I felt compelled to write at length about the start of the next NASCAR season. Usually I would write briefly about my champions pick somewhere around the week before the season started. As you can tell we’re still over a month away from the green flag dropping at Daytona.
The following are some of the tings that I thought were interesting as I read about them from various sources over the off season so far, and my thoughts about the implications that could come of some of these changes.
Jeff Gordon Retired From Racing
As was widely publicized all last season, Jeff Gordon called it quits on full time racing after 23 seasons, 4 championships, and 93 wins. Oh yes and who could forget 797 consecutive starts. The man never missed a race since 1992. Now he will trade in his driving duties for broadcaasting on FOX with the likes of Darrell Waltrip and Mike Joy. Not entirely sure what is to happen with Larry MacReynolds, but I bet he’ll still be around in a capacity since he tends to keep himself quite busy. It will be interesting to see how Jeff mixes with the rest of them. It will also be really weird not seeing him in a race car anymore. This moves me well enough into my next related point.
Cut To The Chase
Chase Elliot will take over for Jeff Gordon in 2016. NAPA Auto Parts will be sponsoring him quite a lot of the time it would seem. It’s good for them to be back. We haven’t seen them since the now defunct Michael Waltrip Racing days when they decided to call it quits after they cheated to get Martin Truex in the chase. Chase will be the first Rookie of the Year candidate offered up from Hendrick Motorsports since Jimmie Johnson back in 2002. The pressure will be immense for Chase, after all he is driving the #24 car. The very same team that finished an impressive 3rd in the points with Jeff Gordon last season. It will be up to Chase to continue the #24 Car legacy now.
The Charter System
This new system that is supposed to happen this season is supposed to allow teams to be guaranteed a spot in every race if they buy a charter. The catch is, there’s only 36 of them. Even with the field size dropping from 43 to 40 competing cars from week to week, this will still put some teams on edge. This probably will be some help for sponsors who know they will get TV time if they go with a team that has a charter and will not miss a race. It makes me wonder though, would the absolute fastest cars be making the race all the time then? The drop in field size won’t make that much of a difference since you’d only be losing Jeb Burton, Matt Dibenedetto, and Alex Bowman. Alex always wrecks anyway. Overall I think this system will do some good if everything works out as hoped for. My guess is the smaller field size is only due to the fact that Michael Waltrip Racing is not racing anymore. Clint Bowyer will still be around, in a #15 5 Hour Energy sponsored car even, just racing for Harry Scott Motorsports instead. You won’t miss MWR.
Kurt Busch Attracts New Sponsor
You can say what you want about Kurt Busch, but in this market of declining sponsorship, it’s impressive when anyone can bring in someone new major to pay the bills on the car. Last year, everyone was saying he’d never be able to attract sponsorship ever again because of various unfounded reasons, but look, he’s kept out of trouble and will be bringing on board Monster Energy. This is a pairing that I think has been a long time coming, and I will have to get myself a new #41 hat at the next race I go to, whenever that is.
Busch In Bud Out
Kevin Harvick will race a blue car instead of a red car. Everyone thought this was crazy that such a huge sponsor like Budweiser was leaving. In reality both Busch and Budweiser are owned by the same company so there’s no big loss there. I’m just not sure how Miller Lite can continue to sponsor a rival organization.
Richard Petty Motorsports Brings Back #44
Brian Scott finally gets a full time crack at the big leagues. This will be his rookie of the year season with RPM. We haven’t seen that number since before Adam died. It used to be Kyle Petty’s number, and it makes a lot more sense to have cars #43 and #44 as team cars than #43 and #9.
My guess for Rookie of the Year: Chase Elliot
My guess for a championship: Kurt Busch (I always say that but he’s a serious threat this time.)