Sunday, May 15, 2016

CUP: Blown right-front tire leaves Matt DiBenedetto last for second time in 2016

SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin' Forums
Matt DiBenedetto picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s AAA 400 Drive for Autism at the Dover International Speedway when his #83 Cosmo Motors Toyota was involved in a single-car crash, stopping him after 116 of 400 laps.

The finish, DiBenedetto’s second of the season, was his first since the opening round in the Daytona 500, eleven races ago.  It came in his 45th series start.

Last month at Bristol, during the Food City 500, DiBenedetto’s season-high of making his first start in the “Great American Race” was exceeded by a career-best 6th-place finish.  Emotional on pit road after the race, DiBenedetto became an internet sensation nearly overnight.  An online push to vote him into next week’s Sprint All-Star Race has been gaining momentum, as have plans to run a Reddit-sponsored #83 later this season, changing his nickname to “DiBurrito,” and other plans to name his growing fan base.

Dover’s concrete surface shared similar characteristics to the Bristol short track, and driver and team looked for more success to carry them into the All-Star break.  Coming into the race, DiBenedetto sat just 31st in points, having finished inside the Top 20 just one other time - a 20th at Phoenix.  In practice, he was also still looking for speed - just 29th in the opening session, leaving him to start in that spot after qualifying was rained-out.  On Saturday’s two sessions, he timed in just 31st and 34th.

40 cars arrived to attempt the 40-car field, and for the third time in 2016, the final starting spot belonged to Josh Wise and the #30 Curtis Key Plumbing / Key Realty Group Chevrolet.  By Lap 8, Wise was still trailing, and was now 1.6 seconds behind the next car in line, the #55 World Record Striper Company / Hauling Bass! Chevrolet of Reed Sorenson.  On Lap 11, Wise was the first to be lapped, and by Lap 16, he was slow on the apron of Turn 3, complaining that his engine was running on seven cylinders.  He pulled into the garage area, and at first appeared done for the day.  Then on Lap 71, the Curtis Key team got Wise back on the track, 54 laps down.

On Lap 105, fellow Open team driver Cole Whitt in the #98 Vydox Plus Chevrolet was already a few laps down when he, too slowed and pulled into the garage complaining of a vibration.  He was still in the garage area when the caution flew on Lap 120.  At that point, Matt DiBenedetto had also lost a lap to the leaders, but was running full speed when the right-front tire let go in Turn 2.  His #83 couldn’t slow in time and clobbered the outside wall, knocking the wind out of the driver.  He managed to climb out under his own power, but the car was done for the day.  Whitt returned to the track on Lap 125, and DiBenedetto began to slide down the rankings.  He took 39th on Lap 139, then last on Lap 176.  Whitt dodged the late wrecks before pulling out with a vibration to come home 27th, the highest-ranked retiree.  Wise ended up 36th, still under power.

Between DiBenedetto and Wise in the Bottom Five was 39th-place Regan Smith, whose #7 Advanced Patient Care Chevrolet broke something in the engine entering Turn 4 on Lap 144 and spun down the track, coming to rest against the inside wall.  38th-place Reed Sorenson in the #55 had nearly the same thing happen to him on Lap 214, trailing smoke as he spun in front of the leaders, sending Jimmie Johnson’s #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet into a spin of his own.  37th went to Michael Annett, who suffered another terrible crash when his #46 Pilot / Flying J Chevrolet was bumped into a spin by Jamie McMurray, sending him hard into the inside frontstretch wall.

*DiBenedetto is the first Sprint Cup driver to finish last with more than one car number in the same season since 2015, when Timmy Hill was parked in the #98 Chevrolet at Michigan in August, then finished laps down in the #62 Chevrolet at Phoenix in November.  Like DiBenedetto, both cars were owned by the same team - DiBenedetto with BK Racing and Hill with Premium Motorsports.
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #83 in a Sprint Cup race since May 10, 2014, when Ryan Truex’s Burger King Toyota crashed after 57 laps of the 5-Hour Energy 400 at the Kansas Speedway.  It is also the number’s first-ever Sprint Cup last-place finish at Dover.

40) #83-Matt DiBenedetto / 116 laps / crash
39) #7-Regan Smith / 139 laps / crash
38) #55-Reed Sorenson / 204 laps / crash
37) #46-Michael Annett / 223 laps / crash
36) #30-Josh Wise / 331 laps / running

1st) Matt DiBenedetto, Reed Sorenson, Josh Wise (2)
2nd) Aric Almirola, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kyle Larson, Paul Menard, Ryan Newman, Cole Whitt (1)

1st) Premium Motorsports (3)
2nd) BK Racing, Richard Childress Racing, The Motorsports Group (2)
3rd) Chip Ganassi Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Richard Petty Motorsports (1)

1st) Chevrolet (9)
2nd) Toyota (2)
3rd) Ford (1)

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