Coming out of Turn One, the 2014 season is fish tailing a bit, keeping it off the walls, but loose as a long-necked goose. Like it is with any season, there’s been a mix of the sweet and a dash of the sour.
The Monkey Is Off His Back- Being a member of “Junior Nation” has been a lot like being a Chicago Cubs fan in recent years, complete with lots of heart break and requiring the patience of Job. Earnhardt has rewarded his fans’ loyalty and silenced his critics, starting the season with a win in the Daytona 500, and following it up with consistent performance.
Youth Is Served- A bumper crop of fresh prospects are taking NASCAR by storm. Kyle Larson is exceeding expectations in the Cup Series, while Chase Elliott is burning it up in the Nationwide Series. Bubba Wallace and Daniel Suarez are working their way up the ladder, adding a diverse touch. Add to that names like Dillon, Bowman, and Whitt among others- and there’s a strong field of phenoms building new fan bases.
Feeling Racy- Others may feel differently, but from here, the racing has generally been pretty good. We’re seeing more real passes for the lead, and fewer races either settled on pit road or on gas mileage. To be sure, some intermediates suffer by comparison to the short tracks, but it has improved.
Who’s In First?- Factually speaking, Jeff Gordon is in first, but who is the front runner right now for the title? It’s anyone’s game. Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano lead in wins, but You wouldn’t call them dominant. Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth leads in points, but neither have any wins. Jimmie Johnson is winless, Tony Stewart is off to a slow start, Kyle Busch is relatively quiet. Who will emerge to win it all remains to be seen, and could keep us on the edge of our seats clear down to Homestead.
Nature Is A Mother- Two major dates are the Daytona 500 and the spring race at Bristol. Mother Nature rained on the parade. 2014 has offered its share of nasty weather, and has not enhanced the race going nor race watching experience.
TV Coverage- In spite of the racing, there has been no flocking to the television sets to catch it. Some may disagree, but FOX’s coverage of NASCAR is tired, and for the most part unpopular. All the channel switching during rain delays has gone over about as well as flatulence in church. It’s broken and needs fixing. Suffice it to say, there are also more than a few who find no relief in TNT’s summer coverage. Often, their productions look like a dart without feathers.
Stars’ Sluggish Starts- Tony Stewart may be back on the track, but it’s been hard to notice. Overall, Stewart-Haas Racing is off to an uneven start. Sure, Harvick may have two wins, but his place in the standing tells you his equipment has let him down a time or two. Same for Kurt Busch, who has a win but is mired in 25th. And Danica Patrick? We just won’t go there.
Denny Hamlin currently sits in a middling 14th (low by Denny standards), Clint Bowyer is mired in 20th, and Kasey Kahne is slogging along in 22nd. Martin Truex Jr.’s fresh start at Furniture Row hasn’t gone as hoped.