By Doug Halberstadt
After taking last weekend off to spend Easter with their families, the stars of NASCAR return to the track this Saturday night (April 26) at Richmond International Speedway. Coverage of the Toyota Owners 400 will begin at 6 p.m. local time on FOX.
Following Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s win at the Daytona 500, there have been six other winners in the first eight races of the season. Kevin Harvick is the only driver to take the checkered flag twice so far this year. Despite not collecting a victory up to this point, Jeff Gordon is leading the Sprint Cup Series standings, but not by much.
Gordon is a single point ahead of Cambridge, Wis., native and former series champion Matt Kenseth. Currently, third place belongs to Carl Edwards. He is 19 points behind Gordon. Fan favorite Earnhardt Jr. is 7 points behind Edwards and holds a 1-point lead over fifth place Jimmie Johnson.
In her second season driving full-time for Stewart-Haas Racing, former Roscoe, Ill., resident, Danica Patrick has started all eight races this year, but has yet to collect a win, or a top 10 finish. Her best finish is 14th. She accomplished that after starting 27th at the Auto Club 400 in Fontana, Calif. She also has one DNF (did not finish). That came after crashing early in the Daytona 500.
According to four of the five experts at NASCAR.com, rookie Kyle Larson, will be the driver to watch when the season resumes. He’s collected two top fives and four top 10s so far this year. He’s clearly the early season favorite for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award. Kenny Bruce calls the 21-year-old “scary fast and not easily intimidated.”
Zach Albert is raising the possibility that Larson might be the first rookie in five years to win a Sprint Cup Series race in his inaugural season. “The kid makes it look more reachable each week,” Albert said.
Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
Posted April 23, 2014