Thursday, May 26, 2016

5/25/97: Todd Bodine, in relief of brother Geoffrey, ends up with #7 team’s third-straight last-place finish

On May 25, 1997, Todd Bodine picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR Winston Cup Series career in the Coca-Cola 600 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway when his #7 QVC Ford lost an engine after 47 of 333 laps.  The finish came in Bodine’s 81st series start.

Todd Bodine was participating in his sixth season on the Winston Cup tour.  The youngest of the three Bodine brothers from Chemung, New York (joining Geoffrey and Brett) was a standout in what is today the NASCAR XFINITY Series, scoring seven wins in his first five seasons, including a 3rd-place spot in the 1992 championship behind Joe Nemechek and Bobby Labonte.

Frank Cicci, his XFINITY Series owner, also gave Todd his first Cup start at Watkins Glen that year.  Though an early crash left his #34 Diet Pepsi Ford 37th, it marked the first time since Rusty, Mike, and Kenny Wallace raced together at Phoenix the previous fall that three brothers raced against each other in a Cup event, and the Bodines did so at their home track.

The next time the Cup Series came to Watkins Glen, Todd took over for Dick Trickle in the #75 Factory Stores Ford fielded by longtime Cup owner Butch Mock.  After a ten-race stretch through the end of the 1993 season, Bodine signed with Mock for a full-year run in 1994.  That year, Todd earned his first Top Ten - a 6th in the spring race at Martinsville - and his first Top Five - a 5th at Loudon in July.  He finished the year with a career-best 3rd in the Atlanta finale, putting a ribbon on a 20th-place showing in the series standings, also the best of his career.  In 1995, Todd took his first Cup victory - in a non-points race - winning the Winton Open and finishing 17th in the main event.

By 1997, however, all three Bodine brothers were starting to struggle in Cup.  Todd was released by Mock at the end of the 1995 season, and for the next two years made a few starts as a journeyman, driving in relief of Bill Elliott, Robert Pressley, and Ricky Craven in addition to a three-race stint with Blair Motorsports.  Brett Bodine bought Junior Johnson’s #11 team in 1996, but after losing sponsor Lowe’s to Richard Childress Racing, was trying to make ends meet with funds from the Close Call Phone Card company.  Oldest brother Geoffrey also had a team of his own - having purchased Alan Kulwicki’s team after the owner-driver’s untimely death in 1993 - and had full-time sponsorship from the QVC home shopping network.  In 1996, Geoffrey scored the 18th Cup victory at Watkins Glen.  It would be the last of his career.

For years, engine failures and crashes had been the bane of Geoffrey’s team, preventing him from a run at the championship.  Those problems grew worse during the spring of 1997, when his team failed to finish six races in a row.  The streak began with back-to-back crashes at Bristol and Martinville, where he started 8th and 3rd but went home 33rd and 29th.  It continued with back-to-back last-place finishes, starting with Sonoma on May 4.  Again, Geoffrey qualified well - 7th on the grid - but the engine let go after just 10 of 74 laps.  It was also the last time a Cup driver finished worse than 43rd in a race - the field allowed a 44th starter for the top-qualifying Winston West competitor, Larry Gunselman.  The next week at Talladega, the engine let go at Talladega, leaving the #7 in 43rd.

Geoffrey was slated to run the next round at the Coca-Cola 600, having finished 11th in The Winston all-star race the week before, but he was injured in a crash during Wednesday’s practice.  Todd, who finished 7th in the Busch Series race at Charlotte, was tabbed as his replacement.  Todd put the backup car 41st on the grid for the 42-car race.  Five drivers missed the show: Chad Little in the green-and-gold #97 John Deere Pontiac then owned by Greg Pollex, Mike Wallace for current part-owner Joe Falk, Ed Berrier for the Sadler Brothers, Bobby Hillin, Jr. In Doug Bawel’s #77 Jasper Engines / Federal Mogul Ford, and Dave Marcis’ #71 RealTree Camouflage Chevrolet.

Starting at the back of the field was Hut Stricklin in the #8 Circuit City Ford for the Stavola Brothers.  Todd fell to the rear after the first couple laps, then caught back up and marched his way to 36th.  Jeremy Mayfield took a turn at the back in th #37 K-Mart / RC Cola Ford owned by Michael Kranefuss, who the next year would align with Roger Penske to expand Penske’s Cup team to its current two cars.  Suddenly, coming off Turn 2, Todd slowed with smoke trailing behind the #7.  Geoffrey, just about to be interviewed by the TBS reporters at the time of the incident, was visibly dejected.

Finishing 41st was Robby Gordon, attempting his first full season in Felix Sabates’ #40 Coors Light Silver Bullet Chevrolet, who crashed on Lap 184.  40th-place Sterling Marlin in the Morgan-McClure owned #4 Kodak Film Chevrolet wrcked on the backstretch on Lap 149.  Kenny Wallace in 39th wrecked on Lap 113 in his #81 Square D Ford, returned along with Marlin to the track, but fell out four circuits after Marlin.  38th-place Ken Schrader led 15 of the first 42 laps, but lost several laps and wound up a disappointing 38th.  Persistent rains shortened the 600 to just under 500 miles with Jeff Gordon taking a narrow victory over Rusty Wallace.

The next week at Dover, Geoffrey returned to the #7 team, but his bad luck continued.  A three-car crash on Lap 241 with Bobby Hillin, Jr. and Dick Trickle took all three cars out of the race.  This time, Hillin was credited with the 43rd and final position, narrowly edging Geoffrey for his team’s fourth-straight last-place showing.

That August, Todd reunited with Frank Cicci at Watkins Glen and surprised everyone by winning the pole - the first of five in Todd’s career.  He signed on for another full-time ride in 1998, the Bob Hancher-owned #35 Tabasco Pontiac, but the turmoil within the team led to him leaving the car at mid-season.  Again, Todd impressed as a journeyman, finishing the year with another 5th-place run at Atlanta driving for Joe Falk.  Another full-time ride came in 2001, when Todd replaced the retiring Darrell Waltrip in Travis Carter’s #66 K-Mart Blue Light Special Ford.  He scored three more poles that season and a pair of Top Fives, but when K-Mart filed for bankruptcy in early 2002, he was left without a sponsor for Las Vegas.  Still, Todd prevailed, putting his blank blue Ford on the pole for the 400-miler.  Following his 2004 LASTCAR Cup Championship, Todd made just more 16 Cup starts, the most recent of which at Michigan in August 2011 for HP Racing LLC.

Todd found his greatest on-track success in the Truck Series.  He’d already scored top-ten finishes in all of his five starts in the series in 1995, and in 2004, was ready to give it another try.  He crossed paths with owner Bob Germain at Richmond, and right away finished 4th, followed by wins at Fontana and Texas.  For the next nine years, Bodine would score two championships in 2006 and 2010 and 22 wins, all but one of which coming with Germain Racing.  Now a TV analyst, Bodine has made a total of 241 Cup starts, most recently at Michigan in 2011, 331 XFINITY starts, including Darlington just last year, and 220 Truck starts.

Of his 37 combined victories in NASCAR’s top three divisions, perhaps the most memorable of Todd’s career came at Darlington in 2003, when he and Jamie McMurray tangled off Turn 4 racing for the lead.  Just as in several of his other strongest runs, the #92 Chevrolet Todd drove that day did not have a primary sponsor.

*This marked the first last-place finish for both Todd Bodine and the #7 in a Cup race at Charlotte.

42) #7-Todd Bodine / 47 laps / enigne
41) #40-Robby Gordon / 186 laps / crash
40) #4-Sterling Marlin / 188 laps / crash
39) #81-Kenny Wallace / 192 laps / crash
38) #33-Ken Schrader / 231 laps / running / led 15 laps

Sunday, May 22, 2016

CUP: Tony Stewart’s final All-Star Race cut short by hard crash

Tony Stewart finished last in Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway when his #14 Bass Pro Shops / Tracker Chevrolet was involved in a multi-car crash after he completed 70 of 113 laps.

Stewart’s struggles this year have been well-documented.  After announcing that 2016 would be his final season in Cup before handing his ride to Clint Bowyer, the three-time series champion was critically injured in an off-road accident on January 31, making him miss the first eight races of the season.  He returned to competition at Richmond, finishing 19th, handed his #14 Chevrolet to Ty Dillon at Talladega who then finished 6th, then returned to run 11th at Kansas and 34th at Dover.  He came into the All-Star break 37th in driver points, still searching for a victory to get him into his final Chase.

In Saturday’s postponed practice session, Stewart was the slowest of 15 qualifiers for the All-Star Race, managing just 188.627 mph to Brad Keselowski’s session-topping speed of 192.027.  With qualifying and all remaining practices washed out, Stewart was set to roll off 17th.  The session was deemed too short to set the field, so owner points were used instead.  Stewart’s spot was buoyed slightly by the relief driving work of Ty Dillon and Brian Vickers.

Starting in the 20th and last position for Saturday’s main event was Greg Biffle, who wheeled his #16 Cheez-It Ford to his second-consecutive win in the Showdown by claiming Segment 2.  Biffle held the spot until Lap 24, when Denny Hamlin’s mandated green-flag stop began the night’s flurry of conflicting rules and strategy new to this year’s race.  Danica Patrick was the first to lose a lap on the 28th circuit in her #10 Nature’s Bakery Chevrolet, gave the spot back to Biffle on Lap 30.  Jamie McMurray’s #1 Bas Pro Shops / Chevrolet had it on Lap 32, followed by Danica again on Lap 44.

The first on-track incident to shuffle the order took place on Lap 47.  McMurray’s ill-handling #1 spun off Turn 2, drawing the caution that trapped drivers down a lap and penalized Matt Kenseth. Under the ensuing caution, smoke puffed from beneath McMurray’s right-rear fender.  It wasn’t until Lap 73 that the battle for last actually ended.

Coming off Turn 4, Stewart was running near the back of the pack, still trying to make up a lap he’d lost during the McMurray caution.  At that moment, Chase Elliott slowed his #24 3M Chevrolet from a battle for the lead and plummeted through the pack, apparently headed to pit road.  In a move apparently to avoid Elliott, Matt Kenseth cut right, side-swiping Stewart and shoving the #14 directly into the wall.  Stewart bounced off the SAFER barrier, then slid into the grass, where his nose dug the grass as he was hit again by Kasey Kahne’s #5 Hendrick & Quicken Loans Drive Home A Winner Chevrolet.

Stewart, furious over the night’s chaos and conflicting rules, was done for the night.  He came home one lap behind of Kahne and Kenseth, both also eliminated in the wreck.  McMurray’s #1 never handled right after his spin, leaving him 17th, followed by his disappointed teammate Kyle Larson.  That morning, Larson literally raced Elliott door-to-door for the final transfer spot into the All-Star Race.  With Elliott the fan vote winner, both teams got their cars fixed up in time for the race, and Larson found himself leading the final 13-lap segment.  However, with just two laps to go, a fast-closing Joey Logano found his way by as Larson slid into the outside wall, ending his night.

*This marked the first last-place finish for both Stewart and the #14 in the All-Star Race.

20) #14-Tony Stewart / 70 laps / crash
19) #5-Kasey Kahne / 71 laps / crash
18) #20-Matt Kenseth / 71 laps / crash
17) #1-Jamie McMurray / 110 laps / running
16) #42-Kyle Larson / 111 laps / crash

CUP: Reed Sorenson becomes first Showdown last-placer to finish under power

SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin' Forums
Reed Sorenson finished last in Saturday’s Sprint Showdown at the Charlotte Motor Speedway when his #55 World Record Striper Company / Hauling Bass! Chevrolet finished under power, one lap down, after 49 of 50 laps.

Sorenson debuted Premium Motorsports’ #55 team at Martinsville in April, thus bringing the season-opening 39-car fields to a “full” 40.  Since then, the team has not missed a race.  The team’s best performance of the year remains a 12th - with Michael Waltrip at Talladega - while Sorenson’s best run stands a 33rd at Kansas.  Last week at Dover, Sorenson’s sponsorless black ride got a splash of color as the World Record Striper Company signed on for a three-race deal.  Unfortunately, the car lost an engine and crashed in its debut, leaving Sorenson 38th.

Sorenson and World Record Striper arrived at Charlotte with the #55 as one of the 25 entrants - and four Open teams - for the Sprint Showdown.  It would be Sorenson’s first start in the event since 2014, when he came home 21st for Tommy Baldwin Racing.  His best Showdown finish was a 12th in 2008, his third and final year with Chip Ganassi Racing.  Rain scrubbed practice and qualifying for the Showdown, so Sorenson would start 24th by virtue of Premium’s 39th-place ranking in owner points for the #55.

