|PHOTO: Dominic Aragon, TheRacingExperts.com|
The finish came in Boyd’s 17th series start. In the NASCAR XFINITY Series last-place rankings, it’s the 2nd for car #76, the 316th by reason of a crash, and the 501st for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it’s the 10th for the #76, the 1,136th by reason of a crash, and the 1,590th for Chevrolet.
Born in Creve Coeur, Missouri, the 23-year-old Boyd made his NASCAR debut in the Truck Series at Martinsville, a popular venue for drivers breaking into the series’ top three divisions. Boyd was the latest to drive for veteran Truck Series owner Mike Mittler, and drove a #63 Go-Parts.com RAM to a 28th-place finish after a late-race crash.
For the rest of the 2016 season, Boyd would make four more NASCAR starts for four different owners in two different series. His next race was the Truck Series event at Gateway on June 25, where he finished 19th – on the lead lap – for Premium Motorsports. The next month at Iowa on July 30, he made his XFINITY Series debut for Rick Ware Racing, finishing 29th, the last car under power. Another XFINITY start for the struggling Obiaka Racing came at Chicago on September 17, but he was flagged off the track for running too slow, leaving him 35th. He rounded out the year in Trucks, finishing 30th for Mark Beaver.
The Homestead race was Boyd’s first with sponsorship from GruntStyle.com, an Illinois-based apparel company operated by – and raising funds for – military veterans. The brand helped Boyd expand his XFINITY and Truck Series efforts in 2017. On the Truck side, he again split his time among different owners, driving for Ware, Beaver, and D.J. Copp, who gave him a season-best 13th at Talladega. On the XFINITY side, he slid into the seat of SS-Green Light Racing’s #07, splitting the ride with Ray Black, Jr. In six starts for the Bobby Dotter-owner team, Boyd finished a season-best 28th at Chicagoland.
This year, Boyd and SS-Green Light have expanded their efforts into a full-time campaign. The car number has been changed from #07 to #76, a reference to GruntStyle’s patriotic apparel (a small “17” is printed on the car’s “7” decal to indicate “1776”). The brand has gone all-in backing Boyd’s efforts this year, bringing a souvenir trailer of his own to races, and signing as a sponsor at the Motor Racing Network (MRN). Coming into Talladega, Boyd had just one DNF – a suspension issue early on at Las Vegas – and finished a season-best 25th three times with no runs (other than Vegas) of worse than 30th, placing him 29th in series standings.
At Talladega, Boyd ran 27th in Friday’s opening practice and was not among the 17 drivers who participated in Happy Hour. He then earned the 30th spot in qualifying with a lap of 183.466mph (52.195 seconds). With no Cup regulars in the field for a third-straight XFINITY Series race, the Dotter team hoped to turn heads after Ray Black, Jr. trailed the Talladega race last year.
Starting last on Saturday was Mike Harmon, whose #74 Horizon Transport Dodge edged out the #89 Visone RV Chevrvolet of fellow owner-driver Morgan Shepherd. Shepherd missed locking himself in the field on speed by 0.204 second to Kaz Grala, and was out-ranked by Mike Harmon on Owner Points. Thus, Harmon, who despite having turned the slowest lap of the session at 179.021mph (53.491 seconds) earned the final spot in the field. Shepherd was sent home along with the withdrawn #54 NXT Motorsports entry, which didn’t list a driver.
In the race, Harmon was joined at the rear by outside-polesitter Elliott Sadler, who changed engines on his #1 OneMain Financial Chevrolet, and both the #35 Sparks Energy Chevrolet of Joey Gase and the #45 Prevagen Toyota of Josh Bilicki for unapproved adjustments. Heading into the first corner, Sadler, Gase, and Bilicki began to climb through the field, leaving a line of black cars trailing single-file on the inside line. Among these cars were the three RSS Racing teammates of Ryan Sieg (#39), J.J. Yeley (#38), and Jeff Green (#93). Sieg’s red-and-black car, sponsored by Alabama Soda & Abraisive Repairs, took last at the end of the first lap.
By the end of Lap 2, the 40th spot fell to Jennifer Jo Cobb, who was making her first XFINITY Series start at Talladega since 2011. This time around, she drove in place of Stephen Leicht in JP Motorsports’ #55 Swamp Daddy Crawfish / Show Me Dega Coulevard Club Toyota. In the early laps, the radio traffic crackled of an on-track dispute with Harmon as the pair battled for the 39th spot behind the RSS Racing trio. As this unfolded, Cobb and Harmon lost touch with the rest of the field, losing 18 seconds to the leaders.
Next to fall to last was Jeremy Clements, who on Lap 9 dropped back with reports of a fuel pressure issue. Clements caught and re-passed Cobb and Harmon, only to lose touch a second time by Lap 12, when the leaders passed him in a single-file train off Turn 4. Four circuits later on Lap 16, the RSS Racing trio was broken up when J.J. Yeley’s #38 Josh Roberts Trucking and Repairs Chevrolet had a tire going down. Yeley lost a lap, then took last from Clements on Lap 19. Yeley caught and passed Clements by the 27th circuit, and Cobb fell behind Clements on the Lap 32 restart following the end of Stage 1.
On Lap 33, Cobb was still running in the back when trouble broke out in the middle of the field. Coming off Turn 2, Shane Lee’s #3 Childress Vineyards Chevrolet got a run on Dylan Lupton in the #28 thinQ Technology Partners Ford. The run caused Lupton to lose control, clipping the rear of a passing Ty Majeski in the #60 Ford-sponsored Ford. As this was happening, Spencer Boyd closed in on the scene at such a high rate of speed that it seemed he had no brakes. He first struck a spinning Chad Finchum, ramping over the nose of his #40 Smithbilt Homes Toyota, then did the same to Lupton’s #28, lifting the right-front of Boyd’s car into the air. Boyd landed on all four wheels, ultimately crashing to a stop into the wrecked machines of Majeski and Ryan Truex, the latter in the #11 Bar Harbor / Sea Watch International Chevrolet.
Under the caution, the five cars eliminated in the accident – Boyd, Finchum, Truex, Majeski, and Lupton – promptly took last from Cobb. Boyd, last on the scene, took 40th in the final running order.
The race marked the first XFINITY Series victory for Spencer Gallagher, who has not finished last in 49 career XFINITY starts.
*This marked just the second last-place finish for car #76 in an XFINITY Series race. The only other time occurred May 14, 1983, when Butch Lindley’s #76 Dana Racing Pontiac started 3rd but lost an engine after 28 laps of the Sportsman 200.
*This marked SS-Green Light Racing’s second-consecutive last-place run in this event.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #76-Spencer Boyd / 32 laps / crash
39) #40-Chad Finchum / 32 laps / crash
38) #11-Ryan Truex / 32 laps / crash
37) #60-Ty Majeski / 32 laps / crash
36) #28-Dylan Lupton / 32 laps / crash
2018 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) RSS Racing (4)
2nd) Jeremy Clements Racing, JGL Racing, Mike Harmon Racing, Roush-Fenway Racing, SS-Green Light Racing (1)
2018 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (7)
2nd) Ford (2)
2018 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP