The finish was Earnhardt’s second of the season and his first since Charlotte, two races ago.
For the first time since Iowa in August, Earnhardt came to the race in an unsponsored #4 Chevrolet. His was one of 41 entries for the race, a list twice extended from 39 earlier in the week. Blake Koch, who last week at Texas clinched the 2014 LASTCAR Nationwide Series title, moved to TriStar’s #44 team to drive the fully-funded Ingersoll-Rand Toyota. Koch’s #10 returned to four-time and defending LASTCAR champ Jeff Green, who seemed a favorite to score his seventh last-place finish of the season.
In the opening practice session, Earnhardt ran 28th-fastest of the 35 who ran, then was 33rd of the 41 in Happy Hour. In qualifying, he improved to the 22nd-fastest time with an average speed of 131.014 mph. The only DNQ was three-time 2014 last-placer Ryan Ellis, whose #46 The Motorsports Group entry missed its third race in four attempts.
At the start of the race, Earnhardt was sent to the back due to unapproved adjustments. Just as at Charlotte, he did not complete the opening lap, though this time the official reason was engine trouble.
Finishing 39th, ten laps ahead of Earnhardt, was Carl Long, driving a flat black #87 Ford Mustang for Rick Ware Racing - the sixth different car number Long has driven in his last six starts. 38th went to T.J. Bell, making his first Nationwide start of the year in JGL Racing’s #93 Texas 28 Spirits Stage Dodge. Morgan Shepherd came home 37th in his #89 Racing With Jesus / Courtney Construction Chevrolet, his first start since Dover in September. Rounding out the Bottom Five was 36th-place Brennan Newberry in Bobby Dotter’s #77 Qore-24 Chevrolet. Newberry was uninjured after a fiery single-car crash on Lap 38.
Jeff Green finished 34th on Saturday, having not retired until after 51 laps.
*Earnhardt is the first Nationwide Series driver to finish last in a race at Phoenix since November 12, 2011, when Matt Frahm’s #39 TSP Powder Coating Ford was involved in an eight-car accident on the opening lap of the Wypall 200.
*This is the first last-place finish for both Earnhardt and the #4 in a Nationwide Series race at Phoenix.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #4-Jeffrey Earnhardt / 0 laps / engine
39) #87-Carl Long / 10 laps / brakes
38) #93-T.J. Bell / 14 laps / vibration
37) #89-Morgan Shepherd / 20 laps / brakes
36) #77-Brennan Newberry / 34 laps / crash
LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Blake Koch (8) - 2014 CHAMPION
2nd) Jeff Green (6)
3rd) Ryan Ellis, Kevin Lepage (3)
4th) Matt DiBenedetto, Jeffrey Earnhardt (2)
5th) Tanner Berryhill, Milka Duno, 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 (7)
3rd) #91-TriStar Motorsports (3)
4th) #4-JD Motorsports, #74-Mike Harmon Racing (2)
5th) #17-Vision Racing, #23-R3 Motorsports, #29-RAB Racing, #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 (15)
2nd) Chevrolet (12)
3rd) Dodge (5)