Thursday, June 1, 2023

PREVIEW: LaJoie’s opportunity with Hendrick comes on a weekend of both series debuts and intriguing returns

PHOTO: @CarsonHocevar
by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Saturday, June 3, 2023 (1:30 P.M. ET, FS1)
TRUCKS Race 12 of 23
Toyota 200 at World Wide Technology Raceway (Gateway)
2022 Last-Place Finisher: Taylor Gray

Following a pair of withdrawals (see below), there are 36 drivers entered for as many spots, so all will qualify. UPDATE: Make that 35.

Coming into this race with three consecutive wins in ARCA, where he holds the point lead by just two points over Frankie Muniz, Jesse Love will make his NASCAR national series debut this Saturday, taking the place of 14th-place finisher David Gilliland in Gilliland’s own #1 Toyota. comes aboard as sponsor. UPDATE: Due to illness, Charlotte runner-up Corey Heim will not race this weekend, so Jesse Love will run his truck instead. Toni Breidinger will return to pilot the #1.

RETURNING: #6-Norm Benning Racing
Norm Benning returns to action and will this time 1-be assured his second start of the season and first since his clutch performance in the heats for the Bristol Dirt Race. It’s a welcome change of pace after his most recent attempt at North Wilkesboro, where a crash in practice forced he and his team to hurriedly rebuild the #6 for qualifying.

WITHDREW: #22-AM Racing
DRIVER SWAP: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
Not among the drivers entered this week is Josh Reaume, who last week finished 29th in his own #33. Reaume was slated to rejoin AM Racing’s #22 team this week, but that truck has since withdrawn. Running the #33 for Saturday is Mason Maggio, who will make his eighth career Truck Series start after a 25th-place run for AM Racing last week in Charlotte.

DRIVER CHANGE / WITHDREW: #30-On Point Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #02-Young’s Motorsports
This week is Chris Hacker’s turn in On Point’s #30, which Ryan Vargas piloted to a 26th-place finish in Charlotte. Hacker and his Morgan & Morgan sponsorship return for the first time since North Wilkesboro, where the newcomer finished a strong 12th. UPDATE: This team has withdrawn as of Friday. Hacker now slides into the #02 at Young's Motorsports, a ride left open after Kris Wright parted ways with the team this week.

DRIVER CHANGE: #34-Reaume Brothers Racing
After a faulty fuel pump cut short Keith McGee’s final start for the Reaume Brothers before his return home to his family in Alaska, Stephen Mallozzi is the first to try and help fill the remaining schedule for the team’s #34. Mallozzi returns for the first time since his own last-place run at Martinsville, where the team had to jump the battery during the rain-shortened event. As of this writing, Mallozzi is still in pursuit of attracting sponsorship from Outback Steakhouse, where he works between races.

WITHDREW: #46-G2G Racing
A disastrous and costly stretch of races saw both G2G Racing entries sidelined with engine issues in Darlington, Akinori Ogata’s truck catch fire in a practice crash at North Wilkesboro, then Armani Williams’ frightening pit road accident at Charlotte. As the team regroups, they have withdrawn what would have been Memphis Villareal’s second series start to prepare for their return.

DRIVER CHANGE: #56-Hill Motorsports
Timmy Hill is back behind the wheel of the #56 for the first time since North Wilkesboro, taking the place of brother Tyler Hill who ran 24th in Charlotte. Carrying returning sponsorship from UNITS Storage, Timmy finished 17th in this race last year and took 18th for Jay Robinson back in 2015.

RETURNING: #66-ThorSport Racing
ThorSport has brought back their part-time fourth entry once again, giving Conner Jones his first start since an eventful afternoon in North Wilkesboro. This will be Jones’ third series start.

MISSING: #90-Terry Carroll Motorsports
While Gateway has historically attracted numerous small teams and developing drivers, Justin S. Carroll will not make the trip this week following his 34th-place showing in Charlotte, site of his second career start.

NEW TEAM: #95-GK Racing
Debuting this week is Clay Greenfield’s latest exploit, running the #95 entry under the banner of GK Racing. Greenfield’s most recent starts came with Bruce Cook’s team Cook Racing Technologies, yielding a 34th-place run in the #84 team’s most recent start in this year’s Daytona opener. Greenfield’s latest of three Truck starts at Gateway came in 2020, when he ran a track-best 19th for his own #68 team.


Saturday, June 3, 2023 (4:30 P.M. ET, FS1)
XFINITY Race 14 of 33
Pacific Office Automation 147 at Portland
2022 Last-Place Finisher: Sam Mayer

There are 38 drivers entered for as many spots, meaning all will qualify.

DRIVER CHANGE: #10-Kaulig Racing
Leading the “road ringer” contingent for Portland is none other than Jordan Taylor, his second NASCAR start following his Cup debut as Chase Elliott’s relief driver at Circuit of the Americas, which saw him finish 24th. Leaf Home Water Solutions is the listed sponsor for Taylor’s XFINITY Series debut. Taylor takes the place of Justin Haley, who came just one lap short of completing all 900 miles around Charlotte on Monday as he took the place of Kyle Busch. 

DRIVER CHANGE: #19-Joe Gibbs Racing
It was at this Portland track last year that Myatt Snider – then driving for Jordan Anderson Racing – battled for the lead in heavy rain, ultimately nabbing a runner-up finish to A.J. Allmendinger. This year, he’s back and this time running for Joe Gibbs, replacing Cup regular Ty Gibbs who finished 5th in Charlotte’s 300-miler.

DRIVER CHANGE: #35-Emerling-Gase Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #53-Emerling-Gase Motorsports
Parker Chase and his Ontivity sponsorship rejoin the Emerling-Gase team for the first time since an off-track excursion in COTA ultimately led to them missing the race. Chase will this time make the show, locked-in along with team co-owner Patrick Emerling, who slides into the yet-unsponsored black #53.

DRIVER CHANGE: #43-Alpha Prime Racing
The first of two driver swaps for the Alpha Prime team is the return of Leland Honeyman, whose third and most recent XFINITY start came at Martinsville where he finished 25th. After his previous three runs were in Alpha Prime’s #45 entry, he this time runs the #43 in place of Ryan Ellis, who took 27th in Charlotte.

DRIVER CHANGE: #44-Alpha Prime Racing
Running both this weekend and next week in Sears Point is Dylan Lupton, who has a combined 58 Cup, XFINITY, and Truck Series starts, but none since his lone Truck start at Mid-Ohio last summer, where he ran 32nd for Spire Motorsports after a crash. Taking the place of Rajah Caruth, who after a 25th-place run in Charlotte focuses on his Truck Series effort in Gateway, Lupton will make his first Portland start. The preliminary list did not have Lupton’s name on it, indicating only “TBA.”

DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Also “to be announced” as of this writing is the driver of Carl Long’s #66 entry. Timmy Hill, who missed the cut in Charlotte, will be running his own Truck Series entry in Gateway. UPDATE: Mason Maggio will take the wheel this week.

MISSING: #74-CHK Racing
Not making the trip west – both for Portland and Sears Point – is Mike Harmon’s CHK Racing team, which qualified a solid 26th with Dawson Cram at Charlotte before finishing in 36th.

MISSING: #77-Spire Motorsports
Spire Motorsports has likewise not entered their part-time XFINITY entry for 8th-place Charlotte finisher Carson Hocevar as both driver and team have much bigger plans in store for Sunday’s Cup race in Gateway (see below).

Road racing means Alex Labbe, who rejoins Mario Gosselin’s team this time in the #91 entry, taking the place of 20th-place Charlotte finisher Kyle Weatherman. Following a sterling 10th-place run in the 2022 inaugural at Portland, Labbe carries sponsorship from Duroking, Larue Snowblowers, and Portland Gear.

DRIVER CHANGE: #08-SS-Green Light Racing
Completing the field is Preston Pardus, who this time will run for Bobby Dotter’s SS-Green Light Racing in place of 34th-place Charlotte finisher Natalie Decker. Teamed with a returning Stefan Parsons in the #07, Pardus did not compete in this race last year.


Sunday, June 4, 2023 (3:30 P.M. ET, FS1)
CUP Race 15 of 36
Enjoy Illinois 300 at World Wide Technology Raceway (Gateway)
2022 Last-Place Finisher: Corey LaJoie

There are only the 36 Chartered entries, marking the 14th straight short field in 15 races.

DRIVER CHANGE: #7-Spire Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #9-Hendrick Motorsports
On Tuesday came news that Chase Elliott would be suspended for one week following his incident with Denny Hamlin midway through Monday’s Coca-Cola 600, which was determined to be an intentional wreck. In Elliott’s place comes 2022 last-place finisher Corey LaJoie, who finds himself in the best car he’s ever raced in Cup. LaJoie’s move opens the #7 for none other than Carson Hocevar, who after two excellent runs in Spire’s XFINITY car will make his series debut.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Rick Ware Racing
DRIVER SWAP: #38-Front Row Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #51-Rick Ware Racing
Welcome back Gray Gaulding, who on Sunday will make his 60th career Cup start and first since October 11, 2020 on the Charlotte “Roval,” where he closed out a part-time campaign sharing Rick Ware Racing’s #27 entry. Then as now, Panini Trading Cards is the sponsor, this time on Ware’s #15 entry. Gaulding takes the place of J.J. Yeley, who after a strong 16th-place finish will this week run Ware’s #51. The #51 was back open as Todd Gilliland rejoins Front Row Motorsports after a rough 33rd-place finish in Charlotte, the same night Zane Smith earned his first career top-ten finish by placing 10th in the Front Row #38. Gilliland will again run the #38 this week.

MISSING: #84-Legacy Motor Club
Jimmie Johnson is not entered after a terrible Charlotte weekend for all three of the Legacy Motor Club teams, who for a time near the race’s midway point were all in the garage for mechanical issues. Johnson now turns his focus on the “Garage 56” entry at the upcoming 24 Hours of Le Mans.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (June 1, 1992): Mike Urciuoli scored the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Busch Grand National Series career in the GM Goodwrench / Delco Freedom Battery 200 at Dover when his #2 Star Motorsports Pontiac fell out with handling issues after 20 laps. A 28-year-old from Staten Island, New York, this was Urciuoli’s only career start in any of NASCAR’s top three series. His best of four starts in the Busch North Series was in 1991, when he ran 24th at Flemington, New Jersey.

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