The Final Word – Earnhardt and Keselowski rule Cup, Cup guys rule Nationwide and SHR is run out of Vegas

Three races in, and the story of the 2014 Cup season is the success of Dale Earnhardt Jr. He wins at Daytona, finishes second in Phoenix, and a hiccup in his fuel pick up was all that kept him from victory at Las Vegas. That and Brad Keselowski. Still, take a gamble, have it turn sour, and still come home second is not all that bad.

As for Brad, he joins Junior and Kevin Harvick atop the standings with a win apiece. He was in the front row when it started, again, and saw his season output now read as an almost as sizzling third, to third, to first. It would almost seem that this season’s early winners are also the most charmed, or simply the best out there. Almost.

That brings up to Kevin Harvick. His Phoenix victory came off a 13th place result at Daytona, which led into a 41st place conclusion in Las Vegas. Talk about rolling craps, and I’m not even referring to the dice game. Among the Stewart-Haas quartet, Harvick was the lone bright spot, even led for 23 laps. Then he broke his left front wheel hub and that made driving just a bit difficult. It is much easier when all the wheels on the car go round and round, and one did not really want to.

You know your operation had a bad day when Danica Patrick, at 21st, was your best finisher. SHR saw Kurt Busch come home 26th three laps down. As for Tony Stewart, he was four off and 33rd. Even Patrick had a better car than these two right out of the gate. Hell, you probably have a better contender sitting in your driveway right now.

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Life has been good for both Hendrick and Penske. While Keselowski was winning, team mate Joey Logano was fourth, just as he was last week, to go with an 11th at Daytona. Junior’s trophied mates also have been hot to start. Jimmie Johnson matched his Phoenix finish by finishing sixth, to go with Daytona’s fifth place result. Jeff Gordon went from fourth, to fifth, to “slumping” to ninth at Las Vegas. Still, it is early and there are others in the neighborhood who hope to raise some arguments of their own as they head to Bristol.

Regan Smith continues to lead the Nationwide ladder. After winning at Daytona, he has come up with Top Tens the past two events. That is good. That makes him relevant. That should give him TV time. So, does anyone give a damn that the past two events have been won by Cup drivers Kyle Busch and Keselowski? I mean, I give his crew credit for getting his car back in contention on Sunday, but it is hard to be impressed when a former Cup champion kicks ass against an under-funded, less experienced field. Cup drivers took five of the six top spots. Only Keselowski deserved any face time, and I am not even sure about that.

If they wanted to talk to the relevant guys who took part on Saturday, you can give Keselowski a moment to celebrate his win, then move on to the fifth place Chase Elliott, Brian Scott in seventh, Trevor Bayne in eighth, and the over-all leader in Smith. You know, those who are actually running for a championship, those who are trying to work their way up, not just slumming to make the track owners and some sponsors happy.

Those who matter would include…

 

Driver

Races

Win

T5

T10

Points

Diff

1

  Regan Smith

3

1

1

3

117

 —

2

  Trevor Bayne

3

0

1

3

114

-3

3

  Elliott Sadler

3

0

1

2

108

-9

4

  Ty Dillon

3

0

0

2

105

-12

5

  Chase Elliott

3

0

1

2

103

-14

In short, let the Cup guys run but if they do not win, they do not matter. Put the focus on those in Nationwide who do. Just a thought.

Bristol is next up on the calendar for this weekend. Two springs ago Elliott Sadler won the Nationwide race there. Joey Logano won it that fall. Kyle Busch has won five of the past seven, including season sweeps in 2011 and last season. Whoop-de-bloody-do.

Kyle has won four of the past ten Cup races there, as well, though none of the past five. Matt Kenseth hopes to repeat from the fall, Kasey Kahne from last spring, Denny Hamlin from before that, and Keselowski had back-to-backs before being shut out these past three. Usually the winner at Bristol is someone who matters, someone with title thoughts on his mind. More than likely, he will come from our sweet 16…

 

Driver

Races

Win

T5

T10

Points

Diff

1

  Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

3

1

3

3

133

— 

2

  Brad Keselowski

3

1

3

3

132

-1

3

  Kevin Harvick

3

1

1

1

83

-50

4

  Jimmie Johnson

3

0

1

3

117

-16

5

  Joey Logano

3

0

2

2

116

-17

6

  Jeff Gordon

3

0

2

3

115

-18

7

  Matt Kenseth

3

0

0

2

105

-28

8

  Carl Edwards

3

0

1

2

105

-28

9

  Denny Hamlin

3

0

1

1

101

-32

10

  Ryan Newman

3

0

0

2

97

-36

11

  Kyle Busch

3

0

0

1

95

-38

12

  Jamie McMurray

3

0

0

1

93

-40

13

  Greg Biffle

3

0

0

1

86

-47

13

  Austin Dillon

3

0

0

1

84

-49

15

  Kasey Kahne

3

0

0

1

83

-50

16

  Casey Mears

3

0

0

1

80

-53

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