Sunday, July 17, 2011

CUP: Jeff Green Finishes 43rd In Debut of Front Row Motorsports’ New #55 Team

Special Thanks to Rob Dostie, a LASTCAR fan who provided his photos of Jeff Green's #55 and the rest of the Bottom Five in today's post!

Jeff Green picked up the 5th last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway when his unsponsored #55 Front Row Motorsports Ford fell out with brake problems after completing 11 of the race’s 301 laps.

Bob Jenkins’ Front Row Motorsports (FRM) began 2011 with three teams: the #34 of David Gilliland and the #37 of Robert Richardson, Jr., both locked into the first five races on their 2010 Owner Points rankings, and the #38 of Travis Kvapil, which fell outside the Top 35 following a costly penalty for bleeder valves on his tires at Pocono.

The start of the year saw Gilliland turn in a stunning 3rd-place finish in the Daytona 500 while Richardson and Kvapil were both taken out in separate accidents. As both the #38 and #37 fell outside the Top 35 in this year’s Owner Points, single-car owner Larry Gunselman acquired the #37 at Bristol, still using Fords out of the FRM shop with Tony Raines as driver. Since then, both Raines’ #37 and Kvapil’s #38 teams have struggled with each suffering DNQs while Gilliland’s #34 has made every race this year and remained inside the Top 35.

Earlier this month, FRM was set to enter a new third team, an unsponsored #55 Ford, at Kentucky, but withdrew it before the preliminary entry list for the race could be published. Instead, the team looked to make its first attempt at Loudon the following week, putting Jeff Green behind the wheel. Green, a former Nationwide Series champ, was looking to make his first Cup race since driving for Larry Gunselman’s old #64 team at Charlotte last October. Green may have been selected to drive the #55 into the show for scoring his career-best Cup finish, a 2nd, in the 2002 running of the July race.

Sure enough, Green qualified for Sunday’s race at a speed of 131.175 mph, putting him 36th on the grid and fourth-ranked among the day’s eleven “go-or-go-homers.” It was a tremendous accomplishment for the team, which had to knock three current teams out of the field after David Stremme and Dennis Setzer joined as last-minute entries. Setzer, driving K-Automotive’s #92, was one of the three who missed the race, joining Scott Riggs in Dusty Whitney’s #81 and Raines in the Gunselman #37.

On race day, Green fell to the rear early, followed soon after by current 2011 LASTCAR Cup leader Michael McDowell, fighting an ill-handling #66 Toyota. During the opening green-flag stretch, Green was the first to go behind the wall, followed six laps later by three-time last-placer Mike Skinner.

Green’s FRM teammates both finished inside the Top 25 with Gilliland’s #34 coming home 25th and J.J. Yeley driving Kvapil’s #38 home 23rd. Yeley had filled-in for Kvapil in anticipation of Kvapil’s running the Truck Series race at Iowa, but some last-minute team changes put Todd Bodine in Kvapil’s ride, leaving him on the sidelines. Truck Series competitor Erik Darnell took over for Yeley in his #46, which has twice finished last in 2011.

In two weeks at Indianapolis, Yeley will take over as driver of the #55 FRM team Green raced for on Sunday, parting ways with Whitney Motorsports, whose #46 and #81 will switch from Chevrolet to Ford starting that weekend.

*Jeff Green had not finished last in a Cup race since 2007, when his #66 HAAS Automation Chevrolet was involved in a single-car crash after 13 laps of the 2007 Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.
*This was the first last-place finish for FRM since 2009, when Tony Raines’ #37 Long John Silver’s Dodge fell out with electrical problems after 6 laps of the 2009 Checker O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix.
*The #55 had not finished last in a Cup race since last August, when Michael McDowell’s #55 PRISM Motorsports Toyota fell out with engine failure 16 laps into the 2010 Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol.
*The #55 had not finished last in a Cup race at New Hampshire since 2000, when the engine on Kenny Wallace’s Square D Chevrolet blew 39 laps into the 2000 Dura Lube 300 Sponsored by K-Mart at New Hampshire. That race is better-known for being the day outside-polesitter Jeff Burton led all 300 laps after NASCAR instituted restrictor plates at Loudon following the fatal crashes that took the lives of Adam Petty and Kenny Irwin, Jr. earlier that year.
*This was not only Ford’s first last-place finish of 2011, but the manufacturer’s first since 2009, when Bobby Labonte’s #96 DLP Ford fell out with engine trouble after 18 laps of the 2009 CARFAX 400 at Michigan.

*This weekend, three teams that made their series debut in Cup (#55), Nationwide (#47), and Trucks (#75) all finished last in the same weekend. As of this moment, I cannot confirm if this is the first time this has ever happened.

(click the links to see a photo of their exit)
43) #55-Jeff Green / 11 laps / brakes
42) #60-Mike Skinner / 17 laps / electrical
41) #87-Joe Nemechek / 37 laps / brakes
40) #66-Michael McDowell / 46 laps / brakes
39) #46-Erik Darnell / 72 laps / brakes

1st) Michael McDowell (5)
2nd) Joe Nemechek, Mike Skinner (3)
3rd) Kevin Conway, J.J. Yeley (2)
4th) Landon Cassill, Jeff Green, P.J. Jones, Scott Riggs (1)

1st) #66-HP Racing LLC (5)
2nd) #60-Germain Racing (4)
3rd) #87-NEMCO Motorsports (3)
4th) #46-Whitney Motorsports, #97-NEMCO Motorsports (2)
5th) #55-Front Row Motorsports, #81-Whitney Motorsports, #77-Robby Gordon Motorsports (1)

1st) Toyota (14)
2nd) Chevrolet (3)
3rd) Dodge, Ford (1)

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