Monday, May 25, 2020

XFINITY: Overheating car hands Colby Howard first last-place finish

PHOTO: @JDMotorsports01
Colby Howard picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Monday’s Alsco 300 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway when his #15 SANY America Chevrolet fell out with overheating issues after 11 of 203 laps.

The finish came in Howard’s third series start. In the XFINITY Series last-place rankings, it was the 10th for the #15, the 34th from overheating issues, and the 545th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 40th for the #15, the 174th from overheating issues, and the 1,711th for Chevrolet.

Just 18 years old from Simpsonville, South Carolina, Howard is among the many series newcomers trying to gain experience in national competition. According to his website, Colby began racing Bandloeros at Greenville Pickens Speedway and Anderson Motor Speedway, then worked his way to mini-stocks, limited late models, and full-blown late models. Through much of his career, Howard has been sponsored by the Project HOPE Foundation, a nonprofit benefiting the autistic.

On April 22, 2018, Howard made his ARCA debut at Salem Speedway, finishing 8th for Mason Mitchell. His Truck Series debut came the following November at Phoenix, where he ran 21st for Youngs Motorsports. Over the ensuing offseason, Howard signed with JD Motorsports, joining several drivers who would alternate between the team’s four different cars. Howard made his series debut in the last XFINITY race before the season’s suspension, running 34th after a mid-race crash at Phoenix. He then ran 27th in the series return at Darlington. Project HOPE sponsored both efforts.

Howard drew the 29th spot in Monday’s field, placing him behind JD Motorsports teammates B.J. McLeod in 14th and Jeffrey Earnhardt in 23rd, but ahead of Jesse Little in 34th. Bayley Currey was swapped into the 36th-place starting #74 Chevrolet, taking the place of Robby Lyons.

Starting 37th and last was Alex Labbe, who was swapped from DGM Racing’s #90 to the #36 Larue Snowblowers Chevrolet. Among those joining him at the rear were 33rd-place Matt Mills in the #5 J.F. Electric Chevrolet and Jeff Green, who drew 20th in an unsponsored #93 RSS Racing Chevrolet and confirmed he wouldn’t be running the whole race.

When the race started, Mills was so far back of the field that his car didn’t register an interval back of the leader as he crossed the stripe. Moments later, he was shown 6.81 seconds behind. He took over last at the end of Lap 1 with Green holding 36th, two seconds in front of Mills. Mills had dropped a full 11 seconds back of the lead when the first caution fell on Lap 5 for Kody Vanderwal, who struck the wall in Jimmy Means’ #52 Chevrolet.

Under the caution, Mills radioed he had smoke in the cockpit while Green said his car’s splitter was hitting the track. Green’s pit stop for adjustments and tightening the lug nuts dropped him to last on Lap 6, when he lost a lap to the leaders. Back on the track, Vanderwal was the last car on the lead lap, but this time he quickly lost touch with the rest of the field. On Lap 9, Vanderwal met minimum speed to clear the “Crash Clock,” but Howard now dropped to 35th place.

On Lap 11, Green’s spotter radioed that a car “sounds like they might be blowing up” and was smoking. It first appeared to be Vanderwal, who was now 5.5 seconds back of Howard. But Howard himself then pulled into the garage, and took last on Lap 14. Moments later, NASCAR Officials confirmed Howard had gone to the garage, and the team said overheating issues ended their day.

Green pulled into the garage on Lap 16. After his earlier splitter issues, he now believed he had a flat tire, then issues with the steering that kept the car from turning to the right. Perhaps due to smoke from the Green car, NASCAR Officials kept an eye on the #93 as he pulled in, four laps ahead of Howard. Vanderwal’s engine then let go down the backstretch on Lap 29, taking him out of the event and placing him 35th.

On Lap 39, NASCAR Officials in the garage confirmed Howard was out with overheating, Green with power steering, and Vanderwal with engine trouble.

Timmy Hill finished 34th when his #66 Toyota lost an engine in Turns 3 and 4 on Lap 156, dropping fluid that caused both Ross Chastain and Chase Briscoe to slap the wall. Austin Hill, whose #61 AISIN Group Toyota was fully-backed by Hattori Racing Enterprises, crashed out on Lap 177, collecting Jeremy Clements in the #51 All South Electric Chevrolet.

The heartbreaker of the night had to be Tommy Joe Martins, who clawed his way to 11th in his #44 Market Rebellion Chevrolet with just two laps to go. He was running in the low lane when three of the leaders tangled coming off Turn 2, triggering a pileup he couldn’t avoid. Martins spun and was struck by a passing Justin Haley, sending both cars hard into the inside wall. Martins finished 24th.

Finishing inside the Top 10 were both Brett Moffitt and Brandon Brown, each earning strong runs for their underfunded efforts. Moffitt’s #02 FR8 Auctions Chevrolet climbed to 6th in the final running order, scoring the first top-ten finish for Our Motorsports after a previous season-best of 11th last week in Darlington. Brown finished 8th in the #68 Coastal Carolina University Class of 2020 Chevrolet, just one spot shy of his season-best of 7th in the Daytona opener.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #15 in an XFINITY Series race at Charlotte. The number hadn’t finished last in the series since September 16, 2017, when Matt Mills had a vibration after 3 laps of the at Chicagoland.
*Howard is the seventh driver to score his first XFINITY Series last-place finish in the #15, joining Dale Earnhardt (1982), Jeff Purvis (1990), Clay Brown (1993), Michael Annett (2010), Todd Peck (2016), and Matt Mills (2017).

37) #15-Colby Howard / 11 laps / overheating
36) #93-Jeff Green / 15 laps / power steering
35) #52-Kody Vanderwal / 26 laps / engine
34) #66-Timmy Hill / 151 laps / engine
33) #61-Austin Hill / 173 laps / crash

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

1st) Chevrolet (5)
2nd) Toyota (1)


No comments: