Saturday, May 9, 2020

iRACING: Scoring issue and mystery disqualification leave Ty Dillon last in North Wilkesboro

SCREENSHOT: @GermainRacing, iRacing
Ty Dillon finished last in Saturday’s seventh round of the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational, the North Wilkesboro 160 at the North Wilkesboro Speedway, when his #13 GEICO Chevrolet was disqualified after he completed 84 of 160 laps.

The 2020 season has marked Dillon’s fourth consecutive season driving for Germain Racing in the Cup Series. It comes after the 28-year-old’s best season to date, when he scored his first Top Five with a 4th in the July race at Daytona and scored a pair of stage wins – one each at Bristol and Talladega. He started the year with a crash in the Daytona 500, then a season-best 10th in Las Vegas before finishes of 26th and 15th in the following two rounds, leaving him 23rd in the series standings.

During the Pro Invitational Series, Dillon has been sure to represent his sponsor, GEICO, taping the company’s slogans to his walls and displaying decorative geckos around his rig. The finishes, however, have not been stellar. While he only failed to finish one race – a crash last week in Dover – he’d run no better than 15th, which came at Richmond. His best overall performance was at Talladega, where he qualified 6th and led eight laps, only to slip to 23rd in the final laps.

Dillon would not run a throwback scheme for the much-anticipated North Wilkesboro race, but his family has deep roots with the track. His grandfather Richard Childress made 19 starts at the track from 1972 through 1981, earning a best of 6th in 1977. He would then score five wins at the track as an owner with Dale Earnhardt, the first coming in 1986 and last in 1995.

Dillon qualified 18th in the 29-car field, seven spots behind his brother Austin in 11th.

Taking last on the grid was Clint Bowyer, back from a one-week hiatus in his #14 Rush Truck Centers Ford. Reportedly, Bowyer “didn’t quite make it around the track” during his qualifying lap, putting him in the rear. While it was reported that Christopher Bell dropped to the rear prior to the start due to his strong finish last week in Dover, FOX Sports’ footage showed Bowyer still in last coming to the green, drawing alongside Michael McDowell in the #34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford.

Scoring errors are not unusual to the real North Wilkesboro Speedway. Most notorious of these occurred during the running of the First Union 400 thirty years ago. A caution during pit stops caused confusion, ultimately putting Brett Bodine ahead of Darrell Waltrip after a lengthy delay. Bodine took the win, the only one of his Cup career. Saturday proved no different. While 29 cars started the race, the scoring pylon only showed 28 spots. This made it sadly impossible to track the 29th spot during the race, and I mistakenly credited the 28th-place runner as last during my live tweets.

By Lap 4, Joey Gase had slipped to the 28th spot, 5.766 seconds back of the lead. His #53 Ford was decorated like team owner Rick Ware’s Otter Pops Pontiac that he raced in his Cup debut at Watkins Glen in 1990. Denny Hamlin took the spot on Lap 14 following his involvement in an accident on the backstretch, then passed Gase’s teammate J.J. Yeley, driving a Ken Schrader throwback on his #52 Ford. Gase returned to 28th on Lap 20, then was shown without an interval for at least five circuits. McDowell was then involved in an accident, dropping him to 28th, two laps down.

McDowell held 28th until around Lap 51, when Chris Buescher fell two laps down in the #17 Fastenal Ford. Buescher’s car was shown later in the race with much of the front clip missing, and drew another caution on Lap 54. Buescher lost a third lap in the process, but remained on track in the next-to-last positon.

Ty Dillon entered the last-place picture with 72 laps to go, when his #13 was shown three laps down, putting him on the same lap as Buescher. Germain Racing’s PR indicated Dillon had also suffered rear end damage on Lap 74. He was 10 laps down with 65 to go, indicating he was likely out of the race. Scoring then surprisingly showed Erik Jones climb to 28th with 63 to go, his #20 a full 11 laps down. Given the missing 29th spot on scoring, this likely indicates Jones was running last for the run prior to Dillon’s disqualification. Jones gained one of his laps back and finished 22nd, 10 laps down.

McDowell took 28th, a full 68 laps back of the leader. I first credited McDowell with the last-place finish before the mistake was discovered in the final results. In the end, Dillon had edged McDowell for the spot by just eight laps.

Ryan Preece suffered a disappointing 27th-place finish after his #37 Purina Chevrolet started outside-pole and led 32 of the first 99 laps. Preece’s car was later shown slowing on the frontstretch before he disconnected. Aric Almirola took 26th in a special Mother’s Day version of his #10 Smithfield Ford. The pastel-colored paint scheme was designed by his wife Janice. Rounding out the Bottom Five was Corey LaJoie, whose throwback #32 Drydene Ford fell out after the brake pedal came loose from his sim rig.

*Car #13 has never finished last in a Cup Series race at North Wilkesboro, a track where Derrike Cope became the final last-place finisher in September 1996.
*While Dillon’s grandfather Richard Childress never finished last at North Wilkesboro, Richard’s younger brother Ronnie Childress did – and did so in his only Cup start. On April 21, 1974, Ronnie’s #75 Childress Racing 1972 Chevrolet had ignition problems after 43 laps, leaving him last in the 30-car field. Richard finished 22nd, out with a rear end issue.

29) #13-Ty Dillon / 84 laps / disqualified
28) #34-Michael McDowell / 92 laps / disconnected
27) #37-Ryan Preece / 99 laps / disconnected / led 32 laps
26) #10-Aric Almirola / 103 laps / disconnected
25) #32-Corey LaJoie / 133 laps / brake pedal

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