Race Weekend Central

The Underdog House: The Other Side of the Neon Garage

Top of The Class

Once again, JTG Daugherty Racing’s Chris Buescher was the top underdog in Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. While he wasn’t able to secure a top-10 finish, he did bring the No. 37 Chevrolet across the stripe in 18th place.

There were plenty of unknowns going into the race based on the new aero package NASCAR implemented for the majority of the downforce tracks, which consist primarily of moderately banked 1.5-mile ovals such as Las Vegas. Buescher and the rest of the underdogs may or may not have viewed it as an equalizer, but in the end the result wasn’t far outside of a typical finishing order. Still, Buescher was pleased with the overall outcome of the day.

“That was a solid day for our Natural Light Naturdays Camaro ZL1,” Buescher said. “We were a little bit loose to start the run, but the car would come to us as the run went on it would come to us and we had decent speed to gain positions. The guys worked really hard all weekend and it’s a good start to our west coast swing.”

Honorable Mention

Matt DiBenedetto once again showed some speed on Sunday this week. The Leavine Family Racing driver is making the most of his equipment, running in the top half of the field for much of the event. DiBenedetto didn’t quite end on a high note, but still finished 21st in the No. 95 Toyota.

David Ragan dropped a few jaws this weekend in qualifying, putting his Front Row Motorsports Ford sixth on the grid. The effort got Ragan his best start since he qualified fifth at Richmond in the fall of 2015. Unfortunately, it didn’t translate to race day, as Ragan would fell back quickly and settled for a 28th-place result.


On Saturday, the Rod Seig owned No. 39 of Ryan Seig once again led the underdog charge in the Xfinity Series race, finishing sixth. Seig has finished in the top 10 in two of the three races this season, leaving him sitting tied for seventh in the standings. It’s still early but this team is poised to challenge for a playoff spot with their performance thus far.

Ross Chastain has been an underdog of the year candidate early on with the way he has run in all three national touring series. Vegas weekend was no different, with Chastain finishing seventh in the Xfinity race driving Johnny Davis’ No. 4 and 10th in the Truck race on Friday night for Niece Motorsports.

Also enjoying one of the best results in team history was SS-Greenlight Racing. Ray Black Jr and Gray Gaulding worked their way up from their starting spots of 20th and 35th, respectively, to finish 11th and 12th at the checkered flag. It was an impressive showing for the Bobby Dotter owned duo, considering the team has only two top 10s since 1996, both coming with veteran road racer Andy Lally on road course events.

As for the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race on Friday night, Chastain wasn’t the only underdog to have a good showing. His Niece Motorsports teammate Timothy Peters finished 12th. Korbin Forrester got a 14th-place finish and Austin Wayne Self was 15th at the conclusion of the race.

Underdog Spotlight: Timmy Hill

Timmy Hill has been an underdog for a long time and seems to fit the role quite well. One of the most personable drivers in the garage, Hill has dabbled in nearly every series the sanctioning body operates.

In addition to his experience in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Xfinity Series, and Gander Outdoors Truck Series, he has raced in the K&N Pro East and West tours, NASCAR Pinty’s Series and ARCA. Cup is the only one of these that Hill has yet to score a top 10 finish in. Hill even ran two races in the NASCAR Rolex Grand-Am Sports Car Series at Daytona and Road America back in 2012.

The 26-year-old from Maryland native has racked up 84 Cup, 163 Xfinity and 25 Truck starts, racing for a wide variety of teams. Hill is an excellent restrictor plate racer, with three top 10s in Xfinity races at Daytona, as well as a sixth-place finish in a Truck event at Talladega. Hill will spend the 2019 season racing for MBM Motorsports in the Xfinity tour as well as running select Cup and Truck events.

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About the author

Frank Velat has been an avid follower of NASCAR and other motorsports for over 20 years. He brings a blend of passionate fan and objective author to his work. Frank offers unique perspectives that everyone can relate to, remembering the sport's past all the while embracing its future. Follow along with @FrankVelat on Twitter.

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