Race Weekend Central

NASCAR 2014: It Really Isn’t Sucking–Honest!

So, the Challenger Round is over and we’re into the Contender Round.  The 12 remaining drivers are pretty much who we expected would be there.  Nothing earth shattering happened at Dover over the weekend.  (I’m sorry. Dale Jr.’s steering wheel breaking during practice does not qualify.)  And right now NASCAR Nation is looking forward to the next segment of the much discussed Chase with more than a little trepidation mixed with a healthy dose of ennui.  Can nothing make us happy?

I ask, because one remarkable thing did occur at the Monster Mile.  Jeff Gordon added one more notch to his Hall of Fame worthy all-time win column, bringing it up to 92.  You’d think we’d be all excited about that–at least the portion of the racing fanbase who actually cheer for the driver of the No. 24.  However, a polite mutter is about all his fourth win of the season has garnered the NASCAR veteran.

Really?  That’s all we’ve got?  Because, in case you didn’t notice, 2014 has actually been an exciting year racing-wise, and not just for Mr. Gordon.  There have been many drivers enjoying a really great year.  Heck, the stands should be just about rattling with the fans’ cries of adulation.

You look a little skeptical there.  Well, let’s do a rundown of some of those great stories from this season.  Maybe it’ll make you feel a little better about the remaining seven races.

Let’s start with the Penske boys.  After a rather middlin’ 2013, which left Brad Keselowski out of the Chase and Joey Logano still wondering if he’d ever be better than dry toast, 2014 has been stellar for the two-car stable.  The No. 2 and No. 22 cars have a combined win total of nine.  Um, wow. A two-car stable has pulled off that stunt?  Damn.  Those wins weren’t last lap miracles, either; let’s try calling it outright domination.

What about Kevin Harvick?  The lone shining star over at SHR this year, he has continued his legacy of almost always being in the Top 10.  It’s garnered him a pair of wins.  There should be a fair array of Happy Harvick smiley faces to be had.

We’ve had Kyle Busch appear both in Victory Lane and in the garage on a regular basis, providing entertainment for both his fans and detractors.  The amount of bad luck in the Gibbs garage has been shattering, but not enough to keep their trio of drivers out of the Chase.  I mean Matt Kenseth has been completely on point, ready to steal another winless Cup if he keeps running the way he has over the year.  Whether you want to call Kenseth a robot or not, if you wear No. 20 t-shirts, you’ve got to be riding high right now.

We did have the underdog wins, too.  For nostalgia’s sake, the No. 43 visited Victory Lane during the rain shortened Coke Zero 400.  In Daytona…in Daytona!  Any NASCAR fan over the age of 40 had to wipe a tear of joy that weekend.  And only a month later, AJ Allmendinger completed his return to glory with his incredible performance at Watkins Glen.  It feels great to see a driver so very humble with happiness taking the checkers.  That was a fantastic summer.

But, you know, the year didn’t start out too shabby for fans, either.  Does anyone remember who won the Daytona 500?  Hmmm?  Bueller?  Okay, no need to shout.  Yes, Junior Nation woke up 2014 with fireworks.  However, that wasn’t the end for the No. 88.  Earnhardt swept Pocono and is in position to possibly grab a championship, if Talladega doesn’t take him out in the next round.

Johnson has not been burning up the asphalt with quite the same amount of verve we typically see from the No. 48 crew on a Championship run.  However, he’s still enjoying the year, always running at the front of the pack.  Kasey Kahne has managed to keep his fan base squealing, as well.  And let’s not forget Jeff Gordon’s four wins.  It’s an astounding accomplishment when the rumor mill has been having him retiring imminently for the past several years.  That No. 24 hasn’t been looking like a car needing a new pilot since we pulled into Daytona in February.

So seriously, what exactly are we complaining about?  That we didn’t have another crazy wreckfest like Loudon?  Do we really enjoy watching cars spinout for no good reason?  Is that racing?  Is it fun?

When all is said and done, the absolute best drivers in NASCAR have all been enjoying an amazing season.  The summer months brought us the kind of excitement we associate with the best of the sport.  It’s time to dial back the sourpusses a little and let our sport unwind as it ought, without the media or the fans determining life sucks just because one weekend provided a not so exciting afternoon.

We’re off to Kansas this week.  History has taught us that the oddest things happen on the Great Plains.  I, for one, am totally looking forward to it.

2014 Sonya Strictly by the Stats

Top Three Rookies for 2014 AAA 400

1.) No. 42 Kyle Larson Started 7th Finished 6th (1st in RoTY Standings)

2.) No. 3 Austin Dillow Started 10th Finished 24th (2nd in RoTY Standings)

3.) No. 51 Justin Allgaier Started 23rd Finished 29th (3rd in RoTY Standings)



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