Tuesday, May 3, 2016

SPONSORED: Twisted Tea Gives Race Fans a Chance to Get their Face in the Race

Drinkers Can Enter Contest Where a Race Fan’s Photograph will be Painted on a Racecar for Race Day

MOORESVILLE, N.C. – As a sponsor of Richard Petty Motorsports for three years, the team at Twisted Tea knows at least two things first-hand: nothing goes better with watching a race than a cold Twisted Tea, and NASCAR fans are among the most loyal in the world of professional sports.

To celebrate this, Twisted Tea is leading up to the Talladega race with “Get Your Face in the Race” – a contest where a race fan’s photograph will be emblazoned on a racecar for race day. In this case, painted on Twisted Tea’s No. 44 Ford Fusion driven by Brian Scott, for the Darlington, South Carolina race in September 2016. The lucky winner will get to attend the race with three friends courtesy of Twisted Tea and see their face go around the track live that day.

“There is no better time to enjoy Twisted Tea, the smooth and refreshing hard iced tea that tastes like real iced tea, than during a race, or cheering on the drivers while watching the race at home. Based on the creativity we see in our drinkers who submit photos every year for our back labels, we expect this to be a high-octane competition,” said Robert Vail, member of the Twisted Tea team. “We know there are plenty of people out there passionate about both Twisted Tea and NASCAR and will want to know about this unique opportunity to get closer to the track.”

Twisted Tea is asking entrants to show their passion for racing as well as their love of Twisted Tea, and the winner will be chosen from photos that will be judged on creativity, cleverness and uniqueness. In addition to getting their face painted on the racecar, the winner will also win on-site bragging rights and be able to invite three friends to come along to Darlington.

To learn more about the submission process and for rules, go to: http://twistedtea.com/twisted-racing/get-your-face-in-the-race. The contest began on April 1, 2016 and ends on May 15, 2016 and entries are accepted online. Fans must be 21 years of age or older to enter.

Brian Scott will be driving Twisted Tea’s No. 44 Ford Fusion at the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 1, 2016. Coverage airs at 1 p.m. ET on FOX.

About Twisted Tea Brewing Company
Twisted Tea Brewing Company was founded in 2001 on the twisted promise that a hard iced tea should taste like real iced tea. Since 2001, our tea makers (yes, their job is as cool as it sounds) have been committed to brewing a hard iced tea that not only tastes like real iced tea but also delivers an incredibly smooth and refreshing drinking experience. Twisted Tea brews more than 10 styles and is continuously searching for the best flavors to introduce to its drinkers. In 2016, it released Twisted Tea Bourbon Barrel, a light and refreshing tea with a splash of Bourbon flavor. For more information, visitwww.twistedtea.com

About Richard Petty Motorsports
A performance and marketing driven company, Richard Petty Motorsports, co-owned by NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty and successful business entrepreneur Andrew Murstein, is one of the most recognized brands in all of motorsports. With a history of over 200 wins and business partnerships with national and global leaders, today the race operation fields two teams in competition in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with drivers Aric Almirola and Brian Scott. Almirola will return to the iconic No. 43 Ford with partners Smithfield Foods, STP, United States Air Force and the "Fresh From Florida" campaign. Scott will make his debut with the team and drive the Petty Family No. 44 Ford. Albertsons Companies, Shore Lodge, Twisted Tea and GoBowling.com will join Scott as he competes for Rookie of the Year in his first full-time season in the Sprint Cup Series. Richard Petty Motorsports will also field the No. 43 Ford Mustang in the NASCAR XFINITY Series with driver Jeb Burton, who will compete for Rookie of the Year in his first full-time season in the No. 43 J. Streicher Ford. The team is headquartered in Mooresville, N.C.

No purchase necessary. Contest open to US residents who are 21 years +. 1 Grand Prize – to have your face on the Twisted Tea Car during a 2016 Race and a trip for you and three (3) guests to attend the race, ARV $10,000.00.  Contest begins on 4/1/16 and ends 5/15/16. To enter visit Twistedtea.com and enter your name, address, email address, telephone number and date of birth, and a photo of you being a little twisted.   Five (5) finalists will be chosen from all Contest Entrants by a panel of five (5) Twisted Tea Team members and judged on the following criteria:  creativity and uniqueness of photo, alignment with Twisted Tea’s values and entrants’ passion for racing.  The five (5) finalist photos will be posted on twistedtea.com on 5/15/2016-5/20/2016.  The finalist with the highest number of votes on 5/20/2016 will be the Grand Prize Winner. For official rules visit twistedtea.com or email officialrules@twistedtea.com. Void where prohibited.


Twisted Tea® is a registered trademark of Boston Beer Corporation.

CUP: Open Team Roundup - Talladega

SOURCE: NASCAR
For the first time in 2016, all four Open teams finished on the lead lap and inside the Top 20, each among the last survivors of a chaotic afternoon in Talladega.  Three teams picked up their best finishes of the season and two led at least one lap, but none left the track unscathed.

QUALIFIED

#21 Wood Brothers Racing
Driver: Ryan Blaney
Started 19th, Finished 9th

Ryan Blaney was back to his Las Vegas and Bristol form on Sunday with an added dose of perseverence.  Though he never led, he hovered just on the outside of the Top 10 for most of the day, avoiding all of the early crashes.  It wasn’t until Lap 162, when Kurt Busch nudged Jimmie Johnson into Paul Menard in Turn 1, that trouble found him.  Caught on the inside line, Blaney slowed and was rear-ended by Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., then spun into the grass.  The crew taped him up and bandaged together the rear bumper, and on Lap 170, he scored the Lucky Dog.  Blaney suffered more damage in the following wreck involving Matt Kenseth, but in the final three-lap sprint managed to come home 9th.

This Saturday at Kansas, Blaney returns to a track where he finished 7th last October - the second-best finish by the team at the track behind Ricky Rudd’s runner-up to Joe Nemechek in 2004.

#55 Premium Motorsports
Driver: Michael Waltrip
Started 33rd, Finished 12th

Michael Waltrip returned for his second restrictor-plate race of the season, moving from BK Racing’s #83 to Premium Motorsports’ #55 driven previously by Reed Sorenson.  The high and low point of Waltrip’s day came within seconds of each other.  Waltrip’s PEAK Antifreeze & Coolant Toyota stayed out under the first caution and led the field to green on Lap 58.  One lap later, when he’d slipped back to 5th, Waltrip was bumped by Martin Truex, Jr. entering Turn 3, sending him hurtling full-speed down the apron.  Waltrip spun as he re-entered the track, but somehow avoided serious damage.  Casey Mears and Aric Almirola, clipped by Waltrip, weren’t so lucky.  From then on, Waltrip remained just behind the lead pack all the way to the finish.  He somehow avoided all the wrecks and came home 12th.  It was the best Cup finish by owner Jay Robinson since Waltrip finished 19th in the 2014 Coke Zero 400.

Next week will mark Premium Motorsports’ first start at Kansas since 2014, when Joe Nemechek finished 31st in the spring race and Mike Wallace ranked 34th in the fall.

#35 Front Row Motorsports
Driver: David Gilliland
Started 39th, Finished 17th

Third among the Open teams at the finish, 2013 runner-up David Gilliland was actually the closest of the group to snatching away victory from Brad Keselowski.  The weekend began as a redemption of sorts, the Californian bouncing back from his DNQ in the season-opening Daytona 500 to make his first Cup start of the year in Front Row’s non-chartered #35.  Unlike Daytona, he had sponsorship this time, too, as Shaw’s Southern Belle Frozen Foods adorned his Ford.  Gilliland ran inside the Top 20 for most of the race, despite damage to the nose of his car suffered in Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s wreck on Lap 51.  Gilliland never once required the Lucky Dog.  In fact, when the white flag flew, he raced up to 3rd with a shot at Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch.  Unfortunately, he was shaken out of the draft on the backstretch, sent plummeting to the rear on the inside line.  Still, it was Gilliland’s best finish since he came home 17th at Pocono last August.

With the #35 only entered at Daytona and Talladega, it seems likely it will only return - if at all - at the season’s return trips to both tracks.  However, it is this writer’s opinion that the car could return at Sonoma this June, where Gilliland has also recorded strong runs.

#98 Premium Motorsports
Driver: Cole Whitt
Started 36th, Finished 18th

Cole Whitt led a lap of his own - the 131st, during the caution for Kasey Kahne’s hard crash - yet didn’t seem to run as strong as the other four Open teams during the race itself.  That said, he actually was in position to be the top Open team after Gilliland fell through the pack.  After running back in the pack for most of the afternoon, Whitt made his move in the final three laps, finding himself in the middle of a three-wide pack two carlengths ahead of Ryan Blaney.  When racing Landon Cassill for a spot inside the Top 10, the two made contact, sending Whitt into the right-rear of Kevin Harvick.  The contact sent Whitt spinning across the track as Harvick hit the outside-wall.  Still, the caution coming out seconds before Keselowski reached the stripe kept Whitt ahead of three other lead-lap cars - Bobby Labonte, Greg Biffle, and Michael McDowell.

Were it not for Waltrip’s 12th-place finish, Whitt’s 18th-place run would have been a new best-ever for Premium’s team owner Jay Robinson.  Regardless, it was Whitt’s best finish of the season - topping his 26th-place run at Fontana - and is tied for the third-best in Whitt’s 94 Cup starts.

DID NOT QUALIFY

#30 The Motorsports Group
Driver: Josh Wise
Season Stats: 8 Starts, 2 DNQs

The Motorsports Group now stands 0-for-2 in qualifying at restrictor-plate races for 2016.  Driver Josh Wise was the slowest in qualifying, seven-tenths of a second behind the next Open car of David Gilliland.  If driver and team bounce back at Kansas, it will be the team’s first start at the track.  Wise’s best Kansas finish in six starts was a 26th driving for Front Row Motorsports in the spring of 2013.

DID NOT ENTER

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

None of the other Daytona 500 DNQs attempted the race at Talladega, including Hillman Racing, who had traditionally turned in strong runs when Landon Cassill drove for them.  Ryan Ellis, who ran the #93 last week at Richmond, is expected to return for a handful more races this year, including Indianapolis in July and Texas in November.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

CUP: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. gives #88 first Talladega last-place finish since 1980

SOURCE: Jerry Markland, Getty Images
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. picked up th 9th last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup career in Sunday's GEICO 500 at the Talladega Superspeedway when his #88 Nationwide Chevrolet fell out after a pair of crashes after he completed 63 of 188 laps.

The finish, which came in Earnhardt’s 587th series start, was his first of the season and first since last year’s CampingWorld.com 500 at Phoenix, 42 races ago.

Last fall at Talladega, Earnhardt was eliminated from Chase contention in a controversial finish where Kevin Harvick’s crash and Joey Logano’s restart cost him a “must-win” victory.  This year at Daytona, Earnhardt brought that same car - Chassis 88-872, nicknamed “Amelia,” and looked for another strong run.  Again, he contended, leading 15 laps before he wrecked off Turn 4 with just 29 circuits remaining.  “Amelia” was reported to be a total loss, but last week, word came that the Hendrick team had fixed it.  And so, with Earnhardt 7th in points with three runner-up finishes at Atlanta, Texas, and Bristol, Earnhardt and “Amelia” eyed their first victory of the season.

Earnhardt began the weekend just 32nd in the opening practice session despite running the most laps - 37.  He then bounced back in Happy Hour with the 7th-fastest speed, and in Saturday’s qualifying, earned the 3rd starting spot with a lap of 192.424 mph.

The 40th starting spot in Sunday’s field went to David Ragan, whose #23 BK Racing entry carried sponsorship from Schulter Systems - Ragan’s third different backer in three weeks.  During the pace laps, Ragan was joined by Ryan Newman, sent to the rear for unapproved adjustments, and Tony Stewart, for a driver change.  After his return last Sunday at Richmond, Stewart honored his doctor’s request to step out of his car at the earliest possible moment.  XFINITY Series regular Ty Dillon qualified the car, and then climbed aboard during the first caution on Lap 51.

That same Lap 51 caution also ultimately determined the last-place battle.

On Lap 1, Ragan passed David Gilliland for the 40th spot.  Gilliland was making his first Cup attempt since he missed the show for the Daytona 500, having secured the 39th starting spot in Front Row Motorsports’ non-chartered #35.  Ryan Newman’s penalized #31 took it on Lap 2, followed by Stewart on Lap 3 and Michael Annett on Lap 5.

Annett held 40th until the first round of green-flag stops on the 36th go-round, when Carl Edwards trailed in his #19 ARRIS Toyota.  Austin Dillon took it on Lap 37 after his stop, then Paul Menard on Lap 38.  Menard’s #27 Moen / Menards Chevrolet tangled with Danica Patrick’s #10 Aspen Dental Turbocharged Tooth Fairy Chevrolet when Patrick tried to get into her pit stall.  The contact caved-in the right-front of Menard’s car and damaged the rear of Patrick’s.  Menard passed Patrick on Lap 39, then Annett retook 40th on Lap 45.  Annett was still trailing - and a lap down - when the aforementioned Lap 51 caution occurred.

