Thursday, April 8, 2021

PREVIEW: At Martinsville, Jaskol and Gorham set for NASCAR debuts, but MBM's Cup team conspicuously absent

Matt Jaskol's paint scheme for Friday's XFINITY race.
PHOTO: Matt Jaskol Facebook Page, scheme by SMD

Friday, April 9, 2021 
XFINITY Race 7 of 33
Cook Out 250 at Martinsville
1994 Last-Place Finisher (March): Kevin Lepage

ENTRY LIST
There are 43 drivers entered for 40 spots in Friday’s first spring race at Martinsville for the XFINITY Series since 1994, but without qualifying, it’s the same three teams once again out of the field – Jordan Anderson’s #31, Bassett Racing’s #77, and the now-replaced second Our Motorsports entry, the #03.

DRIVER CHANGE: #13-Motorsports Business Management
Following the trend of multi-sport athletes entering NASCAR, such as Big Machine’s driver Jade Buford, Carl Long’s team has welcomed Matt Jaskol to make his first-ever start in NASCAR’s top three series. Like Buford, Jaskol is no stranger to racing, having spent two decades as both racer and instructor. He made five Indy Lights starts in 2007, taking a pair of 7th-place finishes at Indianapolis and Sonoma. Jaskol takes the place of Chad Finchum, who isn’t entered after brake issues left him 39th in Atlanta. Auto Parts 4 Less is the listed sponsor.

DRIVER CHANGE: #17-Rick Ware Racing / SS-Green Light Racing
When the XFINITY Series returned to Martinsville last fall, J.J. Yeley enjoyed a spirited run in one of Rick Ware’s old Mustangs, leading five laps and finishing in 11th. On Friday, he takes the place of teammate Cody Ware, who ran 23rd his last time out in Atlanta.

DRIVER CHANGE: #26-Sam Hunt Racing
Santino Ferrucci finished 15th back in Atlanta, already his third-straight top-15 finish in just his fourth series start. Ferrucci’s run will remain part-time, however, as teammate Brandon Gdovic returns to the #26 or the first time since his own strong 8th-place finish in this year’s Daytona opener. SnapMobile Shop is the listed sponsor for Gdovic’s Toyota.

DRIVER CHANGE: #54-Joe Gibbs Racing
Martinsville will also see the return of Daytona Road Course winner Ty Gibbs for the first time since his equally strong runner-up finish to Austin Cindric at Phoenix. He takes the place of Martin Truex, Jr., who dominated the Atlanta race, only to lose to series regular Justin Allgaier. Neither Truex, nor any other Cup regular, is entered in Friday’s race.

DRIVER CHANGE: #90-DGM Racing
Joining Matt Jaskol in making his NASCAR debut is George Gorham, Jr. The Florida native will make his first start at Martinsville, but is no stranger to short tracks as a standout in late model and street stock competition. While originally unsponsored when the deal was announced, Blackburn’s BBQ has followed him over from his familiar black #03 with additional backing from Francisco’s. He takes the place of Dexter Bean, who isn’t entered after a 35th-place finish with the team in Atlanta.

DRIVER CHANGE: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Stefan Parsons will make his 20th career XFINITY start on Friday with Sokal Digital rejoining as sponsor of his #99, just as it had in his most recent start at Phoenix, where he ran 18th. He takes the place of Mason Massey, who ran 32nd in Atlanta. With the same team, Parsons finished 24th in last fall’s XFINITY race at Martinsville.

CUP INVADERS: None

Saturday, April 10, 2021
CUP Race 8 of 36
Blue Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville
2020 Last-Place Finisher (June): Timmy Hill

ENTRY LIST
There are 37 drivers entered for 40 spots, marking not only the sixth short field in eight races this season, but the shortest Cup field at Martinsville since this race two years ago, when 36 took the green flag.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Rick Ware Racing
This week, James Davison tweeted that he may not be running this year’s Indianapolis 500, but has “found a home in NASCAR.” He returns to competition on Saturday in place of Chris Windom, whose sick engine on the Bristol dirt left him a disappointing 33rd. Davison made his first Cup start at Martinsville last fall, when he ran 36th in Rick Ware’s #53.

MISSING: #66-Motorsports Business Management
NASCAR’s controversial Charter System is entirely to blame for the lack of the #66 Toyota on this week’s entry list, two weeks after Mike Marlar’s 31st-place run on the dirt in Bristol. With his driver, Timmy Hill, the breakout star of last season’s iRacing Pro Invitational Series, team owner Carl Long had counted on Hill being invited back this year to give his team more exposure to sponsors. When Hill was snubbed because MBM didn’t hold a Charter – a requirement which wasn’t in place last season – Long indicated his team would have to scale back to a part-time schedule. Even after the #LetTimmyRace effort got Hill into the race (where he finished 8th), he had to run the Chartered Penske Racing #2 in place of MBM’s #66, still keeping the team out of the televised event. Plans for MBM’s remaining Cup schedule are still to be determined as the Charter System continues to suffocate “open” teams.

DRIVER CHANGE: #77-Spire Motorsports
Following Stewart Friesen’s 23rd-place finish in his Cup debut on the dirt in Bristol, Justin Haley returns to the #77 for the first time since Atlanta, were he ran 30th. Haley’s season-best remains a pair of 24th-place finishes on the Daytona Road Course and at Phoenix. This will be his first Cup start at Martinsville. Diamond Creek Water is the listed sponsor.

DRIVER CHANGE: #78-Live Fast Motorsports
After Shane Golobic’s Cup debut ended in the big backstretch pileup on the dirt at Bristol, B.J. McLeod returns to the #78 this week with former Go FAS Racing sponsor Keen Parts on the hood of his #78 Ford.

MISSING: #96-Gaunt Brothers Racing
Not making the trip to the short track are the Gaunt Brothers with Ty Dillon, who finished 26th despite heavy damage on the Bristol Dirt Track.

Saturday, April 17, 2021
TRUCKS Race 6 of 23
Toyota Care 250 at Richmond
2020 Last-Place Finisher (September): Jennifer Jo Cobb

The Truck Series returns next week in Richmond for their first-ever spring race.

LASTCAR STAT OF THE WEEK (April 8, 2006): Carl Edwards picked up the first last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in the O’Reilly 300 at Texas when his #60 Henkel Ford, which started 42nd in the 43-car field, lost an engine after 75 laps. The finish, which came in Edwards’ 43rd series start, was one of only two in the series. The other occurred May 9, 2008 at Darlington after his pole-winning car was eliminated in a Lap 4 crash.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

PREVIEW: Short track action set to continue after NASCAR off-weekend

Friday, April 9, 2021 
XFINITY Race 7 of 33
Spring NASCAR XFINITY Series Race at Martinsville
1994 Last-Place Finisher (March): Kevin Lepage

Saturday, April 10, 2021
CUP Race 8 of 36
Blue Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville
2020 Last-Place Finisher (June): Timmy Hill

Saturday, April 17, 2021
TRUCKS Race 6 of 23
Toyota Care 250 at Richmond
2020 Last-Place Finisher (September): Jennifer Jo Cobb

It’s no April Fools’ joke – all three of NASCAR’s top series will not be competing this weekend. The XFINITY and Cup Series return to action next week in Martinsville, where the XFINITY Series hosts its first spring race on the track since 1994. Both races are scheduled to be run under the lights, which made its debut last summer. The Truck Series will not return until the week after during Richmond weekend, and will host a spring race at the track for the first time.

LASTCAR STAT OF THE WEEK (April 1, 2006): Steve Park finished last for the 2nd time in his Truck Series career at the Kroger 250 at Martinsville when his #59 Harris Trucking Dodge crashed out in Turn 1 after 62 laps. The two-time Cup Series race winner made ten starts that year with James Harris’ team, but only once finished inside the Top Ten – a 10th at Mansfield on May 27.

Monday, March 29, 2021

CUP: Anthony Alfredo the first last-place finisher of a Cup Series dirt race since 1970

PHOTO: @BMSupdates

Anthony Alfredo picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Monday’s Food City Dirt Race at the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track when his #38 Dude Wipes Ford was involved in a multi-car accident after 39 of 253 laps.

The finish came in Alfredo’s 7th series start. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 19th for the #38, the 611th from a crash, and the 705th for Ford. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 54th for the #38, the 971st for Ford, and the 1,247th from a crash.

“Fast Pasta” was previously featured on this site following the 2019 Truck Series finale at Homestead, where his DGR-Crosley entry blew a hole in the engine at the command to start engines. He returned to NASCAR on the XFINITY Series side, finishing 6th in his series debut at the 2020 race in Fontana. This was the first of nine top-ten finishes he made in 19 starts that year, topped by a 3rd in his last start at Texas and a 4th in his return to Homestead.

It was on January 6th of this year, after one season each in Trucks and XFINITY that Alfredo was announced as the new driver of Front Row Motorsports’ second car, the #38 Ford. Alfredo took the place of John Hunter Nemechek, who left FRM after his difficult rookie season last year to return to the Truck Series with Kyle Busch Motorsports. Teamed with Michael McDowell, who won his first Cup race in the Daytona 500, Alfredo was collected in the day’s biggest wreck and finished 32nd. In the five races that followed, his best finish was 22nd on the Daytona Road Course.

Sponsored by Dude Wipes, formerly a Go FAS Racing backer, Alfredo ran 21st in the first practice and 18th in Happy Hour. This would have put him 8th on the grid for the first of Saturday’s four heat races. But last weekend’s storm wiped out that part of the schedule, and Alfredo secured 29th on the grid by the rulebook.

When the race was finally set to go on Monday, the 39th starting spot fell to Ty Dillon in the Gaunt Brothers’ #96 Bass Pro Shops Toyota. Polesitter Kyle Larson would drop to the rear for an engine change Friday on his #5 Freightliner Chevrolet, to be joined by 12th-place Matt DiBenedetto in the #21 Menards / Quaker State Ford and 16th-place Michael McDowell in the #34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford, both for unapproved adjustments. DiBenedetto’s team needed to replace a torn fender while McDowell’s had an issue with the throttle body not fully opening.

After the opening lap, 39th place fell to Mike Marlar, who was not only running double-duty with the Truck Series, but making his Cup debut in Motorsports Business Management’s #66 LiftKits4Less.com Toyota. The MBM crew advised their driver to “take care of the nose,” and at least one crew member didn’t have access to timing and scoring. By Lap 5, Marlar had dropped 1.224 seconds back of new 38th-place runner Quin Houff in the #00 Mane ‘n Tail Chevrolet, and was in danger of losing a lap by the 8th circuit. Houff then took last from Marlar on Lap 9, and Marlar climbed to 37th past Cody Ware in the #51 Nurtec ODT Chevrolet. Marlar wouldn’t lose a lap until the 31st circuit.

On Lap 11, Kyle Busch made an unscheduled stop for an overheating #18 M&M’s Messages Toyota, which dropped him off the lead lap and into last place. He held the spot until around Lap 19, when Josh Bilicki lost at least two laps in the #52 Junction Fuels Ford. Still under green on Lap 39, Bilicki’s crew reported they couldn’t see the track very well. Two circuits later, this same lack of visibility may have played a role in settling the last-place battle.

Coming off Turn 2, Aric Almirola’s #10 Smithfield Ford was working under the #77 Halmar International Chevrolet of Stewart Friesen, who was making his Cup debut. The hole closed for Almirola, whose left-front clipped the rough dirt on the apron of the track, sending his car sideways. Almirola slid backwards up the track into the path of newcomer Shane Golobic, who destroyed the nose of his #78 Elk Grove Ford / NOS Energy Ford. Alfredo tweeted later that he turned to the right, but skidded right into Almirola’s car, destroying his machine. Corey LaJoie #7 NASCAR Trucks at Knoxville Chevrolet was also collected as Almirola’s Ford skidded to the apron.

Almirola, Golobic, LaJoie, and Alfredo all climbed out uninjured, their cars towed behind the wall. Alfredo, the lowest-classified of the four drivers involved, slipped to last place on Lap 44. It wasn’t until Lap 78 that NASCAR confirmed all four drivers out due to the accident, along with the wrecked Ross Chastain in the #42 Clover Chevrolet and Christopher Bell in the #20 Irwin “Trade Strong” Toyota. Chastain and Bell were collected in the next accident in Turn 2, which also involved Kyle Larson. Chastain, the lowest-classified of that group, rounded out the Bottom Five in the 35th spot.

Two new NASCAR teams turned heads during much of Monday’s race. Bubba Wallace and 23XI Racing nearly rebounded from their disappointing tire gamble at Phoenix, which cost them a shot at a Top Five. This time, Wallace’s #23 Doordash Toyota ran in the Top Ten for nearly the entire distance, and finished 7th in both Stages 1 and 2. He was still running 9th with 35 laps to go when the left-rear tire went down after contact from Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., forcing an unscheduled pit stop. Wallace crossed the line in 27th, two laps down.

