Sunday, October 26, 2014

CUP: For The First Time Since 1951, #93 Finishes Last In Cup Race At Martinsville

SOURCE: Mark Agee
Clay Rogers picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 at the Martinsville Speedway when his #93 Burger King Toyota fell out with overheating issues after he completed 25 of the race’s 500 laps.

The finish was Rogers’ second of the 2014 season and his first since his series debut at New Hampshire, five races ago.  Rogers is now tied with Timmy Hill and Clint Bowyer for 3rd in the 2014 LASTCAR standings.  Season leaders Mike Bliss and Dave Blaney - with four and three last-place finishes, respectively - did not compete in Sunday’s race.  Mathematically, all 25 drivers who have scored at least one last-place finish this season are still in contention for the title.

Sunday was the first appearance for the #93 BK Racing team since Rogers’ debut at Loudon, a race where 43 cars showed up to make the 43-car field.  The preliminary entry list showed all four BK Racing cars, but did not list drivers for both the #93 and #83 until later in the week: J.J. Yeley in the #83 on Thursday and Rogers in the #93 on Friday.

Rogers was 42nd-fastest in the opening practice session, qualified 38th at an average speed of 96.770 mph, and was the only driver to not participate in Happy Hour on Saturday.

At the start of Sunday’s race, Mike Wallace rolled off 43rd in the #66 Testoril Toyota in his fourth start of the year for Identity Ventures Racing.  After the opening lap, Wallace passed the #32 Corvetteparts.com Ford driven this week by Kyle Fowler, who was making his Cup debut after fifteen Nationwide Series starts.  Alex Bowman, last week’s last-placer at Talladega, brought out the first caution when he spun on Lap 3, but only remained 43rd until the restart, when Fowler took it back.  Timmy Hill, back in the #44 since his last-place run at Dover, took 43rd on Lap 9, but only held it until Lap 11, when J.J. Yeley crunched the nose of his #83 and went behind the wall.  While the crew removed the hood of Yeley’s Toyota, Rogers pulled off the track on Lap 25, followed five laps later by Hill, whose car was smoking under the hood in the infield on Lap 37.  Yeley returned to the track on Lap 39, and in short order dropped Rogers and Hill to the final two spots in the field.

Finishing 41st Sunday was Travis Kvapil, who following a sterling 6th-place run at Talladega spun on Lap 11 and was among the first to be lapped before a mid-race engine failure took him out of the running.  In 40th was a frustrated Kasey Kahne, who after three on-track tangles with Brian Vickers was taken out in a five-car accident on Lap 438 triggered by the slowing Ford of Brad Keselowski.  Yeley rounded out the Bottom Five in 39th, 64 laps down, but still under power.

It was the fifth-straight last-place finish for the #93 team after its 41st-place debut in Kentucky’s 42-car field in June.  The team now leads the 2014 LASTCAR Owner’s standings, having broken a tie with the #37 Tommy Baldwin Racing team, which did not compete on Sunday.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
Donald Thomas' 1950 Plymouth at New Mobile Speedway, 1951
SOURCE: Getty Images, RacingOne
*This is the first last-place finish for the #93 at Martinsville since May 6, 1951 - the fourth-ever race run at the half-mile track.  The finish was earned by Donald Thomas, younger brother of two-time series champion Herb Thomas.  In that day’s 200-lapper, Thomas’ 1950 Plymouth was involved in a five-car accident on Lap 11 involving Jim Paschal, Fireball Roberts, Jim Fiebelkorn, and Ewell Weddle.  The next year, Thomas won his only career race in Herb’s Fabulous Hudson Hornet at Lakewood Speedway in Atlanta.  At age 20 years, 4 months, and 5 days, Thomas was the youngest driver to win a Cup race until 2005, when Kyle Busch took his first victory at Fontana at age 20 years, 4 months, and 2 days.  Thomas also claimed the 1953 LASTCAR Championship with three last-place finishes and prevailing in a bottom-five tiebreaker with Dick Rathmann 6-4.  For more profiles on LASTCAR champions, check out my year-by-year chronicle at this link.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #93-Clay Rogers / 25 laps / overheating
42) #44-Timmy Hill / 30 laps / brakes
41) #33-Travis Kvapil / 280 laps / engine
40) #5-Kasey Kahne / 403 laps / crash
39) #83-J.J. Yeley / 436 laps / running

LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Mike Bliss (4)
2nd) Dave Blaney (3)
3rd) Clint Bowyer, Timmy Hill, Clay Rogers (2)
4th) A.J. Allmendinger, Aric Almirola, Trevor Bayne, Alex Bowman, Landon Cassill, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., David Gilliland, Denny Hamlin, Travis Kvapil, Kyle Larson, Michael McDowell, Joe Nemechek, Johnny Sauter, Morgan Shepherd, Tony Stewart, Martin Truex, Jr., Ryan Truex, Brian Vickers, Cole Whitt, J.J. Yeley (1)

LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #93-BK Racing (5)
2nd) #37-Tommy Baldwin Racing (4)
3rd) #15-Michael Waltrip Racing, #77-Randy Humphrey Racing (2)
4th) #11-Joe Gibbs Racing, #14-Stewart-Haas Racing, #21-Wood Brothers Racing, #23-BK Racing, #26-BK Racing, #32-Go FAS Racing, #33-Circle Sport, #38-Front Row Motorsports, #40-Hillman Racing, #42-Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, #43-Richard Petty Motorsports, #44-Team XTREME Racing, #47-JTG-Daugherty Racing, #55-Michael Waltrip Racing, #66-Michael Waltrip Racing / Identity Ventures Racing, #78-Furniture Row Racing, #83-BK Racing, #87-Identity Ventures Racing, #88-Hendrick Motorsports, #95-Leavine Family Racing (1)

LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Toyota (14)
2nd) Chevrolet (11)
3rd) Ford (7)

TRUCKS: T.J. Bell Finishes Last In First Truck Race In Two Years

SOURCE: MAKE Motorsports Facebook
T.J. Bell picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Saturday’s Kroger 200 at the Martinsville Speedway when his #50 Dedicated to Electrical Linemen Chevrolet fell out with a broken radiator after he completed 44 of the race’s 200 laps.

The finish was Bell’s first of the season and his first in a Truck Series race since Michigan on August 18, 2012, 52 races ago.

Following his most recent Sprint Cup start driving Frankie Stoddard’s #32 in late 2012, Bell and Mark Beaver’s MAKE Motorsports completed their 21st and final Nationwide race of the season with a last-place finish at Texas.  In 2013, Bell and MAKE parted ways, and the driver ran eleven races for The Motorsports Group, coming up just short of a last-place finish while parking the team’s cars in seven of those starts.

This year at Kansas, Bell and MAKE reunited with a 17th-place showing in the SFP 250, his best finish in the series since the 2007 finale at Homestead.  Driving a #50 Chevrolet carrying logos in honor of electrical linemen - workers in the high-risk profession of servicing power lines - Bell and MAKE have made every race since except a withdrawal at Talladega, where Bell was slated to run a second MAKE entry, #56, while Milka Duno made her series debut in the renumbered #1.  Bell’s best finish of the year remains a 15th at Dover, and after a 4th-place showing in his qualifier, he started 15th at Eldora and came home 21st.  In most of these starts, Bell has driven a pre-2014-bodied Chevrolet, though he has on occasion run the updated template.

The Martinsville entry list changed a few times through the week.  Originally, the 37-truck entry list did not have a driver listed for the #35 Win-Tron entry that trailed the field at Las Vegas with Charles Lewandoski.  By Thursday, when Peyton Sellers was selected to drive the Win-Tron entry, B.J. McLeod was replaced in the #08 by Enrique Contreras III.  On Friday, a 38th entry was added with Dustin Hapka in his #93 Sure-Step Chevrolet.  In qualifying, Hapka missed the show along with fellow independent Chuck Buchanan, Jr. in his #87 Spring Drug Ford.  Hapka’s lone Truck start came at Iowa in July while Buchanan is still seeking his series debut.

Bell ran 28th-fastest in both of Friday’s practices and backed up his performance with the 28th spot for Saturday’s race at an average speed of 93.107 mph.  His truck was painted mostly white, carrying few of the bright blue and black graphics the team has carried for much of this season.  In the race itself, however, Bell fell to the rear along with Wendell Chavous, who was making his series debut Mike Harmon’s #74 Vydox.com Chevrolet.  Chavous had backed his truck into the fence during practice, but despite quick work by the crew, the truck was still off the pace.  Bell also seemed to struggle early, running low on the straightaways to stay clear of traffic.  Bell pulled behind the wall first while Chavous managed to come home 7 laps down in 27th.

Early exits have been a rarity at Martinsville, and Saturday was no exception.  No other driver retired until Lap 100, when Justin Jennings lost the brakes on his #63 Papa Murphy’s Pizza / Mittler Bros. Chevrolet.  Finishing 34th was Jody Knowles, making his third start of the season and his first since Bristol in Tracy Wallace’s #80 Clayton Signs / Korban Partners Ford.  Rounding out the Bottom Five were John Wes Towley and Brandon Jones, whose trucks were severely damaged in a grinding Turn 1 accident with 48 laps to go.  Both drivers were uninjured.

Finishing 8th on Saturday was 18-year-old Matt Tifft, whose series debut gave owner Christopher Long his first top-ten finish.  Tifft threaded the needle in a mid-race accident and brought his #0 B.J. McLeod Motorsports Chevrolet home in one piece.  Alex Guenette, who trailed the Truck Series field here in the spring, came home a career-best 9th in Turner Motorsports’ #32.  And in his 20th series start, Caleb Holman picked up a career-best 11th in Charlie Henderson’s #75 Gain Flings / Food Country USA Chevrolet - the best run for Henderson’s team in any of NASCAR’s top divisions since August 23, 1992, when Butch Miller came home 11th in a Nationwide race at New Hampshire.

With three races to go, the 2014 LASTCAR Truck Series title is still up for grabs.  However, Justin Jennings picked up his 8th bottom-five finish of the season Saturday, matching fellow two-time last-placer Caleb Roark’s mark in the tiebreaker.  If the season ended today, Jennings would take the title with 10 bottom-ten finishes to Roark’s 8.  Charles Lewandoski runs third with 2 last-place runs and 7 bottom-fives, and is mathematically eligible to force a tiebreaker as well.  Ryan Ellis and Mike Harmon, both with 4 and 2 bottom-fives, respectively, cannot rely on a tiebreaker and can only win the title by finishing last at least one more time.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This is the first last-place finish for the #50 in a Truck Series race since April 2, 2010, when G.R. Smith lost the engine on his MAKE Motorsports / Ronald McDonald House Dodge after 27 laps of the Nashville 200 at the Nashville Superspeedway.  The number had never finished last in a Truck Series race prior to Saturday.  That race was MAKE’s Truck Series debut and its only start running Dodges.
*Bell is the first Truck Series driver to finish last because of radiator issues since April 17, 2004, when Ken Schrader’s #52 Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet fell out after 136 laps of the Kroger 250 at Martinsville.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
36) #50-T.J. Bell / 44 laps / radiator
35) #63-Justin Jennings / 100 laps / brakes
34) #80-Jody Knowles / 124 laps / transmission
33) #05-John Wes Townley / 150 laps / crash
32) #33-Brandon Jones / 150 laps / crash

LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Ryan Ellis, Mike Harmon, Justin Jennings, Charles Lewandoski, Caleb Roark (2)
2nd) Mike Affarano, T.J. Bell, Bryan Dauzat, Alex Guenette, Blake Koch, Ted Minor, Tommy Regan, Scott Stenzel, Jason White (1)

LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #0-Jennifer Jo Cobb (4)
2nd) #36-Mike Mittler, #63-Mike Mittler / Randy Young, #74-Mike Harmon (2)
3rd) #28-FDNY Racing, #35-Win-Tron Racing, #42-Randy Young, #45-Regan Motorsports, #50-MAKE Motorsports, #57-Norm Benning, #74-Mario Gosselin, #93-RSS Racing, #03-Mike Affarano Motorsports (1)

LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (16)
2nd) RAM (2)
3rd) Toyota (1)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

CUP: Alex Bowman Scores First Last-Place Finish at Talladega

SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin' Forums
Alex Bowman picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s GEICO 500 at the Talladega Superspeedway when his #23 Dustless Blasting Toyota was involved in a ten-car pileup that ended his race after 102 of the 194 laps.  The finish came in Bowman’s 32nd series start.

Bowman, a 21-year-old rookie from Tucson, Arizona, has risen rapidly through the stock car racing ranks.  In 2010, Bowman finished 8th in his X-1R Pro Cup Series debut at the venerable North Wilkesboro Speedway.  In 2011, he won his first two ARCA starts at Madison International Speedway and Kansas Speedway, paving the way to a 4th-place finish in the 2012 ARCA standings and 6th in that year’s K&N Pro Series East.  This led to Bowman’s Nationwide Series debut driving at Chicago in late 2012, where he finished 17th.

In 2013, Bowman attempted his first full season in Nationwide competition driving for Robby Benton and the familiar RAB Racing team.  The pair showed promise early with a 3rd-place finish in the crash-marred Daytona opener, his first pole at Texas, and two Top Fives and six Top Tens.  Despite being released by RAB prior to the Homestead finale, Bowman failed to finish just one race all year - an early engine problem at Atlanta - and came home 11th in the standings.  His performance was rewarded with an opportunity to move to the Cup Series this season, joining fellow rookie Ryan Truex at BK Racing in the #23 Dr. Pepper Toyota.

This year, however, Bowman has struggled to make the adjustment.  After racing his way into the Daytona 500 and coming home 23rd, he’s finished better than that only two other times in thirty-one starts with a season-best 13th in the series’ return to Daytona in July.  35th in points coming into Talladega, and with Truex out of the #83 since last month at Loudon, Bowman and team looked for a turnaround at the superspeedway.

Carrying sponsorship from Dustless Blasting, which last ran on the car at Watkins Glen, Bowman was just 43rd-fastest of the 46 cars in the opening practice and did not participate in Happy Hour.  Qualifying, however, worked in Bowman’s favor.

As several drivers tried to play the clock and wait until the last minute to make a run, Bowman turned in the 17th-fastest time in Round 1, moving him on to Round 2, where he qualified a season-best 14th at an average speed of 193.376 mph.  Several other teams waited too long and failed to complete more than a warm-up lap, putting five Chase drivers in the back and sending home full-timers Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Justin Allgaier.  Reed Sorenson, also out in the initial cut, later made the field when RAB Racing lost their first Cup starting spot when the time for Joe Nemechek’s #29 Toyota was withdrawn for a technical infraction.

In the race itself, a handful of drivers were sent to the back for unapproved adjustments, moving Jeff Gordon up from only the second 43rd-place starting spot in his entire career.  By the first corner of the race, the 43rd spot went to Mike Wallace, who had put the #49 Royal Teak Collection Toyota into the 23rd spot.  Wallace’s first Talladega Cup race since 2008 came with the same Jay Robinson-owned Identity Ventures Racing that has fielded the #66 for much of this season, the car renumbered to #49 in part due to Michael Waltrip running the #66 on Sunday.

Wallace pulled behind the wall after just one lap, but concerns over a possible “start-and-park” went away when he returned on Lap 9, eight laps down.  Wallace remained in the 43rd spot for most of the afternoon and was the only car off the lead lap until Lap 61, when Terry Labonte was lapped seconds before a six-car accident dropped Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, and Michael McDowell one lap back.

Then, heading onto the backstretch on Lap 102, contact from Aric Almirola sent J.J. Yeley’s #83 Burger King / Dr. Pepper Toyota hard into the outside wall, triggering a ten-car wreck.  As the rest of the field slowed, Chase competitor Kyle Busch was turned into the path of A.J. Allmendinger, collecting Bowman’s Toyota in the process.  Both Busch and Bowman made hard contact with the inside wall in what would be just the second caution of the afternoon.  Busch, Bowman, and Yeley fell to the final three spots on Lap 112 with Busch in 43rd - potentially headed for his first last-place finish since Dover in the fall of 2008.

Trying to keep Busch in the Chase, the Joe Gibbs Racing team banded together and got Busch back on the track with just 37 laps to go.  By completing a single lap, Bowman and Yeley fell to the final two spots.  Busch climbed no higher than 40th and missed the Chase cutoff by seven points.  Finishing between them was McDowell, whose #95 Jordan Truck Sales Ford was finished off in a hard slam into the Turn 4 wall after an apparent cut right-front tire.  Almirola, also involved in the Busch accident, rounded out the Bottom Five.

Talladega also saw several underdogs turn in great finishes.  In his 147th series start, Landon Cassill ran near the front all day and finished a career-best 4th in Hillman Racing’s #40 Carsforsale.com Chevrolet.  The run bested Cassill’s previous mark of 11th in the spring race at the Talladega track.  7th went to Travis Kvapil, Cassill’s teammate in an unsponsored #33 Circle Sport Chevrolet.  The finish tied Kvapil’s career-best 6th-place run at the same track in the spring of 2008, when he was driving the #28 Northern Tool & Equipment Ford for Yates Racing.  Rounding out the Top 10 was Casey Mears, running the title sponsor’s #13 GEICO Chevrolet to his fourth-straight Top-15 finish in the season’s four plate races.

Finishing 33rd on Sunday in the #32 C&J Energy Services Ford was Terry Labonte, who ran his 890th and, as confirmed through numerous sources, final Cup Series start.  In those nearly 900 starts dating back to 1978, Labonte won 22 races and two championships in 1984 and 1996.  In his Cup career, he finished last in just 12 points-paying races.  The first came at Riverside’s season-opener in 1979 and the last at Chicagoland in the summer of 2006.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This is the first last-place finish for the #23 in a Cup Series race since August 5, 2012 when Scott Riggs’ North Texas Pipe Chevrolet fell out with brake problems after 9 laps of the Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono.  It’s also the first last-place finish for the number in a Cup race at Talladega.
*With this race, all four of BK Racing’s teams (#23, #26, #83, #93) have each finished last at least once in 2014.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #23-Alex Bowman / 102 laps / crash
42) #83-J.J. Yeley / 102 laps / crash
41) #95-Michael McDowell / 127 laps / crash
40) #18-Kyle Busch / 145 laps / running
39) #43-Aric Almirola / 166 laps / running

LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Mike Bliss (4)
2nd) Dave Blaney (3)
3rd) Clint Bowyer, Timmy Hill (2)
4th) A.J. Allmendinger, Aric Almirola, Trevor Bayne, Alex Bowman, Landon Cassill, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., David Gilliland, Denny Hamlin, Travis Kvapil, Kyle Larson, Michael McDowell, Joe Nemechek, Clay Rogers, Johnny Sauter, Morgan Shepherd, Tony Stewart, Martin Truex, Jr., Ryan Truex, Brian Vickers, Cole Whitt, J.J. Yeley (1)

LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #37-Tommy Baldwin Racing, #93-BK Racing (4)
2nd) #15-Michael Waltrip Racing, #77-Randy Humphrey Racing (2)
3rd) #11-Joe Gibbs Racing, #14-Stewart-Haas Racing, #21-Wood Brothers Racing, #23-BK Racing, #26-BK Racing, #32-Go FAS Racing, #33-Circle Sport, #38-Front Row Motorsports, #40-Hillman Racing, #42-Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, #43-Richard Petty Motorsports, #44-Team XTREME Racing, #47-JTG-Daugherty Racing, #55-Michael Waltrip Racing, #66-Michael Waltrip Racing / Identity Ventures Racing, #78-Furniture Row Racing, #83-BK Racing, #87-Identity Ventures Racing, #88-Hendrick Motorsports, #95-Leavine Family Racing (1)

LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Toyota (13)
2nd) Chevrolet (11)
3rd) Ford (7)

TRUCKS: Mike Harmon Trails Talladega Truck Field

SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin' Forums
Mike Harmon picked up the 6th last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Saturday’s Fred’s 250 powered by Coca-Cola at the Talladega Superspeedway when his #74 Jr. Peters Automotive Chevrolet fell out with engine trouble and did not complete the first of the race’s 194 laps.

The finish is Harmon’s second of 2014 and his first since Chicagoland, three races ago, and his second in a row without completing the opening lap.  With four races to go, Harmon is now part of a five-way tie for the 2014 LASTCAR Truck Series Championship.  The lead in the tiebreaker goes to Caleb Roark, who has 8 bottom-five finishes over Justin Jennings and Charles Lewandoski’s 7 and Ryan Ellis’ 4.  Harmon’s two last-place finishes were his only series starts so far this season, so he trails the tiebreaker with just 2 bottom-fives.

Harmon’s #74 was one of 36 entries on the preliminary entry list for Talladega, creating the first full Truck Series field since Bristol in August.  Series veteran Ryan Sieg, a Nationwide regular this season, joined as a late entry in his #39, and when T.J. Bell withdrew the #56, the field remained at 36.

Harmon ran the slowest speed in the weekend’s only practice session, clocking in at just 134.602 mph.  He did not run a lap in qualifying, settling on the 35th spot - a one-position improvement when Milka Duno, making her series debut in the #1 CanTV Chevrolet, also did not run.  In the race itself, Harmon did not complete a lap and remained in the 36th spot.  Finishing 35th was Justin Jennings in the second Mike Mittler-owned truck, two laps in arrears.

Rounding out the Bottom Five were Ron Hornaday, Jr., Ryan Sieg, and Mason Mingus, all of them taken out in a multi-truck accident on Lap 12 when German Quiroga lost control heading onto the backstretch and swerved into traffic.

In the frantic run to the finish, several drivers turned in excellent runs.  Spencer Gallagher, fresh off his first ARCA win at Kansas, earned his first top-five finish in just his tenth career start when a daring move to the outside left his #23 Allegiant Travel Chevrolet 3rd at the finish.  Gallagher’s previous best was an 11th earlier this year at Iowa.  Chris Fontaine, making his 50th series start, equaled his career-best 7th at Daytona in 2012 driving his #84 Glenden Enterprises Toyota.  And John Wes Townley finished 8th in the #05 Zaxby’s Toyota - his best run since he parted ways with Richie Wauters’ team after Kentucky.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*Harmon is the first driver to not complete a lap of the Truck Series race at Talladega.
*This is the first last-place finish for both Harmon and the #74 in a Truck Series race at Talladega.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
36) #74-Mike Harmon / 0 laps / engine
35) #36-Justin Jennings / 2 laps / vibration
34) #9-Ron Hornaday, Jr.  11 laps / crash
33) #39-Ryan Sieg / 11 laps / crash
32) #15-Mason Mingus / 11 laps / crash

LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Ryan Ellis, Mike Harmon, Justin Jennings, Charles Lewandoski, Caleb Roark (2)
2nd) Mike Affarano, Bryan Dauzat, Alex Guenette, Blake Koch, Ted Minor, Tommy Regan, Scott Stenzel, Jason White (1)

LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #0-Jennifer Jo Cobb (4)
2nd) #36-Mike Mittler, #63-Mike Mittler / Randy Young, #74-Mike Harmon (2)
3rd) #28-FDNY Racing, #35-Win-Tron Racing, #42-Randy Young, #45-Regan Motorsports, #57-Norm Benning, #74-Mario Gosselin, #93-RSS Racing, #03-Mike Affarano Motorsports (1)

LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (15)
2nd) RAM (2)
3rd) Toyota (1)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

CUP: Clint Bowyer Saves Parsons Team From First Last-Place Finish Of 2014

SOURCE: Jonathan McCoy, RubbingsRacing.com
Clint Bowyer picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Saturday’s Bank of America 500 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway when his #15 Pink Lemonade 5-Hour Energy Toyota fell out with a blown engine after he completed 94 of the race’s 334 laps.

The finish was Bowyer’s second of the season and his first since the spring race at Richmond, 22 races ago.

From that Richmond race to the Chase cutoff at the track last month, Bowyer showed signs of improvement, scoring four Top Fives and nine Top Tens in 17 races.  In his Richmond return, he matched his season-best 3rd at Talladega in April and climbed to 17th in points - but, hamstrung by a 38th-place finish at Atlanta the week before, he missed a spot in the Chase by just seven points.  Bowyer came to Charlotte with just one top-ten finish in the postseason: a 9th at Dover.

For Charlotte, Bowyer would run his second-straight race with sponsorship from 5-Hour Energy’s Pink Lemonade flavored product, one of many pink schemes in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Bowyer’s car showed speed early, running 15th in Thursday’s opening practice and 9th in the second session on Friday.  He qualified 25th at an average speed of 195.291 mph, then inched back to 21st in Happy Hour.

The only driver missing the show was Trevor Bayne, his first DNQ in Cup competition after 55 successful attempts - nearly all of them as a “go-or-go-homer.”  It was Bayne’s first Cup attempt that was not in the Wood Brothers’ #21, but rather the #6 Advocare Ford he will run full-time next season.

At the start of Saturday’s race, which ESPN pre-empted with both college football and pre-season basketball, the online leaderboard indicated 2014 LASTCAR Nationwide Series leader Blake Koch held the 43rd spot on the opening lap in the #32 Leaf Filter Ford.  It was Koch’s first Cup start since driving Frankie Stoddard’s #32 at Dover in June.  On Lap 2, Koch surrendered the spot to Brett Moffitt, who was making his first start in the #66 Identity Ventures Racing team since Atlanta.  Moffitt was the first driver to lose a lap on Lap 7, and he soon lost a handful more, perhaps due to contact with the outside wall as indicated by damage shown to his passenger side door on Lap 189.  On Lap 17, Moffitt was still last, five laps down to the leaders.

With 2014 LASTCAR Cup leaders Dave Blaney and Mike Bliss not in Saturday’s field, Timmy Hill emerged as a threat to join the late-season battle for most last-place finishes.  Driving the #33 Retroinfinity.com Chevrolet for the second-straight race, Hill slipped to 42nd during a round of green-flag stops on Lap 78.  He was then passed by Josh Wise, whose #98 Provident Metals Chevrolet went behind the wall with mechanical troubles moments later.  By Lap 84, Wise had slipped past Moffitt for last, off the track and apparently headed for Phil Parsons Racing’s first last-place run of 2014.

Then, on Lap 94, smoke billowed from underneath Bowyer’s #15, bringing out the second caution of the night.  He pulled behind the wall, his night done.  Wise returned to the track on Lap 116, then dropped Bowyer to last on Lap 133, just as the engine on Paul Menard’s #27 Schrock / Menards Chevrolet let go.  On the broadcast, a plain-clothed Bowyer was seen giving a thumbs-up to Menard as he pulled the yellow car behind the wall.  Wise ended up 41st, his rear gear giving out on the backstretch on Lap 222.  Moffitt and Koch rounded out the Bottom Five, both finishing under power.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*The #15 had never before finished last in a Cup Series race at Charlotte.
*This is the first last-place finish for Michael Waltrip Racing in a Cup race at Charlotte since October 11, 2008, when A.J. Allmendinger crashed in the #00 Champon Mortgage Toyota after 52 laps.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #15-Clint Bowyer / 94 laps / engine
42) #27-Paul Menard / 134 laps / engine
41) #98-Josh Wise / 178 laps / rear gear
40) #66-Brett Moffitt / 320 laps / running
39) #32-Blake Koch / 322 laps / running

LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Mike Bliss (4)
2nd) Dave Blaney (3)
3rd) Clint Bowyer, Timmy Hill (2)
4th) A.J. Allmendinger, Aric Almirola, Trevor Bayne, Landon Cassill, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., David Gilliland, Denny Hamlin, Travis Kvapil, Kyle Larson, Michael McDowell, Joe Nemechek, Clay Rogers, Johnny Sauter, Morgan Shepherd, Tony Stewart, Martin Truex, Jr., Ryan Truex, Brian Vickers, Cole Whitt, J.J. Yeley (1)

LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #37-Tommy Baldwin Racing, #93-BK Racing (4)
2nd) #15-Michael Waltrip Racing, #77-Randy Humphrey Racing (2)
3rd) #11-Joe Gibbs Racing, #14-Stewart-Haas Racing, #21-Wood Brothers Racing, #26-BK Racing, #32-Go FAS Racing, #33-Circle Sport, #38-Front Row Motorsports, #40-Hillman Racing, #42-Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, #43-Richard Petty Motorsports, #44-Team XTREME Racing, #47-JTG-Daugherty Racing, #55-Michael Waltrip Racing, #66-Michael Waltrip Racing / Identity Ventures Racing, #78-Furniture Row Racing, #83-BK Racing, #87-Identity Ventures Racing, #88-Hendrick Motorsports, #95-Leavine Family Racing (1)

LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Toyota (12)
2nd) Chevrolet (11)
3rd) Ford (7)

N’WIDE: Opening-Lap Pileup Gives Jeffrey Earnhardt First Last-Place Finish

SOURCE: Terry Renna, AP
Jeffrey Earnhardt picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Nationwide Series career in Friday’s Drive for the Cure 300 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway when his #4 Flex Seal Chevrolet was involved in a grinding 11-car pileup just seconds after the green flag, preventing him from completing a any of the race’s 200 laps.  The finish came in Earnhardt’s 57th series start.

Jeffrey, the 25-year-old son of Kerry Earnhardt, came into the Charlotte race near the end of his first full season in Nationwide Series competition.  Following two seasons in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East with a career-best 5th-place ranking in the 2007 standings, Earnhardt made his Nationwide debut at Watkins Glen in 2009, driving the #40 for what is now The Motorsports Group to a 24th-place finish.  After three partial seasons with Rick Ware Racing and Go Green Racing, Earnhardt signed with another veteran organization - Johnny Davis’ JD Motorsports - for the full 2014 campaign.  JD’s lineup would include Cup regular Landon Cassill in the #01 and a part-time third entry, #87, shared with NEMCO Motorsports and Rick Ware.

This season, Earnhardt improved on his career-best finish of 16th at Talladega in 2013 with a 12th-place run at Bristol in August, but six DNFs in the first 29 races held him to 18th in points with an average finish of 25.7.  He looked to improve at the Charlotte track, where he’d come home 25th in the spring.

Earnhardt timed in 28th in Thursday’s opening practice, then slipped to 31st in Happy Hour.  He picked up a couple more spots in qualifying, improving to the 29th spot on the grid with an average speed of 174.622 mph.  Though he was a locked-in driver, it was a competitive qualifying session behind him as 45 drivers showed up for 40 spots, leaving two team cars and three single-car teams on the DNQ list, including Morgan Shepherd and Mike Harmon.

When the green flag flew on Friday’s race, however, 13th-place starter Chris Buescher lost traction on his #60 RFRShop.com Ford in the quad-oval, causing Mike Bliss to check-up in the unsponsored #19 TriStar Motorsports Toyota.  As the field accordioned behind them, Earnhardt rear-ended the #28 Texas 28 Spirits Stage Dodge, turning Yeley directly into the path of oncoming traffic.  As the field piled-up behind him, Earnhardt clipped the infield grass and spun backwards into the inside retaining wall, where it stayed under the caution.  Earnhardt was uninjured, but his car couldn’t get out of the grass.  After a tow to the garage, he was done for the night.

The remainder of the Bottom Five consisted entirely of the other four drivers most seriously damaged in the opening-lap wreck.  39th-place went to Yeley, who like Earnhardt, had to be towed to the garage and did not complete the opening lap.  38th-place Will Kimmel suffered extensive nose damage to his #44 Ingersoll-Rand Toyota, ending his fifth start of the year for TriStar Motorsports.  37th went to Tanner Berryhill, who after losing his Dodge to a wreck at Dover had originally planned to drive the renumbered blue-and-gold #13 Dodge entered by Carl Long.  However, Vision Racing completed work on Berryhill’s brand-new Toyota just in time for Happy Hour - only to have its front valence crunched in the pile-up.  36th went to The Motorsports Group’s Matt DiBenedetto, debuting a new white-and-blue paint job on the #40.  DiBenedetto suffered nose and hood damage to his Chevrolet, the only TMG car in the field after the DNQ of Ryan Ellis in the #46.

Six other drivers were involved in the wreck, but all of those drivers continued to run the race.

The crash also proved crucial to the LASTCAR Championship prospects of Jeff Green.  The all-time last-place leader finished 35th on Friday in TriStar’s #91 - just outside the bottom five.  Now, with three races to go, teammate Blake Koch holds both a two-finish lead in the standings and is ahead of Green in bottom-fives 16-12.  Unable to surpass Koch in bottom-fives, Green cannot win a tiebreaker with Koch.  This means for Green to claim the 2014 title, he must finish last in all three remaining races (Texas, Phoenix, Homestead).  A single last-place finish by anyone else will end Green’s three-year reign, whether or not Koch runs any more Nationwide races this season.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This is the first last-place finish for the #4 in a Nationwide Series race in exactly six years, dating back to this very Charlotte race on October 10, 2008.  That night, in the Dollar General 300, Derrike Cope trailed the field when his #4 JVC / ALLINENERGY.COM Chevrolet, fielded by Jay Robinson Racing, broke the suspension after 3 laps.
*Earnhardt is the first Nationwide driver to finish last at Charlotte without completing a lap since Angela Cope, one of Derrike’s twin nieces, did in the 2012 running.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #4-Jeffrey Earnhardt / 0 laps / crash
39) #28-J.J. Yeley / 0 laps / crash
38) #44-Will Kimmel / 1 lap / crash
37) #17-Tanner Berryhill / 1 lap / crash
36) #40-Matt DiBenedetto / 1 lap / crash

LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Blake Koch (8)
2nd) Jeff Green (6)
3rd) Kevin Lepage (3)
4th) Matt DiBenedetto, Ryan Ellis (2)
5th) Tanner Berryhill, Milka Duno, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Matt Frahm, Roger Reuse, Robert Richardson, Jr., Tim Schendel, Jimmy Weller, Josh Wise (1)

LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #10-TriStar Motorsports (11)
2nd) #46-The Motorsports Group (6)
3rd) #91-TriStar Motorsports (3)
4th) #74-Mike Harmon Racing (2)
5th) #4-JD Motorsports, #17-Vision Racing, #23-R3 Motorsports, #29-RAB Racing, #55-VIVA Motorsports / SS Green Light Racing, #77-Mike Harmon Racing, #87-Rick Ware Racing, #93-JGL Racing (1)

LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Toyota (15)
2nd) Chevrolet (10)
3rd) Dodge (5)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

CUP: Mike Bliss Takes 2014 LASTCAR Lead With Six Races To Go

SOURCE: Chris Trotman, Getty Images
Mike Bliss picked up the 18th last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at the Kansas Speedway when his unsponsored #37 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet fell out with a vibration after he completed 17 of the race’s 267 laps.

The finish was Bliss’ fourth of the season and his first since Chicagoland, three races ago.  With six races to go, he now leads the 2014 LASTCAR Cup Series Driver’s Championship by a single finish over Dave Blaney, who did not race on Sunday.

Last week at Dover, Bliss finished the race under power for the second time in his four previous starts in Tommy Baldwin’s #37, coming home nine laps down in 36th.  Prior to that, he’d finished 35th at Richmond, six laps down.  The other two runs were last-place finishes at Atlanta and Chicago.  At Kansas, the #37's sponsorship from Accell Construction, Inc. went to teammate Michael Annett in Baldwin’s #7, and with 43 cars on the entry list, it appeared likely Bliss would park the car once more.

In practice, Bliss was 37th fastest in the opening session, then in qualifying timed in 41st with an average speed of 188.416 mph.  In Saturday’s two practice sessions, Bliss found more speed, improving to 34th in the second session and 32nd in Happy Hour.

At the start of Sunday’s race, Mike Wallace started 43rd in his third-consecutive start for Identity Ventures Racing.  Wallace’s #66 435 Overland Park Place Hotel Toyota held the 43rd spot four seven laps before he was passed by last week’s last-place finisher Timmy Hill.  Hill, whose #33 retroinfinity.com Chevrolet carried the same paint scheme as his Nationwide car last week at Dover, was the first driver to lose a lap on Lap 16.  One lap later, Bliss, who had by then slipped to 42nd, pulled behind the wall to take the last spot.  Wallace and Hill finished 33rd and 34th, respectively.

Finishing 42nd Sunday was Kurt Busch and his #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet.  One week after being eliminated from the Contender Round of the Chase, Busch had a miserable weekend.  He qualified 24th, then in Happy Hour spun his primary car into the grass, which caused enough damage for the team to go to a backup car.  In the race, an unscheduled stop left him 3 laps down in the early laps, and a blown right-front tire stuffed the backup int the wall, ending his race after 75 laps.

40th and 41st went to Jimmie Johnson and Justin Allgaier, respectively, who were two of four drivers involved in a grinding accident on Lap 84.  Johnson, who averted disaster after a spin in qualifying, was trying to claw his way from the 32nd starting spot when he was spun by Greg Biffle off Turn 2, sending Johnson hard into the inside wall.  Allgaier, his #51 Brandt Chevrolet hooked into traffic by Johnson, spun into the path of Josh Wise, damaging his #98 Westside Vapor / Vapor Station Chevrolet.  Allgaier did not return to the track, but Wise returned on Lap 137 followed by Johnson on Lap 156.  This allowed Wise to bump Johnson from 39th to 40th on his way to a 38th-place run.

Between Wise and Johnson was 39th-place Dale Earnhardt, Jr. who led 45 of the race’s first 123 laps and was still leading when a blown right-front tire sent his #88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet into the outside wall.  Earnhardt returned to the track as well to finish 63 laps down for his first bottom-five finish since Bristol in August.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This is the first last-place finish for both Bliss and the #37 in a Cup Series race at Kansas.  It is the first for Tommy Baldwin Racing at this track since April 21, 2013, when Dave Blaney’s #7 SANY Chevrolet crashed after 36 laps of the STP 400.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #37-Mike Bliss / 17 laps / vibration
42) #41-Kurt Busch / 75 laps / crash
41) #51-Justin Allgaier / 84 laps / crash
40) #48-Jimmie Johnson / 180 laps / running
39) #88-Dale Earnhardt, Jr. / 204 laps / running / led 45 laps

LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Mike Bliss (4)
2nd) Dave Blaney (3)
3rd) Timmy Hill (2)
4th) A.J. Allmendinger, Aric Almirola, Trevor Bayne, Clint Bowyer, Landon Cassill, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., David Gilliland, Denny Hamlin, Travis Kvapil, Kyle Larson, Michael McDowell, Joe Nemechek, Clay Rogers, Johnny Sauter, Morgan Shepherd, Tony Stewart, Martin Truex, Jr., Ryan Truex, Brian Vickers, Cole Whitt, J.J. Yeley (1)

LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #37-Tommy Baldwin Racing, #93-BK Racing (4)
2nd) #77-Randy Humphrey Racing (2)
3rd) #11-Joe Gibbs Racing, #14-Stewart-Haas Racing, #15-Michael Waltrip Racing, #21-Wood Brothers Racing, #26-BK Racing, #32-Go FAS Racing, #33-Circle Sport, #38-Front Row Motorsports, #40-Hillman Racing, #42-Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, #43-Richard Petty Motorsports, #44-Team XTREME Racing, #47-JTG-Daugherty Racing, #55-Michael Waltrip Racing, #66-Michael Waltrip Racing / Identity Ventures Racing, #78-Furniture Row Racing, #83-BK Racing, #87-Identity Ventures Racing, #88-Hendrick Motorsports, #95-Leavine Family Racing (1)

LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet, Toyota (11)
2nd) Ford (7)