Sunday, June 4, 2023

CUP: Carson Hocevar charges to 16th in Cup debut before brake failure leaves him last

PHOTO: Michelle, @robbygordonfan7

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Carson Hocevar scored the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Enjoy Illinois 300 presented by TicketSmarter at the World Wide Technology Raceway (Gateway) when his #7 Schluter Systems Chevrolet crashed after 91 of 243 laps.

The finish came in Hocevar’s series debut. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 45th for the #7, the 650th from a crash, and the 840th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 54th for the #7, the 1,336th from a crash, and the 1,891st for Chevrolet.

While Hocevar’s star has steadily been on the rise since 2020, what has taken place since he was last featured here has turned him into one of NASCAR’s most anticipated talents. At COTA on March 25th, Hocevar was a late substitution for Blaine Perkins at SS-Green Light Racing, where his day ended early with transmission issues. Just one week later, Hocevar scored his first Truck Series victory after contact with a dominant Nick Sanchez. This preceded his originally scheduled XFINITY debut for Dover with Spire Motorsports, a run delayed by rain to Darlington, where he finished 6th. Hocevar and the #77 returned last Monday night in Charlotte, where he again impressed by taking 8th.

Earlier that Monday, the Coca-Cola 600 featured a controversial accident where Chase Elliott deliberately turned left into the right-rear of Denny Hamlin, who had pinched Elliott into the outside wall. NASCAR handed Elliott a suspension on Monday, which would ordinarily have opened the door for Hendrick Motorsports’ “super sub” Josh Berry. But with Berry and the XFINITY Series running in Portland for the upcoming St. Louis weekend at Gateway, another plan had to be devised. In it, Corey LaJoie would take the wheel of the #9, leaving his #7 Spire Motorsports entry open for Carson Hocevar. Much like his XFINITY debut at COTA, the circumstances were unexpected. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be the only similarity.

Hocevar pulls onto pit road with a fire in the right-front.
At Gateway, Hocevar immediately turned heads by ranking 16th of the 36 entrants in practice and qualifying 12th in Qualifying Round 1A, placing him 26th on the grid of his Cup debut with a lap of 135.220mph (33.279 seconds). He also continued his streak of good runs in the Truck Series, overcoming issues and threading his way through wrecks to finish in 4th.

Securing the 36th and final starting spot was J.J. Yeley, who ran 32nd in practice before issues in qualifying resulted in the slowest lap in qualifying at just over 34 seconds. Joining Yeley in the back were two other drivers docked for unapproved adjustments: 31st-place Erik Jones in the #43 Chevrolet and 35th-place Gray Gaulding, making his first Cup start since 2020 in Rick Ware Racing’s #15 Panini America Ford. Not docked was LaJoie, who scrubbed the wall in Turn 4 on his qualifying lap.

When the race started, Gaulding held the last spot on Lap 2, 4.252 seconds back of the lead and 0.274 back of new 35th-place runner Ty Dillon in the #77 Nations Guard Chevrolet. Heading into Turns 1 and 2 on Lap 2, the caution fell as Tyler Reddick spun his #45 McDonald’s Toyota after contact from Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.’s #47 NOS Energy Drink Chevrolet. Reddick avoided contact, and was soon joined on pit road by Corey LaJoie, who accidentally tripped the “kill switch” shifting to fourth gear just before the incident. Reddick took last on Lap 3 with LaJoie now 35th. Then came word of a lightning strike four miles from the track, and subsequent strikes led to a nearly two-hour red flag.

When drivers were finally called back to their cars, there was some delay in Gaulding’s team getting the window net fastened. As the field rolled off to complete the first lap under caution, Reddick remained last, credited with an over 6,000 second lap due to the delay. Scoring reset on the Lap 9 restart to show Reddick 3.532 seconds back of the lead. The next time by, Reddick had gained a few spots, leaving Ty Dillon in last but side-by-side with Gaulding by just 0.040 second at the stripe. Dillon cleared Gaulding the next time by, and Gaulding’s crew spent the rest of Stage 1 talking him through his line. 

While Gaulding struggled with a tight condition, the team told him to change his arc in Turns 1 and 2, then turned his attention to Turns 3 and 4. Through this, Gaulding remained within a second of the now 35th-place B.J. McLeod in the #78 Circle B Diecast Chevrolet. Between Laps 27 and 30, Gaulding cut the deficit from 0.812 second to just 0.564. McLeod then opened it back to 0.907 on Lap 34, just two circuits before the leaders caught the pair. Gaulding went a lap down on the 36th circuit, followed two laps later by McLeod. By then, Gaulding’s team told him to slow more going into Turn 1 so he’d turn better in the middle.
Hocevar's car is towed to the garage.
PHOTO: Michelle, @robbygordonfan7

The next driver to find trouble was Brad Keselowski, who during practice shredded a left-rear tire on his #6 Kings Hawaiian Ford. On Lap 44, Keselowski was noticeably off the pace by, when he’d not only lost a lap but dropped to 34th. He made it to the end of Stage 1 without losing another spot, but the crew looking under the hood dropped him to last on Lap 51. He asked his crew if the issue was a spring, but the crew focused on the spark plugs. He returned to the track under yellow, only to find his car still ran rough. He stayed clear of traffic on the Lap 54 restart, quickly followed by a caution for Michael McDowell’s spin in the #34 Ford. Keselowski pitted once more, saying the “Lambda-R” reading on his digital dash was still flashing a warning. Back in the pits, he shut off the engine and lost another lap, but both driver and crew realized the engine issue was something internal that couldn’t be fixed. Running two laps down with a flat-sounding engine, Keselowski looked to run as long as he could.

Meanwhile, Carson Hocevar was once again turning heads. With LaJoie still struggling around 31st place, Hocevar climbed to 20th on Lap 61, then 16th by Lap 89. He was still running in the spot on Lap 91 when, coming into Turn 1, the right-front brake rotor exploded. “One in the wall in 1 and 2, caution’s out, caution’s out - 7 car,” radioed Keselowski’s spotter. Hocevar pulled the car to the right, keeping him in the outside wall before he limped his way back to pit road under caution. After extinguishing a fire in the right-front, Hocevar’s team talked about going behind the wall to replace the brake rotor, but of course this would end their race under the “Damaged Vehicle Policy.” After trying to pull behind the wall, a wrecker was summoned to tow the #7 to their garage stall.

“It was fun while it lasted,” said Hocevar. “Probably my fault for using them (brakes) too much.” The crew noted he was using them a lot, but not to the point of failure. Hocevar took last from Keselowski on Lap 96, making Hocevar perhaps the first driver to finish last in both his XFINITY and Cup debut in the same year.

Briscoe returns from his radiator repair, 50 laps down.
PHOTO: Michelle, @robbygordonfan7

When Hocevar’s brake rotor exploded, debris was picked up by the splitter of Martin Truex, Jr.’s #19 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota and also punctured the radiator of Chase Briscoe’s #14 Ford Performance Racing School Ford. Briscoe’s damage sent him behind the wall for 50 laps, ultimately returning from the 35th spot under the Stage 2 caution on Lap 142. Briscoe ultimately finished 34th, passing Tyler Reddick, who on Lap 175 suffered the same brake failure as Hocevar in the same spot, ending his run and leaving the #45 in 35th place. 

Briscoe fell another five laps short of catching still another brake failure victim entering Turn 1. Noah Gragson’s #42 Sunseeker Resort Chevrolet suffered the day’s hardest hit in Turn 1, slamming the wall with the driver’s side. Gragson walked away, his car transferred to a flat bad in front of the infield stage for the post-race Dierks Bentley concert. Rounding out the group was Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., whose #47 NOS Energy Drink Chevrolet was pinned against the Turn 1 wall after contact from Austin Cindric sent Austin Dillon into Stenhouse’s side. Dillon dropped out four laps later, leaving him 31st.

*Spire Motorsports’ #7 team has now finished last in both Cup races at Gateway. Last year, Corey LaJoie’s run in the #7 Chevrolet ended with a blown engine after 72 laps.

36) #7-Carson Hocevar / 91 laps / crash
35) #45-Tyler Reddick / 174 laps / crash
34) #14-Chase Brisoe / 193 laps / running
33) #42-Noah Gragson / 197 laps / crash
32) #47-Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. / 219 laps / crash

1st) Spire Motorsports (4)
2nd) Legacy Motor Club, Live Fast Motorsports, Penske Racing, Rick Ware Racing (2)
3rd) Joe Gibbs Racing, Kaulig Racing, Richard Childress Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (10)
2nd) Ford (4)
3rd) Toyota (1)


Saturday, June 3, 2023

XFINITY: Brake issues and turn into Portland’s garage area cut Brennan Poole’s race short

PHOTO: Eric Estepp, @EricEstepp17

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Brennan Poole picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Pacific Office Automation 147 at the Portland International Raceway when his #6 Cascade West Development, Inc. Chevrolet fell out in a crash after 15 of 77 laps.

The finish, which came in Poole’s 106th series start, was his first of the season and first in a XFINITY Series race since April 8, 2022 at Martinsville, 39 races ago. In the XFINITY Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 19th for the #6, the 380th from a crash, and the 618th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 70th for the #6, the 1,335th from a crash, and the 1,890th for Chevrolet.

Last year, Poole nearly secured the 2022 LASTCAR XFINITY Series Championship, but only from the two last-place runs he earned with Mike Harmon Racing early in the season. After taking the place of Ryan Vargas in JD Motorsports’ #6 through the season’s final few races, he earned better finishes, including a 14th in Homestead. Ultimately, teammate Bayley Currey took the title in the final moments of the Phoenix championship race.

With Macc Door Systems, a sponsor from his Truck Series team owner Tim Viens, Poole became the full-time driver of the #6. He’s since run best on the superspeedways, taking 13th in Atlanta and 5th in Talladega, only twice failing to finish in the first 12 rounds of the season. In an intriguing bit of historical context, Colby Evans reported Poole's car for Portland would be the last car Morgan Shepherd entered at Darlington in May 2020. The JD Motorsports team had helped Shepherd after a wreck at Texas, and the car was subsequently resold after Shepherd stopped operating his team.

In opening practice at Portland, Poole ranked 28th of the 38 entrants for as many spots. The session was led by current LASTCAR XFINTY Series championship leader Parker Kligerman, who less than a week after his issues in Charlotte looked fast in his #48 Big Machine Racing Spiked Coolers Chevrolet. While Kligerman was one of several drivers to run off-course in Turn 11 in qualifying, placing him 14th, Poole then ran 14th of the 19 drivers in Qualifying Round 1B, which secured him the 26th starting spot with a best of three laps at 92.561mph (76.620 seconds).

Securing the 38th and final starting spot was Stefan Parsons, who during practice had smoke pouring from under the hood of his #07 Lanphere Auto Group Chevrolet. Parsons’ team had to change engines, making his one of twelve drivers sent to the back for pre-race penalties – nearly one-third of the entire field. 

The other eleven – including 14th-place Kligerman – were penalized for unapproved adjustments: 2nd-place Cole Custer in the #00 Haas Automation Ford, 17th-place Anthony Alfredo in the #78 Dude Wipes Chevrolet, 20th-place Jeremy Clements in the #51 Spartan Waste / Fox Sports 98.3 Chevrolet, 27th-place Blaine Perkins who in practice slid off Turn 5 in the #02 Our Motorsports Chevrolet, 28th-place Josh Williams in the #92 Alloy Employer Services Chevrolet, 29th-place Patrick Emerling in the unsponsored #53 Emerling-Gase Motorsports Chevrolet, 33rd-place Joe Graf Jr. in the Ford, 35th-place Garrett Smithley in the #4 Chevrolet, 36th-place Sam Mayer after a Turn 10 practice spin in his #1 Accelerate Pros Talent Chevrolet, and 37th-place Brandon Jones, whose #9 Menards / Schultz Potting Soil Chevrolet suffered minor damage in a practice incident.

When the race started, Emerling and Parsons were in the final row, but ahead of two other drivers who had dropped to the rear: Jeffrey Earnhardt, who was set to start 31st in the #45 ForeverLawn Chevrolet, crossed the stripe 8.489 seconds back of the lead ahead of Mason Maggio, slated to be 34th in Motorsports Business Management’s #66 HMS Commercial Service Toyota, 9.71 back of the lead. The first trip through the chicane saw Connor Mosack overdrive the entry in his #24 Open Eyes Toyota, also damaging Chandler Smith’s #16 Quick Tie Products, Inc. Chevrolet, but both continued well ahead of last place.

Sammy Smith, the16th-place starter, had in practice broken the shifter on his #18 Pilot / Flying J Toyota, and apparently still had issues at the start. As the leaders completed the first lap, he pitted and immediately took over last, waiting as a crew member climbed through the passenger window. Smith returned to the track 63.442 seconds back of the lead and 45.738 back of 37th-place Maggio, only to incur a pit road speeding penalty in Sections 2 and 3. This brought Smith down pit road a second time on Lap 3, putting him a lap down to the leaders. Maggio remained well ahead of Smith despite spinning his #66 on Lap 8, but this allowed the leaders to catch and lap Maggio on Lap 13, taking the Lucky Dog from Sammy Smith. As the race remained under green, Smith’s crew told him to continue running smooth, that he would soon catch Maggio.

On Lap 17, Smith was still in last place when Poole found trouble in Turn 12. Heading into the hard right-hander in 23rd place, Poole lost the brakes and pulled straight, causing him to nose into the outside wall. The FS1 broadcast showed Poole’s car still under power and backed away from the fence with only minor damage to the top of the hood of his #6. Poole then cut across the track and made it onto pit road, where he immediately pulled behind the wall at the first entrance. NASCAR then radioed, “6 to the garage, DVP,” which caused immediate confusion among Poole’s JD Motorsports crew.

“We're done, by the way. They just called DVP on us.”

“What happened?”

“They called DVP on us, we're done.” 

“For what?” 

“I don't know, they called DVP. I thought it was only under caution.”

While the lack of competitive pit stops meant there was not a “Crash Clock” timing crash repairs on pit road, the “Damaged Vehicle Policy” was still otherwise in effect. This time, a driver still had three laps to reach minimum speed. And so, when Poole pulled behind the wall, it was treated the same as Joey Logano at Watkins Glen in 2018 or Aric Almirola at Bristol in 2019, where going behind the wall immediately after receiving even minor damage ended their day. By Lap 18, as Poole’s crew remarked they could smell brake fluid, Poole took last from Smith, who had still yet to take 37th from Maggio.

Maggio would ultimately get the Lucky Dog before Smith, though transmission issues would send the #66 behind the wall, putting him 36th. Taking 37th was Stefan Parsons, whose new engine overheated after 17 laps, leaving him stopped on the track and drawing the race’s first caution. Completing the Bottom Five were Parker Chase, who was recovering from an early spin in the #35 Ontivity Toyota before mechanical issues, and Kyle Sieg, who had a rear gear issue on his unsponsored #28 RSS Racing Ford. The overtime finish had just dropped Sieg into the Bottom Five after Daniel Hemric returned from an engine fire on his #11 Cirkul Chevrolet to turn another 27 laps, moving Hemric from 36th to 33rd.

Mosack earns first top-ten finish

After the damage suffered to his left-front fender that first time through the chicane, Connor Mosack responded with a strong 8th-place finish, yielding his first top-ten finish in only his eighth series start. His previous best was a 15th at Watkins Glen last summer. Also running strong was Brad Perez, who took over for Leland Honeyman at the first caution due to food poisoning. Perez was up to 16th in the final laps and the #43 Rockform Chevrolet was around 13th when Perez struck the tire barrier on Turn 12 coming to the checkered flag, leaving him 28th.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #6 in a XFINITY Series race since May 21, 2022, when Ryan Vargas had engine issues after 21 laps around Texas. It’s the first for the #6 in a XFINITY road course since July 3, 2021 with Spencer Pumpelly at Road America.

38) #6-Brennan Poole / 15 laps / crash
37) #07-Stefan Parsons / 17 laps / overheating
36) #66-Mason Maggio / 28 laps / transmission
35) #35-Parker Chase / 36 laps / tie rod
34) #28-Kyle Sieg / 46 laps / rear gear

1st) Big Machine Racing, CHK Racing, JD Motorsports (2)
2nd) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Emerling-Gase Motorsports, Motorsports Business Management, Sam Hunt Racing, SS-Green Light Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (8)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (2)


TRUCKS: Clay Greenfield’s debut of GK Racing ends with early Gateway crash

PHOTO: GK Racing, @GKRacing95

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Clay Greenfield picked up the 4th last-place finish of his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series career in Saturday’s Toyota 200 at the World Wide Technology Raceway (Gateway) when his #95 Backyard Blues Pools Toyota was involved in a wreck without completing any of the 162 laps.

The finish, which occurred in Greenfield’s 71st start, was his first of the season and first in a Truck Series race since October 13, 2018 at Talladega, 107 races ago. In the Truck Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 7th for the #95, the 51st for Toyota, and the 183rd from a crash. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 28th for the #95, the 395th for Toyota, and the 1,334th from a crash.

