Race Weekend Central

The Underdog House: Miles the Monster Smiles on Daniel Hemric at Dover

Top Dog: Daniel Hemric

Miles the Monster went on a rampage again.

Right off the hauler for NASCAR Cup Series teams, the tenacious, concrete oval of Dover Motor Speedway went to work in testing the drivers, claiming three victims during practice.

And while the calamity wasn’t quite as prevalent during the Wurth 400 on Sunday (April 28), Miles was still hungry for more throughout the race.

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Fortunately for some drivers, there is an art to taming the beast and earning his favor occasionally, and that light shined on Daniel Hemric this time.

Fresh off his first top 10 of the season at Talladega Superspeedway, Hemric carried the confidence into Dover, matching his result from last week in ninth.

Hemric impressed immediately in Saturday’s qualifying session, earning his best start of the season in 14th.

The Kannapolis, N.C., native fired off noticeably loose, slipping to 23rd in the first 20 laps. By the first caution on lap 42, he slid back to 26th. Adjustments during the first pit stop helped tighten up the No. 31, propelling Hemric to 21st by the end of stage one.

During stage two, Hemric still sought to find the rhythm of his car, holding steady just inside the top 25. He got his first break at the end of stage one after a battle with Corey Heim for the free pass. On the final lap of the stage, Hemric hooked the bottom and slid up in front of Heim, who was making his debut, to claim the lucky dog.

After running just outside the top 20 in the final stage, Hemric caught a rare gift from Miles during a green flag pit stop cycle. With the majority of the field having already pitted, Hemric stayed out longer to try and catch a caution. He got his wish while running in the lead, as a spin from Ricky Stenhouse Jr. with 80 laps to go spurred a yellow and trapped all but seven cars at least one lap down.

Merry Christmas, indeed!

Restarting in the sixth position twice after another accident struck, Hemric only lost two spots to hold strong in eighth for nearly the remaining 60 laps. He was passed by Alex Bowman for the spot late in the event, but he held on to capture his second consecutive top 10.

Hemric is beginning to ride some momentum now, earning his third straight top 20 and back-to-back top 10s for the first time in his career. During that stretch, he has climbed from 31st to 25th in points, and he is besting his season average starting position by six spots. Those are the little things he will need to do in order to elevate the team going forward.

How Does it Compare?

Since the Dover doubleheader in 2020, Hemric’s run topped all but one result by the top dog. Last season, Corey LaJoie paced the underdogs in 14th. Hemric’s result matched the ninth-place effort of Daniel Suarez in 2021, and he easily bested a lull in top dog results from the 2020 doubleheader. In those races, Ty Dillon was the best underdog in 18th on day one with John Hunter Nemechek leading the group in 20th on day two.

The only result that topped Hemric’s performance was a striking runner-up finish by Stenhouse in 2022.

Notable Underdog Runs

In addition to Hemric, Kaulig Racing had a solid showing for the second week in a row. AJ Allmendinger returned to the No. 16 for the team and put up a stout 13th-place finish.

Allmendinger’s weekend also started out on the right foot in qualifying after he qualified 10th. From there, the No. 16 was mostly a staple inside the top 15 throughout the 400-lap event. Stage finishes of 11th and 12th reflected the consistency of the No. 16 during the day, as he only struggled with tire fade at points.

While Allmendinger had hoped to be full-time this season in Cup, part-time seems to be his forte once again. He earned just his fifth top 15 in 25 starts at Dover, and in four starts this season he has a 12.0 average finish.

Nemechek finally stopped the bleeding from a rough few weeks with a 20th-place finish. Entering Dover with four consecutive finishes of 25th or worse, including two DNFs, Nemechek steadily worked his way forward from a 34th-place starting position. By the end of stage two, the Moorseville, N.C. native had gained 10 spots to move into 24th, one lap down.

In the final stage, Nemechek was trapped two laps down when the caution flew on lap 321. He took the wave-around to get one lap back, allowing him to gain a few spots on the track. When the checkered flag flew, he landed his first top 20 since Bristol Motor Speedway.

Outside of Nemechek, Legacy Motor Club had a tale of two stories in its additional two cars.

With Erik Jones sidelined due to a fractured vertebrae suffered at Talladega, Legacy tapped NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series standout Heim to make his Cup debut. Aside from a spin on pit road following contact with Tyler Reddick during the first stop, Heim had a very respectable day. He ran inside the top 25 for much of the race, riding in the tracks of his teammate, Nemechek. In the end, he scored a 25th-place finish. Given the circumstances and difficulty to pass, the mission appeared to be accomplished by the 21-year-old.

In the other corner for Legacy, from El Cajon, Calif., a seven-time Cup champion and 11-time Dover winner, I give you Jimmie Johnson! The NASCAR Hall-of-Famer hopped in the seat of the No. 84 for the third time this season. A fifth-place single lap time in practice sparked optimism for the legend, but his inexperience in the Next Gen car didn’t fade away.

Johnson struggled with loose handling during the event, putting him in a hole quickly. However, as the event wore on, he began to gain some rhythm, holding steady in his running position. In the end, he finished 28th, five laps down.

The heartbreak award goes to Stenhouse. While he wasn’t able to duplicate his 2022 runner-up showing, the No. 47 still had plenty of speed.

Stenhouse scored stage points in both stages, finishing 10th in stage one and ninth in the second frame. Throughout the day, the Hungry Jack Chevrolet was cooking, running inside the top 10 nearly all day.

Unfortunately, his car was on the receiving end of a pancake. On lap 321, Stenhouse merged onto the track following a green flag stop as Josh Berry was coming around. The two made contact, and Stenhouse spun into the inside wall, breaking the toe link and damaging the suspension. A brilliant day ended with a disappointing 35th-place showing on the pylon, but it should still spur some confidence for this JTG-Daugherty Racing team.

What They’re Saying

Hemric (ninth):

Allmendinger (13th): “We had a really solid day; the No. 16 Action Industries Camaro ZL1 was really consistent, and the pit crew did a great job of keeping our track position. We battled handling all day, and track position was key. All in all, running inside the top 15 all day and having top-10 speed is great. Our day, along with Daniel’s [Hemric] top-10 finish, is great for the organization and our momentum.”

Heim (25th): We were beating the guys that finished 15th through 20th, so I think that’s kind of where we were supposed to end up – but that is part of racing. I’m super thankful to LEGACY MOTOR CLUB for putting me in the Dollar Tree Petty 75 Camry this weekend and believing in me. I feel like we should have been six or seven spot better, but it just didn’t work out that way.”

Who’s Really the Top Dog?

Hemric landed on top of the pedestal for the first time this season. His Kaulig teammate in Allmendinger grabbed silver for the second time while Nemechek earned his third bronze result of the season.

2024 Underdog Medal Count

Gold: Jones (3x), Stenhouse (2x), Carson Hocevar (2x), LaJoie, Nemechek, Allmendinger, Hemric

Silver: Todd Gilliland (3x), Allmendinger (2x), Harrison Burton, Hocevar, Justin HaleyZane Smith, Dillon, Anthony Alfredo

Bronze: Nemechek (3x), Stenhouse (2x), LaJoie, Kaz Grala, Shane van Gisbergen, Hocevar, Jones, Gilliland

Small Team Scheme of the Week

Not only did Heim inherit a legendary ride for his debut, he got to drive an iconic scheme. STP joined Dollar Tree to sport its first primary of the season, displaying the nostalgic red and blue colors of the motor oil brand. It was a scheme fit for a king, and Heim got plenty of action in it.

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.

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