With the 2017 season firmly in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to reflect on what happened. What else are we going to talk about?
Points Position: 12th
Stage Points: 27
Top 5s: 3
Top 10s: 17
Average Starting Position: 10.1
Average Finish: 14.6
Highlight: There was a time in the spring where McMurray looked like was on the cusp of contending for wins. He was seventh at Texas, 12th at Bristol, sixth at Richmond, second at Talladega and then eighth at Kansas. He then finished in the top 12 in three of the next four races after that. McMurray has become one of the most consistent drivers in the Cup Series, and that’s clearly proving to be good for something.
Lowlight: But McMurray doesn’t have the outright speed that teammate Kyle Larson has. Not even close. McMurray led a grand total of 21 laps in 2017. Yes, he had just four fewer top-10 finishes than he did laps led. As we said, that’s a great recipe for making the playoffs, but it’s not a great one for playoff excellence.
Points Position: 8th
Stage Points: 98
Top 5s: 15
Top 10s: 20
Average Starting Position: 11.3
Average Finish: 13.3
Highlight: Pick a win, any win. We’re going to go with Larson’s win at Richmond in September. It was his first win at a track that wasn’t Auto Club or Michigan and established him as a driver capable of winning on both intermediate and short tracks.
Larson led laps in 22 of the season’s 36 races. Get used to the driver of the No. 42 winning multiple races a season for the foreseeable future.
Lowlight: The blown engine at Kansas ruined what could have been an epic playoff run for Larson. When his engine expired early in the race, Larson was the driver left out of the playoffs as the second round concluded.
Larson’s performance over the entire season merited a spot in the third round, but his 10th-place finish at Charlotte and 13th at Talladega in the previous two races of the second round weren’t enough to give him a cushion to make it to the final eight. That’s a shame.
Honorable mention for the lowlight of the season is Target’s departure from Larson’s car. While many NASCAR fans may wonder why a company would leave a young, marketable driver like Larson, it’s imperative to remember NASCAR is a sport where costs keep rising and attention keeps dropping. And Target is far from the only company that’s bolted from the sport in recent years. It just may be the highest-profile.
We’re intrigued to see where CGR stays on the Chevrolet totem pole entering the 2018 season. As we alluded to in our RCR review, there’s a case to be made that CGR was the best Chevy team of 2017. McMurray and Larson combined for 37 top-10 finishes. The four Hendrick cars combined for 46 top-10 finishes and the three cars at Richard Childress Racing had 20.
Oh, and Larson’s four wins doubled up RCR’s win total and matched Hendrick’s win total.
Will the secrets CGR found in the last year of the Chevrolet SS model carry over with the Camaro? Or will Hendrick take back its spot as the No. 1 Chevrolet team? Even if Hendrick does, Larson’s still no worse than the No. 2 driver in the Chevy stable.
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