Thursday, September 14, 2023

TRUCKS: Jack Wood scores first last-place run for the #51 truck since 2003

PHOTO: Thank you Nick Brown, @NickBro57062889, picture taken by his father

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Jack Wood picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series career in Thursday’s UNOH 200 Presented by Ohio Logistics at the Bristol Motor Speedway when his #51 Rowdy Manufacturing Chevrolet was involved in a two-truck accident after 13 of 200 laps.

The finish, which came in Wood’s 45th series start, was his first of the season and first in a Truck Series race since October 2, 2021 at Talladega, 45 races ago. In the Truck Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 6th for the #51, the 188th from a crash, and the 438th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 44th for the #51, the 1,353rd for a crash, and the 1,915th for Chevrolet.

You may recall Wood as the 2021 LASTCAR Truck Series Champion, the bizarre result of him being the only Truck Series driver to finish last more than once all season, and with fewer bottom-five finishes than any of the four drivers ranked below him. Wood did so despite running just 12 of the season’s 22 races with GMS Racing, and also earned his first career Top Ten at Gateway. The results were about the same in his first full-time campaign in 2022, but a big opportunity soon followed – sharing Kyle Busch Motorsports’ flagship #51 entry with XFINITY underdog Matt Mills, plus Cup regulars William Byron and, as always, Kyle Busch himself.

With KBM now a Chevrolet team following Busch’s landmark departure from Joe Gibbs Racing, the season has seen Busch score KBM’s 100th win at Pocono, and Mills earn recognition for a strong 5th-place finish during the long green-flag runs at Richmond. But coming into Bristol, Wood’s nine previous starts in the #51 have yielded inconsistent results. Five times, he’d qualified inside the Top 10, but his best runs came back in the spring – a 10th in Atlanta followed by a 9th in Texas. But, coming into Bristol, where Wood finished 21st with GMS Racing last year, the #51 had finished under power in every race in 2023.

At Bristol, Wood ran 10th-fastest in practice, then improved in qualifying to secure 7th on the grid with a lap of 126.054mph (15.222 seconds). After all 38 of the entrants took time, the two DNQs were Danny Bohn, who attempted his first stat of the season in Niece Motorsports’ part-time #44 Rust-Oleum Chevrolet. Bohn put up the slowest lap in qualifying, nearly a tenth off fellow DNQ Justin S. Carroll, who fought a loose-handling #90 Carroll’s Automotive / Duratrain Toyota.

Three other drivers who had issues all secured spots in the starting lineup, including 36th and last-place qualifier Bayley Currey. Currey was unable to qualify his #41 Unishippers Chevrolet after his truck caught fire in practice. The fire was extinguished quick enough that the team was able to run the same truck in the race. Nick Sanchez also didn’t take a timed lap due to an upper control arm issue on his #2 Gainbridge Chevrolet. Kaden Honeycutt put up the fifth-fastest lap in practice in the #02 Randco Industries Chevrolet, qualified 17th on his first lap in time trials, then suffered minor right-rear damage when he spun into the wall off Turn 4. 

As the field formed up for the start, Currey, Sanchez, and Honeycutt were three of the five drivers with tail-end penalties. Both were joined by 24th-place Stewart Friesen in the #52 Halmar International Toyota and 28th-place Parker Kligerman in the #75 Jack Kite Company Chevrolet. NASCAR instructed Honeycutt and Sanchez to line up the final two trucks on the inside line with Friesen, Kligerman, and Currey trailing the outside line. By the one-to-go signal, still another driver dropped back from 34th. This was Stephen Mallozzi, who after this spring’s Martinsville race tweeted about his day job as a server at Outback Steakhouse. A grassroots effort led to Outback sponsoring Mallozzi for the first time, complete with a new driver’s uniform, as he returned to AM Racing’s #22 Ford. Mallozzi addressed the starter’s stand to Honeycutt’s outside in the final row.

Damage to Thompson's #5 after the Wood wreck.
PHOTO: J.L. Steele, @JL_Steele
When the green flag dropped, Mallozzi was last across the stripe, 4.041 back of the lead and a half-second back of Honeycutt’s 3.575. The gap between the two grew to 0.719 second at the end of the first lap, but Mallozzi gained a tenth by Lap 4. On Lap 5, the 35th spot fell to Memphis Villarreal, a late substitute for Mason Maggio in the Reaume Brothers’ #33 Laredo Trailer Supply Ford. Villarreal had been muscled out of line further ahead, dropping him back behind Honeycutt and ahead of Mallozzi. By Lap 8, Mallozzi’s deficit to Villarreal then increased to 1.046 second. The leaders put Mallozzi a lap down on the 12th circuit, followed seconds later by Villarreal. But before the two could battle for the Lucky Dog, the caution came out.

Replays on FS1 showed Jack Wood was still among the leaders, but holding up a pack of traffic led by Playoff contender Corey Heim. Coming through Turns 3 and 4, Heim’s #11 Safelite Toyota bumped Wood into a spin, sending him backwards into the outside wall. As the rest of the field scattered, Dean Thompson arrived on the scene running the middle lane. Thompson tried to slow his #5 Thompson Pipe Group Toyota, which skated sideways and struck the rear of Wood’s truck with Thompson’s right-rear. Wood was left stranded on the apron while Thompson made it to pit road, the right-rear of his truck torn open with visible suspension damage to the exposed wheel. Around Lap 15, Thompson was first credited with last place and Wood in 35th, but by Lap 17, the spot fell to Wood. With Wood’s truck brought to the garage nose-first, Thompson’s crew called for a tow truck to pull his #5 backwards behind the wall. Heim cleared the “Crash Clock” on the Lap 25 restart, and both Thompson and Wood were declared out on Lap 51.

Finishing 34th was Greg Van Alst, who after spinning his #20 CB Fabricating Chevrolet developed brake problems which caused him to run on the apron, then 14 laps down pulled behind the wall. Villarreal and Mallozzi completed the Bottom Five in 33rd and 32nd, both finishing under power with the rest of the field, each one lap apart.

Kvapil and Jones among the youth movement at Bristol

A pair of newcomers quietly earned solid finishes on Thursday night. After dominating in the CARS Late Model Stock Tour, second-generation racer Carson Kvapil came home 12th in his NASCAR national series debut, piloting Spire Motorsports’ #7 Chevrolet. Three spots behind came Conner Jones, who in ThorSport’s #66 America’s Quarter Horse Congress / TSport Ford earned a career-best 15th-place finish that bested his previous mark of 18th in only his eighth career start. In between came last-place qualifier Bayley Currey, who clawed his way to 13th by the checkered flag. Currey has now finished 18th or better in seven of his eight starts this year – his worst of the season came last week in Kansas, where he still ran 21st.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #51 in a Truck Series race since September 13, 2003 – exactly 20 years and one day ago. On that day, Carl Long had rear end trouble on Rick Ware’s unsponsored #51 Dodge after four laps of the New Hampshire 200 in Loudon. At the time, Ware’s team was called “Ware Racing Enterprises.” 
*The #51 had never before finished last in a Truck Series race at Bristol.
*This was also only the fourth time in Truck Series history the 7th-place qualifier finished last in the race. It last happened on May 22, 2021, when Cameron Lawrence’s #33 Impact Health Chevrolet was sitting on pit road at the end of the inaugural race at COTA.

36) #51-Jack Wood / 13 laps / crash 
35) #5-Dean Thompson / 14 laps / crash
34) #20-Greg Van Alst / 140 laps / brakes
33) #33-Memphis Villarreal / 191 laps / running
32) #22-Stephen Mallozzi / 192 laps / running

1st) Reaume Brothers Racing, Young’s Motorsports (4)
2nd) G2G Racing (3)
3rd) AM Racing, Niece Motorsports, Roper Racing, TRICON Garage (2)
4th) CR7 Motorsports, GK Racing, Kyle Busch Motorsports (1)

1st) Chevrolet (8)
2nd) Ford (7)
3rd) Toyota (5)


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