Mike Bliss picked up the 12th last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Saturday night’s Toyota Owners 400 at the Richmond International Raceway when his #19 Plinker Tactical / G-Oil Toyota fell out with brake problems after he completed 17 of the race’s 406 laps.
The finish was Bliss’ third of the 2013 season, and his first since Fontana, four races ago. He is now tied with two-time and defending LASTCAR Cup Series Champion Michael McDowell for the 2013 LASTCAR Cup Series lead.
Bliss qualified 38th for Saturday’s race at an average speed of 127.485 mph. Without the two Scotts - #95 Leavine Family Racing Ford of Scott Speed and the #44 Xxxtreme Motorsports Ford of Scott Riggs - there were just 43 cars present for 43 spots, so every car made the field.
Bliss fell to the rear early and pulled behind the wall in the opening laps. Michael McDowell and his #98 Phil Parsons Racing Ford pulled behind the wall after him, then returned to the track briefly after Marcos Ambrose lost an engine after 109 laps. Unconfirmed reports indicate that McDowell’s car leaked fluid on the backstretch, bringing out the third caution of the night on Lap 147, and McDowell’s #98 ended up 41st - one spot ahead of Ambrose.
Finishing 40th on Saturday was Brian Keselowski, who made his first Cup Series start since he raced his way into the field for the 2011 Daytona 500. Brian ran the same #52 Highland Wealth Advisors Toyota he attempted to race into the 2013 running of The Great American Race, though now with added support from Go Green Racing, which campaigned the #79 Fords run by Kelly Bires in Cup last fall.
With 43 cars for 43 spots, Brian secured the final starting spot, though he ran 7 mph slower than polesitter Matt Kenseth. Though the car’s owner was Brian’s father Bob Keselowski, the #52 was also prepared by 1988 LASTCAR Cup Champion Jimmy “Smut” Means, thus putting one of Means’ partially-owned cars into a Cup race for the first time since Darlington last spring, and the first time in a Cup race at Richmond since September 11, 1993.
*This was Bliss’ first last-place finish in a Cup Series race at Richmond.
*This was the first last-place finish for the #19 in a Cup Series race at Richmond.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #19-Mike Bliss / 17 laps / brakes
42) #9-Marcos Ambrose / 109 laps / engine
41) #98-Michael McDowell / 121 laps / brakes
40) #52-Brian Keselowski / 186 laps / brakes
39) #87-Joe Nemechek / 245 laps / vibration
LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Mike Bliss, Michael McDowell (3)
2nd) Dave Blaney, Joe Nemechek, Scott Riggs (1)
LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #19-Humphrey-Smith Motorsports, #98-Phil Parsons Racing (3)
2nd) #7-Tommy Baldwin Racing, #44-Xxxtreme Motorsports, #87-NEMCO Motorsports (1)
LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Ford, Toyota (4)
2nd) Chevrolet (1)