Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, April 1, 2015, 12:42 p.m.
NASCAR has gotten quite a bit more complicated over the past few weeks.
From the very beginning, the Sprint Cup season has been marked by the unexpected, but not in the ways one might have anticipated.
One of the sport’s more talented drivers, Kyle Busch, seriously injured himself in a Daytona Beach crash, and when he will be back is a matter of great conjecture and little disclosure.
Kurt Busch, Kyle’s older brother, started the season under suspension for his personal conduct. He is now back, though opinion is still divided somewhat over whether or not he ought to be.
Another driver, Brian Vickers, is in the never-never land that comes with a medical problem that periodically recurs. Blood clots have reappeared. Vickers is back on blood thinners. He can’t race on blood thinners, and it’s starting to look like maybe he should, in the name of health and well-being, just call it quits.
Kyle Larson sat out Martinsville after fainting in an autograph session. He’s no longer in the hospital. There’s no race on Easter. Perhaps he’ll be back at the next race in Fort Worth.
The president of a major team, J.D. Gibbs at Joe Gibbs Racing, is at least hindered by mental problems that are as shrouded in mystery as the problems themselves.
The great Kevin Harvick streak – eight consecutive races (last three of 2014, first five of ’15) finishing either first or second – has ended. An impressive and perhaps even more unexpected streak by Martin Truex Jr. – six straight top-10 finishes for a team that had a miserable year in 2014 – continues.
The past two races have greatly broadened the results. There have been no surprise winners, but six races into the season, five different drivers have won: Harvick twice, Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, and Denny Hamlin. Chevys have won three races, Fords two and Toyotas one.
Harvick may still be the championship favorite, but the current format means being the favorite isn’t what it used to be.
In conjunction with the festive occasion of Easter, when, inexplicably, eggs are hidden to honor the risen Christ, NASCAR officials excised a massive number (75) of the points that don’t matter that much from the team of driver Ryan Newman and owner Richard Childress. The crew chief, Luke Lambert, has been fined $125,000. This would be a really onerous penalty if NASCAR didn’t allow the team to pay it, and letting the team pay it sort of defeats the punitive effect.
But that, as Walter Cronkite once might have said, is the way it is.
Tony Stewart has been in every race but hasn’t done much racing. Truex is third in points. Jeff Gordon is tied for 16th. Some have been surprisingly reliable. Some have been shockingly erratic. The season is just starting to sort itself out.
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