Sunday, July 28, 2013

CUP: Jeff Burton Comes Home Under Power To Claim First Last-Place Finish Since 2007

SOURCE: NASCAR Media
Jeff Burton picked up the 8th last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s Crown Royal Presents the Samuel Deeds 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway when his #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet finished under power, 50 laps down, completing 110 of the race’s 160 laps.

The finish was Burton’s first of 2013.  He and the #31 hadn’t finished last in a Cup Series race since October 7, 2007 when his #31 AT&T Mobility Chevrolet lost the engine after he completed 91 laps of the UAW-Ford 500 at Talladega.  That 2007 event was the most recent last-place finish for Richard Childress Racing until teammate Paul Menard lost an engine at Daytona, two races ago.

Competing in his twenty-first season, the 46-year-old Burton has had a quiet but decent 2013.  Two weeks ago at New Hampshire, he nearly pulled off his first victory since 2008 before he came home a season-best 3rd.  He’s also finished 5th at Richmond and 10th at both Phoenix and Michigan.  With just one DNF in the Daytona 500, he came into Indianapolis a solid 17th in points, already two positions better than his 19th-place rank at the end of 2012.

Burton qualified 16th for Sunday’s race at an average speed of 185.448 mph.  Starting last in the field, making his first Cup start since Pocono, was newcomer Timmy Hill in the #32 OXY Water Ford.  Joe Nemechek squeezed his way into the 40th spot after the last two qualifiers, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and pole and race winner Ryan Newman, both bumped Mike Bliss out of the Top 36.  With more than 43 cars on the Cup entry list for the first time since Michigan, five races ago, Bliss and the #19 Humphrey-Smith Motorsports crew failed to qualify for their first race since the Coca-Cola 600, headed home with Scott Speed and the #95 Leavine Family Racing team.

Sunday’s race marked the first time that all 43 starters finished under power since September 7, 2008, when the entire field was still running at the end of the rain-delayed Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond.  A.J. Allmendinger finished last that day, sixty-five laps behind race winner Jimmie Johnson.  It was Allmendinger’s third of four career last-place runs in Cup.  On Sunday, Allmendinger scored his third 22nd-place finish in the last four races, driving the pink-and-yellow #51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet.  It was owner James Finch’s final turn as owner of the #51, though he will remain involved with the team through Atlanta in September.

Since every car finished, last place changed hands between several different drivers.  When the green flag dropped, Timmy Hill moved Joe Nemechek back to 43rd, but the spot then went to Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who lost a lap when he came in for an unscheduled stop due to a loose wheel.  Earnhardt began his climb to a 6th-place finish by passing Nemechek, who again lost 43rd, this time to Michael McDowell in the #98 K-Love / Curb Records Ford.

Radio communications in the early laps indicated McDowell thought he had a right-rear tire going down, a problem which turned out to be a bad vibration.  From very early in the race, McDowell complained about large amounts of oil coming out of the back of Danica Patrick’s #10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet.  The communications between McDowell and crew chief Gene Nead grew heated, and McDowell finally made an unscheduled stop, dropping him to 43rd.

As the rest of the field made green flag stops, last-place went to Dave Blaney, then back to Nemechek, who lost eleven laps for work behind the wall.  It appeared Nemechek would score his 32nd last-place finish in Cup, tying the late J.D. McDuffie for the most in Cup Series history.  However, when Timmy Hill’s fuel pump broke on Lap 60, bringing out the first caution of the day, Nemechek returned to the track.  Hill, getting repairs on pit road, then fell to 43rd before he, too, returned to the track.

Jeff Burton entered the equation on Lap 82 when a drive train failure caused his #31 to slow on the track, summoning the second caution of the day.  As the team made repairs, Burton fell to the Bottom Five almost immediately, but stalled in 42nd when Hill stopped for further repairs.  Hill remained in 43rd, one lap behind Burton, but when Hill stalled again to bring out the next yellow on Lap 115, Burton fell to 43rd on Lap 116.  Hill remained on track, increasing the gap between he and Burton.

The only three cautions of the race were caused by Hill and Burton’s slowing cars.

With 32 laps to go, reports from Twitter indicated Burton was set to return to the track with a new drive shaft.  He came out on Lap 130, twelve laps behind Hill and still in 43rd.  Burton got one of his laps back in the final green-flag run, but climbed no further.  He was exiting the final corner as Ryan Newman streaked across the yard of bricks.  Hill came home 42nd followed by Nemechek in 41st.  Rounding out the Bottom Five were David Stremme in the #30 Widow Wax Toyota for Swan Racing and the unsponsored dark orange #36 Tommy Baldwin Racing entry of J.J. Yeley.

