Here are the team rankings for the start of the 2017 season. The rankings are made up of a crazy formula I created along with opinions on what is going on. For the preseason rankings, the end of last year along with performance during the first half of Speedweeks factors into the decision.
If you look past the final standings last year, both Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano had fantastic years. Logano picked up where he left off by winning the Clash last weekend and signing a contract extension. Keselowski was strong in the Clash and is an early Daytona 500 favorite.
The big worry for SHR was how the transition to Ford would affect them. Just a week in and it does not appear to be an issue, and I figured that from the start. They have solid drivers and solid crew chiefs working for them, so it is no surprise. Heck, Clint Bowyer even looks like he knows how to drive again after two years in purgatory.
Sure losing Carl Edwards will hurt in the short term, but JGR is too deep to be counted out. They still have Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth to power them along. Even with Daniel Suarez needing time to get used to the Cup Series, it shouldn’t be long before he’s up front with them.
Fresh off a record tying 7th championship, Jimmie Johnson looks anything but championship material so far during Speedweeks. While teammates Chase Elliott and Dale Earnhardt Jr receive the accolades for starting on the front row, Johnson seems lost. But it is much too early to count him or his team out of it. And then there’s Kasey Kahne, who will put up a good finish here and there, but time might be ticking on his tenure at HMS.
It will be interesting to see how a long time one car team acclimates to being a two car operation. I like Cole Pern trying to push the envelope, but penalties for him trying to outsmart NASCAR might cost the team long term. How they handle Erik Jones is another mystery, he’s a talented kid, but can have moments of immaturity. Most assume this is a one year gig for Jones, but it might be longer if JGR can’t free up a ride.
Kyle Larson finally got over the hump of not winning a race last season, but knows he has to pick it up in 2017 to keep more the critics quiet. Jamie McMurray has shown muscle during Speedweeks so far, but needs to remind Chip Ganassi why he’s paying him to drive this season.
I don’t think RCR is looking at 2017 as make or break, but I’m pretty sure it will be. No worries about Austin Dillon leaving and they just re-signed Ryan Newman, but Paul Menard is on a year to year contract. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s bounced for Ty Dillon in 2018.
I feel like the Wood Brothers should be higher up, but their problem is great runs get constantly negated by bad luck. It’s not their fault or driver Ryan Blaney’s, it’s just a matter of closing the deal more often that is holding them back.
Down to two teams for ’17, a slimmed down Roush might be what can help this team rebound to the top. That and possibly driver changes, there’s not much shown for Ricky Stenhouse Jr and Trevor Bayne to say they will elevate this team.
I like that they downsized to one team, because clearly two was not working, especially when there wasn’t enough sponsorship to go around. Despite his win at Daytona years ago, I’m not sure Aric Almirola is the answer to make RPM relevant again.
I’m still confused by the fact David Ragan didn’t take the 34 like he drove before he left Front Row Motorsports. Putting him in the 38 and Landon Cassill in the 34 just bothers me. Trying to keep from that slanting my view, these two will do decent with the team, but nothing more than flashes in the pan.
Like Furniture Row, it’ll be interesting to see how this team handles expanding to two cars. They have started off bad by getting both cars disqualified from their respective Duels due to rule infractions. It seems Chris Buescher is just a yearlong rental, so it’ll be up to AJ Allmendinger to build some momentum for 2018.
The team finally took a step forward by demoting Casey Mears and bringing in a young talent in Ty Dillon. One could argue that it’s just a fourth Richard Childress Racing entry, and I won’t deny that. Like many before, Dillon is not the long term solution for this team, so the year should be interesting to say the least.
Cole Whitt is back with TriStar Motorsports and off to a good start by scoring a point in yesterday’s Duel. I’m sure, outside of plate tracks, we won’t see Whitt near the front, but it’s nice to dream sometimes.
Matt DiBenedetto has kept his nose clean so far in Speedweeks and that will be a common theme for the season. He can get the job done when the car is under him, it’ll just be hit or miss if that happens this year.
Michael McDowell and company are quietly going about their business and should see some good results even now and again. Like Go FAS Racing, they will compete, just not on any regular basis.
Such an interesting team, they claim to be running full out this season, but history shows that might not be the case. They’ll need Jeffrey Earnhardt to bring more to the table than a famous last name, things like talent and money.
18 BK Racing
One could argue that intentionally wrecking a driver to make the Daytona 500 is quintessential NASCAR racing. And that’s it, one person is arguing that point and that is punter Corey LaJoie. I didn’t see that move as doing all it takes, I saw it as dirty pool. Hey, he made the 500 and BK Racing will need that extra cash for all the cars he, Joey Gase, and Gray Gaulding will wreck this year.
The positive mark for Premium is they got one car in the show, even though I’m sure nothing but the steering wheel will come back after Mikey’s done with it. Reed Sorenson got the short end of the stick in the Duel, but I’m sure when Derrike Cope takes over at Atlanta good things will happen. Maybe they’ll get more than the steering wheel back.
20 Gaunt Brothers Racing
It’ll be interesting to see how this team does with its musical chairs of drivers for the season, especially since most of them leave you wonder ‘they still race?’ Anyone who dips into the Stanton Barrett pool of drivers is just going out there for show.
21 Beard Motorsports
Good effort in the first time out for this team, they make the 500 and that’s something they can hang their hats on. Beyond that, I don’t see this team being competitive unless there’s a 30 car pileup.
I give them A for effort on getting to the track, but I give them an F for what they did when they got there.