The finish was McDowell’s fourth of 2013 and his first since earlier this year in Texas, nineteen races ago. With ten races to go, McDowell, the two-time and defending LASTCAR Cup Series Driver’s Champion, now trails Mike Bliss by a single finish. Bliss failed to qualify for Saturday’s race by eight hundredths of a second. With three DNQs and a withdrawal at Atlanta since their last start at Watkins Glen, the #19 Humphrey-Smith Motorsports team for which Bliss drives is still looking for its first start since Watkins Glen, four races ago.
McDowell timed in 30th for Saturday’s field at an average speed of 128.047 mph. At the start of the race, however, last place switched between Reed Sorenson, making his first Cup start since last fall at Texas as the new driver of the Leavine Family Racing / Crusader Staffing #95, and Joe Nemechek in the AMFMEnergy.com Toyota. Nemechek had the upper hand for several laps, apparently headed to breaking his tie with the late J.D. McDuffie for the most last-place runs in Cup history. He returned to the track, however, while McDowell exited the race, and the #98 soon found itself in 43rd.
Rounding out the Bottom Five were Sorenson, who was followed by Josh Wise, who also spent several laps going in and out of the garage area. Despite the birth of his second child, point leader Jimmie Johnson continued his late-summer slide with his third bottom-five finish in the last four races. His collision with the Turn 1 wall with fifty-five laps to go also brought out the first of two cautions that completely changed the complexion of the Chase field. Johnson still finished under power, as did Nemechek, who rounded out the Bottom Five. McDowell, Sorenson, and Wise were the night's only three retirees.
As of this writing (late Sunday night), McDowell is still the official last-place finisher of this race. Just in case NASCAR’s review of the finish changes that, I’ll also say that Clint Bowyer has never finished last in 279 Cup Series starts, and a driver hasn’t finished last due to disqualification since Bobby Hillin, Jr. during the fall Charlotte race in 1992.
Just throwing it out there.
*This is the first last-place finish for the #98 in a Cup race at Richmond since September 9, 1984 - 29 years ago today - when outside-polesitter Joe Ruttman’s Levi Garrett Chevrolet fell out with ignition problems after he completed 120 laps of the Wrangler Sanfor-Set 400.
*This is McDowell’s first last-place finish in a Cup race at Richmond.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #98-Michael McDowell / 76 laps / brakes
42) #95-Reed Sorenson / 126 laps / brakes
41) #35-Josh Wise / 142 laps / vibration
40) #48-Jimmie Johnson / 372 laps / running
39) #87-Joe Nemechek / 388 laps / running
LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Mike Bliss (5)
2nd) Michael McDowell (4)
3rd) Scott Riggs (3)
4th) Bobby Labonte, Joe Nemechek, Scott Speed (2)
5th) Trevor Bayne, Dave Blaney, Jeff Burton, Denny Hamlin, Jason Leffler, Paul Menard, David Reutimann, J.J. Yeley (1)
LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #19-Humphrey-Smith Racing (6)
2nd) #98-Phil Parsons Racing (4)
3rd) #44-Xxxtreme Motorsports (3)
4th) #87-NEMCO Motorsports, #95-Leavine Family Racing (2)
5th) #7-Tommy Baldwin Racing, #11-Joe Gibbs Racing, #21-Wood Brothers Racing, #27-Richard Childress Racing, #31-Richard Childress Racing, #36-Tommy Baldwin Racing, #47-JTG Daugherty Racing, #51-Phoenix Racing, #83-BK Racing (1)
LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Toyota (11)
2nd) Ford (10)
3rd) Chevrolet (5)