Sunday, July 26, 2015

CUP: Alex Bowman Keeps Jeff Gordon From First Last-Place Finish Since 2008

SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin' Forums
Alex Bowman picked up the 4th last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway when his #7 Marsh Supermarkets Chevrolet fell out with engine trouble after he completed 78 of the race’s 164 laps.

The finish is Bowman’s third of the season, tying him with Landon Cassill for the most in 2015, and is his first since Kansas, nine races ago. While both Bowman and Cassill are tied with 5 bottom-five finishes each, Cassill leads the 2015 LASTCAR Driver’s Championship by a single bottom-ten finish over Bowman, 7-6.  The finish came in Bowman’s 55th series start.

Since his last-place run at Kansas, Bowman and the Tommy Baldwin Racing team have continued to struggle to find consistency, never finishing better than a 20th at Dover during that span.  At the same time, however, the team had not had a DNF since Kansas, including last week at Loudon, when the team managed to repair Bowman’s car after a right-front brake fire got out of control during pit stops, lifting them past J.J. Yeley for 43rd.  The team has also attracted a number of one-race sponsors, including Marsh Supermarkets, who would debut with the team at Indianapolis.

NASCAR’s second new aero package allowed for three practice sessions for the 46 teams in attendance to prepare their cars.  Bowman timed in 37th in the opening practice on Friday, 41st in the second session, and 38th in Happy Hour.  On Saturday’s qualifying session, he timed in 35th with an average speed of 180.325 mph, narrowly avoiding having to rely on Owner Points.  Missing the race were Josh Wise, who was slated to make a one-race run in Go FAS Racing’s #32 Brandise Machinery Ford, rookie Jeb Burton with his first DNQ since the Coca-Cola 600, and Reed Sorenson with his second DNQ in his three attempts for Premium Motorsports’ #62.

Starting 43rd on Sunday was Ryan Newman, the time disallowed on his #31 Grainger Chevrolet due to a missing passenger-side window.  When the green flag dropped, however, Newman was quickly passed by Timmy Hill, whose #98 Curb Record Ford had snapped an axle coming to the green.  Hill was eight seconds behind the field as he pulled behind the wall without completing a lap, and he was lapped immediately.  It was the latest of several frustrations for the Premium Motorsports / Phil Parsons Racing team.  On Friday, the #98 dropped a hunk of Tungsten ballast on the racetrack, then Hill nosed into the outside wall in Happy Hour, forcing the team to assemble a backup car overnight.  The car was ready for qualifying, and Hill timed it in 42nd - the slowest car in time trials, but most importantly, in the show - only to lose more than 40 laps on Sunday due to repairs.

On Lap 42, Hill returned to the track in 43rd and finally completed his first laps.  Ahead of him were only a handful of other lapped cars, including those of BK Racing teammates J.J. Yeley (#23) and Matt DiBenedetto (#83).  Then, on Lap 50, a wreck occurred that threatened to shake up the LASTCAR standings.  Jeff Gordon, his #24 3M Chevrolet running mid-pack in his final Brickyard 400 start, checked-up to avoid a spinning Clint Bowyer when Gordon lost control and hit the outside wall with the front and rear of his machine.  Gordon fell to 42nd by the restart, losing 7 laps to the leaders before finally pulling behind the wall around Lap 73.  With nearly half of the race over, it was unclear if Gordon would return to the track in time to finish under power.  If the repairs took too long, and if Hill remained in the race, Gordon would end up with his first last-place finish since April 6, 2008, when he crashed out of the Samsung / Radio Shack 500 at Texas.

Then, on Lap 77, Bowman’s lapped machine entered the battle when his #7 started smoking from the right side in a manner eerily similar to his pit road fire the week before.  This time, after changing tires and sending him back out, the smoke was clearly coming from the exhaust pipes, and he pulled into the garage area around Lap 81.  Bowman’s car was listed as “OFF” for most of the race, then by Lap 113 was finally listed as “OUT.”

By this point, Hill was still on the track, though nearly 50 laps down as he continued to try and keep pace with the leaders.  Gordon was still behind the wall, the Hendrick Motorsports crew working hard to get their driver back on track.  On Lap 118, Hill pushed Gordon back to 43rd, and it seemed as though he would remain there.  However, just 2 circuits later on Lap 120, Gordon returned to the track with a new front valence.  While hanging in the back with Hill for the several late-race restarts, Bowman’s retired car slipped lower in the standings, reaching 42nd on Lap 131 and 43rd on Lap 133, where it would remain for the duration.

Gordon and Hill remained 42nd and 41st at the finish with Yeley in 39th.  It was Gordon’s first next-to-last-place finish since August 17, 2008, when Marcos Ambrose edged him in the August race at Michigan.  Between them in 40th was Trevor Bayne, who lost a lap early, was involved in a peculiar shunting match with Aric Almirola in the late stages, then finally crashed off the nose of Michael McDowell in Turn 1, bringing out the final caution that forced the green-white-checkered finish.

*This is the first last-place finish for the #7 in a Cup race at Indianapolis since 2011, when Robby Gordon’s #7 SPEED Energy Dodge lost the engine after 5 laps of the Brickyard 400.
*This is both Bowman’s and Tommy Baldwin Racing’s first last-place finish in a Cup race at Indianapolis.
*There has still yet to be a repeat last-place finisher in the 21 Cup races run at Indianapolis.

43) #7-Alex Bowman / 78 laps / engine
42) #24-Jeff Gordon / 110 laps / running
41) #98-Timmy Hill / 111 laps / running
40) #6-Trevor Bayne / 155 laps / crash
39) #23-J.J. Yeley / 160 laps / running

1st) Alex Bowman, Landon Cassill (3)
2nd) J.J. Yeley (2)
3rd) Justin Allgaier, A.J. Allmendinger, Aric Almirola, Trevor Bayne, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Joey Gase, David Gilliland, Sam Hornish, Jr., Bobby Labonte, Brian Scott, Josh Wise (1)

1st) Hillman Smith Motorsports, Tommy Baldwin Racing (3)
2nd) BK Racing, Go FAS Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports (2)
3rd) Front Row Motorsports, Hendrick Motorsports, HScott Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, JTG-Daugherty Racing, Phil Parsons Racing / Premium Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing / Circle Sport, Roush-Fenway Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (10)
2nd) Ford (7)
3rd) Toyota (3)

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