Chase Purdy picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Saturday’s United Rentals 200 at the Martinsville Speedway when his #23 BamaBuggies.com Chevrolet fell out with rear gear issues after 33 of 204 laps.
The finish came in Purdy’s 29th series start. In the Truck Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 14th for rear gear issues, the 19th for the #23, and the 415th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 46th from rear gear trouble, the 68th for the #23, and the 1,814th for Chevrolet.
In this very race three years ago, the then 18-year-old from Meridian, Mississippi made his Truck Series debut driving for MDM Motorsports and finished a solid 21st. He was sponsored by Bama Buggies, the Alabama-based powersports dealer that has backed him since at least 2016, when he was racing late models. In 2017, he drove for David Gilliland full-time in what is now the ARCA Menards Series East, scoring five runner-up finishes and four consecutive poles en route to a 4th-place rank in points. He again ranked 4th when he joined MDM in the 2018 ARCA national series schedule, finishing 2nd at both Toledo and Gateway.
Following the closure of MDM Motorsports, Purdy found his way to GMS Racing las year, when he picked up a part-time schedule in the #24 entry. In his series return at Pocono, he finished 21st, then four rounds later enjoyed a career weekend in Kansas. He started on pole and took the checkers in 10th, his first career top-ten in a NASCAR national touring series race. After closing out the year with a 12th in Texas, Purdy secured a full-season ride with GMS for this year, taking over the #23.
This season, however, has been a struggle. In the first 14 races of the year, he finished no better than 15th, and scored here DNFs, ranking him just 19th in the standings. A positive COVID-19 test put him on the sidelines for the next round at Watkins Glen, where A.J. Allmendinger drove in his place. When he returned, he showed immediate improvement, taking a new career-best 6th when he rejoined at Gateway, and other than a mid-race crash at Bristol, he’d finished no worse than 15th in the four races since heading into Martinsville. The improvement also helped in metric qualifying, placing him 13th on the grid for Saturday.
Starting 40th and last was Roger Reuse, who was making just his third start on an oval and first-ever at Martinsville. Spotting for Reuse’s #49 WCIParts.com Ford was brother Bobby Reuse, who has frequently raced alongside his brother on the road courses.
The only driver sent to the back was 30th-place starter Parker Kligerman for unapproved adjustments on his #75 Luck’s Beans Toyota. Reuse was told to pull ahead of Kligerman before the start, but ended up starting nine-tenths of a second behind him in 39th. Reuse had still gained a position as 38th-place starter Jesse Iwuji had dropped to the back in the #33 eRacing Association Toyota. This created open track between the final two starters with Reuse 6.002 seconds behind the leader and Iwuji 6.445 behind.
At the end of Lap 1, Reuse was running ahead of Iwuji until around Lap 4, when the #33 dropped him back to last place. “All right, hustle up,” said Reuse’s crew. “Let’s go get one.” By Lap 8, Reuse had already dropped to 18.276 seconds back of the leader, 1.115 seconds back of Iwuji, and was in immediate danger of losing a lap. This occurred on Lap 10, followed two circuits later by both Iwuji and 38th-place Jennifer Jo Cobb in the #10 Fastener Supply Co. Ford. Iwuji then caught Cobb in traffic, passing her for 38th on Lap 17. Reuse then dropped Cobb to last on Lap 20, by which point she was shown 3 laps down and one lap back of Reuse. Cobb was by then having brake problems, and radioed that she was pumping them on the 26th circuit.
On Lap 26, Halie Deegan suffered a flat left-front tire on her #1 Monster Ford after contact from Kligerman in a three-wide battle entering Turn 3. She slowed on the apron, then made it to pit road, and took over last place on Lap 31. It was on this same lap that Chase Purdy entered the last-place battle, making an unscheduled stop for something smoking in his truck. Believing it to be a gear issue, the team pushed Purdy behind the wall on Lap 37, and put his truck on jack stands behind the pit box. That same time by, Colby Howard, whose #9 Grant County Mulch Chevrolet didn’t fire at first after the command, also went to the garage with brake trouble. Purdy took last from Deegan on Lap 38 with Howard slipping to 39th soon after, the two trucks three laps apart.
On Lap 51, Howard’s crew believed they had the brake issue solved, and the driver pulled back onto pit road after the leaders pitted under the Stage 1 ending caution. But on that same lap, the pedal went to the floor again, and he returned to the garage, now four laps ahead of Purdy. There was little traffic on Purdy’s channel until Lap 58, when someone radioed “It just cremated it. The right-rear axle came out like it did at Daytona.” With that, NASCAR confirmed they were out of the race on that same lap.
Howard returned to the race and climbed to 38th, passing John Hunter Nemechek, whose #4 Pye-Barker Fire & Safety Toyota was eliminated in the day’s most controversial crash. After bumping Austin Wayne Self’s #22 Go Texan / AM Technical Solutions Chevrolet in Turn 1, Nemechek tried to pass him entering Turn 3. The two made contact, sending Nemechek head-on into the outside wall, ultimately done for the night. Cory Roper finished 37th after a pair of early spins in his #04 CarQuest Auto Parts Ford, and Jennifer Jo Cobb rounded out the Bottom Five, 14 laps down. Despite 14 cautions for 89 laps, Purdy and Nemechek turned out to be the day’s only two DNFs.
After dropping to the back of the field before the start, Parker Kligerman battled back to finish 6th, his best finish in eight starts at the track dating back to 2011. Two spots behind him came the #17 Ford of Taylor Gray, who earned his first top-ten finish in just his fourth series start. Timmy Hill finished 10th, his third top-ten finish of the year and first since the spring race at Darlington, doing so in a #56 Chevrolet without any sponsorship. Also surprising was the #45 Sherfick Companies Chevrolet of Las Vegas last-place finisher Chris Hacker, who in his only third series start finished a career-best 16th, improving on his previous mark of 27th in his series debut at Gateway.
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #23 in a Truck Series race at Martinsville. The number hadn’t finished last in a Truck Series race since November 11, 2016, when Spencer Gallagher took his own first last-place finish after 11 laps of the Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #23-Chase Purdy / 33 laps / rear gear
39) #4-John Hunter Nemechek / 129 laps / crash / led 2 laps
38) #9-Colby Howard / 174 laps / running
37) #04-Cory Roper / 188 laps / running
36) #10-Jennifer Jo Cobb / 190 laps / running
2021 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Niece Motorsports (5)
2nd) GMS Racing (4)
3rd) Rackley-W.A.R., Reaume Brothers Racing (2)
4th) CMI Motorsports, Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing, Kyle Busch Motorsports, Norm Benning Racing, Roper Racing, Young’s Motorsports (1)
2021 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (16)
2nd) Toyota (3)
3rd) Ford (2)
2021 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP