ThatsRacin

NASCAR prophets promise, predict just 3 races into 2019 season... how about patience?

Joey Logano won at Las Vegas last weekend in the first race under NASCAR’s full new rules package, but there is still much to be learned.
Joey Logano won at Las Vegas last weekend in the first race under NASCAR’s full new rules package, but there is still much to be learned. AP

A sport predicated, even obsessed with speed, not being good at taking things slow?

Who would’ve thought.

More than other mainstream American sports, NASCAR’s prophets seem to come early each season, this year being no exception. Here we sit just three weeks into the 2019 season, and already there are scorching takes on everything from particular drivers to the sport’s “new rules package.”

By the way? Drink every time you hear or read those three words, and your liver won’t make it to Bristol in April.

Browse through any collection of NASCAR stories online, and it’s impossible not to stumble on sensationalism:

XYZ was totally unnecessary!

Hear why Person A hated NASCAR’s new package!

And my personal (least) favorite: Is last year’s big story still a story? Read our thorough investigation after — checks notes — three races!

Give it a rest, everyone.

The thing is, NASCAR’s position among the elite American sports (read: the NFL and NBA) has become so clearly diminished over the last decade that everyone still involved in the industry carries some level of desperation to get back to that point. The intelligent ones, who realize how little there is to be gleaned through three races, are taking notes for the future. They’ll weigh in when, and if, it makes sense for them.

Everybody else?

Well, it’s a free for all.

Two topics seem to commandeer most of the opiners’ discussion: One, whether last season’s Big 3 of Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, and Kyle Busch still deserves its well-earned nickname, and two, what to make of the new rules package, which debuted in full at Las Vegas.

In both cases, it’s easy (and better for clicks, especially in this new age of media) to quickly fall to one side of the fence, make it very apparent what you think as quickly as possible. Yes, the Big 3 are done! or, The Big 3 may not have the wins, but they’re still the three best!

How about — and this may be revolutionary, so stay with me — we just wait and see?

Kyle Busch, for example, is the only driver with Top-10 finishes in every race this season. Harvick, despite no wins, is still near the top of the standings. And Truex, who changed teams to join Busch at JGR this offseason, is still close behind both and in the Top 10 of the points standings.

There’s just nothing... definitive there yet. That may not make for a great headline, but it’s the truth.

As for the new rules package — what is that, three drinks already? — you could say the same. One race in Vegas with solid but unspectacular racing does not a good package make. Or a bad one, for that matter. It’s just more of a “wait and see” sort of deal.

It’s not sexy, but it’s true.

So when you tune into this weekend’s NASCAR race at Phoenix, tune out the prophets and predictions and all the noise it’s easy to get stuck on. Make your own opinions, off your own observations.

Really, just practice a little patience. It might do us all a bit of good.

This week’s NASCAR race at Phoenix: What you need to know.

Race: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series TicketGuardian 500.

Distance: 312 laps, or 312 miles (500 kilometers).

Where: ISM Raceway, a 1-mile, low-banked, asphalt tri-oval in Avondale, Arizona.

When: 3:30 p.m. Sunday.

TV: FOX.

Radio: PRN.

Last year’s winner: Kevin Harvick.

Also this week: NASCAR Xfinity Series Race at ISM Raceway, Xfinity Series, ISM Raceway, 4:00 p.m., Saturday, FS1.

Worth mentioning: This is the first spring race at ISM Raceway since the track’s renovations, including the removal of the front grandstands, were completed in November.

Who’s Hot/Who’s Not

HOT

Joey Logano: It only took the reigning champ three races into the 2019 season to get back to Victory Lane.

Kyle Busch: He might not have a win yet, but as the only driver with three Top-10s this year, one is coming soon.

NOT

Daniel Suarez: A change from one of NASCAR’s best teams (Joe Gibbs Racing) to another (Stewart-Haas Racing) hasn’t made much difference for him, as he’s still way back in 18th place.

Jimmie Johnson: So much talk this offseason about Johnson’s renewed energy and drive... yet three races in, here he sits in 17th place.

Brendan Marks is a general assignment sports reporter for the Charlotte Observer covering the Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Hornets, NASCAR and more. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has worked for the Observer since August 2017.

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