Tuesday, July 12, 2016

CUP: Open Team Roundup - Kentucky

SOURCE: Brian Lawdermilk, Getty Images

#98 Premium Motorsports
Driver: Cole Whitt
Started 36th, Finished 21st

For the second week in a row and just the third time in 2016, Cole Whitt led all Open drivers with the best finish of the group.  Whitt fought to stay on the lead lap for most of the race, finally losing one to race leader Brad Keselowski with 34 to go.  He also narrowly avoided disaster on at least two occasions - once while colliding with Ryan Blaney on pit road, and another time slowing through the middle of the huge backstretch pileup on Lap 93.  The resulting 21st-place finish was also the best by the #98 team on a non-plate track in 2016, besting the previous mark of 26th at Fontana.

This Sunday, Whitt seeks his fifth start at Loudon, where his best finish was a 24th for Front Row Motorsports last September.  Car owner Jay Robinson has yet to finish better than Mike Wallace’s 34th-place run in September 2014, his best of three starts.

#30 The Motorsports Group
Driver: Josh Wise
Started 40th, Finished 24th

Also impressive on Saturday were Josh Wise and The Motorsports Group, who remained near the back of the field and avoided the night’s chaos with their car intact.  The 24th-place finish is not only a team-best for TMG, improving on their 27th at Pocono this past June, but is the best finish for Wise since the August 2014 race at the same track.  Only six times in Wise’s 143-race career has he finished better in a Cup car.  This also marks the fourth time in 18 races that the #30 ranked second among the Open teams.

Wise has seven Loudon Cup starts under his belt with a best of 29th for Phil Parsons in July of 2014.  It will be The Motorsports Group’s first Cup attempt at the track.

#55 Premium Motorsports
Driver: Reed Sorenson
Started 39th, Finished 27th

Sorenson also matched his season-best finish on a non-plate track - another 27th at Michigan in June - and came home just six positions behind teammate Whitt.  He earned the Lucky Dog under two of the race’s first five cautions and came home five laps behind race winner Brad Keselowski.

Sorenson has made thirteen Loudon starts with a career-best 6th for Chip Ganassi in 2008.  He hasn’t made a race there since the fall of 2014, when he came home 31st for Tommy Baldwin.

#21 Wood Brothers Racing
Driver: Ryan Blaney
Started 15th, Finished 35th

On the other side of the coin, Ryan Blaney was left with his season-tying worst finish of 2016, matching his 35th at Fontana this spring.  It is also the first time this season that Blaney and the #21 have finished behind the other three qualified Open teams.  Blaney began the weekend strong enough, starting from his rain-secured 15th on the grid to run up to 5th in the early laps.  However, contact from Whitt on pit road caved in his right-front fender, and the car wouldn’t handle after that.  On the Lap 88 restart, he was fighting for control in Turns 3 and 4 when his car slid up the track into fellow rookie Chase Elliott, putting both cars into the outside wall.  The Woods managed to get Blaney back on track, 124 laps behind, but could only gain a handful of spots by the finish.

Blaney made his first Cup start at Loudon in this race last year, running well in the early laps before settling for 23rd.  It was the Wood Brothers’ first start at the track since 2008.  The Woods have yet to win at the “Magic Mile,” but have twice finished 2nd with Morgan Shepherd (1995) and Ricky Rudd (2003).




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

None of the other part-time Open teams attempted the race in Kentucky.

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