Sunday, June 30, 2013

CUP: Scott Riggs Scores Second-Straight Last-Place Finish At Kentucky

SOURCE: TheHotLap.com
Scott Riggs picked up the 9th last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s Quaker State 400 at the Kentucky Speedway when his #44 No Label Watches Ford fell out with transmission trouble after he completed 6 of the race’s 267 laps.

The finish was Riggs’ third of the season and his first since Dover, four races ago.

The Xxxtreme Motorsports team was one of three Cup Series teams that skipped last Sunday’s running of the Toyota / Save Mart 350 at the Sonoma Raceway, joining Michael McDowell and his #98 Phil Parsons Racing team and the Leavine Family Racing #95 driven by Scott Speed.  While the #95 remained absent, Riggs and the Xxxtreme Motorsports crew returned at Kentucky along with McDowell and the #98.

The entry list remained at forty-three cars, however, so Riggs started last in the field with a lap of 175.143 mph.  Ken Schrader, who timed-in a half-second slower than Riggs, qualified 42nd in FAS Lane Racing’s #32 Federated Auto Parts Ford, but was sent to the back on race day when he missed driver introductions.

The race was postponed by rain from Saturday night to Sunday morning, and Mike Bliss was the first car to fall to the rear, riding in his #19 Humphrey-Smith Racing Toyota.  He only held 43rd briefly before Riggs pulled behind the wall after six laps.  Joe Nemechek followed him a few laps later to slip back to 42nd.

However, Nemechek pulled back on track after Lap 48, when Kurt Busch spun Brad Keselowski entering Turn 1.  Keselowski slid into the path of Greg Biffle, triggering a seven-car pileup that gobbled-up Travis Kvapil, Dave Blaney, Paul Menard, and Landon Cassill.  Kvapil’s #93 was the only car involved that didn’t return to the track, so he wound up 42nd.  Bliss completed ten more laps before parking, leaving him 41st, followed by the crash-damaged Blaney in 40th.  Rounding out the Bottom Five was Josh Wise in the #35, his fourth-straight finish of 32nd or worse.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This was Riggs’ second-straight last-place finish in a Cup race at Kentucky.  Last year, he trailed the field driving the #23 North Texas Pipe Chevrolet for R3 Motorsports.
*Riggs was the fourth Cup last-place finisher in the last six races to fall out due to transmission problems.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #44-Scott Riggs / 6 laps / transmission
42) #93-Travis Kvapil / 47 laps / crash
41) #19-Mike Bliss / 57 laps / vibration
40) #7-Dave Blaney / 62 laps / crash
39) #35-Josh Wise / 77 laps / electrical

LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Mike Bliss (4)
2nd) Michael McDowell, Scott Riggs (3)
3rd) Bobby Labonte (2)
4th) Trevor Bayne, Dave Blaney, Jason Leffler, Joe Nemechek, Scott Speed (1)

LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #19-Humphrey-Smith Racing (5)
2nd) #44-Xxxtreme Motorsports, #98-Phil Parsons Racing (3)
3rd) #7-Tommy Baldwin Racing, #21-Wood Brothers Racing, #47-JTG Daugherty Racing, #51-Phoenix Racing, #87-NEMCO Motorsports, #95-Leavine Family Racing (1)

LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Ford (8)
2nd) Toyota (7)
3rd) Chevrolet (2)

N’WIDE: Jeff Green Trails 50th NASCAR Field By Edging LASTCAR Record Holder Derrike Cope At Kentucky

SOURCE: NASCAR Media
Jeff Green picked up the 45th last-place finish of his NASCAR Nationwide Series career in Friday’s Feed The Children 300 at the Kentucky Speedway when his unsponsored #10 TriStar Motorsports Toyota fell out with a vibration after he completed 3 of the race’s 170 laps.

The finish was Green’s seventh of 2013, his second in a row, and his 50th across NASCAR’s top three divisions.  He now leads the all-time NASCAR last-place rankings by thirteen finishes over Joe Nemechek.

Green qualified 26th for Saturday’s race at an average speed of 168.167 mph, ranking him third among the “go-or-go-homers” behind only Kevin Swindell in the #98 and Jamie Dick in the #55.  Just forty-one drivers showed up to attempt to qualify, and Michigan last-placer Dexter Stacey was the only driver to miss the show.

When the race started, Green fell to the rear, then pulled behind the wall after three laps, scoring him his third last-place finish in the last four races.

Green secured the finish despite completing the same number of laps as 1990 Daytona 500 winner Derrike Cope, who qualified eleven spot worse than Green in the 37th position.  The 54-year-old Cope, also the three-time LASTCAR Cup Series Champion and the all-time NASCAR last-place record holder from May 2008 through June 2012, was making his first Nationwide start of the season driving his self-prepared #73 Maxelence Chevrolet.  Cope had failed to qualify for the spring race at Darlington in May.  As of this writing, it is not clear whether Cope will run next Friday’s race at Daytona, an event he last started in 2011, when he came home 29th.

The Motorsports Group teammates J.J. Yeley (#46) and Josh Wise (#42) came home 37th and 38th, respectively.  None of the Curtis Key-owned cars have finished last in any of these first fifteen races of the year, but at least one of the team’s cars have been in the Bottom Five in thirteen of the season’s first fifteen races, excluding Daytona and Talladega.

Landon Cassill rounded out the Bottom Five in his #4 JD Motorsports Chevrolet, his second-consecutive DNF due to engine failure, but just his third finish of 36th or worse so far this year.  His best remains a 17th at Talladega, which came despite a hard last-lap crash in the tri-oval.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This was Green’s first last-place finish in a Nationwide race at Kentucky, but the second in a row for the #10 TriStar Motorsports team.  Last September, Charles Lewandoski fell out after four laps of the Kentucky 300 due to a vibration.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #10-Jeff Green / 3 laps / vibration
39) #73-Derrike Cope / 3 laps / rear gear
38) #42-Josh Wise / 7 laps / vibration
37) #46-J.J. Yeley / 10 laps / transmission
36) #4-Landon Cassill / 14 laps / engine

LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Jeff Green (7)
2nd) Tanner Berryhill, Joey Gase, Blake Koch, Johanna Long, Eric McClure, Michael McDowell, Robert Richardson, Jr., Dexter Stacey (1)

LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #10-TriStar Motorsports (7)
2nd) #14-TriStar Motorsports, #17-Vision Racing, #23-R3 Motorsports, #27-SR2 Motorsports, #52-Jimmy Means Racing, #70-ML Motorsports, #92-KH Motorsports, #00-SR2 Motorsports (1)

LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Toyota (12)
2nd) Chevrolet (2)
3rd) Ford (1)

TRUCKS: Chris Lafferty Ties The 2013 LASTCAR Truck Series Owner’s Championship

SOURCE: Troy Whitaker
Chris Lafferty picked up the 4th last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Thursday’s UNOH 225 at the Kentucky Speedway when his #0 Driven2Honor.org Ford fell out with rear end problems after he completed 1 of the race’s 150 laps.

The finish was Lafferty’s first of the season and his first in a Truck Series race since Pocono in 2011, forty-two races ago.

Lafferty was making just his third start of the 2013 season and his second in the #0, a team truck to the #10 driven by team owner Jennifer Jo Cobb.  Last season, this same #0 team nearly won the LASTCAR Truck Series Championship with Blake Koch before losing the bottom-five tiebreaker to Dennis Setzer at Homestead.  Lafferty, himself a part-time owner-driver, raced the #0 in four other races in 2012, then scored a career-best 24th at Las Vegas driving Mike Mittler’s #65.

Lafferty was one of three drivers who failed to complete a qualifying lap at Kentucky.  However, with just thirty-six trucks showing up for as many spots, every entrant made the field, and Lafferty secured the 35th starting spot.  In the race, he pulled behind the wall after the opening lap, followed one lap later by Clay Greenfield in the second Norm Benning-owned Chevrolet and the LASTCAR leading #38 RSS Racing Chevrolet driven this week by Charlotte last-placer Chris Jones.  The Chevrolets of Danny Efland and Brennan Newberry rounded out the Bottom Five.  Cobb finished 26th.

This was the second last-place finish of the year for the #0, joining Scott Saunders’ run at Kansas four races ago.  The team is now tied with the #38 RSS Racing team for the lead in the 2013 LASTCAR Truck Series Owner’s Championship.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This was the second-straight last-place finish for the #0 in a Truck Series race at Kentucky.  Last September in the Kentucky 201, Blake Koch trailed the field in the #0 Driven2Honor.org Ford after his transmission failed on the opening lap.  It was Koch’s first Truck Series last-place finish.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
36) #0-Chris Lafferty / 1 lap / rear end
35) #75-Clay Greenfield / 2 laps / transmission
34) #38-Chris Jones / 2 laps / vibration
33) #84-Danny Efland / 9 laps / clutch
32) #24-Brennan Newberry / 31 laps / drive shaft

LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Johnny Chapman (2)
2nd) Mike Harmon, Jennifer Jo Cobb, Chris Jones, Chris Lafferty, Scott Riggs, Scott Saunders (1)

LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #0-Jennifer Jo Cobb, #38-RSS Racing (2)
2nd) #10-Jennifer Jo Cobb, #84-Chris Fontaine, #92-Ricky Benton, #93-RSS Racing (1)

LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (4)
2nd) Dodge, Ford (2)

Monday, June 24, 2013

CUP: Bobby Labonte’s Bad Luck Continues During Chaotic Sonoma Start

SOURCE: Brock Beard
Bobby Labonte picked up the 13th last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s Toyota / Save Mart 350 at the Sonoma Raceway when his #47 Kingsford Toyota fell out with engine problems on the opening lap of the 110-lap race.

The finish was Labonte’s second finish of 2013 and his second in a row, following his 43rd-place run with Phoenix Racing last week at Michigan.  Labonte becomes the first Cup driver to finish last for two different teams in the same season since last year, when Reed Sorenson finished last in Turn One Racing’s #74 at Martinsville, then four times in the #91 for Humphrey-Smith Motorsports.

Just like Michigan, Labonte qualified 20th, this time at an average speed of 93.668 mph.

On a cloudy race day, a steady rain fell over the track near the end of pre-race ceremonies just moments after my “25 Years of NASCAR In Sonoma” video was shown.  Despite the weather, the command was given and the field began to roll.  Back in the pack, David Reutimann stopped his car on pit road, triggering a bizarre incident between two of the race’s four first-time Cup starters: Alex Kennedy and Paulie Harraka.  While Kennedy slowed to a stop behind Reutimann, Harraka, more than two carlengths behind him at the time, did not, and rammed the back of the #19.  Both rookies pitted for repairs to their cars.
Alex Kennedy's Cup debut
SOURCE: Brock Beard

It was an unfortunate incident for two underdog teams.  Kennedy was set to give Humphrey-Smith Motorsports its first full-race run of 2013 in the #19 MediaMasters Toyota.  The car carried Kennedy’s name over the driver’s door with Jason Leffler’s “LefTURN” logo over the right.  Harraka’s #52 HASA Pool Products Ford was fielded by Bob Keselowski, aided by Go Green Racing, and was brought to the track using haulers and equipment from Phil Parsons Racing.  With Parsons’ driver Michael McDowell indisposed with running the Nationwide race at Road America the day before, Harraka was given the opportunity to make his series debut.

Joining Kennedy and Harraka in the pits were Bobby Labonte and Jacques Villeneueve, the latter behind the wheel of the #51 Phoenix Racing entry Labonte drove at Michigan.  Villeneuve was on jackstands after the first pace lap, the crew checking over a troublesome transmission, reports indicating he only had two functioning gears.  Labonte pulled behind the wall with an apparent radiator problem that then led to the replacement of his oil cooler.  As the pace laps continued through the rain, Labonte and Villeneuve eventually joined Kennedy and Harraka back on track.

Labonte was nearly a full lap behind the leaders when the green flag flew.  As he crested the hill between Turns 2 and 3, the engine suddenly let go, and he pulled down to the entrance of The Carousel, the old sweeping left-hander of Sonoma’s 2.52-mile course NASCAR ran from 1989 through 1997.  Labonte’s car was out of harm’s way, so the race remained under green.  A wrecker eventually picked up Labonte’s smoking car, and his hauler left the track before the race’s halfway point.

An eventful day for Paulie Harraka
SOURCE: Brock Beard
During those opening laps, Harraka’s #52 limped around the back of the pack, smoking heavily from its damaged right-front fender.  Entering Turn 1, the right-front tire suddenly cut down, sending him spinning to a stop in the infield grass.  Harraka sustained further damage to his right-front, possibly from contacting a tire barrier, and brought out the first caution of the day.  Extensive repairs which removed much of his sheet metal allowed him to finish the race 21 laps down in 39th.

Kennedy finished 40th, his car involved in a three-car accident on Lap 33 triggered in The Esses when Joey Logano dumped Reutimann’s #83.  The resulting wreck shoved-in the nose of Kennedy’s #19, which stalled and was eventually towed behind the wall.

Villeneuve ended up 41st, his transmission problem worsening into a sudden engine failure that took him out of the race after just 19 laps.

Finishing 42nd was J.J. Yeley, who was slated to give owner Larry Gunselman his first Cup start since Homestead last November.  In reality, Yeley’s #37 car was a third Tommy Baldwin-prepared Chevrolet.  The car had some slight cosmetic damage to the right-rear prior to the race.  Yeley pulled his car behind the wall after seven laps while rookie teammates Justin Marks and Victor Gonzalez, Jr. - the latter in a backup car after a qualifying wreck - finished 30th and 37th, respectively.

Sunday’s race was won by Martin Truex, Jr., his first victory for Michael Waltrip Racing and his first in the Cup Series since Dover on June 4, 2007.  All three of Truex’s last-place finishes have taken place in that 218-race span.  The third came at Phoenix last fall.

Reports now indicate that A.J. Allmendinger will again drive in Bobby Labonte’s #47 next Saturday in Kentucky.  A ride for Labonte has yet to be announced, potentially jeopardizing his streak of 704 consecutive Cup Series starts.

J.J. Yeley's Tommy Baldwin Racing #37
SOURCE: Brock Beard
LASTCAR STATISTICS
*Labonte is the first Cup Series driver to finish last in a Cup Series race at Sonoma without completing the opening lap since 2006, when Tom Hubert and his #27 Interush Ford was involved in a grinding three-car wreck in the Dodge / Save Mart 350.  He is also the second-consecutive driver to finish last without completing a lap of a Cup road race: last August at Watkins Glen, Brian Vickers’ opening-lap engine failure on his #55 MyClassicGarage.com Toyota gave the same result.
*This was the first last-place finish for the #47 in a Cup Series race since 1998, when the engine let go on Billy Standridge’s #47 TeamFansCanRace.com Ford after 19 laps of the Pepsi 400 at Daytona.  This was the same race that was delayed from July to October because of wildfires near the track.  It was Standridge’s 23rd and final Cup Series start in a season where he made all four restrictor-plate races in 1998 while driving a year-old Ford Thunderbird.
*Neither Labonte nor the #47 had ever before finished last in a Cup race at Sonoma.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #47-Bobby Labonte / 0 laps / engine
42) #37-J.J. Yeley / 7 laps / transmission
41) #51-Jacques Villeneuve / 19 laps / engine
40) #19-Alex Kennedy / 30 laps / crash
39) #52-Paulie Harraka / 89 laps / running

LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Mike Bliss (4)
2nd) Michael McDowell (3)
3rd) Bobby Labonte, Scott Riggs (2)
4th) Trevor Bayne, Dave Blaney, Jason Leffler, Joe Nemechek, Scott Speed (1)

LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #19-Humphrey-Smith Motorsports (5)
2nd) #98-Phil Parsons Racing (3)
3rd) #44-Xxxtreme Motorsports (2)
4th) #7-Tommy Baldwin Racing, #21-Wood Brothers Racing, #47-JTG Daugherty Racing, #51-Phoenix Racing, #87-NEMCO Motorsports, #95-Leavine Family Racing (1)

LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Ford, Toyota (7)
2nd) Chevrolet (2)

N’WIDE: Jeff Green Scores Second Consecutive Road America Last-Place Finish

SOURCE: NASCAR Media
Jeff Green picked up the 44th last-place finish of his NASCAR Nationwide Series career in Saturday’s Johnsonville Sausages 200 at Road America when his unsponsored #10 TriStar Motorsports Toyota fell out with brake problems after he completed 2 of the race’s 55 laps.

The finish was Green’s sixth of 2013 and his first since Iowa, two races ago.

Green qualified 36th at an average speed of 104.048 mph.  Though 45 drivers were on the initial entry list, just 40 showed up to compete for as many spots, so no teams were sent home.  Among the teams that withdrew were The Motorsports Group’s “start-and-park” #42 with T.J. Bell aboard, Morgan Shepherd and his #89, Darlington last-placer Blake Koch in the #00, Fontana last-placer Joey Gase in Jimmy Means’ #52, and the #15 fielded by Rick Ware Racing.

Green pulled behind the wall first, followed five laps later by Landon Cassill in Johnny Davis’ #4 Flex Seal Chevrolet.  Rounding out the Bottom Five were Tony Raines for ML Motorsports, Reed Sorenson in the lone entry from The Motorsports Group, and Canadian Derek White in Jascon Sciavicco’s VIP Poker Toyota.

Two-time and defending LASTCAR Cup Series Champion Michael McDowell qualified a strong 5th and made a challenge for the lead in the opening laps, but brought out the first yellow on Lap 5 when his #18 K-LOVE Toyota lost power heading into Turn 6.  McDowell finished three laps down in 34th.

Saturday’s race was won by A.J. Allmendinger, who was making his first Nationwide start since 2008, the same year he scored his fourth and most recent last-place finish in the Cup Series race at Charlotte.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This was Green’s second-consecutive last-place finish in the Nationwide event at Road America, both in TriStar Motorsports’ #10 Toyota.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #10-Jeff Green / 2 laps / brakes
39) #4-Landon Cassill / 7 laps / engine
38) #70-Tony Raines / 20 laps / rear gear
37) #40-Reed Sorenson / 31 laps / chassis
36) #24-Derek White / 37 laps / oil leak

LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Jeff Green (6)
2nd) Tanner Berryhill, Joey Gase, Blake Koch, Johanna Long, Eric McClure, Michael McDowell, Robert Richardson, Jr., Dexter Stacey (1)

LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #10-TriStar Motorsports (6)
2nd) #14-TriStar Motorsports, #17-Vision Racing, #23-R3 Motorsports, #27-SR2 Motorsports, #52-Jimmy Means Racing, #70-ML Motorsports, #92-KH Motorsports, #00-SR2 Motorsports (1)

LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Toyota (11)
2nd) Chevrolet (2)
3rd) Ford (1)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Small Team Storylines For The 25th Toyota / Save Mart 350 at Sonoma

This weekend marks the 25th running of the Toyota / Save Mart 350 at the Sonoma Raceway, one of the most physical races on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series tour.

As a Bay Area native, this has always been an exciting time of the year, and the track’s Silver Celebration promises to make the race even more special.  I will be attending the race for the nineteenth time, dating back to 1992 when Swervin’ Ernie Irvan went from worst to first after jumping the start.  I remember vividly those first years sitting in the old wooden grandstands on the frontstretch, how the cars would zip behind you exiting Turn 10, then roar back to life heading toward the start / finish line.  And I remember how those stands shook in 1995 when Dale Earnhardt slipped past Mark Martin for his only road course victory.

This year, I will be sitting in Turn 2, Section C for both Saturday and Sunday, and will also be on pit road Sunday wearing the same hat I’m holding on the top of this webpage.  So, if you see me, definitely stop me and say hello.  I love to hear from my readers.

Also, for those of you attending the race, I am thrilled to announce that a video montage I made “25 Years of NASCAR In Sonoma,” will be played on the track’s screens during Sunday’s pre-race ceremonies.  The video contains highlights from all previous runnings of the race, including ESPN’s introduction to the inaugural event in 1989.  Thank you again to the staff of the Sonoma Raceway for making this happen; I am extremely humbled to be a part of the track’s festivities.  The video is linked at the top of this article.

Forty-three cars will qualify for Sunday’s race, bringing with them several interesting stories.

One week after his last-place finish for Phoenix Racing at Michigan, Bobby Labonte will return to the #47 while Indianapolis 500 winner and Formula 1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve will take the controls of the #51, the team that finished 3rd last year with Kurt Busch.  It will be Villeneuve’s first Cup Series start at Sonoma and his first in any Cup race since he finished 29th at Indianapolis in 2010.  Villeneuve has been close to winning in the NASCAR Nationwide Series several times, most recently at Montreal last August.

Ron Fellows will be making his first Cup start at Sonoma since 2009 as the driver of Joe Falk’s #33 with sponsorship from Canadian Tire.  Fellows’ best Sonoma finish remains his 7th-place run in 2003, when he was driving the #1 Pennzoil Chevrolet vacated by Steve Park.  That day, Fellows made a thrilling three-wide pass on Kevin Harvick and Robby Gordon in Turn 11 to take the lead before pit strategy shuffled him back.

Both Fellows and Villenueve will not be running the Nationwide race at Road America for the first time.  A.J. Allmendinger will run Villeneuve’s #22 at Road America while Fellows’ #5 goes to American LeMans Series veteran Johnny O’Connell from the Corvette team.

The #32 Ford fielded by FAS Lane Racing Ford will be driven by Boris Said, who has raced for years with FAS Lane’s owner Frankie Stoddard.  Said won the pole at Sonoma in 2003 driving in relief of the injured Jerry Nadeau, who nearly won the year before until the rear gear gave out coming to the white flag.  Said's 6th-place finish that day is his best at Sonoma, a finish he equaled in 2004.  He finished 29th here last year.

Brian Vickers will return to the #55 for his sixth start of the year, his first race since he drove in relief of Denny Hamlin at Talladega after Hamlin started the car.  In two previous starts in the #55 at Bristol and Martinsville, Vickers has finished 8th and 11th, the latter coming despite serious damage suffered in a mid-race crash.  Last year, Vickers finished 4th at Sonoma, but finished last at Watkins Glen.  Vickers won a Winston West race at Sonoma in 2006 and was the polesitter in 2009.

Joe Nemechek’s #87 will instead be driven by Tomy Drissi, who last year was involved in a pair of crashes driving Tommy Baldwin’s #10.  Nemechek, last year’s last-place finisher, will have to wait another week for a chance to tie the late J.D. McDuffie for the most last-place finishes in Cup Series history.

J.J. Yeley, the original driver of the #36, will bring Larry Gunselman’s #37 car back to the Cup Series for the first time since he came home 35th in the car last fall at Homestead.  That Homestead race was the only one of nine starts last year where the Gunselman car finished under power.

Yeley’s replacement in the #36, Victor Gonzalez, Jr., will be one of four drivers who will make their Cup Series debuts on Sunday.  The 37-year-old Gonzalez has seven Nationwide starts with a best finish of 14th in his debut at Montreal in 2009.  He will become the first driver from Puerto Rico to start a Sprint Cup race, joining these other international starters at Sonoma: Max Papis (Italy), Hideo Fukuyama (Japan), Klaus Graf (Germany), Mattias Ekstrom (Sweden), Jan Magnussen (Denmark), Andy Pilgrim (England), Dick Johnson (Australia), Marcos Ambrose (Tasmania), Christian Fittipaldi (Brazil), Juan Pablo Montoya (Colombia), Marc Goosens (Belgium), and Roy Smith, Patrick Carpentier, and Ron Fellows (Canada).

Gonzalez’s teammate in the Tommy Baldwin-owned #7 will be Justin Marks, who fills in for Dave Blaney.  Marks has eight wins in he Grand-Am Rolex Sports car series and a win at the Palm Beach road course in ARCA back in 2010.  Marks also has 43 stars in NASCAR between Trucks and Nationwide, but none since 2011.  His best NASCAR finishes remain in Trucks - a pair of 8th-place runs at Homestead in 2007 and Daytona in 2008.  The car will carry sponsorship from Go Pro, who funded Marks’ 2011 season in the Truck Series.

Alex Kennedy steps into the #19 “start-and-park” Humphrey-Smith Motorsports team, the ride driven at Pocono by the late Jason Leffler.  Kennedy, a 21-year-old driver from the K&N Series, moved to the Nationwide Series in 2010 and has made fourteen starts, most recently a career-best 15th at Montreal last August.  Although the #19 has parked in all ten of its starts this year, there is a chance the car could run the distance with the help of new sponsor MediaMaster.

Paulie Harraka climbs aboard the #52 HASA Pool Products Ford prepared by Bob Keselowski and Nationwide team Go Green Racing.  This is a team we haven’t seen since they ran a Toyota at Richmond with Brian Keselowski finishing 40th.  Harraka has just eleven Truck Series and four Nationwide Series starts without a single Top Ten.  This will be the first time the #52 has started a Cup race at Sonoma since 1992, when Tommy Kendall finished 13th after passing eventual series champion Alan Kulwicki in Turn 11 on the final lap.

Among the series’ regular drivers, David Reutimann in the #83 will be running the race for the first time since his 24th-place run in 2011.  David Stremme will make his 180th Cup start and his first at Sonoma since he was 39th in 2009.  Josh Wise in the #35 returns to the site of the first Cup race he finished under power last year, narrowly averting disaster when he skidded off course in Turn 10 to come home 30th.  Rookie contenders Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. will also make their Cup Series debuts on the Sonoma road course, though Patrick has competed on the track seven times in the IZOD IndyCar Series with a best finish of 5th in 2008.

With eight different winners in the last eight Sonoma races, the last six of which being first-time winners on the 1.99-mile track, it’s very possible that any one of these storylines could end in victory lane.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

CUP: Bobby Labonte’s Reunion With Phoenix Racing Ends With Early Crash

SOURCE: Bobby Labonte's Facebook Page
Bobby Labonte picked up the 12th last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 at the Michigan International Speedway when his unsponsored #51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet was involved in a two-car accident after he completed 5 of the race’s 200 laps.

The finish was Labonte’s first of 2013.  It was also the first last-place run for both Labonte and Phoenix Racing since 2010, when Labonte trailed the field in the team’s #09 C&J Energy Services Chevrolet after he completed 197 laps of the Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville.

Following his most recent start for Phoenix Racing - a 22nd-place finish in the 2010 finale at Homestead - Labonte, the 2000 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion, moved to JTG-Daugherty Racing to replace Marcos Ambrose as driver of their #47 Toyotas.  The union paid dividends in their first-ever race, turning in a stunning 4th-place finish in the 2011 Daytona 500, his first Top Five finish in nearly two years.

Although Labonte has yet to miss a race since his third career start in the 1993 Daytona 500, now 702 races ago, he and JTG have yet to score another Top Five, and he has racked up only three Top Tens.  His winless streak still extends back to the 2003 Ford 400 at Homestead, his final win in the #18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet for longtime car owner Joe Gibbs.  Labonte remains a fan favorite, most recently earning the Fan Vote into the 2012 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Challenge at Charlotte.

So far in 2013, Labonte’s best finish has again been in the Daytona 500, where he came home 15th.  In the thirteen races since, he’s finished out of the Top 20 in all but two of those starts, leaving him 27th in the point standings.  Heading into Sunday’s race at Michigan, the decision was made to reunite Labonte with Phoenix Racing for one race so the team could evaluate its performance.  A.J. Allmendinger, back from his runs in the IZOD IndyCar Series, and a four-time starter with Phoenix in 2013, took control of the #47.

Phoenix Racing, one of the last veteran single-car teams, has been a pleasant surprise this season.  Allmendinger, Regan Smith, and Austin Dillon shared the ride during the first fourteen races this season.  Smith, the current Nationwide Series point leader, turned in the best finishes at Talladega and the Daytona 500, coming home 6th and 7th, respectively.  Allmendinger has finished no worse than 16th in all but one of his four starts, coming home 11th at Phoenix and contending for the win late at Richmond.  Austin Dillon’s best finish remains a 21st at Las Vegas, but has yet to suffer a DNF with the team.  In the Nationwide Series, the team was also in contention to win both restrictor-plate races, leading on the final lap with Smith and Kurt Busch.

Despite Phoenix’s success, sponsorship has been hard to come by, and team owner James Finch has announced that the team will cease operations after the race at Indianapolis next month.  Finch, who has fielded NASCAR entries since the late 1980s, has been on the verge of shutting down his team several times since longtime sponsor Miccosukee Gaming & Resorts pulled their funding right before the 2010 season.  Ironically, this was just months after Brad Keselowski scored the team’s first - and so far, only - Cup Series win at Talladega.

At Michigan, Labonte surprised with a 20th-fastest lap in qualifying at a speed of 199.358 mph.  It was not only Labonte’s first top-twenty start of the year, but his best start since Kansas in June of 2011.  At the start of the race, Labonte was hanging near the middle of the field, awaiting the first competition caution on Lap 20, when his car suddenly broke loose exiting Turn 2.  Labonte slid up the track and collected fellow 1993 Rookie of the Year contender Jeff Gordon, who was unable to escape up high.

Scoring made it appear that Gordon would earn his sixth career last-place finish, his first since Texas in 2008.  However, Gordon returned to the track many laps down with a new front clip bolted to the front of his #24.  Gordon managed to complete 52 laps, shuffling him past Labonte and three others on his way to a 39th-place finish.

Finishing 42nd on Sunday was two-time and defending LASTCAR Cup Champion Michael McDowell.  McDowell started 30th and, after staying out during the competition caution, inherited the lead for a lap.  It appeared he would attempt to run at the front of the pack, yet he pulled to the apron just seconds before the green flag.  He parked his car less than ten laps later.

Finishing 41st was Mike Bliss.  After a one-week hiatus, he returned to driving the same #19 Plinker Tactical Toyota that Jason Leffler finished 43rd with at Pocono three days before Leffler’s fatal crash in a sprint car race.  Though Bliss’ name was on the top of the windshield, Leffler’s “LefTURN” decals remained on both sides of the roof.

One lap before the start, Bliss’ spotter said “On behalf of Humphrey-Smith Racing, we’d like to thank Embassy Suites, Plinker Tactical, and all the fans that make this possible.  Mike, have fun, be safe.  Rest in peace, LefTURN.  God bless.”

Finishing 40th was Josh Wise, scoring his worst finish since Fontana, ten races ago, scene of the second of his three DNFs this year.  Next week, Wise is expected to return to the track for the Toyota / Save Mart 350 in Sonoma, California, scene of the first Cup race he finished under power in 2012.

Bobby Labonte is expected to return to the #47 at Sonoma while the #51 will go to Jacques Villeneuve, attempting his first Sprint Cup start since he finished 29th at Indianapolis in 2010.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This was the first Cup Series last-place finish for the #51 since 2005, when Stuart Kirby’s brakes failed on his Marathon American Spirit Motor Oil Chevrolet after 31 laps of the Sony HD 500.  Finishing 39th that night was J.J. Yeley, who made his first start of the season in the #11 FedEx Chevrolet, the car Jason Leffler drove in nineteen of the season’s first twenty-four races.  On Sunday, Denny Hamlin, Yeley and Leffler’s eventual replacement, ran the car’s white-and-purple paint scheme.  The Fontana race was won by rookie Kyle Busch, the first of his twenty-six to date.
*It’s the first time the #51 has finished last in a Cup race at Michigan.
*This was Labonte’s first last-place finish in a Cup race at Michigan since 2009, when his #96 DLP Ford lost the engine after 18 laps of the Carfax 400.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #51-Bobby Labonte / 5 laps / crash
42) #98-Michael McDowell / 36 laps / vibration / led 1 lap
41) #19-Mike Bliss / 50 laps / vibration
40) #35-Josh Wise / 51 laps / vibration
39) #24-Jeff Gordon / 52 laps / crash

LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Mike Bliss (4)
2nd) Michael McDowell (3)
3rd) Scott Riggs (2)
4th) Trevor Bayne, Dave Blaney, Bobby Labonte, Jason Leffler, Joe Nemechek, Scott Speed (1)

LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #19-Humphrey-Smith Motorsports (5)
2nd) #98-Phil Parsons Racing (3)
3rd) #44-Xxxtreme Motorsports (2)
4th) #7-Tommy Baldwin Racing, #21-Wood Brothers Racing, #51-Phoenix Racing, #87-NEMCO Motorsports, #95-Leavine Family Racing (1)

LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Ford (7)
2nd) Toyota (6)
3rd) Chevrolet (2)

N’WIDE: Dexter Stacey Wrecks Hard In Michigan Debut

SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin'
Dexter Stacey picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Nationwide Series career in Saturday’s Alliance Truck Parts 250 at the Michigan International Speedway when his #92 Maddie’s Place Ford was involved in a single-car crash after he completed 6 of the race’s 125 laps.

The finish was Stacey’s first of the 2013 season and his first in a Nationwide Series race since last fall at Homestead, thirteen races ago, when he became the final driver to finish 43rd in a Nationwide event.

Following a seven-race debut in 2012 driving for R3 Motorsports and Go Green Racing, Stacey is competing in his first full season in the Nationwide Series.  Moving with him was KH Motorsports, the Kristin Hamelin-owned team that now fields his #92 Fords.  The transition has been a difficult one.  His season began with a DNQ at Daytona, followed by ten starts with no finishes better than a 21st at Iowa.  A hard crash into the outside wall at Richmond resulted in a concussion, putting Tim Andrews in the #92 for Talladega.  Andrews also crashed, leaving him 30th.

Just 39 cars showed up to qualify at Michigan, creating the shortest Nationwide Series field in twelve years, dating back to July 8, 2001, when 39 cars showed up to run the GNC Live Well 200 at Watkins Glen.  Stacey locked up the 33rd starting spot with an average speed of 183.118 mph.

One lap into the race itself, the first caution fell when Alex Bowman and Travis Pastrana spun in Turn 4, triggering a multi-car melee that involved three other cars.  Jeffrey Earnhardt, the nose on his #79 damaged in the resulting stack-up, then fell to the 39th spot.

Stacey wasn’t involved in that wreck, but he brought out the second caution one lap after the restart.  Entering Turn 4 while running around the 23rd spot, Stacey cut a right-front tire, sending him into the outside wall at a sharp angle.  Stacey’s car stopped short of the start / finish line.  Though he remained in the car for several moments, he finally climbed out, apparently unharmed.

Following the restart from Stacey’s crash, The Motorsports Group took 38th an 37th with teammates J.J. Yeley and Josh Wise.  Current 2013 LASTCAR Nationwide Series leader Jeff Green finished 36th, and 35th place went to last-place started Carl Long in Rick Ware’s #15.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This is the first last-place finish for the #92 since 2010, when Dennis Setzer, the year’s LASTCAR Nationwide Series Champion, fell out with a vibration in his K-Automotive Motorsports Dodge after three laps of the O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge at Texas.  The number has not finished last in a Nationwide race at Michigan since 2009, when Willie Allen’s turn in the Holloway / Dusty’s Collision Dodge ended after one lap of the Carfax 250.
*This is the first last-place finish for a Ford in a Nationwide Series race at Michigan since 2006, when Greg Biffle’s #16 Ameriquest Mortgage Ford crashed after ten laps of the Carfax 250.  Biffle won Sunday’s Cup Series race, his first of the season.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
39) #92-Dexter Stacey / 6 laps / crash
38) #46-J.J. Yeley / 8 laps / handling
37) #42-Josh Wise / 10 laps / electrical
36) #10-Jeff Green / 14 laps / vibration
35) #15-Carl Long / 16 laps / alternator

LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Jeff Green (5)
2nd) Tanner Berryhill, Joey Gase, Blake Koch, Johanna Long, Eric McClure, Michael McDowell, Robert Richardson, Jr., Dexter Stacey (1)

LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #10-TriStar Motorsports (5)
2nd) #14-TriStar Motorsports, #17-Vision Racing, #23-R3 Motorsports, #27-SR2 Motorsports, #52-Jimmy Means Racing, #70-ML Motorsports, #92-KH Motorsports, #00-SR2 Motorsports (1)

LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Toyota (10)
2nd) Chevrolet (2)
3rd) Ford (1)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Difference Of Three Days: A Tribute To Jason Leffler (1975-2013)

Jason Leffler in 2012
SOURCE: NASCAR Media
Last Sunday at Pocono, Jason Leffler competed in his 73rd NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.  He climbed aboard a flat white #19 Toyota which rolled off 42nd after qualifying was rained-out.  The car was fielded by Humphrey-Smith Motorsports, a start-up team founded by Randy Humphrey, who co-owned the Phil Parsons team from 2009 through 2011, and Mark Smith, the owner of current multi-car Nationwide Series team TriStar Motorsports.

Leffler was filling in for Mike Bliss, the primary driver of the car, who that day was competing in the Nationwide event at Iowa.  Without sponsorship for the 400-mile race, Leffler followed team orders and pulled behind the wall after eight laps.  The exit resulted in Leffler’s seventh last-place finish in Cup and his tenth among NASCAR’s top three divisions.

Leffler’s brief appearance in the race, like that of the other drivers for so-called “start-and-park” teams, wasn’t mentioned in Sunday’s telecast.  It’s become commonplace for broadcasts to not show the car pull behind the wall, nor interview the driver after they’ve exited.  All we see is the same thing we saw on Sunday - a driver’s number moving to the tail end of the scoring crawl at the top of the screen with the word “OFF,” then “OUT” appearing next to their name.  Since Leffler finished last, he was featured on this website along with the relevant statistics.

Three days later, Leffler was killed in a crash while competing in a sprint car heat race at the Bridgeport Speedway in New Jersey.  He was 37.

In the days ahead, we’re going to hear a lot more about Leffler.  We’re going to hear about his pair of Nationwide Series victories, including that night at Indianapolis Raceway Park in 2007 when he gave the Toyota Camry its first NASCAR win.  We’re going to hear about his lone start in the Indianapolis 500 in 2000, the day Juan Pablo Montoya became the first rookie since Graham Hill to win the Memorial Day classic.  We’re probably even going to hear about how he got the #11 FedEx team off the ground for Joe Gibbs in 2005 or how he scored his first Cup Series pole as a rookie during the inaugural Cup race at Kansas in 2001.

We’re going to hear a lot about a driver whose run at Pocono, just three days ago, was mentioned only here.

I don’t mean to ignore the very real tragedy that has taken place, nor try to turn it into some selfish self-promotion.  I don’t have the right.  But, in looking over the article I wrote about him on Sunday, I am reminded of what led me to start this website in the first place, and that there’s something I, like much of the NASCAR media, still need to work on going forward.

There are, in fact, stories behind every single driver who starts a race, and regardless of where they finish, that story is still worth telling.  Only by knowing what a driver has gone through, even on a bad day, can finishes like Michael McDowell and J.J. Yeley’s top-ten runs in the Daytona 500 be given proper context.  And only with such knowledge can we truly honor the life of Jason Leffler.

It’s a sad reality that, often, stories about many drivers in the field just don’t get told.  I still lay much of the blame on NASCAR’s TV broadcasts for their sheer dearth of coverage regarding the sport’s lower-funded teams and drivers, even while they tout “unprecedented access” behind the scenes.  There’s often very little I can use from the broadcasts in my LASTCAR articles, and I have to piece things together from other sources online.  Some sources are more reliable than others, and without being an insider, it’s hard to get these stories first-hand.

But there’s always room for improvement.

I hope that, as the rest of the media sits down tonight to write articles about Leffler’s life, his accomplishments, and his tragic death, that the authors are thinking about the same thing I’m thinking.  I hope they remind themselves that, while racing is about winning, without a field of drivers to compete against - drivers like Jason Leffler - those wins mean nothing.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

CUP: Jason Leffler Gives #19 Its First Pocono Last-Place Finish Since 1983

SOURCE: crash.net
Jason Leffler picked up the 7th last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s Party in the Poconos 400 at the Pocono Raceway when his #19 Plinker Tactical Toyota fell out with transmission problems after he completed 8 of the race’s 160 laps.

The finish was Leffler’s first of the 2013 season and his first in a Cup race since last August at Michigan, twenty-seven races ago.  It is also the fifth last-place finish of the season for Humphrey-Smith Motorsports’ #19, whose original driver Mike Bliss still holds a one-finish lead in the 2013 LASTCAR Cup Series Championship.  Bliss was not in the car Sunday as he was competing in the Nationwide race at Iowa, where he finished a season-best 10th.

Qualifying was rained-out on Friday, but with just 43 cars showing up for as many spots, Leffler secured the 42nd starting spot.  In the race itself, it first appeared that Kasey Kahne was headed to his first last-place finish in his 338th Cup start.  Kahne suffered a vibration on the opening lap, ultimately sending him behind the wall.  While Kahne was out, Leffler parked his #19, followed three laps later by Joe Nemechek in the #87.  Kahne returned to the track 20 laps down, shuffling Leffler back to 43rd and Nemechek to 42nd.  Kahne finished 36th.

Although Nemechek is only running for Nationwide points this year, he decided to run the Cup race instead after the Nationwide event at Iowa was rain-delayed to Sunday morning.  Relief driver Kevin Lepage finished 19th.  Phoenix and Dover last-placer Scott Riggs, who finished last during the most recent Cup race at Pocono, finished 41st in an eye-catching blue-and-white #44 Ford.  Two-time and defending LASTCAR Cup Champion Michael McDowell was 9th-fastest in Happy Hour, but finished 40th after he parked his #98.  J.J. Yeley rounded out the Bottom Five in Tommy Baldwin’s unsponsored #36.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This was the first last-place finish for the #19 in a Cup race at Pocono since June 12, 1983, when current ARCA veteran Bobby Gerhart lost the engine on his #19 Gray Racing Buick after 44 laps of the Van Scoy Diamond Mines 500.  It was Gerhart’s first of 24 Cup Series starts, and one of only two where he did not run in his own equipment.  His most recent Cup start was at Talladega in 1992, where he finished 34th in his #85 Thomas Chevrolet.
*This was Leffler’s first-ever last-place finish in a Cup race at Pocono.
*The last three consecutive Cup Series last-place finishers listed transmission trouble as the reason.  The last driver to finish last at this track due to transmission issues was Joe Nemechek during this same race in 2010.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #19-Jason Leffler / 8 laps / transmission
42) #87-Joe Nemechek / 11 laps / engine
41) #44-Scott Riggs / 28 laps / vibration
40) #98-Michael McDowell / 33 laps / vibration
39) #36-J.J. Yeley / 39 laps / transmission

LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Mike Bliss (4)
2nd) Michael McDowell (3)
3rd) Scott Riggs (2)
4th) Trevor Bayne, Dave Blaney, Jason Leffler, Joe Nemechek, Scott Speed (1)

LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #19-Humphrey-Smith Motorsports (5)
2nd) #98-Phil Parsons Racing (3)
3rd) #44-Xxxtreme Motorsports (2)
4th) #7-Tommy Baldwin Racing, #21-Wood Brothers Racing, #87-NEMCO Motorsports, #95-Leavine Family Racing (1)

LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Ford (7)
2nd) Toyota (6)
3rd) Chevrolet (1)

N’WIDE: Jeff Green Has Four Last-Place Finishes At Iowa For Four Different Start-and-Park Teams

SOURCE: NASCAR Media
Jeff Green picked up the 43rd last-place finish of his NASCAR Nationwide Series career in Sunday’s DuPont Pioneer 250 at the Iowa Speedway when his unsponsored #10 TriStar Motorsports Toyota fell out with a vibration after he completed 2 of the race’s 249 laps.

The finish was Green’s fifth of the season and his first in four races, dating back to the Aaron’s 312 at Talladega.  He remains the only repeat last-place finisher in the 2013 Nationwide season and, with a four-finish lead, is well on his way to a fourth LASTCAR Nationwide title and his third in a row.

Green qualified 34th for the race at an average speed of 131.865 mph, besting three “go-or-go-homers” including Morgan Shepherd, the lone driver who failed to qualify.  Green pulled behind the wall just two laps before the first caution of the day when Brad Sweet, Cole Whitt, and Kevin Swindell tangled in turn two.

The Motorsports Group once again fell short of a last-place finish with teammates Jason Bowles in 39th and T.J. Bell in 37th.  Finishing 38th was Carl Long, making just his second Nationwide start of the season and his first for owner Rick Ware.  Rounding out the Bottom Five was Dover last-placer Blake Koch in the #00.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This was Jeff Green’s fourth last-place finish in a Nationwide race at Iowa.  All of them have come in different “start-and-park” teams owned by TriStar Motorsports: #36, #44, #91, and #10.  It is, however, Green’s first last-place finish in the spring event at Iowa.  When the series returns to the track on August 3, Green will have a chance to not only pull the season sweep, but also finish last in that race for the fourth-consecutive year.
*This was the first last-place finish for the #10 in a Nationwide race at Iowa.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #10-Jeff Green / 2 laps / vibration
39) #46-Jason Bowles / 5 laps / vibration
38) #15-Carl Long / 5 laps / axle
37) #42-T.J. Bell / 7 laps / electrical
36) #00-Blake Koch / 10 laps / brakes

LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Jeff Green (5)
2nd) Tanner Berryhill, Joey Gase, Blake Koch, Johanna Long, Eric McClure, Michael McDowell, Robert Richardson, Jr. (1)

LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #10-TriStar Motorsports (5)
2nd) #14-TriStar Motorsports, #17-Vision Racing, #23-R3 Motorsports, #27-SR2 Motorsports, #52-Jimmy Means Racing, #70-ML Motorsports, #00-SR2 Motorsports (1)

LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Toyota (10)
2nd) Chevrolet (2)

TRUCKS: Johnny Chapman Now Has The Most Last-Place Finishes In Truck Series History

SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin'
Johnny Chapman picked up the 14th last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Friday’s WinStar World Casino 400k at the Texas Motor Speedway when his unsponsored #38 RSS Racing Chevrolet fell out with ignition problems after he completed 6 of the race’s 167 laps.

The finish was Chapman’s second of 2013 and his second in a row, and he has a one-finish lead in the LASTCAR Truck Series Championship as the first repeat last-placer this season.  More importantly, he set a new record for the most last-place finishes in Truck Series history, breaking a tie with 2007 LASTCAR Truck Series Champion Wayne Edwards, who held sole possession of the record since his 13th last-place run at Bristol on August 19, 2009.

Just 32 trucks showed up to qualify for the Texas race, creating the shortest Truck Series field since Iowa in 2011, which also had 32 entrants.  Chapman qualified 28th in the field at an average speed of 166.940 mph.  He edged Danny Efland for the record-breaking last-place finish by three laps.  RSS teammate Chris Jones pulled out of the race two laps after Efland while Chris Lafferty and Chris Cockrum rounded out the Bottom Five.

The finish came in Chapman’s 60th Truck Series start.  As of this writing, he also has 117 Nationwide Series starts, including the 2009 LASTCAR Nationwide title with MSRP Motorsports.  He finished 36th in his lone Cup start at Rockingham in 1993 while driving the #64 Bahre Racing Pontiac.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This was the second-consecutive last-place finish at Texas for the #38 RSS Racing team.  Last November, Chris Jones suffered a vibration after three laps.  During the 2011 running of the fall Texas race, Mike Garvey’s #38 lost the clutch after five laps on the way to his first LASTCAR Truck Series Championship.
*This was Chapman’s first last-place finish in a Truck Series race at Texas since 2005 when his #08 Green Light Racing Chevrolet broke an oil line after he completed 28 laps of the Chex 400K.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
32) #38-Johnny Chapman / 6 laps / ignition
31) #84-Danny Efland / 9 laps / rear gear
30) #93-Chris Jones / 11 laps / rear gear
29) #99-Chris Lafferty / 14 laps / electrical
28) #07-Chris Cockrum / 1 laps / ignition

LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Johnny Chapman (2)
2nd) Mike Harmon, Jennifer Jo Cobb, Chris Jones, Scott Riggs, Scott Saunders (1)

LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #38-RSS Racing (2)
2nd) #0-Jennifer Jo Cobb, #10-Jennifer Jo Cobb, #84-Chris Fontaine, #92-Ricky Benton, #93-RSS Racing (1)

LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (4)
2nd) Dodge (2)
3rd) Ford (1)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

CUP: Scott Riggs Rounds Out Dover Field In First Cup Start Since April

SOURCE: TheHotLap.com
Scott Riggs picked up the 8th last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks at the Dover International Speedway when his #44 No Label Watches Ford lost the transmission after he completed 16 of the race’s 400 laps.

The finish was Riggs’ second of 2013, his first since March, when he was taken out in a single-car crash at Phoenix after 19 laps.

Riggs was making just his fourth Cup Series points race in 2013, all of them for start-up team Xxxtreme Motorsports.  Following the last-place run at Phoenix, the team parked in consecutive races at Fontana and Martinsville, finishing 41st and 42nd, respectively.  After the team’s second DNQ at Texas, Xxxtreme’s distinctive-looking #44 Fords were noticeably absent from the track, save for an appearance in the Sprint Showdown.  Unconfirmed rumors indicated Riggs would be replaced by Mike Bliss starting that week, but Riggs remained and turned in a 22nd-place finish.

Riggs was back in the car at Dover, and better yet, locked into the field.  All three of NASCAR’s top divisions had just enough entries to fill the field, so no teams failed to qualify, and Riggs’ lap of 150.710 mph scored him the 43rd and final starting spot.

Mike Bliss held the 43rd spot early in Sunday’s race, apparently headed to extend his one-finish lead over Michael McDowell in the LASTCAR standings.  However, it was Riggs who pulled out first, besting McDowell by nearly forty laps.  Bliss fell out of the race five laps after McDowell.  Matt Kenseth, who led 29 laps, lost an engine while running 2nd and tumbled to a 40th-place finish.  Travis Kvapil in BK Racing’s #93 rounded out the Bottom Five.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This was Riggs’ first-ever last-place finish in a Cup Series race at Dover.  He does, however, have two last-place runs at Pocono (June 2011, August 2012), where the series heads next week.
*This was the first last-place finish for the #44 in a Cup Series race at Dover since 2007, when Dale Jarrett’s UPS Toyota lost the engine after 241 laps of the Autism Speaks 400 presented by VISA.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #44-Scott Riggs / 16 laps / transmission
42) #98-Michael McDowell / 54 laps / overheating
41) #19-Mike Bliss / 59 laps / rear gear
40) #20-Matt Kenseth / 159 laps / engine / led 29 laps
39) #93-Travis Kvapil / 161 laps / engine

LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Mike Bliss (4)
2nd) Michael McDowell (3)
3rd) Scott Riggs (2)
4th) Trevor Bayne, Dave Blaney, Joe Nemechek, Scott Speed (1)

LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #19-Humphrey-Smith Motorsports (4)
2nd) #98-Phil Parsons Racing (3)
3rd) #44-Xxxtreme Motorsports (2)
4th) #7-Tommy Baldwin Racing, #21-Wood Brothers Racing, #87-NEMCO Motorsports, #95-Leavine Family Racing (1)

LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Ford (7)
2nd) Toyota (5)
3rd) Chevrolet (1)

N’WIDE: Blake Koch’s Run At Dover Ends With First Last-Place Finish In Two Years

SOURCE: TheHotLap.com
Blake Koch picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Nationwide Series career in Saturday’s 5-Hour Energy 200 at the Dover International Speedway when his #00 SupportMilitary.org Toyota fell out with brake problems after he completed 4 of the race’s 200 laps.

The finish was Koch’s first of the year and his first since this same race in 2011, when his #82 Daystar.com Dodge was involved in a three-car crash on the opening lap of the 5-Hour Energy 200.

Koch was competing in his tenth start of the 2013 season, his fifth on the Nationwide Series tour.  Driving for Jason Sciavicco’s SR2 Motorsports, Koch began the year driving the team’s primary #24 car and scored a season-best 16th at Phoenix in March.  Ironically, when he switched teams to SR2’s #00 at Talladega, he performed even better, challenging for the lead in the middle stages of the race before he was taken out by Justin Allgaier on Lap 89.  Heading into Dover, he finished a respectable 22nd at Darlington, his third-best finish of the year.

Koch was one of just 38 cars on the preliminary entry list, a field fleshed-out by a pair of “start-and-park” entries: J.J. Yeley in The Motorsports Group’s prolific #46, and Vision Racing’s new #37 with Matt DiBenedetto aboard, a “start-and-park” team car to Darlington last-placer Tanner Berryhill.  Koch qualified behind both new entries in the 39th spot with a lap of 137.357 mph.  40th-place starter Tony Raines in the ML Motorsports #70 Toyota qualified even slower at 115.961 mph, his lap more than seven seconds slower than that of polesitter Austin Dillon.

In the race itself, Koch pulled behind the wall on the opening green-flag run, followed two laps later by DiBenedetto.  Yeley’s TMG car was edged by two laps for 38th by teammate Josh Wise in the #42, while the distinctive purple #89 of 2007 LASTCAR Nationwide Series Champion Morgan Shepherd rounded out the Bottom Five.

One week after selling his spot to Steven Wallace at Charlotte, Jeff Green finished 35th in his #10 TriStar Motorsports Toyota.  Other than the Charlotte race, it is the first time this season he has not finished in the Bottom Five.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This was the first last-place finish for the #00 in a Nationwide Series race since last fall at Charlotte, when Angela Cope’s ride for SR2 in the Dollar General 300 ended with an opening-lap crash coming to the green flag that disabled her #00 Highland Wealth Advisors / Highway 55 Toyota.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #00-Blake Koch / 4 laps / brakes
39) #37-Matt DiBenedetto / 6 laps / handling
38) #42-Josh Wise / 9 laps / electrical
37) #46-J.J. Yeley / 11 laps / overheating
36) #89-Morgan Shepherd / 14 laps / engine

LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Jeff Green (4)
2nd) Tanner Berryhill, Joey Gase, Blake Koch, Johanna Long, Eric McClure, Michael McDowell, Robert Richardson, Jr. (1)

LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #10-TriStar Motorsports (4)
2nd) #14-TriStar Motorsports, #17-Vision Racing, #23-R3 Motorsports, #27-SR2 Motorsports, #52-Jimmy Means Racing, #70-ML Motorsports, #00-SR2 Motorsports (1)

LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Toyota (9)
2nd) Chevrolet (2)

TRUCKS: Johnny Chapman Ties Wayne Edwards For Most Last-Place Finishes In Truck Series History

SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin'
Johnny Chapman picked up the 13th last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Friday’s Lucas Oil 200 at the Dover International Speedway when his unsponsored #38 RSS Racing Chevrolet fell out with an oil leak after he completed 4 of the race’s 200 laps.

The finish was Chapman’s first of the year and his first in the series since last summer at Bristol, fifteen races ago.  He is now tied with Wayne Edwards for the most last-place finishes in Truck Series history.  Edwards, the 2007 LASTCAR Truck Series Champion, has had sole possession of the record since he broke a tie with 1999 LASTCAR champ Phil Bonifield in 2009.

Chapman, the 2009 LASTCAR Nationwide Series Champion, was making his second start of the season following a 28th-place showing at Rockingham, where he drove the #07 for SS Green Light Racing.  For Dover, Chapman was tabbed to drive the #38 for RSS Racing, a “start-and-park” team which scored the last two consecutive LASTCAR titles with drivers Mike Garvey and Dennis Setzer.  Like Chapman, the #38 only ran one other time this year, when J.J. Yeley finished 35th at Kansas.

Only 36 trucks showed up to qualify for the race, so Chapman secured the 34th starting spot with a lap of 139.800 mph.  He pulled behind the wall during the opening laps, followed five laps later by Charlotte last-placer Chris Jones in RSS Racing’s other “start-and-park” entry, #93.  Jones was edged for the 35th spot by Chris Lafferty, who pulled out on the same lap driving the #0, a second truck for Jennifer Jo Cobb.  The #0 was the same team with which Blake Koch, Saturday’s Nationwide last-placer, nearly upset RSS’ Dennis Setzer for last year’s LASTCAR Truck Series title by forcing a bottom-five tiebreaker.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This was the first last-place finish for the #38 in a Truck Series race since last fall at Texas, eight races ago, when Chris Jones pulled the same truck out of the WinStar World Casino 350 after 3 laps due to a vibration.  It is also the second-straight year RSS’ #38 has finished last in this race - Dennis Setzer was stopped by a vibration after 2 laps in 2012.
*Chapman is the first Truck Series driver to finish last due to an oil leak since 2010, when Chris Lafferty fell out of that year’s Dover race after he completed the opening lap.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
36) #38-Johnny Chapman / 4 laps / oil leak
35) #0-Chris Lafferty / 9 laps / rear gear
34) #93-Chris Jones / 9 laps / overheating
33) #50-Danny Efland /14 laps / electrical
32) #84-Mike Harmon / 18 laps / transmission

LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Johnny Chapman, Mike Harmon, Jennifer Jo Cobb, Chris Jones, Scott Riggs, Scott Saunders (1)

LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #0-Jennifer Jo Cobb, #10-Jennifer Jo Cobb, #38-RSS Racing, #84-Chris Fontaine, #92-Ricky Benton, #93-RSS Racing (1)

LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (3)
2nd) Dodge (2)
3rd) Ford (1)