- Austin Schiller
Nascar 2022: Gen 7 Cars Off to a Fantastic Start
Nascar is off to a fantastic start this year! The first 8 races have produced some fantastic racing and a great mix of winners and the younger generation of drivers is finally taking over. This new car has produced some great racing at some tracks that have not produced great racing in the past which is very promising for the future of Nascar. There are a lot of key takeaways from the start of this new generation of Nascar. There are also tons of drivers to take a closer look at as the points standings are already getting crazy.
Hendrick Motorsports Dominance
Look no further than this last race at Martinsville where Hendrick drivers led 397 of 403 laps at Martinsville. 3 of the 4 drivers from this team have won. Chase Elliott is the only driver from Hendrick Motorsports to have not won a race this year. However, Elliott is a previous champion in Nascar and he is #1 in points this year. All 4 Hendrick cars are sitting in the top 13 in points and 3 of those drivers are in the top 6. Larson sits the lowest in points at 13th, however, he does have a race win and he is coming off of a championship year in 2021. William Byron in the #24 car is the only driver with multiple wins this year as well. Alex Bowman has even gotten a race win this year. All of these Hendrick drivers find themselves really close to winning every single week. These drivers don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon, so don’t be shocked if they continue to rack up wins and top 5 finishes.
The emergence of the Younger Drivers
There have been some great stories for these younger drivers in Nascar. The drivers that are receiving the most attention are Ross Chastain, Tyler Reddick, and Chase Briscoe. These are just a few of the names that have been showing flashes of greatness this year.
Ross Chastain got a win at Circuit of the Americas and in the past 6 races, he finished in the top 5 in 5 of those races. He has been absolutely amazing to watch on the track. His aggressive style fits in very well with the racing we see today.
Tyler Reddick has been very flashy, but he has lacked some consistency. He wrecked at Daytona finishing 35th. He hit the wall at Auto Club and ended up finishing 24th and he also ran into a bad finish in Atlanta finishing 28th. Yet, he’s still 12th in points despite all of those bad finishes. He’s led almost 100 laps this year and he’s managed to get through the races at tracks where he has struggled historically. He’s exceeding expectations but needs to piece it together a little bit better if he wants to establish himself as a true championship contender.
Chase Briscoe has been a very pleasant surprise. He earned his 1st career win at Phoenix. Considering how bad last year was for him, this start to his season has been a fantastic surprise for everyone. Chase has had 2 finishes outside of the top 30, but outside of that, he has been extremely consistent. He is a breakout star and looks for him to contend for a deep playoff run.
There have been some other young guys who have been great as well. Austin Cindric won the Daytona 500 in his rookie year! That’s amazing! Byron and Bowman are helping Hendrick dominate. As previously mentioned, Briscoe, Reddick, and Chastain have been fantastic. Daniel Suarez has shown flashes as well this year. There are so many young drivers who are doing amazing things.
Joe Gibbs Racing Struggles
This has been an uncharacteristic season for JGR. They only have 1 win this season that Denny Hamlin delivered, however, Denny Hamlin has only scored 1 top 10 all year and that was his win. Kyle Busch has even been super disappointing which is shocking. Busch is still top 10 in points, but barely and he has bigger expectations than the top 10. Martin Truex Jr has been the only decent JGR driver this year. He is currently in 7th in the point standings. Then there is Christopher Bell who is 19th in points. He hasn’t done much of anything noteworthy.
Ty Gibbs may not be a driver in the Cup Series, but he is making headlines as he has been an absolute menace to society this season in the Xfinity Series. He has won multiple races and is the clear championship favorite in the Xfinity Series, however, all anyone is talking about is how he is a dirty driver. He seems to have no problem moving other drivers out of the way to win, but as soon as somebody else does it to him, he fights them. That’s not even sarcastic, he did that. He wrecked Sam Mayer after the last Martinsville race and then went to fight him with his helmet on. He is Joe Gibbs’ grandson as well and so he has gotten a free pass through life naturally. He has done nothing but makes enemies, but hey, he is only 19, so he has time to mature. He also has time to become more hated, so we will see how he fares in the future.
So, to start off, we have seen so many new winners. That’s including 3 new first-time winners this year. Also, all but 1 race winner was younger than 30. Meaning this next-gen car is helping the younger guys finally take over the sport. One of the main goals Nascar had for the new car was to see this car promote more of a mixture of winners and so far it has produced 7 different winners in 8 races. There is an unpredictability in Nascar that hasn’t been seen in a long time right now.
Also, the racing has just been better, especially at the 1.5-mile tracks. The 1.5-mile tracks have produced tons of snooze fest races in the past few years, but every single 1.5-mile track this year has produced a fantastic product for many Nascar races. Really it goes even beyond these 1.5-mile tracks, the racing, in general, has been very fun to watch for Nascar fans. There have been a lot more drivers leading laps than in years past and a lot more battles for the lead throughout the race. So, there have been very few races that have been dominated by anyone.
These cars have also proven to be very durable. This is a point that has been overlooked by many, but these cars can take a hit. These cars can hit each other and the wall and still continue as they are just so strong. Nascar came out and said they wanted to put the stock back in the term stock car and I think they have done that very successfully. We still see wrecked cars and it’s not like they’re turning these cars into bumper cars, but these cars won’t be completely destroyed if they hit the wall relatively hard like they would’ve last year. Also, they don’t react as strongly to hard hits to the bumper which is good for the bigger superspeedway races.
Nascar Playoff Standings Predictions
As of now, 7 drivers are locked into the playoffs based on wins. Austin Cindric, Kyle Larson, Alex Bowman, William Byron, Chase Briscoe, Denny Hamlin, and Ross Chastain all have won at least one race. All these drivers must do for the rest of the season is trying to collect more playoff points by winning races and stages. They also need to try to lead the regular-season points as the leader of the points going into the playoffs gets 15 bonus points. I believe that the points standings are bound to continue to shake up. My playoff seeding prediction is as follows:
Martin Truex Jr
My 1st 4 drivers out are:
Bubba Wallace Jr.
I have Chase Elliott getting the regular-season championship as he has yet to win a race yet, he still leads the points. Plus, he is fantastic at road course races, so look for him to win at least 2 of those races and possibly 1 or 2 more on any other track. The field should be worried that he’s #1 despite being winless.
As for the rest of these drivers in the top 16, I think it is safe to say that all of these drivers will win a race. There are 26 races in the regular season and I really don’t see one dominant driver as of now. So, the playoffs will consist of all winners for the first time ever.
The first 4 drivers out of the playoffs are not bad by any means, but I don’t think any of them will get a win, unfortunately. The field this year is super stacked and I just can’t put them in the top 16. I do think that Bubba and Daniel will be happy with being in playoff contention given that both of those teams are brand new, but Bell and Almirola have higher expectations than this, so they will be disappointed.
Overall I think this regular season will be insane. I love how much parody has been in Nascar during the course of this season. I don’t see it changing which is fun to think about. This could be the first time ever that we see 16 drivers with wins during the regular season which used to be thought of as an insane fantasy.
As for playoff predictions, it’s too early to fully know what will happen, but my championship favorite will be Chase Elliott. He hasn’t even hit his stride yet and he loves to get hot in the playoffs. I don’t think anyone would be shocked if he collects his 2nd championship this season, but who knows? We will have to see how the rest of the regular season unfolds first.