Quiet Start for Some
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on March 26, 2014 | 7:45 A.M. EST
Newman and Dillon are eighth and ninth, respectively, in the standings. (Photo: Getty Images)
So far the 2014 Sprint Cup Series campaign has produced five different winners through the opening quintet of races. Overall the on track product has been solid with exciting competition to go along with more than enough story lines to keep things interesting.
But a number of drivers have not generated much discussion either for good performances going unnoticed or not making an impact in the early going:
Newman’s transition from Stewart-Haas Racing to Richard Childress Racing has gone very well. He’s turned in a pair of top-10 finishes and sits eighth in the Sprint Cup Series point standings heading to Martinsville Speedway this week. While the No. 31 team hasn’t been spectacular, Newman’s consistency is well above what Jeff Burton was able to do for much of last season.
The year began with a bang when Dillon brought the No. 3 back to the Sprint Cup Series in grand style by winning the pole for the Daytona 500. Although his day in “The Great American Race” didn’t go as well, the rookie driver has been steady as the season’s worn on. Dillon is right behind RCR teammate Newman in the standings holding position nine after his second straight 11th-place finish last Sunday at Auto Club Speedway.
His Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates teammate Kyle Larson has rightfully garnered much attention this year, but McMurray has been pretty good in his own right. The driver of the No. 1 Chevrolet has a pair of top-10 finishes to his credit and has shown much improved speed and consistency over last year’s performance. Rookie crew chief Keith Rodden has provided a veteran-like steady hand in helping guide McMurray to an impressive open to 2014.
Sure Patrick is 27th in the standings and has yet to notch either a top five or top-10 finish yet this season. But even though her detractors won’t admit it, she’s shown improvement in the last few weeks notching decent performances in light of some difficult circumstances. Two weeks ago in Bristol she started the weekend with a practice crash and battled through more challenges as the weekend progressed including only having fourth gear near the end of the race. Despite the problems, Patrick was able to finish 18th. Last week in Fontana, Patrick was one of several drivers experiencing tire issues but battled back for 14th. The year was about Patrick showing progress and at least in the last two outings she’s done just that.
Martin Truex Jr.
Truex Jr. isn’t getting noticed but for the wrong reasons. The former Michael Waltrip Racing driver has experienced a trouble filled opening to his Furniture Row Racing career, which started with such promise at Daytona. But since Truex Jr. put the No. 78 Chevrolet on the Daytona 500 outside front row, it’s been all downhill since. He’s had engine problems, cars that lacked speed and last week a 23rd-place finish thanks to a damaged splitter after hitting debris at Auto Club Speedway. It’s added up to Truex Jr. buried in 30th place in the standings coming to Martinsville.
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