This is always a very interesting project trying to predict who will be “the talk of the town” at the end of the 2017 race season. But here I go.
I will start off by analyzing the class of four candidates for the 2017 Rookie of The Year.
This season there are four candidate running for the Rookie of the Year award, Ty Dillon, Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez and Gray Gaulding. Two of the drivers are with rather underperforming and small teams, one is with a startup team, and one is with a championship caliber team.
Gray Gaulding is with a very small, underperforming team, BK Racing. This year I believe that will be a disqualifying factor for Gaulding in his attempt to make an impact on the ROTY race.
Likewise, Ty Dillon is with a very small team, Germain Racing. Even though Germain Racing has an affiliation with Richard Childress Racing, with Childress’ grandson now behind the steering wheel, the consensus is that RCR will pour much more money and technology into that relationship in 2017! Notwithstanding that fact, Germain Racing and Ty Dillon will not be a big facto in the ROTY race.
Having eliminated two of the four drivers based on their race team’s lackluster past performances and the inability of “David to slay Goliath” that leaves two drivers that I believe will be in the hunt for the ROTY award!
Now the driver who has been in everybody’s cross-hairs since he emerged upon the NASCAR scene a few short years ago driving a truck for Kyle Busch Motorsports, and who could arguably could be the future of Joe Gibbs Racing, is Erik Jones. The twist to all of this hype this year is that JGR has loaned out Jones to Barney Visser and Furniture Row Racing in their quest to start up a second race team. Therein lies one roadblock to Jones and his quest to secure the 2017 Cup ROTY award.
The last driver to assess for this year’s ROTY award is a young phenom from Monterrey, Mexico, and was the 2016 NXS champion, Daniel Suarez. Suarez is very luck and steps right into a championship contending team. It is the team and seat suddenly vacated by Carl Edwards just over a month ago. It was at that time when Edwards announced that he would step away from full time NASCAR racing.
In analyzing these last two drivers I would say that they are the frontrunners to win ROTY! Jones is a a very talented young man with a rookie, startup team and Suarez is equally talented with a very experienced race team.
After some deep thought, reading my tea leaves, pulled out my Ouija Board, and most importantly I consulted with my deceased psychic, Miss Cleo……..
I have selected Erik Jones as my pick to win the 2017 Rookie of The Year award in the MENCS!
It is always to cool to make some pre-season picks each year prior to NASCAR firing up the engines at Daytona each year. When making these picks it is usually based on some outdated or past data, some hope that potential will be realized, and a gut feeling that those may come to fruition. As we all know there are many elements or entities that must mesh together, along with a big helping of good luck, as well as a focused drive to succeed in order to hoist the championship over you head at Homestead.
With that knowledge firmly tucked into the back part of our data storage facility, read brain, I will make my attempt to evaluate the teams and drivers and come up with my best shot at declaring a pre-season favorite. With much research and deliberations I am about to deliver my 2017 pick to be the MENCS Champion.
Let’s start by analyzing the teams. Just to shake things up I am going to evaluate by manufacturers alphabetically, beginning with Chevy, Ford, and then Toyota.
So let’s be realistic, the Chevy powerhouses are Richard Childress Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, and to some degree Chip Ganassi Racing.
The three teams at RCR had a very sporadic, inconsistent, and mostly a lackluster season in 2016. The only real highlight for RCR team was the No. 3 team of Austin Dillon. Both Paul Menard and Ryan Newman were middle of the pack race teams in 2016. Even though they made the chase in 2016, their performance was subpar in the first half of the season. Could the RCR No.3 team’s short lived run in the Chase energize them to step up their game for 2017? The answer will unfold in the first few races of this year.
Moving on the Chip Ganassi Racing, they, too, had a small bright spot in their season. Although Jamie McMurray failed to qualify for the Chase, “Young Money”, Kyle Larson, did make the Chase by winning his first NASCAR Cup race. But Larson’s team faded rather quickly as the Chase unfolded.
The real dominant Chevy team, Henderick Motorsports, prevailed in the spotlight last year as Jimmie Johnson stepped into rarified air along side Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, Sr. by winning his seventh championship! The idea of J.J. repeating as champion, and becoming the first eight time champion this year, is a very step hill to climb. It could be done, but the odds are long on repeating for Johnson.
As we all remember, the other marquee name of HMS, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., sat out the final 18 races of the year due to concussion like symptoms. Even though he has been cleared to race this year, and he has a pep in his step, at 43 years of age his chances of winning his first championship seem to slipping through his fingers!
Kasey Kahne has never really been in the hunt for a championship during his entire tenure with Hendrick, and therefore there is no real indication that the new leaf has been turned over for him!
Willam Clyde Elliott, Jr., better known as Chase, had a phenomenal rookie season. Despite not winning a race, Elliott pointed his team into the Chase as a rookie! Look for this young gun to win at least once during the 2017 race season, which could catapult his team back into the playoffs once again this season and he could be there at the end.
The Ford camp has increased its numbers by four this season. Stewart-Haas Racing pulled the plug on Chevy at the end of 2016 and slipped on over to “The Blue Oval” side of racing. This season I look at SHR as kind of an unknown, possibly, with the manufacturer change. Additionally, SHR can be divided in half this year with expected performance. Danica Patrick and her team can be counted on finishing in the 20-30 positions each week, as she has done throughout her Cup career. Clint Bowyer has taken over for Tony Stewart in the No.14 Ford. The performance of the No.14 team last year, absent their win at Sonoma, was extremely lackluster. For that fact I will put Bowyer and his team in the category of not being a threat for the championship in 2017.
That leaves the two SHR teams, Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch, that have been carrying this company for the last two years. If SHR can leap out of the gate at Daytona with that Roush-Yates horsepower and be up front at the end of the race, then that will ease many of the questions about the manufacturer change that I have. So with that in mind, I think that both Harvick and Kurt Busch could be in the hunt when the cars get to Phoenix for the final elimination race of 2017.
The Ford camp, lately, has only been represented by Team Penske in Victory Lane, and they have carrier their weight very well. Both Joey Logano and “Blazingly Bad” Brad Keselowski are definitely going to be in the hunt for that championship this year.
The Toyota camp has the four Joe Gibbs Racing teams plus their affiliate, Furniture Row Racing, that carries that banner. The four JGR Toyotas have been a force to be reckoned with over the last couple of years. Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth can win at any track on any Sunday. The wild card this year is the loss of Carl Edwards and the replacement of Daniel Suarez. The No.19 team is capable of winning a championship, but does the driver have the patience and experience necessary to accomplish that task? That is the overwhelming question that m]needs to be answered.
Furniture Row Racing has expanded to two race teams this year. The question that has to be answered is will that expansion cause undo strain on Martin Truex, Jr’s race team? If not, then the FRR No.78 should be in the championship hunt! The startup FRR team with Erik Jones behind the wheel is a big question mark!
Now comes the tough, gut wrenching part of the this post! Once again I did some very deep soul searching, read my tea leaves, took a few hot laps on the Ouija Board, as well as having a very long distant phone call with my deceased psychic, Miss Cleo, and got her take on this!
The driver who will win the 2017 MENCS championship at Homestead in November will be a first time champion, Joey Logano.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!