As NASCAR’s 2017 season heads into turn one, some patterns have emerged. As teams regroup, there’s no doubt that some are celebrating their good fortune thus far. Some are hoping the weekend off provided a chance to hit the reset button, and no doubt some, especially a good many fans, aren’t surprised, but disappointed at what has unfolded.
From this fan’s point of view, this is the good, the bad and ugly of NASCAR’s 2017…..so far.
The kids are alright- One of the major stories this far in 2017 is the rise of Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott towards the top of the leaderboard. It’s not every year that a phenom lives up to the hype, but these two twenty-somethings are delivering on their potential. They’re not alone. Ryan Blaney is bringing the Wood Bros. back in a big way. While they’re not making headlines every race- Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones- just to name two- are making steady, quiet growth.
Parity among the manufacturers- In a series where Chevrolet has been dominant, Ford is enjoying a strong start, thanks to Team Penske and a Daytona 500 win for Kurt Busch of Stewart-Haas Racing. While Toyota’s pre-eminent team- Joe Gibbs Racing has been slow out of the gate, Martin Truex Jr. has proven he’s no flash in the pan in his Furniture Row Camry. This isn’t Chevy is fading fast. Larson and Elliott are leading the bow tie brigade- as well as the series- then there’s the ever-looming Jimmie Johnson. It’s just nice to see a little competitive balance, instead of one make stinking up the show.
A Slow Start For JGR- This is more of a case of unmet expectations. It’s not like thee Joe Gibbs has been horrible. Kyle Busch has come close to wins, and Matt Kenseth is coming off a nice finish at Texas. That being said, who would have thought that at this point in the season, Coach’s gang would still be looking for their first win. The good news for JGR is there’s not real indication this is a sign they’ve lost their edge. Some organizations just go through a run of bad luck once in a while, and this is such a time for what has been one of the standard bearers for the sport.
The Show- They tweak with the points, introduce stage racing, and yet let’s face it, the racing is still pretty much more of the same. Many critics keep pointing at the nose and the splitter to deal with the dreaded “aero push.” It’s that. and a lot more. we hear a lot about the money involved in changing the car. Why didn’t they address that before they spent all their money on band aids?
Ratings tumble- Just when you think that NASCAR’s TV ratings couldn’t go any lower, the audience limbo continues. How low can you go? Apparently, NASCAR can still go lower. Yes, social media, and the ability to take in races in other mediums plays some part. A greater array of TV ratings also plays a part. Yes, TV ratings for other sports are also going lower. I just read today that ESPN is letting some 40 on-air personalities go. Wow! All that aside, NASCAR’s TV ratings can be better. It all comes down to the product. If the racing is reported to be good, fans will still watch.
Busch vs. Logano- Did you see Kyle Busch after that skirmish with Joey Logano’s crew? That was ugly. Those forehead cuts always make you look worse off than you are. This would have been a heck of a lot more entertaining if Busch and Logano were left to go mano a mano.
The good news is its a long season, so a lot of good can erase what has so far been a blase season. There are plenty of more stories to be written, and this commentator is looking forward to something a lot more compelling.