Tuesday, July 17, 2018

K&N EAST: Colin Garrett can’t quite replicate the success of Russ Wheeler

PHOTO: @Team_HSR18
by William Soquet
LASTCAR.info Guest Contributor

Colin Garrett finished last for the second time in his NASCAR K&N Pro Series East career in Saturday night’s King Cadillac GMC Throwback 100 at the Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park when his #18 Propel GPS / Russ Wheeler Throwback / Hunt-Sellers Racing Toyota crashed out after 26 of 100 laps.

The finish came in Garrett’s sixth series start and was his first since the second South Boston event, three races ago.

Garrett and his #18 Hunt-Sellers Racing team have come into their own lately, shifting from a part-time operation to running every race since Langley. Unfortunately, while the #18 upped its commitment to the series, it is still struggling for cars.

The rest of the field faced a similar issue. A mere 14 cars showed up on the entry list, making it the leanest field of the season. The list did, however, bring changes - lots of them. On the driver's side, Rette Jones Racing switched drivers for the second time this year, parting ways with Grant Quinlan (who replaced Tyler Dippel) to Tristan van Wieringen, whose sister Dominique also races. Marsh Racing tapped Modified ace Chase Dowling for a return to the K&N Pro Series after one race in 2016.

Other changes focused on the “Throwback” theme for the weekend, as paint scheme and number changes galore could be seen. Spencer Davis, himself a modified racer, honored the late Ted Christopher by running "T.C.'s" iconic #13. Chase Cabre switched to number 15 for a Geoffrey Bodine throwback, and his Rev Racing teammate Ruben Garcia Jr. switched to number 12 for Ruben Pardo. Ryan Vargas completed the trio with a “terrible” Tommy Ellis scheme. Other throwback schemes included Anthony Alfredo honoring Sterling Marlin’s iconic Silver Bullet car and Brandon McReynolds running a paint scheme driven decades ago by Cookie Visconti, patriarch of the Visconti Motorsports family.

Garrett's was one of the most distinctive of these "throwbacks," referencing the 1990 film "Days of Thunder." The Propel GPS sponsorship was altered to make the car resemble the gold-and-blue Hardee's Chevrolet driven in the film by Cary Elwes' antagonist Russ Wheeler.

Bill Hoff was on the initial entry list, but his #71 never turned a lap all day and wound up being listed as a withdrawal, unlike the DNS he was listed as at NJMP. According to Hoff's Twitter, the car started smoking and misfiring after something broke under the hood. If you want to support his team, a link to his Kickstarter campaign can be found here.

Dowling and van Wieringen trailed the two practice sessions, but both were within four-tenths of the leader, making the sessions some of the most competitive of the year. Tyler Ankrum, the championship point leader coming in to the event, started last after his time in qualifying was disallowed. Ankrum went in the style of Martin Truex Jr., going from last to first with a disallowed car to eventually win.

Unfortunately, one of the fan-favorite throwback cars wound up finishing last. Colin Garrett reported fighting a loose condition early in the race, falling from his third starting position to ninth within the first 20 laps before finding the wall in turns three and four on lap 27. His Hunt-Sellers Racing team determined the damage was terminal, and "Russ Wheeler’s" night ended early.

Ronnie Bassett, Jr. fell out with brake troubles after 69 laps, the only other car not to finish the race. Van Wieringen, Vargas and Garcia rounded out the Bottom Five, all on the lead lap.

13) #18-Colin Garrett / 26 laps / accident
12) #04-Ronnie Bassett Jr. / 69 laps / brakes
11) #30-Tristan van Wieringen / 100 laps / running
10) #2-Ryan Vargas / 100 laps / running
9) #12-Ruben Garcia Jr. / 100 laps / running

1st) Toyota, Chevrolet (4)

1st) Hunt-Sellers Racing (2)
2nd) Bill McAnally Racing, Ronald Bassett Jr., Chuck Buchanan Jr., Carroll Motorsports, Danny Watts Racing, Hoff Racing (1)


Saturday, July 14, 2018

CUP: Blown tire in Alex Bowman’s 100th Cup start ends with first last-place finish in three years

Alex Bowman picked up the 5th last-place finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career in Saturday’s Quaker State 400 at the Kentucky Speedway when his #88 Axalta Chevrolet fell out in a single-car crash after 108 of 267 laps.

