Friday, August 25, 2023

XFINITY: Alex Guenette collected in multi-car pileup at Daytona

PHOTO: @dgm_racing_

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Alex Guenette picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINTIY Series career in Friday’s Wawa 250 Powered by Coca-Cola at the Daytona International Speedway when his #91 EVIRUM / BKFC Chevrolet was collected in a multi-car crash after 41 of 110 laps.

The finish came in Guenette’s sixth series start. In the XFINITY Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 31st for the #91, the 384th from a crash, and the 628th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 56th for the #91, the 1,348th from a crash, and the 1,910th for Chevrolet.

It’s been nearly a decade since Guenette has been featured in an article on this site. On March 30, 2014, the 17-year-old Canadian was making his second career Truck Series start with Mario Gosselin, qualifying 24th at Martinsville. It was his first NASCAR start on an oval, and yielded his first last-place finish after early fuel pump issues. That day, he carried sponsorship from Motos Illimitées, an off-road enthusiast shop based in his native Terrebonne, Quebec and operated by his father and grandfather, both sports car racers. The same brand was on board his lone ARCA Menards Series entry at Talladega – also fielded by Gosselin – with which he finished in 20th place.

Guenette is still quite new to the NASCAR XFINITY Series. Coming into 2023, his only starts came in 2016, and only his last at Kentucky came with Gosselin. The other three were for Victor Obaika, with whom he earned his series-best 24th-place finish at Pocono. He then returned home to compete in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series, where he’d achieved modest success during his time running in the U.S. He finished top-ten in two of his first three starts back, then in 2021 ranked 7th in points driving a car entered by Cup Series team Rick Ware Racing. But it was with team owner Dave Jacombs that, on August 7, 2022, Guenette broke through with his first Pinty’s victory, besting a dominant Marc-Antoine Camirand to claim his first victory on the road course at Trois-Rivieres.

July’s landmark weekend at the Chicago Street Course brought Guenette back to the United States, where he again teamed with Gosselin in the team’s part-time effort, the #36 Chevrolet. Though torrential rains cut the race short, Guenette managed to qualify his car on speed in 18th and secured 15th at the checkered flag – a new career-best. Friday’s run at Daytona would be his first start since, now in Gosselin’s #91 entry. It would also be his first XFINITY start at Daytona since July 1, 2016, when he finished 38th of 40 starters in Obaika’s #97 Vroom! Brands Chevrolet. 

This time around, Guenette would be sponsored by Evirum, a Quebec-based waste management service, and the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship, or BKFC. According to the team’s press release, Guenette had VIPs on hand in BKFC Two-Divisjon World Champion Lorenzo “The Juggernaut” Hunt and “BKFC Bombshells” Kaitlyn and Alyssa. Guenette would do so as the only non-U.S. driver in the field.

With no practice, Guenette’s first opportunity to shake down his Chevrolet came in qualifying, where he struggled with the car’s handling to run the 31st-fastest lap in Round 1 with a speed of 177.975mph (50.569 seconds). With exactly 38 drivers entered for as many spots, he still made the show, securing the 31st starting spot.

Securing the 38th and final starting spot in qualifying was the #39 Ford of Ryan Sieg, who after several races with reduced sponsorship received new backing from Sci Aps, long a sponsor of part-timer C.J. McLaughlin. Both Sieg and the #27 Capital City Towing Chevrolet of 37th-place qualifier Jordan Anderson – back behind the wheel for the first time since his fiery wreck at Talladega last fall – were prohibited from qualifying. Both were among five drivers docked late Thursday for multiple inspection failures, each also resulting in a tail-end penalty and a mandatory pass-through down pit road after taking the green flag. The others docked were Anderson’s teammates in 10th-place Jeb Burton in the #22 State Water Heaters / Puryear Chevrolet and 23rd-place Parker Retzlaff in the #31 Funkaway Chevrolet, plus JR Motorsports’ Justin Allgaier who timed in 12th in the #7 Hellmann’s Chevrolet.

By the evening of the race, two more drivers incurred pre-race penalties for unapproved adjustments: 29th-place Connor Mosack in the #24 Toyota Racing Development Toyota and 35th-place Natalie Decker in the #53 Wawa Rechargers “The Mermaid” Ford. Mosack took the green flag 3.249 seconds back of the lead with 38th place shifting to Jordan Anderson’s #27, 3.588 seconds behind. The five teams incurring a Lap 1 pass-through formed a draft of their own, pulling down pit road together and returning in a single-file procession. On Lap 3, those five cars were led by Jeb Burton in 34th with Anderson still last, the group 22.993 seconds behind 33rd-place Natalie Decker. By Lap 14, this five-car line closed the gap to just 4.227 seconds behind Decker, who lost touch with the tail end of her own pack. By Lap 16, Burton caught Decker and pulled his group past, dropping Decker to last place on Lap 17. Unable to latch onto this pack, Decker fell 2.246 behind the now 37th-place Anderson on Lap 18, a gap that grew to 10.100 seconds on Lap 23. Stranded, Decker was first to be lapped on the 24th circuit.

Coming to complete Lap 30 and with it, Stage 1, the five “pass-through” drivers had closed within 1.556 seconds of 32nd-place Riley Herbst, whose #98 Monster Energy Ford had plummeted down the rankings with a steering box issue that kept his steering wheel at the three o’clock position. As Jeb Burton caught Herbst, the #98 blew a left-front tire, tearing away the fender and forcing him to come down pit road. The stage-ending caution came out before 38th-place Decker could drop Herbst to last place, trapping her a lap down. Herbst’s crew made at least two stops under the ensuing yellow, still leaving the left-front fender completely exposed. By the Lap 37 restart, Herbst was showing three laps down with 37th-place Decker still one down. The five “pass-through” cars were now caught up with the leaders.

On Lap 39, Joey Gase made an unscheduled stop after his #35 National Crime Prevention Council Ford lost a left-rear window. He fell 13.826 seconds back of the lead, then lost two laps on pit road as the crew retrieved the replacement. This moved Gase to 37th, lifting teammate Decker to 36th. Herbst remained on track in 38th, still three laps down and hoping for attrition to move him up the rankings. He wouldn’t have to wait long.

Entering the tri-oval to begin Lap 42, Anthony Alfredo was running around 12th place on the inside of a three-wide battle when his #78 Dude Wipes Chevrolet appeared to slide up the track into the left-rear of Josh Berry’s #8 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet and the left-front of his JR Motorsports teammate Brandon Jones in the #9 Menards Chevrolet. While Berry and Alfredo kept their cars straight, Jones lost control, collecting to his inside Brett Moffitt’s #25 Wawa Rechargers "Dragon Blast” Ford. Jones and Moffitt then swept up the track and into the outside wall, triggering a multi-car pileup. Further back, a secondary wreck sent Garrett Smithley’s #4 Chevrolet sliding backward into the outside wall, which is likely where Guenette’s #91 was collected. Told he was leaking fluid, Guenette stopped on the apron of the track, unable to continue along with Jones and Mosack, whose #24 was trapped behind the wrecking #9 as the wreck began.

Also suffering damage in the wreck were both Decker and Herbst, the former rear-ending the latter and pushing in the nose of her #53. Both made it to pit road for repairs, which meant it wasn’t until Lap 46 that Guenette took over last place. Mosack and Jones were also towed to the garage, done for the night in 37th and 36th. Decker made it no further than 35th as another trip to pit road saw her battery fail, leaving her stranded at pit entrance. Rounding out the group was Joe Graf, Jr., who nearly cleared the wreck in his #38 Wawa Rechargers “The Galaxy” Ford before he spun out and came back up the track, forcing Jordan Anderson to cut hard to the left. Anderson cleared the wreck, only for Graf to slide into the path of a wrecking Jones.

A few underdogs survive late-race chaos at Daytona

Following his involvement in the Lap 42 wreck, Anthony Alfredo worked his way into contention and finished 8th. This was not only his season-best, but his first top-ten run since Las Vegas last fall, when he drove for Our Motorsports. It’s also B.J. McLeod’s first top-ten finish as a team owner since Nashville last year, when Ryan Preece finished 6th. 

One spot ahead of Alfredo came Parker Retzlaff, whose 7th-place showing was his sixth top-ten finish of the year and second in the last four races – all the more incredible as he was among the five drivers who incurred the first-lap pass-through penalty for inspection failures. He was joined in the Top 10 by fellow penalized drivers Justin Allgaier, who won a photo finish with Sheldon Creed, and Ryan Sieg, who climbed from last on the grid to finish 6th.

Gray Gaulding’s 9th-place finish was just one spot short of his season-best 8th with the same SS-Green Light Racing team at Talladega, piloting the #08 Panini NFT Chevrolet for the first time since the spring race at Darlington. Six of Gaulding’s eight top-ten finishes have now all come on the superspeedways, including a pair of runner-up finishes.

Just outside the Top 10 in 11th came the #45 Ark Encounter Chevrolet of Jeffrey Earnhardt, who rebounded from his disappointing tangle with Parker Kligerman in this year’s Daytona opener to earn his best finish of 2023. In what has been a difficult year both for Earnhardt and the entire Alpha Prime Racing team, Earnhardt’s previous best of the season was only 18th, which came in the spring race at Richmond.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #91 in a XFINITY Series race since October 1, 2022, when Mason Massey finished under power, 18 laps down, at Talladega. The number hadn’t finished last in a XFINITY race at Daytona since February 22, 2014, when Jeff Green earned his 54th career last-place run after a vibration 3 laps into the season opener.

38) #91-Alex Guenette / 41 laps / crash
37) #24-Connor Mosack / 41 laps / crash
36) #9-Brandon Jones / 41 laps / crash
35) #53-Natalie Decker / 42 laps / crash
34) #38-Joe Graf, Jr. / 42 laps / dvp

1st) SS-Green Light Racing (4)
2nd) Alpha Prime Racing (3)
3rd) Big Machine Racing, CHK Racing, Emerling-Gase Motorsports, JD Motorsports (2)
4th) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, DGM Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, Jordan Anderson Racing, Kaulig Racing, Motorsports Business Management, Our Motorsports, Sam Hunt Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (19)
2nd) Toyota (3)
3rd) Ford (2)


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