Sunday, May 15, 2016

XFINITY: Wreck in heat race leaves Justin Marks out of Dover’s main event

Justin Marks picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Ollie’s Bargain Outlet 200 at the Dover International Speedway when his #42 Katerra Chevrolet crashed before he could complete any of the main event’s 120 laps.

The finish, Marks’ first of the season, came in his 18th series start.  It was his first in XFINITY competition since February 26, 2011, when his unsponsored #27 Baker Curb Racing Ford fell out with brake problems after 7 laps of the Bashas’ Supermarkets 200 at Bristol, 174 races ago.

Since his most recent XFINITY last-place finish, Marks has only made a handful of starts in NASCAR’s top three divisions.  He was released from his Truck Series ride with Stacy Compton midway through the 2011 season, and has made just three series starts since with ThorSport, Kevin Cywinski, and Todd Braun.  He made his first two Sprint Cup starts, both at Sonoma, where both times he came home 30th driving for Tommy Baldwin Racing (2013) and Front Row Motorsports (2015).  His XFINITY Series races included some ovals, but focused on the road courses of Road America and Mid-Ohio, where he earned his two series-best finishes for the late Steve Turner in 2014 and for HScott Motorsports just last year.

This year, Marks has been selected to share a ride with Cup Series regular Kyle Larson at Chip Ganassi Racing.  In nine previous races, both drivers had never failed to qualify.  The team’s best performance of the year has been Larson’s runner-up to Kyle Busch at Atlanta, but just two weeks ago at Talladega, Marks turned in his own season-best of 11th.

Dover would prove significant for both drivers.  On Sunday, Larson thrilled as he challenged Matt Kenseth for the win of the Sprint Cup race.  Marks himself had won his lone Truck Series pole at the track in 2011.  Marks ran 19th-fastest in Friday’s opening practice session, 14th in Happy Hour, and timed in 16th in qualifying with a speed of 152.834 mph.  As Dover was the third of this season’s “Dash 4 Cash” races, this placed Marks 8th on the grid for Heat Race #2.

By Lap 26 of his 40-lap heat, Josh Reaume had already secured the last spot, having pulled his #93 RSS Racing Chevrolet off the track along with Morgan Shepherd’s #89 and Carl Long’s #40.  Marks, meanwhile, was running in 6th position with a chance to challenge for the top two “Dash 4 Cash” positions.  He was running by himself off Turn 4 when the car slipped up the track, spun to the inside, bumped the inside SAFER barrier with the right-front, then over-corrected and smashed nearly head-on into the unprotected outside wall.  Marks was unhurt, but his car was destroyed.  Though his 17th-place finish gave him the 34th spot on the grid for the 120-lap main event, the car was beyond repair, and he did not start as a result, classified last in the field.  Reaume, who secured the 40th starting spot from his early exit of Heat Race #2, finished 37th, out with suspension issues after 5 laps.

Filling out the Bottom Five was 39th-place Ryan Preece, whose #01 Meding’s Seafood / Iron Source Chevrolet had developed engine issues in Heat Race #1 and pulled out after one lap of the main with a vibration.  38th fell to Matt DiBenedetto, who returned to the LASTCAR-leading #10 TriStar Motorsports Toyota.  Morgan Shepherd’s #89 Racing With Jesus / Courtney Construction Chevrolet rounded out the group in 36th, out after 15 laps with suspension issues.  Mike Harmon, last in Heat Race #1, finished outside the Bottom Five in 32nd, driving his #74 Dodge.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #42 in an XFINITY Series race since August 23, 2013, when Josh Wise’s unspsonsored The Motorsports Group Chevrolet fell out with a vibration after 4 laps of the Food City 250 at Bristol.
*Marks is the first driver to finish last without completing a single lap of an XFINITY Series race since June 13, 2015, when C.J. Faison did not start the Great Clips 250 at Michigan after his #26 JGL Racing Toyota wrecked in qualifying.

40) #42-Justin Marks / 0 laps / crash
39) #01-Ryan Preece / 1 lap / vibration
38) #10-Matt DiBenedetto / 4 laps / vibration
37) #93-Josh Reaume / 5 laps / suspension
36) #89-Morgan Shepherd / 15 laps / suspension

1st) Jeff Green (4)
2nd) Matt DiBenedetto, Josh Wise (2)
3rd) Justin Marks, Ryan Preece (1)

1st) TriStar Motorsports (6)
2nd) RSS Racing (2)
3rd) Chip Ganassi Racing, JD Motorsports (1)

1st) Toyota (6)
2nd) Chevrolet (4)

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