It’s easy to be negative about everything in NASCAR. If that statement is ever doubted, just take a look at the stands on any given race day. It’s become so difficult to have a sellout race that some tracks like Atlanta and Charlotte are removing entire seating sections, and Loudon has even lost a race date.
However, it’s not all drudge and depression; there are many things to be excited about in regards to the upcoming NASCAR season.
The outcry when NASCAR announced that the races in the main touring divisions (Monster Energy Cup, XFINITY, Camping World Truck) would be broken into stages in 2017 was met with a mostly negative reaction. Several fans pointed out that this was another gimmick in a line of foolish, pointless, ill-defined gimmicks that NASCAR was throwing at a deeper issue.
Instead, we were faced with some of the best, wildest racing product we never expected. The season started off with a wild Daytona Speedweeks, where the victors (CWTS – Kaz Grala, XFINITY – Ryan Reed, Monster Energy Cup – Kurt Busch) were not only unexpected but were won with racers that looked ready for the scrap heap (Maybe not Grala, as he kept a pretty clean nose throughout 2017). Other spectacular races included the Fall Martinsville event, which to sum up in a word was wild, and the Fall nailbiter at Phoenix, where Matt Kenseth scored a farewell win in his final full-time season.
With a season of Stage Racing come and gone, we’re now left with the hope that NASCAR can find a way to transcend the excellence of 2017’s racing product and top it with another year of great racing.
It’s an old topic revisited: Young Guns. Once upon a time, guys like Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were labeled as some of NASCAR’s youngest, most marketable drivers. But at the end of 2017, there were five Daytona 500 wins and eight championships among those three alone. Other drivers such as Kasey Kahne, Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman, and Matt Kenseth have all been to Victory Lane at Daytona, Indy, Charlotte, Darlington, and even in the Champion’s Circle at Homestead. This means that a changing of the guard is imminent, considering that yesterday’s Young Guns are now today’s Old Guys; they are beginning to retire en masse, with Earnhardt and Kenseth joining former champions Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon on the retired list.
Of course, there’s now William Byron, Bubba Wallace, and Ray Black Jr. to look forward to, joining the ranks of superstars like Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, and Kyle Larson. Alex Bowman can’t be forgotten; he’s gone from nobody to somebody in the sport as he has taken over the No. 88 This front is the future of NASCAR, and it promises to be good.
Okay, so things may be a touch too gimmicky. But that didn’t make the 2017 Playoffs any less enjoyable. Granted, there were far too many moving pieces in the points, and as a result, we only got a basic, rudimentary sense of what was going on. Still, once the Playoffs started it was rife with drama as we watched, waited, and saw who was in and who was out. As a result, did anyone expect Kyle Larson to be eliminated after the second round? Or Kevin Harvick, who had a somewhat mellow first season with Ford Racing, to make it to Homestead?
Granted, from the start we knew Martin Truex Jr. was going to be tough to beat, and given the Toyota Racing power his Furniture Row Racing team has, he’ll be tough to beat again in 2018. But it’ll be fun to watch the Playoff roulette wheel spin for the season’s final 10 races.
Camaro Joins Cup Series
This promises to be awesome. After years of Luminas, Monte Carlos, Impalas, and the SS, Chevrolet will now be fielding Camaros in the Cup Series after several years in the XFINITY Series. Whereas the XFINITY Series has been the scene for the age-old rivalry of Camaro vs. Mustang, it’ll be nice to see the transition begin in the Cup Series as the wicked-looking Camaro takes to the high-banks of Daytona.