1. Joe Gibbs Racing easily the early favorites The sabre-rattling from the Joe Gibbs Racing camp early in Daytona Speedweeks has been impossible to avoid. Simply put: they’ve won everything, save for the Daytona 500 pole in single-lap qualifying.
Ricky Craven didn’t put a full-court press on Victory Lane during his Sprint Cup driving career. He won only twice over a span of 11 years, but in his life as a racing analyst for ESPN — a role he’s held since 2008 — he has emerged as one of sports television’s most respected commentators.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has spent much of his career failing to live up to expectations. At this point, fans are preconditioned to believe that NASCAR’s favorite son will never win a championship with Hendrick Motorsports. But a funny thing happened on the way to Earnhardt riding out his career as NASCAR’s Most Popular Disappointment: He ditched the plotline.
Each day from mid-February through late November, a small band of motorsports journalists work nearly around the clock — this being the digital age — to keep rabid NASCAR fans as up-to-the-second informed as possible. Many of these media members are ensconced in the sport’s “traveling circus,” working in garage areas, media centers and pressboxes nearly 40 weeks a year. So who better to go to for a “state of the sport” talk than them?
On Sunday, a black No. 3 car sat shining in the Daytona Beach sun, cameras focused on a number not seen in NASCAR Sprint Cup competition since the 2001 Daytona 500. It’s been 13 years since that tragic end, but closure has finally come — not in the form of an Earnhardt, but in 23-year-old Austin Dillon.
The stylized No. 3, made famous by the late Dale Earnhardt, has made its way back to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. And it has done so in a big way.
Austin Dillon, grandson of team owner Richard Childress, who fielded Chevrolets for Earnhardt until his death in the 2001 Daytona 500, drove the No. 3 livery to the top of pylon in Sunday’s Daytona 500 pole qualifying.
Denny Hamlin is loaded for bear. The winner of the 2013 season finale in Homestead, Fla., Hamlin won all three segments of Saturday night’s Sprint Unlimited exhibition race at Daytona International Speedway in an event that unofficially kicked off NASCAR’s 2014 season.
1. Face the facts: Cup championship is Johnson’s to lose There’s a good share of NASCAR fans who probably aren’t too happy with what’s coming Sunday afternoon with the sport’s five-time champion, Jimmie Johnson, on the verge of making it six — all in a span of nine years.
If Jimmie Johnson wins his sixth NASCAR Spring Cup championship, Phoenix will have been its defining moment. It’s not over until the fat lady sings, of course, but the next six days sure feel like a coronation with his No. 48 needing to finish just 23rd or better at Homestead. It’s a well-deserved top story for a driver that has dominated Sprint Cup racing for the past decade.