Long: Ross Chastain’s win ‘gives all the little guys hope’

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LAS VEGAS — Garrett Smithley walked out of Victory Lane with a smile on his face.

On a day when he wrecked in qualifying and finished 18th in a backup car, he couldn’t contain his excitement for Ross Chastain, typically his teammate at JD Motorsports but not on this day.

Saturday’s Xfinity race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was one of three races this season that Chastain will run in Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 42 Chevrolet — a car with more funding and resources than Chastain’s regular ride.

Chastain scored a dominating win.  

Garrett Smithley hugs Ross Chastain in Victory Lane after Chastain won the Xfinity race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Photo: Dustin Long

“It gives all the little guys hope,” Smithley said of Chastain’s victory.

As if it to make sure that Chastain’s win was real and the embrace they shared in Victory Lane was not imaginary, Smithley said it again.

“It gives all the little guys hope.”

Money is king in NASCAR and the owners with it are the kingmakers.

For those without money, everything is harder. There are fewer resources to develop new parts and make cars faster. Instead, such teams rely on less reliable parts, tape measures instead of laser measurements and hand-written notebooks instead of computer simulation programs. It’s a gap that rarely can be closed.

Facing such obstacles, teams are left only with hope. It’s why crew members get up at 5 a.m. to head to the shop and why they might not leave until midnight trying to repair a car from the last race and get it ready for the next one. Instead of flying to the upcoming race like many teams, it often means long drives through the night with little sleep before the garage opens the next morning and the race for speed resumes.

For such teams, the race for 25th can be as meaningful as the race for the lead to bigger teams.

Ryan Preece knows both worlds. He drove for JD Motorsports in 2016 and had one top-10 finish for the underfunded team.

Nobody noticed him.

So he took the sponsorship money he had and went to Joe Gibbs Racing to run two races (that later became four) instead of 33.

Ryan Preece celebrates his first career Xfinity race in 2017 at Iowa Speedway. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)

Preece won in his second race with Gibbs. He’s won again with the team this year. Although he says he’s focused on the remaining races with Gibbs, his gamble will likely lead to a full-time ride next season in the sport. 

Preece isn’t alone in believing less is more. Alex Bowman lost his Cup ride before the 2016 season. With no rides left, he signed to run select races with JR Motorsports that year and also served as the test driver for Hendrick Motorsports’ simulator program. That put him in position to replace Dale Earnhardt Jr. after Earnhardt had to sit out the second half of that season because of symptoms from a concussion. Bowman went on to take over the No. 88 when Earnhardt retired after last season and is in the Cup playoffs.

Those moves did not unnoticed.

Matt DiBenedetto, who also had to start and park early in his career and has run for a variety of small-budget teams, announced recently that he would leave his full-time Cup ride with Go Fas Racing after this season and bet on himself like Preece did.

“I paid a whole lot of attention to those guys and what they did,” DiBenedetto told NBC Sports of Preece and Bowman. “They were a big driving force in me making this decision.”

Matt DiBenedetto hopes to be the next to follow in the success of Ryan Preece and Ross Chastain to attain a more competitive ride. (Photo: Getty Images)

DiBenedetto said he decided to follow the model Preece tried after “seeing other guys get just barely bumped above me on those lists (for rides). That was the push I needed to make this bold and risky decision.”

For Chastain, the risk was low. Jeff Carpoff, president and CEO of DC Solar, which sponsors the No. 42 Xfinity car, approached Chastain earlier this year at Auto Club Speedway as Chastain walked with helmet in hand from his Xfinity car to the Cup garage. The brief conversation led to further talk by Carpoff of putting Chastain in the No. 42 Xfinity Ganassi car at some point this season.

Chastain revealed Saturday that he’s not getting paid for these three races — he also ran the car at Darlington and makes his last start in it next week at Richmond.

“I get laughed at from inside the garage,” Chastain said of his no-money deal for these three races. “We literally bet on ourselves that we wouldn’t make any money now, but it would pay off.”

Chastain had to hold off Justin Allgaier, the regular-season champion, in a spirited duel that included contact and had Allgaier ranting on the radio at the time. Allgaier later attributed his anger to being in the moment.

But when Chastain pulled away from the field on the final restart and it became clear he would score his first career Xfinity win — in his 132nd series start — he just wanted to enjoy the moment.

Ross Chastain in Victory Lane. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

He didn’t yell or scream on the radio. He put his head down, punched the steering wheel and stayed silent.

“They were all congratulating (me) on the radio,” Chastain said of the team. “I just wanted to listen and hear it.”

It was a sound he could not have imagined when he was starting and parking early in his career because there wasn’t the money to run a full race.

“That’s not the ideal way,” Chastain said. “I wouldn’t recommend that because it’s tough, and it’s very trying. A lot of phone calls (with family) late at night. We didn’t know it was going to get better, but they kept telling me that.”

Back then, he only had hope.

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Preliminary entry lists for Throwback Weekend at Darlington

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Throwback Weekend is here for NASCAR as the Cup and Xfinity Series return to Darlington Raceway, the 1.366-mile track that’s “Too Tough To Tame.”

The weekend is capped off by Sunday’s 69th Southern 500.

Here are the entry lists for each race.

Cup – Southern 500 (6 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN)

There are 40 entries for the race.

Last year, Denny Hamlin won this race after overtaking Martin Truex Jr. with three laps to go. Hamlin beat Kyle and Kurt Busch.

Click here for updated entry list

MORE: Throwback paint schemes for Southern 500

Xfinity – Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 (3:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC)

There are 41 entries for the race. One car will fail to qualify.

Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Ty Dillon and Hamlin are entered.

Ross Chastain will make his first start for Chip Ganassi Racing in its No. 42 Chevrolet.

No driver is listed for the No. 0 Chevrolet owned by JD Motorsports. Garrett Smithley is that car’s regular driver. Smithley will take Chastain’s place in the No. 4 Chevrolet.

Last year, Hamlin won from the pole after leading 33 laps. He beat Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick.

Click here for the entry list.

Preliminary entry lists for NASCAR at Michigan, Mid-Ohio

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Cup and Camping World Truck Series teams are at Michigan International Speedway. The Xfinity Series is at the Mid-Ohio  Sports Car Course. Here are the preliminary entry lists for each series:

Cup – Consumers Energy 400 (2:30 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN)

Forty cars are on the entry list for the Michigan Cup race. Garrett Smithley is listed in the No. 7 car for Premium Motorsports. Blake Jones is listed in the No. 23 car for BK Racing. BJ McLeod is listed in the No. 51 for Rick Ware Racing. Timmy Hill is in the No. 66 for MBM. Corey LaJoie is in the No. 72 for TriStar Motorsports. Jeffrey Earnhardt is in the No. 96 for Gaunt Brothers Racing. Gray Gaulding is listed in the No. 99 for StarCom Racing.

Click here for Cup entry list

Xfinity – Rock N Roll Tequila 170 (2:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN)

Forty cars are entered for the event at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Katherine Legge will make her NASCAR debut, driving the No. 15 for JD Motorsports. Brendan Gaughan will drive the No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing. Spencer Gallagher is back in the No. 23 for GMS Racing.

Click here for Xfinity entry list

Truck – Corrigan Oil 200 (1 p.m. ET Saturday on FS1)

Thirty-four trucks are entered for the event at Michigan International Speedway.

Click here for Truck entry list

Two Cup cars to be docked 15 minutes of practice

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SPARTA, Kentucky – Chase Elliott and Garrett Smithley each will miss 15 minutes of opening Cup practice Friday at Kentucky Speedway.

Both will be penalized for being late to pre-race inspection last weekend at Daytona.

Cup practice is from noon – 12:50 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

 

Preliminary entry lists for NASCAR at Kentucky Speedway

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All three of NASCAR’s national series head to the Bluegrass State this weekend to race at Kentucky Speedway.

The weekend at the 1.5-mile track is capped off on Saturday by the Cup Series’ Quaker State 400 presented by Wal-Mart.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for each race.

Cup – Quaker State 400 (7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday on NBCSN)

There are 39 entries for the race.

Jesse Little, son of former Cup driver Chad Little will make his series debut driving Premium Motorsports’ No. 7 Chevrolet.

Garrett Smithley is set for his second career start driving StarCom Racing’s No. 99 Chevrolet. His first start last month at Michigan ended after one lap due to a transmission problem.

No driver is attached yet to BK Racing’s No. 23 Toyota.

Last year, Martin Truex Jr. led 152 laps and won over Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott.

Click here for the Cup entry list.

Xfinity – Alsco 300 (8 p.m. ET on Friday on NBCSN)

There are 39 entries for the race.

Kyle Busch, Ty Dillon and Paul Menard are the only full-time Cup drivers entered.

Spencer Gallagher returns to GMS Racing’s No. 23 Chevrolet after missing seven races. He missed six of those due to a suspension for violating NASCAR’s substance abuse policy.

Kaz Grala and Fury Race Cars are not entered in the race. The team had started the previous six races.

Last year, Tyler Reddick led 66 laps and won over Brennan Poole and Justin Allgaier.

Click here for the entry list.

Trucks – Buckle Up In Your Truck 225

There are 33 entries for the race. No full-time Cup drivers are entered.

NBC Sports analyst Parker Kligerman is entered in Henderson Motorsports’ No. 75 Chevrolet.

Last year, Christopher Bell won this race over Brandon Jones and Justin Haley.

Click here for entry list.