Sunday, November 3, 2013

CUP: Michael McDowell Secures Record-Breaking Third Consecutive LASTCAR Cup Series Championship

Michael McDowell picked up the 26th last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway when his unsponsored #98 Phil Parsons Racing Ford fell out with a vibration after he completed 27 of the race’s 334 laps.

The finish was McDowell’s seventh of 2013 and his first since Dover, five races ago.  Now two finishes ahead of second-place Mike Bliss in this year’s last-place standings with just two races to go, McDowell has secured the 2013 LASTCAR Cup Series Championship.  Bliss, who has not started a Cup race since Atlanta in September, would lose the championship even if he finished last at both Phoenix and Homestead.  McDowell already leads the bottom-five tiebreaker 23-11.

McDowell is the first Cup driver ever to score three consecutive LASTCAR Cup Series championships.  The late J.D. McDuffie scored three out of four from 1984 through 1987.

McDowell’s three titles have all come driving for Phil Parsons, who in 2010 signed the former Michael Waltrip Racing rookie to join Dave Blaney at PRISM Motorsports.  When Blaney eventually left to join Tommy Baldwin Racing, McDowell became the team’s only driver for HP Racing LLC, the Parsons team’s new name in 2011.

McDowell claimed the 2011 LASTCAR title in a close contest with Travis Kvapil, then driving a “start-and-park” entry, #55, for Front Row Motorsports.  The next two titles came after the Parsons team merged with Whitney Motorsports who, with the help of longtime Cup owner Mike Curb, formed Phil Parsons Racing.  Last year’s title chase was again a close one as McDowell claimed the title in a bottom-ten tiebreaker over Reed Sorenson, driving for former PRISM partner Randy Humphrey.

This week, it was announced that McDowell would be leaving the Parsons team in 2014 to replace Sorenson as driver of the #95 Leavine Family Racing team. McDowell drove the #95 in his first-ever start in the Sprint Showdown at Charlotte this past May.  McDowell finished 14th in the 23-car field.  Like the Parsons team, which turned in an impressive 9th in the Daytona 500 and a 15th last month at Talladega, the Leavine team has also turned heads in 2013, finishing 9th with driver Scott Speed in the spring Talladega race.

At Texas, McDowell began the weekend filling in for 2013 LASTCAR Nationwide Series Champion Jeff Green as driver of the #10 TriStar Motorsports Toyota while Green relieved TriStar teammate Eric McClure in the #14.  McDowell finished last that day and was set to start 35th for Sunday’s Cup race.  McDowell secured the spot with a lap of 189.321 mph, having turned in the 40th fastest time in the opening practice, then improved to 37th in Happy Hour.

At the start of Sunday’s race, last-place was juggled between 43rd-place starter J.J. Yeley, who spun out in his qualifying attempt, and the #87 of Joe Nemechek.  Nemechek was still running near the back when the first caution came out for debris on Lap 16.  Under the yellow, McDowell decided not to pit in order to lead a lap.  He ran on the outside of Carl Edwards before surrendering the lead on the backstretch just before the green flag. McDowell pulled out of the race soon after the restart, securing him the 43rd spot.

It was the first time a driver finished last in the Cup and Nationwide races at the same track and on the same weekend since Josh Wise at Bristol in the spring of 2012.

Finishing 42nd was David Ragan, last week’s last-placer at Martinsville, who suffered another engine failure after 81 laps.  Jeff Gordon, who wrecked in Turn 1 on Lap 75, had fallen as far back as 42nd, but returned to the track in the final sixty laps to climb up to 38th.  The rest of the Bottom Five included 41st-place Timmy Hill, whose engine let go after 125 laps, Bobby Labonte, who also lost an engine after 144, and Josh Wise in Front Row’s #35.

*McDowell is the first Cup Series last-place finisher this season to have led a single lap in the same race.
*McDowell has swept both Cup Series last-place finishes at Texas in 2013.  In the spring, his car overheated after 44 laps, and he relieved an ailing Bobby Labonte for a few additional laps.

43) #98-Michael McDowell / 27 laps / vibration / led 1 lap
42) #34-David Ragan / 81 laps / engine
41) #32-Timmy Hill / 125 laps / engine
40) #47-Bobby Labonte / 144 laps / engine
39) #35-Josh Wise / 145 laps / vibration

1st) Michael McDowell (7)
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, David Ragan, Tony Raines, David Reutimann (1)

1st) #98-Phil Parsons Racing (7)
2nd) #19-Humphrey-Smith 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, #34-Front Row Motorsports, #40-Hillman Racing, #47-JTG Daugherty Racing, #51-Phoenix Racing, #83-BK Racing (1)

1st) Ford (15)
2nd) Toyota (11)
3rd) Chevrolet (8)

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