Sunday, May 5, 2019

XFINITY: Josh Bilicki first to finish last at Dover with transmission issues since 2009

PHOTO: @joshbilicki
Josh Bilicki picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Allied Steel Buildings 200 at the Dover International Speedway when his #93 W.G. Speaks / Carrier Chevrolet fell out with transmission issues after 10 of 200 laps.

The finish, which came in Bilicki’s 47th series start, was his first of the season and first in an XFINITY Series race since last summer at Iowa, 24 races ago. In the XFINITY last-place rankings, it was the 42nd for car #93, the 48th from transmission issues, and the 525th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 92nd for the #93, the 159th from transmission issues, and the 1,655th for Chevrolet.

Bilicki’s most recent last-place finish was his seventh of eleven DNFs picked up in his full season effort with JP Motorsports, a two-car start-up using the remnants of TriStar Motorsports’ XFINITY effort. By November, the JP team was scrambling to put together cars. At Texas, where Bilicki wrecked in the lead-up to the race, the team withdrew their second car and had Bilicki drive. The next week at Phoenix, the team had a second car again, but Bilicki had to help decal his un-decorated ride just minutes before practice.

This year, Bilicki drives for RSS Racing, taking J.J. Yeley’s place alongside Ryan Sieg and all-time last-place leader Jeff Green. This paid immediate dividends at Daytona as the Sieg team has consistently acquired full sponsorship for all three cars on the plate tracks. Bilicki’s #38 debuted new backing from DR Squatch Soap and finished 23rd, better than all but two of his finishes for JP last year. He then swapped rides with Green at Las Vegas, and has driven the #93 ever since. Despite five DNFs this year, only his early exits at Vegas and Bristol were apparent “start-and-parks.” A fully-sponsored effort last week at Talladega with CMR Construction & Roofing as backer saw the transmission fail in the late laps, leaving him just 33rd.

Though W.G. Speaks and Carrier were the listed sponsors of Bilicki’s Dover car, his ride was photographed with hardly any other decals besides red door and roof numbers, indicating a third “start-and-park.” He turned just two laps in opening practice, ranking him 32nd of the 34 drivers listed, and didn’t participate in Happy Hour. He improved somewhat in qualifying, climbing to 30th on the grid with a lap of 149.502mph (24.080 seconds), just one position and one-tenth of a second behind teammate Jeff Green.

With exactly 38 drivers entered for as many spots, no drivers were sent home. Starting last was the slowest car in time trials, John Jackson in Motorsports Business Management’s #13 Richie Anderson Memorial / CrashClaimsR.Us Toyota. Bilicki joined Jackson at the back of the field after he incurred a tail-end penalty for unapproved adjustments. The same penalty also docked 9th-place starter Noah Gragson in JR Motorsports’ #9 Switch Chevrolet.

As Bilicki and Gragson fell to the rear, a few other drivers also voluntarily surrendered their starting spots. This was discussed in radio transmissions from Morgan Shepherd, who qualified 34th in his #89 Visone RV Chevrolet. After Shepherd dropped back, he realized he was suddenly in just about the same spot as before, now lined up next to Gragson. Falling to the rear voluntarily were Jackson - his #13 called the “12 and a half” by Shepherd’s spotter - plus Jeff Green’s #38 and the Rick Ware Racing #17 East Carolina University Chevrolet of Bayley Currey.

When the green flag fell, Jackson resumed his last-place starting spot. The #13 was 2.160 seconds back of the lead at the stripe, 10.768 back after two laps, 14.637 after four, and was the first to be lapped after the tenth circuit. Bilicki, meanwhile, had worked his way to 34th, when on Lap 12 he fell out of line and pulled into the garage area. Bilicki pulled up to the team’s hauler and the crew decamped, saying “You guys have a good couple weeks off, I’ll see you in Charlotte.”

Jackson and Green finished in the next two spots, each falling out in the next five laps. Jackson was tagged for speeding exiting the pits on his way to the garage. Shepherd made an unscheduled stop midway through Stage 1 and reported an overheating issue, at one point his oil temperature reaching 260 degrees. Shepherd had the crew take all the tape off the nose and clear the rubber off the front valence, but ultimately pulled into the Turn 3 entrance of the garage at the start of Stage 2. Currey rounded out the Bottom Five, pulling off shortly after Shepherd.

Ryan Sieg, Bilicki and Green’s teammate, pulled off a remarkable comeback. On Lap 15, while the #93 and #38 pulled off the track, Sieg reported a vibration and had to make an unscheduled pit stop. The stop dropped him to 34th, two laps back of the lead. A wave-around, then a Lucky Dog put Sieg back on the lead lap, and he surged to an 11th-place finish.

Two spots behind Sieg came Brandon Brown, who with his first sponsorship deals of 2019 earned two Lucky Dogs and finished 13th, tying his season best at Las Vegas and continuing his streak of finishing inside the Top 20 in every XFINITY race this season.

Gray Gaulding’s plans to challenge for the “Dash 4 Cash” after his runner-up at Talladega nearly fell apart last week when the team lost sponsorship. But no less than three brands jumped on board, decorating the car Gaulding was originally set to debut in Charlotte. Although he finished just 20th, three laps down, the youngster gave leader Cole Custer one of his few challenges on Saturday, fighting to stay on the lead lap at the end of Stage 2.

*This marked the third consecutive year that RSS Racing’s #93 Chevrolet finished last in the spring Dover race. The previous two were scored by Jeff Green.
*This was also the first time the last-place finisher of an XFINITY race at Dover retired with transmission issues since May 30, 2009, when Casey Atwood’s #05 31-W Insulation Chevrolet fell out after 8 laps of the Heluva Good! 200.

38) #93-Josh Bilicki / 10 laps / transmission
37) #13-John Jackson / 13 laps / vibration
36) #38-Jeff Green / 15 laps / brakes
35) #89-Morgan Shepherd / 50 laps / overheating
34) #17-Bayley Currey / 59 laps / engine

1st) Motorsports Business Management (4)
2nd) RSS Racing (3)
3rd) DGM Racing, JD Motorsports, Rick Ware Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (6)
2nd) Toyota (4)


No comments: