Saturday, May 15, 2021

XFINITY: Radio issues and a blown water line knock David Starr out of the running at Dover

PHOTO: @starr_racing

David Starr picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Drydene 200 at the Dover International Speedway when his #61 Special Report with Bret Baier Special Report Toyota lost the engine after 18 of 200 laps.

The finish, which came in Starr’s 217th series start, was his first of the season and first in the XFINITY Series since August 18, 2017 at Bristol, 120 races ago. In the XFINITY Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 18th for the #61, the 37th from overheating, and the 146th for Toyota. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 18th for the #61, the 146th for Toyota, and the 179th for overheating.

In his first year as part of Motorsports Business Management’s three-car lineup, the veteran Starr has already turned heads with one of his best runs in years. Starting last at Homestead on February 27th, Starr was on the lead lap in 12th place with just two laps to go in regulation. But just moments before race leader Noah Gragson was about to put him a lap down, one of Starr’s worn tires let go, putting both drivers into the wall. Despite the damage, Starr finished 21st.

Since Homestead, Starr has steadily improved, particularly in the three races leading into Saturday’s event at Dover. He ran 22nd in Martinsville, then finished on the lead lap at both Talladega and Darlington, taking 16th and 17th, respectively. At Dover, Starr picked up new sponsorship from FOX News anchor Brett Baier in conjunction with Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C. Children’s National would sponsor the roof of Starr’s car and the hood of the #74 Chevrolet of Bayley Currey, still in the silver-and-black of its Bobby Allison “throwback” scheme from last week. Both Starr and Baier made an appearance at Children’s National on Friday.

Starr rolled off in 21st, five spots ahead of Currey in 26th.

Starting 40th was Gray Gaulding, who looked for a turnaround after back-to-back DNFs at Talladega and Darlington. Unlike the latter race, Gaulding’s #52 Panini Chevrolet fired up at the command and followed the field onto the track. As he was reminded of the blown tire issues from the ARCA race the day before, others dropped to the rear of the field. COVID-19 protocols put Justin Haley out of the #11 Leaf Filter Gutter Protection Chevrolet, and replacement Zane Smith fell to the back. When he did, another car had dropped from 35th – Kyle Sieg, making his NASCAR debut in the #90 Independent Metal Strap Ford. The younger brother of Ryan Sieg was entered in a second RSS Racing Ford which was fielded by Mario Gosselin’s DGM Racing. The younger Sieg was among those who waved Smith to start ahead of him, putting the #11 higher up the running order.

When the race started, Kyle Sieg was last to cross the stripe, 4.9 seconds back of the leader. The gap opened to 7.269 seconds by the end of Lap 1, then 10.609 by Lap 4. On Lap 10, the spot fell to Colby Howard, who pitted his #15 Drydene Chevrolet due to concerns his left-rear tire was going down. By the time Howard returned to the track, he was the only driver off the lead lap, a full three circuits down to the leaders. Sieg, meanwhile, would lose his first lap on the 14th circuit.

During this entire run leading to the Lap 20 competition caution, Starr’s car began to have handling problems and lose power. By Lap 19, the driver was slow into Turn 1, attracting the attention of NASCAR. Unfortunately for Starr, he’d also been having radio trouble, so the MBM team wasn’t aware of the issue until the yellow came out. By Lap 21, the team instructed him to go around to the backstretch entrance to the garage area, where the crew was waiting. MBM also had Starr’s remaining pit crew go to teammate Matt Jaskol’s pit box to service the #13 Auto Parts 4 Less Toyota. Back at Starr’s garage stall, the crew reported a water line had blown, which caused water to get under the tires, resulting in the handling problems. With the loss of water, the team believed they’d blown a hole in the head gasket or the piston, so by Lap 25 declared they were done for the day. NASCAR announced they were out of the race for overheating issues some time later.

Jaskol, now with Starr’s pit crew, didn’t get to turn many more laps. On Lap 58, his car was involved in the day’s most frightening accident. Coming off Turn 2, Jesse Little spun his #78 Apex Wireless Chevrolet followed by Josh Williams’ #92 Alloy Employer Services Chevrolet. As Jaskol checked-up, he too was turned into the ensuing pileup on the apron. Jaskol’s car turned 180 degrees, then backed into the nose of Little’s stopped car, causing it to ramp up and over Little’s #78. None of the three drivers were injured, but the impact of Jaskol’s car sheared away part of Little’s roof. The crew talked briefly about getting Jaskol back on the track, but when wreckers had to separate the two cars, they soon joined Williams in the garage.

Rounding out the Bottom Five was Zane Smith, whose run for Kaulig Racing ended with a tangle with Brandon Jones in Turns 1 and 2, eliminating both drivers. Kyle Sieg, who ran last in the early laps, earned the Lucky Dog under Smith’s caution. He was back racing his way through the field when an apparent flat right-front tire sent him into the outside wall, leaving him 34th.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #61 in an XFINITY race since September 11, 2020, when Chad Finchum’s Smithbilt Homes Toyota was disqualified after finishing 27th in the Go Bowling 250 at Richmond. The number hadn’t finished last in an XFINITY race at Dover since September 20, 2003, when Justin Ashburn’s run in the #61 31-W Insulation Chevrolet ended with engine failure after 6 laps of the Stacker 200 presented by YJ Stinger.

40) #61-David Starr / 18 laps / overheating
39) #13-Matt Jaskol / 56 laps / crash
38) #92-Josh Williams / 57 laps / crash
37) #78-Jesse Little / 57 laps / crash
36) #11-Zane Smith / 67 laps / crash

1st) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, RSS Racing / Reaume Brothers Racing (2)
2nd) DGM Racing, JD Motorsports, Mike Harmon Racing, Motorsports Business Management, Our Motorsports, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (7)
2nd) Toyota (2)
3rd) Ford (1)


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