|SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin Forums|
The finish was Speed’s second of the 2013 season and his first since Charlotte, thirteen races ago.
Since Charlotte, Speed and the Leavine Family team have made just four starts, finishing under power just once - a 28th-place run in the night race at Daytona. Atlanta was Speed’s third consecutive start in as many races, following a 41st-place run at Michigan and a 40th in Bristol, the latter just shy of the race’s halfway point.
Following the injury of Bobby Labonte, slated to run the #51 Phoenix Racing entry in Atlanta, Mike Bliss drove the car in relief. Bliss’ #19 Humphrey-Smith Motorsports entry, a team which failed to qualify for the last two races, withdrew from the Atlanta event, so the forty-three cars that remained all made the race. Speed qualified 35th at an average speed of 182.747 mph. Bliss timed in 38th at 181.932 mph. Unable to take a qualifying time was Michael McDowell, who as a result started 43rd in his #98 Phil Parsons Racing Ford.
In the race, Joe Nemechek fell to the rear first, but Speed prevented Nemechek from scoring his record-setting 33rd Cup Series last-place finish. Martin Truex, Jr. had qualified 7th, but his bid for a Wild Card spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship faced an obstacle when Truex fractured his wrist in a late-race wreck at Bristol. Though Truex was confident he could run the full race, Speed pulled his car behind the wall so he could stand by as a relief driver.
Truex never got out. Even as his cast melted and came apart, Truex contended for the lead in the sprint to the finish before he came home 3rd. Heading to Richmond, Truex remains 13th in points, holding the second of the two Wild Card slots.
The other Wild Card slot is currently held by Kasey Kahne, who fell out of the Top Ten in points following a collision with his Hendrick Motorsports teammates on an early restart. Kahne’s damage kept him 42nd in the early stages, but he eventually returned to the track and finished 36th. The final Bottom Five included McDowell, the MDS Transport Ford of Josh Wise, Nemechek, and Clint Bowyer, who briefly held the Cup Series point lead before an engine failure took him out of the race while leading.
*This was the first last-place finish for both Speed and the #95 in a Cup Series race at Atlanta.
*Ford had not finished last in a Cup race at Atlanta since March 12, 2000, when Jeff Burton’s #99 Exide Batteries Ford led five of the first 68 laps before he crashed out on Lap 70 of the Cracker Barrel 500. This race is better known for its finish where the late Dale Earnhardt edged Bobby Labonte in a photo finish by 0.010 second - a finish Kevin Harvick re-enacted almost exactly in Earnhardt’s car in the 2001 running.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #95-Scott Speed / 22 laps / vibration
42) #98-Michael McDowell / 92 laps / vibration / led 1 lap
41) #35-Josh Wise / 94 laps / vibration
40) #87-Joe Nemechek / 114 laps / vibration
39) #15-Clint Bowyer / 192 laps / engine / led 48 laps
LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Mike Bliss (5)
2nd) Michael McDowell, Scott Riggs (3)
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)
LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #19-Humphrey-Smith Racing (6)
2nd) #44-Xxxtreme Motorsports, #98-Phil Parsons Racing (3)
3rd) #87-NEMCO Motorsports, #95-Leavine Family Racing (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) Toyota (11)
2nd) Ford (9)
3rd) Chevrolet (5)