Not long ago, we laid out some key storylines for readers to watch for heading into this year’s NASCAR season. Fast forward nine races in and here we are. Some of those questions have been answered while the majority of them continue to loom larger.
As the drivers prepare to converge on Talladega Superspeedway this Sunday for the Aaron’s 499, here is a quick glimpse on which drivers are often to a hot start and which ones are just spinning their wheels.
It turns out Keselowski was not a one-hit wonder, following up on his Sprint Cup Series Championship-winning performance with a white hot start this year. He has accumulated the most top 10 finishes (seven) and landed in the top five four different times. He is still waiting for a checkered flag, though. Nevertheless, it looks like he will be in the mix again this year. This time, he won’t sneak up on anyone as the underdog.
Simply put: If you’re sitting at the top of the standings, you’re off to a pretty good start. Johnson has two wins and started on one pole this year. He has four top five finishes and finished in the top 10 six times. He has a commanding lead over the field at this point.
Edwards is hot on Johnson’s heels (well, as hot as you can be). He has a Nationwide Series win under his belt to go with his five top 10 finishes. He might be doing it a little on the quieter side, but his push for a Sprint Cup Series Championship is already well underway.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Everyone will agree, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has gotten off to a hot start. What will come of that start is what is being debated. He has had his share of hot starts in the past, but he is still searching for his first Sprint Cup title. With three top five finishes, Junior certainly has started on the right foot, but now comes the hard part.
Simply put, Tony Stewart has seen better days — much better. In the last 15 seasons that Stewart has raced in the Sprint Cup Series, he had not gone a seven-race stretch where he was held without a top 10 finish. Unfortunately for this veteran, that has happened this year and he is desperately looking for a way to recover. While the season certainly is not yet a wash for Stewart, he is going to have to turn it around quickly and drastically.
Her eighth-place finish at Daytona got her fan base all fired up and ready for the “Year of Danica”. That excitement has calmed down as Patrick followed up with noticeable struggles, especially on the shorter tracks. Patrick has sank to No. 26 in the points and has yet to follow up Daytona with a top 10 finish.
Slow starts have seemed to plague Gordon in the last few years, and this season is no exception. Hit with some hard luck paired with lackluster driving, and Gordon finds himself No. 14 in points with two top 10 finishes.