|PHOTO: LAT Images|
The finish, which came in Green’s 461st series start, was his fourth of the year and first since Pocono, two races ago. He now moves within one finish of tying Jordan Anderson for the 2017 LASTCAR XFINITY Series lead and is just three away from scoring his 100th last-place finish across NASCAR’s top three divisions.
Green was this time one of 41 drivers on the preliminary entry list, a list which shrank by one following the withdrawal of King Autosports’ #92 Chevrolet. The Mario Gosselin-owned team would place Dexter Bean in the team’s primary #90 BuckedUp Apparel Chevrolet for Bean’s first XFINITY start of the season. Not only would all 40 remaining entrants qualify, but they would compete in a race entirely devoid of Cup Series full-timers, as the traditional interlopers were all on the other side of the country racing in Sonoma, California.
Green didn’t participate in Friday’s opening practice session, and according to the time sheets, his RSS Racing teammate Ryan Sieg shook down both his own #39 Ritchie Fresh Water Chevrolet and the #93 in Happy Hour. Sieg put the #39 23rd on the sheet after 28 laps, and the #93 was 32nd after another two circuits. Green climbed back aboard for qualifying, where he timed in 35th – the second spot set on Owner Points – with a lap of 128.012mph. Sieg made Round 2 in qualifying and would roll off 22nd with a lap of 130.651mph.
Starting 40th that night was Mike Harmon in the Veterans Motorsports, Inc. #74 Dodge. Harmon conceded the spot to Green by Lap 7, when the #93 pulled behind the wall with electrical issues. Next to fall off the lead lap was Carl Long, who split practice time with MBM teammate Timmy Hill driving the #13 OCR Gaz Bar Toyota. Long ended up driving the #13 on Saturday, and was three laps behind on the 17th circuit, holding down 39th. Morgan Shepherd pulled his #89 Racing With Jesus Chevrolet behind the wall that same time by. The final results indicate that Long ran two more laps after that, moving him to 38th before he, too, called it a night with brake issues.
37th went to Sam Hornish, Jr., making his first XFINITY start of the year in Penske Racing’s fleet #22 Discount Tire Ford. A chance at another Iowa win went away, however, when he collided with polesitter Christopher Bell’s #20 ToyotaCare Toyota and slammed the outside wall with the driver’s side of his car. 2nd to Bell in Stage 1, Hornish was uninjured, but done for the night. Rounding out the Bottom Five was JD Motorsports’ Harrison Rhodes, who lost the engine after 118 laps in his #01 Schwarze Industries Chevrolet.
At the end of the night, several underdogs had career nights. Top of the list was Ryan Sieg, who found himself 2nd to race leader William Byron for the final 10-lap restart, and made several serious challenges for the lead before he ended up runner-up, 1.140 seconds behind. The finish improved Sieg’s pair of career-best 3rd-place runs, both at Daytona. His previous best at Iowa was a 12th in 2015.
Ross Chastain, who joined Sieg in making his Cup debut earlier this month at Dover, earned the first top-five of his career by finishing 4th in the #4 Georgia Watermelon Association Chevrolet. The finish came in Chastain’s 87th series start, and improved on his previous career-best of 9th in the 2015 Daytona opener. Joining him in the Top 10 was JD Motorsports teammate Garrett Smithley, 10th in the “Number Nuthin” – the #0 Adapt 2k Chevrolet. While not a career-best for Smithley, who ran 8th in this year’s Daytona round, it was his first finish better than 22nd at Iowa.
Dakoda Armstrong finished 5th for the second-straight Iowa race, and this time did it in JGL Racing’s #28 WinField United Toyota – and after being sent to the rear for an unapproved tire change (joining Cole Custer and Elliott Sadler). It was the best finish for James Whitener’s team since 2015 at Talladega, where J.J. Yeley finished 4th.
Prior to Saturday, Jeremy Clements had run no better than 14th in 13 previous Iowa starts. He left Saturday with a 7th-place finish in his #51 RepairableVehicles.com Chevrolet for his first Top 10 of the year, and his first in any XFINITY Series race since last year’s 8th-place finish at Darlington.
Last, but not least, what a story for Tommy Joe Martins. While fighting to develop his team in the XFINITY Series as well as Trucks, Martins returned for his third-straight start in B.J. McLeod’s #78 Chevrolet, bringing with him sponsorship from longtime backer Diamond Gusset Jeans. From 30th on the grid, Martins made his way into the Top 10, running 10th in the final 10-lap sprint. In the end, he came home a career-best 11th, besting his previous series mark of 14th at Talladega back in 2014. It was also another season highlight for team owner McLeod, who earlier this year fielded Jeff Green’s 10th-place car at Talladega.
*Jeff Green has now finished last in seven of the 15 XFINITY Series races held at Iowa.
*This is also the second-consecutive last-place finish for RSS Racing’s #93 Chevrolet in this race. Last year, it was Josh Reaume behind the wheel.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #93-Jeff Green / 6 laps / electrical
39) #89-Morgan Shepherd / 16 laps / vibration
38) #13-Carl Long / 18 laps / brakes
37) #22-Sam Hornish, Jr. / 78 laps / crash
36) #01-Harrison Rhodes / 118 laps / engine
2017 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) RSS Racing (10)
2nd) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Kaulig Racing, Shepherd Racing Ventures, SS Green Light Racing (1)
2017 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (14)
2017 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
I don't know what's worse: Mercedes winning 19 of the 21 F1 races last season, or Jeff Green dominating LASTCAR like this :P
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