Monday, June 29, 2020

ARCA: Expired engine thwarts Thad Moffitt’s efforts at Pocono

PHOTO: @dgr_crosley on Instagram
by William Soquet Guest Contributor

Thad Moffitt finished last for the first time in his ARCA Menards Series career in Friday’s General Tire #AnywhereIsPossible 200 at Pocono Raceway when his #46 Richard Petty’s Performance Plus / DGR-Crosley Ford retired with engine problems after completing two of the race’s 80 laps.

The finish came in Moffitt’s 19th career start.

For those who do not know, Moffitt is a grandson of Richard Petty - he is the son of Brian Moffitt, the CEO of Richard Petty Motorsports, and Rebecca Petty-Moffitt. Thad’s developmental path took him through go-karts and quarter midgets before moving up to late models and running at storied North Carolina racetracks. In 2017, he joined RPM-affiliated Empire Racing Group for a limited ARCA slate. He stayed with Empire through the end of the 2019 season, switching from Ford to Chevrolet and back again. For 2020, Moffitt announced a one-race deal at Daytona with DGR-Crosley, finishing fifth. He has run every race since then on the ARCA national tour; however, there has been no confirmation from the team or driver on a full-time or expanded part-time schedule.

The entry list started at 20 drivers for the Friday race. The only ARCA debut in the field was Russ Lane, a road racer who is now a part of the Empire Racing Group driver development program. His #8 car brought funding from the National Autosport Association (NASA) Central Region, a series in which he had previously raced. Empire’s main driver, Sean Corr, also was on the entry list in the original Empire number, the 82. Clay Greenfield was on an ARCA entry list for the first time since 2015, driving the #11 in a planned 20-lap adventure for Fast Track Racing to get track time before the Truck Series race. Don Thompson took over the #0 car from Con Nicolopoulos as the second Wayne Peterson Racing entry. Scott Melton returned in his #69 car, as Pocono is one of the bigger tracks that Melton is running. Derek Griffith, after initially announcing a full-time East slate with Chad Bryant Racing, switched to a part-time East and part-time national series schedule and showed up at Pocono with a bright #22 car. Also entered were a group of 17-year-olds, eligible to compete after participating in practice: Ty Gibbs, Sam Mayer, and Chandler Smith.

There was a little bit of movement in the middle of the week, as Tim Richmond was forced to abandon his full-season schedule when engine problems that were terminal at Talladega could not be repaired before Pocono. Thompson shifted over from the #0 to the #06, and Jason Kitzmiller was added in his #97 entry. There was also another rumored entry:

Of course, ARCA did have a practice session, but no further comment was offered. It could, however, be something to keep an eye on for 2021.

There was one practice session on Friday - but unlike the ARCA Menards Series West this weekend, it did not double as a qualifying session. Chandler Smith led the session with a lap of 54.062 seconds. At the tail of the field was Thompson, with a best lap of 1 minute, 8.618 seconds. A total of 14 of the 20 drivers ran a fast lap under a minute, meaning that there would likely be a large performance gap come race time.

The starting lineup was set “by the entry blank”, a procedure that is not defined in ARCA’s 2019 rulebook. The author’s best guess is that the field was set by the time that a driver’s entry was received by the sanctioning body, resulting in a four-car Venturini / Joe Gibbs Racing group at the front, led by Michael Self and a couple of DGR-Crosley entries starting together. Sean Corr was the 20th starter per the sanctioning body.

Per the Fox Sports 1 broadcast, Kitzmiller, Mayer and Corr incurred tail-end penalties before the start of the race. Coming to the green however, Tommy Vigh Jr. in the #01 and Don Thompson in the #06 were the last cars on track, choosing to voluntarily drop to the back of the field.

Moffitt had moved up to fifth by the middle of lap two, when voluminous clouds of smoke started coming out of the back of his #46 machine. Moffitt was able to get back to pit road, but was done for the day. “Wow, that was really disappointing," said Moffitt in a team release. "I thought we had a really good Performance Plus Oil Ford for the race, but we never got the chance to find out how well we could run before the engine let go on lap three. I hate it for my DGR-Crosley guys. They worked so hard getting this car ready and they give me great Fords at every track. All we can do is move on and get ready for Lucas Oil Raceway next week."

The rest of the Bottom Five filled up in the first half of the race’s 80 laps. Tommy Vigh Jr. exited after nine laps; Don Thompson came to the garage two laps later. Russ Lane’s debut ended after 28 laps and Greenfield wound up running 29 laps before exiting - nine laps on top of the originally-stated 20.

20) #46-Thad Moffitt / 2 laps / engine
19) #01-Tommy Vigh Jr. / 9 laps / unknown
18) #06-Don Thompson / 11 laps / unknown
17) #8-Russ Lane / 28 laps / unknown
16) #11-Clay Greenfield / 29 laps / unknown

1st) DGR-Crosley, Fast Track Racing, Reeves Racing, Wayne Peterson Motorsports (1)

1st) Chevrolet (2)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (1)


Sunday, June 28, 2020

CUP: Michael McDowell sets new record for the most Cup Series last-place finishes

Michael McDowell picked up the 34th last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Pocono 350 at the Pocono Raceway when his #34 Dockside Logistics Ford was involved in a single-car accident after 15 of 140 laps.

The finish, which came in McDowell’s 336th series start, was his first of the season and first in Cup since April 28, 2019 at Talladega, 41 races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 35th for the #34, the 598th from a crash, and the 700th for Ford. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 49th for the #34, the 963rd for Ford, and the 1,211th from a crash.

The finish also gave McDowell sole possession of the all-time Cup Series last-place record, breaking a tie he’d held for more than a year with Joe Nemechek. Appropriately, this 34th last-place finish came while McDowell was driving car #34. It should be noted, however, that it was just his 6th last-place finish with Front Row Motorsports. He’d scored a combined 24 last-place runs driving as a “start-and-park” for Phil Parsons under PRISM Motorsports (4), HP Racing, LLC (7), and Phil Parsons Racing (13). This period in his career secured him three consecutive LASTCAR Cup Series titles from 2011 through 2013. He also scored one finish each with Leavine Family Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing, Tommy Baldwin Racing, and Whitney Motorsports.

As reported here yesterday, McDowell had quietly enjoyed a consistent start to the season, his second with Front Row. He finished 8th in Saturday’s first round of the Pocono double-header, marking his fourth-straight finish of 18th or better, and his first finish better than 16th at the track. In addition, he’d finished on the lead lap in 10 of the first 14 races in 2020, and only once ever finished more than one lap down – a difficult 36th-place finish in Las Vegas. Following the inversion of the Top 20 finishers in the Saturday race, McDowell would roll off 13th in the same Dockside Logistics Ford. He hoped to avoid the difficulties faced by teammate John Hunter Nemechek at Darlington, where he ran 9th in the Sunday race, then crashed twice to take 35th in the midweek event.

Rolling off last was Saturday’s last-place finisher Quin Houff, who rolled out StarCom Racing’s backup car, the #00 Mane ‘n Tail Chevrolet. He’d incur a redundant tail-end penalty for using the backup, along with four other drivers involved in accidents on Saturday: 27th-place Alex Bowman in the #88 / Adam’s Polishes Chevrolet, 30th-place Tyler Reddick in the #8 Caterpillar Chevrolet, 36th-place Joey Logano in the #22 Shell / Pennzoil Ford, and 38th-place Erik Jones in the #20 Craftsman Toyota. Transmission changes docked both 25th-place Chase Elliott in the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet and 39th-place B.J. McLeod, whose transmission jumped out of gear on his #78 Koolbox Chevrolet. And there were also engine change penalties for 7th-place William Byron in the #24 Axalta Chevrolet and polesitter Ryan Preece in the #37 P&G “On Equality, We Have A Choice” Chevrolet.

When the green flag dropped after a half-hour lightning delay, the last row consisted of McLeod in the high lane next to Joey Gase, who was slated to start 37th in his #51 Adkins Automotive Ford. Gase inched away from McLeod as the field accelerated, McLeod shown 4.137 seconds back of the race leader. Unfortunately, McLeod’s red car had yet another problem – it was trailing smoke, which caught the attention of his spotter and NASCAR officials. On Lap 3, McLeod pulled down pit road, where the crew looked under the right side to see if it was leaking any fluid. They saw no fluid, but McLeod could plainly smell gear oil. They believed the gear had simply been overfilled.

On Lap 4, the caution fell for yet another passing rain storm. Under the yellow on Lap 5, the team sent McLeod back onto the track, shown three laps down and still in last place. He finally completed his second lap of the race on Lap 6. The team looked for smoke, and McLeod said he would pull the car into the garage if the smoke came back. In doing so, McLeod vowed to do anything he could to finish the race. “Even if we’re 70 laps down, we’ll run to the finish,” said McLeod. “Not gonna quit.” When the rain intensified, prolonging the caution, the team found they had more time to prepare.

Not so fortunate was Tyler Reddick, who during the yellow pulled his backup car into his pit stall complaining of power steering issues. The car was still sitting in its stall, two laps down, when the rain picked up, drawing the red flag. The crew stopped work and covered Reddick’s car. After another lengthy delay, and with the sun sinking low in the sky, the yellow came back out, and Reddick’s crew continued to work. McLeod made another trip to pit road, and by then the two were on the same lap. McLeod then dropped Reddick to last on Lap 9. The next time around, the Richard Childress Racing crew sent Reddick back onto the track. The rookie was two laps behind McLeod. When the race restarted, McLeod’s crew saw no smoke coming from the #78, so decided against bringing him to the garage area.

Then the caution fell again.

When the race restarted after the rain delay, Michael McDowell was in heavy traffic. On Lap 15, he was working his way through Turn 2 when the left-rear tire went down, sending him spinning up the track and hitting the wall flush with the driver’s side. McDowell was uninjured, but his car was heavily damaged, having lost nearly all steering as the left-front wheel was nearly wrenched from the car. He made it to pit road, but knew the damage was serious. “No need to stop, you know where I can turn in?” he asked. “Take it to the garage stall,” said the team. Once he entered the garage, he was done for the day under the Damaged Vehicle Policy. He took last from Reddick on Lap 22 and was declared officially out on Lap 53.

Also announced out with McDowell was Christopher Bell, who also enjoyed a strong run on Saturday only to finish with a wrecked race car. Bell’s wreck was also in Turn 2, his on Lap 39, and he dropped behind Reddick on Lap 46 as he pulled his battered #95 Rheem Toyota behind the wall. Taking 38th was Kyle Busch, who led two laps in his #18 M&M’s Mini’s Toyota before he was accidentally spun off the second corner by a closing Ryan Blaney as both closed on the lapped Garrett Smithley. McLeod managed 37th, and only lost seven laps by race’s end. Two circuits in front of him was Chris Buescher, whose #17 Fastenal / Honeywell Ford was damaged in the rear end on Lap 46 after he broke loose racing Aric Almirola off Turn 3. Buescher finished on the same lap as Reddick, who narrowly escaped the Bottom Five in 35th.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #34 in a Cup Series race at Pocono.

40) #34-Michael McDowell / 15 laps / crash
39) #95-Christopher Bell / 39 laps / crash
38) #18-Kyle Busch / 74 laps / crash
37) #78-B.J. McLeod / 133 laps / running
36) #17-Chris Buescher / 135 laps / running

1st) Motorsports Business Management (3)
2nd) Hendrick Motorsports, JTG-Daugherty Racing, Rick Ware Racing (2)
3rd) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Chip Ganassi Racing, Front Row Motorsports, Leavine Family Racing, Penske Racing, StarCom Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (8)
2nd) Toyota (4)
3rd) Ford (3)


XFINITY: In mere minutes, Brandon Jones goes from race winner to last-place finisher

Brandon Jones picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Sunday’s Pocono Green 225 at the Pocono Raceway when his #19 Toyota Service Centers Toyota wrecked without completing any of the 91 laps.

The finish, which came in Jones’ 149th series start, was his first of the season and first since this same race last year, 33 races ago. In the XFINITY Series’ last-place history, it was the 29th for the #19, the 136th for Toyota, and the 331st from a crash. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 78th for the #19, the 335th for Toyota, and the 1,210th resulting from a crash.

When Jones last ran at Pocono, he’d made it just six laps into the race before he spun out of a battle for 4th spot, backing him into the outside wall. It was the latest frustrating chapter for the driver, who struggled to find consistency despite fast Joe Gibbs Racing equipment. He still managed to make the Playoffs, but ironically it was only after he’d been eliminated in a wreck with teammate Harrison Burton that he finally broke through with his first victory the next week in Kansas. As it turned out, this wouldn’t be the only time he’d experience the highest of highs and lowest of lows so close together.

The next time it happened was this past February in Fontana. Jones won the pole and swept the first two stages, leading 73 of the 150 laps. But he hit the wall in the middle stages and tumbled to a disappointing 30th-place finish. Then, right on cue, he bounced back in the following round at Phoenix. Racing the heavily favored Kyle Busch in another Gibbs car, Jones not only kept pace with Busch, but found a way past with 20 laps to go. Just like that, Jones had his second career victory, another spot in the Playoffs, and was 28 points out of the lead.

Heading into his return to Pocono on Saturday, Jones had finished outside the Top 20 just once since his Phoenix win, including four straight runs of 8th or better. During that streak, he came up just short of beating Chase Briscoe for the second race of the Homestead double-header. Pocono would give Jones the chance for a different kind of double-duty. Busch tabbed him to drive his #51 in the 150-mile Truck Series race, Jones’ first start in the series since last fall’s runner-up at Phoenix. When the race was postponed to early Sunday morning due to rain, Jones would run both races back-to-back. Jones capitalized, avoiding several wrecks and bumping past Sheldon Creed on the final lap to take the victory – his first in 46 series starts. He then immediately prepared for the XFINITY race, where he drew the 7th starting spot.

Starting last was Stephen Leicht, who was back behind the wheel of Motorsports Business Management’s #66 Jani-King Toyota after John Jackson ran for MBM at Talladega. With both Leicht and Jackson finishing last in their respective races, another early exit on Sunday would have given the team three in a row. He’d be joined in the rear by 15th-place starter Jeffrey Earnhardt in the #0 EcoVirux Chevrolet and 16th-place Carson Ware in the #07 Jacob Construction Chevrolet, both docked for unapproved adjustments. Intervals on the leaderboard indicated two other teams dropped to the rear voluntarily – 30th-place Jeff Green in the #93 RSS Racing Chevrolet and 28th-place Kody Vanderwal in the #52 Advanced Dairy Services Chevrolet.

Ultimately, Leicht would pull behind Green, Vanderwal, Earnhardt, and Ware to retain the last spot for the start of the race. When the green flag dropped, Leicht soon passed Green for 39th, as Green quickly discovered his car had a loose rear track bar. As Green tried to hang onto his car, trouble broke out up front. Coming off Turn 1, Jones was on the inside of a tight three-wide battle with Daniel Hemric and Ross Chastain when Austin Cindric gave Jones a light bump at the apex, sending the #19 spinning to the left. It happened at exactly the wrong time – Jones struck the inside SAFER barrier with the left-front with little chance to slow down. The car bounced back onto the apron, then spun to a stop. Jones walked away uninjured, but just minutes after his #51 truck officially cleared inspection, he’d secured the last-place finish.

As in the Truck Series race, several crashes slowed the action and filled the Bottom Five within the first 20 laps. As Green continued to struggle with his loose sway bar on the restart from Jones’ crash, he immediately had to slow down after Joe Graf, Jr. in the #08 Bucked Up Energy Chevrolet collided with Josh Williams in the #92 General Formulations Chevrolet.

Several drivers at the time complained of oil in the first corner, though NASCAR’s spotter in the corner claimed he saw nothing of the sort. At the same time, Brandon Brown’s #68 Chevrolet was reported to be dropping fluid from what was revealed to be a ruptured oil tank. Brown went behind the wall after 7 laps, and NASCAR spent an extended red flag period cleaning up the oil they hadn’t seen.

Rounding out the group was Jones’ Gibbs teammate Harrison Burton, who clobbered the same Turn 1 wall on Lap 15, destroying his #20 Dex Imaging Toyota. Green pulled off the track soon after the ensuing restart, though the results indicated a power steering issue was to blame rather than the loose sway bar reported on team radio.

While several drivers struggled – including many like Jones who drove for top teams – several underdogs found their way through the carnage and earned strong finishes.

Jeremy Clements finished 3rd in his #51 Fly and Form Chevrolet, his best XFINITY Series finish since his win at Road America three years ago. Prior to Sunday, Clements had finished no better than 15th in four previous Pocono starts.

Timmy Hill finished 8th, charging into the Top 10 during the overtime finish, for his second top-ten finish of the year and first since the season opener at Daytona. Prior to Sunday, he’d finished no better than 19th in an XFINITY race there.

DGM Racing’s remaining two cars ran strong after Josh Williams fell out early. Dexter Bean took 11th in the team’s #36 Chevrolet, easily a new career-best in just 17 series starts. His previous best was a 23rd at Kentucky four years ago. Alex Labbe didn’t win the “Dash 4 Cash,” but did overcome a spin and a fender-bender to take 17th in his #90 Larue Snow Blowers / Rousseau Chevrolet. Labbe’s best finish remains a 6th on the Roval just last year.

Kyle Weatherman took 15th in Mike Harmon’s #47 Back The Blue Chevrolet, bouncing back from two disappointing mechanical issues in the Homestead double-header after he contended for stage points in both races. Weatherman improved on his own previous career-best, a 22nd last fall in Kansas.

Kody Vanderwal and Jimmy Means Racing also turned around a rough start to their first season together as the rookie finished 19th in the #52 Advanced Dairy Services Chevrolet. Vanderwal’s previous best was a 21st at Bristol, and he’d failed to finish the following four straight races before his run on Sunday.

Perhaps most impressive was Johnny Davis’ multi-car underdog team, JD Motorsports. Top of the class was Jesse Little, whose #4 Chevrolet held on to finish 10th, his first career top-ten finish in his 12th series start. Ryan Vargas, making just his fourth series start, nearly scored a Top Ten of his own and finished 13th in the #15 Carnio Care Bears / Faces Chevrolet. This bested Vargas’ previous career-best of 17th at Iowa. B.J. McLeod in the #6 restarted 4th in the final laps, looking to get back the Top Ten that slipped away from him at Bristol. Again, he held on well into the final moments, but took the checkers in 14th – his best XFINITY finish since Bristol and fourth-best overall. Jeffrey Earnhardt took 16th in the #0 EcoVirux Chevrolet, which while not a career-best finish, put all four Davis cars inside the Top 20.

*As of this writing, it is yet unclear whether this was the first time a driver won a NASCAR national touring series race and finished last in another on the same day.

36) #19-Brandon Jones / 0 laps / crash
35) #08-Joe Graf, Jr. / 4 laps / crash
34) #92-Josh Williams / 4 laps / crash
33) #68-Brandon Brown / 7 laps / oil tank
32) #20-Harrison Burton / 14 laps / crash

1st) Motorsports Business Management (3)
2nd) Jimmy Means Racing, Shepherd Racing Ventures (2)
3rd) JD Motorsports, Jeremy Clements Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, JR Motorsports, SS-Green Light Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (8)
2nd) Toyota (4)


TRUCKS: Pocono crash-fest begins with Matt Crafton eliminated in the first corner

Matt Crafton picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series career in Saturday’s Pocono Organics 150 to Benefit Farm Aid at the Pocono Raceway when his #88 Great Lakes Wood Floors / Menards Ford was eliminated in a multi-truck accident without completing any of the 60 laps.

The finish, which came in Crafton’s 459th series start, was his first of the season and first since August 27, 2016 at Bristol, 85 races ago. In the Truck Series last-place rankings, it was the 4th for the#88, the 107th for Ford, and the 157th from a crash. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 57th for the #88, the 962nd for Ford, and the 1,209th from a crash.

Crafton’s name has indeed been a rarity here at LASTCAR, and his now two-decade career in the Truck Series has set a standard for ageless consistency rivaling the likes of Ron Hornaday, Jr., Jack Sprague, and Mike Skinner. Crafton hasn’t finished outside the Top Ten in the final season standings since 2006. He hasn’t scored fewer than 12 top-ten finishes in a season since 2007. And, though he hasn’t been to victory lane since the 2017 renewal of the Eldora Dirt Derby, that didn’t stop him from taking his third series title just last year, when a runner-up finish to Austin Hill was more than enough to claim the winner-take-all prize.

This year, however, Crafton was not got off to a particularly strong start. He’s led just one lap all year, which didn’t come until the most recent round in Homestead. He’s finished inside the Top Ten only twice with a season-best 4th in Las Vegas. And the other three finishes were a 12th in Atlanta, a 15th in Daytona, and a distant 35th in Charlotte after a freak suspension failure midway through the race. He entered the Pocono event just 11th in points, 77 markers out of the lead, and tied for the spot with newcomer Derek Kraus. He drew the 18th spot at Pocono.

Drawing the 40th starting spot in the massive field was Parker Kligerman, who after twice failing to qualify without turning a lap was finally able to make his season debut in Charlie Henderson’s #75 Food Country USA / Lucks Beans Chevrolet. He’d be joined at the back by Bayley Currey, who on Friday was tabbed to replace 21st-place starter Natalie Decker, who was hospitalized Friday due to complications from gallbladder surgery. Currey would enjoy a fine run, finishing in 16th, one spot behind Kligerman, for his best finish since last summer’s 9th-place showing for Niece’s team at Michigan.

By the time Currey dropped to the back in the #44 N29 Capital Partners Chevrolet early Sunday morning, he’d be joined by at least two other drivers who fell back voluntarily: 26th-place Jesse Iwuji in the unsponsored #33 Reaume Brothers Racing Toyota, and 39th-place Norm Benning in the #6 H&H Transport Chevrolet. It was Benning who was last across the stripe when the green flag dropped, 5.087 seconds back of the lead. He wouldn’t hold the spot for long.

Heading into the first corner, Crafton was running in the high lane alongside 17th-place starter Codie Rohrbaugh in the #9 Grant County Mulch / Pray For Joshua Chevrolet. Looking to the inside of the pair was 23rd-place starter Austin Wayne Self in the #22 Go Texan / AM Technical Solutions Chevrolet. Self made contact with Rohrbaugh, who slid sideways into Crafton. Suddenly, both Crafton and Rohrbaugh each backed hard into the outside wall, destroying the rear clips of their trucks. Both drivers climbed out – Rohrbaugh after briefly trying to get his truck re-fired – and both were out once they dropped their window nets. Crafton took the last spot from Rohrbaugh based on their rank as they crossed the stripe – Crafton in 18th to Rohrbaugh’s 17th.

Self didn’t make it much further in the crash-filled race, collecting the #4 SiriusXM Toyota of Raphael Lessard on Lap 6 as the two entered the third corner. Lessard struck the outside wall nearly head-on, destroying the front of Self’s truck in the process. The Bottom Five was filled on the ensuing restart when Ty Majeski’s #45 Niece Patriotic Chevrolet was dumped by Grant Enfinger on the run into the first corner on Lap 12. Majeski was likewise uninjured after his truck smashed into the inside SAFER barrier, leaving him 36th.

*This marked the second straight year the last-place finisher of this event failed to complete the opening lap. On July 27, 2019, Stewart Friesen also saw his day end with a wreck in the first corner after he hooked bumpers with Anthony Alfredo.

40) #88-Matt Crafton / 0 laps / crash
39) #9-Codie Rohrbaugh / 0 laps / crash
38) #22-Austin Wayne Self / 5 laps / crash
37) #4-Raphael Lessard / 5 laps / crash
36) #45-Ty Majeski / 11 laps / crash

1st) Reaume Brothers Racing (2)
2nd) Niece Motorsports, Spencer Davis Motorsports, ThorSport Racing (1)

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


Saturday, June 27, 2020

CUP: Minor wreck leads to bad vibration for Pocono’s last-place finisher Quin Houff

PHOTO: @StarcomRacing
Quin Houff picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Saturday’s Pocono Organics 325 at the Pocono Raceway when his #00 Mane ‘n Tail Chevrolet fell out with crash damage for failing to clear the damaged vehicle policy after 19 of 130 laps.

The finish, which came in Houff’s 31st series start, was his first of the season and first since June 30, 2019 at Chicagoland, 33 races ago. In the Cup Series last-place rankings, it was the 27th for the #00, the 597th from a crash, and the 785th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 40th for the #00, the 1,208th from a crash, and the 1,719th for Chevrolet.

Houff enters his second Cup Series season and his first as a full-time driver. Last year, he made 17 series starts with Premium Motorsports and their sister team Spire Motorsports. While he finished no better than 28th, which came in the Coca-Cola 600, his second-best actually came at Pocono, where he drove the Spire car to a 29th-place run in June.

It was a surprise to some, that Houff was then signed by StarCom Racing to a full-time ride in 2020. He took the place of Landon Cassill, who in two seasons helped the team improve after they acquired a Charter. Cassill has done the same for Shepherd Racing Enterprises in the XFINITY Series, but has been off the track since May as the team continues to struggle with sponsorship issues.

Houff made his first start for StarCom Racing in this year’s Daytona 500, where his car honored the 30th anniversary of team owner Derrike Cope’s upset win in the 1990 running of “The Great American Race.” Unfortunately, he was eliminated in a crash when he was turned into the outside wall by Aric Almirola just short of the halfway point, leaving him 39th in a field of 40. He improved on his career-best Cup finish with a 26th in the midweek race at Darlington, then nearly matched it with a 27th and both Bristol and just last week in Talladega.

At Pocono, Houff would carry Cope’s longtime sponsor Mane ‘n Tail Shampoo, which happens to be celebrating its 50th anniversary this season. Houff drew the 32nd starting spot in the 40-car field.

Drawing the last starting spot was Josh Bilicki, who rejoined Tommy Baldwin Racing with Bilicki’s familiar Insurance King paint scheme on the #7 Chevrolet. Bilicki incurred a redundant tail-end penalty for unapproved adjustments, and would be joined by 27th-place starter Brennan Poole for the same penalty on his #15 Remember Everyone Deployed Chevrolet.

During the extended pace laps as the field waited out the rain, there were concerns around 7th-place starter Kurt Busch after his #1 Monster Energy Chevrolet ran over a wheel chock on pit road with his right side tires. Busch didn’t come down pit road, so he did not fall to the rear with Poole and Bilicki.

When the race started, the last spot fell to B.J. McLeod, who was driving his bright red #78 Koolbox Chevrolet. Rick Ware Racing reported McLeod has leased his cars from his team, and this same red car last ran at Atlanta, where he finished last after early clutch issues. As McLeod completed the first lap, another Ware car belonging to 28th-place Joey Gase reported issues with the engine. The exhaust note sounded flat to the spotter, and Gase lost significant ground on the track’s long straightaways. By the end of that lap, Gase had fallen to 39th in front of McLeod, and both were 1.231 seconds behind 38th-place James Davison, making his Cup debut in the Spire Motorsports #77 Oil Fire Rye Whiskey Chevrolet.

Gase took last from McLeod on Lap 3 as the team prepared to diagnose the issue under the hood. The original plan was to summon the team’s engine specialists and pit under the competition caution on Lap 11. Concerned they wouldn’t make it that far, they called Gase to pit road on Lap 4. At the time, he was 6.085 seconds back of 39th-place McLeod and 24.872 seconds back of race leader Aric Almirola. Gase shut off the engine, and the crew discovered at least two loose and burned plug wires. Gase returned to the track on Lap 7, and was on the verge of four laps down. Fortunately, his speed had greatly improved, and his spotter eagerly cheered his driver onward.

Gase was still in last place when the race restarted. Houff, meanwhile, was racing still another Ware car, the #27 Red Rock Secured Ford of J.J. Yeley. On Lap 17, Houff got under Yeley in treacherous Turn 2 when he broke loose and spun at corner exit. Houff slid to the apron and nudged the inside wall with the left-front corner. Houff managed to get rolling again, but was mindful of NASCAR’s “Crash Clock,” knowing if he pulled into the garage, he’d be parked for the day.

Shedding debris as he came down pit road, Houff reached his stall where the crew made repairs. The team removed the left-front wheel to adjust the suspension, and also applied bear-bond. When Houff returned to the track on Lap 19, however, the driver reported a bad vibration. Team owner Derrike Cope got on the radio and told Houff to pit again, saying “if it’s got a vibration, it won’t get better.” Houff returned to pit road a second time for another look behind the left-front and under the hood, examining the tie rod, sway bar, and shocks.

With less than two minutes left on the “Crash Clock,” Houff was sent out again to try and reach minimum speed. Unfortunately, the vibration was as bad as ever, causing his voice to shake over the radio. The team made the call to go to the garage, which he did on Lap 22. Out under the Damaged Vehicle Policy, Houff took last from Gase on Lap 24, then was declared out by NASCAR on Lap 34. The team will roll out a backup car for Sunday’s race.

Gase ultimately climbed to 37th. The first car he passed was McLeod, who pulled behind the wall on Lap 37. His crew reported on Lap 50 that the transmission “popped out of gear and hit the chip.” They also reported no apparent fluid under the car as they prepared it to run again on Sunday. Erik Jones took 38th in his #20 Craftsman Toyota following a hard crash near the entrance to pit road after he and rookie Tyler Reddick came together off Turn 3. Rounding out the group was Joey Logano, whose #22 Shell / Pennzoil Ford lost multiple laps in the final moments after a left-front tire went down on the short chute.

Finishing 4th was Christopher Bell, who capitalized on Reddick’s misfortune in the Rookie of the Year battle by scoring his first Top 5 finish in just his 14th career start.

Michael McDowell followed up his strong run at Martinsville with an 8th-place finish, leading a lap during the final exchange of pit stops in his #34 Dockside Logistics Ford. The finish is McDowell’s new season-best and his fourth straight finish of 18th or better, all of them on the lead lap. Prior to Saturday, McDowell had finished no better than 16th in a Cup race at the track, which came in 2018.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #00 in a Cup Series race at Pocono.
*StarCom Racing had not finished last in a Cup Series race since September 8, 2019, when Landon Cassill’s run in the #00 Sherfick Companies Chevrolet ended with a hard crash after 40 laps of the Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard.

40) #00-Quin Houff / 19 laps / crash
39) #78-B.J. McLeod / 36 laps / transmission
38) #20-Erik Jones / 70 laps / crash
37) #51-Joey Gase / 121 laps / running
36) #22-Joey Logano / 124 laps / running / led 11 laps / won stage 1

1st) Motorsports Business Management (3)
2nd) Hendrick Motorsports, JTG-Daugherty Racing, Rick Ware Racing (2)
3rd) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Chip Ganassi Racing, Leavine Family Racing, Penske Racing, StarCom Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (8)
2nd) Toyota (4)
3rd) Ford (2)


Friday, June 26, 2020

PREVIEW: Multiple series regulars return at the Pocono double-header

PHOTO: @RLRacing2
Saturday, June 27, 2020 (12:30 P.M. Eastern)
TRUCKS Race 6 of 23
Pocono Organics 150 to Benefit Farm Aid
2019 Last-Place Finisher: Stewart Friesen

There are exactly 40 trucks entered to attempt the 40-truck field as the series kicks off another packed four-race schedule in Pocono.

Welcome back Chase Purdy, who we haven’t seen run a Truck Series race since November 9, 2018, when he drove Matthew Miller’s #99 Chevrolet to a 13th-place finish. Purdy will once again be sponsored by Bama Buggies as he takes over for Cup regular Chase Elliott in the GMS #24.

A difficult string of races at Charlotte and Atlanta led to Bryan Dauzat skipping the most recent round in Homestead. This weekend, driver and team are back at a track where team owner Jim Rosenblum has a long history. Time will tell if the team has fully worked out the issues with their trucking dragging something on the track surface.

DRIVER CHANGE: #33-Reaume Brothers Racing
Jesse Iwuji returns to the Truck Series for the first time since his hard crash at Charlotte, and will again drive for Josh Reaume in the #33 Chevrolet. Iwuji takes the place of Gray Gaulding, who ran 26th with the team in Homestead.

MISSING: #34-Reaume Brothers Racing
The third Reaume truck, which finished last with Bryant Barnhill at Homestead due to a lack of tire money, is not entered this week.

DRIVER SWAP: #40-Niece Motorsports
DRIVER CHANGE: #44-Niece Motorsports
Natalie Decker also returns to the circuit for the first time since Charlotte, and will again drive the #44 fielded by Al Niece. UPDATE: Make that Bayley Currey in the #44 after Decker had a medical emergency on Friday. This bumps Ross Chastain back to the #40 in place of T.J. Bell, who isn’t entered this week after a 35th in Homestead.

DRIVER CHANGE: #51-Kyle Busch Motorsports
Kyle Busch will not run in Saturday’s race, but XFINITY Series regular Brandon Jones will.
Dupont Air Filtration and Menards are the listed sponsors.

RETURNING: #75-Henderson Motorsports
Parker Kligerman will make his first Truck Series start since last November at Homestead, where he ran a season-best 10th with the Charlie Henderson team. Kligerman will run on Saturday after the #75 was abruptly sent home both at Charlotte and Atlanta, ranked on the wrong side of the 40-truck cut line due to their rank in Owner Points and lack of qualifying. Kligerman has not run a Truck Series race at Pocono since back in 2012, when he ran 7th for Brad Keselowski Racing.

RETURNING: #83-CMI Motorsports
MISSING: #03-Mike Affarano Motorsports
Ray Ciccarelli brings back his second truck which was withdrawn last week in Homestead. The driver will be Tim Viens, who parted ways with Mike Affarano Motorsports after two technical infractions forced the team’s #03 to withdraw from what would have been a guaranteed starting spot. The Affarano team is not entered this week.

RETURNING: #97-Diversified Motorsports Enterprises
Robby Lyons and his longtime sponsor Sunwest Construction will take the place of Jesse Little as the Logan Puckett-owned team returns to the track for the first time since Atlanta. Lyons has himself not run in the Truck Series since the 2019 opener at Daytona, when he ran 30th for Jeff Finley’s #42 team. Lyons did run last week’s XFINITY race at Talladega, where he was shuffled back to 19th.

DRIVER CHANGE: #00-Reaume Brothers Racing
Josh Reaume drives his own #00 for the first time this year, taking the place of Angela Ruch, who isn’t entered. According to Ruch, her sponsor is awaiting the end of current COVID-19 restrictions to be able to entertain guests at the track. Reaume hasn’t started a Truck Series race since Las Vegas earlier this year, but has run in each of the last two series races at Pocono, finishing 19th and 20th.


Saturday, June 27, 2020 (3:30 P.M. Eastern)
CUP Race 14 of 36
Pocono Organics 325 at Pocono
2019 Last-Place Finisher: Austin Dillon (400-mile June race)

There are 40 drivers entered for as many spots.

RETURNING: #7-Tommy Baldwin Racing
Josh Bilicki returns with sponsorship from Insurance King, and will run for Tommy Baldwin’s team for the first time since last month’s midweek race in Charlotte. The Baldwin team itself makes its series return for the first time since Martinsville, where electrical issues left Reed Sorenson finishing 38th in a field of 39.

DRIVER SWAP: #27-Rick Ware Racing
DRIVER SWAP: #53-Rick Ware Racing
DRIVER CHANGE: #77-Spire Motorsports
DRIVER SWAP: #78-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
James Davison will now get to make his Cup Series debut this Saturday as he takes the controls of Spire Motorsports’ #77 Chevrolet. This moves B.J. McLeod, his last-minute replacement at Talladega, back to his own #78. McLeod bumps Garrett Smithley back to Rick Ware Racing’s #53, which also bumps J.J. Yeley back to the Ware #27. Yeley takes the place of Gray Gaulding, who isn’t entered.

MISSING: #62-Beard Motorsports
Brendan Gaughan, 21st at Talladega, is not entered and is expected to return for the originally scheduled late-August race in Daytona. Since he is only running the superspeedway races, Daytona will be his next-to-last NASCAR start before calling it a career during the Playoff race in Talladega.

Sunday, June 28, 2020 (12:30 P.M. Eastern)
XFINITY Race 12 of 33
Pocono Green 225 at Pocono
2019 Last-Place Finisher: Brandon Jones

There are 36 drivers entered for Sunday’s XFINITY Series race, down three entries from last week in Talladega.

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-JR Motorsports
Daniel Hemric takes the place of Talladega 3rd-place finisher Jeb Burton in Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s #8 Chevrolet, this time carrying On Deck Capital as sponsor. Hemric’s most recent XFINITY start was the second round of the Homestead double-header, where he finished 31st after a late crash. The wreck ended his streak of four straight finishes of 6th or better.

MISSING: #16-Kaulig Racing
A.J. Allmendinger, the third musketeer of Matthew Kaulig’s team, is not entered this week after a 7th-place run in Talladega.

DRIVER SWAP: #21-Richard Childress Racing
MISSING: #38-RSS Racing
Jeff Green’s #38 entry isn’t entered this week after a wreck left him a disappointing 29th in Talladega. Green slides over to RSS Racing’s full-time #93, though does not yet have a sponsor listed. This moves Myatt Snider from the #93 to the RCR #21, taking the place of Anthony Alfredo, who isn’t entered. Snider will again run the Tax Slayer scheme on his Chevrolet.

MISSING: #26-Sam Hunt Racing
Colin Garrett isn’t entered after his car was destroyed in a Turn 3 wreck at Talladega, leaving him 35th.

Welcome back Dexter Bean, who runs the #36 this week. Bean hasn’t run an XFINITY race since last November at Phoenix, where he ran the DGM team’s #92 to a 35th-place finish before brake issues. Bean’s return bumps Alex Labbe to the team’s #90, taking the place of Caesar Bacarella, who isn’t entered after a last-lap tangle with Brandon Jones left him 17th at Talladega.

DRIVER CHANGE: #47-Mike Harmon Racing
Kyle Weatherman takes over for Tim Viens, who ran 36th at Talladega after a crash, and will instead run the Truck Series race on Saturday (see above). Weatherman’s last XFINITY starts were in the Homestead double-header, where he challenged for Stage 1 points in each race before fading back in Stage 2.

DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
Stephen Leicht takes over for John Jackson, who isn’t entered after his last-place run at Talladega. The team is in position to take their third consecutive last-place run on Sunday, and have no sponsor listed.

DRIVER CHANGE: #74-Mike Harmon Racing
Bayley Currey rejoins the Harmon team for the first time since his own strong showings at Homestead, taking over for Mike Harmon himself, who ran 25th at Talladega. Although his streak of top-twenty finishes came to an end in Homestead, he has still finished 26th or better in that same stretch, finishing under power each time.

DRIVER CHANGE: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Stefan Parsons returns to the McLeod #99 team for the first time since Homestead, where he ran 22nd and 32nd in the two races. He takes the place of Mason Massey, 20th at Talladega, and carries as the listed sponsor.

DRIVER CHANGE: #07-SS-Green Light Racing
Carson Ware is another of the competitors from Homestead returning this weekend, taking the place of Gray Gaulding, who ran 8th in his return to the team at Talladega. Ware’s best series finish in two previous starts remains his 22nd in his debut at Bristol.


Sunday, June 28, 2020 (4:00 P.M. Eastern)
CUP Race 15 of 36
Pocono 350 at Pocono
2019 Last-Place Finisher: Chase Elliott (400-mile July race)

The same 40 drivers and teams from the Saturday race are set to run on Sunday with no scheduled driver or team changes yet reported. The finishing order of Saturday’s race will determine Sunday’s lineup with the lead-lap finishers inverted.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (June 26, 1971): Ernest Eury is flagged off the track after just one lap of the Pickens 200 at the Greenville-Pickens Speedway. His #05 1969 Chevrolet started last in the 29-car field. This happened to be Eury’s first start since 1966, and the last of his career. His best finish came on May 13, 1966, when he took part in a 250-lap race against other independent drivers at the Starlite Speedway dirt track. Eury finished 6th of the only 7 drivers to finish, taking the checkers a full 27 laps behind winner Darel Dieringer.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

INTERVIEW: Tim Ward on the Clash at the Creek, travel, and the Eldora Dirt Derby

Ward (farthest right) looks at his car after
a 50-lap feature race.
PHOTO: @WilliamSoquet
by William Soquet Guest Contributor

On June 18, 2020, drivers from all over the country converged on 141 Speedway in Francis Creek, Wisconsin for the Clash at the Creek, a $10,000-to-win IMCA Modified race. Iowa’s Tim Ward started fifteenth, was involved in a spin not of his own making on lap 20 of 50, started shotgun on the 20-car field after that and passed his way up to ninth by the end of the race. I caught up with Ward in his pit area after the race.

(The following interview was edited for clarity.)

TW: Ah, it went alright. Definitely could’ve been worse. We had a really good car. I was moving forward for what we had and got collected in one and two in a little wreck, was able to come back and I think we ended up ninth. It was a good run. There were a lot of tough cars out there, I’ll take it.

TW: 141 Speedway here is one of my favorite tracks to go to. Sometimes we do the North Dakota tour, there’s a bunch of fun racetracks up there. We race Boone and Marshalltown weekly and they’re pretty fun racetracks. We try to run the specials and run the weekly events as well. Most places you go to are pretty fun.

TW: Some really cool people out in Vegas we met through the dirt stuff, they like to play around with asphalt stuff a little bit and they had some connections. They wanted to go run a K&N race in Vegas and then they picked up a truck last year and wanted to do the Eldora show. We were fortunate enough to be able to drive that hot rod.

TW: Yep, we’re running that same truck again this year. Pretty pumped up about that. Not really sure when it is, but we will find out soon, hopefully.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

ARCA: Radiator cap sidelines legacy-engine entry of Con Nicolopoulos at Talladega

PHOTO: @StartAndParkCar
by William Soquet Guest Correspondent

Con Nicolopoulos secured the eighth last-place finish of his ARCA Menards Series career in Saturday’s General Tire 200 at Talladega Superspeedway when engine problems prevented his #0 / Wayne Peterson Racing Chevrolet from completing any of the race’s 76 laps.
The finish was Nicolopoulos’ first last-place finish of the season and was his first since the first 2018 race at Pocono, 35 races ago.

Con Nicolopoulos is a 58-year-old engineer for Chrysler in Detroit who has a penchant for thermal dynamics. He got into ARCA at the behest of Chrysler coworker Brad Smith, first spotting for Smith at Talladega and then later testing and driving a second Smith entry at Toledo in 2011. He ran a handful of races for Smith and one race for former team owner Wayne Hixson that year before not driving at all in the 2012 and 2013 seasons.

For the 2014 season, Nicolopoulos aligned with veteran team Wayne Peterson Racing. From 2015 to 2018, he ran over half of the season before taking a step down to only four races in the 2019 season as the Peterson team focused their efforts on rookie driver Tim Richmond. Now, Nicolopoulos has returned in the capacity of a second superspeedway car in 2020. He has also worked as an engineer to produce new healthcare products during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Talladega entry list debuted at 21 cars, and although it briefly bumped up in the middle of the week, 21 cars entered Talladega Superspeedway to race. Ryan Repko was in the Venturini Motorsports #20, Sean Corr returned in the #8, Eric Caudell was back in his #7, Brandon Lynn made his yearly Talladega appearance, this time in the #22; Jason Kitzmiller returned in the #97. Fast Track Racing rolled out four cars: Tommy Vigh Jr. in the 01, Ryan Huff in the 10, Ed Pompa in the 12, and Willie Mullins in the 11. Incidentally, Mullins' business, Crow Wing Recycling, was affected by the coronavirus pandemic and as a result, Mullins teamed up with Andy Hillenburg to get to the track.

Among those notably absent were Our Motorsports, who focused on their Xfinity Series effort; Ken Schrader Racing, which did a one-off with Natalie Decker to start the season at Daytona; and Rette Jones Racing, which had to postpone operations due to a number of team personnel, including owner and driver, residing in Canada. Some independents like J.J. Pack and Dave Mader III also did not make the trip to Talladega.

The lone practice session was held Saturday morning in groups of five cars. Riley Herbst led the field, and at the bottom was Brad Smith, over six seconds back by Herbst. The starting lineup was set by owner points. Ryan Repko was awarded the pole position and Thad Moffitt was set to start shotgun on the field.

Despite not being last in practice, Nicolopoulos still complained of motor issues. The team diagnosed it as a valve cover leak and fixed it before the race. However, the engine on the #0 machine was still running hot during pace laps. Another diagnosis by the team found a missing radiator cap, which they replaced with the one from the van that the team used to get to the racetrack. However, that was not a viable long-term solution, and as such, the #0 car retired without ever running a lap at race pace.

Brad Smith was 20th, falling out with a faulty carburetor (yes, ARCA cars still have those!) after four laps. Also falling out in the early stages of the race were Vigh, Mullins and Richmond, all citing a mechanical issue of some kind as the reason out. This meant that the Bottom Five was filled with all mechanical issues – a rare showing for a superspeedway known for multi-car accidents.

21) #0-Con Nicolopoulos / 0 laps / engine
20) #48-Brad Smith / 4 laps / carburetor
19) #01-Tommy Vigh Jr. / 7 laps / vibration
18) #11-Willie Mullins / 24 laps / oil pressure
17) #06-Tim Richmond / 34 laps / engine

1st) Fast Track Racing, Reeves Racing, Wayne Peterson Racing (1)

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


Monday, June 22, 2020

CUP: Unusual “rear hub” failure leaves Matt Kenseth last at Talladega

PHOTO: @mattkenseth
(Special thanks to William Soquet, our Guest Contributor, for tracking this race’s last-place battle. Be sure to follow him on Twitter at @WilliamSoquet for more underdog coverage in the ARCA Menards Series.)

Matt Kenseth picked up the 4th last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Monday’s GEICO 500 at the Talladega Superspeedway when his #42 McDonald’s Chevrolet fell out with a rear hub failure after 127 of 191 laps.

The finish, which came in Kenseth’s 674th series start, was his first of the season and first since the Daytona 500 on February 26, 2017, 120 races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place history, it was the first citing a “rear hub,” the 26th for the #42, and the 784th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was also the first blamed on a “rear hub,” the 38th for the #42, and the 1,718th for Chevrolet.

The story of Kenseth’s return to Cup Series competition is well known. After losing his Joe Gibbs Racing ride to Erik Jones in 2017, then running a 15-race schedule for his former employer Roush-Fenway Racing in 2018, Kenseth was out of a ride for more than a year. But all that changed this past April, when Chip Ganassi Racing released Kyle Larson for uttering a racial slur in a livestreamed sim race. While Ross Chastain and Jamie McMurray were among the candidates, they hired Kenseth, who would return for NASCAR’s resumption of the season at Darlington in May. Despite the lack of practice and qualifying, Kenseth finished 10th.

In the races since, however, Kenseth has finished no better than 15th, which came at Atlanta. On more than one occasion, he’s had issues on pit road. But coming into Talladega, he had yet to score a single DNF in 2020. At Talladega, he drew the 13th spot. He would run the team’s red McDonald’s car, a sponsor that hadn’t reached victory lane in NASCAR since 1994, when Jimmy Spencer took the checkered flag in another hot summer race at Talladega driving for Junior Johnson.

Drawing the 40th and final starting spot was Garrett Smithley, who was swapped into B.J. McLeod’s bright red #78 Baker Camp Arnold Capital Management Chevrolet that McLeod was originally going to drive himself. Instead, McLeod reunited with Spire Motorsports after NASCAR rescinded their approval of James Davison to make his Cup debut in the #77 Oil Fire Rye Whiskey Chevrolet.

Both McLeod and Smithley were among the six drivers who incurred pre-race penalties – Smithley for two inspection failures and McLeod for unapproved adjustments. Also nabbed for unapproved adjustments were Brendan Gaughan, slated to start 39th in the #62 Beard Oil / South Point Chevrolet, and 37th-place Daniel Suarez in the #96 CommScope Toyota. William Byron’s #24 Axalta Chevrolet failed inspection twice while Joey Gase failed three times in Rick Ware Racing’s #51 The Gifted Life Podcast Ford. This meant Gase would have to incur a pass-through penalty at the start of the race. By the time the field addressed the starter’s stand, however, it was Byron who lined up in the final starting spot.

When the green flag dropped, Byron moved past Gaughan, who was four seconds back at the start. Gase then served his pass-through penalty and remained on the lead lap, though completely by himself a full 26 seconds back of the lead. By Lap 3, he was 34 seconds back. J.J. Yeley, Gase’s teammate in the #53 Truckworx Chevrolet, started to lose touch with the pack by Lap 4, and had dropped 14 seconds back. On Lap 6, the leaders caught the trailing Gase, who pulled into the high lane and became the first to lose a lap. For the rest of the afternoon, this high lane was where lapped traffic attempted to stay out of the way of faster cars. First Yeley, then Smithley both lost laps of their own by Lap 14.

On Lap 23, Gase passed Yeley for 39th, putting Yeley’s #53 into the last spot. He would hold that position for much of the race. On Lap 26, just seconds before the competition caution, Yeley lost a second lap going into Turn 1. Yeley was also the first to go to the garage area, citing a mechanical issue near the end of Stage 1. As Stage 2 began following a caution for rain, Yeley returned to the track ten laps down. Back up to speed, he linked onto a two-car draft of both McLeod and the #00 Permatex Chevrolet of Quin Houff. This group was lapped by the leaders on Lap 91, putting Yeley an 11th lap back.

Kenseth, meanwhile, was running mid-pack on the same lap as the leaders when trouble found him on Lap 128. Heading down the backstretch in the inside line, he unexpectedly jumped out of line and slowed, saying he’d lost the brakes. He managed to come to pit road and lost a lap before heading to the garage area. Later reports said it was either a brake issue or a problem with the track bar. The team set to work, and he wasn’t listed out for several laps. He took last from Yeley on Lap 139, then was listed “out” of the race on Lap 170.

Yeley ultimately climbed to 36th at the finish after other drivers faced late-race trouble. Finishing 38th and 39th were Chase Elliott in the #9 Mountain Dew / Little Ceasars Chevrolet and Austin Dillon in the #3 Bass Pro Shops / Tracker Off Road Chevrolet. Elliott was running 3rd on Lap 134 when he was squeezed between Penske teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski, causing Keselowski to turn Elliott into the outside wall. Dillon was the only other driver involved when his right-front struck the left-rear of Elliott’s car. Dillon fell out under the “Damaged Vehicle Policy” while Elliott managed to limp around the track for two more laps before he pulled into the garage. Gase took 37th after his #51 tagged the Turn 4 wall in a wreck with Brennan Poole on Lap 142. Poole had run 15th on Lap 66 and led on Lap 97 before damage to his #15 Remember Everyone Deployed Chevrolet took him out in the final laps.

In the final charge to the checkered flag, John Hunter Nemechek made a daring bid for the lead, pushing Erik Jones to the runner-up spot and nearly forcing a three-wide drag race to the finish line. Unfortunately, Nemechek’s #38 Death Wish Coffee Ford made contact with Jones, putting both in the wall to leave them 5th and 8th. Nemechek’s 8th-place run was still a new career-best, improving on his strong 9th in NASCAR’s return at Darlington in May.

Also of note was Daniel Suarez, who worked his way to 8th in the final 50 laps after he’d incurred his pre-race penalty. Suarez ultimately slipped to 28th at the finish, one lap down.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #42 at Talladega since April 29, 2018, when Kyle Larson’s Credit One Bank Chevrolet crashed after 71 laps of the GEICO 500.
*The only other time car #42 finished last in a NASCAR race due to any kind of hub failure was on October 25, 1954, when Lee Petty’s Chrysler fell out after 12 laps at North Wilkesboro. It was Petty’s first career NASCAR last-place finish and came in the season finale, the Wilkes 160, where Petty had already locked-up his first of three Cup Series Championships. For more on last-place hub failures, check out the statistics below:

While Kenseth’s last-place finish is the first due to a “rear hub,” it is actually the fifteenth where a hub was the listed cause. A general “hub” failure arose in six instances, but hasn’t arisen since May 30, 1976, when Terry Ryan fell out after 11 laps of the World 600 at Charlotte. This was the most recent of all last-place finishes caused by a hub failure in NASCAR history. A hub has not yet been a listed reason for an XFINITY or Truck Series last-place finish.

The remaining eight instances of last-place hub failure all specified which of the four hubs broke. Interestingly, all but one of them occurred on the right side. A “right-front hub” occurred five times, most recently September 15, 1960 to Doug Yates at Gamecock (South Carolina) Speedway after 34 laps. A “right-rear hub” occurred twice, most recently July 8, 1965 at Old Dominion (Virginia) Speedway, where Darel Dieringer retired after 38 laps.

The lone “left-front hub” occurred August 24, 1965 at Dog Track (North Carolina) Speedway to Tom Pistone after one lap of the Moyock 300. If Kenseth’s last-place finish was caused by the “left-rear hub,” it would have been the first such instance in NASCAR’s last-place history.

UPDATE (June 25, 2020): After contacting Chip Ganassi Racing, there was no new information on the cause of the hub failure, but scanner audio indicated the crew was working on the left side, indicating the "rear hub" was likely the first "left-rear hub."

40) #42-Matt Kenseth / 127 laps / rear hub
39) #3-Austin Dillon / 133 laps / crash
38) #9-Chase Elliott / 135 laps / crash
37) #51-Joey Gase / 141 laps / crash
36) #53-J.J. Yeley / 178 laps / running

1st) Motorsports Business Management (3)
2nd) Hendrick Motorsports, JTG-Daugherty Racing, Rick Ware Racing (2)
3rd) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Chip Ganassi Racing, Leavine Family Racing, Penske Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (7)
2nd) Toyota (4)
3rd) Ford (2)


Saturday, June 20, 2020

XFINITY: John Jackson shows speed before early exit in superspeedway return

PHOTO: @StartAndParkCar
John Jackson picked up the 6th last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Unhinged 300 at the Talladega Superspeedway when his #66 / James Carter Attorney Toyota fell out with overheating issues after 40 of 113 laps.

The finish, which came in Jackson’s 36th series start, was his first of the season and first since April 6, 2019 at Bristol, 37 races ago. In the XFINITY Series’ last-place history, it was the 9th for the #66, the 35th from overheating issues, and the 135th for Toyota. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 73rd for the #66, the 175th from overheating, and the 334th for Toyota.

Jackson was making his first start of the 2020 season and his first at Talladega since 2016, when he ran 32nd for the same Motorsports Business Management team. Last year, he made seven starts for MBM, and in all but one start failed to finish with no fewer than 82 laps complete. He finished last at Atlanta and Bristol, turning no more than 14 laps. But the lone exception came at Daytona, where he turned all but two laps and finished 32nd in MBM’s #42 Toyota Supra.

According to @StartAndParkCar on Twitter, Jackson’s ride for Saturday’s race was the same green-and-white Supra that Max Tullman ran last year. One of the team's former superspeedway cars was converted to downforce tracks and run by Stephen Leicht last weekend in Homestead. It was also reportedly a full-race effort, the team bringing one-and-a-half sets of tires, though they’d planned to run by themselves out of the draft and log laps. This, however, apparently changed on race day, where he drew 38th in the 39-car field.

Starting last in the race was Colin Garrett, who was giving Sam Hunt Racing their first superspeedway start. His #26 The Rosie Network Toyota was joined at the rear by three drivers who incurred pre-race penalties: 28th-place Mason Massey in the #99 Gerber Collision & Glass Toyota for an unapproved adjustment, 34th-place starter A.J. Allmendinger in the #16 Ellsworth Advisors Chevrolet who along with Jeb Burton in the #8 LS Tractor Chevrolet failed inspection, and 29th-place Tim Viens in the #47 Patriots of America PAC Chevrolet.

Viens parted ways with Mike Affarano’s Truck Series team after their withdrawal at Homestead last week. He was a last-minute driver change at Mike Harmon Racing, replacing Joe Nemechek, who also ran the red-white-and-blue car at Daytona. This driver change was what incurred the pre-race penalty. While both the car and Viens were sponsored by PACs supporting President Trump’s re-election, they were different PACs, so the campaign logos were missing from the #47 Chevrolet.

Before the pre-race penalties were incurred, several drivers stalled on pit road and needed a push, including Jackson and 26th-place Kody Vanderwal, who was driving a former JR Motorsports car as his latest #52 Advanced Dairy Services Chevrolet for Jimmy Means Racing. Both cars were rolling again before Jackson’s teammate Chad Finchum, whose crew worked frantically to get his #13 Mohawk Market Toyota back on the track. Finchum’s engine fired, and he joined the grid by one lap to go signal.

When the race started, Jackson had slotted in at the tail end of the field, 4.657 seconds back of the lead. By the end of Lap 1, he’d dropped Viens to last, and the #47 drafted behind both Jackson and Massey. The Harmon team had to remind Viens to remain in line, however, as he started to lose some ground to the two cars in front.

Meanwhile, bad luck once again found Ryan Sieg. While running among the leaders in his #39 Chevrolet, Sieg cut a tire and scraped the wall in the second corner. He avoided serious damage, but didn’t draw the caution, and had to make a green-flag stop for two tires. Sieg was understandably furious as he’d start the race nearly two laps down: “Fucking bullshit,” he said over the radio. “Fucking every week. Hope we just ran over something.” Things didn’t go much better on the ensuing run. The moment after NASCAR cleared him for reaching minimum speed, the right-front went down again, and he struck the wall once more. With just seven laps complete, Sieg pulled behind the wall, but by narrowly clearing the “Crash Clock” was able to complete repairs. Both Brian Keselowski and the team looked to an issue with the sway bar arm pushing on the tire.

