Sunday, September 25, 2011

CUP: Kvapil’s Qualifying Face-Off Followed By His First Last-Place Finish Since 2009

SOURCE: Rob Dostie
Travis Kvapil picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s Sylvania 300 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway when his unsponsored #50 Front Row Motorsports Ford fell out with brake problems after completing 10 of the race’s 300 laps.

Loudon marked Kvapil’s third attempt at getting Front Row’s “start-and-park” #55 team into a Cup Series race while new teammate J.J. Yeley raced his #38. The #38 team has been on the cusp of the Top 35 in Owner Points for much of the season due to three DNQs and a season-best finish of only 23rd at Loudon’s July race. That Loudon event saw the debut of Front Row’s #55 team, which Jeff Green drove to a last-place finish.

Once again, rain threatened track activities, this time during Friday’s qualifying day. Thanks to the #38 team’s 36th-place points ranking and attempts in every race in 2011, the NASCAR rulebook guaranteed Yeley a spot in the field if qualifying were rained out. However, since Kvapil’s #55 has made fewer attempts than newcomer T.J. Bell’s #50, Kvapil needed to not only qualify on time, but also needed the entire qualifying session to be completed. If rain cut qualifying short, Bell would edge Kvapil for the final starting spot.

These conflicting contingencies came into play when rain delayed the closing stages of qualifying. With five cars left to qualify, a light rain began to fall. At the time, Kvapil was locked-into the field in the #55 despite locking his brakes in turn three. Bell’s #50, on the other hand, was the slowest “go-or-go-homer” on the speed charts. If the session were canceled, Bell would still make the race on attempts, while Kvapil needed the session completed in order to make the show.
Steve Park's #35 Len Boehler Tribute / LASTCAR Chevrolet
SOURCE: Tommy Baldwin Racing Facebook

In the end, the final five cars were able to qualify, so Kvapil secured the 38th starting spot with his lap of 131.058 mph. Bell was sent home along with Steve Park, running one of Tommy Baldwin’s two paint scheme tributes to legends of NASCAR’s modified division. Park’s #35, honoring Len Boehler’s “Ol’ Blue,” was funded in part by fans since early spring. I was one of the 91 sponsors who signed on, giving this website a spot on the left-rear panel of his Chevrolet.

On Sunday, Kvapil pulled behind the wall during the opening green-flag run, scoring his first last-place finish of 2011 and the fourth for Front Row’s #55.  Yeley's #38 came home 27th.

*This was Kvapil’s first Cup Series last-place finish since 2009, when his #37 Long John Silver’s Dodge fell out with brake failure after completing 30 laps of the Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville.  At the time, Kvapil’s #37 was another “start-and-park” team for Front Row Motorsports - originally, a single-car operation - which was used to build toward their full-season run in 2010.
*The #55 Front Row Motorsports team swept both Loudon last-place finishes in 2011. Jeff Green’s above-mentioned run in July’s Lenox Industrial Tools 301 ended after 11 laps. Whitney Motorsports’ #46 is the only other team to have swept a track this season, racking up both finishes at Richmond with drivers J.J. Yeley and Scott Speed.

43) #55-Travis Kvapil / 10 laps / brakes
42) #13-Casey Mears / 19 laps / electrical
41) #46-Scott Speed / 23 laps / brakes
40) #7-Robby Gordon / 28 laps / brakes
39) #37-Josh Wise / 29 laps / brakes

1st) Michael McDowell (6)
2nd) Mike Skinner, J.J. Yeley (4)
3rd) Joe Nemechek (3)
4th) Kevin Conway, Robby Gordon (2)
5th) Dave Blaney, Landon Cassill, Jeff Green, P.J. Jones, Travis Kvapil, Scott Riggs, Scott Speed (1)

1st) #60-Germain Racing, #66-HP Racing LLC (6)
2nd) #55-Front Row Motorsports (4)
3rd) #46-Whitney Motorsports, #87-NEMCO Motorsports (3)
4th) #7-Robby Gordon Motorsports, #97-NEMCO Motorsports (2)
5th) #81-Whitney Motorsports, #77-Robby Gordon Motorsports (1)

1st) Toyota (16)
2nd) Ford (5)
3rd) Chevrolet (4)
4th) Dodge (3)

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