Tuesday, May 31, 2016

CUP: Open Team Roundup - Coca-Cola 600

SOURCE: @MRNRadio
QUALIFIED

#21 Wood Brothers Racing
Driver: Ryan Blaney
Started 18th, Finished 20th
Honoring Signalman Seaman Cherone L. Gunn, U.S. Navy

Blaney was best in class once more among Sunday’s Open teams.  He began the weekend 2nd-fastest in the first round of qualifying, settling for 18th in qualifying, then ran 10th and 8th in the final two practice sessions.  He climbed up to 15th in the opening stages, but was then slammed with the Wood Brothers’ first pit road penalty of the year - a speeding violation - that dropped him to 34th.  Blaney made up the spots quickly, but when the tires wore out, he found it much harder to break the Top 10.  He eventually slipped to the 20th spot, at one point saved by a caution for Brian Scott’s spin that kept him on the lead lap.  With 3 laps to go, he slowed suddenly with an apparent flat tire, costing him three laps.

Next Sunday, Blaney vies for his first Cup start at Pocono, scene of his second Truck Series victory in 2013.  The Wood Brothers haven’t raced at “The Tricky Triangle” since August 3, 2008, when Bill Elliott came home 20th, but they do have a pair of wins - one with David Pearson in 1975 and another with Neil Bonnett in 1980.

#98 Premium Motorsports
Driver: Cole Whitt
Started 36th, Finished 35th
Honoring Cpl. Michael D. Anderson Jr., U.S. Marine Corps

The remaining Open teams once again found themselves racing each other for the final few spots and, like Atlanta in February, managed to complete nearly the entire distance.  Leading this group by three positions was Cole Whitt, who had new sponsorship from Carolina Skiff on his black #98 Chevrolet.  Other than a bump from Ryan Blaney as the two raced onto pit road, Whitt kept his car unscathed and finished nine laps down - the same circuit as the Chartered #95 Leavine Family Racing / Circle Sport entry of Michael McDowell.

Cole Whitt’s best finish in four previous Pocono starts was a 21st in the summer of 2014, driving the #26 Toyota of Scranton Toyota for BK Racing.  He also finished 15th in the 2011 Truck Series race there driving for series veteran Stacy Compton.  Owner Jay Robinson, however, has run no better than 36th at the track - twice - with Timmy Hill in 2014 and 2015.

#30 The Motorsports Group
Driver: Josh Wise
Started 37th, Finished 38th
Honoring Staff Sgt. Robert A. Massarelli, U.S. Army

38th belonged to Josh Wise, whose Curtis Key-owned entry finished the race 13 laps behind.  Like Whitt, Wise managed to put a Chartered entry behind him - five laps on Jeffrey Earnhardt’s #32 Can-Am Ford for Go FAS Racing.  He was also just one circuit from beating Chris Buescher’s battered #34 CSX - Play It Safe Ford for Front Row Motorsports.

Next Sunday will be The Motorsports Group’s first Cup appearance at Pocono, but driver Josh Wise has made 7 starts the with a best finish of 24th in the spring of 2014 driving for Phil Parsons, his last start at the track in a Chevrolet.

#55 Premium Motorsports
Driver: Reed Sorenson
Started 40th, Finished 40th
Honoring Pfc. Jason Hill Estopinal, U.S. Marine Corps

Reed Sorenson finished last in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600.  For more details on his race, read Monday’s LASTCAR.info feature.  Sorenson’s best Pocono finish in 14 previous starts was a 20th for Richard Petty Motorsports in 2009.

DID NOT QUALIFY

None.

DID NOT ENTER

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

None of the part-time teams returned to attempt the Coca-Cola 600.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

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

SOURCE: NASCAR
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.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*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.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
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

2016 LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
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)

2016 LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Premium Motorsports (4)
2nd) BK Racing, Richard Childress Racing, The Motorsports Group (2)
3rd) Chip Ganassi Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Richard Petty Motorsports (1)

2016 LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (10)
2nd) Toyota (2)
3rd) Ford (1)

XFINITY: Matt DiBenedetto scores Toyota’s 100th XFINITY Series last-place finish

SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin' Forums
Matt DiBenedetto picked up the 5th last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Hisense 300 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway when his unsponsored #10 TriStar Motorsports Toyota fell out with a vibration after he completed 3 of 206 laps.

The finish, which came in DiBenedetto’s 54th series start, was his third of the season and first since Bristol, four races ago.

Charlotte marked DiBenedetto’s first XFINITY start since Dover two weeks ago, where he came home 38th in front of Ryan Preece and last-placer Justin Marks.  He and Josh Wise, again driving the second car #93 from the RSS Racing stables, were the only two drivers who did not participate in Thursday’s opening practice.  Both returned in Happy Hour that afternoon with DiBenedetto 27th and Wise 30th.  They also qualified on speed - DiBenedetto secured the 24th spot at 177.526 mph and Wise 28th at 175.661 mph.  DiBenedetto was actually 19th-best in Round 1, then stood on his time in Round 2.

Two drivers missed the race.  T.J. Bell was looking to make his first series start since Phoenix in March, where he came home 26th for JGL Racing, but his #40 OCR Gaz Bar Dodge for Motorsports Business Management was two-tenths of a second off the pace.  Joining him was Morgan Shepherd, slowest overall in his #89 Racing With Jesus / Courtney Construction Chevrolet, his fourth DNQ of the year and first since Bristol.

In Saturday’s race, 40th-place starter Harrison Rhodes and his patriotic #97 NC State University / Vroom! Brands Chevrolet trailed the field along with Timmy Hill and Jeb Burton, sent to the rear from 36th and 27th for unapproved adjustments.  Burton suffered some damage to his right-rear after spinning off Turn 4 in qualifying.  DiBenedetto pulled behind the wall after three laps, followed two circuits later by Wise.  Hill and Burton finished 33rd and 11th, respectively.

38th went to Cody Ware, who brought out the first caution of the afternoon when his #15 JJ Aim Right Gun Shop Ford crashed on Lap 14.  37th went to Ray Black, Jr., whose #07 ScubaLife / CDA.edu Chevlet broke an oil line after 27 circuits.  Rounding out the Bottom Five was Joey Gase in Jimmy Means’ black #52 Agri Supply Chevrolet, which broke the transmission after 84 laps.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked Toyota’s 100th XFINITY Series last-place finish.
*This is TriStar Motorsports’ third-straight last-place finish in an XFINITY race at Charlotte.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #10-Matt DiBenedetto / 3 laps / vibration
39) #93-Josh Wise / 5 laps / rear gear
38) #15-Cody Ware / 12 laps / crash
37) #07-Ray Black, Jr. / 27 laps / oil line
36) #52-Joey Gase / 84 laps / transmission

2016 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Jeff Green (4)
2nd) Matt DiBenedetto (3)
3rd) Josh Wise (2)
4th) Justin Marks, Ryan Preece (1)

2016 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) TriStar Motorsports (7)
2nd) RSS Racing (2)
3rd) Chip Ganassi Racing, JD Motorsports (1)

2016 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Toyota (7)
2nd) Chevrolet (4)

Saturday, May 28, 2016

LASTCAR EXTRA: The Indianapolis 500 (1911-present)

Salt Walther, 1973
SOURCE: IndyMotorSpeedway.com
Coming into the 100th running of the “Greatest Spectacle In Racing,” Salt Walther stands alone as the all-time leader in Indy 500 last-place finishes with three (1972, 1973, and 1975).  Walther also joins Howdy Wilcox (1921, 1922) and Andy Linden (1952, 1953) as the only three drivers to finish last in consecutive 500s.

The first last-place finisher of the Indy 500 was Arthur Greiner, whose #44 Amplex started 38th in the 40-car field and crashed on the backstretch after 12 laps.  Greiner suffered a concussion and broken ribs.  His ride-along mechanic, S.P. Dickson, was killed.  1958 last-placer Art Bisch was involved in the multi-car wreck that claimed the life of driver Pat O’Connor.  1964 last-placer Norm Hall spun to avoid the tragic accident that killed Eddie Sachs and Dave MacDonald.

Mario Andretti finished last in the 1968 Indianapolis 500, one year before his only win.  The other 500 winners to also finish last in the event are Howdy Wilcox (1921, 1922), Louis Schneider (1933), Bill Cummings (1936), Sam Hanks (1941), Jimmy Bryan (1959), Bobby Unser (1963), Johnny Rutherford (1977), Tom Sneva (1986), Buddy Lazier (1991), and Danny Sullivan (1993).  Hanks did not start the 1941 race due to an injury suffered earlier in the weekend and his car was withdrawn.

UPDATE (5/29/16): Juan Pablo Montoya (2016) becomes the 12th different 500 winner to also finish last.

In 2000, Greg Ray led the most laps of any Indy 500 last-placer with 26 - no last-placer has led a single lap since.  The only other 500 last-placers with at least one lap led are Russ Snowberger (11 in 1928), Paul Russo (11 in 1956), and Tony Stewart (1 in 1998).  Ray was also one of only five polesitters to finish last in the 500.  The most recent was Scott Sharp in 2001.  Joining Ray and Sharp on this list are Cliff Woodbury (1929), Pancho Carter (1985), and Roberto Guerrero (1992).

Tony and Gary Bettenhausen finished last in consecutive 500s in 1988 and 1989.  A.J. Foyt IV and Larry Foyt trailed the 500 fields of 2004 and 2005.

In 2012, Jean Alesi became the first Indy 500 last-place finisher to be flagged off the track for not maintaining minimum speed.  He was joined a lap later by fellow Lotus driver Simona de Silvestro.  Alesi joins Dempsey Wilson (1960) and Ronnie Duman (1966) as the only three last-place starters of the 500 to finish last.

Last year, Conor Daly’s exhaust fire during the pace laps marked the 25th time the last-place finisher of the 500 failed to complete the opening lap.  It first happened in 1936, when Bill Cummings’ clutch gave out on his Miller FD / Offy.  On Sunday, Daly will be one of only five past Indy 500 last-placers in the field, joining Takuma Sato (2011), Graham Rahal (2008, 2014), J.R. Hildebrand (2013), and 1996 winner Buddy Lazier (1991).

UPDATE (5/29/16): INDY 500 LAST-PLACE STANDINGS THROUGH 2016

1st) Salt Walther (3)

2nd) Roberto Guerrero, Andy Linden, Harry McQuinn, Graham Rahal, Greg Ray, Paul Russo, George Snider, Howdy Wilcox (2)

3rd) Jean Alesi, Martin de Alzaga, Mario Andretti, Ernie Ansterburg, Gary Bettenhausen, Tony Bettenhausen, Jr., Art Bisch, Andre Boillot, Geoff Brabham, Don Branson, S.F. Brock, Jimmy Bryan, Larry Cannon, Shorty Cantlon, Pancho Carter, P.J. Chesson, Charles Cox, Bill Cummings, Conor Daly, Duke Dinsmore, Ronnie Duman, Jules Ellingboe, Bill Endicott, Chet Fillip, Stan Fox, A.J. Foyt IV, Larry Foyt, Aldo Franchi, Milt Frankhouser, Chet Gardner, Spike Gehlhausen, Elmer George, Felipe Giaffone, Al Gordon, Arthur Greiner, Carlos Guerrero, Albert Guyot, Norm Hall, Davey Hamilton, Sam Hanks, J.R. Hildebrand, Bill Homeier, Cliff Hucul, Jim Hurtubise, Joe James, Buddy Lazier, Dave Lewis, Deacon Litz, Jim Malloy, Rex Mays, Jim McElreath, Chet Miller, Juan Pablo Montoya, Mario Moraes, Roberto Moreno, Mike Mosley, Len Ormsby, Francis Quinn, Jimmy Reece, Raul Riganti, Lloyd Ruby, Johnny Rutherford, Eliseo Salazar, Rosco Sarles, Takuma Sato, Louis Schneider, Scott Sharp, Dick Simon, Tom Sneva, Russ Snowberger, Danny Sullivan, Tony Stewart, Bobby Unser, Johnny Unser, Bob Veith, Bruce Walkup, Spider Webb, Dale Whittington, Dempsey Wilson, Cliff Woodbury, Alessandro Zampedri (1)

Thursday, May 26, 2016

5/25/97: Todd Bodine, in relief of brother Geoffrey, ends up with #7 team’s third-straight last-place finish

SOURCE: TBS Sports
On May 25, 1997, Todd Bodine picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR Winston Cup Series career in the Coca-Cola 600 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway when his #7 QVC Ford lost an engine after 47 of 333 laps.  The finish came in Bodine’s 81st series start.

Todd Bodine was participating in his sixth season on the Winston Cup tour.  The youngest of the three Bodine brothers from Chemung, New York (joining Geoffrey and Brett) was a standout in what is today the NASCAR XFINITY Series, scoring seven wins in his first five seasons, including a 3rd-place spot in the 1992 championship behind Joe Nemechek and Bobby Labonte.

Frank Cicci, his XFINITY Series owner, also gave Todd his first Cup start at Watkins Glen that year.  Though an early crash left his #34 Diet Pepsi Ford 37th, it marked the first time since Rusty, Mike, and Kenny Wallace raced together at Phoenix the previous fall that three brothers raced against each other in a Cup event, and the Bodines did so at their home track.

The next time the Cup Series came to Watkins Glen, Todd took over for Dick Trickle in the #75 Factory Stores Ford fielded by longtime Cup owner Butch Mock.  After a ten-race stretch through the end of the 1993 season, Bodine signed with Mock for a full-year run in 1994.  That year, Todd earned his first Top Ten - a 6th in the spring race at Martinsville - and his first Top Five - a 5th at Loudon in July.  He finished the year with a career-best 3rd in the Atlanta finale, putting a ribbon on a 20th-place showing in the series standings, also the best of his career.  In 1995, Todd took his first Cup victory - in a non-points race - winning the Winton Open and finishing 17th in the main event.

By 1997, however, all three Bodine brothers were starting to struggle in Cup.  Todd was released by Mock at the end of the 1995 season, and for the next two years made a few starts as a journeyman, driving in relief of Bill Elliott, Robert Pressley, and Ricky Craven in addition to a three-race stint with Blair Motorsports.  Brett Bodine bought Junior Johnson’s #11 team in 1996, but after losing sponsor Lowe’s to Richard Childress Racing, was trying to make ends meet with funds from the Close Call Phone Card company.  Oldest brother Geoffrey also had a team of his own - having purchased Alan Kulwicki’s team after the owner-driver’s untimely death in 1993 - and had full-time sponsorship from the QVC home shopping network.  In 1996, Geoffrey scored the 18th Cup victory at Watkins Glen.  It would be the last of his career.

For years, engine failures and crashes had been the bane of Geoffrey’s team, preventing him from a run at the championship.  Those problems grew worse during the spring of 1997, when his team failed to finish six races in a row.  The streak began with back-to-back crashes at Bristol and Martinville, where he started 8th and 3rd but went home 33rd and 29th.  It continued with back-to-back last-place finishes, starting with Sonoma on May 4.  Again, Geoffrey qualified well - 7th on the grid - but the engine let go after just 10 of 74 laps.  It was also the last time a Cup driver finished worse than 43rd in a race - the field allowed a 44th starter for the top-qualifying Winston West competitor, Larry Gunselman.  The next week at Talladega, the engine let go at Talladega, leaving the #7 in 43rd.

Geoffrey was slated to run the next round at the Coca-Cola 600, having finished 11th in The Winston all-star race the week before, but he was injured in a crash during Wednesday’s practice.  Todd, who finished 7th in the Busch Series race at Charlotte, was tabbed as his replacement.  Todd put the backup car 41st on the grid for the 42-car race.  Five drivers missed the show: Chad Little in the green-and-gold #97 John Deere Pontiac then owned by Greg Pollex, Mike Wallace for current part-owner Joe Falk, Ed Berrier for the Sadler Brothers, Bobby Hillin, Jr. In Doug Bawel’s #77 Jasper Engines / Federal Mogul Ford, and Dave Marcis’ #71 RealTree Camouflage Chevrolet.

Starting at the back of the field was Hut Stricklin in the #8 Circuit City Ford for the Stavola Brothers.  Todd fell to the rear after the first couple laps, then caught back up and marched his way to 36th.  Jeremy Mayfield took a turn at the back in th #37 K-Mart / RC Cola Ford owned by Michael Kranefuss, who the next year would align with Roger Penske to expand Penske’s Cup team to its current two cars.  Suddenly, coming off Turn 2, Todd slowed with smoke trailing behind the #7.  Geoffrey, just about to be interviewed by the TBS reporters at the time of the incident, was visibly dejected.

Finishing 41st was Robby Gordon, attempting his first full season in Felix Sabates’ #40 Coors Light Silver Bullet Chevrolet, who crashed on Lap 184.  40th-place Sterling Marlin in the Morgan-McClure owned #4 Kodak Film Chevrolet wrcked on the backstretch on Lap 149.  Kenny Wallace in 39th wrecked on Lap 113 in his #81 Square D Ford, returned along with Marlin to the track, but fell out four circuits after Marlin.  38th-place Ken Schrader led 15 of the first 42 laps, but lost several laps and wound up a disappointing 38th.  Persistent rains shortened the 600 to just under 500 miles with Jeff Gordon taking a narrow victory over Rusty Wallace.

The next week at Dover, Geoffrey returned to the #7 team, but his bad luck continued.  A three-car crash on Lap 241 with Bobby Hillin, Jr. and Dick Trickle took all three cars out of the race.  This time, Hillin was credited with the 43rd and final position, narrowly edging Geoffrey for his team’s fourth-straight last-place showing.

That August, Todd reunited with Frank Cicci at Watkins Glen and surprised everyone by winning the pole - the first of five in Todd’s career.  He signed on for another full-time ride in 1998, the Bob Hancher-owned #35 Tabasco Pontiac, but the turmoil within the team led to him leaving the car at mid-season.  Again, Todd impressed as a journeyman, finishing the year with another 5th-place run at Atlanta driving for Joe Falk.  Another full-time ride came in 2001, when Todd replaced the retiring Darrell Waltrip in Travis Carter’s #66 K-Mart Blue Light Special Ford.  He scored three more poles that season and a pair of Top Fives, but when K-Mart filed for bankruptcy in early 2002, he was left without a sponsor for Las Vegas.  Still, Todd prevailed, putting his blank blue Ford on the pole for the 400-miler.  Following his 2004 LASTCAR Cup Championship, Todd made just more 16 Cup starts, the most recent of which at Michigan in August 2011 for HP Racing LLC.

Todd found his greatest on-track success in the Truck Series.  He’d already scored top-ten finishes in all of his five starts in the series in 1995, and in 2004, was ready to give it another try.  He crossed paths with owner Bob Germain at Richmond, and right away finished 4th, followed by wins at Fontana and Texas.  For the next nine years, Bodine would score two championships in 2006 and 2010 and 22 wins, all but one of which coming with Germain Racing.  Now a TV analyst, Bodine has made a total of 241 Cup starts, most recently at Michigan in 2011, 331 XFINITY starts, including Darlington just last year, and 220 Truck starts.

Of his 37 combined victories in NASCAR’s top three divisions, perhaps the most memorable of Todd’s career came at Darlington in 2003, when he and Jamie McMurray tangled off Turn 4 racing for the lead.  Just as in several of his other strongest runs, the #92 Chevrolet Todd drove that day did not have a primary sponsor.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the first last-place finish for both Todd Bodine and the #7 in a Cup race at Charlotte.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
42) #7-Todd Bodine / 47 laps / enigne
41) #40-Robby Gordon / 186 laps / crash
40) #4-Sterling Marlin / 188 laps / crash
39) #81-Kenny Wallace / 192 laps / crash
38) #33-Ken Schrader / 231 laps / running / led 15 laps

Sunday, May 22, 2016

CUP: Tony Stewart’s final All-Star Race cut short by hard crash

SOURCE: @MRNRadio
Tony Stewart finished last in Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway when his #14 Bass Pro Shops / Tracker Chevrolet was involved in a multi-car crash after he completed 70 of 113 laps.

Stewart’s struggles this year have been well-documented.  After announcing that 2016 would be his final season in Cup before handing his ride to Clint Bowyer, the three-time series champion was critically injured in an off-road accident on January 31, making him miss the first eight races of the season.  He returned to competition at Richmond, finishing 19th, handed his #14 Chevrolet to Ty Dillon at Talladega who then finished 6th, then returned to run 11th at Kansas and 34th at Dover.  He came into the All-Star break 37th in driver points, still searching for a victory to get him into his final Chase.

In Saturday’s postponed practice session, Stewart was the slowest of 15 qualifiers for the All-Star Race, managing just 188.627 mph to Brad Keselowski’s session-topping speed of 192.027.  With qualifying and all remaining practices washed out, Stewart was set to roll off 17th.  The session was deemed too short to set the field, so owner points were used instead.  Stewart’s spot was buoyed slightly by the relief driving work of Ty Dillon and Brian Vickers.

Starting in the 20th and last position for Saturday’s main event was Greg Biffle, who wheeled his #16 Cheez-It Ford to his second-consecutive win in the Showdown by claiming Segment 2.  Biffle held the spot until Lap 24, when Denny Hamlin’s mandated green-flag stop began the night’s flurry of conflicting rules and strategy new to this year’s race.  Danica Patrick was the first to lose a lap on the 28th circuit in her #10 Nature’s Bakery Chevrolet, gave the spot back to Biffle on Lap 30.  Jamie McMurray’s #1 Bas Pro Shops / NWTF.org Chevrolet had it on Lap 32, followed by Danica again on Lap 44.

The first on-track incident to shuffle the order took place on Lap 47.  McMurray’s ill-handling #1 spun off Turn 2, drawing the caution that trapped drivers down a lap and penalized Matt Kenseth. Under the ensuing caution, smoke puffed from beneath McMurray’s right-rear fender.  It wasn’t until Lap 73 that the battle for last actually ended.

Coming off Turn 4, Stewart was running near the back of the pack, still trying to make up a lap he’d lost during the McMurray caution.  At that moment, Chase Elliott slowed his #24 3M Chevrolet from a battle for the lead and plummeted through the pack, apparently headed to pit road.  In a move apparently to avoid Elliott, Matt Kenseth cut right, side-swiping Stewart and shoving the #14 directly into the wall.  Stewart bounced off the SAFER barrier, then slid into the grass, where his nose dug the grass as he was hit again by Kasey Kahne’s #5 Hendrick & Quicken Loans Drive Home A Winner Chevrolet.

Stewart, furious over the night’s chaos and conflicting rules, was done for the night.  He came home one lap behind of Kahne and Kenseth, both also eliminated in the wreck.  McMurray’s #1 never handled right after his spin, leaving him 17th, followed by his disappointed teammate Kyle Larson.  That morning, Larson literally raced Elliott door-to-door for the final transfer spot into the All-Star Race.  With Elliott the fan vote winner, both teams got their cars fixed up in time for the race, and Larson found himself leading the final 13-lap segment.  However, with just two laps to go, a fast-closing Joey Logano found his way by as Larson slid into the outside wall, ending his night.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the first last-place finish for both Stewart and the #14 in the All-Star Race.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
20) #14-Tony Stewart / 70 laps / crash
19) #5-Kasey Kahne / 71 laps / crash
18) #20-Matt Kenseth / 71 laps / crash
17) #1-Jamie McMurray / 110 laps / running
16) #42-Kyle Larson / 111 laps / crash

CUP: Reed Sorenson becomes first Showdown last-placer to finish under power

SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin' Forums
Reed Sorenson finished last in Saturday’s Sprint Showdown at the Charlotte Motor Speedway when his #55 World Record Striper Company / Hauling Bass! Chevrolet finished under power, one lap down, after 49 of 50 laps.

Sorenson debuted Premium Motorsports’ #55 team at Martinsville in April, thus bringing the season-opening 39-car fields to a “full” 40.  Since then, the team has not missed a race.  The team’s best performance of the year remains a 12th - with Michael Waltrip at Talladega - while Sorenson’s best run stands a 33rd at Kansas.  Last week at Dover, Sorenson’s sponsorless black ride got a splash of color as the World Record Striper Company signed on for a three-race deal.  Unfortunately, the car lost an engine and crashed in its debut, leaving Sorenson 38th.

Sorenson and World Record Striper arrived at Charlotte with the #55 as one of the 25 entrants - and four Open teams - for the Sprint Showdown.  It would be Sorenson’s first start in the event since 2014, when he came home 21st for Tommy Baldwin Racing.  His best Showdown finish was a 12th in 2008, his third and final year with Chip Ganassi Racing.  Rain scrubbed practice and qualifying for the Showdown, so Sorenson would start 24th by virtue of Premium’s 39th-place ranking in owner points for the #55.

Starting last in Sarurday’s postponed event was Josh Wise in the unsponsored #30 The Motorsports Group Chevrolet.  Sorenson took the spot soon after and was running there with four laps to go in the 20-lap Segment 1when Michael McDowell spun off Turn 4, taking 25th in the process.  On the restart, McDowell began to climb through the pack, eventually ending up 18th by the end of the race.  Sorenson, meanwhile, lost a lap along with Jeffrey Earnhardt’s #32 NC Education Lottery Ford during Segment 2.  Unable to catch Earnhardt in time for the Lucky Dog at Lap 40, Sorenson remained a lap behind, and was still there at the finish.

Earnhardt came home 24th.  23rd went to Sorenson’s teammate Cole Whitt in the #98 Vydox Plus Chevrolet followed by Wise in 22nd.  Rounding out the group was Regan Smith in Tommy Baldwin’s #7 Nikko RC / Toy State Chevrolet.  All 25 starters finished under power, and only Sorenson remained off the lead lap.

Technically, Trevor Bayne completed the fewest laps of anyone in the race when he won Segment 1 after 20 circuits, and in fact his #6 AdvoCare Ford was shown on the leaderboard in the last position during the latter parts of FS1’s coverage.  Had he been officially categorized there, he would have been the first driver to be classified last because of a win and not because of disqualification.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*Sorenson is the first last-place finisher of the Sprint Showdown to finish the race on the track and under power.  In fact, no last-place finisher of the event had completed more than 26 laps (of 100) by Mark Martin in 1988, nor come closer than 25 laps (of 40) by David Stremme in 2014.
*This marked the first last-place finish for both Sorenson and the #55 in the Sprint Showdown.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
25) #55-Reed Sorenson / 49 laps / running
24) #32-Jeffrey Earnhardt / 50 laps / running
23) #98-Cole Whitt / 50 laps / running
22) #30-Josh Wise / 50 laps / running
21) #7-Regan Smith / 50 laps / running

TRUCKS: Andy Seuss finally makes Truck debut, but crashes early at Charlotte

SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin' Forums
Andy Seuss picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Saturday’s North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway when his #1 FDNY Racing Chevrolet fell out in a single-truck crash after he completed 20 of the race’s 134 laps.  The finish came in Seuss’ series debut.

Seuss, the two-time and defending champion of the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour, has 21 series wins in just 108 starts.  He’s also made three starts on the big tracks in ARCA with a best finish of 19th last year at Chicagoland.

Seuss’ break into NASCAR’s top three divisions was more than three years in the making.  Longtime team owner Jim Rosenblum first tabbed the modified start to make his debut at Rockingham in 2013, but was the slowest of four trucks who missed the race.  He then missed last fall’s race at Talladega by less than two-tenths of a second.  Charlotte would be Seuss’ first attempt since, and the Rosenblum team’s first attempt since last summer at Pocono, where Ryan Ellis came home 20th.

With rain threatening and Rosenblum without any attempts for 2016, an arrangement was once again struck to acquire the locked-in spot of MAKE Motorsports’ #1 Chevrolet.  Seuss would take the place of David Levine, who was originally scheduled to make his first attempt since last fall at Homestead.  Joining Levine among the withdrawals were Mike Bliss, replaced by Brandon Jones in Carlos Contreras’ #71 for a second week in a row, and Norm Benning, who is still looking for his first start of 2016.

36 teams remained in hopes that qualifying would still happen, but when it was washed out, they were all sent home: Austin Theriault in Brad Keselowski’s #2 Klixel8 Ford, 19-year-old Jesse Little, also looking to return for the first time since Homestead; Caleb Holman, who finished 9th at Atlanta earlier this year; and Austin Hill, whose Bryan Hill-owned team made the same deal with MAKE Motorsports’ #1 last week.  Andy Seuss, slowest in practice at 169.859 mph, secured the 32nd starting spot with MAKE’s 28th-place ranking in Owner Points.

Seuss was joined at the back of the field with Tommy Joe Martins, who missed the driver’s meeting.  Seuss retook the spot on the first lap, then moved up on Lap 2, dropping Timmy Hill to last in Premium Motorsports’ #49 Testoril Chevrolet.  Next by Lap 18 was Travis Kvapil, who ran MAKE Motorsports’ remaining #50 GasBuddy Chevrolet.  On Lap 23, Kvapil was still in last, three circuits down, when Andy Seuss found trouble.  Seuss, also running laps down, was running in front of Brandon Brown’s #86 Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation Chevrolet when the two made contact in Turn 1.  Seuss spun to the inside and hit the inside wall nose-first.

Kvapil ended up 30th, 28 laps down.  31st went to Hill, out with suspension issues.  Garrett Smithley took the 29th position, his #07 Hero Box / Instalco Chevrolet 23 laps behind race winner Matt Crafton.  Rounding out the Bottom Five in 28th was Jennifer Jo Cobb in her #10 Driven2Honor.org / Grimes Irrigation & Construction Chevrolet.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This was the first last-place finish for the #1 in the Truck Series since March 28, 2015, when Travis Kvapil’s Bubba Burger / Kioti Tractors Chevrolet, also fielded by MAKE Motorsports, broke a rear gear after 83 laps of the Kroger 250 at Martinsville.  It’s also the first time the number has finished last in a Truck race at Charlotte.
*This was the first last-place finish for Jim Rosenblum’s Truck Series team sine August 20, 2014, when Bryan Dauzat also trailed in his series debut driving the #28 O.B. Builders Door & Trim / FDNY Racing Chevrolet before suspension issues after 4 laps of the UNOH 200 Presented by ZLOOP at Bristol.  Dauzat fielded Seuss’ first ARCA ride at Talladega in 2015.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
32) #1-Andy Seuss / 20 laps / crash
31) #49-Timmy Hill / 82 laps / suspension
30) #50-Travis Kvapil / 106 laps / running
29) #07-Garrett Smithley / 111 laps / running
28) #10-Jennifer Jo Cobb / 128 laps / running

2016 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Tommy Joe Martins (2)
2nd) William Byron, Johnny Sauter, Austin Wayne Self, Andy Seuss (1)

2016 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Tommy Joe Martins (2)
2nd) AWS Racing, GMS Racing, Jim Rosenblum Motorsports / FDNY Racing, Kyle Busch Motorsports (1)

2016 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (4)
2nd) Toyota (2)

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

5/20/90: An interview with Philip Duffie, last-place finisher of the 1990 Winston Open

SOURCE: Historical Stock Car Racing Forum
On May 20, 1990, Philip Duffie finished last in the Winston Open at the Charlotte Motor Speedway when his unsponsored #96 Duffie Racing Buick fell out with a blown head gasket after 22 of 134 laps.

A 36-year-old owner-driver from Augusta, Georgia, Duffie grew up a fan of NASCAR and wanted to try his hand at driving.  He saved up some money from his family’s sand and gravel business and bought a Buick.  Buicks were the only car he could get his hands on, but he would end up running them in all twelve of his Winston Cup starts.  Like other independents of his era, Duffie worked on the cars himself and hired volunteers at the track to help pit his car.

