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.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
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
LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Mike Bliss (4)
2nd) Michael McDowell (3)
3rd) Trevor Bayne, Dave Blaney, Joe Nemechek, Scott Riggs (1)
LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
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)
LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Ford, Toyota (5)
2nd) Chevrolet (1)