Friday, January 28, 2022

SPADE RACING’s 2022 REGULAR SEASON PREVIEWS: TRUCK SERIES


Its allll about previews this month at Spade Racing—check back every week for a different national touring series preview (Cup, Xfinity, Trucks) with a “Four Corners” flair.  Why Four Corners?  Well, most oval tracks have four corners, and Spade Racing does four pieces a week during race season (10th Anniversary Season this year!).


Here’s a look at how the currently-announced teams with full-time drivers will do this year in the Truck Series, conveniently split into four easy-to-digest categories. Note: * denotes unconfirmed but expected 2022 plans


# Driver (Race Team): PREVIEW.  Ceiling.


Black: Chevy   Blue: Ford   Red: Toyota


1ST CORNER: Grizzled Old Veterans—these Truck Series near-lifers are the backbone of this series.

88 Matt Crafton (ThorSport Racing): Very little seems to change for the Crafton-ThorSport-88-Menards quartet, and in a series like this one where drivers switch places like the old developmental programs of the early-00’s, that really means something.  Ceiling: Championship followed by a dull thinkpiece on FS1.


*13 Johnny Sauter (ThorSport Racing): Assuming this solid relationship is renewed for 2022, expect to see Johnny have a major bounce back year after inexplicably missing the Playoffs.  Ceiling: Semi-surprising championship in which he has to bump-and-run someone at Phoenix.


99 Ben Rhodes (ThorSport Racing): Gee, quite the veteran-laden squad in Sandusky, eh?  With little changing Ben “Dusty” Rhodes is a decent pick to repeat as champion.  Ceiling: Winning the title again after some HARD TIMES, BAYBEH…


4 John Hunter Nemechek (Kyle Busch Motorsports): JHN had a triumphant return to the Truck Series in 2021, but a slight dip in performance at the end of last year could linger into this year.  Ceiling: Crashes the Championship Four and joins his dad as a national touring series champion (sans Burger King sponsorship).


52 Stewart Friesen (Halmar Friesen Racing): The Canadian driver’s progression from also-ran to championship contender has been nice to watch, but he needs to prove he can win somewhere other than dirt on the regular.  Ceiling: Top-finishing driver in the points without a win.

time.  A few wins if they don’t…hey maybe we’ll get yet another driver named “Chase”.


23 Grant Enfinger (GMS Racing): A full-time ride is nice, although the effects of GMS now running in Cup remain to be seen.  Ceiling: Challenging for the Championship Four while people wonder why he doesn’t have Ty Dillon’s Cup ride.


12 Spencer Boyd (Young’s Motorsports): This small team keeps plugging along.  Ceiling: An upset win at Talladega, a quick Playoff exit, a return to this ride in 2023.


56 Timmy Hill (Hill Motorsports): Everybody’s favorite driver from Port Tobacco Maryland will be running full-time for his own team this year.  Ceiling: Some top-tens and a top-five or two; Matt Kenseth fans finally forgiving him.


2nd CORNER: Grizzled Young Vets—some decent experience in this group of young drivers.

*98 Christian Eckes, possibly (ThorSport Racing): IF this team runs with Eckes full-time in 2022, expect them to surprise a few people.  Ceiling: A few wins IF Eckes run full-


38 Zane Smith (Front Row Motorsports): Last year Zane Smith made “the leap”.  Unfortunately he lost his ride, but he’s likely to be safe here…until Todd Gilliland gets tired of finishing 27th in Cup races.  Ceiling: Surprising challenge for the Championship Four and a win…getting a better ride for next season.


16 Tyler Ankrum (Hattori Racing Enterprises): Last year was quite a disappointment for Tyler, but maybe a move from GMS to HRE will be an improvement.  Ceiling: A Playoff berth for the second-most-famous “HRE”.


*02 Jesse Little (Young’s Motorsports): If this truck (assumed to be #02) runs full-time, Jesse could surprise a few people.  Ceiling: Some top-tens and a John Deere throwback scheme at some point.


30 Tate Fogelman (On Point Motorsports): He was the worst-finishing male to run the full-schedule last year.  And if Jennifer Jo Cobb doesn’t run full-time in 2022, he could be the worst-finishing DRIVER.  Ceiling: A top-ten finish in one of the superspeedway races, and possibly a pre-race interview the following week.


3rd CORNER: Non-Rookie Young’uns—they have at least a season under their belts.

18 Chandler Smith (Kyle Busch Motorsports): The only one of this bunch to make the Playoffs last year AND win races.  That’s worth something…right?  Ceiling: Advancing deep in the Playoffs with no funny “Chandler from Friends” jokes (…just like Chandler from Friends).


19 Derek Kraus (McAnally-Hilgemann Racing): A switch to a new manufacturer could be enough to get Derek and this team into the Playoffs.  Ceiling: The Playoffs—ok, so I’m running out of stuff to say here.


42 Carson Hocevar (Niece Motorsports): The only returning full-time driver to the ever-changing Niece Motorsports is the default leader in 2022.  Ceiling: Another Playoff berth and a year of people pronouncing his last name correctly.


61 Chase Purdy (Hattori Racing Enterprises): Last year was quite a disappointment for Chase, but maybe a move from GMS to HRE will be an improvement.  Ceiling: A Playoff berth for the second-most-famous “HRE”…and separation from his teammate.


24 Jack Wood (GMS Racing): The seemingly-long-time developmental driver gets his first shot in a full-time ride this year.  Ceiling: A bunch of top-fives, possibly a race win, and people giggling at his name.


1 Hallie Deegan (David Gilliland Racing): Last year was…not good for Hallie.  Maybe a year of experience under her belt will allow her to post a respectable season.  Ceiling: bringing home her truck in good shape, a few top-tens, more and more creepy fans.


15 Tanner Gray (David Gilliland Racing): A third-place finish at Martinsville showed that maybe—just maybe—Tanner has some real talent under the surface.  Ceiling: a few more top-tens and more people realizing he and his brother are two different people.


44 Kris Wright (Niece Motorsports): A big step-up in equipment from Young’s to Niece…but will Kris deliver?  Ceiling: A steady stream to top-twenties, which counts as “delivering” by my books.


4th CORNER: Rookies—A bumper crop of rookies arrive in the Truck Series in 2022.

45 Lawless Alan (Niece Motorsports): The Lawless One has a full-time Truck Series ride in 2022.  Ceiling: Rookie of the Year, plus a possible race win, and people wondering who would name their kid “Lawless”.


25 Matt DiBenedetto (RackleyWAR): Matty D lost his Cup ride but he found a decent landing spot with a full-time Truck Series team.  Ceiling: An upset win followed by a teary-eyed post-burnout interview.


40 Dean Thompson (Niece Motorsports): Its nice to see a young driver get a shot in decent equipment, but it’ll be up to him to prove he belongs.  Ceiling: Doing better than the driver he replaced (Ryan Truex, so that should be pretty easy).


91 Colby Howard (McAnally-Hilgemann Racing): No number assigned yet but its a definite step up from a partial season with JD Motorsports in the Xfinity Series.  Ceiling: Keeping this ride for the whole year and learning how to pronounce “Hilgemann”.


9 Blaine Perkins (CR7 Motorsports): He didn’t show much in the Xfinity Series last year, but maybe he can in a lower-pressure situation here.  Ceiling: Figuring out who the heck he is.


Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Spade Racing Opens Classic “Blaster Boxes” and Premiere Sets


Recently I acquired a collection of Nascar cards from the past thirty years.  Most of it was unopened “Blaster Boxes” (those things you see near checkout at big box stores) as well as a few early-90’s “Premiere Sets”.  Lets open them and see what’s inside!


Main Event Part 3—No show, duo, and please no


FIRST LOOK: Reed Sorenson really looked like he’d resurrected his career in the then-Nationwide Series.  Then he was mysteriously fired.  Some mysteries remain unsolved not because of secrets, but because nobody really cares.


TO THE BACK: A nice look at Dale Jr.’s rookie year and 2011 seasons here—just don’t use any pictures of the Budweiser car!


SAY WHAT: “Of all the Mike Wallaces out there, I’m easily the third-most famous”.


RATING: 5 pace laps out of 10


Monday, January 24, 2022

SPECIAL PROTECTIVE ADVANCE DEFENSE DEPARTMENT DETACHMENT (SPAD3) RACING ANNOUNCED; HIRING NEW DRIVER



NASCAR Cup’s newest team has begun to take shape, as a press conference in Washington DC this morning unveiled the team’s official name.

“Special Protective Advance Defense Department Detachment Racing will be making its debut next spring in the Daytona 500, but you can call us SPAD3 Racing for short”, team owner Dave Graham said, flanked by numerous men in suits.  “With the backing of this small but ultra-elite governmental agency, we know we’re going to accomplish everything we want to—nothing can stop us.”

While the team said they will be unveiling further plans in the coming weeks, they did confirm that former 52 Pickup Racing driver T.B. Dee will not be a part of their future.

“T.B. Dee was great in his interview—he had some real plans for the future”, Graham said.  “But we talked it over with our incoming team principal, and once we saw that he failed the stress tests we give to all our prospective employees, we decided to go in a different direction.”

Graham went on to say that while he could not go into details, the team had a particular young driver in mind for the ride.

“We’ve been looking at someone we can build from the group up—someone who has the necessary skills to race at a high level, but can make the right adjustments in-race.  I mean, people DO say that all drivers are personality-less robots these days, right?”

Friday, January 21, 2022

SPADE RACING’s 2022 REGULAR SEASON PREVIEWS: XFINITY SERIES


Its allll about previews this month at Spade Racing—check back every week for a different national touring series preview (Cup, Xfinity, Trucks) with a “Four Corners” flair.  Why Four Corners?  Well, most oval tracks have four corners, and Spade Racing does four pieces a week during race season (10th Anniversary Season this year!).


Here’s a look at how the currently-announced teams with (expected) full-time drivers will do this year in the Xfinity Series, conveniently split into four easy-to-digest categories. Note: (R) denotes a rookie


# Driver (Race Team): PREVIEW.  Championship Odds Equal To: 


Black: Chevy   Blue: Ford   Red: Toyota   Gray: Multiple/TBA


1st Corner: CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDERS—expect these drivers to be competing for the Final Four shootout/crapshoot at Phoenix

16 AJ Allmendinger (Kaulig Racing): The Dinger had a fantastic year last year, contending in the Xfinity Series and posting a win in Cup.  Thankfully he seems to have an awesome personality, since “Guy who wins all the time married to a beauty queen” is usually a recipe to get booed.  Championship Odds Equal To: that “clever” guy in your Pick ‘Em pool picking Dinger to win a Cup road course race every.  Single.  Time.

7 Justin Allgaier (JR Motorsports): The Gator was the “best of the rest” last season, finishing fifth in points.  Considering that his teammates are (essentially) a rookie, a guy competing for a full season for the first time, and a torpedo, I like his chances.  Championship Odds Equal To: forgetting a race is on, guessing that Allgaier came home in the top five, and being right.

9 Noah Gragson (JR Motorsports): And here we have that torpedo.  Gragson has a tendency to rub people the wrong way by, y’know, crashing into them.  But the current points system plays to his strengths—going on a hot streak at the right time while escaping getting beaten up for destroying a backmarker team’s only race car.  Championship Odds Equal To: Dale Jr. deftly avoiding criticizing him during a broadcast.

11 Daniel Hemric (Kaulig Racing): I honestly don’t know what’s stranger—Hemric winning his first-ever national touring series race in the championship finale, or the fact that we could very-well wind up with an all-Chevy Championship Four.  Championship Odds Equal To: …well, having an all-Chevy Championship Four.

19 Brandon Jones (Joe Gibbs Racing): Can Brandon Jones crash the Kaulig/JRM party?  Can he get back to his winning ways after a winless 2021?  Is it possible that Menards/Rheem could stop sponsoring him?  Answers: Possibly, Probably, don’t make me laugh.  Championship Odds Equal To: Brandon getting a full-time Cup ride in the next three years.

? Ty Gibbs (Joe Gibbs Racing): He doesn’t have MUCH experience—heck, he doesn’t even have a car number assigned.  But Ty showed last year that he’s a VERY fast learner, and he has the ultimate sign of talent—people are already sick of him winning “too much”.  Championship Odds Equal To: Ty growing bad teenage facial hair.

8 Josh Berry (JR Motorsports): Admittedly it’ll be an adjustment for Josh running the entire season for a single team.  But he’s shown that he can adapt, be it to limited sponsorship, running as a substitute, or the crushing expectations of the Tangential Earnhardt Factor.  Championship Odds Equal To: Michael Waltrip going the entire season without a “Berry good” pun.


2nd Corner: CHAMPIONSHIP CRASHERS—These drivers might not have the experience or the best equipment, but expect at least one of them to be in contention in October.

02 Brett Moffitt (Our Motorsports): The only thing that really stopped Brett’s championship hopes last year was not declaring for Xfinity points till Talladega.  So this year Mustache Man will be loaded for bear.  Championship Odds Equal To: ME going a mustache half as luxurious.

1 Sam Mayer (JR Motorsports): Its his first full-season—will Sam Mayer make “the leap”?  Only time will tell.  But since this is a preview, I’ll guess yes-but-not-till-late-in-the-year.  Championship Odds Equal To: An entire year of people not spelling his last name wrong.

2 Sheldon Creed (R) (Richard Childress Racing): One of two rookies competing full-time for RCR, it’ll likely be more of an intra-team battle than amongst the championship contenders.  But hey—the Whelen paint scheme looks cool.  Championship Odds Equal To: Austin Dillon forgetting his cowboy hat.

? Austin Hill (R) (Richard Childress Racing): Hill comes in on the strength of eight Truck Series wins.  But the fact that he doesn’t even have a NUMBER yet shows where he is on the RCR Austins Pecking Order.  Championship Odds Equal To: Ty Dillon scoring a Cup Series win.

10 Landon Cassill (Kaulig Racing): Landon got the chance of a lifetime—a full-season shot in championship-level equipment after years running for back markers.  But now the pressure is on—both for him to perform and for his sponsor to adequately explain what the heck they actually do.  Championship Odds Equal To: Landon remembering that time he brought me Burger King.

98 Riley Herbst (Stewart Haas Racing): And here we are—Riley Herbst.  He’s yet to show that he has the talent to handle the top-flight equipment he’s had at SHR (and JGR before that).  And he does have a tendency to wreck said equipment on the regular.  Butttttttt he has family sponsorship, so we’re all kinda stuck with him.  Championship Odds Equal To: Riley going an entire month without an on-track incident.


3rd CORNER: CHAMPIONSHIP LONGSHOTS—it would be a surprise, but don’t count out these dark horses until they’ve officially been eliminated.

27 Jeb Burton (Our Motorsports): He picked up his first Xfinity Series win last year, but a late-season swoon cost him any championship shot.  Our might not be at the level of Kaulig, but we’ll see if he can live up to the lofty goals of the #27 car set in Cup by men like Elton Sawyer and Paul Menard.  Championship Odds Equal To: his cousin Harrison making the Cup Playoffs on something other than a fluke win.

23 Anthony Alfredo (Our Motorsports): Last year’s Cup excursion was…not good.  But at least he found himself a good landing spot at Our.  We’ll see if he can live up to the lofty goals of the #23 Cup car set in Cup by men like Hut Stricklin and Scott Wimmer.  Championship Odds Equal To: getting #fastpasta trending.

31 Myatt Snider (Jordan Anderson Racing): Yes, its a step down from RCR to JAR.  But at least he seems to have stable sponsorship to go along with a stable ride, despite his bizarre first name.  Championship Odds Equal To: seeing the band Slayer in a TaxSlayer commercial.

39 Ryan Sieg (RSS Racing): The Official Underdog of Nascar is back, and while the Xfinity Series field is getting deeper and deeper, RSS Racing keeps plugging along.  However, you don’t get to be an OFFICIAL underdog without occasionally contending for wins.  Championship Odds Equal To: a Jeff Green victory tour.

07 Joe Graf Jr. (SS-Green Light Racing): Bobby Dotter’s team switches to a Ford/SHR alliance for 2022.  Which means if Joe Graf Jr. somehow beats Riley Herbst in the points standings there’ll be hell to pay (for Joe).  Championship Odds Equal To: Joe running a Dave Blaney Jack Daniels throwback scheme.

68 Brandon Brown (Brandonbilt Motorsports):  It was a dull year turned controversial after his win at Talladega.  But always remember—there’s no “U” in Brandonbilt…just an “I”.  Championship Odds Equal To: Brandon realizing how much cooler it would be to run #86.

51 Jeremy Clements (Jeremy Clements Racing): Jeremy made the Playoffs last year, but wasn’t much of a threat.  On the plus side…well, I don’t really know how to finish this entry.  Championship Odds Equal To: scoring a top-five on a cookie-cutter track without fuel mileage as a factor.

48 Jade Buford (Big Machine Racing Team): Oh, its that tire old story—rock climber and Porsche instructor goes Nascar racing with a record company executive in his 30s.  Come on, Nascar—change it up a bit!  Championship Odds Equal To: finding “the jade monkey before the next full moon”.


4th Corner: BACKMARKERS—they’re not likely to win, but they’re likely to give it their all.

? Bayley Currey (JD Motorports): The JDMwGK “Red Car Brigade” is fashionably late to announce their plans, but at least one driver has been confirmed.  Championship Odds Equal To: everybody spelling both his names right all year long.

78 Josh Williams (BJ McLeod Motorsports): When the highlight of your season is contact with Dale Earnhardt Jr., that’s not a good sign.  Championship Odds Equal To: having half the success of the Cup #78 team.

99 Stefan Parsons (BJ McLeod Motorsports): The son of Phil, Stefan might not be running for a top (or even mid-) level team, but he seems to have steady sponsorship.  So there’s that.  Championship Odds Equal To: a driver using “Johnny 99” as his Bristol intro music.

? Jesse Iwuji (R) (Jesse Iwuji Motorsports):  He has Emmitt Smith’s backing.  And he has some sponsorship.  That’s about all we know.  Championship Odds Equal To: Denny Hamlin going an entire year without a pit road penalty.


Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Spade Racing Opens Classic “Blaster Boxes” and Premiere Sets


Recently I acquired a collection of Nascar cards from the past thirty years.  Most of it was unopened “Blaster Boxes” (those things you see near checkout at big box stores) as well as a few early-90’s “Premiere Sets”.  Lets open them and see what’s inside!


Main Event Part 2—All-Star, Junior’s car, and har-dee-har-har


FIRST LOOK: Hey now, Jeff’s an all-star, get the belts on, go raaaace…


TO THE BACK: Much Josh.  Very wise.  Tangential Earnhardt Connection?  Wow.


SAY WHAT: “You can make fun of me for my age all you want—I make more money in a lap than you do in a month!”


RATING: 6 in-car cameras out of 10


Monday, January 17, 2022

Musically Declined: NASCAR Goes Country, 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall



Stock Car Racing and Country Music—two pillars of culture in the Southern United States.  And the two have mingled throughout the years.  So put on your racing shoes, make sure they match your cowboy hat, and settle in for a look back at some of Nascar’s biggest stars turned Nashville wannabes!   


The Song: Ninety-Nine Bottles of Beer (On The Wall), traditional 


The Stars: Richard Petty, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison, Buddy Baker, Darrell Waltrip


The Clip: 


The Review: Our introduction is a classic “back of the school bus” song.  All six sing the chorus, pretty obviously overshadowed by the backing vocals of The Jordanaires.  Next we have each driver speaking a line or two about, well, drinking.  Beer and driving—its a winning combination.  And, as required by Crappy Comedy Law, we get a “lol my wife’s a nag” joke.  Considering that most drivers had their wives as their business managers back then, I’m guessing whatever royalties there were to be had went towards “management fees”.


The Verdict: A pretty good way to cover up six guys who cannot sing, albeit for a song nobody over the age of twelve cares about.


Friday, January 14, 2022

SPADE RACING’s 2022 REGULAR SEASON PREVIEWS: CUP SERIES



Its allll about previews this month at Spade Racing—check back every week for a different national touring series preview (Cup, Xfinity, Trucks) with a “Four Corners” flair.  Why Four Corners?  Well, most oval tracks have four corners, and Spade Racing does four pieces a week during race season (10th Anniversary Season this year!).


Here’s a look at how the full-season teams will finish the 26-race regular season, conveniently split into four easy-to-digest categories. Note: (R) denotes a rookie


# Driver (Primary Sponsors): Superlative.  PREVIEW


Black: Chevy   Blue: Ford   Red: Toyota


1st Corner: MORTAL LOCKS—unless their teams completely whiff on the new car, expect to see them in the Playoff field

5 Kyle Larson (Hendrick Cars): Most Likely to Repeat.  There’s no reason at all to expect Kyle’s momentum to slow in 2022, even with a brand-new car design.  However, Kyles have been notoriously unreliable in Nascar, from Larson’s unfortunate comments to Busch’s volatile temper to Petty’s, well, everything outside of his charity work.


11 Denny Hamlin (FedEx, SportClips): Luckiest Unlucky Driver.  Denny always seems to attract drama to his seasons, doesn’t he?  But you’ll be hearing about JGR pit crew drama, and letting a race or two slip away, and how he might leave for 23XI—and then you’ll realize he has multiple wins and is in the top three in points.

Chase Elliott
(courtesy WattPad)


9 Chase Elliott (NAPA, Hooters): Best Road Course Ace.  Yeah, the whole “a guy from Dawsonville being a road course ringer!?!” story is pretty stale, but its true.  I mean, I would’ve given him “Most Overexposed Driver”, but a certain Toyota driver holds THAT mantle.


18 Kyle Busch (M&M’s, Interstate Batteries): Angriest Winner.  Remember when Kyle won the first COT race and complained about it?  I’d be expecting more of that this year.  Gee—I can’t figure out why a fun-loving candy company doesn’t want him anymore.


22 Joey Logano (Pennzoil, AAA): Youngest Old-Timer.  JoLo is now in the lead-driver position at Team Penske, which makes most of us feel pretty old.  But don’t get too hopeful, Joey-haters—he’s only 31 years old.


Kevin Harvick
(courtesy Snakkle)

4 Kevin Harvick (Busch Light, GearWrench): Comeback “Kid”.
  Expect the SHR team to make a major leap forward in 2022 after a disappointing 2021.  Well, “disappointing” doesn’t really cover it—Stewart-Haas was almost at the level of Haas-F1 for crying out loud.


19 Martin Truex Jr. (Bass Pro, Auto Owners): Steadiest Driver.  With a brand-new car (and all the changes that brings), sometimes it benefits a team to have a driver who can win a race or two and just knock-off top-tens the rest of the year.  This year, its Martin’s turn.  And hey—most of those top-tens will be at home tracks for him.


12 Ryan Blaney (Menards, Body Armour): Dullest Contender.  Is it just me or does Ryan Blaney tend to have the same season EVERY season?  He’ll win one of the first few races, go into a bit of a slump, then have a bit of a comeback in the early rounds of the Playoffs.



2nd Corner: PLAYOFF CONTENDERS—the top few SHOULD make the Playoffs, but those further down the list could be in trouble.

3 Austin Dillon (Dow, American Ethanol): Biggest Gambler.  Unless they’ve had a “Eureka” moment with the new car, RCR is still a mid-level team.  So why does Austin top this list?  Because he knows how to win at Daytona and Talladega.  And if he wins either of those spring races, expect to see them take some wild swings at strategy and the car’s setup in the summer (I’m hoping for the rarely-seen “Rear Two Tires” pit stop!).


6 Brad Keselowski (Fastenal, Violet Defense): Most Variable Driver.  Honestly, Brad could go almost any direction.  I mean, I *think* he’ll make progress in returning the newly-named RFK Racing to prominence, but for all I know he could be mired back in 20th place most races.  But no matter WHAT happens, Brad will be doing it his way—with a really, really, ugly car number.


New HMS 2nd-in-command
Jeff Gordon (courtesy WISH-TV)
48 Alex Bowman (Ally): Least Likely to Change Paint Scheme.  As long as Bubba Wallace isn’t involved, Alex Bowman has proven himself to be a steady, reliable driver.  And with full-season sponsorship from Ally, don’t expect many changes on this team…for two years.  That’s when Sam Meyer gets the ride.


24 William Byron (Axalta, LibertyU): Oldest Young-Timer.  In essence William’s the opposite of Joey Logano—he’s been with HMS for quite a while, but still feels like he’s a rookie.  Oh well—as long as he winds up in a better spot in the world than Brian Vickers…


14 Chase Briscoe (Mahindra, Haas): Most Improved Driver.  Expect Chase to take a MAJOR step forward in 2022, as even if he doesn’t find victory lane, I expect him to be the last “pretty much locked-in” Playoff driver going into the finale.  Hopefully this helps him step out of the shadow of Kevin Harvick (teammate), Chase Elliott) first name) and a bunch of Midwesterners (car number).


20 Christopher Bell (Stanley, Craftsman): Latest Leaper.  Last year I expected C.Bell to take “the leap” from contending for top-tens to contending for race-wins.  This year I…don’t really see it happening, and I think he’ll probably be around 10th place most races this year, with a win likely thrown in.  Then again, I’ve been wrong before.  A LOT.  I mean REALLY a lot.


23 Bubba Wallace (Door Dash, McDonalds): Most Over-everything.  Bubba’s the most over-exposed.  He’s the most over-criticized.  He’s the most over-analyzed.  He’s the most over-interviewed.  He’s the most over-theorized.  Here’s hoping we just get a year where he over-performs what the haters think he can do.


Kurt Busch
(courtesy Snakkle)
2 Austin Cindric (R) (Discount Tire, Menards): Rookie of the Year.  Its an odd intra-team ROTY battle this year, between Austin at Team Penske and Harrison Burton of Penske-affiliate Wood Brothers.  I give the edge to Austin mostly due to the team he’s inheriting—you gotta figure plenty of crew members are glad they don’t have to humor Brad’s pontificating anymore.


45 Kurt Busch (Monster Energy, McDonalds): Most Travelled.  Kurt’s raced for: Roush Racing, Penske Racing, Phoenix Racing, Furniture Row Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing, and now 23XI Racing.  Other than a major aversion to racing for teams with “Motorsports” in their names, the guy likes to get around.



3rd Corner: DARK HORSES—these mid-level teams will definitely need some luck in order to make the Playoffs.

1 Ross Chastain (AdventHealth, unconfirmed): Most Incremental Growth.  Its a bit of a rough go for Ross, who is essentially switching teams (and engine manufacturers) due to Chip Ganassi’s Nascar operations being bought out by Trackhouse.  But expect to see him continue to inch his way up the Nascar Cup pecking order.  By the way, most of Ross’s primary sponsors haven’t been confirmed yet—he doesn’t have some hip random app called “unconfirmed” as a sponsor…yet.


17 James Buescher (Fastenal, Fifth Third Bank): Most Forgotten Driver.  Nothing against him, but with Brad Keselowski joining as both a teammate and co-owner, Buescher seems to have been forgotten about going into the 2022 season.  Heck—I bet you didn’t even realize that I called him “James” there, did you?

SHR co-owner
Tony Stewart


10 Aric Almirola (Smithfield): Most Disappointing Driver.  Aric pulled out a small miracle to make the Playoffs in 2021, but I don’t see that happening in 2022.  Honestly, I’d be mildly-surprised if he wins in his final season—and expect his replacement to be both Terrible AND terrible.


8 Tyler Reddick (Caterpillar, 3CHI): Biggest Teammate Drop-off.  I give Austin Dillon a lot of guff, but he’s proven that he can win.  Tyler Reddick, on the other hand, not so much.  With two talented young drivers running for RCR’s Xfinity program, Tyler might need to pick up the pace, lest he gets Hemric’d.


21 Harrison Burton (R) (Menards, Motorcraft): Best Learner.  I know, I know—these are 2022 previews.  But I’ll call it right here—expect Burton and the Wood Bros. to use this year as a giant testing session before turning up the wick in 2023.  After all, I don’t see Menards or Ford Motorcraft going anywhere, and Harrison is much, much, MUCH less-whiny than he guy he replaced.


31 Justin Haley (unconfirmed): Biggest Upgrade.  Justin Haley goes from driving the Spire Motorsports backmarkers to a new team with, at the very least, decent equipment.  That’s quite an upgrade.  Meanwhile, the 31 team goes from not existing to existing—that’s REALLY an upgrade.


41 Cole Custer (Haas): Least Improved.  I have nothing against Cole Custer, but he showed nothing last year that would suggest a big step forward in 2022.  Then again, if I’m wrong, I’ll eat a big hoagie and drink lots of beer.  Sure, its not a punishment, but maybe it’ll be encouraging enough for Cole.


99 Daniel Suarez (Tootsie’s): Strangest Roster.  So we have a team owned by an ex-racer and “Mr. Worldwide”, driven by a Mexican driver, sponsored by a Nashville bar.  Pretty cool.  Weird, but cool.


16 Noah Hemricdinger (unknown): Best Trio.  OK, its not saying much, but expect the combo of Noah Gragson, Daniel Hemric, and a returning AJ Allmendinger to greatly outperform whoever it is Live Fast and RWR put in their cars.


43 Erik Jones (Focus Factor, USAF): Biggest Unknown.  Remember when Erik was signed to a long-term deal with RPM?  Then it turned out they had to re-sign him for another season?  Then the team got bought out to be come Petty-GMS?  Yep, things are far from fun at the back of the pack.



4th Corner: BACKMARKERS—unfortunately, expect these cars to mostly just take up space.

47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Kroger, stuff you can buy at Kroger): Best Spinner.  JTG-D downsized to one team over the offseason, so that will give them even more time to fix the cars Stenhouse wrecks while competing for 25th place.


34 Michael McDowell (unconfirmed): Good Guy Award.  McDowell continues to be a popular guy in the garage (with the possible exception of Bubba Wallace), but while I’m sure he’d like to prove that he’s no fluke, I just don’t see that happening.


38 Todd Gilliland (R) (unconfirmed): Easiest to Ignore.  With Michael McDowell probably getting the lion’s share of the sponsorship AND attention, and the Rookie of the Year competition being between Austin Cindric and Harrison Burton. it seems like Todd Gilliland is just kinda…there.


42 Ty Dillon (unconfirmed): Luckiest Driver.  So despite doing little-to-nothing in his Cup career so far, and losing his ride at Germain due to the team losing sponsorship, he somehow finds his way to an RCR-affiliated team.  Who’s surprised?


7 Corey Lajoie (Built Bar, unconfirmed): Latest Kenny Wallace.  With a backmarker team, little funding, and no real prospect of moving forward, at least Corey seems to have a jovial personality.  Hopefully there’s enough rain delays for him to entertain bored viewers at home.


77 Josh Bilicki et al (Ziegler Auto): Biggest Hometown Boy.  There likely won’t be much to talk about with this team this year, UNLESS Josh runs at Road America, in which prepare yourself for the cheesy pre-race stories!


78 BJ & The Bunch (unconfirmed): Most Different Sponsors.  BJ McLeod will likely take the lion’s share of the races this year, joined by anybody who can bring sponsorship.  And now that Keen Parts is gone, let’s see if they can have a different sponsor for every single race!


15 RWR TBA & 51 RWR TBA (unconfirmed): Class Clowns.  Unsurprisingly its Rick Ware Racing without drivers, sponsors, or even vague plans announced for 2022.  Oh well—SOMEbody’s gotta bring out those late cautions.