NASCAR's spring break: Highs and not-so-highs

Eight races into the NASCAR Sprint Cup season, and there's good news for some drivers and teams, bad news for others

Eight races into the 36-race season, maybe it’s time to take a quick look at the highs and lows of NASCAR Sprint Cup racing so far. Overall, signs are positive, but it isn’t all good news. Let’s look at what is, and what isn’t:

Good news: Eight races, seven winners.

But: And none of them are named Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon or Matt Kenseth – though Gordon and Kenseth are first and second in points. It’s way too early to panic for these drivers and their fans, but who would have thought Joey Logano would get a win before Johnson?

Race winner Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Race winner Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

High: Kevin Harvick is the only repeat winner, with two victories.

But: Harvick is 22nd in points. Sure, he’s in the Chase, but he and his team can’t be happy stuck two points behind Casey Mears.

High: Stewart-Haas Racing has three victories with Harvick and Kurt Busch, in a season where many of us predicted a very difficult start.

But: Owner Tony Stewart isn’t one of them, but he is showing signs of getting back in the groove. The fourth driver, Danica Patrick, must pick up the pace. Those of us who have defended her – and I’m one, but the ranks are thinning – have said that this is the season where she HAS to get some genuine, earned top 10 finishes, but she’s stuck back in 26th in the points. And finally, Kurt Busch may have a win, but he’s back in 29th in the points, with three DNFs.

High: Dale Earnhardt, Jr., in his number 88 National Guard Chevrolet, is on a roll we haven’t seen since his Nationwide days, and that’s nothing but good news for NASCAR.

Trouble for Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Trouble for Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

Photo by: Getty Images

But: While Hendrick Motorsports teammates Earnhardt, Gordon and Johnson are in the top five in points, the fourth member, Kasey Kahne, is 23rd in points, with two top 10 finishes, no top 5’s. With Chase Elliott winning the last two Nationwide series races in a row, and with Elliott signed to Hendrick – though he’s driving for Earnhardt’s JR Racing right now – at what point does Kahne need to start worrying? Sure, contracts are involved – and Kahne has one through 2015 – but we all know contracts in NASCAR might as well be written on an Etch-a-Sketch machine.

High: Both Penske drivers, Logano and past champion Brad Keselowski, already have wins. With Roush driver Carl Edwards’ victory, that’s three for Ford, four for Chevrolet.

But: Toyota has only one win so far, Kyle Busch’s victory for Joe Gibbs. But brand parity still seems pretty even, with Gibbs teammate Matt Kenseth second in points. Does anyone else miss Dodge? Four manufacturers seemed, well, about one-fourth more interesting. Chevy, by the way, is first in manufacturer standings with 359 points, then Ford with 342, and Toyota with 321.

High: A solid Cup start for Kyle Larson, 14th in the points with two top fives, four top 10 finishes.

But: This has to be putting a little pressure on veteran Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Jamie McMurray – he is 20th in the points, with just two top 10s. And last year’s top rookie, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., is back in 25th in points, with one top five, two top 10s.

High: It’s been a good start for Ryan Newman, booted from the Stewart-Haas team, then hired by Richard Childress Racing to take Jeff Burton’s place. One spot behind in points is teammate Austin Dillon, who only has one top 10, but has no DNFs. These Dillon brothers are for real.

But: Not a good start for Martin Truex, Jr., who moved from Michael Waltrip Racing to take Kurt Busch’s spot at the one-car Furniture Row Racing team. Truex is 28th in points, and can’t seem to buy a break.

Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet
Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet

Photo by: Covy Moore

High: Fifty-seven drivers have earned Cup points, with 36 drivers making all eight races so far.

But: That number may drop with the news that Swan Racing is in trouble, and the futures of drivers Cole Whitt (33rd in points) and Parker Kligerman (38th in points, the lowest of any driver to have competed in all eight races) is in question. Kligerman has four DNFs. Having young drivers like Whitt and Kligerman is great if you have the resources to give them time to learn the cars and the tracks – and the money to fix the crashed cars that are part of that learning experience – but apparently Swan doesn’t. Who’s next?

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Stewart-Haas Racing , Richard Childress Racing , Furniture Row Racing , Hendrick Motorsports , Michael Waltrip Racing
Article type Analysis
Tags dale, earnhardt, jeff gordon, jimmie, johnson, kahne, nascar, nationwide, sprint cup