Friday, October 20, 2017

Entry List Storylines: Kansas

PHOTO: @StarcomRacing
CUP SERIES
Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas

Cup Series Qualifying will not be a formality this weekend as 41 teams have arrived to attempt the 40-car field for the final race in the Round of 12. The 41st car belongs to StarCom Racing, whose postponed debut at Dover has finally arrived. Cope finished 39th here in the spring for Premium Motorsports, and this week will give car #00 its first Cup Series start since 2011 – if he qualifies on time.

Two Open Teams from Talladega aren’t entered this week: Tommy Baldwin Racing’s #7 and Beard Motorsports’ #75. After running exclusively on the plate tracks in 2017, the Beard team and driver Brendan Gaughan have much to be proud of in their first season, having finished no worse than 26th, scored a season-best of 7th at Daytona, and Gaughan leading his first Cup laps since 2004. In their place are the two teams which skipped Talladega, and have returned as two of the four drivers who will put StarCom Racing to the test in qualifying:

The first is Motorsports Business Management, returning to the track that saw their Cup effort’s debut back in May. Timmy Hill will be behind the wheel of the #66 O.C.R. Gaz Bar Chevrolet following a 33rd-place performance his last time out at Charlotte. He will also run the MBM’s #13 on the XFINITY Series side, where his teammate will be Bobby Dale Earnhardt, who himself will run double-duty between XFINITY and ARCA.

The second is Rick Ware Racing, which did not start a single restrictor-plate race in 2017 after they came up short in the Can-Am Duels in February. The team made the show in Kansas in May, one of 24 starts in 31 races, and Timmy Hill finished 28th, eight laps down. With Hill driving for MBM, Ware's driver has yet to be announced.

Premium Motorsports’ Open team, the #55 Toyota driven to a 33rd-place finish last week with D.J. Kennington, will this week be driven by Gray Gaulding. Gaulding, who earned a career-best 9th-place finish last Sunday with BK Racing, will carry sponsorship from the local Harrah’s North Kansas City casino, which backed one of Premium’s cars in the last two races here. The Chartered #15 Chevrolet, which saw Mark Thompson’s unheralded Cup return last week, will return to Reed Sorenson with sponsorship from Low T Centers.

The final Open team is BK Racing’s #83 Toyota, the team which carried Gaulding to his strong run last Sunday. Rejoining the team this week is Brett Moffitt, who eyes his seventh Cup start of 2017 and his first series race at Kansas since a 32nd-place run for Front Row Motorsports in 2015. Sponsoring Moffitt’s ride is EarthWater, the brand we last saw with the team in June for Alon Day’s series debut at Sonoma. BK’s Chartered #23 Toyota returns to Corey LaJoie, who after a driver change, sat out last week at Talladega.

XFINITY SERIES
Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas

41 teams are also entered for Saturday’s XFINITY race, the second-straight round where at least one car will be sent home after qualifying. Missing from the Charlotte entry list are Penske Racing’s #12 Ford with Sam Hornish, Jr., and King Autosport’s second car, the #92 Chevrolet, with Dexter Bean. Both Obaika Racing’s #77 and GMS Racing’s #96, withdrawn before track activities at Charlotte, are this week not entered at all.

As on the Cup side, the XFINITY Series will also welcome a new team: the #55 March Network Toyota fielded by Jennifer Brown. The team's first driver is to be announced.

Also returning for the first time since last month at Kentucky is Precision Performance Motorsports' #46 beatincancerwithduke.org Chevrolet and driver Quin Houff. Houff’s season-best finish remains his 12th-place run at Iowa, second only to last week’s Truck Series winner Parker Kligerman’s 10th-place showing at Road America. It will be both driver and team’s first XFINITY start at Kansas.

Truck Series owner-driver Jennifer Jo Cobb makes her first XFINITY Series race of the year, this time driving B.J. McLeod’s #78 Mark One Electric Chevrolet. All five of Cobb’s most recent XFINITY Series starts came in this same fall race at Kansas, each one-off start with the same Mark One sponsorship. Her best finish at the track was a 22nd in 2012. It will be Cobb’s first start for McLeod after driving her own equipment and for Rick Ware since mid-2011. McLeod himself will drive his #8 Chevrolet with sponsorship from JW Transport, LLC.

After surviving with a 13th-place finish in last Saturday’s Truck race at Talladega, Spencer Boyd returns to SS-Green Light Racing’s #07 for his fifth XFINITY start of 2017 and his first since a 28th-place run at Chicagoland. Sponsorship will come from GruntStyle.com, just as it has in his other NASCAR starts, including his lone Kansas start in Trucks earlier this year, when he ran 20th for Rick Ware. On Thursday, it was reported that Boyd will drive for SS-Green Light full time in the 2018 XFINITY season, piloting car #76.

News also broke on Thursday that Joey Gase will paet ways with Jimmy Means Racing at the end of this season, closing a partnership that covered seven seasons and yielded Means' first top-five finish as an owner. This week, Gase returns to the scene of his 2nd Cup start at a track where his best XFINITY finish was 19th in 2012.

Following his 76th birthday on October 12, Morgan Shepherd is entered in his #89 Visone RV Chevrolet, looking to make his first start at the track since this same race in 2015, when he ran 35th. His best series finish at the track came in 2008, when he ran 24th.

Two weeks after scoring his 100th XFINITY Series last-place finish, Jeff Green will make his second-straight start in RSS Racing’s #38 Chevrolet. Gray Gaulding, who took over Green’s #93 at RSS at Charlotte, will again drive that car as part of a double-duty weekend. Ryan Sieg will make his fourth XFINITY Series start at Kansas on Saturday, a track which saw him finish 8th in this race two years ago.

TRUCK SERIES
Next Race: Texas Roadhouse 200 at Martinsville
Saturday, October 28, 2017

Thursday, October 19, 2017

4/20/80: Tommy Houston finishes last in rare Cup start at North Wilkesboro

PHOTO: Rubbin's Racin' Forums
On April 20, 1980, Tommy Houston picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Winston Cup Series career in the Northwestern Bank 400 at the North Wilkesboro Speedway when his #95 Carpenter Designs Chevrolet suffered an oil leak after 9 of 400 laps. The finish came in Houston’s third series start.

In 1945, Houston was born just a few miles up the road from the Hickory Motor Speedway, a track that would feature prominently in his racing career. It was there in the 1960s that he competed against his brothers Hal and Ken. In 1967, the same year Hickory was paved and Morgan Shepherd began his own racing career on that same pavement, Houston won his first-ever Hobby Stock Division race.

Four years later, Houston was in the NASCAR Late Model Sportsman Series, modifieds, and the NASCAR Grand National East. His first victories in the former came on consecutive days in April 1974, including when he led flag-to-flag in a 100-lap feature at Hickory. Among those he beat that day were 3rd-place finisher Harry Gant, 5th-place Morgan Shepherd, and Dale Earnhardt, who wound up 8th in the field of ten. Houston continued to excel at NASCAR’s short tracks, but also branched out onto the superspeedways, finishing 29th in his first Daytona start in 1975, then 8th in his return in 1976. That same year, he scored the North Carolina State Championship, and would also claim track titles at both Hickory and New Asheville Speedway. By the close of the decade, Houston followed many of his fellow racers into Winston Cup.

The first Cup owner to hire Houston was Junior Miller, the Winston-Salem native who decades later would score back-to-back titles on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. Campaigning his #95 Chevrolet in Cup, Miller had been driving a handful of races in the southeast since 1976. By the end of the 1979 season, Miller’s best finish was a 14th in his series debut at North Wilkesboro, where his car carried logos for his roofing company. Early in 1980, Miller began to drive for fellow owner-driver Frank Warren, who would later close out a decade in the sport by selling his #79 team to Miller. With Miller’s own #95 now open for the ‘80 season, the opportunity came to put in another driver. He chose Tommy Houston.

The 35-year-old Houston made his Cup debut at Richmond on February 24, 1980, where he once again turned heads on one of NASCAR’s smallest tracks. After qualifying 21st, he took the lead on an early restart and held it for ten laps before Harry Gant passed him. Despite a late spin with Richard Childress, Houston came home 17th, 46 laps down to race winner Darrell Waltrip. A month later at Bristol, Houston improved once more, matching Junior Miller’s career-best 15th in just his second series start. The next month would see his third-consecutive short track start, this time at North Wilkesboro.

Houston qualified 13th in the field of 31, which lined him up next to Slick Johnson on the inside of the seventh row. Unfortunately, his race ended during the opening green-flag run with an oil leak, handing him his first Cup Series last-place finish. Coming home 30th that day was 12th-place starter J.D. McDuffie, who broke a cam on his #70 Bailey Excavating Chevrolet. 29th fell to Tommy Gale, driving for Elmo Langley in the #64 Sunny King Ford & Honda Ford. Rounding out the Bottom Five were Ohio native John Anderson in owner-driver Henley Gray’s #19 Belden Asphalt Chevrolet and veteran Dick Brooks in the #7 Sanyo Chevrolet.

The race was won by Richard Petty, his fourteenth of fifteen checkered flags at North Wilkesboro. Finishing 6th was Dale Earnhardt, driving a blue-and-gold Rod Osterlund-owned #2 Mike Curb / Hodgdon Chevrolet similar to (or identical to) the one given to Dale Earnhardt, Jr. last week at Talladega.

Following a 24th-place finish in the Coca-Cola 600, Houston and Miller parted ways. The driver returned to North Wilkesboro the following spring, this time driving for Roger Hamby, and by the time he returned to the track that fall, he had improved his career-best Cup finish with an 11th. But after that season, Houston would start just two more Cup Series races in his career. His final start – his first in more than three years – became a footnote to the famous 1985 Southern 500 at Darlington. While Bill Elliott took his historic win and the “Winston Million” bonus, Houston ran just 47 laps in his own #32 Chevrolet before he retired with engine trouble.

