Until very recently, 2013’s NASCAR Sprint Cup season was shaping up like so many others in recent history. Hendrick Motorsports appeared poised to stink up the show (we mean that in the nicest way) with Dale Earnhardt Jr. running consistently in the early going, Jimmie Johnson looking stout from the outset, and Kasey Kahne lurking around the fairer regions of the leaderboard. While Jeff Gordon has had tough times, he couldn’t be counted out, and still can’t be counted out with one more race before the Chase.
Something’s changed in recent weeks, and it may not be a pleasant development for the anti-Toyota delegation within NASCAR Nation. Two drivers with “Toyota” on their name plate are in an excellent position to land the make their first ever Cup title. Kyle Busch has pulled even with Jimmie Johnson to tie for second in victories, and leading all NSCS drivers is the even-keeled Wisconsin native Matt Kenseth- who won a title for Jack Roush while driving a Ford in 2003.
Are NASCAR fans ready for this? A certain portion doesn’t give a rip, it’s more about the driver. Others are perfectly fine with it. Another portion will offer up weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth. You’d think the good old US of A had been invaded by fascists and wiped off the map.
Since yours truly actually owns a Toyota, I suppose you know how I feel. I’m a free market guy: let everybody who qualifies in and let them settle it on the track. If you hate so-called “foreign” makes, then what are you afraid of? Competition is what cranks the wheels of Capitalism. If you can built it better, why shouldn’t you have the right to earn the spoils of victory?
Getting away from the power plants, let there be no question that Jimmie Johnson may be down, but he is far from over as Frank Stallone used to sing. If teammate Kasey Kahne can string a good run together, he will contend, or maybe Dale Jr. if he can get over the victory hump. I wouldn’t count out Kevin Harvick or Carl Edwards or even the recently surging Joey Logano for that matter.
There’s even a possibility that Toyota could get a title courtesy of a couple of Michael Waltrip drivers named Clint Bowyer or Martin Truex Jr. Who knows? The season is that wide open, but man does Kyle Busch look like the man of the moment.
I suspect as the Chase gets into full swing, we’ll see anti-Toyota comments increase. There are usually a few, to the effect of Joe Gibbs and Matt Kenseth being traitors, blah, blah, blah. One time a few years back, I had a reader tell me that he managed a business, and that if I were a job candidate driving up to the storefront with a Toyota or Honda, I was automatically docked 20 points off my interview score. Guess what Hoss? I wouldn’t be real hot on your attitude either.
Jimmie Johnson suddenly doesn’t look like the stone cold lock he once was. It’s wide open, with Ford and Toyota both well-represented among the top contenders. I say “Cool.” Variety is the spice of life.