Michael McDowell picked up the 13th last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup career in Monday’s GEICO 400 at the Chicagoland Speedway when his #66 James Fund Toyota fell out with brake problems after 25 of the race’s 267 laps.
The finish was McDowell’s series-leading sixth last-place finish of the 2011 season and his first since the Heluva Good! 400 at Michigan, twelve races ago. His finish is also the 100th for Toyota across all three of NASCAR’s top divisions. Toyota’s first NASCAR last-place finish came in 2004, when Robert Huffman’s #12 Toyota Tundra crashed 25 laps into the Truck Series season opener, the Florida Dodge Dealers 250 at Daytona.
McDowell, carrying decals for adoption assistance program The James Fund on a paint scheme that debuted at Richmond, qualified 33rd for Monday’s race at a speed of 180.060 mph. Just before the start of the race, McDowell fell to the rear along with Robby Gordon, who changed engines prior to the event.
When the race began, Josh Wise, driving for Larry Gunselman, fell to the back, followed on Lap 9 by David Stremme, who made an unscheduled stop in his Inception Motorsports #30. However, McDowell was the first to pull behind the wall on Lap 25, saying his car was running too tight. Once behind the wall, crew chief Gene Nead reported that there was a hole in the nose of his Toyota.
Wise and Stremme were the next two cars to fall out of the race, ending a pair of promising weekends. Wise’s hair-raising qualifying run ended the Gunselman team’s streak of three consecutive DNQs and also gave Wise his first Cup start after three unsuccessful attempts since late 2009. Nearby Bradley University had its decals on Wise’s #37 as eight of its students were interning with the team. Stremme lacked sponsorship, but ran in the Top 10 in both Chicagoland practices, running 7th in the first session and 9th in Happy Hour. The Inception team has had other flashes of brilliance in practice, running 2nd-fastest in Bristol’s Happy Hour last month and topping the speed charts during Happy Hour at Michigan in June.
*The last time the #66 finished last at Chicagoland was in 2009, when Dave Blaney’s PRISM Motorsports Toyota fell out with an engine failure after 10 laps of the 2009 Lifelock.com 400. The year before, McDowell scored his first Cup Series last-place finish in the same event, finishing eight laps down, but still running, in his #00 Champion Mortgage Toyota.
*This was the first time a Cup driver finished last at Chicagoland due to brake failure.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #66-Michael McDowell / 25 laps / brakes
42) #37-Josh Wise / 41 laps / brakes
41) #30-David Stremme / 44 laps / vibration
40) #87-Joe Nemechek / 45 laps / electrical
39) #7-Robby Gordon / 77 laps / vibration
LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER’S CHAMPIONSHIP
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, Scott Riggs, Scott Speed (1)
LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER’S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #60-Germain Racing, #66-HP Racing LLC (6)
2nd) #46-Whitney Motorsports, #55-Front Row Motorsports, #87-NEMCO Motorsports (3)
3rd) #7-Robby Gordon Motorsports, #97-NEMCO Motorsports (2)
4th) #81-Whitney Motorsports, #77-Robby Gordon Motorsports (1)
LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER’S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Toyota (16)
2nd) Chevrolet, Ford (4)
3rd) Dodge (3)