5 Things We’d Like To See Happen For NASCAR In 2017
The 2016 NASCAR season offered was an opportunity so say hello once again to the same old, same old (Jimmie Johnson winning his seventh title) while also bidding farewell to several names of that same old, same old (Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon again, Cup Series sponsor Sprint).
Either way, it has us hyped up for further adventures in the 2017 edition, which, in a word, promises to be...monstrous. Here's five happenings we'd like to see go down in the coming year...
1) Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney Get Their First Wins
Both Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney, fresh off their first full-time Cup Series seasons, are taking over in rides revered in racing. Elliott might as well be taking over NASCAR's version of being the New York Yankees shortstop...the #24 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, the spot so famously occupied by Jeff Gordon for years, while Blaney is driving the #21 Ford for the Wood Brothers. Both are also sons of racing royalty, with Elliott being the son of NASCAR champion Bill, Blaney the offspring of World of Outlaws winner Dave. They each had solid rookie seasons, with Elliott even working his way into the Chase, but no wins yet between either of them. Wins would surely do a lot to increase their prestige in the series, and also potentially usher in a youth movement NASCAR needs.
2) Danica Patrick Finally Makes Some Progress
Some have argued that Patrick is becoming NASCAR's version of Anna Kournikova, and it's certainly hard to go against that. Patrick does have her supporters and sponsorships, but she failed to finish in the Top 10 in any race last season and finished on the lead lap only 14 times. Patrick did show some small successes, pasting a career best finish of 22nd and leading a career-high 30 laps. With Tony Stewart departing from his race team, at least on the track, perhaps Patrick can make up for Smoke's lost production and finally join her teammates Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick in the Chase.
3) Roush Fenway Returns To Some Sort of Prominence
There was a time when Jack Roush was putting every car he owned into the Chase. Now, Roush has seen his premiere drivers shuffle off to other race teams (Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth) and just shutdown the long-running #16 team, anchored by driver Greg Biffle since 2003, leaving him with unproven drivers Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Trevor Bayne. Both have shown their flashes of brilliance, as Stenhouse won the Xfinity Series championship twice and Bayne captured a Daytona 500 win. Both still have time to prove themselves, but it's running short. We'd love to see the Cat in the Hat return to the series premiere stage.
4) Dale Earnhardt Jr. Returns With a Vengeance
There are four certainties in life...death, taxes, Packers over Bears, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. winning NASCAR's Most Popular Driver Award. However, Earnhardt, who tallied seven wins over the last two years, suffered through an injury-filled 2016 season, costing him half his races, and his #88 machine was filled in for the remainder of the year by Gordon and Alex Bowman. There were rumors that Junior's career could possibly be over, but it was recently revealed that he would be set for the Daytona 500 this February. Junior was going through the best seasons of his career prior to his injury and it'd be nice if he could silence the critics and return to success.
5) Monster Gives NASCAR The Jolt It Needs
While maintaining a solid fanbase, there's no denying NASCAR has seen its ratings and attendance slip in recent years. In what could be seen as an attempt to suck in a younger audience, NASCAR's top series has now enlisted Monster Energy, which has maintained a solid following in motorsports, to headline the Cup Series. Crazy and exciting things have been happening in NASCAR, but the number of people seeing it has dwindled. Here's hoping the new sponsor brings new fans.
What would you like to see happen in racing next season? Tweet @GeoffMags5490 and keep the conversation going.
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