Monday, February 20, 2017
Well, that was fun! Actually, restrictor plate racing is my least favorite kind but after this long dry spell, I'll happily take anything I can get that puts cars on the track. The Clash didn't turn out so well for Jimmie - two spinouts - in one he took out Kurt Busch and in the other, he took out himself. Both spins took place at the same place on the track and they seemed to happen without any help. Oh, well, there only one direction to go from there.
It didn't turn out so great for Jimmie but Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, Daniel Suarez and Chris Buescher all finished in the top ten so the kids are looking good. I was glad to see Danica come in fourth. I would so love to see 2017 be a good year for her. My other one for whom I'm rooting a little bit extra is Kyle Larson. I really like that kid.
It looks like Stewart Haas is going to be just fine despite all the changes they had to cope with during the off-season. They came out of the box fast. I notice Clint Bowyer is back to being his usual jovial self since he feels like he's in a competitive car again.
Once again, the Gibbs cars were heavily into teamwork and it looked like it was going to pay off for them until Joey Logano busted up their party. In the end, it turned out that the JGR car who was least tied to his team ended up ahead of the rest of them. I understand why they do it (they aren't the only ones) and it can be a positive strategy but I prefer the every-man-for-himself style of racing. At least, the points to be given after each section this year will probably put an end to hanging out in the back for the majority of the race.
So that was the Clash. Then we had qualifying for the front row and it will be Hendrick cars in one and two. Chase Elliott on the pole. He went to the top fairly early on and his time held up all the way through. Junior was right behind him. It had to feel good to perform so well after seven months of being out of the car.
I read that Junior said he and Mr. Hendrick are going to hold off talking contract for a couple of months until Junior feels confident he's 100 percent. After seeing the kind of inconvenience it causes the entire company when the main driver is absent from the team, he doesn't want to put HMS through that again. So they'll take their time making a firm decision until they are sure about his health. Smart thinking.
A lot of fans huffed and puffed about Richard Petty saying he wished Junior had just let racing go but I didn't sense any ill will in that whatsoever, just concern. The King remembers how many drivers sacrificed their health to stay behind the wheel. Back then they had to. They couldn't afford to retire. That's not a problem with any of today's drivers. But I think Junior is approaching the whole situation with caution and commonsense.
I thought Junior and Jeff made a great pair in the broadcast booth so I imagine if Dale wants to go into television whenever he retires, there will be a place for him.
Thursday, the Duels and then next Sunday, the Great American Race. The Clash is really just a tease, an appetizer before the full meal deal. In the Dayton 500, we'll have enough time to see who really got their stuff together over the off-season. Someone will get a head start on points. I expect it will mostly be the usual suspects but you never know when someone will pop out of the box and perform above expectations.
Sunday, February 5, 2017
Well, we've got it down to the last weekend without some kind of NASCAR. Get this damn Super Bowl over with and then next Saturday, MONSTER Cup cars on the track in the Clash, the following week are the Duels and then Daytona - YES!
I'd like to start this by giving mega-congratulations to Jeff Gordon. Seeing one of our own superstars achieve another huge accomplishment in different series is wonderful. Jeff, you are awesome!
So, here we are, our final weekend when we have to just sit and wonder rather than watch. After this, the things we are curious about will start to come clear.
Junior - Will he be back at 100 percent, raring to go? From what he's said in interviews, the answer to that is definitely yes. From his performance in testing this week, that's another big yes.
It's a given that I will always root for Jimmie first but if I could pick a scenario for 2017, it would be for Junior to finally win that elusive championship to put a satisfying cap on his career.
Kyle Larson - I know as a Hendrick fan, I should root for Chase but Kyle is my favorite young driver. Not that I don't like Chase too and I think there are plenty of wins and championships in his future but Chase had all the breaks whereas Kyle had to fight his way up to the Cup series so I have a soft spot for him.
Danica - Not a good sign when your primary sponsor has to be sued to try to get the money they promised to pay to sponsor you. Not that its Danica's fault but it doesn't help her right now. She's not in a very secure place. She's kind of stalled out the last couple of years. Her boyfriend, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., hasn't performed much better but he didn't come in with all the hype so the expectations for her were a lot higher. As my Dad used to say, I think it's "nut-cuttin'" time for her.
Kasey - Maybe the same as Danica. This team is a puzzle. They have an excellent driver and an excellent crew chief and an excellent support system behind them so why haven't they been able to put it together? Of course, if anyone knew, they would fix it but they may not have much time left to get their ducks in a row.
JGR - Will Gibbs weather all their changes and come out as strong as ever? How will Suarez do jumping into the deep end of the pond? Hopefully, he won't suffer the same kind of growing pains that Joey Logano did in his first years in Cup.
SHR - Ditto for Stewart-Haas. Change of manufacturer, Tony gone as a driver, Problems with Danica's sponsorship. New team with Clint Bowyer. It's a lot to overcome but maybe they'll be fine. Kevin and Kurt will still be there for stability.
The Kids - What about the others besides Suarez? Erik Jones will be running for Furniture Row. He's got a good role model there in Martin Truex, Jr. That should help. Will this be a breakout year for Ryan Blaney. He's certainly shown plenty of potential even if he hasn't won yet. And naturally, there's Chase and Buescher and probably more I'm forgetting. I haven't got all the new relationships firm in my mind yet. Rookie of the Year will come down to Suarez and Jones.
And all the drivers have to adapt to a new point system and a new aerodynamic package, with less testing time this year. And they have to remember to thank Monster Energy rather than Sprint. I'm having a hard time with that myself. I keep typing Sprint instead of Monster because it's been Sprint since I first became a NASCAR fan.
No matter what it is called and no matter how many changes are made to cars and to points, as far as I'm concerned, it's basically my same old NASCAR and I'm ready to get this show on the road!