By KEVIN JACOBS
With the struggling year of Austin Dillon and Kyle Larson in their second full season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, could an actual sophomore slump be taking place and applied in consideration with evaluating the rest of the season and careers of these two young drivers? Having such high expectations for the future of these two talents and the results of the season being less than anticipated, should there be concerns going forward or is this type of setback normal?
Winning the Camping World Truck Series and the Xfinity Series championships in consecutive seasons, going into the NSCS, for Dillon was nothing less than expected success. A rookie year learning curve proved to be too much for Dillon, but the high points in the season were a promising starting point with earning four top-10s.
After nine races, Dillon’s best finish is a 10th place at Bristol with an average finish of 22nd place for the year. This season’s stats with the mild success from last year may be the reason why Dillon has been active in running the Xfinity Series races.
The predicted addition to Richard Childress Racing in 2016 would be to bring Ty Dillon, brother to Austin, up to join him in the NSCS. With big brother as a natural mentor, his knowledge of the route to success is crucial for Ty’s learning curve in the next level.
Also, having the presumption of a quality year is Larson, who coming off his Rookie of the Year campaign, appears to not have found his groove yet this season. Having a stretch of three top-fives in four races at the latter end of last season, big expectations were for Larson at the beginning of the year. The three top-10s Larson has accumulated this year is just a sample of what was expected. Unlike Dillon, Larson is not as active in the other NASCAR sanctioned series, which seemed to be the agenda for last year.
In most instances, an improvement is seen in a sophomore season for NSCS current stars. Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski are just a few examples of drivers showing an increased consistency during their second full season.
A driver who is not having a sophomore slump is Justin Allgaier. Allgaier has a top-10 this season, a feat he did not accomplish all last year, and is proving to be a weekly contender in the front part of the pack. Do the steps forward that Allgaier has taken this year indicate higher success for his career in contrast to Dillon and Larson that have taken a step backwards?
In just a small sample size of the season being evaluated, a turnaround is very possible for Dillon and Larson, but if the trends continue, expectations will have to change in at least the near future for these two drivers. The sky is the limit regarding talent with these two tough competitors and being future stars is nearly guaranteed, but the time when this transformation takes place could be more revealing as the results of the rest of the year unfold.