Joe Nemechek picked up the 28th last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup career in Saturday’s Bank of America 500 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway when his #87 AM / FM Energy / Pellet & Wood Stoves Toyota fell out with a vibration after 11 of the race’s 334 laps.
The finish was Nemechek’s fourth of the 2011 season and his first since the June race at Kansas, eighteen races ago.
The finish is also Nemechek’s 34th across all three of NASCAR’s top divisions, moving him within one finish of tying all-time LASTCAR leader Derrike Cope for the most last-place finishes in NASCAR history. Curiously, it was during the Charlotte weekend that Cope was expected to return to the Cup Series, but he withdrew his #75 Dodge on Thursday after failing to run any laps in the opening practice session.
Nemechek is also four finishes away from tying the late J.D. McDuffie for the most last-place finishes in Sprint Cup history (32).
Back at Charlotte, Nemechek qualified 39th at a speed of 187.311 mph, but was the slowest car in both Friday’s final two practice sessions. On race night, rookie driver Andy Lally first fell to the rear. Lally, who had campaigned TRG Motorsports’ #71 for much of the year, was debuting a new second team, #77, which would run for the rest of 2011. Though without sponsorship, Lally was the fastest “go-or-go-homer” in both Friday practice sessions, reaching seventh in Friday’s morning practice. In the race, Lally was still running 43rd when Nemechek pulled behind the wall after 11 laps, ending his night. Lally and the #77 pulled out nine laps later, citing brake failure.
Nemechek’s early exit ended a three-race last-place streak by Front Row’s #55, this time again driven by Travis Kvapil. Though the #55 carried sponsorship from the Ingersoll-Rand corporation, the car retained its “start-and-park” status and fell out after 27 laps, sixteen laps after Nemechek took 43rd.
As a result, Michael McDowell, who came home 39th, continues to hold a one-finish lead on J.J. Yeley for the LASTCAR Driver’s Championship while the Owner’s Title remains a three-way tie between the #55, McDowell’s #66, and the #60 Germain Racing team, which withdrew with Mike Skinner prior to the opening practice.
Nemechek now stands two finishes behind McDowell for the Driver’s title - still in contention to defend his 2010 title with five races left to be run.
*Nemechek and the #87 scored their most recent Charlotte last-place finish in Sprint Cup competition during the 2009 running, when his unsponsored Toyota left the race with engine trouble after 26 laps of the NASCAR Banking 500 Only From Bank of America.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #87-Joe Nemechek / 11 laps / vibration
42) #77-Andy Lally / 20 laps / brakes
41) #30-David Stremme / 22 laps / overheating
40) #55-Travis Kvapil / 27 laps / overheating
39) #66-Michael McDowell / 30 laps / suspension
LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER’S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Michael McDowell (6)
2nd) J.J. Yeley (5)
3rd) Joe Nemechek, Mike Skinner (4)
4th) Kevin Conway, Robby Gordon, Travis Kvapil (2)
5th) Dave Blaney, Landon Cassill, Jeff Green, P.J. Jones, Scott Riggs, Scott Speed (1)
LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER’S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #55-Front Row Motorsports, #60-Germain Racing, #66-HP Racing LLC (6)
2nd) #87-NEMCO Motorsports (4)
3rd) #46-Whitney Motorsports (3)
4th) #7-Robby Gordon Motorsports, #97-NEMCO Motorsports (2)
5th) #81-Whitney Motorsports, #77-Robby Gordon Motorsports (1)
LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER’S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Toyota (17)
2nd) Ford (7)
3rd) Chevrolet (4)
4th) Dodge (3)