Preseason Top 10
1. Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski Racing: Blaney has shown he can win, now needs to find the consistency for a championship.
2. Matt Crafton, ThorSport Racing: The 2013 series champion was a model of consistency. If he comes even close to replicating it, he could be a two-time champ.
3. Darrell Wallace Jr., Kyle Busch Motorsports: Wallace earned his first series victory last season and seems well on his way up the NASCAR career ladder.
4. Timothy Peters, Red Horse Racing: He has been knocking on the championship door for a couple of years. It’s time he kicked it in to contend.
5. Johnny Sauter, ThorSport Racing: He was the only other driver to lead the series standings last season besides teammate Matt Crafton.
6. Ben Kennedy, Turner Scott Motorsports: The great-grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France begins his first full season in one of the three national series.
7. Jeb Burton, ThorSport Racing: Season was derailed before it started because of lack of sponsor. Will be interesting to see if his new team can get him back on track.
8. Joey Coulter, GMS Racing: Will a change in scenery help get Coulter back to being the consistently strong performer he was two seasons ago?
9. John Wes Townley, Wauters Motorsports: Could this be the year Townley finally is able to put it all together for strong season from start to finish?
10. Mason Mingus, Win-Tron Racing: Minigus had a solid Automobile Racing Club of America season last year but struggled in three Truck starts.
What they’re saying• “We were in position to win four or five races and it didn’t play out the way we wanted it to. We had parts breaking or contact with Kyle Busch in a couple of races. Going from Dodge to Ford kind of put us behind early in the year. By the end of the year, I thought we were really strong and could go out and win almost every race. I think we can make a really good run at a championship this year.” – Ryan Blaney
• “This is a fresh slate for everybody. The new-style Toyota Tundra looks pretty great. I might be a little bias, but I’m excited for this year. I definitely learned a lot from the last year. I know what I need to do now inside the seat to finish the races that I didn’t and improve on the races that weren’t that great.” – Darrell Wallace Jr.
• “I think you need to be patient in this sport. If you take two steps ahead when you’re ready to take one step, you may put yourself in a bad situation, and you may end up three steps behind. I want to make sure I take the right steps and get the right amount of learning as fast as I can.” – Ben Kennedy
Observations• There is plenty of new talent in the series this season, but a large number of them are not running the full schedule. That leaves the door open to some relative newcomers to be in the position to challenge for the championship, which should produce new winners. Expect Sprint Cup Series driver Kyle Busch to leave his mark in the series once again in Victory Lane. Hopefully his presence helps the newcomers with the learning curve.
• Blaney and Wallace Jr. are good friends and could become each other’s top competition for the series title. Both are running with strong organizations and both already are race winners. That would be a fun battle to watch. Jim Utter