The 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season is only weeks away, and many storylines are already creating a buzz in the sport.
The new championship format will be the most popular topic this season. NASCAR's new championship format expands the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup from 12 teams to 16 and places a stronger focus on winning races.
Each year, there are drivers who are picked to compete for the championship who instead have a disappointing season. The 2013 season was no different. Those drivers who struggled last year will look to bounce back in 2014. Fans will be watching closely to see how they fare early in the season.
The 2014 season will also feature the strongest rookie class since the 2006 class of Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr., Reed Sorenson, J.J. Yeley, David Stremme and David Gilliland. The battle for the ROTY award will be fun to watch. Austin Dillon, Kyle Larson and Justin Allgaier are the favorites, and each will create a buzz this season.
Here are the drivers who will receive the most buzz during the 2014 season.
Austin Dillon enters his rookie season in Sprint Cup garnering much attention.
In a controversial move, Richard Childress Racing has decided to bring back the No. 3 car for the 2014 season. The car has not been on the track full-time since the late Dale Earnhardt drove the car in 2001. Now Dillon will be the driver of the car, and the eyes of Earnhardt Nation will be upon him.
If driving the iconic No. 3 car was not enough to create a buzz for Dillon, his high expectations to run up front and win the ROTY award would be. Dillon won the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship last year and competed in 11 Sprint Cup races. His best finish in the top series was an 11th-place finish at Michigan.
If Dillon is able to take the No. 3 car to Victory Lane in 2014, he will create a buzz not only in NASCAR, but in the mainstream media as well.
When your nickname is the American Outlaw, you know your every action will create a buzz in NASCAR.
Kurt Busch created a buzz in 2013 not because of his actions off the race track, but because of the success he had in the No. 78 car Furniture Row Racing. He was able to finish 16 races in the top 10 and make the Chase. Although he did not win any races last year, his 10th-place finish in the point standings was impressive for the single-car team.
This season, Busch will be driving the No. 41 car for Stewart-Haas Racing. The car will be powered by Hendrick motors, so the expectations for him to win races will be at an all-time high.
It will also be interesting to see how he gets along with his new teammates, Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick and Danica Patrick. It is no secret that Stewart was not a fan of expanding to a fourth team with Busch as the driver. If Busch can keep his temper under control, he should find success in the No. 41 car.
This season, Tony Stewart will try to get back to being the championship driver he was before injuring his leg in a sprint car race.
Stewart has been cleared to compete in all races for the 2014 season. With as much as he loves to drive a race car, he should show up in Daytona as motivated as he has ever been to win races.
Stewart’s return to racing is not the only reason he will create a buzz in 2014. Stewart-Haas Racing decided to replace Ryan Newman with Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick. While it was not Smoke's idea to have four teams this year, he will likely get the blame if the team turns into a dysfunctional family.
Stewart is used to pressure, so it would not be surprising to see him get off to a strong start this season and for Stewart-Haas Racing to get three teams into the new Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
When a driver wins six of the last eight NASCAR Sprint Cup championships, he automatically enters the season with buzz.
The buzz surrounding Johnson in 2014 will be whether he can keep his success going by winning his seventh championship and what his legacy is in the sport will be.
He is already considered to be one of the best drivers in NASCAR history. Is he the best ever? The debate will continue this year and for as long as Johnson is competing in the sport.
Johnson should have no problem picking up where he left off in 2013. He is one of the most popular names in motorsports, and he will always be a hot topic for fans and the media.
Kyle Larson enters his rookie season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with high expectations.
We have seen rookies enter the series with a lot of hype before. Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano all entered their rookie seasons classified as the “next best driver.” And they all won races their rookie seasons. Will Larson have the same success?
Larson does not have much experience. Last season was his first in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Although he did not win any races, he was able to finish eighth in the point standings. In his four Sprint Cup starts, he finished in the top 25 in both races the two races that his car did not have engine failure.
Larson will bring a lot of hype with him as he replaces Juan Pablo Montoya in the No. 42 car for Chip Ganassi Racing. It will be fun to see if he can live up to expectations.
Danica Patrick’s entire career has been about creating a buzz. It is hard to blend in with the crowd of drivers when she is the only female on the race track.
Patrick seems to be a driver that fans either love or hate. Some fans are excited just to see her get an opportunity to race the boys, while others do not think she belongs in the sport.
Last season, Patrick sat on the pole for the Daytona 500. If she were to have the same kind of success this year at Daytona, she would create a tremendous buzz throughout the sport.
The one thing good about Patrick is that if the media gets bored talking about Jimmie Johnson winning all of the races, at least it has her to criticize.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. enters his 15th full season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2014. Could this be the year he finally wins his first championship?
Earnhardt has the best equipment in the garage, and last season may have been one of his best. He finished the 2013 season with a career-best 22 top-10 finishes and was fifth in the point standings.
This will be Earnhardt’s last season paired with crew chief Steve Letarte, who will leave the pit box for the television studios following the 2014 season. Hendrick Motorsports would love to send Letarte out with a championship and get Earnhardt his first at the same time.
If Earnhardt’s 2013 success continues this year, he will create a buzz in the sport. He has all of the tools needed to make 2014 one of his best seasons ever.
Denny Hamlin will be looking to bounce back from a horrible 2013 season. He injured his back in the race at Fontana and was not the same the rest of the year.
Joe Gibbs Racing is looking to compete with Hendrick Motorsports as the best team in NASCAR. In order to do so, the team needs Hamlin to get back to the driver who has the ability to win at any race track.
Hamlin did finish the season on a high note. He won the race at Homestead and will look to carry that momentum into the 2014 season.
It would not be surprising to see Hamlin win a race early this year. If he does, he will create a buzz in the sport, because he will prove he is fully healed and that Joe Gibbs Racing is ready to give Hendrick Motorsports a run for the title.
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