Ask Ricky Craven column who are the surprise Cup series drivers of 2018 NASCAR season?


There are few things I enjoy more than sifting through the mailbag and answering questions from the people dedicated to NASCAR.

Thank you to all who participated. Feel free to chime in if you agree or disagree. Most important, if you believe you have a better idea or solution, I want to hear it!

You have to start with Clint Bowyer, who ended a long winless streak — a popular victory among NASCAR fans.

Austin Dillon winning the Daytona 500 was a huge upset, but one celebrated heartily by those loyal to the No. 3.

I’ve been impressed with Ryan Blaney, because he has outrun his teammates with a new team.

Bubba Wallace has been encouraging. And the sky is the limit for Erik Jones.

There is no question in my mind Kyle Larson will contend for the title this year.

I believe Chase Elliott will win during the second half of the season, and Jimmie Johnson will regain his mojo, but I have Larson at the head of the class for Chevrolet in 2018, with three wins.

So I can’t differentiate between extra oomph and inferior equipment, but I do feel strongly that NASCAR should not have accepted the responsibility of controlling pit-stop equipment. Here’s why:

• NASCAR will never be praised for how well the guns work, but it will always be criticized when one fails.

• The argument that it will save teams money is a bit misleading. I understand the methodology of these teams, having been a team owner: If you save money in one area, you spend it in another.

Real money can be saved by prohibiting components or tools — the wind tunnel, for example, which is an enormous expense that forces teams to constantly alter the way they manufacture their race cars.

If I were NASCAR, I would want to be out of the pit-gun business as soon as possible.

I think we’re all a bit guilty of desperately trying to discover the next Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Tony Stewart.

The young talent gives us reason to be optimistic, but the next great NASCAR driver will probably emerge the same way most of the others have. It won’t be obvious until after it happens.

I must say, I have enjoyed Fox’s analyst trio of Mike Joy, Jeff Gordon and Darrell Waltrip this year. I truly believe they’ve hit their stride together.

I do believe there should be more attention to Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr.

These are brand-name, championship drivers, and we’re going to miss them when they’re gone.

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