Sunday, October 23, 2016

CUP: Martin Truex, Jr., first Talladega polesitter to finish last since 2001, eliminated from Chase with engine failure

SOURCE: @MattWeaverSBN
Martin Truex, Jr. picked up the 5th last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s Hellmann’s 500 at the Talladega Superspeedway when his #78 Bass Pro Shops / Tracker Boats Toyota fell out with engine failure after 41 of 192 laps.

The finish, which came in Truex’s 401st series start, was his first of the season and first in a Sprint Cup race since another early engine failure at the 2014 Daytona 500, 103 races ago.

What Truex, Jr. and Furniture Row Racing have done between their two most recent last-place finishes has been nothing short of remarkable.  After a difficult 2014 season both on and off the track where his girlfriend Sherry Pollex went through cancer treatment, Truex, Jr. roared back in 2015, claiming his first victory in more than two years at Pocono, one of eight Top Fives and 22 Top Tens.  His torrid pace continued through the fall, culminating with a spot in the Final 4, a 12th-place finish at Homestead, and a career-best 4th in the final standings.

This year, Furniture Row Racing’s technical alliance moved from Richard Childress Racing to Joe Gibbs Racing, and with the move from Chevrolet to Toyota came new part-time sponsorship from Bass Pro Shops.  The new black-and-orange car debuted in the Daytona 500, which Truex nearly won until a last-corner, last-moment surge from Denny Hamlin in a photo finish.  Truex scored his first win of the season with perhaps the most dominant performance in NASCAR history, leading 392 of 400 laps in the Coca-Cola 600 after winning the pole.  Another crown jewel win came in the Southern 500, and he cruised into the Chase with wins in two of the first three races at Chicagoland and Dover.

When the series returned to Charlotte, however, driver and team began to struggle.  Driving the same car from the 600, Truex never led and finished just 13th, then ran 11th at Kansas, where he led 172 laps before late trouble during the spring.  Heading into Talladega, Truex, Jr. sat sixth in points, just 13 points over the bubble, and would need a strong run to earn his way into the Round of Eight.  In qualifying, Truex, Jr. seemed headed in the right direction.  He won the pole for what would be Toyota’s 1,000th NASCAR national series race.  Controversy reigned, however, as it was reported that front jack screws were confiscated from the #78 before qualifying, potentially encumbering his finish with a post-race point penalty.

43 drivers were originally slated to attempt Sunday’s field, which would have been the biggest entry list since the Daytona 500.  Would have, that is, had The Motorsports Group not withdrawn Josh Wise on Monday, then Premium Motorsports pulled Cole Whitt on Friday.  When qualifying was done, David Gilliland was the only driver who missed the field, his #35 Dockside Logistics Ford from Front Row Motorsports missing the field by just under two-tenths of a second.

Starting last on Sunday was David Ragan in the #23 sweetFrog Toyota, but he soon had company.  Three Joe Gibbs Racing cars driven by Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, and Kyle Busch all fell to the rear and would remain there for the day, looking to advance with their existing point cushions.  Joining them was Reed Sorenson, who had qualified a surprising 12th in Premium’s second car, #55.  Driving what appeared to be the #98 that Cole Whitt nearly got into the Top 5 during the spring race, Sorenson was fastest in the first round of qualifying, then anchored the final round.

Unfortunately, Sorenson’s lap was due to a different kind of oil Premium used just for qualifying and would not be appropriate for the race.  With NASCAR’s impound rules in place, the #55 team decided against changing the oil after qualifying, and would instead replace it during the race.  A similar strategy was used in 2008 by the Wood Brothers, who locked-in their driver Jon Wood with a fast qualifying lap, then pulled behind the wall in the early laps to re-attach belts removed from the motor to improve speed.  As with Wood, Sorenson pulled behind the wall on the first lap for the oil change, dropping him to last.  He returned to the track on Lap 13, 12 circuits behind, and ran the rest of the race in the Bottom Five.

Truex, Jr., meanwhile, led 2 of the first 13 laps, then remained near the front as Brad Keselowski and Chase Elliott battled for the top spot.  During this green-flag run, Truex, Jr. noticed a vibration which he originally believed to be a tire.  He managed to make it down pit road for his first scheduled stop, but the vibration was still there, and NASCAR reported there was smoke coming from the side of his machine.  Then, on Lap 42, it all went wrong.  The engine let go, and #78 pulled to the inside of Turn 1, flames coming from beneath his car.  The problem was terminal, and Truex, Jr. was done for the day.

Low attrition meant that Truex, Jr. was not officially eliminated from the Chase, however, until the end of the race, when many of his fellow Chase drivers survived with good enough finishes.  Many, that is, except 38th-place Brad Keselowski.  Continuing on his dominance from the spring race and needing a strong run after a late crash at Kansas, Keselowski was untouchable, locking-up the bonus point for most laps led by pacing 90 of the first 145 laps.  Debris on the grille of his #2 Miller Lite Ford caused him to surrender the lead to Ryan Blaney in order to clear it away, but it was too late.  Heading down the backstretch, his engine let go as well, ending his own Chase hopes.

