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The Journal Gazette

Friday, July 06, 2018 1:00 am

Rivals leaving Chevys in dust

MARK LONG | Associated Press

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Darrell Wallace Jr. has a proposition for the two guys dominating the NASCAR Cup Series: Swap cars for a race and see what happens.

Vocalizing what has been obvious on the track all season, Wallace said Thursday the problem with the Chevrolets is, well, the Chevrolets.

“My car handles way worse than (Kevin) Harvick or Kyle (Busch)'s car at 200 mph,” Wallace said at Daytona International Speedway. “Just because the cars look the same and they all go through tech and everything, they are damn sure not the same.

“My car is not the same as any other 18 or 4 car. It would be interesting to say, 'Let's swap seats and see how that goes.' ”

Chevrolet has been mostly noncompetitive since Austin Dillon won the season-opening Daytona 500 in February. The American automaker hasn't been to victory lane since and hadn't really gotten close until Chevy driver Kyle Larson swapped the lead on the final lap with Busch last week at Chicagoland Speedway.

Meanwhile, Toyota and Ford have pulled away in the standings. Toyota's stable includes Busch (five wins) and defending Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. (three wins). Ford has Kevin Harvick (five wins), Clint Bowyer (two wins) and Joey Logano (one win).

For Chevy, it has been a bumpy debut for the Camaro, which replaced the maligned Chevrolet SS this year.

“A lot of people were pumped up about the Chevy Camaro, and we haven't delivered the wins that we thought our camp would this year as far as that goes,” Dillon said. “We're working, though, as a group to get closer.”

Larson has been the lone bright spot for Chevy in 2018. The Chip Ganassi Racing standout has six top-five finishes, as many as fellow Chevy drivers and Hendrick Motorsports teammates Chase Elliott (four) and seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson (two) combined.

Chevy won 13 consecutive manufacturer championships in the premier Cup Series between 2003 and 2015. But Toyota and Ford have clearly closed the gap. The reason is complicated, but one Chevy believes it will be able to handle in time.

Chevrolet designed the Camaro to take advantage of NASCAR's previous inspection system of templates.

But NASCAR switched to a more precise scanning system this year, which erased some of Chevy's expected gains. Ford improved the most from the change in inspection procedures.