|SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin' Forums|
The finish was Whitt’s first of the year and his first since another early crash last year at Watkins Glen, 39 races ago.
2015 marks Whitt’s fifth season on the Sprint Cup tour and his first for Front Row Motorsports. Following a difficult 2014 where the collapse of Swan Racing sent he and his sponsors to a sudden third team for BK Racing, Whitt has continued to try and find a rhythm in NASCAR’s top division. He began the year with a 22nd-place finish in the Daytona 500 - the first of four top-25 finishes in the first six races - and earned a career-best 13th at Talladega. While inconsistency saddled Whitt with the 31st spot in points headed to Darlington, he’d failed to finish just one race all season - an engine failure at Atlanta that left him 37th.
At Darlington, Whitt’s machine was one of just 13 of the 46 entered which did not have a “throwback” scheme of some kind. In fact, none of Front Row’s three cars participated in the promotion, choosing instead to run schemes used earlier in the season. Whitt was 41st-fastest in the opening practice session and 37th in Happy Hour, then secured the 37th spot on Owner Points after a lap of 175.159 mph. The only “throwback” car to miss the race was that of Josh Wise, whose Ricky Craven 2003 scheme on the #32 CorvetteParts.net / BeerFrost.com Ford was sent home with Travis Kvapil’s #30 Curtis Key Plumbing Chevrolet for The Motorsports Group and the #62 ChampionMachinery.com Chevrolet for Premium Motorsports.
The 43rd starting spot went to T.J. Bell, who was making his first Cup Series start since September 30, 2012, when he came home 33rd driving for Frankie Stoddard at Dover. The #98 Royal Teak Ford that Bell drove for Premium Motorsports had changed hands twice during the week. It was originally to be driven by Reed Sorenson, whose wife Laura gave birth to their first daughter Ella on September 1. Bell was brought in to drive Premium’s #62 in Sorenson’s place while Timmy Hill drove the #98, but Hill and Bell switched rides again by Friday. In qualifying, Bell was 2 mph slower than Hill, but secured a starting spot based on his rank in Owner Points.
Bell was joined by two cars sent to the back - Danica Patrick, who was running a backup black #10 GoDaddy Chevrolet, and Chase Elliott, whose #25 NAPA Auto Parts 1985 Throwback Chevrolet required a rear gear change before the race. Patrick took last from Bell at the start and held it on Lap 1, but Bell re-took it on Lap 2. The #98 was still trailing the field on Lap 6 when trouble broke out in front of him.
Coming off Turn 2, rookie Brett Moffitt tagged the Turn 2 wall with his #34 Dockside Logistics Ford. Whitt, who was right on his bumper when it happened, couldn’t avoid contact and tore open his right-front fender. Elliott, climbing through the field, rear-ended Whitt, who spun to the inside of the track and collided with the inside wall. Moffitt and Elliott managed to keep rolling, but Whitt’s Ford was too damaged to continue. The crew pondered repairs, but around Lap 38, the team concluded nothing could be done and retired from the event.
Moffitt, meanwhile, spent more than 30 laps in the garage before returning to the track. He came home under power in 36th while the Bottom Five shuffled behind him. By race’s end, 28 drivers were on the lead lap, but everyone from 33rd on back was at least 11 laps down. Many of those drivers were involved in multiple accidents that accounted for a record 18 cautions for 89 laps.
When the dust settled, 42nd went to Patrick, whose #10 clobbered the wall off Turn 4 on Lap 190, then returned to the track 74 laps down only to cut another right-front tire and hit the wall on Lap 266. 41st went to Elliott, who after suffering nose damage in the Whitt accident made hard contact with the Turn 1 wall on Lap 229, taking him out of the race.
40th fell to David Ragan, his #55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota honoring his privateer father Ken and the #77 TRW Ford he ran in the late 1980s. Ragan was on the lead lap until Lap 266, when he lost control in Turn 4, then wrecked even harder on Lap 279 after contact from Paul Menard.
Rounding out the group was Michael Annett, whose throwback #46 Pilot / Flying J Chevrolet spun on Lap 110, then was torn open on the driver’s side in a Lap 126 crash with J.J. Yeley and Mike Bliss. The extensive damage to Annett’s car required more than 60 laps of repairs, though he did gather a few spots and finished under power.
The race was won by Carl Edwards in the #19 Arris Toyota, meaning that the 43-car field was bookended by non-“throwback” cars.
|Geoffrey Bodine's #35 Chevrolet, 2000|
SOURCE: Andy Petree Racing
*The #35 had not finished last in a Cup race at Darlington since September 5, 1960, when E.J. Trivette’s 1959 Plymouth owned by M.J. Black fell out with handling issues after he completed just 1 lap of the Southern 500. It was the second of ten last-place runs for Trivette, who competed in 178 Cup Series races from 1959 through 1971. His best career finish came on a half-mile dirt track in Valdosta, Georgia, where he ran 6th on June 27, 1965.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #35-Cole Whitt / 5 laps / crash
42) #10-Danica Patrick / 190 laps / crash
41) #25-Chase Elliott / 227 laps / crash
40) #55-David Ragan / 275 laps / crash
39) #46-Michael Annett / 300 laps / running
2015 LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Alex Bowman, Landon Cassill (3)
2nd) J.J. Yeley (2)
3rd) Justin Allgaier, A.J. Allmendinger, Aric Almirola, Michael Annett, Trevor Bayne, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Joey Gase, David Gilliland, Timmy Hill, Sam Hornish, Jr., Kasey Kahne, Bobby Labonte, Brian Scott, Tony Stewart, Cole Whitt, Josh Wise (1)
2015 LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Hillman Smith Motorsports, Tommy Baldwin Racing (3)
2nd) BK Racing, Go FAS Racing, Front Row Motorsports, Hendrick Motorsports, HScott Motorsports, Phil Parsons Racing / Premium Motorsports, Richard Petty Motorsports (2)
3rd) Joe Gibbs Racing, JTG-Daugherty Racing, Richard Childress Racing / Circle Sport, Roush-Fenway Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)
2015 LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (14)
2nd) Ford (8)
3rd) Toyota (3)