Sunday, May 17, 2015

CUP: Danica Patrick First Chevrolet To Finish Last In All-Star Race Since 2005

SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin' Forums
Danica Patrick finished last in Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway when her #10 Mobil 1 / Aspen Dental Chevrolet finished under power, but 32 laps down, having completed 78 of the race’s 110 laps.

Now in her fourth season in NASCAR’s top division - and her last with longtime sponsor GoDaddy - Patrick is still looking to find consistency.  During her first full seasons in 2013 and 2014, she’d finished just 27th and 28th in points, earning four top-ten finishes and a pole in the 2013 Daytona 500.  Last fall at Talladega, she led 7 laps and was out front with 15 circuits remaining before a late caution shuffled her back to 19th.  This year, after 11 events, she sits 17th in points with two more Top Tens - a season-best 7th at Martinsville and a 9th at Bristol.  In 93 career Cup starts, she has now earned more top-ten finishes than any other female driver in NASCAR history.

On Friday, Patrick came to Charlotte as one of the 29 entrants in the Sprint Showdown as well as one of the top vote-getters in the Sprint Fan Vote.  She ran 5th-fastest in the event’s lone practice session and timed in 8th at an average speed of 187.996 mph.  In the race itself, she came home 10th in the first segment and 9th in the second, but as the cars rolled onto pit road, it was announced she had won the fan vote and would transfer into Saturday’s main event with segment winners Greg Biffle and Clint Bowyer.  Unfortunately, Patrick’s engine soured after the Showdown, and she would have to fall to the rear for Saturday’s race.

On Saturday, Patrick qualified 6th without incurring any penalties, turning in a time of 112.893 seconds - just over a second and a half behind polesitter Denny Hamlin’s 111.227.  When the race began, Patrick fell to the rear, joining Kevin Harvick, who’d suffered a 5-second penalty for a pit road violation.  While Harvick climbed through the field quickly, Patrick advanced much slower, though by Lap 3, both had shuffled Patrick’s owner Tony Stewart and his #14 Bass Pro Shops / Arctic Cat Chevrolet to the 20th and final spot in the field.

Stewart held the last spot until the end of the 25-lap Segment 1, when Greg Biffle needed repairs to the rear of his #16 Ortho Ford following two early hits to the outside wall.  Biffle, who started outside-pole, held the spot all the way until Patrick took it midway through Segment 3.  On the 9th of the segment’s 25 laps, Patrick was running 16th when her Chevrolet trailed smoke entering the third corner, forcing a quick dive to pit road.  Though originally appearing to be another lost engine, it was found to be a busted left-front hub.  Patrick returned to the track 32 laps down on Lap 90 - 15 laps into Segment 4 - and finished the race under power.

The rest of the field finished the race under power and on the lead lap with Stewart finishing next-to-last, 13.4 seconds behind race winner Denny Hamlin at the finish.  Rounding out the Bottom Five were Ryan Newman in the #31 CAT / Quicken Loans Chevrolet, Carl Edwards in the #19 ARRIS Toyota, and defending All-Star Jamie McMurray in the #1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet.

*This is the fourth time the car #10 has finished last in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.  The other drivers were Greg Sacks in 1986 (#10 DiGard Chevrolet), Ricky Rudd in 1999 (#10 Tide Ford), and Johnny Benson, Jr. in 2003 (#10 Valvoline Pontiac).  Patrick is also the first driver since Sacks to finish last in the All-Star Race while still under power.
*This is the first time Chevrolet has finished last in the All-Star Race since 2005, when Martin Truex, Jr.’s #1 Bass Pro Shops / Tracker Boats Chevrolet was involved in a multi-car crash after 35 laps.  Truex was also that year's fan vote winner.
*Patrick is the first female driver to finish last in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.

20) #10-Danica Patrick / 78 laps / running
19) #14-Tony Stewart / 110 laps / running
18) #31-Ryan Newman / 110 laps / running
17) #19-Carl Edwards / 110 laps / running
16) #1-Jamie McMurray / 110 laps / running

CUP: Mike Bliss Exits Early In Sprint Showdown

SOURCE: Getty Images, NASCAR
Mike Bliss finished last in Friday’s Sprint Showdown at the Charlotte Motor Speedway when his #32 Alpha Canvas Race Covers / Ford fell out with a vibration after he completed 6 of the race’s 40 laps.

