Thursday, August 25, 2016

8/16/87: Cale Yarborough’s final last-place finish was his first at Michigan

SOURCE: John Walczak
On August 16, 1987, Cale Yarborough picked up the 17th last-place finish of his NASCAR Winston Cup Series career in the Champion Spark Plug 400 at the Michigan International Speedway when his #29 Hardee’s Oldsmobile fell out with a blown engine after 22 of 200 laps.

The last-place finish, which came in Yarborough’s 545th start, was his second of the season and the last of his career.

1987 marked Yarborough’s 30th season on the Cup tour, entering the year as one of the sport’s most experienced veterans.  He started his first race when he was only 18, coming home 42nd in a field of 50 for the eighth annual Southern 500 at Darlington.  He’d have to wait until June 27, 1965 to take his first checkered flag, besting the field by three laps at Georgia’s tiny Valdosta 75 Speedway.  But once he signed with the Wood Brothers, then Junior Johnson, he was never far from victory lane.

From 1967 through 1985, Yarborough scored another 82 victories, including a pair of 10-win seasons in 1974 and 1978.  The ‘78 campaign capped an unprecedented streak of championship dominance where he became the first driver to score three consecutive titles, a feat unmatched until 2008 by Jimmie Johnson.  He won four Daytona 500s, becoming just the second driver to win them in consecutive years in 1983 and 1984, racked-up a season-record 14 poles in 1980, and took five checkered flags in the Southern 500 between 1968 to 1982.

Yarborough’s longevity was largely due to his tenacious driving style, which also accounted for his number of last-place finishes.  Four times, he led laps early before engine failures or crashes left him at the back of the pack.  Eight times, he’d finished last after starting in the Top 10.  He’d also scaled-back to a partial schedule in 1981, when he signed with M.C. Anderson to drive the #27 Valvoline Buick, and ran 16 of the 29 races each year after, preferring the larger speedways of Daytona, Atlanta, Rockingham, Darlington, Charlotte, Pocono, Talladega, and Michigan.  Throughout his career, Yarborough won no fewer than twice at each track, accounting for 44 of his 83 career wins.

1987 was also a big year for Yarborough, who became an owner-driver for the first time in his career.  The familiar red-and-white Hardee’s Chevrolets and Fords he’d driven for Harry Ranier since 1983 had become his trademark, and he brought the sponsor and paint scheme with him to Cale Yarborough Motorsports.  For ‘87, the veteran would run a #29 Oldsmobile in place of Ranier’s #28, and again run his 16-race scheduled on NASCAR’s larger tracks.  He began the year strong, finishing 10th in the Daytona 500, and by summer earned a 4th at Pocono and a 5th at Talladega, but he was still searching for an 84th win.  The 1986 season, his last with Ranier, was Yarborough’s first without a win since 1972.  As the series rolled into Michigan, where Yarborough had won eight times previous, he looked for a turnaround.  His #29 had managed just 33rd there in June, sidelined by brake issues.

Winning the pole that weekend at Michigan was rookie driver Davey Allison, who took the controls of Yarborough’s old Ranier ride.  It was already the third career pole for Allison, who had also claimed his first two victories at Talladega and Dover.  “Psychologically, the pole is worth a lot,” said Allison in an interview with the Gadsden Times, “It gives our team a lot of confidence because we’re not a team that tricks things up for qualifying.  When we put our car on the pole, it’s on the polein race st-up and we know we’re going to be all right on race day.”  Allison’s #28 Havoline Ford put up a lap of 170.705mph.  Yarborough could only manage 32nd.

Nine drivers failed to qualify for the Champion Spark Plug 400, including Texas owner-driver H.B. Bailey, who made 12 starts at the two-mile track, Jocko Maggiacomo, and Eddie Bierschwale.  Also sent home was 34-year-old Tennessee native Rickey Hood, whose only two Cup attempts were both 1987 races at Michigan in the #38 Solar Sources Ford.

Starting last on Sunday was Greg Sacks, who after DiGard Racing closed now drove the #50 Valvoline Pontiac for the Dingman Brothers.  Two years after his lone Cup win at Daytona, Sacks was also attempting the same 16-race superspeedway schedule as Yarborough, but had faced even greater struggles.  Coming into Michigan, he’d run no better than 20th and failed to finish seven of his ten starts.  Ironically, this day at the races would see Sacks earn a season-best run of 19th, two laps down to race winner Bill Elliott.  Yarborough, however, would be out early with engine trouble.

Engine troubles accounted for four of the DNFs in the Bottom Five.  Three laps after Yarborough’s exit, Dale Jarrett, 84 points behind Allison in the Rookie of the Year standings, lost the motor on Eric Freedlander’s #18 Chevrolet.  Next was Derrike Cope, less than three years from his Daytona 500 victory, whose #19 Stoke Racing Ford fell out after 43 laps.  37th went to owner-driver Jimmy Means, his #52 Eureka Vacuum Cleaners Chevrolet knocked-out by engine woes after 65 laps.  A transmission failure rounded out the Bottom Five when New York driver Charlie Rudolph’s #04 Sunoco Chevrolet retired after 68 laps.  It was Rudolph’s fourth and final Cup start.

That day at Michigan also marked the 185th and final Cup start for Tim Richmond.  The third-place points man from the previous season was fast becoming one of the best drivers on the circuit when he was unexpectedly sidelined for the first part of the 1987 season.  Weakened by what was originally called “double-pneumonia,” Richmond returned to the series in June and won back-to-back races at Riverside and Pocono.  But by Michigan, his condition had worsened, so much so that he had to be carried by golf cart to the qualifying line.  He started 25th in his #25 Folger’s Coffee Chevrolet, but ended up 29th after a blown engine with 51 laps to go.  Two weeks later, Hendrick Motorsports issued a statement that, due to a “nagging cold,” Richmond wouldn’t return to defend his victory in the 1986 Southern 500.  Less than two years later, the 34-year-old succumbed to AIDS.

In 1988, Yarborough would start to put Dale Jarrett in his #29 for a handful of races.  Jarrett’s best run of 1988 came in Yarborough’s car at Riverside, where he came home 8th.  Yarborough made his final Cup start at Atlanta, going out with a 10th-place finish, the 319th Top Ten of his career.  Now the team’s full-time driver, Jarrett earned a pair of 5th-place runs at Martinsville and Phoenix in 1989.  Yarborough remained active as a team owner through the 1999 season, scoring a lone Cup win in the 1997 Pepsi 400 at Daytona with driver John Andretti.  His final driver, Rick Mast, ran the entire ‘99 season without a single DNF.

*This marked Yarborough’s first and only last-place finish in a Cup race at Michigan, a track where he won eight times in 36 starts.
*It was also the first - and so far, only - last-place finish for the #29 in a Cup race at Michigan.  The number hasn’t trailed a Cup race since September 15, 1996, when Chad Little’s Cartoon Network Chevrolet crashed after 3 laps of the MBNA 500 at Dover.

40) #29-Cale Yarborough / 22 laps / engine
39) #18-Dale Jarrett / 25 laps / engine
38) #19-Derrike Cope / 43 laps / engine
37) #52-Jimmy Means / 65 laps / engine
36) #04-Charlie Rudolph / 68 laps / transmission

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

CUP: Open Team Roundup - Bristol Night / Day

SOURCE: @RisingStarMG

#55 Premium Motorsports
Driver: Reed Sorenson
Started 36th, Finished 27th

For the first time all season, Premium Motorsports’ second team finished tops among the four Open teams, and did so by a wide margin - seven spots ahead of his teammate Cole Whitt.  Sorenson, Whitt, and Josh Wise all lost a lap before the rains came on Saturday night, but Sorenson managed to avoid an extended stay in the garage area on Sunday, putting him ahead of 10 chartered teams.  It also tied Sorenson’s second-best finish of the year at Kentucky in June.  Next week, Sorenson returns to Michigan, where in June he finished 31st driving Whitt’s #98.

#98 Premium Motorsports
Driver: Cole Whitt
Started 35th, Finished 34th

Cole Whitt’s #98 was once again covered in an array of sponsor, highlighted by Carolina Skiff, which ran as a primary for the first time in 2016.  Unfortunately, trouble under the hood forced Whitt to spend 51 laps in the garage area starting around the 172nd circuit, dropping him to last around Lap 210.  The Premium Motorsports team did manage to get Whitt back into competition, and he leaped six spots in the second half of the race.  Whitt heads to Michigan looking to back-up his 27th-place run in June.

#21 Wood Brothers Racing
Driver: Ryan Blaney
Started 4th, Finished 35th

Clad in the colors of Virginia Tech, Ryan Blaney once again showed speed, and just as in the spring ran as high as 2nd during the opening green-flag run on Sunday afternoon.  After the first round of pit stops under the competition caution, however, Blaney never ran quite that close to the front, leaving him in the wrong place at the wrong time.  On Lap 373, Blaney checked-up as cars wrecked in front of him on the frontstretch, only to find Matt Kenseth’s Toyota spinning sideways directly in his path.  The two cars collided, taking Kenseth out of the race and forcing the Wood Brothers to spend more than 60 laps in the garage.  In the end, Whitt nipped Blaney for 34th by five laps.  When the Cup Series last raced at Michigan in June, Blaney started 5th and came home 17th.

#30 The Motorsports Group
Driver: Josh Wise
Started 40th, Finished 36th

Rounding out the Open teams was Josh Wise, who started last and held 40th for much of the day after several trips to the garage area.  Had the attrition of the final 200 laps not happened, Wise would have secured his 4th last-place finish of the year.  But, like his competitors, The Motorsports Group kept their driver on the track, and he finished 84 laps down, ranking him ahead of Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, and last-placer Justin Allgaier.  Michigan saw Wise finish 30th in June.




#26 BK Racing
#35 Front Row Motorsports
#40 Hillman Racing
#59 Leavine Family / Circle Sport Racing
#93 BK Racing

None of the other part-time Open teams attempted the race in Bristol.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

CUP: Relief driver Justin Allgaier puts #46 last in second-straight Bristol night race

SOURCE: HScott Motorsports
Justin Allgaier picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Saturday and Sunday’s Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at the Bristol Motor Speedway when his #46 Pilot / Flying J / Battle at Bristol Chevrolet was involved in a four-car accident that ended his day after 354 of 500 laps.

The finish, which came in Allgaier’s 76th series start, was his first of the season in his first Cup start of 2016.

After two difficult full seasons in Sprint Cup with just one top-ten finish, Allgaier returned to XFINITY Series competition this year, bringing with him longtime sponsor Brandt Agriculture.  Teamed with JR Motorsports, Allgaier has assembled a respectable season, coming into Bristol 5th in series points with 18 Top Tens, 9 Top Fives, and two runner-up finishes, including a controversial “freeze the field” situation at Daytona.  Allgaier continued the momentum at the short track, finishing 2nd once more, this time behind Austin Dillon, lifting him to 3rd in series points.  Ordinarily, that would have been it for his Bristol weekend, and he’d set his sights on next Saturday’s round at Road America.  But it didn’t turn out that way.

Michael Annett was slated to run the #46 on Saturday, hoping to bounce back from a last-place run in the 2015 event where his engine shut down one-quarter of the way through the first lap.  To promote next month’s “Battle at Bristol” college football game between the University of Tennessee Volunteers and Virginia Tech Hokies, a game sponsored by Annett backers Pilot and Flying J, the Chevrolet would carry the same reversed scheme from the spring race with both team’s colors.  Annett ran 38th-fastest in both Friday’s practices and slipped to 39th in qualifying with a lap of 123.626mph.

Through the weekend, Annett was suffering from flu-like symptoms, and it was announced early Saturday that he would not be running the race.  Allgaier, who ran HScott’s #51 the last two years before he was replaced by Clint Bowyer, became the replacement.  The driver change meant Allgaier would move one spot back to the rear at the green flag.

On Saturday night, Allgaier joined last-place qualifier Josh Wise, his owner’s company Curtis Key Plumbing featured prominently on all corners of the #30 Chevrolet.  Wise had been forced to a backup after he blew a right-front tire in practice, damaging much of the right side of his machine.  Allgaier passed Wise by the end of the first lap, then on Lap 3 Jeffrey Earnhardt slowed on the apron of Turn 3.  Earnhardt reported no power on his #32 Can-Am / Kappa Ford and made an unscheduled stop for repairs.  On Lap 10, Earnhardt returned to the track eight laps behind.  He was nine down, still in last, when rain halted the night’s activities and pushed the race to Sunday.

Earnhardt re-started the race in 40th, and was quickly joined by Wise and Cole Whitt, who each made unscheduled green-flag stops that left them four and three laps behind, respectively.  On Lap 104, Wise slowed to make a second stop, this time for an extended stay, and finally wrestled last from Earnhardt on the 112th circuit.  By the time Wise returned to the track on Lap 135, he was 35 laps behind the leaders.  Cole Whitt then took his own turn behind the wall around Lap 172, dropping him to 39th behind Earnhardt, then behind Wise for last around Lap 210.  Whitt also returned to the track, his #98 circulating by Lap 224, 51 behind.

Next to enter the last-place battle was Tony Stewart, who on Lap 259 pulled behind the wall in his #14 Haas Automation Chevrolet.  Stewart, making his final Cup start at Bristol, had suffered a serious vibration which required he crew replace the right-rear hub and wheel assembly.  The driver was skeptical of returning to the race, saying “If there’s something we could gain, I’m all for it,” and the team convinced him to run as many laps as he could to shore up their place in the Chase.  On Lap 279, Stewart returned to the track 20 laps down in 38th.  By then, Wise had pulled the #30 into the garage for another ten laps, keeping him 39th, then taking last from Whitt on Lap 282.  Wise took a couple laps short of the 300-lap mark, pulled back in on Lap 296, then returned on Lap 324.  At that point, all 40 cars were still running: 40th-place Wise was 80 laps behind, 39th-place Whitt 51 down, and 38th-place Stewart back by 29.  They remained in that order when trouble broke out on Lap 358.

Kyle Busch had dominated the first part of the race, grabbing the lead from the 3rd starting spot just before Saturday’s rains came, then pacing the field for 256 of the first 347 laps.  But shortly before Kevin Harvick passed his #18 M&M’s 75th Anniversary Toyota, Busch noticed something was off inside his car.  Heading through Turns 1 and 2, the suspension gave way, and the #18 broke loose and spun to the inside of the track.  For an instant, the #18 remained otherwise intact, though with the passenger side exposed to oncoming traffic.  Entering the scene was Justin Allgaier.

