Sunday, November 23, 2014

Final thoughts on the NASCAR season

kevin harvick wins sprint cup championship 2014

First off -- congrats to Kevin Harvick for winning the 2014 Sprint Cup Championship.

If you've followed NASCAR for any length of time, you may be familiar with Harvick's tumultuous time at RCR. There's tons of audio of Richard Childress yelling at Harvick during the races when Kevin was bitching about his cars. My favorite is Childress telling Harvick to just shut the f*ck up and drive the damn car. heh

Harvick's move to SHR was a blessing and as promised it brought him a championship. Along with Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, Harvick was a dominant driver all season long.

I'll be interested to see what happens at Stewart-Haas for next season. Harvick was a man among boys over there. Kurt Busch did okay, but was wildly inconsistent. At year's end, they swapped entire teams -- cars and everything, between him and Danica, to try and find something. Busch seemed to do okay in her stuff, but Danica went straight down driving in Busch's setups.

These guys need to take a page out of Rick Hendrick's book and get all the crews on the same page. Btw, it was nice to see a SHR driver beat the Hendrick juggernaught with their own equipment. Again. heh

But back to my point yes, I was making one Harvick's crew chief clearly found something in their set up that made them really dominant all season long. They have to spread that tech around. Tony Stewart needs to find the right crew chief to work with. And they've got to get Danica up towards the front on a regular basis. I believe she has the driving chops to be up there, but something's holding her back. In a garage full of alpha male drivers who aren't known for being shrinking violets on the track, perhaps she can pick up some of that hard-nosed edge that she may be lacking to enforce her will on the track.

As to the Championship itself -- despite my buddy at work's disdain, the new format gave NASCAR exactly what it wanted. Drama. And tension. We haven't seen tempers flaring like that, on a race-to-race basis . . . ever in my memory of the sport. Plus the guys were driving harder than ever too. Watching Jimmy Johnson weaving his car from top to bottom of the track in that final elimination race (for him) was something we never see from the cool and calm Johnson.

I doubt NASCAR will alter the format. The fans were energized (I think Homestead was the only track to sell out all season), non-fans were peeking in to see what the hub bub was all about and could follow the simple set-up -- first driver among the four to cross the finish line wins the Championship. No tedious points or trying to count how many cars each had passed, etc. And no one tooling around the track with their arm out the window knowing all they had to do was finish the race and they had the title. It was simple and it worked.

And the drivers were exhausted at race and season's end. Hamlin and Logano looked pale and washed out like they had just run marathons during pit road interviews after the race. Tough break for Logano to lose his shot at the championship on a pit road snafu. Look to see that jack man working at a dirt track next year. Also, not surprising to see Hamlin lose on strategy. Folks seem to forget that Darian Grubb was fired by Tony Stewart after his championship season because of all the races he lost on strategy plays by Grubb. Also useful to remember here is that Grubb came to SHR from Hendrick Motorsports in the deal that gave SHR motors and chassis for their teams. If Rick Hendrick thinks a guy is the fifth best engineer/crew chief in his garage, that sort of means something.   just sayin'

NASCAR is of course tweaking the cars for next season. Lowering horsepower and decreasing the rear spoiler height (supposedly to compensate) which they say will level the playing field a bit. They've also outlawed private testing at tracks to stop monied teams for doing extra testing during the season. Don't know how that will all play out. But this season worked out okay, and I'm certainly looking forward to next year.

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