Sunday, October 20, 2013

CUP: Tony Raines Scores First Cup Last-Place Finish Since 2009

SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin' Forums
Tony Raines picked up the 9th last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s Camping World RV Sales 500 at the Talladega Superspeedway when his unsponsored #40 Hillman Racing Chevrolet fell out with an engine failure after he completed 2 of the race’s 188 laps.

The finish was Raines’ first of 2013 and his first in a Cup race since November 15, 2009, when his #37 Long John Silver’s / A&W Chevrolet fell out with electrical problems after six laps of the Checker O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix.

Raines, a Cup Series veteran with 177 series starts, was making his eighth start of 2013.  All eight have come while driving cars owned by Joe Falk.  Falk returned to the Cup Series as a part-time owner in 2011 following an eleven year absence.  Last year, Falk acquired the #33 team from Richard Childress Racing in the aftermath of Clint Bowyer’s offseason move to Michael Waltrip Racing.  Raines made two of his seven starts that season driving Falk’s #33 Chevrolets, finishing 34th at Texas and 38th at Talladega.  Raines shared his ride with Stephen Leicht, who was declared last year’s Rookie of the Year despite making just fifteen starts.

This year, Falk’s team has coordinated its efforts with RCR in order to get Childress’ grandson Austin Dillon a chance at the Cup Series before his first full season in 2014.  The result has been a continuous game of musical chairs between Dillon, Raines, Landon Cassill, Ron Fellows, and Brian Scott.  Much like Danica Patrick’s arrangement with Tommy Baldwin Racing last year, this has resulted in two different teams running the same car number with different crews, both sharing the same owner points.

Dillon has made four starts in the #33 this season, having qualified 8th for the Daytona 500 and finished 11th at Michigan in June.  Cassill, who’s run the #33 in twenty of his twenty-nine starts this year, scored a season-best 22nd at Talladega in the spring.  Ron Fellows ran the #33 at both road courses, finishing 22nd at Sonoma and 35th at Watkins Glen.

At Indianapolis, Falk debuted a second team, #40, and had Cassill drive that car to a 33rd-place finish while Dillon finished 26th in the #33.  The next week at Pocono, Tony Raines made his first start of the year in the #33 while Cassill ran the #40.  Raines moved over to the #40 at Dover and finished 40th, then came home a season-best 29th the next week at Kansas.  Last week at Charlotte, Cassill drove the #40 while Brian Scott made his Cup debut in the Childress-prepared #33.  Talladega would see Raines return to the track in the #40 with Cassill in the #33.  Dillon would be in the field as well, making his second start in the #14 in relief of the injured Tony Stewart.

Forty-four cars showed up to qualify for Sunday’s race.  Time trials were washed out by rain, so the field was set by practice speeds, and Sam Hornish, Jr.’s #12 SKF Ford was sent home based on attempts and owner points.  Raines secured the 41st starting spot while Cassill trailed the field in 43rd.  Raines was 42nd in the opening practice and 28th out of 29 cars in Happy Hour.

At the start of Sunday’s race, Raines remained near the rear of the field with Cassill and Joe Nemechek.  Just two laps into the race, Raines’ car trailed smoke off of Turn Two, bringing out the first caution of the day.  He pulled behind the wall, done for the afternoon.  Nemechek pulled out fifty-eight laps later with engine trouble.  Finishing 41st was Juan Pablo Montoya, taken out in a two-car crash in the tri-oval after Marcos Ambrose lost control to his outside.  Ambrose finished under power in 39th, passing David Reutimann, who came home 40th after a late engine failure.

Dillon ended the race prematurely with a rookie mistake when he lost control on the final lap while racing for 2nd, then slid into traffic.  He collided with Casey Mears, sending Dillon’s Chevrolet into the air.  Dillon and Mears were uninjured in the crash.

Barely avoiding involvement in Dillon’s wreck was Michael McDowell, still the leader in the 2013 LASTCAR Cup Series standings.  McDowell finished an impressive 15th on Sunday, but ran as high as 8th with fifty laps to go.  His #98 Ford carried last-minute sponsorship that afforded him the opportunity for the team to run its first full race since Indianapolis in July.  It’s McDowell’s best Cup finish since he came home 9th in the season-opening Daytona 500.

*This was the first last-place finish in Cup for the #40 since 2008, when Dario Franchitti’s Juicy Fruit Slim Pack Dodge lost the engine after 30 laps of the Lifelock 400 at Michigan.  It was the only last-place finish of Franchitti’s abbreviated rookie season in Cup.  The team folded less than a month later, ultimately leading to his return to the IndyCar Series the following season.  Franchitti is currently recuperating from injuries suffered in a violent IndyCar accident at Houston two weeks ago.
*Neither Raines nor the #40 had ever before finished last in a Cup race at Talladega.

43) #40-Tony Raines / 2 laps / engine
42) #87-Joe Nemechek / 60 laps / engine
41) #42-Juan Pablo Montoya / 78 laps / crash
40) #83-David Reutimann / 119 laps / engine
39) #9-Marcos Ambrose / 134 laps / running

1st) Michael McDowell (6)
2nd) Mike Bliss (5)
3rd) Scott Riggs (4)
4th) Bobby Labonte, Joe Nemechek, Scott Speed, J.J. Yeley (2)
5th) Trevor Bayne, Dave Blaney, Jeff Burton, Denny Hamlin, Jason Leffler, Paul Menard, Danica Patrick, Tony Raines, David Reutimann (1)

1st) #19-Humphrey-Smith Racing, #98-Phil Parsons Racing (6)
2nd) #44-Xxxtreme Motorsports, #95-Leavine Family Racing (3)
3rd) #36-Tommy Baldwin Racing, #87-NEMCO Motorsports (2)
4th) #7-Tommy Baldwin Racing, #10-Stewart-Haas Racing, #11-Joe Gibbs Racing, #21-Wood Brothers Racing, #27-Richard Childress Racing, #31-Richard Childress Racing, #40-Hillman Racing, #47-JTG Daugherty Racing, #51-Phoenix Racing, #83-BK Racing (1)

1st) Ford (13)
2nd) Toyota (11)
3rd) Chevrolet (8)

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