Saturday, August 19, 2023

XFINITY: Blaine Perkins scores first last-place finish after early transmission issues at The Glen

Perkins' car at Road America earlier this summer.
PHOTO: Logan Riely, Getty Images

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Blaine Perkins picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Shriner’s Children’s 200 at Watkins Glen International when his #02 Gratis Chevrolet fell out with transmission issues after 11 of 86 laps.

The finish came in Perkins’ 34th series start. In the XFINITY Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 8th for the #02, the 54th from transmission issues, and the 627th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 32nd for the #02, the 177the from the transmission, and the 1,909th for Chevrolet.

Much like last week’s Cup winner Michael McDowell, the 23-year-old Perkins may most often be known for a spectacular crash – his being a tumble down the backstretch at Talladega which sidelined him for a week. But this overshadows his career in the ARCA Menards Series West, where he raced since age 15 and in 2020 won three races and came home just 25 points short of Jesse Love for the championship. The title was settled at Phoenix, where in 2021, Perkins made his XFINITY Series debut with Our Motorsports in the #23. Kicking off an eight-race stint with the team, Perkins finished 24th that day, then at Talladega drafted off then-teammate Brett Moffitt to earn a dramatic Stage 2 victory on his way to a 13th-place finish.

Last year, Perkins went full-time in the Truck Series for CR7 Motorsports, taking the place of team owner Codie Rohrbaugh. This was a difficult season, yielding only one finish better than 21st, an 18th at the Nashville Superspeedway, and six DNFs. He turned his attention back to XFINITY, reuniting with Chris Our late that season, and earned his first career Top 10 with a 10th in Martinsville. After a disastrous first five races in 2023 for SS-Green Light Racing where he only once ran better than 31st, Perkins and Our have steadily returned to their 2021 form. One week before his Talladega crash, he took 13th at Martinsville, then after it ran 15th in Portland, plus 17th at both the Chicago Street Course and Road America. However, among XFINITY drivers without a last-place finish, he entered Watkins Glen with more Bottom Fives (6) and Bottom Tens (11) than any other.

At Watkins Glen, where he finished 29th last year, Perkins ran 35th-fastest of the 40 entrants, then qualified 15th-fastest in Qualifying Round 1B, securing him the 30th starting spot with a best lap of 120.658mph (73.099 seconds). The two teams sent home were Patrick Emerling in Emerling-Gase Motorsports’ unsponsored #53 Chevrolet and road course instructor Casey Carden, who attempted to make his NASCAR debut in CHK Racing’s #74 Reel Racing Chevrolet (which carried logos for this website).

Securing the 38th and final starting spot was the other Emerling-Gase entry, the #35 Horseheads Brewing Toyota of veteran road racer Stanton Barrett. Barrett had joined forces with the team at Road America, where he made his first XFINITY Series start since 2019, and at Watkins Glen ran double-duty with the ARCA Menards Series. After finishing 9th in that race, Barrett returned on Saturday, where he’d be joined by four drivers sent to the rear for unapproved adjustments: outside-polesitter Alex Bowman with a brake rotor issue on Hendrick Motorsports’ #17 Chevrolet, 4th-place Cole Custer for a leak on Stewart-Haas Racing’s #00 HighPoint Ford, plus 20th-place Brett Moffitt in the AM Technical Solutions Ford and 29th-place Parker Retzlaff in the #31 Funkaway Chevrolet. Not penalized was 33rd-place Kyle Weatherman, whose crew made repairs to the left-front of his #4 Chevrolet after he hit the tires in Turn 5.

When the green flag dropped, Barrett retained the 38th and final starting spot, 4.486 seconds back of the lead with 37th now held by Parker Retzlaff, nearly a full second ahead at 3.625. Barrett remained last at the end of Lap 1, showing 12.613 back of the lead and now 0.936 behind new 37th-place runner Kyle Sieg in the #28 SFWW / LOTZE Ford. Over the next few laps, that gap grew to 1.326 on Lap 3 and 2.043 on Lap 4. 

It was on Lap 4 that Brennan Poole dropped to 36th after contact from FRS Racing’s Max McLaughlin, making his debut in the #96 Randco Chevrolet, spun Poole’s white #6 into the outside wall. Kyle Sieg cleared Poole on the short chute, dropping him to 37th at the stripe, still 3.184 seconds ahead of Barrett. Poole reeled in Kyle Sieg, who he passed back for 36th on Lap 7. By the next lap, Barrett was also catching Sieg, narrowing the gap from 3.345 seconds to only 2.402, as Sieg battled his RSS Racing teammate Joe Graf, Jr. in the #38 G-coin Ford. Two more incidents in the Inner Loop soon followed. On Lap 9, Connor Mosack’s #24 Toyota Genuine Parts Toyota slid off track after contact from Stefan Parsons’ #44 AAN Adjusters / Gilreath Farms Chevrolet, but Mosack stayed well ahead of the Bottom Five. Not so fortunate was Jeremy Clements, who on Lap 11 had a flat tire on his #51 All South Electric / One Stop Chevrolet, sending him off track with A.J. Allmendinger’s #16 Quick Tie Products Inc. Chevrolet. With Barrett now just 0.872 second behind 37th-place Sieg, both then passed Clements as he made it to pit road to change tires. Clements took over last on Lap 11, and was first to lose a lap to the leaders.

The next time by, Perkins pulled onto pit road, then went behind the wall with a transmission issue. This dropped Perkins to last on Lap 13. Perkins was soon joined in the garage by Josh Bilicki, whose #07 Burdicks All Season Roofing Ford lost brake pressure around Lap 16. By Lap 18, Bilicki had fallen to 37th, two laps down with Perkins six down. Perkins’ crew said they didn’t have a replacement transmission on hand. Bilicki’s crew completed repairs on Lap 20, sending him out four laps down just before the race’s first caution fell for Ryan Ellis’ stalled #43 Costa Oil Chevrolet. Ellis received a push from a tow truck back to the garage, where the crew advised him to not get out of the car. It was during this caution that, on Lap 24, Perkins’ crew said “Alright, Pat, we’re done. Eric, we’re done. We’ll get fucking g-force transmissions next time.” 

NASCAR declared Perkins out on Lap 28, the same lap Jeremy Clements was declared out for a subsequent trip to the garage for suspension issues likely stemming from his flat tire. Ellis returned to the track around Lap 41, dropping Clements to 37th by Lap 43. Ellis ultimately finished 30th, first passing Josh Williams, who while reconnecting his earplugs rear-ended Stefan Parsons’ car enough to stove in the nose of his #92 Nordic Logistics / Alloy Employer Services Chevrolet. Williams went to the garage just after Brett Moffitt, who lost 13 laps for a snapped axle before he returned to the track. Ellis didn’t pass Moffitt, but did pass Riley Herbst, who after transmission issues had broken the track bar on the #98 Monster Energy Ford, leaving him 35th. Rounding out the Bottom Five was Max McLaughlin, whose #96 broke loose in Turn 6 and slammed the wall with the right-rear, ending his day.

Mosack and Poole rebound from early Inner Loop issues

After his early on-track issue in the Inner Loop, Connor Mosack rebounded to finish a strong 5th, his first career Top Five in only his 18th career start. Brennan Poole also recovered from his own incident with Max McLaughlin by taking home 12th, just ahead of his JD Motorsports teammate Kyle Weatherman. And while Cup regular Ross Chastain piloted DGM Racing’s #91 Protect Your Melon / #BuckleUpNY Chevrolet, this was only the third top-five finish for team owner Mario Gosselin and their first since Indianapolis last year.

*This was also Perkins’ first last-place finish across all three of NASCAR’s national series, which would include his 22 starts in the Truck Series. Between the two series, he’d finished next-to-last a combined five times.
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #02 in a XFINITY Series race since September 17, 2021, when Brett Moffitt crashed after 9 laps around Bristol. It was also the first last-place run for the number at Watkins Glen.

38) #02-Blaine Perkins / 11 laps / transmission
37) #51-Jeremy Clements / 21 laps / suspension
36) #92-Josh Williams / 23 laps / crash
35) #98-Riley Herbst / 37 laps / suspension
34) #96-Max McLaughlin / 43 laps / crash

1st) SS-Green Light Racing (4)
2nd) Alpha Prime Racing (3)
3rd) Big Machine Racing, CHK Racing, Emerling-Gase Motorsports, JD Motorsports (2)
4th) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Jordan Anderson Racing, Kaulig Racing, Motorsports Business Management, Our Motorsports, Sam Hunt Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (18)
2nd) Toyota (3)
3rd) Ford (2)


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