Saturday, October 29, 2022

XFINITY: With crash at Martinsville, Bayley Currey leads LASTCAR championship showdown in Phoenix

PHOTO: Steven Taranto, @STaranto92

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Bayley Currey picked up the 6th last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Dead On Tools 250 at the Martinsville Speedway when his #4 Aleve Chevrolet was involved in a single-car accident after 55 of 269 laps.

The finish, which came in Currey’s 106th series start, was his second of the year and first since March 26th at the Circuit of the Americas, 26 races ago. In the XFINITY Series’ rankings, it was the 20th for the #4, the 374th from a crash, and the 608th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 70th for the #4, the 1,314th from a crash, and the 1,866th for Chevrolet.

Since he was last featured on this site, Currey’s prospects have improved with the signing of new sponsors. At Indianapolis came Hy-Vee Supermarkets, expanding on the company’s massive marketing push in the IndyCar Series with driver Jack Harvey. Then at Daytona came Bayer Pharmaceuticals with brand Alka-Seltzer, the once-prolific sponsor of Jimmy Means in the Cup Series and Terry Labonte in the Busch Series, among others. Labonte’s paint scheme from 1997 inspired a “throwback” look to the #4 at Talladega, where Currey finished 24th after leading 12 laps – his most in any one single race. During this same stretch, Currey has also finished 11th at Bristol, 12th at Texas, and 13th just last week in Homestead, keeping him 21st in points.

For the Martinsville race, set to be run on Currey’s 26th birthday, Bayer chose to promote pain reliever Aleve as sponsor on the #4 Chevrolet. The brand was most visible in NASCAR during the early 2000s, when they sponsored Tony Raines at BACE Motorsports. The most recent time the sponsor ran in what is now the XFINITY Series was on August 16, 2003, when Matt Kenseth finished 18th at Michigan for the Reiser family. 

Currey joined an entry list of 40 drivers, of which he ranked 32nd in practice. He then improved in qualifying, jumping to 20th on the grid with a lap of 93.437mph (20.266 seconds). The two who missed the show were Dawson Cram in Mike Harmon Racing’s #47 KMI Trucking Chevrolet and Ronnie Bassett, Jr. in the #77 Jerry Hunt Supercenter Chevrolet.

While Cram and Bassett ran the two slowest laps in qualifying, three others didn’t turn a lap and made the show. The 36th spot went to Playoff contender Austin Hill, whose #21 Chevrolet had an issue with the radiator between practice and qualifying. Daniel Hemric went to a backup car after his #11 AG1 – Athletic Greens Chevrolet wheel-hopped into Turn 1 and backed into the Turn 2 barrier. Kyle Weatherman, swapped in for team co-owner Jesse Iwuji, had a mechanical issue of his own and took the 38th spot in his #34 eRacing Association Chevrolet. 

Hill, Hemric, and Weatherman all incurred redundant tail-end penalties along with Derek Griffith, whose #26 Hudson Speedway Toyota secured a career-best 15th on the grid, only to be docked for unapproved adjustments. When the race started, Griffith rolled off 34th ahead of Weatherman, Hill, Hemric, and now last-place Finchum, 5.018 seconds back of the lead. By Lap 7, when C.J. McLaughlin fell to 37th in the #38 Sci Aps Ford, Finchum was 11.202 seconds back of the lead, reporting his car was “tight in the middle at both ends.” The Motorsports Business Management team hoped for an early caution to allow for adjustments, but Finchum became the first driver lapped on the 20th circuit.

On Lap 32, a tight battle for 28th ensued between Joe Graf, Jr. in the #07 Bucked Up Energy Ford and Patrick Emerling #35 Jordan Tiegs Designs Chevrolet. Heading into Turn 1, Mason Massey’s #91 Anderson Power Services Chevrolet bumped Emerling, putting him into Graf and sending both spinning. Graf backed into the outside wall while Emerling had damage to the nose, forcing both to come down pit road. Just behind them, Kris Wright’s #68 First National Bank Chevrolet tangled with Matt Mills’ #5 J.F. Electric Chevrolet at corner entrance, leaving Wright with damage. 

