Sunday, June 27, 2021

XFINITY: Turn 1 tangle with Ferrucci hands Josh Williams first last-place finish since 2017

PHOTO: @Zeffler9

Josh Williams picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Sunday’s Pocono Green 225 at the Pocono Raceway when his #92 Sleep Well / Alloy Chevrolet was involved in an accident after 11 of 90 laps.

The finish, which came in Williams’ 109th series start, was his first of the year and first since July 1, 2017 at Daytona, 133 races ago. In the XFINITY Series last-place rankings, it was the 23rd for the #92, the 350th from a crash, and the 572nd for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 30th for the #92, the 1,259th for a crash, and the 1,790th for Chevrolet.

Josh Williams and teammate Alex Labbe have both been an integral part of the steady improvement of Mario Gosselin’s team DGM Racing in recent years. After a challenging 2018 where he failed to finish nine races and finished no better than 20th, he attempted his first full-time season in 2019 driving DGM’s #36. That year saw him finish 20th or better 17 times in 32 starts, including his first top-ten finish by taking 8th at Talladega, and secured 17th in the standings.

Moving over to DGM’s #92, Williams became a regular fixture in the Top 20 last season, scoring another six top-ten finishes, including three in the Playoffs at Talladega, Kansas, and Texas. He very nearly finished among the leaders during the rain-soaked Charlotte “Roval” race, only to be involved in a crash. Following a 13th-place finish in the season finale at Phoenix, Williams climbed from 15th to 14th in the series standings, and closed the year with an average finish of 18.6.

This year, Williams has struggled to keep up the pace he started last season. He arrived in Pocono just 21st in points, having failed to qualify at the Circuit of the Americas with a lone Top Ten – a 10th at Mid-Ohio. A 21st-place finish in Nashville helped his qualifying metric, placing him 22nd on the grid at Pocono.

Starting 40th and last on Sunday was Joey Gase, who made a one-off start with Jimmy Means Racing thanks to sponsorship from Adirondack Tree Surgeons. The company had its logo on the hood of the same red-and-yellow scheme of Panini America, the sponsor of the team’s regular driver Gray Gaulding. Gase would be joined at the rear by Jesse Iwuji, who was a late driver replacement for Bayley Currey in Mike Harmon Racing’s #74 Reel Chevrolet, set to roll off 34th. The results also indicated Carson Ware’s entry in the #17 Jacob Construction Chevrolet was also listed as a driver change in place of brother Cody Ware, set to roll off 32nd.

Prior to the start, 25th-place starter David Starr in the #66 Alarm Tech Systems Toyota was pushed behind the wall at the exit of pit road. The car wouldn’t fire at the command, but started very soon after. So soon, in fact, that as the field addressed the starter to take the green, Starr was seen passing Gase off Turn 3 and was working his way back up through the pack going into Turn 1 for the first time. Gase, meanwhile, was having clutch issues, and remained last for the first eight laps. Gase then passed Iwuji on Lap 9, and the #74 was still running in the final spot when the caution fell on Lap 12.

Williams makes it to pit road after his crash.
PHOTO: @premium5562

The reason for the caution was Josh Williams, who had backed into the outside wall in Turn 1. Replays showed Williams was racing on the outside of Santino Ferrucci in the #26 Moery / Manatawny Still Works Toyota. Ferrucci appeared to take a wide entry into the corner, turning so much later than Williams that the #26 appeared to miss the corner altogether. Ferrucci was a half carlength ahead of Williams when the two made contact, sending Williams into his spin. Ferrucci gathered his car in the high lane and continued on without serious damage, eventually finishing 14th. “He missed the corner!” said someone one Williams’ crew. “It’s killed. We’re not gonna fix that.” Williams made it to his pit stall, saying “What a fucking idiot, dude,” and soon pulled behind the wall. He’d taken last from Iwuji on Lap 12. Gase’s clutch issue would ultimately take him out of the race, leaving him 36th.

On Lap 25, a brutal accident off Turn 1 filled the next two spots in the Bottom Five. Contact from Sam Mayer, making his XFINITY debut in the #8 Tire Pros Chevrolet, sent Justin Haley spinning into the inside wall. Haley’s #11 Leaf Filter Gutter Protection Chevrolet bounced back into traffic, resulting in several close calls. Unable to avoid the wreck was Ryan Vargas in the #6 Every Life Is Worth Saving Chevrolet, which collided with the rear of Haley’s car. When interviewed, Vargas was emotional. That particular #6 was the last car worked on by JD Motorsports longtime car chief Brian Lear, a native of nearby Shickshinny, Pennsylvania who died on May 31 at age 38. Lear’s name was on the hood of Vargas’ car, which was otherwise unsponsored. Both Haley and Vargas were checked and released from the infield care center.

Taking 37th was Harrison Burton, whose #20 Dex Imaging Toyota spun after racing under Justin Allgaier off Turn 1, hitting the wall with the driver’s side. Burton made it to pit road, but would also drop out of the race.

Jade Buford made an unscheduled stop for a cut tire following contact with Matt Mills and recovered to finish 19th in the #48 Big Machine Spiked Coolers Chevrolet. The run came after Buford made his first ARCA start at the same track on Friday, where he ran 8th in a car fielded by Andy Hillenburg.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #92 in a XFINITY race at Pocono.
*The 11 laps completed by Williams is the most by a last-place finisher of a XFINITY race at Pocono. The previous record was 7 laps by Jeff Green on June 10, 2017.

40) #92-Josh Williams / 11 laps / crash
39) #6-Ryan Vargas / 24 laps / crash
38) #11-Justin Haley / 24 laps / crash
37) #20-Harrison Burton / 36 laps / crash / led 21 laps / won stage 1
36) #52-Joey Gase / 42 laps / clutch

1st) B.J. McLeod Motorsports (3)
2nd) DGM Racing, JR Motorsports, Mike Harmon Racing, RSS Racing / Reaume Brothers Racing (2)
3rd) JD Motorsports, Motorsports Business Management, Our Motorsports, Sam Hunt Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (11)
2nd) Toyota (4)
3rd) Ford (1)


No comments: