Monday, February 22, 2016

CUP: Open Team Roundup - Daytona 500


#59 Circle Sport / Leavine Family Racing
Driver: Michael McDowell
Started 39th, Finished 15th

McDowell turned in the fastest speed in Wednesday’s first practice session and did exactly what he needed to do in Can-Am Duel Race #1 on Thursday, finishing 14th and securing the 39th spot in Sunday’s field.  It marked the first Cup points race for the #59 since 2004, when Klaus Graf qualified for BAM Racing at Sonoma, and the first time in the Daytona 500 since 1982 with short-tracker Tighe Scott.  In the race itself, McDowell briefly held 40th on Lap 2 before more or less remaining third among the Open teams for much of the race.  He then climbed to second among the group after Matt DiBenedetto crashed just before the halfway point.  During the race’s second half, he lost a lap to the leaders and had a brief exchange with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. on pit road, then raced into the Lucky Dog spot when Danica Patrick’s wreck drew the yellow with 16 laps to go.  McDowell managed to hold off Ryan Blaney in the run to the checkers for his best finish since a career-best 7th at Daytona in July 2014, ten spots ahead of Ty Dillon in Leavine’s chartered #95.

#21 Wood Brothers Racing
Driver: Ryan Blaney
Started 7th, Finished 19th

Blaney’s fleet Wood Brothers Ford nearly pulled off a win in Can-Am Duel Race #1 on Thursday, finishing 3rd behind winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Joey Logano.  In the 500 itself, he seemed to pick up right where he left off, remaining in or near the Top 10 for mos of the race’s first half.  When the Toyotas formed up at the head of the pack near the end of the race, however, Blaney struggled with the rest of the field to catch them and remained mired in the middle of the pack.  He came home a somewhat disappointing 19th at the finish, four cars behind McDowell, but like his Penske teammates, the engine held together for the entire 500 miles.

#26 BK Racing
Driver: Robert Richardson, Jr.
Started 40th, Finished 38th

Richardson’s Toyota was sluggish during Can-Am Duel Race #2, and both he and Hillman Racing’s Reed Sorenson fell back so far that they lost a lap to the leaders with six laps to go.  Whatever handling or power issues plagued him carried over into Sunday, where he fell nearly ten seconds behind the field during the first 20 laps.  Richardson never climbed out of the final ten spots in the field, and in each run seemed to lose a second to the leaders.  A likely cause for this may have been his car’s ailing motor, which finally dropped a valve after he ran 135 laps, ending his race.

#93 BK Racing
Driver: Matt DiBenedetto
Started 20th, Finished 40th

DiBenedetto finished last in the Daytona 500 when a crash ended his run after 91 laps.  For more details, see yesterday’s feature.


#30 The Motorsports Group
Driver: Josh Wise
Season Stats: 0 starts, 1 DNQ

For the first part of the SpeedWeeks, The Motorsports Group was making steady gains.  Josh Wise was 43rd-fastest in the opening session and 42nd in the second, but improved in the draft to 25th in the third session and 20th in the fourth.  Despite starting Duel Race 1 in the 21st position, he never once trailed the field and instead managed to work his way into contention.  On Lap 48, following the caution for Cole Whitt’s spin, Wise restarted 13th ahead of Michael McDowell’s practically locked-in #59 Chevrolet.  Two laps later, however, Wise slipped to 18th and appeared to be fighting a loose condition, at one point late in the race nearly spinning off Turn 4 before gathering it up.  By the final lap, however, the white #30 had fallen to the tail end of the lead pack, leaving him 17th and leaving both drive and team out of their second-straight 500 field.

#35 Front Row Motorsports
Driver: David Gilliland
Season Stats: 0 starts, 1 DNQ

Front Row Motorsports’ three entries were ranked in the middle-to-lower end of the speed charts in qualifying, which didn’t bode well for Gilliland’s chances of racing his way into the field.  The white #35 started out just 41st in the opening practice, 38th in the second, then jumped to 19th in the draft on Wednesday afternoon.  Unfortunately, just an hour later, both he and teammate Chris Buescher were involved in the multi-car tangle off Turn 4, causing damage to both ends of their cars.  The crew worked hard up until the day of the race, and Gilliland’s car was set to roll off in Duel Race 2.  Once again, both Gilliland and this time teammate Landon Cassill continued to struggle for speed with Cassill trailing the field for most of the race’s first half.  Gilliland, meanwhile, locked bumpers with Robert Richardson, Jr.’s #26 BK Racing entry and by Lap 19 were by themselves in 17th and 18th.  On Lap 26, Gilliland and Richardson were caught by a trailing four-car pack, then both lost even more ground during green-flag pit stops.  When 3rd-place Jimmie Johnson triggered a multi-car wreck on the final lap, Gilliland but not Richardson was placed ahead of the four drivers involved as well as Casey Mears, who ran out of fuel while in 2nd.  Although this put Gilliland six spots ahead of Richardson, it was academic in the final rundown - Richardson edged him for the final starting spot by three-tenths of a second in qualifying.

#40 Hillman Racing
Driver: Reed Sorenson
Season Stats: 0 starts, 1 DNQ

Sorenson avoided serious involvement in Wednesday’s practice crash, but the Hillman Racing team was unable to capitalize.  The #40 was slowest in the opening practice session - 44th overall - and second-slowest to Wise in the next.  Drafting only lifted Sorenson to the 30th spot in Wednesday’s first session, keeping him behind all other open teams, and he didn’t complete a lap after the near-miss that afternoon.  Sorenson was not at all the slowest car in the Duels themselves - he only briefly held the last spot on Lap 7 - but the long green-flag runs kept him in the final pack well out of contention.  With six laps to go, Sorenson and Robert Richardson, Jr. lost a lap to the leaders, and an apparent late-race unscheduled stop cost him another three before the finish.

#98 Premium Motorsports
Driver: Cole Whitt
Season Stats: 0 starts, 1 DNQ

Whitt finished last in Duel Race 1 after an early spin and missed the 500 field as a result.  For more, see his feature from last Thursday.


Unknown said...

It saddens me when I see people say who needs those 3 other cars in the field. It irks me because that could be 3 teams losing out on sponsorship money, a purse and a potential Upset. Even though some may go many laps down that doesn't mean they don't deserve to be there. I am with you Brock. Always have and Always will like the little guys. They made me interested in NASCAR. I would Rather have a Gilly, Cole Whitt or Landon Cassill win over my favorite Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. Plus I hope someone gets on the Cup Entry List to make it 40 Cars.

Kuku h said...

Only 39 for ATL, so it's impossible for someone to go home.