Sunday, April 26, 2015

CUP: Joey Gase Earns First Cup Series Last-Place Finish

SOURCE: NASCAR.com
Joey Gase picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 at the Richmond International Raceway when his #32 Donate Life Virginia / CorvetteParts.net Ford fell out after a single-car crash took him out of the running after 124 of 400 laps.  The finish occurred in Gase’s 5th series start.

Gase’s ride on Sunday was owned by Archie St. Hilaire, who gave the 22-year-old driver his first XFINITY Series ride at Iowa in the summer of 2011.  In the four years since, both driver and owner took steps to make their way into the Sprint Cup Series.  In 2012, Gase joined Hamilton-Means Racing (now Jimmy Means Racing) to drive the #52 XFINITY Series ride owned by longtime owner-driver Jimmy “Smut” Means.  Last year at Talladega, Gase earned a career-best 11th at Talladega despite overheating in the closing laps.  In 2013, Hilaire entered into a partnership with FAS Lane Racing owner Frankie Stoddard, helping Stoddard’s single-car team continue to run the full season.  The result, now called Go FAS Racing, enabled Gase to make his Cup Series debut in the #32 last September at Chicagoland, where he came home 37th in the Foreverhip.com / Zimmer Ford.  Gase improved to a career-best 33rd in his most recent Cup start at Phoenix in November.

At Richmond, Gase was one of 45 entrants competing for 43 spots.  An advocate of organ donation, his car carried logos for Donate Life, which also supported his XFINITY Series ride at Means Racing.  Gase and Means finished 26th in Friday night’s XFINITY race.  Gase’s Cup car was also one of many carrying visible tributes to the late Steve Byrnes, his Ford carrying his name was along the roof rails.

Gase timed in 41st in the opening practice session and 43rd in Happy Hour, but picked up speed in qualifying to earn the 35th starting spot with a speed of 126.541 mph.  Missing the show were Brendan Gaughan - the fourth-straight DNQ for the #62 Premium Motorsports team - and Jeb Burton in his #26 Estes Toyota.  During the race’s rain postponement from Saturday night to Sunday morning, Burton would trade rides with teammate J.J. Yeley on Sunday.  This sent Burton to the back along with two other drivers - Cole Whitt, who changed transmissions, and Jeff Green.

On Friday, the 52-year-old Green, the all-time leader in NASCAR last-place finishes, had muscled The Motorsports Group’s #30 into its first Cup start since Atlanta, seven races ago, by putting up the 33rd-fastest time.  For Green, it was also his first Cup start since Loudon in July of 2011, when he parked the unsponsored #55 Ford for Front Row Motorsports.  TMG changed engines on the #30 before race day, taking the 43rd spot from last-place starter Reed Sorenson in Front Row’s #34 Dockside Logistics Ford.

Green held 43rd until Lap 3, when Alex Kennedy slipped to the back in Joe Falk’s brightly-colored #33 HonorandRemember.org Chevrolet.  Kennedy, making his 5th start in 9 races, was the first to by lapped on Lap 20, but Green retook it when he made an extended green-flag stop on Lap 36.  Green returned to the race 3 laps down on Lap 39 as the field continued to await the competition caution on Lap 50.

Then, on Lap 127, trouble found Joey Gase.  Running 3 laps down at the time, Gase was bumped by Aric Almirola’s #43 Farmland Ford off Turn 2, sending the #32 into a spin that nearly collected Danica Patrick’s #10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet before he nosed into the inside SAFER barrier.  Though uninjured in the wreck and his car not showing extensive damage, Gase climbed out and watched his machine be towed to the garage area.  By the halfway mark, Gase was listed as officially out of the event.

Finishing 42nd Sunday was Josh Wise, who by 13 laps was spared his first last-place finish in a points race since joining Phil Parsons Racing.  Electrical issues again plagued Wise’s #98, which brought out the third caution on Lap 139 after he stalled on the apron of Turn 1.  Wise spent more than 20 laps behind the wall and returned to competition on Lap 159.  Then, just four circuits later, Wise’s Ford lost the engine, spouting flames and smoke from underneath the hood.  Wise’s car, which carried Steve Byrnes’ likeness on the hood, retired the same time as Gase.

41st went to a very frustrated Tony Stewart, who after a late spin with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. on Lap 361 was left with his 4th bottom-five finish in 10 races.  Like Gase, Stewart didn’t suffer much damage in his spin, but the car failed to re-fire, and he wound up at the back of the pack.  Green and Kennedy rounded out the Bottom Five, both finishing under power 14 and 8 laps, respectively, behind race winner Kurt Busch.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This was the first last-place finish for the #32 in a Cup race since last June at Michigan, when Travis Kvapil’s KeenParts.com / Corvetteparts.net Ford fell out with crash damage after he completed 23 laps of the Quicken Loans 400.
*This was the first last-place finish for the #32 in a Cup race at Richmond since September 11, 2010, when the late Jason Leffler’s unsponsored Braun Racing Toyota had brake issues after he completed 30 laps of the Air Guard 400.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #32-Joey Gase / 124 laps / crash
42) #98-Josh Wise / 137 laps / engine
41) #14-Tony Stewart / 359 laps / crash
40) #30-Jeff Green / 386 laps / running
39) #33-Alex Kennedy / 392 laps / running

2015 LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Landon Cassill (3)
2nd) A.J. Allmendinger, Alex Bowman, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Joey Gase, Sam Hornish, Jr., J.J. Yeley (1)

2015 LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #40-Hillman Smith Motorsports (3)
2nd) #7-Tommy Baldwin Racing, #9-Richard Petty Motorsports, #23-BK Racing, #32-Go FAS Racing, #47-JTG-Daugherty Racing, #88-Hendrick Motorsports (1)

2015 LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (6)
2nd) Ford (2)
3rd) Toyota (1)

XFINITY: Jeff Green Trails XFINITY Field In First Double-Duty Weekend Since 2010

SOURCE: Action Sports, Inc.
Jeff Green picked up the 64th last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Friday’s ToyotaCare 250 at the Richmond International Raceway when his unsponsored #10 TriStar Motorsports Toyota fell out with rear gear issues after he completed 2 of the race’s 250 laps.

The finish was Green’s 4th of the 2015 season and his first since Fontana, three races ago.  It occurred in Green’s 398th series start.

Green joined an entry list of 42 drivers in what would become his first weekend of successfully pulling double-duty at the same track since October 2010 at Charlotte, where he ran the XFINITY Series race for TriStar and the Cup event for Larry Gunselman Motorsports.  Hours before the race, Green had handed The Motorsports Group its first Cup start since Atlanta in March by securing the 33rd starting spot, bumping Jeb Burton from the field.  Green would finish 40th in Sunday’s rain-postponed event, his first Cup start since New Hampshire in July 2011.

Back in TriStar’s XFINITY Series ride, Green managed just 38th in the only practice session, but made it into the second round of qualifying with the 23rd-fastest time of 121.951 mph.  Green, along with JD Motorsports’ Harrison Rhodes in the #0 teamjdmotorsports.com Chevrolet, did not participate in the final rounds of qualifying.  Thus, Green settled for 24th with Rhodes in 23rd.  Missing the race were Johanna Long, who was attempting to get defending Eldora Truck Series last-placer Mike Affarano into his first XFINITY Series race, and Atlanta last-placer Morgan Shepherd.

At the start of Friday’s race, 40th belonged to last-place starter Mike Harmon, who looked to be following up his last-place run at Texas when he lost touch with the field in the early laps.  Though 2 seconds behind the field, he was passed by Green, who pulled into the garage area after 2 laps.  Harmon followed suit the next time by, giving the two drivers the final spots in the field.

38th and 37th went to Derek White’s team cars, this week driven by Timmy Hill (#13 Braille Battery / Grafoid Toyota) and Carl Long (#40 Braille Lithium Battery / Sweet ‘n Surf Dodge).  Both retired without incident during the first 43 laps.  Rounding out the Bottom Five was Eric McClure, whose fuel pump issues didn’t remove his #24 Hefty Toyota from the event until after 205 of 250 circuits.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This was Green’s first last-place finish in an XFINITY Series race at Richmond since April 26, 2013, when his #10 TriStar Motorsports Toyota had a vibration after 4 laps.  That race was also his third-consecutive last-place run at the track - a streak ended in September by J.J. Yeley and The Motorsports Group.
*This marks the first time an XFINITY Series driver has ever finished last due to rear gear issues.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #10-Jeff Green / 2 laps / rear gear
39) #74-Mike Harmon / 3 laps / engine
38) #13-Timmy Hill / 31 laps / engine
37) #40-Carl Long / 43 laps / brakes
36) #24-Eric McClure / 205 laps / fuel pump

2015 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Jeff Green (4)
2nd) Dexter Bean, Mike Harmon, Morgan Shepherd, Derek White (1)

2015 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #10-TriStar Motorsports (4)
2nd) #40-Motorsports Business Management, #74-Mike Harmon Racing, #89-Shepherd Racing Ventures, #92-King Autosport (1)

2015 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Toyota (4)
2nd) Chevrolet, Dodge (2)

Sunday, April 19, 2015

CUP: Cassill Edges Ragan For Bristol Last-Place Finish After Hard Crash

SOURCE: Fox Sports
Landon Cassill picked up the 8th last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s Food City 500 In Support of Steve Byrnes at the Bristol Motor Speedway when his #40 Link-Belt Chevrolet was taken out in a hard single-car accident on Lap 368 that ended Cassill’s run after 288 of the race’s 511 laps.

The finish was Cassill’s third of 2015 and his first in a Cup race since Atlanta, six races ago.  The finish occurred in Cassill’s 159th series start.

Cassill came into the Bristol race having completed the last five races under power with a season-best 21st at Martinsville.  It was an improvement from a difficult start to the 2014 season, where a string of early-season DNQs was followed by a hard practice crash at Bristol.  He also sat 19th in XFINITY Series points with a season-best 17th at Atlanta driving for JD Motorsports.

Cassill was one of 45 entrants for the Sunday’s 500-lapper and, along with Alex Bowman and Ron Hornaday, Jr., was one of three drivers who arrived in an unsponsored black race car.  Cassill was 20th-fastest in Friday’s opening practice, then sped his way into the second round of qualfying, where he secured the 17th starting spot with an average speed of 126.428 mph.  Missing the race were Brendan Gaughan, his third-consecutive DNQ, and Ron Hornaday, Jr., still trying to make his first Cup start since Atlanta.  Cassill ran 30th and 34th in Saturday’s final two practice sessions, then came home 28th in the XFINITY Series race.

Starting 43rd on Sunday morning was Alex Kennedy, set to make his Bristol debut in his fourth start of 2015.  On Lap 15, Kennedy was the first driver to lose a lap.  Four laps later, he was running to the inside of Brad Keselowski when Keselowski lost control of his #2 Miller Lite Ford coming off Turn 2.  Keselowski narrowly missed Kennedy’s car, but collected teammate Joey Logano, sending both cars hard into the inside wall.  Keselowski fell to 43rd as rain halted the race, potentially headed to his first Cup Series last-place finish in his 205th series start.  However, when the red flag period ended, Keselowski was back on track by Lap 28, dropping teammate Logano, still in the garage, to the last spot.  Logano returned on Lap 75, and once again the entire field was running under power.

On Lap 105, Cassill made an unscheduled stop for a worsening vibration.  When the crew discovered broken studs on the right-front wheel, they took the #40 behind the wall for extensive repairs.  By Lap 116, Cassill had slipped to 42nd, and he took the last spot from Logano on Lap 163.  The Hillman Smith Motorsports team finished repairs on Lap 175, and the black Chevrolet returned 67 laps down to once again join the other 42 starters.  Twitter reports indicate the team was using the rest of the race as a test session when a crash cut his night short.

On Lap 368, race leader Kyle Larson was trying to stretch his fuel and tires in a bid for his first Cup Series victory.  Entering Turn 1, he closed on Cassill, who was racing alongside the #26 Maxim Fantasy Sports Toyota of rookie Jeb Burton.  Cassill tried to slot behind Burton to make way for Larson, but in so doing was rear-ended by Larson.  The two lapped machines made contact before Cassill turned hard right, sending his car hard nose-first into the outside wall.  Despite the severity of the impact, Cassill climbed out of his car apparently unharmed.

At the time of Cassill’s wreck, 42nd place belonged to David Ragan, whose #18 Snickers Xtreme Toyota was involved in a grinding four-car accident in the same spot on Lap 311.  Jeb Burton was again involved, this time turned by Jimmie Johnson moments before Ragan rear-ended Johnson.  Kevin Harvick, who led 184 of the race’s first 311 laps, was running 3rd when he wheel-hopped at the crash scene, then slid sideways into Ragan’s Toyota.  Ragan, Burton, and Harvick dropped into the Bottom Five, each returning to the track at different times.  At the moment of Cassill’s Lap 368 crash, Ragan had fallen to 42nd past Logano and was 19 laps away from taking his first last-place finish since the 2012 Daytona 500.  However, Cassill’s crash took him out of the race for good, securing the finish.

Burton, Ragan, and Logano finished 42nd, 41st, and 40th, respectively, followed by 39th-place Josh Wise.  Wise crunched the nose of his #98 Phil Parsons Racing Ford early in the event and by the middle stages had to make an unscheduled stop for a loose hood.  Wise was still running laps down on Lap 474 when Jamie McMurray’s cut right-front tire knocked him out of the Top 5.  Wise, following in McMurray’s tire tracks at the time, couldn’t avoid contact and crashed hard enough to fall out of the event.  He held 38th until seconds before the final rain-delayed green-white-checkered finish, which gave him the final spot in the Bottom Five by two laps over Harvick.

Meanwhile, in just his 5th Cup start, Matt DiBenedetto had a career-best weekend by starting 22nd and finishing 21st in BK Racing’s #83 Dustless Blasting Toyota.  DiBenedetto’s previous best was a 35th-place starting spot in his Phoenix debut, and he’d only finished as high as 31st at Martinsville.  Justin Allgaier picked up his first top-ten finish in 47 Cup starts, finishing 8th in HScott Motorsports’ #51 Auto-Owners Insurance Chevrolet.  Bristol was the site of Allgaier’s first XFINITY Series win in 2010, when he was driving for Penske Racing.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*The is the first last-place finish for the #40 in a Cup race at Bristol since April 13, 1997, when Robby Gordon’s Coors Light Chevrolet crashed after 91 laps of the Food City 500.
*Cassill’s 288 laps are the most laps completed by a Bristol last-place finisher since March 16, 2008, when Jamie McMurray’s #26 Crown Royal Ford ran 373 laps and finished under power.  To date, that is McMurray’s only Cup last-place finish 446 starts.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #40-Landon Cassill / 288 laps / crash
42) #26-Jeb Burton / 416 laps / crash
41) #18-David Ragan / 435 laps / running
40) #22-Joey Logano / 452 laps / running
39) #98-Josh Wise / 466 laps / crash

2015 LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Landon Cassill (3)
2nd) A.J. Allmendinger, Alex Bowman, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Sam Hornish, Jr., J.J. Yeley (1)

2015 LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #40-Hillman Smith Motorsports (3)
2nd) #7-Tommy Baldwin Racing, #9-Richard Petty Motorsports, #23-BK Racing, #47-JTG-Daugherty Racing, #88-Hendrick Motorsports (1)

2015 LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (6)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (1)

XFINITY: Derek White Scores First XFINITY Last-Place Run For #40 Since 1999

SOURCE: Action Sports Photography
Derek White picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Drive to Stop Diabetes 300 at the Bristol Motor Speedway when his #40 Braile Battery / Grafoid Dodge fell out with electrical issues after he completed 11 of the race’s 300 laps.  The finish occurred in White’s 14th series start.

The 2010 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series Rookie of the Year, White made his XFINITY Series debut at his home track at Montreal in 2012, where he finished a career-best 18th driving the #24 Boutique Fashion Broker Chevrolet for SR2 Motorspots.  In last year’s running of this same Bristol race, White debuted his own team with Matt Carter as the driver of his #13 Toyota.  The team, Motorsports Business Management (MBM) made six more starts by season’s end, not finishing any of those races, and planned to expand into a two-car team for 2015.

This year, White and journeyman co-drivers Chris Cockrum, Carl Long, Cody Ware, and Timmy Hill have each shared time in MBM’s #13 and #40 Toyotas and Dodges.  Cockrum gave the team its best finish to date at Daytona, running 21st in the #13 right in front of White in the 22nd.  The team’s #40 then finished next-to-last in four of the next five races, again with White sharing his ride with Long.

At Bristol, Long timed in 37th-fastest of the 39 drivers during the opening session, and both Long and White moved the #40 up to 36th out of 39 in Happy Hour.  White secured the 40th and final starting spot based on owner points, joining Texas last-placer Mike Harmon as the only two Dodges in the field.  Eleven laps into the race, White pulled off the track under green, taking last from Eric McClure, who crashed in Turn 4 on Lap 2.  Finishing 39th, 17 laps behind White, is current three-time last-place finisher Jeff Green.  Atlanta last-placer Morgan Shepherd ended up 38th followed by Derrike Cope with his third bottom-five finish of the year and Carlos Contreras, making his season debut in Rick Ware’s #15 BYB Extreme / Dawg-Fight.com Chevrolet.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This is the first last-place finish for the #40 in the XFINITY Series since February 20, 1999, when Kerry Earnhardt’s #40 Channellock Chevrolet started 7th, but fell out with handling woes during the Alltel 200 at North Carolina (Rockingham) Speedway.  The number had not finished last in a series race at Bristol since April 12, 1997, when Curtis Markham’s MHCO USA Ford crashed after 14 laps of the Moore’s Snacks 250.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #40-Derek White / 11 laps / electrical
39) #10-Jeff Green / 28 laps / vibration
38) #89-Morgan Shepherd / 41 laps / brakes
37) #70-Derrike Cope / 55 laps / fuel pump
36) #15-Carlos Contreras / 60 laps / brakes

2015 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Jeff Green (3)
2nd) Dexter Bean, Mike Harmon, Morgan Shepherd, Derek White (1)

2015 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #10-TriStar Motorsports (3)
2nd) #40-Motorsports Business Management, #74-Mike Harmon Racing, #89-Shepherd Racing Ventures, #92-King Autosport (1)

2015 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Toyota (3)
2nd) Chevrolet, Dodge (2)

Saturday, April 11, 2015

CUP: J.J. Yeley’s Engine Lets Go Early At Texas

SOURCE: Twitter - @jjyeley1
J.J. Yeley picked up the 14th last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Saturday’s Duck Commander 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway when his #23 Dr. Pepper “I’m A Pepper” Toyota fell out with a blown engine after he completed 13 of the race’s 334 laps.

The finish is Yeley’s first of the 2015 season and his first in a Cup race since last September at Richmond, 17 races ago.  The finish occurred in Yeley’s 227th Cup start.

Following the Richmond race, Yeley joined BK Racing full-time at Kansas driving the #83 Burger King / Dr. Pepper Toyota that had been vacated by rookie Ryan Truex and veteran Travis Kvapil.  The Kansas race was Yeley’s best finish with the team that year - 29th, five laps down to the leaders.  For 2015, BK re-organized its team into a three-car operation with Yeley taking the controls of the #23 vacated by the departing rookie Alex Bowman.  Coming into Texas, Yeley had finished under power in all 6 of the season’s races, including a season-best 26th at Martinsville, where he’d recovered from an early spin.

Yeley arrived in Texas with a radical new look on his #23 Toyota, which for the fifth time this year featured the Dr. Pepper brand.  He timed in 44th of the 45 entrants during Friday’s opening session - ahead of Alex Kennedy’s #33 Dream Factory Chevrolet for Joe Falk - then improved to 39th in Happy Hour.  Yeley ended up qualifying 41st later that day, turning in a lap of 188.673 mph.  Teammate Matt DiBenedetto qualified one spot behind Yeley in the #83 while the third BK Racing machine - the #26 of rookie Jeb Burton - missed the show along with Brendan Gaughan.

Just as in Friday’s XFINITY Series race, the battle for last place turned out to be a short one.  The 43rd starting spot went to Alex Kennedy, who held the spot on the first lap before he passed DiBenedetto’s #83 Burger King Toyota.  On Lap 8, the spot went to Mike Bliss and his #32 Texas Tech Ford.  Still under green on Lap 13, Yeley pulled behind the wall with engine issues.  The team looked under the hood, and after a handful of laps, announced on Twitter that the problem was terminal.

42nd on Saturday went to Ryan Blaney, who qualified 13th in the #21 Motorcraft / Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford - his third top-15 start in just five Cup races.  Blaney complained of engine issues early in the event, then pulled behind the wall when it finally let go on Lap 71.  41st went to Paul Menard, who had just raced his #27 Quaker State / Menards Chevrolet into the lead on Lap 221 when a water hose came loose, causing damage to his engine.  Rounding out the Bottom Five were HScott Motorsports teammates Michael Annett and Justin Allgaier, who pounded the wall in Turns 2 and 3, respectively, in consecutive cautions on Laps 251 and 261.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This is Yeley’s first last-place finish at Texas since 2007, when his #18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet was involved in a four-car accident with David Ragan, Casey Mears, and Ricky Rudd that ended his day after 1 lap of the Samsung 500.  It was the first last-place run of Yeley’s Cup career.
*This is the first last-place finish for the #23 in a Cup race at Texas and the first in Cup for the number since last fall at Talladega, when Alex Bowman’s Dustless Blasting Toyota crashed after 102 laps of the GEICO 500.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #23-J.J. Yeley / 13 laps / engine
42) #21-Ryan Blaney / 71 laps / engine
41) #27-Paul Menard / 222 laps / engine / led 1 lap
40) #46-Michael Annett / 246 laps / crash
39) #51-Justin Allgaier / 257 laps / crash

2015 LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Landon Cassill (2)
2nd) A.J. Allmendinger, Alex Bowman, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Sam Hornish, Jr., J.J. Yeley (1)

2015 LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #40-Hillman Smith Motorsports (2)
2nd) #7-Tommy Baldwin Racing, #9-Richard Petty Motorsports, #23-BK Racing, #47-JTG-Daugherty Racing, #88-Hendrick Motorsports (1)

2015 LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (5)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (1)

XFINITY: Mike Harmon Stops Green’s Streak In First Last-Place Run Since 2012

SOURCE: FOX Sports 1
Mike Harmon picked up the 14th last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Friday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at the Texas Motor Speedway when his #74 Absolute Machines Dodge lost the engine after 2 of the race’s 200 laps.

The finish was Harmon’s first of the 2015 season and his first in the series since June 16, 2012, when Harmon’s #74 West Virginia Miners Baseball Chevrolet fell out with a vibration after 1 lap of the Alliance Truck Parts 250 at Michigan.

In the 93 races since that Michigan finish, Harmon has made just 38 starts, choosing instead to have other journeyman drivers run his black Chevrolets and Dodges.  In 2013, Harmon’s team made all but five races using the employ of Kevin Lepage, Juan Carlos Blum, Danny Efland, Kevin O’Connell, and Carl Long.  Harmon finished 17th in the season-opening Daytona race that year, and returned in 2014 to run 14 of the team’s 26 starts.  The team’s best finish of 2014 went to dirt tracker Bobby Reuse, who came home 24th at Mid-Ohio while brother Roger trailed in Harmon’s second car, #77.

Coming into Texas, Harmon had qualified for and started all 5 XFINITY Series races with a season-best 24th that again came at Daytona.  However, with 3 DNFs coming into Texas, Harmon was ranked just 25th in points.

Harmon was one of 39 drivers on the preliminary entry list for Texas, but on April 3, Viva Motorsports added a late entry with Brandon Gdovic in the team’s #55 Chevrolet, securing a full field of 40.  In the opening practice, Harmon timed in 37th of the 38 who took time (behind Derek White in the former #13 Braille Battery / Grafoid Dodge, now renumbered #40), then ran the slowest of the 40 in Happy Hour.  In qualifying, he secured the final starting spot as the only driver to not complete a qualifying lap.

In the final pace laps before the race, Harmon and 39th-place starter White were joined by Jeff Green, who was set to equal his August 2011 record as NASCAR’s first four-time last-place finisher, and both Joey Gase and outside-polesitter Brad Keselowski, who all made unapproved adjustments prior to the race.  Harmon’s team had also been tinkering with the car after qualifying, though without further consequence.

Just two laps into the race, Harmon’s Dodge lost the engine in Turn 4, bringing out the first caution of the night.  With no one yet out of the event, Harmon secured the 40th spot, denying Green his four-peat.  White pulled out of the race three laps later, giving his #40 its third-straight next-to-last place finish.  Green exited three laps after White to finish 38th followed by Stanton Barrett in Rick Ware Racing’s #15 Lily Trucking / 4caring.org Ford.  Rounding out the Bottom Five was Derrike Cope, who on Lap 79 lost the engine on his #70 Nature Nate’s Honey / Zilla Wraps Chevrolet.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This is Harmon’s first XFINITY Series last-place finish at Texas since April 5, 2008, when his #84 James Otto / Muzik Mafia Chevrolet overheated after 13 laps of the O’Reilly 300.
*This is the first XFINITY Series last-place finish at Texas for the #74 since April 3, 2004, when Tony Raines’ Outdoor Channel Chevrolet was involved in a three-car accident after 1 lap of the O’Reilly 300.
*This is the first XFINITY Series last-place finish by a Dodge at Texas since November 6, 2010, when Dennis Setzer’s #92 K-Automotive Motorsports Dodge fell out with a vibration after 3 laps of the O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #74-Mike Harmon / 2 laps / engine
39) #40-Derek White / 7 laps / transmission
38) #10-Jeff Green / 10 laps / vibration
37) #15-Stanton Barrett / 11 laps / engine
36) #70-Derrike Cope / 79 laps / engine

2015 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Jeff Green (3)
2nd) Dexter Bean, Mike Harmon, Morgan Shepherd (1)

2015 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #10-TriStar Motorsports (3)
2nd) #74-Mike Harmon Racing, #89-Shepherd Racing Ventures, #92-King Autosport (1)

2015 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Toyota (3)
2nd) Chevrolet (2)
3rd) Dodge (1)

Monday, March 30, 2015

CUP: A.J. Allmendinger Gives #47 First Martinsville Last-Place Run Since 1976

SOURCE: Zimbio
A.J. Allmendinger picked up the 6th last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s STP 500 at the Martinsville Speedway when his #47 Bush’s Beans Chevrolet fell out with an oil leak after he completed 177 of the race’s 500 laps.

The finish was Allmendinger’s first of the season and came in his 233rd career Cup start.  It is his first in 24 races, dating back to his #47 Scott Products Chevrolet was involved in a massive pileup after 19 laps of the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona.

2014 was a big year for Allmendinger.  In his first full Cup season since 2011, he scored his first career victory at Watkins Glen, earning him a Chase berth and a career-best 13th in points.  The JTG-Daugherty team, now with its own maiden victory, looked to build on this momentum by running conservatively during Daytona SpeedWeeks, not running their #47 unless completely necessary.  Unfortunately, the team still found trouble in the Budweiser Duels, where he crashed with Johnny Sauter and Aric Almirola near the halfway mark.

Despite the setback, Allmendinger willed his backup car from the 40th starting spot to 20th at the finish.  Over the next three races, he then came home 7th at Atlanta, 6th at Las Vegas, and 17th at Phoenix, jumping him to 5th in the point standings.  Last week at Fontana, a dropped cylinder left Allmendinger 34th at the finish, but he only dropped to 11th in the season standings.

When the series arrived at Martinsville, Allmendinger was again behind the wheel of another strong car.  He turned in the 2nd-fastest time in the opening practice, trailing only eventual outside-polesitter Ryan Newman, and not only made it to the final round of qualifying, but secured the 10th starting spot with an average speed of 97.262 mph.  Though only 14th and 17th in Saturday’s two practices, the car was still in one piece on a weekend that saw two other drivers crash and another break a transmission in qualifying alone.

Starting 43rd on Sunday was the #83 Dr. Pepper Toyota of rookie Matt DiBenedetto, who had just mended fences with Tony Stewart after an incident in practice.  He held the spot until Lap 12, when Trevor Bayne brought out the first caution after a cut right-rear tire sent him spinning through turn two.  DiBenedetto retook the spot on the Lap 17 restart, but 6 circuits later was passed by another spinning Roush-Fenway Ford - the #17 Fastenal machine of Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.

Following the Lap 27 restart, DiBenedetto’s BK Racing teammates both took turns in 43rd.  Jeb Burton’s #26 Maxim Fantasy Sports Toyota snagged an air hose during a yellow-flag pit stop and was the first driver in the race to lose a lap.  On Lap 55, 39th-place J.J. Yeley had just lost a lap to Joey Logano and was running on the high side 2nd-place Denny Hamlin in Turn 1 when his #23 American Cancer Society / Cancer.org Toyota cut down a tire and slammed the outside wall.

When the race went green on Lap 61, Chase Elliott, making his Sprint Cup debut in Hendrick Motorsports’ #25 NAPA Chevrolet, rear-ended the #55 Aaron’s Toyota of Brett Moffitt, the ensuing chain-reaction causing extensive damage to both cars.  Moffitt made it to pit road first, the crew removing the car’s destroyed hood before he returned to the track on Lap 69.  Elliott, however, remained on track, trailing smoke until the caution fell for debris on Lap 74.  Moffitt lost 4 laps for his repairs, taking last from Yeley, but when Elliott pulled behind the wall under the Lap 74 yellow, the Hendrick team discovered they had more work to do.

Elliott took 43rd on Lap 78 and held the spot for most of the afternoon.  If he stayed there, it would’ve been the first last-place finish by the #25 since Brian Vickers’ 2006 run at the spring race at Texas and the first for an Elliott in Cup since the February race at Fontana in 2005.  However, Elliott’s crew got him back on track on Lap 145, 69 circuits behind the leaders.  Running 42nd, also double-digit laps down by this point, was Las Vegas last-placer Alex Bowman, whose #7 NIKKO / Toy State Chevrolet lost 13 laps for mechanical issues.

Not long after Elliott and Bowman returned to the race, Allmendinger reported smoke in the cockpit of his #47.  Running on the lead lap at the time, he tried to stay out as long as he could, but the smoke only grew worse, pouring out of the rear of the car and the wheel wells.  On Lap 177, he pulled behind the wall.  Though FOX Sports 1’s leaderboard listed the #47 as “OFF” for most of the race, the car never returned to competition.  On Lap 229, he slipped behind Bowman for 42nd, then took last from Elliott on Lap 247.

Bowman and Elliott finished 37th and 38th, respectively, as a total of 16 cautions sent several drivers to the Bottom Five.  Despite all the attrition, the only driver joining Allmendinger as a DNF was 41st-place Austin Dillon, whose #3 Cheerios Chevrolet also started smoking in the closing stages.  The electrical issues that sidelined Dillon gave him just the 2nd DNF of his 55-race Cup career.  The first was his last-lap crash out of 2nd in the Talladega race on October 20, 2013.

42nd went to Justin Allgaier, who was sent to a backup car after his #51 Fraternal Order of Eagles / Switch Hitch Chevrolet smacked the wall in Turn 3 during the second round of qualifying.  Allgaier crashed twice more in the race - first in a multi-car pileup on Lap 229 and by himself on Lap 270.  He pitted twice in the final green-flag run, but still finished under power in 42nd, 172 laps down.

40th went to Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., who after his Lap 23 spin was involved in two more cautions  - a spin on Lap 165 and a crash on Lap 207.  Though left without much of the car’s right-side sheetmetal, Stenhouse came home 136 laps behind the leaders.

Rounding out the Bottom Five was 39th-place Michael Annett, who after racing his #46 Pilot / Flying J Chevrolet in the Top 20 lost control while racing Joey Logano through Turns 1 and 2.  The spin was followed by two more costly accidents that gradually dropped him through the field.  On Lap 287, Annett was bumped by Trevor Bayne entering Turn 3, and he hopped the grass curb at the entrance to pit road in what became a five-car wreck.  He wrecked a third time on Lap 357 when he caught the wall in Turn 1.  Despite this, Annett still finished under power, 111 laps in arrears.

Bruce Hill's car at Martinsville, September 1976
SOURCE: Historical Stock Car Racing Forum
LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marks the first last-place finish for the #47 in a Cup race at Martinsville since September 26, 1976, when Bruce Hill’s unsponsored Hill Racing Chevrolet overheated after 37 laps of the rain-shortened Old Dominion 500.  The finish was the 3rd of Hill’s career and his 2nd in a row.  Hill, a longtime owner-driver from Topeka, Kansas, finished last 9 times in 100 Cup starts from 1974 through 1981.  His best career finish was 5th, which he earned three times in 1975 at Dover, Darlington, and Rockingham.
*This marks the first time a Cup Series driver finished last due to an oil leak since August 24, 1996, when Geoffrey Bodine’s #7 QVC Ford started 12th, but spun out twice and exited after 206 laps of the Goody’s Headache Powder 500 at Bristol.  Two weeks earlier at Watkins Glen, the 47-year-old Bodine had scored the 18th and final of his Cup Series wins.
*This is also the first time a Cup Series driver finished last at Martinsville due to an oil leak since April 24, 1983, when Morgan Shepherd’s #01 Zervakis Racing Buick fell out after 8 laps of the Virginia National Bank 500.  It was Shepherd’s first of 18 last-place finishes in his Cup Series career of 517 races - and counting.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #47-A.J. Allmendinger / 177 laps / oil leak
42) #51-Justin Allgaier / 328 laps / running
41) #3-Austin Dillon / 330 laps / electrical
40) #17-Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. / 364 laps / running
39) #46-Michael Annett / 389 laps / running

2015 LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Landon Cassill (2)
2nd) A.J. Allmendinger, Alex Bowman, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Sam Hornish, Jr. (1)

2015 LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #40-Hillman Smith Motorsports (2)
2nd) #7-Tommy Baldwin Racing, #9-Richard Petty Motorsports, #47-JTG-Daugherty Racing, #88-Hendrick Motorsports (1)

2015 LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (5)
2nd) Ford (1)