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NASCAR OPINION

OPINIONS ON THE CURRENT STATE OF NASCAR AND CURRENT ISSUES IN THE SPORT.

Johnson, Edwards, Logano OH MY! 2016 Championship Reaction

Wow!  What a season finale!  Congratulations to the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion, Jimmie Johnson!  In case you missed it, NASCAR fans were in for a treat Sunday night, as Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, and Joey Logano battled for the 2016 Sprint Cup Title!  In this post, I want to comment on 3 things that happened in the championship race!  These topics vary from history being made to a driver with good things to come! As always, I hope you enjoy and please comment your thoughts on the season finale! Lastly, don't forget to follow me on Twitter at @nascar_opinion! Well, here we go!

First, congratulations to Jimmie Johnson!  "Six-time" finally became "Seven-time", tying Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr. for the most Sprint Cup championships won.  Johnson has shown that no matter the system, his 48 team will prevail!  Hopefully, this will finally push NASCAR fans to give Johnson the credit he deserves as one of the best drivers in NASCAR history.  It's amazing to think that just a few weeks ago, I predicted Johnson being eliminated after round 1.  Fans were questioning what the issue was with the 48 team before the Chase, but now the tables have turned.  It was amazing to see history being made before my vary eyes! Who knows, maybe Jimmie has one more in him!  This could be his last hurrah, but this season taught us to never count out Johnson until the last checkered flag waves.  Again, congrats to Jimmie Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports!  Enjoy this 48 fans, history has been made!

Second, Kyle Larson will be a threat.  If you were unable to watch the race, Larson dominated the 2nd half of the Ford EcoBoost 400, but fell short once again.  Larson had the best car in the closing stages, but was shoved out of victory lane when Joey Logano pushed Jimmie Johnson on the final restart.  Sadly, this marked yet another weekend where Larson failed to clinch a Cup victory. Don't worry 42 fans, tonight showed what is to come.  Of course, I can't predict guaranteed success, but this was a good sign that Larson can compete on any given weekend.  Next season will be a defining year in Larson's career, which may determine his home in the future.  Larson is signed thru 2017, which means his performance next season could dictate if he stays at Ganassi or moves else where.  Hopefully, he got the monkey off his back when he scored his 1st career win at Michigan. I guess we'll find out next season! Good luck LarSON!!! 

Third, Joey Logano and Carl Edwards did EXACTLY what they were supposed to do.  I'm sure many fans were disappointed to see Edwards end up in the catch fence with just 10 laps to go in the race.  "Cousin Carl" dominated the championship battle most of the night, but was turned by Joey Logano on a late restart.  Logano made an aggressive move to the inside, which eventually hooked the 19 car into the inside wall.  While the debate is out on who is to blame, the real answer is that both drivers did what they were supposed to do.  Logano dove to the inside, which was his only chance to win the race/title.  If Logano didn't make the move, Edwards would be gone again.  On the flip side, Carl Edwards had to block or the 22 would take the lead.  The bottom line is that both drivers did what they were supposed to do, and we should applaud both for their efforts.  I gained so much respect for both drivers after this incident occurred.  Logano finally acted like he was racing for a title, and Edwards was a class act afterwards.  Both drivers had amazing seasons and deserve a huge pat on the back.  

Well, thanks for reading!  I hope everyone enjoyed the season finale and are gearing up for the 2017 Daytona 500!  Looking ahead, there are so many contenders for next years title!  Thank you all for joining me during the season, and I promise 2017 will be the best year for NASCAR Opinion!  Expect better blogs, more consistency, live videos, a podcast, and better overall coverage!  Thank you for all of your support and continue to follow me during the off-season!  Before you forget, remember to follow me on @nascar_opinion on Twitter! Hope you have a great Thanksgiving and holiday season! 

(PICS NOT MINE USED FROM: myplainview.com, Houston Chronicle, fronstretch.com, beaumontenterprise.com)

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Thank You Smoke!

