Tha Sports Junkies 101

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series 2017 Season Preview

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NASCAR

We are now just about one week away from the start of the 2017 NASCAR Season, and for the first time in a while there are an endless amount unknowns on what the product will provide the fans with. The recent changes to the already somewhat frowned upon points system in the Monster Energy Cup Series is one of the main points of skepticism and when that is paired with the new race formats you are going to be put under a scope from the fans.

Although NASCAR is putting emphasis on the new points system and how you can earn bonus points for winning the different segments of the race, I would not expect it to affect the way the drivers race over the course of a 400 to 500 mile event. Teams are not going to jeopardize their chance at a good finish or win by shooting themselves in the foot getting off strategy just to win an earlier segment in the race. I would expect the majority of races to have the same feel to them as we are used to.

Going into the week before the Daytona 500, fans still are unaware on what format they will be seeing for the Great American Race. With the new race formats every race will be cut into three segments so there will be as little on track activities missed by the fans at home as possible. Although it is unknown what we will be getting in a week it is going to set the benchmark for the 2017 season. As the Daytona 500 is NASCAR’s biggest race of the year it will draw the most eyes on it that it will receive all year, so if this new format does not go well in its first test it could leave a bad taste in the mouths of many fans. However the uncertainty of the new system should make for an interesting year of racing from the top drivers in the world.

With that being said even with the new format being thrown at us this coming season, NASCAR’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is still filled with 40 of the best drivers in the world. Anytime you put them all on the track at the same time things are going to get interesting. Couple this with the new 2017 lower downforce package and there should be plenty of great close racing to please all the fans. While it may not be the perfect package it is a good thing that NASCAR is willing to experiment with the car to improve the product that gets put on the track. The best thing about the new downforce package is that it should put the outcome of the finish more in the hands of the driver if you have near top equipment. The driver should be able to wheel the car to a better finish. I would expect to see the normal power house drivers of the sport to continue to remain on top. There just isn’t a scenario that i see where drivers such as Jimmie Johnson, three of the four Gibbs drivers (it would be four of four but Suarez is an unknown), the Team Penske drivers don’t win the majority of the races on the schedule as well as having the champion come out of this group of drivers.

However there are a few drivers that i would expect to make some noise this season as they continue t gain more experience in NASCAR’s top series. I would look for Chase Elliott to take a massive leap from his rookie season and earn multiple wins, as well as make a run into the Round of Eight of the Chase. The next driver that I expect to continue to improve is Kyle Larson. Larson is coming off of a season on which he made the chase for the first time as well as getting his first career win. I would expect him to add on more to his win total this coming year and also advance in the Chase which is something he failed to do last year. The final driver that i expect to make gains on their previous season is Ryan Blaney. Coming off his rookie season where he didn’t make the chase of grab his first career win, there is no way to go but up for the second year driver. There are also several factors that will improve the Wood Brothers Racing Team from what it was last season and the main one is that the team moved their shop closer to that of Team Penske so they can work more closely with each other. If he doesn’t earn his first career win this season I would expect at the least for Blaney to run consistent enough throughout the season to grab a spot in the Chase.

With all the above factors that will play into the upcoming season it is prediction time. I expect going into Homestead that there will be many familiar faces making up the Round of Four. I would expect to see Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, and Denny Hamlin be the four drivers to take up the spots. Out of these four drivers I am going to roll with Kyle Busch as the man who will take home his second championship. Two years ago he learned what it meant to win a championship and last year he felt the heartbreak of being so close but losing it after leading the standings with under 50 laps to go. I expect to see a big year out of Kyle Busch that will end with him hoisting the Championship trophy over his head for the second time in three years.