JR Motorsports. Joe Gibbs Racing. RCR. Kaulig. We all know the powerhouse teams of the Xfinity Series, and their exploits are always well documented – after all, why wouldn’t they be? They’re the ones riding huge budgets and fighting for wins every week. But there’s so much more to the sport than just the big guys – there’s a whole fleet of Davids out there fighting right along with the Goliaths, without which the sport wouldn’t be able to survive. They deserve some recognition too – and some evaluation.
So that’s what we’re doing here, as we take a look back at the seasons of the underdog teams of the Xfinity Series, looking at how they performed in 2022 – and what to expect from them moving forward. I’ve ordered the teams by their best final running order in the owners championship.
Jeremy Clements Racing
For the first half of the season it was a pretty typical campaign for Jeremy Clements Racing relative to what we’ve come to expect from them- reasonable mid-pack speed with an occasional top-10 run sprinkled in. In fact, across the team’s 12 years of full-time competition, Clements has never finished lower than 16th in driver points – a pretty impressive feat for a small budget one car operation.
The team was hanging out just below the playoff cut line heading into the spring Daytona race, with four top-10’s including a season-best p4 at New Hampshire. Most of you probably remember what happened next. In a race that saw an incredible amount of attrition, Jeremy Clements survived the chaos and beat out a slew of fellow underdogs to pick up his second career Xfinity Series win, propelling his way to the playoffs for the third time in his career.
NASCAR almost took the moment away from him, as his car initially failed post race inspection for an illegally modified intake manifold – he would get to keep the win, but would not be awarded the playoff berth. However, the team won their appeal, and his playoff berth was reinstated.
In the playoffs, JCR was unfortunately no real match for the big teams, as they were eliminated in the first round due in large part to a DNF in the first race of the playoffs at Texas. They would go on to finish 12th in points, matching Clements’ career best finish for a third time.
All told, while the team may not have shown speed as consistently as they did last season (five top-10’s this year vs. eight last year), any season that an underdog team can pick up a win is a good season – especially when that win is at hallowed ground like Daytona. 2022 was a definite success for this group, and they will look to build on it next season.
Even though Jeremy Clements Racing finished ahead of Ryan Shane Sieg (RSS) Racing, RSS definitely had the best year of all the underdogs. It was such a solid season in fact that I debated not even including them amongst the underdogs – but as a family owned team, excluding them just didn’t feel right.
Amassing 13 top-10’s and 22 top-15’s, Ryan Sieg was able to point his way into the playoffs without a win, beating out the likes of Kaulig Racing’s Landon Cassill, and RCR’s Sheldon Creed. Seeing Sieg in the playoffs wasn’t a surprise certainly, as this year marked his fourth playoff berth – but watching him beat out two big teams en route to doing so was certainly impressive.
Unfortunately, Sieg was unable to advance past the round of twelve, despite collecting two ninth place finishes and an impressive p4 at Talladega in the three races that round. On his round of 12 performance, Sieg would say “We had three top 10s and one top five in those three races and didn’t make it. Not a whole lot more we could’ve done except get a few more points.”
Outside of their primary car/driver combo, RSS also ran two other entries. The 38 car ran a full schedule featuring a host of nine different drivers with C.J. McLaughlin and Kyle’s younger brother Ryan Sieg handling the bulk of the duties. Kyle picked up his first career top-10 at Daytona, as did McLaughlin at Texas. 19-year old Parker Retzlaff also picked up his first career top-10 at Richmond, and was incredibly impressive in his five races for the team. RSS also ran the 28 car on a part time schedule, qualifying for 12 races and scoring two top-20’s with the entry.
2022 was a good year for RSS, but it’s what we’ve come to expect from this group. They are seemingly right on the cusp of shedding the underdog moniker – and if they had picked up a few more stage points to advance to the round of eight, the assuredly would have shed the distinction. This team is just a few pieces away from being truly special. We know Ryan will be back in the 39 next year, but other plans for the team haven’t been announced.
Big Machine Racing
In just their second season of operation, it was a pretty wild year for Big Machine Racing. Jade Buford piloted the 48 car for all but one race in 2021, and returned in 2022. Despite only collecting one top-10 in 2021, the team put together a number of surprisingly strong runs and showed they had quality equipment and people. They were so impressive in fact that they caught the attention of Richard Childress Racing, who entered into a technical alliance with the team – so expectations were understandably high, particularly by underdog standards. Unfortunately, the start of the season didn’t go well at all.
Through the first eight races, Buford suffered three DNF’s, and finished outside of the top-20 in all but one race, a p8 at COTA. At that point, the team shifted to a multi-driver approach, tapping a range of big-name drivers in the RCR and Chevrolet stable, including Austin & Ty Dillon, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ross Chastain, Parker Kligerman, Nick Sanchez, and Tyler Reddick.
After finishing outside of the top-20 in 10 of the season’s first 11 races, it looked like the team was in trouble – but that all changed when Tyler Reddick collected the team’s first ever victory at Texas Motorspeedway. While they still had a number of poor runs and bad luck peppered through the back half of the season, the team saw definite improvement as they scored six top-10’s including three top-5’s through the last 17 races.
One of their more fun stories on the year was fielding a car for 2022 SRX champion and racing royal family member Marco Andretti at the Charlotte Roval – he would put on a solid showing, but unfortunately suffered a DNF after getting caught up in a heavy wreck.
This is a team that is clearly capable of bringing fast cars to the track – to develop that kind of reputation in just your second season is a big accomplishment. But they need to be more consistent, and it seems as though they have found the perfect candidate for that, tapping criminally underrated Parker Kligerman to drive for the team full time in 2023. The future is bright for this group.
2022 was an exciting year for Our Motorsports as they expanded to three full-time entries in just their third year of competition, fielding the 02 car for Brett Moffitt, the 23 car for Anthony Alfredo, and the 27 car for Jeb Burton. Pretty nice lineup for a small team, right? A former Truck Series champion, a well-liked former Cup Series driver, and a member of one of NASCAR’s royal families fresh off his first Xfinity Series playoff berth. While it was a solid year for the team, it’s hard to say whether it really lived up to expectations.
Starting with the 02 car, Brett Moffitt – who has been with the team to some effect since it’s inception – got off to a decent start, collecting 15 top-20’s and four top-10’s through the first 20 races of the season. Unfortunately, following the Indianapolis Road Course race, Moffitt and the team mutually agreed to part ways, which left the team to field a spate of drivers the rest of the season, including Ty Dillon, Brandon Brown, Sage Karam, Parker Retzlaff, and Blaine Perkins, who picked up the lone non-Moffitt top-10 for the 02.
Moving to the 23 of Anthony Alfredo, this was the team’s most competitive entry. Alfredo picked up four top-10’s including the team’s lone top-5 on the year with a p5 run in the season’s second race at Fontana. Through the first 11 races of the season, Alfredo only finished worse than 17th once, and picked up three top-10’s, marking himself as a possible darkhorse playoff contender. Unfortunately, he would then pick up four DNF’s in the next seven races, and wouldn’t collect another top-10 until the Las Vegas playoff race. Still, it was a solid year for Alfredo, which could have really gone somewhere if not for some mid-season bad luck.
Finishing off with the 27 of Jeb Burton, it was certainly not the kind of year he or the team wanted. Things started off well enough for Burton as he only finished outside of the top-20 twice in the season’s first 13 races, but then the dregs hit. Over the next 12 races, Burton would record seven DNF’s, and only one finish inside the top-20, knocking him completely out of contention. This stretch was highlighted by a particularly spectacular wreck at Pocono that sent him airborne and upside down down the front stretch. To Burton’s credit, he would move on from the mid-season blues to finish off the year with eight straight top-20’s.
The only 2023 plans that have been announced for this team are that despite signing a two year deal last off-season, Jeb Burton will not be returning. This is a team with definite potential and resources – but also maybe one that would be better served as a two car operation, as they seemed to be stretched thin after a decent first third of the season.
Sam Hunt Racing
Sam Hunt Racing fielded the 26 car for a whopping ten different drivers in 2022. Among them were three big names in NASCAR – Truex, Nemechek, and Earnhardt. RYAN Truex, JOHN HUNTER Nemechek, and JEFFREY Earnhardt, that is.