NASCAR fans paid their attention to a classic championship battle this past Sunday, but while one driver's career is reaching it's peak, another's is coming to a close.  First I would like to congratulate Jimmie Johnson on winning his record tying 7th career Sprint Cup series championship.  I will do another post regarding this year's Cup champion, but in this post I want to honor a NASCAR legend who hasn't gotten the credit he deserves in his last season.  I simply want to say "Thank You Smoke".

Thank you Smoke for being one of the best personalities the sport has ever seen.  When most of today's drivers are quiet & image oriented, you have kept your rugged unapologetic personality.  We won't forget the helmet throw at Bristol or you letting us know you would 'bust his ass' when Joey Logano blocked you on a restart.  I will never get over the funny comments you made to the media over the years, or the time you got a little grabby with DeLana Harvick.  Honestly, my favorite part of having you in the Cup garage is knowing someone out there isn't afraid to tell the truth.  Starting in 2017, I hope someone will come along and have half the personality you do, thank you.

Thank you Smoke, for wanting to grow in this sport.  I understand that not every driver has aspirations of being a team owner, but thank you for wanting to expand your role in my favorite sport.  Investing in a sport is one of the best things any former athlete could do.  With your dedication, we now have 4 more competitive Cup Series teams to watch on Sunday's.  Outside of Harvick and Kurt Busch, you have also provided an outlet for women in racing with the investment in Danica Patrick.  You have done so much for this sport as an owner, and that will only continue with Clint Bowyer and Cole Custer.  It has been amazing to watch your organization start from a semi-competitive, two-car-team to winning multiple championships.  Feels like it was just yesterday that you took home SHR's first win in the Sprint All-Star race in 2009.  Your dedication and investment to NASCAR is underrated, thank you.

Lastly, thank you Smoke, for being dedicated to NASCAR.  You're one of the best all around racecar drivers this world has ever seen.  You could have raced anywhere.  You have won races in USAC, Indy Car, the World of Outlaws, the ARCA Racing Series, the IROC Series, and all three of NASCAR's premier racing divisions.  You are quite possibly the most diverse NASCAR driver in history.  Instead of racing else where, you chose NASCAR to be your home for 18-years.  Thank you for being dedicated to stock cars, and thank you for letting us NASCAR fans witness your greatness along the way.  Even through the hardest trials and tribulations in your life, you stayed.  Fans can never repay you for that.  Thank you for everything you have shown us for the last two decades.  I may have never been a huge fan of you, but today and beyond I understand your importance to this sport.  I will miss you, we all will. But before I forget to say it... Thank you Smoke, thank you Tony Stewart... We have learned Smoke will always rise.

In honor of Tony Stewart, I want to list some of his accomplishments during his racing career... buckle in this could get long:

1983 International Karting Federation Grand National Champion, 1987 World Karting Association National Champion, 1995 USAC Silver Crown Series Champion, 1995 USAC Sprint Cars Series Champion, 1994 USAC National Midget Series Champion, 1995 USAC National Midget Series Champion, 1995 USAC 'Triple Crown' winner, 3-time Indy Car race winner, 1997 Indy Car Champion, 1999 Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year, Holds the record for wins a rookie season (3), 2006 International Race of Champions (IROC) champion, 2-time Camping World Truck Series race winner, 11-time Xfinity Series race winner, 49-time Sprint Cup race winner, 2002 Winston Cup Series Champion, 2005 Nextel Cup Champion, 2009 Sprint All-Star race winner, and the 2011 Sprint Cup Champion.

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed! May we all celebrate Tony's career together! Thanks for reading and have a great day and Thanksgiving week! 

(Stats: racing-reference.info, Wikipedia, stewarthaasracing.com) (Pics: proboards.com, SB Nation, Sporting News, Chicken Bone Alley, Motorsports Tribune)


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The Championship Four: Why each driver will win or lose the Sprint Cup title.

I'm back again my NASCAR family!  I haven't posted since the beginning of the Chase, but did you think I would go the rest of the season without talking about who may win the 2016 title?  It's hard to believe that the 2016 season is already coming to an end!  Seems just like yesterday that Denny Hamlin beat Truex Jr. by inches in the Daytona 500!  This season has been a good one, and now it all comes down to 400 miles in Homestead-Miami... but before the green flag drops in the Ford EcoBoost 400, I want to discuss each drivers chances of taking home the title!  In this post, I will outline why each of the four drivers can win or lose the 2016 championship!  Well enough talking, let's get walking!  I hope you enjoy reading this post, and as always comment below about your thoughts on this years title race!

1. Jimmie Johnson:  Starts: 35,  Win's: 4,  Top 5's: 10,  Top 10's: 15,  AVG finish at Miami: 14.07.

Pros: Chase Momentum, Championship Experience.   

Mr. Six-Time is an intriguing story heading in to the season finale.  Fans spent the majority of the 2016 season questioning the strength of Johnson and the 48 team, but now find themselves watching the 15-year veteran put himself in a position to win his record tying seventh championship.  Johnson began the Chase with consistency, but proved his relevancy with a win at Charlotte in October.  Just weeks later Johnson scored an even bigger win at Martinsville, which locked him into the championship four.  When looking at this team, there are a lot of questions that will never be answered, but one thing is for sure... you can't count this team out on Sunday.  Johnson can win his 7th career title due to his late Chase momentum and championship experience.  Hendrick Motorsports has found speed in the closing stages of the 2016 season, which is trouble for the competition.  Aside from his equipment, Johnson has the most championship experience of any of the other three drivers.  Jimmie has entered Homestead with a shot at the title nearly half of his career.  With a combination of better equipment and loads of experience, ole six-time may be become ole seven-time come Sunday evening.  

Cons: Lack of performance/pressure at Homestead.

For fans thinking Johnson will run away with the title, don't jump to conclusions to fast...there is always a flip side to every coin.  While Johnson may be on an upswing, there is one big concern I have for team 48.  Jimmie Johnson has never had to perform at Homestead, which could cost him this years title.  Yes, Jimmie has won six Cup titles, but he has never had to win or run top-5 to clinch a championship.  Johnson has always had a comfortable points leads that allowed him to merely coast to victory.  The 48 team has never won at Homestead either, which means Johnson may have to do something he has yet to do in his illustrious career.  A seventh championship would be an amazing story line for the 2016 NASCAR season, but Johnson has a bigger hill to climb than his fans want to admit.

2. Carl Edwards:  Starts: 35,  Win's: 3,  Top 5's: 9,  Top 10's: 18,  AVG finish at Miami: 9.25.

Pros: Success at Homestead.  

Cousin Carl has made it to Homestead with another shot at winning his first career Cup title.  Losing to Jimmie Johnson in 2008 and Tony Stewart in 2011 (by 0 points), Edwards finds himself in a four-way face off to become the 2016 Sprint Cup champion.  This Sunday will be an interesting one for Edwards, for the simple fact that this isn't his first 'winner take all' situation at Homestead.  In 2011, Edwards and Tony Stewart were neck-and-neck until the closing laps in Miami.  Both finished one-two, with the winner becoming the champion.  As we all know Stewart took home the title, but Edwards collected some of his 'back against the wall' experience to his title chase in '11.  While his experience 5 years ago could lead him to the promise land, I believe is real advantage is his success at Homestead.  With 12 prior starts at the 1.5 mile oval, Edwards has collected two win's, five top-5's, and seven top-10's (seven years in a row 2005-2011).  Though Edwards hasn't scored a top-10 finish in the finale since losing to Stewart in 2011, there is no doubting his success in South Florida.  With an average finish of 9.25, Edwards leads all four championship drivers which could be the main ingredient to winning his first Cup series title.  After all, the third times a charm... right?

Cons: Lack of long-term consistency.

Edwards past success at Homestead may lead NASCAR experts to jump on the 19 team bandwagon, but his current finishing patterns are what concern me.  The 19 Toyota started off the season with 8 top-10's in the first 10 races, but has only scored another 10 in the last 25 events.  Carl's average start this season is 7.1, but his average finish is 13.3, which indicates that this team is known for losing positions during the race.  His lack of long-term consistency paints an unknown picture for Edwards and is #19 Arris team.  Looking at his Chase stats, he has scored only 3 top-10's in the nine race playoffs leading up to the finale.  No matter how you cut it, Edwards may have good luck at Homestead, but nothing is guaranteed for this up and down team.

3. Joey Logano:  Starts: 35,  Win's:  3,  Top 5's: 15,  Top 10's: 25,  AVG finish at Miami: 17.71.

Pros: Momentum.  

This could finally be the year for Joey Logano to fulfill the expectations race fans have had for him since 2009.  Since leaving Joe Gibbs Racing after the 2012 season, Logano has become a championship contender nearly every year.  After making the title race in 2014, Logano took a hiatus from the championship 4 in 2015, finishing 6th in the final standings.  Though quiet in 2016, Logano has been efficient during the long 10-month season.  Leading all 4 championship drivers in top-10's with 25, Logano will need to use his late season momentum to catapult him to his first Cup title.  Speaking of late season momentum, Logano has it.  Sliced bread has finished 7 of the last 9 races inside the top-10, including two wins at Talladega and Phoenix.  Logano heads to Homestead with a steak of 5 top-10's in a row, which means fans should expect a solid run out of the 26-year-old this Sunday evening.

Cons: Speed compared to competition.

So what could I possibly say is Logano's weakness heading in to the championship race?  Aside from the fact that Logano will more than likely have to score his best career finish at Homestead (finished 4th in 2015), his speed compared to the competition scares me.  Penske has arguable been the second best team compared to JGR in 2016, but with two Gibbs cars making the final round... Logano may find himself in a battle he just isn't prepared for.  Don't get me wrong, Penske has the speed, but there were plenty of times this season where neither Logano or Keselowski could touch the 4 JGR Toyota's.  Luckily JGR has lost it's control on the competition the last few weeks, but don't think Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards will make it easy on any other manufacturer or organization to win this years title.

4. Kyle Busch:  Starts: 35,  Win's: 4,  Top 5's: 17,  Top 10's: 24,  AVG finish at Miami: 21.09.

Pros: Consistency, Last years experience.  

The defending Sprint Cup champion, has found his way into the final 4 for a second year in a row.  Looking like the championship favorite for much of the season, Busch has seemingly cooled off... or so you would think.  Busch hasn't won a Cup race since the Brickyard 400 in July, but has been quite deadly in terms of consistency.  Looking at his Chase performance, Busch has scored 8 top-10's, six of which are also top-5's.  This reminds me off Busch's run to the title last year, where consistency led him to his first Cup title.  In addition to his continuous string of solid finishes, Busch has also been in this position before.  His experience last year may be what gets him over the hump again.  He is the only driver in this year's championship 4 to have won under this format, which could help him Sunday night.  This back-to-back run to Homestead doesn't guarantee anything (remember Kevin Harvick), but last years title win could be what opens up the flood gates to Busch's championship trophy case.

Cons: Struggles at Homestead.

Unfortunately for Busch, his win in Miami last year was an unusual one.  Looking at his stats from Homestead, Busch has scored one win, two top-5's, and four top-10's in his 11 career starts.  If you don't think that means anything, look at his average finish.  Busch has an average finish of 21.09 at Homestead, which is nearly 4 positions behind the next lowest championship driver (Logano: 17.71).  Busch has shown more consistency lately in South Beach, scoring three top-10's in his last four starts (39th in 2014), but his past doesn't make the future any clearer.  Overall, this team has the speed to easily win their second consecutive championship, but Busch will need to have another top-5 run in order to accomplish that goal.

Well... there you have it!  I can't believe the 2016 season is already coming to a close!  If you are looking for my championship pick, my gut would say Kyle Busch wins back-to-back, but who knows!  As always, I hope you enjoyed this post and feel free to comment, like, and share!  Before you forget, go ahead and follow my Twitter account @nascar_opinion, for live commentary and opinions throughout the off-season!  Thanks everyone for sticking around and reading, I hope you have an amazing championship weekend, and may good luck be with your favorite driver!  

(Statistics: racing-reference.info, driveraverages.com) 

(Pics: motorsport.com, andrewjweber.com, NASCAR.com, sportingnew.com)


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