39th went to Casey Mears, who wrecked at pit entrance with Greg Biffle and Jeffrey Earnhardt on Lap 114.  37th went to Sorenson, who came home 12 laps down, still under power.  Also going the distance was 36th-place Alex Bowman - barely - who spun from the Top 10 on Lap 187, damaging the underside of his #88 Mountain Dew Chevrolet.  Next week at Martinsville, the #88 will again be driven by Jeff Gordon, the defending winner of the event.

Turning heads on Sunday was Brian Scott, who ran near the front most of the day and steered his #44 Goody’s Ford to a 2nd-place finish, even threatening to take the win from leader Joey Logano.  It was a tremendous run both for driver and team, one week after Richard Petty Motorsports teammate Aric Almirola picked up his second last-place run of the year.  Almirola also finished in the Top 10 on Sunday, coming home 8th.

40) #78-Martin Truex, Jr. / 41 laps / engine / led 2 laps
39) #13-Casey Mears / 113 laps / crash
38) #2-Brad Keselowski / 144 laps / engine / led 90 laps
37) #55-Reed Sorenson / 179 laps / running
36) #88-Alex Bowman / 191 laps / running

*Truex is the first polesitter to finish last in a Cup race at Talladega since April 22, 2001, when Stacy Compton’s #92 Kodiak Dodge, fielded by Melling Racing, also led 2 laps and lost the engine after 116 laps of the Talladega 500.  An interesting side note: Compton’s crew chief that day was Chad Knaus.
*Truex is the first driver to finish last with at least one lap led since November 3, 2013, when Michael McDowell’s unsponsored #98 Phil Parsons Racing Ford led 1 lap of the AAA Texas 500 at Texas, then retire with a vibration after 27 circuits.

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

1st) Chevrolet (20)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (6)


TRUCKS: John Hunter Nemechek’s first last-place finish drops him from Chase; Caleb Roark clinches third-straight LASTCAR title

John Hunter Nemechek picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Saturday’s Fred’s 250 at the Talladega Superspeedway when his #8 Fire Alarm Services Chevrolet lost the engine after 13 of 94 laps.  The finish came in Nemechek’s 49th series start.

The 19-year-old son of Joe Nemechek, the all-time leader in Sprint Cup last-place finishes, and named for the late John Nemechek, who lost his life in a tragic accident at Homestead in 1997, has enjoyed a meteoric rise through NASCAR’s ranks.  Driving for his father’s team and, later, with his uncle’s number, Nemechek made his Truck Series debut in 2013, finishing 16th at Martinsville.

Nemechek’s first Top Ten came at Dover in 2014, and he threatened to win the following round at Gateway before a late crash left him 15th.  With limited sponsorship, and his father leaving Cup racing to focus on the team exclusively, Nemechek ran just 18 of the 23 races in 2015, but broke through with his first victory at Chicagoland.  With a 12th-place spot in points despite a part-time effort, Nemechek returned to the series this season for his first full campaign.

This year, Nemechek picked up right where he left off, winning the second round at Atlanta, his first pole at Iowa, then took a controversial victory at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park when he bumped, wrecked, then literally fought Cole Custer for the victory.  The wins vaulted Nemechek to a spot in the Truck Series’ inaugural Chase, but with finishes of 9th and 16th in the first two rounds, he would all but need a win in the elimination round at Talladega to make it to the Round of 6.

Fire Alarm Services joined the NEMCO effort for the sixth time in 2016, and the neon-hued #8 Chevrolet showed speed early.  He ran 16th-fastest in the opening practice, jumped to 5th in Happy Hour, and rolled off 11th on the grid with a lap of 176.477mph.

Nemechek was among 39 drivers originally slated to attempt the 32-truck field.  The Wednesday before the race, Terry Jones withdrew his #30 J-AAR Toyota after he suffered an off-track injury. Norm Benning, whose #6 Chevrolet has made only three starts this season, withdrew his truck soon after, along with Mike Harmon's #74 RAM.  Bolen Motorsports, which fielded a Harmon entry at Las Vegas, brought their white #66 truck back to the track, only this time with Ross Chastain in his first series race of 2016.  Bolen's popular Jordan Anderson will return at Texas for a fan-supported effort, then run the Homestead finale. (Bolen details updated two hours after press time with additional info).

When the dust settled, 36 drivers remained for qualifying, and four missed the race: Ryan Ellis in Mike Mittler’s primary truck, the #63 Theme Park Connection Chevrolet; Parker Kligerman, taking his first turn of the year in place of Caleb Holman behind the wheel of Charlie Henderson’s #75 Anderson Maple Syrup / Food Country USA Toyota; and the two Jennifer Jo Cobb entries of Cobb and Clay Greenfield, the latter in the #10 1-800-PAVEMENT Chevrolet.

Greenfield’s attempt left Caleb Roark without a ride, effectively ending his streak of four-consecutive last-place finishes, the longest in Truck Series history.  However, when Tommy Joe Martins did not finish last on Saturday and, in fact, dodged a big wreck and scored his second-best finish of the year with a strong 16th, Roark extended another streak by becoming the first driver to score three consecutive LASTCAR Truck Series Championships (not two, as previously reported - how about that?).  Roark joins Jeff Fuller, Jeff Green, and Michael McDowell as the only four NASCAR drivers to score three LASTCAR titles in a row.

Starting last on Saturday was Cody Ware, who returned to the Truck Series for the first time since Canada as driver of his father’s #07 Lilly Trucking / Dashub Chevrolet.  Joining him at the rear were fellow Chevrolet drivers Dylan Lupton, Tommy Joe Martins, and Travis Kvapil, all sent to the back for making adjustments during the impound.  The opening laps saw last place change hands between Ben Rhodes in ThorSport’s #41 XPO Logistics Toyota, the second Mittler truck - a #36 Lucas Oil Racing TV Chevrolet for Bobby Gerhart, and Kvapil’s #50 Bad Boy Mowers Chevrolet for MAKE Motorsports.  Kvapil took the spot on Lap 5, and by Lap 13 had completely lost the pack, leaving him 9 seconds behind the leaders.  The next time by, he was saved by a caution.

Running near the front of the pack, Nemechek’s #8 suddenly erupted in white smoke and pulled to the inside of the track.  The engine had let go.  Immediately dropped to last as the first truck to be lapped, he pulled into the garage area, done for the afternoon, and eliminated from the Chase.

31st went to Cody Coughlin, whose Kyle Busch-prepared #51 JEGS / JET Toyota broke driveshaft and stalled in Turn 2, drawing the second yellow of the afternoon.  30th-place Brandon Hightower drew the fourth caution when a spinning Dylan Lupton in the #02 Randco / Young’s Building Systems Chevrolet sent him hard into the inside wall just past the start/finish line, destroying Hightower’s #71 Advanced Fleet Services Chevrolet.  29th belonged to polesitter Cole Custer, who along with 28th-place John Wes Townley and 12 other drivers were gobbled-up in the day’s biggest wreck in Turn 1 on Lap 60.

*This marked the first last-place finish in a Truck Series race for the #8 since November 5, 2004, when Chase Montgomery’s #8 Gladiator Garageworks Dodge was involved in a crash after 40 laps of the Chevy Silverado 150 presented by Valley Chevy Dealers at Phoenix.  The number had never before finished last in a Truck race at Talladega.

32) #8-John Hunter Nemechek / 13 laps / engine
31) #51-Cody Coughlin / 34 laps / driveshaft
30) #71-Brandon Hightower / 51 laps / crash
29) #00-Cole Custer / 58 laps / crash / led 2 laps
28) #05-John Wes Townley / 59 laps / crash

1st) Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing (6)
2nd) Kyle Busch Motorsports, Tommy Joe Martins (2)
3rd) AWS Racing, Bolen Motorsports, Brandonbilt Motorsports, GMS Racing, Jim Rosenblum Motorsports / FDNY Racing, MAKE Motorsports, NEMCO Motorsports, Norm Benning Racing, ThorSport Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (15)
2nd) Toyota (4)


Open Team Roundup - Talladega (October)

SOURCE: @Reed16Team

#21 Wood Brothers Racing
Driver: Ryan Blaney
Started 15th, Finished 11th

In honor of the late Neil Bonnett, who also drove the Wood Brothers’ iconic Purolator Mercury, Blaney brought back his retro driver’s uniform from Darlington to wear at Bonnett’s home track.  He also showed the same speed from the spring race, running in or near the Top 5 for much of the afternoon, and led 3 laps - his first since Chicago.  On Lap 145, he took the lead from Brad Keselowski, who pulled over to get debris off the nose of his #2 Miller Lite Ford, then slotted between Blaney and Keselowski’s teammate Joey Logano.  Moments later, Keselowski’s engine let go, leaving him 38th and out of the Chase.  Blaney, however, came just one spot short of his ninth Top 10 of the season.  Next week, he returns to the Wood Brothers’ home track at Martinsville, where Blaney came home 19th in the spring.

#99 Roush-Fenway Racing
Driver: Ryan Reed
Started 18th, Finished 26th

Ryan Reed came to Talladega looking to make his Sprint Cup debut while also bringing back Roush-Fenway’s #99 team for the first time since Carl Edwards’ final start with the team at Homestead in 2014.  On Friday, it was also announced that Reed signed a multi-year extension to drive for Roush-Fenway’s XFINITY team, where he’s currently ranked 6th in points for the second round of the division’s new Chase format.  On Saturday, Reed secured a spot in the Cup race, coming just short of the final round of qualifying.  He ran as high as 10th in the final laps, then was shaken out in the sprint to the finish.  As of this writing, Reed and the 99 team aren’t slated to make any more Cup races in 2016.

#93 BK Racing
Driver: Matt DiBenedetto
Started 35th, Finished 27th

With Bobby Labonte back in Go FAS Racing’s chartered #32 Ford, rookie Jeffrey Earnhardt moved into BK Racing’s #83, carrying his second tribute to his late grandfather Dale Earnhardt.  This moved DiBenedetto to the Open #93 team with which he finished last in the season-opening Daytona 500.  Without any points to rely on, DiBenedetto made the cut - barely - besting David Gilliland for the final Open spot by less than one-tenth of a second.  As with the two Open drivers ahead of him, DiBenedetto also flirted with a strong finish, running just outside the Top 10 in the final laps, then came home one spot behind Reed on the lead lap.  Next week at Martinsville, Bobby Labonte is not expected to enter, so DiBenedetto and Earnhardt are expected to return to their respective Open teams.  DiBenedetto finished 29th at the short track in the spring.

UPDATE (Oct. 24): Dylan Lupton is entered in the #83 at Martinsville, so DiBenedetto will once again need to get the #93 in on time.

#55 Premium Motorsports
Driver: Reed Sorenson
Started 12th, Finished 37th

Reed Sorenson began the weekend strong in qualifying, leading the first round and starting 12th.  It was the first time he’d started better than 36th all season, and the first time he’d started better than 35th since the 2015 Daytona 500.  Incidentally, Sorenson’s second round lap of 188.300mph was nearly 1.4 seconds off Martin Truex, Jr.’s pole speed, but by making Round 2, he could fall no further.  Unfortunately, the race didn’t end that way.  Not knowing if they would make the race, Premium Motorsports used a different kind of oil for qualifying, meaning that the oil would have to be changed for the race.  Not wanting to violate NASCAR’s impound rules, they decided to change the oil after taking the green flag, similar to what the Wood Brothers did with driver Jon Wood during Cup plate races in 2008.  During the pace laps, Sorenson pulled to the rear of the field along with the Gibbs cars of Busch, Kenseth, and Edwards, and by the end of Lap 1, had pulled into the garage.  He returned to the track on Lap 13 and ran the rest of the race.  Without a big crash, he only passed three cars.  Next week, Sorenson returns to Martinsville, where Premium debuted the #55 team in the spring, and looks to best his 37th-place finish there.


#35 Front Row Motorsports
Driver: David Gilliland
2016 Team Stats: 2 starts, 2 DNQs

After challenging for a Top 5 late in the spring race, Gilliland was handed his first DNQ since the Daytona 500.  He ran mid-pack in both practice sessions, then anchored the field in qualifying, one-tenth of a second slower than the next Open team, the #93 of Matt DiBenedetto.


#30 The Motorsports Group
Driver: Josh Wise
2016 Team Stats: 27 starts, 4 DNQs, 1 withdrawal

On Monday, October 17, it was announced that The Motorsports Group would withdraw their #30 from Talladega, following three unsuccessful attempts at the restrictor-plate races this season.  Then on October 20, it was announced that Truck Series driver Gray Gaulding will make his first three Cup starts in the #30 during this year’s Chase races at Martinsville, Phoenix, and Homestead.  The car will also carry a new look with backing from the Feed The Children foundation.  Wise will likely run the remaining event at Texas, but his plans for 2017 are as of yet unclear.  Next season, whoever will drive will again look to give TMG its first restrictor-plate start in Cup during their third appearance in the Budweiser Duels.  At Martinsville this past spring, TMG finished 38th with Wise.

#98 Premium Motorsports
Driver: Cole Whitt
2016 Team Stats: 28 starts, 3 DNQs, 1 withdrawal

Following Wise’s withdrawal, 42 drivers were still set to compete for the remaining 40 spots, including Whitt, who in May was challenging for his first Top 10 on the final lap.  However, on October 21, Premium withdrew Whitt’s entry and kept in Reed Sorenson’s #55.  Like The Motorsports Group’s #30, it’s the first time Premium’s #98 has been withdrawn this season.  If Whitt returns to Martinsville next Sunday, he will look to improve his 30th-place run in April.


#26 BK Racing
#40 Hillman Racing
#59 Leavine Family / Circle Sport Racing

None of the other part-time Open teams attempted the race at Talladega.  These three in particular, which have not been entered in a race since the Daytona 500, are unlikely to return in the season’s remaining four events.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

5/3/87: Chet Fillip’s engine failure comes minutes before terrifying Talladega wreck

On May 3, 1987, Chet Fillip picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Winston Cup Series career in the Winston 500 at the Talladega Superspeedway when his #81 Warr Valves Ford fell out with engine trouble after 3 of 178 laps.  The finish came in Fillip’s 21st series start.

Fillip’s obscurity is surprising given his diverse racing career.  In many ways, he has much in common with the late Bryan Clauson due to his similar experience in NASCAR, IndyCar, and USAC midget racing.  Fillip got his start in stock cars and modifieds, competing alongside his father Marvin at the Arena Park Raceway in his native Texas.  During this time, Fillip also drove some of the most spectacular supermodifieds of his era, low-slung machines with massive wings and cramped cockpits.

In 1982, Fillip teamed with Texas businessman Tom Mitchell with eyes on making the Indianapolis 500.  His car with a red nose and blue body, sponsored by Mitchell’s Circle Bar Truck Corral and R.V. Park, made 11 IndyCar starts, including back-to-back 500s in 1982 and 1983.  While Fillip finished just 24th in the former and last in the other, he did earn a career-best 10th at the Milwaukee Mile in 1985.

Circle Bar stayed as a sponsor with Fillip in 1983 when he looked to make his first NASCAR Winston Cup start in the Daytona 500.  Unfortunately, the #13 Buick, fielded by 1977 LASTCAR Cup Series Champion Earle Canavan, was one of nine withdrawn during SpeedWeeks.  Undaunted, Fillip returned four months after his final IndyCar start to attempt the 1985 finale, the Atlanta Journal 500.  Reunited with Tom Mitchell, Fillip snagged the 36th starting spot in qualifying and finished 25th.  Among the ten drivers Fillip bested in qualifying were series veterans Doug Heveron, Jim Sauter, Blackie Wangerin, and Bobby Wawak.

Fillip and Mitchell returned to NASCAR in 1986 to run a partial season, attempting 18 of the 29 races.  The team remained with Ford, carried the same blue-and-red Circle Bar livery from IndyCar, and changed the car number from #31 to #81.  This time, the team didn’t withdraw, and Fillip lined up 15th in the 31-car field for the second 125-mile qualifier.  With only a 20th-place finish, Fillip once again went home empty-handed, this time as one of 21 drivers, including Michael Waltrip, Alan Kulwicki, and Davey Allison.  Fillip rebounded after Daytona, making all 17 of his remaining starts.  His best finish of the year came at Pocono on July 20, where he came home 12th - three positions better than his open-wheel start there in 1984.

Fillip and the #81 returned in 1987, though this time with owner-drivers Mike Potter and Buddy Arrington as co-owners.  Arrington and Potter, along with Slick Johnson and Eddie Bierschwale, would share driving duties with Fillip for their second partial season.  Fillip entered the car in Daytona with new sponsor Marshall Batteries.  Now behind the wheel of one of Ford’s sleek new Thunderbirds, Fillip held fast to a 13th-place finish in his Twin 125 securing him the 26th spot in his first-ever Daytona 500.  And though engine troubles cut short his run after just 19 laps, Fillip joined an elite fraternity of drivers who had started both of America’s signature 500-mile races.  With a 24th-place showing in the following race at Rockingham, Fillip prepared to return to superspeedway racing at Talladega, where he finished 23rd and 28th the year before.

As at Daytona, perilous unrestricted speed was the big story for the Winston 500.  It was in qualifying for this race that polesitter Bill Elliott set NASCAR’s all-time record speed of 212.809mph, more than one full mile per hour over outside-polesitter Bobby Allison.  Among the 41 drivers who filled the starting grid, only the last two - 40th-place Steve Christman for car owner Tom Winkle, and 41st-place Jimmy Means, who didn’t complete a lap - did not break the 200mph mark.  Blackie Wangerin and Ronnie Sanders missed the cut, while seven other drivers, including J.D. McDuffie, withdrew.  Fillip’s #81, carrying new sponsorship from Warr Valves, secured the 31st spot with a lap of 205.295mph.

When the race started, Jimmy Means’ #52 In Fisherman / Turtle Wax Pontiac got a slow start and he held down the last spot as he tried to rejoin the pack.  Then, on Lap 4, smoke began to billow out of Fillip’s #81.  The caution flew as the leaders headed into Turn 1 with Fillip, trailing fluid, slowing at the entrance to pit road.  Not wasting any time on pit road, Fillip pulled behind the wall, where the team soon discovered the problem was terminal.  40th went to Geoffrey Bodine, who made an unscheduled stop just three laps after the restart.  The Hendrick Motorsports crew lifted the hood of Bodine’s #5 Levi Garrett Chevrolet, then the crew pushed his car behind the wall as well, done with engine trouble.  “We’ll get it right one of these days,” said Bodine.

The rest of the Bottom Five was filled by the day’s most spectacular - and terrifying - moment.  During the Fillip caution, outside-polesitter Bobby Allison told the ESPN crew by radio that his #22 Miller American Buick was handling well.  Coming down to complete Lap 21, Allison had just slipped behind Buddy Baker into the 5th spot when the right-rear tire came apart midway through the tri-oval.  The explosion turned Allison sideways, and the rear end of the car caught the air.  Just a few hundred feet from the flagstand, Allison’s car backed into the catchfence, tearing the car to pieces and ripping down a length of the protective fencing.  The field tried to slow to avoid him, but speeds were so high that another nine drivers were caught up in the debris field, spinning and crashing into each other.  One of them, the #1 Bull’s Eye Barbecue Sauce Chevrolet of Ron Bouchard, made contact with Allison.  Fortunately, all drivers involved, as well as those in the stands, were unharmed.  Allison, Bouchard, and Cale Yarborough, also eliminated in the wreck, rounded out the final five spots.

After an extensive delay, Bobby Allison’s son Davey, making his 14th career start, took his first career victory in a race shortened ten laps by approaching darkness.

After Talladega, Fillip finished 13th of 34 drivers in his lone appearance in the Winston Open exhibition race, missed the field for the Coca-Cola 600, and made just three more starts, including two for owner-driver Buddy Arrington in the #67 Pannill Knitting Ford.  His last race, also at Talladega, secured him a 20th-place finish.  The Potter-Arrington team made its final Cup start with Slick Johnson at North Wilkesboro on October 4.  Johnson finished last in the race, again due to engine trouble.

Following his NASCAR career, Fillip made the move to USAC sprint car competition, winning nine races, including the Little 500 at Indiana’s Anderson Speedway.  He then moved his family to nearby Avon, Indiana and continued to find success on the short tracks.  In 2006, he claimed the inaugural championship in the Premier Racing Association, a series he helped found, driving a car he both designed and manufactured.  Fillip, now 59, remains active in USAC racing today, and in 2008 took the checkers in a race at Richmond International Raceway.

As of 2014, Tom Mitchell’s Circle Bar R.V. Park is still in business in Ozona, Texas.  A modest museum contains at least three red-and-blue cars Fillip drove in NASCAR and IndyCar competition, including his #81 Ford Thunderbird from 1986.

*As of this writing, Fillip is one of eight drivers to finish last in both a NASCAR Cup Series race and the Indianapolis 500.  The others are Pancho Carter, Larry Foyt, Cliff Hucul, Jim Hurtubise, Juan Pablo Montoya, Johnny Rutherford, and Tony Stewart.
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #81 in a Cup Series race since September 17, 1978, when Jabe Thomas’ #81 Louise Smith Chevrolet pulled out after 1 lap of the Delaware 500, the official reason listed as the driver “quit” the race.  Following another last-place run for the Fillip team in 1987, the #81 would not finish last in another Cup race until June 15, 1997, when Kenny Wallace’s #81 Square D Ford dropped an engine during the Miller 400 at Michigan.
*This was Fillip’s only NASCAR last-place finish.

41) #81-Chet Fillip / 3 laps / engine
40) #5-Geoffrey Bodine / 11 laps / engine
39) #22-Bobby Allison / 21 laps / crash
38) #1-Ron Bouchard / 22 laps / crash
37) #29-Cale Yarborough / 22 laps / crash

*1987 Winston 500, ESPN
*Colorado Racing Memories
*Johnson, Bryan. “Chet Fillip: Racing’s Jack of All Trades,” Fun City Finder, November 2, 2010.
* Profile: Chet Fillip
* Chet Fillip
*Wikipedia: Chet Fillip

Sunday, October 16, 2016

CUP: Aric Almirola and Petty team’s difficult 2016 continues with Kansas crash

Aric Almirola picked up the 8th last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup career in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at the Kansas Speedway when his #43 Smithfield Ford fell out with damage from a multi-car accident after 36 of 267 laps.

The finish, which came in Almirola’s 210th series start, was his second of the year and first since Martinsville, 25 races ago.

One year after he finished 17th in points with three Top Fives and six Top Tens, Almirola came into Kansas in desperate need for a turnaround.  26th in the standings coming into the race, Almirola had finished no better than 12th in the Daytona 500 and scored four more DNFs since Martinsville, all due to crashes.  His teammate, rookie Brian Scott, had fared even worse, standing 34th in points with all five of his DNFs resulting from wrecks.  About the only positive from the Richard Petty Motorsports camp was Almirola’s win in July’s XFINITY race at Daytona, which came driving for Biagi DenBeste Racing.

But historically, Kansas has been one of Almirola’s best tracks.  In the 2012 running of the fall race, he started 5th and led 69 laps before an accident left him a disappointing 29th.  Three consecutive top-ten finishes followed.  This past weekend proved more of a struggle.  Almirola ran 25th, 29th, and 35th in the weekend’s three practices and managed only 35th on the grid with a lap of 184.824mph.

