Race Weekend Central

Have No Fear; the Underdogs Are Here: Sonoma Edition

Have No Fear; The Underdogs Are Here: Sonoma Edition

Are you a fan of a driver from a smaller team? Do you ever see one of these guys on the race results and wonder how he got there? NASCAR’s small teams may not get much airtime during the race broadcast, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to talk about. Each week, Amy Henderson takes a peek into how the little guys fared in the race and picks three who stood out.

 Underdog Selection No. 1: Casey Mears for Germain Racing; started 12th, finished 13th

 Mears qualified well, starting 12th and quickly raced his way into the top 10 before Kasey Kahne spun in front of him early in the race and Clint bowyer hit him from behind, shoving the No. 13 into the No 5 and causing extensive damage to the front of Mears’ car. Mears fell back as far as 37th after repairs, but used a combination of pit strategy and his own considerable road course skills to climb back into the top 10 in the closing laps. More contact knocked the toe out on the 13 car, but Mears was able to race to the end. It’s a shame that the team had what was looking like at least a top-10 day taken away from them, but they can hang their hats on the rebound they had, because it was impressive.

Underdog Selection No. 2: David Gilliland for Front Row Motorsports; started 27th, finished 21st

Gilliland may be the overlooked member on this team a lot of the time—after all, teammate David Ragan is the one who won last year at Talladega—but he’s proven to be the most consistent member of the FRM stable and he was strong this week. Gilliland flirted with a top-20 finish for the second half of the race, and while he fell just short, he had a run his team should be satisfied with after rebounding from a spin.

Underdog Selection No. 3: Michael McDowell for Leavine Family Racing; started 28th, finished 24th

McDowell is a very good road course racer, posting some outstanding runs in the Nationwide Series as a fill-in driver for Joe Gibbs Racing a couple of years ago. He’s racing for a team that’s running a partial schedule in hopes of running full races instead of starting and parking, and his race was solid. He was third-best among the small teams, a worthy accomplishment in itself. This was, overall, a successful day for McDowell and his team as they work to build the team further.

Underdog Pick of the Week-Kentucky: Casey Mears for Germain Racing

My pick last week, AJ Allmendinger had a great day going at Sonoma, leading the most laps and looking as though he could break through with an upset win if the chips fell right, but unfortunately for Allmendinger, they fell anywhere but, and crash damage left him in 37th.

This week, it’s back to Kentucky on Saturday night, the type of track that eats these smaller teams for lunch, and since the series has only run three races there, it’s still anyone’s game. I’m going with Casey Mears over Allmendinger this week based on his Sonoma momentum as much as his Kentucky numbers, which are almost identical to Allmendinger’s; his average finish of 20.3 is a tiny bit lower than Allmendinger’s 19.7, but Mears has completed and led more laps, so it’s a close call between the two, with David Ragan also a contender with a 21st-place average finish.

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: https://frontstretch.com/79866/the-big-six-qu…ave-mart-350-2). Be sure to check it out to see how your favorites fared!_



About the author

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Amy is an 20-year veteran NASCAR writer and a six-time National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) writing award winner, including first place awards for both columns and race coverage. As well as serving as Photo Editor, Amy writes The Big 6 (Mondays) after every NASCAR Cup Series race. She can also be found working on her bi-weekly columns Holding A Pretty Wheel (Tuesdays) and Only Yesterday (Wednesdays). A New Hampshire native whose heart is in North Carolina, Amy’s work credits have extended everywhere from driver Kenny Wallace’s website to Athlon Sports. She can also be heard weekly as a panelist on the Hard Left Turn podcast that can be found on AccessWDUN.com's Around the Track page.

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