|SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin' Forums|
The finish, which came in Whitt’s 88th series start, was his first of the season and his first in a Cup race since last September at Darlington, 14 races ago. In the first three races since the new Charter system was imposed, an open team has finished last each time.
Whitt was announced as Premium Motorsports’ new driver in the closing days of the 2015-2016 offseason. At Daytona, he challenged Michael McDowell for a transfer spot into the Daytona 500 before a spin took him out of contention, and at Atlanta, he led a lap and beat the Chartered #32 Go Green Racing entry of Jeffrey Earnhardt to take the 37th spot. What Jay Robinson’s team has lacked in speed, however, they have so far made up for in sponsorship, the #98 carrying a different primary sponsor in each race. Las Vegas would see the return of Speed Stick, the deodorant company which funded 21 of his previous Cup starts.
Whitt ran 38th-fastest in Friday’s opening practice, 6mph faster than Atlanta last-placer Josh Wise in The Motorsports Group’s #30, and improved to 36th in qualifying with a lap of 188.422 mph, beating Wise, Jeffrey Earnhardt, and HScott’s Michael Annett. He was slowest in Saturday’s first session, 37th in Happy Hour, then prepared for Sunday’s race.
The 39th starting spot went to Wise, but by Lap 5 he had moved past Whitt. The two began to lose touch with the rear of the field and on Lap 22 were lapped in Turn 1 by polesitter and then-leader Kurt Busch. Wise retook last from Whitt on Lap 23, but Whitt retook it on Lap 30 when he went behind the wall with mechanical issues. Whitt returned to the track on Lap 45, 13 circuits behind, but was again in the garage on Lap 70. Reports indicate Whitt had picked up a vibration, and the crew needed to drain fluids and inspect the engine and drive train. Around Lap 167, Whitt returned to the track, now 110 circuits behind, then left the race for good as early as 42 laps to go, unable to gain any more positions.
Attrition was light for most of the race, but the closing stages shuffled the Bottom Five. In the end, 38th and 37th went to Chase Elliott’s #24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet and Matt Kenseth’s #20 DeWalt “Made in the U.S.A.” Toyota, who crashed after Kenseth spun in Turn 1 on Lap 226. 36th went to Brian Vickers, whose #14 Mobil 1 Chevrolet briefly held 38th when he spent 10 laps in the garage for a broken axle on Lap 217. The three incidents lifted Wise from a 38th-place finish to 35th at the finish as he rounded out the Bottom Five two laps ahead of Vickers.
*This was the first last-place finish for the #98 since August 16, 2015, when Timmy Hill’s unsponsored Chevrolet was parked after 9 laps of the Pure Michigan 400. The number had not finished last at Las Vegas since March 10, 2013, when Michael McDowell’s Ambient Edge HVAC Ford had a vibration after 21 laps of the Kobalt Tools 400.
*This marks Chevrolet’s 700th last-place finish in Cup Series history.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
39) #98-Cole Whitt / 115 laps / vibration
38) #24-Chase Elliott / 22 laps / crash
37) #20-Matt Kenseth / 224 laps / crash / led 9 laps
36) #14-Brian Vickers / 257 laps / running
35) #30-Josh Wise / 259 laps / running
2016 LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Matt DiBenedetto, Cole Whitt, Josh Wise (1)
2016 LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) BK Racing, Premium Motorsports, The Motorsports Group (1)
2016 LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (2)
2nd) Toyota (1)