Race Weekend Central

Underdogs: Michigan II

Have No Fear; The Underdogs Are Here: Michigan 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: AJ Allmendinger for JTG-Daugherty Racing; started 22nd, finished 13th

Allmendinger backed up his win last week at Watkins Glen with a strong 13th-place finish this week in Michigan. It’s his best finish on an intermediate track since he finished eighth at Fontana last spring, and his best oval finish since Talladega. Two strong weeks in a row vault Allmendinger back to the top spot in points among the small teams as well; he’s currently 22nd and officially clinched his Chase spot after the Michigan race.

Underdog Selection No. 2: Casey Mears for Germain Racing; started 26th, finished 17th

Mears has been the best of the small-team drivers over the summer months in terms of overall finishes. Since Sonoma in June, he has a top 5, four top 15’s and six top 20 runs. His average finish over that time is 19th, over four spots better than Allmendinger’s in the same eight races. He’s not likely to make the Chase, but he still has a real chance to win at Talladega this fall, where he excels.

Underdog Selection No. 3: David Gilliland for Front Row Motorsports; started 30th, finished 21st

Gilliland seems to enter the conversation here on a weekly basis lately. This week, he gained eight spots over the course of the race, out-finishing the likes of Carl Edwards and Austin Dillon. More and more often, he’s finishing in the low 20’s, with the occasional top 10 thrown in, and while his average finish is slightly lower than his 2013 total, he’s become the top driver on his team and is leading a slow but steady improvement this year.

Underdog Pick of the Week-Bristol II: David Gilliland for Front Row Motorsports

Teams return to the Bristol bullring this week for a Saturday night showdown, and Gilliland is my pick to carry the small team torch. He was the top finisher among his peers last spring, and while a few drivers have a better average finish (including his FRM teammate, David Ragan, Allmendinger, and Mears), he’s been running solid races lately and I think he’s a solid pick to top the charts in this group.

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: http://wp.me/p4LgN1-lMf). 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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