Monday, April 14, 2014

Harvick's Darlington Stripes And Stewart-Haas' Easter Abundance

The Southern 500 weekend has come and gone and with it has gone Winston Cup's season-opening string of different winners.   Kevin Harvick's win was hardly unexpected given he led 238 laps and a series of late yellows were mere stays of execution, though the fact Stewart-Haas Racing is now well above its Hendrick Motorsports suppliers is a head-scratcher; given the cutthroat reality of racing one wonders when the backlash from Hendrick comes.  

But then Stewart-Haas Racing, clearly a favorite in the Chevrolet racing hierarchy, has been defying such odds since Chevy helped Stewart buy into Gene Haas' organization.   They've now won 22 races in this, their sixth season.   And Gene Haas is ready to take the plunge into Formula One - and we can't fathom why, as F1 is even more viciously political than NASCAR and crashingly boring as a form of racing.   It's the first American presence there since the ill-advised Michael Andretti foray in 1993, and Michael didn't make F1 fans in the US out of anyone. 


Harvick's status within the organization will go up if it hasn't already, as he appears to be top dog, and his absence from his former employer is also quite obvious as RCR has no moxie anywhere.   The rookie of the year race for Austin Dillon realistically is already over with Austin routed by Kyle Larson, this despite a decent finish for Dillon at Darlington, and it is absurd to expect much out of Paul Menard or Ryan Newman right now.

The only other Chevrolet team with any muscle is Ganassi-SABCO, and they got a decent performance at Darlington despite Kyle Larson whacking the wall a couple of times.   Curiously this outfit has led just ten laps all season, all of them by Jamie McMurray at Bristol.  


And it's looking more and more bleak for any other brand to challenge Chevrolet.   JGR's Toyotas won Fontana and have shown some consistent muscle but this challenge has hardly been inspiring; JGR did salvage top-six finishes for Kyle Busch and the curiously-quiet Matt Kenseth.    The rest of the Toyota squadron has been left behind.

The Ford flotilla is the only other non-Chevrolet to have won, and while Penske's bunch are cooking since Carl Edwards' Bristol win the Ford challenge has been largely quiet.   The Fenway group that is part of Roush's bunch is starting out with a bad year overall between a poor Red Sox showing and mediocrity on the racing end.    No less ugly was the terrible effort of Aric Almirola at Darlington, though teammate Marcos Ambrose salvaged 14th.   


Speaking of Chevrolet, their future contains a supreme irony, in that Chevy's newest star is a youngster whose dad is one of Ford's most famous champions.   Seeing Casey Elliott's win at the Rebel 200 evoked memory of the famous 1979 Rebel 500 finish, and also brought reminder of how time changes - Chase is winning in Chevrolets where his dad Bill was Ford's superman in the 1980s and as late as 1992.  

So ends the first portion of the 2014 Winston Cup season as Easter and Patriots Day beckon.    The Richmond 400 weekend and Stafford Speedway's Spring Sizzler come up in two weeks.

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