Race Weekend Central

The Underdog House: JTG Daugherty Racing Continues to Impress

Hello all! For this version of The Underdog House, I’m filling in for our illustrious Frank Velat. There were two NASCAR races at Richmond Raceway this weekend. The NASCAR Xfinity Series competed in the ToyotaCare 250, and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series raced for 400 laps in the Toyota Owners 400. The NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series had another off weekend. Take comfort in the knowledge that the Truck Series will return to Richmond Raceway next season. Now, let’s jump right into The Underdog House.

Toyota Owners 400

The racing at Richmond was fairly clean, at least for short track standards. There were only five caution flags during the race, two of which came for the end of the first two stages, and a third caution flag flew at the lap 40 competition caution.

The other two incidents which necessitated caution flags were isolated. Kyle Larson and Michael McDowell both blew tires, wrecked their cars, and they were the only two drivers not to finish the race. With the limited caution flags, 16 cars finished on the lead lap, but it was not a great race for the underdogs.

The top team of The Underdog House in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series field was JTG Daugherty Racing. Ryan Preece placed 20th, albeit one lap down. His teammate Chris Buescher started the Toyota Owners 400 strong. He qualified seventh and scored five stage points with eighth- and ninth-place finishes in the first two stages. Buescher faded though as he finished 22nd, two laps down. Neither JTG Daugherty Racing driver gained any positions in the championship standings, so they’ll hope to recapture their restrictor plate magic in the upcoming Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway.

While Daniel Hemric drives the No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, he is a rookie, and he stayed solidly inside the top 20 during the Toyota Owners 400. He qualified 17th, earned the lucky dog during the lap 244 caution, and he remained on the lead lap until the closing laps of the race. He eventually lost one lap, but he finished 19th and gained one spot in the championship standings to 28th place.

Despite running the final 148 laps of the Toyota Owners 400 under the green flag, only three drivers finished more than 10 laps behind. Joey Gase, Quin Houff, and Landon Cassill finished 33rd-35th respectively, rounding out the bottom five.

Shoutout to Gase and his No. 66 MBM Motorsports team. This is Gase’s first year with the team, and they immediately struggled in the Cup Series, failing to qualify for the Daytona 500. At Richmond Raceway, Gase’s sponsor, Eternal Fan, worked with MBM Motorsports to field the No. 66 Toyota with a paint scheme honoring the late great NASCAR Sam Bass.

While Gase is competing for Xfinity points, he and MBM Motorsports tastefully honored Sam Bass. They even received some TV time from the FOX broadcasters, who commended the whole organization on the paint scheme. Actually, this is the second time MBM Motorsports has fielded a car with a paint scheme honoring Sam Bass.

ToyotaCare 250

With the constant threat of incoming rain, the intensity level of the Xfinity Series definitely rose throughout the ToyotaCare 250. Luckily, the rain missed Richmond, and all 250 laps were completed.

However, rain forced NASCAR to cancel qualifying, and the field was set according to the rule book. Although Morgan Shepherd made the race and Kaz Grala appeared to go home, Shepherd withdrew, and Grala made the race. While the No. 21 Richard Childress team was thrilled to make the race, the other driver who was sent home, Josh Williams, was displeased with this series of events.

Shenanigans or not, several underdogs enjoyed good runs in the ToyotaCare 250. Most notably is Ryan Sieg. Sieg finished fifth in the second stage, and he finished the race in fifth as well. Sieg moved up two spots to ninth in the championship standings. By far, this is SIeg’s career-best Xfinity Series season. He has impressed so much this season that our own Dustin Albino made this prediction.

Another RSS Racing driver also finished respectably in the ToyotaCare 250. With Mason Diaz bringing sponsorship to the No. 86 Brandonbilt Motorsports Chevrolet, primary driver Brandon Brown drove the No. 93 RSS Racing Chevrolet in the ToyotaCare 250. Brown finished on the lead lap in 20th, grateful to the team for giving him the opportunity to continue competing full-time in hopes of a playoff run. Brown currently is 14th in the championship standings, 69 points below the playoff cut line.

Last year, Brandon Brown drove the No. 90 DGM Racing Chevrolet. This year, that entry has been driven by several drivers. The Bassett brothers have excelled in their races in that car. In the My Bariatric Solutions 300 at Texas Motor Speedway, Ronnie Bassett Jr. wheeled the No. 90 Chevrolet to a 15th place finish. In the ToyotaCare 250, Dillon Bassett gained 18 positions in the No. 90 Chevrolet and finished in 15th place.

Three JD Motorsports drivers fared well in Richmond. Ross Chastain didn’t contend, but he snared his fourth top-15 finish of the season with an 11th-place finish. Stephen Leicht finished in 18th, his best run in the No. 01 Chevrolet. Right behind Leicht, in 19th place, came Garrett Smithley. Although Tyler Matthews finished two laps down in 24th, he competed the whole race in his Xfinity debut.

NASCAR takes this upcoming weekend (April 19-21) off for the Easter weekend, but then it heads to Talladega Superspeedway. Will the underdogs utilize the draft to earn some good finishes? Stay tuned!

About the author

Mark Kristl joined Frontstretch at the beginning of the 2019 NASCAR season. He is the site's ARCA Menards Series editor. Kristl is also an Eagle Scout and a proud University of Dayton alum.

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