Thursday, August 13, 2020

PREVIEW: Heavy hitters set to challenge NASCAR regulars during inaugural Daytona infield road course race

J.J. Yeley's new-look #27 for this Sunday's Cup Series race
IMAGE: @RickWareRacing

Saturday, August 15, 2020 
XFINITY Race 19 of 33
UNOH 188 at the Daytona Infield Road Course
2019 Last-Place Finisher: Inaugural Event

The first NASCAR drivers to tackle the infield road course in Daytona without practice or qualifying will be the XFINITY Series, which sees 38 entrants for 40 spots, up one entry from last week in Road America.

DRIVER CHANGE: #5-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
After Vinnie Miller became the last-minute driver change for Matt Mills last week in Road America, Mills is again entered in the #5 Thompson Electric / J.F. Electric Chevrolet. The team looks to rebound from a spectacular engine failure that left Miller a disappointing 34th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #6-JD Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #07-SS-Green Light Racing
B.J. McLeod returns to his familiar ride in the #6 for Johnny Davis, taking the place of Jade Buford. Buford will also have a chance to continue his streak of solid road course finishes as he rejoins SS-Green Light Racing, the team which gave him his series debut at Indianapolis. Then as now, he will drive the #07, and this time takes the place of R.C. Enerson, who isn’t entered after his 20th-place debut at Road America. The Big Machine Distillery will again sponsor the Buford effort.

DRIVER SWAP: #13-Motorsports Business Management
DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Making his NASCAR national touring series debut this weekend is Harold Crooms, who for the first time will get to drive on his home track. The Lakeland, Florida native comes from the Super Late Model ranks, and this week takes the place of Chad Finchum in the #66 Toyota. Finchum will instead run MBM’s #13 in place of Jesse Iwuji, who isn’t entered after a 26th in his own series debut at Road America. Stephen Liecht remains in MBM’s #61 for a third-straight road course race and looks to continue his streak of Top 25s.

DRIVER CHANGE: #21-Richard Childress Racing
New Zealand’s Earl Bamber is perhaps the most accomplished road course racer in Saturday’s field. He’s a five-time starter of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, including two overall victories with Porsche, an Australian SuperCar standout with five starts in the Bathurst 12 Hour, and a five-time winner in the Weathertech SportsCar Championship, three of them coming just last year. Bamber makes his NASCAR national touring series debut on Saturday in a fleet Richard Childress Racing entry, taking the place of Kaz Grala, who ran 4th in Road America.

RETURNING: #26-Sam Hunt Racing
After skipping Road America, the SHR team is back with Brandon Gdovic, who ran well on the Indianapolis Grand Prix Circuit, taking a career-best 12th-place finish in his first XFINITY start in nearly four full years. Windstax Energy will sponsor their Toyota as Gdovic races on the same Daytona infield road course he’s tackled three times in the Weathertech SportsCar Championship, most recently a 15th-place run in GTD this year in a Lamborghini.

GIVE A CALL: #36-DGM Racing
Preston Pardus will make just his fifth XFINITY Series start this Saturday, coming off a new career-best 8th-place finish at Road America, where he led five laps before Austin Cindric made the winning pass. Pardus goes for his third-straight top-ten finish this week at his home track. His father Dan Pardus made his lone Cup Series start at the track on October 17, 1998, when he finished 36th in a field of 43.

Another boost of good news came Wednesday when Mario Gosselin's team successfully appealed their penalty relating to Alex Labbe's alleged testing violation in an event at the Daytona infield road course. 


Sunday, August 16, 2020 (12:00 P.M. Eastern)
TRUCKS Race 12 of 23
Sunoco 159 at the Daytona Infield Road Course
2019 Last-Place Finisher: Inaugural Event

There are 39 drivers entered for 40 spots in Sunday’s lone Truck Series road course race for 2020, which is down two entries from Michigan.

Welcome back to Mike Skeen, who we haven’t seen in the Truck Series since his infamous 2013 tangle with Max Papis at Mosport while battling for third off the final corner. This time around, he takes the place of John Hunter Nemechek in the NEMCO #8, which carries the team’s longtime sponsor D.A.B. Constructors on the hood. Nemechek made a strong bid for the win just last week before he collided with race leader Grant Enfinger on a late restart.

TEAM UPDATE: #11-Spencer Davis Motorsports
Spencer Davis is entered in the #11 Toyota this week after the team had to withdraw following Davis’ positive COVID-19 test. He was officially cleared to race on Wednesday.

MISSING: #14-Trey Hutchens Racing
Trey Hutchens is not entered following his 29th-place showing last week in Michigan.

MISSING: #17-DGR-Crosley
David Ragan not entered after he was on the wrong side of the cut line for Michigan’s 41-truck entry list. Ironically, he would have been able to start this week’s race had he been entered.

