Chevrolet is clearly the class of the early 2024 NASCAR season

By | March 4, 2024

nascar cup series pennzoil 400

Chevrolet is clearly the class of the NASCAR Cup fieldMeg Oliphant – Getty Images

  • Okay… so the gap between Chevrolet’s proven Camaro and Ford’s new Mustang Darkhorse and Toyota’s new Camry XSE may be smaller than it seems on paper.

  • On the race tracks, however, it’s a different matter.

  • The victory for Kyle Larson on Sunday was his 18th since joining Hendrick’s organization in 2021 and his 24th overall after six with Chip Ganassi between 2014 and 2020.


He’s joking, right? Didn’t crew chief Cliff Daniels say that Chevrolet’s early season advantage over Ford and Toyota isn’t really what it seems?

Hey?

That’s actually what he said after watching eight Chevy drivers lead 237 of 267 laps in the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway?

“I think the gap is actually smaller than it looks on paper,” said Daniels, who led Kyle Larson’s No. 5 Chevrolet team to an upset victory in the Cup Series race. “One advantage we probably have now is the continuity of what we know about our car. Knowing that their (new) cars are different, I can imagine that the balance and some driving characteristics are different.

“The continuity of our stuff and the depth of our notes were very helpful. But we’re going to have to keep moving pretty quickly because the more Ford and Toyota get their act together, the gap will narrow. When I write my notes after the race, it will be that the gap across the field is smaller than when we won here last fall.

Nascar Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 QualifyingNascar Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 Qualifying

Spending a few bucks on Kyle Larson with your favorite sports book might be worth it after the way Chevrolet has performed early on.Alex Slitz – Getty Images

Not surprisingly, Hendrick Motorsports general manager Jeff Andrews reiterated that after watching HMS achieve its insurmountable 303rd Cup victory

for team owner Rick Hendrick from 1984.

“We know we have very little margin here,” Andrews said. “We know we have to compete against new cars from Ford and Toyota, so we have to do our best to develop this car further. We are still early in the season and there are still many races to go. As Cliff said, Ford and Toyota will get there. The 45 (second place Tyler Reddick) was very good and you saw a few Fords there. Any time you change a platform as much as they have, it takes some time.

“Both OEMs certainly have a lot of potential. We’re going to have to keep pushing really, really hard to keep ourselves in contention through the first part of the summer and then get ready for the fall. But I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved so far this season.”

Okay… so the gap between Chevrolet’s proven Camaro and Ford’s new Mustang Darkhorse and Toyota’s new Camry XSE may be smaller than it seems on paper. On the race tracks, however, it’s a different matter.

Some numbers: Chevrolet was 1-2 in Daytona Beach, 1-3 in Atlanta and 1-4 in Las Vegas; it has 11 of this year’s 30 top-10 finishes, topping Toyota’s 10 and Ford’s 9; Chevrolet is 8-for-9 against NASCAR’s top three series, with 3-for-3 in Cup, 2-for-3 in Xfinity and 3-for-3 in the Craftsman Truck Series; and the Bowtie Bunch has six drivers in the top 10 in Cup and Xfinity points, and four drivers in the top 10 in Craftsman.

Larson led the most laps, won both stages and gave Chevy its third consecutive early-season win. Teammate William Byron won the season-opening Daytona 500 and Chevy driver Daniel Suarez won last weekend’s thriller in Atlanta. Some consider Las Vegas the “real” season opener, as it is slower than Daytona International Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway by a modest 1.5 miles, and requires a more traditional chassis setup and more driver input.

Like the first two races of the year, the Pennzoil 400 had its moments, even though Larson led eight times for 181 of the 267 laps, including the final 26. He held off Reddick in a Toyota, defending Cup champion Ryan Blaney in a Ford , Ross Chastain. in another Chevy, and Ty Gibbs in another Toyota. Reddick challenged late until Larson effectively threw the winning block in the final round.

The win was his 18th since joining Hendrick’s organization in 2021 and his 24th overall after six with Chip Ganassi between 2014 and 2020. He was fired by Ganassi and banned from NASCAR for most of 2020 after making racist comments during a iRacing event. He went through nearly eight months of sensitivity training, counseling and public outreach before NASCAR rehired him in late 2020.

Hendrick didn’t hesitate to recruit him to fill the vacated seat when Jimmie Johnson left for IndyCar. Together, Larson and Daniels have won 18 points races (plus two all-star races), made the Playoffs three years in a row and won the 2021 Cup Series title to cap off their storybook season with 10 wins.

And with the Playoffs all but certain and the series heading to 15 locations where he has already won 21 times, this might be a good time to make a small bet on Larson to win another championship.

After all, he’s in Chevrolet for NASCAR’s best team.

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