There are so many topics flying around in the world of NASCAR that I feel compelled to add my two cents.
Hey, with inflation that really isn’t enough, is it? So I’ll rescind the two cents and offer up $1.38.
**** Dale Earnhardt Jr. has quietly and systematically become the best performing driver at Hendrick Motorsports this season – well, so far, anyway.
He’s firmly in third place in NASCAR Sprint Cup points. In my opinion, it’s evident he’s focused, working hard, and, hopefully for all of his teammates and fans, determined to parlay his driving prowess into victories once again.
But until Earnhardt Jr. does win races – we’ll talk about championships later – I can’t call him the premier Hendrick driver. I don’t think anyone can.
With Jimmie Johnson in ninth place in points he is obviously far from out of contention. “Five Timer” will strike again. He’ll win races and – OK I’ll say it – more championships. He really is that good.
Jeff Gordon, a veteran with four championships and 85 career wins, still has something left.
Gordon is after his fifth championship and, whether or not he earns it, he will certainly be able to get more wins for his No. 24 team.
Which leads to this conclusion:
When your teammates have nine championships between them and you have none, well, you can’t be known as the “premier driver” in your stable.
And Earnhardt Jr. knows it.
But that does not mean I alter my opinion one bit. At least for this moment that is what he is.
***** Greg Biffle of Roush Fenway Racing is currently atop the leader board for a third week.
He’s won championships in the Camping World Truck Series and the Nationwide Series and he’s anxious to add Sprint Cup champion to his resume.
Possibly, it could possibly be this year, but my money is still on Carl Edwards or Matt Kenseth to bring home the trophy to “The Cat in the Hat,” team owner Jack Roush.
Presently, Edwards seems in a bit of a slump after the first five races.
I can’t help but wonder if last year’s disappointing finish, in which he lost the title to Tony Stewart in a tiebreaker – Edwards had fewer wins – has affected Edwards more than he has let on.
Coming into Martinsville Edwards is 12th in points. That’s enough for me to consider Edwards a valid contender for the championship – at least at this stage.
Kenseth started strong this season with a win in the Daytona 500. He’s currently fifth in points, a two-spot drop from last week.
Still, Kenseth, the man they call “The Silent Assassin,” is also a contender. In 2011 he had decent runs at tracks where he normally did not do well. If he can do that again it will show he is ready to put up a solid fight for the championship.
***** Defending champion Tony Stewart is living up to his nickname, “Smoke.” He is on fire right now. He’s won seven of the last 15 races, two of five this season.
That Steve Addington is on board as crew chief after Darian Grubb was let go doesn’t seem to have affected Stewart’s mojo.
If anything, he’s more fired up than ever this early in the season. But, I can’t help wondering, for a driver who was notoriously better in the warmer weather, will he be able to keep this domination throughout the 2012 season? Will he peter out as the season drags on?
I doubt it. I don’t know of another racer who drives as often as Stewart. He drives anything with wheels wherever he can – no matter what the purse.
Stewart may just be a repeat champion.
***** Bruton Smith has decided to “fix” Bristol Motor Speedway. There are many who rejoice in this news, but there are those who are disappointed.
The racing at Bristol, though not wreckfest-inducing lately, has routinely been the best on the circuit. But not everybody sees it that way. So Bristol will be mended.
Will it be for the better? We will have to wait and see.
***** Also reconfigured is the NASCAR Sprint Cup All-Star Race.
Segment winners will benefit. They will be the only ones in contention for the top four starting positions when the shootout begins.
For me, for decades the highlight has been this theatrical, dynamic, fun-infused All-Star event NASCAR holds each year in Charlotte.
This non-points race offers bragging rights and is a momentum builder for the Coca Cola 600 the following week. The announced new incentives should lead to altered strategies.
Which, in turn, could well lead to an overall a more exciting race with unpredictable results.
I admit it. I can’t wait to see what happens.
I don’t think I’m alone.