|PHOTO: Rubbin's Racin' Forums|
The finish, which came in Yeley’s 26th series start, was his first of 2017 and his first in a Truck Series race since the 2013 Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead, 54 races ago. The finish was also Yeley’s 21st across NASCAR’s top three divisions, giving him sole possession of 10th in the all-time LASTCAR rankings. The finish broke a tie with Matt DiBenedetto and Mike Harmon.
When just 29 drivers were entered for Friday’s race, efforts were again made to fill out the field. By Tuesday, the list had grown to 32 trucks with the addition of Joe Nemechek, who would race against his son in the #87 D.A.B. Constructors Chevrolet, a second Randy Young-owned Chevrolet, #20, for Tyler Young (Scott Lagasse, Jr. would drive in place of Young in the team’s primary #02), and Faith Motorsports’ #44 Sparrow Ranch on the Island Chevrolet for Donnie Levister.
But by Friday, Faith Motorsports had withdrawn the #44, as had Martins Motorsports, which planned a return to competition with Matt Mills in the renumbered #42 Thompson Electric Chevrolet. Combined with the pre-planned withdrawal of Stewart Friesen and the #52 Halmar International Chevrolet, the list shrank to 30 – but not for long. Beaver Motorsports popped up again, continuing their full-season efforts with Josh Reaume in the #50 Lodestar Guidance / Motorsports Safety Group Chevrolet. Al Niece entered a second truck for the first time, putting T.J. Bell in the #38 Niece Equipment Chevrolet (as Austin Wayne Self drove the primary #45). And owner-driver Norm Benning brought back the black #57 Chevrolet, tabbing Yeley to drive.
Benning’s #57 would be the fifth different truck Yeley would drive in as many attempts in 2017. He finished 9th in a second Tim Self truck at Daytona, missed the cut at Atlanta in Mike Mittler’s #63, then made two starts for Copp Motorsports in the #83 at Charlotte and the #36 at Dover. This week, Benning’s name on the roof was taped over with the name “Dick Dragon” written in white, Yeley’s moniker in the Chili Bowl.
Yeley didn’t participate in the first practice session on Friday, then ran a single lap of 118.805mph in Happy Hour, slowest overall (Brandon Jones topped the session with a lap of 135.251mph, more than three full seconds faster).
With now 33 trucks on the entry list, Yeley only had to best one truck to make the field. He succeeded with a qualifying lap of 122.946 mph. Bumped from the field was Jennifer Jo Cobb, who didn’t put up a time in her #0 Driven2Honor.org Chevrolet.
Yeley missed driver introductions, and joined Jordan Anderson at the rear of the field prior to the start. Anderson, once again piloting his fan-supported #1 Rusty’s Off Road Products Chevrolet for TJL Racing, had made unapproved adjustments during the impound weekend. Both bumped up last-place starter Mike Senica, who was making his Truck Series debut in the #83 PB2 Powdered Peanut Butter Chevrolet. The ARCA part-timer would go on to finish 21st, flagged off the track for running too slow in the final laps. Anderson finished 15th, tying his season-best at Texas with his third-consecutive Top 20.
Taking last on the first lap was Ted Minor, who was making his first Truck Series start since 2014. Minor’s #14 Edge Guard / ICRA Containment System Chevrolet for car owner Boyd Long was photographed being finished in the garage of someone’s home, the right-rear quarter-panel smoothed with Bondo. Minor, who withdrew from Iowa last year, made the field this time around, and actually outpaced last-place starter Senica by nearly seven-tenths of a second. On Lap 2, Minor moved past Joe Nemechek, who was now 12.035 seconds behind the leader. A bid to break Nemechek’s tie with Morgan Shepherd for the second-most last-place finishes in NASCAR history ended on Lap 4, when Yeley followed Nemechek behind the wall on Lap 4. This put Yeley in last with Nemechek 31st.
30th and 29th went to two more of the late entries with Tyler Young’s #20 out after 12 laps, then three circuits later T.J. Bell in the Niece #38. Rounding out the Bottom Five was Mike Mittler’s #36 Blue Lives Matter Chevrolet, this week driven by Kevin Donahue. Kevin’s brother Kyle, who again drove Mittler’s flagship #63, has finished ahead of Kevin in his last two starts.
*This marked only the third time a Truck Series last-place finisher fell out because of an oil pump. The other two occasions were April 17, 2004, when Chris Wimmer’s #63 Race Fans for a Cure Ford fell out after 26 laps of the UAW / GM Ohio 250 at Mansfield, and September 13, 2014, when Mike Harmon’s #74 Mike Harmon Racing Chevrolet retired on the opening lap of the Lucas Oil 225 at Chicagoland.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
32) #57-J.J. Yeley / 3 laps / oil pump
31) #87-Joe Nemechek / 3 laps / rear gear
30) #20-Tyler Young / 12 laps / electrical
29) #38-T.J. Bell / 15 laps / electrical
28) #36-Kevin Donahue / 24 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, Norm Benning Racing, TJL Motorsports (1)
2017 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (9)
2017 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP