The NASCAR season is only a third of the way complete, but there has been no shortage of storylines both on and off the track. As drivers and teams gear up for the second half of the regular season, here are what I believe to be the top five stories through the first 12 races of the year:
1. Potential Sale of NASCAR
In case you’re unaware, a report surfaced earlier this month that NASCAR’s majority owners are working with investment bank Goldman Sachs to identify a potential buyer.
The simple fact the France family is even exploring a sale of NASCAR is beyond huge. It would be an absolute watershed moment for the sport if it actually happened. Whether for the good or bad, it would reshape the future and direction of NASCAR for years to come. I’m very anxious to see how this unfolds in the coming months.
2. Happy Happy Happy Happy Happy Harvick
One ‘happy’ for each of Kevin Harvick’s five wins. The guy is on a different level right now. A couple of weeks ago, I gave the edge to Kyle Busch because I thought he had the best team. While I still think Busch has the faster pit crew, the combination of Harvick and crew chief Rodney Childers is downright lethal. Harvick is on pace for 15 wins!!! I don’t believe he will win 15 races, but he could easily become the first driver since 2007 (Jimmie Johnson) to win ten. He is undoubtedly the championship favorite and I’m excited to see how much damage Harvick can do.
I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the dominance of Ford. Led by Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford is having the kind of success it hasn’t enjoyed since the 1990’s. How brilliant does Stewart-Haas’ decision to switch from Chevrolet to Ford look now?
3. Veterans vs. Youth
This season was supposed to signal the changing of the guard. Out with the old, in with the new.
The youngest winner this year was Joey Logano at Talladega. He’s 27 but this is his tenth season in Cup. Sorry, Joey, you’re not a young gun.
Chase Elliott (22), Ryan Blaney (24), Eric Jones (22), William Byron (20), and Alex Bowman (25) all drive for premier teams. They’ve also been full-time in the Cup series for three years or less. Total number of wins combined this season: zero.
I’m not suggesting that we all expected the newbies to come in and dominate. However, I do believe, with all of the media coverage these guys received leading up to Daytona there’s a perception that the youth movement has failed to deliver. If the first 12 races taught us anything, it’s that the old guys…I mean veterans aren’t going anywhere.
4. The Struggles of Chevrolet
It’s obvious the Chevy teams are playing catch-up to Ford and Toyota. But is it possible that narrative is a bit overplayed?
Hear me out. The Hendrick Motorsports stable now consists of seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson and three drivers who haven’t won a race. Chase Elliott has been close, but Bowman and Byron are just fighting to make the playoffs, let alone win a race. And Johnson hasn’t won in more than a year. The last Hendrick win was Kasey Kahne at Indianapolis last year. And if we’re being honest, it was somewhat of a fluke win.
Hendrick is the clear flag bearer for Chevy. Behind Hendrick, it’s Chip Ganassi Racing and Richard Childress Racing. Aside from Kyle Larson, Ganassi and RCR haven’t provided any firepower since Austin Dillon’s Daytona 500 win.
My point is when Hendrick is down, Chevy is down. I don’t think the Hendrick team has lost its mojo, but it’s definitely in a transition phase.
Which begs the question…does Hendrick Motorsports have a Chevy problem? Or does Chevy have a Hendrick problem?
5. Matt Kenseth Ends Brief Sabbatical
When Matt Kenseth’s services were no longer required at Joe Gibbs Racing, it appeared his NASCAR career was over. His time away was short-lived, though, as Kenseth is back in the garage in a part-time role with Roush Fenway Racing. He will split seat time with Trevor Bayne, who cannot be thrilled with losing his full-time status. Everyone has played nice so far, but I believe Bayne’s time at Roush is numbered.
For some, the rose may already be off the bloom given Kenseth’s less than stellar debut at Kansas. Just one week later, Kenseth put the No. 6 on the pole for the All-Star Race while teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. qualified second. Granted, All-Star qualifying is totally different from any other event and NASCAR was introducing a brand new aero package, but Kenseth’s presence is still a positive step in the right direction. He probably won’t win, but he wasn’t brought back to win. He’s there to help his new-old boss get his race team back among the elites.
-Air gun problems on pit road
-Austin Dillon gets the No. 3 car back in victory lane at Daytona
-Rear window infractions lead to stiff penalties for multiple race team
I’d love to hear your feedback. Do you agree with my top five? Or am I completely off my rocker?
Thanks for reading the NASCAR Fix!