By David G. Firestone
Since I’ve been on vacation, there have been a number of newsworthy events that have garnered my attention. I’m going to discuss some of them today and give my brief take on each story.
-Alex Bowman is going to replace the retiring Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the #88 in 2018. I think this sums up Hendrick’s mindset perfectly. There are a number of decent drivers in both Cup and Xfinity Series competition, and people within Hendrick are convinced that Alex Bowman, who has done NOTHING in his career, aside from some ARCA races.
In three years, Hendrick Motorsports has gone from the gold standard down to the bronze standard. Hendrick is becoming the new Roush Fenway Racing! Jeff Gordon, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have been replaced by Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman. Their program of supplying equipment to other teams has gone by the wayside. They simply are not as formidable and marketable than they used to be. The question needs to be asked, is this the beginning of the end of Hendrick Motorsports? If things keep going in the direction they are, then it very well could be
-The Silly Season continues with Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones, and Paul Menard all switching teams for 2018. Blaney is going to Penske for a third full-time team, Erik Jones is replacing Matt Kenseth in the #20, and Menard is going to the Wood Brothers. I can’t really disagree with any of these moves. They are smart moves all around.
-Target announced that this is the last year they will be sponsoring the #42 of Kyle Larson. This is a little confusing since Larson can now be considered a top-shelf driver, and he is very much a championship caliber driver. However, if it comes down to the sponsorship not being economically viable, then it is the right decision.
-The NHRA announced that they will soon be regulating the so-called “swept-back headers” in Funny Car. Currently, the maximum angle they can be is 32 degrees, however, in 2018, that will change to 40 degrees. I’m going to be interested in seeing how this change will affect teams. It’s been established that Courtney Force, and, presumably, the rest of the John Force Racing Funny Cars use the 40 degree headers. Yet Matt Hagan, and presumably the rest of Don Schumacher Racing use the 32 degree headers. Will this put Force ahead of Schumacher? It remains to be seen.
-I was thinking about the rivalry between Force and Schumacher. Don Schumacher and John Force have a rivalry that rivals Force and Cruz Pedregon’s rivalry in the 1990’s. But what I’ve been noticing is that every year, one says something that riles the other up. What then happens is that there is a tension between the two for a while, but then that cools down. I’m wondering how far is too far? I’m really concerned that one or the other is going to take one step too far, and it’s going to get everyone in trouble. I hope both sides can work something out to avoid that happening.
-Indy Car has announced and shown the new cars that will be running in 2018. There are two different aero kits, one that is raced at super-speedway ovals, and the other which is raced at all other events. The drivers seem to be happy with this new package, and I’m looking forward to seeing it in action.
-When it comes to this site, everything is back to normal starting this week. The Paint Scheme Grades and Tracker will be up and ready. It was a fun vacation, which I’ll discuss more on Friday!