Wednesday, April 18, 2018

#JD70: J.D. McDuffie's Career at Richmond

J.D. at Richmond in 1981, one of his first downsized Pontiacs.
PHOTO: Rich Imlay, Janine Pestel Collection
One of the most interesting measures of J.D. McDuffie’s longevity in the sport is his career at the Richmond Raceway. McDuffie made 39 starts at the track, during which time he made at least one start on all five of its configurations.

McDuffie’s first two Richmond starts were on dirt, a callback to his roots on the clay ovals near his native Sanford. The first of these came on May 15, 1966, when the track was a half-mile bullring known as the Atlantic Rural Fairgrounds. That day, McDuffie lined up 19th in his 1964 Ford and finished 13th in a field of 30, 43 laps down to race winner David
Richmond 1985, with sponsorship from Restore and
Dutch Treats.
PHOTO: Rich Imlay, Janine Pestel Collection
Pearson. His last start on the dirt came that September, where this time he ran 24th of 29.

On September 8, 1968, McDuffie was in the 28-car field that was the first to run on the track’s new pavement. He was also the surface’s first last-place finisher, his 1967 Buick losing oil pressure after 12 laps of the Capital City 300. The track, now known as the Virginia State Fairgounds, was now measured at 0.625 of a mile. By his next start on April 13, 1969, it was the Richmond Fairgrounds Raceway and again measured as an exact half-mile. McDuffie finished 6th that day, his first Top Ten at the speedway. A second last-place run came that September, this time due to engine failure. That race marked the first time the Fairgrounds was measured at 0.542 of a mile, its official size for nearly two decades.
Richmond 1986, Rumple Furniture and foil numbers.
PHOTO: Rich Imlay, Janine Pestel Collection

Richmond late 1986 / early 1987 - AC Spark Plug
and backing from Tom Winkle.
PHOTO: Rich Imlay, Janine Pestel Collection
McDuffie finished last four times at Richmond. His third of these took place on September 10, 1972, when the transmission let go after 3 laps. That day, McDuffie wasn’t driving his own #70, but a 1970 Plymouth fielded by Doc Faustina. From 1971 through 1976, Faustina would field cars for several stars of the sport, including Richard Childress, Harry Gant, and the final Cup car Hall of Famer Wendell Scott drove at Charlotte on October 7, 1973. The 1972 Richmond race was McDuffie’s only start for Faustina.

McDuffie’s final last-place run at Richmond took place on September 7, 1980, when a cylinder head issue knocked-out his Bailey Excavating Chevrolet after 44 laps. This finish had historical significance of its own. On that day, he broke a tie with fellow owner-driver G.C. Spencer for the most last-place finishes in NASCAR Cup Series history. McDuffie would hold this record well after his passing. Joe Nemechek exceeded his career mark in 2014.

In all, McDuffie scored eight Top Tens at Richmond and a single Top Five. The latter occurred on October 12, 1975, during a 500-lapper won by Darrell Waltrip. McDuffie finished 5th that day in a car sponsored by the Butler’s, Inc. and Glenn’s Landscaping. His 1975 Chevrolet finished 17 laps down to Waltrip, but was ahead of the likes of Benny Parsons (18th), Cale Yarborough (26th), and Richard Petty, who finished 28th and last due to engine failure. McDuffie also led his only two laps at the track on March 11, 1979 en route to a 7th-place finish.

McDuffie made just one Cup start on the current 0.75-mile configuration. On September 10, 1989, at what was then the Richmond International Raceway, his #70 Rumple Pontiac lined up 32nd in the 36-car field, having bested Greg Sacks for a spot in the field. He finished 31st in that day’s running of the Miller High Life 400, an event dominated by Rusty Wallace. In each of his final three attempts to make the Richmond field, McDuffie was the fastest car to miss the field. This included the 1991 running, when he brought the same dark blue Pontiac to the track that had barely missed out on the Daytona 500 field a week earlier.

This weekend, Richmond debuts yet another new name as "Richmond Raceway" with a new infield. It will be the first incarnation of the facility where McDuffie has not raced.

Reserve your copy of "J.D.: The Life and Death of a Forgotten NASCAR Legend" at Waldorf Publishing, coming July 15, 2018. Click here for more details.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

K&N EAST: Buchanan claims last for the eighth time in crowded Bristol race

Buchanan's car at New Smyrna earlier this year.
by William Soquet Guest Contributor

Chuck Buchanan Jr. picked up the eighth last-place finish of his NASCAR K&N East career in Saturday’s Zombie Auto 150 at Bristol Motor Speedway when his #87 Spring Drug Chevrolet fell out with electrical problems after 19 of 150 laps.

The finish, which came in his 20th series start, was his first since September 4th, 2017, at Hampton, four races ago.

Buchanan has been a perennial underdog in NASCAR. He and his family team have run a partial K&N East schedule since 2011, when Buchanan made his debut at Greenville-Pickens Speedway. In the 19 starts since, he has finished nine of them, and in all of his starts, he has carried funding from Spring Drug, a drugstore mere miles from the Wood Brothers’ former base in Stuart, Virginia.

Buchanan has also been trying to make his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut for five years. Some previously garnered LASTCAR coverage, from a brief mention for his first attempt in the fall of 2014 to being a part of a lengthy list of DNQs in spring of 2017, both times at Martinsville. In fact, all but one of his six attempts to qualify have come at Martinsville, the one outlier coming at Bristol. Unfortunately, all have resulted in four DNQs, in which he was never above 35th in time trials, and two withdrawals.

For 2018, Buchanan switched from his usual K&N number, 19, to the number he had used in all of his Truck attempts (minus one for Jennifer Jo Cobb in 2017), 87. The #19 went to Bill McAnally Racing, which expanded its K&N East effort to three cars. At least for the first two races of the 2018 season, McAnally's #19 has been driven by Hailie Deegan.

The initial entry list at Bristol included 29 drivers. Aside from Jimmy Zacharaias, whose #31 Marsh Racing car withdrew, all entries made the race. In first practice, Buchanan anchored the speed charts with a lap of 17.664, about a tenth off the next driver, Salvatore Iovino, and just about two seconds off of pace setter Harrison Burton.

Starting last on Saturday was Chase Cabre, whose #4 Rev Racing team was the only one to not record a time in qualifying after he crashed on his attempt. Buchanan was the slowest car on time, running an 18.603, a half a second off the fastest car and three and a half off of Noah Gragson, the top qualifier. Interestingly enough, the next-fastest car on time, Anthony Alfredo, hit the wall off Turn 4 and still recorded a lap faster than Buchanan. Alfredo would start 26th but have good help moving up, as his spotter Landon Huffman spotted Zane Smith to an ARCA win last week.

Cabre fired off last, but would not remain there for long. Buchanan took last soon after, eight seconds down after one lap. He would soon surrender the spot to Brandon Oakley, who inherited the spot after a spin on Lap 4. After the ensuing round of pit stops, Cabre found last once more, only to vacate the spot on the restart and hand it to Salvatore Iovino, running his first full East slate this year. Buchanan, running on the same lap as Iovino, retired around Lap 18, though the exact lap is hard to tell because he was laps down when he retired. The decision to retire may have been influenced by a poor-handling car, as he almost turned Noah Gragson while getting lapped.

27th went to Jesse Iwuji, who was the victim of a spin on the backstretch that resulted in Tyler Dippel being called to the NASCAR hauler at the conclusion of the event. Chase Cabre wound up 26th, his awful weekend capped off by a terminal electrical issue a third of the way through the race. Matt Levin took 25th after an accident that did not draw a caution. Rounding out the Bottom Five was Derek Kraus, who encountered multiple issues throughout the day to finish under power 21 laps down.

28) #87-Chuck Buchanan Jr. / 19 laps / electrical
27) #36-Jesse Iwuji / 28 laps / crash
26) #4-Chase Cabre / 55 laps / electrical
25) #10-Matt Levin / 87 laps / crash
24) #16-Derek Kraus / 129 laps / running

1st) Bill McAnally Racing, Charles Buchanan Jr. (1)

1st) Toyota, Chevrolet (1)


Sunday, April 15, 2018

CUP: Early trouble at Bristol hands Ross Chastain first Cup Series last-place finish

PHOTO: Marcus Leno,
Ross Chastain picked up the 1st last-place finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Food City 500 at the Bristol Motor Speedway when his #15 Low T Centers Chevrolet was involved in a multi-car accident after 3 laps.

The finish came in Chastain’s 9th series start. In the NASCAR Cup Series last-place rankings, it’s the 26th for car #15, the 563rd by reason of a crash, and the 741st for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it’s the 38th for #15, the 1,134th by reason of a crash, and the 1,587th for Chevrolet.

A native of Alva, Florida, Chastain has been racing since he was twelve, getting his start in both late models and the Florida Fastruck Series (now the Florida Pro Truck Series). The biggest win of his early career came during the World Series of Asphalt at the New Smyrna Speedway in 2011.

That same year, Chastain made his Truck Series debut at Indianapolis Raceway Park. Driving for Stacy Compton’s Turn One Racing with sponsorship from the National Watermelon Promotion Board (Chastain grew up on his family’s watermelon farm in Alva), Chastain impressed with a 10th-place finish. Chastain’s melon-sponsored machines became a regular sight in the Truck Series for the next two seasons, including a strong partial schedule in 2013 with two poles and a runner-up to James Buescher at Iowa.

In 2014, Chastain made his XFINITY Series debut at Charlotte driving for Jimmy Dick. Once again, he impressed his first time out, finishing 18th – the fifth-best finish in the team’s 58 starts. In 2015, he landed his current XFINITY Series ride with Johnny Davis’ JD Motorsports in the #4 Chevrolet. The duo started out with a 9th-place finish in the Daytona opener. Over the next three seasons, driver and team showed measured improvement, culminating with a best points finish of 13th last year and a new career-best XFINITY finish of 4th at Iowa. As of this writing, that Iowa run remains one of only four top-five finishes earned by JD Motorsports.

Last year, it was again time for Chastain to take the next step, and again he excelled. This time, he’d run a tripleheader at Dover, culminating with his Cup Series debut in the 400-miler driving for Jay Robinson’s Premium Motorsports. His #15 carrying the watermelon colors and sponsorship from the Delaware Office of Highway Safety, Chastain was locked-into the field with the Charter acquired from the shuttered HScott Motorsports. After an 8th-place run by Michael Waltrip in the Daytona 500, the car hadn’t finished any better than 21st. Chastain improved on this with a 20th-place run, three laps down to Jimmie Johnson.

This year, Chastain and Premium Motorsports reunited at Atlanta, and the youngster has driven the #15 in every Cup race since. Coming into Bristol, Chastain had finished inside the Top 30 every week with a season-best 18th just last week in Texas, a new career-best for the driver. On the XFINITY side, he entered the weekend 12th in points after his first DNF of the year, a rear gear issue in Fort Worth. Bristol would make his first XFINITY start of the season with the Florida Watermelon Association on his #4 Chevrolet.

At Bristol, Chastain ran 17th and 23rd in Friday’s two XFINITY practices, but Happy Hour was marred by an incident not of his own making. The incident occurred while Chastain and teammate Garrett Smithley in the #0 slowed to avoid a wrecked Tony Mrakovich in Turn 2. At that same moment, Christopher Bell closed on the pair at full speed. Citing a brake issue, Bell couldn’t slow his #20 GameStop / Seagate Game Drive for Xbox Toyota in time and squeezed between the two JD Motorsports cars. Bell sideswiped Smithley, then struck the right-rear of Chastain. All four cars were repaired in time for the race. Chastain’s received a new TV panel while the right-rear quarter-panel was straightened and re-decaled. The team’s hard work was rewarded – Chastain qualified 15th and finished 9th, matching his season-best finish in this year’s Daytona opener.

On the Cup side, Chastain ran 34th in opening practice, didn’t complete a lap in the second session, and ran 33rd in Happy Hour. In qualifying, he jumped to 27th on the grid with a speed of 125.248mph (15.320 seconds), just over three-hundredths of a second from advancing to Round 2. It was Chastain’s best career Cup start, improving on his 31st-place showing a week ago in Texas.

Qualifying 39th and last in Sunday’s short field was Kevin Harvick, the only driver to not turn a lap in Round 1. Harvick had been sent to a backup car after his primary suffered a failure entering Turn 3 on Friday, sending the car hard into the outside wall. On race day, he was joined at the back by fellow Bristol winners Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch. Johnson cut a tire in qualifying while Busch, the outside-polesitter, wrecked with five minutes left in Happy Hour, sending him to a backup car.

When the pace car lights turned off, Harrison Rhodes surrendered his 37th starting spot to drop to the rear, lining up behind Harvick and Busch. When the race started, Rhodes’ Toyota remained in last, watching as Harvick, Busch, and Johnson began to pick their way through the field. The group made quick work of Chad Finchum, making his Cup debut in Motorsports Business Management’s #66 Concrete North, Inc. / Smithbilt Homes Toyota. On Lap 2, Rhodes passed Finchum off Turn 4, and Finchum got past D.J. Kennington in Turn 2. Kennington, his #96 Toyota honoring the lives lost in the Humbolt Broncos tragedy, had just been cleared by the #66 when trouble broke out in front of him.

Up until this point, Las Vegas last-placer Michael McDowell had been enjoying one of the best weekends of his career. He qualified 9th – his second-best starting spot behind a 6th at Talladega in 2014 – and early on was locked in a tight battle with 12th-place starter Daniel Suarez in the #19 ARRIS Toyota. But on Lap 4, as McDowell and Suarez came off the fourth corner, McDowell spun and collected Chase Elliott in the #9 Mountain Dew Baja Blast Chevrolet. At the time, Ross Chastain was slowing off Turn 4 when he rear-ended a slowing Martin Truex, Jr., steering the #78 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota into the pileup.

Chastain in the garage after the Lap 3 wreck.
PHOTO: Bob Pockrass
Chastain steered his car to the apron with heavy damage to the front valence. He turned to the garage area, where the crew began repairs, waiting to see if they could come back out. On Lap 13, the crew reported that NASCAR would not let them return under the new Crash Clock protocol, and their day was done. “We’re done,” said a crew member over the radio. “We’re not allowed to go back out.” McDowell’s #34 ran another six laps before his Crash Clock expired, leaving him a disappointing 38th.

The final three cars in the Bottom Five were eliminated in another multi-car pileup on Lap 116. Contact between the #6 AdvoCare Ford of Trevor Bayne and the #37 Bush’s Beans Chevrolet of Chris Buescher steered Bayne into the #51 Industrial Construction Experts Toyota of Harrison Rhodes. Caught in the right-rear, Rhodes spun up the banking directly into the path of race leader Ryan Blaney’s #12 REV Ford. The accident eliminated Rhodes, Buescher, and Blaney, who led 100 of the first 117 laps. The trio soon took the final three spots in the Bottom Five from the lapped machines of Ty Dillon and Martin Truex, Jr.

*This marked the first last-place finish for car #15 in a Cup race at Bristol.
*This was also the ninth-consecutive last-place run for Chevrolet in a Cup race at Bristol, a streak stretching back to Timmy Hill’s wreck in this race in 2014.

39) #15-Ross Chastain / 3 laps / crash
38) #34-Michael McDowell / 9 laps / crash
37) #51-Harrison Rhodes / 115 laps / crash
36) #37-Chris Buescher / 116 laps / crash
35) #12-Ryan Blaney / 117 laps / crash / led 100 laps

1st) TriStar Motorsports (2)
2nd) BK Racing, Front Row Motorsports, Furniture Row Racing, Premium Motorsports, Roush-Fenway Racing, StarCom Racing (1)

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


XFINITY: Bristol wreck hands Jeremy Clements his first XFINITY last-place finish in 273rd career start

PHOTO: Marcus Leno,
Jeremy Clements picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 at the Bristol Motor Speedway when his #51 All South Electric / Chevrolet was involved in a multi-car accident after 4 of 300 laps.

The finish came in Clements’ 273rd career start, dating as far back as 2003 and covering all but two XFINITY Series races run since November 20, 2010. In the XFINITY Series last-place rankings, it’s the 7th for car #51, the 314th by reason of a crash, and the 499th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it’s the 32nd for the #51, the 1,133rd by reason of a crash, and the 1,586th for Chevrolet.

Eight months ago, Clements pulled off one of NASCAR’s most popular upsets in recent years. That day at Road America, Clements not only scored his first XFINITY Series win over the heavily-favored Joe Gibbs Toyota of Matt Tifft, but did so despite spinning with Tifft as the two raced toward the white flag. It was the hard-fought reward for Clements and his family’s Spartanburg, South Carolina-based team. The driver made his XFINITY debut on July 26, 2003 at Pikes Peak International Raceway, where he ran 31st in a race won by Scott Wimmer. His father Tony began fielding cars in the series in 2008, and the driver attracted sponsorship from during his tenure with JD Motorsports two years later.

From the 2010 finale at Homestead to today, Clements has made all but two of the XFINITY Series races run during that span. The Jeremy Clements Racing #51 has been a fixture in the garage area since the 2011 opener at Daytona, where Clements finished 16th, propelling him to the first of seven consecutive seasons finishing Top 20 in the points. Prior to Road America, his best finish in the series had been a 4th at Talladega, where he led his only seven laps of the season.

Through it all, Clements had not once finished last in an XFINITY Series race. In fact, just one time did he come within one position of doing so: November 3, 2007 at Texas, where the #36 McGill Motorsports Chevrolet he was driving was involved in a multi-car wreck with Mike Bliss and Brad Baker. On Saturday, another wreck would have a different result.

