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NASCAR Mailbox: Over & Underachievers in All 3 National Series

Who has overachieved and who has underachieved across all three NASCAR national series so far this season? – Rebecca F., Tulsa, Okla.

I’ll take this series by series, as there are a lot of drivers/teams to cover with this question.

Starting with the Camping World Truck Series, I’ll give a nod to Niece Motorsports’ Carson Hocevar as an overachiever. The organization hasn’t been running like a title-caliber one since Ross Chastain‘s Championship 4 appearance a few years ago, but the young Michigan driver is inserting a nice jolt into the Al Niece-backed team. Finishes of third at Darlington Raceway, seventh at Circuit of the Americas and a career-best second this past weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway have Hocevar sitting 10th in the standings with plenty of time to move above the cutline.

Unfortunately, his teammate Ryan Truex hasn’t been running like he’s capable of this season. There’s only one top 10, coming in the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway, so far to show for him and the No. 40 team, with two DNFs. Still time to recover, but with one Truex leading the NASCAR Cup Series in wins, his younger brother is struggling.

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Jeremy Clements is quietly having a career season, sitting eighth in points ahead of three JR Motorsports cars, a Stewart-Haas Racing car, a Joe Gibbs Racing car and a Richard Childress Racing car. He’s also already matched his career high for top-10 finishes (five) in a season with over half the year to go.

Ryan Sieg has taken a big step back this season results-wise. In RSS Racing’s first year with Ford Performance backing, the No. 39 sits 17th in the standings a year removed from finishing 10th. Despite having five top-10 finishes, he’s failed to finish four races.

In terms of the Cup Series, I’m officially giving Chris Buescher a new nickname: “The Quiet Assassin.”

Again, a quiet season for the Roush Fenway Racing driver (sits 14th in points, inside the playoffs), but he has three consecutive top-10 finishes on 1.5-mile tracks. Everywhere Buescher goes (Front Row Motorsports, JTG Daugherty Racing, Roush) he performs. And he does it quietly, just like his personality. It doesn’t blow you away, but man, is it impressive.

As far as underachievers, hoo boy, where to start. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch is either on fire, blowing an engine or running top 20, which is not where the No. 1 team needs to be if they want to contend for a playoff spot. Bubba Wallace and 23XI Racing had unrealistic expectations thrust upon them preseason (notably by their team owner Michael Jordan predicting two wins), but zero top-10s to show for themselves after 15 races leaves a lot to be desired.

And, lastly, Stewart-Haas Racing. I don’t need to throw stats at you to get the point across that the organization has taken up residency aboard the struggle bus (minus Kevin Harvick). Chase Briscoe‘s rookie season (while abnormal due to COVID-19 restrictions) has made him look like one, Cole Custer still needs practice and Aric Almirola has a black cat following him, crawling under ladders and breaking mirrors.

Good news for SHR is that this won’t last forever. The sport goes in cycles, and with young, established talent in their seats, their performance is bound to turn around soon. It just probably won’t be in 2021.

Ty Gibbs won two races in six hours this weekend. How many wins can he realistically rack up across ARCA and Xfinity this year? – Robert D., Cheyenne, Wyo.

Let’s do some math (at the risk of failing miserably because I hate it), shall we?

Gibbs has already won eight races this season (two Xfinity, four ARCA Menards Series, one ARCA Menards Series East and one ARCA Menards Series West). He has nine more Xfinity races scheduled and the remainder of the ARCA slate (14) with Joe Gibbs Racing.

In his four ARCA wins, he’s led every lap in two of them and almost every lap in the other two. It’s no secret the competition in that series is, well, nonexistent, but Gibbs keeps winning and making it look easy. With 14 races left, you can pencil him in for at least six more. And that may be on the low end.

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This weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Gibbs will be in the Xfinity field. He’s already won on a road course (Daytona International Speedway road course) and has four additional road course races on his NXS schedule, plus another intermediate (he just won at Charlotte).

It might be a bit ambitious, but I’d pencil Gibbs in for at least two more wins of his remaining nine events. That would put him at four wins in 14 starts (29% win rate) as an 18-year-old, while rolling to an ARCA championship with ease.

That’s not even counting any additional East or West races Gibbs and JGR choose to enter (and immediately become the overwhelming favorite).

So to answer your question, Robert, with eight wins currently, I’ll say Ty Gibbs ends up with 17 wins (at least six more ARCA wins, two Xfinity and one somewhere else) on the season.

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It will be fun to watch Ty Gibbs come into Cup and run circles around the “old guys” at HMS. This year, Felony Motorsports is happy to cheat its way to the front, but this guy is just what JGR needs to bring them back to where they belong. Of course, the media won’t fall all over him like they have for Larson and Elliott, but the wins will matter more.

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