When we last saw Greenfield, he arrived at Daytona with the Cook Racing Technologies team, ultimately giving the #84 Backyard Blues Toyota the 31st spot on the grid for the season opener. A crash left him 34th in the final running order in what became the second and final start for the organization. For Gateway, Greenfield and his wife Tandra had partnered with Jordan and Theresa Kiss, the owners of Backyard Blues, and used the first letters of their last names to form “GK Racing.” The number change to the #95 was intended to honor Sadler Brothers Racing, based in the same Nashville region as Backyard Blues. The team’s debut would come on Greenfield’s birthday on Saturday, June 3rd. The team’s hauler still bore the #84 from the team’s previous owner.

Gateway’s preliminary entry list of 38 trucks for 36 spots was quickly whittled down to 35 through the week. First to withdraw were G2G Racing’s #46 for Memphis Villareal, scrapped due to a series of costly accidents in recent weeks, followed by AM Racing’s #22, which had originally been entered for Josh Reaume. Reaume would ultimately return to his #33, taking the place of the originally entered #33. Last to withdraw was On Point Motorsports’ #30, whose scheduled driver Chris Hacker would slide over to Randy Young’s #02 Chevrolet, left open after Young parted ways with driver Kris Wright.

With the short entry list, Greenfield and his team were assured a starting spot along with the rest of the field. In practice, the #95 ranked 30th on speed, then qualifying took 31st with the final spot on speed – 127.169mph (35.386 seconds), 2.817 seconds off the pole.

Starting 35th and last was Rajah Caruth, who after a series of strong runs faced an uphill climb after his #24 Born Driven Chevrolet needed an engine change that kept him from turning a lap in qualifying. Also not qualifying was series veteran Matt Crafton, whose #88 Ideal Door / Menards Ford suffered multiple inspection failures. Both Caruth and Crafton incurred redundant tail-end penalties for Saturday’s race along with unapproved adjustments penalties for 4th-place Carson Hocevar in the #42 Worldwide Express Chevrolet and 32nd-place Josh Reaume in the #33 Driven Ford.

Ultimately, the lineup at the tail end of the field would be jumbled again by the green flag. Based on intervals, the 35th spot fell to Stephen Mallozzi in Reaume’s second truck, the #34 ARS Ford, which was slated to roll off 30th. Showing 3.999 seconds back of the leader, Mallozzi took the green just behind 34th-place Norm Benning, 3.902 back, who was on the grid for the first time since Bristol in his #6 MDIA / Circle B Diecast Chevrolet. Greenfield, originally 31st, was shown 33rd across the stripe, 3.473 seconds back of the lead and a half-second ahead of the duo of Benning and Mallozzi.

Coming off Turn 2, Caruth was climbing through the field when he rear-ended Bret Holmes’ #32 IBEW / Grindstaff Rub Co. Chevrolet, stoving in the nose of Caruth’s truck and sending Holmes’ truck spinning to the inside. The tail end of the field scattered, including Greenfield, who cut hard left – too hard – as he lost control and suffered right side damage to his #95. As both Holmes and Caruth continued, Greenfield tried to get a push, but his truck wouldn’t drive straight. “Well, that was fun,” Greenfield said soon after. The crew attending to him then dropped his window net, and Greenfield climbed out, done for the day. He immediately took over last place from Mallozzi, and by Lap 3 was sitting on the doorsill

Mallozzi had a frustrating afternoon of his own. Radio transmissions seemed to indicate his #34 was the same #22 he ran at Martinsville this past spring, where a dead battery forced a late-race jump that put him in last place. Mallozzi indicated he felt the same issue in practice, and this grew worse on Lap 29, when he stalled at pit exit and drew the caution flag. The crew traced the issue to the battery cable, which was swapped, allowing him to return to the race and finish 31st, 16 laps down. It was cold comfort for an effort Mallozzi helped fund by selling his Dodge Charger.

Between Greenfield and Mallozzi came 34th-place Dean Thompson, who just days after a strong race in Charlotte suffered another stroke of bad luck – this time a slipped belt that damaged the engine on his #5 Thompson Pipe Group Toyota after just 17 laps. Taking 33rd was Conner Jones, whose #66 TSport Ford slammed the Turn 2 wall after a tangle with Matt DiBenedetto. Completing the group was another ThorSport entry – this time Hailie Deegan’s #13 Ford Performance Ford – which suffered a hard crash of its own in Turn 3, hers after contact from Nick Sanchez.

After their involvement in the first-lap wreck, Rajah Caruth came home 15th, just one spot back of Bret Holmes in 14th. Not far ahead was Daniel Dye, who ran as high as 2nd and earned his first stage points in the #43 Chevrolet. Only a slow pit stop in the final laps dropped him back in the running order, though he still rebounded from around 18th in the last stint.

*This was the second time in 2023 a Truck Series driver failed to complete the opening lap. The other time was at Circuit of the Americas on March 25th, when Ed Jones suffered damage from a flat tire on the Young’s Motorsports #20.
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #95 in a Truck Series race since September 18, 2010, hen J.C. Stout’s #95 Dodge had electrical issues after 2 laps around New Hampshire.
*This was the 395th last-place finish for Toyota across NASCAR’s top three series, breaking the tie with Dodge for third-most all-time.

35) #95-Clay Greenfield / 0 laps / crash
34) #5-Dean Thompson / 20 laps / engine
33) #66-Conner Jones / 66 laps / crash
32) #13-Hailie Deegan / 86 laps / crash
31) #34-Stephen Mallozzi / 146 laps / running

1st) G2G Racing, Reaume Brothers Racing (3)
2nd) AM Racing, G2G Racing, Young’s Motorsports (2)
3rd) GK Racing, Niece Motorsports, Roper Racing, TRICON Garage (1)

1st) Ford (5) 
2nd) Toyota (4)
3rd) Chevrolet (3)


Thursday, June 1, 2023

PREVIEW: LaJoie’s opportunity with Hendrick comes on a weekend of both series debuts and intriguing returns

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

Saturday, June 3, 2023 (1:30 P.M. ET, FS1)
TRUCKS Race 12 of 23
Toyota 200 at World Wide Technology Raceway (Gateway)
2022 Last-Place Finisher: Taylor Gray

Following a pair of withdrawals (see below), there are 36 drivers entered for as many spots, so all will qualify. UPDATE: Make that 35.

Coming into this race with three consecutive wins in ARCA, where he holds the point lead by just two points over Frankie Muniz, Jesse Love will make his NASCAR national series debut this Saturday, taking the place of 14th-place finisher David Gilliland in Gilliland’s own #1 Toyota. comes aboard as sponsor. UPDATE: Due to illness, Charlotte runner-up Corey Heim will not race this weekend, so Jesse Love will run his truck instead. Toni Breidinger will return to pilot the #1.

RETURNING: #6-Norm Benning Racing
Norm Benning returns to action and will this time 1-be assured his second start of the season and first since his clutch performance in the heats for the Bristol Dirt Race. It’s a welcome change of pace after his most recent attempt at North Wilkesboro, where a crash in practice forced he and his team to hurriedly rebuild the #6 for qualifying.

WITHDREW: #22-AM Racing
DRIVER SWAP: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
Not among the drivers entered this week is Josh Reaume, who last week finished 29th in his own #33. Reaume was slated to rejoin AM Racing’s #22 team this week, but that truck has since withdrawn. Running the #33 for Saturday is Mason Maggio, who will make his eighth career Truck Series start after a 25th-place run for AM Racing last week in Charlotte.

DRIVER CHANGE / WITHDREW: #30-On Point Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #02-Young’s Motorsports
This week is Chris Hacker’s turn in On Point’s #30, which Ryan Vargas piloted to a 26th-place finish in Charlotte. Hacker and his Morgan & Morgan sponsorship return for the first time since North Wilkesboro, where the newcomer finished a strong 12th. UPDATE: This team has withdrawn as of Friday. Hacker now slides into the #02 at Young's Motorsports, a ride left open after Kris Wright parted ways with the team this week.

DRIVER CHANGE: #34-Reaume Brothers Racing
After a faulty fuel pump cut short Keith McGee’s final start for the Reaume Brothers before his return home to his family in Alaska, Stephen Mallozzi is the first to try and help fill the remaining schedule for the team’s #34. Mallozzi returns for the first time since his own last-place run at Martinsville, where the team had to jump the battery during the rain-shortened event. As of this writing, Mallozzi is still in pursuit of attracting sponsorship from Outback Steakhouse, where he works between races.

WITHDREW: #46-G2G Racing
A disastrous and costly stretch of races saw both G2G Racing entries sidelined with engine issues in Darlington, Akinori Ogata’s truck catch fire in a practice crash at North Wilkesboro, then Armani Williams’ frightening pit road accident at Charlotte. As the team regroups, they have withdrawn what would have been Memphis Villareal’s second series start to prepare for their return.

