Through the Looking Glass or Over the Rainbow

What Fairytale or Nightmare Will the 2017 NASCAR Season Bring?

 

The cover is about the open on the 2017 NASCAR season and it yet remains to be seen whether it will turn out to be a fairytale or a nightmare for both fans and drivers. During the off-season, we have seen many changes come about and soon we will see what those changes mean for the sport. There has been a lot of discussion both pro and con about all the rule changes as fans are tired of rule changes almost weekly. Drivers seem to be tight lipped or politically correct when asked about the changes because they don’t want to raise the ire of the all-powerful NASCAR, more mighty than the Great and Powerful OZ.

Most everyone I’ve heard or talked to agree that MONSTER Energy is a good choice for the series sponsor. Monster Energy is a high-profile sponsor in many forms of motorsports and had already been a full-time sponsor with Stewart Haas Racing on the car driven by Kurt Bush. Monster Energy is well known and advertises mainly through the sponsorship of sporting events including motocross, BMX, mountain biking, monster trucks, snowboarding, car racing, speedway and esports events. So, NASCAR looks to benefit from its alliance with Monster and its well-known brand in the sports world and the crossover fans it can provide. So, this development could come down on the fairytale side.

The changes in format are another big development and a big subject of contention. Many die-hard fans do not take well to continued changes and I have heard many say they are just ready to walk away and be done. Some are willing to give it a chance and see how it goes and hope it improves the racing although it did not remove the Chase that they had hoped it would. They are happy at least for the addition of a Season Champion that will selected only by points before the Chase begins. This is somewhat a throwback to the old points series champion when consistency was the name of the game from the first race till the last. As a fan, myself I am encouraged that the segments that are being instated will encourage harder racing throughout the race and not allow those who have won a race and are in the chase to lay back and not race for the available bonus points.

Other rule changes include a further reduction in downforce like the packages we saw last year at Kentucky and Michigan. Both drivers and fans seem to like this change as it puts more of the driving of the car back in the driver’s hands.

Safety enhancements have been made as is always the case and is always on the fairytale side when a driver is saved from serious injury.

One change that some old die-hard fans will not appreciate and has not been as well publicized as the other rules changes is the new rule on repair of damaged cars. If a car is damaged and brought on to pit road there is a five-minute limit. If it cannot be fixed within that time it may not return to the race. If a car at any time needs to go behind the wall it may not return to the race. This could come down on the nightmare side for a driver who goes out early in a race.

So as far as rule changes we must wait and see for a few races to see if this all turns out to be a fairytale or a nightmare for drivers and fans.

Of course, the big news and all the excitement surrounds Dale JR and his return to the car. JR Nation is looking for a him to blast off the starting line and return to Victory Lane in Daytona like a knight in shining armor and maybe he will that certainly would be a fairytale beginning to the season. As for the rest of the Hendrick stable, can Jimmie Johnson repeat as champion and become the only 8-time champion? Will Kasey Kahne ever beat this slump he’s in? Is this the year Chase Elliott becomes the superstar he is destined to be? There are both fairytales and nightmares in the stable, let’s just watch and see how they play out.

The rookie crop this year seems to be all fairytale. It should be a battle all the way to the end with the perfect dream of talent and ample experience. Eric Jones #77, Ty Dillon #13 and Daniel Suarez #19, who will be stepping in for the exiting Carl Edwards. These three are accustomed to racing each other and it should be quite a battle for Rookie of the Year. This is one fairytale from the first green flag at Daytona.

Will the Toyota contingent continue to be the powerhouse we’ve seen over the past few seasons taking turns with wins and poles or will things be shaken up by the move of Stewart-Haas Racing over to the Ford stable. Many were shocked, myself being one, when the word came down that Stewart would be taking his team to Ford after a long-time relationship with Chevrolet. After much thought and study, I have concluded that this was no easy decision for Stewart. It was strictly business. Stewart is a winner, on the track, in life and in business. After weighing the options being offered by Ford with manufacture support as well as what he could offer his employees as the best package available and with what he and those closest to him felt could offer them the best opportunity to be the dominating team they desire to be the decision to move to Ford had to be made and it was without regret.

Stewart left Chevy with all the accolades of all the years of partnership it had brought and the friendships made but the new year is here now and Stewart is all Ford and looking to the future and greatness of Stewart-Haas Racing. Stewart has stepped out of the car and Clint Bowyer is set to replace him in the #14. Bowyer is a strong established driver and more than that he is hungry. He has been stuck with circumstances over the last few years in equipment that were not up to par with his caliber as a driver and he is set to prove he can still drive and he can still win and SHR is dedicated to provide him the equipment to do just that. The “Bull”, Kevin Harvick is just waiting to bust out of the gate and prove he can drive and win in whatever car he drives. He is proven and he is a champion and a hard charger and who are we to doubt him? Danica Patrick is still the question at SHR. Whether in a Ford or Chevy, Danica needs to improve this season or SHR needs to consider looking for a winner to put in the #10. With SHR starting an Xfinity team this year with driver Cole Custer they will have a driver possibly waiting in the wings if another driver doesn’t become available. Kurt Busch as always will continue to be a contender and could be the one to bring Ford another Championship.

Could SHR become the premiere Ford team, outshining Penske and Rousch? I know that’s the fairytale Mr. Stewart is looking for and I for one would enjoy being there to see.

The 2017 season is full of scenarios of happiness and sadness, hilltops and valleys, joy and disillusion and yes fairytales and nightmares. The story opens with the green flag in Daytona and comes to an end with the checkered flag in Homestead. The tale in between is yet to be written. I’ll be watching for twists and turns!!

 

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