The checkered flag has waved on the 2017 NASCAR Monster Energy Series season, and fans are now left wondering what to do with the three-month offseason. Before looking at 2018, let’s take another look at the 2017 NASCAR season. There were plenty of good and bad stories to go around.
2017 NASCAR Season
Martin Truex Jr.
Any good story on the season needs to start with Martin Truex Jr. and that 78 Furniture Row championship team. There are so many storylines one can hardly keep up with the most dominating car for most of the season. The well-deserving champion has had much to think of off-the-track. His longtime girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, continues her battle ovarian cancer. Truex often talks about how his bad days are always tempered by what Sherry has had to endure.
If that were not enough, Cole Pearn, the Crew Chief of the 78 Team lost a dear friend the weekend of Truex’s road course win at Watkins Glen. A teary-eyed Pearn was supported by that entire team after Truex took home the checkered flag. Whoever said nice guys finished last was dead wrong about this one.
The new Toyota Camry hot off the manufacturing plant completely dominated the Cup series all year-round. There were some, namely Brad Keselowski, who expressed shock that this car passed NASCAR’s inspection.
Well, there might be hope for Chevy next season as the new Camaro is expected to make its debut in the Cup series in 2018.
Joe Gibbs Racing
Remember early on in the season when many were asking, “What is wrong with the Gibbs cars?” Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, and Matt Kenseth all found their way into victory circle and were solid Chase contenders all season.
Now that Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have retired, the Gibbs garage now features the best group of drivers among any racing team. Man, their future looks bright.
I don’t know who to credit here but remember how lousy the weather was in 2016? Pocono even had both of its races moved from a Sunday to a Monday. Not this year.
It seemed every weekend was met with great weather with only Bristol’s spring race falling into the crutches of a Monday start.
Yeah I know he won races and made it into the Chase but did anyone really feel he had a legitimate shot at winning his 8th championship? This team never had the speed needed to race against the Toyotas. Johnson and his crew chief Chad Knaus got all they could out of that 48 Lowes Chevrolet. It was never going to be enough.
Like Jimmie Johnson, the Chevys just lacked the overall speed that the Toyotas had for much of the season. After snapping a 13-year run by Chevrolet, Toyota has now captured two consecutive Manufacturing Championships.
Most fans pay little to no attention to this, but believe me, the folks at Toyota, Chevrolet and Ford invest millions in trying to take home that title.
One of the sport’s most popular stars has announced she will no longer drive full-time in the Cup Series. Although her popularity was always high, it never seemed to translate into success on the track and than in later years in gaining sponsors.
Losing Danica is not good news for a sport that now searches for stars to replace, Dale Jr., Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards.
Dale Jr. spoke during the season about the market correcting itself in terms of drivers’ salaries. Perhaps that’s what best explains star and future Hall-of-Famer, Matt Kenseth, not having a ride for 2018. Look, its one thing to go out on your own terms such as what Dale Jr. has done, but that did not appear to be an option for Kenseth.
Sure he probably could have hooked his wagon to a lower-funded, non-competitive team, but Kenseth was not interested in that. It’s a shame that such a talent has seemingly been pushed aside.
Empty Seats and Low TV Ratings
Brian France can tell us until we are blue in the face that everything is fine but the visuals are horrible. It’s not good for our sport to see so many empty seats at so many venues. For most sports, their stars sell. NASCAR’s young guns will have to do the same. I’m betting the likes of Larson, Elliott and Byron will do just that.
Thanks for reading. Listen to WTBQ radio on Monday and Friday mornings at 8:45 as I join Frank, Taylor and the Morning Show gang to discuss all the current happenings in NASCAR. 1110AM 93.5FM or online at WTBQ.COM. You can also follow me on twitter @JimLaplante
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