Last year, Kris Wright ran on this same road course during the Rolex 24 at Daytona, where he and teammates Robert Masson, Kyle Masson, and Cameron Cassels finished 7th overall and 2nd in LMP2. After a handful of starts in the ARCA Racing Series and the ARCA Menards West Series this year, he will drive for GMS Racing, who fielded his #21 in last week’s ARCA race at Michigan. Wright finished 14th that day after a mid-race accident. This week, Wright takes the place of David Gravel in the #24, one week after Gravel finished 10th in his own Truck Series debut at the Michigan track.

DRIVER CHANGE: #30-On Point Motorsports
Scott Lagasse, Jr. is a frequent one-off entry for races at Daytona, and this time will tackle the infield road course for the first time. He takes the place of Cup Series rookie contender Brennan Poole, who finished just 35th last week in Michigan after a late-race accident. This will also be Lagasse’s first Truck Series start since 2018, when he finished 18th with the same team.

DRIVER CHANGE: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
From 2006 through 2007, Bryan Collyer ran three endurance races at the Daytona infield road course, each time racing Corvettes for Michael Baughman Racing. His best finish came in the 2006 running of the Rolex 24, where he finished 28th overall when teamed with Ray Mason, Michael Baughman, John Connolly, and Frank Del Vecchio. This week, he tries something entirely different in the Truck Series, taking the place of Jesse Iwuji in the #33 Toyota. Crunch Construction is the listed sponsor of the Collyer effort.

DRIVER CHANGE: #40-Niece Motorsports
Last year, Carson Hocevar made his first two Truck Series starts, taking 25th for Jordan Anderson’s team at Eldora, then 23rd for Hill Motorsports in Phoenix. This week, he drives for a third different team, taking the controls of Al Niece’s #40 Chevrolet in place of Ryan Truex. Scott’s is again the listed sponsor, as it was for both starts in 2019.

RETURNING: #42-Niece Motorsports
Niece has also brought back his fourth entry this week, bringing back another Eldora qualifier from last year in Mark Smith. Smith finished 15th that night in the Niece #38, and this week has sponsorship from St. Lucie Battery & Tire.

DRIVER CHANGE: #44-Niece Motorsports
Natalie Decker will also take on the road course this weekend, taking the place of Jeb Burton, who finished 36th in Michigan after a crash.

DRIVER CHANGE: #49-CMI Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #68-Clay Greenfield Racing
DRIVER SWAP: #83-CMI Motorsports
The Reuse brothers are back in action for the first time since Mosport last summer, and will again be running under two different teams. Roger Reuse takes the place of Tim Viens in CMI Motorsports’ #49 Chevrolet while Bobby Reuse will replace Clay Greenfield in the #68 Chevrolet. While Greenfield is not entered, Viens will move over to CMI’s #83 in place of Ray Ciccarelli, who isn’t entered.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Kyle Busch Motorsports
Sunday’s race will be run in place of the originally scheduled Mosport event, and Alex Tagliani’s lone Truck start of the season has been moved to Florida. Tagliani takes the place of Chandler Smith, who wrecked out early in Michigan and finished 38th. He carries sponsorship from Rona and Viagra on the #51 Toyota.

MISSING: #55-Boyd Long Motorsports
Not among this week’s entrants are Dawson Cram and the Boyd Long team, who both survived the chaos in Michigan for a strong 14th-place finish.

DRIVER CHANGE: #00-Reaume Brothers Racing
Josh Reaume will not drive this week, and has tabbed Bobby Kennedy to drive the #00 Toyota. Another Floridian looking to make his NASCAR national touring series debut, Kennedy’s experience includes running Ford Mustangs in the Trans-Am Series.


Sunday, August 16, 2020 (3:00 P.M. Eastern)
CUP Race 23 of 36
Go Bowling 235 at the Daytona Infield Road Course
2019 Last-Place Finisher: Inaugural Event

There are 39 drivers entered for 40 spots in Sunday’s Cup Series race, the same number as last week. This marks the 11th short field in 23 races this season and the fourth in a row.

MISSING: #7-Tommy Baldwin Racing
Joey Gase and Josh Bilicki are both not entered after they ran each of the Michigan double-headers in the TBR entry, yielding finishes of 38th and 33rd, respectively. Bilicki will instead focus on Saturday’s XFINITY race, where he looks to build on his strong showing at Road America.

SPONSOR UPDATE: #27-Rick Ware Racing
After running the last several races without primary sponsorship, J.J. Yeley weclomes new sponsorship from XBOX and the game NASCAR Heat 5 to his #27 Ford. Yeley has shown measured improvement this year, enjoying his longest streak of consecutive finishes inside the Top 30 since his rookie season.

RETURNING: #62-Beard Motorsports
Brendan Gaughan announced this summer that he would add Sunday’s race to his retirement season in 2020, marking the first start for the Beard Motorsports team in a non-superspeedway race (technically). This will mark Gaughan’s first Cup start on a road course since August 15, 2004, when he finished 34th at Watkins Glen for Doug Bawel. Gaughan is no stranger to road racing, however, as he took his first XFINITY Series victory at Road America in 2014.

