The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finds it way to the final road race of the year one of the most exciting races in recent memory. The famed Watkins Glen International track has set the bar for excitement and drama, and this weekend figures to continue that when the Cheez-It 355 at the Glen is run. Continue reading “5 Questions Going Into Watkins Glen”
There is an old saying that what drivers hate, fans will love. Sunday afternoon’s qualifying for the starting two position of next week’s Daytona 500 proved that saying wrong. Both fans, drivers, and media alike classified the knockout qualifying rounds as “idiotic,” “dumb,” “the worst,” and “not even entertaining.” The only group that seemed to enjoy it was the FOX broadcast team who had to enjoy the ratings as fans watched in horror at what the Daytona 500 qualifying has become. Continue reading “Daytona Qualifying Disaster”
The champagne has dried from the celebration Saturday night in Richmond over the 16 drivers who got into the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Now comes the reality check that four of those drivers will be booted from the playoff bracket once the checkered flag falls at Dover in three weeks.
What’s exciting about this year’s Chase is the idea that even one bad run can be erased with a victory in the three race window. Not finish Chicagoland and win New Hampshire, then you’re cruising into the Contender (second) round. Finish near the top at Chicagoland and New Hampshire, then not finish Dover, and you could be on the outside looking in.
The opening round will be the easiest to make predictions on who will not move on, because like all sports it’s easy to identify the weak links. As you progress, the competition gets stronger and you’d be better off throwing a dart at a wall than make an educated guess.
Here’s my prediction on who will not make it out of the Challenger (first) round of the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup (no particular order, done alphabetical):
It has been a great year for Allmendinger and his JTG-Daugherty Racing team. They got the monkey off their back with a victory at Watkins Glen, which punched their ticket into the Chase. The problem is this single car team is despite all the support they get from Richard Childress Racing, it’s still David vs. Goliath for them. Allmendinger admitted after Richmond that he drove a less than good car that race because they were saving their best for these three races. I believe that their best is still light years behind the bests of other organizations. This is not a knock, but reality. That said, they have a lot to build on and hang their hat on for this season.
This paragraph is going to sound a lot like Allmendinger’s above, Almirola picked up the random win at the rain-shortened race at Daytona in July. He’s been good this season, but without the win, we wouldn’t be talking about him now. He’s in the Chase and anything can happen, but most likely he will run decent with others out pacing him each of the three weeks. He and his Richard Petty Motorsports team have much to build on with this and the rumored alliance with Team Penske in the future, but for now it’ll be a quick three races and back to reality for the team.
Biffle tried everything in his power to not be in the Chase on Saturday night. He finished 19th and was just horrible out there. In a race where they had it nearly locked up, but anything could have happened, Biffle and his Roush Fenway Racing team brought a knife to a gun fight. He had positive vibes after the Richmond race based on testing at Chicagoland earlier in the year. I’m calling bull on that and he’s been mid-pack most of the season. It won’t take long until he’s bounced out of the Chase and we’re left wondering what is wrong with Roush Fenway Racing once again, despite having two out of three cars in the Chase this season.
After racking up seven wins last season, how could Matt Kenseth have gone 26 races without a win? Well it happened, and Kenseth has been a slow sinking ship since the end of July. New Hampshire and Indianapolis saw back to back fourth place finishes. Then it was 38th at Pocono. He followed that with a ninth at Watkins Glen, then a 38th at Michigan. Bristol he was third, Atlanta he was second, and this past weekend he was 41st. That’s exactly how I opened this was someone doing well twice in a row, and then bombing out the third race. Without winning one of these races, I’m leaning towards it being a short post-season for Kenseth and his Joe Gibbs Racing bunch this year.
As the 2013 season winds down with just over two months left, most drivers have an idea of where they’ll be racing for the 2014 season. One driver who has yet to concretely answer that question is Sam Hornish, Jr.
Hornish is currently driving the NASCAR Nationwide Series for Penske Racing and is doing a great job currently leading the driver standings by 17 points over Austin Dillon. With a win to his credit this year, he’s finally performing at the potential team owner Roger Penske saw when he brought him over to NASCAR in 2008.
The problem was it was directly into the Sprint Cup Series without much preparation in the lower-tier Nationwide or Camping World Truck Series. The result was finishing 35th in points his first season (2008), he improved the next year (2009) to finish 28th in points, and then regressed finishing 29th the next season (2010).
At that point a sponsorship shortage forced Penske Racing to only run him in select Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series races. Focusing on only those few races on the Nationwide side, Hornish got a win in 2011 and six top-10 finishes in 13 starts.
He drove the full 2012 season in the Nationwide Series finishing fourth in points, while also driving 20 races in the Sprint Cup Series after AJ Allmendinger was released from the #22 car. Going into the offseason Hornish thought he had a great chance at getting that car, but instead Penske went with Joey Logano.
While it was a blow to his ego, he’s raced hard this year, and the results are showing. The problem is sponsorship issues are again coming up with the rumor being Penske will only run one Nationwide team next season. Currently it’s Hornish in the full-time ride, then Sprint Cup drivers Brad Keselowski, Logano, and a few other drivers have been running the #22 Ford, which could win the owner’s title.
Odds are they will want to not only keep campaigning Keselowski and Logano, whom have gotten the team seven wins this season, but also provide an opportunity for development driver Ryan Blaney to get some races in. If sponsorship isn’t found, then I can see Hornish as the odd man out once again. For as much as Roger Penske likes Hornish, he just can’t get sponsors to feel the same way.
Hornish’s name has come up recently as a driver for the #78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series. The rumor floating is there more interest from Hornish’s side than the team’s side. It’ll be interesting if they go the route of an experienced driver or a young driver and take their lumps.
I personally think Hornish deserves another chance in the Cup Series, it just might not be good to have it with Penske Racing. For all they’ve been through something is just keeping the combination from really clicking on the Cup side.