Photo Credit – Getty Images
Now that I have a full cup of motivation in front of me, and a few minutes away from a basketball court, we will delve into the NASCAR race at Las Vegas later today.
The Youth Movement continues unfettered as Ryan Blaney will start from the pole, his first ever.
In a Ford.
The top three starters are in Fords, including last week’s winner Kevin Harvick, and Kurt Busch.
Six of the top ten cars at the start are Fords. Toyota was the car to beat last season, and they have only two in the top ten (defending champion Martin Truex Jr. from the outside of row two, and Erik Jones from 9th).
Only two Chevrolets are in the top starting ten in Kyle Larson from fifth, and Chase Elliot from sixth. Larson won the Xfinity Series race at Vegas on Saturday.
The biggest story making it’s way around Vegas is that this week’s race is a great testing session for the the playoff race at Vegas later in the season (this season NASCAR added a second race at Vegas). The prevailing question is just how much information can be gleaned from a race in March for a race that is run in mid-September with differing temperatures which effect track surfaces differently.
The Jimmie Johnson Watch has us checking in on JJ as he goes from the inside of row seven. Johnson is a seven time series champion, and the only driver to ever win five straight titles. JJ finished 10th in points last season, and has finished out of the top 25 in the first two races this season. Do not let yourself be lulled into thinking that Johnson is not motivated to win his eighth title.
Once again we will see a smaller car count with just 37 cars starting at Vegas. Obviously the cost of fielding a race team has had an impact on car counts. It is happening at every track, and at every level as the cost of competing continues to rise.
At last week’s race at Atlanta we saw the smallest field of cars at a NASCAR race in 20 years with 39.
In 2016 NASCAR implemented a “charter system” for owners that guarantees a set number of teams will qualify for a race, which will leave only so many spots open for non-chartered teams to attempt to qualify.
Charter teams also share in revenue, depending upon performance, which is much higher than the share for non-chartered teams.
Of course this system has led to teams selling/leasing their charters to other teams.
There are 36 charters, and a maximum of 40 cars allowed to start a race. That leaves just four spots for a non-chartered team to try to make a race.
I think that the charter system, combined with the over-codification of the rules, has put teams in a position to either fold, or try to race at alternative levels to remain viable.
We will keep our eye on that situation.
So who do I think will end up in Victory Lane at Vegas? My predicted winner knows the track well, and has won their four times since the first in 1998. He won three straight races (back when they started 43 cars). He is due, and will find his way to the front – Jimmie Johnson in a Monte Carlo.
Kevin Harvick won his first race in NASCAR’s premiere division at Atlanta, in just his third start back in 2001. Harvick took over the spot vacated by the death of Dale Earnhardt at that year’s Daytona 500.
Who can forget the tribute “Happy” gave to Earnhardt when he held up three fingers during his victory lap after the race. I never will.
Harvick waited 19 years to be able to pay homage to Dale once again at the track that started it all for him when he won Atlanta last week in dominating fashion.
Harvick led 181 of 325 laps on his way to the checkers, and was one of three Stewart-Haas cars that finished on the top three: Clint Bowyer finished third, and Kurt Busch finished eighth).
Whether you liked Earnhardt or not is irrelevant to who he was, what he meant to the sport, and to whom he will forever be immortalized as.
A shout out to DIRTcar driver Stewart Friesen on his fifth place finished at Vegas in the truck series.
Friesen has been racing at local dirt tracks in the Northeast for many years, and is competing in the NASCAR truck series. This was his second straight top ten finish, and he went from the outside of the front row.
This is not race related, but I want to send positive thoughts and vibes to not only former Buffalo Bills QB, and NFL Hall Of Famer Jim Kelly, but to EVERYONE who is battling this dreaded disease which a scourge upon mankind.
Well, my cup is empty, and so too is my motivation. Until next time, keep it shiny side up.