Thursday, June 22, 2017

6/25/06: Road ringer Tom Hubert scores three straight last-place finishes at Sonoma

PHOTO: Todd Warshaw, Getty Images
On June 25, 2006, Tom Hubert picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR Nextel Cup Series career in the Dodge / Save Mart 350 at the Infineon Raceway when his #27 Interush Ford was involved in a multi-car accident on the opening lap of the 110-lap race.

The finish, which came in Hubert’s 11th series start, was his first of the season and his third in a row at the Sonoma event.

Born in Cottonwood, California, a three-hour drive north of San Francisco, Hubert began racing in NASCAR’s Featherlite Southwest Tour, a pavement Late Model division which ran on short tracks and road courses all over the west coast.  He made his series debut on July 25, 1987 at his hometrack, the 0.375-mile bullring of Shasta Speedway, and finished 9th in the field of 24.  In 1991, he made his first start at Sonoma when the series arrived as the companion event for the Winston Cup Series.  Again, Hubert impressed, leading 12 laps and finishing 4th in a race won by Ken Pederson.  From there, Sonoma became a favorite track for Hubert, as he seven of the next nine races there, winning the pole there in 1998.

At the same time, Hubert eyed a move up NASCAR’s ladder, and moved to Charlotte to pursue his dream.  He began as a pit crew member for various teams, including Bill Davis Racing and Dale Earnhardt, Inc.  He worked alongside Johnny Benson, Jr. during his own NASCAR career, first at Kurt Roehrig’s Truck Series team, where Hubert became shop foreman in 1997, and then as Benson’s tire changer at Bahari’ Racing, which fielded Benson’s #30 Pennzoil Pontiac.

In May 1997, Hubert returned to Sonoma to race in the Southwest Tour, then change Benson’s tires in Sunday’s Winston Cup race.  That weekend, he was tabbed by car owner Jim Wilson, whose team Triad Motorsports fielded the #78 Hanes / Diamond Rio Ford for Billy Standridge.  At the time, Wilson’s first full-season attempt in Cup wasn’t going very well.  Standridge had failed to qualify for six of the team’s first eight attempts and had finished no better than 21st in the other two.  With Standridge again struggling on the road course, Wilson tabbed Hubert to make sure it qualified.  Not only did Hubert succeed in this, but he put up the fastest time in second-round qualifying, putting #78 27th on the grid.  Impressed, Wilson let Hubert make his Cup debut that Sunday.  The driver recovered from two early spins and finished 28th in a field of 44.

News of Hubert’s performance reached his Truck Series boss Kurt Roehrig, who had the shop foreman replace Michael Dokken as driver of the team’s #18 Dana Corporation Dodge.  Hubert’s Truck debut came at the tough Colorado National Speedway on July 19, where he started 24th and finished 23rd.  The ride gave Hubert still another chance to race at Sonoma when the series made its own trip to the Bay Area in October.  There, he started 4th, led 14 laps during the middle stages, and finished 2nd, just under two seconds behind race winner Joe Ruttman.

1998 was Hubert’s biggest season yet.  In addition to his part-time efforts on the Southwest Tour, he’d been tabbed as Dale Phelon’s driver in the Truck Series, this time replacing Bryan Reffner in the #66 Carlin Burners & Controls Chevrolet.  Hubert began his run starting outside-pole at the Heartland Park Topeka road course, finished 5th at Gateway, then won the pole that fall at Sonoma.  He also made his first start in the NASCAR Winston West Series at Las Vegas, starting 11th and finishing runner-up to current Richard Childress Racing spotter Andy Houston.

During 1998’s annual Cup weekend at Sonoma, Hubert won the pole for the Southwest Series race and gave Kurt Roehrig his first Cup start in his first-ever attempt, snatching the 41st starting spot in the #19 Bradford White Ford.  Among the five drivers Hubert beat for the spot were Cup veterans Dave Marcis and Todd Bodine, road ringer Tommy Kendall, and current team owner Rick Ware.  Hubert got the white #19 into two more races the following year, a third-consecutive start at Sonoma joined by an impressive 4th-fastest time in qualifying at Las Vegas.  Only Bobby Labonte, Michael Waltrip, and Joe Nemechek put in faster times.  Back at Sonoma the following year, Hubert nearly won the Southwest Tour race, leading 7 laps and running 2nd to Kurt Busch with two laps to go before transmission issues and a loose left-rear tire dropped him back to 14th.

While Hubert transitioned from Truck Series to XFINITY competition in 2000, running a brace of races that year for Bill Davis Racing in place of Mike Borkowski, the “road ringer” label came to define his Cup career.  While Jerry Nadeau started outside-pole at Sonoma in 1998 for the struggling Elliott-Marino Motorsports, it was Hubert who drove in Nadeau’s place at Watkins Glen.  He ran 36th in the #13 FirstPlus Financial Ford that day after a late crash tore the fender from his car.  His next two starts at The Glen came with Penske Racing, a 33rd in 2000 driving in place of the injured Jeremy Mayfield, and a 22nd in 2002 taking over for Hut Stricklin in Bill Davis Racing’s #23 Hills Brothers Coffee Dodge.  Then in 2004 came Kirk Shelmerdine.

In 1993, Shelmerdine left Richard Childress Racing as Dale Earnhardt’s championship crew chief to pursue his own racing career, working his way through ARCA and the short-lived NASCAR Sportsman Series.  By 2002, he had a Cup Series team of his own, though he could only run a partial schedule and would often “start-and-park” to save the team’s limited resources.  In 2004, when several teams closed their doors, Shelmerdine suddenly had the opportunity to run the entire schedule.  And when the series came to Sonoma, the short-tracker Shelmerdine elected to have Hubert rive.

Hubert got Shelmerdine’s #72 Freddie B’s Ford into the show at Sonoma, but he was flagged off the track after five laps for running too slow.  While driver and team improved at the much faster Watkins Glen that August, finishing just one lap down in 29th, the black Ford lost oil pressure at Sonoma in 2005, handing Hubert his second-straight last-place finish in the event.  Undaunted, driver and team would return once again in 2006.

48 drivers arrived to attempt the 43-car field for the Dodge / Save Mart 350.  Back in the same black Ford that he ran the previous two years, Hubert put up a strong run in Friday’s opening practice, ranking 35th on the charts with a lap of 90.921mph ahead of five other drivers who weren’t locked-in based on the old “Top 35” rule.  He then found even more speed in qualifying, putting up a lap of 91.265mph, good enough for 30th on the starting grid.  The run bumped from the field Travis Kvapil in Furniture Row’s #78 Chevrolet; three other “road ringers:” Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving instructor Chris Cook in BAM Racing’s #49 DSI Dodge and both Front Row Motorsports cars with Grand-Am Corvette driver Johnny Miller in the #34 and Brian Simo in the #61, and second-generation racer Stanton Barrett.  Interush, the sponsor which backed Barrett’s brightly-colored #95 Chevrolet, then sponsored Hubert’s #72 as well as a young Californian named David Gilliland, who was making his Cup debut for Bryan Mullet after an upset XFINITY win that month at Kentucky.

On Saturday, Hubert skipped the Saturday morning practice, then ran slowest of the 40 cars to take time in Happy Hour.  He also ran the weekend’s companion race, the Blue Lizard Australian Suncream 200 for the Autozone West Series.  Driving the #10 Sunsweet Growers Dodge, Hubert started 11th and finished 5th in a race won by Cup regular Brian Vickers.

Starting 43rd and last for Sunday’s race was another local driver, Brandon Ash.  Ash, making his fourth Cup start and second of the season, was another impressive story in qualifying as he raced a 2004 Dodge into the field, his #02 sponsored by Sprinter Trucking, Inc.  During the pace laps, he was joined at the rear by rookie driver Martin Truex, Jr., who lost an engine on Dale Earnhardt, Inc.’s #1 Bass Pro Shops / Tracker Chevorlet.  Both held last for just a few seconds as a wild opening lap unfolded in front of them.  First to find trouble was outside-polesitter Jamie McMurray, who clipped the curb with his #26 Crown Royal Ford and spun through the dirt.  The cloud of dust caused Dale Jarrett to rear-end the #43 Cheerios Dodge of Bobby Labonte, who fell to last just behind McMurray.

As polesitter Kurt Busch gapped the field behind him, 18th-place starter Ken Schrader was working his way through the Esses, his #21 Little Debbie Ford trying to hold off the hard-charging Carl Edwards in the #99 Office Depot Ford.  Just before the drop at Turn 8 into Turn 9, Edwards loosened Schrader’s car, sending him into a spin.  The field scattered behind Schrader as they entered the blind corner, trying to figure out where the #21 would stop.  At the time, Hubert was racing Sterling Marlin for 29th when Schrader slid directly in Marlin’s path.  The two cars smashed head-on into the right-rear of Schrader’s car, destroying all three cars and forcing a red flag.  While all three drivers walked away, all three were also done for the afternoon.

40th went to Robby Gordon, whose #7 Menards / Energizer Chevrolet suffered damage, then crashed on the hairpin entrance to pit road in the closing laps.  Rounding out the Bottom Five was Dave Blaney, who broke the driveshaft on Bill Davis Racing’s #22 Caterpillar Dodge.

As of this writing, the 2006 race at Sonoma was Hubert’s final Cup start.  He attempted to qualify for Shelmerdine two more times, but missed the cut at Watkins Glen in August 2006, then again in a new “Car of Tomorrow” at Sonoma in 2009.  His most recent XFINITY starts came during the ’09 season – a 41st at Watkins Glen and a 43rd at Montreal.  His most recent start in what is now the K&N Pro Series West also came in 2009, where he finished 7th of 40 drivers in the #25 Red Line Oil / Hall Fabrication / Muscle Milk Ford.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*Hubert is one of only three Cup Series drivers to finish last at the same track in three consecutive years.  The other two came after Hubert’s feat.  Joe Nemechek finished last at Fontana in the fall races of 2007 and 2008, then the spring race in 2009.  Michael McDowell finished last in three straight Chicagoland races in 2011, 2012, and 2013.
*This marked the second and, to date, most recent last-place finish for the #27 in a Cup Series race at Sonoma.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #27-Tom Hubert / 0 laps / crash
42) #14-Sterling Marlin / 0 laps / crash
41) #21-Ken Schrader / 0 laps / crash
40) #7-Robby Godon / 74 laps / crash
39) #22-Dave Blaney / 79 laps / driveshaft

SOURCES
*1997 Save Mart Supermarkets 300 at Sonoma, ESPN
*1999 Snap-On 200 at Sonoma, ESPN (posted on YouTube by Michael McIntyre)
*2006 Dodge / Save Mart 350 at Sonoma, FOX
*Harris, Mike. “Never heard of Tom Hubert? He’s starting fourth at Las Vegas,” Star-News, March 7, 1999.
*Jayski’s Silly Season Site
*Racing-reference.info

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Preliminary Entry List: Sonoma and Iowa

PHOTO: @RPMReport
CUP SERIES
Toyota / Save Mart 350 at Sonoma

First, the bad news.  Just 38 drivers are entered in Sunday’s field for the first road course race of the season, the shortest-ever Cup field at the Sonoma Raceway.  It’s the shortest Cup field on a road course since August 8, 1993, when Dorsey Schroeder trailed a 38-car field at Watkins Glen.  Missing this week is Corey LaJoie and his #83 BK Racing Toyota, marking the first time in the team’s six-year history that they haven’t entered the #83 in a Cup Series race.

Now, the surprisingly good news.  Despite just 38 teams arriving at the track, there are going to be several new faces behind the wheel.  No less than five drivers will make their Cup Series debuts on Sunday, one more than the previous record in 2013 when Paulie Harraka, Alex Kennedy, Victor Gonzalez, Jr., and Justin Marks started this race.

Leading the group is 25-year-old Alon Day, who on Sunday will become the first Israeli driver to start a Cup Series race.  In 2015, Day moved from the Indy Lights Series to NASCAR, joining the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series, which runs entirely on road courses.  He took three victories that year at the prestigious Autodromo dell’Umbria in Italy and Belgium’s Circuit Zolder, finishing 2nd in the standings behind Ander Vilarino of Spain.  Last year, he came stateside, making two starts each in the XFINITY and Truck Series.  He impressed in his XFINITY debut at a rain-soaked Mid-Ohio, finishing 13th in Carl Long’s Dodge after contending for the lead all afternoon.  His ride this week will be BK Racing’s #23 Earthwater Toyota, driven earlier this year by Gray Gaulding and Ryan Sieg.

Day joins a long list of international drivers who have raced in Cup at Sonoma, many some of the greatest road racers in the world: Max Papis (Italy), Hideo Fukuyama (Japan), Klaus Graf (Germany), Mattias Ekstrom (Sweden), Jan Magnussen (Denmark), Andy Pilgrim (England), Dick Johnson (Australia), Marcos Ambrose (Tasmania), Christian Fittipaldi (Brazil), Juan Pablo Montoya (Colombia), Marc Goosens (Belgium), Victor Gonzalez, Jr. (Puerto Rico), and Canadians Roy Smith, Patrick Carpentier, Jacques Villeneuve, and Ron Fellows.

Rick Ware Racing returns from their one-week hiatus at Michigan, and this week welcome Josh Bilicki and sponsorship from Marriott Hotels.  An SCCA and Spec Miata driver since 2011, the Wisconsin-born Bilicki has made four XFINITY starts with a best finish of 28th at Phoenix last fall.  This year, Bilicki was set to drive for Obaika Racing, which gave him his first start at Road America, but the deal fell apart as the team disappeared after Bristol.  The deal with Ware came soon after, and the #51 Chevrolet will now carry sponsorship from Marriott Hotels.

After two respectable runs by Darrell Wallace, Jr., Richard Petty Motorsports has elected to bring on a “road ringer” of its own in the form of sports car driver Billy Johnson.  Fresh off his second appearance in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where he and teammates Stefan Mucke and Olivier Pla finished 27th overall in Chip Ganassi’s Ford GT, Johnson looks to make his first NASCAR start since 2013.  That year, he made his fifth and most recent XFINITY race for Roush-Fenway Racing, a deal which began when he practiced Carl Edwards’ Ford at Road America.  Four of Johnson’s five XFINITY starts came on road courses at Watkins Glen, Road America, and Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, the last of which producing his best finish of 8th.  While he’s never piloted a stock car at Sonoma, he’s one of the most experienced road course drivers in the field, having scored Grand-Am victories at Mid-Ohio, Watkins Glen, and Road America.  Johnson joins a select group of road course upstarts who have piloted Petty’s #43, including fellow Grand-Am alums Christian Fittipaldi and Scott Maxwell.

Premium Motorsports has doubled-down on its new driver lineup, not only bringing back the #55 Chevrolet from a one-week hiatus at Michigan, but putting new first-time Cup drivers in both the #55 and the #15.  Replacing Derrike Cope in the #55 is local driver Tommy Regan, whose hometown of Tracy, California is 75 miles south-east of the Sonoma Raceway.  Regan is perhaps the greenest driver in the field, having made just six Truck Series starts with no finishes better than 24th, including a pair of last-place finishes.  What Regan lacks in experience he makes up for in enthusiasm.  Confusion reigned earlier this year when stories came out that Regan would drive Rick Ware Racing’s #51, even after Josh Bilicki was tabbed as driver.  The white #55 that Regan will drive resembles the picture from that promotion – a white Chevrolet with sponsorship from automotive part supplier Oscaro.

Joining Regan at Premium Motorsports is Kevin O’Connell, who replaces Reed Sorenson in the #15 Chevrolet.  Like Billy Johnson, O’Connell’s name should sound familiar to those who have watched the XFINITY Series compete on the road courses.  It was O’Connell who, in 2014, was tabbed by Rick Ware Racing to drive the #23 Shania Kids Can Chevrolet at Road America.  The result was a near-upset at the finish where only a resurgent Alex Tagliani was able to snatch away a runner-up finish, leaving him a strong 3rd behind Tags and race winner Brendan Gaughan.  The finish remains Ware’s best-ever finish in XFINITY and their only top-five finish.  Unlike many of the drivers listed above, O’Connell has actually raced stock cars at Sonoma before, finishing 15th and 20th in the 2007 and 2008 K&N Pro Series West events, and also ran 9th in Grand-Am here in 2006.

XFINITY SERIES
American Ethanol E15 200 at Iowa

Back on the short track in Iowa, 41 drivers are entered to attempt the 40-car field, the first time since last month at Charlotte where at least one car will be sent home after qualifying.  Rejoining the series this weekend is Quin Houff, who we last saw finishing 27th at Richmond in April.  Both Houff and Precision Performance Motorsports have impressed in their partial season this year, and look to continue that momentum at Houff’s first Iowa start.

Also welcome back two-time Iowa winner Sam Hornish, Jr., who this time resurfaces as driver of Penske Racing’s #22 Discount Tire Ford.  While the details of Hornish’s schedule this year are still to be determined, the current calendar includes both races at Iowa and the road course in Mid-Ohio.  Hornish won this race in a walk last year, leading 183 of 250 laps driving for Joe Gibbs Racing.  It will be interesting to see how the IndyCar champion does in his first race for Penske since 2013.

Another surprise on the list is Scott Lagasse, Jr., who this week gets a turn in Richard Childress Racing’s #3 Chevrolet (likely vacated as both Austin and Ty Dillon race in Sonoma).  Lagasse has been hot and cold in his two XFINITY starts this season, avoiding all the wrecks at Daytona to finish 6th, then getting caught up in one at Talladega to finish 34th.  He hasn’t made an XFINITY start at Iowa since 2009, when he ran 9th for Bryan Mullet in the #11 America’s Incredible Pizza / Fat Brain Toys Toyota.  Regardless, he has made the list with sponsorship from his cancer awareness initiative “Screen Your Machine.”  Ben Kennedy also returns from GMS Racing to drive for Richard Childress Racing, and will drive the #2 Rheem Chevrolet alongside Lagasse.

All eyes will certainly be on 22-year-old Ty Majeski, who makes his XFINITY Series debut this weekend in Roush-Fenway Racing’s #60 iRacing.com Ford.  Majeski has impressed in his young career, claiming his first of three consecutive ARCA Midwest Tour titles as a rookie in 2014 and finishing 4th in his ARCA debut at Madison International Speedway last June.  The Roush-Fenway development driver and NASCAR Next member has another good chance to turn heads this weekend as the distance between Sonoma and Iowa has kept away the Cup regulars.

Making his second XFINITY start this Saturday is Truck Series regular Christopher Bell, who we last saw finish 4th at Charlotte.  This time around, Bell slides over to Joe Gibbs Racing’s #20 ToyotaCare Toyota while Kyle Benajmin drives the #18 SportClips Toyota.

The only car on the list without an announced driver is King Autosport’s unsponsored #92 Chevrolet, which returned last week at Michigan for its first start of the season.  Josh Williams is the likely choice to make his sixth XFINITY start this weekend as he drove the car last week, finishing 34th.

TRUCK SERIES
Iowa 200 at Iowa

Iowa’s Truck Series race shows just 29 drivers for the 32-truck grid, marking the series’ third-consecutive short field.  The list is likely to increase by at least one as Beaver Motorsports’ #50 Chevrolet, run the last two weeks by Josh Reaume, is again not entered, while Jordan Anderson’s #1 Fueled By Fans Chevrolet, fielded by TJL Motorsports, has finally made the initial cut.  Also missing are the second Norm Benning truck, #57, driven by Tommy Regan last week (Regan will drive Cup in Sonoma); the #68 of Clay Greenfield, the #87 of Joe Nemechek, and the #44 Faith Motorsports entry.  While earlier reports indicated that Martins Motorsports sold the #44 to Faith, the Martins team has returned this Friday with the #42 Chevrolet, tabbing Faith’s previous driver Matt Mills to drive.  Last week in Gateway, Mills had been replaced by Donnie Levister in Faith’s #44.

Also returning this week is MDM Motorsports, which will have Brandon Jones drive the #99 SoleusAir Chevrolet in place of Timothy Peters.  Jesse Little will make his first Truck Series start since Dover in his family’s #97 Toyota, and will look to build on their 14th-place finish at “The Monster Mile.”  Austin Wayne Self returns for his first Truck Series start since Texas, this time as driver of Al Niece’s #45 Niece Equipment Chevrolet.  Harrison Burton makes his own return to Trucks since Dover, this time with Morton Buildings as sponsor of Kyle Busch’s #51 Toyota.

Friday will mark the return of Weatherford, Texas driver Ted Minor, who we last saw make three starts in 2014, then withdraw from the 2015 Iowa race.  In place of Joey Cefalia’s #12 FindIT Chevrolet which he drove for most of his starts, Minor is entered with a new team, the #14 Edge Guard Chevrolet fielded by Boyd Long, Jr.  With fields continuing to be short, the addition of new teams like this could not have come at a better time.

Mike Mittler is for the second-straight race the listed owner of both the #63 and #36 Chevrolets, but as of this writing, neither have a set driver, and the #36 is looking for sponsorship.  Last week at Gateway saw brothers Kyle and Kevin Donahue drive the two trucks with Kyle’s #63 finishing 16th and Kevin’s #36 out early with brake issues in 26th.

Following the practice crash and last-minute driver swap at Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing, Cobb is again entered in the team’s #0 Chevrolet with young Bryce Napier driving the #10 ASAP Appliance Services Chevrolet.

Finally, congratulations to ARCA part-timer Mike Senica, who will make his Truck Series debut this Friday in D.J. Copp’s #83 Chevrolet.  The 51-year-old Pennsylvania driver will carry sponsorship from PB2 Powdered Peanut Butter.

Monday, June 19, 2017

CUP: Danica Patrick’s late accident caps intense 197-lap last-place battle at Michigan

PHOTO: Rubbin's Racin' Forums
Danica Patrick picked up the 2nd last-place finish of her Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 at the Michigan International Speedway when her #10 TaxAct Ford was eliminated in a multi-car accident after 190 of 200 laps.

The finish, which came in Patrick’s 169th series start, was her first of the season and her first in Cup since October 6, 2013, when her #10 GoDaddy Breast Cancer Awareness Chevrolet crashed on the opening lap of the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas, 129 races ago.

In the nearly four years since that race, the former IndyCar star has continued to struggle in her adjustment to stock car racing.  On the one hand, she’s earned some of the best performances by a female NASCAR driver, including a career-best 6th at Atlanta in 2014, and that fall at Talladega was leading in the final 15 laps.  But more than two-thirds of her finishes have been 21st or worse, several of them the result of brutal accidents.  Last year at Fontana, contact from Kasey Kahne turned her head-on into the Turn 1 wall at one of the fastest parts of the track.  The next month at Talladega, a multi-car accident sent her car careening head-on into the inside wall.  And this past spring at Kansas, a freak mechanical failure on Joey Logano’s Ford not only completely destroyed her Top 10 car, but also critically injured Aric Almirola.

Combined with persistent sponsorship issues following the departure of internet domain service GoDaddy in 2015, including the alleged contract breach – then re-negotiation for future races – by fig bar company Nature’s Bakery – the frustration has clearly taken its toll.  Last week at Pocono, where Patrick ironically turned in her second-best finish of the year with a 16th – she made the news after confronting a fan who booed her for not signing an autograph.  Coming into Michigan, where her best Cup finish was a 13th in her rookie season in 2013, Patrick sat just 30th in the standings with a lone Top 10 after this month’s crash-marred race at Dover.

Carrying sponsorship from TaxAct, which last partnered with her at Texas, Patrick arrived as one of just 37 drivers looking to start the race, the shortest Cup field at Michigan since that number rolled out on June 16, 1985.  38 were originally entered, but Rick Ware Racing then withdrew their #51 Chevrolet, likely in response to driver Cody Ware’s persistent back pain suffered during the race at Pocono.  Patrick turned in 24th in Friday’s opening practice, secured 23rd on the grid with a lap of 197.775mph, then ran 25th and 24th in Saturday’s two sessions.  While the team continued its search for speed, Patrick did avoid the fate of three of her fellow competitors: crashes in practice sent Landon Cassill, A.J. Allmendinger, and Jimmie Johnson to backup cars.

Starting 37th and last on Sunday was Ty Dillon, whose 24th-fastest lap in qualifying was disallowed for illegal body modifications discovered by NASCAR.  During the pace laps, Dillon’s #13 Twisted Tea Chevrolet was joined not only by the backup cars of Cassill, Allmendinger, and Johnson, but also Daniel Suarez, sent to the rear for an unapproved tire change, and Patrick’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch, whose crews made illegal body modifications to the #4 and #41 Fords on race morning.

When the green flag dropped, A.J. Allmendinger was in the rear in his backup #47 Kroger ClickList / Nature Valley / Crest Chevrolet.  What unfolded was one of the most competitive LASTCAR battles in recent memory, a race which wasn’t settled until just moments before the checkered flag.

On Lap 3, Allmendinger caught and passed the #33 Hulu Chevrolet of Jeffrey Earnhardt, who that time by was 10.046 seconds behind the leaders.  Earnhardt re-passed Allmendinger the next time by, then on the fifth circuit the spot went to Ryan Sieg, making his return to Cup since his strong debut at Dover.  Sieg’s drive in place of Gray Gaulding aboard the #23 Dr. Pepper Toyota moved him past Landon Cassill on Lap 6.  Having wrecked his #34 Morristown Drivers Service, Inc. Ford on Friday, Cassill’s backup was a bright yellow #34 Ford with all the Love’s Travel Stops logos removed and MDS applied to the quarter-panels.  The first caution on Lap 8 for an errant garbage bag on the frontstretch briefly put Jimmie Johnson to last in his #48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet, back to Cassill on Lap 9, then back to Earnhardt on Lap 10.

Prior to the Lap 11 restart, both Earnhardt and Reed Sorenson voluntarily fell to the rear of the field.  Sorenson’s #15 Chevrolet fielded by Premium Motorsports picked up sponsorship from Corrigan Oil, which was originally slated to sponsor Rick Ware Racing’s #51 before the team withdrew.  Much of the remaining laps of Stage 1 saw these two drivers trade the last spot.  Sorenson took it for the first time on Lap 12, and began to lose touch with Earnhardt and the rest of the field.  By Lap 22, however, Earnhardt started falling back as well, and Sorenson reeled him in, making the pass off Turn 4 on the 24th circuit, just before the competition caution.  Earnhardt re-passed Sorenson after pit stops, and Sorenson once again caught and passed the #33 – this time in Turn 3 – on Lap 32.

The next last-place contender was 8th-place runner Erik Jones, who made an unscheduled green-flag stop on Lap 41.  Ironically, it was Jones’ #77 5-hour Energy Toyota which was the first car to be lapped, and he would spend much of the rest of the day fighting his way back into contention.  More than a full straightaway behind Earnhardt for 36th, Jones wasn’t able to get by Earnhardt until Lap 54, but by then was out of Lucky Dog contention as the leaders finally caught the cars in front of him.  Jones would eventually get his lap back and climb his way to a well-earned 13th-place finish.

At the end of Stage 1, lengthy pit stop by the BK Racing team dropped rookie Corey LaJoie and his #83 JAS Expedited Trucking Toyota to the last spot.  When the race restarted on Lap 68, this put LaJoie in position to fight Sorenson for 36th, a battle which continued until Lap 72, when the #83 worked its way past Sorenson down the backstretch.  Front Row Motorsports then re-entered the fight, first when David Ragan took the position on Lap 79, then an unscheduled stop for Cassill on Lap 82, resulting in Cassill becoming the first driver two laps down.  Ragan then pitted his #38 Shriners Hospitals For Children Ford on Lap 106, and became the first driver three laps down.  Jeffrey Earnhardt pitted the #33 on Lap 111, and held the spot at the end of Stage 2.

Earnhardt beat Sorenson off pit road under the yellow, and the latter brought the #15 down a second time to top off the fuel tank.  Though both Sorenson and Earnhardt now three laps down to the leaders, they once again went to work racing each other.  On Lap 128, Sorenson was all over the bumper of Earnhardt, and he got by four circuits later.  The two remained locked in their battle, even as the leaders caught and passed them both, putting the two Chevrolets down a fourth lap on Lap 144.  Earnhardt then put Sorenson back to last on Lap 150, just moments before the caution fell for Ryan Sieg’s spin through the Turn 3 grass.  The incident, combined with the wave-around for Sorenson and Earnhardt, put the #15, #33, and Seig’s #23 all on the same lap, turning the 50-lap shootout for last place from a two-car battle to three.  On the Lap 154 restart, it was Sieg who fell to the rear, but he zipped by Sorenson down the backstretch.  Three laps later, Sorenson caught Sieg as he struggled to pass the 34th-place Earnhardt, who was holding fast on the high lane.  By Lap 166, Sieg had finally dispensed with Earnhardt, who still had Sorenson to contend with.  Once again, both drivers fell down a fourth lap, this time to Kyle Busch on Lap 170.

On Lap 174, with just 26 to go, Earnhardt made what was likely to be his final pit stop, dropping him five laps down.  Sorenson followed three laps later and lost his own fifth lap, putting him on the same circuit as Earnhardt.  By that point, yet another contender entered the picture.  Bristol last-placer Chris Buescher pulled his #37 Kingsford / Bush’s Best Beans Chevrolet behind the wall for an apparent mechanical issue.  Although FOX reported that Buescher was the first driver out of the race, taking last on Lap 181, he returned to the track six laps down just in time for the race to restart with 14 to go.  Now one lap behind both Sorenson and Earnhardt, both now battling for 35th, Buescher still looked to lock-up the first last-place run for #37 at Michigan since 2009.

The ensuing restart threatened to bring in still another contender when Clint Bowyer scraped the Turn 1 wall in his #14 Haas Automation Ford.  However, quick work by the Stewart-Haas Racing crew got Bowyer back on track and up to speed inside the five-minute Crash Clock, and he restarted on the lead lap in 25th.  Thus, when the race restarted on Lap 191, Buescher still held last by one lap over both Sorenson and Earnhardt.  It was only on this restart that Danica Patrick entered the picture.

When the race restarted, Pocono winner Ryan Blaney made a bid for his second-consecutive top-five finish.  But the tricky inside groove was too slippery all race, and his #21 Omnicraft Auto Parts / Quick Lane Ford washed up the track, directly in the path of Kevin Harvick’s #4 Jimmy John’s Ford.  Harvick slowed, but caved-in the nose of his car, and the field fanned-out four and five-wide around the two cars, backing up everyone from 11th on back.  Finding an opening down low, Patrick made her move to the inside of the #19 Stanley Tools Toyota of Daniel Suarez, who was also contending with Darrell Wallace, Jr. in the #43 Smithfield Ford.  At that exact moment, Suarez crossed Wallace’s nose, turning him directly into Patrick’s path.  The two made contact, and Patrick slid straight into the inside wall, destroying her #10.  Patrick climbed from the car unhurt, the only driver who failed to finish Sunday’s race.  The lead-lap Patrick officially took last from Buescher on Lap 197, just three circuits from the finish.

Buescher came home six laps down in 36th.  The battle between Sorenson and Earnhardt ended with the #15 in front, putting Sorenson 34th in front of 35th-place Earnhardt.  Rounding out the Bottom Five was 33rd-place Ryan Sieg, still one lap ahead of Sorenson and Earnhardt.

While the size of the field was disappointing and the race for the lead proved forgettable, Sunday’s battle for last place revealed just how competitive a race can be, even if it’s only for 37th.  At one of the sport’s fastest and most aerodynamically-sensitive tracks, even the lapped machines managed to stay close enough together to contend for every spot right down to the end.  It is this writer’s hope that this is a positive sign going forward, and that it will encourage more teams to join the sport and develop their programs.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*Patrick’s 190 laps complete set a record for the most laps run by a last-place finisher at Michigan.  The previous record was set last August by Clint Bowyer, who ran 160 laps and still came home under power in HScott Motorsports’ #15 5-hour Energy Chevrolet.
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #10 in a Cup Series race at Michigan since June 23, 1991, when Derrike Cope’s #10 Purolator Chevrolet lost an engine after 2 laps of the Miller Genuine Draft 400.  Cope, who has made nine Cup starts so far in 2017, was not entered Sunday in Premium Motorsports’ #55.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
37) #10-Danica Patrick / 190 laps / crash
36) #37-Chris Buescher / 194 laps / running
35) #33-Jeffrey Earnhardt / 195 laps / running
34) #15-Reed Sorenson / 195 laps / running
33) #23-Ryan Sieg / 195 laps / running

2017 LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Circle Sport with The Motorsports Group (4)
2nd) Rick Ware Racing (2)
3rd) BK Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing, Furniture Row Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, JTG-Daugherty Racing, Premium Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing, Roush-Fenway Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

2017 LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (9)
2nd) Toyota (4)
3rd) Ford (2)

2017 LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP















2017 LASTCAR CUP SERIES TITLE CONTENDERS

XFINITY: Morgan Shepherd scores first last-place finish in more than two years

PHOTO: Rubbin's Racin' Forums
Morgan Shepherd picked up the 16th last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Irish Hills 250 at the Michigan International Speedway when his #89 Racing With Jesus Chevrolet fell out with suspension issues after 19 of 125 laps.

The finish, which came in Shepherd’s 408th series start, was his first of the season and his first in an XFINITY Series race since February 28, 2015, when his #89 Racing With Jesus / Courtney Construction Chevrolet fell out with suspension issues after 2 laps of the Hisense 250 at Atlanta, 77 races ago.  Shepherd now ties Matt DiBenedetto for 3rd-most last-place finishes in XFINITY Series history, and ties Joe Nemechek for the second-most all-time.

Shepherd’s fiftieth year in NASCAR continued into Michigan last week, where his black-and-gold #89 Chevrolet glimmered from the far end of the XFINITY Series garage.  With exactly 40 drivers arriving to make the 40-car field, Shepherd was assured his 12th XFINITY start at the track, a track where his best finish was an 11th in 1995.  He’d competed even better on the track in his 36 Cup starts there, earning a pair of runner-up finishes in 1989 (behind Rusty Wallace) and 1993 (trailing Mark Martin).

Michigan would also be Shepherd’s sixth start of the season and third in a row, following back-to-back 38th-place runs at Dover and Pocono.  He hasn’t finished a race under power since September 28, 2013, when he ran 27th at Dover.  But that didn’t stop him from running 32nd in Friday’s opening practice or timing in 37th on the grid with a lap of 178.802mph, besting David Starr in B.J. McLeod’s #99 Victory Lane Quick Oil Change Chevrolet, Timmy Hill in Motorsports Business Management’s #13 Toyota, and last-place starter Mike Harmon in the #74 Heart For Heroes / Veterans Motorsports Dodge.

On race day, Harmon was joined at the rear by Daniel Hemric, his #21 Blue Gate Bank Chevrolet sent to the back for unapproved adjustments, and GMS Racing’s new #96 Weber Grills Chevrolet of Ben Kennedy, whose team changed tires after qualifying.  Both drivers had hardly any time to improve their position when the first caution flew heading into the first corner.  Polesitter Kyle Busch moved up the track, but wasn’t clear of Brad Keselowski’s Ford, sending Busch sliding into the grass.  Busch narrowly missed the inside retaining wall and managed to rejoin the race, ultimately rebounding to finish 5th.

The rest of Stage 1 ran without a single caution flag, though during this time, several LASTCAR contenders ran much longer than usual.  All-time last-place leader Jeff Green, back in RSS Racing’s #93 for the third-straight race, ran 44 laps before he retired with a vibration, the first time that car has run more than 17 laps all year.  The lap count left Green outside the Bottom Five in 35th, one spot behind the unsponsored second King Autosport entry of Josh Williams, a team making its 2017 debut.  Shepherd himself ran 19 laps – the most he’d turned since Dover – but finished last just the same.  Timmy Hill pulled the #13 out of the race the next time by.

The rest of the Bottom Five was filled by the day’s biggest accident on Lap 39.  A four-car tangle exploded down the backstretch when Brandon Jones lost control of his #33 Nexteer Automotive Chevrolet down the backstretch.  As the pursuing Ben Kennedy slowed to avoid him, he was rear-ended by both Michael Annett’s #5 Pilot Travel Centers Chevrolet and the unsponsored #14 of J.J. Yeley.  Kennedy, Annett, and Yeley all rolled away from the scene with varying amounts of damage.  Annett and Yeley fell out while Kennedy limped around the track with rear-end damage before he retired three laps later.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the first last-place finish for both Shepherd and the #89 in an XFINITY Series race at Michigan, as well as the first time the last-place finisher of a race at the track fell out with suspension issues.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #89-Morgan Shepherd / 19 laps / suspension
39) #13-Timmy Hill / 20 laps / steering
38) #14-J.J. Yeley / 37 laps / crash
37) #5-Michael Annett / 38 laps / crash
36) #96-Ben Kennedy / 41 laps / crash

2017 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) RSS Racing (9)
2nd) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Kaulig Racing, Shepherd Racing Ventures, SS Green Light Racing (1)

2017 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (13)

2017 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP










2017 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES TITLE CONTENDERS 

TRUCKS: Jennifer Jo Cobb pieces together battered truck, then calls it a night at Gateway

PHOTO: Rubbin's Racin' Forums
Jennifer Jo Cobb picked up the 9th last-place finish of her NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Saturday’s Drivin’ For Linemen 200 at Gateway Motorsports Park when her #10 ASAP Appliance Service / Driven2Honor.org Chevrolet fell out with suspension issues without completing any of the 160 laps.

The finish, which came in Cobb’s 137th series start, was her first of the season and her first in the Truck Series since October 24, 2015, when her #10 V.G. Pride Group / Vapor Station E-Vapor Chevrolet fell out with engine trouble after 29 laps of the Fred’s 250 at the Talladega Superspeedway.  She now retains sole possession of 6th on the Truck Series last-place rankings.

For the past four years, Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing has remained one of the most determined underdog operations in the sport.  The team has also been a fixture here at LASTCAR through their use of a second “start-and-park” truck to help fund the team’s operations.  So prolific has the team been in this regard that they’ve claimed the last four consecutive LASTCAR Truck Series titles – 2013 with Chris Lafferty, then the next three in a row with Caleb Roark.

Through the first six rounds of 2017, Cobb’s team only fielded the primary #10 Chevrolet, still carrying the logos of her military foundation Driven2Honor.org.  However, the closure of Red Horse Racing and the resulting short fields this month perhaps led to the return of her second truck, the #0.  Last week in Texas, Californian driver Tommy Regan took last with electrical issues after five laps while Cobb finished 19th, both of them filling out a field of just 28 trucks for 32 open spots.  But for Gateway, the plan was different.

On June 5, Bryce Napier, who finished last with TJL Motorsports earlier this year at Martinsville, secured a four-race deal to drive for Cobb, starting with Gateway and Iowa, and then exploring opportunities to run larger tracks once he turns 18 this August.  For the Gateway race, Napier was entered in the #10, which would carry the same sponsorship from ASAP Appliance Service which he brought with him to TJL at Martinsville.  He would run the flagship #10, which at Gateway would be carried on the renumbered black #0 that Regan raced at Texas.  Cobb would run the all-white #0 Chevrolet, which was #10 at Texas.

As at Texas, Cobb and Napier were members of a short field, as just 28 drivers were on the preliminary entry list.  The list was expected to grow to at least 30 as the full-time entries of both TJL’s #1, now driven by Jordan Anderson, and Beaver Motorsports’ #50, were again missing.  While both did end up joining, the list also shrank.  On Tuesday, Halmar Friesen Racing withdrew Kansas last-placer Stewart Friesen from the next two races in order to reorganize the #52 team.  Then on Thursday, Daytona last-placcers MDM Motorsports withdrew the #99 Chevrolet following the complete destruction of Timothy Peters’ truck in a late-race wreck at Texas.  Thus, even with Anderson and the #50 (once again driven by Josh Reaume), the list stood at 28 drivers for 32 spots.

This time, two more teams followed the Cobb model and entered backup trucks, bringing the grid back to 30.  NASCAR veteran Joe Nemechek returned for his first Truck start since Martinsville, bringing his #87 Chevrolet to race against his son John Hunter Nemechek in NEMCO’s flagship #8 D.A.B. Constructors / TBC Chevrolet.  Right with Nemechek was Cobb’s Texas driver Tommy Regan, who this time found himself in an old Norm Benning truck.  The black Chevrolet not only carried Benning’s old #57 on the doors, but Benning’s name on the roof rails.  As it turned out, these weren’t the only changes.

During Saturday’s first practice, Bryce Napier turned 14 laps, but ran the slowest times of the 20 trucks that ran.  In the second session, where Cobb ran 26th of 29 in the #0, Napier improved to 22nd, but wrecked in Turns 1 and 2, resulting in heavy right-side damage to the black #10.  With just hours until the start of the race and both her trucks entered, the decision was made for both drivers to swap rides.  Napier was handed the #0 Chevrolet while Cobb would attend to the #10.  With the plan already in place to park one of the trucks, Cobb’s team made quick repairs, similar to Jordan Anderson’s effort last summer at Eldora.  Screencaps taken from Cobb’s Facebook feed showed heavy damage to the right-front of #10 as it sat on the grid and strips of black tape holding the hood and the rear spoiler in place.

Both Cobb trucks would roll off in front of Tommy Regan, who started shotgun in the second Benning Chevrolet.  Regan turned a lap of just 107.888mph, a lap nearly nine full seconds slower than polesitter Chase Briscoe’s lap of 136.828mph.  Cobb lined up 29th, having not turned a lap in the damaged #10.  Also not running laps in qualifying were Joe Nemechek, Kevin Donahue in the Mike Mittler-prepared #36 Kansas City Brewery Chevrolet, Travis Kvapil in Bolen Motorsports’ #66 Chevrolet, and the Premium Motorsports #49 Chevrolet of Wendell Chavous.  Noah Gragson in the #18 Switch Toyota and the second Mittler truck of Kyle Donahue in the #63 were both sent to the rear for unapproved adjustments.

By the end of the first lap, however, Cobb had pulled her battered #10 behind the wall.  She reported that, on top of the damage suffered in practice, the crew discovered a leak in the radiator on pit road, and decided to pull off to prevent additional damage to the engine.  Cobb pulled into the garage one lap before Regan, who parked Benning’s #57, two before Joe Nemechek in the #87, and three before Travis Kvapil in the #66.  Clay Greenfield, who was making his first Truck Series start since Daytona, actually lost laps before Regan, Nemechek, and Kvapil parked, and he briefly held the 29th spot.  He returned to run a total of 26 laps before retiring in 24th with steering issues.  The move dropped Regan, Nemechek, Kvapil, and Kevin Donahue into the Bottom Five.  It also allowed Nemechek to be on pit road when his son took the checkered flag just hours before Father’s Day.

Special thanks to Sam Laughlin and the posters at the Rubbin’s Racin’ Forums for their help following the Cobb team’s weekend at Gateway.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the third-consecutive year where the last-place finisher of Gateway’s Truck Series race failed to complete the opening lap, joining Joey Gattina in 2015 and Brandon Brown last year.
*This was the first Truck Series last-place finish at Gateway for both Cobb and the #10.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
30) #10-Jennifer Jo Cobb / 0 laps / suspension
29) #57-Tommy Regan / 1 lap / transmission
28) #87-Joe Nemechek / 2 laps / vibration
27) #66-Travis Kvapil / 3 laps / vibration
26) #36-Kevin Donahue / 11 laps / brakes

2017 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Copp Motorsports, Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing (2)
2nd) Halmar Friesen Racing, MB Motorsports, MDM Motorsports, TJL Motorsports (1)

2017 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (8)

2017 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP










2017 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES TITLE CONTENDERS

Thursday, June 15, 2017

6/20/93: Jimmy “Air” Horton scored his only last-place finish at Michigan

PHOTO: CBS Sports
On June 20, 1993, Jimmy Horton picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Winston Cup career in the Miller Genuine Draft 400 at the Michigan International Speedway when his #32 Active Trucking Chevrolet was involved in a single-car accident after 2 of 200 laps.  The finish came in Horton’s 38th series start.

Horton was born in Folsom, New Jersey, and from a young age was swept up in the action of the competitive modified ranks across the northeast.  In 1973, the 17-year-old driver got his start racing for his father, but a rash of crashes threatened to end his career.  “I was just a cocky, snot-nosed kid,” said Horton in a 2015 interview, “but I told myself right from the start that if I didn’t win a feature in any one year, I’m gunna[sic] quit.”  By the end of 1974, Horton had his first feature win – and another nine – and a pair of track championships.  He hasn’t quit since.

The next decade saw Horton continue to grow as a competitor.  In 1975, he scored his first of nine track championships at the Bridgeport (New Jersey) Speedway.  The next year, he took the modified title at the Orange County Speedway.  By 1979, he was invited to run sprint cars, and won his first series start at Bridgeport.  In 1983, he made his first USAC Silver Crown start at Nazareth, where the result was the same.  As a last-minute replacement for another driver, Horton drove a battered car to fourth on the grid, then was second to Gary Bettenhausen when the leader blew a tire, handing him the victory.

Horton earned the respect of some of dirt track racing’s most seasoned veterans, including longtime friend – and competitor – Ken Schrader.  “He’s a really good racer,” said Schrader, “the complete package.  He’s one of these guys who can literally build a car right from the tubing rack, set it up when it’s done, and drive the wheels off it when he gets there.  As far as the complete package, there aren’t too many who can out-run him.  It doesn’t matter what series Jimmy races in. . .he’s good at it no matter what it is.  Excellent racer.”

Perhaps it was Horton’s friendship with Schrader that made the dirt tracker eye a move to stock car racing.  He made his XFINITY Series debut in the 1985 season opener at Daytona, where he entered a #85 S&H Racing Pontiac prepared by his father-in-law George Smith.  Though it must have been a tremendous leap to go from dirt tracks to one of NASCAR’s biggest superspeedways, Horton once again proved a quick study.  He not only got #85 into the show, but timed in 18th of 42 drivers before engine trouble left him 41st.  The next year at Daytona, the equipment held together, and he ran 15th, besting the likes of Dale Jarrett, Brett Bodine, Tommy Houston, and Davey Allison.  

Horton and Smith next eyed a move to Winston Cup in 1987, when they withdrew from Talladega, then qualified for both races at Pocono.  In his Cup debut that June, driving a #80 Fordon sponsored by Miles Concrete, Horton impressed once again, driving from 34th on the grid to finish 21st.  He made another eight starts in 1988 and improved once more, earning a pair of 18th-place runs at Darlington and Pocono.  That same season, Horton branched out into ARCA, which at the time welcomed drivers who failed to qualify for Cup events during companion weekends.  When he missed the cut for the 1988 Daytona 500, Horton ran 25th in his first ARCA 200, an event he then won in 1990.  The Daytona win spawned an unprecedented superspeedway sweep in which he won his next four starts at Atlanta, Talladega, and both rounds at Pocono, ranking 21st in points despite running less than half the ARCA schedule.

Horton’s superspeedway prowess attracted the attention of Rick Hendrick, whose driver Darrell Waltrip was critically injured in a practice crash prior to the July running of the Pepsi 400 at Daytona.  Hendrick tabbed Horton to drive Waltrip’s car, which then had to surrender its 5th-place spot on the grid.  Unfortunately, this placed Horton right in the middle of a grinding opening-lap crash that left his #17 Tide Chevrolet with extensive right-side damage.  Still, the relief driver managed a 17th-place finish, and would improve to 13th in his next relief role at Talladega.

In 1992, Horton parted ways with Smith and signed with a new team, Active Motorsports.  Team owner Joe Horner acquired a Chevrolet from Darrell Waltrip and entered it in the season-opening ARCA 200.  The results were once again immediate – Horton started 4th, led 25 of 80 laps, and took the victory over Bobby Bowsher.  As it turned out, this would be one of only two ARCA starts for Horton that season.  Horner entered Horton in 11 Cup races that season, starting with the spring race at Atlanta.  The red #32 Active Trucking Chevrolet earned a season-best 22nd at Dover and was also a part of the historic Hooters 500 that November, finishing 24th.

Active Motorsports returned to Cup in 1993, attempting 17 of the 30 races.  The team also hired Mike Hillman as crew chief, marking the first time he’d held that position in Cup.  Hillman remained active as a crew chief through the 2016 season, when he led Michael Annett’s #46 Pilot Travel Centers Chevrolet, and would also become a car owner in Cup and Truck Series competition.  The partnership led to Horton’s first Daytona 500 start in three years, where he ran 25th.  Heading into June’s race at Michigan, however, Horton had finished no better and twice and failed to qualify three times – one each at Richmond, North Wilkesboro, and Dover.

Horton was one of 43 drivers to attempt the 41-car field for the Miller Genuine Draft 400.  He began the weekend on the right note, securing his best starting spot of his career (to that date) with 20th on the grid.  The two drivers sent home after time trails were veteran Canadian driver Trevor Boys, who was behind the wheel of James Hylton’s #48 Rumple Furniture Pontiac, and Winston West competitor Jeff Davis in his #81 Van-K Karting Wheels Ford.

Starting last in the field was owner-driver Jimmy “Smut” Means, who was midway through his final season as a full-time Cup Series driver.  His black #52 Ford Thunderbird carried sponsorship from Hurley Limo, which signed on late in the 1992 season.  Joining him at the rear was Geoffrey Bodine, who was sent to a backup car after he wrecked his primary #15 Motorcraft Quality Parts Ford in final practice.  On the final pace lap, Bodine pulled down pit road for a splash of fuel before rejoining the tail end of the pack.

When the green flag dropped, Bodine and Means passed H.B. Bailey, the Texan owner-driver in his #36 Almeda Auto Parts Pontiac.  Having started 40th on the grid, this was to be the next-to-last of his 85 career Cup starts, a career which dated back to 1962 and ended that September at Darlington.  Bailey was still part of the tail-end of the field when the first caution fell on Lap 3.  On that lap, Horton was running in the high lane in Turns 1 and 2 when the car broke loose, then slammed the outside wall with the left-rear.  The impact sheared the fuel filler neck from the fuel cell, spilling gas and sparking a trail of flames.  Crews extinguished the flames and Horton climbed from the car uninjured, but done for the day.

40th in the finishing order went to fellow ARCA driver Clay Young, who was making his first Cup start of the season in a second Jimmy Means car, the #62 Ford (which had also been entered by longtime owner-driver Henley Gray).  The 46-year-old Young retired with a dropped cylinder.  39th went to polesitter Brett Bodine, who lost an engine on the #26 Quaker State Ford after just 22 laps.  38th went to road racer P.J. Jones, whose third start in Melling Racing’s iconic #9 Melling Auto Parts Ford ended with a blown head gasket.  Rounding out the Bottom Five in 37th was Michael Waltrip, who dropped a valve on Bahari’ Racing’s bright yellow #30 Pennzoil Pontiac.

The remains of Horton's Talladega car, 1993
PHOTO: Jason Harris, Gadsden Times
On July 25, 1993, just over a month following the race came Jimmy Horton’s perhaps most famous moment in stock car racing.  On Lap 70 of the DieHard 500 at Talladega, Horton’s #32 was running on the low side of a large pack of cars when contact sent Stanley Smith’s #49 Kresto Hand Cleaner Chevrolet spinning directly into his path.  The two cars collided, and Horton’s car tumbled up the banking as it slid.  With no protective fencing past the end of the grandstands, Horton’s car tumbled over the concrete wall, down the embankment on the other side, through a chain-link fence, and landed right-side up in the dirt.  While the tumble left the car practically stripped bare of sheet metal, crews attending to the car were stunned to find Horton climbing out of his car with only bumps and bruises.  Stanley Smith, who struck Horton, suffered a life-threatening basilar skull fracture.

On November 11, 1995 came a second, more serious accident.  On Lap 37 of the Hoosier General Tire 500k, the ARCA season finale at Atlanta, Horton was driving for his friend Ken Schrader when Curt Dickie’s #62 Pontiac spun out in front of him.  Horton slowed his #52 AC-Delco Chevrolet, but was rear-ended by another car, steering him directly into the wreck.  The three cars collided so hard that Horton’s car flipped onto its roof.  To add insult to injury, Horton’s car was just about to right itself when his teammate Ed Dixon struck him from beneath, sending him over once more.  This time, Horton didn’t escape without injury.  “I broke both shoulder blades, cracked my skull, cracked a vertebrae in by[sic] back…a concussion.  I was lucky.”

In 1998, Horton was tabbed by the struggling ISM Racing to get the #35 Tabasco Pontiac into the field for the Pennsylvania 500.  The resulting DNQ was his last attempt in stock car racing.

“I would have liked to have done some things differently,” said Horton, “would have liked to have made it in NASCAR, but my timing was wrong. When I was really young, car owners and sponsors weren’t interested in young kids back then. They wanted older, more experienced drivers. By the time I got the chance to go there, I was 32, and by then they were looking at the young kids coming along. But I’m not complaining. When I think about the things I’ve accomplished, it amazes me when I look back at it. When I was out of NASCAR, I just went back modified racing.”

Through it all, the driver some call “Air” Horton is still speeding around dirt tracks across the country, particularly in the dirt modified ranks.  His statistics are astounding: coming into 2015, he had amassed 426 modified and small-block modified victories – 133 at Bridgeport alone – and 30 track or series championships, all spread over 41 winning seasons.  As of this writing, he currently leads the Big Block Modified championship standings at the Orange County Fair Speedway, where he drives for the Halmar Racing Team (which also fields Stewart Friesen’s Truck Series effort).  For updates on his upcoming races, be sure to check out his Facebook page.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #32 in a Cup series race since June 3, 1979, when Jimmy Finger’s #32 Vita Fresh / Pharis Chevy Buick had engine trouble after 5 laps of the Texas 400 at the Texas World Speedway.  It was also the first of three last-place finishes for the number at Michigan, the most recent of which came in 2014 with Travis Kvapil.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
41) #32-Jimmy Horton / 2 laps / crash
40) #62-Clay Young / 14 laps / cylinder
39) #26-Brett Bodine / 22 laps / engine
38) #9-P.J. Jones / 64 laps / head gasket
37) #30-Michael Waltrip / 91 laps / valve

SOURCES
*1993 Jimmy Horton Flip @ Talladega, CBS (posted by NASCARAllOut)
*1993 Miller Genuine Draft 400 at Michigan, CBS (posted by TheRacingJungle2)
*Author Unknown, “Horton Wins At Daytona,” New York Times, February 9, 1992
*Jimmy Horton Flips @ Atlanta, ESPN (posted by OldSchoolNASCAR)
*Racing-reference.info
*Radebaugh, Don. “‘Where are they now?’ … the incredible career of modified man / ARCA winner Jimmy Horton,” ARCARacing.com, January 8, 2015.
*UltimateRacingHistory.com

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Preliminary Entry List Storylines: Michigan and Gateway

Maurice Randall's Chrysler at Michigan, 1985
PHOTO: ImperialClub.com
CUP SERIES
FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan

This Sunday marks NASCAR’s third-consecutive short field and the tenth in fifteen races this season.  Without Derrike Cope and the #55 Premium Motorsports team, which came home 33rd last Sunday at Pocono, there are only 38 drivers listed to make the 40-car field, tying Martinsville and Richmond for the shortest this year.  It will also be the shortest Cup field at Michigan since June 16, 1985, when Maurice Randall’s #93 Chrysler Imperial fell out with ignition failure after one lap of the Miller 400.

The only car whose driver has yet to be listed is the #51 Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet, which this Sunday will carry new sponsorship from Corrigan Oil.  Last Sunday, Cody Ware scored his second last-place finish in three starts this season when persistent handling woes made the car too difficult to drive.  One possible candidate is Timmy Hill, who last drove the car in the Coca-Cola 600, and whose best Michigan finish was a 29th for Go FAS Racing in 2013.  According to a report by Jayski, Hill’s most recent Cup ride, the #66 owned by Carl Long, is not expected to enter as Long is working to repair the team’s XFINITY Series cars.  If the XFINITY effort is handled sooner, the team may run Michigan and Kentucky, otherwise they will return at Indianapolis.

A broken axle in the final ten laps at Pocono, combined with an illness and heat exhaustion, led to Matt DiBenedetto pulling off the track in the final moments of Sunday’s race.  At the time of the exit, DiBenedetto was headed toward a Top 25 finish and was racing Darrell Wallace, Jr. for the Lucky Dog.  They finished 32nd.  The situation may point to issues in the cooling systems on Go FAS Racing’s #32 car.  Last year at Sonoma, heat exhaustion forced the team’s road ringer Patrick Carpentier to pull out of the racing line several times in the closing laps, and he barely made it to the finish.

Darrell Wallace, Jr., who tangled with DiBenedetto in the final laps, encountered multiple pit road speeding penalties, but managed to finish just one lap down in 26th, bringing the #43 Smithfield Ford home in one piece.  He is again the listed driver for Richard Petty Motorsports this Sunday, but Roush-Fenway Racing’s sponsorship issues will prevent him from running double-duty – his #6 Ford, 11th in Saturday’s race at Pocono, is not entered this week.

Already laps down at the time, Cole Whitt nearly spawned a last-minute restart when the engine on his #72 RTIC Coolers Chevrolet let go as the leaders crossed the line with two laps to go.  Ironically, the resulting 30th-place finish was still team owner Mark Smith’s best performance at the track since June 16, 1996, when Loy Allen, Jr.’s #19 Healthsource Ford finished 23rd, three laps down to race winner Jeff Gordon.

Another tough break befell Michael McDowell, who started a track-best 11th in qualifying (shattering his previous mark of 27th in 2013), ran inside the Top 10 for most of the afternoon, then ended up 24th at the finish, ending the Leavine Family Racing’s streak of three-consecutive Top 20 finishes.  Before McDowell returns to his roots in the upcoming road course race at Sonoma in two weeks, he must now confront Michigan, where in six starts, he’s finished no better than a 31st last August.

Clearly, Sunday wasn’t all bad news for small teams.  Congratulations again to Ryan Blaney, who scored his first Cup win on Sunday in his 68th start.  It was the first win for the fabled Wood Brothers Racing Team since Trevor Bayne’s 2011 Daytona 500 triumph, and the team’s first at Pocono since July 27, 1980, when the late Neil Bonnett edged Buddy Baker by six-tenths of a second in the Coca-Cola 500.  Ryan’s father Dave Blaney, “The Buckeye Bullet” of World of Outlaws fame, made 473 Cup starts from 1992 through 2014, but never won, his best finishes being three 3rd-place runs at Darlington and Talladega, each for a different team.  Dave raced 29 times at Pocono alone with just two Top 10s and a track-best 9th in 2003.  Now with a win for family and team alike, Ryan now returns to Michigan, site of Dale Jarrett’s first-and-only win for the Wood Brothers in 1991, where the youngster ran a track-best 4th last August.

On the big team side, kudos also to Erik Jones, who finished a career-best 3rd on Sunday and led 20 laps, the longest he’s ever paced a Cup Series race.  16th in points headed into his first Cup start at Michigan, Jones may be a prime candidate for the series’ next first-time winner.  He finished 4th in his only XFINITY Series start there, and 3rd in his only Truck Series effort.  The other could very well be Chase Elliott, 8th at Pocono, and well in position to win both Cup races at Michigan last year before he slid back on the final restarts.  History could again be on Chase’s side – the last time this few cars took the green at Michigan, his father “Awesome Bill” took the checkered flag.

XFINITY SERIES
Irish Hills 250 at Michigan

40 drivers are entered to attempt Saturday’s 40-car field for the XFINITY Series, a division that has yet to have a short field in 2017.  Back this week is GMS Racing’s #96 for Ben Kennedy, a car that was withdrawn prior to last week’s race at Pocono.  This week, Kennedy has sponsorship from Weber.

Also back on the entry list is a second entry from Mario Gosselin’s King Autosport team, the #92 Chevrolet, which we haven’t seen on the track since last fall at Kentucky, where Josh Williams finished 37th with fuel pump issues.  Williams, who finished 28th in Gosselin’s #90 last Saturday, will again be driving the #92, which given its finishes last year could be a potential “start-and-park” entry.  If so, he could challenge the dominant LASTCAR leader of RSS Racing’s #93 Chevrolet, which after back-to-back last-place runs by Jeff Green will be again driven by Jordan Anderson.

Also back on the list is Tommy Joe Martins, who after finishing 29th for B.J. McLeod last Saturday is again in the #78 Chevrolet.  Diamond Gusset Jeans, which has backed Martins’ previous XFINITY and Truck Series efforts, is again listed as the sponsor of the black Camaro.

Ray Black, Jr. returns to his #07 Chevrolet, even as SS Green Light Racing continues to search for sponsorship.  The team struggled last week with Spencer Boyd, managing only a 33rd-place finish, three laps down to race winner Brad Keselowski.

TRUCK SERIES
Drivin’ For Linemen 200 at Gateway

The preliminary entry list for Gateway shows just 28 trucks for the 32 spots, the second-consecutive short field this season.  It will also be Gateway’s shortest-ever Truck Series field.

Just like last week, however, it is likely this field will grow by at least two entries as both the #1 TJL Motorsports Chevrolet and the #50 Beaver Motorsports Chevrolet were also missing at Texas before they arrived on Friday.  TJL’s driver Jordan Anderson has confirmed on Twitter that he is preparing for Gateway, though he is also entered in RSS Racing’s #93 Chevrolet for the XFINITY race at Michigan.  Also listed once more is Faith Motorsports, which withdrew at Texas.  While Matt Mills has driven for all of Faith’s three starts this year with a season-best 17th at Kansas and Dover, the team has as yet not selected a driver.

Also without an announced driver is MDM Motorsports, which also has yet to announce a sponsor for its #99 Chevrolet.  This may, in part, be due to the terrible crash Timothy Peters suffered on the final lap of last Friday’s race, a wreck which completely destroyed his truck.  Whether or not this truck will be rebuilt, or how many trucks MDM has available, is still to be determined.

Jennifer Jo Cobb added her second truck, the #0, as a late entry to Texas, tabbing California driver Tommy Regan to drive.  This week, Cobb has again entered two trucks, and will this week drive the #0.  Racing in her place in the #10 ASAP Appliance Service Chevrolet is Bryce Napier, who trailed the field at Martinsville this spring.  According to a report on Catchfence.com, Gateway will be the first of at least four races where Napier will drive for Cobb, pending his eligibility to run at larger tracks.

Mike Mittler and MB Motorsports are now once again the listed owners of both the #63 and #36 Chevrolets, which this week will be driven by Kyle and Kevin Donahue, respectively.  We last saw the #36 at Dover, where both trucks were listed as belonging to D.J. Copp as team trucks to the #83.  Copp’s only listed entry for Gateway is again the #83 Chevrolet, which is driven by current 2017 LASTCAR Truck Series leader Todd Peck.

Welcome back Clay Greenfield, whose #68 1-800-PAVEMENT Chevrolet returns to the Truck Series for the first time since he ran 29th in the season opener at Daytona.  This marks Greenfield’s first Truck Series start at Gateway since way back in 2010, when he finished 28th in Danny Gill’s unsponsored #46 Dodge.

Also returning this week is Todd Gilliland, who is set to make his second Truck Series start and his first in Kyle Busch Motorsports’ flagship #51 Toyota.  As at Dover, where suspension issues left him a disappointing 20th, Gilliland will be sponsored by Pedigree pet food.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

CUP: Handling issues send Cody Ware’s Clemson University car behind the wall at Pocono

PHOTO: @RickWareRacing
Cody Ware picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Axalta Presents the Pocono 400 at the Pocono Raceway when his #51 Clemson Tigers Chevrolet fell out with a vibration after 35 of 160 laps.

The finish, which came in Ware’s third series start, was his second of the season and first since his Cup debut at Atlanta this past March, 12 races ago.

Following two Truck Series starts where he finished 22nd and 18th for Beaver Motorsports, Ware returned to his family’s Cup team last week at Dover, where the #51 team debuted a new sponsor partnership with local universities.  Carrying the logos for the Pirates of East Carolina University, Ware finished 35th, exiting with handling issues after the halfway mark.  For Sunday’s race at Pocono, as well as the upcoming Southern 500 at Darlington, the #51 would carry the logos of the Clemson Tigers, last year’s NCAA National Champions of collegiate football.

Ware was one of 39 drivers entered at Pocono, marking the shortest Cup field at the track since 1991.  He ran 38th in Friday’s opening practice, qualified 38th with a lap of 166.334mph, and ran 38th again in Happy Hour.

Starting last on Sunday was Derrike Cope, who was making his first Cup start at the track since July 27, 2003.  Cope’s Premium Motorsports entry again debuted a new sponsor, this time from StarCom Fiber.  Cope was joined at the rear by three drivers: Martin Truex, Jr. for an engine change on his #78 Furniture Row Toyota, Dover last-placer Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. for illegal body modifications made on race day to his #17 Little Hug Fruit Barrels Ford, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who lost an engine and transmission with his mistakenly shifted from fourth to second gear in Friday’s practice.

By the end of the first lap, however, Ware had fallen to last place, 8.418 seconds behind the leaders.  On the sixth circuit, he was more than 20 seconds behind the leaders when Joey Logano made an unscheduled stop for a flat left-rear tire on his #22 Shell / Pennzoil Ford.  Six laps later, without the aid of a caution, Logano caught and passed Cope, who had fallen behind Ware as the new 38th-place driver, dropping the veteran to last place.  On Lap 14, Cope was the first to be lapped by race leader Kyle Busch.

Last place briefly shuffled among different drivers during the first round of green flag stops: Ryan Blaney on Lap 18, Matt DiBenedetto on Lap 19, and Gray Gaulding on Lap 20.  By Lap 22, when the stops cycled through, Cope had regained the spot, and was now two laps behind due in a car that was too tight.  Ware regained the spot on Lap 31, when he came down pit road for another four-tire stop.  According to the team, the previous set of tires were so bad that the car had become nearly impossible to drive.  At one point, Ware came on the radio saying “I’m not gonna destroy this car.”  The crew looked under the hood on this second stop, then sent him back out on Lap 39, eight laps in arrears.  He only stayed on track for a moment, as the crew finally brought him back to the garage, where they worked over “the drive plate, axle, everything.”  Unfortunately, they never came back out on track, and FOX listed him out of the race with 13 laps to go in Stage 2.

Ware’s left turn into the garage came just minutes before Earnhardt again had issues with his transmission, missing a shift and damaging his engine.  If Ware had managed to turn 24 more laps, it would have handed Earnhardt his first last-place finish at Pocono since 2006, and the first-ever last-place run for #88 at the Pocono Raceway.  37th and 36th went to Jimmie Johnson and Jamie McMurray, who both suffered separate brake failures entering Turn 1 on Lap 96, resulting in two hard crashes.  Rounding out the Bottom Five was Kasey Kahne, who drew the final caution on Lap 142 when his #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet also wrecked in Turn 1.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #51 in a Cup Series race at Pocono since June 13, 2004, when Kevin Lepage’s #51 NegotiationsSeminar.com Chevrolet overheated after 9 laps of the Pocono 500.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
39) #51-Cody Ware / 35 laps / vibration
38) #88-Dale Earnhardt, Jr. / 58 laps / engine
37) #1-Jamie McMurray / 95 laps / crash
36) #48-Jimmie Johnson / 95 laps / crash
35) #5-Kasey Kahne / 140 laps / crash

2017 LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Circle Sport with The Motorsports Group (4)
2nd) Rick Ware Racing (2)
3rd) BK Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing, Furniture Row Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, JTG-Daugherty Racing, Premium Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing, Roush-Fenway Racing (1)

2017 LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (9)
2nd) Toyota (4)
3rd) Ford (1)

2017 LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP

XFINITY: Jeff Green continues RSS Racing’s dominance of 2017 LASTCAR XFINITY season

PHOTO: SpeedwayMedia.com
Jeff Green picked up the 92nd last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Pocono Green 250 at the Pocono Raceway when his unsponsored #93 RSS Racing Chevrolet fell out with brake trouble after he completed 7 of 100 laps.

The finish, which came in Green’s 459th series start, was his third of the season and second in a row, moving him within two finishes of current LASTCAR XFINITY Series leader Jordan Anderson.

Green once again drove RSS Racing’s second “start-and-park” #93 Chevrolet, one of 40 entrants for the second-annual XFINITY event at Pocono.  The original entry list of 41 was reduced by one when GMS Racing withdrew the #96 Chevrolet to be driven by Ben Kennedy.  Green was the only driver not to participate in Friday’s opening practice session, but he turned in the 28th starting spot with a lap of 165.098mph.  It was the #93 team’s best starting spot since April 29, when Green put up the 25th-best time at Richmond.  The car again showed speed in final practice, his first of four laps good enough for 29th of 40.

Starting last on Saturday was Casey Mears, who was entered in place of the injured Aric Almirola in the #98 Fresh From Florida Ford.  Mears was the only driver in the field without a qualifying time, his lap disallowed after he held up Matt Tifft’s #19 Tunity Toyota on his timed lap.  Joining Mears at the rear were Garrett Smithley’s #0 Wheeling Nailers Chevrolet and David Starr’s #99 GeorgesToolRental.com Chevrolet, both sent to the rear for unapproved adjustments.

While Mears went on to pass nearly half the field, finishing on the lead lap in 21st, Green exited
the race during the opening green-flag run, citing brake failure as the issue.  Also exiting during the opening laps were 39th-place Carl Long, who drove his #13 CrashClaimsR.us / Pocono Resort Conference Center Dodge before handling issues after 12 laps, and 38th-place Morgan Shepherd in his #89 Racing With Jesus Chevrolet.  37th went to Harrison Rhodes, who had clutch issues on JD Motorsports’ unsponsored #01 Chevrolet.  Rounding out the Bottom Five was Brandon Jones, involved in one of only two accidents that day, when his #33 Anderson’s Maple Syrup / Giant Chevrolet wrecked after the 77th circuit.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*While this marked Green’s first last-place finish in an XFINITY Series race at Pocono, the track was also the scene of his first Cup Series last-place finish on July 21, 1996, when his #14 Racing For Kids Chevrolet (fielded by Dale Earnhardt, Inc.) crashed after 2 laps of the Miller 500.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #93-Jeff Green / 7 laps / brakes
39) #13-Carl Long / 12 laps / handling
38) #89-Morgan Shepherd / 16 laps / handling
37) #01-Harrison Rhodes / 49 laps / clutch
36) #33-Brandon Jones / 77 laps / crash

2017 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) RSS Racing (9)
2nd) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Kaulig Racing, SS Green Light Racing (1)

2017 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (12)

2017 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP

TRUCKS: The return of Tommy Regan and Jennifer Jo Cobb’s #0 Chevrolet fills short Texas field

PHOTO: @JenJoCobb
Tommy Regan picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Friday’s WinstarOnlineGaming.com 400 at the Texas Motor Speedway when his #0 Driven2Honor.org Chevrolet fell out with electrical issues after 5 of 167 laps.

The finish, which came in Regan’s fifth series start, was his first since his series debut at Iowa on July 11, 2014, when his #45 JD2 Squared / American Tactical Chevrolet had ignition issues on the opening lap of the American Ethanol 200 Presented by Enogen.

A native of Tracy, California (just 25 miles from LASTCAR headquarters), Regan was making his first Truck Series start since 2015, when he made his most recent start in Christopher Long’s #45 Chevrolet.  His best finish came that year at Gateway, where he ran 24th despite electrical issues.

Just 26 drivers made the preliminary entry list for Friday’s 32-truck field, which if unchanged would have produced the shortest Truck Series field since the inaugural Sonoma event on October 7, 1995.  Among those missing from the list were TJL Motorsports (#1) and Beaver Motorsports (#50), which then joined up by Friday with Jordan Anderson in the former and Josh Reaume in the latter.  The list then shrank again from 28 back to 27 when Faith Motorsports withdrew Matt Mills’ #44 Chevrolet.

What got the field back to 28 starters was Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing, who for the first time since last fall at Las Vegas entered two trucks in the race.  While Cobb would run an all-white #10 Chevrolet, her black-and-gray #0 entry would be driven by Regan.  With field sizes becoming an issue in the Truck Series after the closure of Red Horse Racing, this could have dramatic LASTCAR implications in the races ahead – Cobb’s second entry claimed the last three consecutive LASTCAR titles with driver Caleb Roark.

Regan didn’t participate in the weekend’s first two practices, and anchored Happy Hour with the best of his five laps coming in at 152.810mph (more than six seconds slower than Christopher Bell’s fastest lap of 185.982mph).  Regan turned in a faster lap in qualifying, shaving three seconds off with a speed of 161.156mph, but still would start 27th in the 28-truck field.

Starting last on Friday was the late Beaver Motorsports entry with Josh Reaume in the #50 Motorsports Safety Group Chevrolet.  The official results credit Reaume with relying on Owner Points, though Racing-reference.info recorded his lap of just 130.394mph, more than 12 seconds slower than Noah Gragson’s pole lap.  Next to fall to the rear was Austin Cindric, whose 9th-place #19 Draw-Tite / Reese Brands Ford wrecked in Turn 2 and was the first to lose a lap.  Under that caution, Regan pulled behind the wall, done for the night.  Cindric got his lap back, but fell out with crash damage after 28 laps, leaving him 25th.

27th on Friday went to Kevin Donahue, back in Mike Mittler’s #63 Chevrolet for the first time since his 21st-place run at Kansas.  This time around, Donahue left the race after just nine laps, citing electrical issues on his unsponsored entry.  26th went to last-place starter Reaume, who cited engine trouble after the second caution of the night.  On the other side of 25th-place Cindric was 24th-place Todd Peck, the current LASTCAR Truck Series leader, who had a vibration on D.J. Copp’s #83 Chevrolet.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #0 since November 16, 2015, when three-time and defending LASTCAR Truck Series champion Caleb Roark’s own #0 Driven2Honor.org Chevrolet exited with electrical issues on the first lap of the Winstar World Casino And Resort 350, which was run on Texas Motor Speedway’s previous configuration.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
28) #0-Tommy Regan / 5 laps / electrical
27) #63-Kevin Donahue / 9 laps / electrical
26) #50-Josh Reaume / 12 laps / engine
25) #19-Austin Cindric / 28 laps / crash
24) #83-Todd Peck / 39 laps / vibration

2017 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Copp Motorsports (2)
2nd) Halmar Friesen Racing, Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing, MB Motorsports, MDM Motorsports, TJL Motorsports (1)

2017 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (7)

2017 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP