Sunday, April 17, 2011
CUP: Conway Gives NEMCO’s #97 Second-Straight Talladega Last-Place Finish
On Saturday, two months after J.J. Yeley edged him for the final transfer spot into the Daytona 500 field, Conway returned to NEMCO Motorsports’ #97 and qualified 32nd at a speed of 176.195 mph.
Sunday would be Conway’s first start in a points race since he and sponsor ExtenZe left Robby Gordon’s team following last fall’s Homestead finale.
Car owner Joe Nemechek secured the 21st spot in an unsponsored #87 that was completely rebuilt after it was destroyed 29 laps into the Daytona 500. Sunday’s 500-miler would mark the second-straight Cup race at Talladega that Nemechek had two of his cars in the race. As it turned out, both times his #97 would finish last.
Though Nemechek finished 3rd in a wild Nationwide race after a last-lap caution ended his side-by-side battle with winner Kyle Busch, both NEMCO Toyotas were unable to run the whole distance on Sunday. At the green flag on Sunday, both Conway and Nemechek fell to the rear and formed their own two-car draft at the rear of the field. After the opening lap, Conway pulled behind the wall.
Nemechek followed four laps later, one lap after Steve Park’s first race since Daytona last July ended with an early exit after the fourth circuit. Park was running an unsponsored #35 owned by Tommy Baldwin in preparation for another one-race deal in Baldwin’s #36 at Daytona in July.
*Conway is the first driver to finish last in more than one series in the same season since Dave Blaney in 2009, when he scored eight last-place finishes in Cup and two in Nationwide.
*Conway is the first driver to score his first Cup last-place finish since Brendan Gaughan also fell out after the opening lap of last fall’s Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix.
*Conway is the first Cup driver to ever finish last at Talladega due to an electrical problem.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #97-Kevin Conway / 1 lap / electrical
42) #35-Steve Park / 4 laps / electrical
41) #87-Joe Nemechek / 5 laps / vibration
40) #21-Trevor Bayne / 89 laps / crash / led 5 laps
39) #6-David Ragan / 89 laps / crash / led 2 laps
LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER’S CHAMPIONSHIP
While Michael McDowell and Mike Skinner were two of the three drivers who failed to qualify (the third being Tony Raines in Larry Gunselman’s #37 Ford), Landon Cassill enjoyed his career-best qualifying run of 6th and ran with the leaders through the early stages of the race. Unfortunately, Cassill ended up a disappointing 31st after a Lap 27 crash where Kurt Busch turned him off turn two into the passing car of Brian Vickers.
Around that time, J.J. Yeley climbed into the #46 that was qualified and started by Bill Elliott, then with drafting help from Terry Labonte’s #32 ran as high as 3rd with 76 laps to go. However, soon after Labonte fell out with engine failure, Yeley slipped out of competition and finished 26th, the next-to-last car on the lead lap.
1st) Michael McDowell, Joe Nemechek (2)
2nd) Landon Cassill, Kevin Conway, Mike Skinner, J.J. Yeley (1)
LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER’S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #60-Germain Racing, #66-HP Racing LLC, #87-NEMCO Motorsports (2)
2nd) #46-Dusty Whitney, #97-NEMCO Motorsports (1)
LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER’S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Toyota (7)
2nd) Chevrolet (1)