Race Weekend Central

The Underdog House: Tracking NASCAR’s Small Teams Through Watkins Glen

Tommy Baldwin Racing

Regan Smith, No. 7 Advanced Patient Care Chevrolet

Looking back: It was a tough weekend on the twists and turns of Watkins Glen International for Regan Smith and his No. 7 Tommy Baldwin Racing team. They qualified a mediocre 29th and then found trouble early as troubles with the suspension put the team behind the wall for a brief period. The team worked hard, getting Smith back out on track to finish the race, but all he could do was pick up a few spots. He finished in the 35th position, and Smith now sits 32nd in the point standings.

Looking ahead: Bristol Motor Speedway has been a pretty decent track for Smith. In 11 career Cup starts he has finished in the top 20 three times, including a 14th-place finish in 2008. He finished 37th in April after a late-race incident with Danica Patrick.

Tweets of the Week:

Smith’s impressed

Regan Smith joins the MRN broadcast for the XFINITY race

Germain Racing

Casey Mears, No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet

Looking back: It was a solid weekend for Casey Mears and his No. 13 Germain Racing team Sunday. Mears showed a lot of speed in practice and was fast Sunday as well. The team spent Sunday surviving, dodging the many wrecks around it, and got rewarded with a 12th-place finish, easily tying its season best. Mears remains 28th in the series point standings, 20 points back of Aric Almirola.

Looking ahead: Mears has an average finish of 27.7 at the World’s Fastest Half-Mile but has had some bright spots in his career at Bristol. He led 26 laps in 2012 after taking the pole by being fastest in practice when qualifying was rained out. At Bristol in April, he ran a ho-hum 24th. A few more positions on Sunday could help the team keep up the momentum after a solid run at Watkins Glen.

Tweets of the Week:

Rodney Dangerfield would be proud

What do you think about during a red-flag period?

HScott Motorsports

Clint Bowyer, No. 15 5-hour Energy Chevrolet

Michael Annett, No. 46 Pilot Flying J Chevrolet

Looking back: It was another decent day for Clint Bowyer and his No. 15 team this weekend as Bowyer has turned his 2016 season around after a tough start. Since Texas Motor Speedway in April, Bowyer has climbed from 32nd in points to 25th, including an 18th-place run at Watkins Glen. He ran in the top 5 for a while as well, giving his beautiful Peak Antifreeze Chevrolet some needed TV time. Its was Bowyer’s eighth top-20 finish of 2016. Teammate Michael Annett had brake problems early and had to go behind the wall. The team was able to repair the issue, although Annett was several laps down. He finished 37th.

Looking ahead: Bowyer is known for his ability on short tracks, and Bristol is no different. His eighth-place finish in April was Bowyer’s 10th top-10 finish there in 21 starts. He has finished in the top 20 at Bristol in each of his last nine starts. Doing that on Sunday would help the team continue its climb up the point standings. Annett has made five starts at Bristol, recording a best finish of 23rd in April 2015.

Tweets of the Week:
Looking good on the grid

Living the dream

Wood Brothers Racing

Ryan Blaney, No. 21 Motorcraft / Quick Lane Ford

Looking back: It was a rough first start at Watkins Glen for Ryan Blaney that included going off course in the inter-loop and a speeding penalty. The incident in the inter-loop didn’t cause damage, but it did cause the grill of the No. 21 Ford to be clogged. he rebounded and had a decent finish of 19th, but with four races to go until the Chase for the Sprint Cup, Blaney sits 18th in the standings, 18 points behind Kyle Larson for the final Chase spot.

Looking ahead: In April’s Food City 500 Blaney finished in the 11th spot, a good day for the solo car operation. If he can do that again, it would be a big deal for the team as it tries to make the Chase on points. Blaney has visited Victory Lane twice at Bristol in both the NASCAR XFINITY and NASCAR Camping World Truck series, so he knows his way around the track. Plus, Team Penske performs very well at the track, which means the team should have high expectations heading into the event.

Tweets of the Week:

Good ol’ Watkins Glen

Rooting on Dad

BK Racing

David Ragan, No. 23 Dr. Pepper Toyota

Matt DiBenedetto, No 83 Dustless Blasting Toyota

Looking back: It was an equally unsettling day for the BK Racing cars on Sunday, as both drivers fell victim to Watkins Glen attrition. The race started off OK for David Ragan as he found his way up near the top 5 in the middle part of the race. However, Ragan got involved in two incidents, one that started when his car broke loose on lap 58. The team made repairs and was in pretty good shape after the incident. However, 26 laps later Ragan got caught up in an incident with Kevin Harvick, which ended Ragan’s day just five laps from the finish. He finished 33rd. Matt DiBenedetto also found his way in top 10 in the early stages of the race but pit strategy got him behind and he was also caught up in the lap 85 wreck, ending his day in the 34th spot. Ragan remains 30th in points, three points ahead of Chris Buescher. DiBenedetto is 36th.

Looking ahead: While it was all doom and gloom for the BK Racing cars on Sunday, Bristol in two weeks should bring smile back to their faces. The track is the site of DiBenedetto’s memorable sixth-place finish in April, something that got him and the team a lot of recognition. A solid day for DiBenedetto would do a lot as the team has had some frustrating weeks recently. His teammate Ragan should be happy too, as Bristol is a place where he has visited Victory Lane. In 2009, he out ran teammate Carl Edwards to the line in the NASCAR XFINITY race, one of two series wins for the Georgia native. If all goes well, a top-10 run this weekend is not out of the question.

Tweets of the Week:

David Ragan shows why he’s one of the most liked drivers in the garage

Winner, winner, chicken dinner

The Motorsports Group

Josh Wise, No. 30 Curtis Key Plumbing Chevrolet

Looking back: A less-than-stellar weekend for the team ended nicely, but it certainly didn’t start out that way. Josh Wise and the No. 30 team struggled to find speed in the car this weekend during qualifying, and speed didn’t seem to come during the early stages of the Cheez-It 355 for the team either, with Wise struggling to move up through the field. However, the team worked on the car and due to the flurry of cautions in the late stages worked its way back onto the lead lap. He was able to stay out of trouble and come home with a 26th-place finish, only the third top-30 finish for the team this season.

Looking ahead: Short track racing will be a relief to this solo car operation with limited funding. Wise finished 33rd at Bristol in April. His best finish at the track same in April 2014 when he finished 23rd driving for Phil Parsons. A top-25 finish for the team is a victory, and it’s possible that the team could make that happen, as short tracks even up the playing field for the underfunded teams.

Tweets of the Week:

Racing with heavy hearts

The boss is proud

Go FAS Racing

Boris Said, No. 32 Genesee Beer Ford

Looking back: Boris Said returned to the seat of the No. 32 Ford this weekend, for the first time in 2016. It looked like Said’s NASCAR career could have been over after comments he made last season, but a change of heart led Said back to the road course event and with that came the second best finish of the season for the No. 32 Ford. Said, one of the last true road-ringers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, finished in the 24th position. It was a good day for the 53-year-old Californian, who ran his first Cup race at Watkins Glen in 1999.

Looking ahead: Rookie of the Year contender Jeffrey Earnhardt raced the Food City 500 at Bristol in April and finished 32nd. The team has used several drivers in the 2016 season, so it’s unclear who will be in the car next weekend. In Earnhardt’s 10 starts this season he has a best finish of 28th, which came in his last race at Kentucky Speedway in July.

Tweets of the Week:

Sweet-lookin’ ride

Working hard

Front Row Motorsports

Chris Buescher, No. 34 CSX – Play It Safe Ford

Landon Cassill, No. 38 MDS Transport Ford

Looking back: Coming off what was a whirlwind week for Chris Buescher and his No. 34 team at Pocono, the team was ready to carry the momentum from his first career win into the twisty turns of Watkins Glen. Buescher started off strong, staying on course and doing what he needed to do to gain points on David Ragan to make him Chase eligible. But Buescher’s day took a turn for the worse on lap 85, when he was involved in a multi-car incident. The car was damaged, but the team was able to fix the car and only lost one lap. He finished 30th, which puts him just three points behind Ragan for 30th in the standings. Teammate Landon Cassill had a tough day as well, including finding some trouble in the inter-loop. Cassill was able to keep his car on track and limit the damage to come home with a respectable 23rd-place finish. He remains 29th in the series point standings.

Looking ahead: Cassill’s run at the Food City 500 at Bristol in April turned some heads. Even though the team ended up finishing in the 22nd position, it led 20 laps and showed it was capable of running with the leaders at the half-mile track. A run like that on Sunday could do wonders for the No. 38 team, which is looking to match its teammate’s win from Pocono. Buescher has recorded two top-25 finishes in two career starts at Bristol.

Tweets of the Week:

Will this be a pay-per-view event?

Teamwork = Success

NASCAR’s a team sport

JTG Daugherty Racing

AJ Allmendinger, No. 47 Kroger / Kingsford Chevrolet

Looking back: AJ Allmendinger is always expected to be a force at Watkins Glen with his open-wheel background, and the veteran didn’t disappoint. He started ninth but quickly worked his way up through the field and found himself inside the top 5. It looked like Allmendinger was going to be up front all day long, but a speeding penalty cost the team valuable track position in the middle stages of the race. Still, Allmendinger and his team worked hard to fight their way back up through the field and in the closing stages found themselves in the top 5. Coming off the final corner, Allmendinger made contact with Kyle Larson, which sent Larson into the wall and Allmendinger to a fourth-place finish. It was a controversial end to an otherwise good day for the team. The finish gained Allmendinger two spots in the standings to 19th. He is 34 points out of the final Chase spot behind Larson.

Looking ahead: A decent finish is needed at Bristol for the team if it wants to make the Chase based on its points. However, Allmendinger’s record at Bristol is nothing to go crazy about. In 16 starts at the venue, Allmendinger has a best finish of 12th, which came in 2011 when he was driving for Richard Petty Motorsports. In April’s Food City 500, Allmendinger finished 19th after getting caught up in a wreck with Michael Annett and Casey Mears.

Tweets of the Week:
AJ Speaks

Finishing touches

Always proud

Premium Motorsports

Alex Kennedy, No. 55 Premium Motorsports Chevrolet

Cole Whitt, No. 98 RTIC Coolers Toyota

Looking back: The weekend got off to a strong start for Cole Whitt, who had an impressive lap in qualifying. The Californian qualified next to Jeff Gordon at Watkins Glen (22nd), and that was something to be proud of for a program with a 10th of the funding by comparison. Whitt then worked his way through the field and found himself inside the top 15 during the middle stages of the event. However, pit strategy and a shuffling through yellow flags cost him track position, dropping him deep in the field in the closing stages, As a result, what started as a promising weekend ended with Whitt finishing in the 28th position.

Teammate Alex Kennedy didn’t fare any better. The New Mexico driver was making his first start of the 2016 season, starting in the 36th position. Kennedy stayed out of trouble, simply logging laps near the back until lap 76 when his No. 55 Chevrolet blew an engine on the front straightaway. He finished 36th.

Looking ahead: Cole Whitt has made five starts at Bristol with a best finish of 27th. In April, he finished in 28th. It’s expected that veteran Reed Sorenson will return to the seat of the No. 55 car at Bristol. Sorenson’s has made 13 starts at Bristol and has finished 15th twice, most recently in 2010 with Red Bull Racing.

Tweets of the Week:

Getting ready to race

Remembering an old friend

Good-looking car

Circle Sport – Leavine Family Racing

Michael McDowell, No. 95 Thrivent Financial Chevrolet

Looking back: Michael McDowell had a solid weekend at Watkins Glen, including his impressive run in qualifying in which he made the final round and competed for the pole position against drivers like Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart before fading to 11th. McDowell, who made his 200th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start Sunday, was able to stay competitive all day long. Despite getting caught up in a late-race incident he finished a respectable 17th, the best run for this team all season outside of Daytona. The finish kept him 33rd in points, but he gained significant ground on Brian Scott for 32nd.

Looking ahead: McDowell has made 12 starts at the Tennessee half-mile track and has a best finish of 18th in 2014. McDowell and team finished 29th in the Food City 500 at Bristol in April.

Tweets of the Week:

Wanted more

Proud team

About the author

Clayton has been writing NASCAR for the last seven years and has followed the sport for as long as he can remember. He's a Jersey boy with dreams of hoping one day to take his style south and adding a different kind of perspective to auto racing.

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