Thursday, March 2, 2023

PREVIEW: Kyle Busch’s hometown triple-header not the only storyline in Vegas


by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Friday, March 3, 2023 (9:00 P.M. PT)
TRUCKS Race 2 of 23
Victoria’s Voice Foundation 200 at Las Vegas
2022 Last-Place Finisher: Zane Smith

There are 35 drivers entered for 36 spots, down seven entries from last month’s Daytona opener.

DRIVER CHANGE: #1-Tricon Garage
Kaz Grala swaps into the #1 entry at Tricon Garage, taking the place of 15th-place Daytona finisher Jason A. White, carrying sponsorship from Ruedebusch Development and Construction. This is Grala’s first Truck start since last fall at Homestead, where he ran 18th for Young’s Motorsports.

MISSING: #7-Spire Motorsports
MISSING: #28-FDNY Racing
MISSING: #30-On Point Motorsports
MISSING: #75-Henderson Motorsports
MISSING: #84-Cook Racing Technologies
MISSING: #96-Peck Motorsports
MISSING: #97-CR7 Motorsports
Among the seven teams not returning to action this week in Las Vegas are Spire’s #7, with which Corey LaJoie led for 19 laps at Daytona before falling to 23rd, and Chris Hacker who finished 25th in On Point’s #30, his Daytona debut. Parker Kligerman will focus exclusively on XFINITY this week after taking 32nd for the Henderson team in Daytona. Two of the six DNQs from Daytona are not entered in FDNY Racing and Peck Motorsports, which will put the remaining four DNQs into their first race of the season.

DRIVER CHANGE: #17-Tricon Garage
Just five days after becoming the final NASCAR winner of a race at the Auto Club Speedway – the same track where his father Joe Nemechek won the first Cup Series pole in 1997 – John Hunter Nemechek makes his first Truck Series start since closing out his 3rd-place championship finish at Phoenix for Kyle Busch Motorsports. With Toyota’s move from KBM to Tricon, John Hunter takes the place of Sammy Smith, who was 14th in Daytona.

DRIVER CHANGE: #20-Young’s Motorsports
When we last saw Matt Mills, he’d failed to qualify for last year’s XFINITY Series finale at Phoenix driving for B.J. McLeod Motorsports. Now, Mills enters his first Truck Series race since his DNQ at Gateway last June, and will make his first start since a 34th-place showing at Charlotte the previous week. Then as now, Mills drives for Randy Young, and this time takes the place of 18th-place Daytona finisher Derek Kraus.

DRIVER SWAP: #34-Reaume Brothers Racing
Max Gutierrez returns to the Truck Series for the first time since the tragic death of his younger brother Fico, who lost his life in a traffic accident outside Mexico City. Making just his fifth series start and first at Las Vegas, Max seeks his second career top-ten finish, following his strong 8th-place showing last summer in Nashville. He takes the place of Josh Reaume, who filled in at Daytona with a 19th-place finish. Reaume will drive his own #34 in place of 21st-place Jason M. White – nearly a winner in last week’s ARCA race – but will do so without his team’s Owner Points. NASCAR confirmed the #34 entry’s points have been transferred to G2G Racing’s #46 (see below). The short field guarantees both entries will make the show.

DRIVER CHANGE: #35-McAnally-Hilgemann Racing
Jake Garcia turns 18 on the day of Friday’s race – his young age the reason Chase Elliott filled in for him in Daytona, en route to a 10th-place finish – so Garcia’s season resumes this week in the #35 Quanta Services Chevrolet. This will be the sixth start of Garcia’s career and, like Gutierrez, his first in Las Vegas. Garcia last took the green in last year’s Phoenix finale, where he ran a season-best 16th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #41-Niece Motorsports
Five days after driving DGM Racing’s entry in the XFINITY Series event at Fontana, Ross Chastain will this week pull double-duty with Al Niece, taking the place of 13th-place finisher Travis Pastrana in the #41. Chastain will share sponsorship from Worldwide Express with teammate Carson Hocevar in the #42.

The beneficiary of the #34 team’s Owner Points is the #46 entry, which fell short of a spot in the Daytona field despite a promising practice run by Johnny Sauter’s last-minute substitute Norm Benning. With the prolific South Point Hotel & Casino as sponsor, G2G welcomes back Brennan Poole, who made all seven of his Truck starts last year with the team. His best run came in Texas, where he finished 23rd, and his most recent in Homestead saw him take 24th. Poole will run double-duty with the XFINITY Series, continuing his full-season effort with JD Motorsports.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Kyle Busch Motorsports
Fresh off his breakthrough first victory with Richard Childress Racing last week in Fontana, Kyle Busch will thoroughly invade both the Truck Series and XFINITY Series fields this weekend. First comes Friday’s Truck Series race, where he seeks his 63rd win – and his 11th winning season in a row – in his first series start driving a Chevrolet since 2007. He takes the place of Jack Wood, who finished 27th in Daytona.

CUP INVADERS: #41-Ross Chastain, #51-Kyle Busch

Saturday, March 4, 2023 (4:30 P.M. ET)
XFINITY Race 3 of 33
Alsco 300 at Las Vegas
2022 Last-Place Finisher: Joe Graf, Jr.

The same 40 teams entered in Fontana will attempt the race in Las Vegas, where two will fail to qualify.

DRIVER CHANGE: #10-Kaulig Racing
Round Two of Kyle Busch’s triple-header comes in his first scheduled start for Kaulig Racing, taking over for 8th-place Fontana finisher Austin Dillon. LA Golf, Dillon’s sponsors, remains on board this week as Busch seeks his third XFINITY win at Las Vegas and fist since his most recent attempt in 2019.

DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Making his XFINITY Series debut this week is Mason Maggio, who last year made his first four Truck Series starts driving for Reaume Brothers Racing with a best of 27th in his debut at Gateway. Maggio takes the place of Timmy Hill, who was 32nd in Fontana driving the team’s Ford. MBM’s #13 is again not entered this week, and Hill will focus on his Truck Series effort this Friday.

As of this writing, there is no driver listed to run Mario Gosselin’s third entry, which last week Ross Chastain drove to a 24th-place finish in Fontana. UPDATE (March 2): Josh Bilicki will drive, rejoining the team for the first time since Daytona.

CUP INVADERS: #10-Kyle Busch, #24-Tyler Reddick

Sunday, March 5, 2023 (3:30 P.M. ET)
CUP Race 3 of 36
Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas
2022 Last-Place Finisher: Daniel Suarez

The same 36 drivers and teams from Fontana are also entered in next week’s Las Vegas race. While there are no driver changes, at least 24 of the starters – fully two-thirds of the grid – will be carrying different sponsors and paint schemes from last Sunday.

DRIVER UPDATE: #9-Hendrick Motorsports
Chase Elliott injured his leg in a snowboarding accident in Colorado on Friday and will not run on Sunday. In his place comes Josh Berry, who after winning the last two fall races at Vegas in the XFINITY series will make his 3rd Cup start, his first since a pair of runs for Spire Motorsports in 2021.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (March 2, 2002): Matt Kenseth picked up the first last-place finish of his NASCAR Busch Series career when his #17 Jani-King Ford lost the engine after 13 laps of the Sam’s Town 300 at Las Vegas. It would be Kenseth’s only last-place finish in 288 career Busch Series starts from 1996 through 2015. 

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