The first seven races of the new era in NASCAR were the wackiest we have ever experienced, and the new stage format has added a lot of intrigue. The new stage format has opened a lot of opportunities for those who are usually good, but always among the unfortunate as they always struggle to find a win in any way shape or form. It is also a new era in sponsorship with Monster Energy having a huge say in everything that goes on as far as competition. With the first off week of the season, it is time to look at who is the best and worst in what was practically the first quarter.
Best driver: Kyle Larson: You can forget about how all the other veterans are doing like Keselowski and Logano, Larson has been on a true tear since Atlanta, and with the exception of two races has five top two finishes which include a Fontana win. Chip Ganassi Racing hasn’t really hit the news early this often in a long time and with Larson’s early push into the season, could be the newest team making some noise and disrupting things for all veterans involved.
Worst driver: Denny Hamlin: While Kyle Busch has become the only Joe Gibbs driver to come alive and work his way into the top ten, Hamlin seems to be the only driver off to a slow start, if not the only driver. While JGR was off to a hot start around this time last season, it has went the other direction for Hamlin who has only two top ten finishes opposite of last year’s Daytona 500 win and two other top fives.
Best team: Team Penske: No one has really been on fire more than these two who know how to start a streak when they have a bad week. Brad Keselowski is the only multi-time winner after seven races winning at Atlanta and Martinsville. Joey Logano has one pole this year and six of his top tens have four top five finishes, and has stayed in the top five in points since the start.
Worst team: Joe Gibbs Racing: Even with Kyle Busch’s sudden surge, just like Hamlin the entire team is not where they want to be even after Carl Edwards’ sudden departure. Of course to be fair to Daniel Suarez, he was thrown in real quickly which may have offset the entire team strategy. If Hamlin or Matt Kenseth don’t get a streak going soon at Bristol, Kyle may be carrying JGR on his own.
Biggest fight: Logano vs Kyle Busch: Who cannot forget the only real fist o’ cuff pit road incident at Las Vegas. Logano spins out Kyle while he was racing to the checkered flag for possibly one of his biggest finishes, if not the biggest finish. Though it looks that NASCAR has now moved on from this incident, it was pretty much the biggest talk so far in 2017.
Between Bristol and Kansas leading up to the All-Star Race, a lot can happen in four races with Kansas being the first Saturday night race. Who knows what will happen with the new All-Star format in place and it could carry over into the Coca-Cola 600. This new era is just now heating up and it won’t cool off anytime soon.