Thursday, July 6, 2023

PREVIEW: It’s ARCA upstarts versus open-wheelers in Mid-Ohio; superspeedway specialists stack Atlanta fields

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

Saturday, July 8, 2023 (1:30 P.M. ET, FS1)
TRUCKS Race 14 of 23
O’Reilly Auto Parts 150 at Mid-Ohio
2022 Last-Place Finisher: Mason Filippi

As the Truck Series returns for the first time since Nashville, there are 38 drivers entered for 36 spots, meaning two will fail to qualify for the series’ second and final road course race of the season.

With the XFINITY and Cup Series racing in Atlanta, Mid-Ohio offers the opportunity for both series regulars and newcomers to fill the field. Among these is upstart William Sawalich, who returns to TRICON Garage for the first time since his 9th-place debut at Martinsville. Sawalich takes the place of Toni Breidinger, who continued a series of solid finishes with a 17th-place showing in Nashville.

WITHDREW: #6-Norm Benning Racing
Not among the entrants this week is Norm Benning, who had originally been entered for his first attempt since Gateway but withdrew at the entry list’s first publication.

RETURNING: #7-Spire Motorsports
After finishing 36th in his XFINITY Series debut last fall on the Charlotte “Roval” for Big Machine Racing, IndyCar star Marco Andretti will make his first Truck Series attempt in the stout Spire Motorsports entry, which last time out took the checkers with Kyle Larson at North Wilkesboro. This run comes just one week after the IndyCar Series competed at the Mid-Ohio course, and while Marco didn’t run that race, he has made 15 series starts there with a best finish of 6th in 2009. Group1001 is the listed sponsor.

MISSING: #14-Trey Hutchens Racing
Trey Hutchens is not entered after his #14 Chevrolet was the lone DNQ in Nashville.

DRIVER CHANGE: #20-Young’s Motorsports
Matt Mills seeks his 20th Truck Series start and fifth of the year, his first since Gateway, where he ran a season-best 19th with this same Randy Young team. Carrying sponsorship from Thompson Electric, Inc., Mills takes the place of Nick Leitz, who himself finished 19th in Nashville, the first truck one lap down. This will be Mills’ first Truck start at Mid-Ohio, where he has one XFINITY start in 2021, finishing 23rd for B.J. McLeod.

RETURNING: #22-AM Racing
In a season that has seen AM Racing join forces with Josh Reaume, then not enter the last two rounds in Gateway and Nashville, the #22 entry returns with Austin Wayne Self behind the wheel for the first time all season. Self last drove the truck in his 146th and most recent start in last fall’s Phoenix finale, where he ran 24th. He was 14th in this race last year. AIRBOX Air Purifiers is the sponsor.

DRIVER CHANGE: #30-On Point Motorsports
Ryan Vargas makes his 5th career Truck Series start this weekend and first since Charlotte and enters the Mid-Ohio race with a season-best 8th in Texas and having finished all four previous races under power, completing all but two of a 601 attempted laps. This time, Vargas unveiled a new paint scheme with sponsor Critical Path Security and seeks to improve on Jonathan Shafer’s 24th-place run in the team’s last appearance at Nashville. Vargas finished 18th in his lone XFINITY start at Mid-Ohio in 2021.

DRIVER CHANGE: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
Team owner Josh Reaume pilots his own #33 with Colonial Countertops once again as sponsor of his Ford. He takes the place of Chase Janes, who finished 26th in Nashville, and seeks his eighth start of the season, his first since a 23rd-place showing in Gateway.

DRIVER CHANGE: #34-Reaume Brothers Racing
The preliminary entry list showed “TBA” for Reaume’s second entry, but the team confirmed ARCA Menards Series newcomer Caleb Costner will attempt his NASCAR national series debut. It was Costner who qualified for this year’s ARCA opener at Daytona in his own #93 Chevrolet, whose sponsor Lickety Lew’s joins him in this first Truck Series attempt. Most recently, Costner finished a season-best 13th in Charlotte. Costner takes the place of Mason Maggio, who finished a solid 20th in Nashville. Maggio will go XFINITY racing in Atlanta (see below).

DRIVER CHANGE: #41-Niece Motorsports
Joining Marco Andretti among this week’s IndyCar contingent is Conor Daly, who in his substitute role for Simon Pagenaud took home 20th place for Meyer Shank Racing. Unlike Andretti, this will not be Daly’s first NASCAR start, nor his first in the Truck Series. Daly’s prior two Truck Series starts came in Las Vegas, where he finished 18th in his 2020 debut, then last in 2021 after an early crash. Daly takes the place of Bayley Currey, who ran 5th in Nashville, and retains Currey’s sponsorship from Unishippers.

When Dale Quarterley last took the controls of G2G Racing’s #46 at COTA, he was enjoying a solid run inside the Top 20 before issues on pit road dropped him back in the order to 28th. This week, the 62-year-old stock car veteran is back with his sponsors Van Dyk Recycling and Motul. He takes the place of G2G crew member Memphis Villareal, who finished 35th in Nashville after early electrical issues.

DRIVER CHANGE: #66-ThorSport Racing
Mid-Ohio marks the fourth Truck Series start for Conner Jones, who we last saw in a hard crash at Gateway that left him a season-worst 33rd. That race followed a 29th after electrical problems in North Wilkesboro, and Jones seeks to finish under power for the first time since his 18th-place debut in the shortened Martinsville race. Jones takes the place of Jake Drew, who steered this bonus ThorSport entry to a strong 12th-place finish in Nashville in what was his series debut.

MISSING: #90-Terry Carroll Motorsports
Justin S. Carroll is not entered after his #90 was withdrawn before the Nashville weekend.

DRIVER CHANGE: #02-Young’s Motorsports
Another “TBA” that was filled in through the week was West Coast standout Will Rodgers, who this week attempts his first NASCAR national series start of the season. Rodgers arrives in Mid-Ohio with nine XFINITY starts and three in Trucks. His latest Truck venture came last year at COTA, where he steered the Reaume Brothers’ #33 to a 21st-place finish on the lead lap. Rodgers takes the place of Layne Riggs, who finished 27th despite a crash in Nashville. This came days before Riggs won a CARS Tour race at Caraway for Kevin Harvick before he was disqualified for a technical infraction.

DRIVER CHANGE: #04-Roper Racing
Two weeks after Cory Roper finished 21st in his return to racing at Nashville, he hands the wheel to ARCA Menards Series driver Landen Lewis, who will attempt his own NASCAR national series start alongside Reaume’s Caleb Costner. Lewis’ most recent ARCA start came this spring at Phoenix, where he finished runner-up to Tyler Reif.


ALSO COMPETING IN ARCA AT MID-OHIO: #4-Dale Quarterley, #18-William Sawalich, #25-Conner Jones, #55-Dean Thompson, #61-Tyler Ankrum 

RETURNING: #75-Bob Schacht Motorsports
Also joining the field in Friday’s ARCA race is Bob Schacht, who made his lone Daytona 500 start in 1992. This would be Schacht’s 184th career ARCA start and his first since 2016. For more on his career, check out this video I released on YouTube.

Saturday, July 8, 2023 (8:00 P.M. ET, USA)
XFINITY Race 17 of 33
Alsco Uniforms 250 at Atlanta
2022 Last-Place Finisher: Sage Karam

As the XFINITY Series kicks off the action in Atlanta, there are 39 drivers entered for 38 spots, meaning one will fail to qualify.

DRIVER CHANGE: #4-JD Motorsports
Garrett Smithley rejoins JD Motorsports in the #4 entry for the first time since Portland, where his 24th-place finish was his second-best of the season. Smithley made his first start of the year for Johnny Davis in the spring Atlanta race, where a spotter miscommunication led to an early crash and a 36th-place showing. Smithley takes the place of Kyle Weatherman, who rejoins DGM Racing in the #36, piloted to a surprising 15th-place showing in Chicago by Alex Guenette.

DRIVER CHANGE: #10-Kaulig Racing
Last week in Chicago, Justin Marks enjoyed both the lowest of lows and highest of highs, his Trackhouse Racing team’s thrilling victory with Shane Van Gisbergen following Marks’ own abrupt exit from the XFINITY race due to engine trouble. Taking over the #10 this week is Cup regular Justin Marks, on whom Van Gisbergen made his winning pass in a dramatic final few laps.

DRIVER CHANGE: #19-Joe Gibbs Racing
Another Cup regular in the field is Ty Gibbs, who makes his 5th XFINITY start of the year and first since Nashville, where a crash resulted in his first finish worse than 5th all year. Gibbs takes the place of Sam Hunt Racing’s Connor Mosack, who never got to show what he could do in the JGR car when storms ended the race with him 35th after starting 4th. Mosack is not entered this week as Parker Chase remains in Hunt’s #24 alongside Kaz Grala’s #26.

One week after a returning Brent Sherman remained 34th in Chicago, Kyle Sieg will pilot the #28 with Cedar Ridge Landscaping as sponsor of his Ford. This will be Kyle’s first XFINITY start since Nashville, where he qualified a strong 9th before a first-lap spin ultimately led to a 25th-place finish.

MISSING: #34-Jesse Iwuji Motorsports
Andre Castro is not entered after he raced Jesse Iwuji’s #34 into its first start since Daytona, only for a brake failure to result in a hard hit into the Turn 1 barrier, leaving him 37th. Castro walked away uninjured, reporting the impact felt much softer than it looked.

DRIVER CHANGE: #35-Emerling-Gase Motorsports
Filling in a “TBA” for the #35 driven to a 21st-place finish by Alex Labbe in Chicago is a returning David Starr, who seeks his fourth XFINITY start of the year and first since Nashville two races ago, where he ran 30th with the same team. FR8 Auctions and Half Off are the listed sponsors of his Ford.

DRIVER CHANGE: #44-Alpha Prime Racing
After scaling back his ARCA program following a costly crash in Charlotte, 2023 Daytona ARCA 200 winner Greg Van Alst will make his NASCAR national series debut in the #44 entry for Alpha Prime Racing, taking the place of 22nd-place Chicago finisher Sage Karam. Van Alst will not be running the ARCA race in Mid-Ohio.

MISSING: #50-Pardus Racing
Preston Pardus’ car raced as well as it looked last week in Chicago, qualifying 12th and finishing 13th when the rains came. Pardus is not entered this week.

DRIVER CHANGE: #53-Emerling-Gase Motorsports
Taking the place of Brad Perez, who finished 32nd when Chicago’s action suddenly ended, Akinori Ogata makes another run in the XFINITY Series with YKK aP as sponsor of his flat black #53 Ford. Ogata ran the Truck Series race at Atlanta this spring, where despite an early spin into the inside wall still salvaged a 17th-place finish for G2G Racing.

WITHDREW / DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
After DNQs in his three previous attempts at Martinsville, Darlington, and Nashville, Chad Finchum is back behind the wheel of the #66, looking to get Carl Long’s team into the race. Last week in Chicago, the team missed the cut with Canada’s Dexter Stacey. UPDATE: As of Friday, this team has withdrawn, coting potential weather and a lack of sponsorship.

MISSING: #74-CHK Racing
Not among this week’s XFINITY teams is CHK Racing, which failed to qualify with Dawson Cram back at Chicago. 

MISSING: #88-JR Motorsports
Also not entered is JR Motorsports’ part-time #88 with which Miguel Paludo earned a 13th-place finish in Chicago, though news has since broken that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will run the car in Homestead this fall.

Josh Bilicki returns to the XFINITY Series for his fifth start of the season and first since Sears Point, where he ran a season-best 19th in DGM’s #36. This time, he’s in the #91, taking the place of Chicago DNQ Dexter Bean, whose spin in practice was followed by Sam Mayer’s costly practice crash.

DRIVER CHANGE: #07-SS-Green Light Racing
It’s an “all-Mason” team at SS-Green Light. Driving the #07 this week is Mason Maggio, who like Ogata ran the Truck Series race at Atlanta this past spring. This would be Maggio’s third career XFINITY start following his runs of 31st at Richmond and 36th in Portland earlier this year. He takes the place of Spencer Pumpelly, who showed speed in Chicago despite a spin into the tire barriers before the race and finished 28th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #08-SS-Green Light Racing
The other Mason is Mason Massey, who takes over the #08 entry that Joey Gase failed to qualify in Chicago. Massey seeks his 49th XFINITY start, but only his second of the year, following a 32nd-place finish two races ago in Nashville. 

CUP INVADERS: #10-Justin Haley, #19-Ty Gibbs

Sunday, July 9, 2023 (7:00 P.M. ET, USA)
CUP Race 19 of 36
Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart at Atlanta
2022 Last-Place Finisher: B.J. McLeod

There are 37 drivers entered for 40 spots, marking the 18th straight short field since Daytona.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Rick Ware Racing
J.J. Yeley runs a new-look paint scheme for sponsor Patriot Mobile as he returns to the Cup Series for the first time since his 29th-place showing in Nashville. He takes the place of 2009 F1 World Champion Jenson Button, who showed speed at Chicago before a spin off the nose of Chris Buescher at pit road ultimately led to a 21st-place finish. 

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Rick Ware Racing
XFINITY Series regular Cole Custer will run double-duty as he’s set to run the next three Cup races, starting this week in Atlanta, where Jacob Companies is the listed sponsor. Custer takes the place for road course ace Andy Lally, who finished 26th in Chicago. This will be Custer’s first Cup start since he closed out his run in Stewart-Haas Racing’s #41 in 2022 and marks the 112th Cup race of his career.

RETURNING: #62-Beard Motorsports
The XFINITY Series’ superspeedway ace is also in Sunday’s show as Austin Hill returns along with Beard Motorsports and sponsor Bennett Transportation. The trio last ran at Talladega, where they bounced back from a DNQ in the Daytona 500 to finish 24th. Two of Hill’s five XFINITY wins have come on the reconfigured Atlanta track.

DRIVER CHANGE: #78-Live Fast Motorsports
With Josh Bilicki focusing on the XFINITY Series following his 23rd-place finish in Chicago, B.J. McLeod returns to the controls of the #78 with returning sponsorship from Gunk, his backer from the Bristol Dirt Race. McLeod, who finished 27th in his most recent Cup start at Gateway, has finished last in his previous two consecutive Cup starts at Atlanta, both due to multi-car pileups on the backstretch.

MISSING: #91-Trackhouse Racing / Project 91
Conspicuously absent will be Trackhouse Racing’s “Project 91” – which so far has not been entered on ovals anyway – one week after Shane Van Gisbergen’s monumental win in Chicago. While the team had no other scheduled starts this year, team co-owner Justin Marks seemed to indicate that could change. 

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (July 6, 2002): Wayne Edwards picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series career in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 250 at Kansas when his #86 Coverall Carports / Port-a-Fence Chevrolet had electrical issues after 3 laps. This was the third of four starts Edwards made that year.

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