The west coast swing is now behind us. We’re four races into the NASCAR Cup Series season as the circus heads back east for two races in the southeastern part of the United States.
Next week we go to Atlanta. A week later, it’s to Homestead. Where this is significant is, the teams can finally adjust their race cars.
See, when everyone packed up and headed out of the Daytona International Speedway late on Monday night after the race, they had to hurry up when they got back to their North Carolina shops and head out west.
We’d have three races in three weeks, all on the west coast. With the shops being in North Carolina, logistically it’s nearly impossible to make setup changes based on the data learned so far in 2020.
The cars were locked and loaded and ready for their respective races on the west coast and no time to alter setups and make changes back east. Now, is the time that this can finally occur.
Plus, we’ve had four races on four completely different race tracks. Daytona is a superspeedway. Las Vegas is a smooth 1.5-mile oval. Fontana is a rough 2-mile oval on an aged racing surface. Phoenix, is a short 1-mile track.
There’s enough data now for changes to be made.
So, after four races, who’s on top of their game and who needs changes?
Top Speed Cars
- Ryan Blaney
He should have three top two finishes right now. A costly caution in the end of the Vegas race while leading and a tire in the end at Fontana kept top two finishes from the Team Penske driver. The finishes right now say – 2nd, 11th, 19th and 37th but the ability and race car says a top two contender.
2. Alex Bowman
This is likely the second best race car right now. Bowman, like Blaney, was hurt by that late race caution in Vegas. He then turned around and led 110 of 200 laps in Fontana en route to a victory. He has finishes of 24th, 13th, first and 11th through four races.
3. Joey Logano
The Team Penske driver looks good so far. He was among the best cars at Daytona but just got caught up in a crash. He won in Vegas as well as Phoenix but was ho-hum in Fontana.
4. Martin Truex Jr.
The finishes here say 32nd, 20th, 14th and 32nd. But, Truex’s race car has been far faster than those results show. He was caught up in a crash at Daytona. He had pit road problems in Vegas and Fontana. He was punted in Phoenix. The speed is a top five car.
5. Chase Elliott
The finishes like Truex, aren’t indicative on how much speed he has. Elliott, won three of the first four stages in 2020 including having five top two finishes over the last six of them. He’s also led the most laps in two of the last three races. But, Elliott was involved in a crash at Daytona and had an issue during the end of the race in Vegas to go along with a loose wheel Sunday in Phoenix. The finishes were 17th, 26th and seventh respectively.
6. Kevin Harvick
The only guy with a top 10 finish in all four races so far but I have him sixth on my list. The reason? He hasn’t shown as much speed as the rest in front. Harvick, was sixth in Daytona but hung out in the back all race. He was eighth in Vegas but his car faded off as a run would go on. He was ninth in Fontana as a non factor. He did finish runner-up in Phoenix but this is a different racing package.
He’s close but not quite there yet. At this point last year, he was 26th (Daytona), fourth (Vegas), fourth (Fontana) and ninth (Phoenix).
7. Brad Keselowski
He’s there with Harvick. Good car, a solid one, but not great. Keselowski, crashed in Daytona (36th) and was seventh in Vegas, fifth in Fontana and 11th in Phoenix. He’s a top 10 car right now but not a big top five threat. This is a bit off as last year as he was 12th (Daytona), second (Vegas), third (Fontana) and 19th (Phoenix).
8. Kyle Larson
He was a quiet 10th in Daytona and ninth in Vegas but had troubles early on in Fontana (21st) and fourth was in Phoenix.
9. Kyle Busch
He may have two top three finishes in the last two weeks, but even Busch admitted that the speed isn’t in his car for top five’s yet.
Busch, crashed in Daytona and finished 34th. He only a non factor and only 15th in Vegas. The runner-up at the Auto Club Speedway was a big of smoke and mirrors.
Last year, Busch had a third and two victories in his three west coast starts. He was runner-up in Daytona too. That’s four top three finishes in these races a year ago. This year, he’s 34th, 15th, 2nd and.
10. Jimmie Johnson
What a much better start to a season for the seven-time champion. He looked stout in Daytona, was fifth in Vegas, seventh in Fontana and 12th in Phoenix. He looks like his 98 race winless drought is coming to an end soon as he has a ton of speed.
None of the rookies are really thriving right now. The “Big 3” were supposed to be playoff threats but they look pedestrian at the moment. Christopher Bell has finishes of 21st, 33rd, 38th and 24th. Cole Custer has been 37th, 19th, 18th and ninth. Tyler Reddick has finished 28th, 18th, 11th and 33rd.
Just one top 10 between them.
John Hunter Nemechek started out great with an 11th place finish in Daytona, but he was only 24th, 25th and 25th after the following three weeks.
For a contract year, he needs better finishes if he wants to be back in the 20 next season. Jones, was 18th in Daytona, 23rd in Vegas, 10th in Fontana and 28th in Phoenix. I need more out of him.
He had a magnificent drive in Fontana to rebound for a third place run, but his other three races have been forgetful. Busch, was 33rd in the Daytona 500, 25th in Vegas and better than his car sixth place finish in Phoenix.
What an underwhelming start for the third year driver. He was crashed by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. early in the Daytona 500 (40th). He was second on the final restart in Vegas but suffered a cut tire from contact with Matt DiBenedetto and finished 22nd. In Fontana, he was only 15th. He did finish 10th in Phoenix to maybe get some momentum back.
Not a great start to 2020 for him either. Bowyer, grabbed a sixth place finish in Daytona but had a bad car the last three weeks. He was just 12th (Vegas), 23rd (Fontana) and fifth (Phoenix) respectively. His top five in Phoenix was encouraging but he says that they need to fix the turning on the front end of his race car as they head back east.
We thought RCR would be improved in 2020. They talked a big game. But, Dillon only finished 12th in Daytona, 24th in Fontana and 36th in Phoenix. He was fourth in Vegas but that’s because of a pit call gamble to not pit towards the end to steal a top five.
He never was much of a factor in Daytona (30th), stole a top 10 in Vegas (10th) and was only 26th (Fontana) and 15th (Phoenix) the last two weeks.