Their rivals – Daniel Suarez and Team Trackhouse – did even better. Coming back from their late-race pit road speeding penalty that cost them 6th last Sunday in Atlanta, Suarez climbed to 4th at the end of Stage 1, scoring the organization’s first stage points. He then stepped it up in Stage 2, catching the dominant Martin Truex, Jr. and bumping his #19 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota out of the way on Lap 134. He led the next 58 laps, at one point holding off William Byron’s #24 Liberty University Chevrolet on a restart. Joey Logano’s winning pass on Suarez came with just 58 laps to go in regulation, and he held on to finish 4th in overtime after Truex slipped out of the groove in overtime. The result was Team Trackhouse’s best, improving on their previous mark of 15th at Homestead.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #38 in a Cup Series race on a dirt track since August 25, 1962, when Sammy Packard’s 1961 Ford dropped a piston after running 45 of the 200 laps at the Valdosta 75 (Georgia) Speedway. This was the fourth and final series start for Packard, and came after he started last in Valdosta’s 13-car field.
*The #38 has never finished last in a Cup race at Bristol.
*Alfredo is the first first-time last-place finisher of a Cup Series race since September 27, 2020, when Chad Finchum scored his first at Las Vegas. He’s the first Cup driver to score his first last-place finish in a dirt race since April 3, 1969, when Dick Poling lost the rear end after 1 lap of the Columbia 200 at the Columbia (South Carolina) Speedway.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
39) #38-Anthony Alfredo / 39 laps / crash
38) #7-Corey LaJoie / 39 laps / crash
37) #78-Shane Golobic / 39 laps / crash
36) #10-Aric Almirola / 39 laps / crash
35) #42-Ross Chastain / 52 laps / crash

2021 LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Motorsports Business Management (2)
2nd) Chip Ganassi Racing, Front Row Motorsports, Rick Ware Racing, StarCom Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

2021 LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (3)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (2)

2021 LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP


TRUCKS: Early smash-up lands Tyler Ankrum in last place on Bristol’s dirt

PHOTO: @NASCARonNBC

Tyler Ankrum picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Monday’s Pinty’s Race on Dirt at the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track when his #26 Liuna Chevrolet was eliminated in a crash after 34 of 150 laps.

The finish came in Ankrum’s 50th series start. In the Truck Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 6th for the #26, the 166th from a crash, and the 404th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, I was the 44th for the #26, the 1,246th from a crash, and the 1,770th for Chevrolet. 

While his background has, like many of his fellow competitors, been predominately with pavement racing, Ankrum ran well in his only previous dirt start. During the most recent Truck Series race at Eldora in 2019, he was the winner of the Last Chance Qualifier and finished 9th in the main event. This came in a career resurgence with the DGR-Crosley team, which he rejoined after a lack of sponsorship forced driver and team to part ways. Ankrum “start-and-parked” for NEMCO Motorsports at Iowa and Gateway, finishing last in the former before Ross Chastain was disqualified.

Ankrum then moved to GMS Racing last season, finishing a season-best 2nd to Kyle Busch at Homestead, and making it all the way to the penultimate round of the Playoffs. Finishes of 34th, 16th, and 12th knocked him out of the Championship Four, though he closed the year with an 8th-place run in the finale. This year, however, has been more of a struggle. Heading into the Bristol race, he’d finished no better than 18th and crashed out at both Daytona and Las Vegas.

Ankrum ran 9th and 8th in the weekend’s two practice sessions, which put him 6th on the grid for Heat Race 1. Unfortunately, the massive storm that has plagued the southeast for much of the week slipped into Tennessee on Saturday, thoroughly soaking the track. NASCAR attempted to get Heat 1 started on Saturday, but after a single lap, Ankrum’s truck was so covered in wet mud that he couldn’t see. The same issue affected the rest of the field, other than leader Mike Marlar in the #56 LiftKits4Less.com Chevrolet, and Kevin Harvick’s #17 Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford took last from Austin Hill’s #16 United Rentals Toyota before NASCAR threw the red flag. The heat races for both Trucks and Cup were both cancelled, and Ankrum drew the 19th spot in the field of 40.

The weekend also saw J.R. Heffner, the polesitter for Heat Race 4, withdraw from the event after a practice crash in the #3 A. Colarusso & Son / Upstate Utilities Chevrolet. This was the second time Heffner withdrew from a Truck Series dirt race for pre-race issues, following his 2017 engine failure before the Eldora event, when he was driving for current XFINITY regular Tommy Joe Martins. This opened the door for one of CMI Motorsports’ entries to start a race for the first time this season. The team’s #49 edged the #83 for the spot, decided ultimately by the #83 not running a lap in Daytona time trials due to a dropped drive shaft. This meant that Andrew Gordon would make his series debut in the #49 Staar Trucking Chevrolet, rolling off 40th in the field.

The storm ultimately pushed the race to Monday, with engines fired just before the start of the broadcast at 12 P.M. Eastern. Before the field rolled off pit road, 35th-place starter Jennifer Jo Cobb in the #10 Fastener Supply Co. Chevrolet needed a push to get started. Cobb would later report that she nearly wrecked because the steering was so heavy and was being pushed with the wheels turned one direction. Derek Kraus, the 12th-place starter, also made an unscheduled stop in the #19 Hunter Nation Toyota, which forced NASCAR to wave off the start for another lap. Both Kraus and Cobb dropped to the rear before the start, slotting in behind Gordon’s #49.

Cobb took over last place at the end of Lap 1, and was encouraged by her crew to drive her truck in deeper. She was the first to lose a lap on the 11th circuit, at which point she and 39th-place Spencer Boyd in the #20 Eco Twist Chevrolet were trailing 38th-place Norm Benning in the #6 MDF A Sign Co. Chevrolet Chevrolet by 3.119 seconds. When the first caution fell for a spinning Tanner Gray, whose #15 Ford Performance Ford slipped to 38th on Lap 14, Cobb decided not to mess with her brakes and instead sling her truck into the corners for the next run. On Lap 16, Kraus took last from Cobb, followed by Benning on Lap 18. Cobb set her sights on Kraus as she opened up a gap on Benning.

Next to enter the battle was Carson Hocevar – 2nd in opening practice – whose #42 Scott’s / GM Parts Now Chevrolet was decorated in honor of the late Bryan Clauson. Hocevar slowed down the backstretch and pulled to the apron, taking over last from Benning on Lap 24. At the time, he was 2.795 seconds back of Benning’s #6. “Did it lock up on you?” asked Hocevar’s crew as he made it to pit road, steam billowing from the overflow valve. On Lap 28, the team saw the radiator was packed with dirt, and hooked up the cool-down machine to bring the water temperature from 260 degrees down to 180. He returned to the track on Lap 29, three laps down, and trailed the field as they headed to the green.

On Lap 35, Ankrum was running back in the pack when Austin Wayne Self’s #22 AM Technical Solutions / Go Texan Chevrolet bumped Chandler Smith’s #18 JBL Toyota into a spin in Turn 2. Smith’s truck was facing the wrong way and slowly pulling closer to the outside wall when Ankrum arrived on the scene. As Ankrum skated sideways through the corner, he was pinned to the middle lane with two trucks to his outside – Hailie Deegan’s #1 Monster Energy Ford and Kyle Larson’s #44 Rich Mar Florist / Circle B Chevrolet. Unable to pull any higher, Ankrum’s left-front slammed into the left-front of Smith’s truck.

Ankrum apparently attempted to get rolling again, but his truck pulled to the left and was stuck against the wall. On Lap 38, as a tow truck was summoned to the scene, Ankrum’s team said, “We’re done. We’re done. Steering arm’s broken off it.” The truck was pulled behind the wall at Turn 3, where they prepared to put a caster on the right-front before loading up. At the time, the crew remarked that the “outwear” protecting the radiator was clean. The team loaded up on Lap 42, the same lap NASCAR’s garage official reported “26 out, accident.”

Derek Kraus’ rough start to the race took a turn for the worse on Lap 49, when he and Timothy Peters’ #25 Rackley Roofing Chevrolet tangled in Turn 2, just moments after John Hunter Nemechek’s #4 Mobil 1 Toyota was spun by Matt Crafton’s #88 Denali Aire / Menards Toyota entering the corner. Nemechek managed to avoid hitting the outside wall, and appeared to be awaiting a spot in line when Kraus slammed into Nemechek’s right-front with Peters just behind. Peters managed to keep going, but Kraus and Nemechek were done. Benning took 37th, having cut a left-rear tire when he was running by himself on Lap 71. He returned to the track seven laps down, only to be collected in a four-wide battle heading into Turn 3, further damaging his truck. He was parked soon after. Rounding out the Bottom Five was Danny Bohn, whose #30 North American Motor Car Toyota slammed hard into Kyle Larson’s #44 after a collision with a slowing Mike Marlar on Lap 99.

