Friday, March 5, 2021

TRUCKS: Savage crash leaves Conor Daly last for the first time in his NASCAR career

PHOTO: @LVMotorSpeedway

Conor Daly picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Friday’s Bucked Up 200 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway when his #44 Fatheadz Eyewear / Elliott’s Custom Trailers Chevrolet was eliminated in a single-truck crash after 68 of 134 laps.

The finish came in Daly’s second series start. In the Truck Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 9th for the #44, the 165th from a crash, and the 402nd for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 63rd for the #44, the 1,240th from a crash, and the 1,766th for Chevrolet.

Daly’s path to NASCAR is a throwback of sorts, more closely resembling the likes of Juan Pablo Montoya and A.J. Allmendinger in 2007 than many of today’s newcomers. The 2011 Indy Lights winner at Long Beach, the second-generation open-wheel star made his IndyCar debut in the 2013 Indianapolis 500, where he ran 22nd for A.J. Foyt.

Since then, Daly has faced challenges along the way. In 2015, he finished last in the 500 when an exhaust fire stopped his Schmidt Peterson entry during the pace laps. In 2018, his XFINITY Series debut at Road America was overshadowed by his sponsor’s controversial reaction to a remark made years earlier by his famous father, Formula One veteran Derek Daly. Suspension issues on his now-unsponsored Roush-Fenway entry left him 31st that day, ten laps short of the finish.

Daly returned to NASCAR last fall at this same Las Vegas track, when he jumped aboard Al Niece’s #42 Chevrolet to make his first-ever Truck Series start. He lined up 27th and finished a solid 18th, the first truck one lap down to winner Austin Hill.

Friday would see him return to the series at the same track and with the same team. This time, Daly would drive Niece’s #44 Chevrolet, an entry that had struggled during 2021’s opening two rounds at Daytona. On the oval, James Buescher crashed before he could take the green flag, leaving him in last place. Super late model racer Jett Noland’s series debut on the road course saw him in position for a solid finish, only to crash out two laps short of the eventual distance. With that, Daly secured 36th on the grid of 40. Fatheadz Eyewear, which backed his series debut, would return as sponsor, joined by Elliott’s Custom Trailers on the quarter-panels.

Rolling off 40th and last was Parker Kligerman, one of ten drivers for underfunded teams who threw together Camping World paint schemes just days before the race. The $15,000 bonuses offered by CEO Marcus Lemonis were a much-need boost to the likes of Kligerman’s team owner Charlie Henderson and owner-drivers such as Norm Benning, Jordan Anderson, and Tyler Hill. Hill’s team finished re-wrapping their Chevrolet just before five in the morning on race day.

Prior to the start, 15th-place Kris Wright dropped to the rear for unapproved adjustments on his #02 First National Bank Chevrolet. Also dropping back was 37th-place Jesse Iwuji – also running Camping World’s sponsorship on his #33 Chevrolet – who was last across the stripe when the field took the green flag. By the end of Lap 1, the spot fell to Norm Benning, whose own #6 Camping World Chevrolet was already struggling with a bad vibration, either from a loose wheel or broken shock.

On Lap 3, Benning was following Jennifer Jo Cobb’s #10 Fastener Supply Chevrolet when trouble broke out ahead of them. Cory Roper spun his #04 CMN Hospitals / Carquest Ford to the apron of Turn 4. He re-fired the engine and spun the tires to rejoin the track, but lost control again, nearly colliding with Cobb and Benning as they squeezed by in the high lane. Roper lost a lap as the caution fell, taking last from Benning as he made it by. Roper returned to the track with cosmetic damage next to the passenger side door numbers and incurred a redundant tail-end penalty for pitting too soon.

For the next few laps, other drivers also struggled. On Lap 9, the throttle hung on Tyler Hill’s #56, forcing him to cut off the engine and restart it, but the issue persisted. The next time by, Carson Hocevar was also off the pace in his #42 Circle B Diecast Chevrolet as there was some discussion about if the right-rear tire was going down. By Lap 12, Hocevar’s crew told him the tires looked fine, but by then he was a lap down with Roper and in danger of taking over last place. Both drivers looked to earn the Lucky Dog, but the leaders soon caught Benning, Iwuji, and Cobb, and the two were soon a second lap down each.

Around Lap 18, Derek Kraus was running inside the Top Ten when his #19 Hunter Nation / South Point Hotel & Casino Toyota came in for an unscheduled pit stop. The crew looked under the hood, trying to diagnose a loss of oil pressure. On Lap 23, Kraus re-fired the engine and soon returned to the track seven laps down – last, but still on the track with the rest of the field. “Everything was normal except oil pressure,” said Kraus on the 30th circuit. “I hate this place. This place is never good to me.” The team then believed it was an electrical or gauge issue, and on Lap 36 the truck belched flames from the exhaust as the fuel pressure dropped to only three pounds. Kraus and team aimed to finish 35th or better, and began closing ground on the drivers in front of him. On Lap 67, they passed the lapped Benning, dropping the #6 back to last place. 

Then on Lap 69, disaster. Daly had climbed into the Top 20 and found himself in a tight pack of traffic headed into Turn 1. Running in the middle lane between teammate Ryan Truex in the #40 Jacob Companies Chevrolet and Chase Purdy in the #23 Bama Buggies Chevrolet, Daly’s truck broke loose. He tried to catch it, but overcorrected, and he veered nearly head-on into the outside wall. He slammed the fence with the right-front, and the truck erupted in flames as it bounced to a stop against the inside wall. “Shit, that was a hard hit,” said Daly as he climbed out without serious injury. Benning dropped Daly to last on Lap 80, by which point Daly had been checked and released from the care center. In his interview, he conceded that his inexperience with the trucks played a role in the wreck.

Another pileup on Lap 97 filled out much of the Bottom Five. David Gilliland’s aggressive start to the race ended when his #17 David Gilliland Racing Ford wrecked in Turn 1. Ryan Truex’s #40 stoved in the nose for a second-straight race, only to be eliminated under the Damaged Vehicle Policy seven laps later. Three circuits after him, defending ARCA Menards Series Champion Bret Holmes’ NASCAR debut ended for the same reason, his #32 Southern States Bank Chevrolet out after 106 laps. Cory Roper rounded out the group following his second accident on the night, hooked into the outside wall just short of the start / finish line.

Of the ten Camping World entries, two made it into the Top Ten, each earning another $10,000 bonus. Last-place starter Parker Kligerman took the 8th spot, one position behind Grant Enfinger in Codie Rohrbaugh’s #9 Chevrolet for CR7 Motorsports. For Kligerman, it was his first top-ten finish since last summer at Bristol, while Enfinger earned his first since his win last fall at Martinsville. Nearly joining them was Jordan Anderson, whose #3 was running 10th with 11 laps to go when he was body-slammed in traffic, spinning his truck into the path of Tyler Ankrum. Anderson finished 27th.

*This marked the second-straight last-place run for the #44 in a Truck race at Las Vegas, following the time Natalie Decker’s entry was pulled out before the start on September 25, 2020.

40) #44-Conor Daly / 68 laps / crash
39) #17-David Gilliland / 96 laps / crash
38) #40-Ryan Truex / 103 laps / dvp
37) #32-Bret Holmes / 106 laps / dvp
36) #04-Cory Roper / 111 laps / crash

1st) Niece Motorsports (2)
2nd) GMS Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (3)


1 comment:

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