Saturday, September 9, 2023

XFINITY: Kyle Weatherman shows speed with returning sponsor before he’s collected in early crash

PHOTO: DGM Racing, @dgm_racing_

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Kyle Weatherman picked up the 4th last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Kansas Lottery 300 at the Kansas Speedway when his #91 Tweaker Energy Drinks Chevrolet was involved in a two-car accident after 19 of 200 laps.

The finish, which came in Weatherman’s 103rd series start, was his first of the season and first in a XFINITY Series race since June 25, 2022 at Nashville, 44 races ago. In the XFINITY Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 32nd for the #91, the 385th from a crash, and the 630th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 57th for the #91, the 1,351st from a crash, and the 1,914th for Chevrolet.

Weatherman remains one of the XFINITY Series’ most resourceful drivers, getting the most out of cars for just about every team he’s raced. He was last featured here while sharing the schedule with Jesse Iwuji Motorsports, earning an 8th at Loudon and several top-twenty finishes through the fall. He did the same early this year at Our Motorsports, taking 16th at Las Vegas and 17th at Phoenix. He then secured FRS Racing their first start at Martinsville, and through suspension issues left him 34th, it began a streak of five races with five different teams: 14th at Dover for Our, 20th at Charlotte for DGM Racing, 22nd at Sonoma for Bobby Dotter, and 18th at Nashville for JD Motorsports.

After running the last four races with JD Motorsports, including a 13th in Watkins Glen, Weatherman returned to DGM Racing to run the #91 for the first time since Michigan. He’d this time carry sponsorship from Tweaker Energy, which was not a new sponsor to NASCAR. They last backed a Cup car on May 7, 2016 at this same Kanas track, backing Cole Whitt in Premium Motorsports’ #98 Chevrolet. They last backed a XFINITY entry on November 14, 2014, supporting Mike Bliss’ #19 Toyota at TriStar Motorsports. Weatherman’s version featured silver foil numbers on his #91.

Weatherman showed impressive speed at Kansas, ranking 18th in practice and qualifying 19th with a speed of 171.991mph (31.397 seconds). This was more than enough to secure him a spot in the field as 39 teams contested the 38-car starting grid. Sent home was Leland Honeyman, Jr., whose #44 Eighth Order Chevrolet broke loose in Turns 1 and 2 during his timed lap. Alpha Prime’s #44 has now failed to qualify five times this season, four of them in the last six races. Honeyman would start Saturday’s race, however, as team co-owner Tommy Joe Martins worked out a deal to take Timmy Hill’s place in Motorsports Business Management’s 28th-place starting #66 Coble Enterprises Ford.

Securing the 38th and final starting spot was C.J. McLaughlin in RSS Racing’s #28 Sci Aps Ford, a team which incurred a redundant tail-end penalty for an engine change. McLaughlin was one of three drivers handed pre-race penalties, joined by both Leland Honeyman for the driver change on the #66 and Matt Mills, whose team made unapproved adjustments to the #53 J.F. Electric Chevrolet after qualifying in 27th. During the pace laps, NASCAR instructed Honeyman’s #66 to pull ahead of McLaughlin’s #28. And as the green flag dropped, McLaughlin was behind the field by open track, 3.88 seconds back of the lead to Mills and Honeyman, side-by-side with gaps of 3.4 and 3.355, respectively.

An instant later, trouble broke out around 30th place, where Nick Leitz had qualified. Leitz made his XFINITY Series debut in RSS Racing’s #38 Support a Teacher Ford, overcoming a Turn 2 spin during practice. But heading into the race’s first corner, Leitz turned right into the left-front of 32nd-place starter Anthony Alfredo’s #78 Andy’s Frozen Custard Chevrolet. Leitz crossed Alfredo’s nose, putting both cars into the wall and drawing the first caution of the race. Both cars separated themselves and followed each other down pit road, Alfredo ahead of the now last-place Leitz. Alfredo stayed on the lead lap, but Leitz lost a lap as the crew worked on both the splitter and the right-front bodywork. Leitz made a second stop under yellow, then reported something was still dragging on the right side of his car.

The race restarted on Lap 6 with both Alfredo and Leitz serving redundant pit road penalties, joined by Joey Gase who pitted under yellow in the #35 Cancun Mexican Grill & Bar Toyota, which gained last-minute backing on the hood from Iowa’s Save A Lot Food Stores. Alfredo made quick work of Gase, and on Lap 7 cleared the “Crash Clock.” Leitz, now between three and four laps down, still needed to reach minimum speed. He made at least one more stop around this time, dropping him between three and four laps down with just over a minute left on his “Crash Clock.” Alfredo’s problems continued around Lap 10 with a flat tire that dropped metal debris at pit entrance, drawing a debris caution. Leitz elected not to pit, still needing to clock a 35.28-second lap. 

On Lap 17, during the debris caution, Chandler Smith made a surprise trip down pit road, reporting the engine was blowing up on his #16 Quick Tie Products, Inc. Chevrolet. The crew told Smith to drive directly to garage, the car not showing any damage, nor trailing smoke. As the crew set to work, changing the spark plugs and spark plug wires, Nick Leitz gradually closed the gap from 38th place. Then came the Lap 19 restart, which led to Kyle Weatherman’s involvement in the last-place battle. Coming down to Lap 20, Weatherman was running 12th when trouble broke out in front of him. Sheldon Creed’s #2 Whelen / NFFF Chevrolet bounced off the Turn 4 wall, then banged doors with Sam Mayer’s #1 Huck’s Market / Accelerate Chevrolet to his inside. Mayer spun up the track – directly into Weatherman’s path. The two collided, leaving Weatherman’s car stopped on the apron. Mayer made it to pit road before also going to the garage. 

Weatherman collides with Mayer on the frontstretch.
PHOTO: @DnfRacers

Meanwhile, Chandler Smith took over last from Nick Leitz on Lap 23, and Leitz dropped Weatherman to 37th on Lap 25. The next time by, Leitz finally cleared the “Crash Clock,” but remained on track instead of coming in for more repairs. On the 29th lap, Chandler Smith’s crew said they were about to return to the track, which they did the next time by. Finally, on Lap 33, Smith dropped Weatherman to last place, and the next time by put Mayer back to 37th. Smith ultimately came home 32nd with Leitz in 31st.

More teams soon found bad luck, completing the Bottom Five. The 36th spot originally went Daniel Hemric, who like his teammate lost power on Lap 37, this time reporting his gauges going dark. After swapping car numbers to Kaulig Racing’s #10 in a bid at the Owner’s Championship, Hemric’s #10 Cirkul Chevrolet still pulled into the #11 team’s stall and had to be pushed back. He then went to the garage for a battery replacement, which the crew reportedly obtained from Big Machine Racing. He returned to the track at least 70 laps down, made another green-flag stop, then continued 76 laps down. Hemric climbed to 35th around Lap 136 and finished in 34th, 20 laps short of Blaine Perkins, who fell out late. The first car Hemric passed was the #00 Haas Automation Ford of Cole Custer, who ran over a tire carcass from Jeremy Clements’ #51 Kansas State University Chevrolet that sent Custer into the Turn 2 wall. Sammy Smith took 35th, his #18 TMC Toyota collected in a Turn 3 stack-up again triggered by Creed, ultimately requiring a tow behind the wall.

SS-Green Light Racing enjoys solid performance from both drivers

Bobby Dotter’s two cars earned solid finishes with Mason Massey taking home 16th in the #08 Brunt Ford, one lap down, and Dawson Cram in 21st, two laps down in the #07 Titan Construction Chevrolet. For Cram, it was a new career-best finish in just his eighth series start. His previous mark of 28th with CHK Racing at Michigan was his only finish better than 30th. Cram carried over his Titan sponsorship from his DNQ with Alpha Prime last week and overcame damage during the Weatherman crash after a stack-up led to his car veering into the outside wall. 

Taking home 4th at the checkered flag was Parker Kligerman, who secured Big Machine Racing its first-ever spot in the Playoffs. Kligerman’s pursuit of both a title and a first career XFINITY Series win continues next Friday in Bristol. 

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #91 in a XFINITY Series race at Kanas, and the first at the track for Weatherman.

38) #91-Kyle Weatherman / 19 laps / crash
37) #1-Sam Mayer / 20 laps / crash 
36) #00-Cole Custer / 60 laps / crash / led 3 laps
35) #18-Sammy Smith / 97 laps / crash / led 1 lap
34) #10-Daniel Hemric / 120 laps / running

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

1st) Chevrolet (21)
2nd) Toyota (3)
3rd) Ford (2)


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