While Truex only ran one race for the team – the season opener at Daytona – Earnhardt and Nemechek handled the bulk of the duties for the revolving door operation, as Earnhardt ran nine races for the team while Nemechek ran eight. While Earnhardt did bring home a top-10 at Nashville, Nemechek was undoubtedly the most competitive driver for the team this year, bringing home three top-10’s including two top-5’s.
Speaking of Nemechek, the team attempted to field a second car for John Hunter’s father Joe at the August Daytona race – one of only two times they tried to field two cars this year – but unfortunately qualifying was rained out, and Joe didn’t get a chance to race his way in.
Beyond Nemechek and Earnhardt, the only other driver to bring home a top-10 for SHR was Chandler Smith, who brought home a p7 at Homestead. Also of note was the 15th place run for former F1 driver Daniil Kvyat in his Xfinity Series debut at the Charlotte Roval.
2022 was only the second time that SHR competed in every race, and it was a reasonable improvement over their first full season in 2021 (five top-5’s and 18th in owner points vs only two top-5’s and 23rd), so the year was certainly a qualified success for the bunch. Now they just have to take the next step. With Nemechek able to parlay this year’s success into a full-time ride with Joe Gibbs next year, SHR recently announced that they will expand to two full-time entries in 2023, with Kaz Grala set to pilot the 26 full time, and a rotation of drivers piloting the newly formed 24 team, headlined by Connor Mosack for 20 races.
2022 was a sad year for Brandonbilt Motorsports and Brandon Brown. It started off with some real unpleasantness as 2021’s “Let’s Go Brandon” fiasco hung over the team like a cloud, and made acquiring sponsorship nearly impossible. Then, a startup crypto currency “LGBCoin” stepped in and offered a hugely lucrative deal to the team. Politically divisive as it was, it seemed that the coin, and some associated crypto sponsors, would be able to save Brandon Brown’s career.
But the old saying “if something seems too good to be true, it probably is” proved to be right in this case. LGBCoin was essentially a total farce, and Brandon Brown was hung out to dry. Very little sponsorship, and a damaged reputation thanks to his backing of such a divisive product – understandable as the move was given the terrible circumstances.
Through the first two thirds of the season, the team was able to make due as Brown cobbled together as much sponsorship as he could, but eventually the other shoe dropped. Brandonbilt, a team owned by Brandon Brown’s family, announced that they would have to field other drivers to bring in enough sponsorship money to stay operational.
After fielding Austin Dillon for the first such race, the team landed on Kris Wright. That ended up being the wrong choice from a competition standpoint, as across nine races Wright only collected one top-20 (p20 at Kansas), and racked up three DNF’s, while being involved in several incidents along the way. I know nothing of the financials involved… but all I will say is I hope it paid well for the team.
To their credit, Brandonbilt put a reasonably competitive product out there every week. They collected 16 top-20’s, including four top-10’s and two top-5’s. But with anyone other than Brown in the car, the performance tanked – and that resulted in a worse owner points result than either of the last two years in 21st.
This team needs some help. They were the victim of bad circumstances, and some particularly shady characters who took advantage of them. According to the team, they are looking for sponsorship to fill out their 2023 driver lineup – hopefully things go better this time around.
Full time in the series since 2015, DGM fielded two full time cars, the #36 and the #91. Alex Labbe was the primary driver in the 36, running 24 of its 33 races, while Mason Massey handled the bulk of the 91’s duties, recording 24 starts. They also fielded a third car, the #92 on a part-time basis.
It was a decent year for DGM by most standards. Alex Labbe in the 36 picked up three top-10’s and 13 top-20’s, with Josh Bilicki adding another top-10 for the car in the season opener. The efforts were enough push the 36 car to 22nd in owner points, just nine points outside of the top-20.
The 91 didn’t fare quite as well, though to his credit Mason Massey did pick up his first two career top-10’s, and Preston Pardus narrowly missed out on another with a p11 at Road America. A combination of fewer top-20’s (only six on the year) and three DNQ’s kept the 91 saddled back in 33rd in owner points.
The part time effort in the 92 saw the best individual result for the team on the year, as Ross Chastain wheeled the ride to a p4 finish at Indianapolis. Kyle Weatherman picked up a top-10 of his own in the 92, bringing the teams top-10 total to a reasonable eight.
