Saturday, April 29, 2023

XFINITY: Contact off Turn 2 hands Parker Kligerman first last-place finish since 2010


by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Parker Kligerman scored the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s A-Game 200 at the Dover Motor Speedway when his #48 Big Machine Spiked Coolers Chevrolet was involved in an accident after 62 of 200 laps.

The finish, which came in Kligerman’s 66th series start, was his first of the season and first in a XFINITY Series race since October 15, 2010 at Charlotte, 411 races ago. In the XFINITY Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 8th for the #48, the 378th from a crash, and the 616th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 32nd for the #48, the 1,329th from a crash, and the 1,886th for Chevrolet.

In the nearly 13 years between his only two XFINITY Series last-place finishes, Kligerman has successfully navigated a particularly long path into NASCAR’s higher ranks. His series debut came during a nine-win 2009 season in ARCA that saw him come just five points short of Justin Lofton for the championship. Rides with both Penske Racing and Kyle Busch Motorsports followed, as did a ride with Brad Keselowski Racing in Trucks, followed by his first series win at Talladega with Red Horse Racing. 

But making the jump to Cup with a struggling Swan Racing in 2013 caused his career to stall, and the years since have seen him piece together part-time deals with mid-pack and lower-funded teams. Some of his most successful efforts included a XFINITY run for Precision Performance Motorsports at Road America in 2017, where he finished a team-best 10th. That same year saw the beginning of one of his most successful partnerships with Charlie Henderson, scoring another win at Talladega and just last year at Mid-Ohio. There was also his stint with the Gaunt Brothers in his return to Cup, including a 20th-place finish at Kansas during a large ad campaign for Fast Checkout. This was in addition to his developing broadcast career, reporting from pit road for NBC Sports.

Kligerman’s persistence paid off, landing him his current ride with Big Machine Racing – his first full-time ride in any of NASCAR’s top three series since 2013. After a year that saw Scott Borchetta’s team struggle with Jade Buford, then earn some solid runs with Nick Sanchez, Kligerman made his first run for the team last fall at Talladega and ran 6th. His most recent run at the same track last week saw him climb from last on the grid to finish 3rd – already his second Top Five and fourth Top Ten of the young season. He also finished the season’s first nine races on the lead lap and under power, placing him a solid 11th in points.

When rain washed out practice and qualifying at Dover, Kligerman secured the pole position based on the rule book. This marked only the second time he had started a XFINITY race in first place, dating back to his series debut at Kansas on October 3, 2009.

The potential for rain caused Spire Motorsports to delay debuting their new XFINITY Series entry for Carson Hocevar, so the #77 Premier Security Chevrolet was withdrawn on Thursday, leaving 39 cars on the entry list. Sent home without taking a lap in their newly-wrapped #74 Troopers United Foundation Chevrolet was Dawson Cram, continuing a streak of bad luck for CHK Racing.

Securing the 38th and final starting spot was Stefan Parsons, who for the first time since Richmond reunited with SS-Green Light Racing to drive the #07 Ollie’s Bargain Outlet Chevrolet. Parsons would be joined by Timmy Hill, who incurred a pre-race penalty for unapproved adjustments on his #66 Wild Willies Ford. By the start of the race, another two drivers had also dropped back, taking over the 37th and 38th positions a full 1.2 seconds back of Parsons and Hill. Taking 37th, 5.426 seconds back of the lead, was 23rd-place starter C.J. McLaughlin in the #53 Sci-Aps Ford, followed by Chad Chastain, who lined up 34th in the #91 Drive Sober Arrive Alive Delaware Chevrolet, 5.524 seconds back of the top spot.

Chad Chastain took over last at the end of Lap 1, the team telling him to “Keep it wound up, keep that momentum.” He remained last on Lap 7, when the caution fell for Jeremy Clements breaking loose on the apron of Turn 2 in his #51 Fly & Form Concrete Structures Chevrolet. By that point, both Chastain and 37th-place McLaughlin were over 4.5 seconds back of 36th-place Patrick Emerling in the #35 Chevrolet. On Lap 8, Anthony Alfredo took over the spot after pitting his #78 Botticelli Chevrolet. 

The next time by, McLaughlin took over the spot with the recovering Clements now 37th. McLaughlin remained last for the restart, at which point the crew told him to arc the car into the corners more. Regardless, McLaughlin was again losing touch with the pack. He was almost a second back of 37th place when Ryan Ellis nearly drew the caution on Lap 16. Ellis, like Clements, saved his car from a spin in his #43 Costa Oil Chevrolet. Though a competition caution was fast approaching, Ellis had to pit, losing a lap in the process and taking over last on Lap 18.

Ellis remained in last when the competition caution fell a moment early on Lap 21. The reason was Alfredo, who sensed something was dragging under his #78 before his right-front brake rotor shattered down the backstretch, scattering debris in all directions. The debris wasn’t noticed until Alfredo’s car was stopped against the wall in Turn 2 with a flat right-front tire. “I don’t know,” said Alfredo. “I had no brakes.” The crew soon pushed him to the garage, not knowing if they had a replacement brake rotor to install. They discussed borrowing equipment from Sam Hunt Racing, which fielded the #24 and #26 Toyotas. Alfredo discussed the issue further. “I bet you it was dragging or something,” he said. “That's why I was so bound up and slow. Then it blew.” By Lap 60, the team was having Alfredo pump the brakes, but the pedal pushed straight to the floor and wouldn’t come back up. The driver had to wedge his foot under it to pop it back off the floorboard. By then, he was 44 laps down with the other 37 cars still on track.

Meanwhile, Kligerman lost the lead on the first lap and struggled with an ill-handling car. After adjustments, he was still hanging onto the 18th spot on Lap 63 when he was caught off Turn 2 by Corey Heim. Heim, making his XFINITY debut in Sam Hunt’s #24 Toyota Genuine Parts Toyota, then made contact with the left-rear of Kligerman’s car, sending the #48 hard to the left and into the inside wall. With both ends of his car destroyed, Kligerman couldn’t make it back to pit road and climbed out, where he gestured at Heim as he passed. Under what was the fourth caution of the race, Kligerman’s car was towed to the garage, done for the day.

Back in the garage, the B.J. McLeod crew finished repairs on Alfredo’s brakes and sent him back on track, where on Lap 67 he finally completed his 19th lap, his first since his issue. Kligerman had just dropped to 37th, meaning Alfredo could pass him if he turned just 44 more laps. While Alfredo had issues with both the power steering and sensed something dragging under his car, he was back up to speed, and on Lap 78 was encouraged to pass another car on track. Finally, on Lap 111, Alfredo dropped Kligerman back to last place. Alfredo would pass just one more car – Jeffrey Earnhardt’s #44 BZ Mart / ForeverLawn Chevrolet, which lost an engine shortly after the halfway point – before the brake issue ended the #78’s day. Heim took 35th after engine issues of his on with McLaughlin completing the Bottom Five, eight laps down and under power.

The same race that saw Kligerman score his first pole since 2009 and first XFINITY last-place finish since 2010 also saw the race winner end a streak of his own. Eleven years after lapped traffic cost him his first career XFINITY win at Dover in 2012, Ryan Truex dominated, leading 124 of 200 laps for his first win in his 186th combined NASCAR Cup, XFINITY, and Truck Series starts. In that time, Truex completed the LASTCAR Triple Crown in October 2019, scoring last-place finishes in one Cup and XFINITY race, plus two in Trucks. His first win came at his home track, the same place where brother Martin Truex, Jr. scored his first Cup win in 2007.

*This is the first last-place finish for the #48 in a XFINITY Series race since March 19, 2022, when Jade Buford wrecked the Big Machine entry at Atlanta. It’s the number’s first XFINITY last-place finish at Dover.
*Kligerman is the first “Dash 4 Cash” competitor under the current format (2011 to present) to finish last in the same event.
*Kligerman is only the ninth recorded driver to be classified first and finish last in the same race. The last time that happened was October 17, 2020, when Noah Gragson was eliminated under the “Damaged Vehicle Policy” after 16 laps around Kanas.

38) #48-Parker Kligerman / 62 laps / crash
37) #44-Jeffrey Earnhardt / 119 laps / engine
36) #78-Anthony Alfredo / 123 laps / brakes
35) #24-Corey Heim / 170 laps / engine
34) #53-C.J. McLaughlin / 192 laps / running

1st) CHK Racing, SS-Green Light Racing (2)
2nd) Big Machine Racing, B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Emerling-Gase Motorsports, JD Motorsports, Motorsports Business Management, Sam Hunt Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (7)
2nd) Toyota (2)
3rd) Ford (1)


Thursday, April 27, 2023

PREVIEW: Poole's return to Cup among Dover storylines

PHOTO: @CarsonHocevar

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Saturday, April 29, 2023 (1:30 P.M. ET, FS1)
XFINITY Race 10 of 33
A-Game 200 at Dover
2022 Last-Place Finisher: Rajah Caruth

There are 40 drivers entered for 38 spots, meaning two will fail to qualify.

MISSING: #5-Big Machine Racing
Among the superspeedway teams not entered this week is the second Big Machine entry with which Jade Buford was involved in the Blaine Perkins accident, finishing 36th.

MISSING: #13-Motorsports Business Management
Jason White is not entered along with the second MBM car which failed to qualify at Talladega.

DRIVER CHANGE: #24-Sam Hunt Racing
Fresh off his first Truck Series win of the season at Martinsville for TRICON Garage, Corey Heim takes the place of Talladega last-place finisher Parker Chase. This will be Heim’s XFINITY Series debut after three wins in just 26 Truck Series starts.

MISSING: #34-Jesse Iwuji Motorsports
Jesse Iwuji and his team are not entered after they failed to qualify in Talladega.

DRIVER CHANGE: #35-Emerling-Gase Motorsports
Patrick Emerling makes his first start since Martinsville, where he ran 21st, taking the place of team co-owner Joey Gase, who finished a strong 9th at Talladega. That race marked just the fourth top-ten finish of Gase’s XFINITY career, his first since 2017. Emerling took 33rd in his only previous Dover start.

DRIVER SWAP: #43-Alpha Prime Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #45-Alpha Prime Racing
Last year in this race, Rajah Caruth showed impressive speed in the early laps before a mechanical issue left him in last place. This year, he’s back for another shot, taking the place of Ryan Ellis in the #45 with Circle Pay as sponsor. Ellis returns to his #43 with a new white variant of his Costa Oil paint scheme, looking to build on his 11th-place showing in Talladega. Ellis takes the place of Caesar Bacarella, who earned his first Top 10 with a 6th last Saturday.

DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Wild Willies begins a two-race stint as sponsor of MBM’s #66 entry this week, which will be piloted by Timmy Hill. This would be Hill’s 240th XFINITY start and only his second of 2023, following his 32nd-place run in Fontana. Hill takes the place of Dexter Stacey, who like Buford was also involved in the Perkins wreck at Talladega, striking an angled wall at great speed. Chad Finchum will drive this car next week in Darlington.

Dawson Cram is back to try and get the CHK entry into only its third race of the year, aiming to not finish last as in the previous two. Team co-owner Mike Harmon failed to make the show last week in Talladega. Cram most recently ran at Martinsville for SS-Green Light Racing, taking 36th after a mid-race crash.

NEW TEAM / WITHDREW: #77-Spire Motorsports
Spire had announced plans for its first XFINITY Series entry earlier this year, and signed Carson Hocevar to drive before his first Truck Series win in Texas. Hocevar aims to make what will be his second XFINITY start, following a last-place finish at COTA that resulted from his car stalling on track. Premier Security is the listed sponsor. UPDATE: Due to this weekend's forecast, the team withdrew on Thursday. The team's debut is now tentatively set for Darlington.

Chad Chastain seeks his second career XFINITY start and first since his 24th-place run in his debut in Atlanta. Then as now, he drives Mario Gosselin’s #91 entry, taking the place of 26th-place Talladega finisher Josh Bilicki. Delaware’s “Drive Sober Arrive Alive” safe driving program will sponsor the ride.

DRIVER CHANGE: #02-Our Motorsports
As Blaine Perkins returned home Monday after his hospitalization following his terrible flip down Talladega’s backstretch, Kyle Weatherman will again drive the #02, which carries sponsorship from Larry’s Lemonade. Weatherman seeks his 90th XFINITY start, his first since he gave FRS Racing their debut with a 34th-place run in Martinsville.

DRIVER CHANGE: #07-SS-Green Light Racing
After David Starr missed the field in Talladega, Stefan Parsons will make another start in Bobby Dotter’s #07, this time sponsored by Ollie’s Bargain Outlet, Blaine Perkins’ sponsor at Our Motorsports the previous two races. Parsons’ most recent start at Richmond was with this team, yielding a 32nd-place finish under power, three laps down.


Sunday, April 30, 2023 (1:00 P.M. ET, FS1)
CUP Race 11 of 36
Wurth 400 at Dover
2022 Last-Place Finisher: Austin Cindric

There are 36 drivers entered for 40 spots, marking the 10th short field in 11 races this season.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Rick Ware Racing
Brennan Poole hasn’t made a Cup Series start since the 2020 finale at Phoenix, when he closed out his rookie season at a time his Jay Robinson entry was acquired by Rick Ware Racing. Now, more than two years later, Ware brings Poole back to the #15 entry with Millennium Jet Card as sponsor. After making several starts in both Trucks and XFINITY, Poole will turn his first laps in the NextGen car. Poole takes the place of Riley Herbst, who finished 20th in Talladega.

MISSING: #36-Front Row Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #38-Front Row Motorsports
The Front Row team will not enter the #36, their part-time “open” entry driven last week by Todd Gilliland to a 10th-place finish. Gilliland returns to the #38, taking over for 37th-place Zane Smith. Speedy Cash is the listed sponsor.

MISSING: #62-Beard Motorsports
The Beard Motorsports team is likewise not entered this week following Austin Hill’s 24th-place showing in Talladega.

Saturday, May 6, 2023
TRUCKS Race 8 of 23
Heart of America 200 at Kansas
2022 Last-Place Finisher: Jesse Iwuji

The Craftsman Truck Series returns next week in Kansas.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (April 27, 2002): Christian Elder picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR Busch Series career when his #38 Great Clips Ford crashed in Turn 4 on the opening lap of the Auto Club 300 at the California Speedway. A spinal injury suffered in this race kept Elder out of the car for multiple races, to be followed by a more serious accident that summer in qualifying at Chicagoland.

ARCA: At Talladega, Monroe goes back-to-back in more ways than one

PHOTO: Jared Haas, @RealJaredHaas

by Ben Schneider Staff Writer

Tim Monroe finished last for the 5th time in his ARCA Menards Series career in Saturday’s General Tire 200 at Talladega Superspeedway when his No. 12 Fast Track Racing Toyota fell out with drive shaft issues after completing 5 of 76 laps.

The finish came in Monroe’s 21st career ARCA start.

Coming off of a last-place finish at Phoenix, Monroe’s Fast Track Racing entry was again expected to “start-and-park” at Talladega. As the first to pull into the garage, Monroe locked up back-to-back last-place finishes for the first time in his ARCA career. It was also Monroe’s second consecutive last-place finish at Talladega, as Monroe spun in the early laps of last year’s race and subsequently was the first to retire from on that day as well

In total, 35 cars appeared on the entry list. Due to the withdrawal of Kevin Campbell’s No. 82 MU Tigers Chevrolet, only 34 took part in the race. Of those, 33 participated in a Friday practice session, with every entry except A.J. Moyer’s No. 06 Wayne Peterson Racing team completing at least two laps. Alex Clubb’s No. 03 Yavapai Bottle Gas Ford brought up the rear with a time of 1:08.3, though the team reportedly struggled with engine issues during the session. Monroe, meanwhile, was just inside the Bottom Five of those that took time, placing 29th on the timing sheet with a time of 56.665 seconds.

Due to cost-saving measures, ARCA officials elected to set the field by 2022 owners’ points, handing pole position to Taylor Gray. Gray, however, suffered engine trouble of his own during the session, forcing him to start at the rear of the field.

Per Kickin’ The Tires’ Seth Eggert, Monroe pulled into the pits on Lap 8, heading to the garage shortly thereafter. Following Monroe up the running order was Clubb, who completed just two more laps before parking his own entry with electrical trouble. In separate but related incidents, Greg Van Alst and Amber Balcaen’s races both ended after 15 laps. Balcaen’s car began slowing on the backstretch due to a clutch issue, causing a stackup among the leaders. As Van Alst closed in with a massive run, he was turned into the wall by Scott Melton, ending any hopes the Daytona winner had at sweeping the season’s superspeedway races. Rounding out the Bottom Five was Kevin Hinkle, one of several drivers taken out in an accident on the restart following Van Alst’s crash. Commenting on the incident on Twitter, Clubb would later say, “I’m happy we threw in the towel when we did!”

Up front, the race was dominated by two drivers: Venturini Motorsports’ Jesse Love and Rev Racing’s Andres Perez de Lara, who had been ineligible to participate in the Daytona race due to ARCA’s age restrictions. Perez de Lara led 28 laps on his way to a fourth-place result, while Love led 35 laps including the final eight to take his first victory of the season. The result places Love second in the championship standings behind Frankie Muniz, who finished ninth in Saturday’s race.

