A SEASON OF CHANGES
The NASCAR world took a collective
gasp when its biggest star was
sidelined by a concussion for the
second half of 2016. Needless to say,
the news that Dale Earnhardt Jr. is fit
to return to action this season was
welcomed with open arms across the
sport. But whatever he achieves in
the No. 88 this year, that will pale
compared with the very real impact
his openess about his injury has had
upon the way that concussions are
talked about in motorsports.
Earnhardt’s return means another season of
hand cramps (ABOVE), but he has changed
the conversation about concussion.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Martin Truex Jr. was one of the revelations
of 2016 with single-car Furniture Row
Racing, and the team comes into 2017
with a newly-struck Gibbs/Toyota alliance.
It was a winter of change over at
Stewart-Haas, with Tony Stewart retiring and
the team switching from Chevrolet to Ford,
but early signs are that the upheaval hasn’t
been detrimental: Kurt Busch won the
Daytona 500. He’ll be aiming to use that as
a springboard to add a second title to the
one he earned way back in 2004. And Kevin
Harvick He earned more points than any
other driver (minus the Chase reset) last
year, but finished eighth, so no prizes for
guessing what he’ll be aiming to fix.
Over at Penske, Joey Logano, regarded
by some as the best all-rounder in the field,
made his intentions clear with a win in the
non-points Clash, while Brad Keselowski
looks to rebound from a horror Chase that
derailed what had previously been a great
2016 campaign for the ’ 12 champ.
The one thing all seven have in
common is a desire to prove something in
2017. But can that run as far as
unseating Johnson from his throne?
JGR has strength in
numbers. If Busch
and Hamlin (LEFT)
aren’t at the sharp
end, there’s also
Matt Kenseth and
rookie Daniel Suarez
– plus a new ally in
Martin Truex Jr.
Martin Truex Jr.
Furniture Row Racing