Wednesday, July 22, 2015

TRUCKS: Stew Hayward Exits While Bobby Pierce Earns A Career-Best For Mike Mittler’s Team

SOURCE: David Damboise, FOX Sports 1
Stew Hayward picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Wednesday night’s 1-800-CarCash Mudsummer Classic at the Eldora Speedway when his #74 Hot Shot Express RAM fell out with engine trouble after he completed 78 of the race’s 154 laps.  The finish came in Hayward’s series debut.

Hayward, a dirt track veteran from Calgary who competed in the WISSOTA Alberta Late Models in 2009, was selected on Monday to be the dirt track “ringer” for Mike Harmon’s single-vehicle Truck Series team.  Harmon’s #74 had made every race this season other than two early-season rounds at Daytona and Martinsville.  The team’s best finish of the year was a 19th at Gateway with second-year driver Jordan Anderson, who’s shared Harmon’s Chevrolet with Tim Veins and Paige Decker.  For Eldora, however, Hayward would run the only RAM entered in the race, a truck with headlight decals from a Chevrolet Impala stock car.

Hayward’s RAM was one of two trucks that didn’t complete a lap in Wednesday’s opening practice, then put up the slowest time in Happy Hour after seven laps.  He then qualified 31st out of the 34 entries at an average sped of 79.097 mph, placing him last in the first 7-truck heat race later that night.  Hayward stayed on the lead lap in the 10-circuit sprint, but didn’t pass any other trucks, sending him to 7th in the 9-truck Last Chance Qualifier.  Hayward again finished in the 7th spot as the final truck on the lead lap, but successfully transferred into the 31st spot for the 150-lap main event.

Two other dirt track drivers missed the race.  The first was 17-year-old late model driver Madeline “Mad Maddie” Crane, whose #80 Air Tec / Atlanta Air Exchange Ford was too badly damaged to start the LCQ.  The other was Jake Griffin, selected as defending Eldora last-placer Mike Affarano’s ringer in the #03 Outdoor Power / PADD / East Wraps Chevrolet.  Griffin, just 16 years old, was 8th in both practice sessions, but slipped to 29th in qualifying and struggled to find speed after, winding up 4th in the LCQ - two spots from transferring.

The 32nd and final spot in the main event belonged to Wendell Chavous, whose unspnsored #94 Premium Motorsports Chevrolet pulled off the track after 3 laps of the LCQ, but was locked-into the field based on the team’s number of attempts.  Chavous’ first Truck start since Charlotte saw him trail until Lap 2, when Jennifer Jo Cobb took the spot in her #10 Chevrolet.  Chavous took the spot back on Lap 5 moments before the first of 13 cautions fell for a spin involving Korbin Forrister’s #08, who voluntarily decaled his unsponsored #08 Chevrlet with logos promoting Donald Trump’s candidacy for President.  Forrister held the spot on the restart and remained there until a wreck on Lap 15 involving six trucks dropped to last the #35 Performance Auto Chevrolet of Cody Erickson, who won the LCQ after failing to make the field in 2014.

Under the caution, both NASCAR’s online leaderboard and the ticker on FOX Sports 1 encountered an identical scoring error regarding the final few spots in the field.  It began with Erickson’s #35, whose damaged Chevrolet was shown as the first to be lapped under his caution.  As the laps continued, scoring indicated he ran 4 more laps before pulling out again on Lap 25, despite the truck being shown on the track.  On Lap 42, Chavous was shown in last, 1 lap down, with Erickson’s truck “tied” for 31st by being unscored after 18 circuits.  At the same time, Cole Custer’s #00 Haas Automation Chevrolet was 8 laps down in 27th along with 30th-place Cobb, but between them were lead-lap vehicles of Hayward and Forrister.

It wasn’t until the first competition caution on Lap 58 for the end of the first segment that scoring was corrected with the entire field back on the lead lap except Cobb, apparently because she spun not long before the caution on Lap 48.

On Lap 71, with the second segment under way, Custer again dropped into the Bottom Five when he made an unscheduled stop for a cut right-front tire.  The green-flag stop cost him multiple laps, dropping him to last behind Cobb as the only other driver off the lead lap.  Three circuits later, as Custer’s team continued to make repairs, Hayward pulled off the track with engine issues as the listed cause.  On the 84th circuit, Custer returned to competition 18 laps down, and as Hayward retired from the race, he slipped to last on Lap 97, where the truck remained the rest of the night.  Custer came home 29th while Cobb just missed the Bottom Five in 27th.

Between Hayward and Custer in the Bottom Five were Chad Boat in the #15 / Pristine Auctions Chevrolet and the MAKE Motorsports #1 Altec / Chevrolet of Travis Kvapil.  Kvapil, who used up the right side of his machine in his heat race and the LCQ, tangled with Boat on Lap 112, sending Boat hard into the outside wall with the driver’s side.  Boat was uninjured, but was out of the running in his Truck debut, and Kvapil followed a few laps later.  The final spot in the group went to Brad Keselowski, whose first foray into dirt racing took a detour when his #29 Cooper Standard Ford backing into the outside wall in Turn 2, but not bringing out a yellow.

On a night where Christopher Bell won in just his third series start for Kyle Busch Motorsports, the most impressive underdog story of the night belonged to Bobby Pierce.  Just 18 years old and last year’s flag-to-flag winner of the DIRTcar Fall Nationals at the Eldora track, Pierce combined the efforts of his dirt track team with that of Mike Mittler, the only Truck Series owner to compete in at least one race in each of the series’ seasons since 1995.  On Wednesday, Pierce drove an old Chevrolet from the Mittler stables to top-five runs in practice, the pole, and a heat race victory before coming home a close 2nd to Christopher Bell in the main event.  Pierce managed this despite the rear decklid cover coming loose on his #63 RPMServicesLLC.Global Chevrolet in the final 10 laps.

In his first-ever Truck Series start, Pierce gave the Mittler team its first-ever top-five finish in 213 combined starts.  The team’s previous best was an 8th by current Cup star Carl Edwards at Kansas on July 6, 2002.  Pierce’s pole was also the team’s first pole, improving on a 5th by Edwards at Lucas Oil Raceway on August 2, 2002.

L.D. Austin's #74 1957 Chevrolet at Daytona, 1959.
Austin became the first last-place finisher
of the Daytona Qualifying Races in this car.
SOURCE: Historical Stock Car Racing Forum
*This is the first last-place finish by the #74 at a dirt track in one of NASCAR’s top three divisions since August 22, 1959, when L.D. Austin’s 1957 Chevrolet crashed after completing 16 of 200 laps at half-mile Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Greenville, South Carolina.  It was Austin’s 3rd of 5 career last-place finishes in a career spanning 169 races from 1957 to 1962.  Buck Baker won the race that day over Cotton Owens and Ned Jarrett, the only three cars on the lead lap.
*This is the first last-place finish for a RAM in the Truck Series since last summer at Mosport, when Caleb Roark’s #0 JJC Racing RAM lost the clutch on the opening lap of the Chevrolet Silverado 250.
*This is the first last-place finish for both the #74 and the Mike Harmon Racing team in the Truck Series since last October at Talladega, when Harmon’s own #74 Mike Harmon Racing Chevrolet lost the engine on the opening lap of the Fred’s 250 Powered by Coca-Cola.

32) #74-Stew Hayward / 79 laps / engine
31) #15-Chad Boat / 110 laps / crash
30) #1-Travis Kvapil / 119 laps / crash
29) #00-Cole Custer / 136 laps / running
28) #29-Brad Keselowski / 144 laps / running

1st) Norm Benning (3)
2nd) Caleb Roark (2)
3rd) Adam Edwards, Joey Gattina, Stew Hayward, Jennifer Jo Cobb, Travis Kvapil, Justin Marks (1)

1st) Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing, Norm Benning Racing (4)
2nd) MAKE Motorsports, Mike Harmon Racing, Win-Tron Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (9)
2nd) RAM, Toyota (1)

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