Monday, November 14, 2011

CUP: Kvapil Locks Up LASTCAR Owner’s Title For #55 Team; Driver’s Title A Two-Man Showdown Between McDowell and Yeley

Travis Kvapil picked up the 5th last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 500 at the Phoenix International Raceway when his #55 Aloft Hotels Ford fell out with brake problems after completing 20 of the race’s 312 laps.

The finish was Kvapil’s third in 2011 and his first since Dover, six races ago.

For Phoenix, Kvapil again switched rides with Front Row Motorsports teammate J.J. Yeley and returned to “start-and-park” duty in the #55. He qualified 37th for Sunday’s race - sliding very close to the turn four wall in the process - at an average speed of 133.136 mph. Yeley timed in 40th in the fully-sponsored #38, which was painted by disabled veteran Scott Bates.

At the start of the race, it first appeared that Regan Smith would pick up the first last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup career. On Lap 2, the Southern 500 winner was involved in a two-car crash with David Ragan, resulting in severe rear-end damage to both cars. Ragan returned to the track quicker than Smith, who spent more than 100 laps behind the wall.

Following the restart, the 42nd spot, held early on by Mike Skinner in the #37, was soon taken over by Kvapil, who pulled behind the wall on Lap 20. Skinner, who needed the finish to stay in contention for the LASTCAR Cup Driver’s Championship, did not pull out until five laps later. When Smith returned to the race around Lap 129, he needed only complete 17 laps to drop Kvapil to the 43rd spot. This Smith accomplished, and Kvapil picked up the finish.

Yeley came home 28th.

*The last Cup driver to finish last at Phoenix due to brake failure was Tony Raines, who exited the 2009 Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix after 56 laps while driving Barry Haefele’s #73 Quality Concrete Dodge.
*This was the first Cup last-place finish at Phoenix for both the #55 and for Kvapil.

43) #55-Travis Kvapil / 20 laps / brakes
42) #37-Mike Skinner / 25 laps / brakes
41) #87-Joe Nemechek / 30 laps / brakes
40) #66-Michael McDowell / 46 laps / transmission
39) #46-Scott Speed / 60 laps / electrical

Heading into the season finale at Homestead, the Driver’s Title is still up for grabs between Michael McDowell and J.J. Yeley, both still tied with a series-leading six last-place finishes in 2011. McDowell can claim the title even if Yeley does not finish last since McDowell has amassed 26 bottom-five finishes to Yeley’s 21, breaking the current tie. Yeley can only claim the title if he finishes last at Homestead. Mike Skinner is eliminated from competition as his lower number of bottom-five finishes will not win him the resulting three-way tie.
1st) Michael McDowell, J.J. Yeley (6)
2nd) Mike Skinner (5)
3rd) Kevin Conway, Joe Nemechek (4)
4th) Travis Kvapil (3)
5th) Robby Gordon (2)
6th) Dave Blaney, Landon Cassill, Jeff Green, P.J. Jones, Scott Riggs, Scott Speed (1)

With now a two-finish lead over the field with one race to go, the #55 Front Row Motorsports team has locked-up the 2011 LASTCAR Owner’s Championship. It’s a remarkable accomplishment since the #55 did not attempt a single race until Loudon in July while most other teams in the rankings - including McDowell’s #66 HP Racing LLC Team - have attempted every race this season.
1st) #55-Front Row Motorsports (8)
2nd) #60-Germain Racing, #66-HP Racing LLC (6)
3rd) #87-NEMCO Motorsports (4)
4th) #46-Whitney Motorsports, #97-NEMCO Motorsports (3)
5th) #7-Robby Gordon Motorsports (2)
6th) #37-MaxQ Motorsports, #81-Whitney Motorsports, #77-Robby Gordon Motorsports (1)

Ford’s ten last-place finishes in 2011 are the most the manufacturer has scored in a single Cup Series season since 2004, when they picked up another 10 finishes. Ford did not finish last a single time in the 2010 season.
1st) Toyota (18)
2nd) Ford (10)
3rd) Chevrolet (4)
4th) Dodge (3)

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