Saturday, April 2, 2022

XFINITY: Difficult Richmond afternoon hands Brennan Poole first career NASCAR last-place finish

PHOTO: Mike Harmon Racing on Faceboook

Brennan Poole picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s ToyotaCare 250 at the Richmond Raceway when his #47 / Lerner & Rowe Chevrolet fell out with rear gear trouble after completing 112 of 250 laps.

The finish came in Poole’s 85th series start. In the XFINTY Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 15th for the #47, the 17th from rear gear issues, and the 590th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 48th caused by the rear ear, the 55th for the #47, and the 1,829th for Chevrolet.

A six-time winner in the ARCA Menards Series, the Texas-born Poole has been active in NASCAR’s top three series since 2015, when this same Las Vegas track saw him make both his XFINITY debut for HScott Motorsports, finishing 9th, and his first Truck Series start that fall for GMS Racing, taking 11th. He then went full-time XFINITY racing the next two seasons as Chip Ganassi Racing finished absorbing HScott, taking 8th in the points his first season and a career-best 6th in 2017. He came closest to victory at Talladega in 2016, where he actually crossed the finish line first. Instead, he was scored 3rd at the moment Elliott Sadler wrecked Joey Logano for the lead.

When Poole’s #48 team closed down at the end of the 2017 season, he returned to the Truck Series. Following a pair of mid-pack runs for NextGen Motorsports, he found a new home with On Point Motorsports’ single-truck tea. One of his first starts of the 2019 team was a runner-up finish to Kyle Busch at Charlotte. The 2020 season marked his longshot bid at Rookie of the Year, where he’d run Premium Motorsports’ #15 Chevrolet on top of his Truck effort. At a time when Jay Robinson’s effort merged with Rick Ware Racing, Poole ran all but one race all season, swapped for J.J. Yeley in the Bristol Night Race. Poole excelled again on the superspeedways, running a season-best 9th in the fall race at Talladega and taking 15th and 16th in Daytona. But the Cup ride went away for 2021, and his Truck effort with On Point went to Danny Bohn, then Tate Fogleman. His only start of the ’21 season was a one-off for On Point at Texas, where he ran 14th.

This year, Poole’s most recent stints have been in both XFINITY and Trucks. His lone Truck start came with G2G Racing at Atlanta, where he finished 28th in the team’s #47 Toyota. On the XFINITY side, he’s been trying to qualify Mike Harmon Racing’s #47 Chevrolet, which has become the team’s only entry following a heavy testing penalty levied on the flagship #74. Engine issues kept him from qualifying at Fontana, and a start at Las Vegas only lasted three laps before the motor let go completely. Heading into Richmond, Poole had failed to qualify for three straight XFINITY races at Phoenix, Atlanta, and COTA. He’d also made 148 combined Cup, XFINITY, and Truck Series starts without a single last-place finish.

At Richmond, Poole once again had to get his car in on speed, or end up one of the four teams sent home from a 42-car entry list. Joining returning sponsorship from the Lerner & Rowe firm, whose logo remained on the hood, was also a returning, a foundation to combat suicide among military veterans. The car also carried a rainbow puzzle piece decal on the dashboard to recognize the start of Autism Awareness month.

Poole put up a decent lap in practice, taking 35th ahead of seven drivers, then improved more in qualifying, taking 30th with a lap of 116.807mph (23.115 seconds). For the second-straight race, Jimmy Means Racing came agonizingly close only to miss the show. This time, Harrison Rhodes was eight-hundredths away from securing a spot. Rhodes’ #52 American Dream Chevrolet was joined by Dillon Bassett – his #77 Honest Amish Chevrolet also so far shut out on starts in 2022 – plus the first DNQ for Alpha Prime Racing as Howie DiSavino III struggled in the #45 Alpha Prime Chevrolet. Matt Mills was likewise unable to get B.J. McLeod’s newest entry, the #55 J.F. Electric Chevrolet, into the field.

The Mike Harmon Racing crew (center) trying to diagnose
the issue behind the wall
PHOTO: @cpk_diecast

The 38th and final spot on the grid belonged to Jeb Burton, whose #27 Rocky Boots Chevrolet didn’t complete a qualifying lap after he broke loose and made contact with the wall. While locked-in on Owner Points, Burton would incur a redundant tail-end penalty along with the unapproved adjustments penalties for 35th-place J.J. Yeley in the #66 Remote Health Solutions Ford and 16h-place Daniel Hemric in the #11 AG1 – Athletic Greens Chevrolet. Hemric, whose team had to change the radiator, was late in dropping to the rear before the green flag. Joey Gase, set to start 37th in the #35 Donate Life VA Ford, had also stepped out of line on the backstretch just before the green, only to slot back into his original spot.

When the green flag dropped, Hemric was last across the stripe, 4.34 seconds back of the lead and less than three-hundredths behind Burton. The next time by, the two remained side-by-side, 0.049 apart, and by Lap 4 both had climbed to 34th and 36th. By then, the spot fell to Kyle Sieg in the #28 The Engineering Groupe Ford. Sieg, in turn, was now in a side-by-side battle with COTA last-place finisher Bayley Currey, whose #4 Jersey Mike’s Chevrolet had slipped to 37th. On Lap 4, Currey was just 0.054 ahead of Sieg at the stripe. Sieg then passed Currey by Lap 6.

Poole entered the last-place battle on Lap 8, when Sieg had dropped him to 37th between himself and Currey. At the time, Poole still had a 0.368 second advantage over Currey’s #4, and that gap began to grow to 0.614 by Lap 13. By the 16th circuit, Currey had cut that deficit in half, and was soon racing alongside the #47. On Lap 18, the two were less than a hundredth apart, and Currey edged ahead on the 19th circuit by just 0.092 of a second. Poole retaliated on Lap 20, dropping the #4 to last once more and opening up a 0.137 second advantage. During this battle, the pair had fallen 2.704 seconds back of 36th place, which was now held by Gase.

On Lap 26, Poole was the first to be lapped on track, followed shortly by Currey. Poole’s car was briefly seen on the FS1 broadcast on Lap 31, just as several faster cars passed him to the inside of Turn 3. Poole lost a second lap on the 43rd circuit, and by then was being warned by NASCAR to pick up his speed. Poole reported he felt a locker had broken, causing his car to drive off the right-rear wheel only. Now black-flagged for his speed, Poole pitted for four tires on Lap 48. Reported issues with the jack while the crew loosened the left-side lug nuts caused the crew chief to shout “Stop, stop, stop!” after the jack was dropped, and by the time the #47 returned to the track, Poole was five laps down. The team originally planned to make a short run before taking their car to garage for repairs, but ended up keeping him out for the remainder of Stage 1. Poole ended Stage 1 still five laps down with the entire field still on track.

Under the Stage 1 caution, Poole and team considered their options. The driver reported he could barely touch the gas without the car jumping sideways, and the car didn’t handle much better rolling along in the bottom lane. The team elected to make some adjustments on pit road, but conceded that they’d only help the issue rather than solve it – the car would have to be taken apart back at the shop. 

The race restarted on Lap 84, but the next caution quickly followed three circuits later for a shattered right-rear brake rotor off Noah Gragson’s #9 Bass Pro Shops / True Timber / BRCC Chevrolet. Gragson’s crew managed to keep their driver on the lead lap while Ryan Vargas’ #6 Jersey Mike’s Chevrolet slipped to 37th after a fuel head snapped off, just one lap ahead of Poole. 

Shortly after the Lap 96 restart, Vargas’ spotter reported Kyle Sieg was dropping oil in the high lane. Sieg would report he had a throttle issue which caused him to flat-spot his tires to stay out of the wall. Sieg, who was running around 16th by this point, had to make an unscheduled green-flag stop for repairs, and on Lap 103 returned to the track in 37th on the same lap as Poole and one behind Vargas. Sieg was still vocal about his car, calling for four tires and further work on the throttle. The team elected to pull him behind the wall on Lap 108, and an instant later he’d taken last from Poole. A frustrated Sieg was ready to call it a day, but the team found the issue and changed his tires as they completed repairs.

On Lap 122, Poole pulled behind the wall for the first time, and the team considered replacing an axle to address the locker problem. At the time, Poole was just 12 laps ahead of Sieg, whose team was now nearly ready to return. On Lap 127, the #28 re-entered the track 28 laps down, knowing that in 13 laps they’d be able to pass Poole. “We’re just gonna be smart, be smooth,” Sieg’s team reminded him. “Don’t tear anything up.” By Lap 140, there had been no further radio communications from Poole’s team, and that time by, Sieg had dropped the #47 to last place once more. Poole’s team then called for four jack stands, and counted the laps until the conclusion of Stage 2. “It is what it is,” said someone on Poole’s radio. “No points today.”

Then on Lap 167, Kyle Sieg returned to the garage for a second time, this time for a blown engine that would end their race. At the time, Sieg was now 27 laps ahead of Poole, who still had just under 100 laps to try and make up the difference. But the next time by on Lap 168, NASCAR confirmed Poole was out with rear gear trouble. Sieg was declared out on Lap 181. Vargas finished the last car under power in 36th with Gase in 34th just ahead of Stefan Parsons, whose #99 Little Joe’s / Sokal Chevrolet was penalized for accidentally dragging the jack onto the track during a pit stop.

Despite Kyle Sieg’s many struggles, his two RSS Racing teammates both enjoyed fantastic runs. While Ryan Sieg finished a strong 9th in his #39 A-Game Ford, he was upstaged by Parker Retzlaff, who undoubtedly passed the most cars in his #38 Ponsse Ford. Retzlaff, who was equally fast in his series debut this year at Phoenix, had three times charged into the Top 10, taking 7th in Stage 1, 10th in Stage 2, then at the last minute taking 10th from Brandon Jones with 3 laps to go. Only bad pit stops from a cobbled-together crew kept him back in the order in what was an otherwise flawless race.

Just ahead of the RSS duo, Brandon Brown also enjoyed an 8th-place finish in the #68 Jabs Construction Chevrolet - not only his second-straight 8th-place run at Richmond, but his best run of the season so far. Further back, Mason Massey’s return following a career-best 6th in Atlanta was followed by a solid 17th in DGM Racing’s #91 Anderson Power Services Chevrolet, his second-best run of the year and, similar to Brown, his second-straight 17th-place showing in Richmond.

*Poole’s 112 laps are the second-most completed by a XFINITY Series last-place finisher at Richmond. The record remains 246 laps set by Chad Finchum, who finished 27th, four laps down on September 11, 2020, only to be disqualified for failing rear heights in post-race inspection.
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #47 in a XFINITY Series race at Richmond since September 9, 2011, when Brian Keselowski’s unsponsored #47 Key Motorsports Chevrolet fell out with ignition problems after 2 laps of the Virginia 529 College Savings 250.

38) #47-Brennan Poole / 112 laps / rear gear
37) #28-Kyle Sieg / 139 laps / engine
36) #6-Ryan Vargas / 243 laps / running
35) #99-Stefan Parsons / 245 laps / running 
34) #35-Joey Gase / 245 laps / running

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

1st) Chevrolet (5)
2nd) Ford (2)


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