When Sunday’s scheduled Food City 500 finally gets underway, the starting grid will be slightly different than what was determined in qualifying.
Landon Cassill’s team tried to repair the damage sustained on his Chevrolet when he hit the wall during Saturday’s final Happy Hour practice.
But the damage was too severe on Cassill’s Circle Sport Chevrolet to be fixed in time, so the team has gone to a backup car, sending Cassill to the back of the starting grid for the race – whenever it is run.
It’s been a rough start to the 2014 season for the Cedar Rapids, Iowa native.
Cassill, who originally qualified 31st for the Bristol race, had a great run in the season-opening Daytona 500, qualifying 18th and finishing 12th in the Great American Race.
But he failed to qualify in the last two Sprint Cup races at Phoenix and Las Vegas.
Things have been a bit better in the Nationwide Series, which is Cassill’s designated full-time series in 2014. After finishing 21st at Daytona, he’s been 19th at Phoenix and Las Vegas and was a season-best 12th in Saturday’s Drive to Stop Diabetes 300 at Bristol.
That top-15 Bristol showing moved Cassill up in the NNS standings to 10th, 75 points behind series leader Regan Smith.
Paul Menard, still in wait for the birth of his and his wife’s first child, will also start at the back of the field due to an engine change in his No. 27 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.
Coming into Bristol 18th in the Sprint Cup standings, Menard got off to a rough start with a 32nd-place finish at Daytona and 23rd at Phoenix, but had a very impressive third-place finish last week at Las Vegas.
Also going to the back of the Bristol starting grid due to an engine change is rookie Parker Kligerman, who arguably has had the worst luck of any driver in Sprint Cup thus far this season.
Driving the Swan Racing Toyota, Kligerman recorded DNFs at Daytona (29th) and Phoenix (42nd). And while he didn’t earn a third DNF at Las Vegas, he finished 40th, 27 laps off the lead lap.
Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.
There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.
Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.
Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.
By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.
With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.
This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.
Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.
Two privateers have started the season on a high note.
Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.
The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.
Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.
In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.