Starting 40th on Sunday was Josh Wise in The Motorsports Group’s #30 Curtis Key Plumbing Chevrolet.  During the pace laps, he was joined by Regan Smith, who had a new transmission in his #7 Fire Alarm Services Chevrolet; Reed Sorenson, who missed driver introductions, but had already qualified 39th in Premium Motorsports’ #98 Harrahs North Kansas City Toyota, and Kurt Busch, who damaged his #41 Monster Energy Chevrolet in the grass during Happy Hour and was sent to a backup car.  Once the green flag fell, all three quickly dropped Wise to 40th by the end of Lap 1.

The next change for 40th occurred on Lap 3, when Joey Gase slipped to the back in his fifth Cup start of the season.  In keeping with his advocacy for organ donors, Gase’s #32 Ford, sponsored by the Midwest Transplant Network, was covered in painted hand prints and signatures from fans who turned out at a charity event.  The distinctive-looking white car fell to the rear, and by Lap 16 was the first to be lapped.  Wise retook the spot from Gase on the 21st circuit by apparently making an unscheduled stop, costing him another two laps for a total of three.

Almirola entered the picture on Lap 37, when trouble broke out in Turn 4.  Coming off the corner, Almirola’s #43 found itself in a three-wide battle with Brian Scott’s #44 in front and David Ragan’s #23 Dr. Pepper Toyota closing fast in the rear.  First Almirola and Scott, then Ragan and Almirola made contact, sending the #43 into a spin.  The spin destroyed the nose of Ragan’s car and flattened both of Almirola’s right-side tires.  While Ragan’s crew was able to make quick repairs, costing just two laps, Almirola’s tires came apart, tearing up both the right-front and right-rear of his machine.  After several minutes of trying, the Petty team retired Almirola from the race around Lap 95, securing him the 40th spot.

Wise ended up 39th, eliminated when an apparent right-front tire failure sent him crashing into the outside wall on Lap 115.  Chase contender Brad Keselowski found himself a disappointing 38th in the final running order after he lost control racing Denny Hamlin off Turn 4 on Lap 190.  Keselowski slid into the grass, tearing away the car’s nose and radiator.  On Lap 221, the Penske Racing crew managed to get the #2 Miller Lite Ford back on track, but the damaged engine let go, drawing another yellow and knocking out the car for good.  Jamie McMurray’s 31 Cessna Chevrolet, the last car running under power, had a tire issue of his own send him into the Turn 4 wall, ultimately costing him 34 laps.  Ragan rounded out the Bottom Five.

40) #43-Aric Almirola / 36 laps / crash
39) #30-Josh Wise / 108 laps / crash
38) #2-Brad Keselowski / 190 laps / crash / led 1 lap
37) #1-Jamie McMurray / 233 laps / running
36) #23-David Ragan / 258 laps / running

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

1st) Chevrolet (20)
2nd) Ford (6)
3rd) Toyota (5)


XFINITY: Timmy Hill’s second-straight last-place finish comes at Kansas

SOURCE: Jonathan Ferrey, Getty Images
Timmy Hill picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Motor Speedway when his #40 Toyota fell out with electrical issues after he completed 11 of 200 laps.

The finish, which came in Hill’s 100th series start, was his second in a row.

Hill and teammate Brandon Hightower rejoined Motorsports Business Management (MBM) as one of 40 drivers on the preliminary entry list.  On Thursday, October 13, the list grew to 42 with the addition of Obaika Racing’s #77, driven by Matt Waltz, and #97 with Ryan Ellis aboard.  When Ellis and Waltz swapped rides in Happy Hour, the engine on #77 let go, and the team labored into the evening to drop in a new one.  Hill, meanwhile, ran 26th and 27th in the two practices, then secured the 28th stating spot with a lap of 172.667mph.

At the back of the field, Josh Wise made his eighth XFINITY Series attempt of the season, climbing aboard TriStar’s “start-and-park” #10 Toyota in place of Matt DiBenedetto, who on Saturday finished a strong 11th in a rare full-race run for TriStar.  Wise turned four laps in qualifying, but was nearly four-tenths of a second short of making the cut.  Other than two withdrawals, the #10 had not missed a race since Texas in April.  Sent home along with him was owner-driver Morgan Shepherd, the first DNQ for his #89 Racing For Jesus Chevrolet since Richmond last month.

Starting 40th on the grid was Hightower in MBM’s #13 Premier Recycling Dodge.  Hill pulled into the garage during the opening green-flag run, followed by Hightower during the first caution on Lap 59.  The caution fell for fluid coming from Matt Waltz’s #97 Vroom! Brands Chevrolet as engine troubles continued to plague Obaika Racing.  Waltz managed to make 126 laps before retiring in 37th with teammate Ryan Ellis rounding out the Bottom Five in 36th, electrical issues the listed cause.  Between the two Obaika and two MBM cars in 37th was Derrike Cope, who struggled with engine and transmission issues before exiting near the halfway mark.

Blake Koch continued a dream season with upstart team Kaulig Racing, leading the opening practice session, starting 9th and finishing there, moving him within seven points of championship leader Elliott Sadler.  Just two years after winning the 2014 LASTCAR XFINITY Series championship, Koch is now in position to join Jack Ingram, Tommy Ellis, and Jeff Green as the only drivers to score both NASCAR and LASTCAR titles in the XFINITY division.  Green himself enjoyed a strong 21st-place showing in only the third race this season where B.J. McLeod has fielded his #99 Ford.  It was Green’s best XFINITY finish at Kansas since 2003, when he ran 11th for Herzog-Jackson Motorsports.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #40 in an XFINITY Series race at Kansas.

40) #40-Timmy Hill / 11 laps / electrical
39) #13-Brandon Hightower / 62 laps / transmission
38) #70-Derrike Cope / 91 laps / transmission
37) #97-Matt Waltz / 126 laps / engine
36) #77-Ryan Ellis / 142 laps / electrical

1st) TriStar Motorsports (18)
2nd) Motorsports Business Management (4)
3rd) RSS Racing (3)
4th) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Inc., JD Motorsports (2)
5th) Chip Ganassi Racing (1)

1st) Toyota (20)
2nd) Chevrolet (7)
3rd) Ford (2)
4th) Dodge (1)


CUP: Open Team Roundup - Kansas (October)

SOURCE: Getty Images

#21 Wood Brothers Racing
Driver: Ryan Blaney
Started 17th, Finished 14th

For the first time since New Hampshire last month, an Open team finished inside the Top 15, and for the first time since then, that driver was Ryan Blaney.  Starting 17th on the grid, Blaney returned to competitive form, hanging around the Top 20 for most of the day.  When Brad Keselowski wrecked spectacularly down the front stretch on Lap 190, the Wood Brothers decided to keep their driver out, handing him 5th on the grid for the restart.  Blaney slipped back to 10th, pitted for fresh tires, and held on in the final laps for his third Top 15 of the Chase.  Blaney will continue to pursue his first career win next Sunday at Talladega, where he finished 9th in May.

#55 Premium Motorsports
Driver: Cole Whitt
Started 36th, Finished 33rd

For the third time this year, Premium Motorsports teammates Cole Whitt and Reed Sorenson swapped rides.  Whitt traded car numbers, but not cars: he climbed aboard the black-and-red Chevrolet which he raced to a 36th-place finish at Chicagoland, Becker Trailers replacing Moen as sponsor.  Like Blaney, Whitt returned to his early-season form, battling for a lead-lap finish.  He went down a lap on the 20th circuit, got the Lucky Dog on Lap 45, and on Lap 95 had climbed to 28th, still on the lead lap.  Only in the final stages did Whitt slip in the order, losing five laps, but remaining second among the Open teams.  If Whitt makes his eighth start at Talladega next week, he will look to improve on an 18th-place run in the spring that threatened to be his first Top Ten before he was caught up in Kevin Harvick’s last-lap wreck.

#98 Premium Motorsports
Driver: Reed Sorenson
Started 39th, Finished 34th

Driving the all-black #98 Toyota with sponsorship from Harrah’s North Kansas City (a strange addition given that the race was sponsored by its own trackside Hollywood Casino), Sorenson came home one lap and one position behind his teammate.  Sorenson did not compete in this spring’s race at Talladega, where Michael Waltrip finished a solid 12th, but Sorenson did finish 22nd for Premium during July’s race at Daytona.

#30 The Motorsports Group
Driver: Josh Wise
Started 40th, Finished 39th

Once again, Josh Wise started shotgun on the field, and while he avoided a last-place finish, he left Kansas with his second DNF in three races.  On Lap 18, Wise became the second driver to be lapped (after Joey Gase in the #32 for Go FAS Racing).  An apparent unscheduled stop on Lap 21 dropped him down another two, and he trailed by three as he continued on.  Six laps down on Lap 115, Wise slapped the wall in Turn 4, drawing the fourth caution of the afternoon.  Though Wise was uninjured and managed to drive to the garage, The Motorsports Group (TMG) was done for the day.  Next week, Wise looks to give TMG its first-ever restrictor-plate start.  Three of the team’s four DNQs this season (excepting Indianapolis) came on the superspeedways.

UPDATE: The Motorsports Group withdrew on Monday.




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

None of the other part-time Open teams attempted the race in Kansas.  Next week at Talladega, however, Roush-Fenway Racing will enter a fourth car, #99, for XFINITY Series driver Ryan Reed to attempt his Cup debut.  Also listed is Front Row Motorsports’ #35, driven by David Gilliland during the season’s previous three restrictor-plate races.

UPDATE: Also returning is BK Racing's #93 with Matt DiBenedetto as Jeffrey Earnhardt will run a specaial Dale Earnhardt tribute in the Chartered #83. Bobby Labonte will once again drive Go FAS Racing's Chartered #32.