There are NASCAR Sprint Cup Series development teams and there are independent teams. And then there is Jody Lavender.
The 30-year-old Hartsville, S.C., driver is in his second full season running in the NASCAR Camping World Series, but has a wealth of experience from making more than 20 starts in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
He's making the most of this opportunity in the No. 88 JoJo Ent./Custom Race Chassis Chevrolet for James Burgess. Racing with extremely limited resources, Lavender has four top fives in seven starts and heads to Adirondack International Speedway this weekend just 26 points behind first-place Ryan Truex.
"We're running the season off a $200,000 budget," Lavender said. "It's definitely been a surprise to be able to take what we have to work with and be able to run as well as we have."
The team has just one full-time employee, crew chief Todd Graffam. Burgess makes the 70-mile commute to the race shop several times a week to help on the car, and is often seen at the track working alongside the team's volunteer crew.
"He's not a rich man — he does this out of his pocket and for the love of the sport," Lavender said.
Lavender knows that with just four races remaining, every position is going to be crucial to his title hopes.
"Every race counts from here on out; you can't afford to throw away any of them," Lavender said. "On the flip side, I'm just proud of what we've been able to accomplish on a severely limited budget. Just to be up there and competing for a championship is amazing in itself.
"Regardless of what happens, I'm just proud of the guys and what they've accomplished."
Lavender was fifth last year at Adirondack despite arriving at the track with a setup that required major overhaul during practice. He qualified 17th and worked his way to the front.
"This year, I feel like we'll be able to unload a lot closer to where we need to be," Lavender said. "I actually feel pretty good about this weekend."