Monday, June 29, 2015

CUP: David Gilliland Joins Father As Cup Series Last-Placer At Sonoma

SOURCE: Brock Beard,
David Gilliland picked up the 4th last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s Toyota / Save Mart 350 at the Sonoma Raceway when his #38 Love’s Travel Stops Ford was involved in a single-car crash that ended his run after he completed 20 of the race’s 110 laps.

The finish was Gilliland’s first of the 2015 season and his first in a Cup race since last year’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, 40 races ago.  The finish occurred in Gilliland’s 310th series start.

2015 marks Gilliland’s sixth consecutive season driving for Bob Jenkins’ Front Row Motorsports, a team which in that time had grown from a struggling single-car operation to a three-car team.  Though Gilliland has still yet to visit victory lane, he has continued to surprise at several races, most notably at Talladega in 2013 when he pushed teammate David Ragan to the win for the team’s first 1-2 finish.  Gilliland’s best finish this year also came on the restrictor-plate tracks when he finished 11th in the Daytona 500.  However, consistency has been a challenge this year- a crash last week at Michigan left Gilliland a season-worst 42nd, dropping him to 28th in points.

Gilliland had reason to be excited that Sonoma was the next race on the schedule.  The track was the scene of his Cup debut in 2006, when his upset victory in the XFINTY Series race at Kentucky secured him ride in Bryan Mullet’s #72 Dutch Quality Stone Dodge.  Gilliland finished 32nd that day, avoiding several multi-car pileups, and just two years later earned a career-best finish of 2nd to Kyle Busch in one of the final top-five finishes earned by Yates Racing.  In nine previous starts, he had finished no worse than 32nd and had scored a pair of Top-20 finishes: a 12th in 2011 and a 19th in 2010.  He’d also scored two K&N Pro Series West victories at the track in 2007 and 2012.

Gilliland was one of 44 cars who arrived to attempt to make Sunday’s 43-car field.  In the opening practice on Friday, he turned in the 19th-fastest time, then moved to 16th-best in Happy Hour that afternoon.  In qualifying, he timed in just 28th at an average speed of 94.841 mph, but timed in ahead of both teammates Cole Whitt in 29th and road racer Justin Marks, making a one-off in FRM’s #34, in 35th.  Missing the race was the unsponsored Premium Motorsports #62 of Brendan Gaughan, ending the Truck Series veteran’s bid for his first Cup start at Sonoma since 2004.

Prior to the race, I had a chance to talk with Michael McDowell, who rolled off 23rd in the #95 K-LOVE Ford for Leavine Family Racing.  I asked about how his weekend had gone so far:

MCDOWELL: “Weekend’s been good, practices have been good, we were fast.  Yesterday in qualifying didn’t go great, the caution came out when we were on a pretty good lap and so we weren’t able to finish it, so that’s unfortunate.  But I feel pretty good.  The K-LOVE car’s been fast - I feel like we’ve been in the Top 10-15 most of the weekend and we should be able to get back there.  So, it’s a long day though, there’s a lot of attrition in this race and you’ve gotta be smart.  There’s also a certain element like a Bristol or Martinsville where you can get caught up in someone else’s mess, too.  So we’re gonna go hard and have fun and see what happens.”

On Sunday, the 43rd starting spot belonged to Jeb Burton, making his Sonoma debut in the #26 Maxim Fantasy Sports Toyota for BK Racing.  Burton was joined at the start by two drivers who fell to the rear for engine changes - Paul Menard in the #27 Richmond / Menards Chevrolet and the #46 Bene-fit Chevrolet of Michael Annett.  Annett had struggled tremendously in his second Sonoma weekend, having lost a transmission in practice before the engine let go.  When the green flag fell, Burton was already running 43rd in Turn 12, but on the next lap he was passed by the #7 Golden Corral Chevrolet of Alex Bowman.  Burton retook 43rd on Lap 4, and by Lap 6 the entire Bottom Five had started to lose touch with the field.  At that time, the four cars in front of Burton were 42nd place Annett, 41st-place Landon Cassill, the defending last-place finisher in an unsponsored #40 Hillman Racing Chevrolet, 40th-place Bowman and 39th-place Josh Wise, his #98 back in the Dogecoin Digital Currency colors for the first time since Talladega last fall.

On Lap 7, Burton began to fight Annett for the 42nd spot, diving into Turn 11 and locking the brakes before falling back again on the exit.  Burton succeeded the next time by, but by then he, Annett, and Cassill had fallen back even further from Bowman and Wise.  The next change for last occurred on Lap 10, when Jamie McMurray’s #1 Cessna / Beechcraft Chevrolet picked up a vibration for a blistered tire and made an unscheduled stop.  He rejoined the track about four seconds behind Annett, but made up the distance in 4 laps to pass Annett for 42nd in Turn 11.  By then, Paul Menard had also made an early stop and rejoined the race 43rd, though still on the lead lap.  More early pit stops jumbled the Bottom Five on Lap 17 when Bowman followed Denny Hamlin to pit road, putting Bowman to the last spot.  On Lap 21, Bowman was still running last when trouble found Gilliland.

Running mid-pack at the time, Gilliland was exiting the Esses when a left-front tire let go entering Turn 10.  In a wreck similar to both Scott Pruett’s in 2000 and David Reutimann’s in 2008, Gilliland’s Ford couldn’t slow down fast enough and plowed head-on into the tire barriers, forcing the first caution of the day.  Gilliland did not appear hurt in the accident, and after the ambulance arrived, he was brought back to the track’s medical center for evaluation.  Watching from the media center, I thought I’d seen Gilliland with damage to the right side of his car and he’d smoked his brakes going into Turn 11.  I asked if these had anything to do with the wreck:

GILLILAND: “No, we didn’t make contact with anybody.  I just passed the 9 car (Hornish) and felt like the tire was down.  We were gonna come in and change it and it blew out right there, so just unfortunate. . . There was no vibration, it just blew all at once.”

Regardless, Gilliland was pleased there were enough tires in the corner to reduce the effect of the impact and he says he looks forward to running here again next year:

GILLILAND: “It’s a big wreck, a big hit, but I’m okay.  This is a great race track, we love racing out here, had some great finishes out here, so I’ll have to wait until next year and try again.”

After the interview, I watched as crew chief Donnie Wingo and the team helped unload the wrecked #38 from the flatbed.  The team wasn’t in a rush to make repairs as the left-front wheel was shoved back against the firewall, and over time the team began to load up their hauler.  Theirs was the first to leave minutes after the checkered flag.  Gilliland now sits 29th in points heading to Daytona, where last year he started on the pole.

On my way to the media center, the caution flew once again on Lap 30 for a wreck in the Esses.  This time, the victim of the tire barriers was 2nd-place point man and 2013 winner Martin Truex, Jr., whose #78 Furniture Row Chevrolet had tangled with the #55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota of David Ragan.  I turned around and headed back to the medical center, where this time twice as many media members appeared to interview Truex.

TRUEX: “We got wrecked, bottom line.  You know, definitely tough day.  I felt like we had a decent car all weekend, we were a little off that first run and made some adjustments, felt like it helped, just when you start around 20th on those restarts it’s just a recipe for disaster, so I was trying to be aggressive, made some moves, had a couple cars passed, then the lane jammed up and the guys I passed come back behind me and you just get frustrated, you lose patience, and I got into the 55 (Ragan)’s door a little bit in Turn 7 and I guess he didn’t like it, so he figured he’d dump me.  So, he’s probably got one coming, but other than that, it’s just part of the restart deal and I hate that I got my guys’ car torn up.”

I asked Truex if crew chief Cole Pearn and the guys could get the car back on track, but he said “No, it’s over.”

Heading back to the media center once more, however, it was clear the Furniture Row Racing team wasn’t finished yet.  With team owner Barney Visser watching from behind, no less than ten crew members including Pearn were cutting away the front valence and welding the frame back together.  An oil drum outside the stall was stuffed with tattered bits of fiberglass that, moments later, was revealed to be just about everything forward of the firewall.  Incredibly, on Lap 70, the crew brought Truex’s helmet back to the garage area.  Truex climbed in and rolled back onto the track for at least two laps.  However, despite the team’s best efforts, the car apparently couldn’t handle very well, and it pulled off the track for good after it had completed 31 laps, leaving Truex 42nd.

I was in the garage area again the instant Truex had pulled onto the track, joined by polesitter A.J. Allmendinger whose #47 Kingsford / Bush’s Beans / Scott Products Chevrolet had a fuel system issue ten laps earlier.  At that moment, the caution fell a third time for another single car wreck coming out of Turn 10, this one involving the #23 Dr. Pepper Toyota of J.J. Yeley.  In a wreck similar to Richard Petty’s at Sonoma in 1990, Yeley lost control exiting the corner and hit the barrier near the old timing and scoring building near the entrance to Turn 11.  Yeley managed to drive his machine onto pit road, where he made the left turn at the far end of pit road to go behind the wall.

I arrived at the small overflow garage near the Goodyear headquarters to see Yeley’s #23 on jack stands, the crew pondering the severe damage to the right-front of the machine.  Yeley was exhausted, sitting in the shade against the building.  Still, he was kind enough to talk to me about the accident.

YELEY: “No, I’m fine.  I’m just disappointed.  I was going into (Turn) 10 and got loose, got the left-rear into the marbles and at that point I was just trying to pedal it and keep the thing going and once I dropped the left sides into the dirt, the thing just went sideways.  I was gonna correct it and I gassed it hoping to spin it and kind of keep it going down the race track and unfortunately it spun across and hit the inside concrete blocks and it just did a lot of damage.  Just disappointed, we were kind of stuck behind the 18 (Kyle Busch), we had tires and trying to give him the respect of being where he was, it took me a lot of time and a lot of laps to get by him and I just got in a hurry trying to make up time.”

As I left, Yeley’s crew put the #23 on rollers and pulled it backwards toward the hauler, out of the race in 41st spot.

Once again, another multi-car accident brought out another caution, and I took another detour back to the medical center.  This time, two ambulances rolled up with Carl Edwards and David Ragan, who locked wheels and stuffed their machines into the tires in the Esses.  Again, both drivers were unhurt, and surprisingly, neither seemed very irritated with each other.  Edwards in particular looked like he just hated to have the race end early as he was having fun out there.

EDWARDS: “My left-rear hit his right-rear, pretty small contact, and it just bounced the both of us sideways and ruined our day, so probably my fault.  But this is frustrating, I love this race track, and I was having fun, and just wanted to be out there racing.  It’s tough to have to sit out.”

RAGAN: “Carl and I were just racing hard for a spot, we both had good Toyota Camrys and we had good tires and a very fast Aaron’s Dream Machine and I just can’t lay over on these restarts.  Sometimes when you’re - I don’t even think I was being aggressive, I was just holding my own, we were racing for a spot, Carl got on the rumble strips and we just touched.  I mean, Carl and I are really, really good friends and certainly no hard feelings there.  Just one of those things.”

Ragan also fielded questions about the Truex wreck:

RAGAN: “With Martin, he just flat out door-slammed me and completely ran me off the race track.  I had all four tires in the gravel, and again I’m just trying to blend back on the race track and he was right there.  So, Martin just made a mistake and he paid the price for it.”

In the end, Kyle Busch, last in the previous Cup race at Michigan, rebounded to claim his first victory of the 2015 season, and is now set to challenge for a spot in the Chase.  Another feel-good story on the day was that of Fontana last-placer Sam Hornish, Jr.  On Sunday, Hornish made his first Cup start at Sonoma since 2010, timed in 3rd in the late stages of the opening practice, and finished a strong 10th in the #9 Jacob Companies Ford.  In three previous starts at the track, Hornish had finished no better than 31st.

Walking through the garage one final time, I met with Jeb Burton, who after starting last came home to finish 32nd in his first Cup start at Sonoma.  Burton helped his team load the car onto the back of BK Racing’s #26 hauler, then spoke to me briefly about his experience:

BURTON: “We had a decent day, you know, we ran all the laps, so that was good, didn’t break anything.  Just frustrated a little bit, wish we could’ve been a little bit better, but came away with a decent finish and we’ll go on to (Daytona) next week.”

Butch Gilliland's Sonoma Car, 1999
*This finish marks the first time the #38 has finished last in a Cup race at Sonoma since June 27, 1999 when Gilliland’s father Butch Gilliland trailed the Save Mart / Kragen 350 after his Richard Hilton-owned #38 Ralph’s / Food 4 Less / Coca-Cola Ford lost the engine after 3 laps.  According to, the engine used that day was the backup motor for Darrell Waltrip’s #66 K-Mart Ford.

It was the 10th and final Cup start of Butch’s career, which included eight Sonoma starts when the event’s entry list welcomed both Cup drivers and Winston West competitors (now K&N Pro Series West).  Two of Butch’s 15 K&N Pro Series West wins were in these “companion events” at Sonoma in 1994 and 1997.  He also participated in all three of NASCAR’s exhibition races in Japan from 1996 through 1998 with strong finishes of 10th, 9th, and 16th, respectively.

As a curious side-note to Jeff Gordon’s final race at Sonoma, Butch Gilliland was the last driver other than Gordon to run the #24 in a Cup race.  On November 1, 1992, just fourteen days before Gordon’s Cup debut in the historic Hooters 500 at Atlanta, Gilliland drove his family-owned #24 Anaheim Electric Gear Pontiac to a 29th-place finish in the Pyroil 500 at Phoenix.

43) #38-David Gilliland / 20 laps / crash

42) #78-Martin Truex, Jr. / 31 laps / crash

41) #23-J.J. Yeley / 71 laps / crash

40) #19-Carl Edwards / 78 laps / crash

39) #55-David Ragan / 78 laps / crash

1st) Landon Cassill (3)
2nd) Alex Bowman (2)
3rd) Justin Allgaier, A.J. Allmendinger, Aric Almirola, Trevor Bayne, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Joey Gase, David Gilliland, Sam Hornish, Jr., Brian Scott, J.J. Yeley (1)

1st) Hillman Smith Motorsports (3)
2nd) Richard Petty Motorsports, Tommy Baldwin Racing (2)
3rd) BK Racing, Front Row Motorsports, Go FAS Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, HScott Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, JTG-Daugherty Racing, Richard Childress Racing / Circle Sport, Roush-Fenway Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (9)
2nd) Ford (5)
3rd) Toyota (2)

LASTCAR EXTRA: Mike Joy and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Discuss NASCAR Independents J.D. McDuffie and Jimmy Means

Jimmy Means' Alka-Seltzer Pontiac, 1991
SOURCE: Don Feeley
Last week at the Sonoma Raceway, I was fortunate to be able to interview both FOX Sports analyst Mike Joy and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr.  As both are passionate about NASCAR history, I wanted to get their thoughts on two of NASCAR’s most prolific owner-drivers: J.D. McDuffie and Jimmy Means.  I quickly found I could hardly improve on their quotes, so I’ve transcribed them directly below:

“J.D. McDuffie was an independent driver from Sanford, North Carolina in the ‘70s and ‘80s, lost his life in a crash at Watkins Glen.  Very dedicated to the series and like a lot of drivers before and since, did it with very little funding.  A company called Rumple Furniture was his major sponsor for many years on his blue No. 70.”

“Back then, these cars didn’t come out of race car factories with 500 and 600 employees.  They were usually built by Banjo Matthews, Hutcherson-Pagan, Ronnie Hopkins, and the chasses were delivered to the teams that finished them in their own garages.  Might just be a two-bay garage behind someone’s house, might be a larger facility or part of a car dealership.  And a lot of the drivers were part-time racers, some of them like J.D. McDuffie and Richard Childress and others did it full-time.  But they did it with a very small group of people.”

“Childress used to joke that he’d have the annual team meeting in the hauler on the way to Daytona because they were all there.  And that’s kind of how J.D was.  He was a very quiet, soft-spoken guy, but he like a lot of fellas was a really good driver.  Jimmy Means is a good example.  He had a good Cup career - he didn’t have a great Cup career - never won a race.  But if he went back to Huntsville or Birmingham or Nashville on a Saturday night, hopped in somebody’s car, he’d whip their butts.  There’s a lot of talent in this series, and maybe the greatness didn’t show because they weren’t quite as great as some of the superstars of their day.  And that’s where I would rate J.D.  He was dedicated, he and his family were all in, they were 100% into this sport right to the end.”

“My dad would take me to the races when I was really young and he would introduce me to sons of other drivers and he’d introduce me to Brad (Means, Jimmy’s son) and me and Brad became friends, he and I would run around the garage together.  And I learned through Brad the challenges Jimmy faced as an independent and hanging around his hauler and hanging around Dad’s hauler you saw immediately the differences in what they were dealing with and the advantages Dad had, his equipment versus Jimmy’s.  So, I guess just through that relationship I got a real appreciation for Jimmy and his dedication even beyond his driving career to continue to be involved in the sport and try and make a living as an owner fielding cars has been a real inspiration.”

LASTCAR EXTRA: Leavine Family Racing Expects To Return To Shop After Kentucky

The Leavine Family Racing #95 at Sonoma on Friday
SOURCE: Brock Beard,
The Leavine Family Racing team (LFR), which campaigns the #95 Ford in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, expects to move back to their Concord, NC shop after the Kentucky race on July 11, according to driver Michael McDowell.

McDowell, interviewed at the Sonoma Raceway on Sunday prior to the Toyota / Save Mart 350, commented on the fire that damaged much of the LFR shop on May 8.  Since then, the single-car operation has worked out of Team Penske’s shop:

“We are still working out of Team Penske right now,” said McDowell.  “We probably will for at least the next two or three weeks.  But we’re getting closer to being able to move back into our shop.  It won’t be like how it was.  We lost a good portion of the shop that’s gonna take months and months to rebuild, but we have enough space up front to operate out of our shop again.  Our plan is to move back in after Kentucky. . .”

“. . .It’s been a mess and Wally Rogers and all the guys have been working hard on that, too.  And I’d say that’s where it’s affected us the most it’s just been a distraction.  It’s taking a lot of our key people out of working on race cars and trying to get us back into a shop.”

The fire, whose cause has still not been reported, damaged much of the shop including the car McDowell raced at Sonoma in 2014.  McDowell finished 34th on Sunday.

Monday, June 22, 2015

XFINITY: Jeff Green Edges Frahm’s Post-Entry For Last At Chicagoland

SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin' Forums
Jeff Green picked up the 67th last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Sunday’s Owens Corning AttiCat 300 at the Chicagoland Speedway when his unsponsored #19 TriStar Motorsports Toyota fell out with a vibration after he compelted 2 of the race’s 200 laps.

The finish was Green’s seventh of the 2015 season, his third in four races, and his first since Dover, two races ago.  The finish occurred in Green’s 402nd series start.

Green, back in the #19 for the fourth-straight race, was one of 37 competitors on the initial entry list.  By Friday, the list increased to 39 with Mike Harmon in his #74 Dodge and Peyton Sellers in Obaika Racing’s #97 Vroom! Brands Chevrolet.  The next day, Jimmy Means Racing entered a second car to make a full field of 40 - a flat white #79 Chevrolet with Matt Frahm aboard.  Much like the #79 that Means entered for three races last year, starting at Fontana, Frahm’s ride was a backup #52 Chevrolet for Joey Gase with the numbers covered up.

Frahm and Green were the only two drivers who did not participate in Friday’s opening practice, but both returned in Happy Hour to run 38th and 40th, respectively.  Green picked up speed in qualifying, securing the 29th starting spot at an average speed of 170.578 mph.  However, just 2 laps into Sunday’s rain-postponed race, Green pulled his car behind the wall, followed 3 laps later by Frahm.

38th place went to Scottish driver John Jackson, who was making his first start since Iowa in Motorsports Business Management’s #40 Braille Battery / Grafoid Dodge.  Carl Long was originally slated to drive one of MBM’s entries on Sunday, but was injured in a hard crash at Dover.  Josh Reaume was tabbed as Jackson’s teammate in MBM’s #13, which came home 33rd, 54 laps down.

37th went to 73-year-old Morgan Shepherd, making his fifth start of the season and first since Dover, his #89 Racing With Jesus Chevrolet out with handling issues.

Rounding out the Bottom Five was ARCA veteran Bobby Gerhart, his first XFINITY start of the season in JD Motorsports’ #0 Gerber Collision & Glass Chevrolet.  Gerhart was a last-minute appointment to the ride after Ross Chastain was moved to Landon Cassill’s #01 with Harrison Rhodes in Chastain’s #4.  Chastain and Rhodes finished 18th and 25th, respectively.

*This is Green’s first last-place finish in an XFINITY Series race at Chicagoland since September 14, 2013 when his #10 TriStar Motorsports Toyota fell out with a vibration after 3 laps of the Dollar General 300 powered by Coca-Cola.  The #19, however, had never before finished last in an XFINITY race at Chicagoland.
*Toyota has now finished last in seven consecutive XFINITY Series races.

40) #19-Jeff Green / 2 laps / vibration
39) #79-Matt Frahm / 5 laps / clutch
38) #40-John Jackson / 34 laps / vibration
37) #89-Morgan Shepherd / 44 laps / handling
36) #0-Bobby Gerhart / 69 laps / engine

1st) Jeff Green (7)
2nd) Dexter Bean, C.J. Faison, Mike Harmon, Charles Lewandoski, Carl Long, Morgan Shepherd, Derek White (1)

1st) TriStar Motorsports (8)
2nd) Motorsports Business Management (2)
3rd) JGL Racing, King Autosport, Mike Harmon Racing, Shepherd Racing Ventures (1)

1st) Toyota (10)
2nd) Chevrolet, Dodge (2)

TRUCKS: Caleb Roark Ties Benning For 2015 LASTCAR Truck Series Lead

SOURCE: Fox Sports 1 / THELP2008
Caleb Roark picked up the 5th last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Friday’s American Ethanol 200 presented by Enogen at the Iowa Speedway when his #0 Chevrolet fell out with a vibration after he completed 5 of the race’s 200 laps.

The finish was Roark’s second of the 2015 season and his first since Kansas, five races ago.  Roark is now tied with Norm Benning as the only repeat last-placers in the 2015 Truck Series season.  The finish occurred in Roark’s 17th series start.

Friday’s race was Roark’s first since the last-place run at Kansas, his #0 Chevrolet driven twice during that span by Texas last-placer Adam Edwards.  The defending LASTCAR Truck Series champion was not originally on the entry list for the Iowa event.  There were only 29 competitors at first publication, but by Monday the list grew to a full 32 with the additions of Jordan Anderson in Mike Harmon’s #74 Chevrolet and MAKE Motorsports teammates Ryan Ellis (#1) and Travis Kvapil (#50).  However, after the withdrawal of Ted Minor in Joseph Cefella’s #12 Chevrolet, team owner Jennifer Jo Cobb added Roark’s #0 to keep the field at 32.

Roark was the slowest truck in Friday’s lone practice session, turning in just two laps that were 4.5 seconds slower than those of eventual race winner Erik Jones.  He slotted into the 32nd spot in qualifying with a lap of 120.560 mph and did not relinquish the spot.  Moments before the first caution flew for Spencer Gallagher and Cole Custer’s wreck in Turn 2, Roark pulled behind the wall.  Roark edged 31st-place finisher Justin Jennings by 10 laps, Jennings extending his bottom-five streak to five straight races.

30th went to Mike Affarano, who has now made four Truck Series starts in 2015 including the last three in a row.  Affarano’s distinctive pink #03, still without sponsorship, exited after 22 laps with a vibration.  Rounding out the Bottom Five were Ryan Ellis in MAKE Motorsports’ #1 Altex / Shane duncan Band “Life’s Snooze Bar” Chevrolet and the #45 Trijicon / Cope’s Distribution Chevrolet of Tommy Regan, both retired in the first quarter of the event.

All 13 drivers who finished 19th or worse on Friday were driving Chevrolets.

*This is the third last-place finish in the last four Truck Series races at Iowa for the #0 owned by Jennifer Jo Cobb.  In 2013, Chris Lafferty swept both last-place finishes in Cobb’s #0, which was then a Ford.  Roark himself had never before finished last in a Truck race at the track.

32) #0-Caleb Roark / 5 laps / vibration
31) #36-Justin Jennings / 15 laps / electrical
30) #03-Mike Affarano / 22 laps / vibration
29) #1-Ryan Ellis / 24 laps / suspension
28) #45-Tommy Regan / 33 laps / electrical

1st) Norm Benning, Caleb Roark (2)
2nd) Adam Edwards, Joey Gattina, Jennifer Jo Cobb, Travis Kvapil, Justin Marks (1)

1st) Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing (4)
2nd) Norm Benning Racing (3)
3rd) MAKE Motorsports, Win-Tron Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (8)
2nd) Toyota (1)

Sunday, June 14, 2015

CUP: Kyle Busch Nabs First Cup Last-Place Finish For #18 At Michigan Since 1976

SOURCE: FOX Sports 1,
Kyle Busch picked up the 5th last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 at the Michigan International Speedway when his #18 M&M’s Crispy Toyota fell out after a single-car accident ended his run at 52 of the rain-shortened 138 laps.

The finish, which occurred in Busch’s 369th series start, was his first of the 2015 season.  It was also his first in a Cup race since September 21, 2008, when his #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota lost the engine after 172 laps of the Camping World RV 400 presented by AAA at Dover - 239 races ago.

That last-place run in 2008 derailed Busch’s impressive first season with Joe Gibbs Racing in the flagship #18, an eight-win season resulting in just a 10th-place finish in the standings.  In the six seasons that followed, Busch would win 17 more Cup races while dominating both the XFINITY and Truck Series as a part-time competitor.  It was during one of these bonus races in February where Busch suffered a broken right leg and left foot after crashing into an unprotected fence, the injuries taking him out of his car until just last month at Charlotte.

Saturday at Michigan, Busch returned to the XFINITY Series for the first time since Daytona and took the victory - his 71st in just 298 series starts.  This done, Busch looked to Sunday’s race and his continued effort to make the field for this year’s Chase.  Granted a medical exemption by NASCAR officials, Busch would still have to win a race and average a 17th-place finish to make the cut.  Unfortunately, an 11th-place run at Charlotte and 9th at Pocono was weighed down by a costly wreck at Dover that left him 36th, dropping his average to 18.67.  With just 12 chances left to win, Busch knew that a weekend sweep would be a game-changer.

