Sunday, October 30, 2011

CUP: Skinner Returns To Track, Tightens LASTCAR Cup Battle After Early Crash


Mike Skinner picked up the 14th last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s Tums Fast Relief 500 at the Martinsville Speedway when his unsponsored #37 MaxQ Motorsports Ford was involved in a six-car accident after completing 7 of the race’s 500 laps.

The finish was Skinner’s fifth in 2011 and his first since Watkins Glen, eleven races ago. With three races to go, he is now tied with J.J. Yeley for the second-most Cup Series last-place finishes in 2011. Each are just one finish behind current leader Michael McDowell.

The last time the Cup Series came to Martinsville, Skinner was making his first start for Germain Racing as the “start-and-park” driver of their #60 Big Red Toyota. He acquired the ride after helping Frankie Stoddard’s #32 FAS Lane Racing team make the Top 35, scoring finishes of 24th and 29th in Phoenix and Las Vegas.

Skinner made fifteen starts in Germain’s #60, scoring four last-place finishes during the spring and summer months. The team’s final start - and last-place finish - came last month at Atlanta, where Skinner switched rides with an ailing Dave Blaney, who was suffering from kidney stones. Skinner brought Blaney’s car home 27th.

After the Atlanta race, a string of four DNQs and two withdrawals, combined with frequent switches between Toyota and Chevrolet and a qualifying crash at Dover, culminated with the #60 team pulling out of competition before Talladega.

Talladega also saw Larry Gunselman’s #37 MaxQ Motorsports car score its third-consecutive DNQ with driver Josh Wise. Martinsville’s preliminary entry list placed Wise as MaxQ’s driver, but it was Skinner behind the wheel for Saturday morning practice. With qualifying cancelled by rain, Skinner secured the 38th starting spot and prepared for his first start with the team.

Seven laps into Sunday’s race, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Kurt Busch made contact in turns one and two, causing a spin that quickly blocked the track. Skinner and the #34 of David Gilliland, both trailing the initial spin, failed to slow down fast enough and collided with the stopped cars in front of them. Skinner rear-ended the #78 of Regan Smith, causing substantial damage to the nose of his Ford and a small fire under the hood. Skinner and Smith were uninjured, and the #37 was the only car involved in the wreck that failed to return to the track.

Mike Skinner's #19 Zanworth Pontiac, 1986
SOURCE: LoboGraphix

*Skinner has just one other Cup Series last-place finish at Martinsville and, interestingly, it was the first finish of his career. The race was the 1986 Goody’s 500 - 25 years ago this past September - when Skinner’s unsponsored #19 Zanworth Racing Team Pontiac fell out with oil pressure problems after 34 of the race’s 500 laps. It was one of only three starts the Zanworth team ever made. All three came with Skinner in 1986 with the other two coming in the spring race at Martinsville and in the fall race at Rockingham. Their best finish was a 22nd in the spring Martinsville event.
*The last time the #37 finished last in a Cup race at Martinsville was in 2009, when Travis Kvapil’s Long John Silver’s Dodge fell out with brake problems after 30 laps.

43) #37-Mike Skinner / 7 laps / crash
42) #51-Landon Cassill / 27 laps / brakes
41) #87-Joe Nemechek / 33 laps / rear gear
40) #55-J.J. Yeley / 40 laps / brakes
39) #66-Michael McDowell / 45 laps / brakes

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

Although Skinner is ranked second in the LASTCAR Driver’s Championship, this was actually the #37 team’s first last-place finish of 2011 after five previous bottom-five finishes.
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) #37-MaxQ Motorsports, #81-Whitney Motorsports, #77-Robby Gordon Motorsports (1)

1st) Toyota (18)
2nd) Ford (8)
3rd) Chevrolet (4)
4th) Dodge (3)

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