Four races into the Sprint Cup Series season, and it’s easy to focus on the drivers who already appear to be in trouble.
Even though Tony Stewart is known for slow starts, he has never been outside the top 20 in points after four races during his 15-year NASCAR career. He is 24th.
While Jeff Gordon is not quite off to as bad a start as last season, he finds himself 21st in the standings with one top-10 finish.
If there are surprise drivers off to poor starts, then there also must be some with surprisingly good starts to the season to fill those spots – at least for now.
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Often, those are the ones most overlooked.
Paul Menard, for instance, has two top-10 finishes and is ninth in points and at the moment is the most consistent driver at Richard Childress Racing.
In fact, Menard is the only Cup driver to be among the top 10 after four races during each of the past four years. Unfortunately for him, he never finished one of those seasons among the top 10. But there is a first time for everything.
Much of the preseason hype in the Cup series focused on former IndyCar fan favorite Danica Patrick and that only picked up when she won the pole for the Daytona 500 and finished eighth in the race. Since then, it has been all downhill with finishes of 39th, 33rd and 28th.
Ironically, fellow rookie and her boyfriend, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., has had the more consistent of the two.
Stenhouse has yet to finish among the top 10 but has not been worse than 18th. That consistency has him 11th in the standings – a good start to the season for any driver.
It is so early, that a really good finish or a really bad one easily can reshuffle the points deck.
At some point, however, it will be more difficult to dig out of a hole. And it will become more difficult for a driver hanging around the top 10 to drop out.
That’s when the most interesting storylines will appear.
Petty charity ride route set
Former NASCAR driver and current Speed TV analyst Kyle Petty will lead more than 175 motorcycle riders on a cross-country ride to benefit Victory Junction.
The 19th Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America will begin April 27 in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and extend 2,100 miles before finishing May 3 in Tempe, Ariz.
The ride raises funds and awareness for Victory Junction, a camp created to enrich the lives of children with chronic medical illnesses.
Hill to make Cup debut
Timmy Hill could make his first 2013 Cup start this weekend at Auto Club Speedway, driving the No. 32 Ford for FAS Lane Racing.
“I’ve had quick success with FAS Lane Racing in the three 2012 Cup starts,” said Hill. “We all gelled right away last year and we are all optimistic on what the 2013 season will bring.”
Hill will be racing 18 to 20 of the 36-race schedule with the team, sharing seat time with veterans Ken Schrader and Terry Labonte.
Auto Fair begins next week
The Food Lion Auto Fair will open next Thursday at Charlotte Motor Speedway and feature nearly 50 car club displays and a surplus of automotive parts and memorabilia for sale or trade.
There also will be a collector car auction and more than 1,500 collectible vehicles will be available for sale in the car corral that will ring the speedway.
Daily tickets are $10 for adults and free for ages 13 and younger. For more information, call 800-455-FANS or visit charlottemotorspeedway.com.
This and that
With a top-10 finish Sunday at Bristol, Tenn., Nationwide driver Brian Scott has the longest streak of top-10 finishes – six – of any driver in NASCAR’s three national series. His streak dates to last fall’s Phoenix. … A Joe Gibbs Racing driver has won the past eight Nationwide races at Auto Club Speedway. Brian Vickers and Elliott Sadler will be driving for JGR this weekend.