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Wednesday Newsletter: 12 Races In: Ford is Dominating, Chevy Still Struggling

We are officially a quarter of the way through the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season and it’s safe to say that Ford, specifically Kevin Harvick, has dominated this season. We’ve seen Kyle Busch pull off three wins in a row from Texas through Richmond but Harvick has been the story all year long so far. However, completely absent from the picture is Team Chevy.

Austin Dillon won the season-opening Daytona 500, but since then, it has been a severe struggle for all of the Chevy teams. One exception could be made for Kyle Larson and his No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing team since they have competed for wins this year more than any other Chevrolet team. This past weekend at Kansas was his best shot to win so far this year, but an L1 penalty took away any playoff points and 20 overall points away from him. Leading over 100 laps was huge for the team, maybe being a sign of encouragement to the other Chevy teams that there is speed to be found. It has yet to be found from anyone else though.

This is the first time in an extremely long time that no Chevrolet driver is in the top 10 in points this deep into the season, which comes as a huge shock to many. Before the season started, many of us, including myself, believed that they would dominate with the new Camaro ZL1 bodies and we’d see the return of the Chevy Powerhouse. It has been the complete opposite.

Let’s start with Hendrick Motorsports. Jimmie Johnson, a seven-time champion, has been struggling mightily this season. You could say 12th in points isn’t so bad for how it’s gone for the majority of the first part of the year, but when you’re Jimmie Johnson, that’s not a strong start. An 83-time winner in the series is currently on the longest winless streak of his career. It seems that the No. 48 team cannot wrap their hands around this new body yet, even though they have shown signs of speed at times such as Bristol when they scored a top three finish.

Move onto the three young guns at the team, Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman, and William Byron. Elliott in his third full year was expected to light the series on fire and finally capture that first career win. He’s come close with a runner up finish at Richmond and a third at Talladega, but other than that, the No. 9 team has not been very close to winning. Bowman has arguably been the most consistent and solid HMS driver, although the last two weeks have been rough for the driver of the No. 88 car. He’s currently 15th in points and in the playoffs but he’s shown signs of speed as well, just not to the next level needed to win. And then there’s rookie William Byron. It’s easy to say he started the year off rough, although he led a handful of laps by his fourth career race at ISM Raceway. He’s shown improvement over the first part of the year, but again, like his 3 teammates, cannot find that speed to compete for a win.

Next, we have Richard Childress Racing. Ryan Newman and Austin Dillon have both struggled. Dillon did win the Daytona 500 as mentioned earlier, but he has struggled ever since. Newman has shown some speed over the course of the season but again, just like the other Chevy teams, struggled to find the speed needed to finish in the top 10 consistently and compete for wins.

Affiliate teams to RCR such as the No. 43 of Darrell Wallace Jr. and the No. 95 of Kasey Kahne have both had signs of life this year, although both have struggled. Wallace finished second in the Daytona 500 but since then only has one top 10 finish, that coming at Texas when he finished eighth. Kahne, an 18-time winner in the series, has yet to finish in top 10 this year. After spending six years at Hendrick Motorsports, coming to Leavine Family Racing was a change of scenery many thought he needed. Although the team has shown massive improvement the last several weeks, their best finish is only 17th, that coming on three separate occasions at Texas, Talladega, and Dover.

So the question to be answered is what is wrong? Has Ford and Toyota stepped up so much that Chevy is so far behind? Or is it that Chevy just is not wrapping their hands around the Camaro ZL1? It’s obvious Ford has stepped up their game from last season. Toyota has been strong too, maybe not as strong as last season but they still show signs of speed week in and week out.

The good news for Team Chevy is that it’s still early in the season so it probably isn’t time to press the panic button just yet. The other good news is that Toyota had this same issue last season with their new body but once they found Victory Lane, every Toyota team was leaps and bounds better than the field. There is still time and I believe Chevy will fix this. As Darrell Waltrip said during the practice show at Kansas, I agree with him that Chevy knows the issue but they are not sure how to fix it and how to get better just yet. Once they figure the Camaro ZL1 out, I think we’ll see many of the Chevy teams return to Victory Lane. It might take a few weeks, but I think it will happen soon. They are working at it, and every Chevy driver knows that their teams are working their tails off to find that speed. When it happens, we’ll see the hard work pay off.

About the author

Brandon is a 22-year-old from NY and has been a passionate follower of motorsports for 14 years now. He recently graduated from Molloy College on Long Island with a BA in Communications. Working within NASCAR has been a dream for Brandon for a while, and he hopes to be able to live out the dream in the very near future.

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