2022 was a bit of a step backwards for the team relative to the last couple of seasons – in 2021 the team ran two full time entries for Josh Williams and Alex Labbe, with those cars posting owner points results of 19th and 21st respectively. Dropping three and 12 places respectively in such an important metric is a huge deal for small teams, as a big end of season payout is determined by where you fall in the points. Last year both DGM cars were eligible for a payout, whereas only one was this year – definitely a blow to a small operation.
There is speculation that Mason Massey will return to the team in 2023, and a return for Labbe wouldn’t be a big surprise either as he has been with the team since 2018 – but no official plans have been announced.
SS-Green Light Racing
Another team that went the multi-driver route – as they’ve done each of the last three seasons – SS-Green Light fielded the 07 primarily for Joe Graf Jr., and the 08 primarily for David Starr, with a several other drivers piloting each car in select races.
The 07 hosted some big names on the year – Chase Briscoe, Brett Moffitt, Hailie Deegan (in her Xfinity Series Debut) and Xfinity Series superstar Cole Custer, who picked up the team’s two best finishes on the year – a p3 at COTA, and the organizations first ever win at Fontana. Briscoe collected a top-5, Moffit collected a top-10, and Deegan picked up an impressive p13.
The 08 didn’t get any big names per se, but it did get two top-20’s from Andy Lally, and another from Brandon Brown. Spencer Pumpelly and B.J. McLeod also ran one race each in the ride.
Now let’s turn our attention to their two primary drivers…
Looking at Graf to start, the meme seemingly continued, as he racked up 21 incidents on the year according to Toby Christie.com – the sixth most in the series, despite not running in five races. He did manage to collect a top-10 at Talladega, the second of his career, but beyond that it was a season to forget with only two other finishes inside the top-20. In races with the team, Graf finished outside the top-25 in 16 of his 26 efforts, and tallied five DNF’s
Sub-par as that is, David Starr’s 2022 campaign was worse as he collected five DNF’s (including four in the season’s first five races), only one top-20 (an admittedly impressive p11 at New Hampshire), and finished outside of the top-25 in 11 of his 20 starts.
This team seems to have taken a step backwards in recent years. In 2019 Ray Black Jr. wheeled the 07 to an 18th place result in the standings, while Gray Gaulding came home 15th in points, picking up four top-10’s and a Talladega runner-up finish in the process. This season, while they did pick up their first ever win, and a few really nice top-10’s, the team was adrift in efforts that didn’t carry SHR backing or factory support of some kind as the Custer, Briscoe, Moffitt, and Deegan efforts did.
This team needs to re-focus their efforts and focus on consistency. With Graf expected to return to the team in 2023, it will take definite improvement on his end to make that happen.
Jordan Anderson Racing
In their second year of competition at the Xfinity Series level Jordan Anderson Racing looked ready to take a step forward. After a turbulent first season that saw them excluded from the first 10 races due to COVID-induced qualifying rules, the team was looking to build off their second half success that saw them pick up six top-10’s and two top-5’s in the season’s final 23 races.
To do that, the team enlisted the services of former Richard Childress Racing driver Myatt Snider -including his primary sponsor and color scheme. After picking up 11 top-10’s including his first career win and a playoff berth in 2021, it looked like a good pairing. A talented young driver and a team that, while not top-flite, had proven they could bring competitive rides to the track. While they had their moments, 2022 was largely underwhelming for both parties.
The year started off with a literal bang, as on the final lap of the season opening race at Daytona Snider was involved in a spectacular crash that saw him go airborne into the backstretch catch fence. Thankfully he was able to walk away from the incident unharmed.
From that point on things were up and down. Snider did manage to pick up four top-10’s, including a great p2 run at Portland where he led 19 laps that almost allowed him to sneak into the playoffs – but he also recorded seven DNF’s and 20 finishes outside of the top-20, which is certainly not up to either his or the team’s presumed expectations. The team also didn’t pick up any top-10’s in the season’s final 19 races.
This was a pairing that seemed like it could produce real results, but team & driver never seemed to find any real consistency. Currently, the team’s 2023 plans are unknown. Regardless of who the driver is, I would anticipate this team taking a step forward next year with a full season under their belts now.
Alpha Prime Racing
Following their rebrand from Martins Motorsports, Tommy Joe Martins & Caesar Bacarella’s Alpha Prime Racing was another team that employed a multi-driver lineup across two full-time entries, the 44 &45 cars, to often times fun results. For my money, this was one of the more interesting teams to follow in 2023.
The 44 hosted nine different drivers in 2022, with the bulk of seat time going to Ryan Ellis (10 races), Rajah Caruth (6 races), Sage Karam(4 races) and Howie DiSavino (4 races). Team owner Tommy Joe Martins pitching in himself, running the first two races of the season, and a third race at Texas.
The 44 showed admirable speed at times, picking up seven top-15’s. Sage Karam collected the organizations first ever top-5 as well with a p5 result at Daytona. The biggest thing holding the 44 back was DNF’s, as the rotation of drivers accrued 8 on the year – though none in the final 14 races of the year.
The 45 one-upped the 44 by hosting 10 different drivers. The most notable of which being Stefan Parsons, who was able to put together a number of very solid runs, recording a top-10 at Bristol and being a legitimate contender for the win at the Charlotte Roval before being wrecked out of the top-5. Parsons was often mentioned on broadcasts as being one of the most impressive small team drivers on track.
Perhaps the most notorious moment of the 2022 season involved Alpha Prime, when Noah Gragson intentionally wrecked Sage Karam’s 45 car at Road America. The hook job – on top of costing Alpha Prime a legitimate shot at a top-10 – set off a huge wreck that took out several cars. It even sent the other Alpha Prime car off track piloted by Josh Bilicki, careening though a Sargento Cheese sign – who would actually go on to sponsor Bilicki and the 45 car at Watkins Glen later in the year.
The 44 was generally the more competitive of their two entries, finishing three spots higher in owner points than the 45 (25th compared to 28th), but both cars showed top-10 speed several times throughout the year, even if the team only managed to collect two of them. Across both cars, the team picked up 11 top-15’s, showing that they’re close to where they want to be, but just need a bit more raw speed… and some luck.
It was a fun year for the newly re-organized team – Rajah Caruth’s National Series debut, Ryan Ellis’ career revival, Stefan Parsons’ emergence, Josh Bilicki driving through a cheese sign and getting a sponsor out of it – but the team is setting it’s sights on the future. They’re employing a multi-driver approach in 2023 as well with Ryan Ellis and Stefan Parsons confirmed for returns, and other announcements soon to come. This team showed top-5 speed at road courses thanks to employing specialists, and have the speed to compete elsewhere. Don’t be surprised if an Alpha Prime car finds victory lane next year.
2022 – which marked the 20th year of competition for this Xfinity Series stalwart – was not a particularly good one for JD Motorsports, as their decline of the last few years continued in a pretty big way. That’s not to say there weren’t a few bright spots, but it’s hard to believe sometimes that just five or so years ago this team was on the doorstep of playoff contention, and largely responsible for kick-starting Ross Chastain’s career.
After running three full-time entries last year, JDM scaled back their operation to two full time cars – the #4 for Bayley Currey, and the #6 for Ryan Vargas. The year started off on a great note at Daytona, as Ryan Vargas qualified 8th and both drivers went on to finish in the top-20, but it didn’t get much better than that.
Bayley Currey managed to put together a decent year in the #4 as he recorded 13 top-20 finishes, including his second career top-10 at New Hampshire. He was given a number of shout-outs during race broadcasts for putting together solid runs for the underfunded team – particularly in the last few races of the season, as he collected three top-15’s in the last eight races and folks started to take notice of his solid body of work. Add to the equation that he locked up a pretty sizeable sponsor for the team in Alka-Seltzer, and I imagine the team was at least relatively pleased with his season.
Now for one of the more unfortunate stories of the year, which was JDM all but giving up on 22-year old Ryan Vargas. After his successful Daytona weekend, Vargas went on to record only two top-20’s in the next 12 races, albeit one was a solid p12 at Atlanta. He was pulled from the ride at Portland (where it was promptly junked by Gray Gaulding), then pulled again at Road America (car was juked by Ty Dillon) and the Indy Road Course (Dillon came home p20 this time). He was pulled one more time two weeks later at Watkins Glen where Spencer Pumpelly didn’t even manage to qualify for the race.
Then the Series went to Daytona, and Vargas pulled off his best career finish, and the best finish for JDM since 2019, p6, after surviving a chaotic race. Naturally that should buy him the keys to the ride for the rest of the year, right?
Vargas only ran six of the final ten races on the year, and after his final race at Martinsville, promptly announced that he was parting ways with the team. An unfortunate end to what could have been a good pairing for a small team given Vargas’s social media presence, among other things. All told, the #6 came home 34th in owner points, seven spots behind the #4 which came home 27th.
JDM is on a downward trajectory. If things don’t change for the team soon, they may never – but their driver lineup next year shows that the team is committed to trying. Bayley Currey is returning to the team in 2023, so it will be interesting to see what the team can do with a full year under their belt. Meanwhile, former Chip Ganassi prospect Brennan Poole – who finished sixth in points in 2017 – has been announced as the driver of the #6 car next year. Let’s see what kind of improvement this team can make in 2023.
Jesse Iwuji Motorsports
A new team in 2022, it looked like their whole effort was going to be a wash until they found their ringer.
A collaborative effort between Jesse Iwuji and Dallas Cowboys legend Emmitt Smith, the team ran about as well as most prognosticators figured it would – badly. Jesse Iwuji’s brief history in the sport didn’t inspire a great deal of confidence in the team, and most concerns were proved right almost immediately as he finished outside of the top-25 in each of the first six races, including two DNQ’s – and it would have been more than two if not for provisionals.
At that point the writing was on the wall that if the team was to survive, they would have to get someone who could push the cars as hard as they needed to be pushed – this was a well funded team, Iwuji just didn’t have the experience to compete at a high level. So they turned to 25-year old Kyle Weatherman – and he all but saved the fledgling team.
In his second race with the team he picked up the teams first top-20. Then a few weeks later, their first top-15. Then after two DNF’s he collected the teams first top-10, a p8 effort at New Hampshire. IN the 11 races that followed he would pick up six more top-20’s, crucial results for a brand new team. Weatherman proved that this team can be competitive if they have the right wheelman
Jesse Iwuji to his credit picked up a new career best result in the attrition filled August Daytona race, coming home p11. He could have finished better realistically, but opted to hang back to protect his car rather than compete for additional spots, and understandable if not unexciting decision given the circumstances.
Similar to Gase Emerling, 2022 was a learning experience for this team. If they had stuck with Iwuji, I’m not sure the team would have survived – they likely would have failed to qualify for as many races as they made. But fortunately Iwuji had the self awareness to realize that they needed help, and they got it from Weatherman. Iwuji announced that he would like to expand the team’s operations in the near future, but specifics have not been announced.
What HAS been announced though is a $4.1 million dollar lawsuit the team has filed against their primary sponsor for breach of contract, so… that’s worth watching.
Emerling Gase Motorsports
Another new player in 2022, series regular Joey Gase’s collaborative effort with Patrick Emerling went about how you would expect for a new team – poorly, for the most part. The team enlisted the services of eight different drivers. On top of Emerling & Gase – who accounted for 21 of the teams 35 starts – the team also tapped Shane Lee, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Parker Kligerman, Chris Dyson, Dawson Cram, and friend of the site Brad Perez.
On the year the team collected nine top-20’s, with their best finish being Parker Kligerman’s 12th place effort at Circuit of the Americas. One of those top-20’s was picked up by Brad Perez at Watkins Glen in his Xfinity Series debut. Joey Gase (3), Patrick Emerling(2), and Shane Lee (2) accounted for the rest.
The biggest thing a new team can do is avoid wrecks and DNFs – unfortunately for this bunch, they weren’t really able to do that, recording six on the year. Could be worse for sure, but every little bit counts when you’re first getting started. For their efforts on the year, the #35 car came home 30th in owner points.
2022 was a learning experience for this team, and in that light it was a successful first year. Run the races, finish as many as you can, learn as much as possible, and come out better in year two. With the announcement that the team is running two full-time cars in 2023, it will be interesting to track their progress.
The most corporate team in racing, Motorsports Business Management LLC, aka MBM Motorsports, had a mostly ho-hum year, but there were some definite bright spots. Running the #66 and #13 cars among a rotation of drivers – most notably J.J. Yeley, and Timmy Hill – and all three manufacturers, their end results were pretty underwhelming compared to some of their best individual moments.
Starting with the #66, J.J. Yeley ran all but two races in the car – four as a Chevy, nine as a Toyota (not including two DNQ’s) and and 12 as a ford. Natalie Decker and Timmy Hill covered the two races Yeley was not in the car. Yeley actually managed to put together a halfway decent season as he picked up two top-10’s and ten top-20’s en route to a 24th place points finish – but those DNQ’s really hurt the team as the #66 only managed to limp to 32nd in owner points, which wasn’t representative of the speed the team had at times.
Things were much worse for MBM’s other entry, as the #13 car failed to qualify a whopping nine times – but this entry had by far the teams best moment on the year, and almost the best moment in the teams history as Timmy Hill almost pulled off the miracle win of the century at the attrition filled August Daytona race, eventually coming home p2 to fellow underdog Jeremy Clements. Outside of that fantastic result, the 13 only brought home one other finish in the top-20, courtesy of Matt Jaskol, and stumbled to 37th in owner points.
I said earlier that this team is “corporate”. That was really just a dig at the funny name, but this group actually does strike me as corporate in a way – they don’t seem like they’re there to improve, they seem like they’re there to make money. They’ve been around since 2014, have never finished higher in owner points than 23rd, and actively regressed over the last two years. Now… there is nothing wrong with being in the sport to make money. I’m just not sure how committed this group is to growing competitively.
BJ McLeod Motorsports
Fielding 12 different drivers across three different cars, one of the stalwart low-budget teams of the sport had a few fun moments on the year thanks to a multi-race technical alliance with Stewart Haas Racing, but otherwise had a pretty forgettable year.
Let’s start with those fun moments.
For three races this year, BJM hosted SHR driver Ryan Preece. In those three races, Preece collected results of 16th, 5th, and 6th – good for the teams best, second best, and fourth best results on the year, with the near trifecta broken up by a Scott Heckert p13 (though notable, Matt Mills also picked up a p16 at Texas to tie Preece’s worst run with the team).
Looking past the fun, the #5 car – driven mostly by Matt Mills (14 races) – picked up six top-20’s to go with 14 DNF’s, and even a DNQ in the final race of the season. For their efforts, the #5 car came home 36th in owner points despite Preece’s great runs.
One spot, in fact just one POINT better in 35th was the other full-time BJM entry, the #78 driven mostly by Josh Williams. Williams was in the 78 for the first 17 races of the year, and 19 of the first 20 before bouncing around to other teams, picking up three top-20’s and four DNQ’s along the way. After Williams left the car, the team would record five DNF’s and only one top-20, a p20 run by Brandon Brown.
B.J. McLeod is one of the most respected and well liked figures in the NASCAR garage. While his team may not have an immense amount of speed, fellow drivers and teams respect this organization, because they do things the right way. This is an underdog worth pulling for.
Mike Harmon Racing
A series regular since 2007, MHR did not have a competitive season, as they stumbled to a 43rd place owner points finish. The #47 car – piloted by Gray Gaulding, Brennan Poole, Ryan Vargas, Brandon Brown, and Mike Harmon himself – failed to qualify for a staggering 18 of the 29 races they attempted. When they did manage to qualify, the team typically didn’t manage too well, as they only collected two finishes inside the top-25 – a Gray Gaulding p21 at Talladega, and a Ryan Vargas p23 at Portland.
The team also attempted to field a second entry at the season opener, the #74 car for everybody’s favorite grifter Tim Viens, but he failed to qualify. In fact, the #74 car was actually issued a L2 penalty by NASCAR for a testing rules violation and docked 75 owner points. Since the car didn’t run any other races on the year, they actually finished dead last in owner points with NEGATIVE 75. Keep that locked away for NASCAR trivia night.
MHR has three full-time employees. This is a small team scratching and clawing for everything they can get, and you absolutely have to respect that. Competitiveness aside, going out there every week with a budget that isn’t even a fraction of some of your competitors is admirable. The teams 2023 plans haven’t been announced yet, but they do have a new co-owner in Gary Keller – so we’ll see if that presumed influx of money can help the team produce a more convincing product.
Featured image credit: Patrick Vallely