|PHOTO: Chris Graythen, Getty Images|
The finish came in Davis’ 11th series start. In the Truck Series last-place rankings, it was the 7th for the #11, the 34th from transmission issues, and the 36th for Toyota. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 57th for the #11, the 160th from transmission problems, and the 331st for Toyota.
Davis has much in common with Chase Elliott, who won Tuesday’s race. A second-generation racer from Dawsonville, Georgia, Davis has been racing since he was six. Nicknamed “The Show” according to the Rette-Jones Racing website, Davis started racing NASCAR modifieds in 2014 when he was just 15 years old and took Rookie of the Year. The next year, he ran closed-fendered cars in the K&N Pro Series East and took his first checkered flag in the 2016 round in Virginia’s Dominion Raceway, besting current XFINITY full-timer Justin Haley. Next came seven starts in the ARCA Menards Series, where his best run was a 3rd in his debut at Talladega.
Kyle Busch Motorsports took notice of the young upstart, earning him a part-time effort in 2018. He finished 7th in his Truck Series debut at Daytona and led seven laps at Texas. Just last year, he worked with Mark Rette of Rette-Jones Racing, pairing up a full-season effort in the K&N Pro Series East with a few more Truck Series starts. He nearly matched his best Truck Series finish at Kentucky last summer, finishing 8th in the team’s #11 Toyota. Davis himself became the listed owner of the #11 entry for 2020, which he debuted in February’s race in Las Vegas with a strong 12th-place finish.
Charlotte hosted the first Truck Series race in over three months, and thanks to NASCAR’s rule temporarily allowing fields of 40 in XFINITY and Trucks, tied a series record. Only six times before had the Truck Series seen more than 38 starters in a points race, and never more than 40. The last 40-truck field was seen on November 8, 1998 at Las Vegas. This was of little comfort to seven drivers and teams who failed to qualify based on their rank in Owner Points (and inability to trade ranks with a locked-in team). Left out of the field were Norm Benning, Parker Kligerman, Trey Hutchens, Tim Viens, Erik Jones, Bryant Barnhill, and Dawson Cram.
Davis lined up 28th. Although his team had made just one previous start all season, he was locked-in thanks to his previous employer at Kyle Busch Motorsports, who allowed him to use the points of their non-entered part-time #46 team.
Taking 40th and last was Ray Ciccarelli, who not only made his first start of the season and first at Charlotte, but for the first time in 2020 got both his Springrate-sponsored Chevrolets into the show. Ciccarelli drove the team’s primary #49 while T.J. Bell was at the controls of the #83, which rolled off three spots ahead in 37th. Before the race, Bayley Currey swapped into Ciccarelli's #49.
Sent to the rear before the start was 36th-place Bryan Dauzat, whose Jim Rosenblum-owned FDNY Racing has often attempted the Charlotte race. The FDNY crew rebuilt their damaged Daytona truck for the race, but incurred a tail-end penalty before the start as they had to change alternators on the day of the race.
When the race started, Dauzat raced Clay Greenfield, who was running the “Tennessee Strong” paint scheme his #68 team had planned to run for the postponed race in Atlanta. Both made quick work of Jesse Iwuji, who by the end of Lap 1 was 1.4 seconds back of Dauzat in his #33 RBR Graphics Chevrolet. On Lap 2, Iwuji’s spotter alerted him to a truck slowing in front of him – Jordan Anderson, whose #3 Bommarito.com Chevrolet was forced to make an unscheduled green-flag stop. Anderson returned to the track two laps down, taking last from Iwuji, who lost his first lap on the 8th circuit.
Dauzat re-took last place on Lap 13, after he’d made an unscheduled pit stop of his own, then was nabbed for speeding, forcing a pass-through penalty. When the competition caution fell on Lap 15, Dauzat was back on the track five laps down. He’d pit again under the yellow for a can of fuel. Dauzat continued to struggle on the restart, saying he had to lift off the gas in Turns 3 and 4. The team also had concerns that their tires were too worn out. On top of this, NASCAR Officials alerted the team to something dragging under Dauzat’s truck on Lap 41. He was then advised again to pick up his speed on Lap 51, just three laps after Iwuji was advised to do the same. Iwuji’s crew told him to keep his truck on the bottom lane, which would play a role in how his night ended.
On Lap 54, Dauzat was posted for not meeting the minimum speed and came back down pit road, dropping him eight laps down. Iwuji made a stop of his own the next time by. Only then did Spencer Davis enter the last-place battle. The driver reported he’d climbed to 17th when his truck suddenly wouldn’t pull, forcing him to the garage area. “It just let loose,” said Davis. “Wasn’t putting no drive to the tires.” As he pulled behind the team’s hauler, the team worked to replace an axle, then the rear gear. Both proved difficult – the axle wouldn’t budge, and the rear gear was well away from where they had parked, sitting on jack stands next to a fence. They also had difficulty finding the tool to unhook the u-joint.
On Lap 70, Davis’ crew radioed that they may be done for the night, and for the first time said “it’s the transmission.” But it wasn’t until Lap 110 – with just 24 laps to go – that NASCAR Officials confirmed Davis was out with transmission issues. Also confirmed in that message was the retirement of 39th-place Iwuji, who was involved in one of the night’s biggest wrecks. On Lap 81, Iwuji couldn’t hold the bottom when he was being passed by Brennan Poole and Stewart Friesen. The three trucks collided, collecting the #26 of Tyler Ankrum. Iwuji, who was at least six laps down at the time, was done for the night. Poole was collected in a second accident on the restart with Natalie Decker, and when the six-minute "Crash Clock" ran out, his #30 Remember Everyone Deployed Toyota took 38th.
For a time, it appeared Matt Crafton would finish his night in the Bottom Five. His #88 Oklahoma Joe’s Smokers / Menards Ford came down pit road late in the race with the rear end traveling around, the result of a snapped bolt on the track bar. Crafton tumbled to 37th spot, but returned to the track on Lap 126. In those final eight laps, Crafton climbed past two other wrecked trucks to take 35th – Todd Gilliland, whose #38 Black’s Tire Service Ford was turned into the wall by John Hunter Nemechek, and Garrett Smithley, who walled the #40 Trophy Tractor Chevrolet when he spun down the backstretch, then fell out with rear end trouble.
Dauzat, whose FDNY crew continued to try and raise their truck to keep it from dragging, managed to finish under power in 34th, 14 laps down to race winner Chase Elliott.
|Mike Hurlbert and his Bud Light Ford, 1995.|
*Prior to Tuesday’s race, just one driver had ever finished last in a Truck Series race driving the #11 –Mike Hurlbert. The Lynden, Washington-born driver made 22 series starts from 1995 through 1997 with a career-best 16th three times during the inaugural season at the bullrings of Tucson, I-70, and Colorado. He also finished last six times, most recently at Loudon on September 8, 1996, when his #11 RPM Racing Ford lost an engine on the first lap of the Pennzoil VIP Tripleheader. Hurlbert’s five last-place finishes in 1996 were enough to claim the LASTCAR Truck Series Championship, and set a single-season record that stood until 1999, when Phil Bonifield took six.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #11-Spencer Davis / 54 laps / transmission
39) #33-Jesse Iwuji / 74 laps / crash
38) #30-Brennan Poole / 83 laps / dvp
37) #38-Todd Gilliland / 102 laps / crash
36) #40-Garrett Smithley / 105 laps / rear end
2020 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Niece Motorsports, Reaume Brothers Racing, Spencer Davis Motorsports (1)
2020 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (2)
2nd) Toyota (1)
2020 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP