Sunday, September 14, 2014

CUP: Bliss Ties Blaney, Ends McDowell’s Chicagoland Last-Place Streak At Three

SOURCE: @TBR_Racing
Mike Bliss picked up the 17th last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s MyAFibStory.com 400 at the Chicagoland Speedway when his #37 Accell Construction, Inc. Chevrolet fell out with a vibration after he completed 13 of the race’s 267 laps.

The finish was Bliss’ third of the 2014 season and his first since Atlanta, two races ago.  With nine races to go, Bliss and Dave Blaney are now tied for the most last-place finishes this season.  However, since no other driver has finished last more than once, the 2014 LASTCAR Cup Series Championship is still anyone’s to claim.

At Chicagoland, 43 cars showed up for as many spots, and when qualifying was rained-out, Bliss’ practice speed secured him the 40th starting spot.  Bliss remained 40th in Saturday’s opening practice, then along with Joe Nemechek in the #66 Royal Teak Toyota, did not turn a lap in Happy Hour.

On Sunday, Joey Gase, who trailed all three of the weekend’s practice sessions, made his Cup debut from the 43rd spot in Frank Stoddard’s #32 Zimmer Ford.  He was joined before the start by Kyle Larson, who after securing the 10th spot on the grid wrecked his backup car on Saturday, sending him to the back.  Larson rocketed through the field early, and Gase lost 43rd to Bliss by Lap 4.  Ten laps later, Bliss pulled behind the wall, securing the 43rd spot.

Finishing 42nd on Sunday was Ryan Truex, whose #83 Burger King Toyota slowed in Turn 3 during the Lap 181 caution for loosened styrofoam blocks in the Turn 4 wall.  He returned to the track on the Lap 186 restart only to pull out soon after with brake issues.  In 41st was a very frustrated Aric Almirola, who was running 6th in the middle stages.  Just after taking the lead during pit stops on Lap 299, Almirola lost the engine on his #43 Eckrich Ford, leaving him the lowest-finishing Chase driver.

In 40th was Michael Annett, who slipped beneath Joe Nemechek and Joey Gase near the middle part of the race when mechanical woes sent his #7 TMC / Allstate Chevrolet behind the wall on Lap 148.  Annett returned to the track thirty laps later to climb past Truex and Almirola, but couldn’t catch 39th-place Clint Bowyer, who brought out the next-to-last yellow after his #15 Peak Radiator Guarantee Toyota smacked the wall in Turn 2.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This was Bliss’ first last-place finish in a Cup race at Chicagoland.
*This was the first last-place finish for the #37 in a Cup race at Chicagoland since July 11, 2004, when Chad Blount’s Carter’s Royal Dispos-All Dodge left the track with electrical issues after 3 laps of the Tropicana 400 Presented by Meijer.
*Bliss’ finish ends a streak of three-consecutive last-place finishes by Michael McDowell in this event - all three of which earned while driving for Phil Parsons.  On Sunday, McDowell ran the race for Leavine Family Racing in the #95 Thrivent Financial Ford and came home 32nd, five laps down.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #37-Mike Bliss / 13 laps / vibration
42) #83-Ryan Truex / 184 laps / brakes
41) #43-Aric Almirola / 230 laps / engine / led 2 laps
40) #7-Michael Annett / 233 laps / running
39) #15-Clint Bowyer / 244 laps / crash

LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Dave Blaney, Mike Bliss (3)
2nd) A.J. Allmendinger, Aric Almirola, Trevor Bayne, Clint Bowyer, Landon Cassill, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., David Gilliland, Denny Hamlin, Timmy Hill, 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 (3)
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, #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 (10)
2nd) Ford (7)

N’WIDE: Blake Koch's LASTCAR Lead Increases With Seven Races To Go

SOURCE: @KPokrefky
Blake Koch picked up the 12th last-place finish of his NASCAR Nationwide Series career in Saturday’s Jimmy John’s Freaky Fast 300 at the Chicagoland Speedway when his #10 Heroes Behind the Camo / SupportMilitary.org Toyota fell out with a vibration after he completed 5 of the race’s 200 laps.

The finish was Koch’s eighth of the season and his first since Indianapolis, seven races ago.  With seven races remaining, Koch now holds a three-finish lead over teammate and defending LASTCAR Nationwide Champion Jeff Green for the 2014 title.

Since Indianapolis, Koch had parked for TriStar Motorsports in four other races, finishing between 35th and 38th in each.  In the two other events, he finished 28th at Atlanta in TriStar’s #44 Wealth Without Borders / wwbworld.com Toyota and was 35th at Bristol in his first start of the year for Rick Ware in the #23 ABS Building Systems / JD Metals Chevrolet.  That same Bristol weekend, Koch made his first Truck Series start since Dover in the spring, coming home next-to-last in Mike Mittler’s #36 Mittler Bros. Machine & Tool RAM.

At Chicagoland, Koch put up the 39th-fastest speed in the opening practice, then despite a washout of Happy Hour, improved to 32nd in qualifying with a lap of 173.500 mph.  This was more than enough to best the four drivers who failed to qualify, including Carl Long in a post-entry for owner Derek White.

Before the start of the race, Cody Ware, named Friday as Rick Ware’s driver in place of Robert Richardson, Jr., was sent to the rear along with teammate Josh Reaume in the #87.  Six laps later, Koch followed the #46 The Motorsports Group entry of Ryan Ellis to the garage area, dropping the two to the rear.  NASCAR’s online leaderboard briefly credited Ellis with the spot, but it was later updated with Koch trailing the field.  Reaume finished 37th, felled by suspension issues.

Finishing between Reaume and Ellis was Canadian driver Martin Roy, whose first Nationwide start since Kentucky driving Mario Gosselin’s #90 Gamache Truck Center / Cote Chevrolet ended with engine troubles.  Rounding out the Bottom Five was 1990 Daytona 500 winner Derrike Cope, whose #70 Youtheory Chevrolet was taken out in a single-car crash on Lap 65.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This is the third Chicagoland last-place finish for TriStar Motorsports’ #10 and its second in a row in this event.  Both finishes were earned by Jeff Green in July 2012 and September 2013.  It is Koch’s first Chicagoland last-place finish in any of NASCAR’s top three divisions.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #10-Blake Koch / 5 laps / vibration
39) #46-Ryan Ellis / 5 laps / vibration
38) #90-Martin Roy / 26 laps / engine
37) #87-Josh Reaume / 29 laps / suspension
36) #70-Derrike Cope / 61 laps / crash

LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Blake Koch (8)
2nd) Jeff Green (5)
3rd) Kevin Lepage (3)
4th) Matt DiBenedetto (2)
5th) Tanner Berryhill, Ryan Ellis, 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 (10)
2nd) #46-The Motorsports Group (5)
3rd) #91-TriStar Motorsports (3)
4th) #74-Mike Harmon Racing (2)
5th) #17-Vision Racing, #23-R3 Motorsports, #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 (13)
2nd) Chevrolet (8)
3rd) Dodge (5)

TRUCKS: Mike Harmon’s Night At Chicagoland Ends On First Lap

SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin' Forums
Mike Harmon picked up the 5th last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Saturday’s Lucas Oil 225 at the Chicagoland Speedway when his unsponsored #74 Mike Harmon Racing Chevrolet fell out with a broken oil pump on the opening lap of the 150-lap race.

The finish was Harmon’s first of the 2014 season and his first in the Truck Series since April 14, 2013 at Rockingham, 34 races ago.

At the time of the Rockingham finish, Harmon was making his first Truck Series start since his team merged with that of fellow owner-driver Chris Fontaine.  Running Fontaine’s #84 in place of his usual #74, Harmon finished a season-best 22nd at Talladega, his third-best finish in the series behind a 15th at Darlington in 2010 and an 18th at Daytona in 2005.  It was a tumultuous 2013 for Harmon, who along with another man was charged with the theft of Jennifer Jo Cobb’s hauler - charges that were then dropped that October.

This season, Harmon has focused primarily on his Nationwide Series effort, which runs Dodges and Chevrolets with his more familiar #74.  Harmon drove in twelve in those starts with season-best finishes of 28th at Talladega and Michigan.

For Chicagoland, Harmon entered both the Nationwide and Truck Series races in identically-painted vehicles.  While Harmon failed to make the Nationwide field, all 32 who entered the Truck race made the show.  This included Thursday’s post-entries of Eldora last-placer Mike Affarano, whose #03 Won-N-Done Automotive Car Products Chevrolet had a new 2014 nose, and Adam Edwards in the red #57 Chevrolet out of Norm Benning’s stables.

Qualifying was rained-out, and as one of the five drivers who did not participate in Thursday’s opening practice session, Harmon secured the 31st spot on the grid.  He ran 26th-fastest of 27 trucks in Thursday’s Happy Hour.

Rain again pushed Friday’s race to Saturday evening.  During the pace laps, two-time last-place finisher Caleb Roark in Cobb’s #0 Grimes Irrigation & Construction Chevrolet and Kansas last-placer Scott Stenzel in Mike Mittler’s #36 Mittler Bros. Machine & Tool Chevrolet both volunteered to start at the back, surrendering the 26th and 30th starting spots, respectively.  They were joined by eventual race winner Kyle Busch, sent to the rear due to a driver change with Erik Jones after practice.

However, when the green flag dropped, two other trucks pulled off on the very first lap.  The first was Ted Minor, making his first start since Gateway in the #12 FindIT.net Chevrolet for owner Joey Cefalia.  The second truck was Harmon, who by virtue of his starting spot secured the last-place finish.  Within four laps, Edwards, Stenzel, and Roark rounded out the Bottom Five.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This is the first last-place finish at Chicagoland for both Harmon and the #74 since this same race in 2011, when his #74 @hrmn8ter Ford lost the transmission after 3 laps of the Fast Five 225.
*This is the first last-place finish for the #74 since earlier this year at Martinsville, when another #74 Chevrolet - this one owned by Mario Gosselin - trailed the field with Canadian driver Alex Guenette behind the wheel.
*Harmon is the first Truck Series driver with “oil pump” as the listed reason for retiring since May 16, 2004, when Chris Wimmer’s #63 Race Fans for a Cure Ford fell out after 26 laps of the UAW-GM Ohio 250 at Mansfield Motorsports Speedway.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
32) #74-Mike Harmon / 0 laps / oil pump
31) #12-Ted Minor / 0 laps / electrical
30) #57-Adam Edwards / 3 laps / engine
29) #36-Scott Stenzel / 3 laps / vibration
28) #0-Caleb Roark / 4 laps / vibration

LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Ryan Ellis, Justin Jennings, Caleb Roark (2)
2nd) Mike Affarano, Bryan Dauzat, Alex Guenette, Mike Harmon, Blake Koch, Charles Lewandoski, 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 (2)
3rd) #28-FDNY Racing, #42-Randy Young, #45-Regan Motorsports, #74-Mario Gosselin, #74-Mike Harmon, #93-RSS Racing, #03-Mike Affarano Motorsports (1)

LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (13)
2nd) RAM (2)

Sunday, September 7, 2014

OPINION: As Chase begins, NASCAR’s police work not yet over

Jimmy Insolo's backup car he drove for Bobby Allison, 1983
SOURCE: Scott Baker, www.bakerracingpix.com
When the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship begins next Sunday in Joliet, I am concerned that Chase teams will be tempted to manipulate the outcome through their technical alliances.  And I believe that manipulation will be evident in who finishes at the bottom of the field - and when they fall out of the race.

In NASCAR’s past, championship-eligible teams have entered backup cars in the season finale in order to make sure their driver had a car that would start on race day.  One of the earliest examples I’ve found was in 1983.  That year, Bobby Allison was gunning for his first-ever Winston Cup, having come close several times before.  At the mechanically-demanding road course in Riverside, California, his DiGard Racing team entered a second car to be driven by west coast driver Jimmy Insolo.  If Allison’s #22 Buick didn’t start, he was to jump into Insolo’s car with a “1” decal hastily applied to resemble a “12.”  Fortunately, Allison’s car did start, and he went on to claim his only season title.  Insolo, meanwhile, parked after just one lap, ending his 29th and final series start.

Richard Childress used the same strategy in 1993, having the late Neil Bonnett qualify a #31 Chevrolet for his close friend Dale Earnhardt.  Two years later, Rick Hendrick did the same to help Jeff Gordon win his first title, putting Jeff Purvis in a car that ended up actually finishing better than Gordon did that day.  And, more infamously, it was used by Jim Smith in the Truck Series finale at Homestead in 2003, much to the disgust of Brendan Gaughan.

This year, there’s a new championship format, and with it the chance that backup cars will again play a role.

I believe this strategy is all but certain to be used in the season finale at Homestead.  With the finishing order of one race determining which of four drivers will win the championship, it only makes sense that each team would ensure their backup car was in the field as well.  This is because the three alternatives are equally undesirable: (1) lose laps working on the car and any chance of racing the other three contenders, (2) frantically buy someone else’s ride in an unproven or underperforming car at the last minute, or (3) rely on NASCAR to make an “except in rare instances” waiver like in the 2001 All-Star Race.  Instead, like Allison, Gordon and Earnhardt, all four drivers can control their destiny, knowing they have another car they can run in case theirs doesn’t start.

It would be very easy for any of these teams to qualify backups.  First, NASCAR’s cap on the number of cars a team can enter has increased the number and depth of technical alliances, meaning that a single Chase team can potentially control several satellite teams.  Second, in 10 of the 26 Cup races run so far, 43 or fewer cars attempted to qualify.  This means that a backup Chase car has few backmarkers to contest for qualifying spots.  Third, a number of teams at the back of the field lack speed in qualifying and finish laps down in the race.  Again, this will work to the Chase teams’ advantage as their cars are more likely to run consistently-fast laps in NASCAR’s new qualifying format.

Whether or not these backup cars will continue to run after the primaries start up is unclear, and in reality, irrelevant.  The finishing position at Homestead - not the number of DNFs - will control who wins the title.  Once the primary car starts, the backup has served its purpose.

However, in the other nine Chase races, fans and officials alike should be very wary of teams using this exact same strategy to avoid elimination in the first three rounds.

NASCAR’s new bracket system has created four championship races in place of one, meaning that the sanctioning body will have to be even more vigilant than usual.  In each of these races, all of the Chase teams will be in the same position as Earnhardt in 1993, always keeping one eye on the back of the field to make sure they’re safe.  This is because, unlike Homestead, the number of DNFs will play a factor in how many points the title contenders can earn - or lose - in each race.  And that number can be easily manipulated.

Since 2009, the worst a Chase driver could finish was around the 39th spot as a handful of “start-and-park” teams left races early on a weekly basis, regularly filling spots 40th-43rd.  However, this year, few teams are employing the “start-and-park” model, and those that do only do so part-time.  This has resulted in 23 different drivers finishing last in the first 26 races for 22 different teams.  Chase drivers A.J. Allmendinger, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Denny Hamlin have all finished last in 2014, earning the fewest points possible.  A similar result in the Chase with, at most, two races to make it up, could prove disastrous.

Because of this, Chase teams may be tempted to enter backup cars in the other nine races and choose the moment they park - if at all - to score additional points.  This can be done defensively, such as parking a backup car at the very beginning before trouble strikes, or right when the Chase driver has an issue to keep the driver falling that one extra spot.  It can also be done offensively, holding off the parking of the car until after a Chase rival falls out, creating a 2-point gap in case disaster strikes their own car.  Using this strategy would also raise the points floor back to 2009 levels by populating the final few positions with “start-and-park” teams, keeping the Chase team from ever being in a position where they would finish last.

And, when it is done, it will be noticeable.  But only if NASCAR is willing to police it.

Using this strategy before Homestead flies in the face of the “100% rule” and all else that occurred in the aftermath of Michael Waltrip Racing’s alleged manipulation at Richmond last year.  It reduces the chance of sudden reversals of fortune that distinguish auto racing from other sports.  It also creates the possibility of a bidding war between teams who are essentially buying points by entering additional cars.  Some may be able to afford to enter more cars than others, giving them more influence in determining the final finishing order.  Others may resort to manipulating their technical alliances, working out arrangements with satellite teams to park their cars at opportune moments.  And underfunded teams bumped out of Chase race fields by backup cars could lose the valuable purse money they need to survive.

So, when the Chase begins, take a moment to glance down at the bottom of the running order.  Not just because there’s a good LASTCAR championship battle - but because that will be where the battle for the real trophy is being waged.

CUP: J.J. Yeley Gives #93 Its First Richmond Last-Place Finish Since 1966

SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin' Forums
J.J. Yeley picked up the 13th last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at the Richmond International Raceway when his #93 Burger King Toyota fell out with brake problems after he completed 31 of the race’s 400 laps.

The finish was Yeley’s first of the 2014 season and his first in a Cup Series race since last fall at Charlotte, 31 races ago.  The #93 BK Racing team now has sole possession of the lead in the 2014 LASTCAR Cup Series Owner’s Championship, having earned three last-place runs with three different drivers (the other two being Mike Bliss at New Hampshire and Johnny Sauter at Pocono).

Last year, the journeyman Yeley was driving for Tommy Baldwin Racing, taking over for Dave Blaney in the #36 Golden Corral Chevrolet.  The season began on a high note with a 10th in the season-opening Daytona 500 - his first top-ten finish in nearly five years.  However, after only one other finish better than 24th and two last-place runs, Yeley was released at season’s end.

This year, Yeley found his way to the Xxxtreme Motorsports, a single-car operation that made its first Cup start at Phoenix in late 2012 with David Reutimann behind the wheel, then ran six more races with Scott Riggs in 2013.  Like many other start-up teams, Cohen’s distinctive-looking #44 No Label Watches Fords left the track early in each of those seven starts with no finishes outside the Bottom Five, including three last-place runs.

For 2014, the team looked to run longer distances, and in more races.  To that end, Yeley was hired and the team switched to Chevrolet.  Their first attempt of the season came at Las Vegas, where Yeley made his first of 22 Nationwide Series starts for JGL Racing.  Though he finished 21st in Nationwide, in Cup, Yeley wound up the slowest of five DNQs.  Xxxtreme withdrew from Bristol, then headed to Texas, where they were again the slowest of the four who didn’t make the show.  After withdrawing from the next race at Darlington, the team again looked to reorganize when they were awarded a new opportunity.

Swan Racing’s two-car operation closed its doors after the race at Darlington.  In the aftermath, rookie teammates Cole Whitt and Parker Kligerman were sent in different directions.  Whitt and Swan’s #26 became a third team out of the BK Racing stables.  Kligerman lost his ride with the #30, and Xxxtreme bought up the owner points to lock their team into its first race of the season at Richmond.  Running the #30 for that night only, Yeley ran all but 20 of the night’s 400 laps before an engine failure left him 40th.

Over the next ten races after switching the car number back to #44, Yeley and Xxxtreme continued to struggle for consistency.  Two more engine failures at Kansas and Dover left him 41st and 39th, respectively, and in between came two more DNQs at Talladega and Charlotte.  Two races later at Pocono, Yeley gave the team its first finish under power, coming home 38th.  He continued to improve for the next two races, coming home 36th at Michigan and 34th at Sonoma.  But after back-to-back withdrawals from Kentucky and Loudon, Xxxtreme suspended operations once more to move into a new shop.  

