Monday, March 29, 2021

CUP: Anthony Alfredo the first last-place finisher of a Cup Series dirt race since 1970

PHOTO: @BMSupdates

Anthony Alfredo picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Monday’s Food City Dirt Race at the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track when his #38 Dude Wipes Ford was involved in a multi-car accident after 39 of 253 laps.

The finish came in Alfredo’s 7th series start. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 19th for the #38, the 611th from a crash, and the 705th for Ford. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 54th for the #38, the 971st for Ford, and the 1,247th from a crash.

“Fast Pasta” was previously featured on this site following the 2019 Truck Series finale at Homestead, where his DGR-Crosley entry blew a hole in the engine at the command to start engines. He returned to NASCAR on the XFINITY Series side, finishing 6th in his series debut at the 2020 race in Fontana. This was the first of nine top-ten finishes he made in 19 starts that year, topped by a 3rd in his last start at Texas and a 4th in his return to Homestead.

It was on January 6th of this year, after one season each in Trucks and XFINITY that Alfredo was announced as the new driver of Front Row Motorsports’ second car, the #38 Ford. Alfredo took the place of John Hunter Nemechek, who left FRM after his difficult rookie season last year to return to the Truck Series with Kyle Busch Motorsports. Teamed with Michael McDowell, who won his first Cup race in the Daytona 500, Alfredo was collected in the day’s biggest wreck and finished 32nd. In the five races that followed, his best finish was 22nd on the Daytona Road Course.

Sponsored by Dude Wipes, formerly a Go FAS Racing backer, Alfredo ran 21st in the first practice and 18th in Happy Hour. This would have put him 8th on the grid for the first of Saturday’s four heat races. But last weekend’s storm wiped out that part of the schedule, and Alfredo secured 29th on the grid by the rulebook.

When the race was finally set to go on Monday, the 39th starting spot fell to Ty Dillon in the Gaunt Brothers’ #96 Bass Pro Shops Toyota. Polesitter Kyle Larson would drop to the rear for an engine change Friday on his #5 Freightliner Chevrolet, to be joined by 12th-place Matt DiBenedetto in the #21 Menards / Quaker State Ford and 16th-place Michael McDowell in the #34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford, both for unapproved adjustments. DiBenedetto’s team needed to replace a torn fender while McDowell’s had an issue with the throttle body not fully opening.

After the opening lap, 39th place fell to Mike Marlar, who was not only running double-duty with the Truck Series, but making his Cup debut in Motorsports Business Management’s #66 Toyota. The MBM crew advised their driver to “take care of the nose,” and at least one crew member didn’t have access to timing and scoring. By Lap 5, Marlar had dropped 1.224 seconds back of new 38th-place runner Quin Houff in the #00 Mane ‘n Tail Chevrolet, and was in danger of losing a lap by the 8th circuit. Houff then took last from Marlar on Lap 9, and Marlar climbed to 37th past Cody Ware in the #51 Nurtec ODT Chevrolet. Marlar wouldn’t lose a lap until the 31st circuit.

On Lap 11, Kyle Busch made an unscheduled stop for an overheating #18 M&M’s Messages Toyota, which dropped him off the lead lap and into last place. He held the spot until around Lap 19, when Josh Bilicki lost at least two laps in the #52 Junction Fuels Ford. Still under green on Lap 39, Bilicki’s crew reported they couldn’t see the track very well. Two circuits later, this same lack of visibility may have played a role in settling the last-place battle.

Coming off Turn 2, Aric Almirola’s #10 Smithfield Ford was working under the #77 Halmar International Chevrolet of Stewart Friesen, who was making his Cup debut. The hole closed for Almirola, whose left-front clipped the rough dirt on the apron of the track, sending his car sideways. Almirola slid backwards up the track into the path of newcomer Shane Golobic, who destroyed the nose of his #78 Elk Grove Ford / NOS Energy Ford. Alfredo tweeted later that he turned to the right, but skidded right into Almirola’s car, destroying his machine. Corey LaJoie #7 NASCAR Trucks at Knoxville Chevrolet was also collected as Almirola’s Ford skidded to the apron.

Almirola, Golobic, LaJoie, and Alfredo all climbed out uninjured, their cars towed behind the wall. Alfredo, the lowest-classified of the four drivers involved, slipped to last place on Lap 44. It wasn’t until Lap 78 that NASCAR confirmed all four drivers out due to the accident, along with the wrecked Ross Chastain in the #42 Clover Chevrolet and Christopher Bell in the #20 Irwin “Trade Strong” Toyota. Chastain and Bell were collected in the next accident in Turn 2, which also involved Kyle Larson. Chastain, the lowest-classified of that group, rounded out the Bottom Five in the 35th spot.

Two new NASCAR teams turned heads during much of Monday’s race. Bubba Wallace and 23XI Racing nearly rebounded from their disappointing tire gamble at Phoenix, which cost them a shot at a Top Five. This time, Wallace’s #23 Doordash Toyota ran in the Top Ten for nearly the entire distance, and finished 7th in both Stages 1 and 2. He was still running 9th with 35 laps to go when the left-rear tire went down after contact from Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., forcing an unscheduled pit stop. Wallace crossed the line in 27th, two laps down.

Their rivals – Daniel Suarez and Team Trackhouse – did even better. Coming back from their late-race pit road speeding penalty that cost them 6th last Sunday in Atlanta, Suarez climbed to 4th at the end of Stage 1, scoring the organization’s first stage points. He then stepped it up in Stage 2, catching the dominant Martin Truex, Jr. and bumping his #19 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota out of the way on Lap 134. He led the next 58 laps, at one point holding off William Byron’s #24 Liberty University Chevrolet on a restart. Joey Logano’s winning pass on Suarez came with just 58 laps to go in regulation, and he held on to finish 4th in overtime after Truex slipped out of the groove in overtime. The result was Team Trackhouse’s best, improving on their previous mark of 15th at Homestead.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #38 in a Cup Series race on a dirt track since August 25, 1962, when Sammy Packard’s 1961 Ford dropped a piston after running 45 of the 200 laps at the Valdosta 75 (Georgia) Speedway. This was the fourth and final series start for Packard, and came after he started last in Valdosta’s 13-car field.
*The #38 has never finished last in a Cup race at Bristol.
*Alfredo is the first first-time last-place finisher of a Cup Series race since September 27, 2020, when Chad Finchum scored his first at Las Vegas. He’s the first Cup driver to score his first last-place finish in a dirt race since April 3, 1969, when Dick Poling lost the rear end after 1 lap of the Columbia 200 at the Columbia (South Carolina) Speedway.

39) #38-Anthony Alfredo / 39 laps / crash
38) #7-Corey LaJoie / 39 laps / crash
37) #78-Shane Golobic / 39 laps / crash
36) #10-Aric Almirola / 39 laps / crash
35) #42-Ross Chastain / 52 laps / crash

1st) Motorsports Business Management (2)
2nd) Chip Ganassi Racing, Front Row Motorsports, Rick Ware Racing, StarCom Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

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


1 comment:

Unknown said...

There's another "underdog" story in this race that I find fascinating. Alex Bowman somehow finished 22nd and only 1 lap down in spite of losing 4th gear. I wonder if anyone has ever collected statistics on something like that.