Duffie raced only a partial schedule, favoring the big tracks at Daytona, Talladega, Darlington, Atlanta, and Charlotte.  The reason was simple economics.  “Well, the main thing was the big tracks paid so much more money,” said Duffie in an interview on Wednesday.  “We were just running out of the back pocket for the most part.  We kind of stood with them and a lot of them were actually cheaper to run, the big tracks like Daytona and Talladega.  You could run them maybe on two or three sets of tires and shorter tracks it might take fifteen or twenty, so that was the main thing, they paid so much better money.”

Duffie made his Cup debut at Talladega on May 2, 1982, finishing 17th behind race winner Darrell Waltrip, and improved to a career-best 16th in that year’s Atlanta finale.  Atlanta also saw his career-best ARCA finish of 5th in 1985.  Though he enjoyed his best runs at his home track, he was disappointed that the purse didn’t pay as much as the other superspeedways.

“Atlanta paid just about half what the other tracks paid, believe it or not.  Back then we finished 16th in Atlanta and it only paid about $1500.  Times have changed a bit, now it probably pays $50,000 just to start a race.  We ran the whole race and finished 16th and got about $1,500 for it - even though the tracks that paid better only paid maybe $3,500 or $4,000, in that range.”

One of Duffie’s most brilliant performances came at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1983, when he was fastest in second-round qualifying for the Coca-Cola 600.  Duffie’s speed of 161.252mph put him 31st, but if it had come in the first round, he would have started 11th.  “I just quit being so cheap and bought a new set of tires, that’s all I did,” he said.  “I was hoping I didn’t have to buy them, but I felt I had to in order to make the race.  If I had a sponsor, maybe I wouldn’t have to worry about tires.”

Duffie took a couple years off and returned to the series in late 1987.  The next year, he signed with Bob Beard (no relation), the owner of a Ford dealership in Duffie’s home town.  As Beard looked to buy a Buick dealership, he approached Duffie about sponsoring his team and running Buicks once more.  Beard didn’t offer much money - in fact, the sponsorship was split between Duffie and fellow Georgia native Ken Ragan, father of current Cup driver David Ragan - but it was enough to build a new car.

Duffie made the field with Bob Beard’s logo only once, in the 1988 Southern 500 at Darlington, where he came home 29th.  The next year at Daytona, the car was heavily damaged in a multi-car pileup during his Twin 125, where his #32 vaulted into the air exiting the tri-oval before landing on all four tires.  He had yet to make the Daytona 500 in four attempts, but finished 4th and 8th in two runnings of the “Consolation Race,” 30-lap sprints among those who missed the 500 field.

In May of 1990, Duffie hadn’t made a Cup points race since the Darlington race two years earlier.  Money was tight, and the Winston Open offered an opportunity to get some much-needed funds.  “To be honest with you, a lot of times we ran that when we didn’t really have the money to go back and run the big race.  We could run the Winton Open, that’s just a short race and, you know, you got paid a little bit for it but then, let’s see, if I remember correctly, a time or two we didn’t even go back for the 600.  We didn’t really have the money to go run a 600-mile race at the time.”

Duffie started last in the 30-car field for the 1990 Winston Open, and looked to improve on his 25th-place finish in his only other start in the race in 1988.  On the 19th circuit, he had just gone down a lap to Ernie Irvan when he slowed in Turn 4 and came down pit road.  He returned to the track on Lap 21, but two laps later pulled behind the wall, ending his day.  Ironically, his last-place share of the purse was the same as his mid-pack run at Atlanta: $1,500.

Finishing 29th was three-time Bathurst 1000 winner Dick Johnson.  The Australian made his NASCAR debut in the inaugural Winston Cup race at Sears Point a year earlier, but found the tire barriers in Turn 2.  This time, Johnson brought out the first caution when his No. 38 Redkote Ford lost a right-rear tire and spun in Turn 4, then later spun and backed into the Turn 1 wall.  Next was 1980 Daytona 500 winner Buddy Baker, whose unsponsored #90 Junie Donlavey Racing Ford broke a valve.  27th went to 3rd-place starter Greg Sacks, who crashed his #18 Ultra Slim-Fast Chevrolet after he blew a right-front tire in Turn 4.  Rounding out the Bottom Five in 26th was ARCA regular Bob Schacht, who busted the clutch on his white #54 Oldsmobile.

Dick Trickle won the Open in a photo finish with rookie driver Rob Moroso and transferred into his first and only All-Star appearance.  Trickle came home a strong 6th in a race dominated by polesitter Dale Earnhardt.

Duffie made two more starts in the 1990 season.  In July’s Pepsi 400, starting last in the 40-car field turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  At the start of Lap 2, another 23-car pileup triggered by a three-wide battle for 7th eliminated most of the contenders.  Duffie slowed, drove through the infield grass, and came out the other side in 17th.  He finished 21st.  Duffie then made his final Cup start in the Southern 500 that September, finishing 37th after handling issues.  Duffie attempted to make the 1991 Daytona 500 for Bobby Fulcher, but missed the show a fifth time.  The 1990 Winston Open marked the only time Duffie finished last in NASCAR.

Duffie returned to stock car racing in 1998 and 1999, making four starts in what is now the K&N Pro Series East.  Again, his best finish was 16th, his time at the Lanier National Speedway in Braselton, Georgia.  Running those asphalt bullrings were some of Duffie’s fondest memories.  Today, he still attends races at the Atlanta Motor Speedway and continues to operate Philip Duffie Sand and Gravel, Inc. in Grovetown, Georgia.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This has been the only time that the #96 has finished last in either the Sprint Showdown or the All-Star Race.  At the time, the #96 had not finished last in a Cup points race since May 1, 1983, when the late Rick Baldwin lost the engine on his White Crown Engineering Buick 7 laps into the Winston 500 at Talladega, and wouldn’t again until David April 20, 1998, when David Green’s Caterpillar Chevrolet crashed after 71 lap of the Goody’s Headache Powder 500 at Martinsville.
*It was also the second and final time Buick trailed the qualifying race, following Patty Moise’s Lap 19 crash that stopped her #45 Amway Buick in 1989.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
30) #96-Philip Duffie / 22 laps / head gasket
29) #38-Dick Johnson / 49 laps / crash
28) #90-Buddy Baker / 68 laps / valve
27) #18-Greg Sacks / 75 laps / crash
26) #54-Bob Schacht / 85 laps / clutch

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

CUP: Open Team Roundup - Dover

QUALIFIED

#21 Wood Brothers Racing
Driver: Ryan Blaney
Started 18th, Finished 8th

Some might be tempted to see Ryan Blaney’s 8th-place finish, his third top-ten finish in a row and fourth of the season, and the result of all the leaders who found trouble on Sunday.  However, even before the race flew off the rails, Blaney was constantly lurking just outside the Top 10.  He started 18th and ran 15th and 10th in Saturday’s practices.  On Sunday, he broke into the 10th spot by Lap 161 and looked to be gunning for more in the final stages.

This marks the first time the Wood Brothers have scored three top-ten finishes in a row since March-April of 1997, when Michael Waltrip came home 7th, 7th, and 9th at Atlanta, Darlington, and Fort Worth.

Charlotte remains one of the Wood Brothers’ favorite tracks.  The team has six victories there, including the second running of the 600 with Speedy Thompson in 1960, and last took the checkered flag there in 1987 with Kyle Petty.  Ryan Blaney finished 42nd in last year’s 600, the victim of an engine failure, but rebounded there last October to come home 14th.

#98 Premium Motorsports
Driver: Cole Whitt
Started 36th, Finished 27th

In the early laps of Sunday’s race, the remaining three Open teams ran nose-to-tail in the final three positions.  Whitt, whose Premium Motorsports team swapped out his black paint scheme for last year’s white Vydox Plus colors, was the highest of the three trailing cars.  In fact, after all the day’s accidents and mechanical failures, he rose above the other two by a wide margin, placing him in front of not only Josh Wise and Reed Sorenson, but also Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Tony Stewart.  Whitt pulled off the track in the final laps, citing a vibration, but still finished second among the Open teams for the first time since Bristol last month.

Cole Whitt’s best finish in six previous Charlotte Cup starts was a 27th for BK Racing in the 2014 Coca-Cola 600.  The 600 will also be owner Jay Robinson’s first Cup start at the track since 2014.  Joe Nemechek finished 34th in the team’s only 600 start that year.  In 30 XFINITY Series starts at the track, Robinson’s team has a best finish of 16th with Kenny Wallace in the fall of 2008.

#30 The Motorsports Group
Driver: Josh Wise
Started 40th, Finished 36th

Josh Wise looked to be the early favorite for this week’s LASTCAR.info feature.  He started in the final spot, was the first to go down a lap on the 11th circuit, and soon after on Lap 16 pulled behind the wall complaining that he was running on only seven cylinders.  Still, The Motorsports Group got him back on the track, 54 laps behind, and he managed to finish the race under power, having lost just fifteen more laps in the process.  Like Whitt, he was well behind the wrecks which tangled the leaders, including the massive restart pileup on Lap 356.

Josh Wise’s best Cup finish in six Charlotte races was a 26th in the 2013 Coca-Cola 600 driving for Front Row Motorsports.  It was one of only two he finished under power and the only time he came home better than 35th.  The Motorsports Group has never before made a Cup start at Charlotte, but owner Curtis Key has made 24 starts there in XFINITY.  One of the team’s seven Top 10 finishes came at the track in 1995, when Chuck Bown came home 9th in Key’s #05 Ford.

#55 Premium Motorsports
Driver: Reed Sorenson
Started 38th, Finished 38th

For just the second time in 2016, Reed Sorenson and Premium Motorsports’ second team failed to finish the race.  On Lap 214, Sorenson was running ten laps down when something let go in the engine, sending him sliding down the track.  Jimmie Johnson didn’t slow in time and spun to the inside of the track, bumping Josh Wise’s #30 as he passed by on the apron.  It was an unfortunate end to a weekend that began with exciting news.  Sunday was the first race of a new three-race sponsor from the World Record Striper Company, a brand of fishing lures that gained attention on a 2015 episode of “Shark Tank.”

Reed Sorenson looks to make his 14th Cup start at Charlotte, where he finished a career-best 4th in the 2007 Coca-Cola 600 and 10th as a rookie the year before.

DID NOT QUALIFY

None.

DID NOT ENTER

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

None of the part-time teams returned to attempt the race at Dover.  The Open Team Roundup will take the week off for the All-Star Race and return following the Coca-Cola 600.

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.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*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.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
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

2016 LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Matt DiBenedetto, Reed Sorenson, Josh Wise (2)
2nd) Aric Almirola, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kyle Larson, Paul Menard, Ryan Newman, Cole Whitt (1)

2016 LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Premium Motorsports (3)
2nd) BK Racing, Richard Childress Racing, The Motorsports Group (2)
3rd) Chip Ganassi Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Richard Petty Motorsports (1)

2016 LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (9)
2nd) Toyota (2)
3rd) Ford (1)

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

SOURCE: motorsport.com
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 TruckersFinalMile.org Dodge.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*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.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
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

2016 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Jeff Green (4)
2nd) Matt DiBenedetto, Josh Wise (2)
3rd) Justin Marks, Ryan Preece (1)

2016 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) TriStar Motorsports (6)
2nd) RSS Racing (2)
3rd) Chip Ganassi Racing, JD Motorsports (1)

2016 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Toyota (6)
2nd) Chevrolet (4)

TRUCKS: Austin Wayne Self scores first Truck Series last-place run for #22 since 2009

SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin' Forums
Austin Wayne Self picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Friday’s Jacob Companies 200 at the Dover International Speedway when his #22 AM Technical Solutions Toyota fell out with engine trouble after 41 of 200 laps.  The finish came in Self’s fifth series start.

Born in Austin, Texas, Self has been racing since age four, when his father Tim put him behind the wheel of a go-kart.  In time, his family started AWS Racing, geared toward helping their son rise through NASCAR’s ranks.  AM Technical Solutions, a mechanical contractor out of Austin, has been sponsoring Self for most of his career.  By 2013, when he was 17, Self was already splitting time between ARCA and both divisions of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series.  He finished 6th in his ARCA debut at Toledo, then six weeks later finished runner-up to Frank Kimmel at Winchester.  In 2015, he moved to Mason Mitchell Motorsports, scored his first ARCA victory in his return to Winchester, and finished second in points, 425 markers behind Grant Enfinger.

This year, Self, sponsor and team have all moved to the Truck Series, running red #22 Toyotas.  He finished 19th in his series debut at Daytona, then two rounds later earned a season-best 15th at Martinsville.  Ironically, the Martinsville finish almost didn’t happen - he was the fastest of six drivers who missed the race on time.  When 24th-place starter Tommy Joe Martins wrecked his #44 in qualifying, leaving him without a backup, Self took his place, changing the truck’s number to Martins’ #44 with help from Richard Petty Motorsports.  Coming into Dover, Self was 18th in the series standings.

Up until the race, Self was 25th all weekend.  He ranked in that spot during both practices, then secured the inside of Row 13 after qualifying was rained out.  Sent home by the rain were Austin Cindric, who was looking to make his third series start in a #2 Ford for Brad Keselowski Motorsports, and Norm Benning, who is still fighting to make his first race of 2016.  Other drivers had swapped rides during the weekend.  Brandon Jones, whose Doug Fuller-owned #99 Chevrolet was withdrawn, replaced Carlos Contreras in the veteran’s #71 Chevrolet and was 2nd-fastest in the field-setting opening practice.  Austin Hill’s #20 withdrew, and he instead ran MAKE Motorsports’ old Brad Keselowski-prepared #1 A&D Welding Ford, 27th in practice.

Starting 32nd on Friday was Jennifer Jo Cobb in her #10 Driven2Honor.org Chevrolet.  On Lap 43, however, Self spun off Turn 2.  Brandon Jones, running to his outside in the #71, checked-up and lost control, spinning into the inside wall.  Though neither truck was severely damaged, Self exited the race with just 41 laps completed, citing engine issues.  Jones recovered to finish 20th.

Cobb exited after 65 laps with brake issues, finishing 30th.  Between Self and Cobb was 31st-place Brandon Brown, his #86 Southern National Motorsports Park Chevrolet out with suspension issues after 56 laps.  Completing the Bottom Five was 29th-place John Wes Townley, who led three of the opening 83 laps, then wrecked his #05 Zaxby’s Chevrolet on Lap 133, and 28th-place Ben Rhodes, who came home 69 laps behind after a Lap 62 tangle with Rico Abreu’s #98 Safelite Auto Glass Toyota.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marks the first last-place finish for the #22 in a Truck Series race in nearly seven years, dating back to the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 15, 2009.  That day, Chris Fontaine’s Red Rocks CafĂ© Dodge fell out with electrical issues, two laps before Dwayne Gaulding teammate Donnie Neunberger broke an axle on his #21.
*This is the first last-place finish for Toyota in a Truck Series race at Dover.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
32) #22-Austin Wayne Self / 41 laps / engine
31) #86-Brandon Brown / 56 laps / suspension
30) #10-Jennifer Jo Cobb / 65 laps / brakes
29) #05-John Wes Townley / 128 laps / crash / led 3 laps
28) #41-Ben Rhodes / 131 laps / running

2016 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Tommy Joe Martins (2)
2nd) William Byron, Johnny Sauter, Austin Wayne Self (1)

2016 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Tommy Joe Martins (2)
2nd) AWS Racing, GMS Racing, Kyle Busch Motorsports (1)

2016 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (3)
2nd) Toyota (2)

Thursday, May 12, 2016

5/31/98: Randy LaJoie’s first last-place finish comes after hard Dover crash

SOURCE: The Nashville Nework (TNN)
On May 31, 1998, Randy LaJoie picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Winston Cup career in the MBNA Platinum 400 at the Dover Downs International Speedway when his #50 Budweiser Chevrolet crashed after 9 of 400 laps.  The finish came in LaJoie’s 35th series start.

At the time of the race, LaJoie had already been racing in NASCAR for more than a decade.  He got his start in the Molson Tour (now the NASCAR North Tour) in 1982, finishing 14th in his debut at the Waterford Speedbowl near his hometown of Norwalk, Connecticut.  Two months later, he made his first start at Dover and finished 4th in just his third series start, trailing Dave Dion, Dick McCabe, and Jean-Paul Cabana.  His first of ten series wins came the next year at the Catamount Stadium in Vermont en route to a 4th-place showing in points.

The next year, LaJoie and his Molson Tour sponsor Snellman Construction decided to take a big gamble: making the field for the Daytona 500.  It didn’t pay off.  Eight laps into the second Twin 125-mile qualifying race, his #07 Chevrolet lost control off Turn 4, caught air, and slammed violently into an embankment.  LaJoie somehow avoided serious injury and went on to finish 2nd in the now re-branded Stroh’s Tour up north.  He returned to Daytona in 1985 and though he again missed the field, he won the nine-car “Consolation Race” among his fellow DNQs, besting Dale Jarrett’s brother Glenn by three seconds.  Though LaJoie wouldn’t make the 500 field for another decade, he did finally make his Cup debut at Atlanta, finishing a strong 14th.

A 1985 championship in the North Series vaulted LaJoie into the Busch Grand National Series (now XFINITY Series) the following year.  Again, he proved to be a quick learner.  He finished 11th in his series debut at Darlington, earned his first top-ten finish the next month at Charlotte, and in 1988 earned his first top-five run with a 3rd behind Dick McCabe and Kelly Moore at Maine’s one third-mile Oxford Plains Speedway.  By 1994, LaJoie was still winless in the Busch Series, but had finished 16th in the standings.  This attracted the attention of car owner Bill Davis, whose driver Bobby Labonte had left the team to replace Dale Jarrett at Joe Gibbs Racing.

By the start of the 1995 season, LaJoie had made 13 Cup starts in one-off and limited-term deals for Bobby Wawak, Jim Rosenblum (who currently fields the #28 FDNY Racing entry in the Truck Series), Cale Yarborough, Dick Moroso, and T.W. Taylor.  None of the rides bested his 14th-place run in his 1985 debut.  Bill Davis, on the other hand, offered LaJoie a full-time ride in the #22 MBNA America Pontiac and a chance to compete for Rookie of the Year against fellow Busch graduates Ricky Craven, Robert Pressley, and others.  LaJoie made his elusive Daytona 500 debut, finishing 29th, and improved his career-best to a 12th at Bristol, but Davis wasn’t satisfied with the results.  After a 41st-place run at Michigan when a broken valve halted his Pontiac after 18 laps, LaJoie was released and was eventually replaced by Ward Burton.  Burton won that fall’s race at Rockingham, beginning a successful nine-year relationship.  LaJoie, meanwhile, made just one more start in Dick Brooks’ #40 Kendall Pontiac before he returned to the Busch Series.

The next two years, LaJoie enjoyed the most successful period of his career.  Driving for BACE Motorsports in the #74 Fina Chevrolet, he claimed five victories in both seasons and claimed back-to-back series titles.  His dominance earned him a spot in the International Race of Champions in 1997, where he won the season finale at Michigan over Robby Gordon and came home third in the standings.  In 1998, he was back in IROC and still running Top 10 in the Busch standings when the opportunity came to make another run in Cup.

Ricky Craven, who defeated LaJoie for Rookie of the Year in 1995, had signed with Hendrick Motorsports in 1997 to drive the #25 Budweiser Chevrolet.  After finishing 3rd behind teammates Jeff Gordon and Terry Labonte in that year’s Daytona 500, Craven looked to be on the rise, but a hard practice crash at Texas put him on the sidelines for two races.  Craven returned to win that year’s Winston Open, but the effects of his concussion at Texas began to come back.  By the early part of 1998, Craven had to step aside after four races.  Hendrick needed an experienced driver to keep the #50, renumbered for NASCAR’s 50th Anniversary, up in the points.  They chose LaJoie.

LaJoie’s first start for Hendrick came that March in the TranSouth Financial 400 at Darlington, where he came home 38th.  The next week at Bristol, he surprised with a strong 10th-place run, another career-best which he improved further with a 5th the next month at Martinsville.  He finished 10th again the next week at Talladega.  Unfortunately, back-to-back crashes at Fontana and Charlotte, the latter involving Dale Earnhardt, left him 36th and 38th.  Dover, likely his home track on the Cup tour, was next.  In his two previous starts for Bobby Wawak in 1988 and Bill Davis in 1995, he’d finished 37th and 23rd.

LaJoie’s Dover car had “Louie The Lizard” on the hood, Budweiser’s mascot spun-off their successful “Budweiser Frogs” campaign.  The car struggled in qualifying, and LaJoie settled for the 40th spot in the 43-car field with a provisional start.  Still, he managed to out-qualify three drivers who missed the show: Dennis Setzer, who drove in place of rookie Jerry Nadeau in Bill Elliott and Dan Marino’s #13 FirstPlus Financial Ford; Morgan Shepherd, who drove in place of Wally Dallenbach, Jr. in Felix Sabates’ #46 FirstUnion Chevrolet; and the #35 Tabasco Pontiac of Todd Bodine, which had already missed half of the 12 Cup races that season.

Bringing up the rear that day was Darrell Waltrip, whose 50th straight Dover start came in his seventh start in relief of the injured Steve Park in Dale Earnhardt, Inc.’s #1 Pennzoil Chevrolet.  Waltrip held 43rd during the entire green-flag run and was still there when trouble broke out on the backstretch.  Johnny Benson, Jr., who started 14th in Jack Roush’s #26 Cheerios Ford, lost control racing John Andretti off Turn 2 and spun backwards.  Benson missed the outside wall, but slid across the track directly into the path of Kyle Petty’s #44 Hot Wheels Pontiac, which had lost control checking-up alongside Robert Pressley’s #77 Jasper Engines Ford.  LaJoie had time to slow down, but the brakes locked-up and he lost control, sliding him down the track and directly into the rear of Benson’s stopped car.  In all, eight drivers were involved.

“Just one of those deals that happens at Dover,” said LaJoie in an interview with Steve Byrnes for TNN, “I guess there was two different wrecks. Johnny Benson spun and somebody got in the back of Kyle (Petty) and got Kyle goin’ for a ride.  I passed a couple cars on the outside, spotter said ‘slow down, slow down,’ I got nailed in the left-rear and got caught up in it.  Hate it - we had a good car in last practice.”

All drivers involved in the wreck were uninjured, but LaJoie, Petty, and Benson were done for the day.  Pressley managed to bring his damaged car back onto the track, but pulled out after completing 120 laps with handling issues.  Completing the Bottom Five was 40th-place Kenny Wallace, who broke something in the right-front of his #81 Square D Ford and slammed hard into the Turn 3 wall.

Dale Jarrett went on to win the race by more than 13 seconds over second-place Jeff Burton, but the big story of the afternoon was Roy “Buckshot” Jones.  Jones, who was making just his second Cup start, had just replaced Hut Stricklin in the Stavola Brothers’ #8 Circuit City Chevrolet.  Jones started 19th and came home a strong 8th, his best finish in 56 Cup starts.

One week after Dover, LaJoie finished 31st at Richmond.  It turned out to be his final start with Hendrick, who replaced him with Wally Dallenbach, Jr.  LaJoie made just eight more Cup starts in his career, running for single-car team owners Mark Simo, Stan Hover, and William Edwards, the last of which fielded his final Cup run at Martinsville in 2005, where he came home 42nd.  All the while, LaJoie’s focus remained with the Busch Series, where he scored another five victories, the last of which coming at Memphis Motorsports Park on October 13, 2001.  His 350th and final Busch Series race came at Texas on November 4, 2006, where he came home 31st driving for Adrian Berryhill.

Following his last start, LaJoie has been involved in several aspects of racing.  His company “The Joie of Seating” makes custom-built seats for race cars.  He’s been a broadcaster for both radio and ESPN’s television coverage.  He’s also focused on the racing career of his son Corey, who himself rose from the K&N Pro Series East to make his Cup debut at New Hampshire on September 21, 2014.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This was the first time the #50 was classified last in a Cup race since July 22, 1990, during the AC Spark Plug 500 at Pocono.  Rich Vogler, a seven-time USAC champion and five-time Indianapolis 500 starter with a best finish of 8th in 1989, was set to make his Cup debut that day.  “Rapid Rich,” as he was known, had timed in 32nd in the field of 40 driving the #50 Coors Light Chevrolet fielded by Ray DeWitt’s RaDiUs Motorsports.  Tragically, the night before the race, Vogler was killed while leading Jeff Gordon with two laps to go in a USAC race at Salem Speedway in Indiana.  He was 39.  DeWitt’s team withdrew the car on Sunday.
*The #50 had never before finished last in a Cup race at Dover.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #50-Randy LaJoie / 9 laps / crash
42) #44-Kyle Petty / 9 laps / crash
41) #26-Johnny Benson, Jr. / 9 laps / crash
40) #81-Kenny Wallace / 32 laps / crash
39) #77-Robert Pressley / 120 laps / handling

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

CUP: Open Team Roundup - Kansas

SOURCE: MRN Radio
QUALIFIED

#21 Wood Brothers Racing
Driver: Ryan Blaney
Started 7th, Finished 5th

Ryan Blaney and the Wood Brothers continued their impressive season on Saturday, earning back-to-back Top Tens for the second time in 2016 with Blaney’s second-straight Top Ten at Kansas.  Blaney ran mid-pack in practice, but found some speed in qualifying and never looked back.  He ran as high as 3rd, quickly slotting into line on restarts, and lost just two spots by the end of the race.

Next week will be Blaney’s first Cup start at Dover, but it’s a track where he won the pole and finished 4th in last fall’s XFINITY race and never finished worse than 7th in Trucks.  It will be the Wood Brothers’ first start there since September 21, 2008, when Marcos Ambrose came home five laps down in 32nd.  In 73 previous Dover starts, the Woods have seven wins, 17 Top Fives, 29 Top Tens, and four poles.  The last win came with the late Neil Bonnett in 1981.

#55 Premium Motorsports
Driver: Reed Sorenson
Started 40th, Finished 33rd

Back in the #55 for his fifth start of the season, Reed Sorenson started at the back of the field, was the first to be lapped, but managed to pass a few cars in the final stages of the race.  It’s the second time in a row the #55 ranked second among the Open teams and the first time Sorenson has done so in 2016.

Sorenson has made 16 Cup starts at Dover with a best finish of 11th in the fall of 2006, but he also started 4th for Richard Petty Motorsports in the spring of 2009.  Team owner Jay Robinson’s best finish in four starts at the track was a 22nd in Brett Moffitt’s series debut in the spring of 2014.

#30 The Motorsports Group
Driver: Josh Wise
Started 36th, Finished 36th

Josh Wise was the second car lapped by Martin Truex, Jr. at the start of Saturday’s race, passed by the #78 down the backstretch on Lap 22.  Seconds later, a debris caution fell, handing Wise the Lucky Dog.  He lost the lap again on the 51st circuit and remained at the back of the field the rest of the afternoon.  With less than 20 laps to go, Wise pulled behind the wall with suspension issues, marking driver and team’s third DNF of the season.

Wise has eight Cup starts at Dover on his resume with a career-best 25th in the spring of 2013.  While The Motorsports Group has never made a Cup start at the track, owner Curtis Key’s old XFINITY team has been there 31 times since 1993 with a best finish of 14th by Scott Wimmer in the fall of 2009.  Key is currently in the process of selling his remaining XFINITY cars.

#98 Premium Motorsports
Driver: Cole Whitt
Started 37th, Finished 39th

On Saturday, Cole Whitt was unable to defend his spot on the lead lap for long as electrical and ignition issues sent him to the garage on Lap 57.  It appeared that Whitt was set to lock up his first last-place finish since Las Vegas, but the team never stopped working on the problem.  After three trips to the garage, the #98 was back on the track around Lap 130, 51 circuits behind the leaders.  Though he lost four more laps by race’s end, he gained one spot to 39th after Paul Menard lost an engine.

In five previous over starts, Whitt’s best Dover finish came last May, when he came home 26th for Front Row Motorsports.

DID NOT QUALIFY

None.

DID NOT ENTER

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

None of the part-time teams returned to attempt the race at Kansas.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

CUP: Paul Menard’s engine leaves him with first last-place finish since 2013

SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin' Forums
Paul Menard picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Saturday’s GoBowling.com 400 at the Kansas Speedway when his #27 NIBCO / Menards Chevrolet lost the engine after he completed 129 of 267 laps.

The finish, which came in Menard’s 338th series start, was his first of the season and his first since July 6, 2013 when he lost an engine in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona, 101 races ago.

Menard enters his sixth season with Richard Childress Racing coming off his first Chase appearance and a career-best 14th in the 2015 standings.  This year, however, Menard came to Kansas just 26th in points with a single top-ten finish at Martinsville, where he came home 8th.  In 14 previous Kansas starts, Menard finished a track-best 3rd in the fall of 2012, one of five Top Tens, and didn’t have a single DNF.

Menard was 23rd-fastest in the opening practice, 25th in Happy Hour, but found extra speed in qualifying, racing into the final round with the 11th spot on the grid at a speed of 188.114 mph.

The 40th spot on Saturday belonged to Reed Sorenson, back in Premium Motorsports’ #55 following Michael Waltrip’s one-off last week at Talladega.  Sorenson held the spot for most of the early laps, and was the first to be passed by the leader on Lap 1.  The first change for last came on Lap 33, when Jamie McMurray served a penalty for his crew manipulating the side skirts, costing him two laps.  Next was Joey Gase, with returning Talladega XFINITY sponsor Spark Energy on Go Green Racing’s #32 Ford.  Gase made what appeared to be an unscheduled pit stop for four tires and came back out three laps back.

On Lap 57, the caution fell for Matt DiBenedetto scraping the wall in Turn 4.  At that same moment, Cole Whitt pulled his #98 Tweaker Energy Shot Chevrolet into the garage area, citing electrical and ignition issues.  Whitt took 40th from Gase on Lap 58 and looked to be the first retiree of the night.  However, the team got the #98 back out on the track no less than three times, eventually getting him out for good on Lap 107, 51 circuits behind race leader Martin Truex, Jr.  With just over half of the race to go, last place was still up for grabs.

By that point, Menard was having a difficult day of his own.  On Lap 104, his #27 spun off Turn 2 and made light contact with the outside wall.  He returned to competition, but the engine started to lay down.  Around Lap 130, Menard pulled behind the wall, where the crew found the problem to be terminal.  Done for the night, Menard dropped to 39th on Lap 134 and last on Lap 183.  Whitt finished under power, 55 circuits behind, in 39th.

38th and 37th went to Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin, who both crashed with Brad Keselowski and Kyle Larson as the four raced for a top-five finish on Lap 242.  Hamlin slid into the path of Logano, damaging both cars.  Rounding out the Bottom Five was Josh Wise, whose unsponsored #30 The Motorsports Group Chevrolet ran several laps down before retiring with suspension issues in the final moments.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This is the first last-place finish for Menard, the #27, and Richard Childress Racing in a Cup race at Kansas.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #27-Paul Menard / 129 laps / engine
39) #98-Cole Whitt / 212 laps / running
38) #22-Joey Logano / 240 laps / crash / led 3 laps
37) #11-Denny Hamlin / 240 laps / crash
36) #30-Josh Wise / 245 laps / suspension

2016 LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Reed Sorenson, Josh Wise (2)
2nd) Aric Almirola, Matt DiBenedetto, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kyle Larson, Paul Menard, Ryan Newman, Cole Whitt (1)

2016 LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Premium Motorsports (3)
2nd) Richard Childress Racing, The Motorsports Group (2)
3rd) BK Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Richard Petty Motorsports (1)

2016 LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (9)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (1)