Time to Recharge, Re-Evaluate
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on May 14, 2014 | 10:23 A.M. EST
Clint Bowyer and the No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing team are among those looking to get their seasons on track as NASCAR heads into its annual All-Star Break. (Photo: Getty Images)
NASCAR All-Star Weekend provides a timely break from the regular-season schedule, giving a number of drivers the opportunity to re-evaluate things.
The regular season is nearing the halfway mark with race No. 11 in the books last Saturday night at Kansas Speedway. Things haven’t gone as well as some thought they would when the bell rang at Daytona back in February:
Last week was great for Bowyer ... at least leading up to Saturday night’s 5-hour ENERGY 400 at his home track in Kansas City. He signed a contract extension to remain at Michael Waltrip racing for the immediate future and sponsor 5-hour inked a new deal to continue backing the No. 15 Toyota. Bowyer and his new wife also announced that the couple is expecting their first child later this year. Unfortunately, once the green flag fell in the race, there wasn’t much else for Bowyer to get excited about. He struggled throughout the night and dropped to 20th in the Sprint Cup Series point standings. Bowyer has managed only one top-five and three top-10 finishes this year, and is in desperate need of a strong outing very soon.
He showed some life in the second Kansas practice session after a dismal performance in the opening round Friday afternoon. There was a little speed in the No. 14 Chevrolet during qualifying and the race but ultimately, Stewart was never a threat to win. A pair of top fives and four top-10 finishes are what Stewart has to show for his effort in the opening 11 races this season. While his Stewart-Haas Racing teammates, Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch, already have wins, Stewart is still struggling to run in the front half of the field most weeks.
The Chip Ganassi Racing driver made a fiery exit from Saturday night’s race in Kansas. After cutting a tire and slamming the Turn-3 wall, McMurray’s Chevrolet made it to pit road on fire - triggering a scary moment that fortunately didn’t end in injury. It ruined a decent night for McMurray up to that point but compounded a frustrating season that has so far netted only a pair of top-10 performances. McMurray’s CGR teammate, Kyle Larson, is turning heads while crew members on the No. 1 team are scratching theirs trying to figure out how to right the ship heading into the Memorial Day Weekend Coca-Cola 600.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Save the comparisons between Stenhouse and his girlfriend, Danica Patrick. What really matters is how the Roush Fenway Racing driver is doing in his sophomore Sprint Cup Series season after capturing Rookie of the Year honors last season. He’s 25th in the standings, just about mirroring what Stenhouse was able to accomplish last year. Overall, RFR is looking for a boost and Stenhouse needs to provide it with better runs as the summer stretch unfolds.
Martin Truex Jr.
The Furniture Row Racing team may be the biggest disappointment of the season so far. The success of Kurt Busch and the "Cinderella Story" of a year ago has been replaced by what feels like a weekly dose of frustration, mechanical issues, crashes and bad luck. Truex had a top-10 run a couple races ago, but the No. 78 again was uncompetitive last week in Kansas. He’s 26th in the point standings with only that top 10 and a Daytona 500 front-row starting spot as highlights. That’s a far cry from what was being accomplished by this underdog team at this time last year.
Motor Racing Network - "The Voice of NASCAR" - will have live coverage of Saturday's 30th running of the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Racing beginning at 8 p.m. (ET), with live streaming at MRN.com.