Sunday, May 29, 2016

CUP: Reed Sorenson first driver to sweep Showdown and 600 last-place finishes

Reed Sorenson picked up the 13th last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway when his #55 World Record Striper Company Chevrolet fell out with clutch issues after he completed 200 of the race’s 400 laps.

The finish, which came in Sorenson’s 241st series start, was his series-leading third of the year and first in a points race since Richmond, four races ago.

Pfc. Jason Hill Estopinal, USMC (1988-2010)
Following his last-place run in the Sprint Showdown, Sorenson and his bright blue Chevrolet returned to the Charlotte track, this time as a participant in NASCAR’s second-annual “600 Miles of Remembrance” campaign.  The name above Sorenson’s windshield honored the life of Pfc. Jason Hill Estopinal of the U.S. Marine Corps.  Born in Sorenson’s home state of Georgia, Pfc. Estopinal joined the Marines in February 2009 and was a rifleman assigned to 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines.  He was killed in action in Afghanistan on February 15, 2010.  He was just 21 years old.

Sorenson ran just one lap in Thursday’s opening practice, and was slowest of the 40 entrants by nearly nine-tenths of a second.  He found a little more speed in qualifying, turning in a lap of 179.432 mph, but still could only start last in the field.  He was slowest again in Saturday’s second session and, along with Premium Motorsports teammate Cole Whitt, did not participate in Happy Hour.

On Sunday, Sorenson was joined at the back of the field by Matt DiBenedetto, Saturday’s last-placer of the XFINITY Series race, whose team changed the transmission on his #83 Hope For The Warriors / Cosmo Motors Toyota, and Tony Stewart, whose team made unapproved adjustments to his #14 Mobil 1 Chevrolet.  By the end of Lap 1, Sorenson retook 40th from both drivers.

In the early laps, Sorenson’s #55 had trouble keeping up with the pack.  On Lap 3, he was 9.7 seconds behind the leaders and 1.9 seconds behind 39th-place Jeffrey Earnhardt in the new-look #32 Can-Am Ford for Go FAS Racing.  On Lap 9, those intervals expanded to 20.2 and 2.89.  Sorenson was about to lose a lap to the leaders when Kasey Kahne’s #5 LiftMaster Chevrolet slowed off Turn 2 and made an unscheduled pit stop for a flat right-front tire.  Reports indicated the wheel was too close to the ball joint, causing a rub that later required a spacer.  Kahne hoped to get one of his laps back on the Lap 26 competition caution, but by then, Sorenson, Earnhardt, and the #30 Curtis Key Pluming Chevrolet of Josh Wise had all lost a lap with Wise gaining the Lucky Dog.

Under the caution, Sorenson stayed out to get the wave-around, putting him back on the lead lap.  However, by Lap 40, nine laps after the restart, he was again losing ground, 4.5 seconds behind the next car, and he lost the lap once more.  Around Lap 53, without a timely caution, Sorenson made his pit stop and lost two laps, dropping him behind Kahne for 40th.  Jeffrey Earnhardt took it on Lap 82 during green-flag stops, but Sorenson retook it on Lap 93 and held it the rest of the night.  On Lap 205, Sorenson was 10 laps behind when he pulled into the garage.  He returned at least one more time, completing another five circuits before he exited the race for good, citing clutch issues.  He ended up the only retiree from the race.

In a result sheet similar to Atlanta in February, the remaining 39 starters all finished within eighteen laps of Martin Truex, Jr.’s dominant Toyota.  39th went to Jeffrey Earnhardt, who brought out a caution on Lap 205 when he rode the wall in Turn 4, followed five laps later by Josh Wise’s #30.  37th belonged to Chris Buescher, whose #34 CSX - Play It Safe Ford slammed the wall on Lap 234 and made an unscheduled stop, ultimately costing him 12 laps.  36th went to Michael Annett, his fourth bottom-five finish in the last five races driving the #46 Pilot / Flying J Chevrolet.

*This was the first last-place finish for the #55 in a Cup race at Charlotte since May 26, 1985, when new Hall of Fame inductee Benny Parsons lost the engine on his Copenhagen Chevrolet after 8 laps of the Coca-Cola World 600.  It was the 6th of Parsons’ 7 Cup last-place finishes.
*Sorenson is the first driver to finish last in both the Sprint Showdown and the Coca-Cola 600 in the same year.  This includes the inaugural Showdown - then the Atlanta Invitational - held at the Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1986.
*The 200 laps Sorenson completed were the most by any last-place finisher of the Coca-Cola 600.

40) #55-Reed Sorenson / 200 laps / clutch
39) #32-Jeffrey Earnhardt / 382 laps / running
38) #30-Josh Wise / 387 laps / running
37) #34-Chris Buescher / 388 laps / running
36) #46-Michael Annett / 390 laps / running

1st) Reed Sorenson (3)
2nd) Matt DiBenedetto, Josh Wise (2)
3rd) Aric Almirola, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kyle Larson, Paul Menard, Ryan Newman, Cole Whitt (1)

1st) Premium Motorsports (4)
2nd) BK Racing, Richard Childress Racing, The Motorsports Group (2)
3rd) Chip Ganassi Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Richard Petty Motorsports (1)

1st) Chevrolet (10)
2nd) Toyota (2)
3rd) Ford (1)

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