Friday, February 18, 2022

TRUCKS: Pit road wreck leads to long night for Dean Thompson

PHOTO: Luis Torres, @TheLTFiles

Dean Thompson picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Friday’s NextEra Energy 250 at the Daytona International Speedway when his #40 Worldwide Express Chevrolet fell out with brake issues after 36 of 106 laps.

The finish occurred in Thompson’s second series start. In the Truck Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 7th for the #40, the 28th from brake issues, and the 417th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 41st for the #40, the 164th from brake issues, and the 1,819th for Chevrolet.

Last fall’s championship finale saw Thompson make his Truck Series debut, where he ran 21st in Niece Motorsports’ #44 Thompson Pipe Group Chevrolet. At the time, both Thompson and Lawless Alan (the night’s last-place finisher) had each landed full-season rides with the team. Thompson, who hails from Anaheim, California, has logged many laps at the Irwindale Speedway in late models, and last year advanced to the ARCA Menards Series West. One of his two West poles came at the track, where he led 144 of the first 146 laps before Jesse Love snatched away the win. 

This year, Thompson drives Niece’s #40, driven last year by Ryan Truex. Thompson was among the 42 drivers entered to contest just 36 spots in qualifying – a list reduced to 41 after Jason Kitzmiller withdrew following a wreck in practice that destroyed his #97 A.L.L. Construction Chevrolet. Thompson’s #40 ranked 18th in opening practice, then qualified 17th with a lap of 177.057mph (50.831 seconds). Joining Kitzmiller among the DNQs were Clay Greenfield, Jordan Anderson, Jennifer Jo Cobb, Chase Purdy, and Matt Jaskol in G2G Racing’s #46 Toyota.

Rolling off 36th and last was the #47 Toyota of Johnny Sauter, who took the Past Champions Provisional as Jaskol’s teammate, giving G2G Racing their first start. Sauter would be joined in the back by four drivers with pre-race penalties. When the command to start engines was given, Austin Wayne Self’s #22 AM Technical Solutions / Airbox Chevrolet didn’t fire and needed a push. After some tinkering by the crew, the engine re-fired, though Self would thus be penalized for unapproved adjustments. Self would take the green on the outside line ahead of Tate Fogleman, also for unapproved adjustments on his 32nd-place #30 Rangeline Group Toyota. The final two trucks on the inside line were the #75 Food Country USA Chevrolet of 31st-place Parker Kligerman, who missed driver introductions, and 35th-place Timmy Hill for an engine change on his #56 Coble Enterprises Toyota. Also dropping back voluntarily was Spencer Boyd, whose #12 Rimtyme Chevrolet crossed the stripe in 34th place ahead of Hill and Kligerman.

Kligerman took the green flag 4.626 seconds behind the leader, but by the end of the first circuit had climbed to 34th over Boyd and Hill, who were just 0.091 of a second apart in a side-by-side battle for last place. Boyd shook off Hill by Lap 3, though Hill’s #56 remained within two-tenths of 35th place for the next two circuits. On Lap 6, Jason White had slipped back to last in his #33 Powder Venture Excavations Toyota, 6.304 seconds back of the lead, but still just over a tenth from Hill. White was joined by his Reaume Brothers Racing teammate Thad Moffitt on Lap 7, whose #43 STP Chevrolet took over last that time by.

Next to join the battle was Lawless Alan, who was docked for locking bumpers with his #45 Auto ParkIt Chevrolet. A frustrated Alan returned to the track the first driver one lap down, where he caught the draft of Johnny Sauter’s Chevrolet. As he did, Alan observed Sauter seemed down on power, which turned out to be early signs of the electrical issue that ended his race. Bryan Dauzat’s #28 FDNY / O.B. Builders Chevrolet made a pit stop on Lap 12, then served a pass-through penalty for his crew jumping over the wall too soon. This dropped Dauzat to last place behind Alan on Lap 19, moments before the end of Stage 1.

Thompson entered the last-place battle under the ensuing caution, when he was struck in the left-front of his Chevrolet by Corey Heim in the #51 JBL Toyota. The contact sent Heim into a spin with the right-front of his truck heavily damaged. Thompson stopped on pit road, then was in his stall by Lap 24. Already down a lap with four minutes left on his “Crash Clock,” Thompson returned to the track, but reported a tire rub that sent him back onto pit road. The crew took a saws-all to the damaged left-front fender, cutting away two inches behind the tire. Just as the field took the green on Lap 26, Thompson was exiting pit road, trying to reach minimum speed. He cleared the clock on Lap 27, around 15 seconds before Heim did the same. 

Thompson smelled something in the cockpit, but continued under green until Lap 38. “Coming down!” the driver shouted as the left-front tire went down on the backstretch. He pulled to the apron dragging sparks from his damaged truck, and NASCAR didn’t throw a caution for the incident. Back on pit road and apparently not on the “Crash Clock” for a second time, Thompson waited for his crew to complete additional work on the left-front wheel. The damaged wheel and destroyed tire had wreaked havoc with the hub, and the crew called for a pry bar to pull the caliper back. On Lap 45, the crew tried to piece the caliper back together. Meanwhile, Bret Holmes pulled behind the wall on Lap 48, moments after his left-front wheel locked up exiting his pit stall. Thompson didn’t join Holmes until Lap 51, which NASCAR reported as a mechanical issue, meaning they could still return. But by Lap 74, both Thompson and Holmes were listed out of the race, eight laps apart.

Sauter’s electrical issue knocked him out of the race after 60 laps, just before Jack Wood’s #24 Make An Impact Foundation crashed by himself off Turn 2. Corey Heim’s truck, which started Dean Thompson’s long evening, was eliminated in the final laps with most of the right-front fender cut away.

Parker Kligerman, who briefly held last place in the early laps, was in position for the win as he pushed Zane Smith to the lead in overtime. But when the race-ending caution came out, Kligerman was 5th and Smith had won.

*This marked only the second time the #40 finished last in the Truck Series race at Daytona. The other occurrence was on February 15, 2008, when Chad Chaffin’s #40 Key Motorsports Chevrolet was involved in a crash after 18 laps. Ryan Truex scored the number’s most recent Truck Series finish last April in Richmond.
*This marked the first time the last-place finisher of the Truck race at Daytona fell out due to brake issues.

36) #40-Dean Thompson / 36 laps / brakes
35) #32-Bret Holmes / 44 laps / clutch
34) #47-Johnny Sauter / 60 laps / electrical
33) #24-Jack Wood / 63 laps / crash
32) #51-Corey Heim / 91 laps / crash

1st) Niece Motorsports (1)

1st) Chevrolet (1)



NASCAR said...

Sam Mayer didn't drive the 32 truck. It was Bret Holmes.

Brock Beard said...

Thank you - corrected.