Saturday, October 1, 2022

XFINITY: For the first time in more than 14 years, all XFINITY Series starters finish under power - including last-place Mason Massey

PHOTO: @dgm_racing_

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Mason Massey picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Sparks 300 at the Talladega Superspeedway when his #91 Anderson Power Services Chevrolet finished under power, 18 laps down, after completing 95 of 113 laps.

The finish, which came in Massey’s 43rd series start, was his first of the season and first in a XFINITY Series race since July 17, 2021 at New Hampshire, 42 races ago. In the XFINITY Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 4th time the driver finished under power, the 30th for the #91, and the 606th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 49th to finish running, the 55th for the #91, and the 1,863rd for Chevrolet.

After running part-time for B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Massey joined Mario Gosselin’s then three-car lineup this year in the #91 Chevrolet, running most of the oval schedule with Preston Pardus taking over on the road courses. Through a difficult start to the season where Massey failed to qualify for three of the first 15 races, the DGM Racing team had to scale back the #92 entry due to sponsor issues, losing Kyle Weatherman. But Massey also picked up a career-best 6th-place finish at Atlanta’s new superspeedway this past spring, then bounced back from his last-place run in 2021 to take 9th at the Loudon oval in July. Massey arrived in Talladega in need of a turnaround, having finished no better than 31st in his last three starts.

The preliminary entry list showed 41 drivers entered for 38 spots, but with weather threatening from Hurricane Ian, three teams withdrew: the second entries for both Sam Hunt Racing and Emerling-Gase Motorsports, plus Bassett Racing’s #77 Chevrolet. With that, Massey secured 29th on the grid among the 38 remaining drivers, clocking in with a speed of 178.971mph (53.506 seconds).

Securing the 38th and final starting spot was Mike Harmon, who made his first XFINITY Series start as a driver since last fall at Martinsville. The short entry list helped the Mike Harmon Racing team tremendously as Harmon was prohibited from taking qualifying time since his car failed inspection three times.

Before the start, Harmon would be joined by no less than 10 other drivers who incurred various pre-race penalties, including Massey, who was docked for unapproved adjustments along with 6th-place Noah Gragson in the #9 Bass Pro Shops TrueTimber BRCC Chevrolet, 22nd-place Jesse Iwuji in the #34 Equity Prime Mortgage Chevrolet, 31st-place Caesar Bacarella in the #45 Clear Cryptos Chevrolet, 32nd-place B.J. McLeod in the red #78 B.J. McLeod Motorsports Chevrolet, and 37th-place Jeremy Clements in the #51 One Stop / ASE Chevrolet. Joey Gase, swapped from the withdrawn Emerling-Gase #53 to B.J. McLeod’s #5 in place of Matt Mills, needed an engine change on the #5 Absaroka Ford that lined up 25th. Three others missed driver intros: 24th-place Bayley Currey in the #4 Alka-Seltzer Chevrolet, 34th-place Howie DiSavino III in the #44 Travis Mills Foundation Chevrolet, and 36th-place Timmy Hill in the #13 Buffalo Wild Wings / Coble Chevrolet. Currey and Hill had just completed the Truck Series event run before the XFINITY race.

Last-place qualifier Harmon didn’t incur a tail-end penalty, but still crossed the starting line 36th ahead of Hill and DiSavino, the #44 reaching the line 3.883 seconds back of the leader. At the end of Lap 1, both had dropped Harmon back to last, 3.68 seconds back of the lead, while DiSavino paired up in the draft with teammate Bacarella. On Lap 3, contact from Justin Allgaier off Turn 2 caused Ty Gibbs to spin from third place. Miraculously, the only damage to Gibbs’ #54 SportClips Haircuts Toyota was to the right-front and right-rear as the field avoided involvement. Bacarella had just taken over last at the moment of caution, followed by Gibbs on Lap 4 after an extended stop for new tires and cosmetic repairs. Gibbs remained in the spot through the Lap 7 restart, when he just caught the tail end of the field before the green flag dropped. Gibbs quickly cleared minimum speed as he worked his way through the field. The first car he passed turned out to be Mason Massey’s.

Just before Lap 8, NASCAR radioed that Massey had gone behind the wall with a mechanical issue. There was an issue with the gauges, and the crew checked the alternator wire. On Lap 15, Massey returned to the track eight laps down, but said the car wouldn’t be able to reach minimum speed as it struggled in fourth gear. The team now believed the issue to be with the ignition or carburetor, and called him behind the wall a second time on Lap 17. As Massey’s team scrambled to get the replacement carburetor, they sent him back out a second time on Lap 19, but signs now pointed to a short in the electrical system. “It’s something to do with that fucking master switch,” said someone on the team. Just like last time, after completing just one more lap, Massey was behind the wall for a third time on Lap 20. This time, he complained of a vibration that was so bad he couldn’t see anything in his rear view mirror. By Lap 24, Massey was now 16 laps down and the crew was replacing the master switch, which had been caused the car’s electronics to flicker. Finally, on Lap 28, Massey returned to the track for a third time and turned just his ninth lap of the day. He now said the engine sounded fine, but the vibration was still there. To address it, the crew called him in for four tires and two bounds out of both rears, though the team had issues relaying it due to radio problems. Massey himself had to be told to move his microphone closer to his mouth as the team couldn’t hear him over the engine noise.

By Lap 31, Massey was back up to speed. The vibration had subsided. But he was now down a full 18 laps to the leader – and more intriguingly, the only driver so far off the lead lap. The crew had Massey lag back by himself, anticipating a pileup among the leaders that didn’t come. Stage 2 ended on Lap 51, and Massey got the Lucky Dog, putting him 17 laps down to the field. The crew discovered they’d forgotten to re-hook his coolbox during the master switch change, but driver and team agreed to not take the time to set it back up again. On Lap 71, Massey was docked for speeding in Section 1 and served a pass-through, putting him back down the 18th lap. 

No other drivers were lapped until around the 85th circuit, when DiSavino’s went down a lap after a stop. The leaders remained single-file for much of the final stage, and ultimately caught a few stragglers toward the back of the field by the checkered flag. On Lap 105, there were still 29 cars on the lead lap, then 23 at the finish. One of the last to drop off was Myatt Snider, whose #31 Tax Slayer Chevrolet spun to the runoff down the backstretch, but still managed to come home under power. In fact, everyone else did, too – including 37th-place Jeffrey Earnhardt, whose Ford was just in front of the leaders as A.J. Allmendinger took the checkered flag. Snider took 35th with Harmon 34th. The 36th spot fell to Blaine Perkins in Our Motorsports’ #02 AUTOParkIt Chevrolet.

Turning heads was Parker Kligerman, who in his first XFINITY start at Talladega since 2013 finished a strong 6th in Scott Borchetta’s #48 Big Machine Spiked Coolers Chevrolet. It was Kligerman’s first top-ten finish in a XFINITY Series race since he drove for Precision Performance Motorsports at Road America in 2017, taking 10th.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #91 in a XFINITY Series race since November 15, 2014, when Jeff Green picked up his 60th last-place finish with an early vibration on his TriStar Motorsports entry at Homestead. The number hadn’t finished last in a XFINITY Series race since April 26, 2008, when Larry unselman’s MSRP Motorsports Chevrolet collided with Dario Franchitti’s Dodge on the apron of Turn 3, resulting in injuries to Franchitti.
*This was the first time the entire field of a XFINITY Series race finished under power since August 15, 1998, when the 43 cars that took the green for the Pepsi 200 Presented by Devilbiss all finished within eight laps of the leader, including last-place finisher Tracy Leslie.
*This was also the first time the last-place finisher of a XFINITY Series race at Talladega finished the race under power – excluding Michael Annett’s disqualification from a lead-lap finish in 2020.

38) #91-Mason Massey / 95 laps / running
37) #35-Jeffrey Earnhardt / 109 laps / running
36) #02-Blaine Perkins / 110 laps / running
35) #31-Myatt Snider / 111 laps / running
34) #47-Mike Harmon / 111 laps / running

1st) Alpha Prime Racing (4)
2nd) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, JR Motorsports (3)
3rd) JD Motorsports, Mike Harmon Racing, Motorsports Business Management, Our Motorsports, Sam Hunt Racing (2)
4th) Big Machine Racing, DGM Racing, Jesse Iwuji Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Kaulig Racing, Richard Childress Racing, SS-Green Light Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (21)
2nd) Toyota (5)
3rd) Ford (2)


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