OPINION: Has the NASCAR season already run out of surprises?
A humorous factor occurred over the weekend as I took a uncommon break from NASCAR for one more expertise within the NHRA world. It meant paying no thoughts to what was happening in Dover with the Xfinity Sequence and Cup Sequence. With how busy I ended up being within the NHRA pit, I didn’t take note of social media, press conferences, or storylines.
And but, I didn’t miss a factor. Because the mud settled on Dover, it wound up being extra of what we’ve seen by way of the primary a part of the season. It didn’t take a lot time for me to make amends for the headlines.
The common season is beginning to fly by now, and the contenders and pretenders are clear.
The resurgence of Hendrick Motorsports continues, and I couldn’t be the one one stunned that the 1-2-3-4 end was the primary in firm historical past. Alex Bowman because the workforce’s first repeat winner? I didn’t see that coming both. However the No. 48 workforce is popping the ship round after a rocky begin the season the place the pace was there, however the execution was not.
All 4 vehicles are authentic contenders, one thing that hasn’t been the case for Hendrick shortly. And it bears repeating – William Byron and Rudy Fugle deserve extra consideration and respect than they’ve been getting. Byron now has 11 straight top-10 finishes, and this group believes the sky is the restrict.
Certain, Joe Gibbs Racing didn’t have one of the best of days in Dover, however that’s sure to occur. It’s a protracted season. Denny Hamlin continues to have a agency grip on the factors lead and declare of the regular-season title. He hasn’t gained a race, however there is no such thing as a manner he will be locked out all season with how the No. 11 workforce is operating. Gibbs is one other one which has 4 authentic contenders.
If the Hendrick and Gibbs groups are main the best way, Group Penske isn’t far behind. It’s not that far, both. Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, and Ryan Blaney all have gained and are conserving tempo with their rivals within the top-10 finishes class. A couple of extra dominating performances may assist sway the dialog on simply how robust the corporate is.
As you begin to look additional down the leaderboard, others are beginning to state their case for being within the playoff dialog. There have been 10 totally different winners in 13 races, and it stays unlikely there will probably be 16 or extra within the common season. Sorry to burst the bubble, nevertheless it’s simply not going to occur.
Take into consideration who’s left and not using a win. Chase Elliott, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin instantly come to thoughts. Wins from these three would convey it to 13 winners. From there, nobody else has confirmed they’re able to exit and flat-out take a victory.
Granted, something can occur. There are nonetheless some so-called wild card races developing, and lots of would level to the highway programs as COTA, Sonoma, Highway America, Watkins Glen, and Indianapolis all stay. However once more, with out one thing wonky occurring, who has proven sufficient to place religion of their capacity to beat the highest groups?
For argument’s sake, possibly a Richard Childress Racing automobile. They’re simply sneaky sufficient and have completed so earlier than within the common season. Don’t assume too exhausting; simply return to Texas final season with Austin Dillon and Tyler Reddick ending first and second. Reddick and his workforce have turned issues round shortly to climb into postseason competition, going from twenty eighth in factors after Atlanta to fifteenth getting into this weekend’s spherical at COTA.
Stewart-Haas Racing is working exhausting, and Harvick’s workforce exhibits indicators of life, however the different three are struggling. In the event you’re a Stewart-Haas fan, you would possibly wish to take a look at sending some fortunate charms to their Kannapolis, North Carolina store.
Kurt Busch is one hell of a wheelman however can solely accomplish that a lot. Busch’s Ganassi Chevrolet is simply not doing what he wants it to do, and he can’t compete with the likes of Hendrick, Gibbs, and even Harvick. This is likely to be the season the place it goes down the wire to see if Busch qualifies for the playoffs, as he’s 18th within the standings right here in mid-Might.
Who else? No-one setting the world on fireplace.
After Matt DiBenedetto and Wooden Brothers Racing put in such an ideal effort final 12 months of their first season collectively, the expectation was to choose up the place they left off. It’s been extra of a wrestle this season, and DiBenedetto has been extremely popular or chilly. Darrell Wallace Jr. and 23XI Racing have proven progress, however admittedly, I anticipated extra from them by this level. Chalk it as much as rising pains.
Ryan Newman and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. are additionally too inconsistent to make the case they’re severe contenders. Ross Chastain is there one weekend, after which it’s straightforward to neglect he’s competing the subsequent.
It was nice to begin the season with such parity, however issues are settling down and normalizing now. The highest contenders are not any shock; nonetheless, it’s attention-grabbing to see which one will get the higher hand every weekend. That features amongst teammates.
It was nonetheless enjoyable to take a inventory automobile break, and I’m trying ahead to the game doing one thing new this weekend at COTA. I simply count on that in the long run, issues will proceed to look simply as they’ve been.