Three laps down near the back of the pack, Allgaier briefly looked low to follow Regan Smith to the apron, then cut right.  The turn slammed the left-front of Allgaier’s #46 into the right-front of Busch’s Toyota, sending Allgaier’s car sliding up the track - directly into the path of the Top 5-running cars of Martin Truex, Jr. and Kyle Larson.  During his interview in the garage area, Busch was irate, blaming Allgaier and his spotter for what he felt was an unnecessary collision.  Both Busch and Allgaier failed to return to the race.  By track position and his number of laps down, Allgaier took 40th behind 39th-place Busch.

Finishing 38th was Kyle’s older brother Kurt, whose #41 Monster Energy / Haas Automation Chevrolet was gobbled-up in another multi-car wreck on the ensuing restart.  Busch’s #41 broke loose off Turn 4 and was helped around by Joey Logano’s #22 Shell / Pennzoil Ford, giving Logano’s teammate Brad Keselowski nowhere to go.  Keselowski’s #2 Ford slammed into Busch, and the two spun to the apron, sparking a chain-reaction that collected nine other drivers.  One of them, 5th-place starter Matt Kenseth, ended up 38th after his #20 Dollar General Toyota was struck in the door by Ryan Blaney’s #21 Virginia Tech / Motorcraft Ford.  Wise, who came home 84 laps down, rounded out the Bottom Five.

*This was Allgaier’s first-ever last-place finish in a Cup race at Bristol.

40) #46-Justin Allgaier / 354 laps / crash
39) #18-Kyle Busch / 357 laps / crash / led 256 laps
38) #41-Kurt Busch / 372 laps / crash
37) #20-Matt Kenseth / 373 laps / crash
36) #30-Josh Wise / 416 laps / running

1st) Premium Motorsports (5)
2nd) BK Racing (4)
3rd) The Motorsports Group (3)
4th) Hendrick Motorsports, HScott Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing (2)
5th) Chip Ganassi Racing, Front Row Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports, Roush-Fenway Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (15)
2nd) Toyota (5)
3rd) Ford (3)


Saturday, August 20, 2016

XFINITY: Matt DiBenedetto extends LASTCAR lead at Bristol

SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin' Forums
Matt DiBenedetto picked up the 10th last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Friday’s Food City 300 at the Bristol Motor Speedway when his #10 TriStar Motorsports Toyota fell out with brake issues after he completed 3 of 308 laps.

The finish, which came in DiBenedetto’s 60th series start, was his 8th of the season and first since New Hampshire, five races ago.

DiBenedetto returned to XFINITY Series competition for the first time since Indianapolis to drive TriStar’s “start-and-park” entry, again running double duty with his #83 BK Racing entry in Sprint Cup.  His was one of 42 entries slated to compete for 40 spots in the starting field, a list shortened to 41 after Obaika Racing withdrew their second car, #77.  DiBenedetto put up the 26th fastest lap in Thursday’s practice, then secured the 24th starting spot with a lap of 124.630mph.  The lone driver to miss the field was Timmy Hill in Motorsports Business Management’s #40 Toyota.

Starting 40th on Friday was Mike Harmon, who made his first XFINITY Series start since Iowa last month.  Within 3 laps, Harmon’s #74 Dodge was passed by DiBenedetto for last.  Harmon would finish 36th, out with brake issues just past halfway.

39th went to Morgan Shepherd, also returning to XFINITY competition for the first time since Iowa, who had withdrawn from both road course races at Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio.  Behind Shepherd’s #89 Racing With Jesus Chevrolet was Harrison Rhodes, who replaced Carl Long in his #13 Chevrolet, and 37th-place Ryan Sieg, who this week ran without a sponsor on his #39 RSS Racing Chevrolet.

Friday also saw a number of strong runs from small teams.  Leading them was owner-driver Jeremy Clements, who in his 222nd series start finished 6th, tying his 2014 run at Road America for his second-best finish.  Blake Koch finished 8th for Kaulig Racing, his third top-ten finish of the year and first since Richmond in April.  Corey LaJoie earned his first-ever top-ten finish by coming home 10th in JGL Racing’s #24 Youtheory Toyota, setting the mark in just his 12th series start.  18-year-old Gray Gaulding came home 13th in his series debut driving for Roush-Fenway Racing.  B.J. McLeod equaled his season-best 19th-place finish for the third time in 2016.  Among the remaining starters in the Top 20 were Ray Black, Jr. (14th), David Starr (16th), Mario Gosselin (17th), and Travis Kvapil (20th), who all earned season-best finishes.

*DiBenedetto is the first driver to finish last in an XFINITY Series race at Bristol due to brake issues since August 20, 2010, when Jeff Green’s #36 Long John Silver’s Chevrolet fell out after 4 laps of the Food City 250.
*DiBenedetto and the #10 TriStar team have swept the season’s last-place runs at Bristol.

40) #10-Matt DiBenedetto / 3 laps / brakes
39) #89-Morgan Shepherd / 27 laps / handling
38) #13-Harrison Rhodes / 36 laps / engine
37) #39-Ryan Sieg / 165 laps / suspension
36) #74-Mike Harmon / 168 laps / brakes

1st) TriStar Motorsports (13)
2nd) RSS Racing (3)
3rd) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Inc., Motorsports Business Management (2)
4th) Chip Ganassi Racing, JD Motorsports (1)

1st) Toyota (13)
2nd) Chevrolet (6)
3rd) Ford (2)
4th) Dodge (1)


TRUCKS: Matt Crafton scores first career NASCAR last-place finish

SOURCE: Sean Gardner, Getty Images
Matt Crafton picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Wednesday’s UNOH 200 at the Bristol Motor Speedway when his #88 Ideal Door / Menards Toyota fell out with engine trouble after 70 of 200 laps.  The finish came in Crafton’s 374th series start.

Just days after Jimmie Johnson’s first last-place run in his 529th career Cup start, Wednesday saw the end of the longest last-place drought among active Truck Series drivers.  The 40-year-old Crafton made his series debut way back on October 28, 2000 at Fontana.  That weekend, veteran driver Terry Cook had left ThorSport’s #88 Chevrolet to drive K-Automotive Motorsports’ #29 Dodge.  In Cook’s place, ThorSport tabbed Crafton, who at the time was weeks away from securing a championship in the NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Tour.  Crafton impressed in his Truck debut, coming home a strong 9th, and became ThorSport’s full-time driver for 2001.  Other than a 2004 season with Kevin Harvick, Incorporated, he has not left the team since.

Crafton had to wait until 2008 to break into victory lane, taking the checkers that May at Charlotte.  The next year, he racked-up 21 top-ten finishes in 25 starts, ranking him a close second in points behind six-time race winner Ron Hornaday, Jr.  In 2012, ThorSport switched from Chevrolet to Toyota, and from 2013 through the current year, Crafton’s bright yellow Menards machine has been the truck to beat, racking up 11 victories and back-to-back titles in 2013 and 2014.  His two most recent victories, also back-to-back at Dover and Charlotte, came this past spring.

On the night of June 13, 2016, just three days after Crafton finished 2nd to William Byron at Texas, fire broke out at ThorSport’s shop in Sandusky, Ohio.  No one was injured in the blaze, but the team lost much of their equipment, including several race trucks.  Still, the crew banded together, piecing together their three entries for the upcoming race at Iowa in the shop’s parking lot.  The trucks of Crafton and teammates Cameron Hayley, Rico Abreu, and Ben Rhodes have not missed a race since the fire, but the team has not won since.

At Bristol, Crafton was one of 37 drivers to attempt the 32-truck field.  He ran 8th-fastest in the opening session, then was one of 11 drivers to break 15 seconds in Happy Hour, ranking 10th overall.  In qualifying, Crafton made it to Round 2, but missed the final cut by five spots, leaving him 17th on the grid.  Two trucks withdrew without putting up a time: the #68 Chevrolet owned by Bill Alger and the #74 of owner-driver Donnie Levister, who failed to complete a lap in qualifying.  Sent home after time trials were Jake Griffin with MB Motorsports, Clay Greenfield, who moved from Alger’s #68 into Jennifer Jo Cobb’s #1 RAM, and Cody MacMahan, who attempted his Truck debut in Cobb’s #10 Chevrolet.

Starting 32nd on Wednesday was 16-year-old Bryce Napier, who was making his 2nd Truck Series start and first since Martinsville this past spring.  Napier’s #49 / Lily Trucking Chevrolet fielded by Premium Motorsports was joined by three drivers sent to the rear: Austin Cindric, Parker Kligerman, and Rico Abreu.  Abreu had backed his #98 into the wall in qualifying, and the ThorSport team had prepared the flat black backup truck in just enough time to roll onto the track.  When the green flag flew, Cindric’s #2 Pirtek Ford from Brad Keselowski Racing was slow through the gears, dropping him to last.

On Lap 2, Cindric climbed to 31st, dropping Matt Mills to last.  The 19-year-old Mills made his series debut on Wednesday in Bobby Dotter’s #07 Thompson Electric Chevrolet.  Mills was the first to lose a lap on the 7th circuit, and was four down by Lap 50.  Next to find trouble was Tommy Joe Martins, who successfully made his Bristol debut after more than three years of trying.  Martins had lost a lap early, then earned the Lucky Dog and was still on the lead lap on the 63rd circuit.  Unfortunately, his #44 Cross Concrete Construction Chevrolet trailed smoke, sending him to the pits.  Behind him, Mills and Napier spun, drawing the caution.  On Lap 71, Martins was just about to fall to last when trouble found Matt Crafton.

On Lap 71, right when the field prepared to take the green flag, Crafton unexpectedly pulled out of the Top Ten, slowed, then pulled onto pit road.  Crafton, reporting a loss of oil pressure, pulled behind the wall, joining Martins.  Crafton fell to 31st about Lap 80, then shortly after, Martins came back out, kicking the #88 back to 32nd.  By then, Crafton had pulled out of the race, its first retiree.  The last-place finish was Crafton’s first across NASCAR’s top three divisions, including not only his 374 Truck Series races, but his four XFINITY runs and Cup debut filling in for Kyle Busch in the 2015 Daytona 500.

Martins ended up 31st, pulling of track around Lap 132.  Crafton’s teammate Ben Rhodes also found engine trouble and pulled out after 128 laps, leaving him 30th.  29th went to outside-polsitter Daniel Suarez, who led 77 of the first 179 laps before his #51 Arris Toyota collided with Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate Christopher Bell.  Napier rounded out the Bottom Five, finishing nine laps down with Mills.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #88 in a Truck Series race since April 4, 1998, when Terry Cook’s brand-new #88 Nokia / PBA Tour Chevrolet crashed hard in Turn 3 on the first lap of the Florida Dodge Dealers 400K at Homestead (then known as the Miami-Dade Homestead Motorsports Complex).  The number had never before trailed a Truck race at Bristol.

32) #88-Matt Crafton / 70 laps / engine
31) #44-Tommy Joe Martins / 71 laps / power steering
30) #41-Ben Rhodes / 128 laps / engine
29) #51-Daniel Suarez / 186 laps / crash / led 77 laps
28) #49-Bryace Napier / 191 laps / running

1st) Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing, Kyle Busch Motorsports, Tommy Joe Martins (2)
2nd) AWS Racing, Bolen Motorsports, Brandonbilt Motorsports, GMS Racing, Jim Rosenblum Motorsports / FDNY Racing, MAKE Motorsports, ThorSport Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (9)
2nd) Toyota (4)


Thursday, August 18, 2016

8/27/88: Rookie driver Brad Noffsinger caught-up in early Bristol chaos

On August 27, 1988, Brad Noffsinger picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Winston Cup Series career in the Busch 500 at the Bristol International Speedway when his #98 Sunoco Buick was involved in an accident after 1 of 500 laps.  The finish came in Noffsinger’s 13th series start.

Born in Huntington Beach, California on August 29, 1960, Noffsinger got his start racing motorcycles at age 10, then as he grew older ran his family’s midget and sprint cars.  He proved a quick study in open wheels, earning Rookie of the Year honors in Ascot Super Midgets, the United States Racing Club, and the California Racing Association.  He then signed with the Gardner Racing team and scored back-to-back USAC / CRA championships in 1986 and 1987.  All the while, Noffsinger raced in memory of his youngest brother Todd, who in 1983 lost his life in a racing crash at Ascot Park in Gardena, California.

In 1988, Noffsinger was offered a one-year contract to drive Winston Cup for car owner Mike Curb.  Curb had been active in Cup since 1984, when he became the car owner for Richard Petty’s final two victories following Petty’s controversial 198th victory at Charlotte the year before.  When Petty returned to his team in 1986, Curb fielded cars for Ron Bouchard, Dale Jarrett, and Ed Pimm, securing sponsorship from Valvoline and later Sunoco.  Pursuant to the wishes of business partner Cary Agajanian, whose family had and remains a long-time owner in open-wheel ranks, Curb’s post-Petty cars were numbered #98.  When Noffsinger was unable to make the November 8, 1987 race at Riverside, Pimm returned for the first three races of 1988, but that spring, Noffsinger became his full-time replacement.

Noffsinger made his Cup debut at Atlanta on March 28, 1988 and finished a strong 14th, the Curb team’s best series finish in nearly two years.  But the rest of the season proved a tremendous challenge.  Noffsinger failed to qualify for three of the next 11 races, DNF’d in three of the next four starts he made, and was unable to improve on his Atlanta finish.  He came into his first night race at Bristol 34th in points.

Noffsinger faced another stiff challenge in “Thunder Valley.”  His was one of 40 cars set to attempt the 32-car field, meaning he would have to beat at least eight drivers to earn a spot in the race.  During the series’ last visit to Bristol in April, his car wasn’t fast enough to beat three drivers.  But this time, things were different.  Noffsinger secured the 30th starting spot.  Sent home after time trials were Ken Bouchard, who led the Rookie of the Year standings, local driver Lee Faulk, and owner-drivers Ronnie Thomas, Jimmy Means, Morgan Shepherd, Mike Potter, and J.D. McDuffie.  Also missing the race was Tommy Ellis, who drove in relief of Benny Parsons in the #90 Sunny King Ford.  Ellis’ DNQ marked the first time since 1976 that Junie Donlavey’s #90 failed to make a Cup race.
On Saturday, Rusty Wallace rolled off 17th in a show car unused for several months, having survived a terrifying wreck in practice.  His #27 Kodiak Pontiac blew a right-front tire off the fourth corner and rolled at least seven times.  Wallace, attended to by Dr. Jerry Punch at the track, spent the night in the hospital.  Still, he didn’t miss a step, handing the team notes on the setup from his bed.  Larry Pearson would later relieve Wallace and come home 9th, seven laps down to race winner Dale Earnhardt.  There were also concerns about the track’s asphalt surface “chunking,” or coming up in pieces, requiring a large patch in Turn 3.  NASCAR issued a statement that the surface would be properly repaired by the spring of 1989.  The concrete surface wouldn’t come until 1992.

