Sunday, September 28, 2014

N’WIDE: Ryan Ellis Last At Dover, LASTCAR Battle Down To Koch and Green

SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin' Forums
Ryan Ellis picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Nationwide Series career in Saturday’s Dover 200 at the Dover International Speedway when his unsponsored #46 The Motorsports Group Chevrolet fell out with a vibration after he completed 2 of the race’s 200 laps.

The finish was Ellis’ second of the 2014 season and his first since the spring race at Iowa, eighteen races ago.

With five races to go, TMG’s #46 team can only tie TriStar Motorsports’ #10 for the most last-place finishes in 2014, and only if they trail all five of the year’s remaining races.  If that happens, whether one team or the other fails to finish in the bottom five could determine the tiebreaker - the #46 leads the #10 by a single bottom-five: 23-22.  A last-place finish by any car other than the #46 will give TriStar its fourth-straight LASTCAR Owner’s Title.

In the LASTCAR driver’s championship, only two drivers are now mathematically eligible - Blake Koch and Jeff Green.  While third-place Kevin Lepage does have a chance to tie Koch for the most last-place finishes in 2014, he will only do so if he becomes the first NASCAR driver to trail five consecutive races.  Even if he does, and if Koch doesn’t finish in the bottom-five in any of those races, Lepage would lose the bottom-five tiebreaker 15-12 as Lepage has only 7 bottom-five runs so far.  Koch currently leads Green in bottom-fives 15-12, a slim lead which could evaporate if Green catches Koch.

Ellis was making his eleventh Nationwide Series start of the season and his third in a row driving TMG’s #46.  In those two previous starts, Ellis had come home 39th, edged for last by Koch and Green in both races.  For Dover, TriStar’s dominant #10 Toyota would be driven by third-ranked Kevin Lepage.  Koch and Yeley would drive TriStar’s fully-funded #44 and #14, respectively.  All were among the 42 entries who showed up at The Monster Mile to make the 40-car field.

Ellis put up the 32nd-fastest lap of the 39 who participated in Friday’s opening practice session and stayed 32nd in Happy Hour.  Saturday, he dropped just one spot to qualify 33rd at an average speed of 146.080 mph - more than enough to bump Mike Harmon and Milka Duno from the field.  During that qualifying session, Josh Reaume crashed Rick Ware’s #87 Chevrolet without completing a lap.  When Ware didn’t have a backup car, reports indicate Harmon was given the spot.  Harmon’s #74 was re-numbered 87 and he would start Saturday’s race at the back, joining Ellis, who had surrendered his starting spot during the pace laps.

Ellis edged Harmon for last when he pulled behind the wall one lap before him.  Both avoided disaster on Lap 8 when Jamie Dick and Derrike Cope crossed paths coming off Turn 4, sending both hard into the inside wall.  Done for the day, Dick and Cope took the next two spots in the Bottom Five, followed by Harrison Rhodes and the #72 James Carter entry during the ensuing caution.

Lepage, who was briefly credited with 40th when Ellis retired, exited the race after 50 laps.  The high attrition rate in the early laps left the #10 TriStar team 31st, barely inside the Bottom Ten.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This is TMG’s first last-place finish in a Nationwide Series race at Dover.  Curtis Key’s team had previously finished next-to-last in five of its previous 31 combined starts.
*This marks the first time the #46 has finished last in Nationwide race at Dover.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #46-Ryan Ellis / 2 laps / vibration
39) #87-Mike Harmon / 3 laps / ignition
38) #55-Jamie Dick / 8 laps / crash
37) #70-Derrike Cope / 8 laps / crash
36) #72-Harrison Rhodes / 14 laps / vibration

LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Blake Koch (8)
2nd) Jeff Green (6)
3rd) Kevin Lepage (3)
4th) Matt DiBenedetto, Ryan Ellis (2)
5th) Tanner Berryhill, Matt Frahm, Roger Reuse, Robert Richardson, Jr., Tim Schendel, Jimmy Weller, Josh Wise (1)

LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #10-TriStar Motorsports (11)
2nd) #46-The Motorsports Group (6)
3rd) #91-TriStar Motorsports (3)
4th) #74-Mike Harmon Racing (2)
5th) #17-Vision Racing, #23-R3 Motorsports, #55-VIVA Motorsports / SS Green Light Racing, #77-Mike Harmon Racing, #87-Rick Ware Racing, #93-JGL Racing (1)

LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Toyota (14)
2nd) Chevrolet (9)
3rd) Dodge (5)