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Enjoying new aero package but JGR dominance getting stale

BROOKLYN, MICHIGAN – JUNE 07: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M’s Hazelnut Toyota, drives during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway on June 07, 2019 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn in the 15th race of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. So, heading into that race, we’re one race past the halfway mark of the 26-race regular season. Now’s the perfect time to take a look back at the first just-over-half of the regular season.

Can anybody contend with Joe Gibbs Racing? Well Team Penske can, kind off. Early in the season, JGR and Penske were the teams to beat; not until Chase Elliott won at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway in late April, the 10th race of the season, did someone from outside Gibbs or Penske finally get to victory lane. Four races later and that stat remains. Elliott is still the only non-JGR or Penske driver to win a Cup Series race in 2019.

Actually, there hasn’t been a new winner since Elliott’s win at Talladega. Kyle Busch, who has led Joe Gibbs Racing, did seem to cool as one of his teammates, Martin Truex Jr., heated up. Busch won a series-leading three races in the first eight before Truex took over and won three of his own, beginning with the ninth race of the season at Richmond (Va.) Raceway. Busch didn’t really go away, though. He continued to post top-10 after top-10, finishing outside the top-10 only once in the first 14 races — a 30th-place at Kansas Speedway near Kansas Speedway. He’s back on top, now, with his series-leading fourth win of the season coming last weekend at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa.

Okay, so Joe Gibbs Racing has nine wins in the first 14 races. That’s four for Busch, three for Truex and a couple for their teammate Denny Hamlin.

I guess it stands to reason that Busch would be the points leader. He’s also racked up 25 playoff points and is the only driver with more than 20 points in the playoff points column. Penske driver Brad Keselowski is just below 20 with 19 playoff points. He’s also just behind Busch in wins with three, tied with Busch’s JGR teammate Truex. Still, Team Penske, seemingly JGR’s closest competition, has only four wins to Gibbs’ nine with Joey Logano providing one other Penske win. Well, Logano may have only one win, but at least he’s second in points, trailing only Busch.

Considering his winning ways, one would think Busch would be happy, but nope, or at least he doesn’t seem to be. Specifically, Busch isn’t happy with NASCAR’s new aero package. Maybe Busch races best when he’s not happy, because he seems to have a better grip than everyone else on the package.

Other drivers have had gripes about the aero package, but Busch has been the most vocal, complaining about passing difficulty. But from a fan standpoint, I say, “Bring it on.” Passing may be difficult. But for the most part, I think we’ve seen some stellar racing this season. Okay, so every single race, so far, hasn’t been edge-of-your-seat, but a majority have. And let’s be realistic, here, we can’t expect every race to be one for the history books.

Busch and some of his fellow-competitors may not like this aero package, but I’m loving it. After all, these guys are supposed to be the best of the best; their jobs shouldn’t be easy.

Meanwile, there’s a few people for whom I maybe, kinda feel sorry. Well, I don’t really feel sorry for them, but I’m wondering what’s up with them. Jimmie Johnson, anyone? That last win was about two years ago and counting. Is seven-time washed up? I like to think not, but by Johnson standards, two winless seasons is a lot. I can’t help that he set our expectations so high.

I’ve been waiting for two years for Johnson’s slump to end, but I’m slowly giving up hope. The guy doesn’t even seem to even be a factor anymore. Do you realize he only has one top-five finish, so far, this year? And if the regular season ended now, he wouldn’t even make the playoffs.

On a not so severe note, what’s up with Stewart-Haas? All four of its drivers won a year ago (with Kurt Busch on its roster instead of Daniel Suarez), and Kevin Harvick was right there with Busch with eight wins. This year, though? Nada.

With the nearly half a remaining regular season left, will the next 12 races produce more of the same? Fast forwarding even beyond that, will we be facing a nearly-all JGR Championship Four at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November with maybe a Penske driver thrown in? I hope not. I’m not a Joe Gibbs Racing hater or even a Busch hater, and believe me, I enjoy more than my share of M&M’s. I just want to see somebody else win every now and then. Is that too much to ask for Pete’s sake?

Who exactly is Pete, anyway?

Drivers not on the Joe Gibbs Racing roster must be feeling sort of like the Washington Generals, or whatever that team was that served the role of the Harlem Globetrotters’ always-defeated opponents. Well, at least Team Penske is somewhat doing its part.

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Posted by on June 7, 2019. Filed under Blog by Amanda Vincent,Featured,Monster Energy NASCAR Cup,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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