Sunday, July 29, 2012

LASTCAR Summer Catch-Up: Cup Series

Welcome back, everyone, to LASTCAR! In order to make this site as complete as possible, I have compiled several mini-reviews of the races run since my last update at the end of May.

Since this website was last updated, there has been a streak of eight different last-place finishers in the last eight Cup Series races.

The streak started in June during the FedEx 400 Benefitting Autism Speaks at the Dover International Speedway. There, a multi-car pileup on Lap 9 damaged at least twelve cars, including the #79 Team Kyle / Koma Unwind Ford of Scott Speed. Speed, making his second start for the Go Green Racing team, suffered extensive damage to the nose of his Ford and was unable to continue. This marked the first time the #79 finished last in a Cup race since September 9, 1979, when Frank Warren’s Native Tan Dodge had a distributor problem after two laps of the Capital City 400 at Richmond. The finish also tied Speed with Josh Wise for the 2012 LASTCAR lead.

Next, during the Pocono 400 presented by #NASCAR at the Pocono Raceway, an opening-lap crash in turn three took out Landon Cassill’s #83 Burger King Real Fruit Smoothies Toyota. The resulting last-place finish was the first for the BK Racing team, the first for Cassill since the 2011 Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas, and the first for the #83 since 2007, when Brian Vickers finished 35 laps down in the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire.

At the Quicken Loans 400 at the Michigan International Speedway, it was 2011 Daytona 500 Champion Trevor Bayne picking up his first Sprint Cup last-place finish. Bayne qualified 7th - the best qualifying run for a last-placer this season - but his #21 Motorcraft / Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford lost the engine after just seven laps. The finish came in Bayne’s 24th series start. It was the first last-place finish for the iconic #21 since 2008 when, also at Michigan, Marcos Ambrose scored his first last-place finish when another engine failure stopped his Little Debbie Ford after 17 laps.

After that came my home race, the Toyota / Save Mart 350 at the road course in Sonoma. There, last place went to Joe Nemechek and his "Ferrari Red" #87 AM / FM Energy Toyota - the 29th finish of Nemechek’s career. The car had a high engine pitch throughout the weekend and, in the end, it was engine failure that took him out after completing just one lap. The finish was Nemechek’s first of the 2012 season for the two-time LASTCAR Cup champion, barely edging the #19 Humphrey-Smith Toyota driven by road ringer Chris Cook. The race also saw both Josh Wise and Scott Speed finish under power for the first time in 2012, and J.J. Yeley’s #49 was running at the finish for the first time since Kansas in April.

Next week came the Quaker State 400 at the Kentucky Speedway. There, the 43rd spot went to Scott Riggs and the #23 North Texas Pipe Chevrolet. Electrical woes were the cited problem for the R3 Motorsports team after three laps of the race, and Riggs ended up with his 5th last-place finish. Riggs also swept the weekend, picking up a last-place run in the Camping World Truck Series race the night before.

The Coke Zero 400 at the Daytona International Speedway saw a last-minute driver change at Phil Parsons Racing. Although Mike Bliss had practiced and qualified the #98 Phil Parsons Racing Ford, it was Michael McDowell who was behind the wheel of the car when the green flag dropped. Three laps into the race, McDowell pulled behind the wall with overheating problems, scoring his 17th last-place finish. It was the first time the #98 finished last in a Cup points race at Daytona.

Two weeks ago at New Hampshire was the Lenox Industrial Tools 301, where J.J. Yeley and his #49 Robinson-Blakeney Racing Toyota picked up their first last-place finish since Las Vegas back in March. The team cited engine problems as the cause after completing 4 laps. It was the first last-place run for the #49 at the one-mile track. After this, Yeley’s 10th last-place finish in Cup, the Phoenix driver left the team to drive for Larry Gunselman’s MaxQ Motorsports, now in a technical alliance with Tommy Baldwin Racing.

Finally, Sunday was Crown Royal’s presentation of the Curtiss Shaver 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Again, Mike Bliss and Michael McDowell were the center of the last-place battle. This time, McDowell edged Bliss for a spot in the field, only to be bumped out of the show for a technical infraction in qualifying. This put Bliss’ #19 Humphrey-Smith Toyota into the 43rd and final starting spot. Five laps into the race, Bliss went behind the wall with engine woes, giving the team its first-ever last-place finish in its tenth start. It was also Bliss’ first last-place finish since the 2010 season finale, the Ford 400 at Homestead, when he was driving the #66 PRISM Motorsports Toyota.

As of this week, there remains a tie for the lead in the LASTCAR Cup Series Driver’s Championship between Michael McDowell, Scott Speed, and Josh Wise. Based on the tiebreaker of Bottom Five finishes, Wise holds the lead with 11 to McDowell’s 9 and Speed’s 5.

1st) Michael McDowell, Scott Speed, Josh Wise (3)
2nd) Scott Riggs, J.J. Yeley (2)
3rd) Trevor Bayne, Mike Bliss, Landon Cassill, Brendan Gaughan, Joe Nemechek, David Ragan, Reed Sorenson (1)

1st) #26-Front Row Motorsports, #98-Phil Parsons Racing (3)
2nd) #23-R3 Motorsports, #49-Robinson-Blakeney Racing, #95-Leavine Family Racing (2)
3rd) #19-Humphrey-Smith Racing, #21-Wood Brothers Racing, #33-Richard Childress Racing, #34-Front Row Motorsports, #74-Turn One Racing, #79-Go Green Racing, #83-BK Racing, #87-NEMCO Motorsports (1)

1st) Ford (11)
2nd) Toyota (5)
3rd) Chevrolet (4)

LASTCAR Summer Catch-Up: Nationwide Series

Jeff Green, #10 TriStar Motorsports Toyota
The LASTCAR Nationwide Series for 2012 continues to be the story of current LASTCAR leader Jeff Green. Since this site was last updated, Green has scored another four last-place finishes, and now increases the all-time record to 40 last-place finishes in NASCAR’s top three divisions.

Green returned to the #10 TriStar Motorsports team in June after injured teammate Eric McClure climbed back into his #14 for the Sargento 200 at Road America. The previous week at Michigan, Green tied his best run with the team - a second-straight 17th-place finish. However back in the start-and-park #10, Green finished 43rd on the road course, 42nd at Kentucky after being edged by Scott Speed in The Motorsport Group’s #47, then racked up three consecutive last-place runs at Daytona, New Hampshire, and Chicagoland. It was not until this past Saturday at Indianapolis that Green was beaten. In Saturday’s Indy 250 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it was again The Motorsports Group’s #47 in the final spot as Stephen Leicht pulled the #47 off the track before the race even started. The finish was Leicht’s first in his 75th series start. Green stayed out to lead Lap 18, then exited soon after the restart to come home 36th.

Against the background of Green’s dominance, a few other teams made the standings. At the 5-Hour Energy 200 at the Dover International Speedway, Tony Raines took a turn in ML Motorsports’ #70 Black Cat Fireworks Chevrolet, only to become the first Nationwide Series driver to finish last because he did not start the race. The next week, during the Alliance Truck Parts 250 at the Michigan International Speedway, Mike Harmon and his #74 West Virginia Miners Baseball Chevrolet beat Kevin Lepage in the TriStar #10 by three laps to score his second last-place run of 2012, his first since Las Vegas in March. The finish was Harmon’s 13th in Nationwide Series competition, tying him with Ed Berrier for fourth-most all-time.

In the end, Jeff Green remains the leader by seven last-place finishes over both Harmon and Lepage, setting up for his second consecutive LASTCAR Nationwide Series title. However, the four-car team of The Motorsports Group remains a constant threat, having had at least two of its cars in the Bottom Five for the last seven consecutive races.

1st) Jeff Green (9)
2nd) Mike Harmon, Kevin Lepage (2)
3rd) Ryan Blaney, Stephen Leicht, Chase Miller, Tony Raines, Scott Speed, Josh Wise (1)

1st) #10-TriStar Motorsports (10)
2nd) #47-The Motorsports Group, #74-Mike Harmon (2)
3rd) #36-Tommy Baldwin Racing, #42-The Motorsports Group, #46-The Motorsports Group, #52-Means Racing, #70-ML Motorsports (1)

1st) Toyota (10)
2nd) Chevrolet (9)

LASTCAR Summer Catch-Up: Truck Series

Brandon Knupp, #27 Hillman Racing Chevrolet
SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin'
The parity that characterized the first part of the 2012 LASTCAR Truck Series Championship continued into the summer as there has yet to be a repeat last-placer this season.

In the Lucas Oil 200 at the Dover International Speedway, Dennis Setzer scored his 3rd career last-place finish in his #38 RSS Racing Chevrolet when he fell out with a vibration after 2 of 147 laps. His most recent finish came last season at Atlanta, where his #93 S&W Services Chevrolet lost its brakes after six laps.

At the Winstar World Casino 400k at the Texas Motor Speedway, Brandon Knupp took a turn in the unsponsored #27 Hillman Racing Chevrolet shared with newcomer Jeb Burton. Knupp fell out after two laps with ignition problems, scoring the 3rd last-place finish of his career, and gave the team the lead in the LASTCAR Truck Series Owner’s Championship.

The next race was the UNOH 225 at the Kentucky Speedway. There, Scott Riggs scored his second last-place finish, his first since Kansas in the spring, and went on to sweep the weekend in Saturday’s Quaker State 400. Riggs was driving the #86 @ClayGreenfield RAM, racing as the start-and-park teammate of Clay Greenfield, who finished 18th, the first truck one lap down. This was the first last-place finish for the #86 since 2007, when Kevin Lepage’s Chevrolet overheated after 8 laps at Michigan. Lepage’s truck was owned by Phil Bonifield, an 11-time Truck Series last-placer and 1999 LASTCAR champion.

In the American Ethanol 200 at the Iowa Speedway, Brennan Newberry scored the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career when his #14 NTS Motorsports Chevrolet was involved in a single-truck accident after completing 5 of the race’s 200 laps. The finish came in the 22-year-old newcomer’s 6th career start.

Finally, last week saw Johnny Chapman score his 11th career last-place finish in the American Ethanol 225 at the Chicagoland Speedway when his #07 Wear Your Gear / Toyota fell out with a vibration after 2 laps. By scoring his first last-place finish since the season-ending 2011 Ford 200 at Homestead, Chapman is now tied with Phil Bonifeld and Mike Garvey for the second-most last-place finishes in Truck Series history. All three trail leader Wayne Edwards by two finishes.

Also at Chicagoland, current all-time LASTCAR leader Jeff Green made his first Truck Series start since 2008, and finished 35th, falling out the same lap as last-place finisher Johnny Chapman.

As the standings show, the LASTCAR Truck Series Championship remains anybody’s race, although the #27 Hillman Racing team still holds a one-finish advantage in the Owner’s Championship due to the finishes of Jeb Burton and Brandon Knupp.

1st) Jeb Burton, Johnny Chapman, Rick Crawford, Grant Enfinger, Clay Greenfield, Brandon Knupp, Jason Leffler, Brennan Newberry, Scott Riggs, Dennis Setzer (1)

1st) #27-Hillman Racing (2)
2nd) #14-Bob Newberry, #18-Kyle Busch Motorsports, #38-RSS Racing, #60-Turn One Racing, #68-Clay Greenfield Motorsports, #86-Clay Greenfield Motorsports, #74-Mike Harmon, #07-Ken Smith (1)

1st) Chevrolet (6)
2nd) RAM, Toyota (2)