Monday, May 27, 2013

CUP: Scott Speed’s Schedule Expands, But Charlotte Race Still Ends Early

SOURCE: Getty Images
Scott Speed picked up the 6th last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway when his unsponsored #95 Leavine Family Racing Ford fell out with transmission trouble after he completed 39 of the race’s 400 laps.

The finish was Speed’s first of 2013 and his first in a Cup race since last June at Dover, 35 races ago, when his Go Green Racing-owned #79 Team Kyle / Koma Unwind Ford was involved in an early crash.  It was also the first for the Leavine Family Racing team and the #95 since the Richmond race four rounds earlier, when Speed fell out of the race with electrical problems after 19 laps.

Speed’s 2013 has already been a series of highs and lows.  After he qualified for the LFR team’s first-ever Daytona 500, he acquired sponsorship from Dish Network and led briefly during a late pit exchange in the race itself.  The car’s bright red-and-blue paint job, often confused with the character Lightning McQueen from the movie “Cars,” then turned to a flat black for the next few races.  Eager to find sponsorship, the team had Speed’s car carry a skull-and-crossbones on the hood of his Ford with the message “Surrender The Sponsor” printed on it.  After four DNFs in the black car, weapon company Tracking Point “surrendered” with B&D Electric to fund his run at the team’s home track in Texas.  Unfortunately, it was there the team suffered its only DNQ of the season, and they skipped the next two races.

In the team’s return at Talladega, Speed turned in the team’s first-ever top-ten finish.  Speed came home 9th in the wild all-day affair that was the Aaron’s 499, just short of the California driver’s career-best 5th in the 2009 running.  With a healthy $107,115 payday at Talladega, the team expanded its commitment to running more races with Speed in 2013.  However, the team exited early at Darlington, finishing 41st after 77 laps, and the team still lacked sponsorship at Charlotte.  They did, however, acquire extra testing time with two-time and defending LASTCAR Cup Champion Michael McDowell driving the car to a 14th-place finish in the Sprint Showdown.

Speed qualified 37th in Sunday’s field at an average speed of 188.659 mph, good enough to bump Mike Bliss and the #19 Humphrey-Smith Motorsports team out of their first race since Martinsville.  In the race itself, Speed’s car, carrying an American flag on the hood, pulled behind the wall in the opening laps, followed eleven circuits late by Michael McDowell, back in his #98 Hyde Park Storage Suites Ford.

*This was the first last-place finish for Speed and the #95 in a Cup Series race at Charlotte.

43) #95-Scott Speed / 39 laps / transmission
42) #98-Michael McDowell / 50 laps / brakes
41) #87-Joe Nemechek / 213 laps / electrical
40) #93-Travis Kvapil / 253 laps / crash
39) #88-Dale Earnhardt, Jr. / 256 laps / engine

1st) Mike Bliss (4)
2nd) Michael McDowell (3)
3rd) Trevor Bayne, Dave Blaney, Joe Nemechek, Scott Riggs, Scott Speed (1)

1st) #19-Humphrey-Smith Motorsports (4)
2nd) #98-Phil Parsons Racing (3)
3rd) #7-Tommy Baldwin Racing, #21-Wood Brothers Racing, #44-Xxxtreme Motorsports, #87-NEMCO Motorsports, #95-Leavine Family Racing (1)

1st) Ford (6)
2nd) Toyota (5)
3rd) Chevrolet (1)

N’WIDE: Robert Richardson, Jr. Scores First Nationwide Last-Place Finish For #23 Since 2007

Robert Richardson, Jr. picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Nationwide Series career in Saturday’s History 300 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway when his #23 Willbros Group Chevrolet was involved in a three-car accident after he completed 45 of the race’s 200 laps.  The finish came in Richardson’s 115th series start.

Richardson, the 2006 LASTCAR Truck Series Champion, is competing in his seventh Nationwide season.  Since 2008, he has competed for R3 Motorsports, a family-owned team whose distinctive #23 cars have become a fixture in the garage area.  Though Richardson has yet to compete in a full season, the team briefly expanded into the Sprint Cup Series last year.  That season, the team competed mostly as a “start-and-park” operation with Scott Riggs behind the will, the exception being Richardson’s appearances in two restrictor-plate races.  This past February, R3's collected funds paid dividends when Richardson earned a career-best 9th-place finish in the wild season opener in Daytona.  Since then, however, he has finished no better than a 20th at Talladega.

Richardson endured a difficult start to his Saturday in Charlotte when he wrecked on his qualifying lap, forcing the team to roll out the backup.  Locked-in on Owner Points, he still was guaranteed the 39th starting spot in the 40-car field.  Richardson thus had to move behind 40th-place starter Steven Wallace on race day.  Wallace made his first Nationwide start of the season after the withdrawal of the qualified #10 driven by three-time LASTCAR Nationwide Champion Jeff Green.  Joining Green among the DNQs were LASTCAR rival J.J. Yeley in The Motorsports Group’s “start-and-park” #42, Bryan Silas, Matt DiBenedetto, and Darlington last-placer Tanner Berryhill.

Early in the race, it appeared that last place would go to Jason White in Jason Sciavicco’s #24 JW Demolition Toyota.  White pulled behind the wall in the early laps, indicating the possibility that he would earn his first Nationwide last-place finish since driving the #34 Rent-A-Wreck Chevrolet at Nashville in 2002.  However, White returned to the track around the time Richardson spun off the nose of Reed Sorenson entering the quad-oval and tangled with Johanna Long.  Both drivers were uninjured.  While Long returned to the track to finish 45 laps down, Richardson did not, leaving him in the last spot.  White eventually fell out past the halfway mark.

*This was the first last-place finish for the #23 in a Nationwide Series race since 2007, when defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Brad Keselowski lost the engine on his #23 Oklahoma Centennial Chevrolet lost the engine after six laps of the O’Reilly 300.  As of this writing, this finish for owner Keith Coleman remains Keselowski’s most recent last-place finish in a NASCAR points race.
*This was R3 Motorsports’ first last-place finish in a Nationwide Series race.  Last year in the Cup Series, R3 scored three last-place finishes with driver Scott Riggs.
*This was Richardson’s fifth last-place finish across NASCAR’s top three divisions.  The other four came in the Truck Series during his LASTCAR title year in 2006.

40) #23-Robert Richardson, Jr. / 45 laps / crash
39) #24-Jason White / 110 laps / suspension
38) #16-Chris Buescher / 134 laps / running
37) #40-Reed Sorenson / 146 laps / engine
36) #70-Johanna Long / 155 laps / running

1st) Jeff Green (4)
2nd) Tanner Berryhill, Joey Gase, Johanna Long, Eric McClure, Michael McDowell, Robert Richardson, Jr. (1)

1st) #10-TriStar Motorsports (4)
2nd) #14-TriStar Motorsports, #17-Vision Racing, #23-R3 Motorsports, #27-SR2 Motorsports, #52-Jimmy Means Racing, #70-ML Motorsports (1)

1st) Toyota (8)
2nd) Chevrolet (2)

Saturday, May 18, 2013

CUP: Brad Keselowski Gives The Blue Deuce Its Third All-Star Last-Place Finish

SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin'

Brad Keselowski finished last in Saturday’s running of the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway when his #2 Miller Lite Ford fell out with transmission trouble after he completed 2 of the race’s 90 laps.

Keselowski, the defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion, had a strong start to 2013, finishing out of the top ten just once in the first eight races of the year.  However, following a 33rd-place finish at Richmond last month, he has since struggled to finishes of 15th and 32nd.  Nevertheless, he remains 7th in points going into next week’s Coca-Cola 600, a race his Penske Racing team won with Kurt Busch in 2010.

At Charlotte, Keselowski raced in a special paint scheme that covered his Ford in fan-submitted photos.  He qualified 12th in the car during a session in which several drivers slid out of their pit box during the mandatory stop.  On race night, he was running in a thick pack of traffic just in the early laps when something in the drive train shattered entering turn three, causing him to fall off the pace.  After limping around the track for a lap, he pulled behind the wall and out of the race.

As of this writing, Keselowski has still yet to finish last in any of his 136 career Cup Series points races.

*This was Keselowski’s first last-place finish in the NASCAR All-Star Race.
*This was the third last-place finish for owner Roger Penske’s #2 Miller Lite machine in the All-Star Race.  In 2002, Rusty Wallace’s Ford crashed after 14 laps, and in 2006, Kurt Busch lost the engine on his Dodge after 33 laps.
*Keselowski is the first All-Star last-place finisher to fall out with transmission trouble since 1994, when Terry Labonte’s #5 Kellogg’s Chevrolet broke after 36 laps.

22) #2-Brad Keselowski / 2 laps / transmission
21) #55-Mark Martin / 87 laps / crash
20) #10-Danica Patrick / 90 laps / running
19) #34-David Ragan / 90 laps / running
18) #15-Clint Bowyer / 90 laps / running / led 11 laps

CUP: Timmy Hill Trails Field In Sprint Showdown Debut

SOURCE: Debbie Ross, Skirts and Scuffs

Timmy Hill finished last in Saturday’s running of the Sprint Showdown at the Charlotte Motor Speedway when his #32 OXY Water Ford fell out with overheating trouble after he completed 6 of the race’s 40 laps.

The 20-year-old Hill has made ten starts in Cup Series points races, including five this year.  All of his starts in 2013 have come behind the wheel of the #32 fielded by FAS Lane Racing.  FAS Lane was founded by the reorganized Latitude 43 Motorsports in 2011, forming a new team both owned and crew chiefed by Frank “Frankie” Stoddard.

Hill’s 2013 debut at Fontana in March was marred by a sudden loss of fluid exiting turn two, causing several of the leaders to slip into the outside wall.  Since then, Hill has still neverfinish last, but has finished no better than 33rd.  He is still looking to improve on his career-best 22nd he earned at Kansas last fall.

Hill qualified 20th for Saturday’s 23-car race at an average speed of 185.861 mph.  He fell out during the first 20-lap segment, followed nine laps later by the #44 No Label Watches Ford of Scott Riggs.  Riggs was making his first Cup start of any kind since Martinsville, and rumors of Xxtreme Motorsports replacing Riggs with Mike Bliss for the moment appear to be untrue.

*This was Hill’s first last-place finish in the Sprint Showdown.  He was the first driver to finish last in his Showdown debut since 2008, when open-wheel star Patrick Carpentier crashed his #10 Valvoline Dodge after two laps.
*This was the first time a last-place finisher in the Showdown fell out with “overheating” as the listed cause.
*This was the first last-place finish in the Showdown for car #32.

23) #32-Timmy Hill / 6 laps / overheating
22) #44-Scott Riggs / 15 laps / vibration
21) #7-Dave Blaney / 24 laps / brakes
20) #36-J.J. Yeley / 27 laps / overheating
19) #52-Brian Keselowski / 36 laps / running

TRUCKS: Chris Jones Moves To Fifth In LASTCAR Truck Series Rankings

SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons

Chris Jones picked up the 6th last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Friday’s North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway when his unsponsored #93 RSS Racing Chevrolet fell out with clutch problems after he completed 4 of the race’s 134 laps.

The finish was Jones’ first of the season and his first in a Truck Series race since last fall at Texas, seven races ago.  Jones is now tied with Rick Crawford, Mike Hurlbert, and Butch Miller for fifth in the all-time LASTCAR Truck Series rankings.  Only five other drivers have scored more last-place finishes in series history.

Jones was making his third start of the year in the #93 fielded by owner Rod Sieg’s RSS Racing, the team that won the last three LASTCAR Truck Series titles with drivers Mike Garvey and Dennis Setzer.  His previous two finishes were a pair of 34th-place runs: he crashed late in the race at Rockingham, then parked at Kansas.

At Charlotte, Jones qualified 29th at an average speed of 175.798 mph, ranking him seventh among the thirteen “go-or-go-homers” on the entry list.  Jones pulled behind the wall during the opening green-flag run, edging German Quiroga by five laps.

Failing to qualify for Friday’s race were owner-drivers Norm Benning and Jennifer Jo Cobb.  Cobb, the last-place finisher at Martinsville, was the victim of a bizarre theft on May 11 when her hauler, containing $279,000 of equipment, was stolen from her shop in Mooresville, North Carolina.  One of the suspects was Rockingham last-placer Mike Harmon, who was arrested on Wednesday, then released on a $10,000 bond.  Harmon qualified for Friday’s race in the #84 Chevrolet he shares with owner Chris Fontaine, and he finished 24th.  Cobb, driving a loaned truck from another team, withdrew after engine trouble.

Jones, Cobb, and Harmon join Scott Riggs and Scott Saunders as the only Truck Series last-place finishers so far in 2013.

*This was the first last-place finish for the #93 in a Truck race at Charlotte since 2010, when Mike Garvey lost the engine on his #93 S&W Services Chevrolet after nine laps of the North Carolina Education Lottery 200.
*This was Jones’ first last-place finish at Charlotte, and the first time a truck finished last at Charlotte with clutch trouble as the listed cause.

36) #93-Chris Jones / 4 laps / clutch
35) #77-German Quiroga / 9 laps / crash
34) #99-Bryan Silas / 13 laps / crash
33) #75-Caleb Holman / 20 laps / crash
32) #18-Joey Coulter / 90 laps / running

1st) Mike Harmon, Jennifer Jo Cobb, Chris Jones, Scott Riggs, Scott Saunders (1)

1st) #0-Jennifer Jo Cobb, #10-Jennifer Jo Cobb, #84-Chris Fontaine, #92-Ricky Benton, #93-RSS Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet, RAM (2)
2nd) Ford (1)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Tribute To Dick Trickle (1941-2013)

Final Laps of the 1990 Winston Open at Charlotte
Cue to 19:04 To See Dick Trickle's Win Over Rob Moroso
(Posted by cubs604)

Twenty-three years ago this week, Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin driver Dick Trickle scored his only NASCAR Sprint Cup victory in the 1990 running of the Winston Open at Charlotte, the qualifier for what is now the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.  The 48-year-old Trickle, driving the #66 TropArtic Pontiac for Cale Yarborough, led 28 of the race’s 134 laps and defeated runner-up Rob Moroso by just eight inches in a thrilling photo finish.  Trickle went on to finish 6th in what was to be his only All-Star appearance.

That qualifying race turned out to be a battle of two star-crossed Rookie of the Year winners.  The 21-year-old Moroso claimed the 1990 title posthumously following his death in a traffic accident that September.  And just today, Trickle, the top rookie in 1989, lost his life in an apparent suicide at the age of 71.

Before ESPN will almost certainly give Dick Trickle the same treatment they gave the Neil Bonnett tribute car at Talladega by making fun of his name and his winless Cup career, I'd like to point out that Trickle was one of the last few ties the sport had with its dirt track racing past.  To have lost him under such circumstances is nothing short of a tragedy that should be treated as such.

Trickle was an ageless wonder in NASCAR.  His first Cup start came at Daytona in 1970 the week Pete Hamilton pulled the upset in his #40 Plymouth Superbird.  Trickle never went full-time until 1989, when he won Rookie of the Year at age 47 and finished 15th in points.  He won a pair of Nationwide races past the age of 55, one each in 1997 and 1998, both coming at a time where Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was on the ascendancy. His final Cup start of his long career didn’t come until 2002, when he finished 42nd at Dover at age 60.

Trickle was an absolute terror on the short tracks, a two-time ASA champion with more wins than even he could count, which translated directly to his performances on NASCAR’s short tracks.  He won his lone pole position at Dover in 1990 and came home 3rd, a finish he matched at Bristol in 1997, giving Junie Donlavey’s car its best finish since the team’s lone win with Jody Ridley at Dover in 1981.  He was cut from the same cloth as fellow short-trackers J.D. McDuffie, Neil Castles, and Buddy Arrington.  The clip of Trickle smoking in his car at Talladega has gone viral on YouTube, harkening back to McDuffie’s practice of taping cigars to the dashboard of his cars on race day.

Like his runs for Donlavey and Yarborough, Trickle racked up many of his best performances driving for the sport’s oldest teams, including the Stavola Brothers, Butch Mock, and Bud Moore.  He finished 5th in the 1992 Daytona 500 in Mock’s unsponsored #75 Oldsmobile, and when he then returned to the Stavola team that gave him Rookie of the Year, he scored two more Top Fives at Atlanta and Bristol.  Even in the twilight of his career, Trickle drove in relief of fellow Cup veteran Dave Marcis, and in his 300th start pulled off a stunning 7th-place qualifying run at Rockingham in 2001.

But most of all, Trickle was a tremendous personality who had some of the most passionate fans in the sport.  They, like him, enjoyed seeing him compete, no matter how long the odds.  And if anything is to be gained from this horrible tragedy, let it be the stories of those fans, friends, and family who knew him as a man, a racer, and a legend.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

CUP: Mike Bliss Snags 2013 LASTCAR Lead From McDowell At Darlington


Mike Bliss picked up the 13th last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Saturday’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 at the Darlington Raceway when his #19 G-Oil Toyota fell out with overheating issues after he completed 18 of the race’s 367 laps.

The finish was Bliss’ fourth of the 2013 season and his first since the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond, two races ago.  He now holds a one-finish lead over two-time and defending LASTCAR Cup Series Champion Michael McDowell.  McDowell fell out 40 laps after Bliss and came home 42nd.

Bliss and the #19 Humphrey-Smith Motorsports team were absent at Talladega last week, but returned to the track at Darlington.  The team was guaranteed a starting spot in the 43-car field after Brian Keselowski withdrew his #52, and Bliss qualified 38th at an average speed of 175.874 mph.  Bliss pulled behind the wall during the opening green-flag run. After McDowell’s exit after 58 laps came Scott Speed in the #95.  Last Sunday at Talladega, Speed finished 9th, giving the Leavine Family Racing team its best-ever finish.  David Ragan, the surprise winner at Talladega, rounded out the Bottom Five after a late engine failure.

Jayski reported earlier this month that Mike Bliss is headed to replace Scott Riggs as driver of the #44 No Label Watches Ford fielded by Xxxtreme Motorsports, and could run the car as soon as next Saturday in the Sprint Showdown at Charlotte.  As of this writing, the report is unconfirmed pending the release of the upcoming entry list.  Xxxtreme Motorsports has just one last-place finish, which occurred at Phoenix in March with Scott Riggs behind the wheel.

*This was the first last-place finish for the #19 in a Cup race at Darlington since April 9, 1978, when Dick May’s unsponsored #19 Chevrolet lost the ignition after 9 laps of the Rebel 500.  Just like in Saturday’s race, where Kyle Busch led 265 laps and finished 6th, the dominant car did not win.  Cale Yarborough led a race-high 171 laps that day only to lose the engine with 46 laps to go, handing the victory to Benny Parsons.
*This was Bliss’ first last-place finish in a Cup race at Darlington.

43) #19-Mike Bliss / 18 laps / overheating
42) #98-Michael McDowell / 58 laps / brakes
41) #95-Scott Speed / 77 laps / brakes
40) #30-David Stremme / 230 laps / engine
39) #34-David Ragan / 318 laps / engine

1st) Mike Bliss (4)
2nd) Michael McDowell (3)
3rd) Trevor Bayne, Dave Blaney, Joe Nemechek, Scott Riggs (1)

1st) #19-Humphrey-Smith Motorsports (4)
2nd) #98-Phil Parsons Racing (3)
3rd) #7-Tommy Baldwin Racing, #21-Wood Brothers Racing, #44-Xxxtreme Motorsports, #87-NEMCO Motorsports (1)

1st) Ford, Toyota (5)
2nd) Chevrolet (1)

N’WIDE: Tanner Berryhill Scores First Last-Place Finish At Darlington


Tanner Berryhill picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Nationwide Series career in Friday’s VFW Sport Clips 200 at the Darlington Raceway when his #17 Keller Williams Realty Toyota fell out with rear gear problems after he completed 3 of the race’s 147 laps.  The finish came in Berryhill’s seventh series start.

A short tracker with a handful of starts in ARCA, the K&N Pro Series East, and the X-1R Pro Cup Series, the nineteen-year-old driver from Bixby, Oklahoma made his Nationwide Series debut at Richmond in the spring of 2012, coming home 29th in the Jason Sciavicco-owned #24 Chevrolet.  His family has since started up its own Nationwide Series team, Vision Racing, resulting in a career-best 26th at Chicagoland last summer.

Friday’s race at Darlington would be just the second start of the year for both driver and team, following a 28th-place run at Richmond last month.  Unconfirmed reports of Matt Dibenedetto running the car did not come to fruition, and Berryhill remained in his #17.  Berryhill qualified 29th for the race at an average speed of 165.877 mph.  The lap was more than enough to bump from the field Jason Bowles in The Motorsports Group’s #47 and the #73 of Derrike Cope.  Cope, the three-time LASTCAR Cup Series Champion, was unsuccessful in his first attempt of the season following a wreck in qualifying.

Berryhill fell out of Friday’s race during the opening green-flag run, followed one lap later by the lowest-finishing The Motorsports Group Chevrolet of Chase Miller in the #46.  Miller’s teammate J.J. Yeley finished 38th while Jeff Green’s streak of three consecutive Nationwide last-place finishes ended with a 37th-place run.

For more information on Berryhill and team, check out his team’s website at

*This is the first last-place finish for the #17 in a Nationwide Series race since 2002, when Matt Kenseth’s Jani-King Ford lost the engine after 13 laps of the Sam’s Town 300.  Kenseth’s car was still owned by his racing rival and future crew chief Robbie Reiser, who gave the #17 its most recent Nationwide last-place run at Darlington in 1995 when his #17 FDP Brakes Chevrolet lost the engine 29 laps into the Mark III Vans 200.  Kenseth scored his first Cup win at Darlington on Saturday night in the Bojangles’ Southern 500.

40) #17-Tanner Berryhill / 3 laps / rear gear
39) #46-Chase Miller / 4 laps / overheating
38) #42-J.J. Yeley / 7 laps / rear gear
37) #10-Jeff Green / 16 laps / vibration
36) #24-Bryan Silas / 21 laps / crash

1st) Jeff Green (4)
2nd) Tanner Berryhill, Joey Gase, Johanna Long, Eric McClure, Michael McDowell (1)

1st) #10-TriStar Motorsports (4)
2nd) #14-TriStar Motorsports, #17-Vision Racing, #27-SR2 Motorsports, #52-Jimmy Means Racing, #70-ML Motorsports (1)

1st) Toyota (8)
2nd) Chevrolet (1)

Sunday, May 5, 2013

CUP: Bayne’s 2013 Restrictor Plate Struggles Continue With Talladega Engine Failure


Trevor Bayne picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 at the Talladega Superspeedway when his #21 Motorcraft / Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford lost the engine after he completed 22 of the race’s 192 laps.

The finish was Bayne’s first of 2013 and his first in a Cup race since last June at Michigan, thirty-one races ago.

Qualifying was rained-out on Saturday, so Bayne qualified 15th based on his practice speed of 198.372 mph.  He was looking for vindication after a miserable SpeedWeeks in February, where he had one of the fastest cars in qualifying, only to wreck and finish last in his Budweiser Duel, then crash again in the 500 and come home 27th.  In his two other starts at Las Vegas and Texas, however, Bayne had been improving, finishing 23rd and 18th, respectively.

During the opening laps of the Talladega race, it appeared that Joe Nemechek would tie the late J.D. McDuffie for the most last-place finishes in Cup Series history.  Nemechek started 41st and was the first car to lose a lap.  However, it was Bayne who ended up 43rd when a telltale plume of smoke burst from his #21 entering turn one, drenching in oil the windshield of Jamie McMurray’s #1 McDonald’s Chevrolet.  Nemechek ended up 39th after his own engine let go.  42nd-place Kasey Kahne once again narrowly avoided his first last-place run in Cup after a hard crash on Lap 42.

The race was won by David Ragan, securing the first Cup Series victory for underdog team Front Row Motorsports.  For more on this team, click here for the special LASTCAR feature.

*This was the first last-place finish for the #21 in a Cup race at Talladega since 1996, when Michael Waltrip’s #21 Citgo Ford lost the engine after 16 laps of the DieHard 500.  This was the only previous shortened Talladega race FOX brought up during the telecast, a race shortened by both rain and darkness to 129 laps.  It is also the race where Dale Earnhardt suffered extensive injuries during this grinding thirteen-car pileup on Lap 118.  Waltrip, who finished last that day, finished 4th on Sunday.

43) #21-Trevor Bayne / 22 laps / engine
42) #5-Kasey Kahne / 42 laps / crash
41) #83-David Reutimann / 43 laps / crash
40) #29-Kevin Harvick / 47 laps / crash / led 1 lap
39) #87-Joe Nemechek / 53 laps / engine

1st) Mike Bliss, Michael McDowell (3)
2nd) Trevor Bayne, Dave Blaney, Joe Nemechek, Scott Riggs (1)

1st) #19-Humphrey-Smith Motorsports, #98-Phil Parsons Racing (3)
2nd) #7-Tommy Baldwin Racing, #21-Wood Brothers Racing, #44-Xxxtreme Motorsports, #87-NEMCO Motorsports (1)

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

CUP EXTRA: David Ragan Gives Front Row Motorsports Its First Win

SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin'

Sunday’s race was won by David Ragan in the #34 Farm Rich Ford with a thrilling last-lap push from Front Row Motorsports teammate David Gilliland.  It was Ragan’s second Cup Series win, his first since he pulled the #6 UPS Ford into victory lane after the 2011 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona.

It was a tremendous victory not only for Ragan, but also for the fledgling three-car team that has been frequently featured on this site over the last five seasons.  It gives me great pleasure to congratulate Bob Jenkins and team on their win and to discuss the history of this underdog team.

Front Row Motorsports joined the Sprint Cup tour in 2005, fielding a #92 Chevrolet for Stanton Barrett at Bristol that year.  The team was owned by Bob Jenkins - of no relation to the ESPN commentator with the same name - and started just a handful of races over the next three seasons, employing underdogs like Tony Raines, Hermie Sadler, and Carl Long.

In 2008, the team made its first start in the Daytona 500 when John Andretti muscled the #34 Makoto’s Chevrolet into the field with a last-lap charge in the Gatorade Duels.  Brian Simo turned in an equally-inspiring qualifying run at Sonoma that June, bumping three fully-funded teams out of the field with a year-old “car of tomorrow” chassis.  Simo’s #34 No Fear Energy Ford finished last that day when the transmission broke after 20 laps.

In 2009, Andretti ran the full season in the team’s flagship #34 Taco Bell Chevrolet, earning a season-best 16th-place run at Loudon on June 28.  Jenkins added a “start-and-park” #37 team by mid-season, driven mostly by Tony Raines, preparing for an expansion to three teams in 2010.  The #37 made a late bid for the 2009 LASTCAR Cup Series Championship, but ultimately lost to PRISM Motorsports’ Dave Blaney.

All three Front Row Motorsports Fords made the field for the 2010 Daytona 500 with Travis Kvapil finishing tops among them in 29th ahead of 31st-place Robert Richardson, Jr. and 38th-place John Andretti.  All three drivers switched rides that year along with Kevin Conway, who struggled in his rookie campaign amidst controversy surrounding his male enhancement sponsor ExtenZe.  Conway left to join Robby Gordon’s team by the end of the year.

In 2011, Front Row reduced back down to two cars with David Gilliland in the #34 and Travis Kvapil in the #38.  Gilliland had a handful of surprising runs, finishing 3rd in the Daytona 500, then 9th at Talladega and 12th at Sonoma.  However, Front Row continued to struggle overall, and another “start-and-park” team, #55, debuted at Loudon with all-time last-place leader Jeff Green aboard.  Kvapil, Gilliland, and J.J. Yeley switched rides between the three teams for the rest of the year.  The #55 scored eight last-place finishes in the second half of the year, good enough to take the 2011 LASTCAR Owner’s Championship from HP Racing LLC’s #66, driven by Michael McDowell.

In 2012, David Ragan joined the #34 team following his release from Roush-Fenway Racing, moving Gilliland to the #38.  The “start-and-park” team became #26, introduced by Tony Raines at Daytona, but run for most of the season by JR Motorsports export Josh Wise.  The #26 was an early favorite for the LASTCAR title, but stalled after four last-place finishes, ultimately losing to Phil Parsons Racing’s #98 and the #19 of Humphrey-Smith Motorsports, both teams remnants of HP Racing LLC, and both scoring five last-place finishes that season.

This year, Ragan remained in the #34 and Gilliland in the #38 with Josh Wise’s new #35 no longer on “start-and-park” duty.  Through a patchwork of sponsors, the three have fought for consistency since they were all involved in the same wreck midway through February’s Daytona 500.  Wise scored a pair of 26th-place finishes at Bristol and last month at Kansas, improving on his career-best 30th at Sonoma last year.  Gilliland finished 23rd at Kansas while Ragan’s previous season-best came last week at Richmond, where he finished 20th.  Coming into Sunday, however, Ragan’s best finish with the team came at Talladega last fall, where he was involved in the massive last-lap pileup only to snake his way through to a 4th-place finish.

Now, after Sunday’s race, Ragan not only has his second career win, but Gilliland equaled his runner-up finish at Sonoma in 2008 driving for Yates Racing, while Wise improved his career-best run to 19th.

On top of this being Ragan’s second career Cup Series win, it is just the third time in Cup Series history that the #34 took the checkered flag.  Both races were historically significant.  The first came at the Charlotte Speedway on June 19, 1949 when Jim Roper’s 1949 Lincoln was declared the winner of NASCAR’s first ever Cup race after the disqualification of Glenn Dunaway.  The other came December 1, 1963 at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Florida, where owner-driver Wendell Scott became the first African-American racer to win a Cup Series race.  Like Roper, Scott was credited for the win long after the finish.  A questionable scoring error led to Scott running two extra laps in his 1962 Chevrolet, and the win was incorrectly given to the lapped Pontiac of Buck Baker.

N’WIDE: Green Doesn’t Sell His Ride, Scores Third Straight Last-Place Finish


Jeff Green picked up the 42nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Nationwide Series career in Saturday’s Aaron’s 312 at the Talladega Superspeedway when his unsponsored #10 TriStar Motorsports Toyota fell out with a vibration after he completed 3 of the race’s 110 laps.

The finish was Green’s fourth of 2013 and his third in a row, preceded by Texas and Richmond.  This Friday at Darlington, Green will have a chance to repeat his feat in August 2011 of scoring four consecutive last-place finishes.  Green remains the only driver in any of NASCAR’s top three divisions to accomplish that feat.

Green qualified 13th for the race at an average speed of 175.218 mph, ranking him third among the “go-or-go-homers” behind 4th-place Danica Patrick and 9th-place Kurt Busch, the latter driving a pink and yellow #1 Chevrolet in honor of the late Neil Bonnett.  It was Green’s best qualifying run since Daytona in July of 2009, when he also started 13th in the #05 Sour Patch Chevrolet fielded by Wayne Day.

Joining Stanton Barrett as the two drivers missing the show was John Wes Townley, whose time was disallowed due to his #25 Zaxby’s Toyota being too low.  Word had it that Townley was going to purchase Green’s spot in the race and transfer over his Zaxby’s sponsorship, but the plan was scrapped after Townley suffered injuries in a hard crash with teammate Milka Duno during the ARCA race the day before.  Curiously, Townley’s time was also disallowed in qualifying for the ARCA event due to a technical infraction, though he started the race on Owner Points.

Back in his own car, Green pulled behind the wall during the opening laps.  Danica Patrick narrowly averted her first last-place run since last August at Watkins Glen when she spun off Kyle Larson’s nose on Lap 15, then parked after a brief return to the track.  Larson followed Patrick in the final running order when his left-rear tire shredded off much of his car’s sheetmetal.  Joe Nemechek and first-time polesitter Travis Pastrana rounded out the Bottom Five.

*This was Green’s first last-place finish in a Nationwide race at Talladega since 2011, when his #44 TriStar Motorsports Chevrolet had a vibration after the opening lap of the Aaron’s 312.
*This is the first last-place finish for the #10 in a Nationwide race at Talladega.

40) #10-Jeff Green / 3 laps / vibration
39) #34-Danica Patrick / 16 laps / crash
38) #32-Kyle Larson / 52 laps / crash
37) #87-Joe Nemechek / 64 laps / running
36) #60-Travis Pastrana / 71 laps / crash / led 4 laps

1st) Jeff Green (4)
2nd) Joey Gase, Johanna Long, Eric McClure, Michael McDowell (1)

1st) #10-TriStar Motorsports (4)
2nd) #14-TriStar Motorsports, #27-SR2 Motorsports, #52-Jimmy Means Racing, #70-ML Motorsports (1)

1st) Toyota (7)
2nd) Chevrolet (1)

Saturday, May 4, 2013

OPINION: Broadcasters Utterly Disrespectful About Finch’s Tribute Car

Neil Bonnett and the #51 Country Time Chevrolet, 1994
I remember February 11, 1994 like it was only yesterday.

I was eleven at the time, and was already really big into NASCAR in the wake of “Days of Thunder.”  My favorite drivers were Ricky Rudd and Derrike Cope, primarily because of their neon-colored paint schemes.  I was the only NASCAR fan I knew in my town - other than my brother, anyway -  but even at that age, I knew who Neil Bonnett was.

After seeing Bonnett’s cameo in “Thunder,” I watched his show “Winners” regularly on TNN.  I also enjoyed his color commentary for CBS, and I felt the same connection with him as other greats of the broadcast booth like Bob Jenkins, Eli Gold, and Ken Squier.

It was because of this that Bonnett’s death in a practice crash for the Daytona 500 hurt so much.

The only time I watched Bonnett race was in 1993, when he raced at Talladega driving the Mom ‘n Pops #31.  Bonnett’s first Cup start since 1990 was a much-needed feel-good story just days after fellow “Alabama Gang” member Davey Allison’s fatal helicopter crash at the track.  Bonnett had his own frightening accident in the race itself, but fortunately walked away.  That November, Bonnett parked his #31 at Atlanta, helping longtime friend Dale Earnhardt earn his sixth of his seven Winston Cups.

Bonnett had eighteen career wins in 362 Cup starts, and though he hadn’t won since 1988, the desire to return to the track was just too strong.  He wanted to run just one more season.  For 1994, he joined up with Phoenix Racing, the single-car operation owned by James Finch.  His #51 Chevrolet would be sponsored by Country Time, the lemonade company which adorned TriStar Motorsports’ #68 cars in bright yellow and pink.  The late Bobby Hamilton carried TriStar’s equipment to his 1991 Rookie of the Year title.  Bonnett would run a limited schedule in the pink and yellow Chevrolet - just the biggest races of the year, starting with the Daytona 500 - then retire once more, perhaps staying in the booth or on “Winners” for the rest of his career.

Instead, on February 11, Bonnett lost his life in a vicious practice crash at age 47.

In the years since, Phoenix Racing has lived on, accomplishing amazing feats with limited resources, all the while keeping the spirit of Bonnett alive.  It was there when Jeff Purvis raced an outdated and unsponsored Bill Elliott car into the field for the 2001 Daytona 500.  It was there when Brad Keselowski gave Finch his first Cup win at Talladega in 2009.  And it was there again when Kurt Busch nearly won last year’s Cup race at Sonoma, then took a beat-up Chevrolet to victory lane in the Nationwide race at Daytona.

When I heard last week that Busch would be driving a bright pink and yellow #1 Chevrolet in Saturday’s Nationwide Series race, I was so excited that I could scarcely think of anything else all week.  I knew immediately what this would mean to people like me who remembered Bonnett, and to the fans at Talladega.  I dug out my old Neil Bonnett diecast and picked up some Country Time Pink Lemonade for the race.  I anticipated that the commentators on ESPN would be equally excited.

But all they did was make fun of the colors.

With the exception of Dr. Jerry Punch, who offered a few brief statements of his own, everyone on the ESPN crew handled the significance of the Finch car with startling insensitivity.  Yes, there was an acknowledgment that the car resembled one driven by Bonnett, but that’s where the analysis ended and the jokes began.

Nicole Briscoe, Brad Daugherty, and Rusty Wallace kept mocking the paint job, how it resembled Travis Pastrana’s “Trapper Keeper” scheme and how it was too bright to look at.  Allen Bestwick was reluctant to say the car had pink on it, even though the Country Time cars were among the most prolific on the track when he was doing radio broadcasts.  Shockingly, even Kurt Busch himself joined in on the fun, cracking wise about how you need a welder’s mask to look at the car, all the while wondering aloud why Finch insisted this car be kept up front at Bonnett’s home track.

But what hurt the most was ESPN’s total disregard of the man whom the car was meant to honor.  Not once in qualifying or the race did we ever see Bonnett’s face, nor any vintage clips of Bonnett’s eighteen wins.  There is literally no excuse for this - ESPN’s first live flag-to-flag NASCAR telecast in 1981 was one of Bonnett’s wins at Atlanta.  Surely, they could have easily showed that during the three-hour rain delay.

This may strike some of you as a trivial concern, but if you think that, you’re just not seeing the big picture.  Imagine if, after the terrorist attacks at the Boston Marathon, someone made fun of the marathon’s logo depicting a unicorn.  You know why no one did that?  Because it’s unspeakably inappropriate.  The mere passage of time doesn’t make an off-color comment more acceptable.

More than this, what ESPN did represents a fundamental problem with today’s NASCAR - a complete and utter disregard for its history and the people who made the sport what it is.  And I’m sure it’s a big reason the sport’s lost so many of its longtime fans.

Today’s NASCAR has three different commercials for erectile dysfunction, but apologizes when a driver curses after a misguided pit reporter shoves a microphone in his face.

Today’s NASCAR only obsesses over the progress of Danica Patrick instead of smaller teams like Tommy Baldwin Racing and the plight of “start-and-park” teams.

And, most despicable of all, today’s NASCAR mourns only the loss of Dale Earnhardt, but not his best friend Neil, and never mind Rodney Orr, J.D. McDuffie, Kenny Irwin, Jr., Tony Roper, John Nemechek, Grant Adcox, and the 44 others who may not be household names, but gave their lives to give us the sport we have today.

I am deeply offended, ESPN.  You owe us old school fans an apology.