Sunday, April 19, 2015

CUP: Cassill Edges Ragan For Bristol Last-Place Finish After Hard Crash

SOURCE: Fox Sports
Landon Cassill picked up the 8th last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s Food City 500 In Support of Steve Byrnes at the Bristol Motor Speedway when his #40 Link-Belt Chevrolet was taken out in a hard single-car accident on Lap 368 that ended Cassill’s run after 288 of the race’s 511 laps.

The finish was Cassill’s third of 2015 and his first in a Cup race since Atlanta, six races ago.  The finish occurred in Cassill’s 159th series start.

Cassill came into the Bristol race having completed the last five races under power with a season-best 21st at Martinsville.  It was an improvement from a difficult start to the 2014 season, where a string of early-season DNQs was followed by a hard practice crash at Bristol.  He also sat 19th in XFINITY Series points with a season-best 17th at Atlanta driving for JD Motorsports.

Cassill was one of 45 entrants for the Sunday’s 500-lapper and, along with Alex Bowman and Ron Hornaday, Jr., was one of three drivers who arrived in an unsponsored black race car.  Cassill was 20th-fastest in Friday’s opening practice, then sped his way into the second round of qualfying, where he secured the 17th starting spot with an average speed of 126.428 mph.  Missing the race were Brendan Gaughan, his third-consecutive DNQ, and Ron Hornaday, Jr., still trying to make his first Cup start since Atlanta.  Cassill ran 30th and 34th in Saturday’s final two practice sessions, then came home 28th in the XFINITY Series race.

Starting 43rd on Sunday morning was Alex Kennedy, set to make his Bristol debut in his fourth start of 2015.  On Lap 15, Kennedy was the first driver to lose a lap.  Four laps later, he was running to the inside of Brad Keselowski when Keselowski lost control of his #2 Miller Lite Ford coming off Turn 2.  Keselowski narrowly missed Kennedy’s car, but collected teammate Joey Logano, sending both cars hard into the inside wall.  Keselowski fell to 43rd as rain halted the race, potentially headed to his first Cup Series last-place finish in his 205th series start.  However, when the red flag period ended, Keselowski was back on track by Lap 28, dropping teammate Logano, still in the garage, to the last spot.  Logano returned on Lap 75, and once again the entire field was running under power.

On Lap 105, Cassill made an unscheduled stop for a worsening vibration.  When the crew discovered broken studs on the right-front wheel, they took the #40 behind the wall for extensive repairs.  By Lap 116, Cassill had slipped to 42nd, and he took the last spot from Logano on Lap 163.  The Hillman Smith Motorsports team finished repairs on Lap 175, and the black Chevrolet returned 67 laps down to once again join the other 42 starters.  Twitter reports indicate the team was using the rest of the race as a test session when a crash cut his night short.

On Lap 368, race leader Kyle Larson was trying to stretch his fuel and tires in a bid for his first Cup Series victory.  Entering Turn 1, he closed on Cassill, who was racing alongside the #26 Maxim Fantasy Sports Toyota of rookie Jeb Burton.  Cassill tried to slot behind Burton to make way for Larson, but in so doing was rear-ended by Larson.  The two lapped machines made contact before Cassill turned hard right, sending his car hard nose-first into the outside wall.  Despite the severity of the impact, Cassill climbed out of his car apparently unharmed.

At the time of Cassill’s wreck, 42nd place belonged to David Ragan, whose #18 Snickers Xtreme Toyota was involved in a grinding four-car accident in the same spot on Lap 311.  Jeb Burton was again involved, this time turned by Jimmie Johnson moments before Ragan rear-ended Johnson.  Kevin Harvick, who led 184 of the race’s first 311 laps, was running 3rd when he wheel-hopped at the crash scene, then slid sideways into Ragan’s Toyota.  Ragan, Burton, and Harvick dropped into the Bottom Five, each returning to the track at different times.  At the moment of Cassill’s Lap 368 crash, Ragan had fallen to 42nd past Logano and was 19 laps away from taking his first last-place finish since the 2012 Daytona 500.  However, Cassill’s crash took him out of the race for good, securing the finish.

Burton, Ragan, and Logano finished 42nd, 41st, and 40th, respectively, followed by 39th-place Josh Wise.  Wise crunched the nose of his #98 Phil Parsons Racing Ford early in the event and by the middle stages had to make an unscheduled stop for a loose hood.  Wise was still running laps down on Lap 474 when Jamie McMurray’s cut right-front tire knocked him out of the Top 5.  Wise, following in McMurray’s tire tracks at the time, couldn’t avoid contact and crashed hard enough to fall out of the event.  He held 38th until seconds before the final rain-delayed green-white-checkered finish, which gave him the final spot in the Bottom Five by two laps over Harvick.

Meanwhile, in just his 5th Cup start, Matt DiBenedetto had a career-best weekend by starting 22nd and finishing 21st in BK Racing’s #83 Dustless Blasting Toyota.  DiBenedetto’s previous best was a 35th-place starting spot in his Phoenix debut, and he’d only finished as high as 31st at Martinsville.  Justin Allgaier picked up his first top-ten finish in 47 Cup starts, finishing 8th in HScott Motorsports’ #51 Auto-Owners Insurance Chevrolet.  Bristol was the site of Allgaier’s first XFINITY Series win in 2010, when he was driving for Penske Racing.

*The is the first last-place finish for the #40 in a Cup race at Bristol since April 13, 1997, when Robby Gordon’s Coors Light Chevrolet crashed after 91 laps of the Food City 500.
*Cassill’s 288 laps are the most laps completed by a Bristol last-place finisher since March 16, 2008, when Jamie McMurray’s #26 Crown Royal Ford ran 373 laps and finished under power.  To date, that is McMurray’s only Cup last-place finish 446 starts.

43) #40-Landon Cassill / 288 laps / crash
42) #26-Jeb Burton / 416 laps / crash
41) #18-David Ragan / 435 laps / running
40) #22-Joey Logano / 452 laps / running
39) #98-Josh Wise / 466 laps / crash

1st) Landon Cassill (3)
2nd) A.J. Allmendinger, Alex Bowman, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Sam Hornish, Jr., J.J. Yeley (1)

1st) #40-Hillman Smith Motorsports (3)
2nd) #7-Tommy Baldwin Racing, #9-Richard Petty Motorsports, #23-BK Racing, #47-JTG-Daugherty Racing, #88-Hendrick Motorsports (1)

1st) Chevrolet (6)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (1)

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