NASCAR Recap: NASCAR BANQUET

Courtesy: twitter.com/JoeGibbsRacing

Courtesy: twitter.com/JoeGibbsRacing

NASCAR’s elite made the trip to Vegas for the sport’s annual awards banquet. In between Drew Carey jokes and Tom Cruise appearances, there were plenty of winners and losers from the last week. Here’s a breakdown in this NASCAR recap.

Win: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Earnhardt Jr. won the NASCAR Most Popular Driver award over the weekend. The fact Earnhardt Jr. won isn’t a surprise. He’s won this award 13 consecutive years. That longevity deserves a few moments of perspective. Consider all the No. 88 has been through:

  • The split from DEI to Hendrick Motorsports
  • Initial struggles at Hendrick
  • Coming close to but never winning a Sprint Cup title

Earnhardt Jr. might have more pressure on him than almost any other driver in the garage. He’s built the No. 88 into a consistent contender that is Chase ready every year. Kudos to Earnhardt Jr. and his team for the work it took to sustain this award for more than a decade.

Lose: Darian Grubb

Remember when Tony Stewart won the Sprint Cup and parted ways with Grubb as his crew chief? It felt like a home run hire for Joe Gibbs Racing. Now, published reports say Grubb is out as Carl Edwards’ crew chief,  this after a two-year run with Denny Hamlin that delivered mixed results.

The Motorsport report suggests Dave Rogers will crew Edwards, with Mike Wheeler captaining Hamlin’s team.

Grubb has more than 20 wins to his credit, including a Dayton 500 when filling in for Chad Knaus. It would make sense for him to have a landing spot somewhere. Still it’s amazing what a four-year stretch he has been through with Stewart, Hamlin and Edwards. Maybe it’s worth taking a year off to right a book…

Draw: NASCAR

One on hand, it was pretty sweet to see Tom Cruise show up out of nowhere to introduce Jeff Gordon at the NASCAR banquet. Gordon’s speech was also quite moving.

So how in the world can this be a loss? Gordon is retiring. Tony Stewart will retire next year. Jeff Burton and Mark Martin recently called it quits. Earnhardt Jr. is NASCAR’S most popular driver and over 40. Jimmie Johnson just turned 40.

Those are some massive names. Granted, drivers can approach 50 and still get it done in NASCAR. But it’s surreal to see so many big names with few laps in front of them than behind them. It’s also fair to be curious about what names will assume the mantle of these racing legends. Certainly there are plenty of drivers with the potential; it will be curious to see how or if they make the most of the opportunity at hand.

NASCAR drivers and teams truly have some downtime. Enjoy the Sprint Cup siesta and insert a random catchphrase here.