It seems that the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season has been one long runaway season. Early on, it was Matt Kenseth dominating races. Then, it was Jimmie Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports dominating. Drivers just seemed to run away from the field and leading huge chunks of laps, Sometimes they won and sometimes they didn’t, but it’s pretty clear that the new Gen6 car has been a problem for everyone but Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing—the ones who have dominated the races.
As I watched yesterday’s Kentucky race that was another domination affair with Johnson, I had to wonder why Hendrick and Gibbs always seem to get things figured out and become competitive. I remembered when the “Car of Tomorrow” was introduced that Kyle Busch in a Gibbs car won the first race at Bristol. I also have watched this year and have seen the same thing. Add to that the dominance of Matt Kenseth. One couldn’t say he was less than stellar at Roush-Fenway Racing—he did win a championship in 2003 and lots of races—but he never was as successful as this. His career best has been five races and he already has four in less than a half season. Are those organizations just that much better than everyone else or is something else going on?
Regardless, one has to wonder if a certain set of circumstances hadn’t come to pass. Johnson has been a rocketship in most races this year. If not for two restarts, one in which he was penalized and Sunday’s when he spun out plus his crash trying to overcome a leading Greg Biffle at Michigan, and Johnson has six wins and on his way to winning a record number of wins. Yes, Bill Elliott and Jeff Gordon have won double digit races in the past, but neither won that many races in such a short period of time. Such dominance is certainly not good for the sport. Is it the reason for the lack of attendance at tracks and lower television ratings? I have no way of knowing, but I would say it is one of the reasons. Richard Petty won 27 races a long time ago, and Bill Elliott dominated the superspeedways 30 years ago, but neither were as dominant when they raced. Others were competitive and won. Today, its Hendrick and Gibbs and the scraps go to Childress and Roush. It’s pretty obvious why Kenseth left his long-time employer. That’s where the success is, and he proclaims that every time he wins.
Like my father used to say, I don’t have a dog in this hunt. The racing was good on Sunday—back in the pack. Three wide and sometimes four wide was the rule. It was a surprise ending with many drivers who usually are forgotten, making it interesting despite the commentators telling us every five minutes (between the many commercials) where the usual suspects were. It’s just the way it is. Last week we saw a new face win, and it was glorious and the way NASCAR used to work. Today, there is a very rigid pecking order. It’s Hendrick, Gibbs, Roush and Childress tied for third, and Waltrip. Yes, David Ragan won at Talladega, but that’s restrictor plate racing—an entirely different animal. What NASCAR needs is more competition among many competitors. Is that the answer? I think its part of a bigger problem, and there are many solutions. Most of this is out of control to NASCAR. It’s up to the teams to catch up. Whether they do or not is the future of NASCAR.