Sunday, August 11, 2019

CUP: Spencer Boyd’s Cup debut gives car #53 first Cup Series last-place finish since 1993

PHOTO: @SpencerBoyd
Spencer Boyd picked up the 1st last-place finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Consumers Energy 400 at the Michigan International Speedway when his #53 Chelle Corporation Ford was eliminated in a single-car crash after 123 of 200 laps.

The finish came in Boyd’s series debut. In the Cup Series last-place rankings, it was the 19th for the #53, the 587th from a crash, and the 694th for Ford. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 25th for the #53, the 954th for Ford, and the 1,190th from a crash.

When Boyd was last featured on in April 2018, he’d been involved in a spectacular crash down the backstretch at Talladega during the XFINITY Series race there. At the time, he was driving for Bobby Dotter’s team SS-Green Light Racing, running the full tour with sponsorship from the veteran-backed clothing line Grunt Style. The season proved a struggle with no finishes better than a 17th at Daytona in July, and the two parted ways at season’s end.

This year, Boyd has made the move to the Truck Series, joining a revamped three-driver lineup at Young’s Motorsports. With Austin Hill making the move to Hattori Racing Enterprises, Boyd would drive the team’s #20 Chevrolet alongside Tyler Dippel in the #02 and ARCA competitor Gus Dean in the part-time #12, now a third full-time effort. Boyd proved best in class in the Daytona opener, surviving the chaos to finish 4th – his first top-five finish in NASCAR national touring series competition. Other than that and an 11th-place finish in the April race at Texas, Boyd has continued to struggle to find consistent finishes inside the Top 20. He has, at times, found controversy, such as the time Trey Hutchins rammed his truck late after a pileup at Texas, or the time Natalie Decker pulled off his hat and tossed it aside following a wreck in Kentucky.

On top of this, Boyd suffered an off-track back injury in late July, preventing him from running the previous round at Eldora. Landon Huffman was tabbed to drive in his place, and steered the #20 to a 24th-place finish. Boyd announced he would be returning to action the following weekend at Michigan, and in a big way – he would be running double-duty with both the Truck Series and his first-ever start in Cup. Boyd’s Sunday ride was the third team fielded by Rick Ware Racing, the #53 that B.J. McLeod debuted in the All-Star Open in Charlotte back in May. As at Young’s Motorsports, he would be flanked by young teammates – Cody Ware in the #51 and Austin Theriault in the #52. The Ware team also announced a fourth car joining the group next week in Bristol with J.J. Yeley running the new #54.

On the Truck Series side, Boyd qualified 27th and finished 22nd, his #20 1A Auto Chevrolet the last truck to finish on the lead lap. In Cup, he was slowest in the first two practice sessions and didn’t participate in Happy Hour. He put up the slowest time in qualifying with a speed of 173.590mph (41.477 seconds), nearly four full seconds off Brad Keselowski’s pole time and more than a second off the next-slowest car of Watkins Glen last-place finisher Reed Sorenson. That soon changed, however, as Richard Childress Racing teammates Austin Dillon and Daniel Hemric had their times disallowed due to illegal non-functioning alternators found in their Chevrolets. Dillon, who qualified his #3 Chevrolet Accessories Chevrolet 7th, was dropped to 37th with Hemric’s #8 Bass Pro Shops / Tracker Boats Chevrolet, 11th in time trials, starting 38th. Boyd would start ahead of the pair in 36th.

On race day, four more drivers were sent to the rear. Headlining the group was 15th-place qualifier Martin Truex, Jr., making his 500th series start in the #19 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota, after his car failed three trips through pre-race inspection. Joining him in the drop to the rear were Garrett Smithley, back from the XFINITY race in Mid-Ohio after Reed Sorenson practiced and qualified his car, and transmission changes for both 19th-place Matt Tifft in the #36 Meijer Ford and 31st-place Corey LaJoie in his #32 Schluter Systems Ford.

The mix of drivers starting in the back and being sent to the back created a logjam at the rear of the field as cars tried to line up in the proper order. On the first pace lap, Dillon and Hemric were no longer side by side in the last row, but nose-to-tail as the last two cars in the outside line. First Hemric was ahead of Dillon, then the two swapped positions. Boyd lined up to the inside of Hemric in the last row with Smithley’s penalized #77 lining up in front of Boyd. This became complicated when others voluntarily fell to the rear. Ross Chastain first dropped from 30th in his #15 Premium Motorsports Chevrolet along with teammate Quin Houff in the #27 Chevrolet. Dillon and Hemric moved to the inside lane with Houff to Dillon’s outside and Chastain further back. Cody Ware had dropped back to flank Hemric, and Truex and Tifft dropped back after this to slot in behind those two. Contrary to the broadcast, this did not put Truex last on the grid as two more rows were behind him. Truex hugged the apron on the backstretch for some time as he was instructed to line up next to one of the Childress cars. By that point, he already had four cars behind him – LaJoie and Chastain, followed by Smithley and Boyd in the final row.

Once all that was done, Boyd shook out of line in the first corner and tried to race Chastain, who cleared him onto the backstretch. Heading into Turn 3, he saw a black car slide up the track and watched Houff skate sideways up the banking before he finally regained control without a spin. Houff took over last by the time he crossed the stripe, and was 9.9 seconds back of the lead as they returned to the backstretch. On Lap 5, Houff caught Boyd quickly into Turn 1, then cleared him in Turn 4, putting Boyd back to last. Boyd then set to work following Houff’s tire tracks, but gradually lost more ground to the leaders. On Lap 14, polesitter Brad Keselowski zipped past in the high lane between Turns 1 and 2, putting Boyd the first car one lap down.

Boyd was still running last on Lap 18, when Jimmie Johnson entered the last-place battle. Coming off a frustrating last-lap spin at Watkins Glen, Johnson qualified 10th in his #48 Ally Chevrolet and was racing Clint Bowyer inside the Top 10 when he slapped the Turn 2 wall with the right-rear of his car. The contact battered the right side and cut down a right-rear tire, but did not draw a caution, forcing a green-flag stop. Johnson lost two laps as he returned to the track and passed Boyd on Lap 25 to get on the same lap as him. Boyd passed Ware for position that same time by, so on Lap 26 Johnson passed Ware to climb out of last place. But the damage was still rubbing the right-rear of his car, and on Lap 27, Johnson pitted a second time to repair a fender brace, dropping him another two laps down. Even then, the repairs didn’t completely repair the tire rub, leading to a long afternoon for the seven-time champion.

Johnson did manage to get on the same lap as Boyd on Lap 44, when he dropped the #53 back to last. At the time, the Rick Ware Racing crew was trying to encourage their new driver to pick up the speed. Boyd dropped Johnson to last again on Lap 46 following a third stop, at which point the #48 was seven laps back of the leader. This kept Johnson last at the end of Stage 1. It wasn’t until Lap 97 that Boyd lost enough laps to be on the same circuit as Johnson, and not until Lap 102 that Johnson once again dropped Boyd to last with a pass in Turn 2.

Encouraged by the team to pick up half a second, Boyd began to experiment with his line, running his right side tires in a new strip of PJ1 adhesive added to the upper groove. On Lap 116, Boyd said he was finding some success running the edge of the PJ1 groove, but was encouraged to find more speed. Another restart followed for an accident triggered by Aric Almirola, and on Lap 128 he let both Chastain and Smithley pull away from him to run by himself. Just five circuits later, however, Boyd lost control in Turn 3 and backed hard into the outside wall with the left-rear. He made it to pit road, only to be told to go back to the garage. The team waited until Lap 136 for traffic to clear pit road before pushing the #53 backwards into the garage. On Lap 140, Boyd’s car was shown “unavailable” on RaceView.

Johnson spent the rest of the race trying to gain as many spots as he could, but couldn’t quite avoid his first Bottom Five of 2019, finishing 34th, eight laps down on the same circuit as Smithley. Ware finished 36th, the last car running, one lap behind Smithley and Johnson. The only other DNF was Playoff bubble driver Clint Bowyer, whose #14 One Cure Ford snapped loose in traffic in Turn 4, slamming the outside wall and dislodging the rear decklid. Bowyer’s Stewart-Haas Racing crew attempted to clear the Crash Clock, but ran out of time, and he was eliminated under the Damaged Vehicle Policy.

The race was run on August 11, the 28th anniversary of the Lap 5 crash at Watkins Glen that claimed the life of longtime independent driver J.D. McDuffie. It was during this same Michigan race on August 18, 1991 that Darrell Waltrip gave a eulogy to McDuffie prior to the Champion Spark Plug 400. On Sunday, Father Geoff Rose of St. Francis de Sales High School opened his invocation in McDuffie's honor. He said, in part, "As we begin today, we are mindful that on August 11, 1991, we lost J.D. McDuffie at Watkins Glen, a great race car driver for NASCAR."

*This marked the first last-place finish for car #53 in a Cup Series race at Michigan, and the first in any Cup points race since June 13, 1993, when Graham Taylor’s run in Jimmy Means Racing’s unsponsored Ford ended after 3 laps of the Champion Spark Plug 500 at Pocono. Taylor’s official reason out in 1993 was “quit,” the 58th and most recent time a last-place finisher was listed out for that reason. This was the same race, won by Kyle Petty, where a fan ran across the backstretch in front of the race leaders, narrowly escaping with his life. Curiously, the Means team brought back this car number for the first time in Saturday’s XFINITY race in Mid-Ohio, where Max Tullman finished last.
*Boyd is the first driver to finish last in his Cup debut since Garrett Smithley, also at Michigan, on June 10, 2018.

38) #53-Spencer Boyd / 123 laps / crash
37) #14-Clint Bowyer / 139 laps / crash
36) #51-Cody Ware / 191 laps / running
35) #77-Garrett Smithley / 192 laps / running
34) #48-Jimmie Johnson / 192 laps / running

1st) Rick Ware Racing (7)
2nd) Front Row Motorsports, Stewart-Haas Racing (3)
3rd) Chip Ganassi Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Spire Motorsports (2)
4th) Germain Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Motorsports Business Management (1)

1st) Chevrolet (13)
2nd) Ford (8)
3rd) Toyota (2)



MarshallDog said...

"Illegal non-functioning alternators?" What the hell is that? Is there some kind of advantage to having a non-functioning alternator?

Brock Beard said...

That's as close as I was able to get to what happened. Apparently the rule is the alternator must be functional in qualifying. Reports were the two cars had alternators installed, but were non functional. Not sure if that meant they were unplugged, defective, or broken. One report said the alternators were just empty casings to save weight.

Nick said...

I remember back when teams would have to put a full blown Q setup in the car at the plate tracks, they were allowed to not have the alternator belt on, to get a bit more horsepower out of the motor for a couple laps. Then once the race started they had to put it back on. (Joe Nemechek 2008 Talladega pole comes to mind). So maybe that isn't allowed anymore.