NASCAR All-Star race break: Surprises and disappointments, best races and storylines of 2024 so far

With Kansas and Darlington in the rearview mirror, there’s no doubt the NASCAR regular season is reaching the midway point with plenty of momentum.

Can the arrow continue to point up with the All-Star Race scheduled for a short track (North Wilkesboro) this weekend?

More on that in a bit.

But with us rounding the halfway mark and with an exhibition race this weekend, we figured what better time than now to look back at a wild and eventful (for the most part) first 13 races?

Chris Buescher drives down pit road with a flat tire after he was contacted by Tyler Reddick while leading in the closing laps at Darlington on Sunday.

NASCAR QNA: After Darlington, Chris Buescher needs a sticker, Tyler Reddick needs a razor

It started with a dud finish at Daytona and ended with a couple of classics, including the closest finish in Cup Series history at Kansas. And that may not have even been the best of the year.

Of course, it wasn’t all sweaty palms and nubby fingernails.

We sat through some snoozers on the short tracks and along the way, survived our share of unforgettable feuds including Denny Hamlin vs. Marcus Smith, Martin Truex Jr. vs. the World at Richmond and most recently, Chris Buescher vs. whoever runs him over while leading these days.

I’d like to think we’ve all grown.

But for now, let’s put on our tuxedos or T-shirts, or tuxedo T-shirts, pour out a domestic and hand out some fake trophies to the best, and worst, of the 2024 season so far as we go through the gears:

Alex Bowman wins the biggest surprise award (First gear)

Alex Bowman (48) has been quiet but impressive this season.

Alex Bowman (48) has been quiet but impressive this season.

If we were to ask, ‘Which driver has the most top 10s so far,’ how many guesses would it take until you arrived at Alex Bowman?

In fairness, he’s tied with teammate William Byron with eight, but while quiet and also still winless, Bowman has been rock solid. He has as many top-five finishes (four) as Byron, Tyler Reddick, Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Blaney and he’s currently 12th in points, 43 clear of the cutline.

Not bad for Hendrick Motorsports’, “other” driver.

Honorable mention: Noah Gragson, Todd Gilliland.

Joey Logano slumping as 2024’s biggest disappointment (Second gear)

Joey Logano has yet to get his season on track in 2024 and halfway to the playoffs, he's on the outside looking in.

Joey Logano has yet to get his season on track in 2024 and halfway to the playoffs, he’s on the outside looking in.

Joey Logano sitting in 18th place, 30 points shy of Chase Briscoe in 16th is certainly a development we didn’t see coming at the halfway point.

He has just one top-five and three top-10 finishes this year and he’s come in outside the top 15 eight times including each of the last four races.

Logano is a two-time champ for a reason and Ford has flashed speed recently but he’s got work to do.

Honorable mention: Michael McDowell, Corey LaJoie.

Kansas thriller serves as race of the year (Third gear)

KANSAS CITY, KANSAS - MAY 05: Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet, takes the checkered flag over Chris Buescher, driver of the #17 Castrol Edge Ford, to win the NASCAR Cup Series AdventHealth 400 at Kansas Speedway on May 05, 2024 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 776141105 ORIG FILE ID: 2151635861

Kansas featured the closest finish of all time with Kyle Larson edging Chris Buescher by 0.001 seconds just two weeks ago.

But just looking at the ending is a disservice to an action-packed race that for 400 miles, gave fans the best of what the Gen-7 car has to offer. An exciting Stage 1, strategy calls, cautions … it was a green-to-checkered thriller, even outdoing a three-wide photo finish at Atlanta earlier this season.

Honorable mention: Atlanta, Darlington.

Short track struggles remain the storyline of the year (Fourth gear)

Single-file racing has been the norm at short tracks this year.

Single-file racing has been the norm at short tracks this year.

We hate to end on a sour note, but few things have been discussed and debated more than the current short-track package.

Frankly, as good as races like Kansas and Atlanta have been, the short tracks have been equally dull. Here’s hoping the tire experimenting at this week’s All-Star weekend provides some sort of answers.

Honorable mention: Dale Earnhardt Jr. leaving NBC, Chase Elliott returning to Victory Lane.

This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: NASCAR awards: Joey Logano, Alex Bowman, Kansas top winners and losers


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