Thursday, 25 July 2024

NASCAR VIEW: Kevin Harvick, Chevys are hot; Roush Fenway Racing is not in 2015

Posted On Thursday, 26 March 2015 20:00 Written by
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Five weeks into the NASCAR season, it's becoming clear who the top contenders are at the Cup series level, and it's also clear what teams are in for a tough year.

Here are a few key points for those trying to keep score:

HOT: Chevy
Chevy competitors, particularly Kevin Harvick but also Hendrick drivers Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr., have been dominant this year. If a car is leading in 2015 it's probably a Chevy. That bodes well for the bowtie's chances of claiming another championship in 2015.


Yes, Penske Racing's two drivers are both locked into the Chase, but that is due to a restrictor plate racing win at Daytona for Logano and a great strategy call by Keselowski. Based on their overall performance as compared to the Chevy competitors, all Fords -- even Penske's -- are a bit behind the 8-ball in comparison. Good news for Ford is that with the two Penske cars locked in, they can experiment and work to get better before the Chase arrives. And maybe they'll share that info with the other Ford teams so they can improve too ... and maybe we'll see some other Fords in Victory Lane and the Chase.

NOT: Toyota
It's clear Toyota is down on power in 2015. That's hard to overcome.
No Toyota drivers have shown they can compete for a full race with Chevy teams or even Penske drivers on a weekly basis. You see surges from people like Hamlin and Kenseth, but many weeks there are just a couple or no Toyotas in the top 10 most of the day. That's a bad sign the Toyota drivers are behind this year, and their poor runs are reflected in the point standings.

-- Kevin Harvick
Put him in a schoolbus out there on the track and he'd probably win most weeks. Harvick mIght get a dozen wins this season at his current pace. He and crew chief Rodney Childers are clicking on all cylinders.

-- Ryan Newman
Newman is staying hot and running up front regularly after nearly shocking the world and winning the Cup title last fall. He could be an X factor again in this year's Chase.

-- Martin Truex Jr.
The 78 car has emerged from the funk it fell into last season and is up front every week, thanks in large part to its driver's efforts to get everything he can out of the car.

-- Casey Mears
Mears, a fan favorite with few strong finishes to boast of in his career in terms of the point standings, is sitting 12th in points so far in 2015, ahead of many superstars. He is running beyond the abilities of his No. 13 Geico car that is a single-car operation, and Casey is to be commended for what he's been able to do this year. I'd love to see him make the Chase; even if it's via points.


-- Danica Patrick

Danica seems to be running better each week and isn't wrecking, but she can't get over that mid-pack hump. Her goal this season should be that instead of running 20th most of the race, to run 10th, then once she does that she think about top-5s and wins. Until she gets nearer to the front, no way she can compete for wins or think about becoming Chase eligible via points.

-- Kurt Busch
In a sense Kurt won his PR battle in the wake of domestic violence claims by his ex Patricia Driscoll; while he does have a personal protection order against him, there were no criminal charges and his suspension was lifted by NASCAR two weeks ago. He's running strong and probably should have won last weekend, but with so much drama around him, Kurt's focus now must be to continue running up front, and the more he succeeds on track the more likely people are to be talking about Kurt's ability to race, instead of his off-track drama. 



-- Jeff Gordon
Jeff's final year in Cup before retiring is proving to be a bit lackluster so far, as he sits 22nd in points; in terms of overall performance and finishes. Gordon is snakebit, and will need to step things up to make the Chase and compete for a fifth title in his farewell season.

-- Roush Fenway Racing

Greg Biffle, Ricky Stenhouse and Trevor Bayne are pretty much a non-factor in 2015 in the Cup series. We only heard about Biffle last week because of his wreck at the end, and the other two Roush drivers are, like Biffle, nowhere to be seen up front. Between the three of them, there is one top-10 run so far this season. Biffle has publicly questioned the team's ability after weak Fontana runs, saying it was 'unacceptable; we're dying a slow death'  (though he later backtracked on that statement, it's revealing how a slump can affect the team's drivers).

I love the Cat in the Hat and all he's done in the sport, but his ship needs to be righted quickly if this once-strong team is to avoid becoming an also-ran. The departure of stars like Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth definitely has hastened the decline, but young talent in the ranks like Bubba Wallace could spice things up if he makes it to Cup at Roush. This year, though, will be tough sledding and they will have to dig for every position, and definitely won't be a factor in competing for many race wins or a championship.

-- Tony Stewart
It's been a pretty terrible year so far for Smoke after his worst start of his career; He's on the upswing after one strong run, but can't afford too many more setbacks due to his slow start. (To put in perspective how bad Tony's year has been; Kurt Busch has three fewer races under his belt and is 4 spots higher in points).

Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

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