Sunday, May 19, 2019

TRUCKS: Joe Nemechek tied for seventh in Truck Series last-place rankings after Charlotte

Joe Nemechek picked up the 7th last-place finish of his NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series career in Friday’s North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway when his #87 ROMCO / TMS Titanium Chevrolet fell out with rear gear issues after 19 of 134 laps.

The finish, which came in Nemechek’s 62nd series start, was his second of the season and first since Atlanta, six races ago. In the Truck Series last-place rankings, it was the 9th for the #87, the 11th from rear gear trouble, and the 372nd for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 52nd for the #87, the 41st from rear gear issues, and the 1,659th for Chevrolet.

Friday’s result not only gave Nemechek the early lead in defending his LASTCAR Truck Series Championship, but also moved him into a tie with Mike Harmon for the sixth-most last-place finishes in Truck Series history.

Coming into Charlotte, the veteran Nemechek had started all but two Truck Series races in 2019, skipping Las Vegas and withdrawing from a stacked entry list at Martinsville. In four of those remaining five starts, Nemechek drove his NEMCO Motorsports team’s flagship #8 Chevrolet which his son John Hunter drove for most of last season. Paired with limited backing from companies like ROMCO Equipment Company, TMS Titanium, and Acme Markets, Nemechek followed-up his last-place run at Atlanta with a 25th in Atlanta, a 26th in Dover, and 24th in Kansas. He’d yet to finish a race under power all season.

At Charlotte, Nemechek slid over to his second truck, the #87 Chevrolet, which he piloted to his season-best finish of 16th in Daytona. Driving duties in the unsponsored #8 Chevrolet would fall to Monster Jam competitor Camden Murphy, who eyed his first Truck Series start of the season.

Despite the withdrawals of Beaver Motorsports’ #1 Toyota with Bayley Currey and fellow owner-driver Norm Benning in the #6 H&H Transport Chevrolet, 36 trucks remained to attempt the Charlotte race, meaning four would miss the show. Nemechek found speed early in practice, turning just five laps – second-fewest of the session - and jumping to 5th on the speed charts. He followed this up with 19th in Happy Hour, and as the first qualifier, took 24th with a lap of 175.234mph (30.816 seconds). Murphy lined up two spots back in 26th.

Sent home after qualifying were Timothy Peters in the return of Ricky Benton’s #92 Black’s Tire Service Ford; Trey Hutchins in his new owner-driver operation, the #14 Heintz Performance Chevrolet; Josh Bilicki in Josh Reaume’s second truck, the #34 Chevrolet; and Jennifer Jo Cobb’s #10 Osage Contractors Chevrolet. For Cobb, it was just her second DNQ of the season and first since Daytona.

Starting 32nd and last was Josh Reaume, who picked up sponsorship from Hertz Kompressoren and P&B Compressor on his #33 Chevrolet. With Bilicki unable to qualify his team truck, Reaume looked for a good showing. He was joined at the rear by two trucks sent to the rear for unapproved adjustments: 29th-place starter Austin Wayne Self in the #22 Go Texan / AM Technical Solutions Chevrolet, and 30th-place Spencer Boyd in the #20 1A Auto Chevrolet. Boyd’s truck, fielded by Randy Young, carried a large hood decal honoring the life of longtime Truck Series owner Mike Mittler, who passed away last week at age 67.

At the start, the tail end of the field uncoiled quickly with at least two trucks trailing the pack at the end of the first lap. Among them were both NEMCO trucks with Nemechek back in 30th and Murphy in 32nd. First to challenge for the spot was Natalie Decker, who after starting 21st in the #54 N29 Technologies Toyota continued her difficult rookie season when she slapped the wall in Turn 4 after four laps. As Decker lost a lap under green, Nemechek moved up to 28th, then 27th by Lap 8. Decker returned to the track on Lap 9, four laps down, but continued to struggle with speed. On Lap 27, Decker was five laps down, and leader Kyle Busch was putting tail-end cars a lap down, starting with Reaume.

Nemechek pulls into pit road under green before parking.
Then on Lap 20 and with 10 to go in Stage 1, Nemechek, now a lap down in 30th, slowed in Turn 4 and came down pit road before pulling into the garage area. Decker climbed past Nemechek five laps later, but only made it a few more before her crash damage eliminated her under green, leaving her 31st. Murphy followed Nemechek to the garage shortly after the start of Stage 2, taking 30th. The 29th spot fell to owner-driver Codie Rohrbaugh, whose #9 Grant County Mulch Chevrolet slapped the Turn 2 wall on Lap 72, drawing the fourth caution of the night. Reaume rounded out the group, still under power but a full 36 laps down to winner Kyle Busch. Friday marked Busch’s final Truck start of the season, during which he’d won all five of his entered events. Murphy and Rohrbaugh earned their first Bottom Fives of 2019.

Finishing a close 2nd to Busch was one Brennan Poole in the return of Steven Lane’s On Point Motorsports. Poole struggled the last two weeks, qualifying in the Top 10 at Dover only to slap the wall on the first lap, then withdrawing from last week’s race in Kansas. With new sponsorship from Madvapes on his #30 Toyota, Poole worked his way into the Top 10 from the 17th starting spot and, running 5th when Brett Moffitt’s tire carcass drew the caution, restarted 4th. Poole jumped to 2nd on the backstretch, worked to Busch’s inside and nearly drew alongside before Busch walked away. It was Poole’s best series finish.

Chad Finley restarted 8th for the final four-lap restart, but found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time when 6th-place restarter Johnny Sauter stalled in front of him, dropping Finley’s #42 / Air Lift Chevrolet to a disappointing 18th-place finish. Finley had been in position to earn his first Top Ten since Gateway last summer, when he ran a strong 6th in his return to the series.

Cory Roper made his return to Truck Series competition for the first time since scaling back to a part-time effort following their withdrawal at Dover. As in many of his previous starts, his #04 Preferred Industrial Contractors Ford turned in a sterling qualifying effort, lining up 7th on the starting grid. But a slow start dropped him back through the field and he ultimately finished 20th.

*This marked the first last-place finish for both Joe Nemechek and the #87 in a Truck Series race at Charlotte. It’s also the first time a Truck Series last-placer finished last due to rear gear issues.

32) #87-Joe Nemechek / 19 laps / rear gear
31) #54-Natalie Decker / 32 laps / crash
30) #8-Camden Murphy / 40 laps / suspension
29) #9-Codie Rohrbaugh / 72 laps / crash
28) #33-Josh Reaume / 98 laps / running

1st) NEMCO Motorsports (2)
2nd) Copp Motorsports, DGR-Crosley, Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing, Norm Benning Racing, Reaume Brothers Racing, Young’s Motorsports (1)

1st) Chevrolet (7)
2nd) Toyota (1)


No comments: