Is the Sprint Cup Series already a two man race?
Is he having fun? Certainly. Is he enjoying his Nationwide races? Most definitely. Is he going to relax now that his appearance in the Chase is all but guaranteed? Definitely not.
Kevin is with a new team this year, as everyone knows. In fact, rather than being the new kid on the block at Stewart-Haas Racing, he has stepped up to be a leader. Team owner, Tony Stewart, isn't having the best season, and by his own admission, continues to recuperate from his broken leg. Danica Patrick is in her sophmore year at SHR, but like her freshman year, is mostly a non-entity, regardless of how ruthlessly the media continues to shove her down our throats. Kurt Busch, also the newcomer at SHR, has already made a namer for himself, and in a good way. Kurt is in the Chase, it would seem, by virtue of his win.
I think Kevin is definitely in it to win it, but who is his main competition?
At this point in the series, Dale Earnhardt Jr. seems to be having the season of his dreams. He turns 40 this year, and maybe that's part of it. He loses his crew chief, Steve Letarte, after this season, so maybe that's part of it as well. In any case, after his win at the Daytona 500, Dale Jr. seems to be a man on a mission. Even his error in the grass at Texas hasn't really fazed him. He and his crew took that fiasco in stride and came back the following week even stronger.
This week, the teams are at Richmond. Kevin won here last spring, and Dale Jr has three wins here, although none since he joined Hendrick Motorsports. However, the new Gen6 car seems to suit Jr. and he seems able to drive it much as he did the old cars, prior to the Car of Tomorrow, which was somewhat of a bust.
Does this mean we can expect to see Dale Jr and Kevin up front all night long? Not necessarily. Does it mean the Fords or Toyotas won't be a factor? Definitely not. In fact, the goal of each and every one of the other 41 drivers will be to make sure neither Kevin, nor Dale, nor any other 2014 winner is up at the front in the closing laps. In fact, given that the race is the "Toyota Owners 400", there's a great chance the Toyotas will be working extra hard to get one of their own in Victory Lane.
As I finish this up, practice is underway, and Kyle Larson is the fastest on the track. There will be one more practice session. Keselowski and Bowyer, are second and thrd. Harvick is fifth fastest while Dale Jr is running 11th fastest. Qualifying will get underway later today.
And finally, in the news today, Xxxtreme Motorsports has purchased a portion of the assets of Swan Racing. The 26 of Swan Racing has merged with BK Racing, while the 30 has been sold. JJ Yeley is in the car this weekend, but apparently, Parker Kligerman is still under contract. How it all will shake out in the coming weeks remains to be seen. This is, unfortunately, just another example of how small teams struggle in our sport, when corporate sponsorship just isn't available.
Who is your pick for the Cup race? Tonight the Nationwide cars take to the track, but the race isn't being nationally broadcast. Tomorrow night's race, on FOX, will air at 7:30 ET. I want to see the second round of qualifying before I make my pick.