Sunday, October 21, 2018

CUP: Debut of MBM team’s new engine package ends just three laps into Timmy Hill’s race at Kansas

PHOTO: Edward James O'Rourke, @ejorourke41
Timmy Hill picked up the 8th last-place finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at the Kansas Speedway when his #66 Ternio Toyota fell out with engine problems after he completed 3 of 267 laps.

The finish, which came in Hill’s 81st start, was his third of the season and first since Dover, two races ago. In the Cup Series last-place rankings, it was the 54th for car #66, the 153rd for Toyota, and the 684th from an engine failure. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 64th for the #66, the 305th for Toyota, and the 1,063rd from engine trouble.

With the finish, Hill leapfrogs into a close second in the 2018 LASTCAR Cup Series Championship, posing the first threat to Corey LaJoie’s lead all season. By outmatching LaJoie in both Bottom Fives and Bottom Tens, Hill can take the LASTCAR lead by finishing last in any of the four remaining races. Gray Gaulding, who also has three finishes in 2018, needs two last-place runs to accomplish the same.

Following Dover, the Motorsports Business Management (MBM) team skipped the final plate race of the year in Talladega and set their sights on Kansas. Hill would run double-duty at the 1.5-mile oval, starting the weekend in the #13 OCR Gaz Bar Toyota in Saturday’s XFINITY race, then the #66 Ternio Toyota for Sunday. Just over a year after the track saw MBM make their first Cup start in May 2017, Kansas would see the Cup team debut MBM’s own in-house engine program after previously using PME Engines.

On the XFINITY side, Hill ran 29th and 26th in practice, then qualified 25th – just seven-hundredths of a second short of making Round 2. It was the seventh time in 28 starts Hill had qualified 25th or better in 2018, though a vibration after 54 laps left him 31st at the finish for his 18th DNF. On the Cup side, speed was a bigger issue. The #66 ran just 39th in the first session, 40th and last in the second, and turned in the slowest lap in qualifying with a speed of 177.708mph (30.387 seconds). Hill was the only driver to not run a lap in Happy Hour, and the team changed engines for Sunday’s race.

On Sunday, Hill incurred a redundant tail-end penalty for the engine change. Also sent to the rear were Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson in similar Halloween-themed McDonald’s paint schemes. While McMurray also changed engines, Larson, in a “must win” situation for Sunday’s Playoff cutoff, wrecked his primary car in opening practice. Despite their penalties, neither Larson nor McMurray actually spent any time in the 40th spot. Reed Sorenson, lined up 39th in Premium Motorsports’ #7 Harrah’s North City Chevrolet, lagged back during the first pace lap and stayed alongside Hill in the final row. Also voluntarily falling back were Sorenson’s teammate Ross Chastain, who timed in 32nd in the #15 Durkin Tactical Chevrolet, and 38th-place B.J. McLeod in the #51 Jacob Companies Chevrolet.

Coming to the green, Larson lined up alongside McLeod with Chastain, Hill, and Sorenson trailing behind. The gap widened into the first corner, but moments later, both Hill and McLeod slid up the track, and NASCAR officials watched for possible smoke off Hill’s right-front fender. Hill managed to stay in front of McLeod as Sorenson passed them low, giving the #51 last for a brief moment.

That changed on Lap 3, when Hill made an unscheduled stop for a stumbling engine, what the crew suspected was a loose plug wire. As Hill came down pit road, he passed the pitting Daniel Suarez, whose #19 ARRIS Toyota made contact with the wall while racing Alex Bowman’s #88 Nationwide Chevrolet. Suarez retook 39th when he came back out one lap down while Hill remained on pit road. On Lap 6, the MBM crew noticed fluid underneath the #66 and pushed him behind the wall. Just behind the barrier, the crew stopped and looked over what appeared to be a loose water hose inside the engine. Then, on Lap 8, they moved the car back to their garage stall. The problem proved terminal, and by Lap 33 the car was pulled off RaceView.

Chastain took the 39th spot, having slapped the wall on Lap 41 and pulled into the garage, ending his day by virtue of the “Crash Clock.” Reed Sorenson was already in the garage when Chastain fell out of the race, fighting a car so loose the driver could barely drive it. Sorenson returned to the track and passed William Byron, whose #24 UniFirst Chevrolet blew an engine on Lap 55 and dropped oil around half the track. After returning to action on both Lap 78 and Lap 124, Sorenson climbed past Jeffrey Earnhardt, who turned 151 laps in the #96 Xtreme Concepts / iK9 Toyota before mechanical issues, before retiring himself six circuits later.

*This marked the first last-place finish for both Hill and the #66 in a Cup Series race at Kansas.
*This was Hill’s earliest exit from a Cup Series race, having turned six fewer laps than when he was parked at Michigan on August 16, 2015.

40) #66-Timmy Hill / 3 laps / engine
39) #15-Ross Chastain / 37 laps / crash
38) #24-William Byron / 55 laps / engine
37) #96-Jeffrey Earnhardt / 151 laps / transmission
36) #7-Reed Sorenson / 157 laps / vibration

1st) StarCom Racing, TriStar Motorsports (4)
2nd) Motorsports Business Management, Rick Ware Racing (3)
3rd) BK Racing, Front Row Motorsports, Furniture Row Racing, Penske Racing, Premium Motorsports (2)
4th) Chip Ganassi Racing, Germain Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, JTG-Daugherty Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports, Roush-Fenway Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (16)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (8)


XFINITY: Michael Annett finishes last after big teams wipe each other out on the start at Kansas

PHOTO: @DnfRacers
Michael Annett picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Kansas Lottery 300 at the Kansas Speedway when his #5 Pilot / Flying J Chevrolet was collected in a multi-car pileup at the start, preventing him from completing any of the 200 laps.

The finish, which occurred in Annett’s 106th series start, was his second of the year and first since Las Vegas, four races ago. In the XFINITY Series last-place rankings, it was the 10th for car #5, the 321st from a crash, and the 516th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 33rd for the #5, the 1,166th from a crash, and the 1,631st for Chevrolet.

In the three races since his last-place run at Las Vegas eliminated him from the Playoffs, Annett earned three top-twenty finishes: a 14th at Richmond, a 20th on the Charlotte “Roval,” and a 12th at Dover for his best run since Darlington. He had similarly earned solid finishes in the XFINITY Series at Kansas – in all but one of his previous starts, he’d run no worse than 16th with a track-best 8th for Richard Petty Motorsports in 2012.

Annett was one of 42 drivers originally entered in Saturday’s race, a group which increased to 43 when RSS Racing fielded a new fourth team, an unsponsored #37 Chevrolet, for J.J. Yeley. Yeley had been moved from RSS’ #38, which at Kansas went to Angela Ruch. However, just like Ray Black, Jr.’s drive for Mike Harmon on the Roval, this RSS car carried the recognizable yellow door and roof numbers of B.J. McLeod Motorsports, indicating it was likely a McLeod car fielded by RSS.

While both Yeley and Ruch qualified for Saturday’s race, three other teams weren’t so fortunate. First to miss the cut was Max Tullman, who selected Kansas to make his third and final XFINITY start of the season for his new team, Tullman Walker Racing. After running 27th and 25th in both practices, Tullman’s #26 Eskata / Zoomi Ford failed to make it through pre-qualifying inspection before the end of Round 1, and with only two previous starts on the year, was eliminated on Owner Points.

Points also eliminated Morgan Shepherd, whose #89 Visone RV Chevrolet was actually six-hundredths faster than Mike Harmon, who qualified 38th.

Third to miss was Bayley Currey, originally not listed as driver of JP Motorsports’ #55 Rollin Smoke Barbecue / Touched by Pros Toyota. It was Currey’s first DNQ after successfully getting the car in for his last nine attempts.

Meanwhile, Annett ran 15th in the opening practice and 16th in Happy Hour. He ran 17th in Round 1 of qualifying, then climbed to 15th in Round 2 with a lap of 180.511mph (29.915 seconds).

Starting 40th and last on Saturday was owner-driver Jeremy Clements, who like Tullman was unable to turn a lap in qualifying, leaving his #51 Chevrolet in the final spot. Clements moved up three spots prior to the start, however, as three cars dropped behind him on the pace laps. Mike Harmon surrendered 38th due to unapproved adjustments on the #74 The Journey Home Project Chevrolet while engine changes dropped 22nd-place Ross Chastain in the #4 JD Motorsports Chevrolet and Alex Labbe, 27th in time trials in the #36 Chevrolet.

Ironically, those running at the back of the pack were in the safest place for the start of the race, when no less than four Playoff contenders triggered a massive wreck. Heading through Turns 1 and 2, third-place Justin Allgiaer lost control of his #7 BRANDT Professional Agriculture Chevrolet and slid up into outside-polesitter Christopher Bell in the #20 Rheem Toyota.  Trapped behind Allgaier in the outer groove, was 4th-place starter Austin Cindric in the #22 Menards / Richmond Ford, who crossed the nose of Cole Custer’s #00 Haas Automation Ford and was bumped by Chase Briscoe’s #98 Nutri Chomps Ford. As Cindric and Custer spun to the inside, Annett was running to the inside of Ryan Reed’s #16 Lilly Diabetes Ford and following Ryan Truex’s #11 Leaf Filter Gutter Protection Chevrolet to the apron. Truex clipped Cindric’s car, which now slid directly into Reed and Annett’s path. While Reed managed to turn right at the last minute, Annett plowed into Cindric with a closing Spencer Gallagher doing the same in the #23 Allegiant Chevrolet.

In all, nine cars were involved in the wreck. Cindric and Annett suffered the most damage, and both cars had to be towed back to the garage. By qualifying behind Cindric’s #22, Annett was classified last with Cindric 39th. Allgaier pulled behind the wall, completing his only lap in the process and finishing 38th. Bell made just one more circuit before taking 37th. Rounding out the Bottom Five was Bell’s teammate Brandon Jones, whose #19 Game Plan For Life Toyota wrecked on the backstretch shortly after the restart.

The accident presented a golden opportunity for several drivers, including John Hunter Nemechek, who scored his first XFINITY Series win in his 15th start, just three races after Ross Chastain ended his own “oh-fer” streak in the same car. Shane Lee earned a career-best 3rd in his 10th start driving Richard Childress’ #3. And Ty Majeski, driving the struggling #60 from Roush-Fenway Racing, turned in an 8th-place showing in his first-ever Kansas start.

Underdogs also had their day in Kansas as they filled much of the rest of the Top 20:

Leading the group was Ryan Sieg in his #39 Frank Foster ‘Til I’m Gone Chevrolet. Sieg finished 9th, the first car one lap down, for his second top-ten finish of the season and first since a 6th at Talladega, nearly matching his track-best 8th in this race back in 2015.

Jeremy Clements went from last on the grid to finish 10th for his own second top-ten of 2018 and first since an 8th at Richmond. Prior to Saturday, Clements had never finished better than 17th at Kansas, which came back in 2014.

Alex Labbe’s new engine proved stout in the race, as his #36 rebounded from his tail-end penalty to finish 12th, his third-best run of the season behind a 9th at Mid-Ohio and an 11th at Bristol. Both Labbe and teammate Josh Williams in 24th improved on DGM Racing’s previous best finish at Kansas of 26th by Martin Roy two years ago.

JD Motorsports took the next two spots with Garrett Smithley’s #0 Chevrolet in 13th and ARCA driver Quin Houff in 14th. For Smithley, it was his best run of 2018 since Talladega, where he finished 10th. For Houff, it was the second-best finish of his career, just two spots short of matching his 12th at Iowa last summer for Precision Performance Motorsports.

Joey Gase matched Go FAS Racing’s season-best XFINITY finish of 15th at Las Vgas and Indianapolis in the #35 Chevrolet.

Chad Finchum in 16th steered Carl Long’s #40 Smithbilt Homes / The Preserve Toyota to its second-best run of the season, two spots shy of their 14th-place showing under the lights at Daytona in July. It also made Finchum the highest-finishing Toyota in the race. Prior to Saturday, a Motorsports Business Management car had never finished better than 31st at Kansas. Bobby Dale Earnhardt, driving MBM’s #66, also eclipsed that mark with a 27th-place finish in the HABCO Toyota.

David Starr’s #52 Wilkerson Crane Rental Chevrolet from Jimmy Means Racing finished 17th, his best finish since Indianapolis, five races ago and the best-ever for a Means car at Kansas, besting Gase’s 19th-place run back in 2012.

Jairo Avila, Jr. finished 18th in just his second XFINITY Series start driving the #8 ART General Contractor / JW Transport Chevrolet, beating both his teammates Vinnie Miller in 22nd and, through the apparent RSS partnership, Angela Ruch in 29th. McLeod himself steered JD Motorsports’ #01 to a 23rd-place finish.

Spencer Boyd’s 19th-place finish was the best for SS-Green Light Racing since Daytona in July, where they ran 17th, and their second-best of the season, bouncing back from three DNFs in his last five starts in the #76 Grunt Style Chevrolet.

Rounding out the group was Josh Bilicki, who avenged the DNQ’d Bayley Currey in the team’s #55 to give JP Motorsports a 20th-place finish. Bilicki’s #45 Prevagen / GNC Toyota cracked the Top 20 for the first time since Mid-Ohio, where he ran in the same spot.

*This marked the first time the bottom two finishers failed to complete a lap in a NASCAR points-paying race since November 17, 2017, when both Ray Ciccarelli and team owner Jennifer Jo Cobb trailed at Homestead. It hadn’t happened in the XFINITY Series since October 10, 2014, when last-placer Jeffrey Earnhardt retired on the first circuit along with J.J. Yeley. In Cup, it hasn’t happened since June 25, 2006, when the bottom three failed to reach the stripe – last-placer Tom Hubert, 42nd-place Sterling Marlin, and Ken Schrader in 41st – all collected in a wreck.

40) #5-Michael Annett / 0 laps / crash
39) #22-Austin Cindric / 0 laps / crash
38) #7-Justin Allgaier / 1 lap / crash
37) #20-Christopher Bell / 2 laps / crash
36) #19-Brandon Jones / 12 laps / crash

1st) RSS Racing (14)
2nd) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, JP Motorsports (3)
3rd) Hendrick Motorsports, Roush-Fenway Racing (2)
4th) Fury Race Cars LLC, Jeremy Clements Racing, JGL Racing, Mike Harmon Racing, Shepherd Racing Ventures, SS-Green Light Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (22)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (4)


Thursday, October 18, 2018

PREVIEW: New associate sponsors for StarCom and MBM among entry list stories at Kansas

PHOTO: @ChaseBriscoe5
Saturday, October 20, 2018
XFINITY Race 30 of 33
Round of 8, Race 1 of 3
Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Jeff Green

There are 42 drivers entered for 40 spots in Saturday’s XFINITY Series race, meaning two drivers will miss the show. UPDATE: Make that 43 cars with the addition of a fourth RSS Racing car.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-JD Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #01-JD Motorsports
B.J. McLeod runs double-duty once again this weekend, but this time moves from Johnny Davis’ #15 Chevrolet to the #01, taking the place of Landon Cassill, who will only run Cup this weekend (see below). Taking McLeod’s place in the #15 is a returning Quin Houff, who we last saw run 31st last month at Richmond driving Davis’ #4.

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Jairo Avila, Jr. rejoins the McLeod team for his first XFINITY start since his series debut at Bristol, where he ran 20th in the #78. Avila takes the place of Matt Mills, who ran 28th at Dover.

DRIVER CHANGE: #13-Motorsports Business Management
DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Timmy Hill drives in place of Carl Long in the #13 as part of his double-duty sweep at Kansas (see below). Hill’s spot in the #66 goes to Bobby Dale Earnhardt in a Chevrolet. According to Long’s Facebook page, Earnhardt has been working for MBM since 2014, though he’s scaled back to part-time this year. No less than four sponsors will be backing the #66 – HABCO Material, CIA Insurance, WT Contracting, and Lucky D’s Barbecue.

RETURNING: #26-Tullman-Walker Racing
Kansas marks the third attempt of the season for Max Tullman and the #26 Ford Mustang following a 30th-place run in Iowa and a 23rd at Las Vegas. The car will be sponsored by Eskata and Zoomi.

NEW TEAM: #37-RSS Racing
Added as a late entry Thursday is a fourth car from Ryan Sieg's team for J.J. Yeley, moved from the #38 (see below). Whether or not this car will run the full race is to be announced. Car #37 hasn't made an XFINITY start since September 14, 2013, when Tanner Berryhill drove his family's Dodge at Chicagoland.

Angela Ruch, one of Derrike Cope’s nieces, looks to make her second XFINITY start of the season and first since a 30th-place showing at Loudon. Unlike at “The Magic Mile,” where she ran for B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Ruch will drive for RSS Racing, taking J.J. Yeley’s place in the #38. It marks the first XFINITY race without Yeley in the field since Road America, where Brian Henderson ran in his place. UPDATE: Yeley has since been entered in the #37 (see above).

TEAM UPDATE: #55-JP Motorsports
Although the preliminary entry list did not show a driver for the #55 Prevagen Toyota, Bayley Currey tweeted that he will once again be driving the car on Saturday, his ninth XFINITY start of the season and seventh in a row. The same tweet indicated the team’s new associate sponsors from Dover - Rollin’ Smoke Barbecue and Touched By Pros – will once again run on the car.

DRIVER CHANGE: #60-Roush-Fenway Racing
RETURNING: #98-Stewart-Haas Racing with Biagi DenBeste
Chase Briscoe returns to the #98 team for the first time since his victory on the Roval, this time with Nutri Chomps as sponsor. Briscoe makes the move from the #60, which this week goes to Ty Majeski, his tenth XFINITY start of the season and first since his 34th-place run on the Roval. Majeski looks for a turnaround with his 7th at Iowa standing as his only finish better than 22nd and four DNFs all due to crashes.

Josh Williams regains the #90 Chevrolet for the first time since his 20th-place run in Las Vegas, taking the place of Brandon Brown, 22nd at Dover. It will be Williams’ first start at Kansas.

Sunday, October 21, 2018
CUP Race 32 of 36
Round of 12, Race 3 of 3
Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Derrike Cope

There are 40 drivers for 40 spots, the second-straight full field in 2018 and the ninth in the last ten races. It is the 14th full field in 2018, meaning that 40-car lists in the remaining four rounds will match the current total of 18 short fields this season.

DRIVER CHANGE: #7-Premium Motorsports
Reed Sorenson returns to the second Jay Robinson entry, taking the place of D.J. Kennington, who struggled to a 34th-place showing at Talladega. As in many Kansas races, Harrah’s North Kansas City is the listed sponsor for the Chevrolet.

MANUFACTURER CHANGE: #23-Front Row Motorsports
One week after driving a Ford for the first time since Bob Jenkins acquired BK Racing, J.J. Yeley is once again listed in a Toyota, and this time without a listed sponsor.

One week after Cody Ware finished under power for the first time in eight career Cup starts, B.J. McLeod returns to the #51, which also swaps from a Chevrolet back to a Ford.

MISSING: #62-Beard Motorsports
Brendan Gaughan closed out his 2018 “restrictor-plate only” campaign with a 12th-place finish at Talladega. The team closes out 2018 with a 28th and 12th at Daytona and a 22nd and 12th at Talladega. If past history is any indication, expect their next attempt to be the 2019 Daytona 500.

RETURNING: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Timmy Hill and the blue Ternio Toyota rejoin the circuit for the first time since their last-place run at Dover. Most significantly, according to the team’s Facebook, it will be the first time MBM has run with their own engine program after employing PME Engines these last two years. The team is also looking ahead to 2019, when they plan to enter a second car at Daytona in addition to “at least” two of their current three XFINITY cars.

MISSING: #97-Obaika Racing
Victor Obaika’s team isn’t entered this week, one week after David Starr was the only driver sent home in qualifying. While Starr remains with Jimmy Means Racing in Saturday’s XFINITY race, the next start for Obaika’s Cup effort is to be announced.

DRIVER CHANGE: #99-StarCom Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #00-StarCom Racing
Landon Cassill moves from the #99 to the #00 to take place of Joey Gase, who isn’t entered this week. Gase finished 18th at Talladega, matching Cassill’s season-best run for the #00 last month in Las Vegas. Kyle Weatherman takes the seat of the #99, his own first start since Vegas, and brings with him at least two new associate sponsors – Superior Essex on the TV Panel and Smokin’ Guns Barbecue on the lower quarter-panels. Sunday will mark the one-year anniversary of StarCom's first Cup start, which yielded a last-place run for Derrike Cope.

Saturday, October 27, 2018
TRUCKS Race 20 of 23
Round of 6, Race 1 of 3
Texas Roadhouse 200 at Martinsville
2017 Last-Place Finisher: Chris Windom

The Truck Series takes the week off and returns the following Saturday on the short track at Martinsville.

Aric Almirola’s win last Sunday in Talladega marked the first series victory for car #10 since November 3, 2002, when Johnny Benson, Jr. earned his first and only Cup win at Rockingham. Over those nearly 16 years, car #10 finished last in Cup just four times, including the first career last-place runs for Scott Riggs (March 18, 2007 at Atlanta), Patrick Carpentier (May 3, 2008 at Richmond), and Danica Patrick (October 6, 2013 at Kansas). Patrick authored the number’s most recent last-place run in the series last June at Michigan.

Monday, October 15, 2018

K&N WEST: David Hibbard’s second K&N race not one at all

Hibbard's car at the Las Vegas dirt track earlier this year.
PHOTO: NBC Sports via
by William Soquet Guest Contributor

David Hibbard scored the first last-place finish of his NASCAR K&N Pro Series West career in Saturday night’s Toyota / NAPA Auto Care 200 at All American Speedway when his #64 Dave’s Flooring / Ames Rubber Chevrolet fell out with transmission issues without completing a lap. The finish came in Hibbard’s second career series start.

David Hibbard is a name known to few, if any, stock car racing fans. Hibbard’s wheelhouse is sprint car racing, as the Oregon native has gained notoriety in the Pacific Northwest for his acumen in that discipline. The 38-year-old has been racing sprints in Oregon for some time, running the inaugural Southern Oregon Sprint Series season in 2013 and finished seventh in points. He then went on a tear this summer, winning five races. Hibbard also has a son, Bailey, who is also a sprint car racer. Bailey is proving to be a chip off the old block, scoring top-fives in sprint car A-mains this summer. David made his debut in a second entry from the Rich DeLong stable, starting last in the field but working his way up to fifteenth, finishing three laps down.

Last week's entry list showed sixteen cars, which is quickly becoming average to above-average. Former series champion Chris Eggleston headlined the cast of part-timers, driving a one-off for Bill McAnally Racing. Taylor Canfield returned with a new car number and a new paint scheme after a less-than-great debut at Idaho. Travis Milburn returned for another ride in the 08 car, and Nick Joanides returned with his part-time schedule in the 77 car. Rich DeLong returned in his familiar #84, and Rudy Vanderwal was entered again in the #34.

Eggleston led the first practice session, wheeling his #50 to a lap of 13.951 seconds around the one-third-mile track. Hibbard ran the most laps of anybody in the field with 56 but could only manage a lap eight-and-a-half tenths slower than Eggleston, slowest of anyone in the field. Second practice was much the same story as the first – Eggleston led, and Hibbard was slowest. In qualifying, Hibbard still trailed the field, a second behind polesitter Cole Rouse.

Hibbard’s effort came to an end early Saturday night. His #64 machine went down during pace laps with transmission issue, with vague “mechanical” issues as the originally listed culprit. The race’s 15th finisher, Derek Kraus, completed less than half of the laps but finished running. An early spin with Thorn derailed what was already a below-average night for the Wisconsin native, and he logged laps from there on out, completing 92. Rudy Vanderwal was the next retiree from the race, with brakes at fault for his first DNF of 2018. His son Kody fell out with drive train issues after 117 laps. Eggleston rounded out the Bottom Five, his Toyota careening hard into the Turn 3 wall on a restart near the three-quarters mark of the race.

With one race to go, all three LASTCAR championships have been clinched. Chevrolet has outscored all other manufacturers combined, and Patriot Motorsports Group has outscored all other teams combined. Jesse Iwuji has three last-place finishes, while no other driver has more than one.

16) #64-David Hibbard / 0 laps / mechanical
15) #16-Derek Kraus / 92 laps / running
14) #34-Rudy Vanderwal / 102 laps / brakes
13) #43-Kody Vanderwal / 117 laps / drive line
12) #50-Chris Eggleston / 149 laps / crash / led 18 laps

1st) Chevrolet (9)
2nd) Toyota, Ford (2)

1st) Patriot Motorsports Group (7)
2nd) B&B Motorsports, Bill McAnally Racing, Flyin Dutchman Racing, Hollis Thackeray, Norman Levin Racing, Rich DeLong Jr. (1)


Sunday, October 14, 2018

CUP: Not all Fords had it easy at Talladega – Front Row Motorsports struggled with mechanical woes

McDowell's crew attends to the right-front hub at Talladega.
Michael McDowell picked up the 30th last-place finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s 500 at the Talladega Superspeedway when his #34 Speedco / Rotella Ford finished under power, completing 155 of the race’s 193 laps.

The finish, which came in McDowell’s 280th series start, was his second of the season and first since the spring race at Las Vegas, 28 races ago. In the Cup Series last-place rankings, it was the 31st for the #34, the 34th where the driver finished running, and the 686th for Ford. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 43rd for the #34, the 44th where the car was running, and the 945th for Ford.

In doing so, McDowell broke a tie with the late J.D. McDuffie for the fifth-most last-place finishes across all three of NASCAR's top divisions.

Ever since Las Vegas, McDowell has enjoyed a handful of mid-pack performances in his first year for Front Row Motorsports, not to mention a brilliant run at Daytona in July. After a 9th-place finish in this year’s Daytona 500, McDowell qualified 8th for the 400 and led 20 laps, pacing the field as early as Lap 89 and as late as Lap 113 before he was collected in a pile-up with just five laps to go in regulation. It was the third of five DNFs the Phoenix native had collected since Las Vegas, all of them due to crashes. With five top-twenty finishes in the last ten races headed to Talladega, McDowell looked to turn things around on the plate tracks.

McDowell was one of 41 drivers competing for spots in the 40-car field, and one of the 36 locked-in by virtue of his Charter. He ran 27th in the lone practice session and came just two-hundredths of a second short of making Round 2 with the 14th-best lap of 192.509mph (49.743 seconds). Further back, two-tenths of a second sent home Obaika Racing, which late in the week hired David Starr to attempt their first Cup Series race. Using both a hauler and car acquired from BK Racing, Starr’s #97 Vroom! Brands / Brand South Africa Toyota ran faster than two Chartered cars, but was sent home for not catching 38th-place Landon Cassill in StarCom Racing’s #99 Chevrolet.

The 40th and final starting spot was to go to Cody Ware, the second Chartered car Starr beat in qualifying. Ware’s turn in the #51 Jacob Companies Chevrolet yielded the slowest lap of the session, a lap of 183.136mph (52.289 seconds). However, 39th-place qualifier Corey LaJoie failed his first go-round in post-qualifying inspection, sending the #72 Winn-Dixie Chevrolet to the back of the grid for Sunday. LaJoie, whose car passed inspection on the second go-round, would incur a redundant tail-end penalty on Sunday for unapproved adjustments, soon to be followed by 37th-place starter Joey Gase (#00 PFK Foundation Chevrolet) and 34th-place Kyle Larson (#42 Credit One Bank Chevrolet).

On Sunday’s pace laps, LaJoie held the 40th spot on the high side of Row 20 with Ware to his inside. Both dropped to the back a second time after Larson joined them. Falling back voluntarily were Premium Motorsports teammates D.J. Kennington (starting 33rd in the #7 Wilride Transport Ltd. Chevrolet) and Ross Chastain (36th in the #15 Xchange of America / Solomon Plumbing Chevrolet). After sorting themselves out, Kennington pulled to the inside of LaJoie in the final row with Ware to the inside of Chastain in Row 19.

When the green flag dropped, Kennington trailed in the high lane, but caught Ware to his inside, putting the #51 back to last as the field crossed the stripe. Moments later, however, the group screamed past 16th-place qualifier David Ragan, who was carrying sponsorship from the race’s title sponsor Ragan had been running among the leaders on Lap 1 when his car lost oil pressure in the outside lane, forcing him to jump to the third lane and out of danger. The #38 then fell to the back of the field, losing a lap as he made it down to the apron. The crew looked under the hood, noticing just 13 pounds of oil pressure, then managed to get him back on track on Lap 6, five laps back of the leaders. Ragan then lost oil pressure just past pit exit, forcing him to the garage on Lap 9, just seconds before Jeffrey Earnhardt drew the first caution for spinning the Gaunt Brothers’ #96 Xtreme Concepts / iK9 Toyota. By Lap 29, the Ragan crew managed to get the #38 out on track a second time, 20 laps down in last, but at full speed.

Front Row Motorsports’ day went from bad to worse around Lap 77, when McDowell first encountered trouble. As with Ragan, McDowell pulled behind the wall under green, citing a problem with the right-front wheel. The crew discovered a problem with the right-front hub, and though’s RaceView pulled the #34 off the screen on Lap 87, the team continued to work on their repairs. McDowell took last from his teammate on Lap 98, then on Lap 114 was rolling again in the garage area, just in time for the caution that ended Stage 2. The Ford rejoined the race 37 laps down, then lost a 38th on the ensuing restart as he pulled high to let the leaders pass. At the time, all 40 entrants were still running with much of the Final Stage left to run.

For the rest of the afternoon, McDowell and Ragan didn’t lose another lap, but neither were able to climb past the handful of drivers having trouble further up the running order. On top of Earnhardt’s early spin, single-car incidents involving Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Larson, and Jamie McMurray did not eliminate all three drivers from competition – in fact, both Johnson and Larson finished on the lead lap in 7th and 11th, respectively. Thus, on Lap 150, all lead-lap cars were eliminated from last-place contention, and with the same 18-lap gap between McDowell and Ragan, McDowell all but secured last place on Lap 170, pending a green-white-checkered finish. While the race did end up going into overtime due to late accidents, no driver in the Bottom Five wrecked out, keeping the final five positions largely unchanged.

McDowell secured the 40th spot by his 18-lap margin over Ragan. Ware took 38th in a three-way tie with two other drivers eight laps down to the leaders. First was Earnhardt, who lost five laps after his spin, then another three by the finish. Rounding out the group was J.J. Yeley, the day’s only DNF, after his Ford rear-ended a sliding Alex Bowman with two laps to go in regulation. Yeley, whose #23 Steakhouse Elite Ford made the switch from Toyota for the first time since Front Row Motorsports owner Bob Jenkins acquired the team in August, ended up the third FRM car in the Bottom Five.

Despite a comparatively lackluster battle for the lead, a few underdogs did prevail with strong runs:

Still searching for a ride in 2019, A.J. Allmendinger led a lap in his #47 Kroger ClickList Chevrolet and finished 6th, his second top-ten finish in the last three races.

Regan Smith lost his drafting partner on the final lap, but managed to steer the Leavine Family Racing team’s #95 Procore Chevrolet to a 10th-place finish, Smith’s best finish since relieving Kasey Kahne, and the team’s best run since Kahne’s 4th at Daytona in July.

Just on the outside of the Top 10 came Brendan Gaughan, 12th in his second-straight plate race for Beard Motorsports in the #62 Beard Oil / South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet.

Joey Gase managed to rebound from his DNQ in the Truck Series race to finish 18th, his own season-best, improving even on his 25th in the crash-marred Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona.

*This marked the first time car #34 finished last in a Cup Series race at Talladega.
*It was McDowell’s second last-place finish in a Cup race at Talladega, and his first since May 6, 2012, when his #98 Curb Records Ford fell out with a vibration after 2 laps of the Aaron’s 499.
*The 155 laps McDowell completed were the second-most of any Cup Series last-place finisher at Talladega. The lead remains with the late Marty Robbins, who was disqualified for a restrictor plate violation after he turned 179 laps on May 7, 1972.
*This was also just the second time that a Cup Series driver finished last at Talladega while still under power at the checkered flag. The only other instance was on May 1, 2005, when Kyle Petty’s #45 Georgia-Pacific / Brawny Dodge finished 88 laps down in the Aaron’s 499.

40) #34-Michael McDowell / 155 laps / running
39) #38-David Ragan / 173 laps / running
38) #51-Cody Ware / 185 laps / running
37) #96-Jeffrey Earnhardt / 185 laps / running
36) #23-J.J. Yeley / 185 laps / crash

1st) StarCom Racing, TriStar Motorsports (4)
2nd) Rick Ware Racing (3)
3rd) BK Racing, Front Row Motorsports, Furniture Row Racing, Motorsports Business Management, Penske Racing, Premium Motorsports (2)
4th) Chip Ganassi Racing, Germain Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, JTG-Daugherty Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports, Roush-Fenway Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (16)
2nd) Ford (8)
3rd) Toyota (7)