BY: Belinda James
With the addition of driving prodigy Kyle Larson and well-connected Austin Dillon, 2014 is looking to be one of the most exciting years for up-and-coming drivers in the Sprint Cup series in a long time. Both have proven they have the skills to make it in the big leagues, and it should be interesting to see if they will be able to make the adjustment successfully. A lot of fans are also wondering if Danica Patrick will perform better in her sophomore year in the Sprint Cup. Tony Gibson, Patrick’s crew chief, told ESPN that the team is hoping to be more consistent and to be a solid top-20 team in 2014.
The Daytona 500
It’s the Great American Race, the crown jewel of NASCAR, and it is still the sport’s most coveted win. Yet, because the Daytona 500 occurs at the beginning of the year, it’s also a crap shoot. An unheralded youngster could come out of nowhere and steal it like Trevor Bayne did in 2011. At the same time, talented veterans like Mark Martin end up being denied the trophy year after year.
There will be a number of story lines at this year’s Daytona 500. For one thing, many people are wondering if Patrick will be able to repeat as pole-sitter for this race. The 500 was also Patrick’s best finish — 8th place — of the season. Fans will also want to see how Dillon, the grandson of legendary car owner Richard Childress, will fare in the Sprint Cup series after winning the 2012 Nationwide and 2011 truck series championships.
A lot of eyes will also be focused on Larson. According to USA Today, some believe that Larson’s quick jump to the big leagues may be a mistake. The young driver, though considered extremely talented, has never won a Nationwide race and has had only two podium finishes in that series.
Sonoma Raceway’s Toyota/Save Mart 350
The Sonoma, California race is held on a road course rather than an oval. It is always exciting for fans to see NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers test their skills on a winding road course, and the results of these road races can often shake up the standings. In fact, road races can be such game changers that a number of fans have been clamoring for a road race to be added to the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Autoweek recently reported that this change might actually occur in 2015. If you’ve never seen these big-bodied cars banging and fighting for room on a road course, then upgrade your TV bundle to make sure you catch the Sonoma race.
The Brickyard 400
This race, which was first held in 1994, combines the mystique of the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway — the Brickyard — with NASCAR. It is a very popular event, and NASCAR’s most attended race. In 2014, the Brickyard 400 will be held July 24 through 27. Locals are probably hoping that hometown hero Tony Stewart will be completely recovered from the devastating injuries he suffered in an accident in August so that he can win the Brickyard 400 again.
Belinda and her husband are saving up enough money to buy an RV and follow the NASCAR circuit next year. Her eyes light up any time she hears the name “Jr.”