Thursday, June 8, 2023

PREVIEW: Cup invaders threaten to dominate inaugural XFINITY race at Sears Point rides along with Brad Perez this weekend on the Emerling-Gase #53.
IMAGE: @bradperezracing

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

For the second time in 2023, I will be covering the action trackside, this time at my home track in Sonoma. Just like last year, I will also be joined by one of my staff writers, Ben Schneider. For our updates, be sure to follow my Twitter feed @LASTCARonBROCK and Ben’s at @bcschneider53.

#5-Riley Herbst
#9-Ryan Preece 
#46-Kyle Sieg 
#55-Cole Custer 
#81-Sammy Smith 
#02-Parker Retzlaff

Saturday, June 10, 2023 (8:00 P.M. ET, FS1)
XFINITY Race 15 of 33
DoorDash 250 at Sears Point
2022 Last-Place Finisher: Inaugural Event

For the first time in Sears Point’s history, the XFINITY Series will take to the track, following up on a thrilling road race event last week in Portland. This week, there are 42 drivers making the long trip west – three more than in Portland - meaning three teams will fail to qualify.

DRIVER CHANGE: #4-JD Motorsports
The first of no less than seven Cup regulars populating Saturday’s entry list is Ty Dillon, who returns to the XFINITY Series for the first time since Darlington, when he steered RCR’s #3 to a 19th-place finish. This time around, Dillon drives for JD Motorsports, taking the place of 24th-place Portland finisher Garrett Smithley. Dillon’s best of four Cup starts at Sonoma came last suer, when he ran 23rd for Petty-GMS.

DRIVER CHANGE: #10-Kaulig Racing
The next Cup regular is A.J. Allmendinger, who makes his 95th XFINITY start and first since COTA, where he won from the pole. Gabriel Glas is the listed sponsor of the #10, which last week finished 27th in the hands of Jordan Taylor. Taylor spends this week overseas as part of NASCAR’s “Garage 56” effort in Le Mans.

RETURNING: #17-Hendrick Motorsports
Kyle Larson, the 2021 series champion and winner of the Toyota / Save Mart 350, also makes his first XFINITY start since Darlington. This time, he drives Hendrick’s #17, whose only other start this year was at COTA, where William Byron finished runner-up to Allmendinger.

DRIVER CHANGE: #19-Joe Gibbs Racing
The fourth Cup regular is rookie contender Ty Gibbs, who will turn his first laps on Sonoma’s track during his double-duty effort. This would be Gibbs’ third XFINITY start of 2023, following his 3rd-place run in COTA and 5th in Charlotte. Gibbs takes the place of Myatt Snider, who finished 6th in Portland.

NEW TEAM: #29-RSS Racing
Cup regular number five is Aric Almirola, still another driver who ran the XFINITY event at COTA, his for SS-Green Light Racing for a 24th-place finish in the #08. This time around, Almirola runs for fellow Ford team RSS Racing, piloting the #28 driven to a 34th-place finish by Kyle Sieg, who had rear gear issues in Portland. Kyle Sieg will make the trip west, but contrary to the preliminary list will instead run the ARCA West Series race in the #46. Taking Kyle’s place is Alex Labbe, who finished a strong 11th in Portland and this week debuts a new fourth part-time entry for the RSS team, the #29. Labbe’s #91 entry from last week goes to the sixth Cup regular in Ross Chastain, carrying sponsorship from Skip Barber Racing School.

DRIVER SWAP: #35-Emerling-Gase Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #43-Alpha Prime Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #44-Alpha Prime Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #53-Emerling-Gase Motorsports
Sage Karam’s fourth XFINITY start and 17th of his career is set to play out at Sonoma, where he’s never before competed in his open-wheel or sports car career. Karam returns to the #44 for the first time since Darlington with Quality Roof Seamers and ToughGuard as sponsors. This moves Dylan Lupton from the #44 with which he took 29th in Portland to the #43 in place of Leland Honeyman. Struck by food poisoning in Portland, Honeyman handed the wheel to Brad Perez, who nearly finished 13th before a last-lap, last-corner wreck left him 28th. This week, Honeyman and Perez are teammates at the Emerling-Gase team. Honeyman takes the #35 in place of 35th-place Parker Chase while Perez climbs aboard the #53 in for team co-owner Patrick Emerling, 20th in Portland. After the #53 ran without sponsorship last week, Perez’ #53 Apex Coffee Chevrolet will also include sponsorship from LASTCAR on both b-posts.

For the first time since Daytona, Mario Gosselin enters the #36 team in the XFINITY Series. Alex Labbe, who failed to qualify the entry in this year’s opener, will drive for RSS Racing in the #29, leaving the seat open for double-duty driver Josh Bilicki. Joining the team is SBC Contractors, which continues its series of team sponsorships at Sonoma into the first XFINITY race. 

DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
For the first time, Carl Long makes the trip to Sonoma, this time as a team owner with his #66 entry. One week after Mason Maggio took a 36th-place finish after transmission issues in Portland, it is Mason Filippi piloting the Ford. Last year, it was Filippi who was slated to run G2G Racing’s #46 entry in the Truck Series race before the sequence of events led to Stefan Parsons taking over.

DRIVER CHANGE: #07-SS-Green Light Racing
The seventh and last Cup regular on the entry list is last year’s Toyota / Save Mart 350 winner Daniel Suarez, still aiming for his first Cup win since. Suarez seeks his 85th XFINITY start and first since June 30, 2018 at Chicagoland. This time, he drives the #07 entry for SS-Green Light Racing, taking the place of 37th-place finisher Stefan Parsons, who overheated 17 laps into the Portland race.

DRIVER CHANGE: #08-SS-Green Light Racing
The second SS-Green Light entry goes to Kyle Weatherman, who makes his eighth XFINITY start of the year and first since Charlotte, when he steered DGM Racing’s #91 to a 20th-place finish. This week, Weatherman takes the place of Preston Pardus, who finished 31st in Portland after mechanical issues.

CUP INVADERS: #4-Ty Dillon, #10-A.J. Allmendinger, #17-Kyle Larson, #19-Ty Gibbs, #28-Aric Almirola, #91-Ross Chastain, #07-Daniel Suarez

Sunday, June 11, 2023 (3:30 P.M. ET, FS1)
CUP Race 16 of 36
Toyota / Save Mart 350 at Sears Point
2022 Last-Place Finisher: Bubba Wallace

Only the 36 Chartered entries will venture out to California this week, marking the 15th straight short field since the 40-car grid at the Daytona 500.

DRIVER SWAP: #7-Spire Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #9-Hendrick Motorsports
Chase Elliott returns from his one-week suspension for wrecking Denny Hamlin in the Coca-Cola 600, moving Corey LaJoie back to the #7 in place of first-timer Carson Hocevar. One year after he earned the Truck Series pole while nursing his leg injury, Hocevar will not run this weekend after he battled up to 16th in Gateway before brake failure put him into the wall.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-Rick Ware Racing
After looking for backing to run more races in the NextGen car, road race ace Andy Lally, the 2011 NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year, landed sponsorship from Camping World. This puts Lally in the #15 in place of both Gateway’s 29th-place finisher Gray Gaulding and the “TBA” on this week’s preliminary list. It will be Lally’s first Cup start at Sonoma since his rookie campaign in 2011, when he ran 35th for The Racer’s Group.

DRIVER SWAP: #38-Front Row Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Rick Ware Racing
For the second time in three races, Zane Smith will run the #38, moving Todd Gilliland to the #51 in place of 24th-place Gateway finisher J.J. Yeley. It was Zane who finished runner-up to Kyle Busch in last year’s Truck Series race at Sonoma, and Gilliland took 24th in last year’s Cup race. 

DRIVER CHANGE: #42-Legacy Motor Club
On Thursday came news that Noah Gragson sufffered concussion symptoms following his hard crash at Gateway. Grant Enfinger has been tabbed as his replacement, fresh off his Truck win at Gateway. This will be Enfinger's Cup debut - his only prior attempt was with Sinica Motorsports at Homestead in 2011.

DRIVER CHANGE: #78-Live Fast Motorsports
Josh Bilicki makes his fourth Cup start at Sonoma in a fourth different car number, following finishes of 36th, 29th, and 29th driving for Rick Ware Racing and Spire Motorsports. This time, he takes the place of team co-owner B.J. McLeod, 27th in Gateway. This will be Bilicki’s first Cup start in any respect since the All-Star Open in North Wilkesboro, where he started 11th and finished 10th in a field of 16.

Friday, June 23, 2023
TRUCKS Race 13 of 23
Rackley Roofing 200 at Nashville
2022 Last-Place Finisher: Chase Janes

While the Truck Series was part of the Sears Point weekend last year, they will this time take two weeks off and return in Nashville.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (June 8, 1980): D.K. Ulrich scored the 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR Winston Cup Series career in the Warner W. Hodgdon 400 at Riverside, where his #40 Midwestern Farm Lines Chevrolet lost the engine without completing a lap. While stranded on the backstretch with his hood up, Ulrich famously was invited to come drink with some fans, and decided to go join them. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

ARCA WEST: Souza’s early crash ends run of success at Portland

PHOTO: Joe Samaniego, @JPSamaniego53

by Ben Schneider Staff Writer

Todd Souza finished last for the 3rd time in his ARCA Menards Series West career in Friday’s Portland 112 at Portland International Raceway when his No. 13 Central Coast Cabinets Ford crashed after completing 7 of 57 laps.

