The Backstretch Blog: Mid-season report card
Time to reset the clock and look forward to the second half of the season as NASCAR makes its first return trip of the season to a track. The second time around the race at the Daytona International speedway is a night race. Seems like a good time to look back and evaluate how my picks to make the chase this season are faring so far.
16. Marcos Ambrose: C+
Ambrose has run pretty well this season as a whole, but he gets a C+ because I put him in the chase based on the assumption that he would win a road course race. He didn’t win Sonoma, he didn’t even really run well there. A win at Watkins Glen obviously bumps this grade up. A win anywhere else, puts it through the roof.
15. Joey Logano: A+
Logano was running well at the end of last season, which is why I figured he would win a race and get into the chase. But two wins and fifth in the chase standings at this point? I never saw that coming/
14. Brad Keselowski: A-
The same holds true for his teammate Brad Keselowski, who is third in the chase standings and also has two wins. The difference between his A- and Logano’s A+? As a former series champ the bar is higher for Keselowski.
13. Carl Edwards: A
For all the complaining about lack of performance and horse power in the Fords, Edwards finds himself fourth in the chase standings and holding two wins.
12. Greg Biffle: D
On the other side of the coin, Edwards teammates are sort of scuffling. Biffle has just two top fives and five top tens this season. Though he is currently 15th in the chase standings, it’s hard to believe that kind of performance will keep him in come Richmond.
11. Jeff Gordon: A
Can we just stop with the Jeff Gordon should retire or his window to win a title has pasted him by talk? It’s silly really. He already has a win and is currently 7th in the chase standings. It’s clear he still has a thing or two to teach the kids.
10. Kyle Busch: C+
Yes Busch has a win and yes he is eighth is the chase standings. But other than the one win, I feel like Busch has been kind of a non-factor in a lot of races this season. He is so talented and I feel like this is the season for him to prove he deserves all the accolades.
9. Clint Bowyer: C-
This grade would probably lower except Bowyer has shown some signs of life over the past few weeks and has worked his way into the chase standings, barely. Like Biffle he is going to have to step up the performances and get a win if he want to stay in the chase.
8. Ryan Newman: B-
His season hasn’t been over the top, but Newman and his teammate Paul Menard have sort of quietly worked their way into the chase standings. Newman is currently 12th and even without a win, he could say there if they keep up the consistency.
7. Kevin Harvick: B+
Consistency is the one thing keeping Harvick from an ‘A’ grade. His two wins have him comfortably in the chase, but he also has two DNFs and a handful of races where he was completely a non-factor.
6. Matt Kenseth: C+
Most drivers would take the season Kenseth is having, six top fives, eleven top tens and the top driver without a win in the chase standings. But let’s be real, coming off of last season, the fact the 20 hasn’t won this season is a major disappointment.
5. Kasey Kahne: F
He is the only Hendrick driver currently not in the chase and he only has two top fives. For this team, it can be considered nothing less than a failure.
4. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: A+
I knew this season would be good for Junior, but two wins and second in the chase standings as this point in the season, I didn’t see that coming. It looks like he and crew chief Steve Latarte are finally figuring things out. Too bad Junior will have to find a new crew chief next season.
3. Tony Stewart: D-
The only thing that keeps me from putting Stewart in the same category as Kahne is the fact that he is coming off an injury that kept him out of the car for the last half of the season a year ago. But come on, not being among the top 16 drivers as a three time former champ is not good.
2. Denny Hamlin: B-
After a disappointing 2013 that was hindered by injury, Hamlin already won a race this season and pretty much has his spot in the chase sown up. But I just keep asking myself will we ever see the Hamlin that nearly won the championship a few years ago.
1. Jimmie Johnson: A
After a slow start, Jimmie is just being Jimmie. Three wins on the season and a top the chase standings is pretty much what we all expect of the six-time champ. The only thing keeping the plus off his grade is that slow start.
Extra Credit/Teachers Pet: Kyle Larson
I mean come on the rookie is 14th and ahead of drivers like Bowyer, Kahne, Biffle and Stewart. That’s jumping into a car with a team that has struggled in recent years and driving many tracks he has little or no experience at. People were asking at the beginning at the season if he was in the car too soon. That question has certainly be answered with a resounding ‘no.’
So that’s it. That’s might thought’s on the year so far. Drivers with poor grades have eight races to make a move before the chase field is set. Who do you think can do it? Leave a comment, or hit me up on Twitter/Facebook