B.J. McLeod

B.J. McLeod replaces James Davison in No. 77 car at Talladega

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Spire Motorsports announced Thursday that it has replaced James Davison with B.J. McLeod in its No. 77 Chevrolet for Sunday’s Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway (3 p.m. ET on Fox) after NASCAR reconsidered its approval of Davison for the race.

Sunday’s race would have been Davison’s Cup debut and his first start on an oval track in NASCAR. Davison, who is a veteran of the Indianapolis 500, has made four Xfinity Series starts on road courses.

Davison is now set to make his oval track debut in NASCAR next weekend at Pocono Raceway.

“I have been contacted by NASCAR and informed that although I was previously approved to race, they had to reconsider their position on Superspeedways, given there won’t be practice or qualifying prior to Sunday’s race at Talladega,” Davison said in a press release. “I was pumped about the opportunity to take the green flag, but I fully understand and appreciate NASCAR’s position. I’m approved to race next weekend at Pocono and equally thrilled to make my series debut there.”

Garrett Smithley will now drive McLeod’s No. 78 car.

NASCAR to move location of car numbers for All-Star Race

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NASCAR will use the July 15 All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway to experiment with the location of numbers on race cars.

Instead of the traditional location of numbers on car doors, those numbers will be pushed back toward the rear wheel. All teams competing in the All-Star Race and All-Star Open are required to have the car number in this location. The move allocates more space on car sides for sponsors, something teams have requested.

On Wednesday’s Motor Racing Network’s Crew Call, NASCAR president Steve Phelps explained the reason for the change to show host Mike Bagley:

“I think the All-Star (Race) historically has been an opportunity for us to test things, and I think that’s exactly what we’re doing with this,” Phelps said. “Teams have asked us to take a look at this, provide some additional visibility for sponsors, so that’s what we’ll test.”

The change will be for the All-Star Race and All-Star Open only.

“We’ll evaluate it,” Phelps said. “Is it the right thing to do? Is it not the right thing to do? I  know some folks that came out and said ‘this is not for me, I don’t like it,’ so we’ll take that all under consideration and as we move past the All-Star (Race) we’ll see what it looks like moving forward.”

In addition to having another option to increase sponsor visibility on cars, the move of the car number is also seen as a combination of catering to tradition and existing fans along with attracting new fans.

“I think not in every instance, but there are instances where you actually can do both,” Phelps told Bagley. “I don’t think you have to have the two at odds with each other. Sometimes that’s going to happen, but for us, we’ve talked about hearing from the core fans and we do.

“We want to hear from the core fans and what they think, traditional fans. There are certain things we want to try out or we believe is in the best interest in the sport after collaborating with the industry and saying this is something we should test. This is one of those opportunities.

“I don’t know if it appeals to a newer fan vs. a fan for 40 years, the changes in the paint schemes. But again, it’s one race, the All-Star Race, what better time to test it?”

This would not be the first time where car numbers have been placed on areas other than the door. It was a practice for some teams in the early 1950s, according to NASCAR historian Ken Martin, per a story on NASCAR.com.

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Fifteen drivers are locked into the All-Star Race by virtue of wins in 2019 and 2020 (to date): Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Erik Jones, Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson, Alex Bowman, Justin Haley and Matt Kenseth.

There are five opportunities remaining for other drivers to get automatic berths in the All-Star Race field by virtue of winning at any of the five races still to be held prior to the All-Star Race: Talladega, the Pocono doubleheader, Indianapolis and Kentucky.

Several other drivers are eligible to be voted in as part of the NASCAR Fan Vote, currently under way through noon ET July 14. Click here to vote. Drivers are eligible for the Fan Vote by having attempted to qualify for the 2020 Daytona 500.

Those drivers are: Quin Houff, Austin Dillon, Tyler Reddick, Aric Almirola, Ty Dillon, Clint Bowyer, Brennan Poole, Chris Buescher, Matt DiBenedetto, William Byron, Reed Sorenson, Corey LaJoie, Michael McDowell, David Ragan, Ryan Preece, John Hunter Nemechek, Cole Custer, Bubba Wallace, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chad Finchum, Joey Gase, B.J. McLeod, JJ Yeley, Brendan Gaughan, Timmy Hill, Ross Chastain, Christopher Bell and Daniel Suarez.

If any of those drivers win a stage in the NASCAR Open qualifying race prior to the All-Star Race, that driver will be locked into the field and not eligible to be the Fan Vote winner.

One Fan Vote winner has gone on to win the All-Star Race in the event’s history: Kasey Kahne in 2008.

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AJ Allmendinger earns first career oval win in Atlanta Xfinity race

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NASCAR On NBC analyst AJ Allmendinger showed Saturday he still has a lot of racing success left in him, winning the EchoPark 250 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Driving part-time this season for Kaulig Racing, Allmendinger, who had to roar back from back in the field, earned his fourth career Xfinity Series win, but the first on an oval.

“Oh my God, oh my God, I won on an oval. Do you like that? Whoo!” Allmendinger said to Fox Sports after climbing from his race car. He even kissed the camera, he was so excited about the win.

“This car was awesome,” said Allmendinger, who took the lead on Lap 127 of the 163-lap race and held on the rest of the way. “This is Atlanta. The car was awesome on long runs, probably better than the driver early. Once I got in the lead, I was just trying to hit my marks, which is hard to do.”

Later, in a post-race teleconference, Allmendinger said, “Heck, I might retire. Man, I just wanted to win on a damn oval. … I wanted to win on an oval that we really had to drive and get after it. More than anything, I was happy with myself because I always push myself and question myself a lot if I can do it on these race tracks and it’s always a challenge each time I’m in the race car with myself mentally and to push myself and try to be better. … What I was most happy about those last 35 laps was I gave everything I could and not make any mistakes.”

Noah Gragson, who won last week at Bristol, was the highest finisher of the four drivers eligible for the first of four Xfinity Dash 4 Cash races, finishing second and taking home a cool $100,000.

Allmendinger was originally not slated to be entered in next Sunday’s back end of a weekend doubleheader race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The second race of the weekend on Sunday, June 14, will serve as the second of four races in the Dash 4 Cash series.

Moments after Allmendinger left the stage, Kaulig Racing president Chris Rice told the media that the team will indeed field a car for “Dinger” in the Homestead Dash 4 Cash race. He will go for the $100,000 price along with Kaulig Racing teammate Justin Haley, as well as Noah Gragson and Daniel Hemric.

“I haven’t told AJ this yet, but we will be running the second race at Homestead next Sunday with the Ellsworth Advisors Chevrolet with A.J. Allmendinger starting dead last because we will not run the first race (Saturday), we’ll run the second race,” Rice said. “(Allmendinger) said he had a tee time, but that gives Kaulig Racing two chances to run for $100,000. So yeah, we’ll be there with A.J.”

MORE: Results, standings from Atlanta Xfinity race

Haley was third, followed by Hemric and Harrison Burton. Sixth through 10th were Justin Allgaier, Ross Chastain, Brandon Jones, Chase Briscoe and Anthony Alfredo.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Austin Cindric (first stage win of season)

STAGE 2 WINNER: Austin Cindric (second stage win of season)

Who had a good race: Noah Gragson almost made it two wins in a row, but can’t be too upset for finishing second in Saturday’s race. Also, Harrison Burton continued his strong effort this season with his fifth-place showing.

Who had a bad race: Timmy Hill finished 33rd, 76 laps back. Even though he was strong in the iRacing Series during the COVID-19 pandemic hiatus, Hill continues to struggle since the Xfinity Series resumed with finishes of 20th or worse in three of the four races back.

Notable: Ross Chastain did his Kyle Busch impression of sorts, competing in both races Saturday. He finished seventh in the Xfinity race and was sixth in the Truck Series race earlier in the day. … All cars passed post-race inspection with just one issue: a lug nut violation on the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driven by Brandon Jones, who finished eighth.

What’s next: There will be an Xfinity Series doubleheader next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway: Saturday, June 13 (3:30 p.m. ET on Fox), and Sunday, June 14 (Noon ET on FS1). The latter race is also the second of four Xfinity Dash 4 Cash Series races.

