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Never Fear, the Underdogs are Here: Texas Edition

Never Fear, the Underdogs are Here: Texas Edition by Amy Henderson

Editor’s Note: This year, we’re going to switch things up a little bit. Instead of just focusing upon one underdog (or underreported) car in the Secret Star section, we will point out three smaller teams that put up good finishes each week.

Underdog Selection No. 1: Trevor Bayne for Wood Bros. Racing; started 22nd, finished 18th

Bayne made the most of a mediocre car on Saturday night, and was the only driver for a single-car effort to finish in the top 20. The 1.5-mile tracks, unfortunately for these smaller teams, are the most plentiful on the circuit and the ones where inequality of equipment between the big teams and the small ones really shows.

It’s a bit puzzling why Wood Bros. Racing chooses the cookie-cutter tracks for a large chunk of their schedule, skipping places like Martinsville, where they have a better shot at a good finish. Bayne is good on the 1.5-milers, and he does have a Nationwide win at Texas, but that came with one of the richest teams in the sport. Still, they had a solid effort on Sunday and were the best in their class, and Bayne did a good job behind the wheel. You also have to admire this team for running a partial schedule where they feel they can be competitive and spend more money on each effort instead of spreading themselves thin by running every race and riding around in the back. The downside is that as quickly as setups evolve, they are in constant danger of falling further behind, while some other teams are better able to keep up with changes.

Underdog Selection No. 2: Travis Kvapil and David Reutimann for BK Racing; started 32nd, 38th; finished 22nd, 24th

22nd and 24th might not seem like cause for celebration, but BK racing badly needed a shot in the arm, and they found one this week. It’s hard to separate one BK driver from the other most weeks, because they have a strong tendency to run very similarly and to finish within a spot or two of each other. The good thing about that is that both teams in the organization are obviously on the same page and working together well.

The downside? If one of these two cars doesn’t run well, chances are, the other one won’t either. The team slowly improved as a whole through 2012, but early 2013 was a different story. Kvapil in the No. 93 bested his 2013 average finish by ten spots on Saturday. He’s suffered two engine failures this year and his previous best finish was 25th at Daytona.

Newcomer David Reutimann finished 16th at Daytona but likewise scored his second-best finish of the year this weekend. This is where, after last year, these teams should be running, with perhaps the occasional top 20 finish tossed in. Instead, they seem to have taken a step back or at least stagnated a bit, and Texas definitely gave them a boost.

Underdog Selection No. 3: Dave Blaney for Tommy Baldwin Racing; started 28th, finished 25th

Blaney got possibly the most TV time he’s had all year at Texas, but unfortunately for him it was because FOX showed footage of Kyle Busch giving Blaney a side slam because Blaney was in the preferred line of entry to pit road and Busch nearly missed the commitment line as a result. Blaney did nothing wrong; he was the first one to break for the pits and was entitled to the line of his choice, but no sponsor want their only airtime to be because their driver was getting pancaked.

A big plus for Tommy Baldwin Racing this year is stability. So far both the No. 7 and 36 have avoided having to park early, though each has a DNF for a legitimate failure. That’s a step in the right direction, and this year the team doesn’t have the distraction of fielding a car for Danica Patrick and displacing one of their own drivers, and they’ve shown that they can at least hold their own among their small-team peers. That’s a step in the right direction for them.

Is your favorite driver among NASCAR’s underdogs? Are you frustrated with the lack of coverage they receive during the race broadcasts? Amy has all the small teams covered each and every week in The Big Six (THIS WEEK’S LINK: www.frontstretch.com/ahenderson/42809/). Be sure to check it out to see how your favorites fared!

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