Clements began the weekend with a new sponsor on the hood of his black-and-red Chevrolet. All South Electric joined the Bristol effort, buying space on the hood. The brand caught some attention in Friday’s opening practice, where the #51 turned the 14th-fastest lap, then held 16th in Happy Hour. In qualifying, Clements dropped a couple more spots to 19th with a speed of 123.865mph (15.491 seconds). It was his second-best starting spot behind a 12th last Saturday in Texas. Clements led his first lap of the season that day and came into Bristol 15th in the standings.

The head photo for this article, taken by Marcus Leno at, shows some damage to the right-rear of Clements’ Chevrolet in the lead-up to the race. Other small teams had even bigger problems with the outside wall.

B.J. McLeod, set to celebrate his 75th XFINITY Series start, clobbered the wall on Friday, destroying his #78 EPIC Racewear Chevrolet. The team literally burned the midnight oil, sending the car back to the shop in Mooresville, preparing the backup, and towing it back to Bristol in time for qualifying on Saturday morning.

The RSS Racing team lines up for the start on the outside lane.
Sieg's #38 in the foreground, Yeley's #39 in back.
PHOTO: Marcus Leno,
As McLeod put his car 26th on the grid, Ryan Sieg lost control off the fourth corner and destroyed his #39 Lombard Brothers Gaming Chevrolet. With the team’s backup set up for 1.5-mile tracks instead of short courses, the decision was made that Sieg would instead drive his teammate J.J. Yeley’s #38. There was only time to change the names on the roof rails of both cars, meaning that Sieg would take the green flag in the #38 with Yeley’s name on the windshield banner. Like McLeod, both drivers would incur tail-end penalties for the swap.

The lone driver who failed to qualify was Morgan Shepherd, the first time he’d failed to make the spring race at Bristol since 2016. Also sent home was ARCA Racing Series competitor Tony Mrakovich, who was originally slated to take the place of Dylan Lupton in JGL Racing’s #28 Smart Emissions Reducer Ford. Mrakovich struggled in opening practice, his best of two laps more than four seconds off the pace after he smashed the wall with the right-rear, and was second-slowest in Happy Hour. Las Vegas last-placer Dylan Lupton returned to qualify and race the car, lining up 33rd.

Starting 40th on Saturday’s grid was David Starr in Jimmy Means’ #52 Chevrolet. The team welcomed sponsorship from Franklin Signs & Graphics, the company that helped design the Means team’s paint schemes and sold them decals. He lined up next to Cody Ware, who stood in for Mike Harmon on Friday. Harmon’s #74 team fielded a Dodge for the first time since their DNQ at Daytona, and carried new sponsorship of their own from Horizon Transport. On race day, the pair were joined at the rear by Yeley and Sieg in each other’s cars, McLeod’s backup #78, and Michael Annett, sent to the back for unapproved adjustments on his #5 Pilot Travel Centers Chevrolet.

By the 5th lap of the race, Cody Ware had taken last when trouble broke out near the front. Third-place starter Christopher Bell slowed on the outside lane off Turn 4, and those running behind checked-up. The logjam started behind 14th-place starter Ty Majeski, whose #60 SunnyD Ford was rear-ended by Kaz Grala’s #24 NETTTS Ford. Clements, running right behind Grala, had nowhere to go. The three cars piled into each other and skated up the track, ultimately collecting another three. When the dust settled, Clements’ #51 was facing backwards with the front valence caved-in, fluids leaking down the banking. Out of all the cars involved, Clements’ was the only one unable to continue, leaving him last.

Kaz Grala’s damaged #24 made it another 22 circuits before he joined Clements in the garage, leaving him 38th. While both Jeff Green and J.J. Yeley exited early to finish 39th and 37th, Sieg wheeled Yeley’s “start-and-park” car to a strong 15th-place finish, Sieg’s best finish of the year. Rounding out the Bottom Five was Chad Finchum, who had engine trouble on Carl Long’s #40 Concrete North, Inc. Toyota.

*This marked the first last-place finish for car #51 in an XFINITY Series race since June 19, 2004, when Stan Boyd’s #51 Ware Racing Enterprises Chevrolet (fielded by current Cup Series car owner Rick Ware) had ignition issues after 2 laps of the Meijer 300 presented by Oreo at the Kentucky Speedway. The number had never finished last in an XFINITY Series race at Bristol.

40) #51-Jeremy Clements / 4 laps / crash
39) #93-Jeff Green / 25 laps / brakes
38) #24-Kaz Grala / 26 laps / crash
37) #39-J.J. Yeley / 47 laps / brakes
36) #40-Chad Finchum / 48 laps / engine

1st) RSS Racing (3)
2nd) Jeremy Clements Racing, JGL Racing, Mike Harmon Racing, Roush-Fenway Racing, RSS Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (5)
2nd) Ford (2)