NASCAR Race Weekend Central

The Underdog House: Bubba Wallace Leads on the Long, Lonely Road Home

Top Dog

Road courses at the top level of NASCAR are something of an equalizer. A good driver can elevate the performance of an entire team even without the benefit of top notch equipment or research data. So it’s a logical assumption that at least one or two underdogs will likely run competitively and finish well. Well, we all know what they say about assuming.

Not a single underdog managed to crack the top 20 at the end of the day, a fact made even more astounding considering that none of the top drivers ran into trouble despite the race starting on a mostly wet track. The Cup Series ran in the wet for the first time due to plenty of rain during the 24 hours prior to the start, but even that didn’t result in a bunch of damaged or garage-bound cars. Aside from Kyle Busch perhaps, but he’s been playing chicken (and losing) with bad luck all year.

We will throw Bubba Wallace in here, though. After all, despite finishing 21st, he was the highest finisher among the lesser privileged. Wallace ran well and managed to steer clear of the trouble that plagued him in this event one year ago. He even managed to finish 10th in the opening stage, but it wasn’t the kind of day he or his team were hoping for.

“We survived thank the Lord!” Wallace quipped after the race. “Apologies to the [No.] 47 team. The run before that dumb move, I was mad at myself for not being aggressive enough … welp, found my limit.”

Honorable Mention

While no one finished all that great, there were a couple highlights for the underdog class early on. First, through a bit of pit strategy, Ty Dillon won the opening stage, with Timmy Hill finishing fifth. Dillon ended up finishing 22nd, but Hill was the first car out of the race after an engine failure ended his day after 57 laps.

I had expected more out of Michael McDowell but he floundered most of the day, finishing as the last car on the lead lap in 32nd. His teammate John Hunter Nemechek didn’t run all that well, but he did a pretty cool trick with a banner. It seems like every year someone ends up dragging one around. I wouldn’t be surprised if the track starts charging advertisers more for them next year.

Other Dogs

On Saturday, the NASCAR Xfinity Series cars took the green flag in the Slip ‘N’ Slide 250. OK, that wasn’t really the name, but it should have been. A full-on rain fell throughout much of the event, with standing water and drainage issues making the ROVAL feel more like a Mario Kart course than a NASCAR racetrack.

Alex Labbe proved he had done this before, keeping his car pointed the right direction en route to a fourth-place finish. Cody Ware got a career-best seventh and Jade Buford, a 32-year-old sports car racer, finished eighth in his third appearance for Bobby Dotter’s SS Greenlight Racing team.

Also landing in the top 15 were Jeffrey Earnhardt in 11th, Josh Bilicki 13th, Myatt Snider 14th, and Buford’s teammate Joe Graf Jr. in the 15th position.

The Gander Outdoors Truck Series was off last weekend.

What to Expect

The Cup Series underdogs are off to Kansas Speedway as the season winds down. The past two races at Kansas, Dillon has been the highest finisher among the underdogs, so the No. 13 looks like a solid pick. If you want another dark horse, watch for Daniel Suarez. He finished 18th at Kansas in July, and I really feel like Suarez makes that team better.

As for the Xfinity teams, Ryan Sieg practically jumps off the stat sheet. He’s finished in the top 10 in his last three visits to the 1.5-mile oval, including a fourth in the most recent one.

The Truck Series race at Kansas usually doesn’t generate a lot of highlights for the underdog class, but Derek Kraus has been pretty good just about everywhere. He was fifth there in July, and I really think this group is as close as anyone to getting their first victory. Perhaps Kraus can finally break through this weekend.

Look Who’s Talking

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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.

20 comments

  1. Avatar

    Another headline for bubba, wow. I forget how many xfinity races bubba won ? How about those hornets.

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      what echo i hear peace

      Best of the rest ! did you read the article.. spread love man, especially during these difficult times

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        Today I’m passing through Humboldt county, where the redwoods are beautiful, it’s harvest time, and love is in the air. I love bubba

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          I kind of thought if any underdog deserved to be in the headlines this week, it would be Ty Dillon (assuming he is considered and underdog).

  2. Avatar

    Now if we could get Danica to come back think of how much fun people could have. Could complain about her and Bubba in one post at the same time. Oh well, bound to be another driver that doesn’t look like us come along sometime.

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      Hopefully, whoever that driver is, can succeed by putting up wins and good stats. Then, and only then, if people still complain you will know it’s not just because they SUCK and are getting more press than they deserve (i.e., being jammed down our throats) because they are different or it is, in fact, only because they are different.

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        so good stats will stop the noise,……

        placing a car, ranked 25 in speed, 5 times in the top ten….

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          Those stats don’t warrant 500+ Bubba-centric articles since February (not just on FS). Champions, guys that win 5 races in a season, etc… those are the ones that deserve 500+ articles worth of attention. NEWS FLASH… neither Bubba nor Danica had good enough stats to be considered one of the “Stars Of NASCAR” yet, based on media attention, they got more than some who were. I think I’ve seen more Bubba stories this year than Jimmie Johnson stories and that’s saying something given the fact that most consider him the GOAT and he’s retiring. (Not that I want to see more stories about JJ).

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          I don’t think anything will be enough to stop the noise. The question I would ask is whether its bad for a driver or team, any driver or team to receive press these days?
          I think it would be hard to argue against the fact that the sport seems to be withering away. Any publicity can only help right?

  3. Avatar

    Bubba Wallace is no Lewis Hamilton, Hamilton stands front and center in the fight against Racism. Bubba just stands in the back ground stays some what quite but has take full advantage of the situation for his gain

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      Couldn’t agree more with your comparison between the two men. Wonder is it because Lewis is in a spot where he, like Labron James is somewhat immune from criticism?

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      Have you forgotten ? He calls himself the ” Ambassador ” ! LMFAO !

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      So busy in you’re lame attempt to promote a terrible driver…forgot to mention his ridiculous dive bomb into turn one on the restart that wrecked the leaders…garbage media like this is what’s wrong with the world.

  4. Avatar

    Ryan Preece finished 14th, does JTG no longer count as an underdog team?

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      Not as far as the Bubba spin machine is concerned. EVERY other team is richer than Bubba`s.

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        Didnt they almost close down twice in the last few years, only being saved by Dave Steward of WWT with his donation via Victory Junction

  5. Avatar

    Didn’t Bubba cause what could have been the “Big One” on a restart by trying to push his way into a spot that wasn’t there? That pretty much sums up his driving style. Ty Dillon and Ryan Preece were far more impressive than Bubba, but we all know why that doesn’t matter. He’s going to find himself without excuses of he doesn’t improve with his new team next year.

  6. Avatar

    Really lost a lot of respect for Bubba when he ran to CNN before NASCAR had completed it’s investigation of the rope. All I could think about was Jussie.

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    So sick of this, another no talant who decides to save his career by pulling the race card…just like Collin he starts going down hill and he starts the social justice B.S. he mediocre at best…always has been…stop trying to ram him down our throats…it’s as sickening as lebron preaching oppression when he makes millions…

  8. Avatar

    All the bubba head lines and nascars behavior keeps me away from the races . never missed a race at Martinsville in the 30 years always had top row seats in turn 3/4 and changed to top row seats in turn 1. Stopped going 3 years ago, never to go again.. Roanoke will be missed.