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Photo Gallery: NASCAR’s return makes for a memorable week

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The silence was stark. The separation of teams in the garage area was noticeable. Even drivers were alone as part of the social distancing mandated with NASCAR’s return from a 10-week break because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But when engines fired, even though it took place in front of empty grandstands at Darlington Raceway, racing was back. The passing. The crashing. Even a middle finger displayed by the sport’s most popular driver toward a two-time champion.

Then followed the conversation between Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch. And what Elliott had to say to the media about the incident and how he had “no regrets” for his salute to Busch at the time.

The winners each had their own stories. Kevin Harvick scored his 50th career Cup victory, winning last Sunday. Denny Hamlin won for the second time this season. Chase Briscoe scored an emotional Xfinity Series win two days after he and his wife found out she had a miscarriage.

As NASCAR heads to Charlotte Motor Speedway for four consecutive nights of racing – starting with Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET on Fox) – here’s a look back at a week unlike any other for the sport.

Everyone, including drivers, had to pass a health screening before entering the infield. John Hunter Nemechek has his temperature taken at Darlington on May 17. No driver failed the health screening during the week. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

 

Reminders were posted throughout the garage for crew members on the new health regulations. Among the many rules was that everyone at the track had to wear a mask. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

Tyler Reddick‘s crew pushes his car to inspection while following health guidelines that included wearing a mask. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

Instead of standing shoulder to shoulder, as they did before the COVID-19 pandemic, crew members stand with space between them during the national anthem before the May 17 Cup race. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

Leading on the final lap of stage 1 during the May 17 Cup race, Jimmie Johnson made contact with Chris Buescher‘s car and crashed, ending Johnson’s race. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

With the return of racing, came the return of pit stops. Joey Logano‘s team services his car. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

 

Getty Images photographer Chris Graythen told NBC Sports that this photo is the one that resonated the most to him after a week of shooting the action at Darlington. Graythen said: “To me, that (moment) kind of boiled everything down into one picture because it shows, yeah, it’s good and it’s great, NASCAR is back, we have a winner, Harvick has got his 50th win, this is all very exciting for the industry. But it also has that mask, that starkness, that quietness that shows the time that we’re in.” . (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

For the first time since 1984, the Cup Series raced on a Wednesday night. Ty Dillon‘s sponsor, GEICO, took advantage of the rare event with a special paint scheme. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

Matt DiBenedetto continues to search for his first NASCAR win, but he showed he’s prepared for that moment with his special mask. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

Chris Buescher spins during the May 20 Cup race at Darlington Raceway. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

 

Denny Hamlin with his unique mask after winning the May 20 Cup race at Darlington. Said Hamlin of the mask: “I basically had the idea right after Sunday and to get it all done by Wednesday took a feat. We wanted to actually create different types of emotions.” He only needed the smiling version on this night. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

BJ McLeod displays his unique mask before the May 21 Xfinity Series race at Darlington Raceway. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

To abide by social distancing guidelines, spotters were spread among the top rows of the empty stands for each event instead of being packed on the spotters stand. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

After rain postponed the May 19 Xfinity race and delayed it on May 21, the series finally got to run this week. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

 

Chase Briscoe prays after his emotional win in the May 21 Xfinity Series race. The victory came two days after he and his wife found out she had a miscarriage. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

NASCAR penalizes three drivers for inspection failures

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Corey LaJoie and B.J. McLeod each will start at the rear for tonight’s Cup race at Darlington Raceway for multiple inspection failures, NASCAR announced.

Corey LaJoie was to have started 31st in the 39-car field.

Erik Jones also will go to the rear for unapproved adjustments before the race. He was to have started 13th.

McLeod was to have started 38th. He also will have to drive through pit road at the start for the inspection failures.

NASCAR also announced that Gray Gaulding and JJ Yeley will start at the rear for driver changes. With the lineup set by Sunday’s race, any different driver in the same car forces that car to go to the rear.

NASCAR stated that all drivers cleared their health screening.