Sunday, September 22, 2013

CUP: Scott Riggs Scores Ford’s Third-Straight Sylvania 300 Last-Place Finish

SOURCE: Rob Dostie
Scott Riggs picked up the 10th last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s Sylvania 300 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway when his unsponsored #95 Leavine Family Racing Ford fell out with brake trouble after he completed 92 of the race’s 300 laps.

The finish was Riggs’ fourth of the year and his first since earlier this year in Kentucky, eleven races ago.  Riggs remains second in the 2013 LASTCAR Cup Series Championship, but now one finish behind Mike Bliss and Michael McDowell with eight races still to go.

Riggs was making his first Cup start since that same Kentucky race.  That day, Riggs was making his sixth start of the season for Xxxtreme Motorsports, whose distinctive #44 Fords ran a part-time schedule this season.  Since then, Xxxtreme has not attempted another race, and Riggs has made just one start in NASCAR’s top three divisions - a 29th-place finish driving for Ricky Benton in last week’s Truck Series race in Chicago.

For Sunday’s Cup race, Riggs was tabbed to drive for Leavine Family Racing, another single-car team.  Leavine’s #95 had two last-place finishes this season, both with former Formula 1 and Red Bull Racing driver Scott Speed aboard.  Speed finished a season-best 9th at Talladega in the spring, allowing the Leavine team to extend its partial season, but he was replaced two races ago at Richmond by Reed Sorenson.  Following Sorenson’s back-to-back 42nd-place finishes with partial sponsorship on the hood of the car, Riggs was tabbed to take over in Loudon.

Riggs qualified 40th for Sunday’s race at an average speed of 131.035 mph.  With Mike Bliss and the #19 Humphrey-Smith Motorsports team missing from the entry list for the third time in the last four races, all forty-three cars that arrived made the starting field.  Michael McDowell, tied with Bliss for the LASTCAR lead, acquired a fully-sponsored ride with Phoenix Racing in the #51 SEM Chevrolet.  Truck Series regular Johnny Sauter filled-in for McDowell in the #98 Phil Parsons enry.

Riggs had a new sponsor on the hood of his car for Sunday’s race (UPDATE: Rob Dostie's photo reveals the sponsor as Star Coach Race Tours, which funded the #52 K-Automotive car earlier this season.  The car also ran chrome wheels from Michael Waltrip Racing at one point, much like Whitney Motorsports did at Sonoma in 2011.).  The race saw a surprising number of movement around the Bottom Five.  Timmy Hill and his #32 U.S. Chrome Ford were the first to lose a lap, but when McDowell tangled with Josh Wise on Lap 31, the latter in a backup #35 Ford, both slipped to the rear.  Just after the restart, Jamie McMurray spun off the nose of teammate Juan Pablo Montoya, collecting Kevin Swindell.  Swindell, making his Sprint Cup debut in the #30 Genny Light Toyota, suffered nose damage in the wreck that sent him behind the wall and back to 43rd.

On Lap 53, just moments after the restart from the Swindell wreck, Bobby Labonte crashed on the frontstretch with an assist from David Gilliland, dropping Labonte’s #47 to 42nd.  Swindell returned to the track, and by the one-third mark, Labonte dropped to what looked to be his third last-place finish of the year.  But Labonte returned to the track as well, and by that point both Riggs and Sauter had pulled their own cars out of the race.  Around Lap 200, Labonte passed Riggs, dropping the #95 to the 43rd spot.

Joining Riggs and Sauter in the Bottom Five were Tony Raines, who ended up with the worst finish of the year for the #33 Joe Falk-owned entry, and both Labonte and Gilliland, who both exited the race with crash damage.

*This was the first last-place finish for both Riggs and the #95 in a Cup Series race in New Hampshire.
*This marks the third-straight year that a Ford has finished last in this event.

THE BOTTOM FIVE (Pictures by Rob Dostie)
43) #95-Scott Riggs / 92 laps / brakes

42) #98-Johnny Sauter / 103 laps / brakes

41) #33-Tony Raines / 128 laps / brakes

40) #47-Bobby Labonte / 161 laps / crash

39) #38-David Gilliland / 239 laps / crash

1st) Mike Bliss, Michael McDowell (5)
2nd) Scott Riggs (4)
3rd) Bobby Labonte, Joe Nemechek, Scott Speed (2)
4th) Trevor Bayne, Dave Blaney, Jeff Burton, Denny Hamlin, Jason Leffler, Paul Menard, David Reutimann, J.J. Yeley (1)

1st) #19-Humphrey-Smith Racing (6)
2nd) #98-Phil Parsons Racing (5)
3rd) #44-Xxxtreme Motorsports, #95-Leavine Family Racing (3)
4th) #87-NEMCO Motorsports (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)

1st) Ford (12)
2nd) Toyota (11)
3rd) Chevrolet (5)

EDIT (September 24): Updated article with pictures taken by regular LASTCAR contributor Rob Dostie.  Great job, Rob, and thanks again!

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