Friday, May 22, 2020

XFINITY: Evil-handling Camry puts Stephen Leicht out after one lap at Darlington

PHOTO: MBM, @StartAndParkCar
Stephen Leicht picked up the 5th last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Thursday’s Toyota 200 at the Darlington Raceway when his #66 Toyota fell out with suspension issues after 1 of 147 laps.

The finish, which came in Leicht’s 136th series start, was his first since February 15, 2019 at Daytona, 37 races ago. In the XFINITY Series last-place rankings, it was the 7th for the #66, the 19th from suspension issues, and the 133rd for Toyota. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 43rd for suspension trouble, the 70th for the #66, and the 330th for Toyota.

Since he was previously featured here last year, Leicht completed a full season for JD Motorsports, finishing 18th in points. His best finish came in his return to Daytona for the July race, where he ran 5th – his first top-five finish in the series since the Homestead finale on November 17, 2007 – his final start as a development driver for Yates Racing.

This year, Leicht joins Motorsports Business Management, campaigning the #66. While the team fielded a Toyota Supra in the Daytona opener, where Timmy Hill overcame a technical inspection penalty to finish 3rd, Leicht drives the team’s gold-and-white “Zombie” Toyota Camry. While Leicht failed to finish his three starts at Las Vegas, Fontana, and Phoenix, in each case he completed just over half the race distance.

Leicht rejoined the team in Darlington, where the qualifying draw placed him 37th in the 39-car field – the first race since NASCAR’s temporary allowance of 40-car fields in XFINITY and Trucks when there is no qualifying. Drawing the last starting spot was the #26 Rosie Network Toyota of Colin Garrett, whose Sam Hunt Racing team was returning to the circuit for the first time since Daytona.

Three more teams would drop to the before the start, each for unapproved adjustments: 21st-place Kody Vanderwal in the #52 Circle Track Warehouse / Franklin Signs Chevrolet, 36th-place Joe Graf, Jr. in the #08 Core Development Group Chevrolet, and 38th-place Landon Cassill, the current 2020 LASTCAR XFINITY leader, in Morgan Shepherd’s #89 Visone RV Chevrolet. With one lap until green, the trio had dropped to the back, but Cassill soon had another three cars behind him – Garrett in the #26, 31st-place Colby Howard in the #15 Project Hope Foundation Chevrolet, and 33rd-place Mason Massey in the #99 Gerber Collision & Glass Toyota. Moments before the start, Cassill waved Garrett to move past him, but Garrett declined.

The moment the race went green, Leicht plummeted to the rear of the field. The lack of practice and qualifying seemed to affect him most seriously as he was already 7.6 seconds back of the lead as he crossed the stripe, and turned the first lap at just 38.681 seconds – well off the 32-33 second range of other trailing cars. Also struggling was Ronnie Bassett, Jr., whose #36 Bassett Gutters & More Chevrolet was advised to pick up the pace after he was lapped on Lap 7. Bassett ultimately finished 31st.

Leicht pulled into the garage after just that first lap, saying the car is “wandering really hard off the left-front.” Team owner Carl Long met with him to look over the chassis, but the team never returned to the track. On Lap 8, Long radioed “Come on out, bud.” It wasn’t until Lap 60 that NASCAR Officials announced, “66 out, suspension.”

Also on Lap 60 was “89 out, handling,” signaling the end of the day for Landon Cassill. Cassill stayed out to complete 35 laps, well past the Lap 15 competition caution, and was still just one lap down when he pulled into the garage. Cassill only dropped to 37th at the time as Colin Garrett had gone to the garage on Lap 26, citing a left-front issue that was revealed to be brake issues. Bayley Current later tweeted that he ran the entire race without brakes on the #74 Save 22 Chevrolet, still managing to finish 33rd. Garrett, however, didn’t return to the track until Lap 52, and completed his 19th lap on Lap 54. Combined with his stay in the garage, the completed lap clocked in at 1494.984 seconds. Garrett dropped Cassill to 38th on Lap 71 but climbed no further and finished 37th.

Myatt Snider turned just 129 laps in Thursday’s race after an early incident where the TV panel on his #93 Superior Essex Chevrolet came loose after he struck the wall. NASCAR Officials made multiple calls to their spotters to watch for smoke coming off his car, requiring additional stops. He still managed to climb one more spot in the final laps, passing Jesse Little, whose #4 SEM Products Chevrolet fell out with a vibration.

Brett Moffitt fell just short of a top-ten finish when he slipped back to 11th in the final laps in the #02 Fr8 Auctions Chevrolet. This still turned out to be the team’s best finish in this, their first season. They have also not finished out of the Top 20 since the opener in Daytona, completing all but two laps in those five races.

Leicht’s MBM teammates Timmy Hill (#61 Toyota) and Chad Finchum (#13 Great Southern Homes Toyota) both finished on the lead lap in 22nd and 24th, respectively. David PeQueen tweeted that this marked the first time two MBM cars finished on the lead lap since Indianapolis last summer. For Hill, it was his best Darlington finish since 2012. For Finchum, it was his fifth-straight Top 25 finish – the longest streak of his XFINITY career.

*This marked the first last-place finish for car #66 in a XFINITY Series race at Darlington.
*The only other time the last-place finisher of a XFINITY race at Darlington fell out with suspension issues occurred on September 5, 2015, when Ryan Ellis’ run in the #17 Navy Seals vs. Zombies Ford also ended after 1 lap of the VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200. It was this same finish that ended Jeff Green’s record streak of eight consecutive last-place finishes.

39) #66-Stephen Leicht / 1 lap / suspension
38) #89-Landon Cassill / 35 laps / handling
37) #26-Colin Garrett / 111 laps / running
36) #4-Jese Little / 122 laps / vibration
35) #93-Myatt Snider / 129 laps / running

1st) Shepherd Racing Ventures (2)
2nd) Jeremy Clements Racing, Motorsports Business Management, SS-Green Light Racing (1)

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


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