Thursday, June 29, 2023

PREVIEW: NASCAR’s first Chicago street race features international cadre of road course specialists

IMAGE: @PrestonPardus

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Saturday, July 1, 2023 (5:00 P.M. ET, USA)
XFINITY Race 16 of 33
The Loop 121 at Chicago Street Course
2022 Last-Place Finisher: Inaugural Event

There are 43 drivers entered for 38 spots, meaning five will fail to qualify. It will be the second-longest DNQ list of the 2023 season, trailing only the six who missed the Daytona opener.

DRIVER CHANGE: #10-Kaulig Racing
With Cup drivers excluded from Saturday’s XFINITY Series race due to the new venue, A.J. Allmendinger will not run following his victory in Nashville. While listed as “TBA” on the preliminary list, taking his place is Trackhouse Racing co-owner Justin Marks, who brings with him team sponsor Jockey. The result, as pointed out by the team, is the first Kaulig entry with mirrored car number decals – his in a metallic blue. This will be Marks’ first XFINITY start as a driver since September 29, 2018, when he finished runner-up to Austin Cindric in the inaugural race on the Charlotte “Roval.”

DRIVER SWAP: #19-Joe Gibbs Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #24-Sam Hunt Racing
Parker Chase returns to attempt his fourth XFINITY start of the year and first since Portland, where a busted tie rod left him a disappointed 35th. For the first time since Talladega, Chase will run for Sam Hunt Racing in the #24. He takes the place of Connor Mosack, who this week gets a shot in Joe Gibbs Racing’s #19 with Chicago-based sponsor Porter Pipe and Supply on board. Mosack takes the place of Cup regular Ty Gibbs, who finished next-to-last after an early wreck in Nashville.

Welcome back Brent Sherman, the Illinois-born U.S. Air Force veteran who in 2006 attempted to run for Rookie of the Year with BAM Racing. Sherman has not competed in NASCAR’s top three series since August 28, 2009, when he ran 16th in a Truck Series race at the Chicagoland Speedway. In the XFINITY Series, it’s been even longer – November 3, 2007 at Texas, when he finished 37th for Braun Racing. Sherman takes the controls of the #28 at RSS Racing, which with Stewart-Haas Racing chasses has been fast with both Sonoma winner Aric Almirola and 7th-place Nashville finisher Zane Smith. and A. Marek Jewelry have signed on to sponsor Sherman’s return at his new home venue.

RETURNING: #34-Jesse Iwuji Motorsports
Also returning from an absence is Jesse Iwuji’s single-car team, which we last saw fail to qualify at Talladega with Iwuji behind the wheel. Among the hopefuls of making the race on speed, the team’s #34 Chevrolet is driven by 24-year-old Andre Castro. A longtime NASCAR fan, actor, and a graduate of the University of Chicago, Castro is a development driver in the open-wheel ranks. He currently competes in the F4 US Championship and the USF Juniors presented by Cooper Tires championship. While this will be Castro’s first attempt at a NASCAR national touring series event, he is a past pole winner in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series, which has produced such drivers as Loris Hezemans and Alon Day.

DRIVER CHANGE: #35-Emerling-Gase Motorsports
Road race ace Alex Labbe drives for his third different team in as many attempts as he this week takes the controls of Emerling-Gase Motorsports’ #35, taking the place of 30th-place Nashville finisher David Starr. Labbe’s most recent race was at Sonoma, where he debuted RSS Racing’s #29 with a 25th-place finish. 

Labbe isn’t the only Canadian on this week’s entry list. Welcome back Alex Guenette of Quebec, who hasn’t started a XFINITY Series race since July 8, 2016 at Kentucky. Then as now, he drives for DGM Racing, but this time in the #36, a team whose only start came at Sonoma with Josh Bilicki’s 19th-place run. Guenette carries sponsorship from Paille GM, DLGL, and GP3R. Guenette finished 4th in the most recent NASCAR Pinty’s Series race at the Eastbound Speedway in Newfoundland.

RETURNING: #50-Pardus Racing
Earlier this year at COTA, Preston Pardus arrived at his 20th XFINITY Series road course race driving for his family’s new team, bringing back the #50 that father Dan Pardus ran in the Cup Series in the late 1990s. This week, driver and team return, and again honor Dan’s own career with a “throwback” scheme to the patriotic variant of the Midwest Transit Racing entry. This will be Pardus’ first entry since Portland, where he ran 31st for SS-Green Light Racing.

