|SOURCE: motorsport.com, Action Sports Photography|
The finish is Vickers’ first of the 2014 season and his first in a Cup Series race since Watkins Glen in 2012, 61 races ago.
In his first full season with Michael Waltrip Racing, Vickers has very quietly had a strong season. Following a disastrous SpeedWeeks where he wrecked his primary car in practice and finished 30th in the Daytona 500, he finished outside the Top 15 just three other times in the next eleven races. His best finishes of the season are a pair of 4th-place runs at Texas and Talladega, and he had completed all but 12 of the season’s laps without a single DNF. Fresh off a 6th-place run at Charlotte, Vickers was 8th in points, 67 points out of the lead.
At Dover, Vickers timed in 14th in the opening practice session, then jumped to 9th in qualifying with an average speed of 162.411 mph. The team continued to find speed through Saturday’s final two practice sessions, where he ranked 4th in the second and 8th in the third. Hopes were high for another good finish in the 400-miler.
Coming into Sunday’s race, Blake Koch had a chance to make LASTCAR history. Since the inception of the Camping World Truck Series in 1995, no driver had ever finished last in the Cup, Nationwide, and Truck Series races at the same track on the same weekend. In fact, it was not until 2011 that a driver finished last in all three series in the same season (accomplished by J.J. Yeley). But after Koch edged Ryan Ellis on Friday, then beat Matt DiBenedetto by two laps on Saturday, Koch would start last in the #32 SupportMilitary.org Ford in his third Cup start of the season.
Koch held the 43rd spot early, and was the first to lose a lap around Lap 14. Running ahead of him in 42nd was the #77 Humphrey Racing entry of Dave Blaney, who was making his first start in a points race since his last-place run at Darlington. Both continued to lose laps to the leaders through the first round of pit stops, but both remained on track for the rest of the afternoon. Koch would come home 30th, 12 laps down. Blaney, celebrating his election to the 2014 National Sprint Car Hall of Fame with a special hood decal, finished 33rd, 17 laps down.
With two LASTCAR contenders still in the race, the afternoon resulted in yet another surprising Bottom Five.
Not long after the Lap 71 restart following the first of several hard hits for rookie Alex Bowman and his #23 Dr. Pepper Toyota, Vickers suddenly slowed with smoke trailing from his Toyota. He pulled behind the wall, done for the day with engine failure. Outside-polesitter Kyle Busch, going for a three-peat of his own, led 81 of the race’s first 125 laps only to tangle with Clint Bowyer in Turn 4 while running in the Top 5, ending his day.
The next restart sent another two contenders to the Bottom Five. Exiting Turn 2 on Lap 135, A.J. Allmendinger made contact with Roush-Fenway teammate Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Greg Biffle, sending both cars hard into the wall. Stenhouse plummeted to 41st, the sheetmetal shorn from the side of his #17 Nationwide Ford. Biffle managed to return to the track more than 100 laps down, creeping out of the Bottom Five and extending his streak of consecutive races without a DNF to 85 - barely - to break the all-time record set by Herman "Turtle" Beam in 1963. The two cars Biffle passed were Alex Bowman, finally K.O.’d by another mid-race hit to the wall, and J.J. Yeley, who lost the engine on his #44 Phoenix Warehouse Chevrolet.
*This is the first last-place finish for the #55 in a Cup Series race at Dover since October 2, 2011, when Travis Kvapil’s Front Row Motorsports Ford had ignition trouble after 12 laps.
*This is Michael Waltrip Racing’s first last-place finish in a Cup Series race at Dover since June 4, 2007, when Dale Jarrett’s #44 UPS Toyota lost an engine after 241 laps.
*This is Vickers’ first last-place finish in a Cup Series race at Dover.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #55-Brian Vickers / 73 laps / engine
42) #18-Kyle Busch / 125 laps / crash / led 81 laps
41) #17-Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. / 131 laps / crash
40) #23-Alex Bowman / 208 laps / crash
39) #44-J.J. Yeley / 232 laps / engine
LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
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, Brian Vickers (1)
LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #14-Stewart-Haas Racing, #15-Michael Waltrip Racing, #33-Circle Sport, #38-Front Row Motorsports, #43-Richard Petty Motorsports, #55-Michael Waltrip Racing, #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)
LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Toyota (5)
2nd) Chevrolet, Ford (4)