NASCAR’s youth movement has been on full display through the first five weeks of the 2017 season. Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, and Ryan Blaney currently occupy three of the top seven spots in the points standings. Fellow young drivers Erik Jones and Daniel Suárez have had solid results as well.
Larson, winner of the Auto Club 400 at Fontana, currently sits atop the series points standings with a win and three second-place finishes. The lone exception being the Daytona 500 when he ran out of fuel on the final lap.
His impressive string of performances is a continuation of success from the end of last year when he recorded four finishes of sixth or better in the last seven races.
Larson has undoubtedly asserted himself firmly in the championship conversation.
Elliott has undoubtedly been the strongest performer from Hendrick Motorsports this season. Only Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex, Jr. have lead more laps than Elliott this season. Elliott, like Larson, was also denied an opportunity for a Daytona 500 victory by running out of fuel in the final laps.
Although the finishes are not exactly what Elliott and his team strive for, he has shown great promise and will likely become a Cup Series winner sooner rather than later.
Ryan Blaney has the Wood Brothers back near the top of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings. With three top ten finishes including a runner-up finish in the Daytona 500, Blaney is off to an impressive start.
Blaney’s current points situation could foretell a potential playoff berth. His team brings competitive cars to track each week and he could potentially win a race before the season is over.
Erik Jones has shown speed on a weekly basis, but not as much as Furniture Row teammate Martin Truex, Jr. However, it is still early in the season and he is still getting acclimated to life in the Cup Series. Jones is a promising young talent whose best results are ahead of him.
Daniel Suárez has also spent the early part of the season becoming more familiar with NASCAR’s highest level. After three subpar performances, Suárez brought home two consecutive seventh-place finishes at Phoenix and Fontana.
The learning curve has appeared to be steep for Suárez thus far. To make matters worse, crew chief Dave Rogers has announced he will take an indefinite leave of absence with immediate effect. Although Suárez will have a new voice on the pit box, it is one that he is familiar with. Joe Gibbs Racing has promoted Scott Graves; the man who was atop Suárez’s pit box during his run to the XFINITY Series title last year.
Although Suárez will have a new voice on the pit box, it is one that he is familiar with. Joe Gibbs Racing has promoted Scott Graves; the man who was Suárez’s crew chief during his run to the XFINITY Series title last year.
Even though Suárez has a few difficult runs to start the year, it is way too early to dismiss him. Suárez is a motivated and talented driver and he, like Jones, has his best days ahead of him.
Fans should be elated for what this youth movement means for the sport now and in the years to come.
Photo Credit: Greg Atkins