Friday, August 11, 2023

PREVIEW: Indy weekend sees newcomers in Trucks, XFINITY drivers returning from long absences, and road course dominators set to challenge Van Gisbergen in Cup


by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Friday, August 11, 2023 (9:00 P.M. ET, FS1)
TRUCKS Race 17 of 23
Round of 10: Race 1 of 3
TSport 200 at Indianapolis Raceway Park
2022 Last-Place Finisher: Spencer Boyd

There are 39 drivers entered for 36 spots, meaning three will fail to qualify.

RETURNING: #7-Spire Motorsports
Returning to action for his sixth career Truck Series start and first since Nashville is Layne Riggs, who will drive a third different entry in as many starts this year. This time, he runs Spire Motorsports’ #7, which last ran at Pocono with Austin Hill taking 33rd after a multi-truck crash. It was in this race last year, driving for Halmar Friesen Racing, that Riggs made his series debut, climbing from 23rd on the grid to finish an impressive 7th. He looks for more with Infinity Communications Group as sponsor.

MISSING: #14-Trey Hutchens Racing
Not among the entries is Trey Hutchens, who failed to qualify in the series’ most recent race in Richmond.

DRIVER CHANGE: #20-Young’s Motorsports
Ever since his breakthrough win in this year’s ARCA 200, it’s been a difficult year for Greg Van Alst. A wreck in Charlotte forced him to scale back his full-time ARCA schedule, and his first two XFINITY starts with Alpha Prime Racing resulted in last-place finishes. But this week, Van Alst secured not just his first Truck Series ride with Young’s Motorsports, but this same ride for the remainder of 2023. After running with little to no sponsorship and rotating through nine different drivers this season, most recently 34th-place Richmond finisher Mason Massey, the #20 team will run the same driver through the entire Playoffs with CB Fabricating as sponsor.

Logan Bearden seeks his third career Truck Series start and first on an oval, having run the last two Truck Series races at COTA with a best finish of 22nd earlier this year. Bearden Automotive is again the sponsor of AM Racing’s #22, which he ran this year on the road course, and he takes the place of 32nd-place Richmond finisher Christian Rose, who will instead run this weekend’s ARCA race with the same AM Racing team.

DRIVER CHANGE: #30-On Point Motorsports
Taking the place of 30th-place Richmond finisher Ryan Vargas is Chris Hacker, who like Layne Riggs enjoyed a strong run at IRP last year. Seeking his 14th series start and first since a 27th-place run in Gateway, “Hackerman” finished 24th in the 2022 running, but only after battling just outside the Top 10 in the final laps. Morgan & Morgan continues its sponsorship along with UBPN.

DRIVER SWAP: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
MISSING: #34-Reaume Brothers Racing
Only one of the two Reaume Brothers entries makes the trip to Indiana this week with Richmond last-place finisher Josh Reaume himself in the #33, replacing 33rd-place Derek Lemke in the flagship entry. 

DRIVER CHANGE: #41-Niece Motorsports
Chicago winner Shane Van Gisbergen pulls double-duty in what will be his first start since his Cup Series debut. He takes the place of 18th-place Richmond finisher Bayley Currey in Al Niece’s #41, set to make his own Truck Series debut. 

RETURNING: #44-Niece Motorsports
The Niece team returns to a four-truck effort this week as Chad Chastain has the bright red-and-green Eat Illiana Watermelon paint scheme on his #44 Chevrolet. This would be only the team’s second start of the year, following Kaden Honeycutt’s solid 20th-place finish in an unsponsored blue Chevrolet at Pocono. Chad Chastain made his only Truck start of 2023 in the Niece #41 at Texas, taking 34th after a crash, then failed to qualify at Pocono in the Randy Young #20.

After Memphis Villareal’s last-minute driver swap with Jerry Bohlman still wasn’t enough to get G2G Racing into the show in Richmond, Armani Williams returns to the driver’s seat of the #46 for the first time since his hard crash on Charlotte’s pit road. Seeking his seventh series start, Williams carries sponsorship from the CU Autism Network in his first series attempt on a short track.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Kyle Busch Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #02-Young’s Motorsports
Jack Wood rejoins KBM for the first time since his 31st-place showing in Mid-Ohio, replacing Matt Mills, who earned a hard-fought 5th-place finish in the truck at Richmond. Wood’s 43rd series start will be sponsored by Rowdy Manufacturing. Mills will also run this week, moving to Randy Young’s #02 that was originally listed as a “TBA” on the preliminary entry list. Mills runs in place of Will Rodgers, 26th in Richmond, who will instead run the XFINITY race this weekend for Motorsports Business Management (see below).

DRIVER CHANGE: #56-Hill Motorsports
Tyler Hill swaps in for brother Timmy Hill, 23rd in Richmond, to make his first start since a 21st-place showing in Pocono, and brings back Hairclub as sponsor. Tyler will make his 35th series start in what will be his first Truck start at IRP.

RETURNING: #61-Hattori Racing Enterprises
The preliminary entry list showed a “TBA” for the Hattori team’s second entry, back on the entry list for the first time since Christopher Bell’s 4th-place finish in Pocono. That entry will go to 2022 ARCA Menards Series West champion Jake Drew, who finished 12th in his series debut driving for ThorSport Racing earlier this summer at Nashville.

MISSING: #90-Terry Carroll Motorsports
Justin S. Carroll is not entered on the short track this week after his 31st-place run in Richmond.

RETURNING: #04-Roper Racing
The Roper team is back in action for the first time since Pocono, where Cory Roper finished 23rd, and have brought back their driver from the previous race at Mid-Ohio: Landen Lewis, who finished 24th that day in his series debut. Lewis stands as the current leader in the ARCA Menards Series West after seven races, scoring the win at Portland and only two finishes worse than 4th.


Saturday, August 12, 2023 (5:30 P.M. ET, USA)
XFINITY Race 22 of 33
Pennzoil 150 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Grand Prix Circuit
2022 Last-Place Finisher: Jeb Burton

There are 42 drivers entered for 38 spots, meaning four will fail to qualify.

DRIVER SWAP: #4-JD Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #10-Kaulig Racing
A.J. Allmendinger looks to continue his stranglehold on the Indianapolis Grand Prix Circuit’s victory lane this weekend, and will again be in Kaulig Racing’s fleet #10. Allmendinger bumps fellow Cup regular and 7th-place Michigan finisher Ross Chastain to Mario Gosselin’s #91 with Skip Barber Racing School rejoining as sponsor. Chastain, in turn, moves 35th-place Michigan finisher Kyle Weatherman back to JD Motorsports in an unsponsored #4, replacing 30th-place Garrett Smithley.

RETURNING: #34-Jesse Iwuji Motorsports
Indianapolis marks the second entry of Andre Castro, who made headlines with his breakthrough qualifying run with underfunded Jesse Iwuji Motorsports at the Chicago Street Course. Castro finished next-to-last that day after an early accident, but rejoins the team looking for a rebound.

DRIVER CHANGE: #35-Emerling-Gase Motorsports
Both Emerling-Gase entries are, as of this writing, still seeking additional sponsorship for this weekend’s race, which has not been a new story for this week’s driver Alex Labbe. After running under similar circumstances for both RSS Racing and DGM Racing, Labbe pilots the #35 in place of 34th-place Michigan finisher Patrick Emerling.

Sherfick Companies rejoins Josh Bilicki at the DGM team in the #36 entry, which we last saw in Atlanta where Kyle Weatherman took 31st after a late-race crash. Bilicki’s last run in this particular car was at Sonoma, where he finished 19th, and his most recent series start was his career-best 8th at his home track in Road America, driving DGM’s #91 entry.

DRIVER CHANGE: #44-Alpha Prime Racing
Earlier this summer, Conor Daly confirmed he had no plans to run the Cup Series race at Indianapolis for The Money Team Racing, as he had in the past. This week, he will instead run on the XFINITY side – just his second start in the series, and the first since August 25, 2018, where the withdrawal of his sponsor preceded a 31st-place finish for Roush-Fenway Racing. This time, Daly takes the place of Mason Massey, who failed to qualify at Michigan, and carries two of Tommy Joe Martins’ longtime sponsors in Gilreath Farms and AAN Adjusters.

DRIVER SWAP: #45-Alpha Prime Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Stepping over from the Truck Series is Will Rodgers, seeking his 10th XFINITY start, his first of the year, and his first since last year’s Road America race, where he ran 38th in MBM’s #13 Toyota. Rodgers this time takes the wheel of MBM’s #66, which last week in Sage Karam’s hands remained on the lead lap and even led during late-race pit stops en route to a second-straight 25th-place finish. Karam looks to keep his own streak going with a third different team, now taking the place of 24th-place Michigan finisher Jeffrey Earnhardt in the #45 with the Til Valhalla Project as sponsor.

RETURNING: #50-Pardus Racing, Inc.
Back at the track for the first time since Chicago is the Pardus Racing team with Spec Miata veteran Preston Pardus gearing up for his 23rd series start and fourth of 2023. The rain-shortened Chicago race yielded a strong 12th-place finish for both driver and team, and Pardus looks to improve on his track-best 10th for DGM Racing in 2020.

DRIVER CHANGE: #53-Emerling-Gase Motorsports
It is not a “TBA” for the #53 entry this week as Brad Perez rejoins the circuit this week, also looking for sponsorship along with teammate Alex Labbe. Taking the place of C.J. McLaughlin, who failed to qualify at Michigan last week, Perez seeks his seventh series start fresh off a career-best 19th with Alpha Prime Racing in Road America. 

MISSING: #74-CHK Racing
Not making the trip this week is CHK Racing, whose driver Dawson Cram earned a solid 28th-place finish after last-minute sponsorship allowed him to qualify at Michigan. The CHK team has only attempted two of this season’s road course races, resulting in DNQs at both COTA and the Chicago Street Course.

MISSING: #77-Spire Motorsports
Despite a crash with Sammy Smith that ripped open the right-rear of his car and destroyed his exhaust pipes, Carson Hocevar nursed the Spire #77 home in 32nd spot. This team is not entered this week, and Hocevar will instead focus on the start of what he hopes to be a championship run in the Truck Series at IRP.

RETURNING: #88-JR Motorsports
Miguel Paludo rejoins another road course entry list in the Brandt colors of JRM’s #88, seeking his 11th series start after finishing 13th in both his 2023 races at COTA and Chicago.

DRIVER CHANGE: #07-SS-Green Light Racing
After a disappointing early end to her race at Road America with water pump issues, Katherine Legge was scheduled to back with her Blast Equity Collab sponsorship on SS-Green Light’s #07, replacing 31st-place Michigan finisher Stefan Parsons. However, those plans changed by Thursday as Colin Garrett will instead drive, bringing sponsorship from the 11/11 Veterans Project to the hood of the #07. This would be Garrett’s 13th series start and first in a XFINITY race since October 30, 2021, when he ran 14th for Sam Hunt Racing.

DRIVER CHANGE: #08-SS-Green Light Racing
The other SS-Green Light entry goes to another driver who we haven’t seen in NASCAR’s top three series for some time – Monster Jam star Camden Murphy. Taking the wheel in place of Mason Maggio, who ran 37th after two wrecks in Michigan, Murphy hasn’t run a XFINITY Series race since August 31, 2019 at Darlington, when he drove for RSS Racing. Garners Towing is the listed sponsor.

CUP INVADERS: #10-A.J. Allmendinger, #19-Ty Gibbs, #91-Ross Chastain

Sunday, August 13, 2023 (2:30 P.M. ET, NBC)
CUP Race 24 of 36
Verizon 200 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Grand Prix Circuit
2022 Last-Place Finisher: Aric Almirola

Despite a stacked list of road course specialists, there are still just 39 cars entered for 40 spots this weekend. This marks the largest field since COTA, when there were also 39 cars on the grid, but remains the 23rd straight race with fewer than the Daytona 500’s field of 40.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Rick Ware Racing
First among the entrants is 2009 Formula One World Champion Jenson Button of England, back with Mobil 1 as a sponsor for his third career Cup start and first since Chicago, where he briefly ran among the leaders before a spin coming onto pit road left him 21st. Button takes the place of J.J. Yeley, who finished 27th in Michigan.

RETURNING: #33-Richard Childress Racing
Confirmed last month, a second Supercars challenger will join Chicago winner Shane Van Gisbergen in this week’s race, and will enjoy the backing of another strong Chevrolet team in RCR. Brodie “Bush” Kostecki will make his Cup debut in the return of RCR’s #33, which hasn’t started a Cup race since last year at Michigan, where Austin Hill made his own debut. Kostecki enters this race with 16 career starts in ARCA Menards Series East with a best finish of 5th in his most recent start at Dover in 2014. Among his sponsors, the 25-year-old from Western Australia carries Mobile X plus Shaw and Partners.

DRIVER CHANGE: #42-Legacy Motor Club
What began as Legacy’s disciplinary action on driver Noah Gragson for liking a meme on Instagram was followed by news that Josh Berry would drive in Gragson’s place at Michigan. NASCAR’s indefinite suspension of Gragson was then followed by Legacy selecting road racer Mike Rockenfeller for both Indianapolis and Watkins Glen. Now with the news of Gragson being granted his release from his contract, Rockenfeller remains the driver of the #42 Sunseeker Resort Chevrolet this week, following Berry’s crash at Michigan that left him 34th. Part of this years’ 24 Hours of Le Mans “Garage 56” effort with Hendrick Motorsports, Rockenfeller made his first two Cup starts last year with Spire Motorsports, taking 30th at Watkins Glen and 29th on the Charlotte “Roval.”

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Rick Ware Racing
Andy Lally, the 2011 NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year, and sponsor Camping World are back in action this week with Rick Ware Racing, taking the place of 25th-place Michigan finisher Cole Custer. Lally’s 43rd Cup start will be his third of 2023, following a 35th in Sonoma and a 26th on the streets of Chicago. Lally finished 39th of 40 drivers in this race two years ago, driving for Live Fast Motorsports, and that year also finished 10th with B.J. McLeod’s XFINITY team.

MISSING: #62-Beard Motorsports
Austin Hill is not entered this week after his 28th-place return to the Cup Series with Beard Motorsports in Michigan. Hill focuses on Saturday’s XFINITY race, and will likely return to the Cup garage in two weeks at Daytona.

RETURNING: #67-23XI Racing
Another road course specialist with impressive speed has to be Kamui Kobayashi of Japan, who this Sunday will make his Cup Series debut in 23XI Racing’s first run for their part-time third team since Travis Pastrana’s 11th-place finish in this year’s Daytona 500. Carrying sponsorship from Toyota Genuine Parts, Kobayashi boasts an impressive road course resume of his own. Not only does he have starts in 75 career Formula One Grands Prix, but more recently has shown his aggression in endurance racing, instrumental in the Konica Minolta team’s back-to-back victories in the 2019 and 2020 runnings of the 24 Hours of Daytona.

RETURNING: #91-Trackhouse Racing / Project 91
And, of course, he’s back: Shane Van Gisbergen, whose debut breakthrough ended decades of futility for countless “road course ringers,” is back in Trackhouse’s #91 Enhance Health Chevrolet – a race the team hadn’t even planned on entering at the time of the Chicago win. Still eyeing a full-time ride in the Cup Series, and now running double-duty this weekend with the Truck Series at IRP, all eyes will be on the New Zealander to see what happens next – and who among the series regulars will respond.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (August 11, 2007): Travis Kittleson picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in the Toyota Tundra 200 at the Nashville Superspeedway when his #19 Xpress Motorsports Ford had ignition trouble after 1 lap. All three of Kittleson’s last-place finishes occurred during the 2007 season, each for different teams. On April 28th, he crashed Dollar Motorsports’ #46 Bob Steele Chevrolet Chevrolet at Kansas, then on November 2nd had suspension issues on Bobby Dotter’s #08 People Against Drugs Chevrolet at Texas.

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