Sunday, August 8, 2021

CUP: Electrical issue forces James Davison to log laps at Watkins Glen

PHOTO: @RickWareRacing

James Davison picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Go Bowling at the Glen at Watkins Glen International when his #51 Nurtec ODT Ford fell out with electrical issues after 41 of 90 laps.

The finish, which came in Davison’s 31st series start, was his first of the season and first since September 6, 2020 at Darlington, 32 races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 29th for the #51, the 41st from electrical trouble, and the 710th for Ford. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 42nd for the #51, the 132nd from electrical problems, and the 977th for Ford.

This year, Davison has increased his commitment to developing his stock car racing skills, even foregoing the Indianapolis 500 to focus on the Coca-Cola 600 in May. One year after his Cup debut last summer, he’s shown steady improvement. Six of his finishes this year have either matched or improved his career-best 29th from a year ago, capped by a new career-best 22nd at Martinsville this spring. He was also a standout in this year’s abbreviated second season of the iRacing Pro Invitational Series, leading flag-to-flag at COTA and the Chicago Street Course.

These runs – both digital and in real-life – have come in Rick Ware Racing’s #15 entry, the last vestige of the team’s 2020 merger with Premium Motorsports. For Watkins Glen, he would shift to Ware’s #51 Nurtec ODT entry, taking over for its regular driver Cody Ware who would instead compete in the inaugural IndyCar event on the Nashville Street Course. The team would also run a Ford in place of its usual Chevrolet. With metric qualifying, Davison would roll off 36th in the field of 37.

Rounding out the field was IndyCar part-timer R.C. Enerson, who on Sunday made his second NASCAR start and first in the Cup Series. Enerson, who failed to qualify for this year’s Indianapolis 500 with Top Gun Racing, would drive Davison’s traditional #15 Chevrolet with sponsorship from Lucas Oil and LIVIN, among others. He’d be joined in the final row by two frontrunners who were each docked for failing pre-race inspection relating to rear-window air deflectors: 7th-place Christopher Bell in the #20 Stanley Toyota and 11th-place Chase Elliott in the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet. As in both the Truck and XFINITY Series races, neither driver started last: Bell in 31st and Elliott in 29th.

Crossing the stripe in 37th was the #78 Bremont Chronometers Ford of Kyle Tilley, who finished last in his XFINITY Series debut the day before. The rest of the Bottom Ten were as follows, indicating their original starting spots and sorted by intervals back from the leader:

26-29) #7-Corey LaJoie 3.275
27-31) #38-Anthony Alfredo 3.469
28-28) #6-Ryan Newman 3.536
29-11) #9-Chase Elliott 3.637
30-30) #77-Justin Haley 3.739
31-7) #20-Christopher Bell 3.858
32-34) #52-Josh Bilicki 3.948
33-36) #51-James Davison 4.169
34-32) #53-Garrett Smithley 4.1772
35-35) #00-Quin Houff 4.581
36-37) #15-R.C. Enerson 4.893
37-33) #78-Kyle Tilley 4.966

At the end of Lap 1, Kyle Tilley had dropped Enerson back to last place. The next time by, both moved past Ryan Newman, who spun his #6 Socios Motorsport Ford at the entrance to Turn 1. The spin dropped Newman to last by 2.826 seconds back of the now 36th-place Enerson and 21.279 seconds back of the lead. Enerson moved Tilley back to 36th by Lap 5, when Newman had now reeled in the both of them. Enerson then clawed past Quin Houff in the #00 Fare Share Chevrolet, and Newman passed both Houff and Tilley on Lap 6, dropping the #78 back to last place.

Two photos of Davison slowing, then stalling in Turn 6.
PHOTO: Matt Miller, @MGMiller17

Tilley remained last through the competition caution on Lap 10, then passed Houff after the restart on Lap 13. That time by, Tilley had edged Houff at the stripe by just 0.015 second. Both would again pass a Ford in trouble on Lap 15 after Anthony Alfredo pitted his #38 Bence Motor Sales Ford for a cut left-rear tire. Following a four-tire stop, Alfredo rejoined the track 59.847 seconds back of the lead, and 38.218 seconds back of Houff. Alfredo remained in last place through the end of Stage 1 on Lap 20, then dropped Tilley back to 37th on Lap 22.

Brad Keselowski drew the pole for Sunday’s race, but was struggling so badly with an apparent brake issue on his #2 Wabash National Ford that he spun out on multiple occasions. By Lap 23, he’d dropped to last place, 8.163 back of Enerson, who had been passed by Tilley for 36th. “Nowhere to go but up here,” Keselowski remarked. Keselowski was still in last place on Lap 25, when the caution fell for a car stopped in Turn 6. This car was James Davison’s, which had unexpectedly lost power heading into the corner, and stopped just off the racing surface before the entrance to Turn 7. The stall immediately dropped Davison to last place, his car the first to be lapped.

Davison reported an electrical issue which caused his digital dash to shut off, remarking that “before I lost the dash, I started to lose drive.” His was the first car to pull into the garage on Lap 26, and the crew set to work changing the battery, among other things. Those things weren’t reported as, by Lap 33, Davison wasn’t hearing anything from his crew while the car was idling. The water temperature increased steadily from 274 degrees to 297. Finally, on Lap 36, he was told he could return to the track, and he pulled onto pit road 13 laps down.

Unfortunately, Davison’s battery continued to drain, and he again pulled into the garage on Lap 42 to avoid stalling on the track. By then, it was apparent that the alternator failed, causing more lengthy repairs. On Lap 50, Davison asked, “Is there even a point in me getting out here? I’d like to drive, but what can we do?” The crew answered they were awaiting a “call from management” as to if they’d be done for the day. Instead, looking to see if the issue was fixed, the team decided to send him back out during green flag stops on Lap 55, at which point he was 27 laps down with just 35 laps to go. On Lap 63, Davison wondered how much longer he’d have to log laps. Two circuits later, the team told him to “run a couple more then call it a day.” Radio issues caused this message to be relayed three times. On Lap 69, Davison was told by the team to “pit this time, take it to the garage,” which he did. On Lap 73, NASCAR declared him out with electrical issues – the race’s lone DNF.

Davison’s stall caused the day’s only caution besides the stage-ending yellows, and the rest of the field finished within three laps of race winner Kyle Larson. Behind Keselowski in 35th and Enerson in 34th was 36th-place Garrett Smithley in another Rick Ware Racing entry, the #53 Skip Barber Racing Ford. Josh Bilicki in yet another RWR car rounded out the Bottom Five in his #52 Insurance King Ford that was painted to resemble a police car.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #51 in a Cup race at Watkins Glen.
*Davison is the first driver to finish last in a Cup race at Watkins Glen due to electrical issues.

37) #51-James Davison / 41 laps / electrical
36) #53-Garrett Smithley / 87 laps / running
35) #2-Brad Keselowski / 87 laps / running
34) #15-R.C. Enerson / 88 laps / running
33) #52-Josh Bilicki / 88 laps / running

1st) JTG-Daugherty Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (4)
2nd) Rick Ware Racing, Spire Motorsports (3)
3rd) Chip Ganassi Racing, Motorsports Business Management (2)
4th) Front Row Motorsports, Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, StarCom Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (13)
2nd) Ford (7)
3rd) Toyota (3)


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