Starting last in Sarurday’s postponed event was Josh Wise in the unsponsored #30 The Motorsports Group Chevrolet.  Sorenson took the spot soon after and was running there with four laps to go in the 20-lap Segment 1when Michael McDowell spun off Turn 4, taking 25th in the process.  On the restart, McDowell began to climb through the pack, eventually ending up 18th by the end of the race.  Sorenson, meanwhile, lost a lap along with Jeffrey Earnhardt’s #32 NC Education Lottery Ford during Segment 2.  Unable to catch Earnhardt in time for the Lucky Dog at Lap 40, Sorenson remained a lap behind, and was still there at the finish.

Earnhardt came home 24th.  23rd went to Sorenson’s teammate Cole Whitt in the #98 Vydox Plus Chevrolet followed by Wise in 22nd.  Rounding out the group was Regan Smith in Tommy Baldwin’s #7 Nikko RC / Toy State Chevrolet.  All 25 starters finished under power, and only Sorenson remained off the lead lap.

Technically, Trevor Bayne completed the fewest laps of anyone in the race when he won Segment 1 after 20 circuits, and in fact his #6 AdvoCare Ford was shown on the leaderboard in the last position during the latter parts of FS1’s coverage.  Had he been officially categorized there, he would have been the first driver to be classified last because of a win and not because of disqualification.

*Sorenson is the first last-place finisher of the Sprint Showdown to finish the race on the track and under power.  In fact, no last-place finisher of the event had completed more than 26 laps (of 100) by Mark Martin in 1988, nor come closer than 25 laps (of 40) by David Stremme in 2014.
*This marked the first last-place finish for both Sorenson and the #55 in the Sprint Showdown.

25) #55-Reed Sorenson / 49 laps / running
24) #32-Jeffrey Earnhardt / 50 laps / running
23) #98-Cole Whitt / 50 laps / running
22) #30-Josh Wise / 50 laps / running
21) #7-Regan Smith / 50 laps / running

TRUCKS: Andy Seuss finally makes Truck debut, but crashes early at Charlotte

SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin' Forums
Andy Seuss picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Saturday’s North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway when his #1 FDNY Racing Chevrolet fell out in a single-truck crash after he completed 20 of the race’s 134 laps.  The finish came in Seuss’ series debut.

Seuss, the two-time and defending champion of the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour, has 21 series wins in just 108 starts.  He’s also made three starts on the big tracks in ARCA with a best finish of 19th last year at Chicagoland.

Seuss’ break into NASCAR’s top three divisions was more than three years in the making.  Longtime team owner Jim Rosenblum first tabbed the modified start to make his debut at Rockingham in 2013, but was the slowest of four trucks who missed the race.  He then missed last fall’s race at Talladega by less than two-tenths of a second.  Charlotte would be Seuss’ first attempt since, and the Rosenblum team’s first attempt since last summer at Pocono, where Ryan Ellis came home 20th.

With rain threatening and Rosenblum without any attempts for 2016, an arrangement was once again struck to acquire the locked-in spot of MAKE Motorsports’ #1 Chevrolet.  Seuss would take the place of David Levine, who was originally scheduled to make his first attempt since last fall at Homestead.  Joining Levine among the withdrawals were Mike Bliss, replaced by Brandon Jones in Carlos Contreras’ #71 for a second week in a row, and Norm Benning, who is still looking for his first start of 2016.

36 teams remained in hopes that qualifying would still happen, but when it was washed out, they were all sent home: Austin Theriault in Brad Keselowski’s #2 Klixel8 Ford, 19-year-old Jesse Little, also looking to return for the first time since Homestead; Caleb Holman, who finished 9th at Atlanta earlier this year; and Austin Hill, whose Bryan Hill-owned team made the same deal with MAKE Motorsports’ #1 last week.  Andy Seuss, slowest in practice at 169.859 mph, secured the 32nd starting spot with MAKE’s 28th-place ranking in Owner Points.

Seuss was joined at the back of the field with Tommy Joe Martins, who missed the driver’s meeting.  Seuss retook the spot on the first lap, then moved up on Lap 2, dropping Timmy Hill to last in Premium Motorsports’ #49 Testoril Chevrolet.  Next by Lap 18 was Travis Kvapil, who ran MAKE Motorsports’ remaining #50 GasBuddy Chevrolet.  On Lap 23, Kvapil was still in last, three circuits down, when Andy Seuss found trouble.  Seuss, also running laps down, was running in front of Brandon Brown’s #86 Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation Chevrolet when the two made contact in Turn 1.  Seuss spun to the inside and hit the inside wall nose-first.