DRIVER CHANGE: #53-Emerling-Gase Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #08-SS-Green Light Racing
Speaking of distinctive paint scheme, Harris Lue harkens back to Bill Elliott’s famous “Mac Tonight” paint scheme in the latest XFINITY entry for Brad Perez. Perez makes his first series attempt since his 29th-place showing in Sonoma (where he carried logos on his Apex Coffee entry). This time, Bonesteel Aerospace is the primary paint scheme, and he is again entered in a Chevrolet. Perez takes the place of 31st-place Nashville finisher Joey Gase, who was swapped in for C.J. McLaughlin after a practice crash. Gase is this week entered in SS-Green Light’s #08, taking the place of 32nd-place Mason Massey. Clubfoot Solutions is the listed sponsor.

DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
A third Canadian on the list is a returning Dexter Stacey, who earlier this year at Talladega finished 35th in his series return driving for Carl Long. Stacey is this week entered in a Toyota with the same recap ReCap Recovery Drink sponsorship, looking to give Long’s MBM team just its seventh start of the year and first since Portland. Stacey takes the place of Chad Finchum, who handed the #66 its seventh DNQ of the year in Nashville.

RETURNING: #88-JR Motorsports
Left and right turns also mean the return of JR Motorsports’ #88 entry for Miguel Paludo in the Brandt Chevrolet. Paludo seeks his 10th series start and first since COTA, where he finished on the lead lap in 13th.

Last year, Dexter Bean attempted his first two XFINITY Series races since 2021, but his Mario Gosselin entry was withdrawn at Fontana and failed to qualify at Road America. Badger Environmental, Bean’s sponsor from the Road America entry, will this time sponsor the #91. Bean takes the place of Chad Chastain, who finished 29th in Nashville.

DRIVER CHANGE: #07-SS-Green Light Racing
While the preliminary entry list showed a “TBA,” the primary Bobby Dotter entry will this week go to Spencer Pumpelly, who seeks his first XFINITY start of the year. His most recent start came in Portland’s rainy inaugural last year, where he ran 29th in Dotter’s #08. This week, he carries sponsorship from two Volkswagen dealers in Oak Lawn and Orland Park, plus Oltimo Motors. Pumpelly takes the place of Stefan Parsons, whose run at Nashville was cut short by a first lap, first corner pileup.


Sunday, July 2, 2023 (5:30 P.M. ET, NBC)
CUP Race 17 of 36
Grant Park 220 at Chicago Street Course
2022 Last-Place Finisher: Inaugural Event

There are 37 drivers entered for 40 spots, which while it is the 18th straight short field since the Daytona 500, and the first with at least one “open” entry since the Coca-Cola 600, four races ago.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Rick Ware Racing
Taking the place of 33rd-place Nashville finisher Brennan Poole is a returning Jenson Button, who finished 18th in his Cup debut at Circuit of the Americas this spring. Mobil 1 will again sponsor the 2009 Formula 1 World Champion as he takes to NASCAR’s new street course.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Rick Ware Racing
Teamed with Button is Sonoma 35th-place finisher Andy Lally, the 2011 NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year. Lally will this time pilot Rick Ware’s #51 entry, and again carries sponsorship from Camping World. Lally takes the place of J.J. Yeley, who took 29th last week in Nashville.

WITHDREW: #84-Legacy Motor Club
Jimmie Johnson was slated to run his first Cup race since the Coca-Cola 600, but those plans were changed following Tuesday’s tragic news regarding his in-laws. No replacement driver was named, and the team has been withdrawn.

RETURNING: #91-Trackhouse Racing / Project 91
The talk of the garage will certainly be the return of Trackhouse’s “Project 91,” which last appeared at COTA with 2007 Formula 1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen, who finished 29th. This time around (in place of a “TBA” on the preliminary list), the ride goes to three-time Supercars champion Shane van Gisbergen of New Zealand, winner of 79 races and 46 poles. With Trackhouse fresh off their first win of 2023 following Ross Chastain’s Nashville victory, van Gisbergen eyes a strong debut after a successful test on the Charlotte “Roval.” Enhance Health is the sponsor of his #91. 

Saturday, July 8, 2023
TRUCKS Race 14 of 23
O’Reilly Auto Parts 150 at Mid-Ohio
2022 Last-Place Finisher: Mason Filippi

The Truck Series returns next week for some road course action of their own at Mid-Ohio.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (June 29, 1957): Peck Peckham scored his first and only last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in a 200-lap race at the Hub City Speedway when his #13 1956 Chevrolet had clutch issues that prevented him from starting the race. This same race was cut short by 13 laps due to a lengthy red flag for a late-race crash between leaders Buck Baker and Speedy Thompson that damaged the guardrail. This red flag caused the race to run up against its scheduled curfew, giving the win to Lee Petty, who was running 3rd at the time of the crash. Thirteen days later, the 44-year-old Peckham of New Jersey earned a career-best 11th at the Southern States Fairgrounds.

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