What if there was a NASCAR draft?
I’ve always loved the last week of April heading into the first week of May; and, no, Cinco de Mayo has nothing to do with it, no matter what you think I’ve been drinking.
I enjoy it for the Kentucky Derby, Major League Baseball getting through its first month, NBA and NHL playoffs (Go ‘Canes!), and the NFL Draft (Way to go, Oshane; now go out there and break some of Lawrence Taylor’s records with the NY Giants!).
This week, Charlotte Observer writer Brendan Marks honored the NFL Draft by trying to apply that same concept to NASCAR drivers thru the season’s first 10 races using talent, marketability, youth, and versatility to make his selections. Here are the first 10 picks; the envelope, please, Commissioner:
- Kyle Busch: Busch is their Kyler Murray – a clear-cut No. 1 pick. With over 200 career NASCAR wins combined with youth and talent makes him likely to rule the sport for the next decade. And when he retires: a clear-cut first-ballot Hall of Famer.
- Joey Logano: Under 30 years old, arguably the most consistent driver in the sport right now, and defending Cup champ. Next to Busch, he’s a threat to win at every type of track; and, by the way, he’s second in the points. Tom Brady would be proud.
- Chase Elliott: Talk about youth and future stars, there is so much potential here. Last Sunday, Hendrick Motorsports’ new top-dog driver (Sorry, Jimmie Johnson) just gave Chevy its first win of the season. With Dale Earnhardt Jr. retired, Elliott’s a shoo-in for this year’s Most Popular Driver.
- Brad Keselowski: Always good for a handful of wins every year, “Kez” also gets a boost here as one of the sport’s more vocal leaders. That’s the kind of leader you need to have in your locker room, or driver’s meeting for that matter.
- Kyle Larson: All the talent, pure racing talent, in the world, but he just can’t seem to catch a break; sort of like getting hurt right before training camp. Two seasons ago, Larson won four races, but he hasn’t won since.
- Martin Truex Jr.: One of the sport’s elder statesmen (veteran) of the Draft, he’s sixth in the points standings this year and has qualified for three of the last four championship races, winning it all in 2017. As long as he stays with Joe Gibbs Racing, it’s hard to count him out. I don’t see him as trade-bait.
- Kevin Harvick: This pick is who you want if want to win now. At 43, you don’t know how long you’ll have him around, but he won a ridiculous eight races last season. He’s been good again this year, but to maximize his short title window he needs to start reeling off wins sooner rather than later.
- Denny Hamlin: Hamlin’s an interesting driver right now; already a known quantity and yet has never won a championship. Like Super Bowls, a Hamlin title may always be beyond his grasp, but like a Marvin Lewis-coached team, he’s practically guaranteed to make the playoffs every year.
- Ryan Blaney: Another ‘youngblood’ with plenty of potential, but not a ton to show for it: two Cup Series wins in 136 races. Like Ohio State’s Haskins in football this year, he’s a step below Larson and Elliott as far as potential, but he needs to catch fire like Elliott did late last year.
- Jimmie Johnson: Eldest of the elder statesmen. Johnson may not be the driver he used to be, but he’s still one of the best still out there on the track and a threat every time he suits up. There’s no telling how much longer he’ll stick around, but like any wily veteran, he may still have one last trick to pull off trying to win that record eighth title. A good first step would be just getting back to Victory Lane.
Gene Motley is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at: email@example.com or by calling 252-332-7211.