NUMBER CHANGE: #77-Spire Motorsports
Spire Motorsports will return to their familiar car #77 after Reed Sorenson ran Harris Lue’s #74 “Fake Steak” Chevrolet for the upcoming Kevin James show “The Crew.” This return to their more familiar number comes just days after it was revealed Spire has acquired Leavine Family Racing’s Charter and will expand to a two-car team in 2021.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (August 13, 2005): Kelly Sutton picks up the third last-place finish of his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series career when her #02 Team Copaxone Chevrolet tangles with Shigeaki Hattori’s #9 Toyota after 8 laps of the Toyota Tundra 200 at the Nashville Superspeedway. The finish signaled a difficult season for Sutton, who qualified for just 16 of the 25 races, failing to qualify nine times.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

ARCA: Mike Basham tenth different driver to finish last in 2020

PHOTO: @nascarcatholic

by William Soquet Guest Contributor

Mike Basham finished last for the third time in his ARCA Menards Series career in Sunday’s VizCom 200 at Michigan International Speedway when his #11 Darrell Basham Trucking Chevrolet retired with transmission issues after completing 9 of the race’s 100 laps.

The finish came in Basham’s 75th series start, and was his first since Five Flags last year, 29 races ago.

With ARCA going to composite-body cars only at all races this year, a staple series entry has disappeared: the #34 Darrell Basham Racing entry. The team thrived working on older steel-body cars, and when those were phased out from the rule book, the team stopped fielding cars in races. However, that has not stopped Mike from still getting behind the driver’s seat. He has run over half of the events on the ARCA schedule so far this year, bouncing around the #01, 10 and 11 cars for Andy Hillenburg’s Fast Track Racing.

Those three Fast Track cars have more often than not been in contention for top-ten finishes this year due to lower car counts, and the same proved true at Michigan. Just 18 cars populated the initial entry list, but that number would come down to 17 by race day. Chad Bryant Racing did not field an entry - the first time in a very, very long time that there was no #22 car on track for an ARCA race. Anthony Alfredo reunited with his former Truck Series team, DGR-Crosley, for a one-off; Riley Herbst, Scott Melton and Ryan Repko took their turns as part-time drivers in full-season rides for Joe Gibbs Racing, Kimmel Racing and Venturini Motorsports, respectively. Jason Kitzmiller returned in his #97, and stepping in GMS Racing’s #21 entry was Kris Wright, making his ARCA debut in preparation for next week’s Truck Series race at the Daytona road course. In his hometown race, Con Nicolopoulos piloted the part-time #0 for Wayne Peterson Racing. Aside from Basham, Fast Track Racing also tapped local drivers, with Morgen Baird in the 10 car and Armani Williams, who was featured on Good Morning America on Sunday, in the 12 car.

All 17 cars took part in the only practice session of the weekend. Bret Holmes, again showing his intermediate prowess, took the top spot in practice, while Nicolopoulos was last in the session, running a lap about ten seconds slower than Holmes’ best lap of 39 seconds. As it was a companion weekend with NASCAR, there was no qualifying and the lineup was set by owner points, leaving Nicolopoulos alone in row nine. Ahead of him in row seven were two other part-time teams, Kitzmiller’s #97 and Wright’s #21.

Coming to the green, Nicolopoulos was the last car across the line. The leaderboard showed a tight battle between him and Basham for 16th in the early going. Basham had drawn the eleventh starting position by owner points. Soon, Basham gapped Nicolopoulos, and by Lap 4, was six seconds ahead, as Basham was 23 seconds behind leader Bret Holmes compared to 29 for Nicolopoulos. The #0 car was lapped on Lap 6; in the meantime, Basham overtook Brad Smith for 15th position, and both were lapped on Lap 7. Basham parked his car three circuits later, citing transmission issues.

The Bottom Five filled by pretty much the halfway point of the race. Nicolopoulos, Baird and Melton all had mechanical issues that ended their respective races. Wright’s debut came to an early end when the #21 machine snapped loose in turns one and two and slid up into the outside wall, the damage proving terminal in an incident that brought out a caution.

17) #11-Mike Basham / 9 laps / transmission
16) #0-Con Nicolopoulos / 17 laps / oil leak
15) #10-Morgen Baird / 21 laps / brakes
14) #21-Kris Wright / 52 laps / crash
13) #69-Scott Melton / 54 laps / mechanical

1st) Chevrolet (6)
2nd) Toyota (4)
3rd) Ford (1)

1st) Fast Track Racing (5)
2nd) Wayne Peterson Racing (2)
3rd) DGR-Crosley, Kimmel Racing, Reeves Racing, Russ Lane Racing (1)


Monday, August 10, 2020

CUP: Brad Keselowski ends NASCAR’s longest active streak without a Cup Series last-place finish


Brad Keselowski picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Consumers Energy 400 at the Michigan International Speedway when his #2 Discount Tire Ford triggered a two-car accident after 95 of 156 laps.

