Sunday, May 25, 2014

CUP: David Gilliland Scores First Last-Place Finish In Nearly Five Years

SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin' Forums
David Gilliland picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway when his #38 Love’s Travel Stops Ford was involved in a single-car accident after he completed 160 of the race’s 400 laps.

The finish was Gilliland’s first of the season and his first in the series in almost five years.  This dates back to May 31, 2009, when his #71 TRG Motorsports Chevrolet fell out with power issues after 38 laps of the Autism Speaks 400 presented by Heluva Good at Dover.

That day at Dover, 179 races ago, Gilliland was driving for sports car team owner Kevin Buckler, one of many people who founded start-up Cup teams following massive team layoffs in the 2008-2009 offseason.  The layoffs came amidst the mergers and closures of several Cup teams, including Yates Racing, the team Gilliland earned following his surprising Nationwide Series win at Kentucky in 2006.  In 2010, Bobby Labonte replaced Gilliland in TRG’s #71, and after a brief foray with several other teams, Gilliland joined Front Row Motorsports.

Bob Jenkins’ Front Row team, which started making a handful of Cup starts in 2005, had survived the 2008-2009 downsizing, and with John Andretti behind the wheel of its flagship #34 completed its first full season in 2009.  The effort was aided by a second “start-and-park” team, #37, which contended for the LASTCAR Cup Series title with veteran Tony Raines.  In 2010, Gilliland would debut a third Front Row team, driving the same #38 he ran with Yates.  The #34 went to fellow journeyman driver Travis Kvapil while rookie Kevin Conway took control of the #37.

Gilliland is the only Front Row Motorsports driver to have raced for the team in every single season since 2010.  While his two best finishes with the team have come at the restrictor-plate tracks - a 3rd in the 2011 Daytona 500 and a 2nd last April at Talladega - he also earned a 12th-place finish at Sonoma in 2011, site of his other 2nd-place finish for Yates in 2008.

This season, Front Row remained at three cars, but scaled back to two following the second DNQ of Eric McClure in the #35 at Talladega.  Gilliland and teammate David Ragan both ran strong in the race only to fall out in separate incidents.  That race marked the beginning of an unfortunate streak for Gilliland, who was involved in a frightening crash with Justin Allgaier during the late stages of the race at Kansas earlier this month.  These back-to-back DNFs came right after his season-best 20th at Richmond.

At Charlotte, Gilliland avoided trouble in the Sprint Showdown during All-Star weekend to come home 11th of 23 drivers.  For the 600, he timed in 32nd of 45 cars in the opening practice, then ran 37th of 43 and 36th of 40 in Saturday’s final two sessions.  In between, he qualified 33rd for Sunday’s race with a lap averaging 188.732 mph.

The beginning of Sunday’s race ran at a grueling green-flag pace for the first 108 consecutive laps.  During this stretch, several drivers lost laps early.  43rd-place starter Blake Koch, the current LASTCAR Nationwide Series leader, made his second start of 2014 by this time driving the #32 Ford fielded by FAS Lane Racing.  For much of the race’s first half, Koch traded 43rd with Joe Nemechek, who received funding from testosterone supplement Testoril on his #66 NEMCO / Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota.  Both were also the first to lose a lap around Lap 19.

Nemechek had just inched behind Koch for 43rd when Gilliland found trouble on Lap 165.  Himself running laps down by that point, Gilliland suffered a possible right-front tire failure and slammed the outside wall in Turn 2, causing severe damage to his Ford.  He, as well as Reed Sorenson in the #36 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet, were both listed as “OFF” for several laps.  But by halfway, first Gilliland, then Sorenson, were officially retired.  Gilliland edged Sorenson for the spot by just two laps.

Nemechek and Koch came home 34th and 35th, respectively, as late-race attrition filled the rest of the Bottom Five.  Finishing 41st was Josh Wise, whose again-unsponsored #98 Phil Parsons Racing Chevrolet suffered nose damage in a Lap 236 pileup triggered by the spinning Marcos Ambrose off Turn 4.  The other two spots went to two Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolets.  40th-place Kurt Busch successfully completed the Indianapolis 500 that morning with a 6th-place run, but his #41 Haas Automation Made in America Chevrolet struggled in the 600, dropped a cylinder, then lost the engine after 271 laps.  Teammate Danica Patrick qualified 4th, dropped through the field in the opening run, then lost her own engine after completing just ten more laps than Busch.

*This is the first last-place finish for the #38 in a Cup Series race since August 6, 2006, when Elliott Sadler’s Snickers Ford crashed after he completed 3 laps of the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.  Two races later at Michigan, Sadler would leave the #38 Yates Racing-owned team to drive for Evernham Motorsports in the #19, leaving the ride open for Gilliland.
*This is the first last-place finish for the #38 in a Cup Series race at Charlotte since October 11, 2003, when Sadler’s M&M’s Halloween Ford crashed after he completed 204 laps of the UAW-GM Quality 500.
*It’s the first for the #38 in the Coca-Cola 600 since May 26, 2002, when Kevin Leapge’s GEICO Direct Ford, owned by once-LASTCAR record holder Derrike Cope, lost an engine after 54 laps.

43) #38-David Gilliland / 160 laps / crash
42) #36-Reed Sorenson / 162 laps / engine
41) #98-Josh Wise / 229 laps / crash
40) #41-Kurt Busch / 271 laps / engine
39) #10-Danica Patrick / 281 laps / engine

1st) Aric Almirola, Dave Blaney, Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., David Gilliland, Timmy Hill, Michael McDowell, Joe Nemechek, Morgan Shepherd, Tony Stewart, Martin Truex, Jr., Ryan Truex (1)

1st) #14-Stewart-Haas Racing, #15-Michael Waltrip Racing, #33-Circle Sport, #38-Front Row Motorsports, #43-Richard Petty Motorsports, #66-Michael Waltrip Racing / NEMCO-JRR Motorsports, #77-Randy Humphrey Racing, #78-Furniture Row Racing, #83-BK Racing, #87-NEMCO-JRR Motorsports, #88-Hendrick Motorsports, #95-Leavine Family Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet, Ford, Toyota (4)

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