NASCAR Race Weekend Central

The Underdog House: Going the Distance

Top of The Class

Chris Buescher was once again the top dog in Sunday night’s (May 26) Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The No. 37 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevy wound up with a sixth-place finish, the best for driver and team since a fifth last July at Daytona.

More than just the top-10 run was the story of how Buescher managed to get it. The car was damaged when the No. 37 grazed the outside wall in turn 4 on lap 127. The team was able to make the necessary repairs quickly and got Buescher back on track without losing too much ground.

After the race, Buescher alluded to the remarkable comeback after the incident.

“What a great night for us,” he stated. “Our Kroger Thrill of the Grill Camaro ZL1 had great speed from the drop of the green. The second stage we just tried to get it up a little too high and I got up in the fence. I cut a tire down later and lost a lap. We knew we had speed still, but this group did a terrific job of repairing it. We worked really hard after practice making a lot of changes.

“It was just a great effort all around; the pit crew did a terrific job. We were able to come out there at the end and get an awesome finish. We have to keep improving a little bit, but it was a pretty awesome night.”

ALLAWAY: CHRIS BUESCHER HITS WALL TWICE, RECOVERS TO TOP 10

Honorable Mention

Behind Buescher, there was another notable underdog near the top of the finishing order. Corey LaJoie surprised nearly everyone with his 12th-place finish. The No. 32 Go Fas Racing Ford stayed out of trouble all night and was around at the end of the 600-mile marathon. It was the best career finish for Lajoie outside of the superspeedway tracks of Daytona and Talladega.

ALLAWAY: COREY LAJOIE SCORES CAREER-BEST INTERMEDIATE FINISH

The Front Row Motorsports teammates of David Ragan and Matt Tifft also earned respectable finishes Sunday night. Ragan stayed out when most of the leaders pitted right before the final restart. Even though only five laps remained, Ragan was quickly dispatched by the cars with new tires. Even so, the gamble wound up resulting in a 15th-place finish. Rookie Tifft moved up six spots from his 26th-place starting spot, earning his third top-20 finish of the 2019 season.

Otherdogs

The Xfinity Series had its moment in the hometown sun on Saturday afternoon, and the usual suspects once again had a hot hand. Ryan Seig earned another top 10, this time coming home in the eighth position. For Seig, such results seem to be transitioning from a pleasant surprise to a weekly expectation.

Ross Chastain had a stellar day, bringing his Johnny Davis-owned Chevrolet to the line in the 11th position. Also earning top 15 finishes in the Alsco 300 were Jeremy Clements (13th), Gray Gaulding (14th) and Stephen Leicht (15th).

Underdog Spotlight: Ray Black Jr

Sometimes a driver and team combination comes together that seems to elevate both parties. Ray Black Jr. and SS Greenlight Racing are one of those partnerships.

Black made his NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series debut in 2014. He made seven starts that season before running a full schedule in 2015. The season started with a bang for Black and his No. 07 Bobby Dotter -owned Chevrolet, as the team notched a fifth-place finish in the season opener at Daytona. However, despite some decent runs, Black would not finish better than 11th the rest of the year.

Black ran a full schedule for Dotter in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2016, but the results weren’t what he or the team had hoped for. The next two years were spent running part-time for Dotter in 2017 and B.J. McLeod in 2018, but the best Black could muster was a 12th place at Daytona.

For 2019, Black reunited with Dotter, and, along with teammate Gaulding, has greatly elevated both himself and the organization. In the first 11 races of 2019, Black has finished in the top 20 five times. To put that in perspective, when he ran full time in 2016, he only had six top-20 finishes in the entire season. Look for more strong runs and solid finishes from Black as the Xfinity season progresses.

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