Tuesday, November 28, 2017

TRIBUTE: Bud Moore Engineering’s twelve last-place finishes tell the story of one of NASCAR’s most celebrated single-car operations

A decorated Army veteran who stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. A Hall of Fame crew chief and car owner with 958 combined Cup starts and 63 wins over 37 seasons. Bud Moore filled every one of his 92 years with more stories than this or any other article can tell.

As the racing world mourns Moore’s passing on Monday, we at LASTCAR.info look back at the history of Bud Moore Engineering through the team’s last-place finishes, of which there were only twelve. Much like our feature on Robert Yates earlier this year, each finish tells the story of a single-car operation that was one of the strongest in the sport’s history, attracting some of NASCAR’s most famous drivers.

After years as a championship crew chief, Moore opened his team in 1961. Right away, he struck gold with Joe Weatherly, NASCAR’s “Clown Prince of Racing.” Active in Cup since 1951, Weatherly put Moore’s #8 Pontiac into victory lane in his very first attempt, taking the checkers in his qualifying race at Daytona in 1961. The pair would win 20 races together, claiming back-to-back Cup Series titles in 1962 and 1963. Their only last-place finish together came on August 14, 1963 at the Piedmont Interstate Fairgrounds, where the duo were on their way to another strong weekend. Weatherly won the pole for the 200-lapper, led the opening 33 laps, then lost the engine while still out front. It was the fifth and final last-place run of Weatherly’s career. Tragically, he would lose his life just five months later in a crash during the race at Riverside. It was the first time NASCAR’s defending series champion lost his life the following year.

Moore’s next driver was Houston native Billy Wade, who like Kevin Harvick years later would find great success in the shadow of tragedy. Just weeks after Weatherly’s crash, Wade finished 10th in his own Daytona qualifier, then 6th in the Daytona 500. During the Northern Tour that summer, he would become the first driver in NASCAR history to score four consecutive Cup Series wins. Like Weatherly before him, Wade scored just one last-place finish in Moore’s equipment, though not for an incident on the track. It came at Martinsville on April 26, 1964, where his Mercury was entered in the Virginia 500. A dispute over the brake ducts on car #1 led to Moore withdrawing his entry. The withdrawal is recorded in the race results as a “did not start” with Wade classified last. Unbelievably, Wade would also lose his life months later in a testing crash at Daytona.

The Moore team would never again lose a driver, and the owner played a key role in improving safety in the sport. Weatherly’s accident was one of several which led to the institution of driver’s side window nets while Wade’s saw changes made to seat belts, specifically the “jockey strap” or “submarine belt” that goes between the driver’s legs. During this period, Moore changed his car number to the #15, which the team would run for the rest of its existence. The team’s driver in 1973 was another sterling talent, Darrell Waltrip. Waltrip was in just his second season then, and after fielding his own cars as a freshman, Moore was the first owner to hire him. With sponsorship from Sta-Power Industries, the pair finished 8th in their first race together, the 1973 Southern 500. Later that month came their only last-place run together, an engine problem after 75 laps at North Wilkesboro on September 23, 1973.

The next two last-place runs both came in 1981, the year NASCAR decreased the standard wheelbase of its cars. Driving the team’s downsized Melling Tool Ford Thunderbirds was 1973 series champion Benny Parsons. Parsons won three times that season, culminating with a 10th-place finish in points, but finished last in both Cup races at Dover. The first came on May 17, the same day that another World War II veteran turned NASCAR team owner, Junie Donlavey, scored his only Cup win after Jody Ridley took the checkers. Parsons’ short day came after a crash with Dave Marcis on Lap 2. Things went no better on September 20, when the Ford overheated after just 31 laps. To date, Parsons is one of only three drivers to sweep both Cup Series last-place finishes at Dover, joining Dick May (1975), Bruce Hill (1976), and Graham Taylor (1992).

On November 21, 1982, still another last-place finish by the Moore team took on added significance. That day’s running of the Winston Western 500 saw the first last-place finish of 31-year-old Dale Earnhardt. Earnhardt, who wouldn’t win on a road course until 1995, started 7th in his #15 Wrangler Jeans Ford, but suffered an oil leak after just eight laps. “The Intimidator” would finish last just four more times in Cup – all in his iconic GM Goodwrench Chevrolet, and none after 1992. Ricky Rudd, who shared Earnhardt’s Wrangler sponsorship in 1984, picked up Moore’s next finish on June 17 of that year at Michigan. Just months earlier, Rudd had driven the same car to a gutsy win at Richmond with his swollen eyes taped open following his brutal wreck in the Busch Clash at Daytona.

The next two finishes came with Brett Bodine in 1988, a season which began with another terrifying crash after his Crisco / Motorcraft Ford collided with a tumbling Richard Petty in the Daytona 500. Bodine finished last in the July 2 return to Daytona when he was collected in another six-car pileup off the fourth corner, this time eliminating Cale Yarborough and Alan Kulwicki. The second finish came November 6, when Kulwicki earned his first Cup win in the inaugural race at Phoenix. Bodine was out after 13 laps that day with a blown engine.

Geoffrey Bodine joined the Bud Moore team in 1992, replacing Morgan Shepherd as driver of the team’s red #15 Motorcraft Quality Parts Ford. The team scored back-to-back wins at Martinsville and North Wilkesboro that fall, the latter run without a single caution flag. It was a strong performance after a difficult Martinsville afternoon on April 26, where another engine failure stopped Bodine after 104 laps of the Hanes 500. The next year, Bodine would score Moore’s 63rd and final Cup Series win at Sonoma, doing so in dramatic style. With dirt and debris on the track, Bodine slipped around the road course in the final laps, holding off a determined Ernie Irvan and Ricky Rudd. At the time, Bodine had just completed the purchase of Alan Kulwicki Racing, and would begin his owner-driver effort soon after.

Moore very nearly won again at Sonoma three years later, when road racer Wally Dallenbach, Jr. came on board with sponsorship from Hayes Modems. Dallenbach finished 3rd that day, within shouting distance of Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin. The sponsorship from Hayes was an eleventh-hour deal prior to the Daytona 500, where Dallenbach overcame front valence damage to finish 6th. The team also had the benefit of owner-driver Jimmy “Smut” Means as the crew chief, Means joining the team after he closed his own Cup effort. As it turned out, Sonoma marked the 298th and final top-five finish for Moore. The pair also finished last for the penultimate time at Richmond on March 3, when crash damage ended their day 19 laps into the Pontiac Excitement 400. Following a 25th-place finish in the season standings, it was to be Moore’s final season as a full-time competitor.

After Dallenbach’s departure, Bud Moore Engineering made just seven more starts. With two DNQs and a withdrawal from the Brickyard 400, 1997 marked the first season without one of Moore’s car in the field since 1971. In 1998, the team acquired sponsorship from Rescue Engine Formula and, after a DNQ with Loy Allen, Jr. at Indianapolis, made two starts with Ted Musgrave at Michigan and Darlington. It was the second of these starts on September 6 that Moore picked up his twelfth and final last-place finish. Musgrave lined up 32nd for the Pepsi Southern 500, but dropped a cylinder at the end of a long green-flag run and pulled off the track.

The last Bud Moore car to qualify at Talladega, April 16, 2000.
PHOTO: Bryan Hallman
In 1999, Moore sold his team to Fenley Motorsports, and the renamed Fenley-Moore Motorsports eyed a return to Cup competition in 2000 with Derrike Cope. Still carrying Moore’s iconic #15, the team made its Cup debut at Charlotte on October 11, 1999, where Cope finished 35th. Then, although the team didn’t have one of Ford’s new 2000-model Tauruses at the time, Cope raced the car into the Daytona 500. Following a 19th-place finish with Cope at Atlanta, the team’s final green flag came at Talladega on April 16. That day, Ted Musgrave returned to drive a “throwback” scheme to the white-and-blue Ford that Bobby Allison steered to victory in the team’s lone Daytona 500 triumph in 1978. Musgrave was running in the lead pack when “The Big One” collected him in the final stages.

While the car number 15 has since bounced from team to team (at the end of 2017, it was the Chartered entry for Premium Motorsports), Bud Moore’s legacy will live on. Two of the last three "Throwback" weekends at Darlington saw the #15 decorated as one of Moore's cars. Through both good days and bad, the team’s endurance in changing sport played a critical role in NASCAR history.

*Legends of NASCAR – Billy Wade

Thursday, November 23, 2017

OPINION: Thank goodness the “Junior Singularity” is over

PHOTO: John Harrelson, LAT Images
A few thoughts on Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s retirement, and what it means for NASCAR going forward.

It’s easy to forget just how high expectations were for Junior before February 18, 2001. He won twice in his rookie season in Cup – once more than his father in 1979 – and took his first All-Star Race in dramatic fashion. “Junior Nation” was already well past its founding. But once that final lap happened, everything became so much bigger. From that point on, Junior was now carrying the hopes, dreams, and expectations of two equally-massive fan bases – his own and his father’s. I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been for him, on top of everything else.

From then on, there was was what I call the “Junior Singularity.” The Cup Series became “Junior and Friends,” a weekly show where everyone else in the field – even its newest seven-time champion – played a supporting role. I was told by a friend in the NASCAR merchandise business that Junior outsold every other driver in the field 10-to-1. I believed it, especially when FOX broadcasts were constantly interrupted with a “Nationwide Dale Jr. Performance Report.” Junior was always a story - even if that story involved a terrible final season with DEI, a four-year winless streak, and a worrying series of concussions.

It wasn’t like Big E in the 1990s, when he was presented as one of a number of quirky stars – Wallace, Martin, Jarrett, Irvan, Gordon, and Bodine, to name a few. He stood out, of course, but not in the James Dean kind of way he does today. Some of the best proof of this are those old skits ESPN put together to open their Cup broadcasts. Earnhardt wasn’t the star of all of them, and some didn’t mention him at all. If another driver was the story – such as Rusty Wallace and his short-track dominance in early 1993 – then he carried the narrative instead. Earnhardt’s hardly mentioned at all in the 1992 Hooters 500, widely regarded as NASCAR’s greatest race. For Earnhardt, it was known ’92 was a season to forget, a year where accidents and mechanical issues left him 12th in points.

This isn’t to say that any of this is Junior’s fault – far from it. A big part of his popularity has been the result of things completely out of his control, and he’s consistently steered that celebrity toward charity. From the very beginning, he’s remained humble, compassionate, and about as down-to-earth as one can get. I’ve always found it ironic that the sport’s most popular driver remains a fan of Jimmy Means, a driver who raced without any wins in 455 starts. He’s also a studied student of the sport, not only from spending his youth in the garage, but also his clear dedication to the sport’s history, such as his “Back In The Day” program. I also can’t fault the fans for supporting who they want, nor the media for filling the need for Junior news that they desire. Much larger forces steered both that direction.

But I can say I’m glad that it’s over.

I am thankful that Junior retired on his own terms – not just for himself, but for his sport. I believe that the “Junior Singularity” has distracted too much of us from the state of NASCAR as a whole. We need to look at the lingering effects of the Charter system, how it has continued to prevent start-up teams from forming while doing nothing to prevent a proven winner like Matt Kenseth from being squeezed out of the sport. We need to re-examine how broadcasts are handled in the internet age and create leaner, more efficient, more informative experiences for fans old and new. And, most of all, we need to start talking again about the rest of the field, the big names and the small, who will each play a role in shaping NASCAR’s future. Let’s celebrate that Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson are now the old guard, fending off a rising tide of Chase Elliott, Darrell Wallace, Jr., Ryan Blaney, William Byron, Erik Jones, and many others.

I don’t think anyone really knows Junior. Maybe his family. Maybe his wife. But that’s about it. I don’t know how he’s handled everything thrown at him with such grace. And I can only imagine the relief he now feels with that Axalta Chevrolet in his garage and a baby on the way. I’d like to imagine he’d complement his new career in broadcasting with another NASCAR history show. I can see him in the role of Neil Bonnett when he did “Winners” on TNN, though without that return to Daytona in 1994. But I can’t say what’s right for him, never mind tell him. Nobody can. For perhaps the first time in his life, Junior is free. It’s not a time for sadness. We should be happy for him.

To anyone out there in an 88 shirt, you need to realize that the sky isn’t falling just because one of its stars isn’t on the track. Like Ned Jarrett, Benny Parsons, and Buddy Baker before him, you’re gonna enjoy him even more in the booth. And the sport will be better for it.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

CUP: Joey Gase scores third last-place finish in as many seasons one day after final start with Jimmy Means Racing

PHOTO: John Harrelson, LAT Images
Joey Gase picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway when his #83 Eternal Fan / Premier Millwright Toyota was involved in a single-car accident after 4 of 267 laps.

The finish, which came in Gase’s 22nd series start, was his first of the season and first in Cup since September 18, 2016 at Chicagoland, 45 races ago.

Homestead was the site of a number of dramatic endings, not the least of which the retirement of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and what could also be the final races for Matt Kenseth and Danica Patrick. It’s also seen the end of several longstanding driver-team partnerships, including the end of Kasey Kahne’s term at Hendrick Motorsports, where he joined in 2012, Michael McDowell’s last turn at Leavine Family Racing, where he first ran in 2014, and Landon Cassill, who’s still looking for a new ride after his second season at Front Row Motorsports.

One of the longest relationships to end on the XFINITY side was driver Joey Gase with Jimmy Means Racing. Gase first drove for Means at Iowa on May 20, 2012, when Gase was driving for Go Green Racing (fielded by Archie St. Hilaire, the current owner of the #32 Go FAS Racing team in Cup). When interviewed for my upcoming book on J.D. McDuffie, Means reflected on how he met with Gase.

“When [Gase] drove for Archie St. Hilaire the 79 car in XFINITY, he was renting that ride and I know he ran well and didn’t tear his stuff up.  And when the money ran out with Archie, basically was rent-a-ride if you wanted to drive the car you paid money, and I’m an old school racer so we don’t make a dime but we race, that’s our downfall.  But somebody introduced me to him and Joey was able to find some money so it kind of helped keep both of us going, so it’s been a good relationship, it’s kept him in it, kept me in it.”

Helping the team bring in a number of sponsors, most notably the Donate Life organ donor program, Gase helped Means to the #52 team’s first full XFINITY season in 2014, finishing 20th in points. The team’s best run that year came at Talladega, where they also led their first lap. When they returned to Means’ home track the following year, Gase kept his overheating Chevrolet in the lead pack, and carved out a 5th-place finish. It was Means’ first Top 5 in NASCAR, a proud moment for a driver whose best finish in 455 Cup starts over two decades was a 7th at Talladega in 1983.

Gase has continued to run strong on the restrictor plate tracks, finishing 7th and 10th in this year’s races at Daytona and 16th at Talladega. But on October 19, it was announced that Gase and Means Racing would part ways amicably at the end of the season.

The two parted ways as Gase has focused more on making it to the Cup Series, where he reunited with Archie St. Hilaire in 2014. This season saw Gase make more Cup starts than in any previous season – nine -  including his first Daytona 500 with BK Racing. He also drove for Premium Motorsports, finishing a season-best 21st at Talladega and a 26th at Indianapolis.

Gase wasn’t originally slated to run Sunday’s race. The preliminary entry list showed that BK Racing wasn’t going to enter the #83 Toyota, while Premium Motorsports’ #7 Chevrolet, Gase’s ride from the last two weeks, was going to be driven by fellow XFINITY regular Ross Chastain. But Premium ended up withdrawing the #7, resulting in Homestead’s first short field for the Cup finale, and BK entered the #83 for Gase on Wednesday. Although Gase’s car was first listed with Earthwater as the sponsor, as it had when Gray Gaulding finished last at Texas, Phoenix sponsor Eternal Fan, also based in Iowa, signed to sponsor the car. Premier Millwright also joined the effort, sponsoring Gase’s run in Cup as well as his final start for Means on Saturday.

Gase began the weekend running 37th in Friday’s opening practice, then qualified 35th in the field with a lap of 164.654mph. He ran 38th in Saturday’s first session and 37th in Happy Hour. In between, he started 32nd in the XFINITY finale and brought Jimmy Means’ car home under power, five laps down, in 29th.

Starting last on Sunday was Ray Black, Jr., another XFINITY regular looking to break into Cup. Homestead saw Black make his third Cup start of the season, closing out Rick Ware Racing’s return season to the Cup Series. By the time the cars were pushed out to the grid, however, his #51 ScubaLife Chevrolet was already ahead of two cars.

Behind Black on pit road were two of the day’s biggest stories: the #20 DeWalt Hurricane Relief Toyota of Matt Kenseth and the #88 Axalta Chevrolet of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Earnhardt had been moved back there in anticipation of leading the field during a special fourth parade lap. Earnhardt then asked NASCAR if Kenseth could join him, at which point the #20 lined up in front of his car. Curiously, Earnhardt was the only driver to incur a pre-race penalty, having been forced to change engines on Friday.

By the time the field took the green, Earnhardt was already passing cars, and had made his way to 30th after the first lap. Black, on the other hand, lost touch with the rest of the field with a slow start, and was back to last by the first set of corners. He was 3.864 seconds behind the leader after Lap 1. With two laps complete, the spot fell to Corey LaJoie, Gase’s teammate in the #23 myfreedomsmoke.com Toyota. According to BK’s Twitter, LaJoie was forced to make an unscheduled stop for a flat right-rear tire, putting him a lap down. Three laps later, trouble would find the second BK car.

With four laps complete, Gase was running in 35th ahead of Reed Sorenson. As the pair headed into Turn 1, Gase’s car cut sharply to the right, reportedly due to a flat right-front tire, and smacked the wall hard. This drew the day’s first caution, and Gase managed to just barely get his car back to pit road. With the steering tweaked and the passenger side pancaked, the team’s day was done, and the car was promptly pushed behind the wall.

Black finished 38th, flagged off the track for running too slow. Much like John Graham the day before, NASCAR had called his #51 to pit road early, allowing the team to make adjustments to get the car back up to speed. Like Graham, Black was called in once more, flagged off the track for running too slow.

37th went to Danica Patrick, whose final start for Stewart-Haas Racing did not go to plan. A flat tire caused her to lose control in the outside of Turns 1 and 2, and her #10 Aspen Dental Ford smacked the outside wall before being rear-ended by Kasey Kahne. Patrick reported earlier in the week that she will “cap it off” with next year’s Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500, but there is no news as of yet who she will drive for.

In 36th was David Starr, back in one of Motorsports Business Management’s Chevrolets after BK Racing lent Carl Long’s team a car last week in Phoenix. Starr was running a handful of laps down in the final 100 laps when the left-front brake rotor failed. The debris didn’t cause a caution – or a fire, in the case of Chris Buescher last week – but did leave a small puncture in the right-front fender of Playoff contender Kevin Harvick’s Ford.

Rounding out the Bottom Five was Reed Sorenson, citing engine trouble on Premium’s #15 Xchange of America Chevrolet.

The 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship went to Martin Truex, Jr., the first for both the New Jersey driver and his Denver-based team, Furniture Row Racing. Truex has six last-place finishes – none this season – including one in the fall Phoenix race in each of the last three election years. Furniture Row Racing has nine last-place finishes and took the 2008 LASTCAR Cup Series title with Joe Nemechek, who trailed three races that season and edged A.J. Allmendinger on a Bottom Five tiebreaker, 9-6. Congratulations to both Truex and Furniture Row on coming so far this past decade.

*Gase has now finished last in exactly one Cup Series race in each of the last three seasons.
*This marked the first last-place finish for car #83 in a Cup race at Homestead.
*Gase’s four laps complete are the second-fewest for a last-place finisher in a Cup race at Homestead. The fewest was 0 laps in 2004, after Hermie Sadler’s #02 Drive For Diversity / Sam Bass Chevrolet was eliminated in a multi-car accident at the start of the Ford 400.

39) #83-Joey Gase / 4 laps / crash
38) #51-Ray Black, Jr. / 39 laps / too slow
37) #10-Danica Patrick / 139 laps / crash
36) #66-David Starr / 175 laps / brakes
35) #15-Reed Sorenson / 212 laps / engine

1st) BK Racing, Circle Sport with The Motorsports Group (5)
2nd) Rick Ware Racing (4)
3rd) Chip Ganassi Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Furniture Row Racing, JTG-Daugherty Racing, Premium Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing, Roush-Fenway Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (2)
4th) Front Row Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Motorsports Business Management, Richard Petty Motorsports, StarCom Racing, Tommy Baldwin Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (20)
2nd) Toyota (10)
3rd) Ford (6)


XFINITY: Jeff Green closes out record-breaking season with 13th last-place finish of 2017

PHOTO: David PeQueen
Jeff Green picked up the 102nd last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Ford EcoBoost 300 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway when his unsponsored #38 RSS Racing Chevrolet fell out with clutch problems after 10 of 200 laps.

The finish, which came in Green’s 480th series start, was his first since Kansas, three races ago, and his series-leading thirteenth of the season.

RSS Racing shuffled their driver lineup for the season finale with Ryan Sieg driving the #93 Chevrolet for the first time in 2017, welcoming sponsorship from Code Rum. The #39 that Sieg ran for the rest of this season would go to Stephen Leicht, who last drove for RSS when he trailed the field at Charlotte in May. Leicht’s #39 would be the same black-and-blue Chevrolet that Gray Gaulding debuted as the #93 in Charlotte last month, and was set to run half the race distance. Green, however, would remain in his #38 Chevrolet, the roof numbers now the same shade of red as the roof, and was set to exit the race before Leicht.

The preliminary list for Saturday’s race saw 45 cars, which was pruned once to 44 after Penske Racing withdrew the #12 Ford for Truck Series title contender Austin Cindric, then again to 43 cars after Motorsports Business Management withdrew their third “start-and-park” car, which John Jackson was set to drive for the first time since his last-place run at Loudon. There were also a pair of driver changes for two independent teams: John Graham in place of Mike Harmon in the #74 Magellan Aviation Dodge (though Harmon helped practice the car in Happy Hour) as well as Josh Williams replacing Mario Gosselin in the #90 Starbrite Startron Chevrolet.

Green earned the Past Champion’s Provisional in qualifying, having turned in the slowest lap of Round 1 with a speed of 149.052mph. He’d run faster in practice, ranking 27th in the first session before skipping Happy Hour. According to David PeQueen, who captured the pictures used in today’s article, Green’s slow timed lap was due to him being “super conservative, staying well off the wall on corner exit.”

Three other drivers were sent home after qualifying: Quin Houff in the Precision Performance Motorsports #46 BeatinCancerWithDuke.org Chevrolet, Matt Mills in the #55 www.kplay.club / J.D. Electric Toyota for start-up team NextGen Motorsports, and owner-driver Morgan Shepherd in the #89 VisOne RV Chevrolet. All three drivers ran around two seconds faster than Green.

Green took the green in last, and was one of two cars to trail the field in Turn 2 by the time the leaders hit Turn 3. Joining him was John Graham, who was struggling with speed in Harmon’s Dodge from the very start. Green passed Graham by the end of Lap 1 by which time the #74 was already 10.991 seconds behind. Graham was 15.042 seconds behind the next time by and 21.576 behind on Lap 4. That time by, Ryan Reed served a penalty when his #16 Lilly Diabetes Ford passed to the inside at the start, dropping Reed to last on Lap 5. Reed got back up to speed, catching and passing Graham at the completion of Lap 8.

Graham was the first to be lapped on Lap 10, and was being warned by NASCAR to pick up the pace. By the time that lap was done, Jeff Green pulled down pit road, then into the garage, promptly taking last from Graham. Green was listed out on NBCSN’s leaderboard by Lap 31. Graham made contact with the outside wall, and came down pit road at least twice early in Stage 1. The second stop forced him to pull behind the wall, his Dodge flagged off the track for not maintaining minimum speed.

Finishing 39th between Green and Graham was Harrison Rhodes, who according to David PeQueen was running white rims on the right side of the car and black ones on the left. Rhodes, who was swapped to JD Motorsports’ #15 Masters Properties / Industrial Piping Chevrolet as Joe Nemechek ran his #01, retired nine laps after Green.

In 37th came Timmy Hill, running the renumbered blue #13 OCR Gaz Bar Dodge that had been Motorsports Business Management’s Pete Hamilton throwback at Darlington. He pulled into the garage 24 laps before Christopher Bell, who one day after clinching the Truck Series title lost the engine on Joe Gibbs Racing’s #20 GameStop / Power A Toyota.

Taking the 2017 NASCAR XFINITY Series Championship was third-place finisher William Byron, set to join Hendrick Motorsports’ #24 Cup team in 2018. Byron did not score a single last-place finish this season with just one Bottom Five – a 36th at Talladega – and two Bottom Tens.

*This was Green’s third last-place finish in the last four XFINITY Series races at Homestead.
*This marked the first last-place finish for car #38 in an XFINITY Series race at Homestead since November 10, 2001, when Christian Elder lost the rear end on his #38 Great Clips Ford after 19 laps of the GNC Live Well 300.
*This was just the seventh time in XFINITY Series history where the last-place finisher fell out with clutch issues. The last time it happened was May 5, 2012, when Kevin Lepage’s #52 TTTR Racing Engiens Chevrolet fell out after 1 lap of the Aaron’s 312 at Talladega.

(All Photos by David PeQueen)

40) #38-Jeff Green / 10 laps / clutch

39) #15-Harrison Rhodes / 19 laps / electrical

38) #74-John Graham / 31 laps / parked

37) #13-Timmy Hill / 54 laps / vibration

36) #20-Christopher Bell / 78 laps / engine

1st) RSS Racing (20)
2nd) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Motorsports Business Management, Shepherd Racing Ventures (2)
3rd) Chip Ganassi Racing, JD Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Kaulig Racing, King Autosport, Richard Childress Racing, SS Green Light Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (30)
2nd) Dodge (2)
3rd) Toyota (1)