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. 

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