season in review

Getty Images

2017 Season in Review: Kevin Harvick

Leave a comment

Kevin Harvick

CREW CHIEF: Rodney Childers

TEAM: Stewart-Haas Racing

POINTS: 3rd

WINS: 2 (Sonoma and Texas II)

LAPS LED:  850 (fewest since 269 in 2013). Led 2,237 in 2014; 2,294 in 2015; 1,384 in 2016.

TOP 5s: 14 (fewest since 14 in 2014)

TOP 10s: 23 (fewest since 20 in 2014)

POLES: 4 (Atlanta, Texas I, Coke 600 and Southern 500) (second-most in career behind eight in 2014)

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Harvick was one of two Ford drivers to advance to the Championship 4 in a year when Stewart-Haas Racing moved from Chevrolet to Ford … Both of Harvick’s race wins were at tracks he’d never won at. The only active Cup tracks Harvick hasn’t won at are Pocono and Kentucky.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Harvick’s average finish of 11.1 was his worst since it was 11.2 in 2013 … Recorded four DNFs, including two in the playoffs at New Hampshire and Talladega … Swept stage wins at Atlanta, but did not win another stage until he swept both stages in the Charlotte playoff race … His two wins were his fewest since winning just one race in 2012 … Finished second in both races at Pocono.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2018: Harvick and the No. 4 team, as well as the rest of SHR, look to build on their success after moving to Ford. Harvick enters his 18th full-time Cup season and his fifth with SHR

2017 Season in Review: Ryan Blaney

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Ryan Blaney

CREW CHIEF: Jeremy Bullins

TEAM: Wood Brothers Racing

POINTS: 9th

WINS: 1

LAPS LED: 301 (career-best, led only 11 laps in 2016)

TOP 5s: 4  (career-best)

TOP 10s: 14 (career-best)

POLES: 2 (Kansas I and Phoenix II)

WHAT WENT RIGHT: In his second full-time Cup season with Wood Brothers Racing, Blaney made the playoffs after scoring his first Cup win at Pocono. It was the 99th Cup win for the Wood Brothers. … Blaney advanced to the third round of the playoffs before he was eliminated. … Earned four stage wins, including a sweep in the spring Texas race … His first Cup pole at Kansas in the spring was the first pole for the Wood Brothers since 2004.

WHAT WENT WRONG: After his win at Pocono in June, Blaney only earned two top 10s in the next seven races. He didn’t earn consecutive top 10s until the playoff races at Kansas and Martinsville … Eliminated from playoffs after the Round of 8 following finishes of eighth (Martinsville), sixth (Texas) and 17th (Phoenix)… Totaled five DNFs

WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2018: After two years of full-time driving for the Wood Brothers, the son of Dave Blaney will move to Team Penske, where he will drive the No. 12 Ford as the team’s third car. Blaney will continue working with crew chief Jeremy Bullins … The No. 21 Ford for the Wood Brothers will be driven by Paul Menard.

2016 Season in Review: Daniel Suarez

Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Daniel Suarez

CREW CHIEF: Scott Graves

TEAM: Joe Gibbs Racing

POINTS: 1st

WINS: 3 (Dover I, Michigan, Homestead)

LAPS LED: 347 (career best)

Top 5s: 19 (career best)

TOP 10s: 27 (career best)

POLES: 3

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Won his first career Xfinity race on a last-lap pass of teammate Kyle Busch at Michigan … Advanced to the championship race of the Chase and became the first foreign-born driver to win a national NASCAR series championship … Led career high 133 laps in championship race … Finished in top five in the last eight races … Won first Camping World Truck Series race at Phoenix.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Recorded two DNFs (Daytona II, Iowa II) … Finished outside the top 15 five times … Finished off lead lap five times.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2016: Returns for his third full-time season in the Xfinity Series with Joe Gibbs Racing. Will be joined by rookie Matt Tifft and the part-time Cup Series drivers.

2016 Season in Review: Johnny Sauter

Chris Trotman/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Johnny Sauter

CREW CHIEF: Marcus Richmond (races 1 – 6), Joe Shear Jr. (remainder of the season)

TEAM: GMS Racing

WINS: 3 (Daytona, Martinsville II, Texas II)

LAPS LED: 130 (highest since 2014)

TOP 5s: 12 (most since 2011)

TOP 10s: 19 (career-high)

POLES: 1 (Texas I)

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Made the switch to GMS Racing and won the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway. The win qualified Sauter for the inaugural Chase … Tied his season-high in wins with three and also earned a career-high 19 top-10 finishes. Had just one DNF … Advanced to the final round of the Chase at Homestead-Miami Speedway and captured his first championship.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Statistically, nothing. Sauter had a career-year in terms of his numbers and won his first championship. Even a crew chief change early in the season didn’t slow Sauter down as he won the pole and finished third in his first race (Texas) with Joe Shear Jr.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2017: Sauter will be back with GMS Racing for their second season together and his ninth full season. Will look to become first repeat Truck Series champion since Matt Crafton in 2013-2014 … Will remain competitive on every style of racetrack.

2016 Season in Review: Matt Crafton

Robert Laberge/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Matt Crafton

CREW CHIEF: Carl “Junior” Joiner

TEAM: ThorSport Racing

POINTS: 2nd

WINS: 2 (Dover, Charlotte)

LAPS LED: 446

TOP 5s: 8 (fewest since 2013)

TOP 10s: 16

POLES: 1 (Atlanta)

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Crafton earned multiple victories for the third consecutive year, which included his first win at Dover International Speedway … After qualifying for the inaugural Chase in the Camping World Truck Series, Crafton was one of the final four at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

WHAT WENT WRONG: An ill-handling truck led to Johnny Sauter chasing him down and passing Crafton at Homestead, giving Sauter the championship. Crafton had been in control of the title fight all night, even leading 10 laps … Had five DNFs in a season for the third time in his career (most in a season was six in 2002) … His two wins came early in the season – the fifth and sixth races. He failed to win after leading laps in five races thereafter, including Texas where he had 133 laps led.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2017: Crafton embarks on his 17th full year in the series looking for his third championship … Will continue to be one of the drivers to beat for the title.