Wednesday, July 23, 2014

TRUCKS: Mike Affarano Overheats After Racing His Way Into First NASCAR Start

SOURCE: Mike Affarano Motorsports' Facebook page
Mike Affarano picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Wednesday’s 1-800 Car Cash Mudsummer Classic at the Eldora Speedway when his #03 Won-N-Done Automotive Car Products Chevrolet fell out with overheating problems after he completed 93 of the race’s 150 laps.  The finish came in Affarano’s series debut.

Affarano is the 50-year-old owner of Affarano’s U Pull It wrecking yard in his native Lockport, Illinois.  His team, Mike Affarano Motorsports, made its first stock car start in the ARCA race at Talladega on May 4, 2012, a race which ended with this spectacular tumble in the tri-oval.  Uninjured, he went on to score a career-best 16th at Springfield’s one-mile dirt track.

This year, Affarano has looked to expand his operation into the NASCAR Nationwide and Truck Series.  While plans to run the Nationwide opener at Daytona and last week’s Truck Series race at Iowa did not materialize, he spent much of the summer working with Kyle Busch Motorsports and PME preparing a bright pink 2013 Chevrolet Silverado for his NASCAR debut.  The truck was finished just in time for one of the most hotly-contested races of the season - Eldora.

33 trucks appeared on the preliminary entry list for the second annual Mudsummer Classic, but Affrano’s post-entry made it 34, meaning that thirteen trucks would compete for the final nine spots in Wednesday’s field.  Among his fellow “go-or-go-homers” were 2013 polesitter Ken Schrader, Big Block Modified star J.R. Heffner, series regular Ty Dillon, and 2013's Cinderella story of the Last Chance Qualifier, Norm Benning.

Affarano did not participate in Friday’s opening practice session, then trailed the field in Happy Hour.  He improved to 31st in qualifying, turning in a lap of 81.389 mph.  Two drivers who trailed him did not complete a lap: T.J. Bell’s #50 American Lineman Chevrolet lost a right-front tire in practice, forcing the team to make repairs, while the #07 Crop Production Services Chevrolet of Jared Landers slammed the Turn 2 wall on his qualifying lap.  Landers ended up withdrawing from the event, unable to start Heat Race #4.

Affarano’s run put him at the back of the seven-truck Heat Race #2, joining Mason Mingus, Jeb Burton, John Wes Townley, Joey Coulter, Gray Gaulding, and Cody Erickson.  On the opening lap of the race, Townley and Erickson hooked bumpers in Turn 1 and spun.  Fortunately, the spin didn’t bring out the caution, and when Affarano missed the two spinning trucks, his 5th-place finish was enough to lock himself into the 22nd spot for the 150-lap main event.  Townley and Erickson went on to compete in the Last Chance Qualifier, where Townley qualified and Erickson did not, joining Jennifer Jo Cobb, her father Joe, and the withdrawn Landers on the DNQ list.

In the race itself, the 30th and final starting spot went to Cup Series rookie Michael Annett, whose #14 was battered after a battle with Erickson in the Last Chance Qualifier.  Affarano fell to last on Lap 2, then was the first to lose a lap heading into Turn 1 on Lap 19.  He got his lap back under the competition caution on Lap 62, then repeated the process once more, losing it again on Lap 82 then getting it back when the yellow flew for the fifth time on Lap 88.

The Lap 88 caution came out for a pair of cut tires on the #51 Toyota of polesitter Erik Jones and the #3 Chevrolet of Ty Dillon.  Jones made contact with the outside wall, the latest in a series of struggles that began with a spin on Lap 28.  His shredded tire disabled his rear brakes, costing him six laps in the garage area.  When Jones returned to the track, Affarano had exited with overheating issues, and on Lap 100 shuffled the #03 to 30th for the final time.  Jones climbed no higher than 29th.

Finishing 28th was dirt tracker Jody Knowles, also making his first NASCAR start in the #80 Clayton Signs / Sinister Suites Ford fielded by Tracy Wallace.  In 27th was Norm Benning, who once again made the race in the Last Chance Qualifier, this time in a newly-renumbered blue #6 Watt’s Truck Center Chevrolet.  Rounding out the Bottom Five was 26th-place Kyle Larson, who electrified the crowd in his #32 GLAD Chevrolet by closing in on leader Darrell Wallace, Jr. despite several hits to the outside wall.  With two laps to go, his right-front tire finally let go, and Larson pulled off the track.

*This was the first last-place finish for the #03 in a Truck Series race since May 18, 2007, when 9th-place starter Justin Hobgood crashed his Southeast Toyota Dealers Toyota after 8 laps of the Quaker Steak & Lube 200 presented by Circle K at Charlotte.
*This was the first last-place finish for the #03 in a dirt track race sanctioned by one of NASCAR’s top three divisions.  Prior to the most recent Cup race on dirt on September 30, 1970, the number had finished last just three times, and only on the paved tracks at Bowman Gray Stadium, Bristol, and Nashville.

30) #03-Mike Affarano / 93 laps / overheating
29) #51-Erik Jones / 144 laps / running / led 24 laps
28) #80-Jody Knowles / 148 laps / running
27) #6-Norm Benning / 148 laps / running
26) #32-Kyle Larson / 148 laps / crash / led 5 laps

1st) Ryan Ellis (2)
2nd) Mike Affarano, Alex Guenette, Justin Jennings, Blake Koch, Charles Lewandoski, Tommy Regan, Scott Stenzel, Jason White (1)

1st) #0-Jennifer Jo Cobb, #36-Mike Mittler (2)
2nd) #42-Randy Young, #45-Regan Motorsports, #63-Mike Mittler, #74-Mario Gosselin, #93-RSS Racing, #03-Mike Affarano Motorsports (1)

1st) Chevrolet (9)
2nd) RAM (1)

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