Tuesday, September 27, 2016

CUP: Open Team Roundup - New Hampshire (September)

SOURCE: NASCAR
QUALIFIED

#21 Wood Brothers Racing
Driver: Ryan Blaney
Started 16th, Finished 12th

After mid-pack runs in practice and qualifying, Ryan Blaney once again led the Open team contingent, and in so doing earned his fourth finish of 13th or better in the last five races.  He also pulled double-duty, finishing 3rd in the XFINITY race at Kentucky, scene of his first series win.  Blaney returns to Dover next week, where he finished a strong 8th in May.

#98 Premium Motorsports
Driver: Cole Whitt
Started 36th, Finished 35th

The remaining Open teams ran 36th through 39th in the opening stages, lost a lap each to race leader Carl Edwards, and all finished no better than 35th.  Whitt rebounded from 40th during the first round of stops to come home the second-best Open driver for the fifth time in eight races.  He again brought new sponsorship to the team, this time from Standard Plumbing Supply.  Next week at Dover, Whitt looks to improve on a 27th-place showing there in May, back when his #98 carried the Vydox Plus colors.

Update (Sept. 27): Timmy Hill will drive in place of Whitt in the #98. Hill's best run in four Dover starts was a 35th in the spring of 2013 for Go FAS Racing.

#55 Premium Motorsports
Driver: Reed Sorenson
Started 38th, Finished 36th

For the third time this year and the first time on a non-plate track, Premium’s #55 team fielded a Toyota.  Sorenson came home one lap behind teammate Whitt, and on Lap 291 averted disaster by spinning off Turn 2 to avoid the wrecking Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.  off Turn 2.  Quick thinking saved the car for next week, where Sorenson finished 38th in May.

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

Unlike Whitt, Josh Wise spent much of the race in the 40th spot, taking it from Jeffrey Earnhardt on Lap 1, then re-taking it several times more through the middle stages.  Driver and crew attempted to make sense of the car’s handling woes, eventually looking to the car’s jack screws which kept the truck arms dragging on the track.  Under the first caution on Lap 124, Wise slowed, then pulled behind the wall for nearly 30 laps of repairs.  By returning to the track, however, Wise managed to claw his way past the wrecked Michael Annett with just 29 circuits to go, narrowly averting a last-place sweep in New Hampshire.  Next week at Dover, Wise and team will again have on their work clothes as they look to build on a 36th-place showing.

DID NOT QUALIFY

None.

DID NOT ENTER

#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 New Hampshire.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

CUP: In final laps, Michael Annett denies Josh Wise last-place Loudon sweep

SOURCE: Jonathan Moore, Getty Images North America
Michael Annett picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s Bad Boy Off Road 300 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway when his #46 Pilot / Flying J Chevrolet fell out with steering issues after he completed 236 of 300 laps.

The finish, which came in Annett’s 98th series start, was his first of the season and first in a Cup Series race since last September at Richmond, 38 races ago.  It’s also the second last-place finish of the year for HScott Motorsports’ #46 team, which trailed Bristol last month.  That day, Justin Allgaier was tabbed to relieve Annett, who was battling flu-like symptoms.

Annett’s struggles at Bristol captured what has been another difficult season for the third-year driver.  The Iowa native came into Loudon a distant 37th in points with just one finish inside the Top 20 - a 20th-place run at Daytona in July.  Three accidents during a five-race stretch were his only DNFs of the year, but the first was a hard crash at Talladega when he hit the inside wall flush with the driver’s side of his car.  In five previous starts at Loudon, he’d finished no better than 29th on two occasions, and was 33rd in the spring, though he’d managed to finish all of them under power.  At the same time, longtime sponsor Pilot / Flying J Travel Centers has remained steadfast in their support, including cross-promotions with this month’s “Battle at Bristol” college football game and the St. Jude Iowa Tournament of Hope.

Annett timed in 36th in Friday’s opening practice and secured the 35th starting spot for Sunday’s field with a lap of 131.528mph.  He then ran 36th in both Saturday’s practices.  For the 21st time in 28 races this season, no drivers were sent home, and Annett’s Charter - acquired from Premium Motorsports’ #98 over the offseason - would keep him in the field.

Starting 40th on Sunday was rookie driver Jeffrey Earnhardt, who again drove the #32 Can-Am Ford for Go FAS Racing.  He was joined at the start by Kasey Kahne, whose #5 Great Clips Chevrolet needed a new motor for its driver-controlled track bar adjuster.  The post-inspection change incurred a penalty that made Kahne surrender his strong 3rd-place starting spot.

