17. Newman, New men, and blue men
OVERVIEW: There’s an odd preponderance of the color blue in this pack—six guys have it in their fire suits, including Daniel Hemric who has it in his sponsor. Speaking of which, this has what I think is the best possible combo of young talent—guys who are “already there” (Chase Elliott & Ryan Blaney), guys on the cusp (Erik Jones & Austin Dillon) and a possible future star in Hemric.
BACK OF THE CARD BONUS: Ryan Newman scored his 111th career top-five finish? Wow—if he ran for Joe Gibbs, there’d probably be merch commemorating it!
PICK OF THE PACK: Erik Jones gets the limited-edition “Studio” treatment here, including a mention of the time Ken Squire called him “That Jones Boy”. I wonder if Dale Jarrett’s cards back in the late-90’s referenced when Ken called him “the legend, Dale Earnhardt”?
FINAL RATING: 7 racing lines out of 10
18. Old school style, “Phenom” on file, and some rubber from Kyle
OVERVIEW: Another memorabilia insert! This time its a piece of Kyle Larson’s race-used tire to go along with his autograph. Kyle dominates this pack with three different cards, but we also get an appearance by Penske protege Austin Cindric as a “Phenom”—I’ll keep that in mind next time I see him wreck in Xfinity (which should be next week).
BACK OF THE CARD BONUS: Junior Johnson gets a shout-out from Bruce Springsteen! Better to have it be in a lyric than in one of his interminable pre-song rap sessions, “Y’know mah ol man used to tell me about racing…”.
PICK OF THE PACK: Gray Gaulding!!! Nice to see him consider running in the mid-30’s and not getting paid as “…a dream come true”—that’s the spirit!
BONUS: The memorabilia cards don’t have much in the way of back-of-the-card information, which is understandable considering that they’re likely to wind up on someone’s wall. Also, no, I haven’t tried to “scratch n sniff” the tire rubber.
FINAL RATING: 9 pre-show interview segments out of 10