34) #12-Tim Monroe / 5 laps / drive shaft
33) #03-Alex Clubb / 7 laps / electrical
32) #35-Greg Van Alst / 15 laps / crash
31) #15-Amber Balcaen / 15 laps / clutch
30) #0-Kevin Hinkle / 21 laps / crash

1st) Chevrolet, Ford, Toyota (1)

1st) Fast Track Racing (2)
2nd) Brother-in-Law Motorsports (1)


Sunday, April 23, 2023

CUP: RCR brackets Talladega field as Austin Dillon takes last place from struggling McDowell

PHOTO: @RCRracing

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Austin Dillon scored the 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s GEICO 500 at the Talladega Superspeedway when his #3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet was involved in a multi-car accident after 141 of 196 laps.

The finish, which occurred in Dillon’s 346th series start, was his first of the season and first in a Cup points race since June 2, 2019 at Pocono, 140 races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 18th for the #3, the 646th from a crash, and the 837th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 30th for the #3, the 1,328th from a crash, and the 1,885th for Chevrolet.

Since he was last featured on this site, Austin Dillon has continued to seek consistency, and on occasion picked up surprising wins in the iconic #3 for Richard Childress Racing. In 2020, he scored his third career win in a close contest with then-teammate Tyler Reddick at Texas. And just last year, he escaped a massive rain-inflicted pileup at Daytona, then endured a lengthy red flag, before defending the win – again over Reddick. 

This year, Dillon is now teamed with Kyle Busch, and the partnership has seemed to help the #3 team. In the Clash, the duo joined Martin Truex, Jr. on the podium with finishes of 2nd and 3rd. Busch then nearly won the Daytona 500 before breaking through the next week in Fontana, where Dillon ran double-duty. Dillon took 3rd on the Bristol Dirt Race and ran 12th last week at Martinsville, but a costly 60-point penalty relating to the underwing dropped him to just 29th in points, putting Justin Alexander in as crew chief.

In qualifying, Dillon narrowly missed Round 2 by securing the 14th starting spot with a lap of 179.001mph (53.497 seconds), three spots ahead of teammate Kyle Busch in the #8 McLaren Custom Grills Chevrolet.

Securing the 38th and final starting spot was J.J. Yeley, who after finishing last at Martinsville after his throttle stuck at 75% going into Turn 3 moved to the #51 Jacob Companies / Biohaven Ford. Yeley’s previous ride, the #15, went to the Monster Energy / Mechanix Wear Ford of Riley Herbst, who lined up 36th in his first start since his 10th-place showing in the Daytona 500. Joining Yeley in the rear were three drivers penalized for unapproved adjustments: 15th-place Austin Cindric, whose #2 Menards / Duracell Ford had issues in inspection, plus 19th-place A.J. Allmendinger in the #16 Farmsmart Chevrolet and 28th-place Todd Gilliland in the #36 gener8tor Skills Ford.

When the green flag dropped, Gilliland had taken over last place, 2.982 seconds back of the lead on the inside line behind Allmendinger, Cindric, and Yeley. By the end of Lap 1, the spot fell to Ryan Preece in the #41 Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford. A few spots ahead, Yeley heard his spotter tell him to go high for trouble in Turn 3. This was Michael McDowell, who after feeling his car bottom out cut down a right-rear tire and slapped the Turn 4 wall with both the right-rear and right-front of his #34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford. Under the ensuing caution, where McDowell took over last on Lap 3, Preece wondered if there was oil on the track, then was told of the flat tire.

McDowell’s crew set to work on the right-rear, and someone radioed that the wheel was at “four o’clock,” indicating “almost a full rotation to the right.” They sent him back out to stay on the lead lap, but the driver could only manage a slow speed and came back in. By Lap 5, the crew got the wheel to “three o’clock,” then sent him back out inside the final three minutes on his “Crash Clock.” According to FOX reporter Josh Sims, there was no issue with the car’s toe link. The crew also noted “a big gash” in the right-rear tire they removed on the first stop. This was relayed on Lap 7, one lap before McDowell cleared minimum speed. But despite keeping his foot flat on the throttle, McDowell still lost touch with the pack. He was the only car one lap down, and while he ran by himself, the driver relayed additional information. He said the car didn’t have a vibration, and the crew couldn’t see any damage to the bodywork.

On Lap 27, the leaders in two-by-two formation caught McDowell through Turns 1 and 2. The #34 pulled to the high lane, where his teammates Gilliland in the #38 and Zane Smith in the #38 Wellcare Ford pulled out of the high line to draft with him. While this kept McDowell’s car at the tail end of the pack, he now picked up a loose condition on corner entry, and remarked his car felt “darty.” 

McDowell sizing up Briscoe for the Lucky Dog.

For the next few laps, drivers found trouble on pit road instead of on track. On Lap 36, Tyler Reddick’s #45 Money Lion Toyota broke loose slowing for pit entrance and slapped the wall with the passenger side. He lost a lap, dropping to 37th, and promptly took the Lucky Dog spot from McDowell. While Reddick’s incident didn’t draw the caution, Chase Briscoe’s similar spin on Lap 43 soon did as the #14 Mahindra Tractors “YOG” Ford spun, then appeared to beach itself on a pair of flat tires. Losing multiple laps in the process, Briscoe took last from McDowell on Lap 44, but McDowell took it back on Lap 45, when Reddick earned the Lucky Dog.

On the Lap 48 restart, McDowell was still last and by Lap 53 had Briscoe in front of him on the inside line. Since both were two laps down, this became the battle for the Lucky Dog. The car appeared to draft much better this time, and on the charge to the end of Stage 1 on Lap 62, McDowell began to pass cars by running the middle lane. “Hell yeah, baby,” said his spotter on Lap 59. “Show ‘em who the damn man is.” Briscoe stayed ahead of McDowell at the end of the stage, giving him one of his two laps back. But McDowell took the wave-around under the ensuing yellow, which put both back on the same lap once more.

When Stage 2 began, the Lucky Dog battle continued. “Doing everything you can,” McDowell’s crew told him on Lap 73. “You’ll get him.” By this point, Gilliland was directly behind McDowell as drafting help, but Zane Smith was starting to lose touch of the pack. The team considered forming a new line in the middle to get past Briscoe, but on Lap 86, McDowell said, “There’s nowhere to go. It’s not worth the risk where we’re running.” On Lap 92, McDowell again lost touch with the pack, but moments later, Briscoe was also shaken out of line on the inside of a three-wide formation, putting him back into McDowell’s view. But another round of green-flag stops awaited, and McDowell came in on Lap 95. 

Stranded once more, McDowell was caught by the leaders through Turns 3 and 4 on Lap 99. This time, he held the low lane as he went down a second lap, then latched onto the tail end of the pack. The crew told him to run as fast as he could while the rest of the field made their stops, which lifted him back to one lap down. He caught Allmendinger’s #16 on Lap 104, but on Lap 108 said something felt like it was dragging on his car. The team had him check for engine diagnostic codes on his digital dash, but found nothing. The crew did point out the right-rear wheel was towed-out, which was likely accounting for the drag.

Zane Smith's car being towed after wreck.

Having lost the pack again, McDowell was then told to save fuel to reach the end of Stage 2 on Lap 120. On Lap 113, the leaders rushed by him down the backstretch to put him two laps down once more. By this point, about six cars had fallen back of the main pack, and McDowell tried to link up with them. Another car had fallen further back in B.J. McLeod, whose #78 B’laster Products Chevrolet was lapped by the leaders entering the tri-oval on Lap 117. McLeod thus took 37th from Briscoe, who would lose his Lucky Dog. Joey Logano had incurred a pit road speeding penalty in his #22 Shell Pennzoil Autotrader Ford, and controversially chose the middle lane as the leaders closed. This caused the field to swing apart, allowing Logano to be caught by teammate Ryan Blaney, who kept Logano ahead of Briscoe for the Lucky Dog. When Stage 2 soon ended, handing Logano his lap back, McDowell was coasting to the stripe, practically out of fuel.

Both driver and crew continued to try and diagnose the issue with the #34, starting by taking on fuel under the Stage 2 caution. They then planned to look under the hood, but instead spent more time working under the right-rear wheel well. On the Lap 127 restart, McDowell’s issues continued as he said, “Yeah, there’s something wrong – it will not go.” He also felt like the engine was going to let go as he remained underpowered despite keeping the throttle wide open. Now three laps down, McDowell was told to stay out and hope for attrition to bring him up the rankings. With 50 to go, he ran the high lane down the backstretch as the leaders rushed by, putting him a fourth circuit in arrears. Just five laps later, that attrition finally occurred.

With 45 laps to go, Harrison Burton was having a strong run in the #21 Motocraft / Quick Lane Ford, looking to sweep the weekend for the Burton family after cousin Jeb’s win in Saturday’s XFINITY Series race. Out front for 11 laps, Burton was leading the inside line going into Turn 3 when his car apparently broke loose running over the hump created by the tunnel built under the track. Contact from 3rd-place running Noah Gragson’s #42 Wendy’s Chevrolet sent Burton spinning and the tail end of the field scrambling. In the chaos, the unlapped Joey Logano bumped a slowing Zane Smith, whose car hooked right – directly into the path of Austin Dillon. The resulting collision destroyed the front of Smith’s car and sent Dillon to pit road with damage along with Austin Hill, whose #62 Realtree Chevrolet was also collected.

