NASCAR’s underdogs have their day

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Apart from the “Super” or “Mega” teams in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage, the smaller teams usually relegated to the back of the field often get a chance to shine at Daytona. This year was no different.

Regan Smith (No. 51 Phoenix Racing), Michael McDowell (No. 98 Phil Parsons Racing, see right) and J.J. Yeley (No. 36 Tommy Baldwin Racing) all scored top-10 finishes in this year’s Daytona 500. Smith ended seventh from 40th on the grid, with McDowell and Yeley ninth and 10th from 38th and 41st, respectively.

James Finch’s Phoenix squad has a prior win at Talladega, the first of Brad Keselowski’s career in 2009, but has otherwise struggled with Finch funding the effort largely out-of-pocket. The team threw Kurt Busch a lifeline after he was released from Penske Racing at the end of 2011.

The Parsons and Baldwin teams had not previously secured a top-10 finish in the “Great American Race.” Baldwin’s No. 36 was in a position to win last year’s Daytona 500 with Dave Blaney, who was leading at the time of a red flag when Juan Pablo Montoya collided with a jet drier. McDowell’s ninth place is his first Sprint Cup top-10 in six seasons.

Of the other relatively smaller teams, BK Racing’s pair of cars got both of its cars (David Reutimann, 16th and Travis Kvapil, 25th) in the top-25 although Kvapil had an accident on the last lap of the race. Scott Speed finished a respectable 23rd in the Leavine Family Racing No. 95 Ford. All three of Front Row Motorsports’ Fords (David Ragan, Josh Wise, David Gilliland) were caught up in a lap 139 accident.

It’s difficult for these teams to get noticed with a lack of “big name” drivers or sponsors. But in the restrictor-plate racing crapshoots at Daytona and Talladega, they can score good finishes simply by staying out of trouble.

Tickets on sale for 2019 IndyCar race at Circuit of the Americas

Alison Narro, COTA
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Tickets are now on sale for the upcoming IndyCar Classic at the Circuit of the Americas March 22-24, 2019 and in grand Texas fashion, the series and track kicked off the sale with appearances by Simon Pagenaud and Colton Herta in San Antonio and Austin respectively.

The CoTA race will be the second race of the 2019 season.

Simon Pagenaud visited the Alamo as part of IndyCar’s announcement of ticket sales for next year’s IndyCar Classic at the Circuit of the Americas (Alison Narro – COTA)

The highly anticipated debut of IndyCar at CoTA adds another marquee event to the track’s schedule along with Formula 1, World Rallycross and the Pirelli World Challenge.

Pagenaud was joined by retired San Antonio Sours player Brent Barry and local businessman Red McCombs as they visited the Alamo and world famous McNay Art Museum.

This will be IndyCar’s first trip to the track, but Pagenaud came within one position of winning at Texas Motor Speedway in 2018. Driving for Team Penske, he started and second behind his teammate Josef Newgarden and finished a season-best second to Scott Dixon.

Pagenaud hopes to add to his current 11 victories after going winless in 2018.

Colton Herta, who will compete for Rookie of the Year honors in IndyCar in 2019, made his presence known in the Gen-X capital of Austin, Texas (Alison Narro – COTA)

After visting San Antonio, focus shifted to Austin where Herta was joined by Jay Frye, President of Competition and Operations at IndyCar and Bobby Epstein, Chairman of Circuit of the Americas.

Herta took to the streets of Austin and visited the Texas State Capitol building as part of his tour.

Herta, who will turn 19-years-old the week after IndyCar visits CoTA, will campaign for Rookie of the Year honors in 2019. He has one previous start in the series at Sonoma this September. He qualified 19th and completed all 85 laps before finishing 20th in the 25-car field.

In 33 starts in Indy Lights competition, Herta has six wins, 20 podium finishes and nine poles.