Monday, February 5, 2018

Sorting Through the Debris Left from NASCAR Silly Season

So, it's only 13 days until the Daytona 500.  Do you even have a clue who is driving which car this year?  Even with extremely popular young drivers enjoying a year of media-driven frenzy behind them, it's not going to be a walk through the park to find your new favorite among the starting lineup on February 18th.

Here's a quick rundown of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series cars that have new pilots behind the wheel this year. We'll check up with familiar faces in their regular rides as the season goes on.

  Chase Elliot and the No. 9: Elliott took his entire No. 24 team and slapped a new badge on it to honor his father, Bill Elliott. We can expect to see Chase in Victory Lane this year--finally!

 Aric Almirola and the No. 10: After performing exceptionally well in the second-tier No. 43 team (for how many years?) Aric is finally getting his shot at the big time in the car vacated by Danica Patrick over at Stewart/Haas Racing. I totally expect more out of this machine under Almirola's guidance than she ever managed.

Ryan Blaney and the No. 12: While we all really wanted the Wood Bros. No. 21 to rise out of single-team mediocrity with this rising star, the fact is that economics will always drive a winning team.  So, Blaney is heading off to Penske to flesh out the Keselowski-Logano combination.

Erik Jones and the No. 20: A bit like the Blaney story, a lack of funding prevented the stable that won the 2017 Cup to continue to field a second team with possibly the most talented driver that has risen out of the developmental series in the last three years.  Over at Roush, Erik will have his chance to shine.

Paul Menard and the No. 21:  See, Blaney didn't have a sponsor. Menard comes to the Wood Bros. team with his family's bank account funding the season--well, 22 races. Why did they leave Childress? Who knows?...Who cares?  That might be why.

William Byron and the No. 24: This is the King in the chess game that Hendrick has been working toward for the past four years. Jeff Gordon's heir apparent--no, that really was NOT Chase--is stepping into the storied number for his rookie season. The cars and crew have been rebadged from the No. 5 garage. Hold your breath. This could get exciting.

Michael McDowell and the No. 34: Front Row Motorsports is still managing to bodge together enough funding, drivers, and crew to keep filling up the field. If you are a fan, it's one more year where you can get an autograph!

Bubba Wallace and the No. 43: Honestly, this is all serendipity.  Wallace brings an energy and intensity to the track that always translates to his aggressive style behind the wheel. He will be able to maintain the momentum Almirola has been building in this car while placing his own unique personality on the team.

Alex Bowman and the No. 88: While Bowman totally earned this ride after years of scrapping and scraping, he is stepping into a machine that is larger than life. Unfortunately if he doesn't make it to Victory Lane this year, there is a good chance he could slip back into anonymity once again. Bowman lacks the off-track showmanship other young guns possess that helps to leave them in the spotlight.

Kasey Kahne and the No. 95: He's still cute (even though he is 37) And all the girls can still find him at the track, just don't expect for a miracle.  That machine is still powered by guts and determination, but not much else.

Who do you think will make the most out of their new ride in the 2018 season?

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  1. The 95 now has a HMS trained CREW chief!!!!

  2. I believe Jones is running with JGR and not Roush this year. You and many others seem to see more in Almirola than I do. He a good kid, I hope you're right. As for Bowman...he's shown talent enough to get the ride and he has the backing of the only guy on earth with a bigger following than the pope. I think he will be the surprise of the year.