Sunday, May 2, 2010

CUP: Nemechek Takes 2010 Lead After Early Crash at Richmond

Joe Nemechek picked up the 20th last-place finish of his career in Saturday night’s Crown Royal presents the Heath Calhoun 400 at the Richmond International Raceway when his unsponsored #87 NEMCO Motorsports Toyota was involved in a single-car accident that knocked him out of the race after 42 of the race’s 400 laps.

Nemechek’s car was the fastest in “go-or-go-home” car in Happy Hour on Friday, good enough for 25th of the 46 cars set to qualify that afternoon. In qualifying, Nemechek was even more impressive - he turned in the 11th-fastest lap at a speed of 125.874 mph and was again the fastest car outside the Top 35. Both PRISM Motorsports cars of Dave Blaney and Michael McDowell were not fast enough to make the field, ending the team’s streak of four consecutive last-place finishes.

Before the race, Nemechek surrendered his 11th starting spot, causing him to be lapped by Kyle Busch in the early stages of the race. Shortly thereafter, while running ahead of 2nd-place Jeff Gordon off turn two, Nemechek blew a right-front tire and smacked the wall, taking him out of the race after 42 laps. Tony Raines, who drove Larry Gunselman’s car into the field in the team’s first attempt since last fall at Martinsville, fell out 27 laps later and will, as a result, be inspected by NASCAR.

*Nemechek and NEMCO Motorsports’ #87 now lead all drivers and teams in Cup last-place finishes for 2010.
*Nemechek’s finish moved him to 3rd in the all-time LASTCAR Sprint Cup rankings and again tied him with Dave Blaney for the most last-place finishes in the Car of Tomorrow.
*It is Nemechek’s first last-place finish in a Cup race at Richmond since his #78 Furniture Row Chevrolet crashed out of the 2007 Chevy Rock ‘n Roll 400 after 130 laps.
*It is the first time the #87 has finished last in a Cup race at Richmond since the 1967 Richmond 250, the spring race at what was then a dirt track called Virginia State Fairgrounds, when Buck Baker’s 1966 Ford had a fuel line problem after 8 laps.

43) #87-Joe Nemechek / 42 laps / crash
42) #64-Tony Raines / 69 laps / vibration
41) #32-Reed Sorenson / 80 laps / overheating
40) #09-Mike Bliss / 86 laps / brakes
39) #46-Terry Cook / 92 laps / rear gear

1st) Joe Nemechek (3)
2nd) Aric Almirola, Dave Blaney, Michael McDowell (2)
3rd) Robby Gordon (1)

1st) #87-NEMCO Motorsports (3)
2nd) #55-PRISM Motorsports, #66-PRISM Motorsports, #09-Phoenix Racing (2)
3rd) #7-Robby Gordon Motorsports (1)

CORRECTION: Mike Skinner’s last-place finish last fall at Texas was actually the 9th of his career; I mistakenly credited James Hylton with a finish Skinner scored at Pocono in 1992. All articles and statistics have now been updated with the corrections to both drivers' stats.
CORRECTION 2: Bobby Rahal did not finish last in his only Sprint Cup start at Riverside in 1984. The race was instead the scene of Phil Parsons' first last-place finish, raising Parsons' career total to 10. All rankings have been updated to reflect this as well.

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