The Season of the First Time Winners
If there was any doubt as to how unpredictable NASCAR Sprint Cup racing could get, does three first time winners in the sport's biggest events disprove such thoughts?
The season began with Trevor Bayne winning the Daytona 500 in fairytale-like fashion, capturing “The Great American Race” in his rookie start. Next, Reagan Smith broke into the "first time winner" category with a remarkable win at Darlington, and Daytona's victory lane saw another first time winner when David Ragan won the Coke Zero 400.
Now, Paul Menard joins the ranks of first time winners with his win at the Brickyard 400. This has me wondering, what is with this sudden breakout of first time winners? Are the veterans of the sport losing their edge?
Veteran racers often point out how the younger racers push their cars past the limit, driving every lap like it's a qualifying effort. In the past, that type of racing would land even the most confident freshman talent into the wall, knocking some senses into their noggins.
However, today's racing is a whole different ball game. There's no such thing as holding back anymore. Got a fast car? Well, drop the hammer and let it all hang out - that's today's NASCAR.
Look at Bayne's win during the season opener - he put himself in a position to win, even when his week-long drafting partner fell out of the 500 early.
Smith and his No. 78 team bucked the standard at Darlington by staying out on old tires and it paid off by having track position and clean air.
Ragan redeemed himself with a fast bullet as his Roush-Fenway Racing mates weren't afraid to think outside the box by drafting in four car tandems during the 400-miler. Ultimately, Ragan had the best car and he showed it all night long.
As for Menard, Sunday's win proved he's not just a kid with a rich father or a driver that's all money and no talent. Instead, he proved himself as a true Cup contender - yes, not just for wins, but how about for at least a Chase seed?
I wouldn't count out the "old guys" just yet, as they're still putting up the good fight, and are showing no signs of slowing down. However it does look like the young guns are catching up.
Hardly any fans will deny that seeing new faces in victory lane is good for the sport, and something that is just all around nice to see. Will the trend continue?
Only time will tell, but personally, I think that these next few years will see the rise of the new guy.