Big surprises through seven races
By Taylor Goins
April 23, 2017
BRISTOL, Tenn.—It is hard to believe, but the 2017 season is nearly 20 percent complete. Some things about this season have gone according to plan and not raised any eyebrows around the sport, such as Kevin Harvick leading the most laps or Jimmie Johnson winning at Texas.
However, there have been a great number of surprises through the first seven races of the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series schedule.
From Joe Gibbs Racing still searching for their first win to Ryan Newman getting team owner Richard Childress back in victory lane for the first time since 2013, the unexpected has occurred quite a few times this season so far.
Here is a look at four of the biggest surprises through seven races.
Joe Gibbs Racing still searching for a win
Throughout the first seven Cup races, arguably the strongest team in NASCAR’s premier series has been shut out of victory lane.
This fact is especially astonishing considering that JGR won a total of 12 races last season and 14 races in the 2015 season en route to a Cup title.
The lack of wins for JGR is slightly tempered by the fact that their satellite organization, Furniture Row Racing, has been showing a great amount of speed and won the Las Vegas race with Martin Truex Jr. behind the wheel.
The JGR Toyota’s have been fast this season, so putting the pieces together may be in the immediate future.
It’s too early for any of their competitors to get comfortable, but soon Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Daniel Suarez must start putting complete races together and snag a checkered flag or two to make a run for the MENCS title.
Ryan Newman, RCR find victory lane for the first time since 2013
The biggest surprise is not that Ryan Newman or Richard Childress Racing secured a Cup series win this season, notching their first since 2013 this March at Phoenix International Raceway.
Rather, the top surprise is the fact that the three-car organization, responsible for 105 wins and six championships has been held winless for so long.
It is also a surprise that Ryan Newman, who has 18 wins to his credit, has not won a race since leaving Stewart-Haas Racing after the 2013 season.
Under the weight of this considerable drought, though, Newman’s win in the desert definitely qualifies as an upset. His Vegas odds of winning were just 80-to-1, but the Rocket Man defied these odds and earned a spot in the MENCS Chase.
Clint Bowyer’s Fast Start
The veteran racer from Emporia, Kansas has had a great start to the 2017 season. Clint Bowyer has secured ten Top 10 finishes through the first seven races, including a third place finish at Auto Club Speedway. In fact, Bowyer sits inside the top-10 in points at ninth place.
The results from this season have been a refreshing change for Bowyer, who has gotten back to his consistent ways after a difficult 2016 campaign.
In 2016, driving for HScott Motorsports, Bowyer managed just three top-10 finishes the entire season, and no top-five finishes.
The underfunded team struggled to find speed and chemistry, and Bowyer languished to a 27th place finish in the final season point standings.
The difficulties from 2016 surely cannot be placed squarely on Bowyer by any means, but it has to be a great weight off his shoulders to see that he has regained his top-tier form behind the wheel.
Kyle Larson’s Dominance
The points leader through seven Cup races is Kyle Larson, and although that in and of itself is not a huge shock, the way that he has dominated the circuit has to be a pleasant surprise for the entire Chip Ganassi Racing organization.
Larson not only leads the point standings, but he has five top-five finishes to this point and a race win under his belt that came at Auto Club Speedway.
Larson’s five top-five finishes have been bolstered by the fact that four of those are second place finishes.
Larson was strong in 2016, winning his first ever race and making the Chase, but the 2017 season has truly been his breakthrough so far. He has went from a contender to a force to be reckoned with, and it looks like that will not change in the foreseeable future.
DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
Jeremy Thompson/The Racing Experts
Daniel Courson/The Racing Experts