With positions 31-34 in the owner points all but stagnant in an uneventful afternoon on the Magic Mile, the three-way battle for the last locked-in spot in the Cup field took a number of turns at Loudon. The No. 7 team ran the distance after start-and-parking at Kentucky and with a driver other than the owner behind the wheel; Andy Lally and crew ran into adversity in trying to close the final seven points between go and go-or-go-home; the No. 38 team got a new driver in JJ Yeley. And after 301 miles, that same struggle for 35th held serve heading into the Brickyard.
LOCKED INTO THE FIELD FOR INDY
No. 51 – Landon Cassill (Phoenix Racing)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 31st (+91 points ahead of 35th)
Sunday’s Finish: 26th
Current Owner Points Ranking: 31st (+92 points ahead of 35th, gained 15 points)
Considering the way the No. 51 team has run in recent weeks, 26th isn’t going to be a result they’ll remember for a while, especially considering it is a venue they’ve had past success at (Bobby Hamilton, Jr. posted a 19th-place result for the team at Loudon back in 2004, Brad Keselowski finished sixth there in 2009). Still, Cassill and crew had flashes of brilliance, with Cassill running as high as 13th under green flag conditions over the course of the afternoon. Now, as the summer stretch ensues, the question of whether or not these results continue will come up again; after all, the value of R&D is going to go up as the Chase bears down.
No. 36 – Dave Blaney (Tommy Baldwin Racing)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 34th (+39 points ahead of 35th)
Sunday’s Finish: 29th
Current Owner Points Ranking: 32nd (+37 points ahead of 35th, lost 2 points)
After fighting a condition that had the No. 36 car getting tight as the run progressed and throwing multiple wedge adjustments at their Chevrolet, the TBR crew had a larger issue come to fruition on lap 225. Coming down the frontstretch, Blaney found himself pinched between the fence and Kasey Kahne, and ended up suffering right front damage after Kahne and Brian Vickers tangled around his machine. The hit knocked the toe out of his car. Still, Blaney ended up finishing 29th, only one lap off the pace.
No. 32 – Mike Bliss (FAS Lane Racing)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 32nd (+40 points ahead of 35th)
Sunday’s Finish: 32nd
Current Owner Points Ranking: 34th (+35 points ahead of 35th, lost 5 points)
Most notable, Mike Bliss was actually seen on TNT’s broadcast today after having gained 20 positions on the race track. As for the actual performance on the day for the No. 32 team, it was another day, another dollar for Frankie Stoddard’s bunch. Carrying sponsorship from Starrett, Bliss’ most notable adversity came on lap 146 when he was penalized for speeding on pit road. At race’s end, the No. 32 team finished two laps off the pace in the 32nd position, losing ground on the top-35 cutoff for the first time in weeks.
No. 13 – Casey Mears (Germain Racing)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 33rd (+40 points ahead of 35th)
Sunday’s Finish: 38th
Current Owner Points Ranking: 34th (+29 points ahead of 35th, lost 11 points)
When sponsor GEICO added five races to their original sponsorship schedule, it was surprising that they didn’t add New Hampshire; the No 13 team has been at its best on the short tracks this year. Casey Mears made the same comment on the radio early on, saying that the team could have used Loudon to its advantage in points had they run the entire race. Instead, Mears was called to the garage on lap 83, parking early due to lack of funding in a move that dropped the team closer to qualifying on speed. Finishing just 38th, they lost one spot in owner points while dropping to 34th, 29 in front of Gordon and 36 in front of 36th-place Andy Lally and TRG Motorsports. When he was on the track, handling was an issue for Mears; he noted before the race that the team couldn’t put as much preparation into the car without sponsor money. The real question for this team is why they leave the GEICO decals on the car when the company isn’t backing the race; it perhaps gives potential sponsors the false impression that the race was already paid for. The official call for the New Hampshire DNF was brakes, but the team’s voices on the radio told the real story.
No. 7 – Scott Wimmer (Robby Gordon Motorsports)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 35th (On the Bubble)
Sunday’s Finish: 27th
Current Owner Points Ranking: 35th (On the Bubble, now locked in at Indianapolis… maintained gap on 36th)
Scott Wimmer was running at the finish of a Sprint Cup race for the first time since 2009 this Sunday. With the No. 71 TRG team bearing down on RGM’s No. 7 car for the last locked-in spot in the Sprint Cup field, suddenly the team had the resources to run the distance, and Wimmer came through in the clutch. Finishing 27th, Wimmer scored the best result the No. 7 team has posted on an oval track since the owner finished 20th at Talladega back in April, and staved off a hard charge from Andy Lally that saw the No. 71 team lead a lap and finish in the top-30 for only the second time since May. It remains to be seen who will be driving the No. 7 at the Brickyard.
ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN AT INDY
No. 71 – Andy Lally (TRG Motorsports)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 36th (-7 behind 35th in Owner Points)
Sunday’s Finish: 28th
Current Owner Points Ranking: 36th (-7 behind 35th, maintained points gap)
Andy Lally and the No. 71 team had to endure the disappointment of the No. 7 team actually running the full race distance with a spot in the top-35 finally back in sights, but the driver deserved kudos for helping turn a disappointing afternoon into a disaster. As Denny Hamlin went spinning in front of traffic in turn 2 on lap 171, Andy Lally ended up getting spun from behind by Mike Bliss in the resulting confusion, sending his Ford hurtling into Hamlin’s stopped Toyota. The damage was fortunately minimal for Lally and the No. 71 team, who turned in a 28th-place result on the day. The three-way battle for the top-35 will carry on to the Brickyard.
No. 38 – J.J. Yeley (Front Row Motorsports)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 37th (-16 behind 35th)
Sunday’s Finish: 23rd
Current Owner Points Ranking: 37th (-12 behind 35th, gained 4 points)
With the Truck Series visiting Iowa this weekend, Front Row Motorsports made the decision to put J.J. Yeley in the driver’s seat of the No. 38 in place of Travis Kvapil, who was running for points in that series. Kvapil’s subsequent release from his Truck duties came too late for a change behind the wheel, and Yeley did exactly what he needed to do. With little drama, Yeley kept the car in the middle of the pack, avoided trouble, and finished 23rd, ahead of the No. 7 and the No. 71, moving the team to within 12 points of the top-35 and the guaranteed starting spots it brings. The team was methodical during the race, clicking off lap times to Yeley on the radio and completing pit stops without incident. Kvapil will return to the seat at Indianapolis, and Yeley will remain with Front Row to drive the team’s new fourth car, the No. 55 (which Jeff Green start-and-parked this Sunday) for the remainder of the year.
No. 21 – Trevor Bayne (Wood Brothers Racing)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 38th (-17 points behind 35th)
Sunday’s Finish: Did Not Start
Current Owner Points Ranking: 38th (-34 behind 35th, lost 17 points)
No. 37 – Tony Raines (Max Q Motorsports)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 39th (-75 behind 35th)
Sunday’s Finish: Did Not Qualify
Current Owner Points Ranking: 39th (-92 behind 35th, lost 17 points)
2011 Bubble Chart After Loudon:
|Pos||Owner||Car #||Driver||Points||Points +/- of 35th Place|
|31||Phoenix Racing||51||Landon Cassill||330||+92|
|32||Tommy Baldwin Racing||36||Dave Blaney||275||+37|
|33||FAS Lane Racing||32||Mike Bliss||273||+35|
|34||Germain Racing||13||Casey Mears||267||+29|
|35||Robby Gordon Motorsports||7||Scott Wimmer||238||0|
|36||TRG Motorsports||71||Andy Lally||231||-7|
|37||Front Row Motorsports||38||J.J. Yeley||226||-12|
|37||Wood Brothers||21||Trevor Bayne||204||-34|
|39||Max Q Motorsports||37||Tony Raines||146||-92|
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