Sunday, November 20, 2011

CUP: McDowell Claims First LASTCAR Cup Driver’s Title With A 43rd At Homestead

Michael McDowell picked up the 14th last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s Ford 400 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway when his unsponsored #66 HP Racing LLC Toyota fell out with driveshaft problems after completing 13 of the race’s 267 laps.

The finish was McDowell’s series-leading seventh of 2011 and his first since Chicago, nine races ago. By picking up the finish, McDowell also picked up his first-ever LASTCAR Sprint Cup Driver’s Championship, edging fellow Arizona native J.J. Yeley. Yeley, driver of the Front Row Motorsports #55 which clinched the 2011 LASTCAR Owner’s Title last Sunday, finished 41st, twelve laps behind McDowell.

McDowell and Yeley qualified 33rd and 30th, respectively, with McDowell turning in an average speed of 171.059 mph. In Saturday’s final practice, his #66 had turned in the 13th-fastest time, second among the weekend’s “go-or-go-homers” behind Red Bull Racing’s Cole Whitt, who was third.

At the start of Sunday’s race, it first appeared that Kurt Busch would pick up his first last-place finish since scoring the second of his two Homestead 43rd-place runs in 2008. A sudden transmission failure on Lap 2 forced Busch behind the wall for several laps. A last-place finish by Busch - or any driver other than Yeley - would secure McDowell the LASTCAR title by virtue of his tiebreaking 26 bottom-five finishes to Yeley’s 21.

Eleven laps later, with rain in the area, McDowell pulled behind the wall, followed under an ensuing caution flag by David Stremme in Inception Motorsports’ #30. J.J. Yeley, still on track when rain brought out that yellow on Lap 14, was told over radio communications to stay out and help teammate Travis Kvapil in the 38 lock up a spot in the Top 35. Soon after the Lap 22 restart, Yeley pulled out of the race, but twelve laps too short to take 42nd from McDowell.

When Kurt Busch returned to the track around Lap 64, McDowell was shuffled down to 43rd, breaking his tie with Yeley.

*This was McDowell’s second last-place finish in a Cup race at Homestead. The other time was in the 2009 Ford 400, back when he was driving Tommy Baldwin’s #36 Wave Energy Drink Toyota. McDowell left that race after 16 laps with engine woes.
*This is the #66 team’s second consecutive last-place finish in a Cup race at Homestead. Last year, when the Phil Parsons team was called PRISM Motorsports and Mike Bliss was driving, the unsponsored car fell out after 10 laps with electrical problems.
Baxter Price's #45 Buick, 1981
SOURCE: Historical Stock Car Racing Forum

*A Cup driver had not finished last due to a driveshaft problem since February 22, 1981, when owner-driver Baxter Price’s #45 McWhirter Grating Buick fell out after 16 laps of the Richmond 400 at Richmond.

43) #66-Michael McDowell / 13 laps / driveshaft
42) #30-David Stremme / 14 laps / ignition
41) #55-J.J. Yeley / 25 laps / vibration
40) #87-Joe Nemechek / 29 laps / vibration / led 3 laps
39) #9-Marcos Ambrose / 72 laps / engine

The last time a LASTCAR Cup Driver’s title was settled in the final race of the year was in 1989 when none other than McDowell’s team owner, Phil Parsons, scored the final last-place finish of the year at Atlanta, breaking a tie with Butch Miller. Parsons ended the year with four last-place finishes to Miller’s three. The last time a LASTCAR Cup Driver’s title was settled by a tiebreaker was in 2008, when Joe Nemechek and A.J. Allmendinger’s tie of three finishes apiece was decided by Nemechek’s nine bottom-fives to Allmendinger’s six.
1st) Michael McDowell (7)
2nd) J.J. Yeley (6)
3rd) Mike Skinner (5)
4th) Kevin Conway, Joe Nemechek (4)
5th) Travis Kvapil (3)
6th) Robby Gordon (2)
7th) Dave Blaney, Landon Cassill, Jeff Green, P.J. Jones, Scott Riggs, Scott Speed (1)

1st) #55-Front Row Motorsports (8)
2nd) #66-HP Racing LLC (7)
3rd) #60-Germain Racing (6)
4th) #87-NEMCO Motorsports (4)
5th) #46-Whitney Motorsports, #97-NEMCO Motorsports (3)
6th) #7-Robby Gordon Motorsports (2)
7th) #37-MaxQ Motorsports, #81-Whitney Motorsports, #77-Robby Gordon Motorsports (1)

1st) Toyota (19)
2nd) Ford (10)
3rd) Chevrolet (4)
4th) Dodge (3)

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