DRIVER CHANGE: #56-Hill Motorsports
Timmy Hill is back behind the wheel of the #56 for the first time since North Wilkesboro, taking the place of brother Tyler Hill who ran 24th in Charlotte. Carrying returning sponsorship from UNITS Storage, Timmy finished 17th in this race last year and took 18th for Jay Robinson back in 2015.

RETURNING: #66-ThorSport Racing
ThorSport has brought back their part-time fourth entry once again, giving Conner Jones his first start since an eventful afternoon in North Wilkesboro. This will be Jones’ third series start.

MISSING: #90-Terry Carroll Motorsports
While Gateway has historically attracted numerous small teams and developing drivers, Justin S. Carroll will not make the trip this week following his 34th-place showing in Charlotte, site of his second career start.

NEW TEAM: #95-GK Racing
Debuting this week is Clay Greenfield’s latest exploit, running the #95 entry under the banner of GK Racing. Greenfield’s most recent starts came with Bruce Cook’s team Cook Racing Technologies, yielding a 34th-place run in the #84 team’s most recent start in this year’s Daytona opener. Greenfield’s latest of three Truck starts at Gateway came in 2020, when he ran a track-best 19th for his own #68 team.


Saturday, June 3, 2023 (4:30 P.M. ET, FS1)
XFINITY Race 14 of 33
Pacific Office Automation 147 at Portland
2022 Last-Place Finisher: Sam Mayer

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

DRIVER CHANGE: #10-Kaulig Racing
Leading the “road ringer” contingent for Portland is none other than Jordan Taylor, his second NASCAR start following his Cup debut as Chase Elliott’s relief driver at Circuit of the Americas, which saw him finish 24th. Leaf Home Water Solutions is the listed sponsor for Taylor’s XFINITY Series debut. Taylor takes the place of Justin Haley, who came just one lap short of completing all 900 miles around Charlotte on Monday as he took the place of Kyle Busch. 

DRIVER CHANGE: #19-Joe Gibbs Racing
It was at this Portland track last year that Myatt Snider – then driving for Jordan Anderson Racing – battled for the lead in heavy rain, ultimately nabbing a runner-up finish to A.J. Allmendinger. This year, he’s back and this time running for Joe Gibbs, replacing Cup regular Ty Gibbs who finished 5th in Charlotte’s 300-miler.

DRIVER CHANGE: #35-Emerling-Gase Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #53-Emerling-Gase Motorsports
Parker Chase and his Ontivity sponsorship rejoin the Emerling-Gase team for the first time since an off-track excursion in COTA ultimately led to them missing the race. Chase will this time make the show, locked-in along with team co-owner Patrick Emerling, who slides into the yet-unsponsored black #53.

DRIVER CHANGE: #43-Alpha Prime Racing
The first of two driver swaps for the Alpha Prime team is the return of Leland Honeyman, whose third and most recent XFINITY start came at Martinsville where he finished 25th. After his previous three runs were in Alpha Prime’s #45 entry, he this time runs the #43 in place of Ryan Ellis, who took 27th in Charlotte.

DRIVER CHANGE: #44-Alpha Prime Racing
Running both this weekend and next week in Sears Point is Dylan Lupton, who has a combined 58 Cup, XFINITY, and Truck Series starts, but none since his lone Truck start at Mid-Ohio last summer, where he ran 32nd for Spire Motorsports after a crash. Taking the place of Rajah Caruth, who after a 25th-place run in Charlotte focuses on his Truck Series effort in Gateway, Lupton will make his first Portland start. The preliminary list did not have Lupton’s name on it, indicating only “TBA.”

DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Also “to be announced” as of this writing is the driver of Carl Long’s #66 entry. Timmy Hill, who missed the cut in Charlotte, will be running his own Truck Series entry in Gateway. UPDATE: Mason Maggio will take the wheel this week.

MISSING: #74-CHK Racing
Not making the trip west – both for Portland and Sears Point – is Mike Harmon’s CHK Racing team, which qualified a solid 26th with Dawson Cram at Charlotte before finishing in 36th.

MISSING: #77-Spire Motorsports
Spire Motorsports has likewise not entered their part-time XFINITY entry for 8th-place Charlotte finisher Carson Hocevar as both driver and team have much bigger plans in store for Sunday’s Cup race in Gateway (see below).

Road racing means Alex Labbe, who rejoins Mario Gosselin’s team this time in the #91 entry, taking the place of 20th-place Charlotte finisher Kyle Weatherman. Following a sterling 10th-place run in the 2022 inaugural at Portland, Labbe carries sponsorship from Duroking, Larue Snowblowers, and Portland Gear.

DRIVER CHANGE: #08-SS-Green Light Racing
Completing the field is Preston Pardus, who this time will run for Bobby Dotter’s SS-Green Light Racing in place of 34th-place Charlotte finisher Natalie Decker. Teamed with a returning Stefan Parsons in the #07, Pardus did not compete in this race last year.


Sunday, June 4, 2023 (3:30 P.M. ET, FS1)
CUP Race 15 of 36
Enjoy Illinois 300 at World Wide Technology Raceway (Gateway)
2022 Last-Place Finisher: Corey LaJoie

There are only the 36 Chartered entries, marking the 14th straight short field in 15 races.

DRIVER CHANGE: #7-Spire Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #9-Hendrick Motorsports
On Tuesday came news that Chase Elliott would be suspended for one week following his incident with Denny Hamlin midway through Monday’s Coca-Cola 600, which was determined to be an intentional wreck. In Elliott’s place comes 2022 last-place finisher Corey LaJoie, who finds himself in the best car he’s ever raced in Cup. LaJoie’s move opens the #7 for none other than Carson Hocevar, who after two excellent runs in Spire’s XFINITY car will make his series debut.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Rick Ware Racing
DRIVER SWAP: #38-Front Row Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #51-Rick Ware Racing
Welcome back Gray Gaulding, who on Sunday will make his 60th career Cup start and first since October 11, 2020 on the Charlotte “Roval,” where he closed out a part-time campaign sharing Rick Ware Racing’s #27 entry. Then as now, Panini Trading Cards is the sponsor, this time on Ware’s #15 entry. Gaulding takes the place of J.J. Yeley, who after a strong 16th-place finish will this week run Ware’s #51. The #51 was back open as Todd Gilliland rejoins Front Row Motorsports after a rough 33rd-place finish in Charlotte, the same night Zane Smith earned his first career top-ten finish by placing 10th in the Front Row #38. Gilliland will again run the #38 this week.

MISSING: #84-Legacy Motor Club
Jimmie Johnson is not entered after a terrible Charlotte weekend for all three of the Legacy Motor Club teams, who for a time near the race’s midway point were all in the garage for mechanical issues. Johnson now turns his focus on the “Garage 56” entry at the upcoming 24 Hours of Le Mans.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (June 1, 1992): Mike Urciuoli scored the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Busch Grand National Series career in the GM Goodwrench / Delco Freedom Battery 200 at Dover when his #2 Star Motorsports Pontiac fell out with handling issues after 20 laps. A 28-year-old from Staten Island, New York, this was Urciuoli’s only career start in any of NASCAR’s top three series. His best of four starts in the Busch North Series was in 1991, when he ran 24th at Flemington, New Jersey.

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

INDYCAR: Indy 500 sees Katherine Legge take 33rd in drawn-out last-place battle


by William Soquet Staff Writer

Katherine Legge finished last for the 2nd time in her NTT IndyCar Series career in Sunday's Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway when her #44 Hendrickson Honda retired with damage from contact after completing 41 of the race’s 200 laps.

The finish came in Legge’s 12th IndyCar start, and was her first since Sao Paulo in 2012, 184 races ago. Across IndyCar Series history, it was the 202nd due to contact, the 217th for Honda and the third for the #44.

Legge’s previous last-place finish in 2012 came during Lotus’ ill-fated effort to become a third IndyCar manufacturer. Stepping in when a new engine and chassis were introduced, Lotus was markedly off the pace in most events and wound up stepping out of IndyCar after that lone season. This was just another in a long line of opportunities gone south for Legge. After running out of money in the British formula racing scene, she moved to America in 2005 to race Toyota Atlantic with the backing of Cosworth. That led to two seasons of CART right before reunification. These years yielded modest success with a best finish of sixth with Dale Coyne Racing on the streets of Las Vegas in 2007. From there, Legge transitioned to German DTM, where she ran from 2008 to 2010. The aforementioned 2012 season was when she returned to American open-wheel racing, signing with Dragon Racing as part of the Lotus effort. After Legge's last-place run in Sao Paulo, Dragon ditched Lotus for Chevrolet and downsized from two teams to one. Legge became the team’s oval driver, while Sebastien Bourdais became the road and street-course driver.

After that season, Legge has remained active in multiple racing series. She has started every 24 Hours of Daytona since 2014. Racing in both the prototype and GT Daytona classes, Legge has driven for teams like Meyer Shank Racing and has been paired with drivers such as Alexander Rossi, A.J. Allmendinger and Stefan Wilson. She recorded a second-in-class finish in 2018 with Shank and finished fourth-in-class this year with Gradient Racing in GTD. She also made a brief detour into NASCAR, running three Xfinity Series road courses and Richmond for JD Motorsports in 2018. Of these, she nabbed a best finish of 14th at Road America.

On February 9th of this year, Legge was announced as the driver of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s fourth entry for the 2023 Indianapolis 500. Hendrickson, a suspension component manufacturer, was also announced as primary sponsor. The move was a reunion of driver and team, as Legge had previously driven for RLL in the Jaguar I-PACE Series. Legge completed an oval refresher test at Texas the weekend that IndyCar raced there in early April and then went to work on the open test in late April. The open test, however, did cause concerns. Legge was just 33rd on the speed charts, ahead of only rookie Benjamin Pedersen. She was 1.5 seconds off the pace set by eventual race winner Josef Newgarden and was five spots behind Jack Harvey, the next RLL driver. Practice in May did not go much better. Showings of 31st, 34th and 29th came before time trials as the entire RLL effort struggled. Qualifying was barely better, as Legge was sitting outside of the locked-in zone before an attempt near the end of the time period slotted her into the final guaranteed spot in 30th.

The last row of the race was set on the Sunday before the race. In a shootout that included four cars for three spots, Christian Lundgaard, Sting Ray Robb, and Jack Harvey secured their spots in the race. That left Graham Rahal as the only driver on the outside of the grid. However, that changed early in the week. During open practice on Monday, a group of drivers were doing a race simulation in a train when the group checked up coming off of turn one. Legge did not check up as much and ran into the back of Stefan Wilson. While Legge was not hurt in the crash and required only a backup car, Wilson suffered vertebrae issues and was sidelined from the race. Tuesday morning, Wilson’s Dreyer & Reinbold Racing team made the call that Rahal would step in as relief driver. With that, the team forfeited the 25th-place starting spot that Wilson earned and would start shotgun on the field.

Rahal on pit road as the race start.
PHOTO: Luis Torres, @TheLTFiles

On Sunday, trouble started even before the drop of the green flag. When the grid fired up from its 11 rows of three on the frontstretch, two cars did not leave the grid with the rest. One was Helio Castroneves, in his second attempt at winning a fifth Indianapolis 500. After a few panicked moments, his car did eventually get into gear and took its place. The other car was that of Rahal. After a week of trying times for the Dreyer & Reinbold team, yet another obstacle was popping up in their way. After several attempts, the car still would not fire. The driver indicated that it was a battery issue, and the car was then pushed behind the wall. Being an Indy 500-only team, the crew scrambled to find a backup battery. During the final pace lap, the crew had the back cover off and was working on swapping out the battery.

Nevertheless, the field took the green flag without Rahal's #24 car on track. This brought Jack Harvey back to his original position as last car on track. However, by the end of Lap 1, Harvey had jumped up to 29th. He passed R.C. Enerson, Sting Ray Robb, and Legge, the latest of which trailed the field after a lap, 7.9 seconds back of the lead.

Work continued on the Rahal car, and as the field was completing its second lap, the machine finally came to life and Rahal got going again. He came out of pit lane in the hinterland, about two-and-a-half laps back of the lead. As the first stint progressed, the back end of the field stayed much the same. Rahal kept plugging along without the help of a draft, while Enerson, Robb and Legge remained the last three cars on the lead lap. As the train formed, the three were just shy of 15 seconds behind the leader for most of the run.

Green flag pit stops commenced for the first time with Scott Dixon coming in on Lap 26, although the majority of cars pitted while the lap count was in the mid-30s. Legge cycled up to 24th on Lap 31 before coming to pit road on Lap 32. She slowed abnormally much heading into pit lane, almost reminiscent of the two times in practice during the month of May that she ran out of fuel on an access road. Despite that, she made it to her pit stall, where the Rahal Letterman Lanigan crew performed normal service on her car. 

Exiting the stall, Legge spun the rear tires and got loose, arcing around the entrance lane on pit road and back into a later empty pit stall, barely grazing the wall of the stall just before that of Ryan Hunter-Reay. Legge immediately returned to pit road, but this time, it was an extended stop. The crew inspected the area where she grazed the wall, and reports indicated that a toe link swap was going on in the left front, where the car hit the pit wall.

Eventually, the #44 machine was moved off pit road and into the garage area. The broadcast announced Legge as “out” around Lap 68 before interviewing her. In her interview, Legge said that she thought something in the suspension was broken, but she was unsure of its nature. The bigger note she provided was that despite the announcement of her retirement, Legge thought that there was a chance her crew could fix the issue in time for her to make a number of laps.

At nearly the same moment that Legge’s interview was concluding, R.C. Enerson came to pit road. Enerson's Abel Motorsports entry also remained parked on pit lane for a number of laps before work went back to the garage area. In a race that had plenty of action up front, NBC, in a similar vein to the Legge interview, found the time to talk to the Indy 500 rookie about his situation. On Lap 88, Enerson said that he was unsure of what was wrong with the car, offering the clutch as a possible culprit. When asked about returning to the race, he too was up in the air about his return plans.

That left the unusual situation of two cars in the garage with potentially terminal issues with an undefined timetable on both. The suspense did not last very long, however, as the first confirmed retirement of the race came mere laps later. 

On Lap 92, Sting Ray Robb was running 27th, one lap down. Rahal was still the last car on the track, running in 31st at the time. Rahal made a move to the inside of Robb going into Turn 1, leaving the #51 car to take the outside lane. Robb's tires then caught the marbles and ceased to turn, going straight into the outside wall on the exit of the corner. Robb finishing last would’ve been quite the story. Since the inaugural running of the current IndyCar Series in 1996, no driver has finished last in three consecutive races. The closest anyone ever been to the record was Sebastien Bourdais, who finished last three times in a four-race stretch during 2011.

The gap between Legge and Enerson was 34 laps, and the gap between Legge and Robb was 49 laps. As the remaining circuits ticked by, there was no indication that either car would return to the track. After Romain Grosjean crashed to bring out the caution on Lap 150, the next circuit went by under caution with no Legge, eliminating Robb from last-place contention. On Lap 166, the lap Legge would need to rejoin the race to beat Enerson, went by during the next green-flag run with no sight of either car, locking Legge in 33rd. Neither Legge nor Enerson ever returned to the track.

*The finish marked the first last-place finish for the #44 in IndyCar Series competition since October 16, 2005, when Thiago Medeiros did not start at Fontana.
*All three drivers that have finished last in the #44 have been from different countries: Davey Hamilton in 2000 (USA), Medeiros in 2005 (Brazil), and Legge in 2023 (United Kingdom).
*Honda has now finished last in five straight races.

33) #44-Katherine Legge / 41 laps / contact
32) #50-R.C. Enerson / 75 laps / mechanical
31) #51-Sting Ray Robb / 90 laps / contact
30) #28-Romain Grosjean / 149 laps / contact
29) #18-David Malukas / 160 laps / contact

1st) Chip Ganassi Racing, Dale Coyne Racing (2)
2nd) A.J. Foyt Racing, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (1)

1st) Honda (5)
2nd) Chevrolet (1)


Tuesday, May 30, 2023

CUP: Disastrous afternoon for the Legacy Motor Club sees Jimmie Johnson finish last in second-straight 600

Johnson exits the garage after repairs from his first incident on Monday.
SCREENSHOT: @LegacyMotorclub

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Jimmie Johnson scored the 5th last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway when his #84 Club Wyndham Chevrolet fell out following a crash after 115 of 400 laps.

The finish, which came in Johnson’s 689th start, was his first of the season and first in a Cup race since this same event on May 24, 2020, 115 races ago, when he was disqualified after finishing runner-up. In the Cup Series last-place rankings, it was the 12th for the #84, the 649th from a crash, and the 839th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 27th for the #84, the 1,333rd from a crash, and the 1,888th for Chevrolet.

With four of his twelve career Cup wins at Charlotte coming in NASCAR’s longest race, it was of little surprise that Johnson included this event in his part-time Cup schedule in 2023. Now both a driver and investor in the reincorporated Legacy Motor Club – formerly Petty-GMS Racing – Johnson looked to have fun at one of his best tracks. But his return to Cup competition has been fraught with frustration. While qualified for the Daytona 500, he was collected in a late-race crash that left him 31st. Then at Circuit of the Americas, he collided with Ty Dillon, knocking both cars out of the race just one corner away from completing the first lap.

As part of NASCAR’s own Memorial Day tribute, the windshield of Johnson’s car for Charlotte carried the name of Sgt. Kendell Kioma Frederick. According to the team’s press release, Sgt. Frederick immigrated from Trinidad and joined the U.S. Army Reserve as a mechanical engineer with the 983rd Engineer Battalion. While serving in Iraq, he continued his work toward becoming a naturalized United States citizen. Tragically, that effort was cut short when he was killed in action on October 19, 2005. In his memory, Congress enacted the Kendell Frederick Citizenship Assistance Act, intended to streamline the process by which servicemembers can seek citizenship.

Erik Jones (center) on pit road with
a punctured radiator.
PHOTO: No Tires Just Gas on YT
The persistent rain and mist that plagued nearly all of Charlotte’s Memorial Day weekend cancelled both practice and qualifying. As the only “open” team on the entry list of 37 – and a part-time effort at that – this put Johnson into the 37th and final starting spot. There were no pre-race penalties incurred, so Johnson would retain the spot, taking the green by himself on the inside line, 3.643 seconds back of the lead. “Long, long race,” his crew told him. “All we can do is go forward. . .Have some fun.”

By the exit of Turn 2, Johnson had already cleared Todd Gilliland in the #51 Ruedebusch Development & Construction Ford and opened up a couple carlengths. This was the next in a series of races where Gilliland stepped out of his #38 entry at Front Row Motorsports for defending Truck Series champion Zane Smith. By Lap 3, Gilliland was a full 2.287 seconds back of Johnson and 7.093 back of the leader, fighting a car that felt like it was dragging the track. On Lap 5, Johnson had climbed to 33rd, putting back to 36th Ty Dillon in the #77 Ferris Commercial Mowers Chevrolet, who retained a 2.825 second advantage over Gilliland. Both Gilliland and Dillon’s crews instructed them to read off data on their digital dashboards to diagnose their issues. 

On Lap 15, Gilliland was now sliding the right-rear tire through the corner, his car so loose that at one point he reported “zero grip.” Still 2.994 back of 36th-place Dillon, the gap increased to 4.868 just two circuits later, then 7.214 on Lap 21. The next time by, the leaders caught Gilliland, who held the middle lane as the leaders lapped him on the inside. Dillon lost a lap by the 29th circuit, when Chase Briscoe in 35th was also caught by the leaders in his #14 Mahindra Tractors Ford. 

Under a competition caution on Lap 36, Gilliland’s crew called for two rounds out of the right-rear and two rounds into the left-rear, taking care to look over the suspension as they removed the wheels. The driver also reported he thought his spark plug wire had come loose. Despite these repairs, Ty Dillon had a longer stop for what turned out to be an electrical issue on the driver’s side of the engine. Dillon lost two laps, taking last from Gilliland on Lap 37, then came back in on Lap 40 to change the entire coil system. “We’re gonna have to fix it,” said Dillon’s crew. “We’ll lose another lap, but it’s a long race. . .We’ll bite the bullet now.” Among the crew members working on Dillon’s car was at least one person wearing a JTG-Daugherty Racing uniform. 

On Lap 43, one lap after the restart, Dillon returned to the track in last place, four laps down. He lost a fifth as he came up speed, the field passing him in Turns 3 and 4. Back under power, Dillon reported his car was running particularly well, and noticed he was significantly faster than the now 36th-place running Gilliland. “We’re absolutely gonna catch the 51, so we’ll lap him two or three times,” said the crew. 

Lap 117 - A rough afternoon for
the Legacy Motor Club.

This was on Lap 75, when Jimmie Johnson’s day took a turn for the worse. Running 24th at the time, Johnson spun coming off Turn 2 and bumped the outside wall with his left-front corner. Under the ensuing caution, Johnson came down pit road with a flat tire, putting him on the “Crash Clock.” The crew made some repairs to the left-front corner and sent him back out, now back in 35th and between one and two laps down for the Lap 80 restart. Dillon remained in last place for the end of Stage 1 on Lap 101, still between four and five laps behind. By then, Gilliland had fallen onto Dillon’s lap, which moved the #51 back to last on Lap 104. An instant later, NASCAR reported Johnson had gone to the garage for a mechanical issue. Since the #84 had cleared the “Crash Clock,” the team could now complete further repairs.

It was also on Lap 104 that not one but both of Johnson’s teammates pulled down pit road, having run over debris. The crew for Erik Jones’ #43 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet was first to discover he punctured the radiator, and pushed him behind the wall not long after Johnson. The same damage was found to Noah Gragson’s #42 Black Rifle Coffee Company Chevrolet, which went behind the wall only a couple laps after. As the first to pull behind the wall, Johnson took over last on Lap 107 with Jones taking over 36th and Gragson 35th. On Lap 120, with Gilliland now up to 34th and Ty Dillon in 33rd, Johnson was 19 laps down, two laps behind Jones and another two laps back of Gragson. All three cars had their hoods up, and the race to return began.

On Lap 144, Johnson’s crew was first to complete their work, putting the hood down and jacking up the left side once more. He pulled out of his stall on Lap 150, returned to the track on Lap 152, and on Lap 153 was on the same lap as 36th-place Jones. Johnson dropped Jones to last on Lap 154, but three circuits later yet another brief rainstorm had crossed the track. This forced a red flag on Lap 158, forcing both Gragson and Jones’ crews to stop their work. At that point, Johnson was 49 laps down, four laps ahead of Gragson and six ahead of Jones. During the delay, Johnson then spoke with his teammates in the garage.

When the caution came back out, it only took until Lap 160 for Gragson’s crew to drop the hood and the driver to refire the engine. On Lap 161, Gragson finally completed his first lap since going to the garage. The next time by, Jones’ crew dropped the hood and sent him back out the lap after, putting all three cars back on track for Lap 163. By this point, Jones was still in last, three laps back of Gragson and 10 back of Johnson, all three prepared to restart the race.

On Lap 164, as the field came up to speed, Johnson came up and crossed Gragson’s nose off Turn 2, putting both cars into the outside wall. Both made it to pit road with Johnson showing debris on his right-front tire. Gragson returned to the track and ultimately cleared the “Crash Clock” himself, but Johnson’s crew had a different diagnosis. “If it’s bent up, we’ve just gotta call it a day.” The crew sent Johnson out on track for one more lap, but at a reduced pace. “Yup, we’ll have to call it a day.” With that, Johnson returned to pit road and pulled into the garage on Lap 167, eliminated under the DVP. The NASCAR official in the garage nearly reported Johnson was out on the Lap 170 restart, the lap Gragson cleared the “Crash Clock.” Later that same lap, the report was made. Johnson slipped to 36th on Lap 174, then last on Lap 177. While the Lap 174 report listed “DVP” as his reason out, the results still showed “accident.”

Johnson now looks forward to an even longer race – the 24 Hours of Le Mans – where he will be part of NASCAR’s “Garage 56” entry in this year’s running.

Gragson pulled behind the wall after climbing two laps ahead of Johnson. Allowed to complete more repairs since he’d cleared the “Crash Clock,” they were instead done for the day, this time citing engine trouble. Taking 35th and 34th were Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott, who traded bumps during a violent frontstretch accident on Lap 185. Hamlin, who said Elliott wrecked him intentionally after Elliott struck the wall, saw his #11 SportClips Haircuts Toyota ranked behind Elliott’s #9 NAPA Patriotic Chevrolet. Gilliland rounded out the Bottom Five after his car spun, then was apparently stuck in gear when crews attempted to give him a push on the apron of Turn 4. Gilliland was told to climb out, ending his night.

Zane Smith earns first top-ten finish; Yeley earns another strong run

Zane Smith, Gilliland’s substitute in the #38 Boot Barn Ford, was among the leaders in the race’s second half and came home in the 10th spot – his first career top-ten finish in only his sixth career Cup start, and just one week short of a year removed from his debut relieving Chris Buescher at Gateway in 2022. Also impressive was J.J. Yeley, Gilliland’s teammate at Rick Ware Racing, who finished 16th in the #15 Patriot Mobile Ford. It was in the Coca-Cola 600 in 2007 that Yeley scored his career-best runner-up finish to Casey Mears. Monday’s finish was Yeley’s best since his 11th-place showing at Talladega this spring.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #84 in a Cup Series points race since September 7, 2008, when A.J. Allmendinger’s #84 Red Bull Toyota finished under power, 65 laps down, at Richmond – a race won by Johnson. 
*The #84 hadn’t finished last in a Cup race at Charlotte since May 24, 1964, when Pete Stewart’s 1963 Pontiac had a con rod problem after 1 lap of the World 600.

37) #84-Jimmie Johnson / 115 laps / crash
36) #42-Noah Gragson / 117 laps / engine
35) #11-Denny Hamlin / 185 laps / crash
34) #9-Chase Elliott / 185 laps / crash
33) #51-Todd Gilliland / 265 laps / crash

1st) Spire Motorsports (3)
2nd) Legacy Motor Club, Live Fast Motorsports, Penske Racing, Rick Ware Racing (2)
3rd) Joe Gibbs Racing, Kaulig Racing, Richard Childress Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (9)
2nd) Ford (4)
3rd) Toyota (1)


XFINITY: Lengthy repairs on fuel pump leave Parker Kligerman last in Charlotte

PHOTO: @pkligerman

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Parker Kligerman scored the 3rd last-place finish in Monday’s Alsco Uniforms 300 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway when his #48 Big Machine Racing Spiked Coolers Chevrolet finished under power after 144 of 200 laps.

The finish, which came in Kligerman’s 68th series start, was his second of the season and first since Dover, two races ago. In the XFINITY Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 5th where the driver was still running, the 9th for the #48, and the 617th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 33rd for the #48, the 51st while running, and the 1,889th for Chevrolet.

This moved Kligerman into the 2023 LASTCAR XFINITY Series lead as the first repeat last-place finisher of the season.

Following his rough outing at Dover, Kligerman finished 13th in Darlington, then after a strong practice run in the Truck Series race at North Wilkesboro missed the field by a fraction of a second. He’d return to action with Big Machine Racing’s entry in Charlotte as one of 40 entrants. In practice, he ran 25th, then secured the 20th starting spot with a lap of 176.864mph (30.532 seconds). Missing the show were Timmy Hill in the #66 Coble Commercial Properties Toyota and C.J. McLaughlin in the #53 Sci-Aps Ford. Both were likely back at the shop by the time the race began Monday morning, a 48-hour delay caused by rain.

Securing the 38th and final starting spot was Jeffrey Earnhardt, whose #45 South Point Bank / ForeverLawn Chevrolet was one of three cars unable to log a lap in qualifying, incurring a tail-end penalty as a result. All three made the show, including 36th-place Ryan Sieg – whose #39 Ford lost an engine in practice, and 37th-place Parker Retzlaff for unapproved adjustments on the #31 Funkaway Chevrolet. Unapproved adjustment penalties were also handed to 14th-place Josh Berry for a power steering issue on the #8 Tire Pros Love The Drive Chevrolet, 22nd-place Stefan Parsons in the #07 Springrates Chevrolet, and 24th-place Kyle Sieg in the #28 Cedar Ridge Landscaping Ford. The postponement also led to Justin Haley taking 6th-place Kyle Busch’s place in the #10 LA Golf Chevrolet. Rajah Caruth had issues starting his #44 Winston Salem State University Chevrolet, but got going in enough time to remain 19th on the grid.

Coming to the stripe, Berry was some distance behind Retzlaff, who was on the inside of Haley. But when the race started, Retzlaff was last across the stripe, 4.06 seconds back of the lead with Berry in 37th and Haley up to 34th. By the end of the first lap, the spot fell to Natalie Decker, who was a late driver swap into SS-Green Light Racing’s #08 Cracker Jack / Cracker Jill Chevrolet. At that point, Decker was 7.152 seconds back of the lead and 0.511 back of new 37th-place runner Blaine Perkins in the #02 Our Motorsports Chevrolet. By Lap 5, Decker pulled alongside Perkins, and the two were just 0.086 apart at the stripe. The battle continued for another lap – even closer, at 0.016 at the line. At last, Decker cleared Perkins, opening up three-tenths on him at Lap 7.

As Perkins monitored his car’s temperature readings, Decker reeled in new 36th-place runner Garrett Smithley, who reported an intermittent issue with either the motor or electrical system on his #4 Hoffman Tool Chevrolet. Decker passed Smithley on Lap 13, and Perkins closed to within 0.574 of the #4 the next time by. Perkins cut the gap to just 0.169 on Lap 16, then got under him and made it by on Lap 18. By then, Smithley was now 31.198 seconds back of the lead, but still within sight of Perkins, just 0.188 ahead. Smithley continued to run in Perkins’ tire tracks on the inside line as the leaders lapped them both on the outside of Turns 1 and 2. A competition caution came out on Lap 20, handing the Lucky Dog to Perkins. During this yellow, Smithley and crew talked about taking off the battery cover to examine the connections. But with Stage 1’s caution coming at Lap 45, Smithley’s team elected to stay out and take the wave-around. Before they could, rain began to fall, and the race was red-flagged. During the delay, Smithley’s crew discovered they only had one battery on hand, and discussed removing the rev limiter chip once the caution was back out.

When the track was dry, it was Carson Hocevar who this time couldn’t get rolling in his #77 Premier Security Chevrolet. As the field rolled around him, the crew called for a wrecker to push him, and sought out a replacement battery in Brandon Jones’ pit stall. The crew also had to prepare their stall, which was blocked by blower fans that Chandler Smith’s crew was using to dry their own stall. Hocevar then discovered he had accidentally tripped the “kill switch” on the steering wheel. He pushed it again, and the car re-fired, regaining his original spot.

Through Hocevar’s issues, Smithley remained in last, and on Lap 30 received his wave-around to rejoin the lead-lap cars. On Lap 31, after the choose cone, Smithley dropped Decker back to last, and the spotter was watching a car ahead of him. “Not a big fan of that 74, but we’ll make quick waste of him,” Smithley’s team said, referring to Dawson Cram in the #74 CHK Racing Chevrolet. Anthony Alfredo made a pit stop in his #78 Andy’s Frozen Custard Chevrolet, but remained ahead of Decker’s #08. 

The Lap 32 restart was a slow one for Decker, who by Lap 35 dropped from 1.843 to 2.457 seconds back of 37th-place Smithley. “Don’t turn early on me,” her spotter advised. Further ahead, Smithley was counting down the laps to the end of Stage 1, and on Lap 38 remained 1.567 behind Cram’s #74. Both soon passed Stefan Parsons, whose #07 began to slip back through the rankings due to an issue with either the throttle linkage or carburetor. “Gonna get in front of that 4 and 07 if we can,” said Decker’s spotter. By Lap 41, Smithley had dropped Parsons to 37th with Decker closing fast. This allowed Decker to catch and pass Parsons by Lap 43, the two already 0.785 second apart.

On Lap 45, the last lap of Stage 1, Parsons was lapped off Turn 2, which secured him the Lucky Dog. But, once again, a gathering mist had turned to rain, forcing another red flag. Prior to that, Parsons’ crew wanted to look under the hood and make a second stop to service the car. NASCAR made another attempt to restart the event, but the rain continued to fall. “I know they want to get this in,” said someone on Parsons’ channel. “But come on, let's have a little common sense here.” The rain intensified, forcing a postponement of the race’s remaining 151 laps with all 38 starters still running on the lead lap.

When engines re-fired following the Coca-Cola 600, Parsons was running by himself in the high lane under caution, waiting for NASCAR to let him pass the pace car. This was done on Lap 51, and the next time by he climbed past Cole Custer, whose #00 3D Systems Ford needed lengthy repairs for damage to his right-rear fender. Smithley retook the spot on Lap 54, but when Parsons’ carburetor issue required lengthy repairs, he was again one lap down in last place for the Lap 56 restart.

Under green on Lap 63, Daniel Hemric made an unscheduled stop for a loose left-rear wheel on his #11 Cirkul Chevrolet. He lost a lap as he returned to the track in 37th, one spot ahead of Parsons. This put Hemric in the Lucky Dog spot until Lap 73, when the leaders caught Natalie Decker and other cars trailing the pack. Also finding trouble was Brett Moffitt, who on Lap 88 bounced off the wall in his #25 AMerican Heroes Ford after a flat right-front tire. Moffitt returned to the track as the new 37th-place runner, and when Stage 2 ended on Lap 90, the leaders had lapped their way up to 28th. Moffitt received additional repairs on Lap 96, but remained ahead of Parsons – but not for long.

On Lap 97, Kligerman’s car was being pushed down pit road by a wrecker, citing a loss of power. He went behind the wall, where the crew put the #48 on jack stands and set to work on the fuel pump. On Lap 99, when Kligerman took last place, the team decided against filling the car with more fuel and set to work finding the replacement fuel pump. Unfortunately, the crew never found the new pump, which was believed to be in a plastic tote on the hauler. The effort then became to replace the fuel pump cable, which was frayed at one end. On Lap 120, the crew had Kligerman re-fire the engine, but reported no fuel pressure. Kligerman then bumped the starter instead of the ignition, and the crew said they had to pull the failing fuel pump from the car. Somehow, the crew got the car to fire on Lap 145, at which point they were 51 laps down with just 55 laps to go. He returned to the track on Lap 149, and by Lap 151 was shown 54 laps down. With no other driver more than three laps down, Kligerman was assured the last-place finish. But the team elected to finish the rest of the race under power. In the final laps, Kligerman reported a vibration, but still finished the race 56 laps down.

