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2017 PREVIEW

questions to be answered in 2017

EDITORIAL

xxxx@xxxxxxxxx.com Editor@sc-democrat.com

CIRCULATION xxxx@xxxxxxxxx.com Subs@sc-democrat.com ONLINE xxxx@xxxxxxxxx.com www.scdemocratonline.com NASCAR season preview is created annually by GateHouse Media LLC, and is distributed with various newspapers across the country and by King Features. Reproduction in whole or in part without prior written permission is strictly prohibited. Opinions expressed in the publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the management of the publication. Cover illustration: NASCAR media images ©2017 GATEHOUSE MEDIA ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

By Ken Willis

Motorsports columnist

T

he 2017 NASCAR season is concluding its parade laps and slowly coming off the fourth turn, heading toward the start line. Once they mash the gas and begin the nine-month run, all questions will eventually be answered. Including these 10:

Is Junior back for good? If the hopes, desires and needs of an entire industry are worth anything, yes, Dale Earnhardt Jr. will make a successful return to the cockpit and be at full speed for the entire season. But after

Will Monster make an impa missing much of 2016 recovering from another concussion, nothing is guaranteed in Junior’s world.

Will Jimmie break the tie? Maybe. What, that’s not enough of an answer? Jimmie Johnson, yet again, enters the season with everything going for him, so it’s certainly a possibility he’ll win an eighth championship and separate himself from Richard Petty

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The folks in charge of sellin sport at all levels certainly ho ster Energy as series sponsor know, energize the fan base a positive jolt to the marketing NASCAR.

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and Dale Earnhardt. But once rolls around in September, an can happen. He may end his c 10, he may end it with seven.

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activity, that’s the biggest question in auto racing these days. NASCAR isn’t the only sports-entertainment industry facing challenges at the ticket booth and with TV ratings. Not sure if anyone has the magic answer, but most folks sure act like they do.

the same quality equipment it puts together for Truex, don’t be surprised by anything Jones does. He has a combined 91 starts in the Truck and Xfinity Series the past three years, with 12 wins. He’s only 20, by the way.

Does Martin Trruex take the next step?

And Daniel Suarez?

Though Jimmie Johnson was ultiulti mately the 2016 champ, you could make the argument that Truex had the best year. Two of his four wins were “majors� — the Coke 600 at Charlotte and the Southern 500 at Darlington — and he was a whisker away from adding the Daytona 500 to that list. He also led more laps than anyone last season. There’s a new wrinkle this year, however, because Truex now has a teammate at Furni Furniture Row Racing. Speaking of which Martin Trruex Jr., driver of the No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/ Tracker Toyota, celebrates in Victory SpeedLane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speed Charlotte, North Carolina. PHOTO BY JARED C.. TILLTON//GETTY way Maay 29, 2016, in Charlott G IMAGES FOR NASCAR

Will Erik Jones hit the ground running? If Furniture Row can put him in

He’s passed his “test� in the Xfinity Series, but he’s teeing it up a little sooner than planned in the Cup Series — where, by the way, the Daytona 500 will be his first-ever start.

Career resurgence gence coming foor Clint Bowyer? In the early years of this decade, Bowyer was looking like a champin-waiting and a definite star. But he hasn’t won a race since 2012 and has been 16th or worse in points the past three years. But now he replaces Tony Stewart in the No. 14 car and has every opportunity to meet or surpass expectations. NASCAR is a lot more fun when he’s running up front.

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NASCAR

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Jones has a combined mbined 91 starts in the Trruck and XďŹ nity Series the past three years, with 12 wins. He’s only 20, by the way.

activity, that’s the biggest question in auto racing these days. NASCAR isn’t the only sports-entertainment industry facing challenges at the ticket booth and with TV ratings. gs. Not sure if anyone has the magic answer, but most folks sure act like they do.

Does Martin Trruex take the next step? Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 Nature’s Bakery Chevrolet, walks through the garage area at the Daytona 500 Feb. 17, 2016.

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Though Jimmie Johnson was ultiulti mately the 2016 champ, you could make the argument that Truex had the best year. Two of his four wins were “majors� — the Coke 600 at Charlotte and the Southern 500 at Darlington — and he was a whisker away from adding the Daytona 500 to that list. He also led more laps


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Success By Godwin Kelly godwin.kelly@news-jrnl.com

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istory shows that drivers who win the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway don’t have a very good chance of winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship. Since the Daytona 500 joined the national stock-car series in 1959, only 15 percent of the race-winning drivers have gone on to secure championship honors. The percentage tightens even further when you talk about the number of drivers who have scored NASCAR’s most Ken Griffey Jr. waves the green flag to start the Daytona 500 on Feb. 21, 2016. PHOTO BY CHRIS TROTMAN/NASCAR VIA GETTY IMAGES

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predictor? pr edictor? prestigious double. Since there are only five drivers who have done it over the last six decades, the chances of winning the 200-lap race over Daytona’s 2.5-mile tri-oval course drops to just 8 percent. The statistics are skewed a bit because Richard Petty, known as the “King of Stock Car Racing,” pulled the NASCAR double four times during his 35-year racing career. Petty won the 500 in 1964, 1971, 1974 and 1979, then continued on to win championship honors. Ironically, his father, Lee Petty, won the inaugural Daytona 500 and then went on to claim the stock-car crown.

Day tona 500 and championship rarely go hand in hand

Car owner Richard Petty faces reporters during the NASCAR 2016 Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour Jan. 20, 2016. Petty is one of only five drivers who’ve won the Daytona 500 and a championship in the same year. PHOTO BY BOB LEVERONE/NASCAR VIA GETTY IMAGES

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1966: Da avvid Pearson had an outstanding year driving on the NASCAR Cup circuit in Cotton Owens’ Dodges. Pearson won 15 races, had 33 top-10 finishes in 42 starts, and won his first NASCAR Cup championship. PHOTO BY ISC IMAGES & ARCHIVES VIA GETTY IMAGES)

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After A fter f winning both bo the Da Daytona ytona 500 and Cup Series championship as a car o owner wner in 2013, Rick Hendrick said you you never never take take success success for granted, granted, whether it is winning a 500 or a title.

He won eight NASCAR Cup Series races at Daytona, but only one Daytona 500, in 1979. The finish of that race continues to be one of the most famous in racing history. Pearson and Petty were racing for the win, and on the last lap their stock cars made contact and spun wildly out of control with the checkered flag in the air. Both of their cars ended up in the grassy area short of the finish line. Pearson had the presence of mind to push in his

clutch to keep his motor from shutting off. He was able to limp the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Mercury across the finish line at about 35 mph to nab the only Daytona 500 of his career. After winning both the Daytona 500 and Cup Series championship as a car owner in 2013, Rick Hendrick said you never take success for granted, whether it is winning a 500 or a title. “Every one of them is special,” said Hendrick. “It makes you

hungry to continue to try to win more. It is a credit to all the folks at the company that go to work every day, from the engine shop, the chassis shop. We’ve stayed together, stuck together. They got this championship mentality. “I’m amazed; the level of competition today is so fierce. Any mistake or any problem, you get swept up in something, you don’t get a chance to celebrate like this. We kind of enjoy it while we can.”

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The other three drivers who have won the 500 and title are Cale Yarborough (1977), Jeff Gordon (1997) and Jimmie Johnson, who joins Petty as the only drivers to accomplish the double in multiple years. Johnson, who won his recordtying seventh championship in 2016, did the double in 2006 and again in 2013. Some of NASCAR’s biggest names have had a difficult time at Daytona. For instance, Dale Earnhardt won seven NASCAR Cup Series championships, but only one Daytona 500. David Pearson, second only to Richard Petty in overall Cup Series victories (Petty 200, Pearson 10), ran for championship honors only four times and earned the crown three of those years.

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NASCAR

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CAN-AM 500, PHOENIX 2:30 P.M. EST NOV. 12 WATCH ON NBC

FORD ECOBOOST 400, HOMESTEAD-MIAMI

2:30 P.M. EST NOV. 19 WATCH ON NBC

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STP 500, MARTINSVILLE


NASCAR

SULLIVAN COUNTY DEMOCRAT

FEBRUARY, 2017

We are in our 61st year of business, continuing to build long-term relationships, providing the best in service and fulfilling needs.

offers a wide range of NAPA Auto & Truck Parts

PINE BUSH EQUIPMENT GROUP SALES - RENTALS - PARTS - SERVICE - AUTO PARTS YOUR ONE-STOP EQUIPMENT STORE SINCE 1956

Visit www.pbeinc.com 97 Route 302 • Pine Bush, NY • (845) 744-2006 24 Sybil Court • Holmes, NY • (845) 878-4004

EXPERTS AT WHAT WE DO.

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12N


2017 NASCAR preview