NASCAR Who’s Hot/Who’s Not: Easter Breakby Kyle Pokrefky April 8, 2015 1 comment
Photo credit: Jerry Markland/NASCAR via Getty Images
As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage receives a breather after six consecutive races, the contenders have begun to separate themselves from the rest of the field already with 20 races to go until the Chase cutoff.
But, for those who are currently behind in the points standings, there’s still plenty of hope to turn their luck around.
Entering Saturday night’s Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, here is a brief overview of who has fallen behind in the standings after the first run of the schedule and who has already established themselves as major threats for the rest of the year.
HOT: Kevin Harvick
Not much of an explanation needed for this selection, but here are some statistics to spell out why the driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet belongs in the ‘hot’ column: two victories (Las Vegas, Phoenix), five top-fives, six top-10s, an average finish of 2.7 and a percentage of 36.8-percent of laps completed spent in the lead.
I feel like I’ve said too much.
NOT: Roush Fenway Racing
Through six races last year, Roush Fenway Racing’s then driver trio of Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had combined to score seven top-10s in collective starts. Flash forward to one year later, Roush Fenway’s new trio of Biffle, Stenhouse Jr. and Trevor Bayne only have one top-10 to their credit.
While Roush Fenway’s XFINITY Series program appears to be on the up-and-up, the Cup program has statistically regressed. Luckily, the Sprint Cup season is still young and there is still plenty of time to start moving the program in the right direction. This program certainly isn’t a lost cause.
HOT: Kurt Busch
Despite getting a late jump into the season, Kurt Busch hit the ground running at Phoenix – his first race of the year – and is already off to a hot streak of his own.
Even with three fewer starts than his fellow full-time competitors this year, Busch currently sits 24th in the points standings, buoyed by the help of two consecutive top-fives at Phoenix and Auto Club and a 14th-place finish at Martinsville. Busch’s average finish of 7.3 ranks the driver of the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet fourth of drivers to make three or more starts thus far this year.
With three impressive performances so far in 2015, the No. 41 team have already established themselves as one of the major players in the Cup garage. It’s not a matter of ‘if’ they will grab a win this season, but a matter of ‘when’ the team will roll into victory lane and clinch a Chase berth.
NOT: Carl Edwards
Seeking greener pastures by moving to Joe Gibbs Racing over the offseason, Edwards’s dreams of glory haven’t quite come to fruition yet as through six races, he is yet to score a top-10 finish.
Racking up three top-15 finishes with a best finish of 12th coming at Atlanta, the driver of JGR’s new No. 19 team currently sits in the drivers standings in a rather underwhelming position of 15th.
Edwards has been able to show that he can run up front as he has led at some point in four races this season for a total of 19 laps. He’s proven that he can run up front, now all he has to do is prove that he can finish there.
HOT: Martin Truex Jr.
In his second year with Furniture Row Racing, Martin Truex Jr. has already bested personal records of his own and for his team with his six consecutive top-10s to open up the 2015 season (both himself and Furniture Row have never scored six top-10s in a row.)
Those who thought that this accomplishment was merely a fluke and are doubters of the No. 78 team’s success this year need to take a look at the tracks these results came at. With each result coming on varied tracks like Daytona, Atlanta, Auto Club and Martinsville, it’s quite evident that this team is for real this season and has the potential to not only qualify for the Chase, but go far in it.
NOT: Tony Stewart
While Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Harvick has scored a top-10 in each race this season, SHR co-owner Tony Stewart finds himself entering the Duck Commander 500 with no top-10s to his credit. Marooned back in 32nd in the points, Stewart’s lack of pace from the 2014 season has carried over early into 2015 with a best finish of 14th at Auto Club coming after three consecutive finishes outside of the top-25.
Following up his 14th-place result with a 20th-place finish at Martinsville, the consecutive top-20s indicate that Stewart has already begun to turn his early slump around, albeit slowly. Typically known for going on a hot streak in the summer, Stewart needs to improve his performances leading into the final run to the Chase to show that he can be a credible threat to not only win this summer, but also earn a Chase berth.
Follow Kyle Pokrefky on Twitter at @KPokrefky