Motorsport.com’s Jim Utter, Nick DeGroot and Tim Southers reply a number of questions as NASCAR prepares to formally crown Joey Logano because the 2018 NASCAR Cup Collection champion this week in Las Vegas.
Who’s no less than one driver you assume will make the Championship four within the NASCAR Cup Collection subsequent season who did not make it this 12 months?
Jim: I believe there will probably be two – and each from Hendrick Motorsports, which might be a severe step up in efficiency for them over this season. I believe Chase Elliott advances all the best way to the Championship four subsequent season and I imagine Jimmie Johnson will be part of him, the place he’ll get a possibility to win a NASCAR-record eighth Cup collection championship.
Nick: Chase Elliott is the favored decide, however I might additionally say Brad Keselowski or Kyle Larson. Each are very able to doing so, however missed out this 12 months.
Tim: I believe it will likely be Chase Elliott. He confirmed indicators this season – particularly within the playoffs – that he can shut the deal and win when it issues essentially the most and I believe that may work effectively for him subsequent 12 months as he makes his first Championship 4. I even assume he’ll enter as one of many favorites to win the title subsequent season.
Do you count on to see a drop-off in efficiency from the Ford groups subsequent season with the introduction of the Mustang and no low season testing?
Jim: I do count on to see some early-season struggles. Simulation may be very useful but it surely can not really replicate actual on-track efficiency with 30-something fellow rivals racing round you on the identical time. Do I believe Ford may have a season like Chevrolet and get locked out of the Championship four? No. However the change in physique fashion will probably be one extra variable Ford groups should deal with along with the brand new aero guidelines. Had it been one or the opposite, I’d really feel extra assured about Ford’s hopes of getting out of the field in prime type.
Nick: Sure. There will probably be a studying curve, as we noticed with the Camaro. I will probably be genuinely shocked if they arrive out of the field with out lacking a step. However with powerhouses like SHR and Penske, it should not take them lengthy to search out their footing. In different phrases, I extremely doubt they’re going to wrestle as a lot because the Chevrolet groups this 12 months.
Tim: To me this will probably be one of many extra fascinating storylines going into the 2019 season. I believe Ford may have no less than one driver make it to the Championship 4 subsequent season, however I’m certain everybody will probably be watching carefully to see what sort of begin Ford has in 2019. There’s actually no technique to predict till the automobile is on the observe in racing situations.
Who do you assume over-performed and under-performed within the Cup Collection this season?
Jim: I anticipated Joey Logano to be improved over 2017 however his race-to-race consistency coupled together with his excellent performances within the playoffs that led to his first collection championship was excess of I anticipated. I additionally thought Aric Almirola would do effectively in his first season at Stewart-Haas Racing, however his robust runs, the race win and ending fifth within the collection standings was an surprising shock. Hendrick Motorsports as a company under-performed in 2018, no less than to the very excessive requirements it had set for itself in recent times. Chase Elliott was the lone shiny spot. I used to be additionally shocked by the troublesome season Denny Hamlin had, significantly compared to his different skilled Joe Gibbs Racing teammates.
Nick: Joey Logano positively leads these within the ‘over-performed’ class. He bested the Large three and received good simply when he wanted to. He additionally had only one win the common season, coming at Talladega. As for under-performing, I might say Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin. Each went winless for the primary time of their careers and struggled for outcomes.
Tim: I believe Joey Logano over carried out as I wouldn’t have picked him to win the championship based mostly off of his efficiency throughout the common season. Sure, he was constant, however I don’t assume he turned anybody’s head throughout the first 26 races of the season. As for under-performing, I believe it must be the entire Chevrolet drivers this season. I believed there is likely to be a studying curve with the brand new automobile, however I by no means would have dreamed drivers and groups – aside from Kyle Larson – would wrestle like they did this season on the observe. Chase Elliott confirmed within the playoffs that it seems they could have issues discovered.
Do you assume JR Motorsports will win three Xfinity Collection driver championships in a row?
Jim: It will likely be very troublesome, particularly now that Chase Briscoe will probably be competing fulltime within the collection with Stewart-Haas Racing and Christopher Bell will probably be returning for one more season after a seven-win rookie marketing campaign with Joe Gibbs Racing. I do count on Noah Gragson to do effectively in his rookie marketing campaign with JRM, however may have some very skilled competitors to deal with on the observe, together with teammate Justin Allgaier.
Nick: It may be a packed subject with Chastain within the No. 42. Briscoe securing a full-time experience by way of SHR and Christopher Bell again for one more season. Nevertheless, I believe each Justin Allgaier and his rookie teammate Gragson can get it performed. However will they? I will say no, simply because I believe Chastain and Bell will probably be main the cost in 2019.
Tim: I believe it will likely be robust for JR Motorsports to win a 3rd straight driver’s title with the competitors now coming from Joe Gibbs Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing. Nevertheless, they’ve the driving force I believe will probably be very motivated to go after the title in Justin Allgaier. Allgaier got here shut this season and I really feel that frustration of developing quick in 2018 will encourage him and your entire crew subsequent season.