Getting Ready For NASCAR 2017

Matt Kenseth leads the pack at Daytona. [Russ Lake Photo]

Matt Kenseth leads the pack in the 2016 Daytona 500. [Russ Lake Photo]

Turk’s Tracks
A Few Loose Lug Nuts from Pit Row

By Gene Turk

Although the 2017 Daytona 500 is still a month away, there is still plenty of news concerning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series 2017 racing season. Perhaps one of the biggest store lines is Carl Edward’s retirement from NASCAR. Carl was always a fan favorite and he came oh so close to winning the 2016 NASCAR championship in his #19 Toyota. During his career, Carl won 28 races, 22 poles, and 124 top five finishes and earned approximately $10 million dollars. He had one of the highest percentages of top-5 finishes which rivals Jimmie Johnson, who presently holds that record with 60% of his finishes in the top five.

Another story that is noteworthy is that the Stewart-Hass team is switching from Chevy to Ford. There is information coming out of the shops that Stewart-Hass will be building their own chassis. So basically, this organization will be starting the 2017 season with a clean sheet of paper. This is one team that I’ll be watching closely at Daytona to see how quickly they came come up to speed. Besides learning all the ins and outs of the Ford power plant, they will also have to learn how to set up a new chassis and understand the Fusion’s aero package. Not to be left out is Clint Bowyer will now be in the #14 car that Tony Stewart vacated after his retirement.

The Toyota camp also had big news with the introduction of the newly designed Camry for the 2017 season. It will be interesting to see how well Matt Kenseth and Kyle Bush adapt to the new car. They were fast last year, and I expect nothing less from them in ’17.

On a personal note, I’m thinking that 2017 could be a make or break year for Danica Patrick. By her own admission, 2016 did not live up to her expectations. We know that she can be fast because we have seen that at times during qualifying. However, her race finishes tended to not be on the lead lap and were usually in the mid-20s. She just seems to be a mid-pack finisher. Perhaps King Richard was right when he said, “she just hasn’t learned how to race.”

And finally, could this be the year that Jimmie Johnson wins his 8th championship and passes Richard Petty and becomes the new King? With all of these story lines and so many more, 2017 is shaping up to be another fantastic racing season.

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