March 1, 2015

Atlanta: Drivers To Watch

Folds of Honor Quiktrip 500 Fantasy Preview

Kevin Harvick had the makings for a big race before
his engine blew in practice on Saturday. (Getty)
Atlanta is certainly at a different spot on the schedule from its traditional Labor Day weekend, but that creates an opportunity for it to be a trendsetter.  Instead of being another cookie cutter on the schedule, it presents the first opportunity for teams to try out and assess the 2015 rules package that was not implemented at Daytona.

Here's a look at the drivers to consider (or not) for the weekend:

Green Flag - Kyle Larson

It's time the young stud won his first Sprint Cup Series race.  He has two top-fives in his two Xfinity Series starts at Atlanta and an eighth place finish last August in his only Cup start.  He was fastest in the first practice of this week and will roll off the starting grid sixth.

Yellow Flag - Kevin Harvick

All signs pointed to it being a dominant day for the defending champ before he blew an engine in the final practice and will fall from his front row starting position to the back of the field.  He was fastest in that final practice and second in the first practice, so he's spent all week running up front at Atlanta, it's just a matter of how much it takes to get back up there after starting from the back.

February 26, 2015

TBT: Joey Logano's First Win

#NHMS25 Anniversary Throwback Thursday Feature

Joey Logano celebrates his win in the rain-shortened LENOX
Industrial Tools 301; his first career Cup win. (NHMS/HHP)
This year, New Hampshire Motor Speedway celebrates its 25th Anniversary. Throughout the year as part of that celebration, the Granite Stripe will throw it back on Thursday and give a small history lesson on past events at the track.

Long before becoming a Daytona 500 winner in 2015.  Long before serving as a championship finalist in 2014.  Long before joining Team Penske as a free agent in 2013.  Joey Logano won his first-career Sprint Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on June 28, 2009.

The race was rain-shortened from 301 laps to 273.  With the imminent weather rolling in, Logano opportunistically found his way to the front on Lap 264.  The caution dropped for weather on Lap 268, and the red and checkered flags waved on 273 as the storm rolled in.

The win gave him the distinction as the youngest driver in history to win a Sprint Cup Series race.  He accomplished the feat just over a month after his 19th birthday.

February 24, 2015

TTT: Storylines from Daytona

Top Ten Tuesday: Storylines from Daytona

This year's Daytona 500 certainly didn't lack in storylines. While it lacked the type of chaos we're used to seeing in regards to crashes, it made up for with some of the best side-by-side-by-side racing in recent memory. The skill level of today's driver is off the charts, and the 2015 season could truly be one for the record books.

So what was the biggest storyline coming out of Daytona Speedweeks? Was it the Busch brothers, perhaps Jeff Gordon or how about Joey Logano's win? 

Here’s a list of the top-10 storylines coming out of last Sunday's Daytona 500:

February 23, 2015

Magic Mile Power Rankings: Daytona

Next Up: Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500
at Atlanta Motor Speedway

Joey Logano celebrates his first Daytona 500 victory and
sits atop the Magic Mile Power Rankings to start 2015.
Joey Logano is finally starting to live up to his nickname. NASCAR best thing since ... is red hot, dating back to a pair of wins in the final Chase races, making him one of the hottest drivers in the sport right now.

One race does not make a season, but it certainly puts the No. 22 Penske team on the right track.

This week will surely be a whirlwind for Logano as he handles the media spotlight, but will he be able to hang on to the top spot following next week's race in Atlanta, or will we have a new No. 1? For now, let's see who made the list after Week 1 in Daytona.

MMPR format:
Win - 10 points
Top-5 - 5 points
Top-10 - 3 points
Most Laps Led - 2 points
Pole - 1 point
21-30 - Minus-1
31-40 - Minus-3
41-43 - Minus-5
*The most recent five races are counted.
(Last five weeks' point total in parentheses)

Here's a look at the MMPR heading into the second race of the season at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday:

February 22, 2015

Daytona: Drivers to Watch

Daytona 500 Fantasy Preview

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has a better chance than many to
become a back-to-back Daytona 500 winner. (Getty)
In keeping with last year's new format to the fantasy blogs on the Granite Stripe, this year's race previews will highlight three drivers: one that should be a race contender; one that is worthy of cautious optimism; and one that should be disregarded for one reason or another.

Aside from the other restrictor plate track (Talladega), Daytona is the hardest race to predict because the pack-style racing allows any driver on the track to win.  (Think Trevor Bayne in the 2011 Daytona 500 or David Ragan at Talladega in 2013.)  But, predictions needs to be made, so here we go:

Green Flag - Dale Earnhardt Jr.

The defending race winner has four top-two finishes in the last 10 Daytona races, which is statistically improbable.  He leads the field with a 13.4 average finish at the track and has always had a knack for performing well at restrictor plate races.  Let's see if he can defend his Daytona 500 title!

Caution Flag - Danica Patrick