Sunday, February 24, 2013

CUP: Nemechek Gets Third Daytona 500 Last-Place Finish As Three Underdogs Make The Top Ten

SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin'

Joe Nemechek picked up the 31st last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway when his #87 / D.A.B. Constructors Toyota fell out with engine problems after he completed 42 of the race’s 200 laps.

The finish was Nemechek’s first since last fall at Atlanta, twelve races ago.  He now stands just one finish short of tying the all-time Cup Series record of 32 last-place finishes by the late J.D. McDuffie.  Nemechek also holds sole possession of 2nd in the all-time LASTCAR rankings, breaking a tie with Derrike Cope.  He stands seven finishes behind all-time leader Jeff Green, who finished last for the 44th time the day before.

Entering his fifth season as an owner-driver in the Cup Series, Nemechek formed a technical alliance with Jay Robinson, owner of the now-defunct America-Israel Racing Team that fielded the #49 Toyota in 2012.  Unlike past seasons where he’d occasionally make the race on speed, however, Nemechek turned in a lap of just 190.046 mph, just 43rd-fastest out of the 45 cars attempting to qualify.  Despite the short entry list, this still put him in some danger of missing the race.

Thanks to a 13th-place finish in Budweiser Duel Race 1 on Thursday, Nemechek scored the 27th starting spot in Sunday’s field.  Better yet, by the end of the week, Nemechek’s plain black Toyota acquired a plethora of sponsors and looked prepared to run the full race.

On Sunday, Michael Waltrip’s Toyota was the first to fall to the rear, but Nemechek fell to 43rd, lost the draft, and was lapped soon after.  The first caution for debris gave him the Lucky Dog, but he went to the garage soon after the restart.  At that same time, a multi-car accident exiting the tri-oval gobbled up several contenders, including Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, and Kasey Kahne.  Stewart and Harvick sustained the most damage, and both soon fell to 41st and 42nd.

Nemechek returned to the track and first Stewart, then Harvick took the 43rd spot.  Stewart seemed set for his third last-place finish in the Daytona 500 (joining 2002 and 2007) while Harvick was in danger of scoring his first-ever last-place finish in a Cup points race.  However, when Nemechek exited the race a second time, Stewart and Harvick managed to complete enough laps to leave Nemechek with his own third last-place finish in the Daytona 500 (joining 1995 and 2010).

While Nemechek struggled, three drivers for three underfunded teams turned heads with surprising top-ten finishes.

Finishing 7th was Regan Smith, driving Phoenix Racing’s #51 Guy Roofing Chevrolet.  Smith, released from Furniture Row Racing late in the 2012 season, will share the #51 with several drivers in 2013, including A.J. Allmendinger and Austin Dillon.  Amid offseason rumors that team owner James Finch wouldn’t even enter a car in 2013, driver and team managed to put a car together for testing in January only to lose it in a multi-car crash.  On Thursday, Smith’s next car was damaged in a multi-car accident during the Budweiser Duels, and the backup’s transmission locked-up in practice the next day.  Then, on Saturday, Smith was wrecked out of the lead coming to the checkers in the Nationwide Series race, sparking the pileup that caused Kyle Larson’s vicious hit to the catchfence.  Despite all this, Smith scored Phoenix Racing’s best finish since Kurt Busch’s 3rd-place run at Sonoma last June.

Finishing 9th was Michael McDowell, driving the #98 K-Love / Curb Records Ford for Phil Parsons Racing.  McDowell, the two-time and defending LASTCAR Cup Series Championship, is entering his fourth season driving for owner Phil Parsons.  In that time, Parsons’ team has slowly begun to move away from its start-and-park status with a handful of full-race runs.  Following the team’s 2012 merger with Whitney Motorsports and the funding of record producer and longtime race owner Mike Curb, McDowell made the 500 last year and came home 30th, but still had to start-and-park for much of that year.  This year, McDowell started 38th, made his way into the Top 15 around the halfway point, then held onto his best-career finish in the run to the checkers.  McDowell’s best finish in 114 previous starts was 20th at Richmond in September 2008.

Finishing 10th was J.J. Yeley, driving the #36 Golden Corral Chevrolet for Tommy Baldwin Racing.  Yeley, an Arizona dirt tracker, once was the heir-apparent to drive the #18 vacated by Bobby Labonte in 2006.  Yeley struggled in his years for Joe Gibbs Racing and soon found himself moving from one ride to the next.  Last season, Yeley missed the 500 altogether, finishing last in his Budweiser Duel while driving for America-Israel Racing.  This year, Yeley was tabbed as the driver of Tommy Baldwin, Jr.’s new second team.  It was a difficult 2012 for Baldwin, who helped keep Stewart-Haas’ #10 in the Top 35 for Danica Patrick.  However, he then acquired the prized #7 once driven by Baldwin’s father in the NASCAR Modified Series, letting Dave Blaney run the number in 2013.  The team’s #36, debuted in 2009, was thus relegated to Baldwin’s second team, which went to Yeley.  Golden Corral continued its sponsorship of the #36 in the restrictor-plate races, and for the second time since 2011, the famous “Top 10 Kids Eat Free” promotion paid dividends.  Yeley’s 10th-place run is his best finish since a 3rd in the rain-shortened race at Loudon, New Hampshire in July 2008.

*This was Nemechek’s third last-place finish in the Daytona 500, and all three were in Nemechek’s self-owned #87.  The first came in 1995, when his Burger King Chevrolet crashed with Brett Bodine after eight laps.  The other came in 2010, when his England’s Stove Works Toyota was involved in a single-car accident after 64 laps.

43) #87-Joe Nemechek / 42 laps / engine
42) #29-Kevin Harvick / 47 laps / crash
41) #14-Tony Stewart / 118 laps / running
40) #35-Josh Wise / 137 laps / crash
39) #42-Juan Pablo Montoya / 144 laps / running

1st) Joe Nemechek (1)

1st) #87-NEMCO Motorsports (1)

1st) Toyota (1)

N’WIDE: Jeff Green Scores Fourth Consecutive Last-Place Finish At Daytona


Jeff Green picked up his 39th last-place finish of his NASCAR Nationwide Series career in Saturday’s DRIVE4COPD 300 at the Daytona International Speedway when his unsponsored #10 TriStar Motorsports Toyota fell out with a vibration after he completed 4 of the race’s 200 laps.

The finish was Green’s first since last fall at Richmond, nine races ago, the race where he beat Jeff Fuller’s single-season record of twelve NASCAR Nationwide Series last-place finishes.

Green, the two-time and defending LASTCAR Nationwide Series Champion, began his fourth season as driver of TriStar Motorsports’ start-and-park entry with a strong 16th-fastest lap in qualifying at a speed of 175.915 mph.  The lap was sixth-fastest among the drivers not locked-into the field, trailing only Travis Pastrana, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Danica Patrick, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Green fell to the rear of the field at the start, then pulled behind the wall after four laps just moments before Scott Lagasse, Jr.’s crash brought out the first caution of the day.

*This was the first last-place finish for the #10 in a Nationwide Series race last fall at Dover, when Charles Lewandoski’s turn in the TriStar Motorsports Toyota during the OneMain Financial 200 ended with a vibration after three laps.
*This was the best starting spot for a Nationwide Series last-place finisher since 2010, when Dennis Setzer’s K-Automotive Motorsports Dodge started 15th, then fell out with a vibration after three laps of the O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge at Texas.
*This marks Green’s fourth-consecutive season with at least one last-place finish in the Nationwide Series.
*This was Green’s second-consecutive last-place finish in this event, and his fourth in a row at Daytona.

40) #10-Jeff Green / 4 laps / vibration
39) #8-Scott Lagasse, Jr. / 7 laps / crash
38) #24-Blake Koch / 14 laps / overheating
37) #15-Juan Carlos Blum / 30 laps / crash
36) #34-Danica Patrick / 31 laps / engine / led 5 laps

1st) Jeff Green (1)

1st) #10-TriStar Motorsports (1)

1st) Toyota (1)

TRUCKS: Riggs Edges Cobb For Daytona Last-Place Finish


Scott Riggs scored his 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Friday’s NextEra Energy Resources 250 at the Daytona International Speedway when his #92 / BTS Tire & Wheel Distributors Chevrolet fell out with engine problems after 25 of the race’s 100 laps.

The finish was Riggs’ first last-place finish since last year at Kentucky, fifteen races ago.

Riggs qualified 18th for the 36-truck field, turning in a lap of 174.517 mph.

In the race itself, Jennifer Jo Cobb’s #10 Chevrolet seemed to be the race’s first retiree as she started last, lost the draft early, then pulled behind the wall.  Riggs, meanwhile, was running in the Top 10, apparently headed for a strong run.  However, when Riggs’ engine expired on the backstretch, bringing out the first caution of the night, Cobb returned to the track briefly, putting Riggs in the last spot.

*This was the first Truck Series last-place finish for the #92.
*Riggs’ three last-place finishes in this series have come in consecutive years.

36) #92-Scott Riggs / 25 laps / engine
35) #10-Jennifer Jo Cobb / 37 laps / engine
34) #84-Chris Fontaine / 53 laps / crash
33) #14-Brennan Newberry / 54 laps / crash
32) #99-Bryan Silas / 54 laps / crash

1st) Scott Riggs (1)

1st) #92-Ricky Benton (1)

1st) Chevrolet (1)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

CUP: Dominant Bayne Crashes Out Of First Budweiser Duel


Trevor Bayne finished last in Thursday’s First Budweiser Duel at the Daytona International Speedway when his #21 Motorcraft / Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford was involved in a four-car accident after 52 of the race’s 60 laps.

In eight previous restrictor-plate starts, Bayne, the surprise 2011 Daytona 500 winner, has started no worse than 15th in all but his two Daytona 500 starts.  The disparity has been due to his struggles in the qualifying races.  In 2011, Bayne started 2nd and was running with the leaders when he tangled with David Ragan and Jeff Gordon off the final corner, leaving him 19th.  In 2012, Bayne started 5th, but never led and finished 12th.

This time around, Bayne was again fast in qualifying, putting up a lap of 194.822 mph, third-fastest overall, giving him the outside-pole for the first Budweiser Duel.  With co-owner Leonard Wood joining brother Glenn in the NASCAR Hall of Fame earlier this year, Bayne’s car carried a special paint scheme commemorating the 50th anniversary of DeWayne “Tiny” Lund’s upset victory in the 1963 Daytona 500.

In Thursday’s race, Bayne’s car looked just as fast.  He passed polesitter Danica Patrick on the start and led the opening 36 laps virtually unopposed as fellow Ford driver Casey Mears held the second spot.  After briefly losing the lead to Kevin Harvick during green-flag stops, Bayne reassumed the lead on Lap 41 before Harvick passed him once more.  Back in traffic for the first time, Bayne was in exactly the wrong spot when Denny Hamlin lost control off turn two, hooking Carl Edwards into the outside wall.  Unable to check up in time, Bayne collided with Edwards, causing severe damage to the nose of his car.  Regan Smith spun to the apron in the ensuing chain-reaction.

Bayne and Edwards will go to backup cars for Sunday’s race.

Finishing two spots ahead of Bayne in Thursday’s race was Brian Keselowski in the #52 Wreaths Across America / Highland Wealth Advisors Toyota, a car fielded by his family’s team K-Automotive Motorsports and longtime owner-driver Jimmy Means.  The older brother of the defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion narrowly made a lap in qualifying after electrical problems, but ultimately missed the 500 field when he finished two laps down on Thursday.

LASTCAR was one of the contributing sponsors to the #52 effort and my name was on the block of text on the driver’s side of the car.  Although Keselowski will not be in Sunday’s race, this writer salutes the efforts of the team in its quest to return to the track.

*Bayne is just the second driver to lead at least one lap in the Budweiser Duels and finish last.  The only other time it happened was in 1969, when polesitter Buddy Baker’s #3 1969 Dodge led the opening lap of Race 1, then parked after two laps.
*This was the first last-place finish in the Budweiser Duels for Bayne, the #21, and the Wood Brothers.

23) #21-Trevor Bayne / 52 laps / crash / led 37 laps
22) #99-Carl Edwards / 52 laps / crash
21) #52-Brian Keselowski / 58 laps / running
20) #11-Denny Hamlin / 59 laps / running
19) #56-Martin Truex, Jr. / 60 laps / running

CUP: Bliss’ Loose Window Net Costly In Second Budweiser Duel


Mike Bliss finished last in Thursday’s Second Budweiser Duel at the Daytona International Speedway when his #19 G-Oil / Plinker Tactical Toyota finished running five laps down in the 60-lap race.

Bliss entered the 500 field driving for Humphrey-Smith Motorsports, the once start-and-park team for whom he made eighteen starts in the second half of the 2012 Cup Series season.  He picked up three last-place finishes in that run, including the most recent points race at Homestead last fall, and teammate Reed Sorenson in the #91 nearly unseated Michael McDowell as the 2012 LASTCAR Cup Series Champion.  Bliss also finished a strong 8th in points driving for TriStar Motorsports, co-owner Mark Smith’s Nationwide Series team, which also fielded the #10 team for defending LASTCAR Nationwide Series Champion and all-time last-place leader Jeff Green.

This year, Bliss’ efforts were rewarded with a fully-sponsored ride for the 500, a brand-new Toyota with full sponsorship from part-time Nationwide Series sponsor G-Oil and Cup Series sponsor Plinker Tactical.  Unfortunately, Bliss’ car was not as fast as it looked, and his lap of 189.438 mph was second-slowest overall ahead of Brian Keselowski.

Bliss started last in the 22-car field for the Second Budweiser Duel and, in the opening laps, managed to hang on to the lead draft.  However, during the middle stages of the race, Bliss’ window net came loose, forcing an unscheduled stop under green.  The race ran caution-free despite a late spin by Ryan Newman, and Bliss wound up trailing the field five laps down.  This caused Bliss to miss the field for the 500 along with Keselowski.

Bliss last made the 500 in 2010 when he raced a backup #36 Wave Energy Drink Chevrolet into the field, giving Tommy Baldwin Racing his second-straight start in the event.  This year, Baldwin’s team not only made the race for the fifth consecutive year, but for the first time put two cars into the show with drivers Dave Blaney and J.J.Yeley.

*This was the first last-place finish for the #19 in the Budweiser Duels since 1978, when Woody Fisher’s Belden Asphalt Chevrolet fell out after the opening lap of Race 2, following Earle Canavan to the garage area.
*Bliss is the first last-place finisher of the Budweiser Duels to finish under power since 2000, when both Bobby Gerhart’s Kewadin Casinos Chevrolet in Race 1 and Norm Benning’s SOBE Chevrolet in Race 2 finished three and two laps down, respectively.
*This was the first last-place finish in the Budweiser Duels for both Bliss and Humphrey-Smith Motorsports.

22) #19-Mike Bliss / 55 laps / running
21) #39-Ryan Newman / 58 laps / running / led 1 lap
20) #36-J.J. Yeley / 59 laps / running
19) #98-Michael McDowell / 59 laps / running
18) #32-Terry Labonte / 59 laps / running

Saturday, February 16, 2013

CUP: Terry Labonte Becomes All-Time Leader In Sprint Unlimited Last-Place Finishes


Terry Labonte finished last in Saturday’s Sprint Unlimited at the Daytona International Speedway when his #32 C&J Energy Services Ford fell out with a vibration after he completed two of the race’s 75 laps.

1989 and 1990 Sprint Unlimited winner Ken Schrader was originally listed as the driver of Frankie Stoddard’s #32 for the exhibition race.  However, prior to Friday’s practice, Terry Labonte, the 1985 Unlimited winner and the #32's driver for the Daytona 500, took over the ride.

Labonte’s run in the Unlimited did not last long as he pulled behind the wall during the opening green-flag run, twelve laps before an accident in turn one took out six other cars.

This marked Labonte’s third consecutive last-place finish in nineteen Sprint Unlimited starts.  His other two last-place runs were withdrawals from his last two Unlimited starts in 2005 and 2006, where he was set to run the #44 Kellogg’s Chevrolet in the former and the #96 DLP HDTV / Tweeter Chevrolet in the latter.  Prior to that, Labonte led a career-best 17 laps in the 2004 running and finished 8th behind winner Dale Jarrett.

Prior to this race, Labonte was one of seven drivers who had more than one last-place finish in the Unlimited, joining John Andretti, Geoffrey Bodine, Derrike Cope, Jeff Gordon, David Pearson, and Ricky Rudd.  With this third finish, Labonte now has more last-place finishes in this event than any other driver.

*This was the first last-place finish for the #32 in the Unlimited since 1995, when Chuck Bown withdrew his Active Trucking Chevrolet from the Busch Clash.  Bown was joined by Ernie Irvan, who was unable to run the #28 Texaco / Havoline Ford due to life-threatening injuries he suffered at Michigan the previous summer.
*Labonte is the first driver to finish last in the Unlimited due to a vibration.

19) #32-Terry Labonte / 2 laps / vibration
18) #55-Mark Martin / 14 laps / crash
17) #24-Jeff Gordon / 14 laps / crash
16) #18-Kyle Busch / 14 laps / crash
15) #11-Deny Hamlin / 14 laps / crash