The finish was McDowell’s sixth of 2013, his first since Chicagoland two races ago, and his third in the last four races. He now holds sole possession of the 2013 LASTCAR Cup Series Driver’s Championship by one finish over Mike Bliss. Bliss and the #19 Humphrey-Smith Motorsports team were once again absent from the Cup Series entry list. With seven races to go, however, the LASTCAR Cup title is still anyone’s to win.
McDowell qualified 34th for Sunday’s race at an average speed of 156.883 mph. Without Bliss on the entry list, all 43 entrants made the field.
Though just two cautions slowed the first half of the event, Sunday’s race saw an intense battle for last place. 43rd originally belonged to Tony Raines, who started there in his #40 Hillman Racing Chevrolet. However, Josh Wise slipped behind him when an unscheduled stop cost his #35 MDS Transport Ford three laps. Wise returned to the track as several others slipped down to the Bottom Five. With no one falling out of the race in the first quarter of the distance, Dave Blaney, Ryan Truex, Reed Sorenson, Timmy Hill, and Joe Nemechek all slipped in and out of the final five spots.
Near the one-quarter mark, it appeared that Nemechek would prevail. The owner-driver’s #87 spent nearly eighty laps behind the wall, nudging Josh Wise off the 43rd spot. It appeared he would not return to the race, and I even posted on Twitter that he had secured the record-breaking 33rd last-place finish of his Cup career. However, unconfirmed Twitter reports indicated Nemechek’s crew was welding together a broken part and looked to return the track. Nemechek did, in fact, return, by which point he was twelve laps behind the new 42nd-place driver Michael McDowell. McDowell had pulled behind the wall while Nemechek was in the garage and, unlike Nemechek, did not look to return. Thus, when Nemechek passed McDowell on the track around Lap 185, the #98 ended up with 43rd place.
Rounding out the Bottom Five were Josh Wise, who finally exited the race twenty-one laps after McDowell, Reed Sorenson in his return to the Leavine Family Racing #95, Tony Raines, and Nemechek. Nemechek’s listed reason out is suspension trouble, which may indicate this was what the team had tried to repair.
*This was McDowell’s first last-place finish in a Cup race at Dover since the spring of 2011, when his unsponsored #66 HP Racing Toyota fell out with electrical problems after he completed forty-five laps of the FedEx 400 Benefitting Autism Speaks.
*This was the first time the #98 has ever finished last in a Cup Series race at Dover.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #98-Michael McDowell / 107 laps / brakes
42) #35-Josh Wise / 128 laps / brakes
41) #95-Reed Sorenson / 139 laps / brakes
40) #40-Tony Raines / 154 laps / vibration
39) #87-Joe Nemechek / 168 laps / suspension
LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Michael McDowell (6)
2nd) Mike Bliss (5)
3rd) Scott Riggs (4)
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, #98-Phil Parsons Racing (6)
2nd) #44-Xxxtreme Motorsports, #95-Leavine Family Racing (3)
3rd) #87-NEMCO Motorsports (2)
4th) #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) Ford (13)
2nd) Toyota (11)
3rd) Chevrolet (5)