Road racer Billy Johnson will drive the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford this weekend at Sonoma Raceway, the team announced Monday.
Darrell Wallace Jr., who has driven the past two races for the team for the injured Aric Almirola, will return to the car next weekend at Daytona. Wallace will continue in the car until Almirola returns. Almirola says he hopes to be back at either New Hampshire or Indianapolis in July.
Johnson, who competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, will make his first Cup start. He has five Xfinity starts, scoring a career-best finish of eighth at Montreal in 2012.
Johnson has worked with Almirola on his road racing at the Ford Performance racing school at Miller Motorsports Park. Johnson has worked with more than 20 Ford drivers on their road racing skills the past six years.
“It is going to be awesome. It will be my first NASCAR Cup race and to debut in the 43 car, one of the most iconic numbers to ever race in NASCAR, is a huge honor,” said Johnson in a statement from the team. “Richard Petty Motorsports is a great organization. To have the chance to make my Cup debut for the King is surreal, and I appreciate them putting me in the car.’’
Said Brian Moffitt, CEO of Richard Petty Motorsports: “It’s been important for us to put ourselves in the most competitive spot while Aric is recovering. We’ve worked with Ford and Smithfield to put the best driver available in the car each week. Both Regan (Smith) and Bubba (Wallace) have done a great job for us the last five weeks. We feel that Billy’s experience on a road course will help us be competitive this weekend.”
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Sam Hornish Jr. looks to return to Iowa Speedway and win the June event for the second consecutive year, but several others, including points leader Elliott Sadler and rookie teammate William Byron, look for their first series win of the year. Justin Allgaier and Ryan Reed seek their second victory of the season.
Here are the particulars for tonight’s Xfinity race:
(All times are Eastern)
START: Emily Skor, CEO Growth Energy, will give the command to start engines at 8:37 p.m. Green flag is set for 8:44 p.m.
DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 250 laps (218.75 miles) around the 7/8-mile oval.
STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 60. Stage 2 ends on Lap 120.
PRERACE SCHEDULE: The Xfinity garage opens at 2:30 p.m. The driver/crew chief meeting is at 7:30 p.m. Driver introductions are at 8:10 p.m.
NATIONAL ANTHEM: Specialist Michelle Monroe, Iowa National Guard 34th Army Band, will perform the Anthem at 8:31 p.m.
TV/RADIO: Fox Sports 1 will broadcast the race. Its coverage begins at 8 p.m. Motor Racing Network’s broadcast on radio and at mrn.com begins at 8 p.m. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.
FORECAST: The wunderground.com site predicts 70 degrees at race time with a 1 percent chance of rain at the start of the race.
LAST TIME: Sam Hornish Jr. led 183 of 250 laps to win this event a year ago. Ty Dillon was second. Brad Keselowski was third. Erik Jones won the most recent Iowa race last July, leading 154 of 250 laps. Ty Dillon was second. Elliott Sadler placed third.
STARTING LINEUP: Qualifying begins at 6:15 p.m.
NASCAR has been sending its Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series to Iowa Speedway since 2009, but its premier series has never held a race at the .875-mile track in Newton, Iowa.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kyle Larson would like that to change sooner rather than later.
Stenhouse and Larson spoke to the Des Moines Register ahead of this weekend’s NASCAR races at the track.
The Roush Fenway Racing driver and former Iowa winner expressed enthusiasm at Iowa someday hosting the Monster Energy All-Star Race.
“To see how much support that the Iowa Speedway gets from the fans, it’s pretty incredible,” Stenhouse said. “I’d love to get the All-Star race here.”
The exhibition has been held at Charlotte Motor Speedway every year but one since it was introduced in 1985. It was at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1986.
But with lackluster races and fan turnout in recent years for the event at the 1.5-mile track, support has been growing to possible hold the event at other tracks.
“I would like that better than Charlotte, for sure. … I’d be down for it,” Larson told the newspaper of having the event in Iowa.
Iowa Speedway opened in 2006 and was bought by NASCAR in 2013.
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Today we reach the mid-point of this weekend’s busy NASCAR schedule.
The NASCAR Cup Series will have a short day at Sonoma Raceway, with only qualifying on the agenda at 2:45 p.m. ET.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series will have the busier day at Iowa Speedway, with qualifying at 6:15 p.m. ET, followed by the American Ethanol e15 200 at 8:30 p.m. ET. Sam Hornish Jr. is the defending winner of this race, and returns to try and make it two in a row, racing this year for Team Penske.
Here’s today’s schedule (all times are Eastern):
10 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. Cup garage open
2:45 p.m. – Cup qualifying (multi-vehicle, two rounds) (FS1, Performance Racing Network)
2:30 p.m. – Xfinity garage open
6:15 p.m. – Xfinity qualifying (multi-vehicle, three rounds) (Tape delayed at 7 p.m. ET on FS1)
7:30 p.m. – Xfinity driver/crew chief meeting
8 p.m. – Xfinity driver introductions
8:30 p.m. – American Ethanol e15 200 Xfinity Series race (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR radio)
John Hunter Nemechek led the final six laps to win the Camping World Truck Series’ M&M’s 200 at Iowa Speedway.
It’s his second win in two weeks.
Nemechek beat out Johnny Sauter, Brandon Jones, Grant Engfinger and Christopher Bell.
Click here for race results.