Change in NASCAR is inevitable. From technological alterations enforced by the sanctioning body to the numerous driver-crew chief-team-sponsor shifts that are often so prominent in the off-season, nothing much stays the same.
So it is with the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. When it begins there will be plenty of new developments that will create the year’s new character – and make it quite different from 2014.
I’ve mentioned some of them – professional and personal – already. How will NASCAR rule changes affect competition? (Truthfully, that question can be asked during every off-season).
On the personal side among the inquiries were, how will health and legal issues affect Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch? Will Dale Earnhardt Jr. be successful with new crew chief Greg Ives?
Let’s talk some more about personal issues.
What has happened to Brian Vickers is more than a mere shame. It’s a condition that could not only affect his career, but also his very life.
Vickers, who drives for Michael Waltrip Racing, will not be available to race during the early part of the 2015 season. His body is rejecting an artificial patch that was inserted in 2010 to fix a hole in his heart.
He’s had corrective surgery to repair the hole and he’s begun the recovery process. He’ll need plenty of time, rest and rehab.
How much more can Vickers endure? You remember that a series of blood clots put him out of action just a very few years ago. By 2012, Vickers had joined MWR on a part-time basis and then became a full-time driver for the team in 2014.
Vickers was the 2003 Xfinity Series champion and in 58 races with MWR he’s finished among the top five eight times and 19 among the top 10. For his career, he has three wins and 12 poles in 316 starts.
The obvious question is what will MWR do during Vickers absence? Who will be selected as his relief driver – and how long will that driver remain with MWR? We don’t know the amount of time that Vickers will be on the sidelines.
But we have to ask the question, will Vickers be back at all? He’s dealt with blood clots – which can be deadly – and now the hole in his heart, which, I’m sure, any doctor will call very serious and, just perhaps, life-threatening.
I think nearly every fan will be pulling for Vickers. It’s clear that he has the determination needed to come back. After all, he’s done it before.
Vickers has already said the setback will not stop him from pursuing his dream of a Sprint Cup title.
That’s just the attitude he needs.
Carl Edwards has moved to Joe Gibbs Racing after 10 years with Roush Fenway Racing. The question is, can he be as successful as Matt Kenseth, who signed with JGR in 2013 following his long tenure with Roush.
As you remember, Kenseth won seven races with Gibbs in his first year. Believe me, that doesn’t happen very often at all with a new driver-team association.
But I think it’s logical to assume Edwards may be a multiple winner in 2015. And the implementation of the new Chase format has made it more feasible for a new driver-team to achieve consistency.
Frankly, I think Edwards has a better chance to be successful in 2015 simply because the Gibbs team has been significantly more competitive than the Roush organization.
NASCAR has announced new eligibility requirements for the 2015 Sprint Unlimited at Daytona. Among the entries will be all 16 drivers who participated in the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup.
There are other eligibility rules, such as 2014 pole winners, former Sprint Unlimited winners, past Daytona 500 pole winners who competed on the full schedule last year, etc., etc.
It practically takes your breath away. At present there are 25 Sprint Unlimited entries.
There’s been some grousing that these new eligibility rules were created for the sole purpose of putting Danica Patrick, a former Daytona 500 pole winner, into the field.
Well, so what? The Sprint Unlimited means nothing as far as the 2015 season goes. It awards no points. It’s an exhibition race and as such, who cares which drivers – and how many of them – compete?
Ask me, the more the merrier.
As for Patrick, she’s in her third year with Stewart Haas Racing. She will be expected to show progress. She has to finish among the top 10 with regularity and not crash as frequently.
To do so will bode well for her when her contract expires at the end of 2015.