Sunday, May 31, 2009

Gilliland’s Power Steering Fails Early at Dover

David Gilliland picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his career in Sunday’s Autism Speaks 400 presented by Heluva Good! at the Dover International Speedway when his #71 CompUSA Chevrolet fell out with an engine failure after completing 38 of the race’s 400 laps.

Gilliland was the second-fastest go-or-go-homer in Friday’s qualifying session, good enough for 24th with a speed of 154.593 mph. On race day, Gilliland stayed out an extra lap during the first yellow flag, a competition caution on lap 30, allowing him to lead lap 33. Gilliland would eventually pit, then go behind the wall not long after the restart on lap 38. Gilliland became the first driver to finish last in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race due to a power steering failure.

The finish was the second last-place finish for both driver, team, and number in three NASCAR Sprint Cup points races, the previous being Gilliland’s early exit from the Southern 500 at Darlington three weeks ago. Gilliland also became the first last-place finisher to lead a lap since A.J. Allmendinger’s single start for Michael Waltrip Racing in last fall’s Bank of America 500 at Lowe’s. Gilliland is now tied with Mike Bliss for second in the 2009 last-place rankings, both drivers one finish behind leader Dave Blaney. Blaney and Bliss also fell out early at Dover and finished 39th and 40th, respectively.

43) #71-David Gilliland / 38 laps / power steering
42) #37-Tony Raines / 42 laps / accident
41) #36-Mike Skinner / 51 laps / engine
40) #09-Mike Bliss / 56 laps / electrical
39) #66-Dave Blaney / 66 laps / transmission

1st) Dave Blaney (3)
2nd) Mike Bliss, David Gilliland (2)
3rd) Todd Bodine, Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Mark Martin, Joe Nemechek, Tony Raines (1)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Bliss Felled By Vibration In 600 at Lowe’s, Moves To 2nd In 2009 Rankings

Mike Bliss picked up the 4th last-place finish of his career in Monday’s rain-delayed and rain-shortened Coca-Cola 600 at the Lowe’s Motor Speedway when his #09 Miccosukee Indian Gaming and Resorts Dodge fell out with a vibration after completing 42 of the race’s 227 laps.

Bliss’ tumultuous weekend in Charlotte began on Thursday with a surprising 7th-fastest qualifying run for the 600 at a speed of 187.422 mph. The run was his second top-10 start in as many Cup races; he started 6th at Richmond three weeks earlier. In Saturday night’s Nationwide Series race, Bliss was the benefactor of a wild finish. A late-race caution during green-flag stops trapped leaders Kyle Busch and Brian Vickers a lap down, moving Bliss and Brendan Gaughan into the lead. Bliss took the lead from Gaughan just before the rains came, ultimately ending the race with 30 laps to go and giving Bliss his first Nationwide Series victory in five years.

Despite the victory and a determination to run the entire 600-miler the next day, Bliss fell back on Monday and went behind the wall under the third caution on lap 40, a scheduled competition caution, with a bad vibration. Bliss did not return to the race and was credited with completing 42 laps.

The finish was both Bliss and owner James Finch’s second last-place finish of 2009, the previous being the Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta. For Bliss, it is also his second last-place finish at the Lowe’s Motor Speedway, the previous one being the fall race in 2000, then called the UAW-GM Quality 500. It is the first time a last-place finisher fell out with a vibration since Derrike Cope fell out of the 2006 Crown Royal 400 at Richmond en route to scoring a record six last-place finishes in a single year.

43) #09-Mike Bliss / 42 laps / vibration
42) #13-Max Papis / 219 laps / running
41) #29-Kevin Harvick / 224 laps / running
40) #88-Dale Earnhardt, Jr. / 225 laps / running
39) #34-Tony Raines / 225 laps / running

1st) Dave Blaney (3)
2nd) Mike Bliss (2)
3rd) Todd Bodine, David Gilliland, Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Mark Martin, Joe Nemechek, Tony Raines (1)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Biffle Body-Slammed Out Of All-Star Race at Lowe’s

Greg Biffle finished last in Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at the Lowe’s Motor Speedway when his #16 3M Ford was involved in a two-car crash on lap 71 of the 100-lap race.

Biffle scored the 11th starting spot in Friday’s qualifying session, having incurred a five-second penalty for a lugnut that was left loose during his pit stop. Biffle ran a quiet race through the first two 50 and 20-lap segments, but found trouble at the start of the third 20-lap segment. Just one lap into the segment, while running the high groove in turns one and two, Biffle had nowhere to go when Sam Hornish, Jr.’s Dodge broke loose under him, pinning Biffle into the outside wall. The car’s passenger-side sheetmetal was knocked flat as a result, and the right-front corner of his Ford was damaged the most severely. Biffle went behind the wall and did not return to the track.

The race is Biffle’s first last-place finish in the All-Star Race. He has four last-place finishes in NASCAR Sprint Cup points races, most recently in last summer’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona.

21) #16-Greg Biffle / 71 laps / crash
20) #31-Jeff Burton / 85 laps / engine
19) #24-Jeff Gordon / 92 laps / crash
18) #39-Ryan Newman / 93 laps / crash
17) #09-Brad Keselowski / 100 laps / running

Long Finishes Last When Engine Fails Early In The Sprint Showdown at Lowe’s

Carl Long finished last in Saturday’s Sprint Showdown at the Lowe’s Motor Speedway when the engine failed on his #46 Romeo Guest Construction Dodge lost the engine after completing 3 of the race’s 40 laps.

In Friday’s practice, Long’s engine blew during a mock qualifying run, forcing him to switch engines before qualifying that afternoon. A mid-afternoon thunderstorm forced the cancellation of Sprint Showdown qualifying, but this ironically worked to Long’s benefit. Since the Showdown was not a points event, the starting lineup was determined by the random draw that set the qualifying order. Long was set to be the 2nd driver to qualify, so his #46 was awarded the outside-pole for the Sprint Showdown. However, Long’s engine change forced him to surrender the spot and start at the back of the largest Sprint Showdown field since 1996. A similar fate befell the polesitter, fellow owner-driver Kirk Shelmerdine, who was forced to the back after damaging his primary car in practice.

Long held his own in the early laps, but when the first caution fell on lap 2, his #46 was on the apron with smoke coming from the left-front fender. Though this appeared to be the result of making contact with another car in traffic, Long pulled behind the wall under yellow with a blown engine.

Ironically, despite the two failed engines, Long was then penalized 200 driver and owner points and was put on a 12-race suspension the following Wednesday when NASCAR ruled his race engine was too big.

The finish marked the first time both Long and the #46 have ever finished last in the Sprint Showdown. Long has three last-place finishes in NASCAR Sprint Cup points races, most recently in the 2005 New England 300 at New Hampshire. It is also the second time the outside-polesitter of the Sprint Showdown has ever finished last: Todd Bodine did the same when an early crash took him out of the 2003 Winston Open.

Also of note, Dave Blaney, the current 2009 leader in last-place finishes, secured sponsorship for the Sprint Showdown, inherited the outside-pole from Long, and contended for the lead for much of the race before finishing 11th.

35) #46-Carl Long / 3 laps / engine
34) #83-Brian Vickers / 11 laps / crash
33) #19-Elliott Sadler / 25 laps / crash
32) #27-Kirk Shelmerdine / 39 laps / running
31) #57-Norm Benning / 39 laps / running

Monday, May 11, 2009

Gilliland Gets First Last-Place Finish When Fuel Pump Fails at Darlington

David Gilliland picked up the 1st last-place finish of his career in Saturday’s Southern 500 at the Darlington Raceway when his unsponsored #71 TRG Motorsports Chevrolet lost the fuel pump after completing 27 of the race’s 367 laps. The finish came in Gilliland’s 97th career Sprint Cup start.

Gilliland and Kevin Buckler’s TRG (The Racer’s Group) Motorsports team were one of the many pleasant surprises at the opening of the 2009 season. TRG made its first NASCAR Sprint Cup attempt with Mike Wallace in the Daytona 500, but barely missed the show. David Gilliland took over driving duties at Fontana, and since then, the #71 has made every race and has been either in or near the top 35 in owner’s points. However, the team’s first two DNF’s came in consecutive races at Talladega and Richmond, and Gilliland and TRG looked for redemption at Darlington.

Gilliland was 3rd fastest in Friday’s first practice session for the Southern 500 and he was again the fastest of the go-or-go-homers in Happy Hour. The car struggled in qualifying, picking up the 30th starting spot with a speed of 175.441, but the #71 was still the third-fastest go-or-go-homer behind Max Papis and Regan Smith. In the race, Gilliland kept his nose clean through a pair of early cautions, but he pulled behind the wall under green with a busted fuel pump on lap 28. Gilliland did not return to the race.

It is the first last-place finish for Kevin Buckler and TRG and the first for the #71 since Jay Sauter, driving Dave Marcis’ RealTree Chevrolet, fell out after an early crash in the 2002 EA Sports 500 at Talladega.

43) #71-David Gilliland / 27 laps / fuel pump
42) #09-Sterling Marlin / 38 laps / transmission
41) #66-Dave Blaney / 56 laps / brakes
40) #55-Michael Waltrip / 73 laps / engine
39) #36-Scott Riggs / 101 laps / brakes

1st) Dave Blaney (3)
2nd) Mike Bliss, Todd Bodine, David Gilliland, Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Mark Martin, Joe Nemechek, Tony Raines (1)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Blaney Backs Into Wall at Richmond, Extends 2009 Season Lead

Dave Blaney picked up the 8th last-place finish of his career in Saturday’s Crown Royal presents the Russ Friedman 400 at the Richmond International Raceway when his unsponsored #66 Prism Motorsports Toyota was involved in a single-car crash on lap 9 of the 400-lap race.

After missing the previous week’s race at Talladega due to a social obligation, Blaney returned to the Prism Motorsports team at Richmond. Blaney qualified a solid 26th in the 43-car field with a speed of 124.908 mph. Due to rainy weather in the Richmond area, the opening six laps of Saturday’s race were run under the caution flag. On lap 7, the field took the green flag and Blaney worked the high side to get through the field. Unfortunately, he entered turn three too high on lap 9 and spun out, backing his Toyota into the outside wall. Though Blaney was able to slow down enough so that the impact did little damage to the rear of his car, Blaney went behind the wall and did not return to the track.

The race was Blaney’s third last-place finish of the year and his first since last month’s Samsung 500 at Texas. No one else has had more than one this season. This was the first time the Phil Parsons-owned team has left the race with any damage to the car’s sheetmetal. The team’s previous two last-place finishes were because of steering and brake failures, respectively.

43) #66-Dave Blaney / 8 laps / crash
42) #36-Scott Riggs / 54 laps / electrical
41) #37-Tony Raines / 74 laps / brakes
40) #87-Joe Nemechek / 90 laps / brakes
39) #71-David Gilliland / 92 laps / electrical

1st) Dave Blaney (3)
2nd) Mike Bliss, Todd Bodine, Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Mark Martin, Joe Nemechek, Tony Raines (1)