I started doing this last year and it worked well. I would about the story lines that I thought would be interesting to keep an eye on over the course of next season. I would also make picks for Rookie of the Year and the championship winning driver and see if I was anywhere close to being right. So without further to do, here are the stories I find interesting for this coming season.
Can Jimmie Johnson Win Another Championship?
He and his team have won five in a row of their seven total championships. They have the cars, they have the people, they have the motivation after winning their record tying seventh cup last year. He’ll be the only one for a long time who even has the opportunity to run for a history making eighth. He will be tough to beat this year. Same as any other year but this season has a feel of extra motivation for the #48 guys.
Will Greg Biffle Have A Ride?
He says he has options for this year after splitting from Roush Fenway Racing after nearly 20 years of dedicated driving through many a hard time, but whether those options are behind the wheel or elsewhere remains to be seen. The media says the parting was mutual, but I’m not sure if any parting of ways is truly mutual. Biffle must have been tired of finishing in the back all the time. Greg is getting up there in racing years, but he still wants to be competitive so that he can become the first driver to win a championship in all three NASCAR major series. He won the Truck championship in 2000 and what is now called the Xfinity Series championship in 2002. Greg’s dream of winning a Cup championship could still be alive possibly, but it will not be with Roush Fenway Racing as they could not find enough sponsorship to run Biffle’s iconic #16 Ford for the entire year this coming season. Another damper on this dream of the championship trifecta, if you will, is the gruesomely true fact that all the reasonable rides in NASCAR are taken by other teams. At this point, as far as I know, the only teams waiting for drivers are BK Racing (#23 and #83) who had their seats vacated by David Ragan and Mat Dibenedetto who both left in search of better opportunities. So what does that tell you? Stranger things have happened in this sport though. Perhaps Greg will be able to land a competitive ride against all odds. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Stewart Haas To Race Fords
After a long stint with Chevrolet the Tony Stewart and Gene Haas owned team will switch to running Fords in 2017 divorcing themselves from the “Hendrick Motorsports Satellite team” moniker and becoming more self sufficient. Manufacturer changes are always exciting and full of unknowns. I hope this one works out well for them. Furniture Row came alive when they switched from Chevrolet to Toyota. Maybe Stewart Haas is exactly what Ford needs to become competitive once again. There is always the fear that they will turn into another Roush Fenway Racing since that’s where they’re getting their engines from now, but Penske also gets their engines from Roush and they run just fine. They have a lot of smart people at Stewart Haas Racing. They will probably continue to run just as well, especially since they have the guy who gave Ford it’s last championship back in 2004, Kurt Busch. It will be interesting to watch this team transition and grow once again.
Champion Pick: #48 Jimmie Johnson.
I’d be a fool not to pick him this year.
Rookie Of The Year Pick: #77 Erik Jones
Jones has found quick success in the Truck Series driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports as well as driving for Joe Gibbs in the Xfinity Series. He’ll be driving for Furniture Row Racing in the Cup series, which is a team that is heavily aligned with Joe Gibbs Racing anyway. He will be a good teammate for Martin Truex Jr. The learning curve of the Cup car is steep but Jones has the resources and team around him to give him fast cars which could lead to equally fast success, should Erik not suffer from Kasey Kahne syndrome.
Could We See Daniel Suarez in a Cup Car This Season?
With all the hype surrounding Erik Jones’ move to the Cup series, Daniel Suarez, the guy who actually won 2016 the Xfinity series championship seems to have been passed over for a full time Cup ride. Erik Jones finished third, meaning he did not win the championship. The rules state that the maximum amount of cars a team can field full time is four. Joe Gibbs already has a team of four cars all spoken for. However, he is allowed a fifth car for research and development purposes in a select number of races. Perhaps we’ll get to see Daniel Suarez in one of those types of efforts. Like all of these story lines, we’ll have to wait and see how it all pans out.