Tuesday, April 26, 2016

CUP: Open Team Roundup - Richmond

Richmond was another green-flag affair, and despite their poor finishes, all of the Open teams finished within 10 laps of the race leader - that is, except one, who found himself bumped from the field in the first qualifying session of consequence since the Daytona 500.


#21 Wood Brothers Racing
Driver: Ryan Blaney
Started 29th, Finished 28th

Ryan Blaney vied for the Top 15 in the early going, but struggled once he lost a lap to the leaders and never contended for the victory.  He did, however, show deference to the leaders by pulling low on the track with seven laps to go, letting Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards wage war for the victory.  Blaney had just returned to the lead lap before the final sprint to the checkers, having taken the wave-around, and ended up the second car one lap behind following fellow Ford driver Landon Cassill.

Next Sunday will be Blaney’s fourth Cup start at Talladega, site of his career-best 4th-place finish in this event one year ago.  It will also be the 87th Talladega start for the Wood Brothers, who have scored five wins, 18 Top Fives, 30 Top Tens, and six poles on the superspeedway.  The team has not won on the track since NASCAR downsized its cars to the current wheelbase - their fifth victory came with the late Neil Bonnett on August 3, 1980.

#93 BK Racing
Driver: Ryan Ellis
Started 37th, Finished 37th

Ellis squeezed his way into Sunday’s field by virtue of a determined run during Friday’s opening practice, where he edged Cole Whitt by less than one-tenth of a second for the 37th spot.  A washout in qualifying sent Whitt home as a result, securing Ellis his first Cup start since last fall’s rain-shortened race at Phoenix.  Like the rest of this week’s group of Open teams, Ellis lost a lap early and struggled the rest of the afternoon, ultimately moving out of the way of the leaders in the final laps.  Ellis was also spun by Landon Cassill on the Lap 327 restart, but avoided serious damage to his car.  It was a new career-best finish for Ellis, who came home 40th in last fall’s 43-car field.

Ellis has just one Talladega start in NASCAR’s top three divisions - the Truck Series race on October 18, 2014, where he scored a 23rd-place finish driving for Jim Rosenblum’s FDNY Racing.  The #93 BK Racing team also finished last in this year’s Daytona 500 with Matt DiBenedetto. Ellis and the #93 are not entered at Talladega as DiBenedetto retains his #83.

#30 The Motorsports Group
Driver: Josh Wise
Started 31st, Finished 39th

This week, Josh Wise avoided the wrecks that damaged his #30 the previous two races at Texas and Bristol, but still ended up on the exact same lap as last-place finisher Reed Sorenson.  At the same time, the team is already making plans for the rest of their first full-season run.  TMG is currently holding a fan poll to decide which “throwback” #30 scheme to run at Darlington: Michael Waltrip’s 1988-1989 Country Time Lemonade Pontiac or Dale Earnhardt’s 1976 U.S. Army Chevrolet.

Like Blaney, Wise also earned his career-best finish at Talladega, which came just last year.  That day, Wise finished 10th in the #98 Royal Teak Furniture Ford - just as his Phil Parsons Racing ride was sold to Jay Robinson’s Premium Motorsports.  While The Motorsports Group has never made a Cup start at Talladega, the team did finish 12th with Scott Wimmer in the 2012 XFINITY Series race and 18th with Wise in 2013.

#55 Premium Motorsports
Driver: Reed Sorenson
Started 35th, Finished 40th

Sorenson finished last in Sunday’s race, his second in a row.  For more, see his LASTCAR.info feature.  In ten previous starts at Talladega, Sorenson’s best finish was a 10th in the fall of 2007, the first restrictor-plate test for NASCAR’s “Car of Tomorrow.”  He also finished 14th in his most recent Cup appearance there, when he drove for Tommy Baldwin Racing on October 19, 2014. Sorenson will concede his Talladega ride to Michael Waltrip, the 2003 fall winner.


#98 Premium Motorsports
Driver: Cole Whitt
Season Stats: 7 Starts, 2 DNQs

Ryan Ellis’ gain in Friday’s practice was Cole Whitt’s loss, and Premium Motorsports’ #98 ended up missing its first race since the Daytona 500.  Another restrictor-plate challenge awaits next week at Talladega, where Whitt ‘s best finish in six previous Cup starts was a 13th in last year’s running for Front Row Motorsports.


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

The remaining four Daytona 500 DNQs did not attempt Richmond, but David Gilliland and his repaired #35 will return at Talladega, keeping the entry list at 41 cars.

No comments: