NASCAR: The Underdogs Shine Again in Phoenix

At Daytona, we saw Bobby Labonte, JJ Yeley, Michael McDowell and both BK Racing cars spend some time up front and a few of them even finish up there. Yeley got TBR their second ever top-10 finish in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and Michael McDowell blew Phill Parson Racing’s previous best result of 24th out of the water with his 9th place run in the 500. Bobby Labonte spent a good bit of time inside the top six riding behind Jeff Gordon before scoring a top-15 finish and both BK Racing cars found themselves also battling for spots inside the top-15 at the end of the race.

Feb 17, 2013; Daytona Beach, FL, USA; Scott Speed attempts to qualify for the 2013 Daytona 500 in his sponsorless #95 Levaine Family Racing Ford Fusion. Mandatory Credit: Douglas Jones-USA TODAY Sports

We went into Phoenix thinking everything would return to status quo with the mega-teams taking all the glory which they did for the most part but a couple underdogs quietly posted some pretty good results of their own. Phoenix Racing finished 7th at the Daytona 500 with Regan Smith which wasn’t much of surprise considering how they usually run at plate tracks but to follow that up by nearly scoring another top 10 at PIR was awesome for that team. AJ Allmendinger brought the car home 11th after starting mid-pack. James Finch’s #51 is inside the top-5 in the Owners Standings right now after those impressive runs. The last time AJ ran that well was his final race with Penske Racing at Kentucky last year before his surprise suspension.

The other team/driver I wanted to take a look at was Germain Racing and Casey Mears. Casey ended the day with a 14th place finish which is the best result posted by that team since Martinsville back in 2011 when they finished 12th. As of PIR, JJ Yeley finds himself 13th in the standings followed closely by veteran Bobby Labonte in 14th, David Reutimann 16th and Casey Mears 19th. We all know that as we get some more races under our belt, these little teams will most likely be overtaken by “the big dogs” who find themselves deep in the points after a rough start to the season but still, it’s awesome to talk about these guys while it lasts.

At the beginning of each new NASCAR season, there are always a few feel good stories that pop up but as the year progresses; the little team that could begins to tumble down the standings. Everyone wants to see the underdogs stay up there and do the impossible like Furniture Row Racing when Regan Smith held off a hard charging Carl Edwards in the Southern 500 or when Trevor Bayne took the Wood Brothers to victory lane in the 2011 Daytona 500. The David vs. Goliath story is one that all NASCAR fans want to see and one all these small teams try to make a reality and sometimes, they do prevail. They never stop fighting no matter how hard it gets; you have to give them that. They even take the criticism of having to start and park when it’s necessary to do so.

Can you imagine seeing an AJ Allmendinger or a David Ragan hold off the best cars and drivers NASCAR has to offer and take the checkered flag in a race this year? It’s happened before and for those of you that don’t understand why these teams continue to fight even though it seems they will never succeed, just take a look at MWR. It wasn’t too long ago they were missing races and running in the 30′s when they did manage to qualify. Now they have three cars that contend for the win every week and are more than capable of winning the championship. That is the dream of all the teams I just talked about. Congrats to all of these guys who work their butts off to race at the pinnacle of NASCAR and I hope that they all can carry this momentum into Las Vegas and beyond!

Topics: AJ Allmendinger, NASCAR, Phoenix International Raceway, Sprint Cup Series

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