Tuesday, April 19, 2016

CUP: Open Team Roundup - Bristol

SOURCE: Wade Payne, Associated Press
While there were many happy stories from Sunday’s battle at Bristol among mid-tier Chartered teams, the four Open drivers found themselves in much the same position.  Again, the group was led by Ryan Blaney, who this time posed a serious threat for his first Sprint Cup victory at a track where the Wood Brothers had won just once before.


#21 Wood Brothers Racing
Driver: Ryan Blaney
Started 18th, Finished 11th

Ryan Blaney has been knocking on the door all season, but at Bristol, he pounded harder than before.  He put the #21 Motorcraft / Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford 18th on the grid, but was as fast as 14th in practice.  He hovered near the Top 10 early on, then began to make his move near the halfway point.  On Lap 206, he was up to 4th, and following the Lap 227 restart for David Ragan’s blown engine, he shot up to 2nd behind race leader Carl Edwards.  Though Blaney never led, he remained in 4th when the next-to-last caution flew for Michael Annett’s spin on Lap 486.  Only two last-minute restarts dropped him to 11th at the finish for his third-best finish of the season.

Next Sunday will be Blaney’s first Cup start at Richmond, though he has never finished outside the Top Ten in four XFINITY starts there with a career best 4th in the fall of 2014.  It will be the 59th Cup start at Richmond for the Wood Brothers, where they haven’t raced since Bill Elliott’s 35th-place finish in the fall of 2008.  The Woods have two victories at the track, both on the old fairgrounds track: Speedy Thompson in 1960 and the thrilling first victory for Kyle Petty in 1986.

#98 Premium Motorsports
Driver: Cole Whitt
Started 39th, Finished 28th

Cole Whitt remained a solid second in class among the Open teams, but faced greater difficulty remaining on the lead lap on the tiny short track.  Whitt lost his first lap to the leaders on Lap 26, but held off Dale Earnhardt, Jr. for the Lucky Dog on Lap 71.  The leaders caught him again near the one-quarter mark, but on Lap 153, he was again in position to take the Lucky Dog, but slowly lost circuits from there.  Again, Whitt left the track with his car in one piece, at times getting attention for new sponsor Pugs, whose sunglass and outdoor apparel company adorned the #98’s hood for the first time in 2016.  Though four laps down at the finish, the 28th-place showing was his second-best of the young season, two spots behind his 26th at Fontana.

Whitt has never finished better than 30th in his five previous Cup starts at Richmond, which came when he drove for BK Racing in the fall of 2014.  Premium Motorsports hasn’t finished better than 37th in its only two starts back in 2014.

#30 The Motorsports Group
Driver: Josh Wise
Started 35th, Finished 33rd

Unlike Whitt, Josh Wise and The Motorsports Group left Bristol with their black #30 Chevrolet battered and taped.  Wise’s race didn’t start that way - he actually climbed from 35th on the grid up to 29th, adopting Whitt’s strategy to remain on the lead lap as long as possible.  On Lap 39, when Whitt had already been lapped, Wise and Danica Patrick did their best to keep race leader Carl Edwards behind them.  Once Edwards did get by, Wise did his best to stay out of the way, but soon found that impossible.  On Lap 331, Wise slid up the track in Turn 1 and slammed the outside wall, scraping up the right side and damaging the left-rear.  Debris from his car drew the caution, and the #30 was on and off pit road for the rest of the race.

Wise’s best finish in seven Cup starts at Richmond is a 28th in the spring of 2013, when he drove for Front Row Motorsports.  Prior to this season, this spring Richmond race was the scene of The Motorsports Group’s most recent Cup start - a 40th-place finish (out of 43 starters) with all-time last-place leader Jeff Green.

#55 Premium Motorsports
Driver: Reed Sorenson
Started 38th, Finished 40th

Sorenson finished last in Sunday’s race, the first for Premium Motorsports since expanding to two cars.  For more, see his LASTCAR.info feature (LINK).  Sorenson is set to make his 17th Richmond start next Sunday, where his career-best is a 12th for Chip Ganassi in the spring of 2008.




#26 BK Racing
#35 Front Row Motorsports
#40 Hillman Racing
#59 Leavine Family / Circle Sport Racing
#93 BK Racing

The five teams which last attempted the Daytona 500 were again absent from Bristol, but next week Ryan Ellis is expected to make his first Cup attempt of the season in BK Racing’s #93.

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