The Showdown was Bliss’ first race in the #32 Ford fielded by Archie St. Hilaire and Frankie Stoddard since Bristol, when he tied his season-best finish of 31st at Atlanta.  Bliss had not suffered a DNF in any of his points-race starts this season, but he’d not finished on the lead lap, either, and he missed the show at Las Vegas.  The team’s two best finishes of the season came with Bobby Labonte at the restrictor-plate tracks - a 24th in the Daytona 500 and a 27th at Talladega - and Joey Gase scored the team’s only last-place run of the year at Richmond (LINK).

This year’s Showdown was to have the biggest field since 2009 with 30 cars on the preliminary entry list.  However, after the withdrawal of Hillman Racing’s second car #39 with driver Travis Kvapil, the 29-car field would instead equal the field in 2010.  Bliss ran a solid 14th-fastest in Friday’s lone practice session and qualified 18th at an average speed of 185.414 mph.  Bliss looked to help his team prepare for the Coca-Cola 600 in an event he came just short of winning a decade ago before Brian Vickers spun him out of the lead in the final corner.

Starting last in Friday’s field was Tanner Berryhill, who was making his first laps in Cup since his DNQ at Phoenix in March.  Friday, as at Phoenix, Berryhill was driving the #66 Chevrolet fielded by Premium Motorsports, a car which had not made an appearance at the track since the team withdrew from the field at Fontana.  However, by the end of Lap 1, Bliss had already taken last from Berryhill, and he pulled behind the wall under green on Lap 7.

Finishing next-to-last was current LASTCAR Cup Series leader Landon Cassill, whose #40 Snap Fitness Chevrolet slowed on the back straightaway late in the first 20-lap segment of the Showdown and exited at the halfway break with engine trouble.  During the ensuing caution, Alex Bowman retired his unsponsored black #7 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet with electrical issues.

Rounding out the Bottom Five were two drivers who finished under power, but laps down - Michael Annett, who lost three laps in his #46 Pilot / Flying J Chevrolet, and Kyle Larson, whose thrilling 3-wide battle for the lead with Martin Truex, Jr. and Clint Bowyer was followed by late misfortune.  Still fighting in the Top 5, Larson was bumped by Sam Hornish, Jr. In Turn 3 and made contact with the outside wall, forcing him to pit for repairs.

*This is the second time in three years that the #32 has finished last in the Sprint Showdown.  The number and team most recently trailed the field in 2013 when Timmy Hill’s OXY Water Ford overheated after he completed 6 laps.
*Bliss is the second-straight driver to finish last in the Showdown with “vibration” as the official listed reason.  In 10 of the last 15 runnings of the Showdown, the last-place finisher was taken out in a crash.

29) #32-Mike Bliss / 6 laps / vibration
28) #40-Landon Cassill / 20 laps / engine
27) #7-Alex Bowman / 22 laps / electrical
26) #46-Michael Annett / 37 laps / running
25) #42-Kyle Larson / 38 laps / running / led 1 lap

XFINITY: Carl Long Scores First XFINITY Series Last-Place Run Since 2006

Long's car on Sunday
SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin' Forums
Carl Long picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Sunday’s 3M 250 at the Iowa Speedway when his #40 Braille Battery / Grafoid Toyota fell out with electrical issues before he could complete any of the race’s 259 laps.

The finish was Long’s first of the season and his first in the series since August 5, 2006, when his #26 Chevrolet fielded by Keith Coleman also fell out with electrical issues after 36 laps of the Kroger 200 Benefitting Riley Hospital for Children at Lucas Oil Raceway, 292 races ago.  Sunday’s finish occurred in Long’s 85th series start.

The car Long took to his only other XFINITY Series
Last-Place Finish in 2006
A part-time driver in NASCAR’s top three divisions since 1998, Long is one of the sport’s most prolific underdogs, the obstacles he’s had to overcome.  Driving for the late Thee Dixon, Long sped his way into what was to be his first Cup start in the 2000 Coca-Cola 600, but graciously sold his ride to Darrell Waltrip, who had failed to qualify for what was to be his final start in the event.  His last-place finish at the Lucas Oil Raceway in 2006 came three weeks before his 23rd, and to date, most recent start in a Cup Series points race when he finished 41st in the Sharpie 500 at Bristol driving the #34 for Front Row Motorsports, then a single-car team in just its second season on the circuit.

More than this, Long is known for the particularly steep obstacles he’s had to overcome in the sport.  In 2004, Long was one of several “field-fillers” - underfunded competitors with the thankless task of keeping the field at 43 cars during a recession.  At the season’s second race at Rockingham, Long was involved in a spectacular tumbling crash down the backstretch that destroyed his outdated #46 Dodge.  The wreck inspired a crowd-funded effort which got him back to the track in a new car later that season.  By 2009, Long was running his own single-car team, but after he lost his second engine of the weekend in the Sprint Showdown, leaving him last in the non-points race, NASCAR handed down record-setting penalties, arguing that his blown motor was too large.  Long’s team closed soon after, and the journeyman driver has struggled to pay off the fine ever since.

In the six years since the Sprint Showdown penalty, Long has run a handful of races in NASCAR’s lower two divisions for a variety of different teams, including 10 Truck Series races for Daisy Ramirez in 2010 and a career-high 25 XFINITY Series rounds for Rick Ware in 2011.  Though relegated to a “start-and-park” driver for the majority of those starts, he scored a career-best 11th-place run in Ramirez’s truck at Dover in 2010.  This year, he drives for Derek White’s start-up team Motorsports Business Management (MBM).  One of the cars in MBM’s stables is a bright blue and orange Dodge resembling the car Long flipped in 2004.

At Iowa, Long was one of 41 cars on the preliminary entry list.  While teammate John Jackson drove the blue #13 Dodge, Long was assigned a black Toyota without the manufacturer’s emblem on the nose since the team was still running the pre-2015 Camry body.  After the withdrawal of Atlanta last-placer Morgan Shepherd, Long, Jackson, and the rest of the field were guaranteed a starting spot in the race.

Long was one of 7 drivers who didn’t participate in Saturday’s first practice session, and his #40 remained off the track in Happy Hour while he instead helped Jackson practice MBM’s #13.  Long’s #40 turned just a single green-flag lap all weekend - his qualifying lap of 122.716 mph, good enough for the 38th starting spot based on owner points.

Long and Jackson were among the six drivers sent to the rear before the start of Sunday’s race, a group which included Erik Jones, switched into the #20 Interstate Batteries Toyota after teammate Drew Herring put his car on pole in qualifying.  The race was barely a few seconds old when Long’s car stalled on the inside of the track in Turn 3, bringing out the first caution of the afternoon.  Long’s car was brought behind the wall without making it back to the stripe, and while the leaderboard indicated Long was “off” for at least the first 75 laps, the team couldn’t get him back on the track, and he retained the last spot.

39th went to Talladega last-placer Charles Lewandoski, this time in the unsponored #19 entry for TriStar Motorsports.  TriStar’s #10 was absent from the Iowa track, perhaps because on Friday regular driver Jeff Green was running his first Sprint Showdown since 2008 in The Motorsports Group’s #30.  Green came home 20th in the qualifying race’s field of 29.

38th went to Brennan Poole and the #42 DC Solar Chevrolet.  Poole qualified 12th and was chasing down the leaders when the sliding #28 Texas 28 Spirits Stage Toyota of J.J. Yeley made contact with him on Lap 11, sending Poole into the outside wall.  Poole returned to the track 113 laps down around Lap 130 and on Lap 152 wrecked Yeley at the same point on the track.  Poole was parked by NASCAR, ending his run after 39 laps.

Rounding out the Bottom Five were Harrison Rhodes, whose JD Motorsports #0 had suspension issues after 42 laps, and B.J. McLeod, who followed-up his next-to-last place run in Friday’s Truck Series race at Charlotte with a 36th in Rick Ware’s #15 BYB Extreme Fighting Series Chevrolet.

*Long is the first driver to finish last in an XFINITY Series race without completing a single lap since Jeffery Earnhardt’s first-lap engine issue on his #4 JD Motorsports Chevrolet last November at Phoenix.  No driver had ever finished last in an XFINITY race at Iowa without completing at least one lap.
*This is the first last-place finish for both Long and the #40 in an XFINITY Series race at Iowa.

40) #40-Carl Long / 0 laps / electrical
39) #19-Charles Lewandoski / 4 laps / brakes
38) #42-Brennan Poole / 39 laps / parked
37) #0-Harrison Rhodes / 42 laps / suspension
36) #15-B.J. McLeod / 68 laps / brakes

1st) Jeff Green (4)
2nd) Dexter Bean, Mike Harmon, Charles Lewandoski, Carl Long, Morgan Shepherd, Derek White (1)

1st) #10-TriStar Motorsports (5)
2nd) #40-Motorsports Business Management (2)
3rd) #74-Mike Harmon Racing, #89-Shepherd Racing Ventures, #92-King Autosport (1)

1st) Toyota (6)
2nd) Chevrolet, Dodge (2)

TRUCKS: Norm Benning Takes Early 2015 LASTCAR Truck Series Lead

Norm Benning picked up the 7th last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Friday’s North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway when his unsponsored #6 Norm Benning Racing Chevrolet fell out with suspension issues after he completed 9 of the race’s 139 laps.

The finish was Benning’s series-leading second of the 2015 season and his first since Atlanta, three races ago.  It was also his fourth-straight DNF and occurred in Benning’s 142nd series start.

At Charlotte, Benning was one of 33 drivers on the preliminary entry list.  Two more drivers were added by the first practice - B.J. McLeod in the #45 Tilted Kilt Chevrolet, a second entry for owner Christopher Long, and Justin Jennings in a second truck for Mike Mittler, the #36 Mittler Bros. Machine & Tools Chevrolet.  McLeod, Jennings, and Benning all made the race while Brandon Brown, Ryan Ellis, and Todd Peck were sent home.  Benning was the slowest in both practice sessions and secured the final starting spot on owner points, having turned a qualifying lap of just 153.183 mph.

Before the green flag fell on Friday’s race, Benning was joined by front row starters Kasey Kahne and Erik Jones, who were both sent to the rear for unapproved adjustments and missing the driver’s meeting, respectively.  Both passed Benning on the first lap and would eventually settle the finish between each other in one of the series’ closest finishes.

Benning, meanwhile, began to lose ground to the rest of the field.  By Lap 3, Benning was 15.562 seconds behind the leaders and 6 seconds behind 31st-place driver Wendell Chavous in Premium Motorsports’ #94.  On Lap 5, Korbin Forrister’s #08 Tilted Kilt / Halcyon Chevrolet fell behind Benning and was the first to be lapped.  Benning retook the spot after 8 laps when he pulled behind the wall.  He returned on Lap 17, but ran just one more circuit before pulling out of the race for good.  Forrister finished 29th with steering box issues following his spin through the infield grass on Lap 21.

Between Benning and Forrister were both late entries of McLeod and Jennings.  Rounding out the Bottom Five was Martinsville last-placer Travis Kvapil, whose lapped #50 Burnie Grill Chevrolet brought out the race’s second caution with a crash in Turn 3.

*This is the first last-place finish for both Benning and the #6 in a Truck Series race at Charlotte.

32) #6-Norm Benning / 9 laps / suspension
31) #45-B.J. McLeod / 26 laps / electrical
30) #36-Justin Jennings / 33 laps / electrical
29) #08-Korbin Forrister / 38 laps / steering box
28) #50-Travis Kvapil / 62 laps / crash

1st) Norm Benning (2)
2nd) Travis Kvapil, Justin Marks, Caleb Roark (1)

1st) #6-Norm Benning Racing (2)
2nd) #0-Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing, #1-MAKE Motorsports, #35-Win-Tron Racing (1)

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

Sunday, May 10, 2015

CUP: Alex Bowman’s Mechanical Issues Hold Him To Second Last-Place Run of 2015

SOURCE: Getty Images, NASCAR
Alex Bowman picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Saturday’s Spongebob Squarepants 400 at the Kansas Speedway when his #7 Accell Construction Chevrolet fell out with a vibration after he completed 125 of the race’s 267 laps.

The finish was Bowman’s 2nd of the 2015 season, his first since Las Vegas, 8 races ago, and occurred in his 46th series start.  He now holds 2nd in the 2015 LASTCAR Cup Series Championship, one finish behind leader Landon Cassill.

Last Sunday at Talladega, Bowman finished a season-best 16th, rebounding from his lone DNQ of the season in the Daytona 500 after his fast car was wrecked in his Budweiser Duel.  Between his last-place run at Las Vegas and last Sunday, Bowman had finished no better than 20th, ironically his only race this year without any sponsorship on his #7 Chevrolet.  Rumors arose last month that Bowman’s team owner Tommy Baldwin will merge his organization with BK Racing, but as of this writing, there has been no official word.

At Kansas, Bowman carried sponsorship from longtime Baldwin supporters Accell Construction, Inc.  His black-and-red Chevrolet ran 35th-fastest of the 44 entrants in the opening session, 37th in Happy Hour, then scored the 36th starting spot at an average speed of 187.559 mph.  The lone DNQ of the race was Brendan Gaughan, who for the fifth time six races was unable to break the Top 36 in Premium Motorsports’ #62 Adam’s Mark Chevrolet.

The 43rd spot in Saturday’s race belonged to Michael Annett and the #46 Allstate Peterbilt Group Chevrolet for HScott Motorsports.  By the end of Lap 1, Annett moved past 41st-place starter Landon Cassill, whose Chevrolet trailed the field until Lap 5, when Brett Moffitt took it in his first start for Front Row Motorsports since Phoenix.  On Lap 8, Moffitt’s #34 Dockside Logistics Ford was edging ahead of Matt DiBenedetto’s #83 Burger King Toyota when two of DiBenedetto’s BK Racing teammates tangled on the backstretch.

First to spin in the first caution of the night was rookie Jeb Burton, whose #26 Maxim Fantasy Sports Toyota looped down to the inside of the backstretch.  Moments later, J.J. Yeley, whose silver #23 Dr. Pepper Toyota apparently made contact with Burton, lost control in Turn 3 and backed into the outside wall.  Although Yeley’s team had to apply several large strips of black tape to the rear of the #23, it was Burton who first lost a lap to race leader Joey Logano, dropping Burton to last.

Bowman’s troubles began on Lap 19, when his #7 slowed suddenly from the 30th spot and dropped to the apron in the tri-oval.  The car re-fired by the entrance of Turn 1, apparently pointing to an ignition problem, but within two laps, he was on pit road with smoke in the cockpit.  Unable to diagnose the situation, Bowman’s car, now 43rd, was pushed behind the wall.  Although he would return to the speedway until Lap 112, now 92 laps in arrears, his team apparently benefitted from the two-hour rain delay which began after Burton spun once more on Lap 95.  Burton’s two spins either caused or made worse a rear gear issue that sent his #26 behind the wall after 127 laps, and after returning to run 2 more circuits on Lap 170, he was in the garage once more.  This gave Bowman an opportunity to slowly reel in Burton for 42nd.  However, first Bowman and then Burton retired their cars for good in the final laps, leaving them in the final two spots.

As Bowman and Burton attempted to complete the race, the rest of the Bottom Five shuffled dramatically in the final 80 laps, lifting the struggling cars of David Ragan, Michael McDowell, J.J. Yeley, and others outside of the final few spots.  41st ended up going to Denny Hamlin, whose #11 FedEx Freight Toyota spun out, then cut down a right-rear tire that caused him to crash on Lap 209, dropping him to the Bottom Five just one lap later.  40th went to Erik Jones, whose first official start in the #18 M&M’s Red Nose Day Toyota was punctuated by several daring moves that kept him in the Top 10 all night long - until, while running 6th, his machine lost control and nosed into the outside wall.  39th went to the #14 Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1 Chevrolet of Tony Stewart - his 4th bottom-five finish of 2015 - his car damaged after he was rear-ended by Moffitt while slowing for Matt Kenseth’s Lap 131 spin.

*This is the first last-place finish for the #7 since this same race in 2013, when Dave Blaney’s #7 SANY Chevrolet, also fielded by Tommy Baldwin Racing, crashed after 36 laps of the STP 400.  It is also the Baldwin team’s second-consecutive last-place run at the Kansas track, following up Mike Bliss’ run in an unsponsored #37 Chevrolet here last fall.
*The 125 laps Bowman completed are the most by a Cup Series last-place at Kansas since Martin Truex, Jr. ran 228 laps before the transmission let go on September 28, 2008.  Truex led 27 laps that day.  Three times he’s led more, but still not won, including when he led 95 on Saturday.

43) #7-Alex Bowman / 125 laps / vibration
42) #26-Jeb Burton / 153 laps / rear gear
41) #11-Denny Hamlin / 205 laps / crash
40) #18-Erik Jones / 242 laps / running / led 1 lap
39) #14-Tony Stewart / 258 laps / running

1st) Landon Cassill (3)
2nd) Alex Bowman (2)
3rd) A.J. Allmendinger, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Joey Gase, Sam Hornish, Jr., Brian Scott, J.J. Yeley (1)

1st) #40-Hillman Smith Motorsports (3)
2nd) #7-Tommy Baldwin Racing (2)
3rd) #9-Richard Petty Motorsports, #23-BK Racing, #32-Go FAS Racing, #33-Richard Childress Racing / Circle Sport, #47-JTG-Daugherty Racing, #88-Hendrick Motorsports (1)

1st) Chevrolet (8)
2nd) Ford (2)
3rd) Toyota (1)

TRUCKS: Caleb Roark Scores Chevrolet’s 300th Truck Series Last-Place Finish

Caleb Roark picked up the 4th last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Friday’s Toyota Tundra 250 at the Kansas Speedway when his #0 Grimes Irrigation & Construction Chevrolet fell out with electrical issues after he completed 5 of the race’s 167 laps.

The finish was Roark’s first of the season and his first in a Truck Series race since last year’s Homestead finale, four races ago, where his third last-place finish of the season netted him the 2014 LASTCAR Truck Series Championship in a bottom-five tiebreaker with Justin Jennings.  Friday’s finish occurred in Roark’s 16th series start.

Friday was also Roark’s first start of the 2015 season, an arrangement made to fill out the field after the preliminary entry list for the Kansas race had just 28 entrants for 32 spots.  Joining Roark among the late entries were Mike Affarano, back in his bright pink #03 Won ‘n Done Automotive Car Products Chevrolet for the first time since his XFINITY Series entry narrowly missed the field at Richmond with Johanna Long aboard, and two trucks from MAKE Motorsports, a team which went from not attempting the race at all to entering both its trucks with Martinsville last-placer Travis Kvapil (#50 Burnie Grill Chevrolet) and FDNY Racing part-timer Ryan Ellis (unsponsored #1 MAKE Motorsports Chevrolet).

For Friday’s race, Roark would drive the #0 entry for owner-driver Jennifer Jo Cobb, the same number and team which carried him to the 2014 LASTCAR title.  In the weekend’s only practice on Thursday, Roark timed in 29th of the 32 competitors, then in qualifying took the 31st spot with the slowest lap of the session at 150.686 mph.  Just 5 laps into the race, Roark pulled behind the wall under green, edging last-place starter Affarano by a single circuit.  Jennifer Jo Cobb, in her team’s primary #10, finished 19th, her best finish since an 18th in the Daytona opener.

Rounding out the Bottom Five were 30th-place Brandon Jones, who after qualifying 3rd in GMS Motorsports’ #33 Masterforce Tool Storage Chevrolet crashed in Turn 2 on Lap 11, ending his night.  29th went to the #25 of ARCA export Matt Tifft, whose Bill Venturini-owned Clinical RM Toyota left with an oil leak after 18 laps.  Tifft’s truck was a backup - he was slated to run an unsponsored truck for the weekend, but it was damaged in practice.  Finishing 28th, pulling behind the wall with a vibration the same lap as Tifft, was B.J. McLeod in the #45 Tilted Kilt Chevrolet.  It was a rough night for McLeod’s Christopher Long-owned team - his teammate Korbin Forrister, running an identical #08 Chevrolet, had rear gear issues that left him 22nd.

*Roark’s last-place finish was the 300th by Chevrolet in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, the most by any manufacturer in series history.  Chevrolet scored the series’ first two points race last-place finishes during its inaugural season in 1995 with John Borneman at Phoenix (#8 MJ Soffe Chevrolet crashed after 22 laps) and Stan Fox at Tucson (#10 Made For You Chevrolet lost the engine after 19 laps).
*This was the first last-place finish by the #0 in a Truck Series race at Kansas since the same event in 2013, when Scott Saunders piloted Jo Cobb’s #0 Koma Unwind RAM to a last-place run when a vibration stopped him after 2 laps of the SFP 250.

32) #0-Caleb Roark / 5 laps / electrical
31) #03-Mike Affarano / 6 laps / ignition
30) #33-Brandon Jones / 11 laps / crash
29) #25-Matt Tifft / 18 laps / oil leak
28) #45-B.J. McLeod / 18 laps / vibration

1st) Norm Benning, Travis Kvapil, Justin Marks, Caleb Roark (1)

1st) #0-Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing, #1-MAKE Motorsports, #6-Norm Benning Racing, #35-Win-Tron Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (3)
2nd) Toyota (1)

Sunday, May 3, 2015

CUP: Brian Scott Scores First-Ever NASCAR Last-Place Finish

Brian Scott picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s GEICO 500 at the Talladega Superspeedway when his #33 Shore Lodge Chevrolet lost the engine and crashed after he completed 18 of the race’s 188 laps.

The finish occurred in Scott’s 10th series start.  It was not only his first last-place run in Cup, but his first across all three of NASCAR’s top divisions following 184 XFINITY Series starts and 62 runs in the Truck Series - 256 starts in all.

In 2007, when he was 19 years old, Scott competed in a mix of X-1R Pro Cup, ARCA, and Camping World Truck Series races with an eye toward making NASCAR’s top division.  During that season, Scott earned four top-ten finishes in X-1R, a 13th in his ARCA debut at Kentucky, and a then-best 15th at Homestead in his last of 7 Truck Series starts for Xpress Motorsports.  One year later, Scott rounded out his first full Truck Series season by finishing runner-up to Todd Bodine in the 2012 Homestead finale.  During his second Truck season in 2009, Scott made his XFINITY Series debut at the Nashville Superspeedway, where he came home 25th for Braun Racing.  After he improved to a 14th-place run at Kansas, Scott went full-time into the XFINITY Series for 2010.

In the six years since, Scott has steadily improved in the XFINITY Series.  Funded primarily by Shore Lodge, a lakeside resort in his native Idaho, Scott has moved from series regulars Braun Racing and RAB Racing to Cup Series programs Joe Gibbs Racing and, currently, Richard Childress Racing.  Despite his quick ascent through the ranks, Scott’s early years in the XFINITY Series have been marked by a number crashes, mechanical failures, and rookie mistakes that have kept him from championship contention.  As of this writing, he remains winless in 184 series starts, though at least twice he has been within striking distance of the checkered flag, only to be bested by a Cup Series regular.

Scott made his Cup debut at Charlotte in the fall of 2013, driving for Childress in the #33 Chevrolet.  This is the same team currently co-owned by Joe Falk of Circle Sport, who enters the car whenever Childress does not use it to test his development drivers.  A 27th-place finish in Scott’s 2013 debut was followed by a difficult partial season in 2014.  That season included the spring Talladega event, where Scott surprised the field by earning the pole only to crash out and end up on the same lap as last-place finisher Tony Stewart.  However, with a career-best 13th in this year’s Cup race at Las Vegas, Scott looked to Talladega as a chance for an even better result.

On Friday, Scott timed in just 37th fastest of the 45 drivers entered, but jumped to 10th in Happy Hour.  Despite another change to NASCAR’s restrictor-plate track qualifying format, Scott came just four spots short of making the second round, timing in 16th at an average speed of 192.765 mph.

Starting last on Sunday was Matt DiBenedetto, who two weeks prior at Bristol had come just one spot short of his first finish inside the Top 20.  In the early laps of the race, DiBenedetto’s #83 Dustless Blasting Toyota traded the spot with two other drivers, all of them among a ten-car pack that was struggling to keep up with the leaders.  On Lap 2, it belonged to Chris Buescher, back in the #34 CSX Ford for Front Row Motorsports, the team that won the event in 2013.  Lap 3 saw 43rd go to Brendan Gaughan, who after four consecutive DNQ’s managed to get the #62 Dia Thrive Chevrolet into the show.  When Lap 19 began, DiBenedetto again held the spot when trouble broke out in the middle of the pack.

Heading into Turn 1, Scott had lost 10 spots and was running 26th in the middle lane of the lead pack when smoke burst from beneath his Chevrolet.  Scott fought for control, but spun to the inside of the track, nearly collecting the passing #22 Shell / Pennzoil Ford of Daytona 500 winner Joey Logano.  Following Logano’s tire tracks was two-time Talladega winner Michael Waltrip.  Waltrip, again driving his own #55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota, couldn’t avoid Scott’s car and the two collided, sending Scott into the grass.  Waltrip made it to the garage while Scott climbed from his car in the infield, out of the event.

The wreck dropped Waltrip to the 43rd spot behind 42nd-place Scott, but while Scott was the first retiree, Waltrip’s team was hard at work getting him back on track.  When the #55 reappeared on Lap 55, he needed to complete just one lap to drop Scott to 43rd, where he remained for the rest of the race.

By the time Waltip rejoined the race, six other cars had already ended up in the garage area following a grinding backstretch wreck on Lap 47.  Too damaged to continue were the #6 AdvoCare Ford of Trevor Bayne, whose spinning 8th-place car triggered the wreck, and Kyle Larson’s #42 Target Chevrolet.  On Lap 55, Bayne and Larson were classified 39th and 41st as thirteen other drivers also suffered damage in the melee.  42nd soon went to David Ragan, whose final run as relief driver of the #18 Pedigree Toyota left him with a car wrecked as badly as the unsponsored #40 Hillman Smith Motorsports Chevrolet of 40th-place Landon Cassill.  Like Bayne, Cassill was inside the Top 10 at the time of the crash.  By race’s end, Ragan and Cassill returned to the race many laps down, lifting them to 38th and 39th, respectively and dropping the retired Bayne and Larson to 41st and 42nd.  Finishing 40th between Cassill and Bayne was Gaughan, whose #62 knocked down the wall exiting Turn 2 after a cut tire on Lap 92.

DiBenedetto spun during the Lap 47 wreck, but recovered to record a new career-best finish of 18th on Sunday.  As it turned out, his was just one of several surprising runs by underdogs in Sunday’s field.  4th went to Ryan Blaney, his first top-five finish in just 6 Cup starts, capping off a strong weekend where he qualified 3rd.  Engine troubles had prevented Blaney from finishing two of his previous three Cup starts, leaving him 39th in the Daytona 500 and 42nd at Texas.  6th went to Sam Hornish, Jr., his first top-ten finish since Watkins Glen in 2012 when he was driving for Roger Penske.  Hornish, who finished last at Fontana in March, had finished no better than 12th this season in the Daytona 500.  10th went to the #98 Royal Teak Ford of Josh Wise, who secured Phil Parsons Racing its first top-ten finish since the 2013 Daytona 500.  It was Wise’s career-best Cup finish - his previous best was 19th, which came while driving for Front Row Motorsports in this same race two years ago.

Just outside the Top 10 were Cole Whitt and J.J. Yeley, who finished nose-to-tail in 13th and 14th, respectively.  For Whitt, it was his best-career finish as well, improving on a 15th here last fall.  Yeley’s wasn’t quite a career-best Cup run (which remains his runner-up in the 2007 Coca-Cola 600), but it was BK Racing’s third-best finish behind Travis Kvapil’s 8th-place run at Talladega in the fall of 2012 and Alex Bowman's 13th-place run at Daytona last July.  Yeley also turned in a 4th-place run in the XFINITY race the day before, his second-straight season with at least one Top Five for JGL Racing.

Finally, Alex Bowman himself drove Tommy Baldwin Racing’s #7 Golden Corral Chevrolet to a 16th-place finish, just three spots shy of his own career-best finish of 13th in last summer’s July race at Daytona.  This was not only the best run of the young season for Baldwin’s Cup team, but the third-consecutive year where the Baldwin’s flagship #7 has finished 16th in the spring race at Talladega.  Bowman himself had finished last in his most recent outing at the Alabama track last fall.

*This marks the first time the #33 has ever finished last in a Cup race at Talladega.

43) #33-Brian Scott / 18 laps / engine
42) #42-Kyle Larson / 46 laps / crash
41) #6-Trevor Bayne / 46 laps / crash
40) #62-Brendan Gaughan / 90 laps / crash
39) #40-Landon Cassill / 91 laps / crash

1st) Landon Cassill (3)
2nd) A.J. Allmendinger, Alex Bowman, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Joey Gase, Sam Hornish, Jr., Brian Scott, J.J. Yeley (1)

1st) #40-Hillman Smith Motorsports (3)
2nd) #7-Tommy Baldwin Racing, #9-Richard Petty Motorsports, #23-BK Racing, #32-Go FAS Racing, #33-Richard Childress Racing / Circle Sport, #47-JTG-Daugherty Racing, #88-Hendrick Motorsports (1)

1st) Chevrolet (7)
2nd) Ford (2)
3rd) Toyota (1)