James Davison picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in the Cook Out Southern 500 at the Darlington Raceway when his #53 Signing Day Sports / Tom Sneva Throwback Chevrolet fell out with a blown engine after 162 of 367 laps.
The finish came in Davison’s 8th series start. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 21st for the #53, the 697th from engine trouble, and the 794th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three divisions, it was the 26th for the #53, the 1,093rd from engine trouble, and the 1,741st for Chevrolet.
Davison is perhaps the last of his kind in today’s Cup Series – an open-wheel star looking to transition into heavy stock cars. Back in 2008, the likes of Dario Franchitti, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Patrick Carpentier looked to compete against the top drivers in NASCAR’s Cup Series, but few stayed for multiple seasons or found much success. Davison, a six-time starter of the Indianapolis 500, and runner-up to J.R. Hildebrand in the 2009 Indy Lights Championship, made his first NASCAR start in the XFINITY race at Road America in 2016. Driving for Mario Gosselin’s DGM Racing, he finished on the lead lap in the 19th spot. This scored him three rides with Joe Gibbs Racing, where he ran a best of 4th at Mid-Ohio. He also embraced NASCAR’s past, running two different paint schemes inspired by “Days of Thunder.”
Davison was slated to make his Cup debut at Talladega this past June, but NASCAR didn’t afford him the same opportunity Jacques Villeneuve had in 2007, so B.J. McLeod took his place. The debut came the following week in Pocono, where he’d run both rounds of the double-header in Spire Motorsports’ #77 Oil Fire Whiskey Chevrolet. He finished 34th and 30th in both rounds, coming home with the car in one piece. From there, he joined the three-car rotation at Rick Ware Racing. He tied his career-best 30th on the Daytona road course, and only last week had his first Cup DNF, crashing out late in the race on the Daytona oval.
For Darlington, Davison would again have an opportunity to run a “throwback” paint scheme. Carrying sponsorship from Signing Day Sports, who backed him in his debut with the Ware team at Loudon, he’d run a dark brown paint scheme reminiscent of the #53 Simoniz Chevrolet from 1983. The reference was appropriate, as that car was driven by another open-wheeler who raced NASCAR in Tom Sneva. Just months after taking the checkered flag in the Indianapolis 500, Sneva earned his career-best 7th-place finish in this particular brown paint scheme during the 1983 Daytona 500. For Sunday’s race, Davison started 36th.
Rolling off 39th and last was Davison’s teammate Joey Gase, who ran the 1971 Bobby Allison red-and-gold throwback on his #51 ASC / Agri Supply / Carolina Cooker Ford. Three other teams would join him in the back for the start. The first was Ross Chastain, who replaced the entered Reed Sorenson in Spire Motorsports’ red-white-and-blue #77 Chevrolet slated to start 34th. The car, sponsored by Dirty Mo Media, was a tribute to Dale Earnhardt and his #77 Chevrolet Malibu he raced for Johnny Ray at Atlanta in 1976. The other was Ryan Blaney, who was penalized from 7th after his #12 Menards / Maytag Ford was found with an unsecured five-pound weight inside the car during pre-race inspection. Blaney’s car was decorated similar to Menards’ ARCA and Cup cars from 2003, including the first Cup car Paul Menard raced at Watkins Glen. Austin Dillon incurred an unapproved adjustment penalty after his crew mistakenly had the left side tires on the right side, and vise-versa, requiring a change on his Junior Johnson throwback-themed #3 American Ethanol Chevrolet. He’d been slated to start 12th.
When the race started, Blaney and Dillon were ahead of both Chastain and Gase, who started in the final two spots with Gase still in 39th. Gase remained in the last spot through Lap 15, when the leaders put him the first car one lap down. Under the competition caution on Lap 25, the driver tried to figure out the right volume level on the radio as trouble found Timmy Hill. Driving the #66 RoofClaim.com Toyota, decorated to resemble Phil Parsons’ Skoal Bandit ride, the car looked sharp, but had issues with the alternator. On Lap 30, Hill took last from Gase as the crew attended to the battery. On Lap 58, Hill’s crew said they were preparing to replace the alternator in the garage, and told him to turn off the air conditioner. He then pulled into the garage on Lap 62 for repairs. By Lap 75, the team began piecing the #66 back together, and he returned to action 25 laps down. The team had also taken time to adjust air pressures during the repairs, and set to work adjusting their remaining tires.
The ensuing run saw all 39 drivers still under power until around Lap 173, when Davison’s car wouldn’t fire on pit road. The next time by, the #53 pushed behind the wall. Davison said he felt the engine starting to lay down on the previous run, and also estimated the temperature had spiked to 300 degrees. The team thought Davison picked up debris on the nose, but saw nothing on the front grille. By Lap 184, Davison’s team confirmed they were done for the day. NASCAR relayed the message on Lap 193, reporting that engine issues were to blame. During this, Hill closed the gap on Davison, and took the last spot on Lap 194.
Finishing 38th was Bubba Wallace, whose #43 CashApp / Richard Petty D.K. Ulrich Throwback Chevrolet had issues leaking fluid early in the event, then spun on the apron. He pulled behind the wall on Lap 198 and was ultimately done for the night, citing transmission issues. Corey LaJoie took 37th after he rear-ended another car on a late-race restart in the #32 Trump 2020 Ford. John Hunter Nemechek crashed out in the #38 Citgard / Elliott Sadler 1999 Throwback Ford on Lap 245, leaving him out of the race in 36th. Rounding out the group was Timmy Hill, who after his alternator and battery issues, was ultimately felled by overheating issues.
*This marked the third consecutive last-place finish for Rick Ware Racing, one each with their three primary teams: the #51 (Dover), #27 (Daytona), and #53 (Darlington). The team also fields the former Premium Motorsports #15 with rookie Brennan Poole. With one more last-place finish next week in Richmond, the Ware team can tie JTG-Daugherty's streak of four last-place finishes in a row this summer.
*Davison has also become the first driver to finish last in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Southern 500. Davison finished last in both the 2018 and 2020 runnings of the Indy 500.
*This was the first last-place finish for the #53 in a Cup race at Darlington since September 6, 1992, when Johnny McFadden’s #53 Means Racing Pontiac quit after 3 laps of the Mountain Dew Southern 500.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
39) #53-James Davison / 162 laps / engine
38) #43-Bubba Wallace / 217 laps / transmission
37) #32-Corey LaJoie / 234 laps / crash
36) #38-John Hunter Nemechek / 245 laps / crash
35) #66-Timmy Hill / 296 laps / overheating
2020 LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) JTG-Daugherty Racing (6)
2nd) Rick Ware Racing (5)
2nd) Motorsports Business Management (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 (18)
2nd) Toyota (5)
3rd) Ford (4)
2020 LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP