Race for the Cup: Kobe Tributes and Mamba Mentality

Arizona Sports News online

Only one more race until NASCAR heads to the cacti of Arizona to battle the one-mile oval at Phoenix Raceway March 6-8. First, NASCAR heads to California to tackle a much larger circle, Auto Club Speedway. Some drivers


Honoring Number 24

Auto Club Speedway, in Fontana, California, is about 50 miles west down the I-10 from Staples Center. Kobe Bryant’s impact on the sports world will be on display as many drivers will pay tribute to one of the greatest sports icons of all-time.

Daniel Suarez will race with Kobe inspired gloves and shoes in the Auto Club 400, which will be auctioned off with all proceeds going to the Mamba on Three Fund. Ryan Blaney will have the most spectacular vehicle at the track. Long-time partner Body Armor, which Bryant held an investment in, will be on the hood of a purple and gold snakeskin paint scheme with 2 and 24 on the deck lid. William Byron and the No. 24 team will have a gold and purple paint scheme as well. Bubba Wallace also honored the seven lives lost in the helicopter crash earlier this season in Daytona placing their names on his car.


Putting Yourself in Position

There are still 24 races until the 16-team playoffs are set for the 2020 season, and only two weeks into the season, some teams are putting themselves in a position to capitalize on early success. A few faces in new places are starting off the season strong, something that could mean the difference between being in the playoffs or racing for nothing to end the season.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s first team change in NASCAR has started on a huge high note. After qualifying on the pole in the Daytona 500, Stenhouse put the team in a spot to compete for the win but got the opportunity taken away by a penalty, finishing 20th. The team bounced back in a big way at Las Vegas, finishing in the top-five to escalate the JTG Daugherty Racing No. 47 team to sixth in points. If this team can keep up with how they’ve been driving to start the year, they won’t have to worry about points because they’ll find a spot in victory lane.

Tying a career-best, Matt DiBenedetto picked up his second career runner up finish. Also with a new team this year, DiBenedetto was expected to perform, but maybe not this early and this well. His runner up finish with Wood Brother’s Racing has brought the legendary No. 21 to tenth-place in the points.

Who leads in one of the best rookie classes NASCAR has seen in years? No, it’s not one of the “Xfinity Big Three,” all driving for premier teams. Instead, John Hunter Nemechek has been the only rookie with consistent finishes racing for Front Row Motorsports. Nemechek leads all rookies currently sitting 18th in points.


The Black Sheep of the Family

The ARCA Menards Series has four series: National, East, West, and Sioux Chief Showdown Series. Sam Mayer has raced twice this year, once in the East and once in the West. Mayer has two wins. And now he looks for his third straight win in his third different series in his third start of the year.

Mayer has an opportunity to make it three-for-three when he competes in the inaugural Sioux Chief Showdown series opener when ARCA heads to Phoenix next week. The 16-year-old isn’t even full-time in the West or Sioux Chief Series but looks to play spoiler in Phoenix just like he did at the Las Vegas Bullring last week.

Why is Mayer the Black Sheep of the ARCA Family? Because no one wants to race against the teenage East Series defending champion, seemingly on fire in February.