Sunday, March 10, 2019

XFINITY: Bayley Currey’s wreck hands car #17 its first last-place finish in more than three years

PHOTO: @BayleyCurrey
Bayley Currey picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s iK9 Service Dog 200 at the ISM Raceway when his #17 Port of Tucson Chevrolet was involved in a single-car accident after 30 of 200 laps.

The finish came in Currey’s 14th series start. In XFINITY Series last-place rankings, it was the 12th for car #17, the 322nd from a crash, and the 521st for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 46th for the #17, the 1,172nd from a crash, and the 1,645th for Chevrolet.

The finish also put Currey in the lead for the 2019 LASTCAR XFINITY Series Championship as the first series last-place finisher to score more than one Bottom Five.

The ISM Raceway has held special significance in the young Texan’s career. It was there in 2017 that Currey finished 10th in just his second Truck Series start, the first Top Ten earned by team owner D.J. Copp. Now, just over a year later, the mechanical engineering student at the University of North Carolina Charlotte would make his Cup Series debut. He would drive for Rick Ware Racing, taking B.J. McLeod’s place in the #52 Mtel-One Ford Mustang. And he would also be running double-duty at the Arizona oval, driving Ware’s #17 Chevrolet in Saturday’s XFINITY race.

Following finishes of 22nd in Atlanta and 34th in Las Vegas, Currey’s XFINITY car had sponsorship for the first time in 2019, carrying logos for the Port of Tucson on the hood, quarter-panels, and TV panel with additional backing from Baja.

Currey didn’t participate in the weekend’s opening XFINITY Series practice, then ran 24th of 35 drivers in Happy Hour. He accomplished this speed despite running just four laps – second-fewest in the session ahead of the three turned by Vinnie Miller in B.J. McLeod’s #78 Chevrolet. This speed carried directly into qualifying, where Currey bested McLeod by six-tenths of a second for the 24th spot in Round 1, clocking in at 128.223mph (28.076 seconds). Currey settled on 24th in Round 2, joining 23rd-place Jeff Green’s #38 Chevrolet in not running a lap during that round.

Qualifying last in the 37-car field (for 38 spots) was Stan Mullis, who acquired sponsorship from Street Toys and on Carl Long’s #13 Toyota. Like Currey, Mullis wasn't on the preliminary entry list, and it wasn't until late in the week that Currey and Mullis were listed in the #13 and #17. Following teammate Joey Gase’s hard wreck last Saturday in Vegas, all three Motorsports Business Management entries of Gase, Mullis, and Tyler Hill would run “Zombie” Toyota Camry models in place of the new Toyota Supra. Gase’s blue-and-white paint scheme indicated it was likely one of Chad Finchum’s Smithbilt Homes cars.

Mullis was joined at the rear by Ronnie Basset, Jr., who was making his series debut in the #90 Basset Gutters & More Chevrolet fielded by DGM Racing – a backup car following an incident during Happy Hour.

At the end of Lap 1, both Bassett and Mullis were already ahead of Morgan Shepherd, whose #89 Visone RV Chevrolet was 7.248 seconds back of the lead and just under a tenth of a second back of Mullis. Shepherd then closed the gap, drawing within eight-tenths at the end of two laps, then passing Mullis and gapping him by 1.1 seconds at the end of three. By that point, Mullis was now 10.007 seconds back of the lead, and still dropping. At the start of the 10th circuit, Mullis was the first to be lapped, and Shepherd had climbed to 35th ahead of Bassett.

Under green (and under commercial) on Lap 12, Mullis came down pit road, where he incurred a penalty for his crew members coming over the wall too soon. The #13 became the first to make the left turn into the garage area, but the crew eventually managed to get him back onto the track. This proved critical when the first caution fell on Lap 32.

Heading through Turns 3 and 4, Currey blew an oil line and slammed the outside wall just short of the start / finish line. A similar issue in Cup practice caused Cody Ware’s accident in nearly the same spot the previous fall. The accident flattened the right side of the #17 and sent him behind the wall, out of the race under the Crash Clock. When Mullis returned to action, he ultimately passed Currey for the spot, then retired five circuits later to secure 36th.

Finishing 35th was the #99 Diamond Gusset Jeans Toyota of Tommy Joe Martins, whose engine went sour following a fuel pump issue at the end of Stage 1. Martins was the only driver to earn his first Bottom Five of the season on Saturday.

Morgan Shepherd finished 34th, completing 56 laps to finish 34th. Though still without a finish under power in 2019, the veteran has never turned fewer than 45 laps in all three of his starts. Rounding out the group was Jeff Green, who after starting next to Currey retired three laps after Shepherd due to a vibration. Green, the all-time last-place leader, has yet to finish last once in 2019.

*This marked the first XFINITY Series last-place finish for car #17 in an XFINITY Series race at Phoenix. The number hadn’t trailed in the series since September 5, 2015, when Ryan Ellis’ #17 Navy Seals vs. Zombies Ford fell out with suspension issues after 1 lap of the VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 at Darlington. The finish put an end to Jeff Green’s streak of eight last-place finishes in a row, still a NASCAR record.

37) #17-Bayley Currey / 30 laps / crash
36) #13-Stan Mullis / 35 laps / carburetor
35) #99-Tommy Joe Martins / 49 laps / fuel pump
34) #89-Morgan Shepherd / 56 laps / brakes
33) #38-Jeff Green / 59 laps / vibration

1st) Motorsports Business Management (2)
2nd) JD Motorsports, Rick Ware Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet, Toyota (2)


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