It just keeps getting more unpredictable out there on the NASCAR Cup Series.
Some teams and drivers are rising to the challenge, while others are falling a bit behind because of the unrelenting schedule.
There is one driver in particular thriving in this pedal-to-the-metal environment, so let’s get up to speed.
FIRST GEAR: Veteran Cup Series driver Denny Hamlin finally won a NASCAR championship, but he received no trophy or a big paycheck.
The 39-year-old driver won the mythical “Florida Championship” after opening the season with a Daytona 500 victory, then winning the Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead. He now has 40 career victories, but the Cup Series championship keeps eluding the Virginia driver.
“We won six races (in 2019),” Hamlin said. “We’re halfway there already … I just want to keep winning. That’s all I care about is just keep winning.”
SECOND GEAR: Last week’s NASCAR news cycle bordered on ridiculously crazy.
The sanctioning body announced it would allow a smattering of race fans at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway, becoming the first sport to have fans in the stands.
On Wednesday, following a nudge by Bubba Wallace, NASCAR banned the Confederate flag from its tracks and events, leading the pro sports charge into social reform.
On top of all that, the Cup Series held three races over eight days — at Atlanta, Martinsville and Homestead-Miami Speedway — and made history.
The night race at Martinsville was the first staged under the lights at that short track, which has been on the Cup Series schedule since the inception of the marquee series in 1949.
THIRD GEAR: NASCAR will continue to abbreviate its weekend racing schedules until further notice and that includes Sunday’s race at Talladega.
No practice, no qualifying, which means crew chiefs will lean heavily on their notes from years past. For the veterans, no practice is no big deal.
“I think the runs won’t be quite as big as what we had in the past, but still we’ve run a different package at superspeedways almost every other year,” Hamlin said. “We’ll adapt pretty quickly. So for me there’s not really any concerns.”
FOURTH GEAR: The NASCAR Cup Series has been running midweek races at tracks closer to Charlotte in an effort to catch up to the number of races on its original schedule.
If the original schedule had stayed in place, the Cup Series would have completed 16 races by now. Instead, a dozen Cup races are in the books.
Look for the next flurry of races in August when the regular season ends at Daytona International Speedway on Aug. 29. On pure speculation, could we see a road course/tri-oval doubleheader at Daytona? Anything is possible.