Podcast: Play in new window | Download
Okay… another NASCAR Cup series season is in the books and, from this fan’s view, it has definitely been an interesting year. First of all, let me add my voice to the many in offering my congratulations to Martin Truex Jr. on his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Championship. There is no denying he deserved it and he definitely worked for it fending off a late race charge by Kyle Bush. Although he was the favorite of many to win the Championship there was no guarantee he would until he passed under the black and white checkered flag ending the Ford Ecoboost 400. Once again this season, the 2017 Champion had to win the race to win the Championship.
Considering the many changes to the format at the beginning of the season, it seems this format with its stage racing and the points doled out the way they were, fit the #78 team and Martin Truex Jr.’s style. Well, that and the fact that he won a bunch of the mile and a half races this season. He and his team definitely excelled in this format as well as the Joe Gibbs Toyotas on the season. Truly, they were a force to be reckoned with most of the season.
I have to admit I was not an immediate fan of the stage racing and chose to wait to make a decision about it until there were a few races in the books. Over the first part of the season I became a fan and it did do exactly what NASCAR, in its infinite wisdom, wanted it to do. It made the races more interesting because there was a reason for the drivers and teams to race hard for much more of the race than just the beginning and the end. Long before mid-season I was definitely a fan of the stage racing and once again had to admit NASCAR and the teams knew how to make things better. I’m not saying it was perfect, but it was a pleasant and refreshing addition to the sport.
There did seem to be a definite advantage for the Toyotas over the Chevys and Fords but I’m not sure whether it was because of an advantage toward the brand or just because the other teams were behind in discovering what could make them go faster. The reason for my uncertainty is because there was one Chevy that consistently ran good almost every weekend. Of course that was the Chevy of Kyle Larson from the Ganassi camp. He performed extremely well all season until bad racing luck caught up to him in the playoffs. After his first engine failure since entering the Cup series, it seemed they just couldn’t gain their momentum back.
Was the reason he was running better than other Chevys because his team had discovered how to make his Chevy go faster than the others or was it simply because of the talent of the driver? I don’t really have an answer for that question even though we know he is very talented but he and Martin Truex Jr. were able to consistently use this format and the lower downforce package to their advantage. Maybe it was because this package suited their driving style better than some. I don’t know about that but both did seem to have it all come together this season even though Larson had his problems in the playoffs and didn’t advance to the championship four. They weren’t the only ones but they are the two that stand out in my mind as being fast and running near the front by the end of the races almost every weekend.
The Fords were definitely better than the Chevys most of the season and especially at the end. It seemed to this fan they were offering the only real competition to the Toyotas on a regular basis except for that Chevy of Kyle Larson. Had it not been for the Fords and Kyle Larson, it would have pretty much been a Toyota year all round, especially from the middle of the season through the playoffs.
The biggest surprise to this fan was the lackluster performance of the Hendrick Chevys. Had it not been for the #24 team of Chase Elliott we wouldn’t have heard much from them at all. Even seven time champ, Jimmie Johnson, was a non-factor even though he made it to the playoffs although not the Championship Four. After a relatively good start to the year, the #48 team never seemed to get clicking on all cylinders. As Jimmie Johnson himself said, “we were just surviving,” and he was correct. They never looked good after the first part of the year. Had it not been for the steady performance of the #24 team and Chase Elliott the Hendrick teams would have had very little to remember this season other than it was not a good one.
So as the 2017 season disappears into the rearview mirror, a lot of changes are coming as we look forward to the 2018 season. Dale Jr. is through with regular competition as a driver. He will take part in some races but will not be competing on a regular basis. He will join the commentators in the booth and a lot of people are looking forward to that. Based on previous performance in certain situations, I know he will do a good job and will also bring his fans along for that part of his ride.
Just a quick note as I close. I am disappointed that the broadcasts are being used as a way to bring people over to the network sports networks. I liked it better when the coverage was on the main networks and I didn’t have to buy extra programming just to be able watch the races when not able to attend personally. Eventually that could be the thing that really causes the viewership to drop off or I could be totally mistaken and it could be that fans don’t mind paying extra to see a race other than at the tracks themselves. For now, I will pay the price but someday in the future I may have to make a choice and I know I won’t be alone in making it.
I’m still a big NASCAR fan and a racer at heart. Though the sport is changing and the familiar faces are beginning to fade or disappear, the new crop of drivers is good but it will take time for me as a fan to have new favorite or two. I’ll miss the familiar faces but willing to watch and see how the new personalities develop. After all, I had many favorites and non-favorites over past years and I don’t expect that to change any time soon.
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© November 25, 2017 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated