NASCAR points observations through four races

3 Comments

Hard to believe but we’re already a full month into the new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. And while points aren’t of the same magnitude in years past, with wins counting more in terms of punching Chase tickets, they still matter.

Here’s a few observations of those in great, good, and not-so-good shape through four rounds (last week’s linked here).

IN GREAT SHAPE

Add Bristol winner Carl Edwards to the list that includes Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. And as the only driver with four top-10s in four races, Jeff Gordon is off to a phenomenal start as well in his elusive, seemingly eternal “drive for five.”

OFF AND RUNNING

Those from fifth through 11th in points – Jimmie Johnson down to Kasey Kahne – are in good shape. With second on Sunday night in Bristol, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is on a mission too. He’s driving like a man possessed and has already made key strides through the opening month of the season in his second year for Roush Fenway Racing; he’s currently 10th in points. Could he be NASCAR’s next first-time winner?

Additionally, how cool is it that Stenhouse, in the 17, and Aric Almirola, in the 43 were battling in the top three at Bristol? Two of NASCAR’s iconic numbers in contention at one of its most iconic tracks was a nice modern day throwback.

CLOSE, BUT NOT THERE YET

The group P12-23 have all had at least one really good run but not a string as yet. Big names here include Greg Biffle, Kyle Busch, Jamie McMurray, Tony Stewart and rookie Kyle Larson among others.

MORE WORK TO DO

Through four races, those big names without a top-10 finish include Clint Bowyer, AJ Allmendinger, Martin Truex Jr., Danica Patrick and Kurt Busch. For Kurt, it has just not been the start he needed to his new relationship with Stewart-Haas Racing, despite running well at times. Same story for Truex, now in the Furniture Row 78 car.

POINTS: Through 4 of 26 regular season races.

‘Still quite early’ for Ricciardo to think about Red Bull F1 future

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Daniel Ricciardo feels it is “still quite early” to make a decision about his Red Bull Formula 1 future despite seeing teammate Max Verstappen announce on Friday he would be staying with the team until 2020.

Verstappen, 20, put pen to paper on an enhanced F1 contract with Red Bull, with his previous deal due to expire at the end of next season in parallel to Ricciardo’s own agreement.

Ricciardo was asked following practice on Friday why he is yet to strike a new deal for himself with Red Bull, and explained he is in no rush to make a final decision when he has over a year to run on his current contract.

“It’s not that I’ve said no to anything. It’s just still quite early I think,” Ricciardo explained.

“People talked a little bit about contracts and the silly season for next year, but I thought that would still happen next year. It’s still quite early.

“If I’m to try and extract some positives out of his news it’s that it gives us good confidence for next year. He and his management see a lot of positives in the team to continue like that.

“I’m 100 per cent here next year, I can at least say that, and I think it gives both of us confidence that we’ll keep progressing the way we are.”

Red Bull said upon announcing Verstappen’s new deal that it wants to “build a team around him”, with the 20-year-old standing out as a once-in-a-generation talent.

The focus surrounding Verstappen has not left Ricciardo feeling as though he is in the shade or in any way playing second-fiddle to the Dutchman, stressing he has no internal concerns at Red Bull.

“For sure, as far as media goes, he certainly gets a lot of attention. He’s broken records for his age and things like that, so rightly so,” Ricciardo said.

“Take the media out of it, as far as inside the team, new parts on the car, things like this, there’s always been parity and equality.”

Verstappen is only the third driver to commit to a deal beyond the end of next season, following Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari and Fernando Alonso at McLaren on multi-year contracts.

All 10 F1 teams have at least one free seat for 2019, making Ricciardo a possible candidate for seats with either Mercedes or Ferrari were he to consider a move away from Red Bull.

Speaking to British broadcaster Sky Sports, Red Bull F1 advisor Helmut Marko said he felt Ricciardo was “putting himself on the market” by waiting to make a decision on his future, but that talks would take place when possible.