It’s been a rough past few days for me. My childhood hero recently announced his retirement a little early, leaving me stuck in a state of heartbreak, despair, and depression. What am I going to do on Sundays now? Do I even want to keep watching NASCAR? I don’t think I could ever root for anyone other Dale Earnhardt Jr., but maybe I can try.
I am penning this letter as a plea to all Cup Series drivers, please turn me into a fan. There are a few guys I’ve pulled for in the past. I always root for Kevin Harvick when the opportunity arises, plus who wouldn’t love the guy sponsored by Busch? Jamie McMurray ain’t a bad guy either, and I love watching him succeed. Plus, he’s sponsored by Bass Pro Shops. The issue is these two guys are 41 and 40, respectively. If Junior just retired at 42, that means I am just setting myself up for more heartbreak falling in love with these guys. That leaves me in a conundrum as I search for a hot shot young gun to win me over. But who?
Part of me wants to pick someone based off their sponsor, but none of these young guys have dope sponsors. Kyle Larson has Target, and I mean, it’s Target. Erik Jones is trying to pull me in with the 5-hour Energy, but I can’t bite on that. Now Gray Gaulding with Dr Pepper and Chase Elliot with Mountain Dew? That’s more like it. Chris Buescher running the Bush’s Beans car has me feeling American and wanting to go get a golden retriever that speaks. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has Sunny D and won his first career race this past weekend…maybe. There are a lot of sponsors; I don’t know if I could break it down.
Maybe I should approach this as an analyst. I mean I am a self-certified NASCAR expert; it’s in my blood. My Pawpaw, both uncles, and cousin are decorated drivers at many levels of the sport. I know my stuff, so I should be able to pick out the next prodigy based on talent. Let’s look at some of the promising young guns that the sport has to offer.
I have made my top five in no particular order: Kyle Larson, Chase Elliot, Ryan Blaney, Austin Dillon, and I guess Ricky Stenhouse Jr. I’m going to go ahead and now cut it to a top three of Kyle Larson, Chase Elliot, and Ryan Blaney.
Let’s start with Ryan Blaney. Good kid, lots of potential, and drives for the Wood Brothers. The Wood Brothers is a good ole boy team from Virginia that has always run the #21 car. There’s history with the Wood Brothers. There’s also a history of not being all that successful. Wait, isn’t Ryan Blaney the little punk kid who has already gotten into it with Earnhardt Jr. twice this season? Yeah, hard pass. Next.
So it now comes down to Kyle Larson and Chase Elliot. One new guy and one legacy kid, and they both drive Chevys. One driving for an okay Ganassi team while the other is Dale’s current teammate at powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports. Kyle Larson is the current points leader, while Elliot is not too far behind. However, there is one deciding factor that is going to lead to my decision here. Flashback to May of 2016, and the race at Dover is nearing its end. Our top three consists of veteran Matt Kenseth along with our two new guys in question. Kyle Larson had dominated this race, leading 85 laps, while Chase Elliot had not led a single one. Soon Kyle Larson was overtaken by Kenseth and trailed him for the remaining 20-30 laps. Now while most people would think Larson is the better driver here over Elliot, I disagree. I watched live as Larson had opportunity upon opportunity to make a move on Kenseth. He had multiple chances to take the lead and win the race, but he never did. Larson followed the veteran like a little puppy dog and refused to make an aggressive move for the win. I can’t respect someone like that. He lost me that day.
So Chase Elliot, unless a reader can convince me to pick someone else, you’re my guy. Let’s do it..
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