After losing three laps with his radiator issue, Carson Hocevar recovered to finish on the lead lap in the 21st spot. Tanner Gray likewise recovered from his spin, climbing from 38th to 13th at the finish, while Austin Wayne Self, who bumped Chandler Smith in the wreck that collected Ankrum, finished in 10th. Joining Self in the Top 10 were Cup rookie Chase Briscoe, who gave Cory Roper’s team a strong 5th-place finish, and Parker Kligerman, who ran 8th in Charlie Henderson’s #75 Food Country USA Chevrolet.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #26 in a Truck Series race since August 12, 2000, when the late Tony Roper lost an engine on Mike Mittler’s #26 Mittler Tool Ford after 14 laps of the Federated Auto Parts 250 at the Nashville (Fairgrounds) Speedway.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #26-Tyler Ankrum / 34 laps / crash
39) #4-John Hunter Nemechek / 48 laps / crash
38) #19-Derek Kraus / 49 laps / crash
37) #6-Norm Benning / 72 laps / parked
36) #30-Danny Bohn / 98 laps / crash

2021 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) GMS Racing, Niece Motorsports (2)
2nd) Norm Benning Racing (1)

2021 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (5)

2021 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP


Thursday, March 25, 2021

PREVIEW: Dirt ringers, Cup invaders, new teams, and a husband-and-wife duo ready to battle in Bristol

PHOTO: @RickWareRacing

Saturday, March 27, 2021
TRUCKS Race 5 of 23
Pinty’s Dirt Truck Race at Bristol
2020 Last-Place Finisher: Inaugural Event

ENTRY LIST
There are 44 drivers entered for 40 spots in Saturday’s kickoff to NASCAR’s dirt double-header in Bristol, meaning four entries will not make the show after the four qualifying heats. These four 15-lap qualifying heats for the Truck Series will run from 4:30 P.M. – 5:30 P.M. Eastern, followed by another four 15-lap qualifying heats for the Cup Series at 6:00 P.M. – 7:00 P.M. Eastern.

DRIVER CHANGE: #3-Jordan Anderson Racing
J.R. Heffner is just one of several “dirt ringers” joining this weekend’s action. The three-time starter of the Truck Series race at Eldora last took the green flag there in 2018 and has a best finish of 15th in 2016. After driving for Tommy Joe Martins, and Premium Motorsports, and the late Mike Mittler, Heffner will this time run for Jordan Anderson in the #3, once again sponsored by A. Colarusso & Son, plus Upstate Utilities.

DRIVER CHANGE: #11-Spencer Davis Racing
There’s also no fewer than seven Cup Series regulars entered in Saturday’s race, though not one of these is last week’s winner Kyle Busch. Driving in place of Spencer Davis, whose team acquired the Owner Points of NEMCO Motorsports’ #8 team to run the rest of the season, is Bubba Wallace. The 2014 winner of Eldora’s Truck Series race – third of his six series victories – Wallace will make his first series start since March 29, 2019 at Texas, where he ran 20th for the Self team. Columbia Outdoor Clothing follows Wallace from the 23XI Racing team.

MISSING: #14-Trey Hutchens Racing
Trey Hutchens is not entered after his Camping World-sponsored entry was unable to qualify last week in Atlanta. Driver and team are still looking to make their first start of 2021.

DRIVER CHANGE: #17-David Gilliland Racing
Kevin Harvick looks to make his first Truck Series start sine August 1, 2015 at Pocono, when he finished runner-up to Kyle Busch. The 14-time series winner takes the place of Bill Lester, who struggled in his own series return at Atlanta, finishing 36th. Hunt Brothers Pizza continues as Harvick’s sponsor.

MISSING: #32-Bret Holmes Racing
Bret Holmes will not be running the dirt race after his 32n-place finish in Atlanta.

DRIVER CHANGE: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
While the XFINITY Series takes the week off, Myatt Snider looks to make his first Truck Series start since June 22, 2019 at Gateway, when he finished 10th for ThorSport. He takes the place of Akinori Ogata, who finished 37th in Atlanta.

DRIVER CHANGE: #34-Reaume Brothers Racing
When the Truck Series last ran on the dirt in Eldora in 2019, Jake Griffin got Mike Affarano’s #03 Chevrolet into the main event and finished 26th of 32 starters, seven laps down. He returns to make his fist start since then, taking the place of Ryan Ellis in the #34 Chevrolet. He takes the place of Ryan Ellis, who finished 34th in Atlanta, and will be sponsored by Great Escapes RV Center.

NEW TEAM: #39-DCC Racing
Ryan Newman makes his first Truck Series start since the 2018 renewal at Eldora, and this time does so with a brand-new team. Brad Means, the son of longtime NASCAR team owner Jimmy “Smut” Means, fields his own Ford entry with sponsorship from Coca-Cola and Aggressive Hydraulics.

DRIVER CHANGE: #41-Cram Racing Enterprises
Cody Erickson looks to make his fourth series start and first since last summer, when he finished 30th on Bristol’s concrete surface. For his dirt race attempt, he’ll carry sponsorship from multiple backers: Thunder Seed, Magnum Contracting, Inc., Braseth Construction, Performance Auto, and Erickson Farms. Cram finished 31st with the team last week in Atlanta.

DRIVER CHANGE: #44-Niece Motorsports
The 2016 Eldora winner - among his many accomplishments on dirt – Kyle Larson eyes his first Truck Series start since the ’16 finale at Homestead, when he finished 4th for GMS Racing. He takes the place of the driver of his former ride at Chip Ganassi Racing, Ross Chastain, who charged from last on the grid at Atlanta to finish in 7th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #49-CMI Motorsports
RETURNING / DRIVER CHANGE: #83-CMI Motorsports
Ray Ciccarelli has elected to give two drivers their first attempt at competing in NASCAR’s top three series. Driving the #49 that was sent home with Ciccarelli himself prior to Atlanta is Andrew Gordon, who has ten starts in the X-1R Pro Cup Series with a best finish of 7th at Southern National Motorsports Park in 2012. He also attempted to make a late model race at Eldora in 2014, but failed to qualify. The #83, most recently entered by Tim Viens on the Daytona Road Course, goes to Trevor Collins, who failed to qualify for the 2018 Truck Series race at Eldora driving for Mike Harmon.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Kyle Busch Motorsports
Coming into Saturday’s race, Martin Truex, Jr. has just two career Truck Series starts – a 19th on the Milwaukee Mile in 2005, and a 34th at Michigan on June 17, 2006. Both starts came driving for Billy Ballew. This time around, Truex takes the place of his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch, who won with the #51 team last time out in Atlanta, but is not entered this week. Auto-Owners Insurance, which has sponsored Truex in several starts, sponsors his Toyota.

RETURNING / DRIVER CHANGE: #56-Hill Motorsports
In 2019, Mike Marlar was one of the best underdog stories of the Eldora Dirt Derby, finishing 4th for the Reaume Brothers after NASCAR forced him to remove longtime sponsor Marathon Oil from his entry. He then had a short night in his XFINITY debut at Richmond that September, crashing on the opening lap. Back in NASCAR for the first time since then, Marlar runs double-duty in two entries that share ties with iRacing legend Timmy Hill. His Truck Series ride is Hill’s own team, which didn’t enter Atlanta after brother Tyler’s wreck in Las Vegas. Marlar's Cup ride will be Timmy’s #66 (see below).

NEW TEAM: #62-Halmar Friesen Racing
The Halmar team fields a second Truck Series entry on Saturday, and will also set up a rare head-to-head battle between husband and wife. While 2019 Eldora Dirt Derby winner Stewart Friesen continues to run his full-time #52 (and will make his Cup debut on Sunday, see below), his wife Jessica Friesen will run the new #62. Jessica has an impressive racing resume of her own, having competed in big-block and small-block modifieds, and finishing runner-up to her husband last summer in Fonda, New York. If Jessica makes the main event, it will be the first series start for the #62 since November 15, 2013, when Brendan Gaughan last raced the number in the Homestead finale.

DRIVER CHANGE: #02-Young’s Motorsports
After nearly finishing 6th in last week’s Cup race at Atlanta before a late-race pit road speeding penalty, Daniel Suarez is set to make his first Truck Series start since the 2016 finale at Homestead, when he drove for Kyle Busch Motorsports. This time, he takes the place of Josh Berry, who himself relieved Kris Wright at Atlanta after Wright’s positive COVID-19 test, in the Randy Young-owned #02. Berry finished 22nd in Atlanta.

DRIVER CHANGE: #04-Roper Racing
Rookie contender Chase Briscoe, the 2018 winner of the Eldora Dirt Derby, returns to the Truck Series for the first time since the 2019 running, when he finished 7th after starting on pole. This time, he takes the place of Cory Roper, who ran 27th in Atlanta.