By the end of Lap 1, both Kahne and Earnhardt had passed the #30 Curtis Key Plumbing Chevrolet of Josh Wise, who slowly began to lose touch with the field.  Wise trailed the most recent Cup race at Loudon in July.  Earnhardt re-took 40th from Wise by Lap 12, and on Lap 16 both Earnhardt and Wise were all by themselves, 3.5 seconds behind the rest of the field.  Still 40th on Lap 19, Earnhardt was the first to be lapped by polesitter Carl Edwards.  As Edwards’ #19 Comcast Business Toyota made its way past, NBC Sports’ broadcast showed Earnhardt’s #32 had white rims.  This may indicate that Earnhardt was scuffing tires for fellow Brad Keselowski, the only other Ford in the field running white rims.  Pit stops to change these tires may account for Earnhardt’s rapid loss of laps.  He was two down by Lap 42 and three down on the 63rd.

On Lap 73, the leaders’ green-flag stops brought a new contender into the mix: Cole Whitt in the #98 Standard Plumbing Supply Chevrolet.  Whitt, along with fellow “Open team” drivers Wise and Reed Sorenson, had also lost laps in the early stages and were running in positions 37-39.  Earnhardt lifted Whitt from the spot on the 76th circuit, then Wise on the 78th.  By Lap 100, last-place Wise’s #30 Chevrolet was five circuits behind, and by Lap 113 was down six.  When debris forced the first caution on Lap 124, Wise was slow, apparently struggling with faulty jack screws that made the car’s underbody bottom out.  The Motorsports Group team brought Wise behind the wall under the yellow, and he appeared to be the first retiree.  However, on Lap 152, the crew got #30 back on track, 29 laps behind.  And, just like last Sunday at Chicagoland, all 40 cars were still running.

Annett did not enter the picture until Lap 240, when his #46 slapped the wall in Turn 2, drawing the third yellow.  At first, the damage didn’t appear serious, but the HScott team pulled Anett behind the wall.  Already running laps down around 36th at the time of the accident, the team decided to call it a day, citing steering issues.  By 38 to go, NBC Sports listed Annett as the first car out of the race.  Seven circuits later, with just 31 to go, Annett slipped beneath Wise, finally ending the last-place battle.  Wise ended up 39th.

38th went to the afternoon’s only other retiree, Darlington last-placer Trevor Bayne.  On Lap 286, Bayne’s #6 AdvoCare Ford lost control in Turn 4 and backed into the wall hard, drawing the fifth of the day’s six cautions.  Unable to move the car with severe damage to the rear clip and right-rear wheel assembly, Bayne was done for the afternoon.  Jeffrey Earnhardt ended up 37th, 10 laps down to race winner Kevin Harvick.  36th went to Reed Sorenson, who spun his #55 Vydox Plus Toyota to avoid the spinning Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in the day’s final caution.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*The 236 laps completed by Annett were the second-most by a last-placer at Loudon in Cup Series history.  The series record remains Brian Vickers’ 265 laps complete in the Sylvania 300 on September 16, 2007.  Vickers and the other 42 starters finished the race under power, marking the first time an entire Cup field was running at the finish since October 1, 1995, when all 36 starters completed the Tyson Holly Farms 400 at North Wilkesboro.
*This marked Annett’s first last-place finish in a Cup race at Loudon.
*This was the first time the #46 finished last in a Cup Series race at Loudon since September 19, 2010, when Michael McDowell’s #46 Cash America Dodge lost the engine after 29 laps of the Sylvania 300.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #46-Michael Annett / 236 laps / steering
39) #30-Josh Wise / 268 laps / running
38) #6-Trevor Bayne / 282 laps / crash
37) #32-Jeffrey Earnhardt / 290 laps / running
36) #55-Reed Sorenson / 293 laps / running

2016 LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Premium Motorsports (5)
2nd) BK Racing, HScott Motorsports (4)
3rd) Richard Childress Racing, The Motorsports Group (3)
4th) Hendrick Motorsports, Roush-Fenway Racing (2)
5th) Chip Ganassi Racing, Front Row Motorsports, Go FAS Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports (1)

2016 LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (18)
2nd) Toyota (5)
3rd) Ford (5)

2016 LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP

XFINITY: Mike Bliss earns first XFINITY Series last-place run since 2009

SOURCE: Jonathan Moore, Getty Images North America
Mike Bliss picked up the 4th last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 at the Kentucky Speedway when his unsponsored #10 TriStar Motorsports Toyota fell out with rear gear issues after 2 of 200 laps.

The finish, which came in Bliss’ 359th series start, was his first of the year and his first in an XFINITY Series race since August 8, 2009, during the Zippo 200 at the Glen, 242 races ago.

Coming into The Glen in 2009, Bliss sat 6th in series points with a win at Charlotte, all coming with James Finch’s Phoenix Racing.  Unfortunately, Bliss would not drive Finch’s #1 Miccosukee Resort & Gaming Chevrolet on the road course, and was replaced by Cup veteran Ryan Newman.  Suddenly without a ride, Bliss slid into the #90 MSRP Motorsports Chevrolet.  Road course ringer Chris Cook qualified the #90, but then replaced Ken Butler in the #23 Aaron’s Dream Machine Chevrolet for R3 Motorsports, leaving the ride open for Bliss.  As was typical for MSRP, the team was on “start-and-park” duty, and Bliss pulled the car in after 4 laps.  Newman finished 35th.

Curiously, MSRP teammate Dave Blaney earned a surprising 13th-place finish at The Glen when his own “start-and-park” entry acquired sponsorship from SFP, which came from the William Spencer-owned #77 that Peyton Sellers was unable to get into the field.  Blaney’s run marked the only time an MSRP car finished a race in 2009, a year capped with Johnny Chapman, another MSRP driver, claiming the LASTCAR title on the heels of eight last-place finishes.

Bliss made just one more XFINITY start with James Finch, a 16th-place run in the Homestead finale, then in 2010 moved to Key Motorsports.  Bliss and car owner Curtis Key began working together on a Truck Series effort the previous year, during which time the driver came home 8th at Atlanta.  But when Key began to re-organize into a “start-and-park” operation with eyes on their Cup debut (as “The Motorsports Group,” Josh Wise’s #30 Chevrolet entry), Bliss moved again to TriStar Motorsports in 2011.  From then until the first part of 2015, Bliss earned a handful of strong runs despite a lack of sponsorship, switching between each of TriStar’s growing number of teams.  He came home 8th in the 2012 standings, his best showing since 2009.  But in the late spring of 2015, the #19 that Bliss drove for most of those starts soon became Jeff Green’s new “start-and-park” entry, leaving Bliss without a ride until season’s end, when he parked the #14.

During this same seven-year span, Bliss ran a partial Sprint Cup schedule with ten different teams, including both Phoenix Racing and TriStar Motorsports (as part of Humphrey-Smith Racing in 2012-2013).  During one partial stint for Tommy Baldwin Racing in 2014, Bliss claimed the LASTCAR Cup Series title with five finishes to teammate Dave Blaney’s three.  His 179th and most recent Cup start came last fall at Darlington, when he drove a Harry Gant throwback scheme to a 32nd-place finish in the Bojangles’ Southern 500.

Bliss has yet to make any Cup starts this season, and has instead split time between the XFINITY and Truck Series.  He’s made three starts in Trucks with a season-best 17th at Kansas driving for Contreras Motorsports.  Kentucky would be his third start of the year in XFINITY, where his previous best was a 26th at Mid-Ohio driving in relief of another road ringer, Tomy Drissi.  This time, as in his other start this year at Iowa, Bliss would again be on “start-and-park” duty, replacing 2016 LASTCAR XFINITY Series leader Matt DiBenedetto, who was running Cup in Loudon for BK Racing.

Bliss was one of 39 entrants on Kentucky’s preliminary list, which once again did not include Obaika Racing’s two entries.  Obaika’s #77 and #97, driven by Matt Waltz and Ryan Ellis respectively, were finally added on Wednesday, bringing the list to 41 bidders at the 40-car field.  In practice, Bliss did not drive the #10 until Friday’s final practice session, when he put up the 24th-best time after only four laps.  He then settled for 26th in qualifying, his single lap of 176.783mph more than enough to bump from the field Timmy Hill and his #72 Taiga Coolers / O.C.R. Gaz Bar Dodge (the third Motorsports Business Management car).  By race day, Hill had replaced Mark Thompson in MBM’s #13 Phoenix Air Toyota.

Hill’s substitution sent him to the back of the field for Saturday night’s race, where he joined last-place starter Todd Peck.  Peck was switched into the #25 Advanced Communications Group Ford in place of Chris Cockrum.  Cockrum looked to make his first XFINITY start since Loudon, and managed to outpace Hill for the final spot, but wrecked Jeff Spraker’s Chevrolet in practice.  Without a backup, B.J. McLeod fielded his second Ford in Cockrum’s place, installing his own second-in-command, Todd Peck, behind the wheel.  All this shuffling still gave way to the same result, as Bliss pulled the TriStar #10 behind the wall after two green-flag laps.

Finishing 39th was the third MBM entry of John Jackson, his #40 CrashClaimsR.us Chevrolet out with transmission issues.  38th went to Morgan Shepherd and his #89 Racing With Jesus Chevrolet.  Although Shepherd has failed to qualify for four races, withdrawn from three others, and finished no better than 34th in the others, he has not finished last a single time in 2016.  37th went to ARCA driver Josh Williams, whose run in King Autosport’s second BuckedUp Apparel Chevrolet ended after 57 laps.  Rounding out the group was Matt Waltz, whose Obaika-owned #77 surprised the pit crew with a sudden fire beneath the hood.  Crews extinguished the flames quickly, but Waltz’s fourth series start ended early.

Though he did not start the race, Matt DiBenedetto is now even closer to clinching his first-ever LASTCAR title.  With six races to go, the only way runner-up Jeff Green can beat DiBenedetto is if he finishes 40th in all of them.  One more finish by DiBenedetto - or anyone else other than Green - will lock up the title.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked TriStar Motorsports’ eighth last-place finish in the previous nine XFINITY Series races at Kentucky.
*This was Bliss’ first XFINITY Series last-place run at Kentucky.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #10-Mike Bliss / 2 laps / rear gear
39) #40-John Jackson / 8 laps / transmission
38) #89-Morgan Shepherd / 20 laps / handling
37) #92-Josh Williams / 57 laps / fuel pump
36) #77-Matt Waltz / 63 laps / electrical

2016 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) TriStar Motorsports (17)
2nd) RSS Racing (3)
3rd) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Inc., JD Motorsports, Motorsports Business Management (2)
4th) Chip Ganassi Racing (1)

2016 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Toyota (17)
2nd) Chevrolet (7)
3rd) Ford (2)
4th) Dodge (1)

2016 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP

TRUCKS: Caleb Roark’s misadventure into sand barrels makes him first Truck Series driver to score three consecutive last-place finishes

SOURCE: FOX Sports 1
Caleb Roark picked up the 12th last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Saturday’s UNOH 175 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway when his #10 Driven2Honor.org Chevrolet was involved in a bizarre single-truck crash on the opening lap of the 175-circuit race.

The finish, which came in Roark’s 30th series start, was his fifth of the season and third in a row, making him the first driver in Truck Series history to score three consecutive last-place finishes.  With six races to go, Roark holds a three-finish lead over Tommy Joe Martins in the 2016 LASTCAR standings, moving Roark one step closer to his second-consecutive last-place title.

Roark was one of the 32 drivers on Loudon’s preliminary entry list.  Four of those entries - owner Bobby Dotter’s #07, Red Horse Racing’s #11, Contreras Motorsports’ #71, and Mike Harmon Racing’s #74 - did not have listed drivers at the time the entries were submitted.  By Wednesday, September 21, the rides were filled with Matt Mills, Michigan winner Brett Moffitt, NASCAR Euro Series breakout Alon Day (making his series debut), and Tim Viens, respectively.

Roark, meanwhile, did not participate in Friday’s opening practice and ran 30th of 31 in Happy Hour, besting Akinori Ogata, who failed to complete a lap in the MB Motorsports-prepared #63 ENEOS Chevrolet.  Just as at Mosport, Roark struggled with speed, turning in a lap of just 115.059mph - more than four seconds off the pole - but this time ended up 30th on the grid.  This time, Roark bested two trucks which did not complete a lap: Ogata and the #50 CorvetteParts.net Chevrolet of 2003 series champion Travis Kvapil.  Kvapil cited mechanical issues as the reason the #50 stayed off the track.  Ogata started last, but he wouldn’t finish there.

On the second lap of the race, as the leaders entered Turns 1 and 2, the caution flew for an incident at pit entrance.  According to replays, Roark had slowed his #10 Chevrolet in Turn 4 in an apparent attempt to make it to pit road, likely to park his entry.  However, the right-front wheel locked-up on entrance, steering his truck straight toward the sand-filled barrels protecting drivers from the outer pit wall.  Roark turned his truck hard to the left, but could not avoid a collision.  The right-rear of the truck struck at least two of the barrels, pouring sand all over the track.  As crews swept away the sand during the ensuing nine-lap yellow, Roark pulled behind the wall, out of the race.

Ogata’s day didn’t go much better.  On Lap 13, while racing Josh Wise’s Premium Motorsports entry, the #49 ChampionMachinery.com Chevrolet, the two came together on the backstretch, drawing the second yellow.  Ogata’s left-front damage was the worse of the two, and he ended up 100 laps down at the finish.  Wise managed to lose only 23 circuits and finished 27th, just on the outside of the Bottom Five.

Between Ogata and Wise were 30th place Austin Hill, who as at Pocono had a strong qualifying run in the 11th spot only to fall out early, this time with a busted oil line.  29th belonged to Dover last-placer Austin Wayne Self, whose #22 AM Technical Solutions Toyota brought out the final caution on Lap 128 with a crash in Turn 1.  28th went to Chase contender Daniel Hemric, who spun early in his #19 Blue Gate Bank Ford, then was ultimately sent to the garage with brake failure.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*With the finish, Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing becomes the first team to score three consecutive last-place finishes in the Truck Series since this same race in 2010, when owner Danny Gill’s #95 Dodge followed-up back-to-back runs with Tim Andrews at Chicagoland and Kentucky with J.C. Stout’s electrical issues at Loudon.
*This marked the third time in four years that Loudon’s Truck Series last-place finisher failed to complete the opening lap.
*This was Roark’s first-ever Truck Series last-place run at Loudon.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
32) #10-Caleb Roark / 0 laps / crash
31) #63-Akinori Ogata / 75 laps / running
30) #02-Austin Hill / 105 laps / oil line
29) #22-Austin Wayne Self / 126 laps / crash
28) #19-Daniel Hemric / 127 laps / brakes

2016 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing (5)
2nd) Kyle Busch Motorsports, Tommy Joe Martins (2)
3rd) AWS Racing, Bolen Motorsports, Brandonbilt Motorsports, GMS Racing, Jim Rosenblum Motorsports / FDNY Racing, MAKE Motorsports, Norm Benning Racing, ThorSport Racing (1)

2016 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (13)
2nd) Toyota (4)

2016 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP

Thursday, September 22, 2016

7/21/02: One of three late entries, Geoffrey Bodine unable to complete a lap at Loudon

SOURCE: Eric Morse, posted at Jayski.com 
On July 21, 2002, Geoffrey Bodine picked up the 11th last-place finish of his NASCAR Winston Cup career in the New England 300 at the New Hampshire International Speedway when his #66 Discover Card Ford fell out with rear end issues without completing any of the 300 laps.

The finish, which came in Bodine’s 558th series start, was his first of the season and first in Cup since his #35 Bari Italian Foods Chevrolet crashed out of the 2000 NAPA 500 at Atlanta, 55 races earlier.

By 2002, the eldest of the three Bodine brothers had already had a tremendous NASCAR career.  Already a star in modifieds, his Cup debut came in CBS’ first live broadcast of the Daytona 500 in 1979, where he led six laps before losing an engine.  In 1984, he scored Hendrick Motorsports’ first three victories, saving the team from financial collapse.  He and Hendrick went on to win the Daytona 500 two years later, took the checkers the day Ricky Rudd and Dale Earnhardt spun from the lead in the 1989 Holly Farms 400 at North Wilkesboro, all the while becoming “The Intimidator’s” arch-nemesis.  He won with Junior Johnson and Bud Moore, then bought the late Alan Kulwicki’s team to become a successful owner-driver, leading the way for Hoosier in the short-lived tire wars.  His 1996 victory at Watkins Glen set the standard for modern-day road course pit strategy.  And after five winless seasons marred by perhaps the most terrifying crash in NASCAR history during the inaugural Truck Series event at Daytona, he returned to the Daytona 500 to finish a strong 3rd driving for James Finch at Phoenix Racing.

The 2002 season was much more stressful for Geoffrey’s younger brother Todd.  Since replacing Darrell Waltrip at Travis Carter Racing at the end of the 2000 season, Todd had an up-and-down season in 2001, earning three poles and a pair of Top 5s, only to end up 29th in points after 12 DNFs.  The one constant through it all was primary sponsor Kmart, which for 2002 promised to return for both Todd and new teammate Joe Nemechek at what was now Haas-Carter Motorsports.  However, just two races into the season, Kmart declared bankruptcy, and both Todd’s #66 and Nemechek’s #26 were suddenly without sponsorship.  Somehow, Todd managed to win the pole in an unsponsored car for the very next race at Las Vegas, but with only a 29th-place finish to show for it, Carter scaled back to one team, putting Todd on the sidelines.  Nemechek left after Fontana to replace Jerry Nadeau at Hendrick Motorsports, and from there Carter’s #26 team brought aboard ARCA veteran Frank Kimmel with his sponsorship from Advance Auto Parts and the Pork Council.

Into the fray came a new sponsor, Discover Card, which presented NBC’s pre-race “Countdown to Green” segment.  Discover’s black, orange, and silver scheme first debuted at Dover in June, were Todd Bodine returned for the first time since Las Vegas.  Todd started last on the grid, but marched his way to 18th at the finish, the first car one lap down.  Geoffrey joined in to help at Michigan, starting 17th and finishing 19th in what was the team’s third-straight top-twenty finish.  Todd returned at Sonoma, and then Daytona, where he finished what was then a season-best 7th behind race winner Michael Waltrip.  Following a 26th-place showing at Chicagoland, the team headed to the 19th round at New Hampshire.

Just 42 cars made the preliminary entry list for the New England 300, threatening to create the first short field for a Cup Series race since the delayed fall race at the track the previous year.  Added late in the order were 60-year-old veteran owner-driver Morgan Shepherd, looking to make his first Cup start since Rockingham on February 21, 1999, and former RCR crew chief Kirk Shelmerdine, who entered three races earlier in the 2002 season but had not started one since 1994.  When Carl Long withdrew his #79, one spot remained open, and into it Haas-Carter brought back the #66, a re-numbered backup of the Discover Card Ford.  Though Todd Bodine’s signature was still on the driver’s door, Truck Series racer Dennis Setzer was tabbed to drive.

Now with a full field, all 43 entrants would be guaranteed a starting spot in the race.  Setzer’s #66, Shelmerdine’s #27, and Shepherd’s #89 secured the final three spots.  Setzer put in a timed lap of 123.715mph, slowest of the session, but helped by the Owner Points earned during the first three races of the season.  Geoffrey Bodine put the #66 through its paces in Friday’s lone practice session, in which he ran 122.340mph, nearly 10mph off the speed of Rusty Wallace’s track record from 2000.  Geoffrey and Setzer did not run the car on Saturday, and Geoffrey did not complete a lap on Sunday, securing the 43rd and final spot.  Todd, sent to the rear along with Geoffrey’s #66 and Bobby Labonte’s backup car, finished a strong 6th behind race winner Ward Burton.  It was to be the 5th and final win of Burton’s Cup career.

Finishing 42nd that day was Shelmerdine, whose self-prepared Naturally Fresh Foods #27 Ford.  Nemechek came home 41st, his #25 UAW-Delphi Chevrolet destroyed in a hard crash coming through Turn 1.  40th went to Shepherd, handling woes the blame for his #89 Red Line Oil / Berlin City Ford’s exit.  Both Shelmerdine and Shepherd returned for the following race at Pocono, where they finished 41st and 42nd, respectively.  Rounding out the Bottom Five was Tony Stewart, whose #20 Home Depot Pontiac pounded the Turn 4 wall on Lap 122.  An infuriated Stewart left the race 7th in points, 227 markers behind leader Sterling Marlin.  But after the Homestead finale 17 rounds later, Stewart lifted his first Winston Cup.

Geoffrey Bodine ran a combined 10 Cup races in 2002 between Haas-Carter, James Finch’s Phoenix Racing, and Bill Davis Racing.  He followed up his 3rd-place run in the Daytona 500 with a 10th in the July race.  Over the next eight seasons, he’d run eleven more races, splitting time with his other brother Brett’s #11 Hooters Ford in 2003, the William Edwards-prepared #98 Lucas Oil Products Ford in 2004, then raced for Larry Gunselman and Tommy Baldwin, Jr.  His 575th and final Cup start came November 20, 2011, where he came home 30th during one more historic race - Tony Stewart’s tiebreaker championship over Carl Edwards during the Ford 400 at Homestead.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the first last-place run for the #66 in a Cup Series race since July 29, 2001, when Todd Bodine won the pole in the #66 Kmart Blue Light Special and led 2 laps of the Pennsylvania 500 presented by Pep Boys at the Pocono Raceway, but fell out with handling issues after 128 laps.  It was also the first last-place run for both Geoffrey Bodine and the #66 in a Cup race at New Hampshire.
*To date, this remains the only time a Cup Series last-place finisher at New Hampshire failed to complete a single lap of the race.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #66-Geoffrey Bodine / 0 laps / rear end
42) #27-Kirk Shelmerdine / 10 laps / oil pressure
41) #25-Joe Nemechek / 28 laps / crash
40) #89-Morgan Shepherd / 43 laps / handling
39) #20-Tony Stewart / 121 laps / crash / led 1 lap

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

CUP: Open Team Roundup - Chicagoland

SOURCE: FOX Sports
QUALIFIED

#21 Wood Brothers Racing
Driver: Ryan Blaney
Started 22nd, Finished 4th

The gamble almost paid off.  A late caution for Michael McDowell’s flat tire drew a surprise caution with four laps to go, forcing a green-white-checkered finish.  Having not contended all day, but still on the lead lap, Blaney and the Wood Brothers took a page from their 1991 Michigan win and didn’t change tires (in fact, this time they stayed out), giving their young driver the lead.  Blaney got a great restart, but by Turn 3, Martin Truex, Jr. had caught him, and he would soon zip by on the high lane.  Still, Blaney held on for 4th, matching his season-best run at Michigan last month.

Next week, Blaney returns to New Hampshire, where he finished a solid 11th in July.

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

The remaining three Open teams once again found themselves buried in the Bottom Five, and with all 40 starters finishing under power for the third time in 2016, none were able to rise any higher.  Unlike his contemporaries, however, Whitt never once fell to 40th, and ended up second in class with his new-look Moen-sponsored #98 Chevrolet.

Whitt didn’t race at Loudon this past July.  Instead, Ryan Ellis drove #98 to a 37th-place finish.

#30 The Motorsports Group
Driver: Josh Wise
Started 40th, Finished 38th

For the third time in four races, the final car on the grid belonged to Josh Wise.  Though like Whitt, Wise had something to smile about on the sponsorship front.  IncredibleBank was back, fulfilling their contract signed just before Darlington, and the #30 was bright orange once more.  Another sponsor would be a tremendous help: Wise finished last at Loudon in July.

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

Last among the group was Reed Sorenson, whose white Vydox Plus Chevrolet battled with Joey Gase for 40th until the middle stages, when Gase took it for good.  Sorenson ran the same paint scheme at Loudon this past summer, where he finished 35th.

DID NOT QUALIFY

None.

DID NOT ENTER

#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 Chicagoland.

Monday, September 19, 2016

LAST-INDYCAR EXTRA: Spencer Pigot scores first IndyCar last-place run for #20 since 2012

SOURCE: Brock Beard
Spencer Pigot picked up his 1st career Verizon IndyCar Series last-place finish in Sunday’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma at the Sonoma Raceway when his #20 Samsung / Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet fell out with mechanical issues after 35 of 85 laps.

Though born in Pasadena, nearly 400 miles south of the Sonoma Raceway, the twisting 2.303-mile road course was a kind of homecoming for Pigot.  His rise to the IndyCar Series began in 2010, when he jumped from go-karts to the Skip Barber National Championship, which he won as a rookie.  He then finished 2nd in the next two seasons on the U.S. F2000 National Championship, 3rd in the 2013 Pro Mazda Championship, and took the Pro Mazda title in 2014.  Last year, he scored the Indy Lights Series title over Jack Harvey, winning six races including a weekend sweep of the Laguna Seca finale.

Impressed, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing tabbed Pigot to drive alongside Graham Rahal for three races, starting with the season opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.  Driving the #16 Honda, Pigot finished 14th in St. Pete, ran 11th in the Indianapolis Grand Prix, and 25th in the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.  Starting with the next round at Belle Isle, Pigot was tabbed by Ed Carpenter Racing to drive the remaining seven street and road courses in Carpenter’s #20 Chevrolet, replacing Luca Filippi, and teaming him with Josef Newgarden.  Pigot’s best finish in that stretch was a 7th at Mid-Ohio, and he came to Sonoma without a DNF.

Of the 22 drivers entered in the Sonoma finale, Pigot ran 19th and 18th in Friday’s two practice sessions, 18th on Saturday, and secured 19th on the grid with the second-slowest speed in Round 1 Group 1: 111.066mph.  Still 19th in final practice, Pigot prepared for the start of the race.

Rolling off 22nd on Sunday was 19-year-old R.C. Enerson, another Indy Lights graduate who was making his third career start.  Enerson put his #19 Boy Scouts of America Honda into the Top 6 of Round 1 Group 2 and held the spot until the final moments, when a flurry of fast laps shuffled him to the back of the field. “I guess we can’t finish any worse,” said Enerson before climbing into his car, “Gotta go forward.”  Enerson’s Dale Coyne Racing team had extra spotters on hand to watch the track’s blind spots in Turns 2 and 3, a concern shared by Takuma Sato during a meeting with fans on Saturday.

Enerson held the spot for only a few seconds.  Heading into Turn 7 on the opening lap, contact between Mikhail Aleshin and Tony Kanaan sent Aleshin spinning into Kanaan’s path, stalling the latter driver’s #10 NTT Data Honda.  Fast work by the Holmatro Safety Team got Kanaan back going without losing a lap, but he had lost more than 45 seconds to the leader.  Aleshin took last on Lap 7 in the first of a series of green-flag pit stops.  Kanaan retook it with his on Lap 9, jumping out just in front of Simon Pagenaud’s dominant #22 Hewlett Packard Enterprise Honda, and on Lap 11, Max Chilton became the first to lose a lap.

Chilton’s #8 Gallagher Honda returned to the lead lap after Pagenaud’s stop, then bumped Conor Daly’s #18 Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality Honda to last by Lap 19.  Jack Hawksworth, who came into the race leading a four-way tie for the 2016 LAST-INDYCAR title, seemed headed toward his 3rd last-place run of the season when his #41 ABC Supply Co. Honda dropped more than a minute behind on Lap 21.  Four circuits later, the spot returned to Enerson, then Kanaan on Lap 27 and back to Chilton on Lap 30.

The tussle over last place effectively ended after the day’s only caution fell on Lap 38.  Just as championship contender Will Power’s #12 Verizon Chevrolet slowed off Turn 7, Pigot’s #20 stalled at the exit of Turn 1, near the rear entrance to the paddock.  As the Ed Carpenter Racing crew took apart Pigot’s car in the garage area, the crew members were still unsure what had happened, saying they would have to diagnose it back at the shop.  They would not return to the race.  Nor would Conor Daly, who joined Pigot a few stalls over in the garage area with mechanical issues of his own.

As for Will Power, his #12 was towed to his pit stall near the exit of pit road, where the crew set to work on an apparent clutch issue.  Their driver remained in his seat, fanning himself with his red gloves as the crew removed the passenger side pod to work on the assembly beneath.  Power never went to the garage area and returned to the track several laps down, ending his championship hopes.  He passed Daly and finished 20th, eight laps behind.  Enerson and Hawksworth rounded out the Bottom Five, both under power and one lap down to race and championship winner Pagenaud.

Hawksworth, meanwhile, secured the 2016 LAST-INDYCAR Championship on a bottom-five tiebreaker over Max Chilton, 8-6.

LAST-INDYCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #20 this season.  The number hadn’t finished last in an IndyCar race since September 2, 2012, when Ed Carpenter’s turn in the #20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet ended with a single-car crash after 7 laps of the Grand Prix of Baltimore.  The number had never before finished last in an IndyCar Series race at Sonoma.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
22) #20-Spencer Pigot / 35 laps / mechanical
21) #18-Conor Daly / 36 laps / mechanical
20) #12-Will Power / 77 laps / running
19) #19-R.C. Enerson / 84 laps / running
18) #41-Jack Hawksworth / 84 laps / running

2016 LAST-INDYCAR OWNER’S CHAMPIONSHIP - FINAL
1st) Chip Ganassi Racing (5)
2nd) A.J. Foyt Racing, Ed Carpenter Racing (3)
3rd) Andretti Autosport,  Penske Racing (2)
4th) Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (1)

2016 LAST-INDYCAR MANUFACTURER’S CHAMPIONSHIP - FINAL
1st) Chevrolet (10)
2nd) Honda (6)

2016 LAST-INDYCAR DRIVER’S CHAMPIONSHIP - FINAL