Race Weekend Central

Underdogs: Daytona II

Have No Fear; The Underdogs Are Here: Daytona II 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 22nd, finished 4th

 This week, Mears was the best among a trio of drivers who had outstanding runs at Daytona. He’s always a top-10 threat at a restrictor-plate track, and this week, he was a threat for the win until the rains came and ended the race 48 laps early. Mears drove smart, avoiding trouble, and the no. 13 team overcame what could have been a disastrous green-flag pit stop, where Mears came down pit road all alone and then reported a vibration immediately after the stop. The vibration went away and Mears drive easily in the top 5 for most of the second half of the race. The fouth-place finish was Mears’ fist top 5 since 2009, when he was driving for Richard Childress Racing, and the best finish ever for Germain Racing in the Sprint Cup Series.

The kind of run they had this week is the kind of run this team needs to have. While they’re not going to contend for wins every week, they need to be finishing inside the top 20 and top 15 on a regular basis. They have the equipment to do that, and the driver is capable.

 Underdog Selection No. 2: Michael McDowell for Leavine Family Racing; started 27th, finished 7th

McDowell is the second in this week’s trio of drivers who all produced the best finishes their teams have ever had. McDowell somehow managed to avoid significant damage from two multi-car crashes despite being right in the middle of them when they happened. That kind of good luck and heads-up driving was exactly what the doctor ordered, and McDowell took his part time team all the way into the top 10 this weekend, gaining 20 spots from the start in the process.

Underdog Selection No. 3: Terry Labonte for Go FAS Racing; started 38th, finished 11th

Like Mears and McDowell, Labonte posted the best finish ever for his team with his 11th-place effort. The two-time Cup champ returned to the seat this weekend and, in typical Labonte fashion, was quiet all day, only to make some noise when it counted. Avoiding trouble like the veteran he is, Labonte drove around the drama and gained 27 positions throughout the race. While Labonte may be past his racing prime, his presence this week was the shot in the arm his team needed.

Underdog Pick of the Week-Daytona: Reed Sorenson for Tommy Baldwin Racing

My pick for Daytona was Casey Mears who not only had a stellar performance, topping this group easily, but could have had a shot at winning had the race not ended early.

But this week the Cup series heads to Loudon, New Hampshire, where the track is a challenging cross between a short track and an intermediate. My pick is Reed Sorenson, who not only has the best average finish among the small team drivers, but who has New England native Tommy Baldwin, who’s had success at Loudon before, on his side.

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/the-big-six-qu…-coke-zero-400/). Be sure to check it out to see how your favorites fared!_



About the author

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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