Sunday, November 23, 2014

LASTCAR EXTRA: One year later, Erik Davis and Always Evolving Racing drive in memory of team co-founders Paul Walker and Roger Rodas

Erik Davis and his Always Evolving Racing
Ford Mustang at Sonoma, 2014
SOURCE: Brock Beard
This past August at the Sonoma Raceway, I had the opportunity to cover the Pirelli World Challenge Series, a multi-divisional sports car series which runs 50-minute sprint races on road courses all across the country.  Parked in the series paddock near the entrance to Turn 7 were an eclectic collection of factory teams and independents who drove everything from the Ferrari 458 GT3 to the Kia Optima.

At the far end of all this, a single teal-and-white Mustang sat beneath a tent.  In front of the car was a blue fuel container with the name “Vin Diesel” scrawled on a strip of orange tape.  It was a peculiar sight, but not after noticing the logo on the reflective surface of the team’s hauler: Always Evolving Racing.

Predominately a tuner shop, Always Evolving began in the 1990s as Autobahn Exotics, established by Rich Taylor and his good friend, actor and producer Paul Walker.  Financial difficulties with the shop led Walker to Roger Rodas, a financial advisor and aspiring racer.  The two became close friends, and the team’s name was changed.

As part of Always Evolving’s reorganization, Rodas introduced Walker to Erik Davis, an SCCA racer, and in late 2012, the three planned to enter the World Challenge Series.  Walker’s film contracts prohibited him from competing, so Rodas and Davis would drive the team’s two cars in 2013.  They would run Mustangs as both had collected several older models over the years.

The two enjoyed a successful first season.  In a field of 45 entrants in the GTS division, Rodas came home 13th in points with Davis in 16th.  Rodas earned the team’s best finish - a 5th at Toronto.  All of this was accomplished without factory support.

“It’s definitely not a factory team,” said Davis during our interview.  “We’re effectively Ford customers.  We do enjoy some on-track support.  Ford comes here, as you know, there’s a lot of Mustang teams in the World Challenge, and so there’s factory representatives that are here.  But, you know, Ford’s here to sell cars and sell parts, so ultimately we’re a customer of Ford’s.  They do provide us some crash damage parts and stuff like that on a sponsorship basis, but not a factory effort by any means.”

On Saturday, November 30, 2013, Always Evolving was gearing up for an even better 2014 campaign.  That day, Rodas' #52 Mustang was on display at the shop as part of the their monthly car meet and charity drive.  Tragically, less than a mile away, Rodas and Walker would lose their lives in a single-car accident.  With so much said of Walker, I asked Davis about how he remembered Rodas:

“What I can tell you is Roger was one of my best friends on the earth.  He was a caring individual.  There’s probably a lot of people that would’ve said he was one of their best friends, which is a pretty interesting fact that very few people can actually say about another person.  He had a significant impact on a lot of people’s lives in a very positive way.  He was a loving father and a great husband and a tremendous businessman, and very astute, and I miss him a lot.”

In the media frenzy that followed, Davis stayed out of the public eye.  As Always Evolving’s last surviving co-founder, the responsibility was his to determine the team’s future.  He chose to keep the team going, moving out of Rodas’ shop in Valencia to his in Burbank, and again prepared to enter two cars in the World Challenge Series.  Belgian driver David Sterckx was tabbed to drive Rodas’ #52 while Davis remained in the #75, both in the same teal-and-white colors.  To honor both men, the team also continued its charitable relationships with the Mustard Seed Ranch and Dream Rides 4 Kids.

“For me personally,” said Davis, “it was important that we pay tribute, you know, to both Paul and Roger, and we did that in different ways for both of them.  In Roger's case, it's very visual and you can see it, and in Paul's case it's in more of an insider manner in which we did it.  We didn't ever want to appear like we're exploiting Paul or his name or anything along those lines, and ultimately, we wanted to respect his family's wishes.”

Sonoma was the next-to-last round of the 2014 World Challenge season.  When talking with Davis about how his season went, I was reminded of the struggles I’ve seen other teams face in my coverage of NASCAR.  In 1993, Alan Kulwicki lost his life in a plane crash less than five months after winning the series championship.  As an owner-driver, Kulwicki had made preparations for Jimmy Hensley to drive if such were to ever happen.  But the team still faced serious challenges as the rest of the staff tried to reorganize.

“We started out the season later than we would’ve liked based on, you know, the circumstances that occurred in November, so we started the season a little behind the 8-ball when you look at purely the racing effort.  Went into St. Pete, which is the first race of the season, and my car was totaled. . .We had David (Sterckx) and a spare that wouldn’t have been ready by Long Beach.  We elected to buy another car and engineer that for ourselves going to Long Beach.  And then we went into Long Beach two weeks later and David’s car was totaled in the first lap of Long Beach.  So, you know, tough way to start the season obviously.  We were forced to take a race off and ultimately got two cars ready.  So we own four cars currently, four Mustangs.  Three are race-ready, one is close to race-ready, although it will probably be kept inside the stable as a personal car for me, and once the season’s over, it’ll be retired.”

But, like Kulwicki’s team, Always Evolving has found a way to keep going, thanks in no small part to Davis’ efforts and the work of a close-knit crew.  On the Friday I spoke with him, Davis was called away for several meetings, and he is currently preparing for 2015.

“So, you know, as far as this season goes, we definitely didn’t achieve all of the things we wanted to achieve in the sense that we’re not gonna win a championship - that’s what every race team wants - but we did come out here and I feel represented the brand well.  We kept the brand alive.  We paid tribute to our two fallen friends, and ultimately created what I see as an opportunity to move forward with the brand in a much bigger way going into 2015 and into the future.  You’re gonna start to see some very interesting news coming out and we’re pretty proud of what we’ve been able to put together this year.”

In the second race at Sonoma, Davis finished 9th in the GTS division, his best finish of 2014.

Monday, November 17, 2014

CUP: Tony Stewart Last As Stewart-Haas Racing Bookends Homestead Field

SOURCE: NASCAR Media
Tony Stewart picked up the 6th last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway when his #14 Bass Pro Shops  / Mobil 1 Chevrolet fell out with crash damage after he completed 182 of the race’s 267 laps.

The finish was Stewart’s second of 2014 and his first since the spring race at Talladega, 26 races ago.  Stewart was one of 25 different last-place finishers in 2014, the most in a single Cup season since 2008, which had 27.  The modern-era record remains 29, set in 2002.

Stewart’s struggles worsened after the Talladega race.  A 7th in the June race at Dover, scene of his most recent win the year before, was Stewart’s first top-ten finish in five races, and he would not snare another until Loudon, six races after that.  19th in points heading into August’s race at Watkins Glen, frustrations gave way to tragedy when Stewart was involved in a tragic on-track accident that claimed the life of dirt track racer Kevin Ward, Jr.  Stewart sat out the next three races, and while he was given a chance to win his way into the Chase, he finished just 41st at Atlanta and 15th at Richmond.

In The Chase itself, Stewart qualified inside the Top Ten four times, but with the exception of a 4th-place run at Martinsville after a late-race battle with eventual winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Stewart only gained back one of the points positions he lost in his three-race absence, moving to 25th that afternoon.  After a 20th-place finish at Phoenix, where his driver Kevin Harvick dominated on his way to a championship-round-earning win, Stewart looked to Homestead, scene of his third career victory in 1999, to give him his first win of the season.

When practice opened on Friday, Stewart timed in 32nd in the opening session and improved to only 28th in qualifying with an average speed of 178.024 mph.  As his driver Harvick continued to fine-tune his championship machine, Stewart still struggled to find speed on Saturday, running 25th in Saturday’s morning practice and 26th in Happy Hour.  Stewart was one of only 43 drivers to attempt to make the season finale, so every driver on the list secured a spot in Sunday’s field.

Starting last Sunday was Brett Moffitt, making his seventh start of his abbreviated rookie season with new sponsorship from X8 Energy Gum on Identity Ventures Racing’s #66.  However, just seconds before the green flag, Michael Annett made an unscheduled stop in his #7 Pilot / Flying J Chevrolet and had to hustle down the backstretch to catch the back of the field.

Annett and Moffitt exchanged the 43rd spot in the early laps along with Blake Koch, the newly-crowned 2014 LASTCAR Nationwide Champion, making his first Cup start since Charlotte last month.  Annett was the first driver to lose a lap around Lap 13, the same lap Koch stayed out under caution to lead a lap before falling back, and Koch re-took the 43rd spot o Lap 49.  He didn’t hold it for long as Annett fell four laps off the pace, holding off Moffitt, who brought out two consecutive cautions for banging the wall on Laps 59 and 87.

Homestead’s traditionally low attrition created a surprising Bottom Five.  On Lap 119, with all 43 cars still running and much of the back half of the field only a few laps down to the leaders, 5th-place Kyle Busch broke an axle leaving pit road and took his #18 M&M’s Toyota behind the wall.  Just five laps later, Busch had slipped to last, a spot he held by a large margin when he returned on Lap 143, 24 laps in arrears.  Then on Lap 163, Greg Biffle lost the right-front tire on his #16 3M Ford, dropping him to 42nd by Lap 168 and to last on Lap 185.  By that time, the damaged #99 Fastenal Ford of Carl Edwards dropped to 39th.  But on Lap 189, Edwards was passed for the spot by Stewart, who apparently also tagged the wall and pulled his car to the garage.  By 55 laps to go, Stewart was officially listed as the race’s first retiree, and when Biffle returned to the track, Stewart took the 43rd spot on Lap 230.  He would not relinquish the spot.

While the finish ended Stewart’s streak of 15 consecutive seasons with at least one win, Kevin Harvick went on to win the race - and the championship - and a plain-clothed Stewart greeted him on the stage.

Finishing 42nd on Sunday was Trevor Bayne, whose final start for the Wood Brothers ended when a brake line ruptured with 60 laps to go.  Biffle climbed to 41st while Busch made it to 39th, both of them still limping around the track when the checkered flag fell.  Finishing between the two in 40th was A.J. Allmendinger, who recovered from a spin on Lap 156 to get the Lucky Dog on Lap 195.  On Lap 237, Allmendinger was still on the lead lap and near the Top 20 when his #47 Hungry Jack / Martha White Chevrolet suddenly snapped loose and crashed in Turn 1 on Lap 237.

Finishing 32nd on Sunday was Josh Wise, who in his first full season driving for Phil Parsons Racing did not finish last a single time in 2014.  It was a tremendous accomplishment for the entire PPR team, which had won four of the last five LASTCAR championships and finished last 38 times in the 180 races run in that stretch - more than 1 finish for every 5 races.  At season’s end, Wise had just eight bottom-five finishes - only three more than Jimmie Johnson.

Michael McDowell, PPR’s driver for three of those titles, also showed improvement.  He finished the year with just one last-place finish in his first full season driving for Leavine Family Racing (Las Vegas).  Driving a #95 Ford carrying all the sponsors the team gathered in 2014, McDowell came home 21st at Homestead, his best finish since an 18th at Bristol in August.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This is the first last-place finish for both Stewart and the #14 in a Cup race at Homestead.  It’s also the first for Chevrolet in this event since 2005, when Brian Vickers’ #25 GMAC / ditech.com Chevrolet crashed after 82 laps.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #14-Tony Stewart / 182 laps / crash
42) #21-Trevor Bayne / 204 laps / crash
41) #16-Greg Biffle / 220 laps / running
40) #47-A.J. Allmendinger / 235 laps / running
39) #18-Kyle Busch / 246 laps / running

LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP - FINAL
1st) Mike Bliss (5)
2nd) Dave Blaney (3)
3rd) Clint Bowyer, Landon Cassill, Timmy Hill, Clay Rogers, Tony Stewart (2)
4th) A.J. Allmendinger, Aric Almirola, Trevor Bayne, Alex Bowman, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., David Gilliland, Denny Hamlin, Travis Kvapil, Kyle Larson, Michael McDowell, Joe Nemechek, Johnny Sauter, Morgan Shepherd, Martin Truex, Jr., Ryan Truex, Brian Vickers, Cole Whitt, J.J. Yeley (1)

LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP - FINAL
1st) #37-Tommy Baldwin Racing, #93-BK Racing (5)
2nd) #15-Michael Waltrip Racing, #14-Stewart-Haas Racing, #40-Hillman Racing, #77-Randy Humphrey Racing (2)
3rd) #11-Joe Gibbs Racing, #21-Wood Brothers Racing, #23-BK Racing, #26-BK Racing, #32-Go FAS Racing, #33-Circle Sport, #38-Front Row Motorsports, #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 - FINAL
1st) Chevrolet (15)
2nd) Toyota (14)
3rd) Ford (7)

N’WIDE: Jeff Green Scores 65th Last-Place Finish In Final Nationwide Series Race

SOURCE: @TriStarRaceTeam
Jeff Green picked up the 60th last-place finish of his NASCAR Nationwide Series career in Saturday’s Ford EcoBoost 300 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway when his #91 Heroes Behind The Camo / SupportMilitary.org Toyota fell out with a vibration after he completed 3 of the race’s 206 laps.

The finish was Green’s seventh of the 2014 season and his first since Kentucky, six races ago.  He came just one finish short of tying teammate and 2014 LASTCAR Nationwide Champion Blake Koch, who ended Green’s three-year reign as champion two weeks ago at Texas.  Koch finished 22nd on Saturday when he ran TriStar’s fully-funded #44 Celsius Flo Fusion Toyota.  It is Green’s 65th last-place finish across all three of NASCAR’s top divisions, most of all drivers, and he now leads second-place driver Joe Nemechek by 16 finishes.  The finish also came in Nationwide’s final race as title sponsor of the series, a relationship which began at Daytona on February 16, 2008 when the soon-to-be-dominant last-place team MSRP Motorsports trailed its first field with veteran driver Steve Grissom.

Green was one of 45 cars on the entry list for Homestead.  He was giving TriStar’s #91 its first start since Charlotte, three races ago, as the team shuffled its drivers to allow Ross Chastain to run a watermelon-colored #10 for a full-race effort.  Blake Koch also was set to make his tenth start of the season in TriStar’s #44 Toyota, this time sponsored by Celsius Flo Fusion.  With Eric McClure back in the #14 and Mike Bliss rounding out the season in the #19, this left Green in the “start-and-park” #91.

Green did not participate in Friday’s opening practice session, then timed in 42nd-fastest of 45 in Happy Hour, beating fellow “go-or-go-homer” Ryan Ellis in The Motorsports Group’s persistent #46 Chevrolet.  Green dispatched with Ellis four others in qualifying by snaring the 34th spot on the grid with an average speed of 160.123 mph.  Sent home with Ellis were Kevin Lepage in Mike Harmon’s #74, past LASTCAR record holder Derrike Cope in the #70, John Jackson in the #72 James Carter entry, and Martin Roy’s #90 Gamache Truck Center / Cote Chevrolet fielded by Mario Gosselin.

In the race itself, Tanner Berryhill started 40th in Vision Racing’s #17 Excel Therapy Toyota.  Green pitted before the green flag, sending him to the rear of the field with Ty Dillon and Paul Menard, whose Richard Childress Racing Chevrolets were sent to the rear for unapproved adjustments and a driver change, respectively.  However, after one lap, all of these drivers were passed by Milka Duno, who was running a #87 CanTV Toyota fielded by RAB Racing with the owner points of the three teams who shared the #87 in 2014.  Two laps later, Green pulled off the track, securing the last-place finish.

Finishing 39th on Saturday was Joey Gase, whose unsponsored #52 Jimmy Means Racing Chevrolet fell off the pace early before the engine let go after 54 laps.  38th went to Matt DiBenedetto, who faced a similar fate, losing seven laps early before a broken transmission stalled his car on the access road to bring out the second yellow of the evening.  In 37th was Corey LaJoie, whose #98 Medallion Financial Ford was taken out in a hard crash in Turn 2 that brought out the fourth yellow.  Rounding out the Bottom Five was Ryan Sieg, his #39 Huntinator / SmartCellFundraising.com Chevrolet spinning in Turn 1 on Lap 155 then breaking the suspension less than 30 laps later.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This was Green’s first last-place finish in a Nationwide Series race at Homestead since November 20, 2010, when Green’s #36 TriStar Motorsports Chevrolet had a vibration after 2 laps of the Ford 300.
*This is the second-consecutive last-place finish for TriStar’s #91 at Homestead.  Last year, Michael McDowell’s #91 TriStar Motorsports Toyota overheated after 5 laps of the Ford EcoBoost 300.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #91-Jeff Green / 3 laps / vibration
39) #52-Joey Gase / 54 laps / engine
38) #40-Matt DiBenedetto / 57 laps / transmission
37) #98-Corey LaJoie / 116 laps / crash
36) #39-Ryan Sieg / 179 laps / suspension

LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP - FINAL
1st) Blake Koch (8)
2nd) Jeff Green (7)
3rd) Ryan Ellis, Kevin Lepage (3)
4th) Matt DiBenedetto, Jeffrey Earnhardt (2)
5th) Tanner Berryhill, Milka Duno, Matt Frahm, Roger Reuse, Robert Richardson, Jr., Tim Schendel, Jimmy Weller, Josh Wise (1)

LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP - FINAL
1st) #10-TriStar Motorsports (11)
2nd) #46-The Motorsports Group (7)
3rd) #91-TriStar Motorsports (4)
4th) #4-JD Motorsports, #74-Mike Harmon Racing (2)
5th) #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 - FINAL
1st) Toyota (16)
2nd) Chevrolet (12)
3rd) Dodge (5)

TRUCKS: Caleb Roark Snatches Away 2014 LASTCAR Truck Series Title With Series’ Final 36th-Place Finish

SOURCE: CIA Stock Photo
Caleb Roark picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Friday’s Ford EcoBoost 200 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway when his #0 Grimes Irrigation / Best Western Mesa Chevrolet fell out with a vibration after he completed 5 of the race’s 134 laps.

The finish was Roark’s third of the 2014 season and his first since Mosport, eight races ago.  Though tied with Justin Jennings for the most last-place finishes, it is Roark - not Jennings as I originally reported last week - who is officially the 2014 LASTCAR Truck Series Champion.  Roark and Jennings left Phoenix tied with 9 bottom-five finishes each, so a last-place finish by Roark at Homestead and a finish by Jennings outside the bottom-five would secure Roark the title.  That is exactly what happened on Friday - Roark trailed the field while Jennings came home 22nd, ten spots outside the Bottom Five.

Roark also holds the distinction of being the final Truck Series driver to finish 36th in a race.  Starting next year, the series’ starting fields will be reduced to 32.

Following his withdrawal from last week’s race at Phoenix, Roark was back at the track at Homestead, driving what reports indicate was owner Jennifer Jo Cobb’s #10 truck from Phoenix with the number “1” decals peeled off.  He was one of 34 trucks on the preliminary entry list, a field extended to 36 by race weekend.  Roark did not practice in the opening session on Thursday and was the only driver to not turn a lap in Happy Hour, but still outpaced Norm Benning and Scott Stenzel to score the 34th starting spot at an average speed of 152.044 mph.

In the race itself, it appeared that Benning would score his first last-place finish of the season when he pulled his flat red unsponsored #6 Chevrolet lost a lap by Lap 3 with possible mechanical issues.  However, he returned to the track during the first caution of the night on Lap 6 when John Wes Townley crashed his #05 Zaxby’s Toyota in Turn 2.  Townley fell just short of a last-place finish, however, for in the chaos, Roark had pulled his #0 off the track for good, snagging away the championship-clinching 36th-place run.  Benning just passed Townley for 34th before he, too, left the race.

Rounding out the Bottom Five were Scott Stenzel, whose #36 Mittler Bros. Machine & Tool Chevrolet had electrical issues after 11 laps, and Roark’s team owner Jennifer Jo Cobb in the #10 Oohrah! Hydration Drink Chevrolet after clutch issues 58 laps into the race.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This is the second last-place finish in three Homestead Truck Series races for Jennifer Jo Cobb’s #0 team.  On November 16, 2012, Blake Koch lost the transmission on his #0 Driven2Honor.org Ford after 3 laps of the Ford EcoBoost 200.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
36) #0-Caleb Roark / 5 laps / vibration
35) #05-John Wes Townley / 6 laps / crash
34) #6-Norm Benning / 7 laps / rear gear
33) #36-Scott Stenzel / 11 laps / electrical
32) #10-Jennifer Jo Cobb / 58 laps / clutch

LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP - FINAL
1st) Justin Jennings, Caleb Roark - 2014 CHAMPION (3)
2nd) Ryan Ellis, Mike Harmon, Blake Koch, Charles Lewandoski, Caleb Roark (2)
3rd) Mike Affarano, T.J. Bell, Bryan Dauzat, Alex Guenette, Ted Minor, Tommy Regan, Scott Stenzel, Jason White (1)

LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP - FINAL
1st) #0-Jennifer Jo Cobb (5)
2nd) #36-Mike Mittler, #63-Mike Mittler / Randy Young (3)
3rd) #74-Mike Harmon (2)
4th) #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 - FINAL
1st) Chevrolet (19)
2nd) RAM (2)
3rd) Toyota (1)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

CUP: Mike Bliss Claims First LASTCAR Sprint Cup Championship In Phoenix Garage

SOURCE: Chris Trotman, Getty Images
Mike Bliss picked up the 19th last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at the Phoenix International Raceway when his unsponsored #37 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet fell out with brake issues after he completed 16 of the race’s 312 laps.

The finish was Bliss’ fifth of the year and his first since Kansas, five races ago.  With one race to go and a two-finish lead over 2009 champion Dave Blaney and the rest of the field, Bliss has now secured his first-ever LASTCAR title as the 2014 LASTCAR Cup Series champion.  This ends a three-year reign by Michael McDowell and Phil Parsons Racing - in their first year apart, McDowell has finished last only once while Parsons' team has yet to at all.

Bliss’ last-place run at Kansas last month was the most recent for both driver and team.  The return upped the entry list to 44 cars for 43 spots, setting the stage for a qualifying battle between the veteran Bliss and upstart Clay Rogers, back to trying to qualify the #75 Beard Oil Chevrolet after a DNQ at Richmond in September.  Bliss outpaced Rogers in the opening practice, putting up the 36th-fastest time, then bumped Rogers from the field in qualifying with the 39th-best time at an average speed of 137.515 mph - nearly four-tenths of a second faster than Rogers’ 137.310.

Bliss did not participate in either of Saturday’s practice sessions, and with the team’s Accell Construction sponsorship moved to teammate Michael Annett’s #7 Chevrolet, it was all but certain Bliss would park on Sunday.

Mike Wallace started 43rd in the #66 Identity Ventures Racing entry, whose numbers were changed from white to dark blue.  However, he only held the spot until the end of the first lap, when Bliss fell to the rear, then along with the #32 Zimmer.com Ford of Joey Gase began to lose touch with the rest of the field.  Still under green on Lap 17, Bliss pulled onto pit road and turned to the garage, ending his day and securing his championship.

Finishing 42nd was Cole Whitt, who endured a miserable afternoon in his #26 fuelxx / Tapout Muscle Recovery / Amazon.com Toyota.  Around Lap 106, Whitt slowed on the backstretch with an apparent tire issue, but then spent several laps behind the wall for repairs.  Whitt returned nearly 70 laps later only to rear-end the slowing Casey Mears during a pileup triggered by Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer in Turn 2 on Lap 213.  41st went to Josh Wise, whose #98 PPR98.com Chevrolet was running just one lap down to the leaders on Lap 205 when he was clipped by Ty Dillon in Turn 3 and spun backwards into the outside wall, destroying the rear clip.

40th went to Clint Bowyer, whose right-rear of the #15 5-Hour Energy Toyota clipped the spinning Kyle Busch moments before Whitt tangled with Mears.  Bowyer also spent several laps behind the wall before finally retiring in the closing laps.  Rounding out the Bottom Five was Jimmie Johnson, who tangled with Justin Allgaier on pit road during the first round of stops, then on Lap 238 suffered a sudden tire or suspension issue in Turn 1 that sent his car hard into the outside wall and out of the race.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This is the first last-place finish for the #37 in a Cup race at Phoenix since November 15, 2009, when Tony Raines’ Long John Silver’s / A&W Chevrolet had electrical issues after 6 laps of the Checker O’Reilly Auto Parts 500.
*This is Bliss’ first last-place finish in a Cup race at Phoenix.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #37-Mike Bliss / 16 laps / brakes
42) #26-Cole Whitt / 147 laps / crash
41) #98-Josh Wise / 204 laps / crash
40) #15-Clint Bowyer / 211 laps / crash
39) #48-Jimmie Johnson / 235 laps / crash

LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Mike Bliss (5) - 2014 CHAMPION
2nd) Dave Blaney (3)
3rd) Clint Bowyer, Landon Cassill, Timmy Hill, Clay Rogers (2)
4th) A.J. Allmendinger, Aric Almirola, Trevor Bayne, Alex Bowman, 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) #37-Tommy Baldwin Racing, #93-BK Racing (5)
2nd) #15-Michael Waltrip Racing, #40-Hillman 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, #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 (14)
2nd) Ford (7)

N’WIDE: Jeffrey Earnhardt’s Engine Unable To Complete First Lap At Phoenix

SOURCE: @JDMotorsports01
Jeffrey Earnhardt picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Nationwide Series career in Saturday’s DAV 200 Honoring America’s Veterans at the Phoenix International Raceway when his unsponsored #4 JD Motorsports Chevrolet lost the engine before he could complete any of the race’s 206 laps.

The finish was Earnhardt’s second of the season and his first since Charlotte, two races ago.

For the first time since Iowa in August, Earnhardt came to the race in an unsponsored #4 Chevrolet.  His was one of 41 entries for the race, a list twice extended from 39 earlier in the week.  Blake Koch, who last week at Texas clinched the 2014 LASTCAR Nationwide Series title, moved to TriStar’s #44 team to drive the fully-funded Ingersoll-Rand Toyota.  Koch’s #10 returned to four-time and defending LASTCAR champ Jeff Green, who seemed a favorite to score his seventh last-place finish of the season.

In the opening practice session, Earnhardt ran 28th-fastest of the 35 who ran, then was 33rd of the 41 in Happy Hour.  In qualifying, he improved to the 22nd-fastest time with an average speed of 131.014 mph.  The only DNQ was three-time 2014 last-placer Ryan Ellis, whose #46 The Motorsports Group entry missed its third race in four attempts.

At the start of the race, Earnhardt was sent to the back due to unapproved adjustments.  Just as at Charlotte, he did not complete the opening lap, though this time the official reason was engine trouble.

Finishing 39th, ten laps ahead of Earnhardt, was Carl Long, driving a flat black #87 Ford Mustang for Rick Ware Racing - the sixth different car number Long has driven in his last six starts.  38th went to T.J. Bell, making his first Nationwide start of the year in JGL Racing’s #93 Texas 28 Spirits Stage Dodge.  Morgan Shepherd came home 37th in his #89 Racing With Jesus / Courtney Construction Chevrolet, his first start since Dover in September.  Rounding out the Bottom Five was 36th-place Brennan Newberry in Bobby Dotter’s #77 Qore-24 Chevrolet.  Newberry was uninjured after a fiery single-car crash on Lap 38.

Jeff Green finished 34th on Saturday, having not retired until after 51 laps.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*Earnhardt is the first Nationwide Series driver to finish last in a race at Phoenix since November 12, 2011, when Matt Frahm’s #39 TSP Powder Coating Ford was involved in an eight-car accident on the opening lap of the Wypall 200.
*This is the first last-place finish for both Earnhardt and the #4 in a Nationwide Series race at Phoenix.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #4-Jeffrey Earnhardt / 0 laps / engine
39) #87-Carl Long / 10 laps / brakes
38) #93-T.J. Bell / 14 laps / vibration
37) #89-Morgan Shepherd / 20 laps / brakes
36) #77-Brennan Newberry / 34 laps / crash

LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Blake Koch (8) - 2014 CHAMPION
2nd) Jeff Green (6)
3rd) Ryan Ellis, Kevin Lepage (3)
4th) Matt DiBenedetto, Jeffrey Earnhardt (2)
5th) Tanner Berryhill, Milka Duno, 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 (7)
3rd) #91-TriStar Motorsports (3)
4th) #4-JD Motorsports, #74-Mike Harmon Racing (2)
5th) #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 (12)
3rd) Dodge (5)

TRUCKS: Justin Jennings Claims 2014 LASTCAR Truck Title After First-Lap Crash

SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin' Forums
CORRECTION (November 14): Jennings has not claimed the 2014 LASTCAR Truck Series title.  Although he does lead Caleb Roark in bottom-ten finishes (11-10), Jennings is still tied with Roark for most bottom-fives (9 each), so Roark can claim the title with a last-place finish at Homestead if Jennings does not also finish in the Bottom Five.  If Roark finishes last and Jennings does finish inside the Bottom Five, or if Roark fails to finish last, Jennings will win the title.

Justin Jennings picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Friday’s Lucas Oil 150 at the Phoenix International Raceway when his #63 Mittler Bros. Machine & Tool Chevrolet was involved in a four-truck accident which prevented him from completing any of the race’s 126 laps.

The finish was Jennings’ third of the season and his first since Pocono, ten races ago.  And, with one race to go, Jennings has now clinched the 2014 LASTCAR Truck Series Championship.  Caleb Roark, who took the lead on bottom-five finishes last week, withdrew prior to Friday’s race, preventing him from challenging on a possible tiebreaker.  Even if Roark finishes last next week at Homestead and Jennings does not finish inside the Bottom Ten, Jennings would still prevail on a bottom-ten tiebreaker 11-10.

Roark’s withdrawal on Thursday shortened the Phoenix field further from 35 to 34, the fourteenth short field in twenty-one races.  Next season, Truck Series fields will be reduced further to 32 trucks - seven races this year have had fewer entries than that.  Jennings did not participate in the opening practice session, was 26th of 34 in Happy Hour, and kept the 26th starting spot at an average speed of 128.567 mph.

When the green flag flew on Friday night, however, the outside line checked-up, causing an accordion effect through the middle of the field.  Trouble broke out when 22nd-place starter John Wes Townley rear-ended 20th-place starter Bryan Silas, leaving 24th-place German Quiroga and 26th-place Jennings nowhere to go but to pile in.  Townley, Quiroga, and Jennings suffered the most severe damage to the noses of their trucks.  Jennings was the only driver who couldn’t complete the first lap - he pulled to the garage first and was credited with the last-place finish.

Behind Jennings and Townley were 32nd-place B.J. McLeod in the unsponsored #07 SS-Green Light Racing Chevrolet, his first race since Las Vegas.  Rounding out the Bottom Five were both Gallagher Motorsports trucks, which each qualified in the third row.  31st-place Spencer Gallagher crashed out after 27 laps when Timothy Peters made contact with his #23 Kingman Chevy-Buick / Allegiant Travel Chevrolet entering Turn 3, sending him into the outside wall.  Teammate Joey Coulter followed on Lap 38 when his #21 Allegiant Travel Chevrolet lost control in the same corner shortly after the restart.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*Jennings is the first Truck Series driver to fail to complete the opening lap at Phoenix since October 26, 2001, when Lance Hooper’s #23 National Wild Turkey Federation Chevrolet had brake issues at the start of the Chevy Silverado 150.
*This is the first last-place finish for both Jennings and the #63 in a Truck Series race at Phoenix.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
34) #63-Justin Jennings / 0 laps / crash
33) #05-John Wes Townley / 1 lap / crash
32) #07-B.J. McLeod / 21 laps / axle
31) #23-Spencer Gallagher / 27 laps / crash
30) #21-Joey Coulter / 38 laps / crash

LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Justin Jennings (3)
2nd) Ryan Ellis, Mike Harmon, Blake Koch, Charles Lewandoski, Caleb Roark (2)
3rd) Mike Affarano, T.J. Bell, Bryan Dauzat, Alex Guenette, 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 (3)
3rd) #74-Mike Harmon (2)
4th) #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 (18)
2nd) RAM (2)
3rd) Toyota (1)