Saturday, August 7, 2021

XFINITY: Early crashes eliminate Kyle Tilley under "Crash Clock" while Michael Munley escapes

PHOTO: @KyleTilley

Kyle Tilley picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey 200 at Watkins Glen International when his #99 ERA Motorsport Chevrolet was eliminated with crash damage after 20 of 82 laps.

The finish came in Tilley’s series debut. In the XFINITY Series last-place rankings, it was the 2nd for the DVP, the 16th for the #99, and the 575th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 2nd for DVP, the 37th for the #99, and the 1,797th for Chevrolet.

Born in Bath, England, the 33-year-old Tilley is among the few new “road course ringers” still competing in NASCAR’s top three series. In his first decade of sports car racing, he’s participated in endurance events on both sides of the Atlantic. He scored a 2015 SCCA win at the Virginia International Raceway, finished 2nd in the GTS championship for the 2017 Pirelli World Challenge, and even ran Historic Formula One at Spa, campaigning a 1977 Ensign. Last year, he finished 15th in class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and this year took a class victory in the 24 Hours of Daytona with ERA Motorsport, finishing 6th overall with Dwight Merriman, Ryan Dalziel, and Paul-Loup Chatin.

Moments before the green flag, Munley's #6 is still
on pit road for the radio issue.
PHOTO: Paul @beretta3437

This year has seen Tilley add NASCAR to his resume. He joined forces with B.J. McLeod and Matt Tifft at Live Fast Motorsports for the rain-soaked inaugural at COTA. He finished 31st, earning the Lucky Dog on the final caution of the rain-shortened event with his car in one piece. He again drove Live Fast’s #78 Ford at Road America, where he slid off-course into a gravel trap and finished 35th, two laps down. Saturday would see him run the XFINITY Series – again for McLeod – this time in the #99 Chevrolet. Battle Associates, his sponsor from the Cup side, would rejoin him in XFINITY. ERA Motorsport, his current ride in sports cars, was the listed primary sponsor. Tilley would roll off 37th.

Of the 40 drivers on the starting grid, Stephen Leicht would roll off last in the #61 Jani-King Toyota that Boris Said was unable to get into the field last month at Road America. Leicht was late getting to his car, and was having transmission issues as the field started to roll away. Further up, Kyle Weatherman in 22nd stalled his #47 Runnings Outdoor Chevrolet, and needed a push to get started. The engine fired, but Weatherman still told his team to stand by if it stalled again. Meanwhile, 34th-place starter Michael Munley, a fellow road racer making his own NASCAR debut in the #6 Gutterman Services Chevrolet, was having radio trouble. Munley stopped some distance from his stall, and it took some time for the issue to be resolved. He ultimately didn’t get going until the moment the race went green, forcing him to play catch-up to the field.

Back out on the track, Leicht’s car was the last across the stripe, 6.116 seconds back of the leader. 

Back on the track, NASCAR had sent two drivers to the rear for unapproved adjustments: 13th-place Ryan Sieg in the #39 CMR Construction & Roofing / A-Game Ford and 26th-place Jesse Little in the unsponsored #78 B.J. McLeod Motorsports Chevrolet. Neither driver rolled off in last place with Sieg in 36th and Little in 38th. Matt Mills, who joined Tilley and Little on the B.J. McLeod team, dropped from 28th to 37th for the start in his #5 J.F. Electric Chevrolet, putting all three McLeod cars in positions 35th on back. According to the NASCAR Leaderboard, these were the bottom-ten starters across the stripe. The original starting spot is indicated before each car number:

31-30) #15-Colby Howard 4.304
32-38) #52-Dave Smith 4.585
33-35) #90-Preson Pardus 4.592
34-39) #74-Bayley Currey 4.893
35-37) #99-Kyle Tilley 5.053
36-13) #39-Ryan Sieg 5.296
37-28) #5-Matt Mills 5.334
38-26) #78-Jesse Little 5.702
39-40) #61-Stephen Leicht 6.116
40-34) #6-Michael Munley DNS

As the field spilled into The Esses under green for the first time, Munley was trailing some distance back, still off the pace. The crew told him to take his time, that he’d be able to catch the field for the upcoming competition caution on Lap 10. Heading into Turn 6, there was contact between Dave Smith, making his NASCAR national series debut in the #52 Sonoma Harvest Chevrolet and the penalized Ryan Sieg in the #39. Both cars spun with Smith pulling away from Sieg, the pair now 38th and 39th and 7.6 seconds back of Tilley in 37th.

Michael Munley on pit road after
Turn 5 crash.
PHOTO: Matt Miller, @MGMiller17

It wasn’t until the leaders began Lap 3 that Munley finally completed his first lap, but moments later came trouble in Turn 5. “We’re in the wall, guys,” said someone on the radio. According to the driver, Munley was in third gear coming out of the chicane when he lost control and slammed into the outside wall with the front and rear of his car. Munley shouted over the radio, apologizing for the wreck, but managed to get the car rolling again back to pit road. On Lap 6, the crew managed to complete repairs, and used the final 90 seconds on the “Crash Clock” to make a second stop for four fresh tires. During this, Leicht made a pit stop of his own for the continuing transmission issues, dropping him off the lead lap in 39th.

On Lap 11, Munley reported his car was still pushing in the left-hand turns, and had yet to reach minimum speed by the competition caution. When the race restarted on Lap 12, the officials’ attention turned to another car – Tilley’s. Coming to the stripe, reported contact from Dave Smith’s #52 sent Tilley spinning into the inside wall, then back across the track. Tilley managed to keep rolling without drawing the caution flag, but was now himself on the “Crash Clock” for repairs. Moments later, on Lap 14, Munley finally reached minimum speed.

On the 15th lap, Tilley was on pit road with the crew looking over the radio. Repairs continued to cost him laps, and he dropped behind Munley into last place on Lap 17. He returned to the track on the 18th circuit, and was told to hold his line as the leaders caught him to put him another lap down. When Stage 1 ended on Lap 20, Tilley was now one lap back of Munley in last place, saying his car was dragging something and also spraying water from the overheating radiator. “I’m not sure if there’s any coolant left in this thing,” Tilley said on Lap 23.

Kyle Tilley behind the wall by DVP.
PHOTO: Matt Miller, @MGMiller17

Setting up for a restart on Lap 24, Tilley was told to run his “three fastest laps so we can keep running.” But the moment the green flag dropped, NASCAR told the #99 team Tilley had run out of time on the “Crash Clock” and would be parked under the “Damaged Vehicle Policy,” or DVP. Tilley’s crew didn’t tell their driver until Lap 26, when NASCAR threatened to stop scoring his car, and he pulled into the garage the next time by, done for the day. Chandler Smith’s disqualification from the Truck Series race happened at the exact same time.

Munley ultimately completed 74 laps before persistent suspension issues from the wreck left him 35th, putting him out of the Bottom Five. Taking 39th was Alex Labbe, whose #36 Globocam / Prolon Controls Chevrolet dropped an axle in Turn 7. The 38th spot went to Tilley’s teammate Matt Mills, who clobbered the wall in Turn 5 during a side-by-side battle with Dave Smith. The final two spots belonged to the race’s only Cup Series “invaders:” Austin Dillon in Our Motorsports’ #23 Mayhem Athlete Chevrolet broke a track bar, followed by Erik Jones’ turn in Jordan Anderson’s #31 Bommarito Automotive Group Chevrolet ending with brake failure heading into Turn 6.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #99 in a XFINITY race at Watkins Glen. The team has now finished last three times this year, each with a first-time last-place finisher. Stefan Parsons received his in Nashville, followed by Mason Massey in the most recent race in Loudon.

40) #99-Kyle Tilley / 20 laps / dvp
39) #36-Alex Labbe / 28 laps / rear gear
38) #5-Matt Mills / 47 laps / crash
37) #23-Austin Dillon / 53 laps / chassis
36) #31-Erik Jones / 66 laps / crash

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) Our Motorsports, Sam Hunt Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (14)
2nd) Toyota (5)
3rd) Ford (1)


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