NASCAR Media Week concluded yesterday from Charlotte, NC. It was the first time in 2015 that journalists and fans were given a steady diet of news about the sport since its season finale in November 2014 when Kevin Harvick earned his first title as Sprint Cup Champion.
Some of the news we were thrown was earth-shattering – or at least they wanted it to be – while other ‘stories’ were non-stories.
The biggest nugget came earlier on January 22nd when it was announced that Jeff Gordon would not retire but end his full-time competition in NASCAR’s top series at the end of the 2015 season.
For many fans following the sport in the last two decades they only know NASCAR with Jeff Gordon. This is monumental that come 2016 Gordon will not be on the starting grid for every race of the season.
Can NASCAR survive?
Yes, and possibly thrive.
No doubt Gordon has been and always will be an incredible icon in the sport; a true champion whose record is impeccable and wholly impressive.
But Gordon is not going anywhere away from NASCAR.
And, more importantly, the sport is constantly evolving and picking up new talent.
As Gordon exits after this season, the young, talented, and pedigreed Chase Elliott, son of “Awesome Bill from Dawsonville” Elliott, is primed to sit in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 car in 2016.
We’ve seen the younger Elliott has driver talent – he’s definitely a “wheel man” – so his full time entry in NASCAR’s Cup series may re-energize the sport and strengthen it. He’ll bring a younger crowd while keeping the hardcore decades-old fans happy with his fine lineage.
Elliott is one to watch.
Let’s not forget Kyle Larson when we discuss youth in the sport. Larson had an incredible rookie year in 2014. Although he didn’t earn his first win, he was all over the lead and it’s only a matter of time before he finds his way to Victory Lane in 2015.
It WILL happen.
It was just two weekends ago Larson was in a sprint car running the Chili Bowl and making a great showing.
It was just one weekend ago that Larson and teammates Jamie MacMurray, Tony Kannan, and Scott Dixon won the grueling and prestigious Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona. Their Chip Ganassi Racing “Star Car” was the winning car in a most impressive win.
Mark my words; Chip Ganassi Racing is a force to be reckoned this season in NASCAR with MacMurray and Larson. Both drivers performed decisively well in the 2014 Chase. They are the epitome of momentum in this sport.
Tony Stewart is ready to put the last two years behind him, two years fraught with personal tragedies and setbacks, and regain the core Tony Stewart his fans know and love.
Roush-Fenway Racing had a terribly crappy, awful, disappointing, and sucky season in 2014. They hope to change that in 2015. That’s about all that was gleaned from the team.
Financially, sponsorship dollars are still difficult to find for an entire race season at NASCAR’s top three levels for big name drivers and teams. From Sam Hornish Jr. looking for it at Richard Petty Motorsports at the Cup level to RFR trying to pen a complete deal for Darrell Wallace Jr. in the newly named Xfinity (Nationwide) Series, it is a concern.
These stories are supposed to whet the collective appetite of NASCAR fans.
More concrete news will follow, but at least we were given a dose of NASCAR to get us through the bitterly long, cold offseason.
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