LAS VEGAS, NEVADA –
Las Vegas Motor Speedway was the site of Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Rhino Pro Truck Outfitters 300 night race. This weekend’s outing was the last race of the regular season, giving the drivers one last chance to make the playoffs. Entering the weekend, JD Motorsports drivers Garrett Smithley and Stephen Leicht had a shot at making the twelve-driver post season, but both were in a must-win situation.
Stephen Leicht, driver of the No. 01 Chevrolet, rolled off from the 23rd starting position in Saturday’s 200 lap race. Leicht fell a few spots back to 26th at the end of a caution-less Stage 1, but started to get in a rhythm throughout the middle part of the race. He moved up to 25th for the finish of Stage 2, and with some key adjustments from Mark Setzer up on top of the pit box, Stephen was able to get back into contention of the race. The lack of cautions made it difficult for many positions to be made back up, however, Leicht was able to leapfrog a few competitors through strategy. When the checkered flag flew, the Asheville, NC native crossed the line in 21st position. Leicht remains 19th in the season standings leaving Sin City.
BJ McLeod, driver of the No. 4 Chevrolet, started the race from the 22nd position. McLeod fought some handling issues early on, finishing 23rd in Stage 1 and 24th in Stage 2, respectively. At the end of Stage 2, Crew Chief Paul Clapprood made some adjustments on the box to help BJ gain some ground on his nearest competitors. Like the No. 01 team, the No. 4’s strategy paid off in a big way by taking the wave around and saving a set of tires for the end of the race. BJ was able to get up on the wheel in Stage 3, and with the help of those adjustments, he was able to run up inside the Top 20 in the latter portion of the race. A green flag pit stop for fuel lost some track position for McLeod, but he was able to rally back and score a 22nd place finish. He remains in the 20th position for the drivers’ points standings once again and is looking to build on his momentum this weekend in Richmond.
It was shaping up to be a Top 15 run for Garrett Smithley in the No. 0 Chevrolet until a late race pit road penalty made him come back down and serve a stop and go. Smithley started from the 26th position, but quickly was able to force his way through the pack early on. By the end of lap 45 in Stage 1, Garrett was already up to 18th position. He slipped back a couple spots to 20th in Stage 2, but some minor adjustments and strategy allowed him to get one lap back and fight for more spots. As green flag pit stops started, the Ligonier, PA native found himself in the Top 15 with less than thirty laps remaining. Unfortunately, a speeding penalty relegated Smithley back to a 23rd place finish, not indicative of where the #NumberNuthin crew deserved to end up. Garrett remains 18th in the drivers’ points standings, and though his playoffs hopes are dashed, he still has eight races left in the season to leave his mark.
Rookie Tyler Matthews, who drove the No. 15 Linetec Services Chevrolet in Saturday’s race, made his 1.5-mile intermediate track debut at Las Vegas. A natural born short track racer, Matthews initially found himself struggling to find the way to master the bigger track. The Richlands, NC native started the 300-mile race from the 28th starting position, but dropped back to 34th at the end of Stage 1. Some adjustments from Crew Chief Wayne Carroll made Matthews more comfortable with the track, and he was able to move up three spots to 31st at the end of Stage 2. It seemed as if the race went on, Tyler began to adapt more and more to the fast speeds of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway high banks. When the checkered flag flew, Matthews was able to come home in the very same spot where he started in 28th. Expect him to be back with the team for more races in the 2019 season.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series’ next stop on the tour will be a return to Richmond Raceway on Friday night for the running of the Go Bowling 250. JD Motorsports’ team lineup will consist of Stephen Leicht in No. 4 Chevrolet, Garrett Smithley in the No. 0 Chevrolet, Ryan Repko in the No. 01 Chevrolet, and BJ McLeod in the No. 15 Chevrolet. This will be Repko’s first start at the ¾ mile oval in just his third-career start in the Xfinity Series. Be sure to tune into NBCSN at 7:30 PM Eastern Time to see live coverage of the last short track race of the season. For all things JDM, follow us along on social media with the handle @JDMotorsports01. #TeamJDM
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