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The Underdog House: Shootout At The Underdog Corral

Top of The Class

Michael McDowell was easily the fastest dog in the west this week. His No. 34 Front Row Racing Ford was quick from the get go and backed it up on race day, starting and finishing in 15th.

McDowell was once known primarily for the violent head-on collision and subsequent barrel roll he endured while qualifying at Texas Motor Speedway back in 2008. But on Sunday (March 31), McDowell had his way with the track, running in or just outside of the top 15 throughout the event.

It came at a good time for McDowell, who finished fifth in the season opener at Daytona. However, since then, the 24th-place finish he earned at Fontana was his only finish better than 30th.

“We really needed this,” McDowell said. “We had a great weekend starting with qualifying on Friday and earning a 15th-place starting position. Today we pretty much ran 15th all day, executing and not making any mistakes. This is the best that we’ve ran in a while so it felt really good.”

Honorable Mention

The stellar 2019 turned in thus far by Chris Buescher continued at Texas, as he landed his sixth straight finish of 21st or better in his JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet. Buescher has owned the underdog category nearly every week since Daytona, and continues to show the marked improvement of both he and the No. 37 team.

Ty Dillon just missed out on a top-20 finish, coming home 21st, but it was yet another good showing. Like Buescher, Dillon and his team continue to improve and there is a good possibility that they could be a fixture in the top 20 in the near future.

Otherdogs

On Saturday (March 30), Ryan Seig earned his first career stage win, continuing what has been a banner season for the family team in the Xfinity Series. Many in the garage are already marking this team as a potential winner when the series gets to the portion of the schedule where Cup regulars like Kyle Busch aren’t permitted to enter. However, at the rate Seig and company are going, he might just be capable of pulling off a stunner, regardless of who else is in the show.

Also making a splash at Texas were the Mario Gosselin owned team cars of Josh Williams and Ronnie Bassett Jr. The duo came in 14th and 15th respectively, the first time in team history that two cars both earned a top-15 finish in the same race. Both were career-best finishes for the drivers.

Other Xfinity competitors with solid showings were Ross Chastain (16th), Brandon Brown (17th), Tommy Joe Martins (19th) and David Starr (20th).

The Gander Outdoors Truck Series race was peppered with some standout finishes by the underdog contingent as well. Young Motorsports teammates Tyler Dippel and Spencer Boyd both had good runs, finishing eighth and 11th, respectively. It was also a solid day for Cory Roper with his family-owned team finishing 12th and Garrett Smithley piloted the Jeff Finley No. 42 to a 15th-place finish.

Underdog Spotlight: Tommy Joe Martins

Tommy Joe Martins may have gotten much of his notoriety as the underdog with a blog, but lately it’s his work behind the wheel that is getting him noticed.

Martins has competed on a part-time basis off and on for a variety of teams since he made his NASCAR national touring series debut nearly a decade ago. He ran for his family-owned team in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series for a couple seasons. When the needed sponsorship opportunities didn’t materialize, the truck team was shuttered and Martins was presented with a chance to drive for BJ McLeod in the Xfinity Series.

Martins, who has a full-time day job as an instructor at a sports car driving school in Las Vegas, has a reputation for taking care of equipment. For a small team like BJ McLeod Motorsports, that’s an essential attribute. Organizations that operate on a limited budget often need to use the same car in consecutive weeks and don’t have the staff it would require to do extensive repairs in between races.

This year, Martins is once again running a part time schedule for BJMM and has scored consecutive top-20 finishes for the first time in his Xfinity Series career, finishing 20th at Auto Club Speedway and 19th last week in Texas.

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About Frank Velat

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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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