The finish came in Souza’s 112th career West Series start.

A longtime West Series veteran, Souza first competed in NASCAR’s Southwest Series in 2000, qualifying for 16 of the season’s 19 races with a best finish of 7th at Madera Speedway. He’d continue racing in the series until 2005, the same year he attempted to make his debut in what was then the NASCAR Busch Series, failing to qualify at the two road course races at both Mexico City and Watkins Glen. Souza would make up for those DNQs in 2007 by qualifying for Mexico City and the fall Phoenix race, where he finished 23rd and 40th respectively. To date, these are Souza’s only two starts in NASCAR’s three national touring divisions.

Souza’s West Series career began in 2006, qualifying for three of the four races he attempted that season. In 2008, he scored his first (and to date only) West Series win at Miller Motorsports Park, inheriting the victory when Jim Inglebright ran out of fuel on the final lap following a spirited battle between the two drivers. Souza ran part-time until 2017, but scaled back to part-time again the following season before again running all the races in 2019. Since then, he's remained a full-timer, and has scored a best finish of 2nd three times.

One of those runner-up finishes for Souza came in last year’s fall Portland race. After finishing 3rd at the track in June in wet conditions, Souza ran one spot better in dry conditions that September. Unfortunately for Souza, his stretch of top-three finishes came to an end early in Friday’s race. On Lap 8, he ran off course and went head-on into the tire barriers, bringing out the first caution of the race and locking in a 22nd-place finish.

Souza finds the tire barriers.

A total of 24 cars appeared on the entry list. While all ran at least one lap in practice, only 22 took the green flag. First to miss the start was 15-year-old Roxali Kamper, who was scheduled to make her ARCA West debut for Andrew Tuttle’s No. 39 team. However, her car lost an engine in qualifying, just as Tuttle himself did when the series last raced at Portland this past September. Ethan Nascimento was also unable to take the green flag, leaving him and Kamper credited with 23rd- and 24th-place points respectively.

Kamper's No. 39 in the garage Friday morning and on the grid prior to the race with more sponsorship
decals added to the quarter panel.
PHOTOS: Joe Samaniego, Ben Schneider

According to ARCA timing and scoring, Kamper was able to run one lap in practice, though it was likely just a shakedown lap at warmup speed as it was easily the slowest time of the session at 1:51.4. Nascimento’s brother, Eric, placed 23rd with another single-lap run, clocking in at 1:29.1, several seconds off of Ethan’s best lap time of 1:23.5 over nine laps. Ironically, Souza’s car was listed as the fastest in practice, though with timing and scoring crediting him with a 1:12.7 (nearly five seconds faster than second-fastest Sean Hingorani), it is believed he may have cut the chicane when setting the lap. Only 20 cars completed a qualifying run, with both Nasicmento brothers, Kyle Sieg, and Kamper anchoring the time sheets with the bottom four spots. The slowest of those who were able to set a lap time was David Smith, who clocked in at 1:26.3.

Following Souza up the running order in the race was West Series veteran Dylan Lupton, whose series return was short-lived as his No. 24 entry for Bill McAnally came to a stop before bursting into flames during Souza's caution. Lupton had also suffered a similar issue in the afternoon practice session. Next up the order was Kyle Keller, who completed 14 laps before losing an engine. Ryan Philpott also suffered an engine failure on Lap 28, his car the fourth to go behind the wall. Rounding out the Bottom Five was XFINITY Series regular Riley Herbst, whose chances to win literally went up in smoke after 43 laps with “rear end” listed as the reason out.

Lupton's No. 24 in the garage following practice and on fire during the race.
PHOTOS: Joe Samaniego, FloRacing

At the front of the field, Landen Lewis took an impressive victory after a thrilling battle for the win with XFINITY Series regular Cole Custer, who won Saturday's main event. Longtime veteran Dale Quarterley backed up his run at Sonoma last year, recovering from a stop-and-go penalty to earn another third-place finish. William Sawalich and Parker Retzlaff rounded out the Top Five.

24) #39-Roxali Kamper
23) #04-Ethan Nascimento

22) #13-Todd Souza / 7 laps / crash
21) #24-Dylan Lupton / 8 laps / brakes
20) #70-Kyle Keller / 14 laps / engine
19) #52-Ryan Philpott / 28 laps / engine
18) #5-Riley Herbst / 43 laps / rear end

1st) Ford (3)
2nd) Toyota (1)

1st) Fast Track Racing, Performance P-1 Motorsports, Lowden-Jackson Motorsports, Central Coast Racing (1)


INDYCAR: Chaotic Detroit circuit claims Callum Ilott first


by William Soquet Staff Writer

Callum Ilott finished last for the 2nd time in his NTT IndyCar Series career in Sunday’s Chevrolet Grand Prix on the Streets of Detroit when his #77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet crashed out of the race after completing 1 of 100 laps.

The finish was his first since the 2022 season finale at Laguna Seca, eight races ago. Across IndyCar Series history, it was the 203rd due to a crash, the 108th for Chevrolet, and the sixth for the #77.

While his finish didn’t show it, Ilott turned a number of heads during the final weekend of the 2022 season. His single-car Juncos Hollinger Racing team put its sole entry on the outside pole, showcasing both speed and driver ability on a tricky circuit. Over the offseason, Ilott seemed to be in prime position to improve on his 20th-place points finish. JHR expanded to two teams, bringing in Argentine touring car veteran Augustin Canapino. With two drivers to discuss data and setups, the whole organization seemed destined for a step forward.

At the beginning of the season, that seemed to be the case. Both team entries escaped damage-free from a chaotic season opener at St. Petersburg, and Ilott backed it up with a ninth-place run at Texas. However, the team returned to its original form from there, with showings of 19th, 13th, and 18th in the next three rounds. Despite this, Ilott began to be mentioned as a candidate to fill just about any seat that will be open at the conclusion of the season. At Indianapolis, Ilott barely avoided the Last Row Shootout, but once again avoided carnage and played an alternate strategy to a 12th-place finish heading into Detroit.

While the entry list shrunk from 34 cars to 27 cars, the bigger story heading into Detroit was the new track, which moved from the streets of Belle Isle to a downtown circuit. The new course was noticeably narrower and bumpier than the old one and featured mostly left-hand turns. Ilott acquitted himself well on the new layout, clocking in at ninth during both practice sessions. Rookie Benjamin Pedersen was last in opening practice, and in a rare sighting, Colton Herta was at the bottom of the leaderboard in second practice. The Andretti Autosport driver complained of a lack of grip on the track and spun while trying to pass Marcus Armstrong during the session.

Ilott’s qualifying pace was not quite as good as it had been in practice. The British pilot went from ninth in second practice to eighth in Group 2, missing out on the second round of time trials. Last in Group 2 was Graham Rahal, who was about a tenth of a second slower than Sting Ray Robb. By virtue of the run, Rahal found himself in a rare situation – he was set to start last for the second race in a row, but in a different car for both races.

The initial start to the race was waved off due to a spaced out field – on the extra pace lap, the broadcast showed Rahal’s familiar United Rentals car warming up the tires down the long back straightaway at the end of the field. The cars bunched up much tighter at the end of Lap 1, and the green flag was displayed. The leaders took a fairly cautious pace through the first hairpin turn, wanting to get out of the first danger zone cleanly. Ilott carried much more speed into the corner than the car immediately ahead of him, Kyle Kirkwood. Before even getting to the corner, Ilott’s Chevrolet climbed the back of Kirkwood’s Honda, bending the front suspension of the #77 and ripping the rear wing to shreds on the #27. While Kirkwood was able to continue, Ilott wound up in the tire barriers and climbed out of his machine, ending his day after about ten to fifteen seconds of green-flag action.

Pato O’Ward was the next driver out of the race. He was attempting to pass Santino Ferrucci in the Esses on Lap 43 after falling a lap down when he came in with too much speed for the final right-hand corner of that section, making heavy contact in the left-front area of the car. Rahal, Romain Grosjean and David Malukas rounded out the Bottom Five, all victims of crashes.

*The #77 previously finished last in Detroit on May 31, 2014, when Simon Pagenaud crashed after four laps. He drove a Honda for Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports.
*Ilott is the second consecutive British driver to finish last after Katherine Legge last week in Indianapolis. It is the first time that happened since 2018, when Max Chilton took last at both Toronto and Mid-Ohio. The last time two different British drivers finished last consecutively was 2016, when Jack Hawksworth was last in the first Detroit twin and Chilton was last in the second.
*Crashes or contact has been the reason out for six of the last seven last-place finishers this year, with the lone exception being Sting Ray Robb at Barber.

27) #77-Callum Ilott / 1 lap / crash
26) #5-Pato O’Ward / 41 laps / crash
25) #15-Graham Rahal / 50 laps / crash
24) #28-Romain Grosjean / 80 laps / crash
23) #18-David Malukas / 85 laps / crash

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

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


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)