CORCORAN: NASCAR Cup Series Hot & Cold Takes

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The NASCAR Cup Series season is nearing the one-third mark, and with it, some trends have begun to come to the surface.

Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing have established themselves as the early title favorites, combining to win nine of the first 11 races, while the Ford camp has started behind the 8-ball and remains winless thus far.

Below is a look at some hot takes and cold fakes as the summer stretch draws closer:

HOT TAKE: Noah Gragson will secure his first career victory in 2024.

After a season to forget in 2023 for both Gragson and Stewart-Haas Racing, the two teamed up for this year, with Gragson taking the reins of the No. 10 Ford Mustang Dark Horse. After a top-10 finish in two of the first three races of the year, Gragson was hit with a major points penalty after Atlanta (Ga.) Motor Speedway due to non-conforming air deflectors on the roof rails.

Over the next few races, Gragson regressed to mid-pack status, only managing a best finish of 12th twice. However, he’s been trending up recently, securing back-to-back top-10 finishes at Talladega Superspeedway (third, career-best) and Dover Motor Speedway (sixth).

Since Richmond, the Las Vegas native has not finished worse than 20th. Although he doesn’t have flag-to-flag contention speed just yet, a strong pit strategy or fuel mileage race could easily fall his way soon.

COLD FAKE: Team Penske will go winless in 2024.

It’s no secret that Ford has struggled out of the gate this year. They have zero combined wins in NASCAR’s top three divisions since Cole Custer’s victory in the Xfinity Series finale last November.

Two-time defending Cup Series champions Team Penske aren’t even immune from the Ford curse. While their chances of finding a third straight Cup Series title appear slim right now, their chances of finding the winner’s circle this year shouldn’t be. Both Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney have best finishes of second, while Austin Cindric has had flashes of brilliance at the drafting tracks.

Powerhouse teams are no strangers to slumps, notably Hendrick Motorsports in 2018 and Stewart-Haas Racing last year. While it may seem grim now, the Blue Oval Brigade should be back to form before too long.

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HOT TAKE: Shane Van Gisbergen will not go back-to-back in the Streets of Chicago

New Zealander Shane Van Gisbergen shocked the NASCAR world last summer when he won the inaugural Chicago Street Race in his first career NASCAR Cup Series start. Despite that success, however, I don’t believe SVG will run it back this time around.

Last year’s race was run under odd circumstances, both being a new circuit to everyone (including Van Gisbergen) and run in damp conditions.

Weather permitting, this year’s race should be more balanced, and NASCAR’s rulers of the road like William Byron, Chase Elliott, or A.J. Allmendinger could find themselves in the victory circle this July.

COLD FAKE: Brad Keselowski’s winless streak continues to 2025

Since joining Roush Fenway (now RFK) Racing in 2022 and adding his own name to the team ownership, Brad Keselowski has yet to go to victory lane. But in the same stretch, teammate Chris Buescher has taken the checkered flag four times, including last year’s summer race at Daytona (Fla.) Int’l Speedway in which Keselowski finished second.

BK is slowly turning Jack Roush’s organization back into the contenders they once were, getting both cars in the playoffs last season. The momentum continues to build, and it has been proven that the RFK bunch is capable of winning.

Keselowski himself is a former champion of the Cup Series and boasts 35 wins in his career so far. The way things are progressing for his team, win No. 36 and beyond may be in reach before the season’s end in November.

NOTE: The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Race Face Brand Development, Race Face TV, or their subsidiaries.

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