Monday, April 27, 2009

Martin’s Chevy Mangled in Big Wreck at Talladega

Mark Martin picked up the 8th last-place finish of his career in Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 at the Talladega Superspeedway when his Kellogg’s / Carquest Chevrolet was involved in a massive crash on lap 7 of the 188-lap race.

Martin was riding high after scoring a tremendously-popular win the week before at Phoenix, snapping a 97-race winless drought in the process. At Talladega, he qualified 7th with a speed of 187.860 and was running around that position as the field moved into turn three on lap 7. It was there that Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon made contact in the higher groove, setting off a massive ten-car pileup. Gordon’s car wobbled down from the outside wall and into Jamie McMurray, who was on the outside of Kevin Harvick and Scott Riggs. The four cars fused together just as Mark Martin tried to squeeze by on the inside. The nose of Riggs’ Toyota clipped the right-rear of Martin’s Chevy, sending Martin straight into the outside wall with more than enough force to lift his rear tires off the ground. Fortunately, Martin and the other drivers involved walked away. A.J. Allmendinger and Kasey Kahne traded the 43rd spot after the race resumed, but both returned to the track. Martin did not, however, and his Chevrolet finished last.

The race was Martin’s first last-place finish at Talladega and his first in a points race since another early crash in the 2007 Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta. Martin is now the highest-qualified driver to finish last in a NASCAR Sprint Cup points race this season and the third to start in the top 10. Rick Hendrick’s #5 team had not finished last since then-rookie Kyle Busch finished last in the 2005 GFS Marketplace 400 at Michigan with overheating problems. Busch led 28 laps that day.

The race also featured one of the most incredible upsets in NASCAR Sprint Cup history when Nationwide Series regular Brad Keselowski took Phoenix Racing to victory lane for the first time. The team, owned by James Finch, had finished no better than 40th in its previous four starts this season, including a last-place at Atlanta in March, and had failed to qualify for the other four events. However, the team has never been far from the fight at the restrictor-plate tracks and has two top-fives in the Daytona 500 with Geoffrey Bodine (2002) and Mike Wallace (2007). Keselowski has 5 Sprint Cup starts and, to date, no last-place finishes.

43) #5-Mark Martin / 6 laps / crash
42) #26-Jamie McMurray / 6 laps / crash
41) #36-Scott Riggs / 6 laps / crash
40) #71-David Gilliland / 6 laps / crash
39) #33-Clint Bowyer / 8 laps / running

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

Monday, April 20, 2009

Raines Runs Out of Brakes in Haefele Team’s Debut at Phoenix

Tony Raines picked up the 4th last-place finish of his career in Saturday's Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway when his Quality Concrete Dodge suffered a brake failure after completing 56 of the race’s 312 laps.

The #73 team, owned by Barry Haefele, came together late in the 2009 offseason and, with stock car veteran Mike Garvey behind the wheel, attempted the first three NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Daytona, Fontana, and Las Vegas. When Garvey failed to qualify for these races, the team took some time off and returned at Phoenix with Tony Raines taking over as driver. Raines performed admirably in qualifying, beating five go-or-go-homers with a speed of 131.406 mph. The speed gave the Haefele team its first Sprint Cup start, and they would roll off in the 43rd and final starting spot. In the race, both car and team worked to get up to speed and Raines was lapped midway through the first green-flag run. During the first caution for Sterling Marlin’s crash, Raines pulled behind the wall with brake problems. Marlin returned to the track, but Raines did not, and he finished last as a result.

Besides being Haefele’s first last-place finish as a team owner, the race was Tony Raines’ first last-place finish since he drove Joe Auer’s #51 Marathon Oil Chevrolet in the 2004 UAW-GM Quality 500 at the Lowe’s Motor Speedway. This season, Raines is the second-straight last-place finisher to fall out with brake problems and the third straight to have started in the 43rd spot.

Coming into the Phoenix race, the #73 had not finished last since Steve Moore’s Franklin City Music Park Pontiac lost oil pressure just three laps into the 1982 Atlanta Journal 500 at Atlanta. On the plus side, however, Raines completed the second-most laps of any last-place finisher this season, trailing only Joey Logano’s 79 laps in this year’s season-opening Daytona 500.

43) #73-Tony Raines / 56 laps / brakes
42) #66-Dave Blaney / 59 laps / brakes
41) #87-Joe Nemechek / 76 laps / rear axle
40) #09-Sterling Marlin / 117 laps / crash
39) #7-Robby Gordon / 243 laps / running

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

Monday, April 6, 2009

Blaney Leads 2009 Rankings After Brakes Burn Out At Texas

Dave Blaney picked up the 7th last-place of his career in Sunday's Samsung 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway when his unsponsored #66 Prism Motorsports Toyota suffered a brake failure after completing 48 of the race’s 334 laps.

On Friday, Blaney squeezed himself into the Texas field with a speed of 186.111 mph. Blaney’s lap time was just enough for Blaney to beat five “go-or-go-homers” with Joe Nemechek, the fastest of them, missing Blaney’s time by just 12 thousandths of a second. Blaney started 43rd on Sunday, but the long green-flag run at the beginning of the race taxed his car’s equipment. The #66 made at least three green-flag stops in the first 45 laps and, after completing just 48 laps, fell out of the race with a brake problem.

For both Blaney and team, it was their second last-place finish in three races. Blaney is now the only driver with more than one last-place finish in a 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points-paying race. It is the first time a last-place finisher fell out with a brake failure since owner-driver Morgan Shepherd's #89 Victory In Jesus Dodge finished 43rd in the 2006 Chevy Rock ‘n Roll 400 at Richmond.

Jeff Gordon, last year’s 43rd-place finisher in the Samsung 500, went on to claim his first Texas victory. Contrary to the statistic that has been frequently quoted this week, however, Gordon has not two, but five last-place finishes in his NASCAR Sprint Cup career: (1) 1993 First Union 400 at North Wilkesboro, (2) 1993 Tyson Holly Farms 400 at North Wilkesboro, (3) 1997 Primestar 500 at Atlanta, (4) 1999 Primestar 500 at Texas, and (5) 2008 Samsung 500 at Texas.

43) #66-Dave Blaney / 48 laps / brakes
42) #09-Mike Bliss / 76 laps / clutch
41) #47-Marcos Ambrose / 216 laps / engine
40) #96-Bobby Labonte / 229 laps / crash
39) #7-Robby Gordon / 249 laps / engine

1st) Dave Blaney (2)
2nd) Mike Bliss, Todd Bodine, Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Joe Nemechek (1)