Saturday, August 21, 2021

XFINITY: Brandon Brown scores first XFINITY last-place finish in “Baby Doge” car


Brandon Brown picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s New Holland 250 at the Michigan International Speedway when his #68 Baby Doge Coin Chevrolet was collected in a multi-car accident after 35 of 139 laps.

The finish came in Brown’s 108th series start. In the XFINITY Series rankings, it as the 5th for the #68, the 355th from a crash, and the 576th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 28th for the #68, the 1,267th from a crash, and the 1,799th for Chevrolet.

Heading into the Texas race this past June, Brandon Brown gained much attention on social media with his entertaining car salesman parody, advertising the available sponsorship space on his family’s Brandonbilt Motorsports #68 Chevrolet. Brown has worked every bit as hard on the track, where since 2016 he’s developed into a steady mid-pack contender in the XFINITY Series. Since going full-time in 2019, Brown and team have shown improvement each year, taking 15th in the ’19 standings with their first top-ten run at Daytona, then 11th last year with their first Top Five at Texas.

This year, the “For Sale” sign scheme at Texas was one of six races where the team either lacked primary sponsorship or carried the logos of his family’s Brandonbilt Foundations company. Most recently at last week’s Indianapolis Grand Prix Circuit, Brown ran without sponsorship at all, and finished third-from last when he was among the drivers to run over the errant “turtle” off Turn 6 on the opening lap. This kept him 14th in the series standings, just two spots and 42 points out of a spot in the Playoffs.

Brown would start 25th at Michigan, his second race carrying the pastel-hued “Baby Doge Coin” cryptocurrency paint scheme on the #68. Prior to the race, and on behalf of his sponsor, Brown would present $100,000 to the Best Friends Animal Society, which the press release indicates is the United States’ largest no-kill animal sanctuary.

Rolling off 40th was Gray Gaulding in the #52 SVS Vision Chevrolet for Jimmy Means Racing. No drivers were sent to the back for technical infractions, but Josh Berry’s unexpected triple-header weekend put him back into Michael Annett’s #1 Pilot / Flying J / TMAF Chevrolet, dropping him back from the 17th starting spot.

After the race went green, Gaulding re-assumed the last spot, and was closing on the new 39th-place driver Caesar Bacarella in DGM Racing’s #90 AP Sports Regimen / Maxim Chevrolet. Gaulding passed Bacarella on Lap 7, and both they and 38th-place Joe Graf, Jr. in the #07 Power Weld Chevrolet lost touch with each other in the back of the pack. By Lap 13, Bacarella had dropped to 5.436 seconds back of Gaulding, and was lapped just seconds before the competition caution fell on Lap 16. This gave the #90 the first Lucky Dog of the afternoon.

During caution flag pit stops on Lap 18, last spot briefly fell to David Starr in the #66 Sinex Transport Toyota before a penalty dropped Tyler Reddick to last in the #23 Ohio Logistics Chevrolet. Bacarella then took last on Lap 20 as the free pass recipient. On the ensuing restart, Bacarella was in a tight race with Graf when he drove high into the second groove entering Turn 3. Bacarella spun and backed into the outside wall, drawing the second caution of the day. The crew made at least two pit stops to push down the rear decklid and also tape the decklid to the quarter-panel. This dropped Bacarella off a lap for the second time in the race.

At the same time, Bayley Currey was losing power in his black #74 Fort Worth Screen Printing Chevrolet. During an extended stay on pit road, the crew looked over the left-rear corner of the car for an apparent battery and electrical issue – the same issue that kept them from starting the Texas race back in June. Bacarella returned to the track by Lap 25, when he dropped the #74 to last place for the first time. On Lap 31, Currey’s crew reported their battery was “melting,” and they soon cobbled together a new electrical connection from parts they had on hand.

On Lap 34, Sam Mayer entered the last-place battle when his #8 QPS Employment Group Chevrolet pulled behind the wall with transmission issues. “Oh, we got one,” said Currey. The next time by, Currey’s engine re-fired, and he returned to the track 13 laps down, 10 laps back of Mayer. No sooner had Currey returned to the track when trouble broke out on the backstretch.

Lap 36 saw the restart to begin Stage 2, putting some surprising names into the Top Ten. Among these was Tommy Joe Martins, who put his #44 AAN Adjusters Chevrolet into the first spot with Brandon Brown restarting behind him in 3rd. When the green flag dropped, Brown pushed Martins into the entrance of Turn 1, but the faster outside line gained momentum through the corners. Brown backed off Martins and skated up the track, nearly colliding with Justin Allgaier in the #7 Brandt Chevrolet as he pulled to the outside line.

At the same instant, directly to Brown’s inside, Ty Gibbs in the #54 Sport Clips Toyota made contact with Myatt Snider’s #2 Superior Essex Chevrolet, causing Snider’s car to cross the nose of Austin Cindric’s #22 Menards / NIBCO Ford and pinch Brown into the outside wall. The ensuing pileup collected several frontrunners, including Cindric’s #22 and Daniel Hemic in the #18 Poppy Bank Toyota. Brown had barely enough time to pull his car straight when Hemric spun him to the apron, where Joe Graf, Jr. nearly collided with him a second time.

Brown’s car was the first of those involved in the wreck to pull into the garage, done for the day under the “Damaged Vehicle Policy” on Lap 36. Hemric and Graf followed on the next two consecutive laps. By Lap 39, Currey was 14 laps down in 40th with Mayer’s transmission issues putting him 39th and Brown now slipping to 37th, lowest-ranked of the wrecked drivers. Cindric’s crew removed the nose of the #22 on pit road, and he turned another six laps trailing smoke before he was finally flagged off the track under the DVP. Four laps after that, both Snider and Bacarella were also docked under the DVP on Lap 51.

Meanwhile, Currey didn’t drop Mayer to last place until Lap 47. But Mayer’s engine re-fired on Lap 59, and he returned to action 27 laps down. At the time, Mayer was just four laps back of Brown, who had since slipped to 39th behind Currey. On Lap 63, Mayer, too, passed Brown for the 39th spot, and the #68 took over last place. Both Mayer and Currey climbed out of the Bottom Five, climbing past Baccarella, Snider, Cindric, Graf, and Hemric to finish 33rd and 34th, respectively. Currey would ultimately be involved in a late-race wreck with Jesse Little in the #99 B.J. McLeod Motorsports Toyota.

At the finish, Jade Buford scored a season-best 9th-place finish in the #48 Big Machine Spiked Coolers Chevrolet – one spot shy of Buford’s career-best 8th last fall on the Charlotte “Roval,” and the best for the first-year Big Machine Motorsports team. One spot behind him came Bubba Wallace, who steered Motorsports Business Management and Hattori Racing Enterprises’ #61 AISIN Toyota to a 10th-place spot despite left-front damage suffered in the same wreck that eliminated Brandon Brown.

Among the surprises just outside the Top 10 were Matt Mills, who was running in the Top 15 all day in B.J. McLeod Motorsports’ #5 J.F. Electric Chevrolet. Mills finished 14th, his third-best finish in the series and best-ever at Michigan, besting a previous mark of 24th back in 2019.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #68 in a XFINITY Series race at Michigan.

40) #68-Brandon Brown / 35 laps / crash
39) #18-Daniel Hemric / 36 laps / crash
38) #07-Joe Graf, Jr. / 37 laps / DVP
37) #22-Austin Cindric / 41 laps / DVP
36) #2-Myatt Snider / 45 laps / DVP

1st) B.J. McLeod Motorsports (5)
2nd) DGM Racing, JD Motorsports, JR Motorsports, Mike Harmon Racing, Motorsports Business Management, RSS Racing / Reaume Brothers Racing (2)
3rd) Brandonbilt Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Our Motorsports, Sam Hunt Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (15)
2nd) Toyota (6)
3rd) Ford (1)


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