Monday, February 27, 2023

XFINITY: Flat tire sends Gray Gaudling into the wall – and history books – at Auto Club Speedway

ALL PHOTOS: Brock Beard

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Gray Gaulding picked up the 4th last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Sunday’s Production Alliance Group 300 at the Auto Club Speedway of Southern California when his #08 North South Machinery / Panini Ford crashed after 26 of 150 laps.

The finish, which came in Gaulding’s 70th series start, was his first of the season and first in a XFINITY Series race since October 9, 2021 at the Charlotte “Roval,” 39 races ago. In the XFINITY Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 7th for the #08, the 162nd for Ford, and the 375th from a crash. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 22nd for the #08, the 1,003rd for Ford, and the 1,319th from a crash.

This year sees Gaulding reunite with team owner Bobby Dotter at SS-Green Light Racing, a combination that led to impressive results back in 2019. Back then, Gaulding had transitioned back to the XFINITY Series after three lackluster seasons in Cup for multiple underfunded teams. At the time, Gaulding had made just eight starts in XFINITY and had only twice finished better than 33rd. But after a 34th-place finish in the ’19 opener at Daytona, Gaulding took 16th in Atlanta and for the next 21 races would finish worse than that just three times – a streak of 21 consecutive finishes inside the Top 20. The highlight came at Talladega, where Gaulding came just 0.127 second short of besting the fleet Richard Childress entry of current Cup regular Tyler Reddick. Gaulding narrowly missed a spot in the Playoffs, and ranked 13th in points – best of all non-Playoff contenders.

Since 2019, SS-Green Light Racing has scored its first win, which came at this same Fontana track last year with Cup regular Cole Custer behind the wheel of the #07. But Gaulding has again fought to regain both his full-season ride and consistency from 2019. In 2020, Gaulding finished runner-up on a superspeedway again – this time at Daytona, and behind another current Cup star in Justin Haley – and made a few Cup starts of his own for Rick Ware Racing. He then struggled with both Jimmy Means Racing and Mike Harmon Racing, at times earning a solid finish, but often falling out with mechanical issues. With Joe Graf, Jr. moving onto a split schedule between Joe Gibbs Racing and RSS Racing, the opportunity presented itself for Gaulding to come home. The pair started off solid in Daytona, leading a lap in last week’s race en route to a 20th-place finish. Next came Fontana.

With practice and qualifying washed out, Gaulding secured 12th on the starting grid while teammate Blaine Perkins took 33rd in the #07 Chevrolet. The two teams sent home were also among the six who missed the cut in last week’s Daytona opener: Garrett Smithley in B.J. McLeod’s #99 PCARx Chevrolet and Ryan Vargas in CHK Racing’s #74 Chevrolet.

Jeremy Clements' crew with electrical issues on Saturday.

Securing 38th and last on the grid was another DNQ from Daytona in the #91 JAG Metals LLC Chevrolet. Taking the place of Daytona driver Josh Bilicki was Cup regular Ross Chastain, who wore a white uniform from his Trackhouse Racing effort. On a Saturday where Winter Storm Piper pelted Southern California with rain and even snow, NASCAR still managed to dry the track in enough time to get the XFINITY cars on track for a couple pace laps. During these laps, 11th-place starter Jeremy Clements made an unscheduled stop in his #51 PacWest First Pacific Funding Chevrolet. The driver reported a short in the system, and something felt hot next to his arm. He came to a stop on pit road, and a wisp of smoke from under the hood caused them to look at the engine. Fortunately, an intensifying drizzle forced NASCAR to call off the start, and the rest of the field soon rolled to a stop on pit road. Clements’ crew dropped the hood and pushed his car alongside the sixth row of cars. The rain returned, and the race was pushed to Sunday after the Cup race.

Repairs to the Clements car made his one of five sent to the rear for pre-race penalties, joined by 4th-place Parker Retzlaff in the #31 Funkaway Chevrolet, 18th-place Kyle Sieg in the #38 Ford, 21st-place David Starr in the #02 Our Motorsports Chevrolet, and 37th-place Timmy Hill in the #66 Klutch Vodka Ford. Not joining them was Parker Kligerman, whose #48 Big Machine Racing Spiked Coolers Chevrolet couldn’t get fired as the crew pushed him to pit road. A push truck got him re-fired on the apron of Turn 1, and Kligerman reassumed the 23rd spot. 

Parker Kligerman's starter issue on Sunday.

“Starter motor was a little messed up,” Kligerman said after the race. “So ECR does a great job, but we had a little issue couldn't start it. So we had to get pushed out - it was a little frightening for a second. But once we got fired, we were off and rolling.”

Meanwhille, Clements dropped to the very back of the field, and took the green flag by himself in 38th. By the end of that first lap, the spot fell to C.J. McLaughlin in the #53 Sci Aps Chevrolet, which trailed the pack by open ground. Ahead of him, by Lap 6, Jeffrey Earnhardt slipped to 37th in the #44 Jesus Revolution – The Movie Chevrolet. Earnhardt, too, started to lose touch with the pack, though his gap back to McLaughlin appeared to stabilize. By Lap 13, Earnhardt had caught one of his Alpha Prime Racing teammates in Ryan Ellis, driver of the #43 Costa Oil Chevrolet. But Ellis drew away from Earnhardt the next time by. Thus, McLaughlin remained in 38th when the competition caution fell on Lap 15.

Under the caution, McLaughlin made a pit stop for a fluctuating fuel pressure gauge. Joining him on pit road was Kaz Grala, whose #26 Fire Department Coffee Toyota appeared off the pace in the opening run, losing a few spots while running in the low lane. Grala took last from McLaughlin by Lap 18. The pair pitted again on Lap 19 with Grala coming out ahead of McLaughlin, putting the #53 back to 38th place for the ensuing restart. 

Back under green, McLaughlin held the spot until Lap 26, when he passed Daytona last-place finisher Bayley Currey in the #4 KSDT CPA Chevrolet. But Currey only held the spot for an instant as the caution fell one lap later. 

Gaulding makes the hard left turn as the final
last-place finisher on Auto Club's 2-mile layout.

On Lap 27, Gaulding was running in the 33rd spot when he cut down a right-front tire and slammed the blue-painted backstretch wall with the right side. The caution fell as Gaulding pulled to the apron, clouds of smoke billowing from his right-front as the tire came apart. He managed to make it to pit road, where the crew first told him to pull into the garage using the opening near the scoring pylon. The crew then changed their mind, telling him to roll further down to his pit stall closer to Turn 1. Gaulding dropped the window net as the crew looked under the hood and changed tires. But on Lap 29, someone said “Take it behind the wall.” After waiting for a couple other cars to complete pit stops, Gaulding rolled two stalls forward to the garage entrance beneath the press box.

“We’re done, Jason?” someone asked as Gaulding pulled behind the wall.


“Sorry guys,” said Gaulding.

“It’s okay, bud.”

Despite four cautions in the final stage, Gaulding was the only retiree from the race. McLaughlin remained in 37th, ultimately losing three laps to the leaders. Finishing two laps down were 36th-place Tyler Reddick in the #24 Gearwrench Toyota, which left the track with several large tire marks on the driver’s door, and David Starr in an unsponsored #02 Chevrolet for Our Motorsports. Rounding out the Bottom Five in 34th was Ryan Ells, whose #43 Costa Oil Chevrolet was bumped into a spin off Turn 2, putting him one lap down.

Parker Kligerman finishes 10th in second start for Big Machine Racing

Coming into Sunday night’s race, Parker Kligerman had just two XFINITY starts at Fontana, and none since 2013, when he finished 4th for Kyle Busch Motorsports in a race won by Busch himself. Following his 23rd-place finish in this year’s Daytona opener, Kligerman took home 10th in Fontana. He discussed his race after the finish.

“It was good,” he said of his race. “I need to clean some things up on pit road, personally. Just some stuff I gotta figure out with brakes and that sort of thing and our equipment. But we obviously had a really fast car. And that's really cool. Patrick Donohue, and everyone on this Spiked Coolers Camaro just did an excellent job of just being prepared, having a great car. And we executed all day. And just the last run, we couldn't fire off and I don't know what we were missing. And we obviously got 10th, and I felt like the 21 (of Austin Hill), which finished 6th, we were with him. Him and the 98 (of Riley Herbst), that was who we should have been around. So we should've probably finished sixth to eighth and with the 10th in Stage 1 and 5th in Stage 2, I felt like you know, a big big day.”

Kligerman also discussed which races he’s looking forward to as the season continues. “Vegas - I love Vegas. So, I'm really excited about next week. Phoenix is one that I'm still working on. I've been working on for like three months. I know I need to be better there. I've told the whole team I will be the limiting factor there. So, it's just a place that I knew I need to work on. But I'm looking forward to that - I like the challenge, and I feel like I've been finding things simulation-wise and our sim really lined up well tonight. So I'm like alright, if that correlates correctly, then I'm really excited about Phoenix and then Atlanta of course and COTA - bring it on. So we've got a great set of tracks. This is the kind of momentum we need to build and we're gonna have a really good first part of season.”

*All four of Gaulding’s XFINITY last-place finishes have come with different teams: RSS Racing (Phoenix 2017), Jimmy Means Racing (Darlington 2021), Mike Harmon Racing (Charlotte “Roval” 2021), and now SS-Green Light Racing (Fontana 2023).
*This marked the first last-place run for the #08 in a XFINITY Series race since August 29, 2020 at Daytona, when Joe Graf, Jr. crashed after 7 laps of the summer race at Daytona.

38) #08-Gray Gaulding / 26 laps / crash
37) #53-C.J. McLaughlin / 147 laps / running
36) #24-Tyler Reddick / 148 laps / running
35) #02-David Starr / 148 laps / running
34) #43-Ryan Ellis / 149 laps / running

1st) JD Motorsports, SS-Green Light Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet, Ford (1)


CUP: A.J. Allmendinger slaps backstretch wall in Fontana finale

PHOTO: Brock Beard

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

A.J. Allmendinger picked up the 9th last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Pala Casino 400 at the Auto Club Speedway of Southern California when his #16 Farm Smart Chevrolet was involved in an accident after 75 of 200 laps.

The finish, which came in Allmendinger’s 396th series start, was his first of the season and first in a Cup points race since June 24, 2018 at Sears Point, 166 races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 17th for the #16, the 641st from a crash, and the 832nd for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 37th for the #16, the 1,318th from a crash, and the 1,872nd for Chevrolet.

When Allmendinger was last featured in a LASTCAR Cup Series article, he had missed a shift at Sonoma with disastrous results, cutting short a road course race where he’d been heavily favored. He’d won his first Cup race at Watkins Glen four years earlier – the first for JTG-Daugherty Racing, and the team’s last until Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.’s victory in the Daytona 500 just seven days ago – but for 2019, “The Dinger’s” seat would go to then-rookie Ryan Preece.

A new opportunity came about with Kaulig Racing, which in 2019 was embarking on its fourth full-time XFINITY Series season and first with Justin Haley as driver. Looking to expand and score victories of their own, Kaulig entered Allmendinger in their second of three cars for the summer race at Daytona. The result of this “trophy hunting” was very nearly a 1-2-3 finish where Allmendinger finished 3rd behind Chastain and Haley – nearly, that is, before failing a post-race “vacuum” test resulted in a disqualification, classifying Allmendinger in last place.

Since then, few days have turned out that way. A five-race stint in 2019 became eleven in 2020, then full-time in 2021 and in 2022. During that span, no other driver has won the Charlotte “Roval” – the road race ace Allmendinger has claimed all four. To date, he claims 13 of Kaulig’s 19 career XFINITY Series wins, and made a Championship Four appearance in 2021 where he ranked a career-best 4th. After a similar restructuring of Kaulig’s two-car Cup program – with which Allmendinger claimed a second career victory at Indianapolis in 2021 – he has since returned to full-time Cup competition for 2023.

Following a 6th-place finish in last Sunday’s Daytona 500 – his first start in the “Great American Race” since 2018 – Allmendinger prepared for the following week’s race in Fontana, where his best Cup finish was a pair of 8th-place showings in 2014 and 2016. Primary sponsor Nutrien Ag Solutions would be joined by Farm Smart, whose logos adorned the green-and-white Chevrolet’s door panels. 

Winter Storm Piper wreaked havoc with all of California with particular focus on the region around the Auto Club Speedway, which was hosting its final events on the 2-mile configuration from 1997 before a planned redesign into a short track. All practice and qualifying was cancelled on Saturday, and the resulting formula used to set the lineup placed Allmendinger 6th on the grid.

Kyle Larson returns to the track after losing 17 laps
with electrical issues.

With only the Chartered entries arriving in California, no teams were sent home. Handed the 36th and final starting spot was Ty Dillon, looking to rebound from his last-place finish in last Sunday’s Daytona 500 in the #77 NationsGuard Chevrolet. With no teams incurring pre-race penalties, Dillon took the green flag immediately locked in a door-to-door battle with 35th-place starter Tyler Reddick in the #45 The Beast Unleashed Toyota. Reddick pulled away from Dillon by the end of Lap 1, when 11th-place starter Cody Ware in the #51 Biohaven Ford was holding up the inside line. Fighting serious handling issues, Ware plummeted to last by Lap 4, when he was already 0.247 back of Dillon’s Chevrolet. By Lap 6, Ware was behind by open track, 1.110 seconds back. The gap increased to nearly 3 seconds on Lap 8, and by the 11th circuit, he was 5.954 behind 35th place, or 16 seconds in front of the leader.

Last place suddenly changed hands on Lap 12 when Kyle Larson, defending winner of the 400, pitted with what was believed to be a dropped cylinder. The crew looked under the hood, and crew chief Cliff Daniels had Larson go through every page of his digital dashboard, reading off everything from lambda readings, voltage, and fuel pressure. Larson returned to the track on Lap 15, moments before the competition caution fell. The crew looked under the hood again, then changed tires and sent him back out. But the issue was still not resolved, and on Lap 18, Larson pulled behind the wall. He didn’t drive all the way to his garage stall, but stopped just past the entrance.

Allmendinger returns from the
infield care center.

As a crowd gathered around the car, the crew pulled out what appeared to be a wiring harness, and had a replacement on hand. On Lap 27, Larson re-fired the engine, cut it off, then fired it again on Lap 29. This time, the crew pushed Larson back to the track entrance, and the #5 was back out, 17 laps down. If Larson finished there, it would be both the first last-place run for the #5 in a Cup race at Fontana, and the first at the track for Hendrick Motorsports.
During the ensuing run, Larson’s crew would now use the rest of the race as a test session for the following week in Las Vegas. Due to this, they told him to keep running hard despite being out of contention, and ultimately gained back one of their 17 laps on track. At one point on Lap 48, Larson was racing in a knot of lead-lap traffic that included eventual race winner Kyle Busch. In between, Larson continued to relay information on the car, particularly the volt meter as the car continued to lose power.

At first, it appeared the next driver to join the last-place battle would be Chase Briscoe, whose #14 Rush Truck Centers Ford was mired outside the Top 30 for much of Stage 1. On Lap 54, Briscoe’s crew said the engine sounded “off-pitch,” and the driver said he felt like he had only 400hp on the straightaways, and each time lost seven carlengths to those in front of him. The end of Stage 1 on Lap 65 saved Briscoe, and the crew was able to make lengthy repairs on pit road. By the Lap 72 restart, Larson was still holding down last place, 16 laps down, with all 36 runners still on track.

Coming off Turn 2 on Lap 76, Allmendinger was running on the inside of Corey LaJoie’s #7 NEGU Chevrolet and Ryan Blaney’s #12 Wurth Ford. Blaney clipped the wall and bounced into LaJoie to his left, and LaJoie bumped Allmendinger into a long slide toward the inside wall. Allmendinger attempted to correct the slide, but couldn’t avoid smacking the inside barrier with the driver’s side, ultimately flattening all four tires. Under the ensuing caution, Allmendinger limped back to pit road, but the left-rear suspension appeared to be seriously damaged. “This thing is destroyed,” said Allmendinger on Lap 77. He made it to his stall the next time by, but on Lap 81, the crew directed him behind the wall and out of the race. Allmendinger was checked and released from the infield care center, and walked back to his hauler on Lap 89. Larson would soon pass Allmendinger for position, dropping the #16 to last. Larson finished 29th, having gained back one more of his 16 laps.

A stack-up on the ensuing restart completed the Bottom Five. Around nine rows back, Ty Dillon’s #77 was spun to the inside while Christopher Bell’s #20 SiriusXM Toyota pounded the wall with its right-front. Bell then collected a passing Aric Almirola in the #10 Smithfield Ford, which collided with teammate Ryan Preece in the #41 Haas Ford and Tyler Reddick in the #45. While Bell attempted to rejoin the race with the right-front fender cut away, he soon joined Preece, Reddick, and Almirola in the garage area, done for the afternoon.

Engine issues sideline Ty Dillon in final laps

Ty Dillon managed to run longer, driving out of the grass after the incident and completing 140 laps before the engine sputtered as he headed down the frontstretch with 61 laps to go. Dillon’s car was parked in the same spot as Larson’s from earlier in the race, and the driver didn’t climb out until Lap 167. When he did, I had the chance to speak with him:

Ty Dillon climbs out after the engine soured.

“We lost another motor,” he said. “We were really getting it together. All the guys did a good job digging all day and about to crack the Top 15 with our Nation's Guard Camaro and lost another motor. So we just gotta go to work. The engine guys are the best in the sport, so they'll get it figured out and we'll be fine.”

On the restart wreck that sent him into the grass, Dillon said, “I don't know - I checked up to miss hitting the 21 (of Harrison Burton) and somebody hit me pretty hard and just spun me, lifted the rear tires off the ground. But no damage done, just - I don't know whoever was leading the restart did a really poor job.”

Finally, I asked about the track conditions, and if weepers were a problem. “I couldn't tell if it was weepers, but it was really dusty and watery at first. It was kind of chaos and then right now the track's in good shape. It just took a little bit but it's just really green.”

*This marked the first last-place finish for both Allmendinger and the #16 in a Cup Series race at the Auto Club Speedway.

36) #16-A.J. Allmendinger / 75 laps / crash
35) #10-Aric Almirola / 86 laps / crash
34) #45-Tyler Reddick / 87 laps / crash
33) #41-Ryan Preece / 87 laps / crash
32) #20-Christopher Bell / 88 laps / crash

1st) Kaulig Racing, Spire Motorsports (1)

1st) Chevrolet (2)


Thursday, February 23, 2023

PREVIEW: Fontana’s swan song features Cup invaders and few driver swaps

B.J. McLeod will carry sponsorship from American Hartford Gold on Sunday.
IMAGE: @teamlivefast

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

I will be kicking off my 2023 trackside coverage this weekend by following this weekend’s action in Fontana, the last race to be run on the 2-mile oval. Be sure to follow updates on this website and my Twitter at @LASTCARonBROCK. And if you’d like your name on my door magnet, join any level of my Patreon at

Saturday, February 25, 2023
XFINITY Race 2 of 33
Production Alliance Group 300 at Auto Club Speedway of Southern California
2022 Last-Place Finisher: Landon Cassill

There are 40 drivers entered for 42 spots in Saturday’s XFINITY Series race, down two from last week’s Daytona opener. As of this writing, the forecast for Saturday calls for rain, meaning the two lowest-ranked entries may face a short weekend.

MISSING: #5-Big Machine Racing
Jade Buford isn’t entered in Big Machine’s second car, which he drove to a 25th-place finish last week in Daytona.

DRIVER CHANGE: #10-Kaulig Racing
The first of three Cup regulars joining Saturday’s field is Austin Dillon, who takes the place of fellow regular Justin Haley who finished 10th despite early damage at Daytona. This will be Austin’s first XFINITY start since last summer at Indianapolis, where he finished 26th for Brandonbilt Motorsports.

DRIVER SWAP: #19-Joe Gibbs Racing
WITHDREW: #36-DGM Racing
DRIVER SWAP: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Both MBM and DGM are leaving one of their cars in the garage after both these entries failed to qualify at Daytona with Timmy Hill and Alex Labbe, respectively. Neither team has a listed driver, but both Hill and Labbe are still entered this week. Hill will replace teammate Dexter Stacey in MBM’s #66. Labbe moves to RSS Racing’s #28, driven last week by Kyle Sieg. This is part of a larger swapping of rides at RSS: Kyle Sieg moves to the #38 in place of brother Ryan Sieg, who goes to the #39 in place of Joe Graf, Jr. Graf, who earned a career-best 7th at Daytona, will this week make his first start for Joe Gibbs Racing in the #19 with returning sponsorship from CoverSeal. Graf replaces Myatt Snider, who isn’t entered after his sterling 5th-place run in Daytona.

DRIVER CHANGE: #24-Sam Hunt Racing
Tyler Reddick, who came close to winning last year’s Cup race at Fontana before a flat tire and contact from William Byron, will make his first XFINITY start since he ran 4th last summer at Atlanta with Big Machine Racing. Taking the place of Parker Chase, who ran 16th in Daytona, Reddick now drives a Toyota for Sam Hunt Racing due to his move to 23XI Racing.

MISSING: #34-Jesse Iwuji Motorsports
After Jesse Iwuji qualified an unsponsored #34 and finished 30th with late-race electrical issues, the Iwuji team is not entered this week, but is expected to return later this season.

DRIVER SWAP: #35-Emerling-Gase Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #53-Emerling-Gase Motorsports
Teammates C.J. McLaughlin and Joey Gase swap rides this week with McLaughlin, 31st in Daytona after a hard crash, taking the #53 and Gase, 18th in Daytona, in the #35.

DRIVER CHANGE: #45-Alpha Prime Racing
Truck Series full-timer Rajah Caruth seeks his eighth XFINITY start and first since his 17th-place showing in last fall’s Phoenix finale. After Caruth ran Alpha Prime’s #44 last year, he this time steers the #45 in place of Stefan Parsons, who finished 13th after a last-minute driver swap with an ill Caesar Bacarella. This will be Caruth’s first start at Fontana.

The third Cup regular on hand for Saturday is Trackhouse Racing’s superstar Ross Chastain, who this week reunites with Mario Gosselin’s team and takes the place of Josh Bilicki in the #91 Chevrolet. One week after Bilicki failed to qualify in Daytona, Chastain seeks his 198th XFINITY start and first since last fall at Kansas, where he ran 5th for Big Machine Racing in a rain-shortened event.

CUP INVADERS: #10-Austin Dillon, #24-Tyler Reddick, #91-Ross Chastain

Sunday, February 26, 2023
CUP Race 2 of 36
Pala Casino 400 at Auto Club Speedway of Southern California
2022 Last-Place Finisher: Christopher Bell

Just as with the Clash at the Coliseum earlier this month, only the 36 Chartered entries will make the trip to Fontana this weekend, down six entries from last week’s Daytona 500.

MISSING: #13-Kaulig Racing
MISSING: #36-Front Row Motorsports
MISSING: #50-The Money Team Racing
MISSING: #62-Beard Motorsports
MISISNG: #67-23XI Racing
MISSING: #84-Legacy Motor Club
None of the six “open” entries from Daytona are on the entry list, including the #67 for Travis Pastrana, who indicated the 500 would be his only Cup start, and Jimmie Johnson, who returned to the series last Sunday. This week will not be one of the races Zane Smith will drive in place of Todd Gilliland, so he’s not on the list along with FRM’s “open” #36.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Rick Ware Racing
Following a surprising 10th-place finish in his Cup Series debut despite two separate incidents, Riley Herbst is not entered in this week’s Cup race and, like Kaulig Racing’s Chandler Smith, will instead focus on Saturday’s XFINITY race. Taking Herbst’s place is J.J. Yeley, who drove this #15 in the Clash.

Friday, March 3, 2023
TRUCKS Race 2 of 23
Victoria’s Voice Foundation 200 at Las Vegas
2022 Last-Place Finisher: Zane Smith

The Truck Series takes the week off and returns to action next Friday to kick off the weekend in Las Vegas.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (February 23, 1958): In the final Cup Series race on the Daytona Beach-Road Course, Dallas, Georgia driver Bennie Rakestraw started 14th in Talmadge Cochrane’s #120 1957 Mercury, but was one of two driver to lose the engine on the opening lap. Rakestraw was classified behind 17th-place starter Speedy Thompson in his #46 1957 Chevrolet, thus handing car #120 the last of its three Cup Series last-place finishes. Tied with the #110, these two car numbers have the most last-place finishes of all three-digit car numbers, which are no longer allowed.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

ARCA: Radiator issue ends Deshautelle’s debut after three laps

PHOTO: David PeQueen, @CarSDS2078

by Ben Schneider Staff Writer

AUTHOR’S NOTE: At the time of publication, ARCA’s website currently lists Andrés Pérez de Lara in 40th-place with a status of “DNS” and 80 laps completed. This status, which has become increasingly common at various ARCA races in both the East and West Series and the main national tour, is especially confusing in this instance given Pérez de Lara is only 17 years old and therefore ineligible to race at Daytona. 

To further complicate matters, last season often saw discrepancies between and regarding how “did not start” entries were classified in the final results sheet. For the sake of consistency, I will be defining this season’s last-place finishers in ARCA as the first car to retire from the race after taking the green flag. Therefore, Hunter Deshautelle’s 39th-place result will see him credited as the first last-place finisher of the 2023 season in the ARCA Menards Series.

Hunter Deshautelle picked up the first last-place finish in his ARCA Menards Series career in Saturday’s Brandt 200 at Daytona International Speedway when his No. 57 Brother-in-Law Motorsports Chevrolet fell out with radiator problems after completing 3 laps.

The finish came in Deshautelle’s ARCA debut.

A stacked field of 41 cars appeared on the initial entry list for the season-opener at Daytona. Of the 41 initial entrants, only 39 ended up taking part in the race. Frontstretch’s Mark Kristl confirmed on Friday that both Andrés Pérez de Lara and Kevin Campbell’s respective No. 01 and No. 82 entries had been withdrawn from the event. Pérez de Lara’s appearance on the entry list was a surprise given he does not turn 18 years old until April 2, which prevents him from racing at superspeedways under current ARCA age requirements.

Neither Deshautelle’s No. 57 nor his Brother-in-Law Motorsports teammate Bryan Dauzat’s No. 75 took to the track for practice, but both cars were able to set a lap time in Friday’s qualifying session. Deshautelle placed 22nd on the time charts with a 50.802, while Dauzat’s 51.092 was good enough for the 27th spot on the grid.

In qualifying, 34 of the 39 cars recorded a lap time, the slowest of which was Caleb Costner’s No. 93 Innovative Tiny Houses/Lickety Lew’s Chevrolet, clocking in at 56.500 seconds. Five cars did not record a lap time, including Amber Balcaen, whose No. 15 ICON Direct Toyota for Venturini Motorsports lost an engine and caused Sean Corr and Gage Rodgers to spin out, briefly delaying the session. Corr would ultimately be classified 39th, giving him the final starting spot on the grid for Saturday.

On Lap 2 of the race itself, Logan Misuraca’s No. 63 CELSIUS Chevrolet, which had qualified an impressive ninth on the grid, began to slow on the backstretch. As the field stacked up, Tony Consentino’s No. 45 BYB Extreme Tamayo Sports Florida Chevrolet spun out, though the driver was able to avoid hitting anything and rejoin the race. Deshautelle became the race’s first retirement shortly thereafter, locking in his last-place finish.

Scott Melton was the second driver to fall out when his No. 69 Melton McFadden Ins/Donna’s Donuts Ford crashed into the outside wall entering Turn 3. Melton was hooked into the wall off the bumper of Bryce Haugeberg and was visibly upset in his interview with FS1’s Jamie Howe.

Ryan Huff went from qualifying in the Top Five to finishing in the Bottom Five when his No. 36 Southeastern Services Ford retired with clutch issues after completing 16 laps. Tim Richmond’s day ended after 30 laps when his No. 27 Latino Immigration and Legal Center Toyota was caught up in an accident coming out of Turn 4. As the lead pack approached the lapped car of A.J. Moyer at a considerable speed differential, the pack eventually ran out of space, which sent both Jesse Love and Richmond spinning. While Love was able to repair his minor damage and recover to finish seventh, Richmond was not as fortunate and became the race’s fourth retirement. Love’s Venturini teammate, Gus Dean, rounded out the bottom-five when his No. 25 JBL/Dean Custom Air Toyota fell out with a fuel line issue after completing 33 laps.

Up front, independent owner-driver Greg Van Alst passed Canadian Jason White on the final lap to score an emotional victory. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Connor Mosack followed Van Alst home in second after recovering from an earlier spin off the bumper of Dale Quarterley. Corr nearly pulled off a true “last-to-first” drive, taking home third ahead of Lavar Scott and Mandy Chick, whose fifth-place finish led the way for the five female drivers competing in the season-opener.

39) #57-Hunter Deshautelle / 3 laps / radiator
38) #69-Scott Melton / 11 laps / accident
37) #36-Ryan Huff / 16 laps / clutch
36) #27-Tim Richmond / 30 laps / accident
35) #25-Gus Dean / 33 laps / fuel line

1st) Chevrolet (1)

1st) Brother-in-Law Motorsports (1)


Sunday, February 19, 2023

CUP: Ty Dillon becomes first driver to finish last in both his Duel and the 500 since 1992

PHOTO: Jonathan Fjeld, @Jonathan_Fjeld

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Ty Dillon picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s 65th Annual Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway when his #77 Ferris Chevrolet lost the engine after 26 of 212 laps.

The finish, which came in Dillon’s 203rd series start, was his first since May 12, 2018 at Kansas, 169 races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 40th for the #77, the 715th from an engine, and the 831st for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 54th for the #77, the 1,131st from engine issues, and the 1,871st for Chevrolet.

Following his last-place finish in Race 1 of Thursday night’s Bluegreen Vacation Duel (LINK), Dillon secured the 37th spot on the starting grid and didn’t participate in final practice on Saturday.

Rolling off 40th and last was Travis Pastrana, whose #67 Black Rifle Coffee Toyota was last in Duel Race 2 after he was collected in the Turn 3 crash triggered by contact between race leaders Kyle Busch and Daniel Suarez. The wreck destroyed Busch’s #8 3CHI Chevrolet, sending the team to a backup car. This incurred Busch a tail-end penalty for Sunday, where he’d start a re-wrapped car from teammate Austin Dillon. This resulted in a car where Dillon’s car number “3” was visible on the doors beneath the wrap of his number “8.”

Helped by Pastrana’s wreck, which also collected other “open” diver Austin Hill in the #62 Bennett Chevrolet, Conor Daly secured the final transfer spot into Sunday’s field. He did so in The Money Team Racing’s #50 Bitnile Chevrolet, which suffered a massive vibration at the beginning of his qualifier. The issue was resolved during the race, but a new problem sprung up on Sunday – his rear-view camera wouldn’t work, and the driver couldn’t see anything behind him over the rear spoiler. Just like on Thursday, he had no choice but to drive through it.

When the green flag dropped, Busch dropped to the final row, 3.692 seconds back of the lead and just ahead of a returning Jimmie Johnson, who was just 17-thousandths of a second behind Busch. By the end of Lap 1, the field remained in two-by-two formation with Johnson’s #84 Carvana Chevrolet from the Legacy Motor Club now just ahead of Busch, 2.15 seconds back of the lead. 

Dillon's car pushed to the garage early in the race.
PHOTO: Jared Haas, @RealJaredHaas

The field remained in formation for several laps, causing last place to change hands frequently with each driver just a few hundredths from 39th place. As Johnson said his car felt “a little bouncy,” Busch put him to last on Lap 4, then Johnson moved Ty Dillon to last for the first time on Lap 9. Dillon moved ahead of Johnson on Lap 10 by just 0.016 second, then Johnson ahead of Dillon on Lap 11. Johnson was last on Lap 12, then Cody Ware in the #51 Biohaven Ford on Lap 14, just 0.091 back of Dillon. Ware then dispensed of Dillon the next time by, and both moved past Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.’s #47 Cottonelle Chevrolet on Lap 16. On Lap 17, Stenhouse inched ahead of Daly, who at that point was still 2.399 seconds back of the lead and just 0.058 back of Stenhouse. Stenhouse moved Dillon back to 39th by Lap 19, but Pastrana was 39th by Lap 22 and Ross Chastain in the #1 Advent Health Chevrolet on Lap 24. By the time Chastain took the spot from Daly, the tail end of the field slowly began to string out by tenths of a second, ranging from one to four-tenths. On Lap 25, Chastain was last with Daly 39th, Pastrana 38th, and Stenhouse 37th.

On Lap 26, Dillon was running 35th when his car started to trail smoke, forcing him to pull to the high lane. Chastain’s spotter warned him as he moved past the ailing #77, which prepared to come down pit road. “Sounds like a plug wire came off,” said Dillon as he came down pit road. Now in last and off the lead lap on Lap 28, Dillon’s crew pushed him behind the wall. Not long after on Lap 31, someone on the radio said, “Alright, boys, we’re done.” The on-board camera was shut off, and NASCAR confirmed Dillon was the first retiree on Lap 44.

After a clean, but intense first half of the race, a series of progressively larger accidents completed the Bottom Five. On Lap 118, contact in Turns 3 and 4 sent Tyler Reddick’s #45 Monster Energy Toyota into the outside wall. Erik Jones spun to avoid him in the #43 Guns N’ Roses Chevrolet, only to back into the path of Chase Elliott’s #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet. All three were eliminated. It wasn’t until Lap 182 that another driver fell out – Ryan Preece, whose #41 Ford suffered significant left-front damage in a wreck entering Turn 3.

Riley Herbst’s 10th-place debut among Sunday’s surprises

At the scene of his surprising pole in 2020, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. picked up the win – his first since 2017, and the first for JTG-Daugherty Racing since 2014.

Not far behind, the Rick Ware Racing duo of Cody Ware and Riley Herbst both earned strong finishes. Herbst, making his Cup debut in the #15 SunnyD Ford, bounced back from a spin entering pit road that incurred him a controversial commitment cone penalty from NASCAR. He finished 10th, four spots ahead of teammate Cody Ware in 14th. For Ware, it’s his second consecutive top-fifteen finish at Daytona, following his career-best 6th here last August.

Two of the four “open” entries also filled the Top 15. Though involved in the last-lap pileup in Turn 2, Travis Pastrana led two laps and steered the #67 to an 11th-place showing. Two spots behind, Zane Smith completed a dream week with a 13th-place finish in Front Row Motorsports’ #36 Wellcare Ford, improving on his 17th-place debut as Chris Buescher’s relief driver last June in Gateway.

*This was the first last-place finish for the #77 in a Cup Series points race at Daytona, and the second in a row for Spire Motorsports’ #77 team, combined with Landon Cassill’s in last fall’s Phoenix finale.
*Despite running just 26 laps, Ty Dillon ran more laps than 22 of the previous 64 last-place finishers of the Daytona 500.
*Ty Dillon is the first driver to finish last in both his Duel Qualifying Race and the 500 since 1992, when Bob Schacht had engine issues after 7 laps of both Race 2 of the 125s and the 500.

40) #77-Ty Dillon / 26 laps / engine
39) #45-Tyler Reddick / 117 laps / crash
38) #9-Chase Elliott / 118 laps / crash
37) #43-Erik Jones / 118 laps / crash
36) #41-Ryan Preece / 181 laps / crash

1st) Spire Motorsports (1)

1st) Chevrolet (1)


Saturday, February 18, 2023

XFINITY: After several drivers have pre-race issues, Bayley Currey takes last when transmission pops out of gear

PHOTO: Jared Haas, @RealJaredHaas

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Bayley Currey picked up the 7th last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. 300 at the Daytona International Speedway when his #4 Mikes Weather Page / Firman Chevrolet lost the engine after 8 of 125 laps.

The finish, which came in Currey’s 108th series start, was his first of the season and first in a XFINITY race since October 29, 2022 at Martinsville, two races ago. In the XFINITY Series standings, it was the 21st for the #4, the 375th from engine issues, and the 610th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 71st for the #4, the 1,130th from engine issues, and the 1,870th for Chevrolet.

While Currey did claim the 2022 LASTCAR XFINITY Series Championship at the end of last fall’s Phoenix finale, he did so by the narrowest of margins as one of the only drivers to finish last twice all year. His best run of the season was a 10th at Loudon, followed closely by a hard-fought 11th at Bristol and 12th the next round in Texas. In between, his JD Motorsports entry attracted multiple much-needed sponsors to Johnny Davis’ team, including pain relievers Alka-Seltzer and Aleve, and most notably Hy-Vee Markets, which picked up much of the season’s second half.

With this much-needed stability, Currey was re-signed to continue his full-time effort with JD Motorsports into the current year. He’d be joined by his teammate from last fall, Brennan Poole, who like Currey had previously struggled to make ends meet while driving for Mike Harmon Racing. Again, sponsorship was central to both teams. While Poole welcomed back sponsor Macc Roof Systems with a paint scheme by Nicholas Wetherbee, Currey carried a scheme recognizing the importance of hurricane preparedness. Joining the effort were multiple sponsors: Mike’s Weather Page, Firman Power Equipment, Onesource Restoration, Victory Powerline Services, and Coastal Claims, plus associate backing from longtime NASCAR sponsor Lowe’s.

Currey’s Daytona weekend began with a 38th-fastest lap of 44 entrants in the lone practice session. He picked up some speed in qualifying, ranking 30th with a lap of 179.072mph (50.259 seconds). 

The six teams sent home included both Motorsports Business Management teammates of a returning Dexter Stacey in the #66 ReCap Recovery Drink Chevrolet and Timmy Hill in the #13 Klutch Vodka Toyota, plus two of the three DGM Racing cars of Josh Bilicki in the #91 Zeigler / Insurance King Chevrolet and Alex Labbe in the #36 Larue / DuroKing Chevrolet. Joining them were Garrett Smithley in B.J. McLeod’s #99 Trophy Tractor Chevrolet and Ryan Vargas in the #74 Leargas Security Chevrolet.

Securing the 38th and final starting spot was Jeremy Clements, whose #51 One Stop / All South Electric Chevrolet secured a spot based on his win at Daytona last August. Alongside him in 37th was Jesse Iwuji, whose unsponsored #34 Chevrolet didn’t turn a lap in qualifying. 

The tail end of the field would change by race time as six drivers incurred pre-race penalties. This included both SS-Green Light Racing entries of 27th-place Blaine Perkins in the #07 Chevrolet and 23rd-place Gray Gaulding in the #08 Panini Chevrolet, whose teams completed unapproved adjustments along with Kyle Sieg’s #28 Night Owl Ford in 26th and Joey Gase’s #53 National Crime Prevention Ford in 36th. Two of the three Alpha Prime Racing entries were also docked: Ryan Ellis missed practice due to a transmission issue on his #43 Heartbeat Hot Sauce Chevrolet and ultimately changed engines; Caesar Bacarella fell ill after qualifying 17th in the #45 Clear Cryptos Chevrolet and handed the wheel to Stefan Parsons.

Even more drama unfolded once the command to start engines was given. Lined up 20th for his first start with Jordan Anderson Racing in the #27 State Water Heaters Chevrolet, Jeb Burton couldn’t fire the engine at the command. He briefly regained power, then lost it again, and as the field rolled away, his team pushed his car to his pit stall to replace the battery. At the head of the pack, polesitter Austin Hill had radio issues on his #21 Bennett Transportation Chevrolet, and after a single pace lap had to come back into his pit stall to swap out the radio. By then, Burton’s team had removed the right-rear wheel and installed another battery, then applied bear-bond elsewhere on the car for something that had come loose. Burton rejoined the tail end of the field, and was instructed by NASCAR to do his timing check down pit road, then pass the pace car. Hill then left his stall, the crew calming each other down as the #21 lined up at the back of the pack.

Coming to the green flag, as Hill pulled to the inside of Jeb Burton in the final row, Ellis had further issues with his #43. On top of the earlier transmission and engine issues, his car pulled to the apron of Turn 4 just before the start, then moved behind Hill as the leaders took the green flag. Further ahead, a few cars made contact on the inside line, causing Burton to pull high around the car in front of him while Ellis followed Hill down low. By the end of the first lap, Ellis remained in last, now 0.804 second behind 37th pace. This deficit grew to 1.564 the next time by, when Ellis reported his car was hitting the splitter hard as he drove over bumps on the track. He also mentioned something about the distributor. By Lap 6, he was now 2.599 seconds back of 37th, now held by Kaz Grala, who damaged the nose of his #26 Island Coastal Lager Toyota on the start. Grala and others in front of him had likewise lost touch with the pack, creating a gap of 2.470 seconds from Grala to 36th-place Kyle Sieg.

Then on Lap 8, NASCAR officials broke in with “Slow one up top off (Turn) 4.” This was Currey, who was running around the 20th spot when his car began trailing smoke. As the smoke worsened into Turn 1, he pulled to the apron and talked it over with the crew. Currey reported he thought he was having transmission issues, then when he reached down felt the shifter was in neutral. The car had come out of gear, terminally damaging the engine. Under this first caution of the day, Currey made it to the garage by Lap 10. The team’s spotter remained at his post, awaiting word if the damage was terminal. He wouldn’t have to wait long. On Lap 11, someone on Currey’s channel said, “We’re done.”

The next two spots in the Bottom Five were filled on Lap 20 after a collision off Turn 4 where contact from Sam Mayer’s #1 Accelerate Pros Talent Chevrolet sent Blaine Perkins’ #07 into Daniel Hemric’s #11 Cirkul Chevrolet, destroying the right-front suspension on Hemric’s car and sending Perkins into the inside wall. Ellis’ night ended after 41 laps when contact from Parker Kligerman’s #48 Big Machine Racing Spiked Coolers Chevrolet turned Sheldon Creed’s #2 Whelen Chevrolet on the approach to Turn 1, causing others to check-up and collide behind. Ellis’ radiator damage ended his night in the 35th spot.

Great night at Daytona for Jordan Anderson Racing, RSS Racing

While the race ended under caution following Sam Mayer’s last-lap flip down the backstretch, multiple drivers enjoyed fine showings. With 11 laps to go, Jeffrey Earnhardt was running 10th in Alpha Prime Racing’s #44 ForeverLawn Chevrolet when Parker Kligerman attempted to merge into his line. The two made contact, putting Earnhardt into the wall and dropping him to 28th at the finish, leading to a confrontation in the garage after the finish. Also robbed of a strong finish was Anthony Alfredo, who qualified 10th in B.J. McLeod’s #78 Dude Wipes Chevrolet, worked his way up to 3rd in the final stages, and was still running 15th the instant before Mayer’s flip, only to be collected and dropped to 24th.

Coming through clean on the other side was Parker Retzlaff, who in his own first start for Jordan Anderson Racing steered the #31 Funkaway Chevrolet to a career-best 4th – his first-ever Top Five in only his 10th career start. Jeb Burton, Retzlaff’s teammate, overcame his issues before the start to nearly secure a Top Ten of his own, ultimately taking a hard-fought 11th. Also in the mix were two of the three RSS Racing entries with Joe Graf, Jr. earning a career-best 7th-place finish in his #39 Ford ahead of teammate Ryan Sieg in the #38 Ford, just the third top-ten finish of Graf’s young career.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #4 in a XFINITY Series race at Daytona.

38) #4-Bayley Currey / 8 laps / engine
37) #07-Blaine Perkins / 19 laps / crash
36) #11-Daniel Hemric / 20 laps / crash
35) #43-Ryan Ellis / 41 laps / crash
34) #2-Sheldon Creed / 41 laps / crash

1st) JD Motorsports (1)

1st) Chevrolet (1)


Friday, February 17, 2023

TRUCKS: Hard luck Dean Thompson scores first Truck Series last-place run for #5 since 2012

PHOTO: Jared Haas, @RealJaredHaas

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Dean Thompson picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series career in Friday’s NextEra Energy 250 at the Daytona International Speedway when his #5 Thompson Pipe Group Toyota was involved in a multi-truck accident after 28 of 79 laps.

The finish, which happened in Thompson’s 25th series start, was his first of the season and first since April 7, 2022 at Martinsville, 19 races ago. In the Truck Series’ rankings, it was the 4th for the #5, the 48th for Toyota, and the 180th from a crash. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 40th for the #5, the 389th for Toyota, and the 1,317th from a crash.

Driving for Niece Motorsports at the time, then-rookie Thompson led the 2022 LASTCAR Truck Series Championship nearly all season, beginning with crash damage in Daytona and continuing through a fire in the driver’s cockpit at Martinsville. Only a late-season series of struggles by Spencer Boyd led to the title changing hands at Homestead. This captured the frustrations of a lackluster season with a best finish of 11th at Las Vegas and five DNFs, three due to crashes. As the year progressed, his sponsor Worldwide Express started to venture beyond his team – first to teammate Carson Hocevar, then to Ross Chastain’s Cup effort at Trackhouse Racing.

But the offseason presented a new opportunity. On December 5, 2022, Thompson signed with TRICON Garage, the new Toyota team formed after Kyle Busch’s departure from Joe Gibbs Racing. With the restructuring of what was once David Gilliland Racing’s Ford team, TRICON put Thompson into one of three new entries on the now five-truck effort, campaigning the #5. Joining as sponsor was Thompson Pipe Group, which the team’s press release indicated is a “leading water and waste piping manufacturer across the United States and Canada.”

Thompson qualified 18th with a speed of 177.708mph. The fastest truck sent home was Lawless Alan, Thompson’s former teammate at Niece, though it was rumored Alan’s team would buy a spot in the field. This never came to pass, and Alan’s #45 AUTODockit Chevrolet was sent home with Bryan Dauzat in the #28 FDNY / O.B. Builders Chevrolet, Todd Peck in the unsponsored #96 Toyota, Spencer Boyd in the #12 Freedom Warranty Chevrolet, Kaden Honeycutt in the #04 FlyAllianceCar Quest Ford, and Norm Benning in the #46 Middle Department Inspection Agency Toyota. Benning, who took the place of Johnny Sauter at G2G Racing, had run 10th in the lone practice session.

Rolling off 36th and last was Jason M. White of Canada – as opposed to Virginia’s Jason A. White, who started TRICON Garage’s #1 Celsius Toyota – in the #34 Powder Ventures Excavations Toyota, slowest in qualifying with a speed of just 166.417mph (54.081 seconds), nearly five seconds off the pole. Jason M.’s truck recognized the efforts of the Mooresville Fire Department, who 22 days ago extinguished a blaze that seriously damaged the Reaume Brothers Racing shop. Both Reaume trucks qualified for the race as new teammate Mason Massey ranked 35th in the #33 Brunt Ford, along with Reaume himself in AM Racing’s #22 JAG Metals Ford.

Both Reaume and Jason M. White were among the seven trucks sent to the rear for unapproved adjustments, including 5th-place Corey LaJoie in the #7 Schluter Systems Chevrolet, 10th-place Chase Purdy in the #4 Bama Buggies Chevrolet, 29th-place Daniel Dye in the #43 Giuseppe’s Steel City Pizza Chevrolet, 31st-place Clay Greenfield in the #84 Backyard Blues Pools Toyota, and 33rd-place Chris Hacker in the #30 Morgan & Morgan P.A. Toyota. This changed the order so that, crossing under the green flag, Hacker had taken over last place, 4.029 seconds back of the lead.

By the end of Lap 1, Jason M. retook the last spot, but a quick caution fell for the first of a series of pop-up rain showers. Under this yellow, a few trucks hit pit road, including Derek Kraus, who pitted his #20 Hardscape Construction Inc. Chevrolet. Tyler Ankrum took the spot on Lap 6 in his #16 Liuna Toyota, and was still there on the Lap 7 restart when rain force the caution once more. Ankrum dispensed with Jason M. the next time by, but Ankrum pitted again under this caution, putting him back to 36th on Lap 9. Ankrum then passed Kris Wright, whose #02 F.N.B. Corporation Chevrolet followed by Timmy Hill’s #56 Coble Enterprises Toyota on the 11th circuit and Reaume back to last on Lap 12. With the race under green, Reaume drew alongside Jason M., the pair just 0.099 second apart at the stripe. 

But on Lap 15, Reaume had an issue with the master switch that caused him to lose touch with the pack, already 1.668 seconds back of Jason M. The deficit grew to 2.316 seconds on Lap 17, when Reaume remarked that it “smells like popcorn in here, not sure if it’s electrical.” By then, the Reaume-owned trucks of Jason M. and Massey had also dropped back of the pack, and Reaume caught the pair to form a three-truck draft on Lap 19. The Stage 1 caution on Lap 22 led to more pit stops, putting Massey to last, followed by Codie Rohrbaugh’s #97 Grant County Mulch Chevrolet on Lap 23. Reaume came in for an extended stop, which put him back to last on Lap 24, and he finally returned to the track as the pace car came off Turn 4. Reaume caught the tail end of the field for the Lap 26 restart, and this time kept up with the pack.

On Lap 29, Reaume and his teammates were among the few drivers who had dropped behind the lead pack in a draft of their own. This proved well-timed, as the night’s first big wreck broke out some distance ahead. Caught in the middle of a three-wide pack, Clay Greenfield’s #84 was pinballed between the #51 Eberlestock Chevrolet to his inside and Ty Majeski’s #98 Road Ranger Ford to his outside. Greenfield broke loose, clipped another passing truck to his inside, then cut right into traffic. Stuck in the outside lane some distance back of Greenfield, Thompson had nowhere to go and hit Matt DiBenedetto’s #25 Rackley Roofing Chevrolet, which hooked left into Greenfield. Thompson pulled low with nose damage, a small fire erupting beneath his machine as he slid to a stop on the apron. Thompson started to roll again, but his spotter told him to stop as he was leaking fluid. 

With that, Thompson climbed from his truck, last in Daytona’s opener for a second-straight year. He was joined in the medical center by Greenfield and Hailie Deegan, who suffered significant damage to her #13 Ford Performance Ford. Completing the Bottom Five were Codie Rohrbaugh and Parker Kligerman in the #75 Purina / Food Country USA Chevrolet, both involved in a later crash entering Turn 3.

Thompson was understandably frustrated in his interview after he was checked and released from the infield care center, stating that he didn’t feel like he had the opportunity to challenge for wins last year, and wanted to capitalize on this new chance with Toyota. He did say he was looking forward to the upcoming race at Darlington, his favorite track.

*This was the first last-place finish for the #5 in a Truck Series race since August 22, 2012, when Johnny Chapman had electrical issues after 2 laps around Bristol.
*This marked the first time any truck numbered between #0 and #11 had ever finished last in a Truck Series race at Daytona.

36) #5-Dean Thompson / 28 laps / crash
35) #13-Hailie Deegan / 28 laps / crash
34) #84-Clay Greenfield / 28 laps / crash
33) #97-Codie Rohrbaugh / 39 laps / crash
32) #75-Parker Kligerman / 45 laps / dvp

1st) TRICON Garage (1)

1st) Toyota (1)


Thursday, February 16, 2023

CUP: Travis Pastrana’s last-place finish a footnote to Conor Daly’s improbable comeback in Duel Race 2

PHOTO: Jared C. Tilton, Getty Images

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Travis Pastrana finished last in Thursday’s Bluegreen Vacations Duel Race 2 at the Daytona International Speedway when his #67 Black Rifle Coffee Toyota was involved in a multi-car accident after 40 of 60 laps.

One of the most surprising entries for this year’s 500 was that of extreme sports legend Pastrana, who to much fanfare drove a neon-hued #60 Ford for Roush-Fenway Racing in a lone NASCAR XFINITY Series campaign back in 2013. He earned a pole at Talladega and four top-ten finishes, securing 14th in the final standings. Since then, he’s only made five other starts in NASCAR’s top three series – all of them in the Truck Series, and none since 2020. 

But that didn’t stop the announcement that 23XI Racing would enter a third car for the first time. After fielding the #23 and #45 as team co-owner Michael Jordan’s most famous jersey numbers, the team selected #67, a number that hadn’t started the Daytona 500 since 1989 with Mickey Gibbs. The number was most famously driven by Mopar loyalist Buddy Arrington, who died just last year. Pastrana’s incarnation of the #67 would be far different than Arrington’s red-and-blue Mopars. He’d run a plaid paint scheme, emblematic of his own branding.

In qualifying – Pastrana’s first-ever laps behind the wheel of a NASCAR NextGen car – he put up a best lap of 179.254mph (50.208 seconds), ranking him 25th of the 42 entrants. Most importantly, it ranked him second among the six “open” teams – just two spots below class leader Jimmie Johnson – securing him a starting spot in “The Great American Race.” He celebrated on pit road with the family of close friend Ken Block, who lost his life in a snowmobile accident in January.

Pastrana would line up 12th in Duel Race 2, where Conor Daly would roll off last in The Money Team Racing’s #50 Bitnile Chevrolet. Daly’s mount had suffered even worse electrical issues than Chandler Smith from Race 1. A short caused a failure in a custom-made oil line, and a replacement couldn’t be found either on the track premises nor in any local sports car shops. While the crew did manage to repair the line later that night, Daly was the only driver to not turn a lap in qualifying, and wouldn’t get to shake down his car until the Duel race itself.

This, too, proved problematic. No sooner had Daly’s #50 rolled off the grid than it started shaking violently from front to back, making the driver feel like he was jumping in his seat. The bouncing grew worse as the car accelerated, making him think something was bent in the rear of the car. Despite it feeling “like driving over a supercross track,” making him think the driveline was failing, Daly took the green flag on the track. The car’s rocking motion was immediately apparent, and he lost touch with the field immediately. “It’s fighting so hard when I get in the corner,” he said, “I feel like the rear is snapping out on me aggressively.”

After a caution-free Duel Race 1, Daly was saved by an early yellow on Lap 5, caused by the passenger-side window coming free from Justin Haley’s #31 Cirkul Chevrolet. This allowed Daly to follow the rest of the field down pit road, where the crew first took off both right-side wheels, then the left-front to make further adjustments. On Lap 9, Daly put the car in gear and returned to the track, still on the lead lap in last place. “Feel better, Connor?” the team asked. “Yes, much better. Much better.” The next time by, Daly had even passed another car. B.J. McLeod in the #78 Power Slap Rumble Chevrolet had stalled on pit road, costing him nearly a lap to the leaders. As Daly filed in at the tail end of the pack for the restart, McLeod was by himself a half-lap behind, trying to catch up. On Lap 12, McLeod could gain no more ground, and fell 23.726 seconds back of the leader. Daly managed to battle Chase Briscoe’s #14 Mahindra Tractors Ford for 19th until he was shaken out on Lap 14, causing Daly to gradually fall toward the distant McLeod.

During this run, McLeod’s spotter was impressed with how their car was performing. “Buddy, by yourself, this is actually a pretty good time,” he said on Lap 16. And even when the leaders caught and lapped the #78 on the 20th circuit, he was impressed with how well the car sucked up on the draft. Daly, meanwhile, continued to lose ground, showing 39.348 seconds back of the leader on Lap 27. By Lap 29, the leaders had caught and passed Daly off Turn 2, the #50 dropping back in the high lane. “Just go ahead and go by him,” said McLeod’s spotter. “He’s really off the pace.” On Lap 31, McLeod had caught Daly and looked to his outside, ultimately dropping Daly to last by Lap 34. Daly was himself sounding positive on the radio, saying on Lap 35 that the car handled better as it burned off more fuel.

Pastrana, meanwhile, had lagged back in the pack as he tried to learn for Sunday’s race. Even so, he was still among the leaders when trouble broke out on Lap 41. Halfway down the backstretch, Daniel Suarez had locked the front bumper of his #99 Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge Chevrolet to the rear bumper of Kyle Busch’s #8 3CHI Chevrolet. Busch had paced the field for most of the race, and was as hardly contested as Joey Logano had been in Race 1. But one bump too many from Suarez sent Busch’s car hard to the right entering Turn 3, slamming the #8 head-on into the wall. As traffic scattered, Pastrana was running in the low lane behind Austin Hill, whose #62 Bennett Chevrolet was the other “open” car Daly needed to beat in order to make the 500 field. Pastrana appeared to get into the back of Hill, sending the #62 up the track and into the passing #15 SunnyD Chevrolet of Riley Herbst. Pastrana skated into the pileup, then down the banking and into the grass. 

Busch and Herbst didn’t make it to pit road, and while the NASCAR leaderboard indicated Pastrana did, joining Hill, Pastrana was credited with the last-place finish. Hill attempted to return to the race, but completed just one more lap before suspension damage from the wreck sent him behind the wall, both out of the race and the 500. With that, Daly – still one lap down after his early misfortune – became the last driver to lock himself into the 500 field. Daly finished the race under power, completing the Bottom Five, but secured the open-wheeler his first 500 and the second in a row for The Money Team Racing.

Daly will start 34th in Sunday’s 500 with Pastrana taking 40th and last on the grid.

*This was the first last-place finish for the #67 in the Duel races.

21) #67-Travis Pastrana / 40 laps / crash
20) #15-Riley Herbst / 40 laps / crash
19) #8-Kyle Busch / 40 laps / crash / led 28 laps
18) #62-Austin Hill / 41 laps / dvp
17) #50-Conor Daly / 59 laps / running

CUP: Loose wheel during late-race pit stop hands Ty Dillon last in Duel Race 1

PHOTO: Jared C. Tilton, Getty Images

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Ty Dillon finished last in Thursday’s Bluegreen Vacations Duel Race 1 at the Daytona International Speedway when his #77 Ferris Chevrolet finished under power, one lap down, after 60 laps.

At the end of last season, it was already known that Ty Dillon would not return to Petty GMS Racing in 2023. He’d started the year in spectacular fashion, winning the Last Chance Qualifier for the inaugural Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum before he was penalized for jumping the restart. But just one top-ten finish followed – a 10th in a Gain-sponsored Chevrolet at the Bristol Dirt Race. As Noah Gragson prepared to challenge for Rookie of the Year in Ty’s place, Ty landed at Spire Motorsports in the #77, a car that last year was shared by four different drivers.

After failing to make this year’s Clash through the final Last Chance Qualifier, Ty arrived in Daytona ten days later ready to put up his time once more. In Round 1, Ty ran the 39th-fastest time with a speed of 176.315mph (51.045 seconds), just ahead of his new teammate Corey LaJoie in the #7.

Rolling off 21st and last in Thursday’s Duel Race 1 was Kaulig Racing’s newest hire, former Kyle Busch Motorsports Truck Series driver Chandler Smith. Combined with his full-time XFINITY effort for Kaulig, Chandler was entered in a third “open” Cup team under the Kaulig banner, carrying sponsorship from Quick Tie, Inc. With no practice before Wednesday’s qualifying, however, the team was unable to discover an electrical issue until Chandler was on the track, where he turned in the session’s slowest completed lap at 165.022mph (51.422 seconds). Repairs incurred him a redundant tail-end penalty for Thursday’s race, the only penalty handed down before the start.

When the green flag dropped, Chandler Smith started by himself on the inside of the final row, and by following the draft from Austin Dillon’s #3 Bass Pro Shops Club Chevrolet, pulled 0.139 second ahead of Ty, whose #77 was the last car on the outside line. Chandler then pulled to the high lane with Dillon down low as both shook out Cody Ware in the #51 Biohaven / Jacob Construction Ford. Ware was last at the stripe, 0.144 back of Ty, but only held the spot for just over a lap. 

Alex Bowman, who scored his record sixth consecutive front-row start in the Daytona 500 with his third pole, dropped to last on Lap 3 in his #48 Ally Chevrolet. That time by, Bowman was already 1.373 seconds back of the lead and 0.463 back of 20th-place Ware. “Obviously, you know hat the ultimate goal is here,” Bowman’s crew told him. Still under green, while 20th place continued to change hands as the field first raced side-by-side, then in single-file formation, Bowman’s deficit grew. He was 1.794 behind 20th place on Lap 6, 6.212 on Lap 9, 20.691 on Lap 16, and 28.482 on Lap 20. That time by, Bowman’s crew asked about the car’s balance, to which Bowman provided a couple details about how his car handled when others bumped him.

While the Chevrolet teams began pitting on Lap 22, Bowman stayed out, and he soon caught another car. A.J. Allmendinger stalled on pit road, and was by himself in the #16 Nutrien Ag Solutions Chevrolet. Bowman caught him on Lap 24, the two just one-tenth of a second apart, and the #48 made the pass the next time by. But by then, two other drivers were handed pit road speeding penalties, dropping them to the final two spots. First came Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., whose #47 Cottonelle Chevrolet was too fast in Section 12, and became the first lapped car on the 25th circuit. The other was Chandler Smith, whose struggles continued after his penalty on Lap 26. Both remained in the final two spots even after Ty Gibbs received a penalty of his own for speeding in his #54 Monster Energy / Interstate Batteries Toyota. Gibbs stayed in touch with the tail end of the field and began to climb up the order once more.

On Lap 38, Stenhouse also caught the tail end of a drafting pack, and was soon bracketed by Zane Smith in the #36 Wellcare Ford. Zane – of no relation to Chandler – was in direct competition with Chandler to transfer into the Daytona 500 field. Zane could see Chandler in his rear-view mirror, but some distance behind. Chandler had the misfortune of running by himself, stranded between two single-file lines that contained the remainder of the entire field. With still no cautions, it appeared the electrical issue in qualifying would cost Chandler his shot at his Cup debut.

Bowman pitted for the final time with 20 laps to go, dropping from 17th and losing a lap, but most importantly keeping his pole-winning car in one piece. This dropped Bowman to last on Lap 43 as Chandler Smith passed him through Turns 1 and 2. On Lap 49, Bowman dropped Cody Ware to last for a second time, and the #51 briefly showed two laps down on the running order. This did not occur on pit road as Ware did not make any more stops past the halfway point. 

One who did pit was Ty, who after running as high as 13th came in with just five to go. There, an apparent miscommunication over a four or two-tire stop caused Ty to leave his stall with the right-rear wheel loose. The driver stopped and quickly returned to his stall, losing a lap before returning to the track. He took last from Ware on Lap 59, just seconds from the finish, and took the checkered flag on track. 

With all cars still running at the finish, Cody Ware, Ty Gibbs, Chandler Smith, and Alex Bowman completed the Bottom Five, all of them one lap down to race winner Joey Logano. Chandler was the first driver eliminated from the 500 field as Zane Smith secured his place with an 8th-place finish. Zane will start 17th on Sunday with Ty Dillon back in 37th.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #77 in a Duel race since February 20, 2014, when Dave Blaney’s #77 Plinker Arms Ford did not start following a practice crash with Parker Kligerman that destroyed the Randy Humphrey team’s only car.

21) #77-Ty Dillon / 59 laps / running
20) #51-Cody Ware / 59 laps / running
19) #54-Ty Gibbs / 59 laps / running
18) #13-Chandler Smith / 59 laps / running
17) #48-Alex Bowman / 59 laps / running

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

PREVIEW: Daytona sees many new faces in new places across Cup, XFINITY, and Craftsman Trucks

PHOTO: @KadenWHoneycutt

Thursday, February 16, 2023
CUP Exhibition Races
Bluegreen Vacations Duel at Daytona

There are 42 drivers entered to attempt Sunday’s Daytona 500, meaning the race will see the first 40-car starting lineup since this same race last year, 36 races ago. Two of the six “open” teams entered will be sent home after the Duel races on Thursday night.

NEW TEAM: #13-Kaulig Racing
First on track for tonight’s qualifying session will be Chandler Smith, who seeks his first Cup Series start. Smith made his first three XFINITY Series races last year with a best finish of 7th at Homestead for Sam Hunt Racing, and days later closed out a three-win season in the Truck Series with a 3rd-place finish in the Championship Four. Smith drives a new third team for Kaulig Racing, the first of four Chartered teams to field an additional “open” car this week. Smith will also pull double-duty in the XFINITY Series, where he drives Kaulig’s #16 in place of A.J. Allmendinger (see below).

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Rick Ware Racing
After his third full season in the XFINITY Series, where he’s still winless after 109 starts, Riley Herbst will make his Cup debut in this week’s Daytona 500, driving Rick Ware Racing’s #15 Ford in place of Clash driver J.J. Yeley. Herbst trades sponsors this week, swapping Monster Energy for SunnyD.

RETURNING: #36-Front Row Motorsports
Entering a third car of their own is Front Row Motorsports, which brings back the #36 entry for the first time since David Ragan’s 37th-place showing in the 2021 Daytona 500. This time, the driver is defending NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Champion Zane Smith, who steered FRM’s Ford to a convincing win in last November’s Phoenix finale. Recall that this would not be Smith’s Cup debut – last summer at Gateway, he was a last-minute relief driver for Chris Buescher following a positive COVID-19 test. Smith parlayed this to an impressive 17th-place finish. Wellcare will sponsor Smith’s Ford.

RETURNING: #50-The Money Team
Also seeking his second Cup start is Conor Daly, who took his first laps in a Cup car last fall on the “Roval,” yielding a 34th-place finish. As in that race, Daly drives for The Money Team, which made its series debut in last year’s 500 after Kaz Grala’s last-lap pass on J.J. Yeley during his qualifying race. If Daly qualifies, this will be just his fifth start across NASCAR’s top three series.

RETURNING: #62-Beard Motorsports
Joining The Money Team as the only “open” entry not fielded by another team is Beard Motorsports. Continuing their focus on the superspeedways, the #62 entry returns with last year’s XFINITY Series standout on these tracks – Austin Hill. Hill finished a strong 18th in his Cup debut last summer at Michigan, and brings his sponsor Bennett Transportation on board. He takes the place of Noah Gragson, who has since become the full-time driver of Legacy Motor Club’s #42.

NEW TEAM: #67-23XI Racing
The third expansion team among the Chartered cars belongs to 23XI Racing, which has landed extreme sports superstar Travis Pastrana. A full decade after his full-season XFINITY effort with Roush-Fenway Racing in 2013, Pastrana will take his first laps in NASCAR’s top three series since 2020, when he ran his fifth and most recent Truck Series start in Las Vegas. Black Rifle Coffee is the sponsor of his plaid-decorated Toyota. The #67, made famous by the late Buddy Arrington, has not attempted a Cup Series race since November 2002 at Homestead, has not started one since Watkins Glen on August 11, 2002, and has not started the Daytona 500 since 1989 with Mickey Gibbs.

NEW TEAM / WITHDREW: #80-Finishline Motorsports Marketing
Late-breaking news this month was that of Finishline Motorsports Marketing, which at first appeared to be entering their #80 Safelite AutoGlass Chevrolet for driver J.J. Yeley in the Daytona 500. Serving as crew chief was Josh Reaume, who last year was part of the Team Hezeberg effort that is not entered this year. But those plans have since changed, and the team has withdrawn, planning a partial schedule this year. As of this writing, their first attempt will instead be Las Vegas on March 7th.

NEW TEAM: #84-Legacy Motor Club
The fourth and final “open” entry entered by a Chartered team belongs to Legacy Motor Club – the #84 Carvana Chevrolet to be driven by team investor Jimmie Johnson. This will be the seven-time series champion’s first Cup attempt since the conclusion of his “One Last Ride” tour in November 2020, the day Chase Elliott secured his first title at Phoenix in front of a COVID-19-reduced crowd. For the first time since his rookie season in 2002, Johnson enters the 500 without a guaranteed starting spot. But that year, he won the pole, the first of his career. If he qualifies, this will be the first start for the #84 in a Cup race since November 20, 2011 with Cole Whitt at Homestead. The number hasn’t started the Daytona 500 since 1989, when Mike Alexander drove for the Stavola Brothers in the Miller High Life Buick.

Friday, February 17, 2023
TRUCKS Race 1 of 23
NextEra Energy 250 at Daytona
2022 Last-Place Finisher: Dean Thompson

Craftsman rejoins the Truck Series as title sponsor, where 42 drivers are entered in Daytona’s season opener, meaning six teams will fail to qualify.

RETURNING / DRIVER SWAP: #13-ThorSport Racing
David Gilliland Racing and businessman Johnny Gray have joined forces to create TRICON Garage, swapping from Ford to become the flagship Toyota team in the series. TRICON boasts four entries this week, first of them the #1 formerly driven by Hailie Deegan under DGR and now driven by the first of two drivers named Jason White on the entry list. Jason A. White – the series veteran from Richmond, Virginia with 156 Truck starts dating back to 2001 – now pilots the #1 with Celsius as sponsor. Deegan, meanwhile, moves to ThorSport, where the #13 returns to full-time competition after running part-time last year with Johnny Sauter. Sauter gave the #13 its most recent start last fall at Talladega, yielding a 25th-place finish.

NEW TEAM: #2-Rev Racing
TEAM CLOSED: #18-Kyle Busch Motorsports
On the heels of Kyle Busch’s departure from the #18 Cup Series team at Joe Gibbs Racing, the third KBM entry, the #18, is as gone from the series as it is in Cup. Chandler Smith, the team’s driver, has moved to Kaulig Racing in a combined Cup and XFINITY Series bid. Kyle Busch Motorsports has since formed an alliance with ARCA Series team Rev Racing, which brings last year’s champion Nick Sanchez into a full-time Truck Series ride. Sanchez, who also ran impressively for Big Machine Racing’s XFINITY team late last season, will continue to run the #2 he ran in ARCA, and carries sponsorship from Gainbridge.

DRIVER SWAP: #4-Kyle Busch Motorsports
MISSING: #61-Hattori Racing Enterprises
With John Hunter Nemechek rejoining the XFINITY Series with Joe Gibbs Racing as a full-time driver (see below), the #4 entry at KBM remained open for Chase Purdy. Purdy’s previous ride, the second entry at Hattori Racing Enterprises, is not on the entry list this week, and Purdy brings his sponsorship from Bama Buggies to the #4.

MISSING: #5-Hill Motorsports
TEAM CLOSED: #40-Niece Motorsports
The five-truck TRICON team includes the #5, which last year belonged to Hill Motorsports’ second team, most often driven by Tyler Hill. Under its new branding as a Toyota, the driver is Dean Thompson, whose #40 entry at Niece Motorsports is likewise not entered this week, and returns for his second full-time season in Trucks.

DRIVER CHANGE: #7-Spire Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #51-Kyle Busch Motorsports
Seeking only his third Truck Series start and first since 2014 is Cup regular Corey LaJoie, who will pilot the part-time #7 Schluter Systems Chevrolet once again fielded by his Cup team, Spire Motorsports. LaJoie takes the place of Rajah Caruth, who closed out his part-time season with Spire last fall in Phoenix. Caruth has since landed a full-time ride at GMS Racing, where he will carry logos for the Wendell Scott Foundation on the #24 entry, and will also continue to run part-time for Alpha Prime Racing in XFINITY (see below). Caruth takes the place of Jack Wood, who takes the place of Corey Heim in KBM’s #51 Toyota. In turn, Heim has become the third member of TRICON Garage, where he will join Dean Thompson in piloting a new entry, running the #11.

DRIVER CHANGE: #9-CR7 Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #35-McAnally-Hilgemann Racing
TEAM CLOSED: #91-McAnally-Hilgemann Racing
NEW TEAM: #97-CR7 Motorsports
CR7 Motorsports expands from one truck to two this season, and Codie Rohrbaugh returns to the driver’s seat in time for the race where he finished 3rd in 2020, this time running the new #97 entry. Running CR7’s primary #9 is Colby Howard, who takes the place of Blaine Perkins, who has returned to the XFINITY Series (see below). Howard’s 2022 ride in the #91 for McAnally-Hilgemann Racing was shut down, but his sponsorship from Gates Hydraulics remains as sponsor of the team’s part-time #35, which is driven this week by Cup invader Chase Elliott instead of Phoenix starter Jake Garcia.

Completing the TRICON Garage lineup (along with the #15, still piloted by Tanner Gray) is the #17, one of the two original David Gilliland Racing entries. This week, the truck passes from Taylor Gray, who scored three ARCA Racing Series wins last year and made the most recent eight of his 13 Truck Series starts, to Joe Gibbs Racing’s XFINITY rookie Sammy Smith. Mobil 1 is the listed sponsor this week.

DRIVER CHANGE: #19-McAnally-Hilgemann Racing
DRIVER SWAP: #20-Young’s Motorsports
MISSING: #66-ThorSport Racing
DRIVER SWAP: #98-ThorSport Racing
Hailie Deegan’s arrival at ThorSport in the #13 isn’t the only shake-up on that team. After coming up just short of the Truck Series title last year, Ty Majeski moves from the #66 to the #98, taking the place of Christian Eckes. Eckes, in turn, moves to the flagship entry at McAnally-Hilgemann Racing, taking Derek Kraus’ place in the #19 Toyota. Kraus has now landed with Young’s Motorsports in the #20 Chevrolet, replacing Phoenix starter Armani Williams, who’s not entered. The ThorSport #66 will return later this year as a part-time entry with newcomer Conner Jones.

As AM Racing expands their presence in the XFINITY Series, Josh Reaume is entered in the #22 in place of Austin Wayne Self, who’s not entered this week. JAG Metals is the listed sponsor.

Amidst tumultuous change, Jim Rosenblum’s FDNY Racing effort returns with its same lineup, again putting veteran Bryan Dauzat behind the wheel. Dauzat finished 23rd in this race last year and ran 35th after mid-race damage at Talladega.

DRIVER CHANGE: #30-On Point Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP / NUMBER CHANGE: #34-Reaume Brothers Racing
NEW TEAM: #43-GMS Racing
Joining Nick Sanchez and Rajah Caruth in ascending from ARCA is Daniel Dye, who unlike the other two racers has yet to make a start in any of NASCAR’s top three series. Dye will run the #43, which this season will be fielded by GMS Racing instead of Reaume Brothers Racing. The Reaume team, still rebuilding from a terrible shop fire over the winter, brings back the #34, which honors the Mooresville Fire Department for saving their shop. Driving is the second Jason White – Jason M. White – the Canadian who finished 10th in this race in 2020. Chris Hacker, who ran the #34 (formerly #43) last fall at Phoenix, moves to On Point’s #30 Toyota this week with Morgan & Morgan P.A. as sponsor. “Hackerman” moves Kaden Honeycutt, 9th in just his 9th career start with On Point last fall at Phoenix, to the returning Roper Racing #04 entry, which carries FlyAllianceCar Quest as sponsor. Team owner Cory Roper nearly won this Daytona race two years ago before he finished 3rd.

RETURNING: #32-Bret Holmes Racing
Bret Holmes returns to action for the first time since last fall at Homestead, and this time carries Pate Holdings as sponsor of his #32 Chevrolet.

DRIVER CHANGE: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
Coming down from the XFINITY Series is Mason Massey, who last year drove DGM Racing’s #91 Chevrolet, which this year goes to Cup part-timer Josh Bilicki (see below). Massey lands in Josh Reaume’s primary #33 entry, a truck driven most recently by Keith McGee last fall at Phoenix. While McGee is not entered, Massey seeks his first Truck Series start since 2019, when he drove this same entry to a 32nd-place finish in Talladega.

RETURNING: #41-Niece Motorsports
While the team’s #40 has scaled back, Al Niece has brought back their #41 entry for the first time since last summer at IRP, where Chad Chastain finished 30th. This “all-star” entry will feature multiple drivers this season, starting with Travis Pastrana, who looks to turn more laps before his first bid at the Daytona 500 with 23XI Racing. Worldwide Express and BRCC are the listed sponsors.

DRIVER SWAP: #02-Young’s Motorsports
The preliminary entry list first indicated that Johnny Sauter would reunite with G2G Racing for the first time since his run in this same race last year, where electrical woes left him a distant 34th. That news changed by Tuesday, when word broke that Norm Benning would drive in his place. Seeking his 245th Truck Series start, and his first at any track since 2021, this would be Benning’s first start for a team not his own since November 2016, when he raced for Mike Mittler at Phoenix. Driving the #02 Young’s Motorsports entry that Johnny Sauter most recently ran in last fall’s Phoenix race is Kris Wright, who rejoins the Truck Series after a challenging stretch of XFINITY races with Brandonbilt Motorsports (see below).

MISSING: #62-Halmar Friesen Racing
Not among the entrants this week is Layne Riggs, who turned heads in his part-time effort driving a second HFR truck last fall, most recently a 13th last November in the Phoenix finale.

RETURNING: #75-Henderson Motorsports
Last summer’s Mid-Ohio winner Parker Kligerman rejoins the Henderson team for the first time since his 9th-place showing at Homestead last fall, and this time arrives pulling double-duty with Big Machine Racing in the XFINITY Series (see below).

RETURNING: #84-Cook Racing Technologies
After a pair of DNQs, Clay Greenfield finally got his Cook Racing Technologies entry into its first race last fall in Talladega, where he was rewarded with a 12th-place finish. Now he returns to Daytona looking to make his first start in the race since 2019, when he also ran 12th.

RETURNING: #96-Peck Motorsports
Also looking to break through is Todd Peck, who has not started a Truck Series race since 2021 at Pocono, and returns with his persistent #96 team.

CUP INVADERS: #7-Corey LaJoie, #35-Chase Elliott

Saturday, February 18, 2023
XFINITY Race 1 of 33
Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. 300 at Daytona
2022 Last-Place Finisher: Caesar Bacarella

There are 44 drivers entered for 40 spots in Saturday’s XFINITY Series opener, meaning four will fail to qualify.

MISSING: #5-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
NEW TEAM: #5-Big Machine Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #48-Big Machine Racing
When we last saw B.J. McLeod’s #5 team, Matt Mills was the only DNQ for last November’s Phoenix finale. This week, McLeod has not entered the #5, and Mills is not among the entrants. Instead, Big Machine Racing has fielded a second car for Jade Buford, reuniting him with the Scott Borchetta team for the first time since Portland last summer. Appropriately, Buford will carry sponsorship from “Double Spiked Coolers.” After a mix of Cup regulars and a surprising Nick Sanchez took Buford’s place in the #48, the ride goes to Parker Kligerman, who finally earns a full-time ride after more than a decade of effort.

DRIVER CHANGE: #9-JR Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #19-Joe Gibbs Racing
DRIVER SWAP: #31-Jordan Anderson Racing
DRIVER SWAP: #02-Our Motorsports
David Starr returns to the XFINITY Series for the first time since last fall at Homestead, and this time takes the controls of Our Motorsports’ single entry, the #02 Chevrolet, bringing with him previous sponsor Special Report with Bret Baier. Starr takes the place of last year’s surprising part-timer Parker Retzlaff, 21st last fall at Phoenix, who this year joins Jordan Anderson Racing’s primary entry, the #31, retaining Funkaway as sponsor. Retzlaff’s full-time effort moves Myatt Snider and sponsor Tree Top to Joe Gibbs Racing’s new “star car,” the #19 formerly driven by Brandon Jones and now shared with multiple drivers. This ride became available as Jones had already committed to JR Motorsports’ #9 Chevrolet, replacing Noah Gragson after Gragson’s promotion to Legacy Motor Club’s #42 in the Cup Series.

DRIVER CHANGE: #10-Kaulig Racing
Last year, Landon Cassill came up just short of both his first win and a spot in the XFINITY Series Playoffs, and was originally expected to continue his full-time effort with Kaulig Racing in 2023. That changed over the winter with news that Cassill would only run part-time this year. The first of these openings is this week as Justin Haley comes down from Kaulig’s Cup team to run the #10 on Saturday. Five more races later this season will go to Kyle Busch, thanks to his move to Richard Childress Racing and Chevrolet.

DRIVER CHANGE: #13-Motorsports Business Management
DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Last summer at Daytona, Timmy Hill was either inches or seconds from pulling off an incredible upset, ultimately scoring a career-best runner-up finish to Jeremy Clements. Hill rejoins MBM and the #13 team this week with Klutch Vodka as sponsor of his Ford, looking to go one spot better. He takes the place of Dawson Cram, who’s not entered after he drove to a 31st-place finish with this team last fall at Phoenix. Running the second MBM entry in the #66 is a returning Dexter Stacey, whose most recent of 25 XFINITY starts came in 2016. Taking the place of J.J. Yeley, who’s not entered, Stacey rejoins the series after competing in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series in his native Canada. Just last year, he earned a career-best 3rd at Mosport.

DRIVER CHANGE: #16-Kaulig Racing
Now that A.J. Allmendinger has returned to full-time Cup duties for the first time since 2018, claiming the entirety of the previously shared #16 Cup effort’s starts, the ride is open for a new challenger. That challenger is former KBM Truck Series driver Chandler Smith, who will run full-time in this car and also attempt the Daytona 500 in Kaulig’s “open” #13.

RETURNING: #20-Joe Gibbs Racing
Joe Gibbs Racing resurrects the #20 team, which we last saw piloted by Harrison Burton in 2021. This time, the ride goes to former KBM driver John Hunter Nemechek, his first full-time XFINITY season since 2019. Nemechek carries Mobil 1 as a sponsor this week, and looks to set the tone early in his bid for the Playoffs.

MISSING: #23-Our Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #78-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
RETURNING: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Our Motorsports has scaled back their #23 entry to part-time, freeing up Anthony Alfredo to take up a different full-time effort in the #78 at B.J. McLeod’s team, replacing McLeod himself. McLeod has also brought back his third entry, the #99, which Garrett Smithley will drive this week. The #99 hasn’t been entered in a race since last summer at Nashville, and hasn’t started one since Nick Sanchez took the green at Charlotte in May. Smithley’s most recent XFINITY start came in McLeod’s #78 last fall in Las Vegas, yielding a 25th-place finish.

RETURNING: #24-Sam Hunt Racing
Parker Chase made his first two XFINITY Series starts last year with Sam Hunt Racing’s flagship #26 team, taking 19th at COTA and 27th in Portland. This time, Chase tackles Daytona, where he finished runner-up to Corey Heim in last year’s ARCA 200. He now drives SHR’s second entry, the #24, a team whose only start last year was in the Daytona opener, yielding a 15th-place finish with Jeffrey Earnhardt.

RETURNING: #25-AM Racing
AM Racing expands to the XFINITY Series with the #25, but as on the Truck Series side, Austin Wayne Self is not entered. Last year, Self failed to qualify for the XFINITY race sat Watkins Glen and the Charlotte “Roval” during a combined effort between AM Racing and Jordan Anderson Racing. This year, taking the full-time ride is Brett Moffitt, who parted ways with Our Motorsports’ #02 team midway through last season, and made only a few starts after. 

MISSING: #27-Our Motorsports
NEW TEAM: #27-Jordan Anderson Racing
Speaking of Anderson’s team, his XFINITY effort expands to a second car, bringing Jeb Burton over from Our Motorsports. As Our closes down his struggling third team, Anderson picks up its car number, keeping both the #27 and sponsor State Water Heaters with the Burton family. Burton joins Parker Retzlaff as teammates this season.

DRIVER SWAP: #07-SS-Green Light Racing
Coming up from CR7’s Truck Series team is Blaine Perkins, who rejoins the XFINITY Series in SS-Green Light Racing’s #07. Perkins takes the place of Joe Graf, Jr., who will not only run some races in Joe Gibbs Racing’s #19, but this week pilots the flagship RSS Racing entry, the #39, with as sponsor. Graf bumps Ryan Sieg to RSS’ #38, which moves Kyle Sieg to their returning third entry, the #28. Graf’s future starts with RSS will be in the #38 as Ryan Sieg resumes his ride in the #39.

DRIVER CHANGE: #34-Jesse Iwuji Motorsports
Amidst a lawsuit against founding sponsor Equity Prime Mortgage, Jesse Iwuji takes the wheel of the #34 in place of Kyle Weatherman, who closed out the 2022 season with a 14th-place finish in Phoenix.

DRIVER CHANGE: #35-Emerling-Gase Motorsports
RETURNING / DRIVER SWAP: #53-Emerling-Gase Motorsports
The Emerling-Gase team makes another bid at fielding two full-time entries. This time, they bring C.J. McLaughlin from his part-time efforts with RSS Racing to pilot the flagship #35 Sci Aps Ford, bumping Joey Gase to the returning #53 National Crime Prevention Ford. Brad Perez, Natalie Decker, and team co-owner Patrick Emerling are among the drivers expected to fill out the schedule this year.

Over at the Mario Gosselin team, Josh Williams and Alex Labbe have swapped rides, putting Labbe back in his familiar #36 and Williams back in the #92. Mason Massey, last year’s driver of the #91, moves back to the Truck Series, opening a seat for Josh Bilicki and his sponsorship from Zeigler Auto Group and Insurance King – at least on a part-time basis.

NEW TEAM: #43-Alpha Prime Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #44-Alpha Prime Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #45-Alpha Prime Racing
After a tumultuous transition year with multiple drivers, Alpha Prime Racing expands to three teams with an equally deep lineup. The new entry, the #43, goes to Ryan Ellis, who has brought multiple sponsors to expand what would have been a part-time deal into a full-season bid. The #44 goes to Jeffrey Earnhardt, who last year split time with three different teams, and continues to build on his relationship with sponsor ForeverLawn. The #45 stands as the team’s “star car,” beginning with team co-owner Caesar Bacarella this week and continuing with Sage Karam, Stefan Parsons, Leland Honeyman, Jr., and Rajah Caruth. Last fall at Phoenix saw Caruth and Parsons run the team’s two cars.

MISSING: #68-Brandonbilt Motorsports
With Kris Wright moving back to the Truck Series after a difficult final weeks in 2022, both Brandonbilt Motorsports and their former driver Brandon Brown are conspicuously absent from the entry list.

Gary Keller, previously a partner at JD Motorsports, now joins forces with Mike Harmon Racing, which rebrands itself as CHK Racing. After a rough 2022 season where the #74 team was sidelined after a testing penalty and the #47 suffered a litany of mechanical failures, CHK fields just one car, and brings back Harmon’s #74. Serving as anchor driver is Ryan Vargas – also formerly of JD Motorsports – who ran for Harmon last summer at Portland, yielding a 23rd-place finish.

MISSING: #77-Bassett Racing
The Bassett brothers are not making the trip to Daytona after Dillon Bassett qualified an impressive 12th in last fall’s Phoenix finale.

RETURNING: #00-Stewart-Haas Racing
Ousted from Stewart-Haas Racing’s #41 Cup Series entry late this offseason in favor of “reserve driver” Ryan Preece, Cole Custer makes his return to the XFINITY Series in the #00 that brought him to Cup in the first place. Like John Hunter Nemechek, Custer promises to be a strong Playoff contender in 2023, having finished 11th or better in three of his five XFINITY starts last year with SS-Green Light Racing, including the team’s first ever win at Fontana.

DRIVER CHANGE: #08-SS-Green Light Racing
Speaking of SS-Green Light Racing, Gray Gaulding reunites with the team that brought him the most success of his young NASCAR career, when he ranked 13th in points during the 2019 campaign. Taking the place of Brandon Brown, who drove the car last fall at Phoenix, Gaulding brings his longtime sponsor Panini and looks to reignite his competitiveness on the superspeedways.

CUP INVADERS: #10-Justin Haley

Sunday, February 19, 2023
CUP Race 1 of 36
Daytona 500 at Daytona
2022 Last-Place Finisher: Ross Chastain

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (February 15, 1981): Blackie Wangerin picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Winston Cup Series career when his #39 Wangerin / Clements Ford crashed in the tri-oval after 17 laps of the Daytona 500. This was Wangerin’s third and last start in the “Great American Race.”