By Lap 181, Blaine Perkins had fallen out with a blown engine – the only retiree from the race. He remined 37th at the checkered flag, still 19 laps ahead of Kligerman’s still-running car. Between 36th-place Cram and 34th-place Decker came Sam Mayer, who after spinning his #1 Accelerate Pros Talent Chevrolet shredded a right-front tire, destroying his fender.

Jordan Anderson Racing, Hocevar, and Kyle Sieg impress during Charlotte's late hours

Jordan Anderson Racing enjoyed another strong race with Parker Retzlaff finishing 6th ahead of teammate Jeb Burton’s #27 PurYear Tank Lines Chevrolet in 7th. Carson Hocevar took 8th in just his third series start - his second in the #77 Premier Security Chevrolet – and second top-ten finish in that span. Also impressive was Kyle Sieg, who finished 11th in the #28 Cedar Ridge Landscaping Ford – his second-best career finish.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #48 in a XFINITY Series race at Charlotte since October 14, 2005, when Jimmie Johnson scored his first career series last-place run after crashing his #48 Lowe’s / Kobalt Tools Chevrolet 29 laps into the Dollar General 300.
*The 144 laps completed by Kligerman was the second-most by a XFINITY last-place finisher who came home under power, trailing only the 180 laps by Ed Feree at Langley Field Speedway on April 30, 1988.

38) #48-Parker Kligerman / 144 laps / running
37) #02-Blaine Perkins / 163 laps / engine
36) #74-Dawson Cram / 193 laps / running
35) #1-Sam Mayer / 193 laps / running
34) #08-Natalie Decker / 195 laps / running

1st) Big Machine Racing, CHK Racing (2)
2nd) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Emerling-Gase Motorsports, JD Motorsports, Motorsports Business Management, Sam Hunt Racing, SS-Green Light Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (7)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (2)


Friday, May 26, 2023

TRUCKS: Keith McGee’s last NASCAR start – for now – ends early with fuel pump issues

McGee (far left) looks over his truck after his early exit Friday.
PHOTO: Jared Haas, @RealJaredHaas

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Keith McGee scored the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series career in Friday’s North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway when his #34 JAG Metals LLC Ford had fuel pump issues after 20 of 134 laps.

The finish, which came in McGee’s 11th series start, was his second of the season and first since Atlanta, eight races ago. In the Truck Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 8th for fuel pump issues, the 9th for the #34, and the 120th for Ford. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 35th from the fuel pump, the 55th for the #34, and the 1,013th for Ford.

With the finish, McGee becomes the first repeat last-place finisher of the 2023 LASTCAR Truck Series season, taking the lead from Dean Thompson. It was Thompson who turned in the strongest run of the night, finishing a strong 3rd after a thrilling late-race battle for position with both Corey Heim and Carson Hocevar. Barely a week after his frustrating afternoon in North Wilkesboro, Thompson earned his first career Top Five in his 35th series start.

The Charlotte race had particular significance to McGee for two reasons. First, as a disabled U.S. Air Force veteran, competing on Memorial Day weekend afforded an opportunity to honor fallen comrades and continue to speak out on the cause of veterans’ assistance. Second, McGee announced in a Twitter video earlier in the month that next month he would be returning home to Alaska to spend more time with his family. 

Between all this, McGee had also designed the Reaume Brothers Racing team’s tribute to the late Ken Block, with which Josh Reaume narrowly missed the field at Darlington. Reaume would run an altered version of that scheme at Charlotte alongside McGee, who brought the team’s second entry – the #34 – back to the track for the first time since Texas. McGee would run a patriotic paint scheme of his own which featured the name of Lt. Col. Larry Undercoffer, McGee's grandfather, beneath the driver’s side window.

McGee during practice.
PHOTO: Reaume Brothers Racing, @RBR_Teams

McGee began the weekend 35th of the 36 entrants, just under two-tenths faster than Justin S. Carroll in the #90 Carroll’s Automotive / Duratrain Toyota. McGee then turned the slowest lap in qualifying with a speed of 164.029mph (32.921 seconds), 2.985 seconds off Tanner Gray’s pole speed. But McGee ranked 33rd ahead of three drivers who were unable to take time. 

In 34th came the #2 Gainbridge Chevrolet of Nick Sanchez, whose oil cooler was punctured by debris in practice. The 35th spot went to Tyler Ankrum, whose #16 LiUNA! Toyota came out of gear in Turn 3 and overrevved the engine, requiring a new engine, transmission, and driveshaft. Rounding out the field was Ryan Vargas, who required unapproved adjustments of his own in the #30 Rangeline Group Toyota. The three were ranked in descending order by Owner Points, and prior to the start both Sanchez and Ankrum would incur tail-end penalties.

When the race started, Vargas began his climb through the field. The first incident of the night occurred on Lap 3, when Armani Williams apparently made contact with the outside wall, causing his truck to trail smoke and sparks as he worked his way to the apron. The incident did not draw the caution flag, and as he lost a lap coming to pit road, McGee had fallen to the last truck on the lead lap. The G2G Racing crew managed to get Williams back on track two laps down, but incurred a speeding penalty for Sections 12-16. He served the penalty by Lap 9, when he returned to the track between four and five laps down. During this run, crew chief Tim Silva bucked up his driver, telling him on Lap 8, “Armani, calm down – you’re a good driver. . .just drive smoothly, you got this.” Steadily, Williams’ lap times began to improve.

On Lap 20, the leaders lapped both McGee and Carroll, which took Williams out of the Lucky Dog spot. Two laps later, McGee was seen running slow on the apron, the truck bouncing over the humps from the “Roval” layout. “Yeah, it shut off,” said McGee as he pulled his truck behind the wall and stopped behind the team’s hauler. McGee asked for his crew to come check if a plug wire came loose, but each member was too far from where the #34 had stopped. In the meantime, the Ilmor representative arrived, ad indicated the truck had lost fuel pressure. On Lap 27, McGee took last from Williams, who was still running five laps down on the track. On the 29th circuit, McGee called for a fuel can at Ilmor’s suggestion, likely to check the fuel pump. Moments later, McGee climbed from the truck, and on the Lap 37 restart, the #34 was declared out of the race with the fuel pump issue.

Williams continued, and the crew remained positive over the radio, reminding him of their plan from before the race, “I don't care if you finish 20 laps down, my goal is for you to have fun and finish this race. . .Doing a helluva job. Helluva job.” Williams still had some issue communicating with his crew, including on Lap 63 where they asked if he wanted something to drink. On Lap 66, the #46 stalled on pit road, and the crew had Williams pop the clutch to coast behind the wall in second gear. On Lap 74, Williams returned to the track once more, 14 laps down, only to seconds later be involved in a scary incident off Turn 4. Coming off the corner, Williams lost control and slid onto pit road, striking the wall with the left-front just past the first opening to the garage. No crew members were injured, and Williams climbed from his truck, done for the night. McGee and Williams were the night’s only two retirees.

Finishing 34th was Justin S. Carroll, whose #90 finished 12 laps down at the checkered flag. Taking 33rd was Hailie Deegan, whose #13 Ford Performance Ford dropped off the pace in the final laps after damage suffered earlier in the event during a tangle in the quad-oval with Zane Smith. Kris Wright rounded out the group after his #02 F.N.B. Corporation Chevrolet suffered damage of its own in a backstretch wreck with Tyler Ankrum.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #34 in a Truck Series race at Charlotte.
*This was the first time a Truck Series last-place finisher fell out with a fuel pump issue since September 23, 2017, when Ray Ciccarelli had issues on the first lap at New Hampshire. The issue had never been a reason for a Truck Series last-place finisher at Charlotte.

36) #34-Keith McGee / 20 laps / fuel pump
35) #46-Armani Williams / 65 laps / crash
34) #90-Justin S. Carroll / 122 laps / running
33) #13-Hailie Deegan / 128 laps / running
32) #02-Kris Wright / 130 laps / running

1st) G2G Racing, Reaume Brothers Racing (3)
2nd) AM Racing, G2G Racing, Young’s Motorsports (2)
3rd) Niece Motorsports, Roper Racing, TRICON Garage (1)

1st) Ford (5) 
2nd) Chevrolet, Toyota (3)