Lugnuts: Harvick and Stewart Need to Turn Up the Heat
Throughout this short season we've seen some that some teams have gotten incredibly hot very early, but others have struggled mightily.
Matt Kenseth left Roush-Fenway Racing for Joe Gibbs Racing and he already has two wins. Jimmie Johnson has two wins, and his teammate Kasey Kahne has one win with a couple second-place finishes as well.
But the Stewart-Haas Racing teams, and Kevin Harvick have been struggling. However, they've been struggling for different reasons.
Harvick has been strong in almost every race this season. He was the odds-on favorite to win the season opening Daytona 500 before an early crash took him out of the race. But in almost every other race this season he's run up in the top five and then faded out of the top 10 during the last run of the race.
Harvick sits 12th in the standings. He has yet to get a top five finish and only has one top 10. His finishes have not been indicative of how his team has been running so far this season, but unfortunately for Harvick, the finishes (and of course the points) are all that matter.
For Tony Stewart, the performance just hasn't been there at all. Stewart sits 21st in the points standings with one top ten and no top five finishes. There's really only been one race where one can remember Stewart up near the front in the closing stages of a race, and that was in California. Stewart restarted third with 11 laps remaining but dropped all the way to 22nd. One now realizes why Stewart was so angry with Joey Logano for blocking on that final restart. Whether it's truly the case or not, Stewart must have felt that Logano caused him to finish so poorly.
Harvick and Stewart are going to be teammates in 2014. Harvick is leaving Richard Childress Racing for Stewart-Haas Racing at the end of this season. One has to wonder if Harvick is starting to regret that decision when he sees how the SHR cars have run so far this season. Ryan Newman is the highest SHR driver in the standings, and he only sits 17th.
The season is still early, but Harvick and the SHR cars need to pick up their performance soon if they want to have any shot at making the Chase in September.
As most of you know by now, the Penske Racing teams of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano were penalized harshly after the Texas race two weeks ago.
The teams were found to have altered the rear-end housings to try to skew the right rear of the car to get more downforce.
NASCAR was not happy with this at all and let them know by handing down harsh penalties. Both teams were penalized 25 driver/owner points, both crew chiefs were suspended six races and fined $100K, both car chiefs, and the lead engineers from both teams were suspended for six races as well.
The teams are in the process of appealing the penalties, but one would guess that they will most likely lose the appeal.
So yesterday in Kansas, the 22 team had more issues and it is obvious that this penalty is really going to hurt Logano.
Logano was involved in a hard crash with Kyle Busch mid-way through the race. Busch spun out by himself up near the wall in turn three. Logano was on the apron expecting Busch to stay high near the wall. But Busch came down the track right into Logano and they nailed each other basically head-on.
The crash caused Logano to finish 39th. Couple that with the penalty and Logano has dropped from ninth to 20th in the standings in one week.
The performance has been there almost every race for Logano's team, but now he's in a really deep hole. There's plenty of time to dig out of it, but he has to hope that he meshes with the interim crew chief quickly. Otherwise Logano may be on the outside of the Chase looking in again.
The Truck Series
The Camping World Truck Series has raced for the last three straight weeks, and they've put on a show in each race.
But now the Trucks are off again. And not just for a week or so. The Trucks are off until May 17th. Pretty much a full month.
I complain about this often, because I still don't understand it. I really do not understand the scheduling for this series.
One can make the argument (actually many will) that the Camping World Truck Series puts on the best races of the top-three NASCAR national divisions. The Truck races are always exciting, and yet they barely get to race over the first third of the season.
There has to be a better way to write up the schedule for this series. NASCAR needs to find a better way to do it, because this is a series that is very marketable. Between the hard racing, the older veterans, and the new kids, this series is fun to watch.
But by letting them race only four times from February to mid-May, it's incredibly hard to bring in new viewers. Those who are loyal to the Trucks will watch because they know the whole schedule. But there are others who will tune in accidentally. They'll be looking through the channel guide on their TV and stumble upon it and turn it on. That's how I am with the IndyCar Series. I don't know when every IndyCar race is like I do the NASCAR races. But if I find one on TV I'll stop and watch it. The key is to take that type of fan and get them watching religiously. And that is hard to do when you only have the series race four times between February and May.
Fix the schedule for this series, NASCAR, and more people will tune in every week. The best racing is in the Camping World Truck Series. If you fix the schedule, more people will realize that.