Well folks, the time has come. 4 Wide Racing returns Wednesday, September 6th for the Duels at Auto Club. But it isn't your normal 4WR Season. A slew of new rules changes has been implemented, and this season is shaping up to be completely different. What are some of the biggest new rule changes? First off, the series heads away from their comfort zone in the Cup Series cars, and instead will be running the NASCAR Xfinity Series cars. On top of that, drivers will no longer have the Fast Repair option in case they run into trouble. As we head into Auto Club to begin our season, here are the driver's I expect to do some damage and win early in the season.
1. Lawson Peel
Lawson has the most career wins in the league, and I do not expect there to be a large learning curve for the Season 4 Champion. Do not be startled if you see him starting in the back on Wednesdays, because you can expect him to pull the horseshoe out and find his way up front towards the end of the race.
2. Austin Reedy
We haven't seen exactly what Austin can do as of recently. His work life has gotten in the way, and caused him to have to race away from his normal setup. But I know the true skills of this driver, and Auto Club is one of his strongest tracks. In other leagues, he has shown his knack for the B Car, and I fully expect Margareedy to be able to find himself at the top of the points standings early on in the season.
3. Colin Forrester
The Florida Kid always starts off hot to the season. In his rookie season, Forrester started off with 3 straight wins. His first win? Auto Club. Forrester got edged out by teammate AJ Green by one spot in the Championship. The other factor he has going for him is that was in the Gen 6 car, which is more similar to the Xfinity car than the Next Gen. Forrester finds himself running up front often, and tends to stay out of trouble.
4. Jayden Porter
Last season's Champion had a Cinderella finish at Homestead last season. A late caution gave him the opportunity to claim the championship, and he came through in the clutch. Porter has pure speed in every car he seems to touch. The only downside to Porter's game is his luck. If someone else makes a mistake, it always seems to be into the left rear of the 28 car. If his luck turns around, you could see Porter climb the rankings rapidly in the first few races.
5. Kyle Benson
Benson is an enigma when it comes to racing. Like Porter, he always seems to have a stroke of bad luck when it comes to the last 10% of the race. Benson does have speed, but the bad luck bug tends to hit him harder than everyone else. This is another driver who has the potential to dominate, as long as he can finish the race where he runs the first 90%.
6. AJ Green
AJ is an interesting driver to try and rank. He is absolutely rapid in pace, but he puts himself in bad situations. Green may have trouble early on coming to terms with not having a fast repair at his disposal, but don't let the early results concern you. He will be in the talks for a championship at the end of the season.
7. Joe Sanchez
Sanchez managed to qualify himself into the playoffs last season with wins at Richmond and Gateway, but relinquished his playoff spot due to work. He then went on to miss the last 7 races of the season. Joe is a very clean driver, and if he can shake the cobwebs off early, I could see him making a run to the top. Availability is the most important factor in long seasons, and if he makes it to the post season, expect Sanchez to make noise.
8. Craig Lautenslager
The driver of the 13 car will be driving under a new banner this season, switching from owning Southern Heat Racing to driving for Murray-Reedy Motorsports. The stress of running for a team championship for his own outfit has been lifted from Lautenslager. He tends to find his speed throughout the race, so if Craig can qualify competitively and get lucky yellow flags, you could see him battling for his fair share of wins.
9. Eric Schaffer
A self proclaimed B Car aficionado, Schaffer seems to be the fan favorite to rack up some wins. You will constantly see him in Xfinity Series official races. The big downside to Eric is his temperament. He has a tendency to be frustrated if other drivers make bad moves, and that could be concerning with the removal of the fast repair. I can see Schaffer getting this under control, knowing he doesn't have the safety net to fall back on, so expect some noise to come from the 3 camp.
10. Patrick Thompson (R)
It wouldn't be fair if I didn't reward one of the rookies for the work they put in during the offseason. In all of our hosted offseason races, Patrick found himself up front on a regular basis. Thompson looks to be very fast in the B Car, and if he can get comfortable in the league, I can see him being the front runner for Rookie of the Year.