Thursday, March 16, 2023

PREVIEW: Atlanta weekend begins with multiple drivers making their first Truck start of the season


by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Saturday, March 18, 2023 (2:00 P.M. ET, FS1)
TRUCKS Race 3 of 23
Fr8 208 at Atlanta
2022 Last-Place Finisher: Hailie Deegan

There are 36 drivers entered for as many spots in the Truck Series field as they kick off a Saturday double-header on the Atlanta superspeedway.

DRIVER CHANGE: #1-Tricon Garage
On Wednesday, it was revealed that Layne Riggs would make his series debut, replacing 17th-place Las Vegas finisher Kaz Grala. This will be just the fourth start of Riggs’ career following a successful three-race stint in the second Halmar Friesen Racing entry last year, when he finished no worse than 19th after a sterling 7th-place debut at IRP.

DRIVER CHANGE: #20-Young’s Motorsports
After his XFINITY Series debut at Las Vegas came up short, Maggio returns to the Truck Series for his own 2023 debut, following a four-race stint for the Reaume Brothers where he ran no better than 27th, which was his series debut at Gateway. This time, Maggio drives Randy Young’s #20 entry, taking the place of 26th-place Vegas finisher Matt Mills.

DRIVER SWAP: #22-AM Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #34-Reaume Brothers Racing
As with Tricon’s #1, the driver for the Reaume effort’s #34 wasn’t announced until midweek with Keith McGee returning to the Truck Series for the first time since last November’s Phoenix finale, where he and Armani Williams tangled in an early wreck. McGee takes the place of Josh Reaume himself, who moves back to the #22 for the first time since Daytona. Max Gutierrez is not entered after his emotional 21st-place return in Vegas.

RETURNING: #30-On Point Motorsports
For weeks, Ryan Vargas has been counting down to this, his first-ever Truck Series start, and has since changed his points declaration from XFINITY to Truck Series for 2023. With returning sponsorship from Leargas Security, who backed his XFINITY effort with CHK Racing at Daytona, Vargas will pilot the On Point effort, which we last saw in this year’s Daytona opener. That night, Chris Hacker finished 25th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #41-Niece Motorsports
Joining Vargas in the move from the XFINITY Series is Bayley Currey, who this week parted ways with JD Motorsports’ #4 team (see below). While Currey’s future plans are still coming together, he had already landed this ride in a fast Al Niece Chevrolet with Unishippers as sponsor. While Currey is still another driver making his first Truck Series start of the season, this is his 34th series start overall. Last year, he made three starts in Niece’s #44 with a season-best 15th at Bristol.

In just 13 career Truck Series starts, Akinori Ogata has made more starts at Atlanta and Phoenix than any other track with three apiece. He breaks the tie this week with G2G Racing, taking the place of 33rd-place Vegas finisher Brennan Poole in the #46 Kyowa-Eidemiller Precision Toyota. Ogata is still another driver making his first Truck start of the season. His last in the division came last spring in Darlington, where he and Poole traded last place for much of the night.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Kyle Busch Motorsports
Following his win in the Truck Series race in Vegas, Kyle Busch will not run this week, and hands the wheel back to Jack Wood. Wood looks to bounce back from a disappointing run in Daytona where he finished 27th after a 3rd-place qualifying run.


Saturday, March 18, 2023 (5:00 P.M. ET, FS1)
XFINITY Race 5 of 33
Raptor King of Tough 250 at Atlanta
2022 Last-Place Finisher: Jade Buford

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

DRIVER SWAP: #4-JD Motorsports
STILL MISSING: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
On Monday came news that Bayley Currey had parted ways with JD Motorsports, putting Garrett Smithley into the #4 car for 14 races. It’s a reunion for Smithley, who drove JDM’s #0 entry nearly full-time from 2016 through 2019. This switch came after a report at Phoenix that Smithley had agreed to drive more races for DGM Racing, whose #91 team he joined last week in place of Josh Bilicki. That #91 will be driven this week by Chad Chastain with Protect Your Melon as sponsor. Speaking of Smithley, the #99 entry he ran at Las Vegas is not entered this week after it was withdrawn for Phoenix.

DRIVER CHANGE: #10-Kaulig Racing
Kyle Busch is likewise not running Saturday’s XFINITY race following a 9th after a last-lap near-spin in Phoenix, but another Cup driver will in Kaulig Racing’s own Justin Haley. This will be Haley’s first XFINITY start on the reconfigured Atlanta track, where he ran a strong 11th and 7th in last year’s two Cup races.

NEW TEAM / WITHDREW: #42-Alpha Prime Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
A planned fourth Alpha Prime Chevrolet for Caesar Bacarella was revealed as the #66 – not the #42 that had already been withdrawn on Monday. This would put Bacarella in place of Timmy Hill, who had been entered in MBM’s #66 Ford after his substitution for Brian Weber in Phoenix. Bacarella himself had most recently entered this year’s Daytona opener, but he was sidelined by illness and replaced by Stefan Parsons. Bacarella’s pink-and-yellow machine is sponsored by Prime Bites Protein Brownies.

DRIVER CHANGE: #45-Alpha Prime Racing
Rejoining the Alpha Prime team for the first time since last fall’s run on the Charlotte “Roval” is open-wheeler Sage Karam. It was in this race last year that Karam finished fifth in Stage 2 before a late-race wreck dropped him to 32nd in the running order. This week, he takes the place of Leland Honeyman, whose double-duty effort with ARCA in Phoenix yielded a 27th-place showing.

CUP INVADERS: #10-Justin Haley

Sunday, March 19, 2023 (3:00 P.M. ET, FOX)
CUP Race 5 of 36
Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta
2022 Last-Place Finisher: Noah Gragson

There are 36 drivers entered for 40 spots in Sunday’s Cup field, marking the fourth consecutive short field in five races this season.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Rick Ware Racing
DRIVER SWAP: #38-Front Row Motorsports
Following Zane Smith’s 31st-place finish in FRM’ #38 entry, one spot ahead of Todd Gilliland in RWR’s #15, Gilliland returns to the #38. This opens the #15 for a returning J.J. Yeley, who finished 33rd his last time out in Las Vegas.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (March 16, 1997): Ed Spencer III picked up the first last-place finish of his NASCAR Busch Grand National Series career in the Las Vegas 300 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway when his #2 Zippo Chevrolet had transmission issues after 2 laps. This was the fifth of six series starts for Spencer, son of Cup veteran Jimmy Spencer.

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