Busch turned in the 18th-fastest lap in Friday’s opening practice and timed in 10th in qualifying as the second-fastest Toyota behind teammate Carl Edwards.  Busch then jumped to 4th-fastest in the second practice session and was 2nd to Jeff Gordon in Happy Hour.

On Sunday, Matt DiBenedetto started 43rd in BK Racing’s #83 Burger King Toyota, joined by teammate J.J. Yeley after his engine change in the #23 Dr. Pepper Toyota, but neither held the spot for long.  Heading into Turn 3, Alex Bowman’s 36th-place #7 Chevrolet slid up the track with an apparent cut right-rear tire.  Bowman immediately cut to pit road, the stop costing him two laps.  He got one lap back during the first of several rain-caused cautions on Lap 12, but just before the Lap 19 restart lost another right-rear tire, shredding away the crush panels and prolonging the yellow.  Bowman pulled behind the wall to allow the crew to make repairs while the other 42 competitors remained on the lead lap.

Then, on Lap 53, Busch found trouble.  Running 6th during a restart after another rain delay, Busch’s #18 was trying to pass brother Kurt Busch’s #41 HAAS Automation Chevrolet for 5th when Kyle lost control and slapped the outside wall with the right-front and right-rear of his machine.  Fortunately uninjured in the accident, Busch was able to drive his car to the garage area.  By that time, Busch had fallen to 42nd, a handful of laps ahead of the still-stopped Bowman.  The two were joined on Lap 64 by David Gilliland, whose #38 Love’s Travel Stops Ford smacked the outside wall but did not bring out the caution.

On Lap 73, Bowman returned to the track 51 laps down.  Busch’s team was still trying to make repairs, no one certain whether the persistent rains would end the race at Lap 101.  When the skies cleared, Bowman continued on track while Busch remained in the garage area, allowing Bowman to bump Busch to last on Lap 104 and Gilliland to 42nd on Lap 117.  When the heaviest rainfall yet ended the race at 138 laps, both Busch and Gilliland were still in the garage area and out of the race.  Bowman came home as the final car under power, 52 laps down.  Rounding out the Bottom Five were Mike Bliss in Archie St. Hillaire’s #32 Skuttle Tight / Ford with DiBenedetto in 39th also four laps down.

With 11 races remaining, Busch’s average finish in 4 Cup starts this year is now 24.8.

Joe Frasson's last-place car at Michigan, 1976
SOURCE: John Betts, Stock Car Racers Reunion
*This is the first last-place finish for the #18 in a Cup race at Michigan since June 20, 1976 when Joe Frasson’s #18 Excuse Lounge Chevrolet lost the engine after 1 lap of the Cam 2 Motor Oil 400, won by David Pearson.  Frasson, a temperamental owner-driver from Golden Valley, Minnesota, made 107 Cup starts from 1969 through 1978.  His best career finishes were a pair of 3rd-place runs at Darlington in 1972 and at Texas World Speedway in 1973.  Frasson’s brightly-painted machines occasionally carried sponsorship which ranged from Pizza Hut to his family’s cement company.
*Busch previously finished last in a Cup race at Michigan just one other time  - on August 21, 2005, Busch’s #5 Kellogg’s Chevrolet started 4th and led 28 laps, but overheated after 81 circuits due to debris that became stuck to the front valence.  That same race, the GFS Marketplace 400, saw Jeremy Mayfield’s 5th and most recent Cup Series victory.

43) #18-Kyle Busch / 52 laps / crash
42) #38-David Gilliland / 64 laps / crash
41) #7-Alex Bowman / 84 laps / running
40) #32-Mike Bliss / 136 laps / running
39) #83-Matt DiBenedetto / 136 laps / running

1st) Landon Cassill (3)
2nd) Alex Bowman (2)
3rd) Justin Allgaier, A.J. Allmendinger, Aric Almirola, Trevor Bayne, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Joey Gase, Sam Hornish, Jr., Brian Scott, J.J. Yeley (1)

1st) Hillman Smith Motorsports (3)
2nd) Richard Petty Motorsports, Tommy Baldwin Racing (2)
3rd) BK Racing, Go FAS Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, HScott Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, JTG-Daugherty Racing, Richard Childress Racing / Circle Sport, Roush-Fenway Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (9)
2nd) Ford (4)
3rd) Toyota (2)

XFINITY: Qualifying Crash Ends C.J. Faison’s Day In Michigan

SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin' Forums
C.J. Faison picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Great Clips 250 at the Michigan International Speedway when his #26 JGL Graphics Toyota was unable to start the race.  The finish occurred in what was to be Faison’s 2nd series start.

