Tuesday, July 11, 2017
Different Strokes for Different Weeks
Two different weeks - two totally different kinds of races. Restrictor plate racing isn't usually my favorite but last week's Daytona 400 was an exception. It was exciting. It seemed as if the drivers were edgier, and more aggressive than usual. There were chills and spills and 15 cautions. Kyle Larson went flying up in the air....again. The cars up front kept changing thanks to the leaders being taken out. In the end, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. prevailed and I was glad to see it, both for Ricky's and Jack Roush's sake.
The last few years, it seemed like we were seeing the withering away of the Roush organization. They went from fielding five top cars to only two, piloted by rookies. Their wins grew farther and farther apart but Jack persevered. He didn't give up and it is beginning to pay off. Ricky has two wins. He'll be in the Chase.
In Kentucky, it was just the opposite. Who would have thought several years ago that the Furniture Row team would be the powerhouse it is today? A one-car team from Colorado? But Barney Visser had the same kind of determination as Jack Roush. We saw the first signs of real potential when they hired Kurt Busch to drive for them. I think having a championship driver with a passion to succeed behind the wheel gave that whole organization new hope and optimism. Their trajectory was up from there and they've just kept going with Martin Truex, Jr.
Of course, I have to say, it makes for a rather boring race when the leader is 13 seconds ahead of the pack. NASCAR fans are always bitching about unnecessary debris cautions but I admit, I was freaking praying for a debris caution. A caution finally came at the end. It didn't change the outcome of the race but at least there was a lap of suspense. More power to Truex though - he swept the first two stages and the win. He now has more stage wins than all the other organizations combined!
The most thrilling thing about the Kentucky race was watching Kyle Larson slicking his way through the field - twice! He made 90 green flag passes over all. He started at the very back and got to the front lickety-split. Then he got nailed for speeding and went to the back again and flew forward again. He finally ended up second after all of that. Pretty cool.
What indefinable something causes teams like Roush and Furniture Row go up and down? Does a brilliant engineer come up with a unique new idea about building a car? Does a crew chief think of innovative new set up? Is it a driver who instills dedication into his crew? Is it just the right combination of personalities that result in everyone's best performances. No one really knows for sure but it is what they all strive for.
We learned this week that Matt Kenseth won't be back with JGR next season. That doesn't surprise me much. Joe Gibbs always has had a penchant for the young bucks, rather than the old troopers. I've heard he wants to snatch up Erik Jones before he loses the chance. Well, that's what happened to Rick Hendrick when he let Mark Martin stay on another year and lost Brad Keselowski to Roger Penske.
The other rumor about this particular situation is that Matt Kenseth will be taking Junior's place for at least a year while Rick grooms a rookie (and I've honestly forgotten who. Alex Bowman?) I always thought Kenseth would be a perfect match for HMS. He's low-key, not a gloryhound, always gives 100 percent, all-around good guy. (Yes, I know he's had his moments). Of course, there's also Kasey Kahne, who future is uncertain. He just never hit the ground running at Hendrick like everyone thought he would.
And so it goes in the ever-changing world of NASCAR.