Solid Martinsville Finishes For JTG Daugherty Racing Led By Darlington Crew Chiefsby Hunter Thomas October 29, 2018 0 comments
RIDGEWAY, Va. – JTG Daugherty Racing’s teams captured solid finishes in the First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday thanks to an organizational effort led by two crew chiefs who are from Darlington, South Carolina.
Both, the No. 37 Bush’s Chili Beans Chevrolet team led by crew chief Tristan Smith and the No. 47 Kroger ClickList Chevrolet team with veteran crew chief Trent Owens atop the pit box, ran inside the top-10 throughout the 500-lap race. Chris Buescher ended up finishing 13th, while AJ Allmendinger finished the afternoon in 14th.
To kick-off the year, Smith was working with Allmendinger, and Owens was serving as the crew chief for Buescher. In September, the organization swapped Smith and Owens. Since then, the team’s performances have not missed a beat. In fact, statistically, both team’s average finishes have improved. While there are a lot of factors other than just personnel, JTG Daugherty Racing has been on a roll lately.
So far in 2018, Buescher has nine top-15 finishes, with two of those being in the top-10 and two more in the top-five. Buescher entered the weekend coming off a 16th-place effort at Kansas Speedway. The back-to-back top-20 finishes mark the first for the team since the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL back in September.
Throughout his career, Buescher has only had one other top-15 finish at Martinsville Speedway in his seven starts at the track. During last year’s spring race, he finished 11th. On Sunday, Buescher and his team started in 13th but had a smooth afternoon, even after falling a lap behind and having to battle back to the front.
“It was a good Martinsville for our Busch’s Chili Beans Camaro ZL1,” Buescher said. “I’m proud of this group. That was a good effort start to finish. Martinsville has been hit and miss for me, I’ve had good runs and I’ve had bad ones, and this is a good one here. So, just proud of the effort. From the time we unloaded this was a good car. We had good feel to it, we qualified well, and we executed well. We got a little bit behind there in the middle of the race. We were able to come back from it and just a good job. It’s fun when you can run like that at these short tracks it’s a good time. It looks like a short track car, it’s a little beat up, but all in good fun.”
While working with Buescher on Sunday, Smith was very proud of the team for rebounding after going a lap down. As the team pushed their Chevrolet back to the garage after the checkered flag, it was all smiles for the No. 37 crew.
“We started off pretty good,” Smith said. “We had a couple of pit stops where we struggled a little bit with the rear. Got a lap down. Got the Lucky Dog and made the car quite a bit better and kind of took off from there. We figured if it were to stay green, we’d be in good shape, and it turned out alright.”
In the final stage of the race, Buescher and Allmendinger battled each other hard until the finish. While the two drivers are teammates, Smith admits that he was a little nervous, because bringing two intact cars back to the race shop is extremely important to the small team.
“It was awesome,” Smith said. “It made me a little nervous there when they got to racing pretty hard. We wanted to make sure that we brought home two cars for everybody back at the shop, but I’m really proud of everybody at JTG.”
AJ Allmendinger also has nine top-15 finishes this season, with five being inside the top-10 and one in the top-five. Allmendinger has put together some strong finishes since a seventh-place finish at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL. Following the effort at NASCAR’s newest track, Allmendinger finished 22nd at Dover International Speedway and then sixth at Talladega Superspeedway. Allmendinger entered Martinsville with a 21st-place finish in Kansas.
In 21 starts at Martinsville, Allmendinger has amassed two top-five and seven top-10 finishes, so Sunday’s effort was par with his average finish of 18.6 at the track; however, Allmendinger also spent a good portion of the First Data 500 running inside the top-10. The team started in 15th and were smooth all day long.
“It was a solid day for our Kroger ClickList team,” Allmendinger said. “As the track changed, it really changed the handling of our Camaro ZL1, but overall, we had a fast car. We just couldn’t seem to get the track position we needed. I love racing at Martinsville Speedway and I’m proud of the hard work the guys put in all weekend to get us something we could really race with.”
Owens was very pleased with his team’s efforts as well, especially when they were able to run inside the top-10 during Stage 2 of the race.
“In the second stage, it ran green from the time that the second stage started until the end,” Owens said. “Our car was just so good after about 80 or 90 laps on tires. We were able to drive from 13th to eighth by the time the stage ended. I’m really happy about the performance of that.
Like Smith, Owens also got a little nervous when Allmendinger and Buescher began racing each other for position towards the end of the race. He wasn’t surprised that Buescher prevailed in the battle, because the Allmendinger’s car was better on the long runs.
“At the end of the race, it really didn’t play in our car, the 47’s favor having a short run,” Owens said. “We liked the long, green flag runs, our car seemed to perform better. The 37 got their lap back right there towards the end of the race, and they had a better short run car. It wasn’t a surprise that they were the winner of our battle, but nonetheless, it was fun to watch those guys race, maybe race a little too hard at times, but it was fun to watch them race for a top-15 finish. Anytime that we can race inside the top-15, both cars, and perform like AJ did throughout most of the race, he was really never in jeopardy of losing a lap, you’ve got to be happy about that.”
The performances on Sunday for both teams were quite impressive. While JTG Daugherty Racing has a technical alliance with Hendrick Motorsports, races Richard Childress Racing ECR engines and has been competing on NASCAR’s top level since 2009, the organization is still out resourced compared to the top teams. A solid day at the track for the organization is not only encouraging, but it’s also fun.
“We’re one of the smaller teams, funded but one of the smaller teams from the side of resources,” Owens said. “It’s just fun to get up there in the top-10 and race against some of those what we consider mega teams.”
Photo Credit: Hunter Thomas/TheFourthTurn.com