Not Much Has Changed in 2015

Despite the wringing of hands and the nervous comments of many in fan forums, not much ever changes in NASCAR. The teams with great funding always rise to the top. That’s been the case since people began racing cars. It’s only four races into 2015, but no one can begin to predict how the season will go right now. Let’s look at the first four races of 2014 and compare them with 2015.

Last year, as you know, Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the Daytona 500. Score one for Hendrick Motorsports. Daytona is so different from the other tracks that one cannot make any judgments based on that, but this year it was Joey Logano. In both races, the winner could have been one of a dozen other drivers.

In 2014, they moved on to Phoenix and last year’s race looked a lot like this year’s race. Kevin Harvick won and was the class of the field, but while the top five were Chevrolets on Sunday, in 2014, the Penske cars were second and third while this year they were sixth and eighth. The next race in 2014 was Las Vegas when a leading Dale Earnhardt Jr. ran out of gas giving the win to Brad Keselowski. Joey Logano was in fourth and Carl Edwards finished fifth.

Finally, last year saw a real surprise in the fourth race. Carl Edwards won when a track worker accidentally leaned against a button in the flag stand that manually turns on the caution lights with three laps to go. That slowed the field and then came a cloudburst that stopped the race and gave the victory to Edwards. You really can’t predict who is going to win a Sprint Cup race, but I have to wonder if the rules changes for this year might have given some teams an unintentional advantage. Let’s go back to 2007 and the Car of Tomorrow.

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From the start, Chevrolet teams had a big advantage. Even though the car was only used in 16 races, the bow-tie bunch won 17 of the first 18 races. Jack Roush, then one of the better teams, and the best Ford team complained that Hendrick Motorsports had done testing when others did not. Regardless, by 2008, things had returned to normal with Ford, Dodge, and Toyota winning their share of races. The feeling here is that something similar is going on this year. As the season progresses, expect the teams behind to catch up to the teams dominating this year. One team was rumored to have been given a very expensive piece of equipment this year to set up their cars. The validity of this rumor cannot be determined, so form your own opinions on this.

One thing is certain. The Chevrolets of Hendrick Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing and their satellites are performing well. Team Penske’s Fords and Joe Gibbs’ Toyotas are a little behind Team Penske. Roush Fenway and Richard Petty Motorsports are far behind. That will change as the season progresses. Just like last year after four races, it appeared that Earnhardt was going to be the champion, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano would challenge, and Jimmie Johnson would make the final four. None of that happened. Calm down. The season is just beginning.

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Ron Fleshman has followed NASCAR racing since attending his first race at Martinsville Speedway in 1964. He joined the Motor Sports Forum on the CompuServe network in the 1980s and became a reporter for Racing Information Systems in 1994. In 2002, he was named NASCAR Editor for RIS when it appeared on the World Wide Web as www.motorsportsforum.com. He can now be found at www.ris-news.com. Ron is a member of the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association. You can find Ron following and reporting on the top three NASCAR divisions each week. As a lifer in his support of racing, he attends and reports on nearly 30 events a year and as a member of the motor sports media, his passion has been racing for 47 years. He lives with his family in rural West Virginia and works in the insurance industry when not on the road to another track.

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