More Fizzle Than Sizzle
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on June 11, 2014 | 3:24 P.M. EST
Kahne is among those drivers who have reason to be concerned about getting their seasons on track or risk missing the Chase. (Photo: Getty Images)
Several drivers continue to underperform and struggle as the Sprint Cup Series regular season moves into the second half.
As the summer stretch heats up along with the weather, the time is now for five drivers to make their move or risk sitting on the sidelines once the post-season Chase rolls around:
Forget the fact that Kahne is still winless after 14 races in 2014. The Hendrick Motorsports driver hasn’t really been in position to contend for Victory Lane. His latest issue was another run-in with Kyle Busch last week at Pocono that ended Kahne’s day with a hard trip into the wall. Kahne voiced his frustration afterward, but his continued problems with Busch won’t disappear unless he takes action. However, at this point, Kahne and crew chief Kenny Francis have bigger fish to fry in trying to find a way to somehow get competitive, something their three Hendrick teammates have been all year.
The ongoing contract negotiations have to be a distraction for Biffle and the entire No. 16 team. If reports are true that Biffle will indeed stay with Roush Fenway Racing, the sooner those plans are announced, the better. Even clearing up Biffle’s future won’t bring the speed that has been sorely lacking across the RFR lineup this year. Sunday’s trip to Michigan, where Biffle is the defending race winner and Roush has enjoyed great success over the years, will be an indication of whether this team can finally get headed in the right direction.
Ambrose and the No. 9 team have to be licking their chops at the prospect of road races at Sonoma and Watkins Glen International on the horizon. The road-course ace will no doubt be a factor to win both races. If he does, Ambrose will punch his ticket to the Chase thanks to NASCAR’s new championship format. But with all oval tracks in the 10 races that make up the playoff schedule, so far Ambrose & Co. haven’t given any indication they’re going to be capable of making some serious noise.
If you like NASCAR clichés, get ready for one of the biggest ones in recent years to roll out in the coming days: "Tony Stewart gets hot in the summer months." Even though that hasn’t really applied to "Smoke" in recent years, it makes for a good rallying cry - I guess - for fans (and some media) around the mercurial Stewart. He finally showed some strength last week in Pocono with a fast car until a pit road speeding miscue ruined his day. The way Stewart-Haas Racing has been so up-and-down this year, it’s hard to figure out if that was a sign of better things to come for Stewart or simply an aberration.
The Michael Waltrip Racing driver sits 16th in the standings heading to Michigan this weekend. But given the new Chase system, that really doesn’t matter. It’s about winning, something Bowyer has yet to do this year. While teammate Brian Vickers has been a fixture at the front of the field, Bowyer has not ... although there are signs that perhaps some gains are being made. Maybe Bowyer’s best shot at winning comes next week with the road-course stop in Sonoma, where he’s won before.
The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.