At Talladega, Conway returned to “start-and-park” duty for Nationwide Series team owner and on-track teammate Joe Nemechek, again behind the wheel of Nemechek’s #97. On Saturday, with a qualifying lap of 179.693 mph, Conway timed in 20th - his best career starting spot in 31 total Cup starts.
After he narrowly missed the Daytona 500 field during a late battle in the Gatorade Duels, Conway has successfully made the show for every restrictor plate Cup race held since. Two laps into Sunday race, however, Conway also scored his third consecutive last-place finish on these tracks when he pulled behind the wall under green.
Dave Blaney, who nearly pulled the upset at Talladega in the spring in owner Tommy Baldwin's #36, drove a tremendous race and finished a career-best 3rd for the third time in nineteen years of Cup racing. His Golden Corral Chevrolet, rebuilt from a crash at Daytona in July, was revealed to be a former Bill Davis Racing chassis from 2007 or 2008. Nevertheless, with the drafting help of Brad Keselowski, Blaney sped to his first top-10 finish of the year, triggering his sponsor's now-famous "Top 10 Kids Eat Free" campaign.
*Conway is the first Cup driver to finish last in three consecutive superspeedway races at Daytona and Talladega. This dates all the way back to the first Daytona qualifier in 1959 and includes every year that the qualifying races were listed as points races. On a handful of occasions, a driver has finished last in two consecutive plate races, most notably in 1992 when Dale Earnhardt’s terrible season was furthered by last-place showings in the July races at Daytona and Talladega.
*This is the second consecutive year that NEMCO’s #97 has finished last in the Cup Series’ fall race at Talladega. In 2010, Jeff Fuller was behind the wheel when his HeatRedefined.com Toyota left the race with a rear gear failure after two laps.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #97-Kevin Conway / 2 laps / vibration
42) #55-J.J. Yeley / 3 laps / wheel
41) #87-Joe Nemechek / 4 laps / rear gear
40) #66-Michael McDowell / 6 laps / clutch
39) #71-Andy Lally / 162 laps / crash / led 1 lap
LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER’S CHAMPIONSHIP
With four races to go, Michael McDowell, 40th at Talladega, remains the leader of the LASTCAR Cup Driver’s Championship, having just avoided a tie with J.J. Yeley, who came home a close 42nd on Sunday. By scoring a season-best finish of 22nd at Charlotte last Sunday, Yeley now trails McDowell by an insurmountable five bottom-five finishes: 19 to McDowell’s 24. Thus, only an overall lead can guarantee Yeley the LASTCAR Cup Driver’s Championship. And it’s not a two-driver race. Although Mike Skinner has lost his ride with Germain Racing for the rest of 2011 and Kevin Conway is not expected to compete in the final races of this season, defending LASTCAR Champion Joe Nemechek remains two finishes out of the lead and has continued to make all 32 races this season. With four races to go, Nemechek already has four more bottom-fives than McDowell with a series-leading total of 28.
1st) Michael McDowell (6)
2nd) J.J. Yeley (5)
3rd) Joe Nemechek, Mike Skinner (4)
4th) Kevin Conway (3)
5th) Robby Gordon, Travis Kvapil (2)
6th) Dave Blaney, Landon Cassill, Jeff Green, P.J. Jones, Scott Riggs, Scott Speed (1)
LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER’S CHAMPIONSHIP
Last week, it was reported that the #60 Germain Racing team would not attempt any more races in 2011, eliminating the team from LASTCAR contention due to the team’s 19 bottom-five finishes to the #66's current total of 25. Nevertheless, the battle for the LASTCAR Owner’s Championship also remains close as Front Row’s #55, though with only 11 bottom-fives, remains tied for the most finishes with the #66 and will run the rest of the year. However, if NEMCO’s #87 can score the two finishes needed to join the tie, they may be able to wrestle the title from the #66 by virtue of its 28 bottom-fives collected with Nemechek so far.
1st) #55-Front Row Motorsports, #60-Germain Racing, #66-HP Racing LLC (6)
2nd) #87-NEMCO Motorsports (4)
3rd) #46-Whitney Motorsports, #97-NEMCO Motorsports (3)
4th) #7-Robby Gordon Motorsports (2)
5th) #81-Whitney Motorsports, #77-Robby Gordon Motorsports (1)
LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER’S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Toyota (18)
2nd) Ford (7)
3rd) Chevrolet (4)
4th) Dodge (3)