Kvapil ended up 30th, 28 laps down.  31st went to Hill, out with suspension issues.  Garrett Smithley took the 29th position, his #07 Hero Box / Instalco Chevrolet 23 laps behind race winner Matt Crafton.  Rounding out the Bottom Five in 28th was Jennifer Jo Cobb in her #10 / Grimes Irrigation & Construction Chevrolet.

*This was the first last-place finish for the #1 in the Truck Series since March 28, 2015, when Travis Kvapil’s Bubba Burger / Kioti Tractors Chevrolet, also fielded by MAKE Motorsports, broke a rear gear after 83 laps of the Kroger 250 at Martinsville.  It’s also the first time the number has finished last in a Truck race at Charlotte.
*This was the first last-place finish for Jim Rosenblum’s Truck Series team sine August 20, 2014, when Bryan Dauzat also trailed in his series debut driving the #28 O.B. Builders Door & Trim / FDNY Racing Chevrolet before suspension issues after 4 laps of the UNOH 200 Presented by ZLOOP at Bristol.  Dauzat fielded Seuss’ first ARCA ride at Talladega in 2015.

32) #1-Andy Seuss / 20 laps / crash
31) #49-Timmy Hill / 82 laps / suspension
30) #50-Travis Kvapil / 106 laps / running
29) #07-Garrett Smithley / 111 laps / running
28) #10-Jennifer Jo Cobb / 128 laps / running

1st) Tommy Joe Martins (2)
2nd) William Byron, Johnny Sauter, Austin Wayne Self, Andy Seuss (1)

1st) Tommy Joe Martins (2)
2nd) AWS Racing, GMS Racing, Jim Rosenblum Motorsports / FDNY Racing, Kyle Busch Motorsports (1)

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

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

5/20/90: An interview with Philip Duffie, last-place finisher of the 1990 Winston Open

SOURCE: Historical Stock Car Racing Forum
On May 20, 1990, Philip Duffie finished last in the Winston Open at the Charlotte Motor Speedway when his unsponsored #96 Duffie Racing Buick fell out with a blown head gasket after 22 of 134 laps.

A 36-year-old owner-driver from Augusta, Georgia, Duffie grew up a fan of NASCAR and wanted to try his hand at driving.  He saved up some money from his family’s sand and gravel business and bought a Buick.  Buicks were the only car he could get his hands on, but he would end up running them in all twelve of his Winston Cup starts.  Like other independents of his era, Duffie worked on the cars himself and hired volunteers at the track to help pit his car.

Duffie raced only a partial schedule, favoring the big tracks at Daytona, Talladega, Darlington, Atlanta, and Charlotte.  The reason was simple economics.  “Well, the main thing was the big tracks paid so much more money,” said Duffie in an interview on Wednesday.  “We were just running out of the back pocket for the most part.  We kind of stood with them and a lot of them were actually cheaper to run, the big tracks like Daytona and Talladega.  You could run them maybe on two or three sets of tires and shorter tracks it might take fifteen or twenty, so that was the main thing, they paid so much better money.”

Duffie made his Cup debut at Talladega on May 2, 1982, finishing 17th behind race winner Darrell Waltrip, and improved to a career-best 16th in that year’s Atlanta finale.  Atlanta also saw his career-best ARCA finish of 5th in 1985.  Though he enjoyed his best runs at his home track, he was disappointed that the purse didn’t pay as much as the other superspeedways.

“Atlanta paid just about half what the other tracks paid, believe it or not.  Back then we finished 16th in Atlanta and it only paid about $1500.  Times have changed a bit, now it probably pays $50,000 just to start a race.  We ran the whole race and finished 16th and got about $1,500 for it - even though the tracks that paid better only paid maybe $3,500 or $4,000, in that range.”

One of Duffie’s most brilliant performances came at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1983, when he was fastest in second-round qualifying for the Coca-Cola 600.  Duffie’s speed of 161.252mph put him 31st, but if it had come in the first round, he would have started 11th.  “I just quit being so cheap and bought a new set of tires, that’s all I did,” he said.  “I was hoping I didn’t have to buy them, but I felt I had to in order to make the race.  If I had a sponsor, maybe I wouldn’t have to worry about tires.”

Duffie took a couple years off and returned to the series in late 1987.  The next year, he signed with Bob Beard (no relation), the owner of a Ford dealership in Duffie’s home town.  As Beard looked to buy a Buick dealership, he approached Duffie about sponsoring his team and running Buicks once more.  Beard didn’t offer much money - in fact, the sponsorship was split between Duffie and fellow Georgia native Ken Ragan, father of current Cup driver David Ragan - but it was enough to build a new car.

Duffie made the field with Bob Beard’s logo only once, in the 1988 Southern 500 at Darlington, where he came home 29th.  The next year at Daytona, the car was heavily damaged in a multi-car pileup during his Twin 125, where his #32 vaulted into the air exiting the tri-oval before landing on all four tires.  He had yet to make the Daytona 500 in four attempts, but finished 4th and 8th in two runnings of the “Consolation Race,” 30-lap sprints among those who missed the 500 field.

In May of 1990, Duffie hadn’t made a Cup points race since the Darlington race two years earlier.  Money was tight, and the Winston Open offered an opportunity to get some much-needed funds.  “To be honest with you, a lot of times we ran that when we didn’t really have the money to go back and run the big race.  We could run the Winton Open, that’s just a short race and, you know, you got paid a little bit for it but then, let’s see, if I remember correctly, a time or two we didn’t even go back for the 600.  We didn’t really have the money to go run a 600-mile race at the time.”

Duffie started last in the 30-car field for the 1990 Winston Open, and looked to improve on his 25th-place finish in his only other start in the race in 1988.  On the 19th circuit, he had just gone down a lap to Ernie Irvan when he slowed in Turn 4 and came down pit road.  He returned to the track on Lap 21, but two laps later pulled behind the wall, ending his day.  Ironically, his last-place share of the purse was the same as his mid-pack run at Atlanta: $1,500.

Finishing 29th was three-time Bathurst 1000 winner Dick Johnson.  The Australian made his NASCAR debut in the inaugural Winston Cup race at Sears Point a year earlier, but found the tire barriers in Turn 2.  This time, Johnson brought out the first caution when his No. 38 Redkote Ford lost a right-rear tire and spun in Turn 4, then later spun and backed into the Turn 1 wall.  Next was 1980 Daytona 500 winner Buddy Baker, whose unsponsored #90 Junie Donlavey Racing Ford broke a valve.  27th went to 3rd-place starter Greg Sacks, who crashed his #18 Ultra Slim-Fast Chevrolet after he blew a right-front tire in Turn 4.  Rounding out the Bottom Five in 26th was ARCA regular Bob Schacht, who busted the clutch on his white #54 Oldsmobile.

Dick Trickle won the Open in a photo finish with rookie driver Rob Moroso and transferred into his first and only All-Star appearance.  Trickle came home a strong 6th in a race dominated by polesitter Dale Earnhardt.

Duffie made two more starts in the 1990 season.  In July’s Pepsi 400, starting last in the 40-car field turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  At the start of Lap 2, another 23-car pileup triggered by a three-wide battle for 7th eliminated most of the contenders.  Duffie slowed, drove through the infield grass, and came out the other side in 17th.  He finished 21st.  Duffie then made his final Cup start in the Southern 500 that September, finishing 37th after handling issues.  Duffie attempted to make the 1991 Daytona 500 for Bobby Fulcher, but missed the show a fifth time.  The 1990 Winston Open marked the only time Duffie finished last in NASCAR.

Duffie returned to stock car racing in 1998 and 1999, making four starts in what is now the K&N Pro Series East.  Again, his best finish was 16th, his time at the Lanier National Speedway in Braselton, Georgia.  Running those asphalt bullrings were some of Duffie’s fondest memories.  Today, he still attends races at the Atlanta Motor Speedway and continues to operate Philip Duffie Sand and Gravel, Inc. in Grovetown, Georgia.

*This has been the only time that the #96 has finished last in either the Sprint Showdown or the All-Star Race.  At the time, the #96 had not finished last in a Cup points race since May 1, 1983, when the late Rick Baldwin lost the engine on his White Crown Engineering Buick 7 laps into the Winston 500 at Talladega, and wouldn’t again until David April 20, 1998, when David Green’s Caterpillar Chevrolet crashed after 71 lap of the Goody’s Headache Powder 500 at Martinsville.
*It was also the second and final time Buick trailed the qualifying race, following Patty Moise’s Lap 19 crash that stopped her #45 Amway Buick in 1989.

30) #96-Philip Duffie / 22 laps / head gasket
29) #38-Dick Johnson / 49 laps / crash
28) #90-Buddy Baker / 68 laps / valve
27) #18-Greg Sacks / 75 laps / crash
26) #54-Bob Schacht / 85 laps / clutch

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

CUP: Open Team Roundup - Dover


#21 Wood Brothers Racing
Driver: Ryan Blaney
Started 18th, Finished 8th

Some might be tempted to see Ryan Blaney’s 8th-place finish, his third top-ten finish in a row and fourth of the season, and the result of all the leaders who found trouble on Sunday.  However, even before the race flew off the rails, Blaney was constantly lurking just outside the Top 10.  He started 18th and ran 15th and 10th in Saturday’s practices.  On Sunday, he broke into the 10th spot by Lap 161 and looked to be gunning for more in the final stages.

This marks the first time the Wood Brothers have scored three top-ten finishes in a row since March-April of 1997, when Michael Waltrip came home 7th, 7th, and 9th at Atlanta, Darlington, and Fort Worth.

Charlotte remains one of the Wood Brothers’ favorite tracks.  The team has six victories there, including the second running of the 600 with Speedy Thompson in 1960, and last took the checkered flag there in 1987 with Kyle Petty.  Ryan Blaney finished 42nd in last year’s 600, the victim of an engine failure, but rebounded there last October to come home 14th.

#98 Premium Motorsports
Driver: Cole Whitt
Started 36th, Finished 27th

In the early laps of Sunday’s race, the remaining three Open teams ran nose-to-tail in the final three positions.  Whitt, whose Premium Motorsports team swapped out his black paint scheme for last year’s white Vydox Plus colors, was the highest of the three trailing cars.  In fact, after all the day’s accidents and mechanical failures, he rose above the other two by a wide margin, placing him in front of not only Josh Wise and Reed Sorenson, but also Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Tony Stewart.  Whitt pulled off the track in the final laps, citing a vibration, but still finished second among the Open teams for the first time since Bristol last month.

Cole Whitt’s best finish in six previous Charlotte Cup starts was a 27th for BK Racing in the 2014 Coca-Cola 600.  The 600 will also be owner Jay Robinson’s first Cup start at the track since 2014.  Joe Nemechek finished 34th in the team’s only 600 start that year.  In 30 XFINITY Series starts at the track, Robinson’s team has a best finish of 16th with Kenny Wallace in the fall of 2008.

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

Josh Wise looked to be the early favorite for this week’s feature.  He started in the final spot, was the first to go down a lap on the 11th circuit, and soon after on Lap 16 pulled behind the wall complaining that he was running on only seven cylinders.  Still, The Motorsports Group got him back on the track, 54 laps behind, and he managed to finish the race under power, having lost just fifteen more laps in the process.  Like Whitt, he was well behind the wrecks which tangled the leaders, including the massive restart pileup on Lap 356.

Josh Wise’s best Cup finish in six Charlotte races was a 26th in the 2013 Coca-Cola 600 driving for Front Row Motorsports.  It was one of only two he finished under power and the only time he came home better than 35th.  The Motorsports Group has never before made a Cup start at Charlotte, but owner Curtis Key has made 24 starts there in XFINITY.  One of the team’s seven Top 10 finishes came at the track in 1995, when Chuck Bown came home 9th in Key’s #05 Ford.

#55 Premium Motorsports
Driver: Reed Sorenson
Started 38th, Finished 38th

For just the second time in 2016, Reed Sorenson and Premium Motorsports’ second team failed to finish the race.  On Lap 214, Sorenson was running ten laps down when something let go in the engine, sending him sliding down the track.  Jimmie Johnson didn’t slow in time and spun to the inside of the track, bumping Josh Wise’s #30 as he passed by on the apron.  It was an unfortunate end to a weekend that began with exciting news.  Sunday was the first race of a new three-race sponsor from the World Record Striper Company, a brand of fishing lures that gained attention on a 2015 episode of “Shark Tank.”

Reed Sorenson looks to make his 14th Cup start at Charlotte, where he finished a career-best 4th in the 2007 Coca-Cola 600 and 10th as a rookie the year before.




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

None of the part-time teams returned to attempt the race at Dover.  The Open Team Roundup will take the week off for the All-Star Race and return following the Coca-Cola 600.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

CUP: Blown right-front tire leaves Matt DiBenedetto last for second time in 2016

SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin' Forums
Matt DiBenedetto picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s AAA 400 Drive for Autism at the Dover International Speedway when his #83 Cosmo Motors Toyota was involved in a single-car crash, stopping him after 116 of 400 laps.

The finish, DiBenedetto’s second of the season, was his first since the opening round in the Daytona 500, eleven races ago.  It came in his 45th series start.

Last month at Bristol, during the Food City 500, DiBenedetto’s season-high of making his first start in the “Great American Race” was exceeded by a career-best 6th-place finish.  Emotional on pit road after the race, DiBenedetto became an internet sensation nearly overnight.  An online push to vote him into next week’s Sprint All-Star Race has been gaining momentum, as have plans to run a Reddit-sponsored #83 later this season, changing his nickname to “DiBurrito,” and other plans to name his growing fan base.

Dover’s concrete surface shared similar characteristics to the Bristol short track, and driver and team looked for more success to carry them into the All-Star break.  Coming into the race, DiBenedetto sat just 31st in points, having finished inside the Top 20 just one other time - a 20th at Phoenix.  In practice, he was also still looking for speed - just 29th in the opening session, leaving him to start in that spot after qualifying was rained-out.  On Saturday’s two sessions, he timed in just 31st and 34th.

40 cars arrived to attempt the 40-car field, and for the third time in 2016, the final starting spot belonged to Josh Wise and the #30 Curtis Key Plumbing / Key Realty Group Chevrolet.  By Lap 8, Wise was still trailing, and was now 1.6 seconds behind the next car in line, the #55 World Record Striper Company / Hauling Bass! Chevrolet of Reed Sorenson.  On Lap 11, Wise was the first to be lapped, and by Lap 16, he was slow on the apron of Turn 3, complaining that his engine was running on seven cylinders.  He pulled into the garage area, and at first appeared done for the day.  Then on Lap 71, the Curtis Key team got Wise back on the track, 54 laps down.

On Lap 105, fellow Open team driver Cole Whitt in the #98 Vydox Plus Chevrolet was already a few laps down when he, too slowed and pulled into the garage complaining of a vibration.  He was still in the garage area when the caution flew on Lap 120.  At that point, Matt DiBenedetto had also lost a lap to the leaders, but was running full speed when the right-front tire let go in Turn 2.  His #83 couldn’t slow in time and clobbered the outside wall, knocking the wind out of the driver.  He managed to climb out under his own power, but the car was done for the day.  Whitt returned to the track on Lap 125, and DiBenedetto began to slide down the rankings.  He took 39th on Lap 139, then last on Lap 176.  Whitt dodged the late wrecks before pulling out with a vibration to come home 27th, the highest-ranked retiree.  Wise ended up 36th, still under power.

Between DiBenedetto and Wise in the Bottom Five was 39th-place Regan Smith, whose #7 Advanced Patient Care Chevrolet broke something in the engine entering Turn 4 on Lap 144 and spun down the track, coming to rest against the inside wall.  38th-place Reed Sorenson in the #55 had nearly the same thing happen to him on Lap 214, trailing smoke as he spun in front of the leaders, sending Jimmie Johnson’s #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet into a spin of his own.  37th went to Michael Annett, who suffered another terrible crash when his #46 Pilot / Flying J Chevrolet was bumped into a spin by Jamie McMurray, sending him hard into the inside frontstretch wall.

*DiBenedetto is the first Sprint Cup driver to finish last with more than one car number in the same season since 2015, when Timmy Hill was parked in the #98 Chevrolet at Michigan in August, then finished laps down in the #62 Chevrolet at Phoenix in November.  Like DiBenedetto, both cars were owned by the same team - DiBenedetto with BK Racing and Hill with Premium Motorsports.
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #83 in a Sprint Cup race since May 10, 2014, when Ryan Truex’s Burger King Toyota crashed after 57 laps of the 5-Hour Energy 400 at the Kansas Speedway.  It is also the number’s first-ever Sprint Cup last-place finish at Dover.

40) #83-Matt DiBenedetto / 116 laps / crash
39) #7-Regan Smith / 139 laps / crash
38) #55-Reed Sorenson / 204 laps / crash
37) #46-Michael Annett / 223 laps / crash
36) #30-Josh Wise / 331 laps / running

1st) Matt DiBenedetto, Reed Sorenson, Josh Wise (2)
2nd) Aric Almirola, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kyle Larson, Paul Menard, Ryan Newman, Cole Whitt (1)

1st) Premium Motorsports (3)
2nd) BK Racing, Richard Childress Racing, The Motorsports Group (2)
3rd) Chip Ganassi Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Richard Petty Motorsports (1)

1st) Chevrolet (9)
2nd) Toyota (2)
3rd) Ford (1)