The finish, which occurred in Bowman’s 100th series start, was his first of the season and first in the Cup Series since July 26, 2015 at Indianapolis, 107 races ago. In the Cup Series last-place rankings, it’s the 29th for car #88, the 568th because of a crash, and the 749th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it’s the 55th for the #88, the 1,151st from a crash, and the 1,611th for Chevrolet.

Coming into Kentucky, Bowman had earned three-straight top-ten finishes: a 9th at the Sonoma Raceway (where he also qualified 7th for the K&N Pro Series West race in a car that broke the internet), a 10th at Chicagoland, and another 10th at Daytona. The crash-marred Daytona finish was particularly impressive. On a night where literally half the field was eliminated in wrecks, Bowman skillfully saved his car from a late-race spin and came out as the only full-time Cup driver to finish every points race under power (his last-place run in the All-Star Race didn’t count for points).

Thanks to this consistency, “The Showman” held fast to the 16th and final spot in the Playoff standings, 19 points ahead of Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.

Kentucky was another track where Bowman hadn’t raced Cup in several years. His only two previous starts were a 36th for BK Racing in 2014 and a 31st for Tommy Baldwin Racing. Both times, however, he’d finished under power and even led two laps in the race with Baldwin. He’d also finished 5th in his most recent XFINITY start there in 2013.

At the track, Bowman started the weekend 22nd in the first practice and 28th in Happy Hour. After running 13th in Round 1 of qualifying, he qualified 15th overall with a lap of 186.625mph (28.935 seconds), missing the cut for Round 3 by just over a tenth of a second.

Starting last in Saturday’s race was Timmy Hill, lowest-ranked of the four cars who weren’t able to pass inspection in time to turn a lap in Round 1. Hill’s black-and-blue #66 Crypto Crow Toyota was one of three cars in the field backed by a cryptocurrency firm, joining Kasey Kahne’s #95 Chevrolet with Dark Matter Presented by Ionomy and Corey LaJoie’s #72 Monarch Chevrolet. The other drivers who failed to turn a lap in Round 1 were Denny Hamlin, who failed inspection twice, plus Matt DiBenedetto and Jesse Little. Little, a part-time Truck Series competitor and son of Cup veteran Chad Little, was making his Cup debut for Premium Motorsports in an unsponsored #7 Chevrolet. With 39 drivers for 40 spots, no cars were sent home after qualifying.

Prior to the race, just one driver was sent to the back of the field. 18th-place starter Kyle Larson missed driver introductions because, as NBC Sports reported, he thought he had more time to hang out with his friends before the race. Larson didn’t spend much time at the back, ultimately charging to 9th at the finish despite a persistent problem with the electronic track bar adjuster.

When the race started, Hill’s #66 followed the field into Turn 1 and got a good run to the inside of Little, dropping the #7 to the back of the field. Hill then caught B.J. McLeod on the backstretch, and by Turn 3 dropped McLeod’s #51 Prefund Capital Chevrolet to the 39th spot. McLeod then caught Hill for position on Lap 6, and made it by him by the 11th circuit. Hill was still in the last spot when Landon Cassill pitted his #00 StarCom Fiber Chevrolet for a vibration caused by a loose left-rear wheel. The green-flag stop made Cassill the first to lose a lap to the leaders, ultimately losing two by the time he rejoined the race.

Cassill’s loose wheel was followed by more wheel and tire issues for some of the frontrunners. Austin Dillon came in for a similar vibration, followed by Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. with a cut left-rear after contact with Jamie McMurray entering Turn 3. Both Dillon and Stenhouse lost two laps, but were still ahead of Cassill in the running order. That is, until Stenhouse slowed on Lap 27 and pitted a second time, dropping him three laps down. Stenhouse returned to the action and on Lap 37 passed Cassill, now also three down, as the pair raced off Turn 2. Cassill then passed Hill by Lap 47 before Little took the spot for the first time by Lap 59, his #7 now five circuits behind. Cassill retook last place on Lap 75, and at the end of Stage 1 reported his car was “really, really tight center off.”

When Stage 2 began on Lap 88, Timmy Hill was again in the 39th spot, followed on Lap 101 by Cassill’s teammate Garrett Smithley, back in action in the StarCom Racing #99 Victory Lane Quick Oil Change Chevrolet that trailed the Michigan race in June. Smithley, who slipped into the Bottom Five when Little held last, worked his way past Hill by Lap 106. From there, Hill was still running in the last spot until the night’s second caution came out on Lap 110.

At that moment, Alex Bowman was following Denny Hamlin into Turn 3. He was running mid-pack, having led Lap 63 during an exchange of green-flag stops. Suddenly, his Chevrolet erupted in sparks from an apparent flat right-front tire. The car then steered into the Turn 3 wall, flattening the passenger side. Bowman managed to get his car back to pit road, but the crew quickly decided to take him back to the garage, done for the night. As driver and crew talked over what happened, Bowman said the car was getting tight, but he didn’t run over anything, and wasn’t sure if it was a tire or a brake rotor that failed. He also had to pump the brakes during the race, and had lost them entirely as he rolled into the garage on Lap 112. He secured last place from Timmy Hill on Lap 115.

With both Bowman and Stenhouse struggling on Saturday, Bowman remaons 16th in the Playoff standings, now just 9 points ahead of Stenhouse.

Finishing 38th was J.J. Yeley, whose second-straight run in the #23 Steakhouse Elite Toyota ended with an engine failure in Turns 3 and 4. Yeley managed to slow his car enough to avoid contact with the outside wall. As of this writing, the BK Racing team is awaiting a hearing on August 21 where the team and its Charter will be sold to a new owner, pending NASCAR’s approval of the sale.

The 37th spot fell to Matt DiBenedetto, one of many drivers who struggled with mechanical issues in the race. DiBenedetto took at least one trip to the garage to replace brake rotors before ultimately pulling out of the race in the final laps. Smithley finished 36th, the final car to run under power, followed by Little in 35th to round out the Bottom Five.

*This marked the first last-place finish for both Bowman and the #88 in a Cup Series race at Kentucky.
*This was the first last-place finish for Hendrick Motorsports since Dale Earnhardt, Jr. lost the engine at Watkins Glen last year, and the second in a row in this race following Jimmie Johnson’s run last year.

39) #88-Alex Bowman / 108 laps / crash / led 1 lap
38) #23-J.J. Yeley / 199 laps / engine
37) #32-Matt DiBenedetto / 200 laps / vibration / led 1 lap
36) #99-Garrett Smithley / 251 laps / running
35) #7-Jesse Little / 253 laps / running

1st) TriStar Motorsports (3)
2nd) Premium Motorsports, StarCom Racing (2)
3rd) BK Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing, Front Row Motorsports, Furniture Row Racing, Germain Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, JTG-Daugherty Racing, Motorsports Business Management, Penske Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports, Roush-Fenway Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (12)
2nd) Ford (4)
3rd) Toyota (3)


XFINITY: Jeff Green edges the returning second Means car for his eight last-place run of 2018

PHOTO: @hrmn8ter
Jeff Green picked up the 110th last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Friday’s Alsco 300 at the Kentucky Speedway when his unsponsored #93 RSS Racing Chevrolet fell out after 6 of 200 laps because of electrical issues.

The finish, which came in Green’s 497th series start, was his series-leading eighth of the 2018 season and his first since Michigan, four races ago. In the XFINITY Series last-place rankings, it’s the 36th for car #93, the 507th for Chevrolet, and the 48th because of electrical problems. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it’s the 86th for the #93, the 1,610th for Chevrolet, and the 118th because of electrical problems.

Last Saturday, Green was again set for a strong run on the plate tracks, outlasting much of the competition in Daytona. But a wreck late in the race left him with the front clip virtually destroyed, joining the equally-battered Chevrolets of teammates Ryan Sieg and J.J. Yeley. For the Kentucky race, Green would run an all-black Chevrolet without any sponsorship, and would once again be on “start-and-park” duty.

Green didn’t complete a lap in time before the end of the opening session, leaving him last of the 35 drivers without a time or speed registered. He returned in Happy Hour to rank 30th, then qualified 28th for the race with a lap of 172.238mph (31.352 seconds).

Josh Reaume's #79 in the garage at Kentucky
PHOTO: Seth Eggert, @MotorsportRev
Starting last was Josh Reaume, who found himself suddenly pulling double-duty at Kentucky. Without Kaz Grala and Fury Race Cars LLC on the entry list due to a lack of sponsorship, one spot was left open, threatening the first short XFINITY Series field in nearly four full years. Reaume, who was already at the track running his own Truck Series effort, was tabbed by Jimmy Means Racing to drive the team’s second car. Means entered what had been a #52 Striping Technologies Chevrolet that was renumbered #79, large white squares with the black number added on the doors and roof, similar to Carl Long’s drive with the team at Fontana in 2014. Long’s drive was the first of 10 times Means has fielded this “start-and-park” car to help fill fields, and Reaume would follow the same strategy.

Prior to the start of the race, Reaume was joined at the rear by Christopher Bell, Alex Labbe, and Mike Harmon, who were all penalized for unapproved adjustments prior to the race. Jeff Green joined them by voluntarily following to the back, looking to stay out of trouble. This allowed Green to pull into the garage area early, beating Reaume by three laps for the last spot. According to Seth Eggert, on assignment that night for Motorsports Tribune, Reaume first pulled into the Cup garage, sat there for two minutes, then backed up through the infield fan zone to the XFINITY garage. Eggert had to dodge the car as it went by, steam coming from behind the wheels and from under the hood.

Finishing 38th was Morgan Shepherd, who returned to action after his first withdrawal of the season at Daytona. Thirty laps after Shepherd’s exit for a vibration, Timmy Hill pulled Motorsports Business Management’s #66 CrashClaimsR.us Dodge behind the wall with a fuel pump issue. Rounding out the Bottom Five was Brandon Jones, whose #19 Menards NRG Toyota was eliminated in a crash on the backstretch after contact from a sideways John Hunter Nemechek.

*This marked the second-straight last-place finish at Kentucky for Green and the #93. Green earned the 98th XFINITY last-place run of his career here last September.

40) #93-Jeff Green / 6 laps / electrical
39) #79-Josh Reaume / 9 laps / overheating
38) #89-Morgan Shepherd / 25 laps / vibration
37) #66-Timmy Hill / 55 laps / fuel pump
36) #19-Brandon Jones / 104 laps / crash

1st) RSS Racing (9)
2nd) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Fury Race Cars LLC, Jeremy Clements Racing, JGL Racing, JP Motorsports, Mike Harmon Racing, Roush-Fenway Racing, SS-Green Light Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (13)
2nd) Ford (3)
3rd) Toyota (1)


TRUCKS: Ragged start leaves Tyler Matthews last at Kentucky

Tyler Matthews picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Thursday’s Buckle Up In Your Truck 225 at the Kentucky Speedway when his #83 Accent Imaging Chevrolet crashed out after 1 of 150 laps.

The finish occurred in Matthews’ third series start. In the Truck Series last-place rankings, it was the 5th for truck #83, the 143rd because of a crash, and the 355th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it’s the 30th for the #83, the 1,151st for a crash, and the 1,609th for Chevrolet.

Tyler Matthews is one of many drivers working their way into NASCAR from short tracks all across the country. The 21-year-old from Richlands, North Carolina is the 2016 track champion at the Carteret County Speedway in Swansboro, competing in late models and limited late models. On April 21 of this year, he made his first start in the CARS Late Model Stock Tour at the Orange County Speedway, once a regular stop of the NASCAR XFINITY Series. In a field of 21 cars, Matthews finished 14th for his family’s team.

The previous month, an opportunity came to go Truck Series racing at Martinsville. He was tabbed by Matthew Miller’s team MDM Motorsports to drive the #99 Popeye’s BB&T Scott Stringfellow Chevrolet. He qualified 14th for the race and finished 21st, two laps down to race winner John Hunter Nemechek. On June 23, he was also the last-minute replacement at D.J. Copp Racing, climbing aboard the #83 First Reponder Racing Chevrolet. Even with a team with fewer resources, Matthews managed to almost match his run with MDM, finishing 17th.

Kentucky was Matthews’ next Truck Series start, where he would again drive Copp’s #83. This time around, his Chevrolet was black instead of white, more closely resembling a truck from Premium Motorsports instead of his Gateway ride, which looked like the #63 from MB Motorsports. Accent Imaging, which backed Matthews at Gateway, would return as sponsor, this time as the primary.

Matthews ran 24th of 29 drivers in opening practice, then ran 27th when all 34 entrants took to the track in Happy Hour. He returned to 24th in qualifying with a lap of 175.993mph (30.683 seconds).

Missing the race were Joe Nemechek in his #87 Petron Plus Chevrolet and Timmy Hill, whose bid to start all three races last week ended with a slow lap in Beaver Motorsports’ unsponsored #50 Chevrolet. Curiously, Nemechek was faster than all five of the drivers who started in the Bottom Five on Owner Points, but was just under two-tenths slower than Bayley Currey for the 27th spot. Hill was two-tenths off Nemechek’s pace, but was still faster than the four starters.

Everyone was faster than last-place starter Myatt Snider, who broke loose during his qualifying lap in Round 1 and tagged the outside wall with the right-rear. The ThorSport team readied the backup, and Snider rolled off 32nd in his #13 FarmPaint.com Ford. He incurred a redundant tail-end penalty for the backup truck, joined by John Hunter Nemechek for unapproved adjustments on the #8 D.A.B. Constructors / Fleetwing Chevrolet and Stewart Friesen, whose #52 Halmar International / We Build America Chevrolet had a new engine under the hood.

It didn’t take long for trouble to break out. When the green flag dropped, the field pulled away slowly, jamming up the middle of the pack. Lined up between the #54 of Bo LeMastus and the #88 of Matt Crafton on the outside line, Matthews found himself at the point where the accordion compressed the tightest. As LeMastus pulled away, Crafton looked to the outside of Matthews, who was also working his way around Nemechek. Now three-wide entering Turn 1, Nemechek and Matthews made contact, sending the #83 sliding up the track. Matthews narrowly missed the other penalized trucks of Friesen and Snider as he fought for control. He ran out of race track soon after, and smacked the right-rear against the green retaining wall before spinning to the apron.

While the damage didn’t appear too extensive, Matthews pulled behind the wall, done for the night.

Finishing 31st was Camden Murphy, back in Jennifer Jo Cobb’s “start-and-park” #0 Driven2Honor.org Chevrolet. Cobb herself finished 29th, citing overheating issues on her #10. In between them came Bayley Currey, another of Copp’s drivers of the #83, who this time ran MB Motorsports’ #63 Chevrolet. Rounding out the group was Tate Fogleman, the only one in the Bottom Five to run more than 28 laps, who suffered suspension issues on Young’s Motorsports’ #20 RandCo Chevrolet.

For more on Tyler Matthews, check out his Facebook page here.

*Matthews is the first first-time last-placer in the Truck Series since last fall at Martinsville, when Chris Windom fell out with engine trouble.
*This marked the second last-place finish of the year for D.J. Copp’s team, and the first since Atlanta, ten races ago, with Scott Stenzel driving.
*This marked the first time the #83 has finished last in a Truck Series race at Kentucky.

32) #83-Tyler Matthews / 1 lap / crash
31) #0-Camden Murphy / 11 laps / electrical
30) #63-Bayley Currey / 22 laps / vibration
29) #10-Jennifer Jo Cobb / 28 laps / overheating
28) #20-Tate Fogleman / 103 laps / suspension

1st) MB Motorsports (4)
2nd) Beaver Motorsports (3)
3rd) Copp Motorsports (2)
4th) Mike Harmon Racing, NEMCO Motorsports, TJL Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (12)