By winning in Kentucky on Saturday night, Kurt Busch and his Ganassi Racing team solidified the speculation that the Chevy teams in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series have returned to competitive form.
This, after a disastrous 2018 for the manufacturer that only saw two drivers win four races (Austin Dillon – 1, Chase Elliott – 3) and a long dry spell in 2019 broken up by Elliott’s win at Talladega before winning three straight (Alex Bowman – Chicagoland, Justin Haley – Daytona, Busch – Kentucky).
Elliott’s win seemingly opened a stretch where it appeared that Chevrolets were finally on the verge of turning things around. At Talladega, six of the top-10 drivers were Chevrolet drivers, including runner-up Bowman and rookies Ryan Preece and Daniel Hemric, both of whom finished in the top-five. Bowman would score two more runner-up finishes in the next two races before scoring a seventh at Charlotte. He scored another top-10 at Michigan before scoring his big win at Chicagoland.
Elliott has also had several stout runs since winning at Talladega, following it up with four straight top-fives. He’s since run into some issues, but the finishes aren’t indicative of his No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts team’s performance. Meanwhile, Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron is having a strong sophomore season, scoring three poles and six top-10s in 2019, including a runner-up finish at Daytona last weekend.
Speaking of Daytona, five of the top-10 finishers were Chevrolet drivers including race winner Haley. As a matter of fact, the top-four finishers were Chevrolets (Haley, Byron, Jimmie Johnson, Ty Dillon). Although rain played a factor in calling the race, Chevrolets did seem to have the field in hand, leading 60 of the 127 laps run, including 46 by Austin Dillon.
Although he sits 13th in points, Kurt Busch’s teammate Kyle Larson has also rattled off some strong runs, including a win in the non-points All-Star race at Charlotte. He’s scored a pole (Sonoma), three top-fives, and seven top-10s, but four DNFs have kept the No. 42 Ganassi Racing team from truly scoring the results the team deserves. Meanwhile, the No. 1 team has been a consistent force on a weekly basis, scoring four more top-fives and 10 more top-10s to go along with his Kentucky win.
All of this is in contrast to some of the teams that were dominant one year ago, notably Stewart-Haas Racing. SHR Fords won 12 races in 2018, but are winless so far in 2019. Compared to the win total of teams like Hendrick, who was winless at this point a year ago, ditto Ganassi, and it’s safe to say the Chevrolet camp has caught up and are now actually competing with the Fords and the Toyotas.
Granted, there are hurdles to cover, such as the 10 wins from Joe Gibbs Racing and the five wins from Team Penske. But Chevrolet has started a trend in 2019, and if it keeps up the momentum it has been building during the spring/summer stretch, names like Larson, Elliott, and Byron could find Victory Lane before season’s end. There may even be a glimpse of a certain seven-time Cup champion parking it in the Winner’s Circle. Time will tell for sure heading into Loudon next weekend.