Who’s Going to be the NASCAR Champion in 2017?
It’s only been a short time since Jimmy Johnson captured his seventh NASCAR Championship tying the late Dale Earnhardt and legendary driver Richard “The King” Petty. Within minutes of Johnson taking the checkered flag at Homestead, probably less, I received the first of several texts from friends and fellow writers commenting on who would be the Champion in 2017!
Suddenly I was in a group text with writers, friends, and racing contacts, as we all tried to gaze into our NASCAR crystal ball. Jimmy had yet to make a burnout and some were already asking if he could repeat? Could he add an eighth NASCAR Championship to his impressive driving resume?
Was it too early to start asking about 2017? Yes, probably… but If a group of friends and writers were talking about it, even in fun, then you can bet that drivers, teams, owners, and sponsors were probably doing the same thing. If you were not the champ, then you probably need to start thinking about how to be the champ. This is evident with the number of personnel and driver changes that take place in the weeks and months following the end of any season.
The results of our impromptu poll following Johnson making history, as we texted back and forth, were not that surprising. You can factor in the thrill of the moment, the excitement of seeing history being made, fireworks, and the influence of screaming fans. All of that probably clouded our judgement but the overwhelming feeling was that we saw no reason why Jimmy Johnson could not repeat and come out the NASCAR Champion in 2017.
We all seemed to agree that the next champion could be any of the final four drivers that were in the hunt at Homestead. Kyle Bush and Joey Logano are going to be in the mix for a long time. Carl Edwards does not show that he’s slowing down, losing an edge, or ready to hang up his Championship hopes.
Then, we started looking back to the original 2016 chase drivers in the round of sixteen. You have Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, and Martin Truex Jr who all can be considered seasoned drivers. Then toss in up and coming drivers like Chase Elliot, Chris Buescher, and Ryan Blaney. Could 2017 be the season where a younger driver hangs his name next to other NASCAR Champions?
The group text storm started to calm down until somebody chimed in that Dale Earnhardt Jr could come back and win it all! What I came away from the conversation with was that Jimmy Johnson can win a record setting eight NASCAR Championship in 2017. But there are plenty of drivers and teams dedicated to not letting that happen.
The real way to measure how things will turn out in 2017 is to see which teams with a winning formula keep things together as well as which teams make moves to improve things. In truth – it’s a combination of both. We’ll know the answer this time of the year in 2017. After all, that’s why it’s called racing.