In a series filled with Cup-affiliated teams and big dollars behind them, a pair of small NASCAR XFINITY Series teams has been able to break through to the top third of the chart.
Being able to survive the wrecks at Daytona International Speedway, combined with drafting their way to the front, JGL Racing and JD Motorsports came away from the season opener with top-10 finishes. Though both teams easily have the ability to carry the momentum forward as they both showed promise in 2016.
For JGL Racing, last weekend marked Scott Lagasse Jr. got some damage in the Lap 29 wreck but got the free pass at Lap 78 and come back to finish sixth. It tied the best finish the team has been able to score since J.J. Yeley finished fourth at Talladega in April 2014.
“I can’t thank everyone enough at JGL Racing for this opportunity – they are a great group to work with and provided me with a terrific No. 24 Toyota,” Lagasse said. “Of course none of this would be possible without the great support of our partners Alert Today Florida and the Florida Lottery. I had a blast, and we had a good weekend sharing the message of pedestrian and cyclist safety and promoting Florida Lottery’s support of education like mine with the Bright Futures Scholars program. Hopefully, I will get the opportunity to work with everyone at JGL Racing again.”
This weekend, Lagasse will not be behind the wheel of the No. 24, but rather Corey LaJoie as part of the team’s Young Gun Program. While it marks a whole different challenge this weekend in running an intermediate, it could very well produce back-to-back top-10s for the team as LaJoie ran 10 races with them last year, scoring a pair of back-to-back top-10 finishes at Bristol and Dover.
“It’s just a combination that they’re bringing better cars to the track each week, and I’m getting more in-tune with how to drive the XFINITY cars and giving them good feedback,” LaJoie told POPULAR SPEED last October. “It’s just a combination of everything that we’ve done so far, and obviously there’s been a little bit of luck.”
Meanwhile, JD Motorsports placed two cars in the top-10 as Garrett Smithley finished eighth with Harrison Rhodes in 10th. Both drivers were involved in separate wrecks but sustained minimal damage which allowed them to continue and contend late in the event. Ultimately, it marks a milestone for the team as they were only able to score a single top-10 finish in 2016.
Despite not being known as top-10 finishers, they have the ability to keep the positive trend going. Smithley scored three top-15s last year including a 15th at a fellow intermediate track Charlotte Motor Speedway, as part of the team’s total of 14 top-10 finishes across three drivers.
“I hope we can keep it rolling from the great Daytona start,” Georgia native Smithley said. “Atlanta is one of our fastest tracks, and it’s pretty much home for me. I’m sure the JD Motorsports guys will have a great car for us there.”
While many people watch the XFINITY Series and see the Cup team development drivers shine, these two teams are proving right here that under the right circumstances there’s room for them to shine as well.
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