The finish came in Keselowski’s 399th series start, ending the Cup Series’ longest active streak without a last-place finish in a points race. Among drivers entered in at least one Cup points race in 2020, not one has a streak longer than 25 starts (rookies Cole Custer and John Hunter Nemechek). The updated rankings are listed below.

In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 27th for the #2, the 601st from a crash, and the 701st for Ford. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 32nd for the #2, the 965th for Ford, and the 1,218th from a crash.

On the one hand, what happened on Sunday was not the first time Keselowski has ever finished last in NASCAR. In 2007, he finished last in two XFINITY Series races for car owner Keith Coleman, dropping out after 1 lap at Mexico City on March 4th, then out after six laps at Texas on April 14. He’s also finished last exactly once in all three NASCAR exhibition races, and did so in three consecutive seasons after his first Cup Series championship: The All-Star Race in 2013, Duel Race 2 at Daytona in 2014, and the Busch Clash in 2015.

During this time, several drivers were scoring their first last-place finish after more than 100 Cup Series starts:

April 26, 2014 – Clint Bowyer finishes last at Richmond, his 290th series start
August 2, 2015 – Kasey Kahne finishes last at Pocono, his 417th series start
July 9, 2016 – Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. finishes last at Kentucky, his 130th series start
August 7, 2016 – Jimmie Johnson finishes last at Watkins Glen, his 529th series start
May 27, 2018 – Kevin Harvick finishes last at Charlotte, his 623rd series start+
November 18, 2018 – Regan Smith finishes last at Homestead, his 224th series start
July 28, 2019 – Chase Elliott finishes last at Pocono, his 134th series start
+indicates current record

Since I last posted about the overall rankings in March 2019, several shorter streaks have also ended, including Daniel Suarez (90 starts), Ryan Preece (47), Daniel Hemric (22), and William Byron (73). Entering the second round of the double-header at Michigan, the rankings among drivers with at least one start in a Cup Series points race now had one clear outlier:

(398) Brad Keselowski
(24) Cole Custer, John Hunter Nemechek
(23) Josh Bilicki, Tyler Reddick 
(21) Brennan Poole 
(11) Bayley Currey
(10) David Starr 
(4) James Davison, Justin Haley

In Cup Series points races, Keselowski has seemingly gone out of his way to avoid finishing last even once. The first time Keselowski finished next-to-last was back on November 14, 2010. His #12 Dodge crashed after 58 laps at Phoenix. Only Brendan Gaughan’s first-lap accident kept that streak from ending at an unremarkable 52 starts. But in recent years, the margin has been much closer:

May 18, 2017 – the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte. On Lap 19, Jeffrey Earnhardt starts dropping rear end fluid from his #33 Towne Bank Chevrolet. As the leaders lap him, Chase Elliott blows an engine on his #24 NAPA Chevrolet. Keselowski can’t avoid a collision and rear-ends Elliott, ending both their nights. Keselowski will finish behind Elliott on the same lap. But Earnhardt’s rear end issue is terminal, and the lapped driver edges Keselowski for last place by a single circuit.

July 8, 2017 – the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky. Gray Gaulding misses the start in the #55 #CheckItForAndretti Toyota, potentially marking the first time all three races at the same track have last-place finishers with zero laps complete. The Premium Motorsports team gets Gaulding back on track on Lap 57 with no cars out of the race. Keselowski, meanwhile, is racing for sixth when he slides into Clint Bowyer and spins. Keselowski clips a passing Jimmie Johnson, putting Johnson into the outside wall. Johnson goes straight to the garage, but Keselowski’s crew has him feel the car out for two laps before he, too, pulls behind the wall. Johnson finishes last by those two laps after Gaulding passes them both.

July 7, 2019 – the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona. Through the first half, Quin Houff is running last, 18 laps down after a lengthy stay in the garage. Entering the tri-oval on Lap 84, Kevin Harvick bumps Keselowski, steering the #2 to the right and destroying the right-front corner of Keselowski’s car. A handful of cars spin out in the ensuing chain-reaction, including Daniel Suarez, who bumps Joey Logano then seemingly spins harmlessly to the inside along with Daniel Hemric. Keselowski is first reported out along with David Ragan, but both return to the track to complete a couple extra laps with the body work dragging on the track – Keselowski turns two while Ragan turns three. Suarez doesn’t turn any, and takes last after the lapped Houff passes all three of them.

November 3, 2019 – the AAA Texas 500 at Texas. Chase Elliott damages his car when he slaps the wall on Lap 10, but manages to reach minimum speed. Repairs drop Elliott a full 11 laps down by Lap 50 while others, including Ross Chastain and Corey LaJoie, also suffer damage in single-car incidents. During this, Keselowski is in still another tight battle, this time with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. In Turn 2, Keselowski broke loose and narrowly avoided wrecking them both. He’s not so fortunate on Lap 55. Keselowski slides in Turn 3 and backs into the outside wall. At the exact same instant, Stenhouse also loses control and slams the wall even harder, colliding with Keselowski in the process. Keselowski is initially classified behind Stenhouse, but the order changes on Lap 58. Elliott passes both cars, and Stenhouse finishes last. Both Stenhouse and Keselowski are credited with 52 laps complete.

This year, Keselowski has overcome a sluggish start to the season after Penske Racing swapped crew chiefs between their three teams and has now scored three wins for a fourth consecutive season. The slide effectively ended in the Coca-Cola 600, where the dominant Chase Elliott’s ill-timed decision to pit allowed Keselowski to inherit the lead, taking perhaps the final win for the Miller Brewing Company with the Penske team. He again benefited from Elliott’s misfortune at Bristol, this time after a tangle between Elliott and Joey Logano while racing for the lead. Win number three came just last week in Loudon, where this time he dominated for 184 of 301 laps after some tight side-by-side battles with Denny Hamlin.

At Michigan, Keselowski aimed to take his first Cup Series win at his home track, and would have two chances to do it in a new double-header of 156-lap races. On Saturday, he came within striking distance of Kevin Harvick, but had to settle for 2nd. Due to a field inversion of the Top 20, this would put Harvick in 20th for the Sunday race with Keselowski in 19th.

The 39th and final spot fell to Tommy Baldwin Racing following Joey Gase’s mid-race transmission trouble. Gase was this time relieved by Josh Bilicki, who was slated to run the car after finishing 17th in the XFINITY race at Road America the previous day. Both the driver change and required transmission change meant Bilicki would remain in the 39th spot, one of 13 drivers and teams penalized after the Saturday race: backup cars for Austin Dillon, Ryan Newman, Tyler Reddick, Aric Almirola, Chris Buescher, Michael McDowell, John Hunter Nemechek, Ryan Preece, and Cole Custer; an engine change for Brennan Poole; and multiple inspection failures for both Reed Sorenson and Daniel Suarez.

Prior to the start, it was reported that Austin Dillon, driving one of the backup cars, would have to serve a pass-through penalty at the start in his #3 Bass Pro Shops / Tracker Off Road Chevrolet. Thus, while Bilicki climbed out of last place on the first lap, dropping James Davison to last in the #51 Signing Day Sports Ford, Dillon took over last by the conclusion of Lap 2. Dillon returned to the track 22.525 seconds back of Davison, and 28.574 back of the lead. 

As Dillon rapidly began to close the gap, Davison caught and passed Timmy Hill in the #66 SBC Contractors Toyota, putting Hill back to 38th. By Lap 5, Dillon was within 16.071 seconds of Hill. He cut it down to 7.234 seconds back on Lap 10, 2.635 on Lap 12, and just 0.250 of a second on Lap 13. By the time they crossed the stripe again, Dillon had dropped Hill to last place. During all this, Hill thought his car was down on power. In fact, the time sheets showed him between nine-tenths to a full second off the pace of the Ware cars, including Davison’s, who were running in the next few spots ahead of him. By Lap 38, Hill was two laps down and on the verge of three.

On Lap 44, when the lapped cars pitted under the second lap of a caution, Garrett Smithley took last in the #53 Kendall Motor Oil Ford. This then changed two laps later, the first recorded last-place change to be caused by the new “Choose Cone” rule. As the field sorted itself out, Smithley chose a shorter lane than Hill, putting the #66 back to last place. Hill then passed Davison for position on the Lap 48 restart, putting the #51 back to 39th. The spot traded hands again on Lap 50 as Davison re-passed Hill. Hill was now on the verge of four laps down by Lap 67.

The final few positions remained on or near the same lap as each other until Lap 70, when Davison was black-flagged by NASCAR for a missing left-rear quarter window. Davison made the stop, and tumbled to five laps down by Lap 74, when he took over last place from Hill. By the time he was back up to speed, he was seven laps down, and a full two circuits back of Hill. Davison made at least one more stop under the Stage 2 ending caution on Lap 88, the driver expressing concern about the air hose on top of his helmet. The team managed to not lose another lap, but were still holding fast to last place with no drivers out of the race.

As for Keselowski, he began Stage 3 with a tight battle for the lead. In his sights was teammate Ryan Blaney in the #12 Menards / Knauf Ford. In his rear view mirror was Saturday’s winner, Kevin Harvick. On Lap 96, according to Keselowski, he was getting a big push from Harvick, and attempted a move on the inside of Blaney to take over the race lead. The #2 then clipped the apron and suddenly skated up the track, directly into the side of Blaney. Keselowski slammed the wall flush with the right side of his car with Blaney following suit, letting Harvick and the rest of the field pass low. Keselowski stopped his car in the grass of Turn 3 and climbed out, his afternoon done. By then, he was already classified behind Blaney and dropping through the rankings.

On Lap 102, the final last-place change occurred when Davison climbed past Keselowski. The word became official when all cars cleared post-race inspection.

Blaney took 38th with the lapped Davison climbing no higher than 37th. Alex Bowman tumbled to 36th in the final stages when he lost the cap on one of his tires after apparently suffering damage to his #88 / Adam’s Polishes Chevrolet during the Keselowski/Blaney wreck. Hill rounded out the Bottom Five, finishing six laps down to race winner Kevin Harvick.

*Car #2 hadn’t finished last in a Cup Series points race since November 16, 2008, when Kurt Busch’s Miller Lite Dodge wrecked after 207 laps of the Ford 400 at Homestead, 418 races ago. This was also happened to be the last Cup Series race where I didn’t write a LASTCAR article – this site was founded in time for the Budweiser Shootout in 2009.
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #2 in a Cup Series race at Michigan since August 21, 1983, when Morgan Shepherd’s #2 ACM Equipment Sales Buick fell out with a busted valve after 63 laps of the Champion Spark Plug 400.

(25) Cole Custer, John Hunter Nemechek
(24) Josh Bilicki, Tyler Reddick 
(22) Brennan Poole 
(11) Bayley Currey 
(10) David Starr 
(5) James Davison
(4) Justin Haley 
+List includes only drivers with at least one start in a Cup points race so far in 2020

39) #2-Brad Keselowski / 95 laps / crash
38) #12-Ryan Blaney / 95 laps / crash
37) #51-James Davison / 147 laps / running
36) #88-Alex Bowman / 149 laps / tire
35) #66-Timmy Hill / 150 laps / running

1st) JTG-Daugherty Racing (6)
2nd) Motorsports Business Management (3)
3rd) Hendrick Motorsports, Penske Racing, Rick Ware Racing (2)
4th) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Chip Ganassi Racing, Front Row Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Leavine Family Racing, StarCom Racing, Tommy Baldwin Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (14)
2nd) Toyota (5)
3rd) Ford (3)


CUP: Joey Gase takes last at Michigan after Davison’s crew fights to get the #51 back on track

PHOTO: @JoeyGaseRacing

Joey Gase picked up the 6th last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Saturday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 at the Michigan International Speedway when his #7 Ziegler Auto Chevrolet fell out with transmission issues after 58 of 161 laps.

The finish, which came in Gase’s 62nd series start, was his first of the season and first in the series since March 3, 2019 at Las Vegas, 54 races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place history, this marked the 41st for the #7, the 80th for transmission, and the 790th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 49th for the #7, the 165th for transmission troubles, and the 1,730th for Chevrolet.

The finish also leap-frogged Gase to fourth in the 2020 LASTCAR Cup Series Championship since he was the driver with the most Bottom Fives and Bottom Tens among those without a last-place finish this year.

For the first six seasons of his Cup Series career, Gase has run no more than 11 races each year, putting together part-time deals with underfunded efforts such as Go FAS Racing, BK Racing, Premium Motorsports, StarCom Racing, and Motorsports Business Management. This year, he’s teamed with Rick Ware Racing, with whom he’d made just two Cup starts prior to 2020. This has allowed the Iowa native to run full-time Cup for the first time in his career. 

The consecutive start streak would ultimately come to an end at Michigan, however, as he would share a ride for Tommy Baldwin Racing, whose team leases cars from Ware. Gase would only run the first round of the Michigan double-header, handing over the wheel of the #7 to Josh Bilicki for Sunday after Bilicki returned from the XFINITY race in Road America. The black-and-yellow Chevrolet carried several different sponsors, including Wisconsin Lighting Labs, Ziegler Auto, The Boss Builders Outlet Super Store, and Custom Fiberglass Molding.

Gase drew the 39th and final starting spot, and on Saturday incurred a redundant tail-end penalty for unapproved adjustments. Prior to the start, he’d be joined by three other penalized drivers: 17th-place starter Jimmie Johnson failed inspection twice in the #48 Ally Bank Chevrolet, and 13th-place Ryan Newman in the #6 Coca-Cola Ford and 22nd-place Chris Buescher in the #17 Fastenal Ford, teammates at Roush-Fenway Racing, had their rear spoilers confiscated and would also incur 20-point penalties.

Gase took the green flag in last, but immediately zipped past a struggling newcomer in James Davison. Driving Rick Ware Racing’s #51 Signing Day Sports Ford, Davison was making just his fourth series start, and was riding high after Ware backed his upcoming ride for Byrd Racing in the upcoming Indianapolis 500. Unfortunately, his Cup car refused to get up to speed on the start. To make matters worse, the car’s radio button was broken, and the crew couldn’t hear their driver over the radio. After trying to determine if the car lost fuel pressure or electric power, Davison made two pit stops in the first five laps. On the second stop, Davison sat on pit road for nearly ten laps. The crew sent him back out under the competition caution on Lap 15, but the issue still wasn’t fixed. They wanted him to stay out and pit on the second caution lap, but the continued radio issue caused Davison to pit on the first lap, then pull into the garage.

Behind the wall, the Ware crew prioritized the engine issue and attempted to hook their computer up to the car. Unfortunately, the computer they had didn’t connect properly, so they ended up removing the ECU and taking it to the trailer so it could be hooked up to another computer. Another crewman found a replacement radio button, and on Lap 47 Davison could be heard on the radio for the first time. The engine fired the next time by, and the #51 rejoined the race 45 laps down. This didn’t last long, however, as Davison said the engine cut off when he hit 6500rpm in fourth gear. He also said the car was running hot, holding 265 degrees on the water. On Lap 49, he was back in the garage. Repairs took less time and he returned to action on Lap 59. Only then, when he was a full 55 laps down, did Davison say the car was running better.

On Lap 62, as Davison was back up to speed, Gase pulled behind the wall, and the radio was silent. On Lap 74, NASCAR reported Gase was out with what sounded like “communication” issues, though this was actually “transmission.” Davison managed to close the nearly 40-lap gap on Gase and finally dropped the #7 to last on Lap 116. Davison advanced no further and took 38th at the checkered flag. 

Finishing 37th was Brennan Poole, who suffered late-race engine troubles on his #15 Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet. He was followed two laps later by John Hunter Nemechek, who was enduring a miserable afternoon in the #38 Death Wish Coffee Ford. Nemechek was involved in three consecutive cautions, starting with a spin off the nose of Chris Buescher’s Ford and ending with a crash in Turn 3. Garrett Smithley rounded out the Bottom Five in still another Rick Ware Racing entry, the #53 sponsored by Victory Lane Quick Oil Change and Kendall Oil.

*This marked the first time the #7 finished last in a Cup Series race at Michigan. The only single-digit numbers to never finish last in a Cup race there are the #1 and the #3.

39) #7-Joey Gase / 58 laps / transmission
38) #51-James Davison / 103 laps / running
37) #15-Brennan Poole / 125 laps / engine
36) #38-John Hunter Nemechek / 127 laps / crash
35) #53-Garrett Smithley / 141 laps / steering

1st) JTG-Daugherty Racing (6)
2nd) Motorsports Business Management (3)
3rd) Hendrick Motorsports, Rick Ware Racing (2)
4th) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Chip Ganassi Racing, Front Row Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Leavine Family Racing, Penske Racing, StarCom Racing, Tommy Baldwin Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (14)
2nd) Toyota (5)
3rd) Ford (2)


XFINITY: Bayley Currey just the second driver to break down on the opening lap at Road America

ALL PHOTOS: Dion Martorano at J&T Sports, @Dion_JTsports

Bayley Currey
picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Henry 180 at Road America when his #74 Chevrolet fell out with engine issues without completing any of the 45 laps.

The finish, which occurred in Currey’s 38th series start, was his first of the season and first since March 9, 2019 at Phoenix, 47 races ago. In the XFINITY Series’ last-place history, it was the 11th for the #74, the 264th for engine trouble, and the 551st for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 51st for the #74, the 1,091st for engine trouble, and the 1,729th for Chevrolet.

The noticeable improvement of Mike Harmon Racing this year has been just as attributable to Bayley Currey as it has been to his teammate, Kyle Weatherman. Before Weatherman gave MHR their first Top 10 at Kentucky, it was Currey who broke through with a streak of three consecutive top-twenty finishes: Charlotte, where he took 18th, followed by a 20th at Bristol and 18th in Atlanta. He also earned a stage point in the second round of the Homestead double-header, battling his teammate to take the 10th spot at the end of Stage 1. Since the series’ return in May, team owner Mike Harmon has only driven his familiar #74 once – taking 25th at Talladega. Another Top 20 came soon after when Currey steered the car to a 19th-place finish.

For Road America, Currey and Weatherman would again run their identical Chevrolets they debuted at the Indianapolis Grand Prix Circuit, a red-white-and-blue scheme in place of the MHR team’s traditional black. The cars which also carried the message “We Stand For The National Anthem” from that Fourth of July event. Currey drew the 25th spot ahead of Weatherman in 32nd.

Taking the 37th and final spot was Preston Pardus, who looked to follow-up his own strong run at Indianapolis which netted him 10th, his first career top-ten finish in only three series starts. Pardus’ #36 Chinchor Electric / Danus Chevrolet only spent a brief moment in the spot as, prior to the start, two others were docked for pre-race penalties: Vinnie Miller, who took the place of teammate Matt Mills in the 34th-place #5 Thompson Electric / JF Electric Chevrolet, and 29th-place Myatt Snider for unapproved adjustments on his #93 Shore Lunch Chevrolet. Two Motorsports Business Management cars also dropped back voluntarily: 31st-place Chad Finchum in the #66 OCR Gaz Bar Toyota (the former Supra run previously on the Charlotte “Roval”), and 35th-place Jesse Iwuji, making his series debut in the #13 G2 Xchange Toyota. There was also some delay for 26th-place Joe Graf, Jr. getting off pit road in the #08 Bucked Up Energy Chevrolet, but he did not drop to the rear for the start.

Just prior to the start, however, 13th-place starter Brandon Brown stalled his unsponsored black-and-white #68 Chevrolet and had to be pushed back to pit road. The crew set to work under the left side of the car and just barely managed to get him back out around 15 seconds after the green flag. At that moment, Iwuji had been the last car to cross the stripe, and moved to 36th as he passed Brown on the main straightaway, 9.043 seconds back of the lead. Scott Heckert soon had trouble on his #78 Koolbox Ice / JW Transport Toyota, and NASCAR noted he was off the pace. By the time the field entered Turn 13, however, trouble found Currey.

The first report by NASCAR was to watch the #74 for smoke, but soon the car pulled off to the side of the road with more smoke billowing from beneath the hood. The caution fell on Lap 2, just as Currey became the first driver to lose a lap. When combined with Brown and Heckert’s issues on the same lap, timing and scoring was briefly confused, first putting Heckert in the spot before Currey. Heckert, like Brown, was guided back to the pits, and would return to action. He ultimately drew the next-to-last caution when he spun and stalled himself on Lap 41, though his car was much further off the racing surface than Currey.

Currey ultimately didn’t return to action after a lightning delay just a few laps later pushed the race well past its advertised timeframe. Chad Finchum, who had dropped to the rear in the MBM #66, only made it five laps before citing transmission issues. His two teammates fared much better. Just as he had at the Indianapolis Grand Prix Circuit, Stephen Liecht earned a respectable run in the #61 Jani-King Toyota - he finished 22nd, just one spot short of his 21st at Indy. Jesse Iwuji took 26th in his series debut, the last car on the lead lap.

The rest of the Bottom Five was filled by mechanical issues. Daniel Hemric made seven laps in the #8 Poppy Bank Chevrolet before the engine let go on the main straightaway, his car stopped just past pit entrance. A lengthy clean-up was required to prepare the track surface. Vinnie Miller’s replacement run in the #5 only lasted three more laps before his own engine let go in a large plume of smoke. Heckert rounded out the Bottom Five after his late-race spin.

It was Hemric’s engine failure that put Brandon Brown back on the lead lap, allowing him to recover nicely to finish in 12th spot, just one of a number of surprising runs:

Andy Lally made a dramatic return to the XFINITY Series on Saturday, finishing 5th in his first series start since 2018, tying his career-best at Mid-Ohio three years ago. Lally drove a throwback paint scheme to Mark Martin’s Apache Stove Pontiac from the early 1980s as it shared the same #02 as the Chris Our team he raced for. New Wave Cleaning Solutions was on board for the run. Lally will certainly be one to watch next week at the Daytona Infield Road Course, where he has extensive experience in sports cars.

Josh Bilicki, who also has an extensive background in road racing, enjoyed a career run on Saturday despite just a 17th-place finish. Bilicki led four laps in B.J. McLeod’s #99 Ariens “Built in Wisconsin” Toyota, during which he enjoyed a spirited battle with Preston Pardus. Bilicki was still running 6th with three laps to go, but dropped back in the final stages. For Bilicki, himself a Wisconsin native, this tied his second-best series finish, and only trails his career-best run of 12th at this same track three years ago.

Preston Pardus himself continued to impress in just his fourth series start, building on his career-best 10th at the Indianapolis Grand Prix Circuit with a new career-best 8th-place finish on Saturday – all the more impressive because his #36 started in last place. After his aforementioned battle with Bilicki from Laps 15 through 19, he again took the lead with five laps to go, bringing his laps led total to five, one more than Bilicki. It was on Pardus that Austin Cindric made the winning pass, though Pardus was able to hold off Ryan Sieg and Michael Annett for his final position.

*This marked the first last-place finish for both the #74 and Mike Harmon Racing at Road America.
*This is just the second time the last-place finisher at Road America failed to complete the opening lap. The only other occurrence was June 21, 2014, when Kevin Lepage’s #93 JGL Racing Dodge had rear gear trouble. The last-place finisher of this race has yet to complete more than two laps.

37) #74-Bayley Currey / 0 laps / engine

36) #66-Chad Finchum / 5 laps / transmission

35) #8-Daniel Hemric / 7 laps / engine

34) #5-Vinnie Miller / 10 laps / engine

33) #78-Scott Heckert / 41 laps / running

1st) Motorsports Business Management (4)
2nd) Joe Gibbs Racing (3)
3rd) JD Motorsports, Jimmy Means Racing, Mike Harmon Racing, Shepherd Racing Ventures (2)
4th) Jeremy Clements Racing, JR Motorsports, SS-Green Light Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (11)
2nd) Toyota (7)