J.J. Yeley picked up the 19th last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s portion of Wednesday’s Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway when his #27 FatBoy Ice Cream Chevrolet was involved in an accident after 20 of 334 laps.
The finish, which came in Yeley’s 323rd series start, was his third of the season and first since August 29 at Daytona, eight races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 29th for the #27, the 607th for a crash, and the 797th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 55th for the #27, the 1,233rd from a crash, and the 1,753rd for Chevrolet.
Coming into Texas, Yeley had not failed to finish a race since his engine trouble in Daytona, finishing a best of 30th three times in that span. He’s also switched between three of the Rick Ware Racing-affiliated entries, both his most frequent #27, the Spire #77, and even the #15, which he was brought on for at the last minute at Bristol, taking the place of rookie Brennan Poole. Yeley would run the #27 once more at Texas, where his #27 would carry a distinctive blue-and-white scheme for Casper’s Ice Cream and their FatBoy Ice Cream Sandwiches. Yeley also had a brand-new dark blue driver’s uniform to go with the new-look ride. He’d roll off 33rd on Sunday.
Starting 40th and last was Chad Finchum, back in the same #49 Toyota from Las Vegas and Kansas, but this time with new associate sponsorship from Octane Mania on the quarter-panels. Finchum would incur a redundant tail-end penalty for issues in technical inspection along with 30th-place Daniel Suarez in the #96 The NASCAR Foundation Toyota and 6th-place Martin Truex, Jr. in the #19 Bass Pro Shops / Tracker Boats Toyota. Unapproved adjustments also sent back 36th-place Timmy Hill in the #66 RoofClaim.com Toyota and 38th-place Garrett Smithley in the #53 Victory Lane Quick Oil Change / Kendall Oil Chevrolet. Of the group, Truex suffered the heaviest penalty as NASCAR confiscated the car’s rear spoiler, handing down a 20-point penalty and ejecting the crew chief.
When the tail end of the field re-sorted itself for the start, Truex had already moved to around 33rd, pulling ahead of not only the penalized Hill, Smithley, Suarez, and Finchum, but also 37th-place Reed Sorenson in the #77 Marwin Sports Chevrolet, 34th-place Joey Gase in the #51 Donate Life Texas Ford, and 23rd-place Yeley. Of these three Rick Ware Racing-affiliated cars, Yeley crossed the stripe 2.668 seconds back of the leader, just behind Truex who was 2.537 back, while Finchum remained in last, 3.435 seconds back of the lead.
At the end of Lap 1, Gase had taken last from Finchum, and was still running there when the first caution fell on Lap 5. Chris Buescher, running 17th in the #17 Fastenal Ford, broke loose coming off Turn 2 and backed into the wall with the right-rear corner, then hit again with the right-front. Under caution, Buescher made it to pit road for repairs, the crew saying they were going to “get some screws and try to piece it back together if we can and turn some laps.” Despite coming within less than 90 seconds of falling out due to the “Crash Clock,” Buescher pulled back onto the track on Lap 9, then cleared the clock on Lap 11. At the time, he was at least six laps down with Sorenson now 39th, two down after an unscheduled green-flag stop.
On Lap 19, Yeley was running around the 30th spot when he, too, broke loose in Turns 1 and 2. Unlike Buescher, Yeley backed into the wall squarely with the rear of the car, pushing in the rear clip and stopping the car in the middle of the track. Yeley climbed out, done for the day. The team set to work distributing their remaining tires and loading the hauler. Back on the track, Buescher made another trip to pit road for further repairs, dropping him a few more laps down. This kept the #17 in last until Lap 29, when Yeley finally dropped down to the last spot. Soon after, the persistent mist that plagued these opening laps forced a weather caution, then a red flag. The #27 team’s hauler left the track after nightfall.
It wasn’t until Wednesday afternoon that the race resumed, filling the Bottom Five. Taking 38th and 39th were Bubba Wallace and Matt Kenseth, respectively, after Kenseth’s #42 McDonald’s McDelivery Chevrolet broke loose and collected Wallace’s #43 Door Dash Chevrolet. Both cars suffered serious damage in the wet infield grass with Kenseth’s front clip obliterated by the mud. Joey Gase took 37th, out after 184 laps with suspension woes, while Jimmie Johnson rounded out the group with engine troubles on Noah Sweet’s distinctive paint scheme for the #48 Ally Chevrolet.
Wednesday also marked the final Texas start for Leavine Family Racing, which made its debut at the track nine years ago with David Starr. To mark the occasion, Bob Leavine had Christopher Bell’s #95 Procore Toyota wrapped in Sam Bass’ iconic red-yellow-and-blue scheme Starr ran in 2011. Bell made a spirited charge toward the front in the final stage, leading five laps and for a time running the fastest lap times on the track. He ended up 3rd, just within sight of fellow Toyota drivers Kyle Busch and Martin Truex, Jr. The result was not only Bell’s career-best finish, but the second-best finish for the LFR team, trailing only Matt DiBenedetto’s runner-up at Bristol in August of last year.
With two races to go, the 2020 LASTCAR Cup Series Championship will come down to two drivers – Timmy Hill and Ryan Preece. By trailing in both Bottom Fives and Bottom Tens, Preece’s only path to the title is to finish last at both Martinsville and Phoenix. Thus, if Preece doesn’t finish last on Sunday, Hill will lock-up the title.
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #27 in a Cup Series race at Texas.
*This was also the fourth different team with which Yeley has finished last in a Cup Series race at Texas. The others were Joe Gibbs Racing (April 15, 2007, his first last-place finish in Cup), Front Row Motorsports (November 6, 2011), and BK Racing (April 11, 2015).
THE BOTTOM FIVE
37) #27-J.J. Yeley / 20 laps / crash
36) #42-Matt Kenseth / 59 laps / crash
35) #43-Bubba Wallace / 59 laps / crash
34) #51-Joey Gase / 184 laps / suspension
33) #48-Jimmie Johnson / 279 laps / engine
2020 LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) JTG-Daugherty Racing (7)
2nd) Motorsports Business Management, Rick Ware Racing (6)
3rd) Chip Ganassi Racing (3)
4th) Hendrick Motorsports, Leavine Family Racing, Penske Racing (2)
5th) Beard Motorsports, B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Front Row Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, StarCom Racing, Tommy Baldwin Racing (1)
2020 LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (21)
2nd) Toyota (9)
3rd) Ford (4)
2020 LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP