Saturday, April 21, 2018

XFINITY: Jeff Green scores Chevrolet’s 500th XFINITY Series last-place finish

PHOTO: Joshua A. Hill,
Jeff Green picked up the 106th last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Friday’s ToyotaCare 250 at the Richmond Raceway when his unsponsored #93 RSS Racing Chevrolet fell out with electrical problems after 26 of 250 laps.

The finish, which came in Green’s 488th series start, was his fourth of the season and his first since Texas, two races ago. He has now finished last in every other race run since last fall's Homestead finale. In the NASCAR XFINITY Series last-place rankings, it’s the 31st for car #93, the 500th for Chevrolet, and the 45th by reason of electrical trouble. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it’s the 81st for the #93, the 1,588th for Chevrolet, and the 113th by reason of electrical issues.

One week after his teammates J.J. Yeley and Ryan Sieg swapped rides following Sieg’s wreck in qualifying at Bristol, Green was himself scheduled to swap rides with Yeley at Richmond. The preliminary entry list showed him in Yeley’s #38 with Yeley in the #93. However, this was corrected at mid-week, showing Yeley in the #38 with Superior Essex returning as sponsor. Green retained the #93, though without sponsorship.

Green started the Richmond weekend with a head-turning performance in Friday morning’s opening practice. Taking on fresh tires and a race setup, Green put his car 9th on the speed charts, harkening back to memories of his victory over Matt Kenseth in this same race 18 years ago. He then tweeted that he was running scuffs in qualifying and the race. After not participating in Happy Hour, Green and his older tires managed just 31st in time trialswith a lap of 115.880mph (23.300 seconds). With 40 drivers arriving for as many spots, no one failed to qualify.

Starting last on Friday was the #74 Tropions / Shadow Warriors Project machine of Fontana last-placer Mike Harmon, who fielded his 2015 Dodge for the second-straight race. Harmon held the spot on the opening lap, running 6.845 seconds behind the leader at the end of Lap 1. The next time by, he’d worked his way past Morgan Shepherd and opened up just over a tenth on the #89 VisOne RV Chevrolet. Shepherd held the spot until Lap 5, when David Starr encountered trouble on his #52 Circle Track Warehouse Chevrolet.

That time by, Starr fell from 37th to last, and was running noticeably off the pace. Starr and the Jimmy Means Racing crew talked over the issue, which RacingUnderdogs reported involved an electrical issue, the battery down to 14 volts, making the team think Starr hit the kill switch. The issue made Starr the first driver to lose a lap on that fifth circuit. He would continue to lose more laps as he continued to run a reduced pace.

Harmon, meanwhile, was re-passed by Shepherd on Lap 5 and gradually lost touch with the #89, falling two seconds behind him by Lap 10, then five seconds back on Lap 13. The next time by, Shepherd had worked his way out of the Bottom Five, dropping Timmy Hill to 38th in the #66 Dodge. Harmon closed to within three seconds of Hill by Lap 15, when the #74 lost its first lap. At the time, Starr was still last, now nine laps down.

Still struggling with his issues, Starr eventually stalled on the track, drawing the first yellow on Lap 20. He went behind the wall for repairs, which RacingUnderdogs indicated included the fuel lines as the car kept shutting off. If the problem proved terminal, it would have marked Jimmy Means Racing’s first XFINITY last-place run since 2013. As Starr’s repairs were continuing , Harmon was now five laps down and Shepherd was down two. As the only lapped machines, Shepherd got one of his laps back with the Lucky Dog. Harmon lost a sixth lap under the yellow, keeping him 39th.

Through the first caution, Jeff Green had remained on the lead lap, and climbed up as far as 31st. However, on Lap 27, as the field took the restart, Green dropped to the final car on the lead lap, 6.954 seconds back of the lead. The next time by on Lap 28, Green went behind the wall, losing his first lap in the process. As it happened, Green went behind the wall on the exact same lap that saw both Harmon pull down pit road and Starr return to action, the latter 19 laps behind. This allowed Starr to slowly close the gap on Harmon, ultimately dropping the #74 to last on Lap 43.

But Harmon wasn’t done, either. On Lap 67, his black Dodge returned to the track 44 laps behind, Just three laps behind Green, Harmon dropped Green to last on Lap 70, the final exchange for the position. Finishing 39th was Shepherd, who retired with brake issues  on Lap 33. Shepherd was passed by both the returning Harmon and Starr, but was classified ahead of Green by a margin of six laps due in part to Green’s exit five circuits earlier on Lap 28.

Harmon continued on, though he was up to 65 laps down by Lap 165 and still running 38th. He ended up climbing up to 36th before he was finally eliminated by clutch trouble inside the final 100 laps. The first of the two drivers Harmon passed was Timmy Hill, whose #66 Chris Kyle Foundation Dodge had the same issue as Starr with his car constantly shutting off. For Hill, the issue turned out to be the fuel pump. The other retiree was Stephen Leicht, whose #55 Jani-King Toyota cited brake trouble.

Jeremy Clements, who finished last for the first time in his career last Saturday at Bristol, recovered nicely to finish 8th – his first top-ten finish of 2018.

*This marked Green’s eighth XFINITY Series last-place finish at Richmond. It was in this race last year that Green made his first series start for RSS Racing, taking the place of Jordan Anderson.

40) #93-Jeff Green / 26 laps / electrical
39) #89-Morgan Shepherd / 32 laps / brakes
38) #66-Timmy Hill / 107 laps / fuel pump
37) #55-Stephen Leicht / 128 laps / brakes
36) #74-Mike Harmon / 133 laps / clutch

1st) RSS Racing (4)
2nd) Jeremy Clements Racing, JGL Racing, Mike Harmon Racing, Roush-Fenway Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (6)
2nd) Ford (2)


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