Looking for Better Days
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on April 23, 2014 | 9:00 A.M. EST
A string of engine failures, mechanical problems and bad luck have kept Truex Jr. from scoring a single top-10 finish so far. (Photo: Getty Images)
With eight races in the book the Sprint Cup Series regular season is almost a third complete. But even with an expanded Chase field of 16 and a new format that virtually guarantees a playoff berth with a win, there should be more than a little concern around some high-profile names that have gotten off to slow starts.
Martin Truex Jr. heads the list as he enters this weekend’s visit to Richmond International Raceway 28th in the series point standings. After Kurt Busch brought the solo car team into last year’s Chase, there were high hopes for Truex Jr. to pick up where the Furniture Row Racing organization left off for 2014.
But the highlight of Truex Jr.’s season came early when he won the outside front row starting spot for the Daytona 500. Since then it’s been a string of engine failures, mechanical problems and bad luck that have kept Truex Jr. from scoring a single top-10 finish so far.
Truex Jr. hopes to turn things around this weekend at RIR, which was the scene of last year’s Michael Waltrip Racing manipulation scandal that ultimately cost the veteran driver a ride and sent sponsor NAPA packing to the Nationwide Series. It would be an even sweeter rebound for Truex Jr. if he could help ease that dismal chapter in his career with a solid run in Saturday night’s Toyota Owners 400.
Kasey Kahne would like nothing better than to relive some of his previous Richmond glory this weekend. The Hendrick Motorsports driver scored his first career Sprint Cup Series win at Richmond back in 2005.
This season has been trying for Kahne and crew chief Kenny Francis as they come to RIR in the 23rd spot of the standings. Kahne has been able to muster a pair of top 10 performances but has had little to cheer about in the opening eight races of the campaign.
Ironically Kahne is tied with Kevin Harvick with 186 points a piece in the standings. But with the new Chase format in place, Harvick has locked up a spot in the championship run with his pair of victories while Kahne – who has not finished better than eighth so far this year – is on the outside looking in.
Kahne is in a better spot than last year’s Rookie of the Year Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who heads to Richmond 25th in the standings. The Roush Fenway Racing driver has knocked down a top five and a couple of top 10 runs but he hasn’t shown much improvement in his sophomore season than a year ago.
Stenhouse Jr. had a couple of decent days last year at Richmond with finishes of 16th and 10th. He’d gladly take another run like he turned in at RIR last September.