laps so everybody could pit under green and then called the caution, towing the car off the track.

Ilott was the only driver that failed to finish the race. Kellett finished 25th, two laps down by the end of the race. Conor Daly rounded out the Bottom Three in 24th, also two laps down in a race that saw him make five pit stops during the course of the event.

Dalton Kellett – 2022 LASTCAR IndyCar Series Champion

As Ilott’s finish was the first of his career, Dalton Kellett clinched the 2022 LASTCAR IndyCar Series drivers’ championship. Both he and Rinus VeeKay had two last-place finishes on the year, but Kellett clinched by virtue of his six Bottom Three finishes as compared to VeeKay’s two. Kellett’s two last-place finishes both came within the first five races of the season, holding the championship lead ever since the third race of the season. The title is the first of Kellett’s career.

THE BOTTOM THREE
26) #77-Callum Ilott / 37 laps / lost power
25) #4-Dalton Kellett / 93 laps / running
24) #20-Conor Daly / 93 laps / running

2022 LASTCAR NTT INDYCAR SERIES MANUFACTURERS CHAMPIONSHIP – FINAL
1st) Chevrolet (10)
2nd) Honda (6)

2022 LASTCAR NTT INDYCAR SERIES OWNERS CHAMPIONSHIP – FINAL
1st) A.J. Foyt Racing, Ed Carpenter Racing (3)
2nd) Arrow McLaren SP, Dale Coyne Racing (2)
3rd) Andretti Autosport, Chip Ganassi Racing, Juncos Hollinger Racing, Meyer Shank Racing, Paretta Autosport, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (1)

2022 LASTCAR NTT INDYCAR SERIES DRIVERS CHAMPIONSHIP – FINAL


CUP: Turbulent air sends Kevin Harvick into the wall early at Kansas

ALL PHOTOS: @DnfRacers

by Brock Beard
LASTCAR.info Editor-in-Chief

Kevin Harvick picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at the Kansas Speedway when his #4 Rheem Ford crashed after 33 of 267 laps.

The finish, which came in Harvick’s 782nd series start, was his first of the season and first since August 17, 2019 at Bristol, 112 races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 42nd for the #4, the 635th from a crash, and the 725th for a Ford. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 69th for the #4, the 999th for Ford, and the 1,303rd from a crash.

In the more than three full years since he most recently finished last in a Cup race, Harvick’s fortunes have changed dramatically. There was 2020, when he scored a career-best nine wins – including NASCAR’s return from the COVID-19 pandemic at Darlington – only to miss the Championship 4 for the first time since 2016 after a spin at Martinsville ended a terrible “Round of 8.” Then there was last year, where he went winless for the first time since 2009. He still made the Playoffs, where he engaged in an on-track rivalry with Chase Elliott, culminating with a wreck on the Charlotte “Roval.” 

The winless streak continued until the closing stages of this year’s regular season, where he scored a pair of decisive wins at Michigan and Richmond. But the frustration has remained – most significantly concerns about the safety of NASCAR’s new “NextGen” car. He was most outspoken since last week at Darlington, where a fire caused by a dislodged exhaust pipe ended his night in 33rd place. Now last overall in the Playoffs, Harvick came to Kansas, where NASCAR would debut new changes made to address these increasingly common fires.

At Kansas, Harvick ranked 18th overall in practice, then improved to 14th in qualifying with a lap of 178.944mph (30.177 seconds).

Taking 36th and last on the grid was Aric Almirola, who had engine and ECU issues during practice, requiring an engine change on his #10 Farmland Ford. Almirola would incur a redundant tail-end penalty prior to the start along with 35th-place Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., whose #47 SunnyD Chevrolet needed repairs after he struck the wall in practice following a blown right-rear tire. Almirola didn’t put up a lap in qualifying while Stenhouse turned the slowest lap at 169.247mph (31.906 seconds). During the race, Stenhouse would climb as high as 2nd, and was still in the Top Five when he suffered another right-rear tire failure on Lap 111, ultimately dropping him to 30th, 5 laps down.

By the time the race started, B.J. McLeod had dropped to last place, 3.392 seconds back of the leader, with Stenhouse up to 35th and Almirola 33rd, splitting 34th-place J.J. Yeley in the #15 RWR Ford. From the outset, McLeod was fighting an ill-handling car, and on the opening lap had already dropped 0.536 second back of the now 35th-place Yeley. McLeod drew closer on Lap 4, but steadily lost ground after. By Lap 8, he was 1.051 back of the #15. “This thing is horrible right now,” McLeod radioed on Lap 10. “I can’t run the top for nothing.” The next time by, McLeod’s deficit to Yeley grew from 1.742 seconds to 2.518. “Free on entry, extremely tight on exit,” the driver radioed. On Lap 16, McLeod was 6.447 back of Yeley, and he went a lap down the next time by. Yeley and his teammate Cody Ware in the #51 Nurtec ODT Ford were both lapped on the 25th circuit, seconds before the competition caution fell on Lap 26.

Harvick (center-right) pulls into the garage.

Under caution, Yeley took over last place on Lap 29, but McLeod took it back the next time by. Both had just begun to race each other for the Lucky Dog when the caution fell on Lap 34. At that moment, Kevin Harvick was running 5th behind Bubba Wallace and Ross Chastain, who were locked in a side-by-side battle for 3rd. As Wallace and Chastain came off Turn 4, both washed up the track in front of Harvick, causing the #4 to snap loose and slam the outside wall with the right-front. With the steering damaged, Harvick’s car struck the wall a second time near the stripe as the caution flag flew. The crew removed the damaged tires, only to quickly find both the right-front and right-rear suspension heavily damaged. On Lap 35, the crew chief told the crew to “try and get it where we can get it back to the truck.” Once done, they pushed his car back and on Lap 37, Harvick drove to the garage, done for the day. As he did, both right side wheels flopped wildly within their fenders, causing a rough ride to the hauler. Harvick took last from McLeod on Lap 36, and was declared out by NASCAR on Lap 50. Harvick’s hauler was seen leaving the track on Lap 95, headed to Bristol and a “must-win” race to advance to the “Round of 12.”

Another Playoff contender was then eliminated as Tyler Reddick’s battle for the lead ended with a blown right-rear wheel on Lap 67, sending him hard into the Turn 2 wall with the right side of his #8 Guaranteed Rate Chevrolet. Reddick’s crew was able to manage some repairs – enough to run another caution lap – before he returned to pit road. He ultimately turned his car around at pit exit and drove the wrong way up to the same garage entrance used by Harvick, going behind the wall on Lap 70. Taking 34th was Ty Gibbs, who after contact from Corey LaJoie off Turn 2 slammed the wall in the #23 McDonald’s Toyota, leaving a tire carcass behind. LaJoie’s #7 Circle B Diecast Chevrolet was eliminated soon after in a restart wreck with Harrison Burton’s #21 Menards MasterForce Ford. LaJoie’s car was towed to the garage while Burton’s made it to pit road, only to be pushed behind the wall.

Bubba Wallace earns record-setting win

In this, the second race of the Playoffs, one of the 16 Playoff drivers has still yet to score a victory. Taking the checkers on Sunday was Bubba Wallace, who after the early incident involving Harvick went on to his second career win and first of the season. Wallace drove the #45 Root Insurance Toyota – the entry with which teammate Kurt Busch won the spring Kansas race before his concussion suffered at Pocono – but, in a bid to claim the Owner’s Championship, with Wallace’s #23 team, including crew chief “Bootie” Barker. This marks the first time two different Cup drivers won with the same team in the same year since 2002, when Jamie McMurray won at Charlotte in the #40 Coors Light Dodge vacated by Sterling Marlin, who was injured at this same Kansas track after wins at Las Vegas and Darlington. This hasn’t happened at the same track since 1972 with the Wood Brothers’ #21 Purolator Mercury at Daytona – A.J. Foyt won the Daytona 500, followed by David Pearson in the Firecracker 400.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
36) #4-Kevin Harvick / 33 laps / crash
35) #8-Tyler Reddick / 67 laps / crash
34) #23-Ty Gibbs / 90 laps / crash
33) #7-Corey LaJoie / 114 laps / crash
32) #21-Harrison Burton / 115 laps / crash

2022 LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Live Fast Motorsports (6)
2nd) Hendrick Motorsports (4)
3rd) Joe Gibbs Racing, Spire Motorsports (3)
4th) Penske Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing, Trackhouse Racing (2)
5th) 23XI Racing, Kaulig Racing, NY Racing Team, Richard Childress Racing, Rick Ware Racing, Team Hezeberg (1)

2022 LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet, Ford (12)
2nd) Toyota (4)

2022 LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP