Monday, August 4, 2014

A Pocono Broom for Dale, Jr.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

First, hurray for Junior! He and Jeff are both in similar positions though Dale's was more severe. They're both coming off long spells of under-achieving the goals their fans have for them and they have for themselves. We watched them being interviewed a couple of years ago and saw disappointment on their faces and heard it in their voices. Was Jeff about ready to hang up his helmet, we wondered. Has the Old Man lost the killer instinct it takes to win in NASCAR today? Meanwhile, there was Dale, always looking down and mumbling when a mike was stuck in his face, giving us some platitudes about how hard the team was working, not even seeming to convince himself, much less us.

But, low and behold, in 2014, they've both proved that if you don't give up, the magic can come around again. Week after week, Jeff has led the point standings. Now, Junior is the top seeded contender on the Chase grid. I imagine those triumphs are even sweeter after emerging from the tunnel of despair.

We always hear about how Tony Stewart gets hot in the summer (though he's letting the summer of 2014 slip through his fingers). Now, I begin to think that Jimmie is just the opposite. He goes cold in the summer. He went through this same run of fair to terrible finishes last year at about this time. Fortunately, his fans don't have to worry about the Chase. He's already locked in with three wins but still......

Some drivers just seem to be plagued with bad luck. Danica, for one. She's showed real improvement this season in qualifying and in speed but something on the track always seems to nail her. Part of it is still probably her inexperience but part of it is just plain old misfortune beyond her control. Same with Matt Kenseth. In some races, I've thought, "well, okay, finally Kenseth is going to break his streak of losing," but nope, catastrophe always seems to intervene.

Damn, I didn't want Brad to win the Nationwide race! I won't go into that whole issue of Cup drivers in the lower series because it's an argument we've re-hashed a million times but bottom line is: in that race, I was rooting for Anybody But Brad. However, reality is that if I'd had $1,000 that I had to bet on the outcome race, I'd have put my money on Keselowski.

So, are we going to have to wait a couple of years to see Roush get back to the top? It seems likely, doesn't it? Ricky should improve next year. I've always heard that it's the third year in Cup when drivers begin to hit their stride and next year will be Ricky's third year. Trevor hasn't shown much, even in Nationwide so I don't expect him to make a lot of waves. Will being the Top Dog at Roush have a positive effect on Biffle? I really think it might. He's been low man on the Roush totem pole for so long, being the leader of the pack might just spark something in his outlook and determination to give it one last shot. We know that a new situation can ignite a driver's competitive juices (i.e. Kenseth to Gibbs, Logano to Penske). Perhaps, we'll get to see if new furnishings in the same old house can do the same.

We worried about a clash of personalities this year at Stewart-Haas what with Smoke, Harvick, Kurt Busch and Danica, hotheads all. That seems not to have occurred. I haven't heard a breath about those drivers not getting along. So, in 2015, we'll wonder about the same thing at Gibbs (assuming that Carl ends up there as everyone seems to expect). It probably all depends on whether Carl goes in with a relatively low profile or if he tries to throw his weight around.

Will we see another new winner at Watkins Glen? Maybe Marcos? That would give Richard Petty Motorsports two drivers in the Chase. I wouldn't bet a nickel on either of them being competitive for the championship but nevertheless, it would definitely be a step in the right direction for Petty and I'd like to see it happen.