Saturday, April 12, 2014

Perseverance and Surprise: A Tribute To Billy Standridge (1953-2014)

Prior to this season, the largest class for what is now the Sprint Cup Series’ Rookie of the Year was in 1994.  The group of rookies included several drivers who would become series veterans.  Among them were brothers Jeff Burton and 2002 Daytona 500 winner Ward Burton, current Nationwide Series regular Mike Wallace, two-time Chase qualifier Jeremy Mayfield, and current owner-driver Joe Nemechek.

But the group also included a forty-year-old Nationwide Series driver from Shelby, North Carolina named Billy Standridge.

Following the improbable championship run of the late Alan Kulwicki in 1992, several top drivers left multi-car programs to start their own teams.  1986 Daytona 500 winner Geoffrey Bodine bought Kulwicki’s team after his death in 1993, and in 1994 raced against another former Hendrick Motorsports driver-turned-owner, Ricky Rudd.  The next season, Bill Elliott would leave the once-dominant Junior Johnson team to start his own program with sponsorship from former Johnson sponsor McDonald’s.

Standridge would race Bodine, Rudd, Elliott, and the rest of the field, but with funding that matched the resources of the sport’s more longtime owner-drivers.  An auto parts dealer by trade, Standridge worked his way through the Goody’s Dash Series, where he won four races over four seasons.  In 1986, he moved to the NASCAR Nationwide Series, where he scored five Top Tens, including a career-best 6th at Martinsville in 1989 after fighting his way up from 31st on the grid.

As with other underfunded drivers before him, perseverance and surprise would come to define Standridge’s career.  He teamed with Berendt Johnson to make a run at the Cup Series, and after four DNQs in late 1993 and the 1994 Daytona 500, he nailed-down the 28th starting spot at Rockingham for his first Cup Series start.

Though Standridge finished last that day in Rockingham after an early multi-car crash, the fact that he started the race at all was no small accomplishment.  The large rookie class, combined for a with a glut of new start-up organizations like his, created a season where even fully-funded teams were regularly sent home - even Petty Enterprises.  That Rockingham race alone saw seven drivers fail to qualify for the race, including Ward Burton, Jeremy Mayfield, IndyCar star Danny Sullivan, and the ageless James Hylton.

Standridge made seven of his eighteen other attempts that season, and in four of those had to beat at least four other drivers to make the show.  Perhaps the most challenging qualifying day of his career came at Charlotte that fall, where he made the field while twelve others did not, including Melling Racing, RaDiUs Motorsports, and cars owned by Dave Marcis and Jimmy Means.

Standridge’s best finish of his Cup career came on March 26, 1995 at the Darlington Raceway, where he dodged the carnage of fifteen cautions to climb from 36th to a 14th-place finish.  His next Cup start came more than a year later in late 1996, when he replaced Randy MacDonald as driver of Jim Wilson’s #78 Fords.  He remained with Wilson’s part-time organization through the first part of the 1997 season, but in the latter part of the season, returned to owning and driving his familiar #47.

It was in his final few starts, and at the sport’s biggest tracks, where Standridge wrote the most impressive chapter of his career.

Following a career-best 7th-place qualifying run for Wilson’s team in the 1997 Pepsi 400, Standridge fielded his flat white Ford Thunderbird in the fall race at Talladega.  Carrying sponsorship from Cofab Steel and Jayski’s Silly Season Site, founded just over a year earlier, Standridge locked-up the 26th starting spot.  And, like in his first start, Ward Burton was one of the drivers he bumped from the field.

Standridge followed this up by qualifying for all four restrictor-plate races of the 1998 season, knocking out between five and fourteen drivers in each.  He raced his way into his lone Daytona 500 start with a 15th-place run in his qualifier, giving him one of the best seats in the house for the day Dale Earnhardt claimed his only victory in the race.  And, in all four races, Standridge carried logos for what was perhaps racing’s first online Kickstarters - TeamFansCanRace.com.

Standridge made one more bid at the 500 in 1999, then ended his Cup career where it began with a DNQ at Rockingham.

On Friday, not long after word of Standridge’s battle with cancer, Nationwide Series owner Johnny Davis honored the driver for whom he used to work as crew chief for many of those starts.  With the number 47 and Standridge’s signature on the C-panel of Davis’ three cars, drivers Landon Cassill, Kevin Lepage, and Jeffery Earnhardt all finished in the Top 20 at Darlington, scene of Standridge’s best career Cup finish in 1995.

Standridge passed away early the next morning.

Official NASCAR results will show his average finish of 33.7.  Here at LASTCAR, he is credited with five last-place finishes.  But the true legacy of Billy Standridge is that making the grid for a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race is never a guarantee, and you just never know who the hero of the next qualifying session will be.

CUP: Dave Blaney Scores First Darlington Last-Place Finish

SOURCE: NASCAR Media
Dave Blaney picked up the 22nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Saturday’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 at the Darlington Raceway when his unsponsored #77 Randy Humphrey Racing Ford fell out with brake problems after he completed 65 of the race’s 374 laps.

The finish was Blaney’s first of the season and his first in a Cup race in nearly a year, dating back to last April’s race at Kansas, thirty-six races ago.

Blaney is the eighth different last-place finisher in eight Cup races in 2014.  This last happened in 2012, when the streak ended at Richmond.  Since the Cup schedule was shortened in 1972, there have only been five other seasons with longer streaks.  The all-time record is 21, set in 1978 and equaled in 1993.  The others are 1984 (20 in a row), then 1995 and 2008 (17 each).

Blaney has endured an extremely difficult start to the 2014 season.  After nearly four years of helping Tommy Baldwin Racing get up to speed, Blaney lost his ride to rookie Michael Annett.  He found a home with another start-up team owned by Randy Humphrey, who with Phil Parsons in 2009 and 2010 co-owned the PRISM Motorsports entries Blaney drove those two seasons.  Humphrey and Parsons parted ways in 2012, and when Humphrey’s subsequent partnership with TriStar Motorsports ended last season, Humphrey signed Blaney to run for his own team.

Blaney arrived at Daytona behind the wheel of the team’s only restrictor-plate car, a Fusion purchased from Germain Racing with the #77 used in place of Germain’s #13.  Blaney was slow in qualifying, but was ready to race his way into his fourth consecutive Daytona 500 in the Gatorade Duels.  Unfortunately, Blaney’s only car was destroyed in a grinding practice crash, forcing the team to withdraw.

Humphrey’s team struggled to adjust to NASCAR’s new qualifying format.  They failed to qualify for the next four races, then withdrew from the next two.  Finally, at Texas, Blaney squeezed into the field in the 35th starting spot, besting four “go-or-go-homers,” then nearly ran the whole race before steering issues left him 41st.  Driver and team looked to build on this at Darlington, scene of one of Blaney’s best career finishes in 2003.

At Darlington, Blaney again made the field, timing in 36th at an average speed of 179.606 mph, bumping David Reutimann’s Front Row Motorsports #35 out of the field.  He had bested Reutimann in both practice sessions, turning in the 32nd-fastest time in the opening practice session and 33rd in Happy Hour.  However, Blaney’s #77 Ford was still flat white without any sponsorship.

In the race, Blaney was the first driver to take 43rd from Joe Nemechek when Blaney pulled the #77 behind the wall on Lap 33.  Blaney returned to the track on Lap 87 to catch Ryan Truex, who had crashed his #83 Borla Exhaust Toyota on Lap 42.  Blaney passed Truex, only to fall ot once more around Lap 115, still 30 laps short of catching Michael Annett, who also lost several laps after a cut tire on Lap 94.  On Lap 129, Truex then returned to the track 88 laps down, and he knocked Blaney to 43rd for good on Lap 155.

Annett returned to the track after Lap 200 before another cut tire knocked him out of the race after he completed less than ten more circuits.  Truex ended up passing Paul Menard, who on Friday broke the track record in the first round of qualifying, but also had a pair of tire issues in the middle stages of the race.  Like Menard, Truex finished the race under power, though fifteen laps from the overheating Chevrolet of Annett’s teammate Reed Sorenson, who rounded out the Bottom Five.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This is the first last-place finish for the #77 since June 26, 2011, when P.J. Jones’ Speed Energy / GNC Dodge broke the suspension after 5 laps of the Toyota / Save Mart 350 at the Sonoma Raceway.  The number hasn’t finished last here since March 24, 1996, when Bobby Hillin, Jr.’s Jasper Engines Ford was involved in a crash after 29 laps of the TranSouth Financial 400.
*This is Blaney’s first last-place finish in a Cup Series race at Darlington.
*This is the first last-place finish for a Randy Humphrey-owned Cup car since last July at New Hampshire, when Mike Bliss’ #19 Plinker Tactical Toyota fell out with rear gear problems after 75 laps of the Camping World RV Sales 301.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #77-Dave Blaney / 65 laps / brakes
42) #7-Michael Annett / 101 laps / crash
41) #27-Paul Menard / 270 laps / running
40) #83-Ryan Truex / 274 laps / running
39) #36-Reed Sorenson / 289 laps / overheating

LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Aric Almirola, Dave Blaney, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Timmy Hill, Michael McDowell, Joe Nemechek, Morgan Shepherd, Martin Truex, Jr. (1)

LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #33-Circle Sport, #43-Richard Petty Motorsports, #66-Michael Waltrip Racing / NEMCO-JRR Motorsports, #77-Randy Humphrey Racing, #78-Furniture Row Racing, #87-NEMCO-JRR Motorsports, #88-Hendrick Motorsports, #95-Leavine Family Racing (1)

LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet, Ford (3)
2nd) Toyota (2)

N’WIDE: Koch Edges Teammate Green As TriStar Continues LASTCAR Dominance

SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin' Forums
Blake Koch picked up the 8th last-place finish of his NASCAR Nationwide Series career in Friday’s VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 at the Darlington Raceway when his #10 SupportMilitary.org Toyota fell out with a vibration after he completed 2 of the race’s 147 laps.

The finish was Koch’s fourth of the 2014 season and his second in a row, following last week’s run at Texas.  For TriStar Motorsports, it is their twelfth consecutive last-place finish.  Jeff Green, NASCAR’s all-time last-place finisher and the driver with this season’s other three last-place runs, finished next-to-last in TriStar’s #91, four laps behind.

40 cars showed up to fill the 40-car field, so Koch secured the final starting spot for the second consecutive week, this time putting up a lap of 156.015 mph.  Koch only participated in the final practice session, putting up the 37th-fastest time out of 39 drivers.  The only driver to skip that session was teammate Jeff Green, who started two spots in front of Koch in 38th.

At the start of the race, Koch remained at the back, then pulled behind the wall in the opening laps.  Green followed four laps later.

Ahead of Koch and Green in the finishing order was Matt DiBenedetto, who earned his sixth-consecutive bottom-five finish in The Motorsports Group’s #46 Chevrolet.  Ryan Sieg came home 37th following a hard crash on the backstretch in his #39 Damn Good Jerky Chevrolet.  Rounding out the Bottom Five was Matt Carter, who gave the JGL Racing #13 its third Bottom Five in its last three starts and its second in a row.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This is the first Nationwide Series last-place finish for Koch, TriStar Motorsports, and the #10 at Darlington.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #10-Blake Koch / 2 laps / vibration
39) #91-Jeff Green / 6 laps / brakes
38) #46-Matt DiBenedetto / 7 laps / overheating
37) #39-Ryan Sieg / 16 laps / crash
36) #13-Matt Carter / 30 laps / rear gear

LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Blake Koch (4)
2nd) Jeff Green (3)

LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #10-TriStar Motorsports (5)
2nd) #91-TriStar Motorsports (2)

LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Toyota (7)

Monday, April 7, 2014

CUP: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Scores First Last-Place Finish Since 2007

SOURCE: Motorsport.com, Action Sports Photography
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. picked up the 7th last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Monday’s Duck Commander 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway when his #88 National Guard Chevrolet was involved in a scary single-car accident after he completed 12 of the race’s 340 laps.

The finish was Earnhardt, Jr.’s first of the 2014 season and his first while driving for Hendrick Motorsports.  It is also his first last-place finish in 225 Cup Series races, dating back to November 11, 2007 and the Checker Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix.  That day, in his next-to-last race in DEI’s #8 Budweiser Chevrolet, Earnhardt, Jr. was taken out in another single-car crash after he completed 118 laps.  He has never finished last in 130 NASCAR Nationwide Series races.

After seven Cup Series races, we now have seven different race winners, seven different pole winners, and seven different last-place finishers.

Earnhardt, Jr. came into the race as the point leader and one of the favorites to win at the site of his maiden Cup victory in 2000.  The popular third-generation driver won the season-opening Daytona 500 and finished outside the Top 12 just once - a 24th at Bristol.  Last week at Martinsville, he led 25 laps and was within sight of the leaders when he checkered flag fell.

At Texas, Earnhardt, Jr. was 4th in the opening practice, 25th in the second, and timed in 19th at an average speed of 193.354 mph.  He also made a rare start in Friday’s Nationwide Series event, starting 4th and finishing 5th.  Rain then delayed the Cup race from Sunday afternoon to Monday at noon.

In order to finish drying the track, the opening ten laps of Monday’s race were run under the caution flag.  During those laps, 43rd ended up changing hands a few times as several drivers, most notably Brad Keselowski, were forced to make unscheduled stops for hoods and flaps damaged by the speedway’s track dryers.  NASCAR gave those drivers their spots back prior to the Lap 11 green flag, so 43rd-place starter David Ragan retained the spot.

Landon Cassill and his Hillman Racing #40 Chevrolet had just fallen to 43rd when the caution came out once more on Lap 14.  Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was following Aric Almirola through the quad-oval when he cut the exit too close, causing his left-front to cross the grass.  Instantly, the sopping-wet turf gripped his splitter, ripping it under his car and sending him hard into the Turn 1 wall.  His car on fire, Earnhardt, Jr. managed to stop it safely on the apron, and he climbed out quickly and unharmed.

Although the #88 crew tried to fix their battered Chevrolet, they soon packed up, ending their day.  This was a saving grace for Kevin Harvick, who just after losing the lead blew an engine on Lap 28, ending his day.  Earnhardt, Jr.’s crash was all that kept Harvick from his first last-place finish in 473 Cup starts, leaving him instead with his third career 42nd-place run.

The remainder of the Bottom Five completed almost the entire distance, continuing a trend that started at Las Vegas.  In 41st was Dave Blaney, who after four DNQs and two withdrawals, finally gave team owner Randy Humphrey his first start of the year.  He was running nine laps down when steering problems ended his day.  In 40th was Parker Kligerman, whose difficult rookie season continued with late overheating issues.  And rounding out the Bottom Five was Kurt Busch, who brought out three of the last four cautions, including a spectacular left-rear tire failure that forced a green-white-checkered finish when eventual race winner Joey Logano was just a few hundred feet from the finish line.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*Earnhardt, Jr. is the first driver to win the Daytona 500 and finish last in a Cup race since 2009, when Matt Kenseth won the 500 and the following race at Fontana before his #17 USG Sheetrock Ford finished last in the season’s third round at Las Vegas.
*This is the first last-place finish for Hendrick Motorsports in a Cup Series race since April 26, 2009, when Mark Martin’s #5 Carquest / Kellogg’s Chevrolet crashed out after seven laps of the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega.
*This is the first last-place finish for the #88 in a Cup Series race since May 28, 2006 when Dale Jarrett’s UPS Ford crashed on the opening lap of the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte.  Prior to that, the number hadn’t finished last in Cup since the same event sixteen years earlier (Larry Pearson).  The number had never before finished last in a Cup race at Texas.

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.’S OTHER CUP SERIES LAST-PLACE FINISHES
*July 11, 1999
Ignition failure after 44 laps of the Jiffy Lube 300 at New Hampshire
*February 26, 2001
Crash after 0 laps of the Dura Lube 400 at Rockingham
*August 7, 2005
Crash after 62 laps of the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard
*July 16, 2006
Engine failure after 134 laps of the Lenox Industrial Tools 300 at New Hampshire
*July 23, 2006
Crash after 115 laps of the Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono
*November 11, 2007
Crash after 118 laps of the Checker Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix

THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #88-Dale Earnhardt, Jr. / 12 laps / crash
42) #4-Kevin Harvick / 28 laps / engine / led 1 lap
41) #77-Dave Blaney / 272 lap / steering
40) #30-Parker Kligerman / 313 laps / overheating
39) #41-Kurt Busch / 327 laps / crash

LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Aric Almirola, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Timmy Hill, Michael McDowell, Joe Nemechek, Morgan Shepherd, Martin Truex, Jr. (1)

LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #33-Circle Sport, #43-Richard Petty Motorsports, #66-Michael Waltrip Racing / NEMCO-JRR Motorsports, #78-Furniture Row Racing, #87-NEMCO-JRR Motorsports, #88-Hendrick Motorsports, #95-Leavine Family Racing (1)

LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (3)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (2)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

N’WIDE: Koch Keeps 2014 Nationwide Last-Place Battle The Tale Of Two Drivers

SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin' Forums
Blake Koch picked up the 7th last-place finish of his NASCAR Nationwide Series career in Friday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at the Texas Motor Speedway when his #10 SupportMilitary.org Toyota fell out with a vibration after he completed 2 of the race’s 200 laps.

The finish was Koch’s third of 2014 and his first since Bristol, two races ago.  Koch and teammate Jeff Green have each scored half of the season’s six last-place finishes.  Koch also extends TriStar’s last-place streak to eleven consecutive races.

Koch was 35th-fastest of the 40 entered cars in the first practice session, did not participate in Happy Hour, and secured the 40th and final starting spot with an average speed of 170.929 mph.

In the race, Koch’s Toyota was the first car behind the wall, but the battle for 39th stretched longer than usual.  It first appeared that Derrike Cope, once a last-place record holder, would edge Matt DiBenedetto’s #46 The Motorsports Group Chevrolet for 39th.  Cope lost laps in the early stages with engine woes on his #70 Youtheory Chevrolet.  However, Cope returned to the track just long enough to pass DiBendetto before the engine let go.  All three of DiBenedetto’s next-to-last-place finishes have come during Koch’s last-place runs in 2014.

Rounding out the Bottom Five were two entries from Gregg Mixon’s JGL Racing Team.  Mike Wallace, who finished no worse than 26th in his first five starts in Mixon’s #28 Dodge, moved to the #13 Toyota previously driven by Matt Carter at Bristol and fell out after 23 laps.  Teammate Derek White, who jumped in Wallace’s #28, fell out with transmission problems six laps later.  The third JGL entry, a #93 Dodge fielded by J.J. Yeley, finished 16th.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*TriStar Motorsports’ #10 Toyota has now finished last in three consecutive Nationwide Series races at Texas, and four of the last five.  It is, however, Koch’s first last-place finish at this track.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #10-Blake Koch / 2 laps / vibration
39) #46-Matt DiBenedetto / 5 laps / vibration
38) #70-Derrike Cope / 6 laps / engine
37) #13-Mike Wallace / 23 laps / electrical
36) #28-Derek White / 29 laps / transmission

LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Jeff Green, Blake Koch (3)

LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #10-TriStar Motorsports (4)
2nd) #91-TriStar Motorsports (2)

LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Toyota (6)

Sunday, March 30, 2014

CUP: Joe Nemechek Becomes All-Time Leader In NASCAR Cup Series Last-Place Finishes

SOURCE: NASCAR Media
Joe Nemechek picked up the 33rd last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s STP 500 at the Martinsville Speedway when his #66 Land Castle Title Toyota was involved in a single-car accident on Lap 315, ending his race after 310 of the race’s 500 laps.

The finish is Nemechek’s first last-place finish of the season and his first since last August at Bristol, eighteen races ago.  After six Cup Series races, we not only have six different winners, but six different last-place finishers.  It’s the most competitive start to the LASTCAR season since 2012, when eight different drivers finished last in the first eight races.  There is also a tie in the 2014 LASTCAR Manufacturer’s Championship as Chevrolet, Ford, and Toyota have all finished last on two occasions.

With the finish, Nemechek now holds the record for the most last-place finishes in the history of the Sprint Cup Series.  From last August until Sunday, Nemechek had shared the record with the late J.D. McDuffie, who had held the record since his 20th finish on September 7, 1980.  McDuffie scored his 32nd and final last-place finish in his 27th season during his 653rd Cup start, following his tragic fifth-lap accident at Watkins Glen on August 11, 1991.  Nemechek broke McDuffie’s record in just 22 seasons, coming in his 655th start.

Nemechek’s 2014 season sees the veteran in a technical alliance between his NEMCO Motorsports team, already merged with Jay Robinson Racing, and Michael Waltrip Racing.  MWR allied itself with Nemechek so the veteran could help keep the #66 team running the whole season.  Other than Waltrip’s run in the Daytona 500 and Jeff Burton’s at Las Vegas, Nemechek has run the #66 in place of his familiar #87, though with his own NEMCO-JRR equipment.  Prior to Sunday, Nemechek’s best finish came last Sunday at Fontana, where he finished 32nd.

Friday at Martinsville, Nemechek was the second-slowest car in the weekend’s only practice session, turning in a lap just two tenths faster than 44th-ranked Michael Annett.  Locked-into the race already, Nemechek secured the 43rd starting spot with a lap of 96.332 mph, the slowest lap of the session.

The race was barely 10 seconds old when Parker Kligerman’s crash-marred rookie season continued with an opening-lap crash.  Several cars checked-up entering the third corner, and Kligerman’s #30 Swan Energy Toyota slammed the rear of another car, then the sand barrels at the entrance to pit road.  Kligerman went behind the wall without completing a single lap.  He did not return until Lap 83, minus most of the car’s sheetmetal.

Kligerman remained 43rd for most of the race while several cars, including Nemechek’s, lost laps to the leaders.  Then, on Lap 200, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. spun Jamie McMurray into the outside wall, causing severe damage to the rear of McMurray’s Chevrolet.  With the 42 other cars still running at that moment, McMurray slipped down to 42nd by Lap 256, then behind Kligerman for 43rd on Lap 288.  McMurray returned to the track on Lap 303.  However, now more than eighty laps behind the leaders, it appeared the Missouri driver would score just the second last-place finish of his Cup career and his first since 2008.

Then, on Lap 315, Joe Nemechek lost his brakes and backed hard into the Turn 4 wall, bringing out the tenth caution of the afternoon.  Five laps down at the time, Nemechek was already near the Bottom Five, and the car was damaged severe enough to make him the first retiree of the race.  With so many cars running several laps down at that point, his #66 didn’t fall to 43rd until Lap 415.  McMurray and Kligerman remained 42nd and 41st, both of them still under power at the checkers.

Joining Nemechek, McMurray, and Kligerman in the Bottom Five were Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., who smacked the Turn 2 wall on Lap 103, then spent several laps behind the wall in the closing stages, and David Stremme, whose first start of 2014 in the Circle Sport #33 was marred by early nose damage and his own extended stay in the garage area.

The only other retiree besides Nemechek was Michael McDowell, who on Friday squeezed his #95 Triangle Office Equipment Ford into the race, but on Sunday lost his brakes after he completed 474 laps, leaving him 37th.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This is the first last-place finish for the #66 in a Cup race at Martinsville since October 20, 2002, when Japanese driver Hideo Fukuyama and his Standing Together / World Berries Ford fell out with crash damage after he completed 400 of the 500 laps of the Old Dominion 500.  Curiously, the winner of that race was Sunday’s winner Kurt Busch, his only other victory at the Virginia short track.
*This is Nemechek’s first last-place finish in a Cup race at Martinsville since April 3, 2011, when his #87 AM FM Energy / Pellet & Wood Stoves Toyota fell out with brake problems after he completed 25 of the race’s 500 laps.
*Nemechek’s 310 laps are the most completed by a Martinsville last-place finisher since March 30, 2008, when Dave Blaney’s #22 Caterpillar Toyota fell out with engine trouble after 374 laps.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #66-Joe Nemechek / 310 laps / crash
42) #1-Jamie McMurray / 396 laps / running
41) #30-Parker Kligerman / 408 laps / running
40) #17-Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. / 409 laps / running
39) #33-David Stremme / 440 laps / running

LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Aric Almirola, Timmy Hill, Michael McDowell, Joe Nemechek, Morgan Shepherd, Martin Truex, Jr. (1)

LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #33-Circle Sport, #43-Richard Petty Motorsports, #66-Michael Waltrip Racing / NEMCO-JRR Motorsports, #78-Furniture Row Racing, #87-NEMCO-JRR Motorsports, #95-Leavine Family Racing (1)

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

TRUCKS: Alex Guenette Scores First NASCAR Last-Place Finish

SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin' Forums
Alex Guenette picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Sunday’s Kroger 250 at the Martinsville Speedway when his #74 Motos Illimitees Chevrolet fell out with a broken oil pump after he completed 32 of the race’s 256 laps.  The finish came in Guenette’s second series start.

Guenette, a 17-year-old Canadian driver from Terrebonne, Quebec, turned heads with a solid 10th-place showing in the 2013 championship for the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, including a runner-up finish to Scott Steckly at the Autodrome St. Eustache.  With the Truck Series making its first trip to Canada in last August’s race at the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Guenette scored a ride with Rod Sieg’s team.  He qualified 14th out of 30 drivers, but ended up 25th with a busted oil line.

Martinsville would be Guenette’s next attempt, and his first with his Canadian Tire Series sponsor Motos Illimitees on his Chevrolet.  Guenette would this time be driving the #74 entry owned by Mike Harmon, a Chevrolet with the 2013 body still on the truck.  Harmon’s Daytona driver Chris Cockrum ended up 35th in the field of 36 after Cockrum was caught-up in a multi-truck crash.

Guenette timed in 26th in the opening session, then improved to 11th-fastest out of 34, five spots ahead of eventual race winner Matt Crafton.  Saturday’s qualifying was rained out along with the race, and when Ted Minor withdrew his #12, along with both RSS Racing trucks, the 36 remaining made up the starting lineup.  Guenette earned the 24th starting spot.

The green flag flew on Sunday afternoon, and Jennifer Jo Cobb’s #10 Dodge was the first to lose a lap on Lap 10.  Jo Cobb got her lap back when Norm Benning’s spin brought out the yellow a few laps later.  Benning’s #57 Chevrolet held the final spot until Guenette pulled behind the wall on Lap 25.  Though he would return to the race to run seven additional laps, fuel pump issues then ended the Canadian’s race for good.

Rounding out the Bottom Five were local driver Raymond Terczak, Jr., who spun early in the race, then eventually fell out of his Truck Series debut with brake troubles, and Josh Williams making his 2014 debut in the #66 Southwest Florida Cable Construction Ford.  Bryan Silas and Spencer Gallagher were involved in a grinding Lap 122 crash when Gallagher’s #23 Allegiant Air Chevrolet was dumped by Caleb Holman entering Turn 1, sending him into the path of Silas’ #99 Bell Trucks America Chevrolet.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This was the first last-place finish for the #74 in a Truck Series race since this same event in 2012, when Rick Crawford lost the brakes on Harmon’s Chevrolet after six laps.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
36) #74-Alex Guenette / 32 laps / fuel pump
35) #56-Raymond Terczak, Jr. / 52 laps / brakes
34) #66-Josh Williams / 82 laps / brakes
33) #99-Bryan Silas / 120 laps / crash
32) #23-Spencer Gallagher / 122 laps / crash

LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Alex Guenette, Jason White (1)

LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #74-Mike Harmon, #93-RSS Racing (1)

LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (2)