CUP INVADERS: #11-Bubba Wallace, #17-Kevin Harvick, #39-Ryan Newman, #44-Kyle Larson, #51-Martin Truex, Jr., #02-Daniel Suarez, #04-Chase Briscoe

Sunday, March 28, 2021
CUP Race 7 of 36
Food City Dirt Race at Bristol
2020 Last-Place Finisher: Inaugural Event

ENTRY LIST
Sunday marks the first Cup Series race on dirt since September 30, 1970, but still marks the fifth-straight short field in 2021 in seven races. It also happens to be the largest field for a Cup Series dirt race since June 14, 1959, when 40 drivers started the race at the Lakewood (Georgia) Speedway. The all-time record remains a 64-car field at Langhorne Speedway on September 26, 1954. 

STARTING GRID VIDEO
By popular vote in my Patreon, I will also be producing a Starting Grid Video for this 250-lap main event, to be posted on my YouTube channel between late Saturday and early Sunday.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Rick Ware Racing
James Davison became one of the week’s biggest surprises. Video posted by R.J. Starcevic showed him sliding sideways trying to hold off teammate Cody Ware in the final laps of his 32nd-place finish in Atlanta. He then won a heat race for Wednesday’s iRacing event on the Bristol dirt track, leading several laps and finishing in 5th spot. Regardless, Davison will not be in Sunday’s field, as it was previously announced that Chris Windom will make his Cup debut. Windom’s five previous NASCAR starts all came in the Truck Series, yielding a best of 14th in the 2018 Eldora Dirt Derby. NOS Energy Drink is the listed sponsor.

MISSING: #33-Penske Racing
Austin Cindric is not entered after his quiet 22nd-place finish in Atlanta.

DRIVER CHANGE: #53-Rick Ware Racing
Taking the place of 35th-place Joey Gase from Atlanta is J.J. Yeley, who will make his first Cup start of the season after he was swapped out at Phoenix. While no stranger to the Cup Series – Sunday will be his 326th series start – Yeley should not be overlooked for his extensive dirt track background. In a three-year span from 2001 through 2003, Yeley won two National Sprint titles, two in Silver Crown, and one in the National Midget Series.

DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
In the second round of his double-header, Mike Marlar takes the place of Timmy Hill, 36th in last Sunday’s Atlanta race, to make his first Cup Series start. Marlar carries sponsorship from Auto Parts For Less.

DRIVER CHANGE: #77-Spire Motorsports
The #77 will carry the familiar Halmar colors of Stewart Friesen, who on Sunday will make his first Cup Series start. Friesen takes the place of Justin Haley, who ran 30th last week in Atlanta.

DRIVER CHANGE: #78-Live Fast Motorsports
Fremont, California’s Shane Golobic make his first Cup Series start on Sunday, and like fellow first-timer Chris Windom will carry sponsorship from NOS Energy Drink (plus Elk Grove Ford). Golobic will drive Live Fast’s #78 in place of B.J. McLeod, who ran 34th last week in Atlanta. Golobic boasts an extensive dirt track resume dating back to at least 2007, scoring 83 feaure wins and running at Knoxville just last summer. He also has three ARCA Menards Series West starts from late 2013 with a best finish of 8th at the California short tracks in Roseville and Bakersfield.

RETURNING: #96-Gaunt Brothers Racing
Ty Dillon returns to the Cup Series for the first time since he finished a solid 19th on the Daytona Road Course last month, bouncing back from his disappointing DNQ in the Daytona 500. The Bristol track was the site of Dillon’s first stage victory in 2019, when he edged Clint Bowyer on the concrete.

Friday, April 9, 2021 
XFINITY Race 7 of 33
Spring NASCAR XFINITY Series Race at Martinsville
1994 Last-Place Finisher (Spring): Kevin Lepage

The XFINITY Series will not be in Bristol for the dirt race, and will return to action in two weeks at Martinsville.

LASTCAR STAT OF THE WEEK: The most recent Cup Series race held on a dirt track occurred on September 30, 1970. The Home State 200 at the half-mile North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, North Carolina was the 42nd race of 48 on the 1970 NASCAR Grand National calendar. The last-place finisher of the 23-car field was John Sears, who won the pole in his #4 1969 Dodge and led the opening ten laps before his engine let go six laps later. This turned out to be the fifth and final last-place finish of Sears’ career, which covered 318 races from 1964 through 1973. On November 1, 1999, the racer from Ellerbe, North Carolina died at age 63.