NASCAR: Who’s hot and not in Sprint Cup

In this week, I will write about who’s hot and who’s cold in NASCAR Sprint Cup. We are four races deep in the season and we are starting to see which team that are performing well or not.

I have narrowed it down a “top 5 list” of “who’s hot” and “who’s cold”. A “1” means real hot or ice cold.
Top 5 Hot teams week 12 
 
1. Stewart-Haas Racing’s #4 Chevrolet – Kevin Harvick.
No surprise for anyone, I had to pick Kevin Harvick, age 39, at the top this week. The  #4 car has been on fire the first four races. Harvick has 2 wins and 4 top 5 in four races, 1 pole, avg start: 8.0, avg finish: 1.5 and led 482 laps in those 4 races. The stats are almost close to perfect. You can almost “feel” the #4 teams positive flow right now. Solid driving, top performance at pit road, good decisions and car setup from crew-chief Rodney Childers. No accidents and no trouble what so ever. The question is how long can the #4 car stay this hot and hold P1 in Sprint Cup?
2. Furniture Row Racing’s #78 Chevrolet – Martin Truex Jr
This seasons biggest surprise in Sprint Cup so far. Truex Jr, age 34, P3 in total points, have 1 top 5, avg start: 11.8, avg finish: 5.8. Comparing to Truex Jr’s 2014 season stats (also with FRR); 36 races, 1 top 5, 0 poles, 3 DNF, avg starts: 20.1, avg finish: 20.2. This is Truex Jr second year with Furniture Row Racing. His last year with MWR, the stats with 36 races (2013), 1 win, 7 Top 5, 3 DNF, avg starts: 12.3, avg finish: 15.1. FRR was the first single car team to ever make to the chase for Sprint Cup in 2013, with Kurt Busch at the wheel. I think FRR, with Truex Jr at the wheel, would have a pretty good chance once more to make the chase.
3. Team Penske’s #22 Ford – Joey Logano
Logano, age 24, last season P4 in Sprint Cup continues to perform strong at the tracks. With 4 races gone in 2015 season, Logano have 1 win, 2 Top 5, 1 pole, avg starts: 2.5, avg finish: 5.8 and P2 in Sprint Cup. The stats are impressive. Comparing with 2014 stats; 36 races, 5 wins, 16 Top 5, 1 pole, 4 DNF, avg starts: 9.8, avg finish: 11.3. The #22 team, with crew chief Tod Gordon at the helm, can look forward to another good season.
4. JTG Daugherty Racing’s #47 Chevrolet – AJ Allmendinger
Another single car team with less resources makes it to my top 5 list. AJ, age 34, had some rough times in the past, with a suspension in 2012 as a low point, is getting his reputation slowly  back again. With 4 races finished this season AJ stats is; 0 Top 5, 0 poles, 0 DNF, avg starts: 23.8, avg finish: 12.5 and P5 in Sprint Cup. At Las Vegas (Kobalt 400), AJ started 22 and finished 6, a very impressing finish. Stats for 2014; 36 races, 1 win, 2 Top 5, 0 poles, 4 DNF, avg starts: 19.7, avg finish: 20.2. What impressed me most with team #47, in the beginning of 2015 season, is avg. starts versus avg. finish. Crew chief Brian Burns decisions of adjusting the car under races, have given AJ a good handling car so far.
5. Hendrick Motorsports #5 Chevrolet – Kasey Kahne
Kahne is the only Hendrick team that makes it to the top 5 list this week. Bare in mind that we demand top performance each week from all Hendrick drivers. And we should demand it with that kind of resources Hendrick has. Kahne, age 34, has not performed what to expect under Hendrick wings the seasons before. Last season stats with 36 races; 1 win, 3 top 5, 0 poles, 5 DNF, avg. starts: 17.3, avg. finish: 17.6 is not what to expect from team #5. The start of 2015 season with 4 races finished looking more positive; 0 wins, 1 top 5, 0 poles, 0 DNF, avg. starts: 8.8, avg. finish: 11.0. Crew chief Keith Rodden has to keep up the adjustments under the race. Avg. finish is still lower then the avg. start. I think that Kahne quietly runs solid in the shadow of Gordon, Johnson and Dale Jr – and it fits just fine for the #5 team.
Top 5 Cold Teams week 12
 
1. The Motorsports Group’s #30 Chevrolet – Ron Hornaday Jr.
The Virginia businessman Curtis Key, owner of  The Motorsports Group (former Key Motorsports), planned to run a full Sprint Cup season 2015 with former 4-time Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday Jr. I had already a bad feeling about this venture before Daytona weekend. It’s sad to say that the “gut feeling” was right. Ron Hornaday Jr, age 56, a long time veteran, had raced in the Truck Series mostly and is the Truck Series champ 2009. Last time Hornaday raced in the Sprint Cup series was 2003 (1 race) and the comeback to Sprint Cup was not be a pleasant one. At Daytona qualifying, the #30 car was the slowest, same result at Duel practice (only car under 190 mph) and again failed in the Duel race. #30 team made it for the Atlanta race, finished 42. The team have decided to cancel “the west coast swing” ( 3 races). Hornaday P45 in Sprint Cup will have a very long way to even get decent results in Sprint Cup.
2. Stewart-Haas Racing’s #14 Chevrolet – Tony Stewart
The #14 team was a contender for the top spot, but will get away with the no. 2 spot on the cold list, because this team actually races at least. It’s strange that this #14 team can perform this bad, when the other Stewart-Haas team of Harvick can perform so well. I thought the #14 team would start the 2015 season fresh and with that hunger & aggressiveness that is so famous for “Smoke”. I was wrong. The stats for the first 4 races tells it all; 0 wins, 0 top 5, 0 poles, 2 DNF, 0 laps led, avg. starts: 18.8, avg. finish: 36.0. Look at that again, 2 DNF and 36.0 avg. finish. Horrible. The 3-time Sprint Cup champ team is in trouble. “Smoke” had have some rough years before, with personal tragedy and a leg injury. Is it the co-operation with crew chief Chad Johnston that is not working? Is Stewart thinking to much of the past and don’t feel comfortable in the #14 car? Lets see if #14 team can turn it around and become the real “Smoke” that we used to see at the track.
3. Roush Fenway Racing’s Ford #17 – Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
The 2013 Sprint Cup rookie of the year and 2-time Xfinity champion (2011-2012) have started the 2015 season slow. I’d expected that Stenhouse Jr., age 28, would show his talent more and get a top 10 finished in the 4 first races. The stats showing no progress at all; 0 wins, 0 top 5, 0 poles, 1 DNF, avg. starts: 24.3, avg. finish: 26.5. Hadn’t there been a decent finish (P12) at Phoenix (CampingWorld.Com 500) the stats would be even worse. The stats for 2014 season with 35 races; 0 wins, 1 top 5, 0 poles, 2 DNF, avg. starts: 21.7, avg. finish: 22.4. The stats was better under Stenhouse Jr rookie season in 2013. Is the negative curve going more down under 2015? Crew chief Nick Sandler needs to get more speed out of the #17 car. Is the pressure to perform something that’s bothering Ricky perhaps? We will see if that #17 car can finish better soon.
4. H Scott Motorsports Chevrolet #46 – Michael Annett
Michael Annett, age 29, is maybe a little surprise on this list for some folks. Annett, with 163 starts in the Xfinity Series (0 wins, 7 top 5, 34 top 10) are driving his second season in Sprint Cup. Last season stats, driving for Tommy Baldwin Racing; 36 races, 0 wins, 0 top 5, 0 poles, avg. starts: 33.7, avg. finish: 29.4. This season stats after 4 races; 0 wins, 0 top 5, 0 poles, avg. starts: 30.8, avg. finish: 30.8. You may be thinking that I’m to hard against Annett, driving for smaller teams all the time. But the fact is, the performance stats going even more down. I expected a more hungry driver in Annett, specially when he got a chance to drive in the Sprint Cup full time. The stats from Annett’s 163 starts in the Xfinity series isn’t that good either. It makes me wonder if he should drive at all in the Sprint Cup Series? Maybe Annett can prove me wrong.
 
5. Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet #24 -Jeff Gordon
Well I stick my chin out and put Gordon on the cold list as well. It looks like the #24 team are running good almost all the time – and they are with 2 poles in 4 races. The problem is that Gordon, age 44, for now, cannot put that strong #24 car to a good finish. The #24 car have been involved in too many accidents at start of the 2015 season. Last years stats with 36 races; 4 wins, 14 top 5, 3 poles, avg. starts: 9.0, avg. finish: 10.4, 0 DNF, are very impressive. Looking at the first four races in 2015 season, showing something different; 0 wins, 0 top 5, 2 poles, 1 DNF, avg.starts: 11.8, avg. finish: 25.3. We all now that the #24 team, with crew chief Alan Gustafson calling the shots, is a Sprint Cup champion contender. This is Jeff Gordons last full season, lets see if the team still have what it takes to get one more championship.
(JS)

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