Week off for drivers and crews but Richmond awaits
However, a weekend off doesn't mean everyone goes into hiding and forgets about their sport. Just follow any driver or crew member on twitter, and the evidence that work is always in the forefront is right there in front of you.
This weekend marks 50 years of the Ford Mustang, and to celebrate this milestone, people around the continent are posting pictures of their Mustangs on social media sites everywhere. I was lucky enough to have a '66 Mustang back in the '80's and remember many fun rides in that machine. I almost bought a '67 years later, but upon inspection, the car had been subjected to rust and was held together by baling twine and Bondo. Not long after backing out of the purchase, I saw it dead on the side of the road. It has always been my dream to own another, but I have to admit, the features in new vehicles make it unlikely.
The new Chase format means that "win and you're in" and Kevin Harvick is making good use of the new format. He has two wins so far this season with his new team, Stewart-Haas Racing, and although the rest of his finishes have not been good enough to put him in the top ten, he is guaranteed a place in the playoffs. Conversely, Jeff Gordon, who has no win so far, remains in the top spot, due to his consistently good finishes. Right behind him, only one point back, sits Matt Kenseth, also a non-winner so far this season. In fact, the top ten features five drivers who don't have a win! Kevin, with two wins, sits in 22nd. His teammate, Kurt Busch, with one win, holds the 26th position.
It was anticipated that the drivers who had gotten their win would be willing to take more chances for the better finishes. So far, the only example of that was Dale Jr's second place finish at Las Vegas. He seemed poised for his second win of the season, after gambling on fuel, and fell just short.
Richmond is up next, on Saturday night, April 26th. It will be the first chance for teams to check out how the changed Gen6 car runs on the track that will end the Race to the Chase in September. What they learn here could make all the difference in September.
May features the All-Star race at Charlotte, just prior to the Coca-Cola 600, on the same track. That same day, Indianapolis Motor Speedway will showcase the Indianapolis 500, and so far, Kurt Busch is continuing to state he will run both races, for Gene Haas. Only a handful of drivers have accomplished this feat, including Kurt's Team Co-owner and teammate, Tony Stewart. It is the perfect place for Kurt to be in this endeavour, as he can approach Smoke for tips and tricks to get the job done. Smoke completed the double in both 1999 and 2001, achieving top tens n both races, on both dates. While Tony may not have been "in the know" when Gene Haas hired Kurt, and agreed to sponsor him with his own company, he has to be happy to have him in the garage. Kurt seems to have his emotions somewhat under control and his win at Martinsville, after a run in with Brad Keselowski, emphasises that.
Finally this week, we have seen Bill Elliott's son, Chase, in the JR Motorsports number 9 win twice this year. There are all kinds of rumours and suggestions that Chase could be the "next big thing" and needs to jump to Sprint Cup ASAP, but I am of the opinion that that would be a mistake. Chase needs only to look at Joey Logano for evidence of that rush decision. Joey dominated in Nationwide prior to his move to Sprint Cup. He was young, inexperienced in the cars, and a total non-factor when he raced with the big boys, even by his own admission. Chase is definitely a driver to watch but he needs to gain more experience, in my opinion. He needs to enjoy his accomplishments, his victories and even his disappointments. All of these experiences will go far in helping him become a champion. And I firmly believe he will be a champion.
Jump in if you have thoughts on the off-week, and to close, I wish everyone a very Happy Easter weekend.