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)


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