Race Weekend Central

The Underdog House: Go Back East, Underdogs

Top Dog: Michael McDowell

At some point, you have likely heard Horace Greeley’s famed phrase “Go West, young man,” symbolizing the American expansion out West.

Following the NASCAR Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Oct. 15), the Cup underdogs would likely be glad to hear, “Go East, young man.”

Michael McDowell topped the echelon with a moderate 16th-place result. But overall, he was about the only underdog who was able to show flashes of speed. Whether it was to track position or tire wear, the underdogs did not show in Viva Las Vegas.

See also
Ryan Blaney Disqualified After Finishing 6th at Las Vegas

After spending much of the first two stages near the back end of the top 20, aside from gaining track position with pit strategy early on, crew chief Travis Peterson made a similar call to give McDowell two tires to begin the final stage, positioning him in sixth.

The Front Row Motorsports driver held steady to fire off, but by the time Chase Briscoe brought out the penultimate caution, McDowell stumbled to 17th.

The run to the finish saw the 38-year-old flirt with the top 15, but he ultimately finished a career-best 16th in the Nevada desert.

Who Impressed

What looked like it would be a disappointing result turned out to be a solid finish for Corey LaJoie in 18th. After starting 28th, LaJoie struggled early on and was mired back in 30th to end stage one. However, midway during stage two, the No. 7 began to rise as LaJoie finished the stage in 16th. From there, LaJoie hovered around the top 20 the remainder of the race, solidifying the top-20 result. It is his third consecutive top 20 and 17th top 20 this season.

Right behind LaJoie in 19th was Harrison Burton. Burton also had a nice run to the finish after stage results of 25th and 27th. It was a quiet day for the sophomore driver, but one in which he was able to gather good notes and bring home a clean car with a solid result. Burton has finished in the top 20 in the last two intermediate races.

Who’s in the Dog House

Racing can certainly humble you. One week, you feel like you’re on top of Mt. Everest, the next you feel like your falling off a treadmill. AJ Allmendinger‘s first race after winning the Charlotte ROVAL last week was no disaster, but it wasn’t near the result he desired.

Coming to Las Vegas, a track Allmendinger where earned a top 10 during his part-time stint with Kaulig Racing last year, confidence was running high for the No. 16 group. However, the restart to open stage two threw a wrench in the day for the team. Allmendinger was hit with a penalty for a restart violation, as NASCAR determined he laid back on the restart. If there’s any consolation, he wasn’t the only one to do it (a certain Most Popular Driver had it happen too), but it set him back.

Allmendinger was able to earn the lucky dog shortly after serving a pass-through penalty, but he could only recover to 20th.

It was not the legacy to leave in Vegas for Legacy Motor Club. Tire issues were certainly in the back of many teams’ minds during the race after two such incidents in practice. That bit both Legacy cars.

Erik Jones was the first victim on lap 65. While running 15th, Jones lost a right rear tire, leaving the carcass on track. It was the fourth week in a row where Jones had an issue, and he finished 28th.

After quietly setting the world on fire in his first four starts with Legacy, Carson Hocevar has been brought back down to earth in the past two races, though not of his own doing. At Talladega, he was taken out in a late wreck from an aggressive push. In Vegas, he too suffered the right-rear tire blues, losing his on lap 111. He spun and made heavy contact with the wall, ending his day and leaving him in 35th.

Both Hocevar and Legacy can take some consolation, however. Hocevar announced Oct. 10 that he would be joining Spire Motorsports’ Cup program full-time in 2024, adding him to the rookie battle. For Legacy, excitement for their future rose when they also announced Oct. 10 that 2003 Cup champion Matt Kenseth would be joining them as a competition advisor. Kenseth’s new role began immediately, as the three-time Vegas winner joined the team out west.

Outside of those drivers, several others were never able to get much momentum rolling. Justin Haley used strategy to get inside the top 10 in stage two, but he suffered a flat tire near the end of the stage that cost him valuable track position. Haley rebounded to finish 21st.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. typically excels on intermediate tracks, but he struggled to find much speed as well. Things got worse on lap 210 when Briscoe spun and tagged Stenhouse, causing the No. 47 to get into the wall. Stenhouse finished 24th.

What They’re Saying

Jones (27th): “We just blew a tire early and didn’t really have much after that for the No. 43 Allegiant Chevy. Not really sure what we had, but we just did some damage there with the blown tire and we were just off the pace after that. We tried to get it better, but just never really found anything. We’ll go to Homestead-Miami Speedway and hopefully put it together.”

Hocevar (35th):

Small Team Scheme of the Week

NASCAR schemes feature several different themes. Motor oil, car parts, soda and more have brands displayed week in and week out. How about a history lesson too? Live Fast Motorsports displayed another American look after running a car sponsored by South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem’s campaign a couple of times. This week, it had FOX News anchor Bret Baier’s new book, To Rescue the Constitution: George Washington and the Fragile American Experiment, featured on the car. The scheme featured an old-school color palette with Baier’s book on the doors and hood.

About the author

Luken Glover joined the Frontstretch team in 2020 as a contributor, furthering a love for racing that traces back to his earliest memories. Glover inherited his passion for racing from his grandfather, who used to help former NASCAR team owner Junie Donlavey in his Richmond, Va. garage. A 2023 graduate from the University of the Cumberlands, Glover is the author of "The Underdog House," contributes to commentary pieces, and does occasional at-track reporting. Additionally, Glover enjoys working in ministry, coaching basketball, playing sports, and karting.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

Share via