Silly Season, The Chase, and Trash Talking
Yes, Kurt Busch has signed with Stewart Haas Racing for 2014 forward, but that signing was not without drama. Now the interwebs are mostly silent, although both Kevin Harvick and Danica Patrick posted supportive and welcoming comments. Kevin is certainly not a fan of Kyle Busch, but he seems to be able to separate his feelings about one brother and welcome the other. Tony wasn't a fan of the move, thinking Gene Haas acted prematurely in expanding to a fourth team, and in this I have to say I agree with Tony. SHR expanded to three teams in 2013 and all three teams have struggled. Tony is injured and unable to complete the season, so his position in the points cannot improve, not really count, however, Danica and Ryan aren't fairing too well in the points either. Danica is to be expected, it's her first full year in Cup and she isn't a Kyle Busch, Joey Logano or Kyle Larsen type talent. Ryan Newman has had true moments of greatness this year, and truthfully, he is the only one of the SHR stable to do so, and he's the one being released.
So where is Ryan going? The latest rumor has him going to Furniture Row Racing to drive the number 78. Other rumors have him going to Richard Childress Racing, but really, aren't they the same? RCR is a three car team, and past attempts to go to four cars have seen all four teams struggle, while as a three car team, they have success. They have an association with FRR though, and Ryan Newman behind the wheel of that car would be just as good, as or better than, Kurt Busch has been. While Kurt has done a great job of telling his crew exactly what the car is doing, Ryan is an engineer. He has already proven that his expertise in that area is an asset to any team he is a part of.
Just as I am typing this, Bobby Labonte @Bobby_Labonte has posted on Twitter that he has been treated and released from hospital with the three broken ribs and no other injuries. The injury occured while Bobby was riding a bicyle and took a spill. He was transported to hospital via ambulance and remained overnight. He was scheduled to drive the number 51 for Phoenix Racing this weekend at Atlanta, arguably one of his best tracks.
And more breaking news! The deal for AJ Allmendinger to drive for JTG Daughtry in 2014 has apparently been inked. The Dinger will be in the 47 car for 2014.
Wow! I haven't even had a chance to write about Hot-lanta and news stories are breaking all around!
The race to the Chase is definitely heating up. Bristol did not prove to be as big of a wild card as I anticipated, although some teams are definitely scrambling more, while others are breathing a little easier. In my opinion, Matt Kenseth has to be a definite favorite with five wins. He was with a brand new race team this year and all of the team had a learning curve, but he has still come out as strong as ever. Yes, they have had stumbles, and some really bad finishes, but when they have been great, they have been better than great. Jimmie Johnson is probably still everyone else's favorite, but they have not had the finishes they want either.
Will Brad Keselowski make the Chase? That is a huge question no one knows the answer to. Certainly they can do it, they have proven it. But time is running out.
Will Dale Earnhardt Jr. make the Chase? Without a win, Jr is still solidly in the Chase, and he runs well at both Atlanta and Richmond, but both he and Clint Bowyer will have huge ground to make up once the points are reset (don't get me started on that). I think he will make it.
So who is your pick for "Hot-lanta"? This is an incredible track and one of my very favorite races of all times, the season ender of 1992, happened here. Is racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway the same as it was back then? No, not by a long shot, but it is a very entertaining track, and bound to be a facttor for the eventual outcome of the Race to the Chase. Oddly enough, I'm predicting either Dale Jr or Clint Bowyer to get the job done here this weekend. It just seems like one of those weeks. I'll be at work Saturday night, and hopefully watching, but once again without sound. Here's hoping I get a chance to post from my phone, and keep up with Twitter.
Post your picks here, and don't forget about the Game Pages!