Thursday, May 4, 2017
The Usual Suspects
Congratulations to Joey Logano for his victory in Richmond. Of course, we all knew it was only a matter of time. Richmond wasn't a barn-burner but it was a good race. Anyone who expects a barn-burner every time will be disappointed. In fact, this is true of all sports. The favorites usually win, that's why they are the favorites. The exciting oddity is when a competitor not on the list of usual suspects pulls it off. When the underdog prevails.
So far, we've had seven winners in nine races: Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski (twice), Martin Truex, Jr, Kyle Larson, Ryan Newman, Jimmie Johnson (twice) and Joey Logano.
If you'd had to pick the winners of the first nine races at the beginning of the year, I bet at least six of those above would have been on your list. Maybe not Kyle Larson but now that we've seen his performance so far in 2017, he's certainly no surprise. Maybe not Ryan Newman since Richard Childress had such a long losing streak but not a total shock either.
No matter what the body of the race itself is like, it will be fun when Chase Elliott or Ryan Blaney pull into Victory Lane but at this point, we won't consider either one wildly unlikely. I'm putting Ricky Stenhouse, Jr in this group too as we watch him improve over time. Wildly unlikely would be Ty Dillon or Danica Patrick, or Daniel Suarez or even A. J. Allmendinger at any race other than a road race.
What's more unexpected is the teams we haven't seen take the checkered flag yet, drivers like Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Dale Junior. What do you want to bet all these will be in the running when we get down to the Chase or the finals or whatever we are calling the last ten races now?
No matter what NASCAR does to create parity, no matter what tortured tweaks they come up with to guarantee competitive equality, it's never going to work. As the old saying goes, "the cream will rise to the top". In any endeavor, some people will excel even with fewer advantages than others. Winning simply seems to be in their DNA.
So when November comes and we're down to the play-offs, my expectation is that we will see mostly the same names in the top twelves or so along with one or two who we might not have predicted.