Race Weekend Central

Underdogs: Kentucky

Have No Fear; The Underdogs Are Here: Kentucky 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: Michael Annett for Tommy Baldwin Racing; started 32nd, finished 18th

Annett came to TBR with secured sponsorship, which was no doubt what initially attracted the team to the rookie driver. And with some funding, this team is making some improvements this year. Annett is also slowly starting to get some decent finishes—he’s beginning to make a statement that it’s not only money that he brings to the team. He’s run well at Kentucky in the Nationwide Series, and his Cup debut at the track was impressive.

“Can’t thank all my @TBR_Racing guys enough!!! This @PFJRacing team keeps getting better and better. These nights are a lot of fun,” Annett tweeted after the race. It has to be fun to see the improvement that his team is making, and while they’re still hampered by their budget, the TBR organization has to be enjoying their year so far as they continue to grow.

Underdog Selection No. 2: Casey Mears for Germain Racing; started 26th, finished 20th

Mears still needs to find some better days, but this weekend’s finish doesn’t tell the story for the No. 13 team. Mears lost a lap early because of a flat tire, but got the free pass later and was moving forward after the team made some adjustments on what started the weekend as an ill-handling car. Mears finally cracked the top 20 late in the race…only to have a rear shock mount break. Mears stayed in it, though, and hung on despite the issue to finish 20th, all in all a pretty impressive feat. While this team needs to find a few top-15 runs this year, this week they made some big steps toward that goal.

Underdog Selection No. 3: AJ Allmendinger for JTG-Daugherty Racing; started 15th, finished 22nd

Mears’ finish doesn’t reflect what his team overcame, and Allmendinger’s doesn’t reflect how good he was at Kentucky. The no. 47 ran in the top 15 for most of the first 200 laps of the race with a good portion of that in the top 10, only to have a tire go down and then get caught by the yellow flag when the caution flew. After the race, Allmendinger tweeted that he felt “gutted” by the 22nd-place result on a night when he could have easily finished 10 spots higher. The No. 47 has lost a little momentum lately-since their fifth-place finish at Talladega, which left them 15th in points, Allmendinger’s best finish has been 21st (Dover and Pocono) and he’s fallen to 22nd in points.

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

My pick for Kentucky was Casey Mears –close but no cigar as Michael Annett beat Mears by two spots for the top finish among the small teams.

Coming up this week is Daytona, one of the few tracks where a small team can contend for not only a strong finish, but a race win. I’m sticking with Mears this week because he’s a strong plate racer who’s got a little positive momentum on his side the last couple of weeks. Mears has Earnhardt Childress power on his side and four top-10 finishes on his resume. He’s been burned by bad luck more than once, or that number could well be higher.

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…er-state-400-2/). 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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