Kevin Harvick has long conquered the difficulty of replacing a legend to become a star in his own right. After five races of 2008, he’s sitting pretty in third in the standings, just 33 back from leader Kyle Busch while making a push to be a major title contender. It may be ridiculously early to start thinking about who could be the champ – a fact not lost on someone like Jeff Gordon, for whom a 400-point lead and an average finishing position of 5.2 in the Chase last year was not good enough – but if you’re looking for drivers who might pick up the biggest crown in NASCAR, you could do a lot worse than considering the driver of the No. 29 Chevy. So, why might 2008 be Harvick’s year? Here are five reasons why…
After what can most politely be termed as a “learning experience for Toyota” in year one, there was little doubt in the media, in the garage, or amongst the fans that 2008 would be a completely different story. After Joe Gibbs Racing was safely ensconced in the fold, along with the expertise of renowned engine builder Mark Cronquist, the only real question was “when” and not “if” they would win a Sprint Cup race. On Sunday, after 500 tough miles at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Kyle “Rowdy” Busch achieved the milestone win for the Japanese manufacturer in his own inimitable fashion; Busch, being a man for whom the term “drive it like you stole it” was invented.
Trying to predict how the 2008 NASCAR season will finish after just three races — and with less than 10% of the full schedule accounted for — is just short of madness. But NASCAR is nothing if not a brutally honest sport. Yes, you can be the victim of bad racing luck; witness Casey Mears at Fontana hitting a weeper and somehow missing absolutely everyone else except his teammate. Yet for the most part, the standings don’t lie; and after three races of this nascent season, we have a large enough sample size to start analyzing trends.
With the old adage that the “bookies never lose” notwithstanding, and NASCAR’s annual date with Sin City just a couple days away, now seems as good a time as ever to put up some odds you might (or might not) see throughout the 2008 NASCAR season…
The idea to go to the 50th running of the Daytona 500 was born in Italy last summer. During a lazy afternoon by the pool, a couple of days before I was married, I was explaining to my best man how much I loved NASCAR when he admitted that he had been watching some highlights of the races on late-night British TV. So, we made a snap decision to go to the big race; all that was left was the question of logistics.
With the 2008 season right around the corner at this point here, in no particular order, are my top 10 wishes for NASCAR this year. You won’t agree with all of them, I’m sure, so feel free to write me with your own 10.
In September 2005, my life changed forever when I started a job with Nextel’s ad agency in the heart of Manhattan. It took until 10:30 a.m. on day one to realize that stock car knowledge had become a necessity; working with the company’s racing division, I discovered that unless I went on a crash course (no pun intended) I was going to be in deep, deep trouble. In need of answers, I opted for full scale NASCAR immersion ASAP. I devoured every piece of material the agency had since they began sponsoring the sport in early 2004. I studied numerous racing sites (imagine my delight at finding the comprehensive Jayski), and thumbed back issues of NASCAR Scene and NASCAR Illustrated. I read NASCAR for Dummies cover-to-cover, and played hours of NASCAR 06 Total Team Control — which later became a useful tool when I didn’t know an upcoming track. I discovered the Speed Channel, becoming enthralled by Beyond the Wheel while bemused by Inside Nextel Cup in the process. By the time I settled down to watch my first race, the Sony HD 500 at California, I had what I thought was a rudimentary knowledge of the sport.