Sunday, November 2, 2014

CUP: Landon Cassill One Of Five Drivers In Contention For 2014 LASTCAR Cup Title

SOURCE: Hillman Racing's Facebook
Landon Cassill picked up the 5th last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway when his unsponsored #40 Hillman Racing Chevrolet lost the engine after he completed 134 of the race’s 441 laps.

The finish was Cassill’s second of the 2014 season and his first since Sonoma, eighteen races ago.  With two races remaining, Cassill is now one of five drivers still in contention for the 2014 LASTCAR Cup Series Championship.  Mike Bliss and Dave Blaney have each run just 7 races in 2014 and have not raced in Cup since Kansas in October and Bristol in August, respectively, but both still lead the standings.  Bliss leads Blaney in bottom-five finishes 5-4, but Blaney can only claim the title by finishing last in both the final two races as he trails Bliss in bottom-ten finishes 7-4.

If neither Bliss nor Blaney run another race, any of the two-time last-placers in 2014 can also claim the title on a tiebreaker by sweeping the 43rd spots at Phoenix and Homestead.  The top contender is Timmy Hill, who already has 5 bottom-fives, while Clint Bowyer and Cassill now have 4 apiece.  Clay Rogers, another driver with two last-place finishes, has now been eliminated with only 2 Bottom Fives.  Still, the only way Bliss can lose the title is if Blaney, Bowyer, Cassill, or Hill finish last in both of these final two races of the season, so there’s a good chance the title chase ends at Phoenix.

Cassill came into the Texas race on te heels of four straight finishes of 23rd or better, including a career-best 4th in the thrilling finish at Talladega.  Months after scoring a previous career mark of 11th in the spring race at the 2.66-mile track, Cassill remained with the leaders nearly all afternoon and was a threat to pull the upset before Brad Keselowski pulled away for the win.

After running eight different sponsors through the first part of the season, Cassill brought a flat white Chevrolet to the Texas track.  He timed in 39th of the 43-car entry list in the opening practice session, timed in 34th in qualifying at an average speed of 195.744 mph, then hovered in 38th and 35th in Saturday’s final two practices.

Starting last in Sunday’s race was Joey Gase, making his third start of the season in Frankie Stoddard’s #32 Ford.  Just before the green, however, Danica Patrick pulled her #10 Chevrolet to the back due to a pre-race transmission change.  As Patrick climbed through the field on the opening lap, 43rd went to Brett Moffitt in the unsponsored #66 Identity Ventures Racing entry, the Iowa driver’s sixth start of the season and first since Charlotte last month.

Moffitt was the first driver to lose a lap on Lap 16, and he lost another on Lap 34.  Four laps later, Patrick slowed on the backstretch and made an unscheduled stop, dropping her to 43rd for a handful of laps.  That changed on Lap 43, when the first caution of the race flew for Josh Wise and the #98 Provident Metals Chevrolet.  Wise’s car snapped loose off Turn 2 and smacked the outside wall hard, fracturing a brake rotor that required several laps of repairs.  With such low attrition for most of the race, it appeared the PPR team would have its first last-place finish since last year’s finale at Homestead.  However, Wise rolled back on track on Lap 125, 82 laps down, but with nearly 200 laps to gain spots.

Moments later, Cassill, who had completed 134 laps, pulled behind the wall with apparent engine issues.  The ESPN broadcast officially listed Cassill as out by Lap 190, and Wise dropped him to 42nd on Lap 222.  Wise ended up 41st in the final running order, passing the #23 Dr. Pepper Toyota of rookie Alex Bowman with four laps to go in regulation.  Rounding out the Bottom Five were Moffitt, whose rear clip fell apart after a late tire failure, and Trevor Bayne, whose second-straight Bottom Five of the weekend came after a late tangle with Kasey Kahne.

*The 134 laps Cassill completed are the most by a Cup Series last-place finisher at Texas since November 2, 2008, when Juan Pablo Montoya’s #42 Texaco / Havoline Dodge completed 262 laps of the Dickies 500 before a late-race crash with David Gilliland.
*This marks the first season that Chevrolet has swept both Cup last-place finishes at Texas in the same season (the other being Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s run in the spring).
*This is the first last-place finish for both Cassill and the #40 in a Cup race at Texas.

43) #40-Landon Cassill / 134 laps / engine
42) #23-Alex Bowman / 245 laps / engine
41) #98-Josh Wise / 256 laps / running
40) #66-Brett Moffitt / 283 laps / crash
39) #21-Trevor Bayne / 318 laps / crash

1st) Mike Bliss (4)
2nd) Dave Blaney (3)
3rd) Clint Bowyer, Landon Cassill, Timmy Hill, Clay Rogers (2)
4th) A.J. Allmendinger, Aric Almirola, Trevor Bayne, Alex Bowman, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., David Gilliland, Denny Hamlin, Travis Kvapil, Kyle Larson, Michael McDowell, Joe Nemechek, Johnny Sauter, Morgan Shepherd, Tony Stewart, Martin Truex, Jr., Ryan Truex, Brian Vickers, Cole Whitt, J.J. Yeley (1)

1st) #93-BK Racing (5)
2nd) #37-Tommy Baldwin Racing (4)
3rd) #15-Michael Waltrip Racing, #40-Hillman Racing, #77-Randy Humphrey Racing (2)
4th) #11-Joe Gibbs Racing, #14-Stewart-Haas Racing, #21-Wood Brothers Racing, #23-BK Racing, #26-BK Racing, #32-Go FAS Racing, #33-Circle Sport, #38-Front Row Motorsports, #42-Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, #43-Richard Petty Motorsports, #44-Team XTREME Racing, #47-JTG-Daugherty Racing, #55-Michael Waltrip Racing, #66-Michael Waltrip Racing / Identity Ventures Racing, #78-Furniture Row Racing, #83-BK Racing, #87-Identity Ventures Racing, #88-Hendrick Motorsports, #95-Leavine Family Racing (1)

1st) Toyota (14)
2nd) Chevrolet (13)
3rd) Ford (7)

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