Sunday, November 15, 2015

CUP: Rain Allows Timmy Hill To Hold Off Joey Gase For Phoenix Last-Place Finish

SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin' Forums
Timmy Hill picked up the 4th last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s rain-shortened Quicken Loans Race For Heroes 500 at the Phoenix International Raceway when his #62 Prairie Auto Credit / Financial Concepts Chevrolet finished under power, but 91 laps down, after 127 of 219 circuits.

The finish, which came in Hill’s 47th series start, was his first since August at Michigan, 12 races ago, and is his second for Premium Motorsports - the other in the #98 which Premium acquired from Phil Parsons Racing this past summer.

Jerry Hill's Cup Series Pontiac at Rockingham, 1992
SOURCE: Historical Stock Car Racing Forum
Hill was pulling triple-duty at the Phoenix track.  In addition to running Premium’s #94 in the Truck Series, where he finished 18th, as well as Premium’s #62 in Cup, he also brought Tom Kapusta’s XFINITY Series team back to the track for the first time since the spring race at the Arizona track.  The race, where Hill finished 27th, had added meaning as he would run the same #56 his father Jerry Hill ran in Sprint Cup and ARCA in the early 1990s.

With 43 cars on the Sprint Cup entry list, Hill was guaranteed a starting spot for Premium’s #62.  It would be just the 16th start of the season for the car in a year where it had missed the show 19 other times.  However, in that span, Hill got the car into the field the last seven-straight times and accounted for only four of the DNQs.  With another driver tabbed to run the #62 at Homestead, Hill looked to make the most of his final start of the season in a car which carried new sponsorship from two backers.

Hill was slowest in Friday’s opening practice and was set to roll off shotgun on the field with a speed of 131.507 mph.  On Saturday morning, he remained the slowest in the second practice session as well as Happy Hour.

Hours of delays pushed the start of Sunday’s race well after sunset, and when the green flag finally flew, Hill remained at the back of the field for the opening eight laps.  Then, on Lap 9, outside-polesitter Kurt Busch ended up 43rd after serving a penalty for jumping polesitter Jimmie Johnson in his #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet.  Busch re-passed Hill on Lap 13, and the next time by, Hill was the first to lose a lap to Johnson, then a second on Lap 31.  He remained in 43rd through the first competition caution on Lap 42.

On the Lap 48 restart, teammate Ryan Preece in the #98 Xyience Ford had fallen to 43rd, then briefly conceded it the next time by to Joey Gase, who was making his Cup third start of the season and first since Kansas in May in the #32 R Factor 2 Ford for Go Green Racing, successfully rebounding from a DNQ last week in Texas.  Just short of the one-third mark, however, Hill retook the 43rd spot when he went behind the wall with engine trouble.  Although Hill reported on Twitter that the motor had let go due to a dropped valve, the #62 returned to the track 91 laps down, joined soon after by Gase, who remained laps down in 42nd after brake issues sent him to the garage.

The second and, ultimately, final caution of the night played a critical role in both the NASCAR and LASTCAR championship battle. When Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.’s #17 Cargill Ford lost the brakes in Turn 3 and slammed Gase’s wounded #32 into the outside wall, both cars were out of the race, giving Hill a chance to pass Gase if he ran approximately 40 more laps.  However, the final red flag came out when Hill was still 35 laps away from catching Gase, keeping the #62 at the back of the field.  The race was soon called, and it was Hill, not Gase, who ended up with his second last-place run of 2015.

Rounding out the Bottom Five behind Gase and Stenhouse were 40th-place Ryan Ellis in Circle Sport’s #33 Science Logic Chevrolet and the #23 Dr. Pepper Toyota of Jeb Burton, both laps down to race winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr.  For Ellis, it was his Sprint Cup debut after 29 XFINITY Series and 20 Truck Series starts.  A lifelong Jeff Gordon fan, Ellis got to race against his hero in his penultimate event exactly 23 years to the day that Gordon made his own Cup debut in Richard Petty’s last.

Rick Wilson, 1981
SOURCE: jerry9car at Photobucket
*This was the first last-place finish for the #62 in a Sprint Cup Series race since July 4, 1981, when Rick Wilson’s #62 Florida Equipment & Service Oldsmobile started 8th in the Firecracker 400 at Daytona, but lost the engine after only 8 laps.  Cale Yarborough edged Harry Gant for the race win.  Seven years later, when driving for Morgan-McClure Motorsports, Wilson earned a career-best runner-up in the same race after a photo finish with Bill Elliott.
*This is the first last-place finish for both Hill and the #62 in a Cup race at Phoenix.

43) #62-Timmy Hill / 127 laps / running
42) #32-Joey Gase / 161 laps / crash
41) #17-Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. / 194 laps / crash
40) #33-Ryan Ellis / 21 laps / running
39) #23-Jeb Burton / 213 laps / running

Next week at Homestead, the LASTCAR Cup Series Championship will be decided between four-time last-placer Landon Cassill and three-timer Alex Bowman.  Two-time last-placers Michael Annett and J.J. Yeley were eliminated from contention at Phoenix when both did not finish last and came home 32nd and 29th, respectively.

Both Cassill and Bowman finished outside the Bottom Five in 35th and 38th, respectively - Bowman edged by Jeb Burton for 39th by a single lap.  This means that if Bowman finishes last at Homestead while Cassill finishes 38th or better, Bowman will take the LASTCAR title by a single bottom-five finish, 8-7.  Otherwise, Cassill will either claim the title outright or by a bottom-ten tiebreaker of at least 14-10.

1st) Landon Cassill (4)
2nd) Alex Bowman (3)
3rd) Aric Almirola, Michael Annett, Ryan Blaney, Timmy Hill, Kasey Kahne, J.J. Yeley (2)
4th) Justin Allgaier, A.J. Allmendinger, Trevor Bayne, Clint Bowyer, Jeb Burton, Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Joey Gase, David Gilliland, Sam Hornish, Jr., Bobby Labonte, Brian Scott, Tony Stewart, Cole Whitt, Josh Wise (1)

1st) Hillman Smith Motorsports (4)
2nd) BK Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, HScott Motorsports, Phil Parsons Racing / Premium Motorsports, Richard Petty Motorsports, Tommy Baldwin Racing (3)
3rd) Go FAS Racing, Front Row Motorsports, Wood Brothers Racing (2)
4th) Joe Gibbs Racing, JTG-Daugherty Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Richard Childress Racing / Circle Sport, Roush-Fenway Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (19)
2nd) Ford (11)
3rd) Toyota (5)

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