Friday, May 12, 2023

TRUCKS: G2G’s struggles continue as Poole loses engine early in Darlington

PHOTO: @peterstratta, posted at @ForRaceFansOnly

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Brennan Poole picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series career in Friday’s Buckle Up South Carolina 200 at the Darlington Raceway when his unsponsored #46 G2G Racing Toyota fell out with engine trouble after 20 of 158 laps.

The finish, which came in Poole’s 38th series start, was his first of the season and first in a Truck Series race since May 27, 2022 at Charlotte, 22 races ago. In the Truck Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 9th for the #46, the 50th for Toyota, and the 142nd from engine trouble. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 46th for the #46, the 394th for Toyota, and the 1,134th for engine issues.

Once a development driver for Chip Ganassi Racing, Poole has become one of NASCAR’s busiest journeyman drivers across the sport’s top three series. These last two weeks saw Poole make his first Cup starts since 2020, where he reunited with the Rick Ware Racing team that acquired his #15 ride at Premium Motorsports. His return came at Dover, where contact from Ross Chastain sent him into the wall, collecting Kyle Larson. He remains full-time in the XFINITY Series with JD Motorsports as driver of the #6. Among his sponsors has been Macc Door Systems, which came from Tim Viens through his current Truck Series effort at G2G Racing.  

Coming into Darlington, Poole had made just two starts for G2G in 2023. The first came in Las Vegas, where he carried sponsorship from South Point but made it just 20 laps into the event before rear gear issues left him third-from-last. The next, which came just last week in Kansas, went much better. Carrying only quarter-panel sponsorship from JAG Body Shop, LLC from Bagley, Minnesota on his white Toyota, Poole climbed into 20th with ten laps to go and finished there. While not Poole’s best Truck Series finish, it was his best with G2G, improving on a 23rd last year in Texas.

Darlington would see Poole run triple-duty for the first time in 2023. In XFINITY, he’d carry on JD Motorsports’ #6 for Saturday – that is, until teammate Garrett Smithley failed to qualify, putting Poole into Smithley’s Kevin Harvick “throwback” scheme. Sunday would see him run a Bud Moore “throwback” paint scheme for Rick Ware. But Friday’s entry in G2G’s #46 had neither sponsorship nor a “throwback” of its own.

Poole’s Truck Series portion of the weekend began with a 25th-place rank in practice, the a 28th starting spot with a lap of 162.099mph (30.337 seconds). He’d be joined by teammate Dawson Cram, who DNQ’d for Saturday’s XFINITY race with CHK Racing in a Bob Keselowski tribute scheme, but in G2G’s #47 Toyota ran a strong 12th in practice, only to squeeze into the field in 31st, the slowest on speed. The only team sent home was Reaume Brothers Racing. After his driver Keith McGee returned home to Alaska, Josh Reaume attempted to qualify the #33 Hoonicorn Ford, a Ken Block tribute scheme McGee designed. As a cost-saving measure, Reaume ran scuffed tires instead of stickers, but this wasn’t enough to get into the show. Ironically, Reaume said in an interview with Toby Christie that he saved money by failing to qualify due to engine and tire costs.

Securing the 36th and final starting spot on Friday was Colby Howard, whose white #9 Grant County Mulch Chevrolet blew a right-front tire in practice, which led to NASCAR preventing them from making a qualifying lap. When the race started, Howard had moved to 35th across the line, 3.696 seconds back of the lead. Running 4.333 seconds back of the leaders was Kris Wright, running a 2007 Juan Pablo Montoya “throwback” scheme on his #02 Chevrolet. By the end of Lap 1, Wright had fallen 6.682 seconds back of the lead, and a full 1.434 back of new 35th-place runner Bret Holmes in the unsponsored #32 Bret Holmes Racing Chevrolet.

For the next several laps, the gap between Wright and Holmes fluctuated between a few tenths to more than a second. “Just keep taking care of it, man,” Wright was told on Lap 7. There was some difficulty in this message being relayed as the team had some radio issues. On the 14th circuit, the team said Wright had a “decently sized moment” in Turns 3 and 4, but maintained control. In fact, three laps later, he was reeling in a side-by-side battle for 34th between Dawson Cram’s #47 and Spencer Boyd in the #12 Sad Daddy Hunting Blinds Chevrolet. Wright thought better than to make a bid at three-wide, the spotter watching as Parker Kligerman’s #75 Haagen-Dazs Chevrolet began to trail smoke while running 18th.