That time by, Earnhardt had yet to lead a lap, but was still in the middle of the lead pack.  Coming off Turn 2, Earnhardt cut left, then lost control and hooked right, catching teammate Kasey Kahne’s #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet.  The two cars continued toward the outside wall, narrowly missing Patrick’s #10 and instead clipping the left-front of Matt DiBenedetto’s #83 Dustless Blasting Toyota.  Under the yellow flag, the order of the three cars placed Kahne behind Earnhardt and DiBenedetto, and the #5 took 40th from Annett on Lap 52.

Of these three drivers, DiBenedetto returned to the track first on Lap 61, dropping Earnhardt from 38th to 39th.  Kahne came out next on Lap 91, and Earnhardt took 40th for the final time on Lap 92.  Though both Kahne and Earnhardt were more than 40 laps down to the leaders, the last-place battle wasn’t settled until Lap 111, when something on Carl Edwards’ #19 broke, sending him hard to the right into the passing Earnhardt, destroying both cars.  Kahne and DiBenedetto also fell out in later incidents: Kahne’s #5 apparently broke a tie rod and hit the wall on Lap 129 while DiBenedetto lost the engine.

Earnhardt, Kahne, and DiBenedetto finished 40th, 39th, and 36th, respectively.  Joining them in the Bottom Five was 38th-place Michael Annett, whose #46 Pilot / Flying J Chevrolet slammed a gap in the backstretch wall flush with the driver’s side during a seven-car melee on Lap 97.  37th went to Chris Buescher, whose #34 Love’s Travel Stops / CSX Play It Safe Ford was hooked by Annett in the same crash and tumbled wildly down the backstretch.  All drivers involved in these and the total ten cautions on the afternoon walked away without serious injuries.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This was Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s first last-place finish in a Cup race at Talladega.
*This was Hendrick Motorsports’ first last-place finish in a Cup race at Talladega since April 26, 2009, when Mark Martin’s #5 Carquest / Kellogg’s Chevrolet crashed after 6 laps of the Aaron’s 499.  Brad Keselowski, who also won Sunday, claimed his first checkered flag in Cup that day.
*This was the first last-place finish for the #88 in a Cup race at Talladega since May 4, 1980, when Darrell Waltrip’s Gatorade Oldsmobile broke a cam after 4 laps of the Winston 500.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #88-Dale Earnhardt, Jr. / 63 laps / crash
39) #5-Kasey Kahne / 82 laps / crash
38) #46-Michael Annett / 94 laps / crash
37) #34-Chris Buescher / 95 laps / crash
36) #83-Matt DiBenedetto / 98 laps / crash

2016 LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Reed Sorenson, Josh Wise (2)
2nd) Aric Almirola, Matt DiBenedetto, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kyle Larson, Ryan Newman, Cole Whitt (1)

2016 LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Premium Motorsports (3)
2nd) The Motorsports Group (2)
3rd) BK Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports (1)

2016 LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (8)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (1)

XFINITY: Jeff Green escapes restrictor-plate mayhem with early Talladega exit

SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin' Forums
Jeff Green picked up the 87th last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Sparks Energy 300 at the Talladega Superspeedway when his unsponsored #10 TriStar Motorsports Toyota fell out with suspension issues after he completed 2 of 116 laps.

The finish, which came in Green’s 427th series start, was his fourth of the season and his first since Phoenix, five races ago.

Green returned to TriStar’s #10 for the first time since Texas, three races ago, when he failed to make the field.  There was a chance he would miss the show again, as he was this time one of 43 drivers entered in the event.  He timed in 30th in the opening practice, did not participate in Happy Hour, and timed in 27th in qualifying with a lap of 176.156 mph.  Missing the show were Josh Reaume, back in the #93 RSS Racing Chevrolet which had scored two of the previous three last-place runs with Josh Wise; Derrike Cope in his #70 Buddy’s Home Furnishings / Ice-Aid Chevrolet, and the unsponsored #74 Dodge of Mike Harmon.

Green pulled his #10 into the garage area during the opening green-flag run.  39th-place finisher Morgan Shepherd paced the field in his #89 Racing With Jesus / Courtney Construction Chevrolet during the competition caution on Lap 23, then pulled out with rear gear issues on the restart.  38th and 37th went to Joey Gase in Jimmy Means’ #52 Sparks Energy / Donate Life Alabama Chevrolet and Chris Cockrum in Jeff Spraker’s #25 Advance Communications Group Chevrolet.  Cockrum and Gase were involved in a hard Lap 32 crash when both spun into the inside wall.  Like Michael Annett in the following day’s Cup race, Cockrum hit the protrusion in the wall where emergency vehicles exit, only the #25 caught air and spun.  Both drivers walked away uninjured.  Rounding out the Bottom Five was B.J. McLeod, whose #78 Triple R Containers Ford lost an engine after 39 laps.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the fourth-consecutive last-place finish for TriStar’s #10 in this Talladega event.  Of those, Green last scored the finish in 2013.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #10-Jeff Green / 2 laps / suspension
39) #89-Morgan Shepherd / 27 laps / rear gear / led 1 lap
38) #52-Joey Gase / 30 laps / crash
37) #25-Chris Cockrum / 30 laps / crash
36) #78-B.J. McLeod / 39 laps / engine

2016 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Jeff Green (4)
2nd) Matt DiBenedetto, Josh Wise (2)
3rd) Ryan Preece (1)

2016 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) TriStar Motorsports (6)
2nd) RSS Racing (2)
3rd) JD Motorsports (1)

2016 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Toyota (6)
2nd) Chevrolet (3)

Thursday, April 28, 2016

5/7/72: Marty Robbins’ restrictor-plate prank sends him to rear of Talladega field

SOURCE: TheTruthAboutCars.com
On May 5, 1972, Marty Robbins picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Winston Cup Series career in the Winston 500 at Talladega when his unsponsored #42 1972 Dodge was disqualified after he completed 179 of 188 laps.  The finish came in Robbins’ tenth series start.

By 1972, Robbins was a household name in two different, but at the time, very similar circles.  In the postwar years, he came to prominence as one of the most popular and beloved country music stars of his time.  Performed during his regular appearances at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, the singer-songwriter’s most famous ballads included “El Paso,” his first song to top the pop charts, the Grammy Award-winning “My Woman, My Woman, My Wife,” and “Big Iron,” which has since been covered by many of his contemporaries.

In 1966, Robbins discovered another love in his life: NASCAR racing.  He made his series debut on July 30, 1966 at the Nashville Fairgrounds near the Grand Ole Opry, finishing 25th in a field of 28 in a race won by Richard Petty.  By 1971, he expanded his new hobby by running on a number of the series’ fastest tracks, including Charlotte, Atlanta, Darlington, and the old Texas World Speedway.  He fielded his own fuchsia -and-yellow Dodges prepared by veteran car owner Cotton Owens and began to earn a number of surprising finishes.  He came home 7th in the 1971 Southern 500 and 8th at the sprawling 2.5-mile Ontario Motor Speedway early in the 1972 season.

Back then, however, a 7th or 8th-place car still typically finished laps down to the leaders, and Robbins was mindful to stay out of the leaders.  “I don’t think I get in their way,” said Robbins in an interview, “I stay out of the way of the fast ones and I find me one that’s about my speed and I chase him all day long.”

Ever the playful type, Robbins had a prank in store for the 1972 Winston 500 at Talladega, his first start at NASCAR’s biggest track.  Though modern restrictor-plate racing was still another fifteen years away, the sanctioning body was already playing with the idea, and all 50 starters would have plates in their cars.  Wanting to see what it was like to run with the leaders, Robbins found a way to make his plate come loose and fall into the carburetor, allowing him to run the event 15mph faster than he had in practice.  The plan worked, and to the surprise of the crowd, he zipped to the lead pack, trailing David Pearson, Bobby Isaac, and Buddy Baker.  In the final laps, he thought about taking the lead, but wasn’t comfortable with going 200mph into a corner for the first time in his life.  So he pulled the car into pits, leaving him 18th, nine laps down.

Impressed by Robbins’ performance, NASCAR offered to give Robbins with the “Rookie of the Race” award, including a $250 prize.  But, by Robbins’ admission, he was “illegal, but not cheating,” a distinction drawn as he didn’t intend to get away with it.  When he brought his carburetor to the attention to of NASCAR inspector Bill Gazaway, Gazaway wasn’t pleased.  He disqualified Robbins from the event, classifying him last in the field, and fined him $1,300.

At first, Robbins wasn’t bothered.  “I didn’t want the money, points or anything,” he said. “It was worth it.  In fact, I’d have paid (the fine) for a picture of Joe Frasson’s face when I passed him.”  But in an interview years later, he seemed embarrassed over the issue: “I learned that what I did that day, I hurt some people’s feelings, you know, like Bill Gazaway, Len Cooper, the drivers.  They didn’t really like what I did, but they did admire me for turning myself in.”  Ironically, Robbins already had a fast car - when the plate was in place, he qualified 9th.

