Sunday, August 23, 2020

CUP: A frustrating day for Rick Ware Racing ends against the inside wall at Dover

PHOTO: @JoeyGaseRacing

Joey Gase picked up the 7th last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Drydene 311 Race 2 at the Dover International Speedway when his #51 Race For Relief / Gift of Life Donor Program Ford was involved in a multi-car accident after 4 of 311 laps.

The finish, which came in Gase’s 64th series start, was his second of the year and first since the first race of the Michigan double-header, four races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place history, it was the 28th for the #51, the 602nd from a crash, and the 702nd for Ford. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 41st for the #51, the 966th for Ford, and the 1,221st from a crash.

This past weekend promised to be one of the busiest in the history of Rick Ware Racing. On top of fielding four cars in the weekend’s two Cup Series races following their merger with Premium Motorsports, Ware would also be breaking into the IndyCar Series for the first time. On August 6 came news that Ware had partnered with Dale Coyne Racing to field an entry for James Davison in the Indianapolis 500. The primary sponsor would be Jacob Construction, a longtime backer of the Ware effort, and would field the team’s familiar #51. With 33 cars entered for as many spots, Davison didn’t have to worry about being bumped from the field, and secured the 27th starting spot with a four-lap average of 228.747mph, slowest among the Honda contingent.

Unfortunately, Sunday’s running of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” did not go according to plan. On Lap 6, while running some distance behind the field in 32nd, something catastrophic happened behind the right-front wheel. The center of the wheel appeared to fail halfway down the backstretch, and the brake rotor glowed bright red. By the time Davison stopped at the entrance to pit road, the tire had come apart, and the entire assembly had caught fire. While Davison managed to climb out of the car without serious injury, the car was totaled. And after Ed Carpenter returned to action following 14 laps of repairs for early wall contact, Davison inherited last place.

Back in Dover, the second Cup race was set to go green around the halfway point of the 500. Among the Ware contingent in the field was Joey Gase, who debuted a new scheme for the weekend. Although the original render of Gase’s ride was of a white car with matching white numbers, but by the time the car arrived, the numbers were dark blue to match the Gift of Life logo. Gase finished 35th on Saturday with the car intact, and the metric placed him 38th for Sunday’s second round of the double-header.

While Kurt Busch finished last in the Saturday race, the metric placed him 28th for Sunday, giving the last spot to B.J. McLeod in his #78 Royal Teak Chevrolet. Busch would, however, incur a tail-end penalty along with Alex Bowman after both were involved in an early crash on Saturday, sending each to backup cars. Both drivers would still start ahead of McLeod at the green as McLeod started in the last row alongside Garrett Smithley in the #7 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet. Smithley was sent to the rear for an engine change.

Gase towed behind the wall.
PHOTO: Matthew Pencek, @mattpencektv
At the green flag, McLeod drew ahead of Smithley and began to race Timmy Hill in the #66 Manscaped Toyota. McLeod was last across the stripe, 6.142 seconds back of the lead, but by Lap 3 had put Smithley in last. The field remained close in the early laps with Smithley’s new engine keeping him within 9.89 seconds of the lead on Lap 4. By then, Gase slipped back to the 39th spot, into the clutches of both Smithley and Hill. But coming off the fourth corner, Smithley made contact with Gase while Hill checked-up. Gase backed into the outside wall, then nosed into the inside barrier with the right-front. Smithley stopped on the apron of the frontstretch, but managed to avoid serious contact.

The incident between Smithley and Gase occurred just a moment after the leaders also found trouble. Joey Logano spun Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.’s #47 Kroger Chevrolet off Turn 4 and slammed the inside wall with the right-rear. Because of a strong 10th-place run in Saturday’s race, Stenhouse had taken the green in 11th, and several drivers checked-up and made contact. The 16th-place Chase Elliott rear-ended Kyle Busch’s #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota. While Busch had slight damage to the rear bumper, Elliott’s #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet was pushed in significantly.

While Elliott made it to pit road with the rest of those involved, Gase’s car was towed behind the wall, out of the race. The #51 crew then set to work figuring out what to do with the four sets of sticker tires they had on hand. Elliott then pulled behind the wall soon after, done for the day with his own crash damage. All the other damaged cars continued on, including Stenhouse, who cleared the “Crash Clock,” then pulled behind the wall for further repairs on Lap 20. That same time by, Elliott was declared out by NASCAR Officials. It wasn’t until Lap 49 that NASCAR did the same for Gase.

With that, Rick Ware Racing set two unfortunate last-place records. It was the first time a single team finished last in a Cup Series race run on the same day as the Indianapolis 500. It also marked the first time the car number that finished last in the Indianapolis 500 also finished last in a Cup Series race held the same day (the Coca-Cola 600 or otherwise).

Taking the 38th spot was J.J. Yeley in the #27 Thriv5 Ford, which fell off the pace on Lap 88, then spent an extended stay behind the wall with a broken shock. Yeley returned to action with the shock replaced, but ultimately fell out after completing just 110 laps. Stenhouse’s damaged car returned to the track around Lap 101 after some significant work under the car by the JTG-Daugherty crew. Running 88 laps down at the time, Stenhouse ultimately turned 215 laps, but advanced no further than 37th. Timmy Hill rounded out the Bottom Five, completing his five-race sweep of running every race during the busy Dover weekend.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #51 in a Cup Series race at Dover.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #51-Joey Gase / 4 laps / crash
39) #9-Chase Elliott / 6 laps / crash
38) #27-J.J. Yeley / 110 laps / handling
37) #47-Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. / 215 laps / running
36) #66-Timmy Hill / 252 laps / engine

2020 LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) JTG-Daugherty Racing (6)
2nd) Motorsports Business Management, Rick Ware Racing (3)
3rd) Chip Ganassi Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Penske Racing (2)
4th) Beard Motorsports, B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Front Row Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Leavine Family Racing, StarCom Racing, Tommy Baldwin Racing (1)

2020 LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (16)
2nd) Toyota (5)
3rd) Ford (4)

2020 LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP

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