On Lap 16, Sieg returned to the track, ten laps down. He finally completed his sixth lap of the race on the 17th circuit, and lost another lap to put him 11 behind. As the field moved past him in the closing laps of Stage 1, he was briefly in a five-wide situation on the apron as the leaders passed to his right.

Next to find trouble was Jesse Little, who was reported off the pace in the final five laps of Stage 1. “Smoke coming out,” said someone on the JD Motorsports crew as Little’s #4 Skuttle Tight Chevrolet pulled down pit road. He lost a lap - and nearly another - before returning to the track just seconds before the end of the stage with Sieg still in last place. For some reason, Sieg earned the Lucky Dog instead of Little, who had to wait until the end of Stage 2 to pass the pace car. By then, the last-place battle had been settled.

At the start of Stage 2, Jackson was told to drop to the tail end of the line and prepare to come down pit road. When the green flag dropped on Lap 30, Jackson was still on the lead lap and had worked his way between 30th and 33rd place, putting a few lead lap cars behind him. Regardless, on Lap 32, Jackson was guided to pit road, then to the entrance of the garage. On Lap 38, NASCAR confirmed Jackson was out with “overheating” issues, and he took last from Sieg on Lap 42.

Sieg managed to climb to 30th at the finish while Little earned two Lucky Dogs before finishing 13th.

Finishing 38th was Matt Mills, who in the early laps followed team owner B.J. McLeod and his two teammates in a trailing four-car pack. Mills ultimately made it just 65 laps in his #5 J.F. Electric Toyota before he, too, retired with overheating issues. Finishing 37th was Riley Herbst, who wrecked in the tro-oval on Lap 77, destroying his #18 Monster Energy Toyota. NASCAR reported Herbst was out under the Damaged Vehicle Policy when he pulled into the garage. Viens took 36th, though after clobbering the Turn 2 wall managed to return to the track before his wounded #47 fell out of the race. Rounding out the group was last-place starter Colin Garrett, who suffered a frightening wreck on Lap 96 after he struck a spinning Kody Vanderwal. After a string of bad luck with early engine woes, Vanderwal was out from crash damage, left in 31st place.

One underdog team that rebounded on Saturday was Our Motorsports, which wrecked at Bristol and Homestead, then parked a backup car from B.J. McLeod Motorsports in the second Homestead event. Driving the Fr8 Auctions Chevrolet, Brett Moffitt earned the team’s first-ever top-five finish by taking 5th, having run in and around the Top 10 for much of the afternoon.

Gray Gaulding rejoined SS-Green Light Racing in the race he nearly won last year. He was caught in the middle of the day’s biggest accident on Lap 105 but emerged largely unscathed, taking the 8th spot at the finish in his #07 Chevrolet.

One spot behind him was Alex Labbe, whose two DGM Racing teammates Josh Williams and Caesar Bacarella were eliminated in the same Turn 3 crash that took out Vanderwal and Garrett. Driving the #36 Lakes Wales High School Class of 2020 Chevrolet, Labbe took the 9th spot, improving on his season-best 10th-place run in this year’s Daytona opener.

Just outside the Top Ten came Brandon Brown, who also ran inside the Top 10 for much of the race, but had to overcome significant damage in the Lap 105 wreck. Brown still managed to finish 11th in a race that saw 23 drivers finish on the lead lap. Included among them was hard luck Tommy Joe Martins, whose #44 AAN Adjusters Chevrolet recovered from rear-ending Robby Lyons to finish 15th – the team’s best run of the season, improving on their 18th at Fontana.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #66 in an XFINITY Series race at Talladega.
*This was also the first time the last-place finisher of an XFINITY race at Talladega fell out due to overheating issues.

39) #66-John Jackson / 30 laps / overheating
38) #5-Matt Mills / 65 laps / overheating
37) #18-Riley Herbst / 76 laps / dvp
36) #47-Tim Veins / 90 laps / crash
35) #26-Colin Garrett / 95 laps / crash

1st) Motorsports Business Management (3)
2nd) Jimmy Means Racing, Shepherd Racing Ventures (2)
3rd) JD Motorsports, Jeremy Clements Racing, JR Motorsports, SS-Green Light Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (8)
2nd) Toyota (3)


Thursday, June 18, 2020

PREVIEW: Series veterans return to tackle Talladega while Davison eyes Cup debut - in Pocono

PHOTO: Spire Motorsports
Saturday, June 20, 2020
XFINITY Race 11 of 33
Unhinged 300 at Talladega
2019 Last-Place Finisher: Joey Gase

There are 39 drivers entered for 40 spots in Saturday’s race, an increase of one team from Sunday’s second Homestead race. The series has still yet to host a 40-car field since NASCAR’s temporary field increase in May.

DRIVER CHANGE: #8-JR Motorsports
When Jeb Burton last started an XFINITY Series race, he started 4th in this year’s Daytona opener and had a strong run going before a late crash left him 23rd. He returns for the first time since then and will again run with LS Tractor on the sponsor of the #8. He takes the place of Daniel Hemric, who was left 31st on Sunday in Homestead after a hard crash on the backstretch.

DRIVER CHANGE: #15-JD Motorsports
Robby Lyons returns to the XFINITY garage for the first time since Fontana in February and will again run the #15 for Johnny Davis. He takes the place of Colby Howard, who ran 17th on Sunday in Homestead. This will be Lyons’ first XFINITY start at Talladega.

Jeff Green will not have to worry about his ride getting sold to another driver this Saturday, and will again campaign the C2 Freight Resources Chevrolet for RSS Racing’s part-time third team. Green has scored three top-ten finishes on the superspeedways in the last four seasons.

DRIVER CHANGE: #47-Mike Harmon Racing
Another dark horse veteran will be Joe Nemechek, who returns to take the place of Kyle Weatherman. Weatherman ran strong early in both XFINITY races at Homestead before problems under the hood, including a fire on Sunday, left him back in the running order. Nemechek has not won an XFINITY race at Talladega since 2000, but has finished 6th as recently as 2014. Saturday will be his first series start there since 2018, when he ran 31st for Johnny Davis. UPDATE: And now Tim Veins will run the car as of Thurrsday. Viens had just parted ways with Truck Series team Mike Affarano Motorsports after a costly withdrawal in Homestead. This will be Viens' 2nd series start and first since 2015 at Homestead, when he also raced for Harmon.

DRIVER CHANGE: #66-Motorsports Business Management
John Jackson will make his season debut on Saturday, rejoining the MBM team after seven starts with them last year. He takes the place of Stephen Leicht, who last weekend ran one of the team’s former superspeedway cars before it was converted to a downforce track setup, taking last place on Sunday. Jackson has just one previous XFINITY start at Talladega back in 2016, when he ran 32nd for MBM.

DRIVER CHANGE: #74-Mike Harmon Racing
Mike Harmon is back behind the wheel of his own #74 Chevrolet for the first time since this year’s Daytona opener, where he ran a strong 16th. He takes the place of Bayley Currey, who snatched up a stage point by finishing 10th in Stage 1 at Homestead. This will be Harmon’s 14th series start at Talladega, where his best finish remains a 17th in 2008. He ran 23rd last year, his best finish at the track since that day.

DRIVER CHANGE: #99-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
Engine problems left Stefan Parsons back in the order for both races at Homestead last week. This time, he hands the wheel back to Mason Massey, who will make his superspeedway debut in the McLeod car. Massey most recently took the green in the first four races since the series’ return in May, capped by a season-best 21st at Charlotte.

DRIVER CHANGE: #07-SS-Green Light Racing
Still another dark horse has to be Gray Gaulding, who came within just a few moves of scoring his first career NASCAR victory in this race last year, taking 2nd to Tyler Reddick. Gaulding raced for this same team in that race, though in their second car, the #08. After a solid season where Gaulding even had an outside chance at making the Playoffs, he rejoins SS-Green Light for the first time since the 2019 finale. He’s since made four Cup starts with Rick Ware Racing, and will drive for them Sunday as well (see below). Gaulding takes the place of Ware’s younger son Carson, who ran 28th in Homestead on Sunday.

Sunday, June 21, 2020
CUP Race 13 of 36
GEICO 500 at Talladega
2019 Last-Place Finisher: Michael McDowell

There are 40 teams entered for as many spots in Sunday’s race, meaning all will qualify.

MISSING: #7-Tommy Baldwin Racing
The Baldwin team is not entered in Sunday’s race after Reed Sorenson’s entry was withdrawn for last week’s Homestead race.

DRIVER CHANGE: #27-Rick Ware Racing
DRIVER SWAP: #53-Rick Ware Racing
Gray Gaulding runs double-duty this weekend, taking the place of J.J. Yeley in the #27 with returning sponsorship from Panini America. Yeley moves to Ware’s #53, taking the place of Josh Bilicki, who isn’t entered after a vibration left him 37th at Homestead.

RETURNING: #62-Beard Motorsports
Talladega marks the second round of Brendan Gaughan’s four-race retirement tour on the superspeedways. In Daytona, he recovered from a wreck and narrowly avoided Ryan Newman’s terrible crash, taking the checkers in 7th place. Sunday will also mark Newman’s first Cup start on a superspeedway since that night. Gaughan had a scary crash of his own at this track last fall, and looks to improve on his career-best 4th in the fall of 2004.

DRIVER SWAP: #77-Spire Motorsports
RETURNING: #78-B.J. McLeod Motorsports
B.J. McLeod’s team returns to the Cup Series after back-to-back withdrawals at Martinsville and Homestead. McLeod himself will drive, moving over from the Spire Motorsports #77. In his place comes James Davison, who will make his Cup Series debut with sponsorship from Oil Fire Rye Whiskey on the Chevrolet. Davison’s most recent NASCAR start came two years ago in the XFINITY race at Road America, where he finished 8th. Since all four of his NASCAR starts were on road courses, Talladega will also mark Davison’s first oval-track start outside of IndyCar. This team and this race also saw Justin Haley make his series debut last year, a debut soon followed by his first Cup victory at Daytona. UPDATE (June 18): On Thursday came news that Davison will not run Talladega due to the lack of practice and qualifying. He will instead make his debut at Pocono at the end of the month. McLeod will move from his own car back to the #77, and put Garrett Smithley in his own #78. Baker Camp Arnold Capital Management will back Smithley's run in the #78.

Saturday, June 27, 2020
TRUCKS Race 6 of 23
Pocono Organics 150 to Benefit Farm Aid at Pocono
2019 Last-Place Finisher: Bayley Currey

The Truck Series takes the week off and returns at the end of the month as part of a stacked weekend in Pocono.

TODAY IN LASTCAR HISTORY (June 18, 1999): Lonnie Rush, Jr. picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR Truck Series career in the Grainger Industrial Supply 225K at the Portland International Raceway when his engine failed on the #17 Hastings Premium Filters Ford after 3 laps. Rush typically drove the identical #27 Ford at the Mike Albernaz team, but that day handed the wheel to Rob Rizzo, who finished 21st. Rush also finished last in his 55th and final series start at Phoenix on March 18, 2000.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

CUP: J.J. Yeley’s fuel pump leaves him the lone retiree at Homestead

PHOTO: @RickWareRacing
J.J. Yeley picked up the 17th last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Dixie Vodka 400 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway when his #27 Rick Ware Racing Ford fell out with fuel pump issues after 211 of 267 laps.

The finish, which came in Yeley’s 302nd series start, was his first of the season and first since June 23, 2019 at Sonoma, 32 races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 18th for fuel pump issues, the 27th for the #27, and the 699th for Ford. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 29th from fuel pump failure, the 53rd for the #27, and the 961st for Ford. The finish also gave Yeley sole possession of sixth on the all-time last-place rankings, breaking a tie with the late J.D. McDuffie.

Since his most recent last-place finish, Yeley has continued to serve many teams as a journeyman driver. Last July, he took over for Jeff Green in the “start-and-park” #38 Chevrolet at RSS Racing and a two-race stint with B.J. McLeod Motorsports. The year culminated with five last-place finishes, bringing him the LASTCAR XFINITY Series Championship. He made a one-off Truck Series start at Bristol, finishing 31st for the Reaume Brothers.

But on the Cup Series side, he’s stayed with Rick Ware Racing. Just two rounds after the last-place finish in Sonoma, he finished a season-best 12th under the lights at Daytona. He then made at least one start in each of Ware’s four cars, including the debut of the #54 at Bristol, where he ran 28th. In those 15 starts, he completed all but 184 of the 4,270 attempted laps, a 95.7% completion rate.

Yeley’s solid finishes kept him on the Ware team this season, when the organization merged with Jay Robinson’s Premium Motorsports. After wrecking out of the field for the Daytona 500, Yeley was the first to run the former Premium #27 under the Ware banner at Darlington, ran the Premium-affiliated Spire Motorsports #77 in the next round, and then Tommy Baldwin Racing’s returning #7 team in the Coca-Cola 600, where the Damaged Vehicle Policy handed him his first DNF of the year. Running the Baldwin car at Bristol gave Yeley his best finish of the 2020 season when he ran 25th, eight laps down. Coming into Homestead, he had run all but 196 of 3,222 laps, a near-identical completion rate of 93.9%.

At Homestead, Yeley would run the #27 once more, which had swapped from Chevrolet to Ford after the Ware-Premium merger. Last Wednesday at Martinsville, Yeley ran the same car Josh Bilicki ran at Atlanta, but without Bilicki’s sponsorship from Insurance King. Yeley’s Homestead car would be completely black, lacking even the decorative decals left on the Martinsville car from Atlanta. He’d also run double-duty, sharing the XFINITY Series ride at SS-Green Light Racing driven by Ware’s son Carson. Yeley finished 11th in the Saturday race, his best since a brief stint with Jimmy Means Racing earlier this year.

Both B.J. McLeod’s #78 and the Baldwin #7 withdrew earlier in the week. Yeley drew 25th for the resulting starting grid of 38.

Starting 38th and last on Sunday was Timmy Hill, who looked to bounce back after his Top 20 run at Martinsville was ruined by a faulty fuel pump midway through the race. Hill again returned to the sponsor on his #66 Toyota, making it resemble the car that nearly won the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series opener back in March. Joining him at the rear were both 31st-place starter Quin Houff in the #00 Good Greek Movers Chevrolet and 34th-place B.J. McLeod in the #77 Formula One Imports Chevrolet, both for unapproved adjustments. McLeod had an extra set of sticker tires in the Spire Motorsports pit after his run in Sunday’s XFINITY race was cut short by clutch issues.

Starts and stops due to lightning in the area dragged Sunday’s race well past its original window, interrupting the battle for last place. When the race started, Hill rolled off 3.509 seconds back of the leader, but was ahead of McLeod at the end of Lap 1, his #77 now 5.631 seconds back. Soon, McLeod raced past Joey Gase in the #51 EFX Corp Ford. Gase was fighting a bad push through the corners as he trailed a pack of four cars that had broken off from the back of the field. Another lightning strike stopped the race after 5 laps with Gase still running 38th, and the team planning their adjustments.

Drivers returned to their cars after the delay, only to climb back out just moments after engines were fired. When racing did resume, pit stops traded the last spot between William Byron in the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, then Michael McDowell in the #34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford. McDowell had struck a bird during the first five-lap stint, requiring repairs that involved lifting the hood. He would recover nicely to finish 15th. On Lap 9, Gase took last from McDowell, and said his car was “free in, and it’s still super tight coming off.” He also had an issue with a mirror that had come loose in the cockpit and asked for a screwdriver.

On Lap 21, a caution for Ryan Newman’s spin in the #6 Oscar Meyer Ford dropped Newman to last as the team repaired damage from a blown right-rear tire. Newman stayed on the lead lap, and two circuits later dropped Daniel Suarez to last in the #96 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Toyota, then Corey LaJoie in the #32 Storm Tight Windows Ford. McDowell re-took the spot on Lap 24, then dropped McLeod back to last after the restart. McLeod, too, was struggling with a tight condition, and was still in last place when yet another lightning strike stopped the race after 33 laps. By then, McLeod was still on the lead lap, 26.742 seconds back of the lead.

Racing resumed once again, and on Lap 35, Gase took the spot from McLeod. He didn’t hold it long as an incident on pit road left several of the leaders with damage, including Matt DiBenedetto in the #21 Motorcraft Ford. Repairs to the left-front fender left DiBenedetto in last on Lap 36, and he came out several seconds back of the field for the restart on Lap 37. He caught and passed the tail end of the field by Lap 49, when McLeod took over last and became the first driver lapped on the track. McLeod passed Gase on Lap 58, and Gase fell four laps down when he made a green-flag pit stop on Lap 72. Even then, Gase was still struggling with a tight race car.

The long green-flag runs still kept the last-place battle close. Gase dropped McLeod to last on Lap 135, and McLeod got back by on Lap 137. It was only that time by that another Rick Ware car – the #53 Sky King Fireworks Chevrolet of Josh Bilicki – went behind the wall. The team thought they had a brake issue and prepared to bleed the system, but the driver said he had a vibration on the right side of the car instead. The miscommunication seemed to stem from radio issue. Bilicki returned to the track on Lap 150 and prepared to pit for stickers, but someone shouted on the radio, demanding he take on a set of scuffs. Bilicki continued to wonder what caused the vibration, saying he thought he had a loose right-rear tire.

Yeley didn’t enter the last-place picture until Lap 220, when he made his own trip to the garage area. At the time, he was running laps down, but on the verge of climbing out of the Bottom Five. Ware himself tweeted Yeley had lost fuel pressure, and the team set to work on the car. But on Lap 227, the team reported “Are we done there, Steve?” “Yeah, as far as I know,” then said Yeley had climbed out of the car. Yeley took last from Bilicki on Lap 232, and was declared out by NASCAR ten laps later. “27 out, fuel pump,” was the report – the same issue that ended Timmy Hill’s night on Wednesday.

Yeley was the only driver who failed to finish the race. Bilicki, Gase, McLeod, and Hill rounded out the Bottom Five within 22 laps of race winner Denny Hamlin.

Rookie drivers took center stage in the race, tops among them Tyler Reddick. From the start, Reddick and his largely unsponsored #8 Chevrolet Cares Chevrolet made a bid for the lead, running as high as 2nd between the lightning strikes. Returning to the site where he’d locked-up back-to-back XFINITY Series titles for two different teams, Reddick made a charge late in the race, battling Ryan Blaney for 3rd, before settling back in 4th. It was his first top-five finish and fourth top-ten finish in just 14 series starts. Four spots behind Reddick, Christopher Bell and his #95 Rheem / Smurfit Kappa Toyota surged from 36th on the grid to finish a career-best 8th, his third top-ten finish in 12 career starts.

*This marked the first last-place finish for both Yeley and the #27 at Homestead.
*This also was the first time in Cup Series history that two consecutive last-place finishers fell out due to fuel pump issues.

38) #27-J.J. Yeley / 211 laps / fuel pump
37) #53-Josh Bilicki / 245 laps / running
36) #51-Joey Gase / 255 laps / running
35) #77-B.J. McLeod / 256 laps / running
34) #66-Timmy Hill / 257 laps / running

1st) Motorsports Business Management (3)
2nd) Hendrick Motorsports, JTG-Daugherty Racing, Rick Ware Racing (2)
3rd) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Leavine Family Racing, Penske Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (6)
2nd) Toyota (4)
3rd) Ford (2)