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.

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