Friday, August 25, 2023

PREVIEW: Five XFINITY regulars set to run double-duty in Daytona; Blackjack Racing and Milwaukee are back for first time since 2009

PHOTO: @RyanSiegRacing

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Friday, August 25, 2023 (7:30 P.M. ET, USA)
XFINITY Race 24 of 33
Wawa 250 Powered by Coca-Cola at Daytona
2022 Last-Place Finisher: Sammy Smith

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

DRIVER CHANGE: #10-Kaulig Racing
In place of Kyle Busch, who finished 27th at Watkins Glen after transmission issues, Justin Haley takes the controls of Kaulig’s #10 entry in a double-duty effort with Saturday’s Cup Series race. This will be Haley’s fifth XFINITY start of the year and first since his season-best 4th in Atlanta last month.

MISSING: #17-Hendrick Motorsports
Not among the entrants this week is Alex Bowman, who finished 9th in the XFINITY race at Watkins Glen as he will this week focus on earning a Playoff spot with a win on Saturday.

DRIVER CHANGE: #19-Joe Gibbs Racing
Just days after Ty Gibbs nearly won at Watkins Glen before late-race contact from Sam Mayer dropped him to 17th, news broke that Trevor Bayne will reunite with JGR this weekend for the first of three races with Interstate Batteries as sponsor. The 2011 Daytona 500 champion ran nine XFINITY races for JGR last year, most recently a 6th-place finish at Homestead where he started on pole. Like Bowman, Gibbs sets his focus squarely on Saturday, where a 5th-place finish at Watkins Glen closed him to within 32 points of Bubba Wallace for the final Playoff spot.

NEW TEAM / DRIVER SWAP: #22-Jordan Anderson Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #27-Jordan Anderson Racing
Welcome back to the driver’s seat team owner Jordan Anderson, who hasn’t started a XFINITY Series race since a 20th-place run at Kansas on October 23, 2021, and hasn’t run in any NASCAR race since he suffered serious burns in his crash in last fall’s Truck Series race at Talladega. Anderson takes the wheel of his own #27, bringing with him Larry McReynolds as his crew chief. Anderson takes the place of Jeb Burton, who finished 10th in a car that honored first responders. Burton runs a brand-new third entry at the Anderson team, the #22, which carries a “throwback” scheme to father Ward Burton’s famous Caterpillar Dodge that won the 2002 Daytona 500. Tonight’s race will be a challenge as all three Anderson entries – including Parker Retzlaff in the #31 – were among the five drivers to fail pre-race inspection, incurring a tail-end penalty and a pass-through after the green flag. The other two penalized drivers are Justin Allgaier and Ryan Sieg, the latter debuting new sponsorship from Sci Aps on RSS Racing’s #39 Ford. Sci Aps, the longtime backer for C.J. McLaughlin, remains an associate backer this weekend for Emerling-Gase’s #35 entry with Joey Gase (see below).

Another “throwback” scheme among this Friday’s entrants is the Night Owl Ford decorated like Davey Allison’s 1990 Texaco / Havoline Ford, a car that failed to qualify in its one previous attempt at Charlotte. Kyle Sieg will start the car this week, following his 19th-place finish with the #28 team at Watkins Glen.

DRIVER CHANGE: #35-Emerling-Gase Motorsports
On the same week he was elected the newest board member of the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC), Joey Gase returns to the seat of the #35 he co-owns with the NCPC and its mascot “McGruff The Crime Dog” as sponsor. This will be Gase’s 270th career XFINITY start, his first since a 31st-place showing at Pocono, and follows an 18th-place run in this year’s season opener at Daytona. He takes the place of road racer Stanton Barrett, who earned a 32nd-place finish after suspension issues in Watkins Glen.

DRIVER CHANGE: #44-Alpha Prime Racing
Superspeedway action once again beckons Alpha Prime co-owner Caesar Bacarella, who this week takes the controls of the #44 in place of 33rd-place Watkins Glen finisher Stefan Parsons. With sponsorship from Advanced Drainage Systems, Bacarella will make his 29th series start and first since his career-best 6th-place showing at Talladega, his first career Top Ten.

DRIVER CHANGE: #45-Alpha Prime Racing
Also rejoining the circuit this week is Jeffrey Earnhardt, back with Alpha Prime for the first time since his 24th-place showing in Michigan. Earnhardt takes the place of Sage Karam, who isn’t entered this week after his latest in a series of strong runs since Road America was capped by a 15th-place performance at Watkins Glen. Contact from Parker Kligerman in this February’s Daytona event spoiled a chance at a strong run, leaving him 28th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #53-Emerling-Gase Motorsports
In addition to their title sponsor for tonight’s race, convenience store chain Wawa has sponsored no fewer than four of the cars in the race, each promoting a different “Recharger” beverage available at the chain. Among these is the second Emerling-Gase entry, which this week goes to Natalie Decker, who makes her 10th series start and first since a 34th-place run at Charlotte for SS-Green Light Racing. Her particular beverage is called “The Mermaid.” The other three Wawa paint schemes, all designed by DMP Designs, will be featured on the cars of Brett Moffitt (#25 “Dragon Blast” Ford for AM Racing), Joe Graf, Jr. (#38 “The Galaxy” Ford for RSS Racing), and J.J. Yeley (#07 “Island Surf” Chevrolet for SS-Green Light Racing).

MISSING: #66-Motorsports Business Management
MISSING: #74-CHK Racing
Two of the smallest teams in the XFINITY garage were both unable to make a bid at this weekend’s race in Daytona as both were unable to lease an engine for this weekend. For CHK Racing, this follows a DNQ with road race instructor Casey Carden at Watkins Glen. For MBM, which didn’t enter The Glen, this comes one year after Timmy Hill finished a close 2nd to Jeremy Clements in this race. Hill is expected to drive the #66 next week in Darlington, where CHK Racing is also expected to run.

Taking the place of Ross Chastain – already assured his Playoff spot as the race winner in Nashville, and also earning a 4th-place finish for this team in Watkins Glen – is a surprising Alex Guenette. Guenette hasn’t started a XFINITY Series race at Daytona since 2016, when he finished 38th in this race after an early crash driving for Obaika Racing. He did return to action last month on the Chicago Street Course, where he earned a solid 15th-place finish in the rain-shortened event, driving DGM’s #36.

MISSING: #96-FRS Racing
Max McLaughlin qualified FRS Racing into their second-ever race last week in Watkins Glen, but a crash off Turn 11 left them with a disappointing 34th-place finish. The team has not entered this week.

DRIVER CHANGE: #07-SS-Green Light Racing
With Josh Bilicki traveling to his home state in Wisconsin to participate in NASCAR’s revival of the Milwaukee Mile (see below), one week after his 25th-place run at Watkins Glen, David Starr was originally listed to drive the #07 this week until the Wawa deal led to J.J. Yeley climbing aboard the Chevrolet. This gives Yeley the opportunity to run double-duty this weekend, returning to a Daytona track where he’s finished no worse than 18th in his last seven consecutive XFINITY starts dating back to 2017. He ran 9th in this race last year, the night his then-teammate at MBM Timmy Hill finished 2nd.

DRIVER CHANGE: #08-SS-Green Light Racing
Taking the place of Alex Labbe, who finished 24th last week at The Glen, is a returning Gray Gaulding, who brings back his Panini NFT sponsorship on the #08 Chevrolet. Like his teammate Yeley, Gaulding is a good dark horse pick for the superspeedway, having scored two of his seven career Top Tens in consecutive XFINITY races at Daytona from 2019 to 2020. More recently, he finished 8th with this team in this spring’s race at Talladega. 

CUP INVADERS: #10-Justin Haley

Saturday, August 26, 2023 (7:00 P.M. ET, NBC)
CUP Race 26 of 36
Regular Season Finale
Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona
2022 Last-Place Finisher: Kyle Larson

There are 39 drivers entered for 40 spots, marking the 25th straight short field since the series was last in Daytona for the season opener.

RETURNING: #13-Kaulig Racing
In addition to the Playoff drama of Saturday’s regular season finale, there are no fewer than six XFINITY Series competitors who are running double-duty in Daytona who could each potentially shake up the race’s outcome. First among these is Kaulig’s Chandler Smith, who failed to qualify this #13 entry in the Daytona 500, finished a strong 17th in his series debut at Richmond (where he scored his first XFINITY win the day before), then finished last in the All-Star Open in North Wilkesboro. His is also the first of three “open” entries competing this weekend.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Rick Ware Racing
Brennan Poole returns for his fifth Cup start of the season, the 40th of his career, with Finance Pro Plus sponsoring his black-and-white Ford for Rick Ware Racing. Poole, who runs double-duty with JD Motorsports, takes the place of 25th-place Watkins Glen finisher Andy Lally. Poole has just two prior Cup starts at Daytona, which each came as Rick Ware acquired Premium Motorsports, and finished a respectable 16th and 15th.

RETURNING: #36-Front Row Motorsports
Riley Herbst is still searching for his first XFINITY Series victory, but also returns to Daytona fresh off a 10th-place finish in February’s 500, followed by a 20th-place run in Talladega. While Herbst drove Rick Ware’s #15 in both races – the car Poole drives this Saturday – he this time is entered in the part-time third entry for Front Row Motorsports, complete with his Monster Energy sponsorship promoting its Zero Sugar variety. The #36 team last ran in the same Talladega race where Herbst last ran Cup, where it too took home 10th with teammate Todd Gilliland.

DRIVER CHANGE: #42-Legacy Motor Club
Mike Rockenfeller’s 19th-place finish was sadly overlooked last week in Watkins Glen – a run that stands as the second-best finish Legacy Motor Club’s #42 Chevrolet has earned all season. The new-look variant of the Sunseeker Resort scheme runs again this weekend, though now with a returning Josh Berry back aboard for the first time since his 34th-place run in Michigan. Still another driver running double-duty, Berry pairs his effort with his JR Motorsports #8 entry for tonight’s race.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Rick Ware Racing
The aforementioned J.J. Yeley completes his weekend in Rick Ware’s #51, taking the place of fellow XFINITY and Cup veteran Cole Custer, who claimed 28th last week at Watkins Glen. Yeley enters this race fresh off his 7th-place finish in last month’s rain-shortened superspeedway race in Atlanta, a race that saw his first Top Ten in Cup since the 2013 Daytona 500.

RETURNING: #62-Beard Motorsports
Fresh off news of his contract extension with RCR’s XFINITY team, superspeedway ace Austin Hill will be the fifth full-time XFINITY driver to run double-duty between XFINITY and Cup in Daytona. This will be Hill’s fifth Cup start and first since Michigan, where he finished 28th. Like Chandler Smith, Hill failed to qualify for this year’s Daytona 500, but will get his first opportunity to run a Cup car on the track this weekend.

DRIVER CHANGE: #78-Live Fast Motorsports
After Josh Bilicki took home 27th last week in Watkins Glen, then travels to Milwaukee for Sunday’s Truck Series race, team co-owner B.J. McLeod will pilot the #78 Chevrolet for the first time since Richmond, where he finished last, but just five laps down to the race winner. Both of McLeod’s two career top-ten finishes have occurred in each of the last two runnings of this race, beginning with a 9th-place showing in 2021 and a career-best 7th last year. Saturday will also make his 130th series start.

Sunday, August 27, 2023 (4:00 P.M. ET, FS1)
TRUCKS Race 18 of 23
Round of 10: Race 2 of 3
Clean Harbors 175 at Milwaukee
2009 Last-Place Finisher: Nick Tucker

As the Truck Series returns to action for the first time since IRP, there are 37 drivers entered for 36 spots, meaning one will fail to qualify.

DRIVER CHANGE: #7-Spire Motorsports
After Layne Riggs turned heads in his return to the site of his Truck Series debut with a career-best 3rd-place finish, the #7 Spire entry goes this week to Derek Kraus, whose 75th career Truck Series start will be his first since an 18th-place run in this year’s Daytona opener with Young’s Motorsports. gener8or Skills Accelerator will join as spsonsor.

RETURNING: #21-Blackjack Racing
It’s appropriate that, on a track returning to the circuit for the first time since 2009, a small team from that same season would also come back. That year, Dexter Bean attempted to qualify for seven Cup races in a #51 Dodge entered under the banner of Blackjack Racing. Bean only qualified for one, which came at Pocono, where he finished under power, four laps down, in 36th position. That same year, Bean competed in the last Truck Series race at Milwaukee, finishing 17th for Mario Gosselin. Since then, Bean has focused on the XFINITY Series, running the occasional race for Gosselin, most recently 2021 at Loudon. But this week, Bean enters his own #21 under the Blackjack branding, bringing with him longtime sponsor Badger Environmental along with iiOTec. 

DRIVER SWAP: #22-AM Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
Derek Lemke returns to the Truck Series for the first time since he finished 33rd in his series debut at Richmond. He again pilots Josh Reaume’s #33, taking the place of Reaume himself, who failed to qualify at IRP. Reaume will instead pilot AM Racing’s #22, taking the place of 21st-place IRP finisher Logan Bearden, who’s not entered this week.

DRIVER CHANGE: #30-On Point Motorsports
As Chris Hacker continues to serve his suspension after he was arrested for driving his passenger car under the influence, his law firm sponsor Morgan & Morgan has since announced a multi-year, multi-race sponsorship of both Richard Childress Racing’s Cup entries for Austin Dillon an Kyle Busch, starting with Dillon’s run at Darlington next week. Taking the controls of the #30 on the Truck Series side is a returning Brad Perez, who carries his Bonesteel Aerospace sponsorship, and as of this writing was looking for sponsors for the “Bread Rocket’s” tailgate. Perez’ only Truck start of 2023 came at a soggy Martinsville, where he ran 35th for Randy Young.

DRIVER CHANGE: #41-Niece Motorsports
Shane Van Gisbergen nearly finished on the lead lap in his Truck Series debut at IRP, where he earned a 19th-place finish. This week, the ride goes back to Bayley Currey and sponsor GlobalTranz, Currey’s first Truck start since his 18th-place run at Richmond. In his five previous Truck starts this season, Currey has finished no worse than 18th and earned his first two Top Fives, taking 4th in Atlanta and 5th in Nashville.

MISSING: #44-Niece Motorsports
MISSING: #46-G2G Racing
Not among this week’s entrants are Al Niece’s part-time fourth entry, which Chad Chastain failed to qualify at IRP, and G2G Racing’s #46, which also missed the cut with Armani Williams.

DRIVER SWAP: #51-Kyle Busch Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #02-Young’s Motorsports
Josh Bilicki’s race at his home track comes in Randy Young’s #02 entry, which will carry Bilicki’s longtime sponsor Insurance King. This moves out Matt Mills, who finished 23rd with the team at IRP, back to the #51 with which he ran so strong at Richmond. Taking the place of Jack Wood, who finished 18th at IRP, Mills again carries his own familiar sponsor in J.F. Electric.

DRIVER CHANGE: #61-Hattori Racing Enterprises
Seeking his NASCAR national series debut this week is current ARCA Menards Series West championship leader Sean Hingorani, winner of four of the season’s eight races run so far in 2023. The 16-year-old from Newport Beach, California takes the controls of the part-time second entry fielded by Shigeaki Hattori, not long after a 3rd-place finish in the ARCA Menards Series race at IRP driving for Venturini Motorsports. Fidelity Capital is the listed sponsor of the #61, which ran 17th at IRP in the hands of Jake Drew.

MISSING: #04-Roper Racing
Landen Lewis and the Cory Roper-owned team are not among this week’s entrants after Lewis ran 28th last time out at IRP.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (August 25, 1973): Robert Brown picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Winston Cup Series career in the Nashville 420 at Nashville Fairgrounds when his #58 Stanley Jones Mechanical Constructors 1973 Chevrolet had suspension issues after 5 laps. Brown started last in the 33-car field in what was his ninth and final series start. His best finish was 18th at Bristol on March 28, 1971.

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