On Lap 33, as Finchum reported his brake pedal was fading, his #13 dropped Emerling to last place. Emerling also reported brake issues as he made it to pit road for bear-bond on the nose, also taking note of the engine temperature. Graf’s crew focused on the fuel filler neck, which had to be cleared from the crumpled left-rear quarter-panel. Both returned to the track, though an extra stop by Graf dropped him to last on Lap 38. Both were on track on Lap 42, when NASCAR deemed all cars met minimum speed, including Graf, Emerling, Wright, and Mills. NASCAR did advise Graf’s crew to make further repairs to the loose decklid on their next stop. At the time, Graf was between three and four laps down, one lap back of Emerling.

Currey on pit road after his wreck, before he was towed.
PHOTO: Dominic Howe, @iDomHowe

Currey wasn’t anywhere near last place until disaster struck on Lap 57. Running 23rd at the time, Currey apparently lost a right-front tire while running the high lane in Turns 3 and 4, then slammed hard with the right-front corner of his car. Currey made it around another lap, then nearly stopped at the backstretch entrance to the garage area. Instead, he managed to make it to his pit stall. “Can you get it where you can at least turn the wheel?” the crew asked. The team looked at changing the right-front wheel and soon found a shop wheel with a yellow rim instead of a sticker tire. They then called for the tow truck, which towed him behind the wall on Lap 64. He'd taken last from Graf three laps earlier.

Both Graf and Emerling climbed out of the Bottom Five as attrition steadily increased. Taking 37th was Landon Cassill, whose #10 StormX Chevrolet lost a right-front tire in the same spot as Currey, putting him into the wall and out of the race. Chad Finchum’s brake condition worsened, forcing him behind the wall twice for brake fluid that kept boiling off. After the second stay, he returned to the track on Lap 168, only to immediately lose the pedal. The crew had Finchum return to the garage through the backstretch entrance, and he stopped in the Cup garage, done for the day. Finchum’s teammate J.J. Yeley in the #66 Toyota spun and backed into the Turn 3 wall, then lost the engine with a fire behind the right-front wheel, thus locking Ty Gibbs into the Championship Four. Between Finchum and Yeley came 35th-place Matt Mills, who recovered from his tangle with Kris Wright only to lose the engine on Lap 149.

2022 LASTCAR XFINITY Series Championship to be decided in Phoenix finale

With the finish, Bayley Currey joins a nine-car battle for the 2022 LASTCAR XFINITY Series Championship in next week’s title race at Phoenix. In fact, he took the lead from Brennan Poole, who wasn’t entered in Saturday’s race, and now leads him on a bottom-ten tiebreaker 13-8. Poole now joins Jeb Burton, Rajah Caruth, Joe Graf, Jr., J.J. Yeley, Matt Mills, Brandon Brown, and Sheldon Creed as the title challengers. Nearly all the challengers must finish last at Phoenix to take the title. Poole can also take the title with a Bottom Five in Phoenix if neither Burton nor Caruth finish last AND if Currey finishes 33rd or better.

Two ARCA standouts and two Our Motorsports teammates earn great finishes

As Playoff drama boiled over, a few underdogs found their way toward the front. On the same day that Parker Kligerman was announced as Big Machine Racing’s full-time driver in 2023, Nick Sanchez continued his impressive late-season run with a 7th-place finish in the #48 Borchetta Bourbon Chevrolet – his first top-ten finish in just seven XFINITY starts. Fellow ARCA star Rajah Caruth also earned a career-best of his own by taking 12th in the #44 Virginia State Chevrolet, an improvement of eight positions from his previous mark of 20th in Las Vegas, and in only his sixth career start.

Our Motorsports also turned in a pair of fine runs. Blaine Perkins, who rejoined the team a few weeks back, scored his first career Top Ten by taking 10th in the #02 Warrior Health Foundation Chevrolet. It was Perkins’ best since his 13th at Talladega last fall, a race where he won Stage 2. One spot behind in 11th came teammate Jeb Burton, who after a difficult 2022 season and fresh news of his upcoming departure from the team at season’s end earned an 11th in his #27 State Water Heaters Chevrolet. This ties the spring race at Richmond for Burton’s best finish of the season.

*This is the first last-place finish for the #4 in a XFINITY Series race at Martinsville.

38) #4-Bayley Currey / 55 laps / crash
37) #10-Landon Cassill / 108 laps / crash
36) #13-Chad Finchum / 137 laps / brakes
35) #5-Matt Mills / 145 laps / engine
34) #66-J.J. Yeley / 176 laps / engine

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

1st) Chevrolet (23)
2nd) Toyota (5)
3rd) Ford (4)


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