We’re only eight races into the season, but it’s not to early to ask a tough question.
We’ve seen the dominance of Penske Racing, and we’ve seen the historic run of Kyle Busch and we’ve seen the comeback of Virginia’s Denny Hamlin.
But what we haven’t seen is any indication that one the biggest questions can be answered.
Will a Chevrolet win a race this year?
This is a stunning problem for NASCAR, one that wasn’t anticipated two years ago when the withering run of rules changes and driver retirements left the bowtie so far behind the game that it’s not clear how to get it back.
Chevrolet hasn’t won a Cup Series race since last October, and it’s now been more than a year since any Chevy driver other than Chase Elliott has won a race. And there’s no reason to think it’s going to change anytime soon.
The reason for the condition we find the Chevrolet teams in are in part their own doing. Racing has a cyclical history of car makes winning, losing, disappearing and returning.
And deep down, the fear here is we’ve seen Chevy quit before. Back in the 60s when Ford and Chrysler began to dominate racing, the Chevrolet bosses made the decision to get out of the sport. While that seems far-fetched now with the power of owners like Rick Hendrick, Richard Childress and Chip Ganassi still a force in NASCAR, it’s in part the lack of coordination between those teams that is stalling any Chevy recovery.
Through the years, we’ve seen coordinated efforts by manufacturers to save each other, most recently the Toyota effort. But the struggling Chevy teams haven’t been able to figure out the new Camaros on their own, and so far NASCAR has done little or nothing to help them.
That is probably what Hendrick is waiting for. That is likely what Childress needs. Ganassi’s always been a bit of a maverick, and deep down he believes drivers Kyle Larsen and Kurt Busch are capable of winning now, and he almost had Busch in Victory Lane at Bristol.
Last season, the Fords got stronger as the year went on, and even the Toyota teams know that if nothing changes, the 1.5-mile tracks will begin to provide more of a safety net for Penske and Stewart-Hass.
Toyota will likely begin exchanging more information among teams, assuming it’s not doing that already, with the realization that Ford’s “short-run speed” won it a title last season and is likely going to again this year.
Kyle Busch told NBC Sports just that after his Bristol win. This week we go to Richmond, where Chevrolet hasn't win since it introduced the Camaro.
We’re only eight races in, but the short-term situation already looks bleak for Chevy. Looking at the long-term, and waiting for something to happen, is hardly a plan. But that seems to be what’s happening to the bowtie teams in NASCAR.