On Lap 20, as NASCAR continued to watch for fluid off Kligerman’s truck, Poole was running 29th in his #46 when he, too, erupted in smoke and came down pit road, reporting a loss of oil pressure. As the cameras caught his arrival, there was clear damage to the top of the nose of his truck. The caution didn’t fall, though NASCAR watched for fluid that was trailing from the #46 as it pulled behind the wall on Lap 22. “Smell like rear end?” the team asked. “No, I think it’s blowing up,” said Poole. The crew then discovered a hole in the oil pan, signaling the end of their race. Per the team, Poole had no warning before it “blew the oil pan off.” Poole was declared out on Lap 34.

The G2G team attempted to transfer Poole’s tires to teammate Dawson Cram, but weren’t able to as they were told they could only transfer them once. It made little difference. On Lap 40, Cram joined his teammate in the garage, citing a loss of water pressure and a temperature of 230 degrees. The crew said they may not have put enough water into the #47 after practice, and saw the radiator fan wasn’t working. The team elected to call it a night for Cram, not wanting to blow two engines on the same night. Cram was declared out in 35th on Lap 55. Parker Kligerman’s smoking truck only made it 12 more laps before he pulled the #75 off the track. Kligerman finished 34th, eliminated with an oil leak.

Rounding out the Bottom Five were Spencer Boyd, who was sent behind the wall with a faltering fuel pump, and 32nd-place Chase Purdcy, whose #4 Bama Buggies Chevrolet was involved in a multi-truck accident.

Caruth enjoys career race ahead of hard-luck Thompson at TRICON and Young’s #20 team

Through the race’s second half, Rajah Caruth had one of the best trucks on the track. A series of daring passes moved him as high as 3rd in the final laps and closing in on leaders Christian Eckes and William Byron. The subsequent pair of overtime finishes shuffled him back to 6th, which is still his career-best finish, and his first Top Ten in just 13 series starts. With continuing sponsorship from the Wendell Scott Foundation, Caruth ran a “throwback” scheme to Scott’s Mercury from Talladega in 1973, which has become a good-luck scheme at Darlington. Last spring in the XFINITY race, Kyle Weatherman piloted the same colors to a 12th-place finish for Jesse Iwuji Motorsports. Among those pushing Caruth’s truck to the grid was Frank Scott, Wendell’s son.

Also in the Top Ten were both a hard-luck driver and team. Taking 9th was Dean Thompson, marking his first top-ten finish in his first year with TRICON Garage – a year which has seen him fail to finish four times due to crashes, most significantly his collision with Matt Mills at Texas. Like Caruth, this was the first top-ten run of Thompson’s career, this coming in his 33rd series start. 

The hard-luck team was that of Young’s Motorsports’ #20, which remained without a sponsor amid a series of poor performances with multiple different drivers – including Matt Mills’ involvement in the Texas wreck with Thompson. The team failed to finish four consecutive races from Atlanta through Bristol, yielding two last-place finishes and a first-lap catastrophe in COTA for IndyCar’s Ed Jones. Kaden Honeycutt took his turn this week, returning to the circuit for the first time since he parted ways with Roper Racing. In it, Honeycutt took 10th – his third career top-ten finish and second of the young season, following his 9th for Roper in the Bristol Dirt Race. 

*This marks the first last-place finish for the #46 since July 9, 2022 at Mid-Ohio, where Mason Filippi ran nine laps before engine trouble. It’s the first for the #46 in a Truck Series race at Darlington.

36) #46-Brennan Poole / 20 laps / engine
35) #47-Dawson Cram / 36 laps / mechanical
34) #75-Parker Kligerman / 48 laps / oil leak
33) #12-Spencer Boyd / 78 laps / fuel pump
32) #4-Chase Purdy / 100 laps / crash

1st) G2G Racing (3)
2nd) AM Racing, G2G Racing, Reaume Brothers Racing, Young’s Motorsports (2)
3rd) Niece Motorsports, TRICON Garage (1)

1st) Chevrolet, Ford, Toyota (3)


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