Yeley’s next race came last month at Michigan, when he drove the #83 Burger King Toyota in relief of Ryan Truex, injured in hard practice crash.  Yeley came home 30th that day - a season-best - and after two races in FAS Lane Racing’s #32 Ford, he was invited back by BK Racing to drive the team’s “start-and-park” #93 at Richmond.  In three previous starts, the #93 had been one of BK Racing driver Alex Bowman’s backup #23 cars sponsored by Dr. Pepper.  For Richmond, the car was black with Burger King graphics, indicating it was likely one of Ryan Truex’s backup #83 cars instead.

44 cars showed up to try and make the field for Saturday’s race.  In Friday’s opening practice, Yeley timed in 42nd, then ended up the slowest of the field in Happy Hour.  This put Yeley in danger of missing the show to Clay Rogers, a 33-year-old short tracker that was looking to make his Sprint Cup debut.  Rogers drove the #75 Beard Oil Chevrolet, which was fielded by longtime Nationwide Series owner Mark Beard.  After withdrawing from July’s race at New Hampshire, Rogers put up surprising numbers, jumping from 43rd in the first practice to 39th in Happy Hour.

However, in qualifying, Rogers remained 39th, just three spots away from making the field.  Yeley was thus able to fall back on Owner’s Points and score the 38th spot with an average speed of 123.164 mph.

Ryan Truex started last in Saturday’s race, but after just one lap, he was passed by the trio of Yeley, Joe Nemechek in the #66 Friedman Law Firm Toyota, and Mike Bliss in the #37 Accell Construction Chevrolet.  Nemechek took 43rd on Lap 2, fell a half-second behind the field, and was the first car to be lapped on Lap 20.  Nemechek and Yeley traded the spot briefly with the former retaking it on Lap 23, then the latter on Lap 31.  At that point, Yeley had pulled behind the wall.

Despite stifling temperatures and long green-flag runs, Yeley was the night’s only retiree.  This left open the possibility that Chase contenders could plummet as far as 42nd in the final running order.  The only one to fall was Matt Kenseth, whose #20 Dollar General Toyota made contact with the outside wall around Lap 123.  Damage to the right-front suspension cost him 67 laps, leaving him 42nd for much of the night.  He gained only one spot by the checkered flag, passing Ryan Truex’s ill-handling car with just 84 laps left.  Nemechek, just 12 laps in arrears, came home 40th with Travis Kvapil, nine laps down, rounding out the Bottom Five.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This was the first last-place finish for the #93 in a Cup race at Richmond since May 15, 1966, when Bill Seifert’s 1964 Ford lost oil pressure after 1 lap of the Richmond 250.
*This was Yeley’s first last-place finish in a Cup race at Richmond since April 30, 2011, when his #46 Red Line Oil Chevrolet had electrical problems after he completed 38 laps of the Crown Royal presents the Matthew and Daniel Hansen 400.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #93-J.J. Yeley / 31 laps / brakes
42) #83-Ryan Truex / 313 laps / running
41) #20-Matt Kenseth / 330 laps / running
40) #66-Joe Nemechek / 388 laps / running
39) #32-Travis Kvapil / 391 laps / running

LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Dave Blaney (3)
2nd) Mike Bliss (2)
3rd) A.J. Allmendinger, Aric Almirola, Trevor Bayne, Clint Bowyer, Landon Cassill, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., David Gilliland, Denny Hamlin, Timmy Hill, 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 (3)
2nd) #37-Tommy Baldwin Racing, #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, #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 (10)
2nd) Chevrolet (9)
3rd) Ford (7)

N’WIDE: Crash Leaves Lepage With Fourth Last-Place Finish at Richmond

SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin' Forums
Kevin Lepage picked up the 15th last-place finish of his NASCAR Nationwide Series career in Friday’s Virginia 529 College Savings 250 at the Richmond International Raceway when his #74 Kengor Metals Dodge was involved in a two-car accident that ended his night after he’d completed 2 of the race’s 250 laps.

The finish was Lepage’s third of the 2014 season and his first since Chicagoland, seven races ago.  With eight races to go, Lepage now sits two and four finishes behind TriStar Motorsports teammates Jeff Green and Blake Koch, respectively, in the 2014 LASTCAR Nationwide Series standings.

The preliminary entry list for Richmond had 43 cars for 40 spots, but by Tuesday the number dropped by one after the withdrawal of the #86 RaceTrac Convenience Stores Chevrolet to be fielded by Rick Ware.  The withdrawal may have had something to do with the lack of an assigned driver for the Richmond race.  The next day, Lepage was announced as the weekend’s driver of Mike Harmon’s #74.

Lepage did not participate in Thursday’s opening practice session, then put up the 40th-fastest time of the 41 who ran during Happy Hour.  On Friday, he qualified 31st for the race at an average speed of 116.974 mph, bumping out the #17 NationalCashLeners.com Dodge of Tanner Berryhill and the #70 Youtheory Chevrolet of former LASTCAR record holder Derrike Cope.

Though listed as an unsponsored entry during practice, by Friday, Lepage’s Dodge carried decals on the quarter-panels from Kengor Metals, a machine shop which had previously sponsored Lepage in his most recent start at Bristol last month as well as at Charlotte in the fall of 2012.

On Lap 3 of Friday’s race, a three-wide mid-pack battle between J.J. Yeley, Jamie Dick, and Jeff Green entering Turn 1 resulted in Yeley making contact with Dick, sending his #55 Viva Chevrolet sliding sideways down the track.  Lepage, running several positions behind at the time, tried to find a way through on the inside of the stopped car of Joey Gase.  However, Dick’s car stopped in Lepage’s path, and the two collided.  Gase and Yeley drove away unscathed.

Lepage’s Dodge suffered severe damage to the right-front that ruptured the radiator and sent him behind the wall.  Dick’s rear end housing came loose in the wreck, and after trying to return to competition under the ensuing caution, his car trailed smoke, forcing him to retire as well.  In between, both Matt Frahm in the #46 and Blake Koch in the #91 pulled their cars behind the wall, filling four of the bottom-five positions in the first five laps.

Rounding out the Bottom Five was Morgan Shepherd, whose #89 Racing With Jesus / Courtney Construction Chevrolet slowed on the backstretch after 19 laps, then pulled out soon after with transmission issues.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This was Lepage’s fourth last-place finish in a Nationwide Series race at Richmond.
*This was the first last-place finish for Dodge in a Nationwide Series race at Richmond since April 30, 2010, when Brian Keselowski’s #92 DoubleTree Hotel / K-Automotive Motorsports Dodge lost the brakes after 5 laps of the BUBBA Burger 250.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #74-Kevin Lepage / 2 laps / crash
39) #46-Matt Frahm / 3 laps / rear gear
38) #91-Blake Koch / 4 laps / vibration
37) #55-Jamie Dick / 5 laps / crash
36) #89-Morgan Shepherd / 19 laps / transmission

LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Blake Koch (7)
2nd) Jeff Green (5)
3rd) Kevin Lepage (3)
4th) Matt DiBenedetto (2)
5th) Tanner Berryhill, Ryan Ellis, 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 (9)
2nd) #46-The Motorsports Group (5)
3rd) #91-TriStar Motorsports (3)
4th) #74-Mike Harmon Racing (2)
5th) #17-Vision Racing, #23-R3 Motorsports, #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 (12)
2nd) Chevrolet (8)
3rd) Dodge (5)

Sunday, August 31, 2014

CUP: Mike Bliss Gives TBR #37 Its Second-Straight Cup Series Last-Place Finish

SOURCE: @TBR_Racing
Mike Bliss picked up the 16th last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s Oral-B USA 500 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway when his #37 Accell Construction Inc. Chevrolet fell out with a vibration after he completed 23 of the race’s 335 laps.

The finish was Bliss’ second of the 2014 season and his first since Loudon, six races ago.  With eleven races to go, he now takes sole possession of second in the battle for the 2014 LASTCAR Cup Series Championship, one finish behind leader Dave Blaney.

For the Atlanta race, Bliss was tabbed to drive in place of Blaney in the #37, the part-time third entry Tommy Baldwin Racing debuted at Indianapolis in July.  Last Saturday at Bristol, Blaney pulled out of the Bristol race after 37 laps, giving him the LASTCAR lead.  Bliss, meanwhile, finished 17th in Bristol’s Nationwide race - his fourth-consecutive finish inside the Top 20.

44 cars showed up to attempt to qualify, but by one position in Owners Points, Bliss’ ride outranked the #77 Randy Humphrey Racing team, which for the first time had Joe Nemechek behind the wheel.  Bliss timed in 33rd in the opening practice, then improved in qualifying with the 28th-fastest time at a speed of 187.481 mph.  Nemechek, meanwhile, squeezed into the Top 36 by securing the 34th spot, leaving Michael McDowell and the Leavine Family Racing #95 with its first DNQ since Richmond in April.

Bliss was 40th-fastest in Saturday’s first practice, and was the ony driver to not participate in Happy Hour later that day.  He then participated in the night’s Nationwide event for TriStar Motorsports, extending his top-twenty streak with another 17th-place finish.

In Sunday’s race, Bliss’ teammate Reed Sorenson started last in a flat black #36 Chevrolet.  Bliss took 43rd on Lap 2, then was passed by Nemechek on Lap 9.  On Lap 17, Nemechek was the first to lose a lap to race leader Kevin Harvick.  But just six laps later, Bliss was the first car to pull behind the wall, securing him the last-place finish.

For the rest of the race, the remainder of the Bottom Five changed several times until four separate incidents made them the only other retirees of the night.  Finishing 42nd was Marcos Ambrose, who was running mid-pack when the engine on his #9 Stanley Tools / DeWalt Ford let go on the backstretch on Lap 125.  In 41st was Tony Stewart, making his first Cup start since his tragic sprint car accident on August 9th.  Stewart started 12th and contended early, only to hit the wall twice.  The second incident on Lap 173 tore up the right-front fender, ending his night.

40th spot went to A.J. Allmendinger, whose right-rear tire on his #47 Hungry Jack Chevrolet shredded in the opening stages, leaving debris that was picked up on the nose of Jimmie Johnson’s #48.  Allmendinger spent several laps behind the wall, then briefly returned before finally falling out in the closing stages.  39th-place Brad Keselowski started on the outside-pole and was running 3rd with just 27 laps to go when he was wrecked in Turn 4 during a sequence of green-flag stops.  Keselowski didn’t fall to 39th until five laps to go as Clint Bowyer’s gearbox problem cost him eleven laps in the garage.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This is the first last-place finish for the #37 in a Cup race at Atlanta since October 30, 2005, when Mike Skinner’s BoSPOKER.net Dodge was involved in a crash after he completed 5 laps of the Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500.
*This is the first time two different drivers finished last for the same team in consecutive Cup races since August 2012, when the late Jason Leffler lost fuel pressure on the #19 Humphrey Smith Racing Ford at Michigan, then Mike Bliss climbed aboard Humphrey’s #19 Toyota that lost power steering after 6 laps at Bristol.
*Bliss is the first Cup driver in 2014 to finish last with “vibration” as the official cause.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #37-Mike Bliss / 23 laps / vibration
42) #9-Marcos Ambrose / 122 laps / engine
41) #14-Tony Stewart / 170 laps / crash
40) #47-A.J. Allmendinger / 258 laps / vibration
39) #2-Brad Keselowski / 296 laps / crash / led 3 laps

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

LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #37-Tommy Baldwin Racing, #77-Randy Humphrey Racing, #93-BK Racing (2)
2nd) #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, #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 (9)
2nd) Ford (7)