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WAID’S WORLD: A Few Ruminations After The Season’s 11th Race

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Just some thoughts and observations after the AAA 400 Drive for Autism at Dover, the 11th race of the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup season:

—- I sort of halfway joked during the race, while Kevin Harvick was dominating, that to this point in the season if it wasn’t Harvick, it was Kyle Busch.

There was plenty of evidence for that and there’s even more after Dover – which Harvick won handily.

Between them they have won seven of the 11 races run to date – Busch three and now four for Harvick. They have eight stage wins, Busch two and Harvick six. Together they have earned 36 playoff points, Busch 17 and Harvick 19. They are easily the leaders in all categories.

Busch holds the point advantage as the leader where Harvick is third, 40 points in arrears.

Both of them are playoff bound so that’s that.

Like just about anything else that happens in NASCAR today that two drivers apparently hold an edge over the competition isn’t anything new, of course.

In 1987, for example, Dale Earnhardt swept to the championship with 11 victories. The only guy who could approach him was Bill Elliott, who finished second with six wins. They combined to win 17 of the season’s 29 races.

In 1972 I was a rookie motorsports writer and I walked into the middle of war that featured two drivers who dominated the season.

Bobby Allison was in his first, and only, year with Junior Johnson. Allison was always a determined competitor and his aggression was fueled by “that red and blue car he knew he had to beat,” according to Johnson.

That car, of course, belonged to Petty who emerged as NASCAR’s once and forever “King” during the 1960s.

Allison and Petty went at it like warriors, especially on the short tracks where they staged some of NASCAR’s most vicious battles.

In the end, Allison won 10 races and a remarkable 12 pole positions. Petty won eight times.

It would appear Allison took the measure of Petty but that was not the case. They each had 25 top-five finishes. Petty had 28 finishes among the top 10 and Allison had 27.

The minuscule difference – and I mean minuscule – was Petty’s average finish of 4.7 against Allison’s 5.3.

Allison lost the title by less than 130 points under the system of the day.

This is not to suggest that Harvick and Busch will stage a two-man free-for-all for the title. It is too early, by far, to predict that.

But it is clear that, to date, they are the year’s dominant drivers. The question is, how long will it last?

 

—- Many figured Jimmie Johnson would end his long losing streak at Dover, at which he has won 11 times including last spring – when he won his third and last race. He hasn’t won since.

Johnson performed well at Dover although he was not victorious. He finished ninth in a race dominated by Ford, which claimed five of the top eight positions, including first, Harvick, and second, Clint Bowyer.

Johnson has shown progress this season. He’s finished no worse than 12th in his last four races, which include runs of third at Bristol and sixth at Richmond.

Prior to that he had only one finish among the top 10.

Johnson remains unflappable and maintains his season is progressing. He can now provide evidence of that.

Many have suggested that Johnson’s difficulty lies in his inability to adapt to the new Camaro.

That may be but we now have evidence the adaptation seems to be coming around nicely.

 

—- Without attempting to sound political I think it is fair to suggest NASCAR would like to see one of its minority drivers take center stage on the Monster Energy circuit.

In my opinion I don’t think any fan would mind in the slightest.

There is promise.

Bubba Wallace, who, as you know, is a young African American driver for Petty, showed potential with a second-place finish in Daytona.

Yes, restrictor-plate races can be a crapshoot. To me that makes Wallace’s achievement more significant.

Recently Daniel Suarez, a Mexican on board at Joe Gibbs Racing, has put up a string of good finishes. He has finished among the top 10 in three of the last four races (with an 11th at Bristol). He topped it off with a third-place finish at Dover, easily his best of the season.

“In the last five weeks or so we have been moving in the right direction,” said Suarez, the 2016 Xfinity Series champion.

Again, it is early in the season. And, again, that means there is plenty of time for Wallace or Suarez to progress – or fail to do so.

I think it’s good for NASCAR, and all of us, if indeed they make good competitive strides.

EMAIL STEVE AT steve.waid@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW STEVE ON TWITTER: @SteveWaid

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Steve Waid

Steve Waid has been in motor sports journalism since 1972, the year he first started covering NASCAR, when he started his newspaper career at the Martinsville (Va.) Bulletin. From there Waid spent time at the Roanoke Times & World as well as NASCAR Scene, where he was the executive editor for 10 years. After retiring in 2010 he became the Vice President of Unplugged Auto Group for its website, MotorsportsUnplugged.com and has now joined POPULAR SPEED as an editor and columnist. Waid has won numerous writing awards and other such accolades. In January of 2014 he was inducted into the NMPA Hall of Fame.