Friday, April 8, 2022

XFINITY: After spirited qualifying run, Brennan Poole’s night ends before he crosses the stripe

ALL PHOTOS: Cameron Tracey, @conrail_1

Brennan Poole picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Friday’s Call 811 Before You Dig 250 at the Martinsville Speedway when his #47 Chevrolet suffered a clutch failure without completing any of the 261 laps.

The finish, which came in Poole’s 86th series start, was his second of the year and second in a row, giving him an early lead in the 2022 LASTCAR XFINITY Series standings. In the XFINITY Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 10th from clutch issues, the 16th for the #47, an the 591st for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 56th for the #47, the 70th from clutch issues, and the 1,832nd for Chevrolet.

After a frustrating afternoon in Richmond, Poole arrived in Martinsville with a slightly different paint scheme. The bright yellow car numbers were replaced by the team’s familiar dark red. The roof number was also noticeably crooked. Lerner & Rowe’s backing had scaled back to only the TV panel and rear decklid with the hood left blank. As the slowest of the 43 entrants in practice, Poole needed to put up a big lap in qualifying, or risk being one of the race’s five DNQs. In the opening moments of time trials, he did exactly that – his lap of 92.733mph (20.420 seconds) was more than 1.5 seconds better than his best lap in practice. At the time, it was second-fastest behind only Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in his one-off driving the #88 Hellmann’s Fridge Hunters Chevrolet. Poole secured 32nd on the starting grid, then additional sponsorship on the hood of his car.

Missing the show were Ryan Ellis in the #45 Chevrolet, Chad Finchum in the #13 Garrison Homes / UNITS Storage Toyota, Josh Williams in the #78 Alloy Employer Services Chevrolet, Ronnie Bassett, Jr., who took his first turn of the year in the #77 Honest Amish Chevrolet, and Harrison Rhodes in Jimmy Means Racing’s #52 American Dream Chevrolet. Rhodes, who put up the session’s slowest lap, had lost his brakes at the end of practice, and the issue became worse when he tried to drive into Turns 1 and 2. Fortunately, Rhodes saved his car from hitting the wall.

Following a delay for a pop-up rainstorm, Natalie Decker rolled off 38th and last. Decker had reunited with both the Reaume Brothers and RSS Racing in a combined effort to drive the #28 Nerd Focus Ford, an RSS car prepared by the Reaume effort. She’d be joined in the back by five other drivers docked for unapproved adjustments, including: 3rd-place Noah Gragson in the #9 Bass Pro Shops / TrueTimber / BRCC, 36th-place Derek Griffith in the #26 Toyota Racing Toyota, 27th-place Kyle Weatherman in the #34 eRacing Association Chevrolet, 22nd-place Howie DiSavino III in the #44 Alpha Prime / Richard Green Chevrolet, and 30th-place Dale, Jr.’s #88. Outside-polesitter Justin Allgaier nearly joined the group when he came down pit road to check his speed a lap early, but his #7 BRANDT Chevrolet regained its original spot for the start.

Poole's car being towed to the garage.

Earnhardt was last across the stripe, 4.696 seconds back of the lead, but there was already trouble in the near distance. Poole’s car had reportedly started smoking on pit road, and this became worse coming off Turn 4 on the approach to the green flag. By the time he pulled into the high lane in Turns 1 and 2, NASCAR officials were telling him to stop on the track. Under the resulting caution, Poole’s Mike Harmon Racing team was in disbelief. “What in the world? I can’t believe this shit!” said someone. “It broke something big – no doubt about that,” said another. Poole’s car was in the garage by Lap 6, where the crew put the #47 on jack stands. By the 9th lap, the team was hard at work, saying “We’re not out. We’re not out. Hold on.” 

Back on the track on Lap 14, Brett Moffitt’s #02 Half Off Wholesale Chevrolet was running inside the Top 10 when it slowed entering Turn 3. Moffitt made it to pit road, where the crew then pushed his car backwards up pit road, an on Lap 17 pulled behind the wall. At the time, Moffitt and Poole were 13 laps apart with nearly the entire race left to run if either could return to the track. Poole’s crew called for a three-eighths four-point wrench and a flat blade screwdriver while Moffitt’s believed they broke the transmission, and considered getting a replacement from Kaulig Racing. On Lap 28, Poole’s car sprung a leak, and the team now indicated they were done for the night. 

On Lap 37, both Poole and Moffitt would be joined by Howie DiSavino III, whose #44 suffered such a catastrophic drive shaft failure that it punched a hole in the floorboard. The team updated this situation on their Twitter around Lap 64. But it wasn’t until Lap 83 that DiSavino was declared out by NASCAR along with both Moffitt and Poole. The trio finished in the bottom three spots. Natalie Decker, who originally started last, struggled with brake issues that caused her to spend multiple laps behind the wall. After some difficulty finding her way back onto the track, she finished 35th, 19 laps down. Brandon Brown rounded out the Bottom Five when his #68 Solid Rock Carriers Chevrolet was involved in the night’s biggest wreck in overtime.

The 15-car pileup that eliminated Brown was the night’s 16th and final caution, after which a few drivers enjoyed strong runs. Landon Cassill finished runner-up in his #10 Chevy Trucks Chevrolet, a new career-best in only his third XFINITY Top Five. His previous best run was 3rd, which came in the 2011 opener at Daytona, where while driving for James Finch he was race winner Tony Stewart’s drafting partner. Parker Retzlaff continued his strong part-time campaign for RSS Racing, climbing from 21st to 12th in the final laps in his overheating #38 Ponsse Ford. And for the second-straight race, Kyle Weatherman secured Jesse Iwuji Motorsports its best finish, taking 16th.

*Poole is the first driver to finish last in a XFINITY race due to clutch issues since September 18, 2020, when Stephen Leicht’s #66 Toyota dropped out after 11 laps of the Food City 300 at Bristol.
*This marked the first time the last-place finisher of the XFINITY race at Martinsville failed to complete a single lap since October 30, 1988, when Tommy Sigmon’s #07 Duck Graphics Oldsmobile was involved in a crash during the Winston Classic. Brandon Jones – Friday’s winner - was the most recent driver to fail to complete a lap of any XFINITY race, which came at the Indianapolis Grand Prix Circuit on August 14, 2021. Of the last eight races where the last-place finisher failed to complete a lap, three of those have been Jones.

38) #47-Brennan Poole / 0 laps / clutch
37) #02-Brett Moffitt / 13 laps / driveshaft
36) #44-Howie DiSavino III / 37 laps / driveshaft
35) #28-Natalie Decker / 242 laps/ / running
34) #68-Brandon Brown / 250 laps / crash

1st) Mike Harmon Racing (2)
2nd) Alpha Prime Racing, Big Machine Racing, JD Motorsports, Kaulig Racing, SS-Green Light Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (6)
2nd) Ford (2)


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