Instead, Houston would go on to become one of the most successful drivers in NASCAR’s new Budweiser Late Model Sportsman Series, the second-tier series which would become today’s NASCAR XFINITY Series. During the inaugural 1982 season, Houston won the first short track race ever run, taking the checkers at Richmond, and ranked 4th in the series standings. Over the next decade, he would win another 23 races. Three times in 1986 alone, his #6 Southern Biscuit Flour Buick won from the pole, leading 478 of 500 combined laps. His career in what was now the Busch Grand National Series was capped in 1992 by a record eighth win at Hickory, a come-from-behind win that came the weekend his father passed away. Houston’s 417th and final series start ended with a crash at Rockingham on October 19, 1996, then a DNQ in the season finale at Homestead. This stood as the record for most starts in the series until 2007, when Jason Keller started his 418th.

Houston remains active in racing through his family. His sons Marty, Andy, and Scott would all go on to have NASCAR careers of their own. Scott served as his father’s crew chief in the XFINITY Series. Marty drove for Wayne Spears in the Truck Series, earning a career-best finish of 4th at Kentucky in 2000. Andy won three Truck Series races for Mike Addington, and after a difficult Cup Series effort in 2001, Andy became a spotter for Richard Childress Racing, where he now spots for Austin Dillon. Tommy Houston’s niece, Teresa, also has ties to the Childress team – she married Dale Earnhardt in 1982, and remains the CEO of Dale Earnhardt, Inc.

One of Tommy Houston's most recent races outside of XFINITY came in the Truck Series race at Las Vegas on September 24, 1999, where he ran as a teammate to son Andy in a race where Marty was racing for Spears. Marty finished best of the three, coming home 13th with Andy 22nd and Tommy 35th. Today, Tommy still lives in Hickory with his wife Martha of 52 years. He was inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame in 2008 and the Catawba County Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the first last-place finish for car #95 in a Cup Series race since October 2, 1977, when Houston’s car owner Junior Miller in his #95 Miller Roofing Chevrolet quit after five laps of the Wilkes 400 at North Wilkesboro. The number would not finish last in Cup again for nearly twelve years – February 16, 1992 – the engine failure on Bob Schacht’s #95 Shoney’s Oldsmobile (fielded by Sadler Brothers Racing) in the Daytona 500.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
31) #95-Tommy Houston / 9 laps / oil leak
30) #70-J.D. McDuffie / 88 laps / cam
29) #64-Tommy Gale / 115 laps / oil pressure
28) #19-John Anderson / 149 laps / engine
27) #7-Dick Brooks / 153 laps / rear end

SOURCES
*Racing-reference.info
*Southers, Tim. “Where are they now – Tommy Houston,” motorsport.com, January 2, 2017.
*Speed Sport Staff. “Tommy Houston Was Among Greats Out Of Hickory, N.C.,” Speed Sport, August 17, 2010.
*UltimateRacingHistory.com

Sunday, October 15, 2017

CUP: Justin Marks’ off-screen accident leads off Talladega wreckfest

PHOTO: John K Harrelson, NKP
Justin Marks picked up the 1st last-place finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Alabama 500 at the Talladega Superspeedway when his #7 Golden Corral / Katerra Chevrolet fell out with crash damage after 16 of 188 laps. The finish came in Marks’ third series start.

Marks, a sports car driver from California, was no stranger to Talladega. He transitioned into stock cars through the ARCA Racing Series in 2004, and made five starts on the superspeedway with a best finish of 8th in 2007. While more popularly known for his rain-soaked win at Mid-Ohio in the XFINITY Series last year, it’s interesting to note that his second-best finish of that limited schedule was an 11th at Talladega.

Marks’ ride on Sunday was the #7 Chevrolet fielded by Tommy Baldwin Racing (TBR). Baldwin, a race-winning crew chief who has entered Cup cars since 2009, gave Marks his Cup Series debut in 2013, when he drove a GoPro-backed Chevrolet to a 30th-place finish at his home track in Sonoma. Other than a one-off for Front Row Motorsports in 2015 – again at Sonoma, and again a 30th-place finish – this had been Marks’ only Cup Series effort.

After several difficult seasons, Baldwin sold his Charter near the end of 2016 and scaled back to a part-time effort in 2017. Through August, Elliott Sadler and J.J. Yeley shared driving duties for TBR in seven races with a best finish of 17th by Sadler at Talladega in the spring. On September 1, it was announced that Baldwin would join Premium Motorsports as the team’s Competition Director and also return to crew chief duties for their #15 Cup Series program. By the end of the month, Baldwin had sold his remaining assets in his #7 Cup Series team to Premium’s owner Jay Robinson.

At the time of the TBR sale to Premium, Baldwin had two races remaining on its 2017 schedule: Talladega, which was originally going to see J.J. Yeley drive once more, and a one-off by Hermie Sadler at Martinsville. By Thursday, Yeley was replaced by Marks, whose XFINITY sponsor Katerra would join the Golden Corral-backed run at Talladega.

With exactly 40 drivers at Talladega for 40 spots, TBR’s lack of a Charter didn’t come into play, allowing driver and team to focus on race setup. The car ran 37th in Friday’s opening practice with his best of 12 laps clocking in at 185.722mph, just over 3 seconds off the pace of session leader Brad Keselowski. Marks joined the remaining Open Teams in skipping Happy Hour and grabbed 31st in qualifying with a lap of 187.384mph, fastest of all Open Teams by a full half-second over Beard Motorsports’ #75 Chevrolet with Brendan Gaughan.

Starting last on Sunday was Canadian star D.J. Kennington, back in NASCAR for the first time since a one-off Truck Series effort in Mosport. Kennington had rejoined Premium Motorsports for the first time since a disastrous engine failure at Daytona in July, and this time welcomed sponsorship from Dirt and Rock on his #55 Toyota. Like Norm Benning the day before, Kennington was handed a redundant unapproved adjustments penalty that kept him in the rear along with the penalized Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch along with Mark Thompson, Kennington’s teammate.

Unable to turn a lap in practice, Thompson’s first timed circuit came in qualifying, where he outpaced four other drivers to line up 36th. With that run, the 65-year-old driver made history. Sunday’s race was the first Cup Series event he had entered since the 1994 Daytona 500, where his car was withdrawn following a serious crash in the ARCA 200. His timed lap was his first qualifying effort since July 1993, when he missed the cut for the Pepsi 400 at Daytona. And, with exactly 40 cars for 40 spots, Thompson was assured to make his first Cup start since June 14, 1992 at Pocono, when he drove for Henley Gray.

When the race started, Thompson lost touch with the draft, and by Lap 2, was already three seconds behind Kennington and the rest of the field. On Lap 15, as officials alerted him that the leaders were closing, a first round of pit stops by the Ford teams shuffled the order, dropping Aric Almirola to the rear in his #43 Smithfield Ford.

It was around this time that Marks, running at the back of a second smaller pack behind the leaders, smacked the outside wall. Marks made it to pit road on Lap 17 without drawing a yellow, and the crew made repairs to the right side of the machine. As Thompson slipped by to 39th on the track, it was Marks who instead became the first to lose a lap. Inside two minutes on the “Crash Clock,” Marks returned to the track, only to pit again on Lap 19, this time complaining of a battery issue. Marks again made it out before time expired on Lap 23, but a vibration forced him to complete just one more circuit. After limping around on the apron, he pulled behind the wall, where the car was soon retired.

Seconds later, Thompson’s day ended when the Chevrolet teams attempted their own green-flag stops as a group on Lap 26. A slowing Jamie McMurray was rear-ended by Erik Jones at pit entrance, steering McMurray’s #1 Cessna Chevrolet into the path of Jeffrey Earnhardt’s 333 Hulu Chevrolet. As Thompson neared the scene, he turned to the right, nearly clearing McMurray’s car. But instead, the two made contact, steering Thompson into the outside wall. All four cars involved, including Jones, who caved in the nose of his #77 5-hour Energy Extra Strength Toyota, were eliminated in the wreck, filling out the Bottom Five.

Among the headlines at the front of the field was rookie driver Gray Gaulding, who in the current LASTCAR standings leads all drivers without last-place finishes in both Bottom Fives (8) and Bottom Tens (17). On Sunday, Gaulding bested his career-best finish of 20th at Talladega in the spring with an 8th in the #83 Dustless Blasting Toyota. It was just the third top-ten finish for BK Racing, and came despite heavy damage suffered in one of the many late-race accidents.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the first last-place finish for car #7 in a Cup Series race since July 26, 2015, when Alex Bowman lost the engine after 78 laps of the Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at Indianapolis. It’s also the first for the number at Talladega since May 10, 1997, when Geoffrey Bodine’s #7 QVC Ford lost the engine after 78 laps of the Winston 500.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #7-Justin Marks / 16 laps / crash
39) #15-Mark Thompson / 25 laps / crash
38) #33-Jeffrey Earnhardt / 25 laps / crash
37) #1-Jamie McMurray / 25 laps / crash
36) #77-Erik Jones / 26 laps / crash

2017 LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Circle Sport with The Motorsports Group (5)
2nd) Rick Ware Racing (4)
3rd) BK Racing (3)
4th) Hendrick Motorsports, Furniture Row Racing, Premium Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing, Roush-Fenway Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (2)
5th) Chip Ganassi Racing, Front Row Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, JTG-Daugherty Racing, Motorsports Business Management, Richard Petty Motorsports, Tommy Baldwin Racing (1)

2017 LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (17)
2nd) Toyota (8)
3rd) Ford (6)

2017 LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP

TRUCKS: Norm Benning extends record no-lap streak to five straight races

PHOTO: Jared C. Tilton, Getty Images North America
Norm Benning picked up the 11th last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Saturday’s Fred’s 250 Powered by Coca-Cola at the Talladega Superspeedway when his #6 H & H Transport Chevrolet fell out with engine trouble without completing any of the 95 laps.

The finish, which came in Benning’s 180th series start, was his second of the season, his first since Kentucky, nine races ago. The finish put Benning into a three-way tie for the third-most last-place runs in series history, tying 1999 LASTCAR Truck Champion Phil Bonifeld and two-time title winner Mike Garvey. There have now been five consecutive Truck Series races where the last-place finisher failed to complete a single lap, a new NASCAR record.

After missing the first three races of 2017, Benning has made every race since, and has also entered a second truck, the #57, in several races to fill out short fields. In that time, Benning’s best finish of the year came at Eldora, where he rebounded from a DNQ in 2016 to finish a strong 13th. For Talladega, Benning would not enter his team truck, the #57, and only field his primary #6. For the first time since Chicagoland, the #6 would also carry associate sponsorship as Woodstock, Georgia’s H & H Trucking would have its logos on the rear quarter-panels.

Benning ran slowest of the 29 drivers who completed at least one lap in Friday’s opening practice. His best lap of 167.968mph was more than seven full seconds off the pace of session leader Cody Coughlin. He found some speed in Happy Hour, ranking 21st of 26 with a lap of 175.298mph. But in qualifying, he was the only driver who failed to turn a lap, and would start 31st on the grid. He was still guaranteed a starting spot in the field, a grid which was reduced from a full 32 after Mike Affarano withdrew his #03 Calumet City Auto Parts / Stop Bullying Chevrolet on Friday.

On Saturday, Benning, along with Josh Reaume in Beaver Motorsports’ #50 Ever-Fi Chevrolet, was sent to the rear for the start for unapproved adjustments. Both were joined by Kaz Grala, who one lap before the green fell back from 12th on the grid due to an engine change. By that point, Benning was not on the track, citing engine trouble. Another truck, Joe Nemechek in his #87 D.A.B. Constructors Chevrolet, surrendered 21st on the grid to line up next to Reaume in the back, one row behind Grala.

When the field took the green, Nemechek lost touch with the pack as the field accelerated, then pulled in after two laps to take home 31st. Presiding over his son John Hunter Nemechek’s team, the NEMCO Motorsports crew recovered from a mid-race accident to come home 6th – just enough to make the next round of the Playoffs. Grala was next to fall out, eliminated in the day’s first multi-truck accident on Lap 19, and lost his own spot in the Playoffs as a result.

Rounding out the Bottom Five were Ryan Truex, whose #16 Bass Pro Shops / Tracker Boats Toyota was gobbled-up in the Grala accident, and Regan Smith, whose #92 BTS Tire & Wheel / Advance Auto Parts Ford was eliminated in the Turn 3 wreck that damaged John Hunter Nemechek’s Chevrolet.

Saturday’s race went to Parker Kligerman, his second Truck Series victory and his first since this same Talladega round in 2012. This time around, Kligerman drove for longtime car owner Charlie Henderson, whose team was featured on this site earlier this year at Eldora. Though active in NASCAR’s top three series since 1982, this was only the team’s 41st Truck Series start, and marked Henderson’s first NASCAR victory since June 3, 1989.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked Benning’s first Truck Series last-place finish at Talladega and his first on a plate track since the 2011 opener at Daytona. It was also the first Talladega last-place finish for the #6 in Truck Series history.
*Benning joins Mike Harmon, whose engine let go in 2014, as the only two drivers to fail to complete a lap of a Truck Series race at Talladega. Harmon himself finished 20th on Saturday in TJL Racing’s #1 Chevrolet.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
31) #6-Norm Benning / 0 laps / engine
30) #87-Joe Nemechek / 2 laps / vibration
29) #33-Kaz Grala / 18 laps / crash
28) #16-Ryan Truex / 19 laps / crash
27) #92-Regan Smith / 53 laps / crash

2017 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Norm Benning Racing (5)
2nd) Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing (4)
3rd) Copp Motorsports (3)
4th) NEMCO Motorsports (2)
5th) Halmar Friesen Racing, Henderson Motorsports, MB Motorsports, MDM Motorsports, TJL Motorsports (1)

2017 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (19)

2017 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP

Friday, October 13, 2017

Entry List Storylines: Talladega

Mark Thompson drove a Henley Gray-owned car
similar to this in his lone Cup start in 1992.
PHOTO: Trading Card Database
CUP SERIES
Alabama 500 at Talladega

For just the second time this year, and the first time since May, there will be three consecutive 40-car fields in NASCAR’s elite division. Missing from Charlotte are the #51 Chevrolet of Rick Ware Racing, which has been 0-for-3 on starting plate races in 2017, and Motorsports Business Management, which is reportedly finishing a second Cup car to enter alongside the #66 at Martinsville.

Replacing the #66 and #51 this week are two returning teams:

The first returning team is Beard Motorsports, which has run exclusively on the plate tracks. XFINITY Series regular Brendan Gaughan once again climbs behind the wheel of a #75 Beard Oil Chevrolet that has impressed this season. Gaughan began the year with an 11th-place run in the Daytona 500, recovered from front valence damage at the start at Talladega to finish 26th, and ran a season-best 7th in July’s return to Florida. Gaughan’s best Cup finish – and lone Top 5 in the series – came in this very race in 2004, when he ran 4th for Doug Bawel.

For the first time since Premium Motorsports acquired all the assets of Tommy Baldwin Racing in September, Baldwin's #7 Golden Corral / Katerra Chevrolet will enter a Cup Series race with Justin Marks behind the wheel. The 2016 Mid-Ohio winner in the XFINITY Series returns to the #7 for the first time since his Cup debut at Sonoma in 2013, when he finished 30th, and makes his first Cup start since the 2015 Sonoma race, where he ran 30th again for Front Row Motorsports. Marks has made five Talladega starts in ARCA with a best finish of 8th in 2007, and ran 11th there for Chip Ganassi Racing last year. Premium is expected to field the #7 again at Martinsville in two weeks with Hermie Sadler driving and sponsorship from the Virginia Lottery.

Premium Motorsports' original two cars have perhaps the most interesting lineup for Sunday’s race:

D.J. Kennington makes his first Cup start since the Coke Zero 400 in July. It’s been a rough season for the Canadian, who raced his way into the Daytona 500 only to be involved in a multi-car crash, was the only driver to DNQ at Talladega, and blew an engine in July. This week, he drives Premium’s #55 instead of the #15 in July, carrying sponsorship from Dirt and Rock. Kennington will also run double-duty this weekend, making his first Truck Series start since Mosport, this time in Premium's #15 Loser's Bar and Grill Chevrolet.

Driving the primary Premium car, the #15 Chevrolet, will be 65-year-old Mark Thompson. A veteran of the ARCA Racing Series, where he’s run chiefly on the superspeedways for more than two decades, Thompson eyes his first Cup start since June 14, 1992, when he finished next-to-last ahead of Andy Belmont at Pocono. That race, more than 25 years ago, marked Alan Kulwicki’s fifth and final Cup win. Just as in 1992, when he drove for Henley Gray, and this year, when he made two XFINITY starts for Motorsports Business Management, Thompson will carry sponsorship from Phoenix Air. According to racing-reference.info writer nascarman, Thompson’s return is not the longest gap between Cup starts. The record remains with Jimmy Ingram, 28 years from the 1952 Southern 500 to his return at Dover in 1980.

Joey Gase also returns to the Cup Series for his sixth start of the season and his first since Bristol in August. As at Bristol, he will drive the #23 for BK Racing, this time with the Dr. Pepper colors and, in conjunction with his cause for the Donate Life, the name of organ donor Jerred Bowles on the TV panel. Gase ran for Premium Motorsports at Talladega this past spring, where he finished a career-best 21st. His drafting partner in the #83 Dustless Blasting Toyota was slated to be Corey LaJoie, but the driver indicated on Tuesday he would not be racing. Taking his place will be Gray Gaulding, who ran 20th in the spring.

Both BK Racing and Premium Motorsports will be ones to watch at the start of Sunday’s race. Back in May, both Premium’s #55 and BK’s #83 pulled into the garage area on the opening lap to switch over from qualifying to race setup, including a change of fluids, which cost each eight laps. This strategy may have been used since both cars were in a “go-or-go-home” situation in qualifying against D.J. Kennington’s Gaunt Brothers Racing #96. So long as another car isn’t entered, such a strategy may not be necessary.

A broken hub at Charlotte left Cole Whitt 34th at the finish, 42 laps down, marking TriStar Motorsports’ fifth-straight finish of 30th or worse. A restrictor-plate race, and the chance for a better finish, could not have come at a better time. Other than an early engine failure at Daytona in July, the #72 Chevrolet has been fast on the superspeedways. Whitt came close to his first Top 10 in the Daytona 500 before he ran out of fuel on the final lap, but still finished 18th, a run improved by a 16th at Talladega in May. TriStar’s best Cup finish at Talladega remains a 6th by Greg Sacks on July 25, 1993.

Go FAS Racing will also be a single-car team to watch as Matt DiBenedetto looks to follow-up his 9th-place run the Daytona 500, 18th at Talladega, and 13th in the Coke Zero 400. DiBenedetto also scored a 23rd-place finish last week in Charlotte, ending a streak of four consecutive 31st-place runs with his best finish since he ran 8th at Indianapolis.

Also, don’t overlook Leavine Family Racing, whose driver Michael McDowell has another golden opportunity for a strong run before Kasey Kahne takes over the #95 in 2018. McDowell’s plate finishes in 2017 were a 15th in the Daytona 500, 34th after a crash at Talladega, and a season-best 4th in the Coke Zero 400. A spin at Charlotte ruined a strong start to the weekend where he lined up 16th on the grid, handing him his fourth-straight finish of 23rd or worse. In this race last year, McDowell finished 16th, his second-best finish at the track behind a 13th for Phil Parsons Racing in 2013.

TRUCK SERIES
Fred’s 250 Powered by Coca-Cola at Talladega

For the first time since Chicago, three rounds ago, there will be a full field of 32 trucks in Saturday’s Truck Series race. It will be the 13th full field in 19 races run in 2017. Missing from the Las Vegas entry list are three LASTCAR contenders: Jennifer Jo Cobb’s #0 Chevrolet (driven by Matt Mills; Cobb herself drives the #10 on Saturday), Al Niece’s #38 Chevrolet (whose driver T.J. Bell returns this week to Niece’s #45), and Norm Benning’s #57 Chevrolet (driven by Mike Senica), plus Tommy Joe Martins’ #44 Chevrolet with driver Austin Wayne Self.

Replacing these four teams are seven others who were missing from the Las Vegas field:

Welcome back Mike Affarano, who we haven’t seen in a Truck Series field since he ran 30th at Iowa on June 19, 2015. Then as now, Affarano fields his own truck, the #03 Calumet City Auto Parts / Stop Bullying Chevrolet, which was originally slated to return last month at Chicagoland. Affarano has one Truck start at Talladega to his credit, having run 24th in 2014, and also ran 29th in his ARCA debut here in 2012.

Chris Fontaine returns to attempt his first Truck Series start of 2017 following a DNQ at Daytona. As in February, the plate racing Fontaine drives his own #47 Chevrolet with returning sponsorship from Glenden Enterprises. Fontaine has a pair of Top 10s in his seven Talladega starts: a 7th in 2014 and an 8th in 2015. He ran 23rd here last year.

Bolen Motorsports is back in the show for the first time since Mosport in September. This week’s driver of the #66 Chevrolet is 19-year-old Michigan driver Vinnie Miller, who last month made his XFINITY Series debut for JD Motorsports at Chicagoland, finishing 29th. Saturday will mark Miller’s first superspeedway start.

Clay Greenfield is back for the first time since the night race at Bristol, prepared to make his fourth start of 2017 in the #68 Titan Paint Sprayers Chevrolet. Greenfield has four Truck starts at Talladega, the best of which a 13th in 2013 when his team entered the only RAM in the field.

Premium Motorsports enters its second truck, the #15 Chevrolet, for the third time this year and the first time since Loudon. In place of Gray Gaulding and the originally-listed Reed Sorenson will be the aforementioned D.J. Kennington. Wendell Chavous remains his teammate in the full-time #49 Vydox Plus Chevrolet.

Also back in the show are NASCAR journeymen Parker Kligerman and Regan Smith. Kligerman, the 2012 race winner, makes his seventh Truck start of the season, his first since an 8th at Mosport, and will again drive Charlie Henderson’s #75 Food Country USA / Lopez Wealth Management / Tide Pods Toyota.

Regan Smith, a 2013 XFINITY winner at Talladega (and technically the 2008 Cup winner), makes his tenth Truck start of 2017 in Ricky Benton’s #92 Ford with five listed sponsors: BTS Tire & Wheel, Commercial Tire & Service, Advance Auto Parts, CarQuest, and Valvoline. It will be Smith’s first Truck star at Talladega in a decade, dating back to his 9th-place run for Bobby Ginn in 2007. Smith’s best Truck finish of 2017 came at the Daytona opener, where he finished 6th.

Mike Harmon looks to make his fourth Truck Series start of 2017 and his first since Chicagoland, where he ran 27th in his own #74 Chevrolet. This time, he is slated to run in place of Jordan Anderson in TJL Motorsports’ #1 Chevrolet, a truck he hasn’t run since a 27th-place finish at Atlanta. Harmon’s best series finish in four Talladega starts was a 22nd in 2013.

Driving MB Motorsports’ #63 Chevrolet is ARCA superspeedway veteran Bobby Gerhart, who hasn’t run a Truck Series race since this year’s Daytona opener, where he finished 21st. Gerhart has finished no worse than 17th in his two Truck starts at Talladega with a 12th in 2015 and a 17th just last year.

At the back of the field, with neither Tommy Regan nor Mike Senica in the field,  LASTCAR Truck Series title looks one-sided. Current leader Todd Peck was originally listed in the #83 Chevrolet for Copp Motorsports, but will be replaced by Spencer Boyd and sponsorship from Grunt Style. Now one finish behind Peck, but still ahead on both Bottom Fives and Bottom Tens, Joe Nemechek could close the gap with a finish on Saturday as he enters his own #87 D.A.B. Constructors Chevrolet.

Nemechek’s most recent last-place run at Bristol marked the last time the last-place finisher completed any laps. That night has since been followed by a NASCAR record four-straight races where the LASTCAR headliner failed to complete a single lap.

UPDATE (Friday): Mike Affarano has withdrawn the #03, Austin Wayne Self drives the #45 in place of T.J. Bell.

XFINITY SERIES
Next Race: Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas
Saturday, October 21, 2017

Thursday, October 12, 2017

8/6/72: Robert “Paddlefoot” Wales trails final Cup start at Talladega

PHOTO: Robert Wales Collection
On August 6, 1972, Robert "Paddlefoot" Wales picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Winston Cup Series career in the Talladega 500 at the Alabama International Motor Speedway when his #63 1970 Dodge fell out with engine problems after 1 of 188 laps. The finish came in Wales’ second series start.

A lesser-known, but no less important member of “The Alabama Gang,” Wales was born in Pleasant Grove, barely four miles north-east of the Allison family’s hometown of Hueytown. He began racing on dirt in 1959, cutting his teeth on the clay oval in Birmingham.

One of Wales’ early racers was car #14, towed to the track behind a pickup painted the same shade of navy and gold. Another was a Chevelle owned by Roy Counce which he raced at the Nashville Fairgrounds, matched against such future NASCAR drivers as Jimmy Means, Neil Bonnett, and Darrell Waltrip. Our research found these to be two of many other cars Wales raced over two decades. Wales also carried a number of local sponsors on his cars, including Guaranty Pest Control, Patrick’s Auto Service, Dave Kornegay’s Western Auto, John & Betty’s Drive-In, Glenn’s Uniform Sales, and Benward Construction.

In 1969, a crash at Huntsville nearly ended his career, sending him to the hospital for brain surgery. But just a few months later on February 21, 1970, Wales made his first NASCAR start at Daytona in the Late Model Sportsman Series (now XFINITY Series). Driving a 1966 Chevelle, Wales started 31st in the 40-car field and finished 28th. Two months later came a win at the Montgomery International Speedway, a modified race where he beat Bobby Allison, Neil Bonnett, and Tony Bettenhausen, Jr. He would return to Daytona in 1971 to finish 17th, and finished in the same spot the following year.

The 1972 Daytona finish came while driving a #63 Dodge, which may have belonged to fellow Alabama native Charlie Roberts. While the owner information is incomplete for that year’s running of the Permatex 300, it was Roberts who fielded a #63 Dodge for Wales to run at Talladega that May. Carrying hometown sponsorship from Pleasant Grove Union, Wales qualified 34th for the 50-car field, outpacing Roberts, who lined up 45th in a newer 1971 Ford. Among the nine drivers who failed to qualify for that race were NASCAR Hall of Fame members Wendell Scott and Richard Childress. While Roberts climbed to 43rd before engine trouble, an oil leak left Wales 48th at the finish, ahead of only Bill Ward and the disqualified Marty Robbins.

The race that’s the subject of this article was Wales’ return to Talladega that summer, where he again drove Roberts’ #63 Dodge. This time, Wales started 45th of 50 drivers, again beating Roberts, who this time around started last. At the end of the first lap, as Buddy Baker battled Bobby Allison for the lead, three drivers lost their engines: 24th-place starter Neil Castles (LINK) in his #06 1972 Plymouth, Roy Mayne in his #65 1972 Chevrolet, and Wales. Wales was ranked last of the three. Ahead of them in 47th was Michigan owner-driver Bill Shirey, running his final season in his #74 1970 Plymouth, and a 31-year-old Dave Marcis in his #2 1972 Dodge. The entire Bottom Five was filled in the first nine laps.

The race was won by James Hylton, the second and final of his long career. Car #48 wouldn’t win another Cup Series race until Jimmie Johnson’s first checkered flag at Fontana three decades later.

Wales never made another Cup Series start, though he would continue to run in NASCAR Late Model Sportsman and ARCA Racing Series competition for the next five years. His best recorded finish in professional stock car racing came in his last run at the Permatex 300 on February 19, 1977, when he rallied from 21st on the grid to finish 10th, besting among future XFINITY Series stars Jack Ingram, L.D. Ottinger, and Morgan Shepherd, as well as fellow “Alabama Gang” legend Red Farmer.

During this time, Wales returned home to work at a U.S. Steel plant, but remained active in other forms of racing. By 1986, he’d transitioned into racing hydroplanes, taking the state championship that year. The next season, he drove in the All Pro Modified ranks, winning seven of nine races and setting four track records, including a lap at Birmingham of 20.92 seconds. “That's when I quit for good,” said Wales, “while I had a chance to do it while I was on top.”

In 2007, Wales was inducted into the Alabama Auto Racing Pioneers Hall of Fame, where he then served as president in 2011. He’s also been active sharing his story online, where a collection of rare photos from his career can be found here as well as video on YouTube of him racing a yellow car #33 at Birmingham. He can be found on Facebook at this page.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the first last-place finish for car #63 in a Cup Series race since September 7, 1962, when Glenn Killian’s 1961 Mercury broke the driveshaft after 3 laps of the Buddy Shuman 250 at Hickory. It remains the only last-place run for the number at Talladega.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
50) #63-Robert Wales / 1 lap / engine
49) #65-Roy Mayne / 1 lap / engine
48) #06-Neil Castles / 1 lap / engine
47) #74-Bill Shirey / 5 laps / ignition
46) #2-Dave Marcis / 9 laps / engine

SOURCES
*Demmons, Doug. “Robert ‘Paddlefoot’ Wales and Bill Hamner inducted into Alabama Auto Racing Pioneers Hall of Fame,” AL.com, December 16, 2007.
*DirtFans.com
*Motorsportsdirectory.com
*Robert “Paddlefoot” Wales Collection on Fotki
*RacersReunion.com: May 7, 1972: Pearson Begins His Talladega Triad (by user @tmc-chase)
*Racing-reference.info

Sunday, October 8, 2017

XFINITY: Jeff Green the first NASCAR driver with 100 last-place finishes in a single series

PHOTO: NASCAR.com, Screencap by Timecard100
Jeff Green picked up the 100th last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Drive for the Cure 300 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway when his unsponsored #38 RSS Racing Chevrolet fell out with steering problems after 2 of 200 laps.

The finish, which came in Green’s 476th series start, was his eleventh of the season, his third in a row. He is the first driver in NASCAR history to score 100 last-place runs in any one of the top three national touring series. As of this writing, Green has finished last at least once on each track on the current NASCAR XFINITY Series schedule except Michigan (16 starts) and Darlington (24 starts).

T-SHIRTS NOW AVAILABLE!
Get your official #LAST100 Jeff Green merchandise at RedBubble! Choose from the #38 that trailed on Saturday or the #93 that we gave to Green at Darlington. Profits from all shirt sales will go to RSS Racing.

All profits of sales of #LAST100 shirts
will go to RSS Racing.
Green’s weekend began with a last-minute strategy change at RSS Racing. Last week at Dover, RSS debuted a second “start-and-park” entry, the #38 Chevrolet. Gray Gaulding started last in the car and was on pit road when Green collided with Brandon Jones in Turn 4. Gaulding returned to the track to complete 31 laps before finishing 34th, dropping Green to his 99th last-place finish. The #38 was once again entered at Charlotte, but without a driver listed. Green was entered in the #93 for his first chance at reaching 100 last-place runs.

By Friday, RSS Racing changed its driver lineup: Green moved to the #38 while Gray Gaulding would drive the #93. The reason behind this may have been the threat of rain as Tropical Depression Nate crossed into the western Carolinas. If rain canceled qualifying while Gaulding was in the #38, the team would have been sent home because the #38 had just one start on the season, fewest of the 41 teams entered (following Friday’s withdrawal of Obaika Racing’s #77). By putting Green in the #38, the car would be guaranteed a starting spot based on Green’s Past Champion’s Provisional while the #93 would make it in on attempts: 26 versus King Autosport’s #92, second-fewest behind the #38 with four.

Rain did, in fact, cancel qualifying, so Green (32nd) and Gaulding (38th) made the field while Dexter Bean in the #92 became the lone DNQ. Green, who didn’t participate in Friday’s opening practice, ranked 30th of 41 in Happy Hour with a lap of 174.678 to session leader Sam Hornish, Jr.’s lap of 182.420mph.

When more rain pushed the race into Saturday night, starting last in the field was Reed Sorenson in JD Motorsports’ “start-and-park” #15 Chevrolet. It marked the first time in recent memory that team owner Johnny Davis entered a car that wasn’t bright red – Sorenson’s #15 was white with yellow numbers on the doors and roof. During the pace laps, Green dropped from 32nd back to 38th, running on the outside of the 19th row. Sorenson retained last as the field took the green, but the #38 dropped to the back at the end of the first lap, then came to the garage area under green. Gaulding followed one lap later. Both cars were listed as “off” by NBCSN until four laps to go in Stage 1, when both were listed officially “out” – the moment Green secured his 100th last-place finish.

Finishing 38th on Saturday was Morgan Shepherd, who lost laps with an early unscheduled stop, then slowed on the backstretch as he retired with handling issues. Sorenson’s white #15 fell out next, slowing in Turn 1, citing electrical issues. Rounding out the Bottom Five was Angela Ruch, who drew the first two cautions after a pair of near-identical spins into the outside wall.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the first last-place finish for car #38 in an XFINITY Series race since November 4, 2006, when the late Jason Leffler trailed the O’Reilly Challenge due to engine troubles after 55 laps on his #38 Great Clips Toyota.
*Saturday marked just the second time in XFINITY Series history where the last-place finisher fell out with steering issues. The only other occasion came on September 17, 1988, when Kenny Burks’ #02 Williams & Burks Buick fell out after 52 laps of the Grand National 200 at Dover.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #38-Jeff Green / 2 laps / steering
39) #93-Gray Gaulding / 3 laps / electrical
38) #89-Morgan Shepherd / 13 laps / handling
37) #15-Reed Sorenson / 15 laps / electrical
36) #78-Angela Ruch / 36 laps / crash

2017 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) RSS Racing (17)
2nd) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Shepherd Racing Ventures (2)
3rd) Chip Ganassi Racing, JD Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Kaulig Racing, King Autosport, Motorsports Business Management, Richard Childress Racing, SS Green Light Racing (1)

2017 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (27)
2nd) Dodge, Toyota (1)

2017 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP

CUP: Fiery wreck marks Ryan Newman’s first last-place finish at Charlotte since 2001

PHOTO: Rubbin's Racin' Forums
Ryan Newman picked up the 10th last-place finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Bank of America 500 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway when his #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet was involved in a multi-car accident after 43 of 337 laps.

The finish, which came in Newman’s 578th series start, was his second of the season and first since Kansas, 19 races ago.

Following the last-place run at Kansas, Newman earned a number of strong runs without a single DNF. He finished no worse than 15th in the next six races, including a 4th at Dover and a 5th at Daytona in July. He survived the crash-plagued Brickyard 400 to come home 3rd, then entered the Playoffs with a streak of four consecutive finishes of 7th or better, capped by another 3rd-place finish in the cutoff round at Richmond.

The Phoenix win lifted Newman further from 16th to 11th in the standings, but a 23rd-place run in the Chicagoland opener dropped him to last in the Playoffs. Over the next two races, Newman fought his way to within two points of Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. for the final transfer spot, trying to stay on the lead lap ahead of leaders Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch. Busch passed Elliott with two laps to go and dispensed with Newman in the final corner. Those two points kept Newman from the Round of 12, sent home along with Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne, and Childress teammate Austin Dillon.

Newman started the weekend strong, running second-fastest in Friday’s opening practice to Kyle Larson with a best lap of 191.442mph. He then made the final round of qualifying, securing 11th with a lap of 189.813mph. With Happy Hour washed out, Newman lined up inside Row 6 alongside the #10 Warriors In Pink Ford of Danica Patrick.

Starting last on Sunday was the #83 Champion Machinery Toyota of Brett Moffitt. Moffitt, along with Erik Jones and BK Racing teammate Corey LaJoie, were the only drivers who failed to turn a lap in qualifying. In fact, both Moffitt and LaJoie didn’t turn a lap in practice, raising a rules issue as to whether either car would be allowed to start. In the end, NASCAR allowed both cars to take the green, citing that BK had presented both cars for inspection and had fired their engines in the garage.

Moffitt held last at the start, followed by LaJoie on Lap 1, then on Lap 2 the spot fell to Jeffrey Earnhardt. Circle Sport with The Motorsports Group welcomed a new partner on the green #33 Hulu Chevrolet this week with “Dynamic: The Original Self-Loading Wheel Lift” on the lower edge of the rear quarter-panels. Earnhardt was the first driver to lose a lap, which came on the 16th circuit. He held the spot through the first round of pit stops under the Lap 35 competition caution, when Timmy Hill and Gray Gaulding traded the spot. Gaulding, back in Premium Motorsports’ #55 Low T Centers Toyota, held last on the restart.

The event which threw Newman into the picture occurred on Lap 44. Coming off Turn 2, Newman crossed the nose of Clint Bowyer’s #14 Haas Automation Ford running to his outside, stuffing Bowyer into the wall. The contact sent Newman, just ahead of Bowyer at the time, hard into the outside wall with the nose of the car. Both cars careened down the track but managed to keep going. While Bowyer made it to pit road, Newman’s car caught fire under the hood, forcing him to abandon the car on the apron. Newman climbed out without injury and the car was quickly extinguished, but done for the day under the “Crash Clock.” He’d fallen to last under that same caution. Bowyer managed to finish 27th.

Finishing 39th was Moffitt, also eliminated under the “Crash Clock” when he incurred a penalty while the crew was attempting repairs on pit road. Both Gray Gaulding, who came to pit road with a fire behind the right-front tire, and Cole Whitt, who went to the garage for a broken hub on the #72 TriStar Motorsports Chevrolet, stayed in the Bottom Five for much of the race, but both returned to the track. Whitt climbed to 34th while Gaulding ended up 36th. Between Gaulding and Moffitt were David Ragan and Danica Patrick, who collided after Ragan’s #38 TheHouse.com Ford spun in Turn 2 on Lap 266.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This was Richard Childress Racing’s first Cup Series last-place run at Charlotte since October 8, 1989, when Dale Earnhardt’s #3 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet broke the camshaft after 13 laps of the All Pro Auto Parts 500. That race was Earnhardt’s second of five career Cup last-place runs, his first since 1982, and his first for Childress.
*This marked the first last-place finish for car #31 in a Cup Series race at Charlotte since October 11, 1992, when Bobby Hillin, Jr.’s #31 Bryant Chevrolet was disqualified from the Mello Yello 500. For more on that story, the last time a Cup Series driver was disqualified, read our feature from last year at this link.
*This was also Newman’s first last-place finish at Charlotte since May 27, 2001. Making his third start at the time, Newman won the pole for the Coca-Cola 600, less than a week after he lost the engine while leading the Winston Open. Newman led the opening 10 laps, then crashed from the lead in Turn 4.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #31-Ryan Newman / 43 laps / crash
39) #83-Brett Moffitt / 89 laps / crash
38) #10-Danica Patrick / 263 laps / crash
37) #38-David Ragan / 263 laps / crash
36) #55-Gray Gaulding / 267 laps / running

2017 LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Circle Sport with The Motorsports Group (5)
2nd) Rick Ware Racing (4)
3rd) BK Racing (3)
4th) Hendrick Motorsports, Furniture Row Racing, Premium Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing, Roush-Fenway Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (2)
5th) Chip Ganassi Racing, Front Row Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, JTG-Daugherty Racing, Motorsports Business Management, Richard Petty Motorsports (1)

2017 LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (16)
2nd) Toyota (8)
3rd) Ford (6)

2017 LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP

Friday, October 6, 2017

Entry List Storylines: Charlotte

PHOTO: Brock Beard
CUP SERIES
Bank of America 500 at Charlotte

For the 13th time in 30 races, there are exactly 40 drivers entered in Sunday’s race, marking the first time since Bristol and Darlington that the series will have two consecutive full fields. These will be the same 40 teams from Dover as Derrike Cope’s StarCom Racing #00 is not entered.

Following a last-place finish for electrical woes at Dover, Motorsports Business Management will make two consecutive Cup races for the first time in 2017. Following a 17th-place finish by Carl Long in the Monster Energy Open, the team had originally planned on running the Coca-Cola 600, but withdrew. Timmy Hill is slated to drive on Sunday and will run double-duty for MBM in XFINITY alongside Chad Finchum.

Gray Gaulding rejoins Premium Motorsports’ Cup effort for the first time since Loudon with returning sponsor Low T Centers backing his #55 Toyota. Gaulding finished 27th at Charlotte in the spring while driving for BK Racing. Gaulding’s return moves Reed Sorenson back to Premium’s #15 Exchange of America Toyota. Sorenson finished 30th with that team in the Coca-Cola 600. Both drivers will look for a solid finish after both Premium’s cars had mechanical issues at Dover.

BK Racing has retained its Dover lineup with Corey LaJoie in the #23 Dr. Pepper Toyota and Brett Moffitt in the #83 Champion Machinery Toyota. LaJoie turned heads last Saturday in XFINITY when he challenged for a Top 10 before an ill-timed penalty left him 15th. This will be Moffitt’s first Cup start at Charlotte since 2015, when he finished a track-best 30th for Front Row Motorsports. LaJoie finished 32nd in this year’s Coca-Cola 600 after engine trouble.

XFINITY SERIES
Drive for the Cure 300 at Charlotte

(UPDATE Oct. 6: 41 cars for 40 spots. Obaika Racing has withdrawn the #77. Jeff Green is moved to RSS Racing's #38 with Gray Gaulding in the #93.)

42 drivers are entered in Saturday’s XFINITY race, the most entries since August at Bristol. Once again, this includes the preliminary withdrawal of GMS Racing’s #96 for Ben Kennedy, raising doubts about whether that car will run any of the remaining events in 2017. The only team missing from the Dover list is Biagi-DenBeste Racing’s #98, whose driver Casey Mears finished 18th that day.

In Mears’ place, three teams have returned:

Penske Racing has brought back the #12 team for the first time since Watkins Glen. Sam Hornish, Jr. drives the PPG-sponsored Ford for the first time this year in what will be his fifth XFINITY start of the year and first since Kentucky.

King Autosport will field two cars for the first time since that same Kentucky race. Behind the wheel of the #92 will be Josh Williams, whose most recent series start was his last-place run at Daytona in July. Mario Gosselin is entered as Williams’ teammate in the #90, marking his own first start in the series since a 31st-place run at Chicagoland.

Obaika Racing has once again re-appeared on the list, but as yet does not have a driver for their #77 Vroom! Brands Chevrolet. Since the team last took the green flag at Fontana with Stephen Leicht, Obaika has incurred one DNQ and withdrawn three more times, most recently at Elkhart Lake with road racer Gregory Vandersluis. The team has, however, made four starts at Charlotte with a best finish of 23rd by Ryan Ellis in 2015.

Alex Bowman is slated to make his first of two XFINITY starts for Chip Ganassi Racing this weekend as he takes the controls of the #42 Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet. It will be Bowman’s first start in the series since last year’s Homestead finale, when he came home 14th for JR Motorsports.

Last, but certainly not least, RSS Racing has again entered three cars. Joining Ryan Sieg in the #39 and a yet-unknown driver in the #38 will once again be Jeff Green in the #93. Following his last-place run after a hard crash at Dover, Charlotte will be Green’s first opportunity to score his record 100th last-place finish in the XFINITY Series.

TRUCK SERIES
Next Race: Fred’s 250 Powered by Coca-Cola
Saturday, October 14, 2017

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Yates Racing’s rare last-place finishes a window into team’s storied past

PHOTO: Charlotte Observer
Engine builder. Team owner. Competitor. Robert Yates did it all, and did it well.

From 1989, when he picked up from where Harry Rainier left off, through 2009, when his team was absorbed into Front Row Motorsports, Yates had at least one Cup Series car in the field for 694 races. The team scored 57 wins in the series – three in the Daytona 500 alone – and claimed the championship in 1999. Through it all, Yates’ stout engines gained a reputation for flat-out speed as well as dependability, propelling an all-star cast of drivers to new heights in their careers.

Out of those same 694 races, a Yates car finished last just ten times, a testament to the skill of Yates’ drivers, the determination of his crew, and the durability of his equipment. These are their stories.



No. 1
March 18, 1991

Like all aspects of Yates Racing, the last-place story began with the late Davey Allison. In 1987, two years before Yates bought the team, Allison set a rookie record for wins after a pair of victories at Talladega and Dover. He also picked up just one last-place finish – his first since his third series start at Atlanta two years earlier – when his pole-winning car at Rockingham broke a gear. Coming into 1991, he’d scored another two wins every season without a single last-place run.

1991 saw the unveiling of a sleek new paint scheme for Allison’s #28 Havoline Ford – black paint, bold red numbers, and a thin yellow stripe – a design that would remain largely unchanged for more than a decade. The car was fast, too, taking the first two poles of the ’91 season at Daytona and Richmond. He very nearly took the checkers in the Daytona 500, but crashed in the final laps during a tight battle with Dale Earnhardt for 2nd. He finished 15th that day, 12th at Richmond, and after a 16th-place showing at Rockingham, arrived in Atlanta just 12th in points.

The Motorcraft Quality Parts 500, where Allison qualified 8th, stands as the last Cup Series race to not be televised in its entirety. Rain postponed the event to Monday after 51 laps, at which point all 40 starters – including last-place starter Rich Bickle in the #47 Kanawha Insurance Oldsmobile – were still running under power. Thus, there are only news articles and photographs of what took place the next day. Among them are pictures of a jubilant Ken Schrader in victory lane. Schrader would win once more that summer at Dover, then fight through a 574-race winless streak up to his retirement from Cup competition in 2013.

Another picture showed Allison’s wreck in Turn 4 following contact from Bobby Hillin, Jr. The wreck occurred on Lap 57, just moments after the race restarted on Monday morning. Curiously, it was Hillin who would drive in relief of an injured Allison the following year at Talladega, keeping him up in the championship hunt. It also marked the final race where Jake “Suitcase” Elder stood as crew chief. The next week at Darlington, Larry McReynolds would come over from Kenny Bernstein’s team, and would sit atop the pit box for the rest of Allison’s career.

The Atlanta finish occurred in Allison’s 121st start and the 62nd for Yates. It was to be the only last-place run driver and team would have together.

No. 2
July 25, 1993

On July 13, 1993, Davey Allison succumbed to injuries suffered in a helicopter crash at his home track in Talladega. The Yates team didn’t race at Pocono the following week, one of only two Cup races held from 1989 through 2009 without at least one Yates car in the field.

When the series returned to Talladega a week later for the DieHard 500, driving duties for the #28 Havoline Ford fell to Robby Gordon. At the time, Gordon was a 24-year-old open wheel driver who had just competed in his first Indianapolis 500. Driving alongside his boss, A.J. Foyt, Gordon finished 27th that May, out with gearbox problems. Truth be told, Gordon had raced in NASCAR before as one of many unproven talents taken under the wing of Junie Donlavey. But those two starts were more than two years ago, an 18th-place run in the Daytona 500 and a 26th at Richmond. And now, the pressure was even higher.

During pre-race ceremonies, Davey’s widow Liz stood with the Rev. Hal Marchman and thanked the fans for their support. Donnie Allison took an emotional lap around the track in the team’s backup car. Gordon’s car, which carried the words “Davey, Our Teammate Forever” on the c-post, lined up 14th on the grid, six spots in front of Neil Bonnett, who was returning to the series for the first time since he was critically injured at Darlington in 1990. Dave Marcis started last in his #71 STG / Motel 6 Chevrolet.

Near the end of Lap 55, Gordon was running in a pack of cars behind Stanley Smith and Sterling Marlin. As the group entered the tri-oval, Gordon looked low on Marlin, and Mark Martin lined up to help the #28 by. As Gordon’s left-side tires hit the apron, his Ford lost control, pulled a complete 360, and slammed the outside wall with the right side of the car. While no other drivers were involved, Gordon was done for the day, eliminated in the race’s first caution. The first of two horrifying accidents – the one which critically injured Smith and sent Jimmy Horton’s car over the wall – came shortly after the ensuing restart.

No. 3
September 11, 1993

Talladega was Gordon’s only start for Yates Racing. Though a good road racer in his own right, Gordon was replaced by Lake Speed for the following round at Watkins Glen. Speed, whose background before NASCAR was go-karts, pulled out a 4th-place starting spot at The Glen, started outside-pole at Michigan, and ran 16th at Bristol. But by the time the series arrived in Darlington the following week, Ernie Irvan took the helm of #28.

Irvan, who prevailed at Daytona in 1991 after Davey Allison and Dale Earnhardt wrecked, had been released from his contract at Morgan-McClure Motorsports. He finished 5th in his team debut at the Southern 500, keeping him 8th in points heading into Richmond. The Miller Genuine Draft 400 on the three-quarter-mile track was another emotional one for the Yates team, as it was there in the spring that Davey Allison had earned his 19th and final Cup Series win.

Irvan started outside-pole in a 36-car field, joined by rookie driver and first-time polesitter Bobby Labonte, then the driver of Bill Davis Racing’s #22 Maxwell House Ford. This, too, had significance to the late Davey Allison, as Labonte became the first rookie polesitter since Allison claimed five in his ’87 campaign. Starting last was Greg Sacks in the #68 Country Time Ford (fielded by Cole Whitt’s current Cup team, TriStar Motorsports).

Irvan passed Labonte on the first lap, but once the #22 caught and passed him eight laps later, would not lead again. On Lap 58, Irvan’s car slowed in Turns 1 and 2 and pulled to the apron, smoke trailing from the back of the car. The engine problem proved terminal, marking the third straight last-place run for a Yates car within the first 60 laps of a race, and the third straight to draw the first caution of an event.

Like Allison and Gordon before him, this was to be Irvan’s only last-place finish for Yates Racing. He would go on to win two of the remaining seven races of the season, then fight Dale Earnhardt for much of the 1994 season. But, once again, Yates’ first championship bid was cut short by tragedy as Irvan nearly lost his life in a crash at Michigan that August. The team’s withdrawal that weekend marked the final time a Yates car would miss a race for the rest of the team’s existence.

No. 4
March 29, 1998

It would be nearly five years before another Yates car would finish last in NASCAR. During that time, the team expanded to two cars, debuting a #88 Ford in late 1995 when Irvan made his return to racing with a 6th-place finish at North Wilkesboro. At the end of the 1997 season, Irvan, back in the #28, was replaced by dirt tracker turned Truck Series racer Kenny Irwin, Jr.

Irwin quickly became the favorite to win Rookie of the Year in 1998. Late in the ’97 season, Yates combined efforts with single-car team Blair Motorsports to give the Indianapolis native his first taste of Cup racing. Irwin impressed in his debut at Richmond, starting outside-pole in the #27 Tonka / Winners Circle Ford and leading 12 laps before he finished 8th. Though he failed to qualify at Rockingham, he would start no worse than 11th in his other three starts.

Yates Racing looked to be a shoe-in for their second Rookie of the Year win in 1998. Irwin’s competition that year included three drivers who were about as new as the teams they drove for. Dale Earnhardt, Inc. went full-time in Cup for the first time with modified driver Steve Park behind the wheel. Bill Elliott, then an owner-driver, co-funded Jerry Nadeau’s car along with NFL quarterback Dan Marino. And Joe Falk – still a team owner in Cup with Jeffrey Earnhardt – looked to expand his team’s brief debut season in ’97 with Busch Series driver Kevin Lepage.

While Irwin held the rookie lead early in 1998 season, thanks to a sterling run at Atlanta, where he led 113 laps and finished 5th, he arrived at Bristol for the Food City 500 with no other finishes better than 19th. That weekend in Tennessee, Irwin qualified just 27th in the field of 43. Starting last was Darrell Waltrip, who was relieving Steve Park, one of Irwin’s rookie contenders, in DEI’s #1 Pennzoil Chevrolet. Waltrip, whose team DarWal Enterprises closed its doors after the previous race at Darlington, would drive in place of Park until his return at Indianapolis.

In the race itself, Irwin tangled with Steve Grissom on the backstretch, then spun and slammed the Turn 3 wall with the left-front, then left-rear. The crew attempted repairs as they dropped through the rankings, eventually slipping behind Jerry Nadeau, who lost nearly 100 laps after he wrecked in both of the first two cautions. Nadeau managed to come home under power in 37th, 101 laps down. Irwin, however, was done for the day.

No. 5
October 11, 1998

Irwin’s difficult rookie season continued into the fall. Still 27th in points heading into the Winston 500 at Talladega, Irwin qualified 7th. It was the unprecedented first of two consecutive restrictor-plate races on the calendar, the result of a postponement of the Pepsi 400 at Daytona following wildfires in Florida.

Irwin ran near the front early, but was forced to make an unscheduled stop under green at Lap 30. The car had lost oil pressure and was down on rpms. The problem turned out to be a broken valve spring, and Yates decided to call it a day rather than risk blowing the engine. Darrell Waltrip, who this time started last in Tim Beverley’s #35 Tabasco Pontiac, finished 23rd.

No. 6
July 25, 1999

In total, Kenny Irwin, Jr. scored three last-place finishes with Yates, the most of any of his drivers. The last of these occurred in Irwin’s second season with the team.

After a disappointing 28th-place finish in the 1998 standings, Irwin had shown some improvement in ‘99, starting with a 3rd-place finish in the Daytona 500, but was still 18th in points by late summer. In July, he arrived at Pocono for the Pennsylvania 500 and timed in 19th. Last on the grid once again was Darrell Waltrip, who was now driving for Travis Carter in the #66 Big Kmart / Route 66 Ford.

On Lap 15, as Irwin raced Jimmy Spencer for position heading into Turn 3, Irwin came down and made contact with Spencer’s right-front, sending the #28 into a high-speed spin. Out of control, Irwin slammed the outside wall with the left-front so hard that it lifted all four wheels off the track. Irwin was helped from his car, which was now aflame behind the left-front, and walked back to the ambulance.

While Dale Jarrett went on to win Robert Yates’ only championship in the #88, Irwin finished the season 19th in points, and was later replaced by Ricky Rudd for the 2000 season. That year, Irwin drove for SABCO Motorsports (now Chip Ganassi Racing) in the #42 BellSouth Chevrolet. Tragically, Irwin lost his life that July following a practice crash at Loudon.

No. 7
October 11, 2003

It would be more than four years until Yates Racing finished last again, and it would again come during a season of change. Following the end of the 2002 season, the Havoline brand left the Yates team to sponsor Jamie McMurray’s rookie campaign with Ganassi, ending a fifteen-year partnership with the #28 team. In the sponsor’s place came backing from M&M’s / Mars, a new number with car #38, and Elliott Sadler.

Sadler was making a fresh start of his own in 2003, having driven for the Wood Brothers since his runner-up finish to Tony Stewart in the 1999 rookie battle. He began the year with four Top Tens in his first five starts and took the pole at Darlington. In the final year of the pre-Playoff standings, Sadler sat 23rd in points heading to Charlotte. He’d lost three positions two weeks earlier at Talladega, where late-race contact sent his pole-winning car tumbling down the backstretch.

At Charlotte, site of the UAW-GM Quality 500, Sadler qualified 7th of 43 drivers. Starting last was Derrike Cope, who much like today, was driving for his own Cup Series team. Under the team name Quest Motor Racing, Cope drove a #37 Chevrolet sponsored by Friendly’s Ice Cream and GBROnline.com.

While Cope finished 37th, Sadler ended up last despite completing more than half the distance. He first suffered right-front damage to his #38 M&M’s Halloween Ford after he tangled with Mike Skinner as the two neared the entrance to pit road. Skinner, who drove in place of Jerry Nadeau after his career-ending injury at Richmond, slammed the outside wall, while Sadler spun clear on the apron. Sadler was not so fortunate on Lap 206, when he collided with Todd Bodine’s #54 National Guard Ford and slammed the frontstretch wall head-on.

No. 8
May 28, 2006

All of the previous last-place finishes mentioned came with Yates’ first team, the #28. Yates’ second team, the #88 founded in late 1995, would not finish last a single time for more than a decade.

Dale Jarrett piloted the #88 to 28 of his 32 career victories, including his very first start with the team in the 1996 Daytona 500. The blue Quality Care / Ford Credit machine also claimed Robert Yates’ only season championship in 1999, a year when the driver scored four wins and ran 5th or better in all but 10 of the season’s 34 races. The success continued when UPS became the team’s primary sponsor in 2001, yielding eight wins and the popular “Race The Truck” ad campaign.

By 2006, however, Jarrett was 49, and had fallen from championship contention since a 26th-place showing in 2003. In this first season that Ford campaigned the Fusion in place of the Taurus, Jarrett arrived for the Coca-Cola 600 12th in the standings with a season-best 9th at Atlanta. But the speed wasn’t there in qualifying, and he managed just 37th on the grid. He still started ahead of last-place starter Michael Waltrip, who was facing his own struggles in his first year away from Dale Earnhardt, Inc. The next year, Jarrett would leave Yates to join Waltrip’s new team, the flagship for Toyota’s foray into NASCAR.

Heading into Turn 3 on the first lap of the race, Robby Gordon made contact with Jarrett, sending the #88 UPS Ford sliding backwards into the wall. The result was Jarrett’s first last-place finish since the Budweiser 500 at Dover on June 2, 1991, more than two months before his first Cup win with the Wood Brothers, and the only time he failed to complete a lap of a Cup Series race. It was to be the only last-place finish for Yates’ #88, as the number would go to Hendrick Motorsports and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. two seasons later.

No. 9
August 6, 2006

Elliott Sadler and the #38 would also find trouble less than three months later. After a breakthrough 2004 season where he earned victories at Texas and Fontana and made the inaugural Chase for the Championship, Sadler was suddenly missing from victory lane, and began to slide down the standings. He was just 20th in the standings heading into the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, and managed only 27th in qualifying.

On Lap 3, Sadler broke loose racing Joe Nemechek for position in the third turn. Sadler backed into the outside wall, destroying the rear and right-front of his #38 Snickers Ford. He would make just one more start with Yates Racing the next week out at Watkins Glen before he replaced Jeremy Mayfield at Evernham Motorsports. But that turned out to be only half the story---

No. 10
August 13, 2006

It’s interesting to note that Yates’ final Cup Series last-place finish came with neither the #28 or the #88, but a part-time third team.

Looking to the future, Yates hired development driver Stephen Leicht late in the 2005 season, and acquired sponsorship from CitiFinancial to back his #90 Ford in what is today the NASCAR XFINITY Series. That same year, Leicht and the #90 made their Cup debuts at Pocono, finishing 33rd, but failed to qualify the weekend Sadler crashed at Indianapolis. The next week, for the AMD at the Glen at Watkins Glen, Yates elected to hire a “road ringer,” and brought on sports car driver Marc Goossens.

Goossens made history at The Glen when he bested seven other road course specialists to qualify 27th, becoming the first driver from Belgium to compete in NASCAR’s elite division. Starting last would be still another “ringer,” Brian Simo, driving an unsponsored #34 Chevrolet for Front Row Motorsports. Joining Simo at the rear due to an engine change, Goossens would have to pick his way through the field.

The first bump in the road came on Lap 34, when he bumped Boris Said into a spin entering the Inner Loop, then spun out himself. The next occurred on Lap 59, when he got into the guardrails in the Esses and stopped in the grass. Goossens took last when Greg Biffle, wrecked by Kyle Petty earlier in the race, returned to the track and climbed to 38th.

Goossens would go on to make one more Cup start the following year at Sonoma, the only series start for car Riley-D’Hont Motorsports. That same season, Stephen Leicht would give the #90 XFINITY Series team its first and only win at Kentucky. One year earlier, the same race was won by an unheralded David Gilliland, who would soon after replace Elliott Sadler in the #38. Gilliland, Travis Kvapil, and Paul Menard would drive three seasons under the guidance of Robert Yates’ son Doug.

While Robert Yates and his team are no longer with us, their legacy lives on to this day, both in the Hall of Fame and in the roar of a Roush-Yates engine.

SOURCES
*1993 DieHard 500, CBS
*1993 Miller Genuine Draft 400, TBS
*1998 Food City 500, ESPN
*1998 Winston 500, ESPN
*1999 Pennsylvania 500, TBS
*2003 UAW-GM Quality 500, NBC
*2006 Coca-Cola 600, FOX
*2006 Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, NBC
*2006 AMD at the Glen, NBC
*Racing-reference.info

Sunday, October 1, 2017

CUP: Timmy Hill scores MBM’s first Cup Series last-place finish

PHOTO: @TimmyHillRacer
Timmy Hill picked up the 5th last-place finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Apache Warrior 400 by Lucas Oil at the Dover International Speedway when his #66 U.S. Chrome / O.C.R. Gaz Bar Chevrolet fell out with electrical issues after 39 of 400 laps.

The finish, which came in Hill’s 62nd series start, was his first since November 15, 2015, when his #62 Prairie Auto Credit Chevrolet finished under power, 92 laps down, in the Quicken Loans Race For Heroes 500 at the Jeff Gordon Raceway (aka Phoenix International Raceway, soon to be ISM Raceway).

After making just one Cup start for Premium Motorsports in last fall’s Dover race (finishing 34th), Hill returned to the venue early this summer in a new ride for an old team. Since 2015, Hill had been driving for Motorsports Business Management (MBM), a small two-car XFINITY Series team founded by Derek White and now owned by Carl Long. His best finishes with MBM came just this year, when he finished 17th at both Talladega and the July race at Daytona.

While running the first one-third of the 2017 Cup season for Rick Ware Racing, the team which gave him his Cup debut five years ago, Hill also helped Carl Long and the MBM team in preparing a new Cup Series car. The #66 Chevrolet would be decaled to resemble the #46 Romeo Guest Construction Dodge that was handed NASCAR’s heaviest penalty over an engine infraction in 2009, ultimately closing Carl Long’s former team.

Long drove the green-and-gold car first, making his return with a 31st-place run at Kansas. Hill has driven the car in each start since, including at Darlington, where he relieved Long midway through the Bojangles’ Southern 500. Hill’s best run came at Indianapolis in July, where he dodged all the late-race wrecks for a career-best 14th. Through it all, MBM’s #66 had never finished last, nor even failed to finish.

Hill and MBM’s #66 arrived last week in Dover, where Hill finished 28th in his first Cup start for the team this past June, as one of 40 drivers. The race was also to see the debut of Derrike Cope’s StarCom Racing, which along with MBM were the only new Cup teams to join the circuit since SpeedWeeks, but StarCom withdrew on Tuesday. Hill’s Dover car carried sponsorship on the hood from U.S. Chrome, who backed Hill during his brief rookie campaign for Go FAS Racing in 2013, Hill ranked 37th in the opening practice, his best of five laps ranking him ahead of fellow Open drivers Reed Sorenson and B.J. McLeod. He secured 35th on the grid in qualifying with a lap of 151.835mph. Another five laps in Saturday’s first practice left him 39th of 40 ahead of McLeod, then sat out Happy Hour.

In between, Hill ran 33rd in the XFINITY race in MBM’s #13 TLC Resorts Chevrolet, a car which he has “start-and-parked” for most of his schedule as part of the team’s expansion into full-race Cup efforts.

Starting last on Sunday was Matt DiBenedetto in Go FAS Racing’s #32 Keen Parts Ford. DiBenedetto was driving the same Bobby Allison 1988 throwback scheme from last month’s race at Darlington, though with a few small changes: the white stripe along the front bumper was removed, as was Allison’s signature from each door, and the Keen Parts logo on the hood was slightly smaller. The car also struggled on track, losing fuel pressure during their one qualifying lap, which ultimately led to their being the only car without a timed lap. 39th-place starter Reed Sorenson had a similar issue with the fuel pump, the car shutting down so early on his timed lap that the circuit took more than three full minutes, averaging just 18.775mph.

Despite these issues, only B.J. McLeod in Rick Ware’s #51 Donnie Neunberger Foundation Chevrolet was sent to the back prior to the start for unapproved adjustments. Coming to the green, Hill joined McLeod in the final row. While Hill managed to move past a handful of cars, McLeod lost ground to the pack. In so doing, McLeod joined Ray Black, Jr. and Cody Ware as the third-straight Rick Ware Racing driver to trail the first lap of a Cup Series race. By Lap 9, McLeod was 17.573 seconds behind the leader, almost a full second behind the new 39th-place driver Jeffrey Earnhardt in the #33 Hulu Chevrolet. On the 15th circuit, McLeod’s car was the first to lose a lap. An unscheduled stop around Lap 29 cost McLeod two more, and he slowed on the backstretch for another stop on Lap 31, dropping him five behind.

Timmy Hill's car pushed to the garage area
PHOTOS: Sam Laughlin
Around Lap 40, as McLeod returned to competition, Timmy Hill came to pit road, reporting that the car was cutting off. The crew pushed the #66 to the garage area, where they discovered that the alternator wasn’t charging the batteries, ultimately draining two of them. On Lap 124, long after the #66 had taken last from McLeod, Hill tweeted that the crew was still hard at work trying to diagnose the problem. When Reed Sorenson’s engine let go on Lap 167, dropping him to 39th by Lap 208, the window for MBM to gain spots was closing fast. If the team didn’t come back out by Lap 277, the car wouldn’t be able to pass Sorenson even if they ran the rest of the race. By all accounts, the team didn’t wait that long. On Lap 254, NBC’s leaderboard indicated both Hill and Sorenson were out of the race.

38th went to Sorenson’s teammate Ross Chastain, who was unable to follow-up his strong 20th-place run in his series debut at Dover in June due to a series of mechanical issues. After at least one trip to the garage area, Chastain finished under power, but 52 circuits behind. Twenty laps in front of him came 37th-place Jeffrey Earnhardt, whose backward slide into the sand barrels at the end of pit road during green-flag stops on Lap 87 proved critical to several Playoff contenders, including “bubble” drivers Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Ryan Newman. McLeod rounded out the group, four laps ahead of Earnhardt.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the first last-place finish for car #66 in a Cup Series race at Dover since May 15, 2011, when Michael McDowell’s HP Racing Toyota also fell out with electrical problems after 45 laps of the FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #66-Timmy Hill / 39 laps / electrical
39) #55-Reed Sorenson / 162 laps / engine
38) #15-Ross Chastain / 348 laps / running
37) #33-Jeffrey Earnhardt / 368 laps / running
36) #51-B.J. McLeod / 372 laps / running

2017 LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Circle Sport with The Motorsports Group (5)
2nd) Rick Ware Racing (4)
3rd) BK Racing (3)
4th) Hendrick Motorsports, Furniture Row Racing, Premium Motorsports, Roush-Fenway Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (2)
5th) Chip Ganassi Racing, Front Row Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, JTG-Daugherty Racing, Motorsports Business Management, Richard Childress Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports (1)

2017 LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (15)
2nd) Toyota (8)
3rd) Ford (6)

2017 LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP