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

1st) Chevrolet (5)
2nd) Toyota (2)
3rd) Ford (1)


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