Austin Dillon's car pulls up to the hauler.

On Lap 144, Smith’s car was being towed to the garage while Dillon’s crew looked under the hood, not far from where McDowell’s crew now spent more time repairing their own car. By Lap 145, Dillon’s crew realized there was nothing more they could do. “Sorry about it, man,” they said. “Thanks, Austin.” Dillon drove his car to the garage before Smith’s car could be towed there, but through the entire incident, he was already classified behind Smith in the running order. Thus, on Lap 146, it was Dillon who took last from McDowell with Smith taking 37th, lifting McDowell to 36th. The #34 would ultimately pass one more car – Burton’s – after the #21 was destroyed in a later pileup. Completing the Bottom Five was Ryan Preece, whose #41 t-boned a spinning Kyle Larson in the final moments. The impact, which bent the rollcage of Larson’s car, threw Preece forward in his car so hard that it flung open his visor.

After yet another chaotic series of restarts and wrecks, Kyle Busch – Dillon’s teammate – had just enough fuel to take the victory. This not only bracketed the field by the two RCR entries, but gave the #8 team a victory one year after Tyler Reddick finished last in the same race with the same team.

Following the misfortunes suffered by both his Front Row Motorsports teammates, Todd Gilliland finished the race in 10th place, one spot ahead of last-place starter J.J. Yeley, whose 11th-place showing was his best Cup finish since he took 10th in the 2013 Daytona 500 for Tommy Baldwin Racing. Ty Dillon ran as high as 3rd, at one point leading the outside line, and came home 14th in the #77 Nations Guard Chevrolet for by far his best Cup finish of the season. And B.J. McLeod survived to take 18th – the first finish better than 24th for the Live Fast Motorsports team all season.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #3 in a Cup race at Talladega since July 26, 1992, when Dale Earnhardt scored the fourth of his five career last-place runs after his #3 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet lost the engine after 52 laps of the DieHard 500.
*The 141 laps Dillon completed is tied for the third-most by a Cup Series last-place finisher at Talladega. The same number was completed by Ryan Newman, who on April 21, 2002 lost the engine on his #12 Alltel Ford during the Aaron’s 499.

38) #3-Austin Dillon / 141 laps / crash
37) #38-Zane Smith / 141 laps / crash
36) #21-Harrison Burton / 183 laps / crash / led 11 laps
35) #34-Michael McDowell / 189 laps / running
34) #41-Ryan Preece / 189 laps / crash / led 2 laps

1st) Live Fast Motorsports, Penske Racing, Spire Motorsports (2)
2nd) Kaulig Racing, Legacy Motor Club, Richard Childress Racing, Rick Ware Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (7)
2nd) Ford (3)


Saturday, April 22, 2023

XFINITY: Parker Chase’s “Crash Clock” expires early in brutal Talladega race

PHOTO: Brad, @FSBradH

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Parker Chase scored the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Ag-Pro 300 at the Talladega Superspeedway when his #24 Ontivity Toyota was eliminated due to the Damaged Vehicle Policy (DVP) after 37 of 121 laps.

The finish occurred in Chase’s fourth series start. In the XFINITY Series rankings, it was the 3rd from the DVP, the 11th for the #24, and the 159th for Toyota. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 10th for the DVP, the 41st for the #24, and the 391st for Toyota.

Hailing from New Braunfels, Texas, the 22-year-old Chase made his way to NASCAR through a combination of late model and sports car racing. At Belle Isle in 2019, where he was teamed with Ryan Dalziel at Starworks Motorsport, Chase finished 16th overall and 6th in class driving an Audi R8 LMS GT3. A 10th-place ARCA debut came the next year on the Daytona Road Course, then a 4th on the Charlotte oval in 2021. A pair of Truck Series starts for Kyle Busch Motorsports, including an 8th-place qualifying run at COTA. That same track would see him finish 19th in his XFINITY debut for Sam Hunt Racing the following year.

This season, Chase continues his part-time effort for the Sam Hunt team, which now runs its #24 entry full-time alongside the primary #26, piloted by Kaz Grala. Chase made his first start on the Daytona oval this past February and came home on the lead lap in 16th. While Tyler Reddick and Connor Mosack had driven the #24 since then, only Reddick’s 13th-place performance at Las Vegas bested Chase’s Daytona run. Chase had also attempted to make his second XFINITY start at COTA, this time for Emerling-Gase Motorsports, but his car was damaged in a practice incident after he slid into a gravel trap. Talladega would be his next opportunity.

Chase was one of 42 drivers entered for 38 starting spots, meaning four would be sent home without a single lap of practice. He secured the 24th starting spot with a best lap of 179.322mph (53.401 seconds). One of the four sent home was Jason White, whose Buffalo Wild Wings sponsorship on the #13 Ford moved to Motorsports Business Management teammate Dexter Stacey’s #66. The others were three drivers attempting to return after absences of different lengths: Jesse Iwuji in his #34 Chevy Truck Season Chevrolet, David Starr in the #07 Boulevard Chevrolet for SS-Green Light Racing, and Mike Harmon piloting a “throwback” version of his #74 Save22 Chevrolet.

Securing the 38th and final starting spot was Parker Kligerman, whose #48 Big Machine Spiked Coolers Chevrolet lost a right-rear tire coming up to speed in qualifying. The team declined NASCAR’s offer to let him change the tire, cool the engine, and make another run. This turned the tire change into an unapproved adjustment, and he incurred a redundant tail-end penalty. Also docked before the start for unapproved adjustments were 16th-place Sam Mayer in the #1 First Bank of Alabama Chevrolet and 18th-place Cole Custer in the #00 Haas Automation Ford. In the final pace laps, NASCAR had difficulty communicating to Custer’s team to line up between Mayer and Kligerman as the last three cars on the outside line.

When the race started, the last car across the stripe was Jeremy Clements in the #51 One Stop / All South Electric Chevrolet. By the end of Lap 1, the spot fell to Josh Bilicki, 2.717 back of the lead in his #91 Insurance King Chevrolet. By Lap 3, Bilicki dropped to last Kyle Sieg in the #28 TA Services Ford, and by the 6th circuit Sieg was racing Gray Gaulding in the #08 Panini NFT Chevrolet, the pair just 0.071 apart at the stripe as they battled side-by-side. Just ahead of the duo, two of the three entries from Alpha Prime Racing were drafting each other as Caesar Bacarella’s #43 Clear Cryptos Chevrolet worked with Ryan Ellis in the #45 Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers Chevrolet. Bacarella had lined up 28th when he was shaken out of line shortly after the start, and gradually fell to the back. By Lap 12, Sieg had dropped Bacarella to last, and Bacarella’s spotter told him to follow in Sieg’s tire tracks. Over the next four laps, Sieg and Bacarella gradually lost touch with the now 36th-place Gaulding. The gap grew from 2.885 seconds on Lap 16 to 12.455 seconds at Lap 26, when the caution fell to end Stage 1.

Under the caution, Bacarella’s team told him to try and not lose the middle pack on the next run as trailing the pack with Sieg put them in danger of losing a lap. The team also elected to stay out while the leaders pitted, which caused last place to change several times under yellow. On Lap 28, the spot fell to Joey Gase in the #35 LOPA Ford and then to Jeffrey Earnhardt in the #44 SouthPoint Bank / Forever Lawn Chevrolet. Lap 29 saw the spot go to Chandler Smith, who pitted a second time due to radio issues with his #16 Quick Tie Products, Inc. Chevrolet. Gaulding took the spot on Lap 30 and remained in last even after pit road speeding penalties incurred by Austin Hill in the #21 Bennett / Realtree Chevrolet and Josh Williams in the #92 Alloy Employer / Coolray Chevrolet.

Back under green on Lap 32, Williams took over the last spot, but Kyle Sieg retook it the next time by with teammate Ryan Sieg ahead of him in the #39 Ford. Bacarella had slotted in behind Williams, but still slipped to last on Lap 34 as Williams slipped to 37th. Bacarella’s crew told him to stay in the high line even if the RSS Racing entries ahead of him changed lanes. This allowed Bacarella, reunited with teammate Ellis, to pull ahead of both Sieg brothers on Lap 36. The lap after, Clements retook the last spot for the first time since the green flag when he came down pit road for an unscheduled green-flag stop. Pinballed between both lanes, Clements had cut down a right-front tire. Now a lap down, Clements had just returned to the track when the caution came out.

Heading down the backstretch on Lap 38, Parker Chase was running mid-pack and had a run through the middle lane between Derek Kraus and Sammy Smith. Just before Chase could clear Kraus’ #10 Leaf Home Water Solutions Chevrolet, Kraus got into Chase’s left-rear corner, causing him to swerve left into the right-rear of Parker Retzlaff’s #31 Funkaway Chevrolet. Retzlaff then cut hard right, nearly catching air as he collided with Anthony Alfredo’s #78 RTIC Chevrolet. Chase, meanwhile, skated down the apron and scraped along the inside wall, where Retzlaff hit the barrier and Alfredo nearly followed suit. While Alfredo needed to be towed while both Chase and Retzlaff made it to pit road, Chase was still classified in last place on Lap 40 with Alfredo 37th and Retzlaff 36th. While Retzlaff rejoined the race one lap down, the Sam Hunt Racing crew ran down to the final 30 seconds of Chase’s “Crash Clock” before retiring from the race on Lap 43. Still on the same lap as Alfredo, this classified Chase in last and Alfredo 37th. The wreck was particularly frustrating for Alfredo, who had qualified 4th and taken the lead for much of Stage 1, pacing the field for five laps. 

The Bottom Five was completed in shocking fashion when a similar wreck unfolded on Lap 48 with a far different result. Dexter Stacey’s #66 clipped Blaine Perkins’ #02 Ollie’s Bargain Market Chevrolet coming off Turn 2, sending Perkins into the path of Jade Buford’s #5 Double Spiked Coolers Chevrolet. This time, Perkins’ car caught air and tumbled violently down the backstretch, shedding parts including the right-rear wheel, which was struck by a slowing Kaz Grala in the #26 Crush Strawberry Lemonade Toyota. Grala managed to continue on the lead lap while the other three drivers involved slowly climbed from their cars. Perkins was transported to a local hospital for further evaluation.

Jeb Burton scores first win for Jordan Anderson Racing ahead of surviving underdogs

At the track where team owner Jordan Anderson suffered serious burns in the early laps of last fall’s Truck Series race, Jeb Burton survived multiple wrecks and restarts to claim his second career XFINITY Series victory, the first for Jordan Anderson Racing. Jeb's Solid Rock Carriers Chevrolet carried the #27, a number Jeb's father Ward also ran in the XFINITY Series.

Finishing 3rd was last-place starter Parker Kligerman, who tied his career-best finish from June 22, 2013 at Road America, when he was driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports. It’s already Kligerman’s second top-five finish in the season’s first nine races.

Returning to the site of a stolen victory in 2016, Brennan Poole came home 5th for his first top-fie finish since October 7, 2017 at Charlotte, one of his last starts for Chip Ganassi Racing. Poole’s #6 Macc Door Chevrolet was joined by teammate Garrett Smithley, who had failed to qualify for half of the previous eight races and failed to finish better than 30th in the other half. Smithley’s #4 Trophy Tractor Chevrolet was running around 5th within sight of the finish line when he was caught up in the last wreck, dropping him to 16th.

After running last for much of Stage 1, Caesar Bacarella led the Alpha Prime Racing contingent with a 6th-place finish, but Ryan Ellis wasn’t far behind in 11th. For Bacarella, this is his first top-ten finish in his 28th series start. For Ellis, it was also his career-best finish in 76 series starts, improving on a pair of 13th-place runs at Las Vegas and Charlotte last year.

Gray Gaulding also contended for last place early on and even had to have Sam Mayer’s detached front splitter removed from the nose of his car after a late-race accident. He still finished the race in 8th, his best run since his runner-up finish at Daytona in the summer of 2020, and came at the site of his other runner-up finish to Tyler Reddick in 2019.

Joey Gase took home 9th, his first top-ten finish since the previous three he scored for Jimmy Means Racing on the superspeedways, most recently a 10th in the July Daytona race in 2017. It is also the first top-ten finish for Emerling-Gase Motorsports, which came together last season. C.J. McLaughlin, driving the second Emerling-Gase entry, took home 13th despite last-lap damage to his #53 Sci Aps Ford. This is tied for McLaughlin’s second-best finish, trailing only a 10th last fall in Texas.

Finally, Kyle Sieg had climbed his way as high as 3rd in the final stages, only to be shaken out of the draft in the final laps and finish in 15th. Like McLaughlin, this is also tied for Sieg’s second-best XFINITY finish, and trails only his 10th-place showing last summer in Daytona.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #24 in a XFINITY Series race at Talladega.
*It was the second-straight last-place run at Talladega for Sam Hunt Racing. Last year, Chandler Smith’s series debut ended with a crash in the SHR #26.
*Chase is the first driver to finish last in a XFINITY race at Talladega due to the DVP.
*Chase is the fourth consecutive first-time last-place finisher of a XFINITY Series race.

38) #24-Parker Chase / 37 laps / dvp
37) #78-Anthony Alfredo / 37 laps / crash / led 5 laps
36) #5-Jade Buford / 47 laps / crash
35) #66-Dexter Stacey / 47 laps / crash
34) #02-Blaine Perkins / 47 laps / crash

1st) CHK Racing, SS-Green Light Racing (2)
2nd) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Emerling-Gase Motorsports, JD Motorsports, Motorsports Business Management, Sam Hunt Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (6)
2nd) Toyota (2)
3rd) Ford (1)


Thursday, April 20, 2023

PREVIEW: Big and small teams alike look to capitalize on Talladega opportunity

IMAGE: @TeamAlphaPrime

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Saturday, April 22, 2023 (4:00 P.M. ET, FS1)
XFINITY Race 9 of 33
Ag-Pro 300 at Talladega
2022 Last-Place Finisher: Chandler Smith

There are 42 drivers entered for 38 spots, meaning four will fail to qualify.

RETURNING: #5-Big Machine Racing
The second Big Machine Racing entry rejoins the field for another superspeedway race. Jade Buford will again drive the car with which he earned a 25th-place finish after qualifying 12th in Daytona.

RETURNING: #13-Motorsports Business Management
Carl Long’s MBM team has put a tremendous amount into this weekend’s race, where they will also field two entries for the first time since Daytona. Piloting the #13 is Truck Series veteran Jason White, who carries a yellow-and-white scheme for sponsor Buffalo Wild Wings. Suspension issues left White next-to-last in this race last year.

DRIVER CHANGE: #24-Sam Hunt Racing
Parker Chase and his Ontivity sponsorship return for the first time since COTA, where the pair failed to qualify in a car fielded by Emerling-Gase Motorsports. Reunited with the Sam Hunt team for the first time since Chase’s 16th-place finish at Daytona, Chase takes the place of Connor Mosack, who finished 33rd after mechanical issues in Martinsville.

RETURNING: #34-Jesse Iwuji Motorsports
Talladega will also see Jesse Iwuji Motorsports attempt to return to the track, following up on their 30th-place finish in Daytona due to electrical issues. Iwuji himself is slated to drive in what will be the team’s first attempt since.

DRIVER CHANGE: #35-Emerling-Gase Motorsports
Joey Gase swaps in for team co-owner Patrick Emerling, who finished 21st in Martinsville. This will be Gase’s 11th XFINITY start at Talladega, where he earned his career-best 5th-place finish driving for Jimmy Means Racing in 2015. As Means is reportedly selling his team’s hauler, Gase comes into this race with three straight lead-lap finishes at Talladega and a 16th in this race last spring.

DRIVER SWAP: #43-Alpha Prime Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #45-Alpha Prime Racing
Caesar Bacarella looks for a solid performance after illness kept him out of the driver’s seat in Daytona, and a freak mechanical issue led to a first-lap crash and a last-place finish in Atlanta. This time around - as revealed Wednesday - he runs Alpha Prime's #43 with Clear Cryptos as sponsor. This moves Ryan Ellis to the #45, replacing 25th-place Martinsville finisher Leland Honeyman. Ellis carries sponsorship from Cane's Chicken Fingers, the result of a Twitter post Ellis made to the company in March.

DRIVER CHANGE: #53-Emerling-Gase Motorsports
C.J. McLaughlin returns to the XFINITY Series for the first time since he was originally scheduled to run the season’s third race in Las Vegas and will again carry the Sci Aps colors on the Emerling-Gase #53. He will do so in place of Matt Mills, who in Martinsville earned a respectable 22nd-place finish, following teammate Joey Gase across the finish line on the lead lap.

DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
The other challenger from MBM is Dexter Stacey, who failed to qualify for Daytona in what was to be his return to NASCAR’s XFINITY Series after a seven-year absence. He will get another shot this weekend, and his sponsor ReCap Recovery Drink will again back the effort. Stacey takes over for Chad Finchum, who himself DNQ’d last week in an unsponsored Ford at Martinsville.

After a strong practice run and securing only the team’s second start of 2023, it was a short night for Kaden Honeycutt in Martinsville, where a plume of white smoke signaled a last-place finish. This week, team co-owner Mike Harmon takes the wheel at his home track, seeking his 291st series start and first at Talladega since last fall, when he took 34th.

Josh Bilicki and his longtime sponsor Insurance King rejoin the Mario Gosselin effort in the #91 Chevrolet. Bilicki takes the place of 26th-place Martinsville finisher Alex Labbe, who briefly ran near the front at Martinsville on old tires. Bilicki’s best of three previous XFINITY starts at Talladega was his most recent in 2020, when he took 18th for B.J. McLeod.

MISSING: #96-FRS Racing
TEAM UPDATE: #02-Our Motorsports
Not among the entries is upstart team FRS Racing, whose debut at Martinsville with Kyle Weatherman yielded a 34th-place finish due to late-race suspension issues. The team has since given away the damaged nose of the #96 in a Twitter contest and prepares for their next start. Weatherman is not entered this weekend, and Blaine Perkins remains in Our Motorsports’ #02 following his 13th-place showing in Martinsville.

DRIVER CHANGE: #07-SS-Green Light Racing
Welcome back David Starr, who seeks his third XFINITY start of the season and first since he ran the opening two rounds with Our Motorsports in the #02. This time around, he drives the struggling #07 entry for SS-Green Light Racing and brings sponsorship from Boulevard. A crash left the team 36th in Martinsville with driver Dawson Cram.


Sunday, April 23, 2023 (3:00 P.M. ET, FOX)
CUP Race 10 of 36
GEICO 500 at Talladega
2022 Last-Place Finisher: Tyler Reddick

There are 38 drivers entered for 40 spots, marking the ninth consecutive short field following the Daytona 500.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Rick Ware Racing
RETURNING / DRIVER SWAP: #36-Front Row Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #38-Front Row Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #51-Rick Ware Racing
Talladega will see Riley Herbst make his second career Cup Series start, following his 10th-place finish in the Daytona 500 after the dust settled from the last-lap wreck. Herbst takes the place of Martinsville last-place finisher J.J. Yeley, who this week pilots the #51 for RWR. Yeley takes the place of Zane Smith, who was already set to run for Front Row Motorsports this week as part of his part-time schedule. Smith will run the #38 in place of Todd Gilliland, who slides over to the returning #36 entry Smith ran in Daytona.

RETURNING: #62-Beard Motorsports
The only other “open” team joining FRM’s #36 entry this week is Beard Motorsports’ #62, which carries returning sponsorship from Realtree Outdoors. XFINITY superspeedway star Austin Hill will again drive, and is assured his starting spot after a disappointing DNQ in this year’s Daytona 500.

DRIVER CHANGE: #78-Live Fast Motorsports
After Anthony Alfredo drove the #78 the last two weeks, team co-owner B.J. McLeod will again climb behind the wheel of his Chevrolet, hoping to find the speed the team had in Daytona before mechanical issues put them behind the wall during the 500.

Saturday, May 6, 2023
TRUCKS Race 8 of 23
Heart of America 200 at Kansas
2022 Last-Place Finisher: Jesse Iwuji

The Craftsman Truck Series takes the next two weeks off and will rejoin the action in Kansas.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (April 20, 1961): Jimmy Pardue scored the 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in the 200-lap race at the Columbia (South Carolina) Speedway when his #54 1969 Chevrolet suffers a push rod issue after 5 circuits around the half-mile dirt track. Pardue rolled off 20th in the 22-car lineup. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

INDYCAR: Canapino’s re-entry drops Dixon to last at Long Beach


by William Soquet Staff Writer

Scott Dixon finished last for the 7th time in his NTT IndyCar Series career in Sunday's Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach when his #9 PNC Bank Honda retired with crash damage after completing 37 of the race’s 85 laps.

The finish came in Dixon’s 332nd career start and was his first since the first Detroit race in 2019, 62 races ago. In IndyCar Series history, it was the 201st due to a crash, the 214th for Honda and the ninth for the #9.

After coming to the IndyCar Series in 2003 after two years in CART, Dixon and Chip Ganassi Racing have been the class of the series. The New Zealand driver has won 15% of the races he has started and claimed the championship during his first year in IndyCar. He backed it up with another title in 2008, followed by more in 2013, 2015, 2018 and 2020. After longtime sponsor Target left IndyCar at the end of 2016, Dixon stayed in the #9 machine and picked up backing from current series sponsor NTT Data in 2017 before running PNC Bank colors in 2018, a partnership that continues to this day. 

Dixon comes off a 2022 season that saw him finish third in the championship. Wins at Nashville and Toronto were overshadowed by a performance at Indianapolis where Dixon sat on the pole and led 95 of the race’s 200 laps only to be hit with a pit road speeding penalty on the final round of stops, relegating him to 21st.

Dixon kicked off the 2023 season by surviving a chaotic St. Petersburg race to finish on the bottom step of the podium. He followed that up with a quiet but consistent run at Texas, running in the top five all day and finishing fifth. Pato O’Ward briefly lapped Dixon, but a late caution allowed a handful of cars to finish on the lead lap when the race ended.

At Long Beach, Dixon picked up right where he left off, placing second to O’Ward in first practice. While Dixon fell to seventh in second practice, he remained within a quarter-second of the lead, setting the stage for a tight qualifying battle. After Rahal Letterman Lanigan racing struggled last weekend, it was A.J. Foyt Racing’s turn this week, with Benjamin Pedersen and Santino Ferrucci sitting at the bottom of the charts after first practice. Pedersen again was slowest of all cars that made an at-pace lap in second practice, while Ferrucci moved up to a meager 23rd.

In qualifying, Dixon was second in his group for the first round, outpacing O’Ward but falling to CGR teammate Alex Palou. In the second round, Ganassi put three of its cars through to the Fast Six, but they were in positions four, five and six. Dixon's was the last of the three to make it through, edging Colton Herta by a mere .07 seconds to advance to the final round. While he remained the slowest of the three CGR cars in the final round of qualifying, Dixon moved past O’Ward and secured the fifth starting spot for the race.

While he was 20th in first practice, Conor Daly slipped to 25th in second practice and was slowest in Group 2 for qualifying. Since Group 2 had 14 cars versus 13 in Group 1, Daly started last. This came despite the fact that David Malukas did not set a time in Group 1.

At the start of the race, Dixon was shuffled back to seventh place from his fifth-place starting spot. This was the result of several trailing cars accelerating right out of the final hairpin to catch up to the front of the grid, giving them an advantage at the green flag. Dixon was noticeably upset on the radio, but any negative momentum was almost immediately negated.

Helio Castroneves, who started in the 16th spot, ran over a curb on the inside of the first turn and spun his car, nosing it into the outside wall of Turn 2. He stalled the car with the nosecone and front wing folded up on the main body of the car. After the safety team got the #06 refired without losing a lap, the team immediately pitted at the mandate of IndyCar to replace the damaged front wing. While a replacement did the trick, the team lost a lap, leaving them the only car not on the lead lap for the foreseeable future.

Callum Ilott entered the last-place picture on Lap 6. After a disappointing qualifying effort left the young Briton 22nd on the grid, he pitted during the opening caution and was running 25th on Lap 5, when he brushed the wall early in the lap and then shredded the right-front tire as a result. He was able to limp his #77 back to pit road without incident. The resulting pit stop put Ilott a lap down, but he remained ahead of Castroneves until the next caution.

Dixon drew next caution after a controversial move. O’Ward caught him on Lap 19 and began to battle for the sixth spot. Heading into a hard right-hand turn, O’Ward made an inside dive to overtake. Dixon turned down into the corner and knocked front wheels with O’Ward. The resulting contact sent the #9 into the tire barriers, although no other cars were involved.

Dixon refired and got away from the scene without losing a lap and slotted in 24th after pit stops. On the ensuing restart, the field saw a new leader – Augustin Canapino. The rookie pilot for Juncos Hollinger Racing stayed out to go off-sequence and became the first Argentine driver to lead a lap in IndyCar competition. However, mere corners into defending his lead, Ilott came out of the pits directly in front of his teammate. Instead of seeing clean track ahead, Canapino now had a car ahead, dirty air, and old tires.

While Canapino maintained the lead for one green-flag lap, he was down to fifth at the conclusion of the following lap after making contact with Castroneves. Castroneves lined up immediately behind Canapino on the restart, as he did not pit and remained one lap down. Castroneves was attempting to overtake Canapino when the two made contact, sending the #78 into the wall and breaking its front suspension. Canapino made it to the pits the lap after and was interviewed by the broadcast a handful of laps after that. Everything seemed to imply that the race was over for him, except that the broadcast ticker continually noted him as “in pit.”

Dixon came out charging after the restart, picking up three positions in the first three laps. He settled into 21st position and was working on Simon Pagenaud on Lap 38 when he quietly hit pit lane. Soon thereafter, the broadcast listed Dixon as “out,” and in a later interview, Dixon noted that he had lost forward drive. Ganassi’s Twitter account said that the #9 was out because of damage sustained in the run-in with O’Ward.

The last-place battle seemed to be set until about Lap 55, when Canapino returned to the racetrack. Within a dozen laps, he overtook Dixon, the final time last place traded hands. Canapino also overtook Rinus VeeKay, who fell victim to a mechanical issue and only completed 48 laps. Rounding out the Bottom Five were Pedersen and Daly, the latter with a lackluster finish to his 100th career IndyCar start.

*Dixon now owns seven of the nine last-place finishes for the #9. The other two are from Davey Hamilton (1999) and Jeff Ward (2002).
*2023 has seen last-place finishers from Denmark, Japan and New Zealand. It is the first time since 2018 that an American hasn’t finished last in the first three races, when Matheus Leist, Pietro Fittipaldi and Simon Pagenaud were the first three out.

27) #9-Scott Dixon / 37 laps / crash damage
26) #21-Rinus VeeKay / 48 laps / mechanical
25) #78-Augustin Canapino / 52 laps / running
24) #55-Benjamin Pedersen / 82 laps / running
23) #20-Conor Daly / 83 laps / running

1st) Chip Ganassi Racing (2)
2nd) A.J. Foyt Racing (2)

1st) Honda (2)
2nd) Chevrolet (1)


Sunday, April 16, 2023

CUP: J.J. Yeley’s long, hot afternoon in Martinsville ends with hard hit to Turn 3 wall


by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

J.J. Yeley scored the 21st last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s NOCO 400 at the Martinsville Speedway when his #15 Isaacson Concrete & Excavating Ford was involved in a single-car crash after 337 of 400 laps.

The finish, which came in Yeley’s 358th series start, was his first of the season and first in a Cup race since September 26, 2021 at Las Vegas, 51 races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 30th for the #15, the 645th from a crash, and the 729th for Ford. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 47th for the #15, the 1,009th for Ford, and the 1,327th from a crash.

Saturday’s portion of action at the Bristol Dirt Race saw two feel-good stories by underdogs:  Norm Benning qualifying for the Truck Series race on the last lap of the final heat, and J.J. Yeley’s charge in the Cup heats. In the third of four heat races, Yeley sped to a 3rd-place finish, which secured him 3rd on the starting grid for the 150-lap main event. This was not only the best-ever Cup start for a Rick Ware Racing (RWR) entry, but the best Yeley had earned since November 11, 2007 at Phoenix, when he drove for Joe Gibbs. He went on to finish on the lead lap in 20th, easily his best showing of the entire year.

Since he was last the feature of a Cup Series LASTCAR article in 2021, Yeley has made all but one of his Cup starts with the Ware team. He first filled the gaps in the schedule for Stewart-Haas Racing’s reserve driver Ryan Preece – now the full-time driver of SHR’s #41 – and now between a mix of road course specialists and other one-off efforts for Todd Gilliland and Riley Herbst. He’d also continue to welcome new sponsors to the sport, including Illinois-based Isaacson Concrete and Excavating, which backed his Martinsville run. This race would also come during a difficult time for the RWR team, following the arrests of driver Cody Ware regarding an alleged. With Ware's indefinite suspension from NASCAR, Zane Smith would pilot the #51 Biohaven Ford at Martinsville.

While Yeley’s strong run at the Bristol Dirt Track encouraged many to recognize his accomplishments as 2003’s USAC Triple Crown Champion, the FS1 graphics department nevertheless bungled Yeley’s graphic for practice at Martinsville. This resulted in Yeley being listed as “2009 F1 World Champion,” the caption left over from Jenson Button’s run in the #15 at COTA. Yeley turned 26 laps, but was slowest in the session. He remained slowest overall at the end of Qualifying Round 1B, taking the 36th and final spot on the grid with a lap of 91.598mph (20.673 seconds).

Sunday would see Yeley joined in the back by Joey Logano, whose #22 Verizon 5G Ford was found to have a leaking water tank on race morning. Logano surrendered the 15th starting spot, and at the end of Lap 1, remained in the last spot 5.129 seconds back of the leader and 0.122 bak of Ty Dillon in the #77 Nations Guard Chevrolet. Logano finally made it to 34th on Lap 3, putting Dillon back to last, and Yeley now battled Logano for the 35th position. Logano made it past by Lap 5, giving Dillon a look alongside Yeley, and the two were 0.031 second apart at the stripe. 

By Lap 7, Dillon had passed both Yeley and Anthony Alfredo in Live Fast Motorsports’ #78 Andy’s Frozen Custard Chevrolet. That time by, Yeley was in last, but still alongside 35th-place Alfredo by 0.064 second. Yeley dropped Alfredo to last on Lap 9, shortly before Austin Cindric lost positions after contact from Erik Jones sent Cindric’s #2 Menards / Libman Ford slipping back on the outside line. “Doing just fine,” Alfredo’s crew told him on Lap 18. “Nobody can pass, man."

Yeley's car being towed off the track after the crash.

On Lap 28, the leaders put Alfredo the first car one lap down. Alfredo’s spotter suggested following the leader after he was lapped, which would allow him to clear slower traffic ahead. This kept Alfredo in touch with then-leader Ryan Preece while 2nd-place Daniel Suarez closed in from behind. The long green-flag run continued, during which time Alfredo’s handling worsened. “We’ll get you some help here on the first stop,” they told him on Lap 36. This wouldn’t come until Lap 80, when the caution fell to conclude Stage 1. “Truly, it looked good compared to the other guys,” said Alfredo’s team. 

During caution-flag pit stops, Yeley took last from Alfredo on Lap 87, but Alfredo took it back just before the Lap 92 restart. Again, Alfredo passed Yeley on Lap 96, and Yeley lost a second lap to the leaders on Lap 127. The first close call of the day followed on Lap 133 as Erik Jones spun Harrison Burton’s #21 Motorcraft / Quick Lane Ford coming off Turn 2. Yeley pulled high and made it between Burton and the outside wall. 

Yeley’s #15 remained in the 36th spot for the remainder of Stage 2, which wore down both his right-rear tire, and the driver himself. Struggling with heat, Yeley said he had to regulate his breathing and had trouble retrieving the hose to his air conditioning. The crew discussed reaching through the window on the stop, but hesitated to drop the window net, and instead gave him a bag of ice. Yeley restarted the race on Lap 193 still in last place, two laps down, and was warned by his crew to “not make the tires mad” in what would likely be another long green-flag run. The race did grind onwards, during which time Yeley lost his third lap on the 222nd circuit. On Lap 235, Yeley reported a lack of forward bite. Around Lap 261, the team said “Stay tough here, less than 140 to go,” and said he had good acceleration off Turn 2.

The next last-place challenger was Zane Smith, Yeley’s teammate in the #51 Biohaven Ford. On Lap 267, Smith was in the midst of a long green-flag stop which perhaps stemmed from a loose left-front tie rod that occurred in the first 100 laps. The team also said they were having radio issues, and estimated the problem occurred after his microphone got wet. On Lap 273, having returned to the track in 35th on the same lap as Yeley, Smith radioed his team twice that he was “plowing tight.” 

Next came Alfredo’s return to last place on Lap 302, when the caution fell for a right-rear wheel that came loose from his Chevrolet, drawing a delayed caution from NASCAR. Alfredo returned to the track six laps down on Lap 305, then was instructed to serve his two-lap penalty soon after. Alfredo requested both water and a sports drink, but couldn’t receive either during his penalty as the crew wasn’t allowed to service the driver or car. He instead made another stop, and like Yeley explained his issues with heat. While his team helped him adjust his air conditioning so it no longer blew warm air, this did nothing to help his feet, which Alfredo said were “boiling” against the floorboard. With 88 to go, Alfredo took the green in last place, eight laps down. He’d lose a ninth with 62 to go.

Finally, with 56 laps to go, Yeley’s car veered straight at the entrance of Turn 3, leaving two tell-tale streaks of tire rubber into the outside wall. After a hard hit, Yeley climbed from the car under his own power. While the booth estimated it was either a cut tire or a brake issue, FS1 analyst Bobby Labonte remarked that it appeared to be a stuck throttle, a fact confirmed by Yeley over the radio. The caution took a full 11 laps to complete before Yeley’s car was towed back to the garage area, done for the day.

No one else fell out of the race, so Alfredo, Smith, Cindric, and Dillon completed the Bottom Five.

*Yeley’s 337 laps are the most completed by a last-place finisher of a 400-lap race Martinsville, and the ninth-most among Cup last-place finishers at the track. In fact, across all tracks it’s the 17th-most laps competed by the last-place finisher of a Cup Series points-paying race.

36) #15-J.J. Yeley / 337 laps / crash
35) #78-Anthony Alfredo / 390 laps / running
34) #51-Zane Smith / 395 laps / running
33) #2-Austin Cindric / 397 laps / running
32)  #77-Ty Dillon / 397 laps / running

1st) Live Fast Motorsports, Penske Racing, Spire Motorsports (2)
2nd) Kaulig Racing, Legacy Motor Club, Rick Ware Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (6)
2nd) Ford (3)


Saturday, April 15, 2023

XFINITY: Kaden Honeycutt shows speed in practice, but blown engine cuts short his series debut

PHOTO: Isaac McKissick, @isaacthegoat48

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Kaden Honeycutt scored the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Before You Dig 250 at the Martinsville Speedway when his #74 Service Master Restore Chevrolet lost the engine after 83 of 250 laps.

The finish came in Honeycutt’s series debut. In the XFINITY Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 17th for the #74, the 277th from engine issues, and the 615th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 57th for the #74, the 1,133rd from an engine, and the 1,884th for Chevrolet.

Last week at the Bristol Dirt Track, Honeycutt was one of the biggest stories of the Truck Series race. In the fourth and final heat race, the 20-year-old CARS late model racer from Willow Park, Texas charged from 10th and last on the grid to 3rd at the end of 15 laps, securing him 3rd on the grid. He then finished 9th in the main event, tying his career-best run from last fall’s championship race at Phoenix, where he drove for On Point Motorsports.

Martinsville, site of Saturday’s race, was also where Honeycutt made his Truck Series debut last year. After G2G Racing parted ways with Matt Jaskol, costing much-needed sponsorship from, Honeycutt was brought on to run an unsponsored black #46 for the race. While rain washed out qualifying, Honeycutt completed more than half the distance before a tangle with Austin Wayne Self ended his night in 34th. The deal with On Point followed, leading to his current Truck Series effort with Roper Racing, which is still piecing together their 2023 schedule.

This trip to Martinsville would see Honeycutt attempt his first-ever start in the XFINITY Series, pulling double-duty with Trucks, where he finished 28th. His XFINITY ride would be with CHK Racing – formerly Mike Harmon Racing – which with Brennan Poole in the 2022 running of the Martinsville race made it only a few feet past the starting line before a catastrophic engine issue ended their night. In the season’s first seven races, the CHK team had only once qualified for a race – Phoenix – where they again finished last, this time due to fuel pump issues with Dawson Cram driving.

Brennan Poole pits for brake fluid.
PHOTO: Cameron Tracey, @conrail_1

At Martinsville, Honeycutt made a statement in Friday’s practice session, putting up the fastest lap for a time before still securing the 12th-best time of the 40 entrants. This was critical as he knew two teams would be sent home after qualifying, and the CHK Racing effort was ranked next-to-last based on points, just ahead of FRS Racing, which had yet to make a start, and was again entered with Kyle Weatherman. Both Honeycutt and Weatherman made the race. While Weatherman secured 27th in FRS’ former Brandonbilt Motorsports equipment, Honeycutt put up a lap of 91.536mph (20.687 seconds), which was just enough to secure the 33rd spot on the grid – the last spot on speed. 

This sent home Garrett Smithley in the #4 Morooka USA / Black Draft Chevrolet and Chad Finchum in Motorsports Business Management’s unsponsored #66 Ford. Due to Martinsville’s small garage area, both Smithley and Finchum’s cars had to remain in the garage an extra night. Honeycutt’s team made changes before the race, which meant he’d incur a tail-end penalty for unapproved adjustments. Among the dignitaries on hand was Morgan Shepherd, who would watch the race from CHK’s pit stall.

One of the other four drivers set to the rear was Richmond last-place finisher Anthony Alfredo, whose #78 Dude Wipes Chevrolet had issues in inspection and turned just one lap in practice, ranking him 38th of the originally entered 40. The other drivers sent to the rear were 3rd-place Sheldon Creed in the #2 Whelen Chevrolet, 22nd-place Jeremy Clements in the #51 First Pacific Funding Chevrolet, and Alex Labbe in the #91 Parking Guidance Systems Chevrolet. Instructed to line up behind Labbe on the outside of the final row, Alfredo was told by his crew to watch for drivers fighting for the bottom, and to turn on his fans after four to five laps. “Only one way to go,” they told him.

At the end of Lap 1, Alfredo was 5.696 seconds back of the leader with Honeycutt now in front of him, just 0.176 second ahead. By Lap 6, Honeycutt was alongside Labbe, and the pair were just 0.054 apart at the stripe. As Labbe inched ahead to defend the 36th spot, Alfredo reported his car was tight center-off, unable to turn off the corner. Despite this, he still managed to remain just a couple tenths back of Honeycutt. Alfredo had dropped just a half-second back of Honeycutt on Lap 24 when the leaders caught them both, putting Alfredo the first car one lap down.

Honeycutt stopped in Turn 2.
PHOTO: Cameron Tracey, @conrail_1
The first caution fell on Lap 37 for Brett Moffitt spinning from 14th in his #25 AM Technical Solutions Ford. Moffitt would recover nicely to finish 9th – the third top-ten finish of the year for his team. Under his yellow, Alfredo and crew continued to discuss adjustments, including both his tight condition and that he was loose on entry. Honeycutt reported he was “wrecking tight,” saying his brake pedal felt low and some chatter from the right-front tire. 

On Lap 40, Brennan Poole suddenly took over last place due to an extended stop by his #6 SEM Chevrolet. He had brake issues, saying he only put in a round of rear brake early and didn’t make any adjustments after. The team looked over the bleeders and the fluid level, and decided they needed more brake fluid. Unable to top off the fluid immediately, they sent him back out telling him to be careful. Poole managed to get some of his brake pedal back, but by now was already three laps down. He let the field pull away as the race restarted on Lap 44.

On Lap 60, Poole made it to the end of Stage 1 without incident, and Alfredo had climbed to 31st in time to earn his lap back with the “Lucky Dog.” Under yellow, Poole said, “I definitely need some brake fluid, but I do have some pedal.” Poole made two consecutive stops, receiving the fluid on the second one, and in between the crew discovered they had dropped a lug nut. After looking under the hood and sending him back out, he’d lost another two laps and was now five circuits behind the leaders. “Pedal feels normal now,” said Poole on Lap 69, “That was definitely it.” He’d soon say his car felt neutral and a little tight in the center as the caution flew on Lap 88.

Honeycutt's car getting towed to the garage.
PHOTO: Cameron Tracey, @conrail_1

That time by, Honeycutt was still in 37th, two laps down and three ahead of Poole. Heading into Turn 1, smoke erupted from behind hie right-front wheel, and Honeycutt pulled into the high lane of Turns 1 and 2, stopping next to the outside wall. “Thank you guys,” said the driver. “We'll get them next time.” Honeycutt climbed out without incident, but his day was done. He took last from Poole on Lap 91 as the tow truck brought him down the empty backstretch pit road into the garage. An extended caution ensued to clean up the fluid leading into Turn 1. NASCAR confirmed he was out with engine issues on Lap 114. 

Poole managed to climb to 29th by the checkered flag, the beneficiary of some late-race carnage that eliminated several contenders. Taking the 37th spot was Joe Graf, Jr., whose #38 Lefcourt Brothers Ford hooked fenders with Ryan Ellis’ #43 Costa Oil Chevrolet, sending Graf nose-first into the Turn 1 wall. Ellis continued onward to finish 28th, the first car one lap down, well ahead of both Dawson Cram and Kyle Sieg, who were collected in a stack-up down the backstretch on Lap 145. Cram’s #07 Be Water Chevrolet went behind the wall two laps before Sieg’s #28 Night Owl Ford. Rounding out the group was Kyle Weatherman’s #96 Fanttik / BrewHaHa Chevrolet, which had suspension issues.

Just outside the Top 10 came Parker Retzlaff, who was one of the big stories in qualifying when he earned 4th on the grid in Jordan Anderson’s #31 Funkaway Chevrolet, three spots ahead of teammate Jeb Burton’s #27 J.E. Burton Construction Chevrolet in 14th. In between came Blaine Perkins, who after a disastrous start to 2023 with SS-Green Light Racing claimed a much-needed 13th in Our Motorsports’ #02 Ollie’s Bargain Outlet Chevrolet – just his second start since reuniting with the Chris Our team.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #74 in a Cup race at Martinsville.

38) #74-Kaden Honeycutt / 83 laps / engine
37) #38-Joe Graf, Jr. / 133 laps / crash
36) #07-Dawson Cram / 143 laps / crash
35) #28-Kyle Sieg / 145 laps / crash
34) #96-Kyle Weatherman / 198 laps / suspension

1st) CHK Racing, SS-Green Light Racing (2)
2nd) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Emerling-Gase Motorsports, JD Motorsports, Motorsports Business Management (1)

1st) Chevrolet (6)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (1)