Sunday, September 6, 2015

XFINITY: Ryan Ellis Ends Jeff Green’s Last-Place Streak At Eight

Ryan Ellis picked up the 4th last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 at the Darlington Raceway when his #17 Navy Seals vs. Zombies Ford fell out with suspension issues after he completed 1 of the race’s 147 laps.  The finish occurred in Ellis’ 24th series start.

The finish was Ellis’ first of the year and his first in an XFINITY race since last fall at Texas, 26 races ago.  The finish also ended Jeff Green’s record-setting last-place streak at eight races.  Green, who came home 38th on Saturday, can still break his single-season record of 15 last-place runs with a finish in any of the nine remaining races in 2015.

For the second year, Ellis, a 25-year-old racer from Ashburn, Virginia, has split his time running partial schedules in both the NASCAR XFINITY Series and Camping World Truck Series.  This year, he’s improved his career-best finish in both divisions.  He came home 16th in the Truck opener at Daytona, giving longtime team owner Jim Rosenblum his best finish in the series since 2003, and was 22nd in the XFINITY Series race at Watkins Glen despite driving a car that wasn’t set up to run the road course.  The car Ellis raced at the Glen was owned by Rick Ware, who again tabbed Ellis to drive at Darlington.

This time, the car Ellis would drive was a relatively new ride - the #17 Ford that Stanton Barrett debuted last week at Road America.  Barrett, a part-time stuntman who has made infrequent NASCAR starts, arranged for the entry with the help of Ware’s team.  It proved to be an up-and-down weekend: Barrett was unable to turn a lap in practice, but had muscled the car toward a respectable finish before a last-lap crash left him 26th.  The crew apparently made repairs to Barrett’s car in time for Darlington, where Ellis was tabbed to drive.  With Barrett’s directorial debut in the upcoming horror film “Navy Seals vs. Zombies,” now in post-production, the film’s title appeared on the hood of Ellis’ car.

As at Road America, the #17 did not participate in either of the weekend’s practices, and a qualifying lap of 144.499 mph - more than five seconds off the pole speed set by Denny Hamlin - was the slowest overall.  However, with 40 cars again entered to fill a 40-car field, Ellis secured the final starting spot.  After one lap, he pulled behind the wall with suspension woes, followed three circuits later by Carl Long in Motorsports Business Management’s unsponsored #40 Dodge.  Jeff Green did not exit until Lap 7.

Rounding out the Bottom Five were Carlos Contreras, Ellis’ teammate, who fell out with crash damage on the #15 Chevrolet, and T.J. Bell, making his first XFINITY Series start since Chicago in June driving the unsponsored #26 JGL Racing Toyota.

Another longtime team owner, Johnny Davis, enjoyed one of his team’s best overall performances with two of his three cars finishing inside the Top 10.  8th went to Landon Cassill, his best finish since Road America last year, driving a #01 Flex Seal Chevrolet which paid homage to the late Butch Lindley, who won five of his six XFINITY Series races with the number.  10th went to Ross Chastain - his third top-ten finish in the last ten races - his #4 South Carlina Education Lottery Chevrolet honoring Joe Thurman, the first driver to race for Davis back in 1983.  Thurman, the 1985 XFINITY Series Champion, never won a race in 184 series starts, but earned six top-five finishes, including a career-best 4th on four occasions.

*This is the first last-place finish for the #17 in an XFINITY Series race since May 24, 2014, when Tanner Berryhill’s Dodge lost an engine after he completed 81 of the race’s 200 laps.  The year before, Berryhill also scored the number’s most recent last-place run at Darlington with an early rear gear failure.
*This is the first last-place finish by a Rick Ware-owned car since June 14, 2014, when Tim Schendel’s unsponsored #87 Chevrolet lost an engine without completing a lap of the Ollie’s Bargain Outlet 250 at Michigan.

40) #17-Ryan Ellis / 1 lap / suspension
39) #40-Carl Long / 4 laps / suspension
38) #19-Jeff Green / 6 laps / suspension
37) #15-Carlos Contreras / 10 laps / crash
36) #26-T.J. Bell / 23 laps / clutch

1st) Jeff Green (15) - 2015 CHAMPION
2nd) Dexter Bean (2)
3rd) Ryan Ellis, C.J. Faison, Mike Harmon, Charles Lewandoski, Carl Long, Morgan Shepherd, Derek White (1)

1st) TriStar Motorsports (16)
2nd) King Autosport, Motorsports Business Management (2)
3rd) JGL Racing, Mike Harmon Racing, Rick Ware Racing, Shepherd Racing Ventures (1)

1st) Toyota (18)
2nd) Chevrolet (3)
3rd) Dodge (2)
4th) Ford (1)

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