Saturday, April 8, 2023

TRUCKS: Late entry Stefan Parsons collected in early Bristol pileup


by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Stefan Parsons scored the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series career in Saturday’s Weather Guard Truck Race on Dirt at the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track when his unsponsored #20 Chevrolet was involved in a multi-truck accident after 7 of 150 laps.

The finish, which came in Parsons’ 9th series start, was his first of the season and first since last June at Sonoma, 17 races ago. In the Truck Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 12th for the #20, the 182nd from a crash, and the 433rd for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 57th for the #20, the 1,326th from a crash, and the 1,883rd for Chevrolet.

After competing in 24 of last year’s 33 XFINITY Series races with multiple teams, Parsons has continued to avail himself to teams in need of a driver. In this year’s Daytona opener, he was called upon by Alpha Prime Racing when Caesar Bacarella fell ill before the race. Parsons climbed aboard the #45 Clear Cryptos Chevrolet and came home a strong 13th, a run reminiscent of his series debut in 2019 at the same track, where he filled a similar role for Cody Ware and took home 12th. His other NASCAR start so far this year came at Richmond, where SS-Green Light Racing has brought on multiple drivers after parting ways with a struggling Blaine Perkins. Parsons brought his sponsorship from SOKAL Digital and finished 32nd.

The dirt race at Bristol saw a reunion with Young’s Motorsports, which twice last year hired him to drive their #20, yielding finishes of 22nd in Nashville and 26th in Homestead. The Randy Young effort has kept the #20 as their “all-star” entry, which along with G2G Racing’s #46 have remained one of the few Truck Series teams to hire multiple drivers to one and two-race deals. Coming into Bristol, the team had faced increasing struggles. After Derek Kraus’ 18th-place showing in Daytona, Matt Mills finished 26th in Las Vegas. Mason Maggio struggled with multiple cut tires before crashing out at Atlanta, followed by IndyCar star Ed Jones’ flat tire at COTA that kept him from completing a single lap. This was capped last week at Texas by Matt Mills’ brake failure at Texas, where his pedal went to the floor while trying to avoid a wrecking Dean Thompson. The resulting impact sent Thompson to the hospital, though he was soon discharged and cleared to race.

The Young’s team didn’t have a driver listed for Bristol until Thursday, when Parsons was revealed as driver. It was also shown that the truck didn’t have any sponsors, and would run a flat-white paint scheme on the Chevrolet.

With no practice and qualifying, the lineup for the heat races was determined by random draw. Parsons drew the pole for Heat Race #1, where he’d kick off Saturday’s on-track action. Parsons finished 4th, securing him 20th on the starting grid, while the battle at the back of the field remained competitive.

PHOTO: @StefanParsons_

In Heat Race #1, Taylor Gray started 11th and last in his #17 JBL Toyota, which the crew reported had a small left-rear tire rub during the warm-up laps. After NASCAR retrieved a piece of debris in Turn 3, Taylor was advised to run the inside while other trucks washed up the banking. He remained last at the end of Lap 1, but by Lap 2 pulled alongside Kris Wright in the #02 Chevrolet. The two were 0.045 second apart at the stripe, and by Lap 3, both had passed Josh Reaume in the #34 JAG Metals LLC / Colonial Countertops Ford. Reaume struggled for speed, and by Lap 7 had dropped a full 2.710 seconds back of 10th-place Tanner Gray in the #15 Mobil 1 Toyota. Tanner had a flat tire, which sent him to pit road, and Lawless Alan joined him for an issue on his #45 AUTOParkit Chevrolet. 

On Lap 10, as Reaume was lapped by the leader though Turns 3 and 4, Alan returned to the track two laps down with Tanner five down. The next time by, Wright rear-ended Taylor Gray’s #17, pushing in the nose of Wright’s Chevrolet and rupturing the radiator. Wright was pushed to the garage for a new radiator while Taylor continued with a pushed-in rear bumper. By then, there were so few laps left that Wright didn’t drop to the same lap as Tanner Gray’s #15 until the checkered flag. Even then, Tanner was credited with last place, ranking Wright in 10th.

In Heat Race #2, Zane Smith rolled off 10th and last in his #38 Love’s / Speedco Ford. He only remained in the spot for a moment as polesitter Colby Howard’s #9 Project Hope Foundation Chevrolet pulled high in Turns 3 and 4 and suddenly stopped, drawing the first caution of the day. As the crew tried to figure out what happened, Howard got a push down the banking, where they saw the right-rear tire had come apart. Unable to re-fire the truck, Howard climbed out, and his truck was pushed back to the hauler. With six to go in the heat, Howard’s crew said, “The tire's wrapped around the whole clip, that's what made it not roll. Ripped a brake line off, broke a track bar mount.” 

Heat Race #3 ranked west coast dirt tracker Tanner Carrick in the 10th and final spot, seeking his NASCAR debut in On Point Motorsports’ #30 CVC Concrete Toyota. Further ahead, another driver had a left-rear tire rub as Corey Heim prepared to roll off 7th in the #11 Safelite Toyota. When the heat started, last-place starter Carrick worked to the outside of Cup regular William Byron in the #51 Chevrolet. But this immediately changed to a battle for 9th as another truck failed to fire off at the start. This was Jerry Bohlman, who drove one of two G2G Racing entries. Bohlman said he had enough clutch on his #46 Eco Pile / Bohlman Marine Toyota, but the crew estimated the pressure plate had failed. The crew apologized, saying the part seemed to be working properly at the shop. Bohlman didn’t turn a lap and remained the last-place finisher. Carrick’s heat didn’t go much longer as he damaged the right-front of his #30 in a collision with Daniel Dye’s #43 Race to Stop Suicide Chevrolet. This sent Carrick behind the wall after just three laps. With three heats completed and one to go, repairs continued on the trucks of Kris Wright, Colby Howard, Tanner Carrick, and Jerry Bohlman.

Heat Race #4, the last of the night, saw Kaden Honeycutt rank 10th and last in Roper Racing’s #04 CarQuest / Technet Ford. On the pole was Andrew Gordon, Bohlman’s teammate at G2G Racing, in his #47 Trick Shot / Staar Trucking Ford. Both Gordon and fellow front-row starter Rajah Caruth in the #24 Wendell Scott Foundation Chevrolet spun their trucks during the warm-up laps in separate incidents, though both avoided making any contact. When the race started, Honeycutt began his charge to 3rd at the finish, dropping to last at the end of Lap 1 one Norm Benning. Benning, who had not made a Truck Series start since October 2, 2021 at Talladega, was already 1.124 seconds back of 9th place at the end of the first lap. The driver said his engine shut off, and he had to re-fire it. From there, Benning gradually lost more ground. His gap from 9th place increased to 2.183 seconds on Lap 5, 4.294 on Lap 6, and 5.953 seconds on Lap 9. Ahead of him, Spencer Boyd had a left-front tire rub on his #12 Fr8 / logic Chevrolet, but he managed to come home in 5th.

Then, with just two laps to go, Benning’s spotter broke in, shouting “Get that 47, get by him!” Andrew Gordon had run inside the Top 5 for most of the heat, but was now losing so much ground that Benning was closing fast. The spotter then said, “Go low – low, low, low. 41’s coming at you.” This referred to Tyler Carpenter, who also dropped back in his #41 AutoVentive Chevrolet. Benning cleared both trucks just seconds before he crossed the finish line, placing him 8th in the heat – and into the main event, where he’d roll off 30th. Gordon missed the race, joined by his teammate Jerry Bohlman from Heat Race #3. The other three DNQs were Jessica Friesen in the #62 Aim Autism / Halmar International Toyota – her third-straight DNQ in the race – plus Josh Reaume’s sluggish #34 and Lawless Alan following a costly pit stop in his #45.

Kris Wright secured the 36th and final starting spot for the 150-lap main event, the crew having taped up the damaged nose and replaced the radiator. Many of the other trucks that sustained damage filled the final few spots, including Tanner Carrick with repairs to the right-front corner of his #30, and Colby Howard with repaired suspension on his #9. All three incurred tail-end penalties for unapproved adjustments along with and 7th-place Ben Rhodes, 9th-place Taylor Gray, 12th-place Corey Heim in the #11 Safelite Toyota, 22nd-place Spencer Boyd, 25th-place Jonathan Davenport in the #7 Nutrien Ag Solutions Chevrolet, and 32nd-place Daniel Dye.

But, just seconds before the green flag, Tyler Ankrum made an unscheduled stop in his #16 Liuna Toyota, which had a flat right-rear tire. NASCAR didn’t delay the start, and Ankrum just pulled back onto the track as the leaders took the green. This gave Ankrum last place, 12.18 seconds back of the leader at the end of Lap 1. Ankrum then set to work tracking down Kris Wright, who was 5.957 seconds ahead. By Lap 6, he’d cut the gap down to 3.368 seconds, and was even closer when the first caution fell the next time by.

On Lap 7, Mason Massey was running in the high lane through Turns 1 and 2 when his #33 Brunt / Colonial Countertops Ford broke loose and slid down the track. Closing fast in the high lane, Ben Rhodes jumped on the brakes and skated his #99 Campers Inn RV Ford into the side of Massey. Rhodes had only minor damage, but by now both trucks were sideways, blocking the entire track. Running the low lane was Taylor Gray’s #17 JBL Toyota with Parsons just behind. Both Taylor and Parsons also jumped on the brakes and cut hard to the left, each skating into the stopped Massey. While Taylor glanced off the right-front of Massey’s truck, Parsons’ slammed into the nose of Massey with the right-front wheel. Also involved was Tyler Carpenter, whose difficult evening continued when he tried to weave through the middle, only to rip off the left-front fender by clipping Taylor’s rear bumper.

“It ripped the wheel out of my hands,” said Parsons over the radio as equipment trucks came to the scene. Parsons was told he’d be pushed for 100 yards to see if he could re-fire the engine. If he couldn’t, he’d have to go to the garage area. The attempt was unsuccessful, and Parsons went to the garage along with Massey, followed a lap later by Taylor Gray. All three were declared out by NASCAR on Lap 41, just before non-competitive pit stops began at the conclusion of Stage 1. While NASCAR’s garage official listed Parsons and Massey out with “DVP” while Taylor Gray was listed as a “crash,” all three were listed as crashes instead. Tyler Ankrum and Kris Wright rounded out the Bottom Five after both were eliminated in accidents.

Kaden Honeycutt capped off a strong Saturday with a career-tying 9th-place finish, already his second top-ten finish in 13 career Truck Series starts.

*This marked the third last-place finish for Young’s Motorsports’ #20 entry in the last seven Truck Series races, dating back to last year’s 2022 finale at Phoenix with Armani Williams.

36) #20-Stefan Parsons / 7 laps / crash
35) #33-Mason Massey / 7 laps / crash
34) #17-Taylor Gray / 8 laps / crash
33) #16-Tyler Ankrum / 25 laps / crash
32) #02-Kris Wright / 75 laps / crash

1st) Reaume Brothers Racing, Young’s Motorsports (2)
2nd) Niece Motorsports, TRICON Garage (1)

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


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