Sunday was the first race Michael McDowell finished under power since Talladega in April.  After three 42nd-place finishes in the last four races, he came home 32nd at Indy, three laps down.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This was first last-place finish in a Cup race at Indianapolis for both Burton and the #31.
*The 110 laps Burton completed are the most of any last-place finisher of a Cup race at Indianapolis.  The previous record was 91 laps completed by Michael Waltrip in the infamous 2008 running.  It’s also the most laps a last-place finisher has completed in a Cup race since 2010, when Bobby Labonte ran 197 laps at Martinsville before his #09 C&J Energy Services Chevrolet fell out with overheating problems.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #31-Jeff Burton / 110 laps / running
42) #32-Timmy Hill / 121 laps / running
41) #87-Joe Nemechek / 146 laps / running
40) #30-David Stremme / 151 laps / running
39) #36-J.J. Yeley / 156 laps / running

LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Mike Bliss (5)
2nd) Michael McDowell, Scott Riggs (3)
3rd) Bobby Labonte (2)
4th) Trevor Bayne, Dave Blaney, Jeff Burton, Jason Leffler, Paul Menard, Joe Nemechek, Scott Speed (1)

LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #19-Humphrey-Smith Racing (6)
2nd) #44-Xxxtreme Motorsports, #98-Phil Parsons Racing (3)
3rd) #7-Tommy Baldwin Racing, #21-Wood Brothers Racing, #27-Richard Childress Racing, #31-Richard Childress 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 (8)
2nd) Chevrolet (4)

N’WIDE: Jeff Green 9-For-19 After Last-Place Finish At Indy

SOURCE: motorsport.com
Jeff Green picked up the 47th last-place finish of his NASCAR Nationwide Series career in Saturday’s Indiana 250 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway when his #10 TriStar Motorsports / Value Place Toyota fell out with a vibration after he completed 4 of the race’s 100 laps.

The finish was Green’s ninth of the 2013 season and his first since New Hampshire, two races ago.  With nine last-place finishes in nineteen races and with fourteen races to go, Green needs to finish last just four more times to break his single-season record of twelve he set last year.

Green’s #10 carried a new look for the Brickyard.  Yellow numbers were used instead of blue ones, and the car carried associate sponsorship from occasional TriStar Motorsports backer Value Place.  Although Richmond last-placer Dexter Stacey withdrew to compete in a race in Canada, Green still had to beat four other “go-or-go-homers” to make the field.  Green did this, securing the 33rd starting spot with an average speed of 170.074 mph, equaling the speed of J.J. Yeley in The Motorsports Group’s #46.

The four “go-or-go-homers” behind Green and Yeley all failed to qualify: Matt DiBenedetto in the “start-and-park” #37 Dodge for Vision Racing, Carl Long in Mike Harmon’s #74, owner-driver Morgan Shepherd, the July Daytona last-placer, and two-time and last week’s last-placer Joey Gase in Jimmy Means’ #52.

The first fifty laps of Saturday’s race were run under the green flag.  Falling to the rear first was 14th-place starter Justin Allgaier.  Allgaier’s #31 raced to support the Charles Dean Leffler Trust, a foundation for the benefit of the late Jason Leffler’s five-year-old son.  The car also carried the familiar paint scheme of the #38 Great Clips machine Leffler raced for many years in the series.  Unfortunately, Allgaier had engine trouble before the green flag, and his team was forced to switch carburetors.  He returned to the race nineteen laps down and held 40th through the early stages.

While Allgaier’s team made repairs, Green pulled behind the wall, followed two laps later by both Josh Wise in the #42 The Motorsports Group entry and the #00 SR2 Motorsports Toyota driven this week by Jeff Green’s brother David.  It was David’s first start of the season and his last since he’d come home 39th at Charlotte last October.  Rounding out the Bottom Five were Yeley’s #46 and Jeff Green’s TriStar teammate Mike Bliss, who narrowly missed the field for the 400-mile Cup race on Sunday.

Allgaier returned to the track and finished 33rd, nineteen laps down.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This was Green’s first last-place finish in a Nationwide Series race at Indianapolis.  He did, however, finish last once at Indianapolis Raceway Park (now Lucas Oil Raceway) in 1996 when his #3 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet crashed eight laps into the Kroger 200.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #10-Jeff Green / 4 laps / vibration
39) #42-Josh Wise / 6 laps / rear gear
38) #00-David Green / 6 laps / transmission
37) #46-J.J. Yeley / 7 laps / electrical
36) #19-Mike Bliss / 41 laps / engine

LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Jeff Green (9)
2nd) Joey Gase (2)
3rd) Tanner Berryhill, Blake Koch, Johanna Long, Eric McClure, Michael McDowell, Robert Richardson, Jr., Morgan Shepherd, Dexter Stacey (1)

LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #10-TriStar Motorsports (9)
2nd) #52-Jimmy Means Racing (2)
3rd) #14-TriStar Motorsports, #17-Vision Racing, #23-R3 Motorsports, #27-SR2 Motorsports, #70-ML Motorsports, #89-Shepherd Racing Ventures, #92-KH Motorsports, #00-SR2 Motorsports (1)

LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Toyota (15)
2nd) Chevrolet (2)
3rd) Dodge, Ford (1)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

TRUCKS: Jeff Babcock The First Dirt Track Last-Placer Since 1970; Norm Benning Surprises in Last Chance Qualifier

SOURCE: htrnews.com
Jeff Babcock picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Wednesday’s Inaugural Mudsummer Classic at the Eldora Speedway when his #84 BulkMaterialLift.com Toyota fell out with engine problems after he completed 63 of the race’s 153 laps.

The finish was Babcock’s first, joining Kansas last-placer Scott Saunders as the two Truck Series drivers to finish last this year in their first series start.  It is also the second last-place finish of the year for Chris Fontaine’s #84, a team which most recently finished last at Rockingham seven races ago with Mike Harmon aboard.  Babcock’s team, Best Performance Motorsports, purchased the truck earlier this year, and as of this writing, results from the race indicate it was acquired from the Chris Fontaine team, which also campaigns the #84 full-time.

The 33-year-old Babcock made his series debut to build on a dirt racing career that goes back to 1999.  According to his website, he has since scored 149 victories, including 28 in 2009, and the Wayne, Ohio driver was ready to tackle the first Truck Series race at his home track.  He pulled double-duty this week at Eldora, competing in the Late Model event.

Babcock qualified 21st fastest at an average speed of 87.621 mph, ranking him tenth among the fifteen “go-or-go-homers.”  From there, he ended up taking the long way into the main event.  He began his journey in the fifth spot in the second heat race, an eight-lap sprint won by fellow “dirt ringer” Jared Landers in the Eddie Sharp-owned #6.  Babcock again missed a starting spot by coming home 5th, and he wound up on the outside-pole for the Last-Chance Qualifier.  finished 5th, however, forcing him to run the Last Chance Qualifier.  Fortunately for him, both he and race winner Brennan Newberry pulled away from the pack on the last restart.  Babcock finished 2nd, securing him the 27th spot in the main event.

The race’s thirty-truck field was the shortest in the Truck Series since October 8, 1999, when thirty trucks started the Kroger 225 at the Louisville Motor Speedway, the fifth and final series race run at that track.  Carl Long scored his first Truck Series last-place finish that day when his #91 Mansion Motorsports Ford crashed after 11 laps.

Starting last in the Wednesday’s main event was Norm Benning, who had become the feel-good story of the night.  Without a start in the Cup Series since 1993 and the Nationwide Series since 2004, the 61-year-old driver turned his attention to the Truck Series, where he’s competed as an owner-driver since 2008.  In that time, he’s finished no better than his three 15th-place finishes and has five last-place finishes, tied for sixth-most in the series.  Coming into Eldora, his 17th-place finish at Daytona this year has been followed by seven straight finishes of 25th or worse.

However, Benning also came to Eldora with 281 ARCA starts, including several at the one-mile dirt tracks in Springfield and DuQuoin, Illinois.  His best career ARCA finish came on the Springfield track in 2004, a 3rd-place run behind Bill Baird and Frank Kimmel.  In fact, out of Benning’s twelve ARCA finishes of 7th or better, nine of them came on dirt tracks, the most recent of which at Springfield in 2006.

Thus, when Benning found himself locked in a battle with Clay Greenfield for the 5th and final transfer spot during the Last Chance Qualifier, it should have come as no surprise that Benning had an ace up his sleeve.  After starting 7th, his #57 Stone Mountain Guns & Gold Chevrolet slipped through an opening-lap wreck into the 5th spot, then held the position until the caution flew in the closing laps.  Locked in a side-by-side battle with Greenfield, the two drove a spirited race the final two laps, and Greenfield shoved Benning into the outside wall.  Still, the veteran managed to keep his truck straight, and with the broken exhaust pipes hanging out from under his truck, he mashed the gas and raced his way into the main event.  Greenfield was one of five drivers who failed to qualify.

For more information on how to help Benning’s team, be sure to check out the link to his website here.

Reminiscent of the aftermath of Richard Petty’s wreck in the 1992 Hooters 500 at Atlanta, several crewmembers from other teams helped patch Benning’s truck back together so he could roll off 30th in the 150-lap feature.  He managed to grab a couple spots early, shuffling the #63 of Justin Jennings to the rear.  Falling behind Jennings was the #51 Kyle Busch Motorsports entry driven by National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame honoree Scott Bloomquist.  Bloomquist, who was fighting a severe handling problem because his truck ran without a front sway bar, was the first to lose a lap.  Though he fought Benning to gain a spot, his #51 remained in the back at the end of the opening sixty-lap segment.

At the start of the next forty-lap segment, Bloomquist tried to pick his way through the field.  Just three laps into the segment, Jeff Babcock’s #84, running near the back of the field, suddenly erupted in smoke, then pulled behind the wall.  An engine problem was to blame, and his night was over.

Rounding out the Bottom Five were Johnny Sauter, involved in a multi-truck accident on the backstretch on Lap 116, Ron Hornaday, Jr., who went behind the wall after he caught a big piece of the outside wall late in the event, Brennan Newberry, the winner of the Last Chance Qualifier, and Norm Benning.  Babcock and Sauter were the only drivers who did not finish.
       
SEPTEMBER 30, 1970 - RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA

Wednesday’s race was the first NASCAR event on a dirt track since September 30, 1970, when Richard Petty beat runner-up Neil “Soapy” Castles by two laps to win the Home State 200 at the half-mile North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, North Carolina.  For Petty, it was the 117th of his record 200 wins.  For Castles, the runner-up finish was the fourth and final of his career.  Castles remained winless in 498 career starts from 1957 through 1976 and amassed sixteen last-place finishes, which currently ties him for 13th in the all-time LASTCAR rankings.

Finishing last that day in Raleigh was John Sears in his #4 1969 Dodge, the fifth last-place finish of his Cup career.  Sears won the pole for the race and led the opening ten laps before his engine let go, ending his race after 16 laps.  He was the 22nd polesitter to finish last in a Cup Series race.  The laps Sears led, the pole he won, and the last-place finish that resulted were all the final ones Sears scored in his NASCAR career.

From 1964 trough 1973, Sears competed in 318 races, scoring 48 Top Fives and 127 Top Tens with a best finish of 2nd on three occasions.  He ran for many years as an owner-driver, but prior to that competed for the same L.G. DeWitt team that, in 1973, took Benny Parsons to his lone Winston Cup Championship.  The day Parsons clinched his championship at Rockingham on October 21, 1973 was also the day Sears started his final race.  Engine trouble left Sears and his #4 J. Marvin Mills Heating & Air 1971 Dodge 33rd in a field of 43.  He passed away on November 1, 1999.

Sears’ last-place run at Raleigh in 1970 marked the only time that year that both a polesitter finished last and that a last-place finisher led any laps in the same race.  Both didn’t happen again until July 4, 1980, when polesitter Cale Yarborough led five laps of the Firecracker 400 at Daytona, then lost the engine while leading.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This was the first time the #84 finished last in a NASCAR race on a dirt track since April 22, 1956, when Kenneth Wagner’s 1956 Lawson & Netti Ford overheated after 16 laps of the 150-lap race at the one-mile Langhorne Speedway.  It was Wagner’s ninth and final Cup start and his only last-place finish.  He was the first NASCAR polesitter at North Wilkesboro in 1949, which at the time was the season finale.  He also finished 70th in the 75-car field for the inaugural Southern 500 at Darlington.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
30) #84-Jeff Babcock / 63 laps / engine
29) #98-Johnny Sauter / 120 laps / crash
28) #9-Ron Hornaday, Jr. / 137 laps / running
27) #24-Brennan Newberry / 145 laps / running
26) #57-Norm Benning / 149 laps / running

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

LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #0-Jennifer Jo Cobb (3)
2nd) #38-RSS Racing, #84-Chris Fontaine (2)
3rd) #10-Jennifer Jo Cobb, #92-Ricky Benton, #93-RSS Racing (1)

LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (5)
2nd) Ford (3)
3rd) Dodge (2)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

N’WIDE: Joey Gase’s Green-Flag Engine Failure Leaves Him Last at Chicago

SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin' Forums
Joey Gase picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR Nationwide Series career in Sunday’s STP 300 at the Chicagoland Speedway when his #52 Donate Life Toyota lost the engine after he completed just the opening lap of the 200-lap race.

The finish was Gase’s second of 2013 and his first since Fontana, thirteen races ago.  He now becomes just the second repeat last-place finisher this season, joining Jeff Green and his season-leading eight last-place runs.

Gase, who was running a Toyota for the first time since Michigan in June, qualified 26th for Sunday’s race at an average speed of 172.546 mph.  It was Gase’s best qualifying run of the year - prior to the event, he had qualified no better than 32nd in 2013 - and was just one spot shy of his career-best 25th-place starting spot at Iowa in August of last year.

The only car that missed the race belonged to Tim Schendel, who was taking a turn in The Motorsports Group’s #46.  Schendel’s teammates Reed Sorenson (#40) and T.J. Bell (#42) both made the race.  Yeley pulled out after 13 laps and finished 36th.  Sorenson lost an engine on his #40 Swisher e-Cigarettes Chevrolet for the third-straight race and came home 30th.

Unfortunately for Gase, his run on Sunday was extremely short.  Coming to the green flag, the belt on his oil pump slipped, and a tremendous plume of white smoke shot from the back of his car.  He managed to keep control of his Toyota entering Turn 1 and got to the apron when the caution came out.  The damage to his engine turned out to be terminal, however, and he was done for the afternoon.

Rounding out the Bottom Five were four drivers who drove for four different teams. Matt DiBenedetto, driving the second Vision Racing entry, #37, pulled his Dodge out of the race during Gase’s caution flag.  A Butler brother finished in the Bottom Five for the second-straight race with Ken Butler III falling out after ten laps in the #00 Toyota fielded by SR2 Motorsports.  All-time last-place leader Jeff Green, who finished last in the 2012 running, fell out one lap after Butler with a vibration, followed two laps later by Yeley in 36th.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This was the first last-place finish for both Gase and the #52 in a Nationwide Series race at Chicagoland.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #52-Joey Gase / 1 lap / engine
39) #37-Matt DiBenedetto / 6 laps / electrical
38) #00-Ken Butler III / 10 laps / wheel
37) #10-Jeff Green / 11 laps / vibration
36) #42-T.J. Bell / 13 laps / vibration

LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Jeff Green (8)
2nd) Joey Gase (2)
3rd) Tanner Berryhill, Blake Koch, Johanna Long, Eric McClure, Michael McDowell, Robert Richardson, Jr., Morgan Shepherd, Dexter Stacey (1)

LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #10-TriStar Motorsports (8)
2nd) #52-Jimmy Means Racing (2)
3rd) #14-TriStar Motorsports, #17-Vision Racing, #23-R3 Motorsports, #27-SR2 Motorsports, #70-ML Motorsports, #89-Shepherd Racing Ventures, #92-KH Motorsports, #00-SR2 Motorsports (1)

LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Toyota (14)
2nd) Chevrolet (2)
3rd) Dodge, Ford (1)

NOTE: Due to the significance of this Wednesday’s Mudsummer Classic at the Eldora Speedway, the LASTCAR article for that Truck Series race will be posted on late Wednesday night instead of next Sunday night.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

CUP: Mike Bliss, Shuffled To 43rd at Loudon, Extends 2013 Last-Place Lead

SOURCE: Rob Dostie
Mike Bliss picked up the 14th last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s Camping World RV Sales 301 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway when his #19 Plinker Tactical Toyota fell out with a rear gear problem after he completed 75 of the race’s 302 laps.

The finish was Bliss’ fifth of 2013 and his first since Darlington, eight races ago.  It is also the first last-place finish for Humphrey-Smith Racing since Pocono, five races ago, when the late Jason Leffler made his final Cup start.  Bliss now holds a two-finish lead in the 2013 LASTCAR Cup Championship while Humphrey-Smith has a three-finish lead.

Bliss qualified 34th for Sunday’s race at an average speed of 132.485 mph.  It was the fourth-straight Cup race where just 43 cars showed up to qualify.  Starting 43rd for the first time in his career was Jimmie Johnson.  Johnson’s car was held up in inspection on qualifying day, and his 2nd-fastest time was disallowed when the car was found to be too low.  The 42nd starting spot went to David Stremme, who damaged the right-rear of his #30 in qualifying when he hit the wall in Turn 2.  Starting 41st was Morgan Shepherd.

Shepherd secured the K-Automotive Motorsports team its first start since Paulie Harraka’s eventful afternoon in Sonoma last month.  On Sunday, the 71-year-old driver and last Friday’s last-place finisher at Daytona became the oldest driver to start a Cup Series race, beating a record set by the late road race ace Jim Fitzgerald at the old Riverside International Raceway, who was 65 years and 6 months old on June 21, 1987.

Shepherd was making his first Cup Series start since he ran the same Loudon track on September 17, 2006 at the age of 64, which is still the fourth-oldest in Cup history.  Shepherd finished 42nd that day driving his self-owned #89 Victory In Jesus Dodge.  Last place went to all-time LASTCAR leader Jeff Green, who crashed in his #66 Haas Automation / Best Buy Chevrolet.

At the start of Sunday’s race, Jimmie Johnson rocketed through the field while Shepherd slipped to 43rd, struggling to maintain minimum speed.  On Lap 5, Joey Logano cut down a tire entering Turn 1 and slammed the outside wall with the driver’s side of his #22 Pennzoil Ford.  Logano was uninjured, but he spent more than ninety laps behind the wall.  During that time, Mike Bliss and Michael McDowell both pulled their cars behind the wall.  Shepherd took at least one trip behind the wall, then logged some more laps.

When Logano returned to the track around Lap 100, Bliss and McDowell slipped down to 43rd and 42nd, respectively.  Bliss secured 43rd on Lap 168.  Shepherd finally fell out with a vibration after 92 laps, staying out long enough to beat McDowell for 41st by three laps.  Over the radio as Shepherd pulled behind the wall the crew congratulated Shepherd on his record-breaking start.  Brian Keselowski confirmed on Twitter last week that Shepherd could run further races in the #52 if sponsorship can be found.

The race was won by Brian Vickers, his first checkered flag since Michigan on August 16, 2009.  In that nearly four-year span, Vickers has finished last in just one Cup Series race - at Watkins Glen last August, when his engine let go on the opening lap.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This was the first last-place finish for both Bliss and the car #19 in a Cup race at New Hampshire.
*The 75 laps Bliss completed are the most by a last-place finisher in a Cup race at New Hampshire since 2008, when Joe Nemechek completed 218 laps of the Sylvania 300 before he fell out with crash damage.

THE BOTTOM FIVE (All pictures by Rob Dostie)
43) #19-Mike Bliss / 75 laps / rear gear









42) #98-Michael McDowell / 89 laps / vibration









41) #52-Morgan Shepherd / 92 laps / vibration









40) #22-Joey Logano / 211 laps / running









39) #39-Ryan Newman / 225 laps / crash









LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Mike Bliss (5)
2nd) Michael McDowell, Scott Riggs (3)
3rd) Bobby Labonte (2)
4th) Trevor Bayne, Dave Blaney, Jason Leffler, Paul Menard, Joe Nemechek, Scott Speed (1)

LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #19-Humphrey-Smith Racing (6)
2nd) #44-Xxxtreme Motorsports, #98-Phil Parsons Racing (3)
3rd) #7-Tommy Baldwin Racing, #21-Wood Brothers Racing, #27-Richard Childress 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 (8)
2nd) Chevrolet (3)

N’WIDE: Jeff Green Scores Second Straight Loudon Last-Place Finish

SOURCE: NASCAR Media
Jeff Green picked up the 46th last-place finish of his NASCAR Nationwide Series career in Saturday’s CNBC Prime's The Profit 200 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway when his unsponsored #10 TriStar Motorsports Toyota fell out with a vibration after he completed 3 of the race’s 213 laps.

The finish was Green’s eighth of 2013 and his first since Kentucky, two races ago.  With sixteen races to go this season, Green is already just five finishes away from beating his own single-season last-place record of twelve he set last season.

Green qualified 25th for Saturday’s race at an average speed of 127.902 mph, ranking him 3rd fastest behind Matt Kenseth and Billy Johnson among the twelve “go-or-go-homers” who attempted to qualify.  Three cars failed to qualify: Daytona last-placer Morgan Shepherd, Mike Harmon in his #74, and Michigan last-placer Dexter Stacey in his #92.

For the second-straight race, however, Stacey’s team arranged for another team to withdraw so Stacey could make the race.  While Green withdrew last week at Daytona, Saturday’s withdrawal was Carl Long in the #15 Rick Ware Racing-prepared Ford.  Green was thus able to start Saturday’s race.

Radio communications indicated that Green was driving his primary car for next week’s race in Chicago.  Green fell to the rear in the early laps, then pulled off the track, resulting in a last-place finish.  For the sixth time this year, two cars from The Motorsports Group finished a close 38th and 39th.  Drivers J.J. Yeley (#46) and Josh Wise (#42) fell out four and seven laps, respectively, after Green.

The remaining two spots in the Bottom Five went to SR2 Motorsports with Blake Koch in the #00 and Brett Butler in the #24.  On Lap 43, Butler slammed the outside wall with the driver’s side of his #24 entering turn three, but was uninjured.  The car made it to the halfway point before it pulled behind the wall for good.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This was the second-consecutive last-place finish for both Green and the #10 TriStar Motorsports entry in a Nationwide Series race at New Hampshire.  Last year, Green fell out after two laps with a vibration.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #10-Jeff Green / 3 laps / vibration
39) #46-J.J. Yeley / 7 laps / vibration
38) #42-Josh Wise / 10 laps / brakes
37) #00-Blake Koch / 99 laps / brakes
36) #24-Brett Butler / 100 laps / crash

LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Jeff Green (8)
2nd) Tanner Berryhill, Joey Gase, Blake Koch, Johanna Long, Eric McClure, Michael McDowell, Robert Richardson, Jr., Morgan Shepherd, Dexter Stacey (1)

LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #10-TriStar Motorsports (8)
2nd) #14-TriStar Motorsports, #17-Vision Racing, #23-R3 Motorsports, #27-SR2 Motorsports, #52-Jimmy Means Racing, #70-ML Motorsports, #89-Shepherd Racing Ventures, #92-KH Motorsports, #00-SR2 Motorsports (1)

LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Toyota (13)
2nd) Chevrolet (2)
3rd) Dodge, Ford (1)

TRUCKS: Chris Lafferty Ties Johnny Chapman For 2013 LASTCAR Truck Lead

SOURCE: Troy Whitaker
Chris Lafferty picked up the 5th last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Saturday’s Amercian Ethanol 200 presented by Enogen at the Iowa Speedway when his #0 Driven2Honor.org Ford fell out with rear end problems after he completed 3 of the race’s 200 laps.

The finish was Lafferty’s second of the season and his second in a row, following his last-place run at Kentucky two weeks ago.  Lafferty and Johnny Chapman, who have combined to sweep the last four last-place finishes, are now tied for the 2013 LASTCAR Truck Series lead with two finishes apiece.  Jo Cobb’s #0 remains the leader in the LASTCAR Owners Championship thanks to Scott Saunders’ last-place run at Kansas.

Just 35 trucks showed up to compete in Saturday’s race, so Lafferty secured the 34th spot with the slowest timed lap of 120.468 mph.  35th-place starter Bryan Silas failed to complete a qualifying lap.

Lafferty pulled behind the wall during the opening green-flag run.  He was followed four laps later by the #93 RSS Racing entry driven by Chris Jones, marking the seventh consecutive race Jones has finished in the Bottom Five.  Danny Efland came home 33rd in the Chris Fontaine-owned #84 followed by Lafferty’s team owner Jennifer Jo Cobb in her #10 Dodge RAM.  Rounding out the Bottom Five was Brendan Gaughan, who after qualifying 4th for the third consecutive race, ended up with his worst finish of 2013.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This is the first last-place finish for both Lafferty and the #0 in a Truck Series race at Iowa.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
35) #0-Chris Lafferty / 3 laps / rear end
34) #93-Chris Jones / 7 laps / vibration
33) #84-Dany Efland / 11 laps / vibration
32) #10-Jennifer Jo Cobb / 20 laps / engine
31) #62-Brendan Gaughan / 159 laps / running

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

LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #0-Jennifer Jo Cobb (3)
2nd) #38-RSS Racing (2)
3rd) #10-Jennifer Jo Cobb, #84-Chris Fontaine, #92-Ricky Benton, #93-RSS Racing (1)

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

Saturday, July 6, 2013

CUP: Paul Menard Scores His First Last-Place Finish In More Than Six Years

SOURCE: motorsport.com
Paul Menard picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 at the Daytona International Speedway when his #27 Rheem / Menards Chevrolet lost the engine after he completed 23 of the race’s 161 laps.

The finish was Menard’s first of the season.  It’s also his first last-place finish in a Sprint Cup race since his rookie season in 2007, when he raced for Dale Earnhardt, Inc.  That finish came 225 races ago in the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega on April 29, 2007 when his #15 Menards Chevrolet lost the engine after 22 laps.  That was the final Talladega race for what is now known the “Gen-Four” chassis, which was phased-out at the end of that season.  Menard has yet to finish last in 186 combined Nationwide and Truck Series starts.

Menard is competing in his third season with Richard Childress Racing as driver of their bright yellow #27 Chevrolets.  In that time, the 32-year-old Wisconsin driver scored his first Sprint Cup victory in the 2011 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis.  He came home 17th in points that year, then improved to a career-best 16th last season.

Entering the Daytona race, Menard was 15th in points with four top-ten finishes.  Three of those runs came in consecutive races at Las Vegas, Bristol, and Fontana, the latter bringing a season-best 8th-place run in the Auto Club 400.  However, in the twelve races since, Menard had finished outside the Top 15 seven times, including a 30th-place run last week in Kentucky where he was caught up in a multi-car wreck with Greg Biffle and Brad Keselowski.

Menard showed signs of a turnaround at Daytona.  He qualified a strong 6th at an average speed of 193.075 mph, his second-best starting spot of the year and his third Top Ten start in the last five races.  All 43 entrants made the show.

In the race itself, Michael McDowell was the first driver to pull behind the wall, making the left-hand turn after six laps.  Radio communications indicated McDowell had a severe vibration, and the team changed out the rear gear and both rear axles.  McDowell had finished last in the 400 in 2012, and without sponsorship for his #98, it appeared he was set to finish last once more.  He could have tied Mike Bliss for the LASTCAR lead as Bliss and the #19 Humphrey-Smith Motorsports team were not entered in the event.

However, while running with the leaders off Turn 4, Menard’s car showed a huge plume of smoke, and flames fanned out from beneath the car’s fenders.  Menard slowed quickly as the caution flew, nearly colliding with Kurt Busch on the apron.  Somehow, he avoided being collected by the entire field, and he pulled off the track on an access road exiting the tri-oval.  Menard looked under the hood himself, but the problem was terminal, and he was done for the night.

McDowell returned to the track to run twenty-seven more laps, ten more than Menard, nudging the #27 back to the 43rd spot.  The vibration sent McDowell behind the wall for good, leaving him 42nd.  Fishing 41st was Martin Truex, Jr., who on Lap 98 pounded the inside wall in a three-car crash coming off Turn 4.  40th went to Joey Logano, who lost the 10th spot in the point standings when he cut a tire and hit the wall on Lap 70.  39th went to the damaged car of Juan Pablo Montoya, whose #42 was collected in the Truex wreck.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This was the first last-place finish for a Richard Childress-owned car since 2007, when Jeff Burton’s #31 Cingular Chevrolet lost the engine after 91 laps of the UAW-Ford 500 at Talladega.  That race was the first restrictor-plate start for NASCAR’s “Car of Tomorrow.”
*This was the first last-place finish for the #27 in a Cup race since 2006, when Kirk Shelmerdine’s #27 Catdaddy Carolina Moonshine Chevrolet broke the rear end after he completed 28 laps of the Pepsi 400.  Shelmerdine, a former crew chief of Dale Earnhardt, attempted seven more races after that night, but that race was the 26th and final of his Cup career.  Earlier in 2006, Shelmerdine was the feel-good story of SpeedWeeks 2006 when he raced his way into the field for the Daytona 500.  He obtained funding from several well-wishers, including Richard Childress, who footed the bill for his tires.  Shelmerdine finished a career-best 20th.
*Menard’s 6th-place qualifying run was the best starting spot by a Cup last-place finisher since last fall at Phoenix, when outside-polesitter Martin Truex, Jr. lost the engine after ten laps.  It is the best start by a Cup last-placer at Daytona since this race in 2007, when outside-polesitter Denny Hamlin finished 61 laps down after an early crash with teammate Tony Stewart during the Pepsi 400.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #27-Paul Menard / 23 laps / engine
42) #98-Michael McDowell / 33 laps / vibration
41) #56-Martin Truex, Jr. / 97 laps / crash
40) #22-Joey Logano / 105 laps / running
39) #42-Juan Palo Montoya / 126 laps / running

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, Paul Menard, 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, #27-Richard Childress 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 (3)

N’WIDE: Morgan Shepherd and Dodge Score Their First Nationwide Last-Place Finishes Since 2011

SOURCE: NASCAR Media
Morgan Shepherd picked up the 14th last-place finish of his NASCAR Nationwide Series career in Friday’s Subway Firecracker 250 at the Daytona International Speedway when his #89 Racing With Jesus Dodge fell out with a broken rear gear after he completed 21 of the race’s 101 laps.

The finish was Shepherd’s first of 2013 and his first in a Nationwide Series race since the Ford 300 at Homestead, fifty races ago.  It is also Shepherd’s 35th last-place finish across NASCAR’s top three divisions, ranking him fourth in the all-time standings behind Jeff Green, Joe Nemechek, and Derrike Cope.  Of that group, Shepherd is the only driver with LASTCAR championships in both Cup (1983) and Nationwide (2007).

Though he has not won in NASCAR since 1993, the 71-year-old Shepherd has been a fixture in the garage area, having made no fewer than twenty-one Nationwide starts per season since he returned to being an owner-driver in 2007.  However, this year, citing sponsorship woes, the veteran has made just four starts out of the sixteen races run so far, including four DNQs.  He has not finished a race this year, and his best finish of the season remains a pair of 35th-place runs at Talladega and Kentucky.

However, last week’s race at Daytona saw Shepherd score his best qualifying run of the season, a 31st-place run at an average speed of 175.172 mph.  For the race, Shepherd ran a Dodge Challenger with his distinctive purple-and-black paint scheme.  Dodge had pulled out prior to the 2013 season, but NASCAR allows recent models to compete, so both Shepherd and Mike Harmon raced Dodges on Friday.  Harmon’s #74 Paxco Dodge started 29th.

Darlington last-placer Blake Koch was the only driver to miss the race after another post-qualifying shuffle.  Dexter Stacey had originally missed the field along with Koch, but an agreement was struck whereby LASTCAR leader Jeff Green withdrew his qualified #10 TriStar Motorsports Toyota.  Stacey secured the 40th starting spot while Green replaced Tony Raines as driver of the #70 ML Motorsports Toyota.  Green finished 30th, two laps down, ending a streak of four-straight last-place finishes in Nationwide races at Daytona.  Stacey broke an axle and came home 38th.

Shepherd pulled behind the wall during the opening green-flag run, resulting in his last-place finish.  He beat 39th-place Reed Sorenson by nearly fifty laps.  Sorenson brought out the second caution of the night on Lap 72 when he lost the engine on his #40 Swisher e-Cigarettes Chevrolet fielded by The Motorsports Group.  Following 38th-place Stacey was Mike Wallace, who brought out the next caution when his #01 lost power on the backstretch.  Fontana last-placer Joey Gase rounded out the Bottom Five in the Jimmy Means-owned #52 Donate Life FL / Tanslife Chevrolet.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This was Shepherd’s first last-place finish in a Nationwide race at Daytona since 1988, when his #97 AC Spark Plugs Buick started 7th, led eight laps, then lost the engine after 21 laps of the Goody’s 300.  The next day, Shepherd also finished last in the Daytona 500, again driving the #97.  Bobby Allison, who in 1982 was the last driver until Jimmie Johnson on Saturday to sweep both Cup races at Daytona, also swept the 1988 weekend with wins in the Cup and Nationwide races.
*This was the first Nationwide Series last-place finish for Dodge since 2011, when Blake Koch’s #82 Daystar.com Dodge was involved in a crash with his teammate after the opening lap of the crash-filled 5-Hour Energy 200 at Dover.
*It is the first last-place finish for the #89 in a Nationwide Series race at Daytona.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #89-Morgan Shepherd / 21 laps / rear gear
39) #40-Reed Sorenson / 70 laps / engine
38) #92-Dexter Stacey / 76 laps / axle
37) #01-Mike Wallace / 87 laps / engine
36) #52-Joey Gase / 90 laps / running

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., Morgan Shepherd, 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, #89-Shepherd Racing Ventures, #92-KH Motorsports, #00-SR2 Motorsports (1)

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

Friday, July 5, 2013

An Open Letter to the Broadcasters at Daytona

SOURCE: Phoenix Racing Twitter - @PhoenixRacing51
Dear ESPN and TNT,

This weekend at Daytona, Phoenix Racing has cars in both the Cup and Nationwide races.  Each car carries a special paint scheme that harkens back to NASCAR’s boom in the early 1990s, the time period when owner James Finch’s fledgling organization made its first few starts.

On Friday, Kurt Busch will run a green-and-yellow #1 Chevrolet.  The car is reminiscent of the #46 City Chevrolet machine driven by Tom Cruise’s character Cole Trickle in the 1990 film “Days of Thunder.”  The Phoenix team has even gone to the extreme of putting together a hilarious video with Rick Hendrick where they recite quotes from the film.  It’s mandatory viewing before the race - especially if you’re listening to Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack when you do.

On Saturday, A.J. Allmendinger will climb behind the wheel of the pink-and-yellow #51 Phoenix Construction Chevrolet, a car with much more somber significance.  It was in a similarly-colored #51 Country Time Chevrolet that, on February 11, 1994,  NASCAR legend Neil Bonnett lost his life in a crash while practicing for the Daytona 500.  We saw this paint job run earlier this season in the Nationwide race at Talladega, where Kurt Busch led on the final lap before a last-second slingshot move slipped him back to 4th.

And, as I pointed out, ESPN completely failed in their journalistic duty to discuss that Bonnett car in a mature and respectful manner.

Just three days after ESPN’s flub, it was announced that Finch will sell both of his NASCAR teams.  Finch’s final race as owner of the #51 will be the July 28 race at Indianapolis, which is now just twenty-three days away.  Although it now appears the team will be sold to a new owner instead of closed, Finch’s impending exit adds yet more significance to his two cars running this weekend.

This weekend will be Finch’s final appearance as a car owner for a restrictor-plate race.  It is significant because it is likely the last best chance Finch will have to hoist another NASCAR trophy.

The events at Daytona and Talladega have long been the team’s best, and this year's have been their greatest of all.  Back in February, Regan Smith finished 7th in the Daytona 500, one day after his Finch-owned Nationwide car was crashed out of the lead within sight of the checkers.  Smith followed this up with a 6th-place finish for Finch in the Aaron’s 499, one day after he slipped past Busch’s Finch car for the Nationwide win.

Make no mistake, ESPN and TNT - with Allmendinger topping the speed charts in Friday’s opening Cup practice, and with Kurt Busch running Top Ten in both Nationwide sessions, Finch’s cars can not only win, but could very well sweep the weekend.

You’re going to have to talk about them.

And this time, you had better get it right.

You better get it right because the stakes are even higher than they were in May.

This isn’t just about honoring the life of Neil Bonnett anymore - it’s also about honoring Finch himself and all that he, too, has given to this sport for more than two decades.  And, in turn, it’s about saluting what has made this sport great - the personalities who, like Finch, built a professional team from the ground up, and like Bonnett, who drove for such teams with everything they had.

This isn’t simply a suggestion or a request.  It is an ultimatum.

It doesn’t need to be an all-consuming thing.  A segment, a series of clips, or the sharing of a memories will work just fine.  Maybe something like SPEED did for Dick Trickle during the All-Star Race or the beautiful tribute NASCAR’s videographer did for Jason Leffler.

But I better not hear another one-liner about that #51 looking silly.  Because if these networks - the commentators, producers, and the rest of their television crews - continue to treat NASCAR history as rudely and carelessly as ESPN did in May, they will someday find themselves in darkened press boxes above desolated grandstands.

Because there’s more fans like me than you think.

Sincerely,
Brock Beard
LASTCAR