Just 21 years old, Faison already has 16 years of racing experience, having worked his way from the go-kart tracks of the northeast to the K&N Pro Series East and Dirt Late Model divisions.  In 2013, he made his Truck Series debut at Dover, finishing 30th for Ken Smith, then just two rounds later jumped to 19th at Kentucky in Bobby Dotter’s #81 SS Green Light Racing Toyota.  With a contract signed to run select Truck races for Premium Motorsports while developing his own race team, Faison set his sights on the XFINITY Series for which he tested in 2013.  In this series, Faison has found a home with JGL Racing.

JGL was formed last year by Gregg Mixon, a longtime XFINITY Series owner who was making his return to the series after a decade’s absence.  In the aftermath of Dodge’s exodus from NASCAR, Mixon bought old XFINITY cars from Penske Racing and ran two cars with a mix of veteran and rookie drivers.  The car number that would become Faison’s ride was to be a part-time third team for the restrictor-plate races in 2015 with Mike Wallace aboard while Eric McClure brought his Hefty and Reynolds Wrap sponsorship to fund one of JGL’s two full-time rides.  However, when McClure and his sponsors returned to TriStar Motorsports after Talladega, JGL went back to running two cars once more - the #28 of J.J. Yeley and the #26 to be driven by series newcomers like Faison.

Faison made his XFINITY Series debut at Dover on May 30, starting 37th and finishing 23rd, six laps down.  He was tabbed to return for Saturday’s next round at Michigan, where he turned in the 27th-fastest time in Friday’s only practice session.  In Saturday’s qualifying session, Faison had just turned in the 30th-fastest time on his second lap at an average speed of 187.110 mph when a bizarre accident ended his afternoon.  Coming off Turn 4, his car ruptured a water line that got moisture under his wheels.  The #26 switched ends and backed into the outside wall.  Faison was uninjured and attempted to help his crew fix the machine for that afternoon’s race.  Despite the team’s best efforts, Faison’s car was pulled behind the wall before the start, unable to compete in the race.

For the seventh time this season, TriStar Motorsports and Motorsports Business Management finished nose-to-tail in the Bottom Five, this time with current LASTCAR XFINITY Series leader Jeff Green in TriStar’s unsponsored #19 coming home 39th, 29 laps behind Carl Long in MBM’s #40 Braille Battery / Grafoid Dodge.  37th went to 1990 Daytona 500 winner Derrike Cope with Jackson Coffee Co. on his self-prepared #70 Chevrolet, equaling Cope’s worst finish of the year at Bristol.  36th place ended up with Blake Koch, one of Green’s teammates at TriStar, in the #8 Leaf Filter Gutter Protection Toyota.

*Faison is the first XFINITY Series driver to finish last due to being unable to start the race since June 2, 2012, when Tony Raines’ #70 Black Cat Fireworks Chevrolet for owner Jay Robinson could not get going in the 5-Hour Energy 200.
*This is the first last-place finish for the #26 in an XFINITY Series race since October 15, 2010, when Parker Kligerman’s #26 Roger Penske-owned Dodge started 8th but crashed after 3 laps of the Dollar General 300 at Charlotte.  It is the number’s first XFINITY last-place run at Michigan.
*This is the first last-place finish for JGL Racing since last June, when Kevin Lepage lost the rear gear o his unsponsored #93 JGL Racing Dodge and did not complete a lap of the Gardner Denver 200 at Road America.

40) #26-C.J. Faison / 0 laps / did not start
39) #19-Jeff Green / 2 laps / vibration
38) #40-Carl Long / 31 laps / vibration
37) #70-Derrike Cope / 32 laps / transmission
36) #8-Blake Koch / 74 laps / electrical

1st) Jeff Green (6)
2nd) Dexter Bean, C.J. Faison, Mike Harmon, Charles Lewandoski, Carl Long, Morgan Shepherd, Derek White (1)

1st) TriStar Motorsports (7)
2nd) Motorsports Business Management (2)
3rd) JGL Racing, King Autosport, Mike Harmon Racing, Shepherd Racing Ventures (1)

1st) Toyota (9)
2nd) Chevrolet, Dodge (2)