5 Lessons Learned On The Season
By Jared Turner
Harvick’s The Man To Beat
While the season is still young and there are various scenarios that could stand in the way of Kevin Harvick winning a second consecutive Sprint Cup Series title, there’s no debating the fact that the Stewart-Haas Racing driver has been the driver to beat so far in 2015. Consider this: In six races, Harvick has won twice, led nearly 40 percent of all laps and finished either first or second in all but one outing. He has led the points since the season’s third race. So anyone who expected Harvick and his No. 4 team to suffer a letdown after last year’s title run must be pretty disappointed at this point. If anything, Harvick’s performance this season has been superior to 2014.
It’s Now Kosher To Miss Races
Gone are the days when it was virtually considered taboo for Sprint Cup Series drivers to miss races. In the first six races of 2015 alone, four full-time drivers – Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Kyle Larson and Brian Vickers – all sat out at least one event. While none of the absences could really be prevented (Kyle Busch, Larson and Vickers sat for medical reasons; Kurt Busch was suspended) it’s pretty mindboggling to think about how common missing races has become. Of course, one of the reasons for the trend is simple: Under the current Chase format, starting every race is no longer a requirement to win the championship.
Roush Is Still Not Right
Coming off a disappointing 2014 season by its standards, Roush Fenway Racing entered 2015 with hopes that the year would usher the organization back to its traditional place among the sport’s elite. But instead of experience a return to past glory, the cars co-owned by veteran team owner Jack Roush have consistently lacked the speed to contend for wins or even top-10 finishes. In six races, Roush Fenway’s three drivers have combined for just one top-10 finish – and that was all the way back at the Daytona 500. Will Roush ever get it turned around? It’s possible, but there are few if any signs to indicate improvements are imminent.
Safety Is a Concern
Not since Dale Earnhardt’s tragic death on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500 has safety been at the forefront of the discussion as much as it has been so far in 2015. In the first three race weekends of the year, three drivers had separate encounters with concrete walls that were unprotected by SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) barriers. The worst incident of the three was Kyle Busch’s wreck in the XFINITY Series season opener at Daytona, where a head-on collision with an unprotected wall resulted in the Joe Gibbs Racing driver suffering a compound fracture of his lower right leg and a mid-foot fracture of his left foot. In response to widespread demand for safety enhancements, numerous tracks – including Daytona — have installed more SAFER barriers.
Team Penske Is Tough
Team Penske has seemingly picked up right where it left off from a stout 2014, when Penske drivers Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano combined for 11 wins and were both in the thick of the title hunt in the season’s final weeks. Logano captured team owner Roger Penske’s second Daytona 500 trophy in the 2015 season opener, while Keselowski won at Auto Club Speedway – a track Penske built. The two teammates sit second and fourth in the standings, respectively, after collectively recording only one finish outside the top 10 in a combined 12 starts. Making the Penske boys’ successes all the more prominent have been all the problems with their fellow Fords at Roush Fenway Racing.