Tuesday, April 12, 2016

CUP: Open Team Roundup - Texas

During another 500-mile endurance test under the lights at Texas, the four Open teams found themselves off the lead lap and racing each other for position.


#21 Wood Brothers Racing
Driver: Ryan Blaney
Started 7th, Finished 29th

At Texas, Blaney remained stellar in qualifying, matching his season-best 7th from the Daytona 500.  In fact, Blaney has only started worse than 14th once this season: a 23rd at Atlanta.  As in many of those starts, Blaney remained inside the Top 20 for most of the early stages, but just as at Atlanta and Fontana, late-race misfortune knocked him back through the field.  On Lap 106, just moments after a scheduled green-flag stop, Blaney was back on pit road again with a vibration in the rear of the car.  The stop dropped the #21 off the lead lap, and by race’s end, he’d lost three more.  Still, he remained tops among the Open teams - barely - for the fifth time in seven races.

Blaney and the Wood Brothers are no strangers to next week’s venue at Bristol.  Blaney and the #21 finished 22nd there last fall, the best performance by the Woods at the track since Ken Schrader’s 13th-place showing in 2006.  Still, Ricky Rudd’s 4th-place finish in 2005 remains their most recent top-ten finish, and they’ve won at the track once: Elliott Sadler’s surprise triumph in the 2001 Food City 500.

#98 Premium Motorsports
Driver: Cole Whitt
Started 37th, Finished 30th

One lap and one position behind Blaney came Cole Whitt, who only this week ran without a primary sponsor for the first time in 2016.  Just as in many of his starts this year, Whitt fought to stay on the lead lap.  Whitt kept race leader Carl Edwards behind him for the competition caution on Lap 30, and he made up a 30.2-second deficit.  Whitt was finally lapped on the 61st circuit by Martin Truex, Jr. and lost four more by the time the checkered flag fell. The 30th-place showing was just four spots short of a career-best at the 1.5-mile quad-oval.

Whitt’s best finish in four previous Cup starts at Bristol was a 27th in last year’s spring race.

#55 Premium Motorsports
Driver: Reed Sorenson
Started 40th, Finished 36th

Whitt’s new teammate Reed Sorenson returned for his second start of the season in an identically unsponsored #55.  Sorenson was among the slowest cars in practice and started shotgun on the field, briefly trading it with Chase Elliott during the green-yellow start.  Sorenson retook the spot at the green flag and, as at Martinsville, traded it with Josh Wise for most of the first half.  Sorenson went down a lap on the 19th circuit, but lost the Lucky Dog to Jeffery Earnhardt at the competition caution.  Sorenson lost 40th to Wise on Lap 36, and when he regained it on Lap 98, he was five circuits behind.  He climbed to 39th on Lap 110, then proceeded to outlast several Chartered teams in the final laps.  In the end, he passed late-race retirees Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, and Brian Vickers to come home four laps behind Earnhardt.

Sorenson is set to make his 13th Bristol start and his first in Cup since 2014.  His best series finishes at the track are a pair of 15th-place finishes in the night race: one for Chip Ganassi in 2007 and another for Team Red Bull in 2010.

#30 The Motorsports Group
Driver: Josh Wise
Started 39th, Finished 40th

Wise finished last in Saturday's race, pulling a weekend sweep between the Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series events.  For more, see his LASTCAR.info feature.  Wise’s best finish in eight previous Bristol starts is a 23rd in the 2014 spring race, when he finished four laps down in Phil Parsons’ #98 Chevrolet.




#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, six races ago, were again not on the entry list for Texas.

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