Starting last was Michael Waltrip, who that year acquired new sponsorship from Country Time Lemonade on his Bahari’ Racing #30 Pontiac.  This September at Darlington, The Motorsports Group is expected to run Waltrip’s throwback scheme for driver Josh Wise.  By the end of Lap 1, Waltrip had slipped up to 31st, dropping Noffsinger to last.  On Lap 2, polesitter Alan Kulwicki broke loose coming off Turn 2 and lost seven spots in the high lane.  Seconds later, trouble broke out at the rear of the field.

Dave Mader III was another surprise in qualifying that weekend at Bristol when he secured car owner Dick Bahre his first Cup start in nearly three years.  At the time, Bahre’s car had only attempted one race, the spring event at North Wilkesboro, where newcomer Alan Russell was unable to make his Cup debut.  Mader, then a part-timer in the Busch Series, was then given an opportunity to make his own debut which he did, bucking the same odds as Noffsinger to secure the 27th starting spot.  Mader would make his Cup debut at the same track where he’d recently won in the NASCAR All-American Challenge Series.

However, going down the backstretch, Mader lost control, slid to the apron, then hooked to the right - directly in Noffsinger’s path.  The two cars collided and slid down the banking.  Mader was able to keep going, eventually coming home 24th after a mid-race engine failure.  Noffsinger’s damage didn’t appear too severe, but it was enough to end his night.  Finishing 31st was Michael Waltrip, who after 54 laps lost the engine on the #30.  30th-place went to Derrike Cope, whose 69 Purolator Filters Ford overheated after 93 laps while 29th belonged to owner-driver Dave Marcis, whose #71 Lifebuoy Soap Chevrolet crashed out after a blown tire and spin on Lap 142.  38th went to yet another driver who made his Cup debut that night: 31-year-old Rick Mast.  The future 1994 Brickyard 400 polesitter was called in to relieve Buddy Baker, whose crash during the Coca-Cola 600 that May ultimately ended his driving career.  Mast’s own turn in the #88 Red Baron Frozen Pizza Oldsmobile vaulted him to the lead from Laps 74-76, but a Lap 208 crash with Mark Martin and Dale Jarrett ended his night.

Noffsinger made just four more starts after Bristol, failing to finish in three of them, and missed the field for five of the last nine rounds.  He finished third in the Rookie of the Year standings, trailing Ken Bouchard and Ernie Irvan, but ranked ahead of Jimmy Horton.  At season’s end, Sunoco left to sponsor Billy Hagan’s return to the sport in 1989, and Curb was forced to close down his Cup team.  Noffsinger attempted to make four more Winston Cup starts with two other single-car operations owned by Skip Jaehne and T.W. Taylor, but failed to qualify each time.  But he didn’t give up on his racing dreams, and returned to running sprints.  Later, he worked with Felix Sabates’ Team Sabco, working as a spotter, crew chief, and team manager.  Bristol 1988 was Noffsinger’s only NASCAR last-place finish.

Noffsinger and Curb both rejoined NASCAR in 1998, when Curb became a car owner in the Busch and Busch North Series.  That year, Noffsinger ran five races for Curb in the former an two in the latter, finishing a season-best 18th in the Busch North race at Loudon.  One of the drivers who shared Noffsinger’s #43 Curb Records Chevrolet in Busch competition that year was a 22-year-old Jimmie Johnson, who finished 33rd in the car at Homestead.  Following Noffsinger’s final Busch start at Richmond on September 11, 1998, he became a driving instructor for the Richard Petty Driving Experience, an owner-driver in USAC Triple Crown competition, and most recently a stunt driver in Jeff Gordon’s 2013 viral video “Test Drive.”

For more on Noffsinger, check out his website here.

Mike Curb would go on to field cars in a combined 336 Busch Series starts through 2013, scoring one thrilling victory with Johnny Sauter at Richmond on September 5, 2003.  He also entered 25 ARCA races from 2011 through 2013, scoring a victory with Kevin Swindell at Chicago on July 21, 2012.  In 2012, Curb returned to Cup competition for the first time since 1988, joining in the merger between HP Racing LLC and Whitney Motorsports to form Phil Parsons Racing.  The Fords driven by HP’s Michael McDowell were renumbered from #66 to Curb’s #98, and remained that way through the team’s eventual sale to Jay Robinson and Premium Motorsports in 2015.  Cole Whitt will run Premium’s #98 at Bristol this Saturday.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #98 in a Cup Series race since November 22, 1987, when Ed Pimm’s own turn in Mike Curb’s Sunoco Buick ended with a crash after 30 laps of the Atlanta Journal 500 at Atlanta.

32) #98-Brad Noffsinger / 1 lap / crash
31) #30-Michael Waltrip / 54 laps / engine
30) #68-Derrike Cope / 93 laps / overheating
29) #71-Dave Marcis / 142 laps / crash
28) #88-Rick Mast / 207 laps / crash / led 2 laps

Sunday, August 14, 2016

XFINITY: Jeff Green takes last at Mid-Ohio, Andy Lally and Alon Day earn series-best finishes for two small teams

SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin' Forums
Jeff Green picked up the 88th last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Mid-Ohio Challenge at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course when his unsponsored #10 TriStar Motorsports Toyota fell out with rear gear issues after he completed 2 of 75 laps.

The finish, which came in Green’s 439th series start, was his fifth of the season and first since Talladega, 12 races ago.

Mid-Ohio marked Green’s only second start in the #10 since Talladega, a move which occurred after the National Arthritis Foundation came aboard to sponsor his previous TriStar ride, #14, with Tomy Drissi at Watkins Glen.  Drissi didn’t enter the Mid-Ohio race, but Green remained in the #10 once more with Mike Bliss taking the controls of the #14.  Bliss and Green were among the 41 drivers on the preliminary entry list, but on Thursday when Morgan Shepherd withdrew his #89 for the second-straight week, the remaining 40 drivers were guaranteed starting spots in Saturday’s race.  All carried decals on the A-pillar in honor of former Chip Ganassi development driver Bryan Clauson, who passed away late last Sunday after he wrecked while leading a USAC midget race in Kansas.

Green ran 27th in Friday’s opening practice session, did not participate in Happy Hour, then secured the 25th starting spot with a lap of 93.423 mph.

Starting 40th on Saturday was owner-driver Mario Gosselin, who this week took the controls of his second team car, the #92 BuckedUp Apparel Chevrolet.  Gosselin was originally set to drive his team’s primary #90, but when rain threatened, he decided on Wednesday to hand the controls over to someone more experienced running on wet-weather tires.  Gosselin was joined at the rear by seven drivers sent to the back for unapproved adjustments, including Ty Dillon, whose team needed to repair a leaking rear gear on the #3 WESCO Chevrolet.

Gosselin held 40th until the rain dampened the track on Lap 3, drawing the first caution of the day.  By then, Green had slipped back to join Gosselin in 39th, and pulled down pit road, done for the day.  Gosselin pulled off-track a lap later, then returned to pit road to help the #90 team the rest of the afternoon.  Green and the Canadian Gosselin trailed a multi-national Bottom Five which included drivers from four countries.  38th went to Brazilian driver Nelson Piquet, Jr., whose first XFINITY start in three years ended when his #98 DenBeste Water Solutions / Carroll Shelby Co. Ford struck a spinning Erik Jones on a Lap 32 restart.  37th fell to road racer Tim Cowen, whose first start of the year in Carl Long’s #13 Cowen Logistics Ford ended when he slid off-course with Australian Kenny Habul on Lap 57.  Habul’s #88 Sun Energy 1 Chevrolet was also done for the day.

In addition to a surprising first victory for road racer and Dover last-placer Justin Marks, two smaller teams turned heads on the wet track.

The first was 7th-place finisher Andy Lally, who on Wednesday was called away from a street luge competition to run King Autosport’s #90 Chevrolet.  Lally led three laps on Saturday, having twice rallied to the front of the field both on wet and dry tires, and recovered from a mid-race spin after contact from Erik Jones.  The run, Lally’s third top-ten finish, tied his best career XFINITY Series finish at Road America in 2014, when he came home 7th for Bobby Dotter.  It was also the best XFINITY Series finish for Gosselin’s team King Autosport, which until Saturday had finished no better than 20th all season.  The team’s previous-best finish in the series was 15th in the 2015 Daytona opener.  Across NASCAR’s top three divisions, Gosselin himself finished a team-best 6th in the Truck Series race at Talladega on October 31, 2009.

The other was Israeli road racer and NASCAR Next member Alon Day, who finished 13th.  Last year’s runner-up to Ander VilariƱo in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series’ Elite 1 division, Day stormed to three of the season’s final four wins, including a weekend sweep at Circuit Zolder in Belgium.  The run earned Day a two-race ride with Carl Long’s team Motorsports Business Management (MBM).  Running MBM’s old #40 Dodge, Day stormed from 22nd on the grid to 3rd on Lap 11 and also had to recover from an off-track excursion that was not of his own making, his #40 clipped by the spinning Kenny Habul around Lap 41.  In his first-ever start in NASCAR’s top three divisions, Day gave MBM its best-ever XFINITY finish in a combined 106 starts since 2014, besting the previous mark of 19th set by Stanton Barrett last week at Watkins Glen.  Day is slated to return to the XFINITY Series at Road America in two weeks.

40) #10-Jeff Green / 2 laps / rear gear
39) #92-Mario Gosselin / 3 laps / electrical
38) #98-Nelson Piquet, Jr. / 31 laps / crash
37) #13-Tim Cowen / 54 laps / crash
36) #88-Kenny Habul / 54 laps / crash

1st) TriStar Motorsports (12)
2nd) RSS Racing (3)
3rd) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Inc., Motorsports Business Management (2)
4th) Chip Ganassi Racing, JD Motorsports (1)

1st) Toyota (12)
2nd) Chevrolet (6)
3rd) Ford (2)
4th) Dodge (1)