Before the penalty, the last-place finish for the day was originally going to go to Anniston, Alabama driver Bill Ward, who started last in the #53 Hopper-Crews 1972 Ford and fell out with an oil leak.  It was Ward’s third of seven career starts, all of which came at the Talladega Superspeedway.  He finished a career-best 11th in the 1969 inaugural when the big names went on strike, driving a #81 Chevrolet for owner Bill Hemby.  The disqualification lifted Bill Ward to 49th.

Finishing 48th was Robert Wales, who three laps after Ward fell out with an oil leak of his own on his #63 Pleasant Grove Union 1970 Dodge.  Wales’ only two Cup starts came in that year’s Talladega races - he would finish last after a Lap 2 engine failure that August.  47th belonged to veteran owner-driver Neil “Soapy” Castles, who was running his 15th of 19 years on the tour.  Castles retired in 1976 to become a car owner, having never won in 498 career starts, third-most of all winless drivers behind J.D. McDuffie (653) and Buddy Arrington (560).  Rounding out the Bottom Five was Glen Allen, Virginia driver Bill Dennis, the 1970 Rookie of the Year, driving a 1970 Plymouth for owner Don Robertson.

Another interesting side note to the race was the driver who finished 38th.  A 25-year-old racer from Tennessee named Darrell Waltrip was making his first NASCAR start that day, driving a #95 Terminal Transport 1971 Mercury.  Waltrip lost an engine after 69 laps.

Robbins remained a fan favorite in NASCAR and continued to impress on the sport’s biggest tracks.  Just one year later, he finished 8th in the Medal of Honor Firecracker 400 at Daytona, then in 1974 scored a career-best 5th at Michigan, trailing Richard Petty, Earl Ross, David Pearson, and Gary Bettenhausen.  His 35th and final NASCAR start came on November 7, 1982 in the season finale Atlanta Journal 500, his first race at Atlanta in eleven years.  Robbins, now driving a Buick, finished 33rd that day in a field of 40.  Tragically, just one month later, Robbins died from complications from heart surgery.  He was 57.

Robbins’ legacy lives on today, both in music and in racing.  The 420-lapper at the Nashville Fairgrounds, where Robbins made his Cup debut in 1966, was in 1983 renamed the Marty Robbins 420.  Ray Evernham, former NASCAR crew chief and team owner, acquired an old Plymouth Belvedere that Robbins raced on the short tracks.  Evernham and artist Ken Binkley, who painted the very same car decades earlier, completely restored it.

For more on Robbins and his racing career, check out this video featuring interviews with the man himself.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This was the first last-place finish for the #42 in a Cup race since July 10, 1963, when Richard Petty won the pole at the Savannah Speedway in Savannah, Georgia and led the opening 6 laps, but crashed his 1963 Plymouth after 38 of 200 circuits.  In a career spanning 1,184 races, this was one of the 61 times Petty did not race the #43 and one of the 29 times he ran his father’s #42 instead.  He also ran the #142, #2, #24, #41, #42A, and once ran D.K. Ulrich’s #6 following a practice crash at Charlotte in 1986.
*This was the first time a driver was classified last in a Cup race since September 13, 1968, when David Pearson’s #84 1968 Ford finished on the lead lap with Bobby Isaac during the Maryland 300 at Beltsville Speedway in Beltsville, Maryland, but had his finish taken away because the car was too light.  It was Pearson’s second disqualification of the season and came in the only race where he didn’t drive for Holman-Moody that season.  That day, Pearson drove a car Roy Trantham wrecked during his NASCAR debut at Darlington earlier that month.  By the time it arrived in Beltsville, Trantham’s car was found to be too light, bringing about the disqualification.  Pearson more than made up for the setback - the Darlington race was one of 16 victories he claimed en route to his second of three championships.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
50) #42-Marty Robbins / 179 laps / disqualified
49) #53-Bill Ward / 10 laps / oil leak
48) #63-Robert Wales / 13 laps / oil leak
47) #06-Neil Castles / 19 laps / clutch
46) #23-Bill Dennis / 23 laps / engine

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

CUP: Open Team Roundup - Richmond

SOURCE: NASCAR
Richmond was another green-flag affair, and despite their poor finishes, all of the Open teams finished within 10 laps of the race leader - that is, except one, who found himself bumped from the field in the first qualifying session of consequence since the Daytona 500.

QUALIFIED

#21 Wood Brothers Racing
Driver: Ryan Blaney
Started 29th, Finished 28th

Ryan Blaney vied for the Top 15 in the early going, but struggled once he lost a lap to the leaders and never contended for the victory.  He did, however, show deference to the leaders by pulling low on the track with seven laps to go, letting Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards wage war for the victory.  Blaney had just returned to the lead lap before the final sprint to the checkers, having taken the wave-around, and ended up the second car one lap behind following fellow Ford driver Landon Cassill.

Next Sunday will be Blaney’s fourth Cup start at Talladega, site of his career-best 4th-place finish in this event one year ago.  It will also be the 87th Talladega start for the Wood Brothers, who have scored five wins, 18 Top Fives, 30 Top Tens, and six poles on the superspeedway.  The team has not won on the track since NASCAR downsized its cars to the current wheelbase - their fifth victory came with the late Neil Bonnett on August 3, 1980.

#93 BK Racing
Driver: Ryan Ellis
Started 37th, Finished 37th

Ellis squeezed his way into Sunday’s field by virtue of a determined run during Friday’s opening practice, where he edged Cole Whitt by less than one-tenth of a second for the 37th spot.  A washout in qualifying sent Whitt home as a result, securing Ellis his first Cup start since last fall’s rain-shortened race at Phoenix.  Like the rest of this week’s group of Open teams, Ellis lost a lap early and struggled the rest of the afternoon, ultimately moving out of the way of the leaders in the final laps.  Ellis was also spun by Landon Cassill on the Lap 327 restart, but avoided serious damage to his car.  It was a new career-best finish for Ellis, who came home 40th in last fall’s 43-car field.

Ellis has just one Talladega start in NASCAR’s top three divisions - the Truck Series race on October 18, 2014, where he scored a 23rd-place finish driving for Jim Rosenblum’s FDNY Racing.  The #93 BK Racing team also finished last in this year’s Daytona 500 with Matt DiBenedetto. Ellis and the #93 are not entered at Talladega as DiBenedetto retains his #83.

#30 The Motorsports Group
Driver: Josh Wise
Started 31st, Finished 39th

This week, Josh Wise avoided the wrecks that damaged his #30 the previous two races at Texas and Bristol, but still ended up on the exact same lap as last-place finisher Reed Sorenson.  At the same time, the team is already making plans for the rest of their first full-season run.  TMG is currently holding a fan poll to decide which “throwback” #30 scheme to run at Darlington: Michael Waltrip’s 1988-1989 Country Time Lemonade Pontiac or Dale Earnhardt’s 1976 U.S. Army Chevrolet.

Like Blaney, Wise also earned his career-best finish at Talladega, which came just last year.  That day, Wise finished 10th in the #98 Royal Teak Furniture Ford - just as his Phil Parsons Racing ride was sold to Jay Robinson’s Premium Motorsports.  While The Motorsports Group has never made a Cup start at Talladega, the team did finish 12th with Scott Wimmer in the 2012 XFINITY Series race and 18th with Wise in 2013.

#55 Premium Motorsports
Driver: Reed Sorenson
Started 35th, Finished 40th

Sorenson finished last in Sunday’s race, his second in a row.  For more, see his LASTCAR.info feature.  In ten previous starts at Talladega, Sorenson’s best finish was a 10th in the fall of 2007, the first restrictor-plate test for NASCAR’s “Car of Tomorrow.”  He also finished 14th in his most recent Cup appearance there, when he drove for Tommy Baldwin Racing on October 19, 2014. Sorenson will concede his Talladega ride to Michael Waltrip, the 2003 fall winner.

DID NOT QUALIFY

#98 Premium Motorsports
Driver: Cole Whitt
Season Stats: 7 Starts, 2 DNQs

Ryan Ellis’ gain in Friday’s practice was Cole Whitt’s loss, and Premium Motorsports’ #98 ended up missing its first race since the Daytona 500.  Another restrictor-plate challenge awaits next week at Talladega, where Whitt ‘s best finish in six previous Cup starts was a 13th in last year’s running for Front Row Motorsports.

DID NOT ENTER

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

The remaining four Daytona 500 DNQs did not attempt Richmond, but David Gilliland and his repaired #35 will return at Talladega, keeping the entry list at 41 cars.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

CUP: Reed Sorenson scores first last-place run for #55 at Richmond since 1989

SOUCE: Sean Gardner, Getty Images
Reed Sorenson picked up the 12th last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 at the Richmond International Raceway when his #55 ChampionMachinery.com Chevrolet finished under power, 10 laps down, after 400 laps.

The finish, which came in Sorenson’s 238th series start, was his second in a row.  He is now tied with Josh Wise for the lead in the 2016 LASTCAR Driver’s Championship.

Sorenson remained the driver of Premium Motorsports’ second team, but by Friday found himself the lone Jay Robinson entry in the field.  For the first time since the Daytona 500, more than 40 cars entered the race with the return of BK Racing’s #93 with Ryan Ellis as the 41st.  This meant the fastest four Open teams would make the race.  In Friday’s opening practice, where Sorenson timed in 35th, Ryan Ellis turned 21 laps to the 14 made by Sorenson’s teammate Cole Whitt in the #98.  On Ellis’ 16th lap, Ellis edged ahead of Whitt for the 37th position.

Unfortunately for Whitt, rain washed out qualifying, meaning that the field was set by practice speeds - including the fastest four Open cars in practice.  Under the old rules, where practice speeds only locked-in a portion of the field, Whitt would have made the race based on attempts.  But this year, an Open team can make the field simply by being one of the fastest four in pre-qualifying practice, meaning that Ellis was in and Whitt was out.  Sorenson remained 35th with his practice lap of 121.250 mph.

In a curious twist, the 40th starting spot went to Michael Annett, the beneficiary of the charter medallion Premium Motorsports sold to HScott Motorsports before the start of the season, thus denying Whitt a guaranteed spot in the first place.  One week after driving with smoke in the cockpit at Bristol, Annett had wrecked on the backstretch during practice without turning a lap.  It was not a positive sign for Annett, who had also crashed out and finished last in the series’ most recent trip to Richmond last September.

Prior to the start of Sunday’s race, Annett was joined by Clint Bowyer, whose #15 5-Hour Energy Chevrolet was already 39th before the team changed transmissions.  Bowyer held 40th on the first lap, Annett on Lap 2, and Sorenson on Lap 3.  Sorenson became the first of many cars to lose a lap during the first 157-lap green-flag stretch when he was passed by race leader Jimmie Johnson around Lap 25.  Josh Wise, last in the previous day’s XFINITY race, took 40th from Sorenson on Lap 28, followed by Chris Buescher during the first round of green-flag stops on Lap 86.  Annett retook the spot on Lap 88, followed the next time by with Wise, now three circuits behind.  When the first caution finally fell on Lap 158, Wise still held the spot and was now five laps back.  Under this caution, Sorenson took the spot for good - a cut tire on the #55 on Lap 252 put him two laps behind Wise, and it wasn’t until the end of the race that both were on the same lap, ten behind.

This marked the second time in 2016 that all the starters finished the race under power (the other being Atlanta in February), and the first time it has happened at Richmond since September 7, 2008 - a race that was also run during the daytime.

Behind Sorenson and Wise in 38th was Jeffrey Earnhardt, who equaled his season-worst 38th-place finish during the last green-flag gauntlet at Atlanta in Go FAS Racing’s #32 Visone RV / Corvettepats.net Ford.  37th went to Ryan Ellis, who stayed out several laps during the first green-flag pit stops, then spun off the nose of Landon Cassill on Lap 327 in his #93 ScienceLogic Toyota.  36th went to Annett, who came home six laps behind in HScott’s #46 Pilot / Flying J Chevrolet.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This was the first last-place finish for the #55 in a Sprint Cup race at Richmond since September 10, 1989, when Phil Parsons’ #55 Crown Petroleum Oldsmobile crashed with Dale Jarrett on Lap 4 and completed just 8 circuits of the Miller High Life 400.
*This was Sorenson’s first Cup last-place finish at Richmond since September 8, 2012, when his #91 Plinker Tactical Chevrolet lost power steering after 57 laps of the Federated Auto Parts 400.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #55-Reed Sorenson /390 laps / running
39) #30-Josh Wise / 390 laps / running
38) #32-Jeffrey Earnhardt / 392 laps / running
37) #93-Ryan Ellis / 393 laps / running
36) #46-Michael Annett / 394 laps / running

2016 LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Reed Sorenson, Josh Wise (2)
2nd) Aric Almirola, Matt DiBenedetto, Kyle Larson, Ryan Newman, Cole Whitt (1)

2016 LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Premium Motorsports (3)
2nd) The Motorsports Group (2)
3rd) BK Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports (1)

2016 LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (7)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (1)