One of the biggest draws for the smaller teams heading into this season was the idea that they would be on a somewhat level playing field with everyone else. The teams and drivers that have been having the most success are still able to do so, but the competition is clearly much tougher this year.

Technically speaking, we are just two races into the 2022 season, but the sample size is actually much greater. When you factor in all of the racing that took place before the Daytona 500, the evidence is there. Joey Logano did win the inaugural Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum, but there were a few surprise names like Austin Dillon and Erik Jones that finished in the top four.

When Speedweeks began at Daytona, it was no surprise to see the Hendrick Motorsports cars at the front of the field. Still, there were a few drivers like Aric Almirola, Ross Chastain, Daniel Suarez, and Harrison Burton that advanced to the final round. That was just the beginning, with RFK Racing sweeping the two Duel races on Thursday.

There wasn't a fortune teller in the world that could have predicted the newly rebranded team would have such success that night. The team had only won two races since 2015, with Ricky Stenhouse Jr at Talladega and Daytona in 2017. It was a remarkable feat, but also further proof that this new car was delivering on its promise to tighten the competition.

History was made in the Daytona 500 when Austin Cindric became the first true rookie to ever win the Great American Race. Yes, it was in a Team Penske car but for a rookie to pull that off was truly incredible. Look at the other names that finished in the top five. Bubba Wallace was 2nd, Chase Briscoe was 3rd, and Almirola was right there in the frame at the end. Michael McDowell, David Ragan, Ty Dillon, Daniel Hemric, Corey LaJoie, Landon Cassill, and Cody Ware also had great results.

Superspeedway races tend to produce some strange results at times, but this weekend the Cup Series returned to Auto Club Speedway. While it was Larson that came away with the victory, there were a handful of drivers that could have very easily won this race. Tyler Reddick dominated the first half of the race, sweeping the first two stages and leading a total of 90 laps.

Dillon was right behind Larson at the finish line and Jones led 18 laps and finish behind them in 3rd place. Daniel Suarez finished 4th on Sunday and was adamant that victories are coming for he and his team. "We're going to win a few races very soon here," he stated after the race. "We had a fast car, but we went through a lot of adversity. We had a few issues. We hit the wall once. We had an issue with a diffuser. My pit crew, those guys are legends."

Hemric and Stenhouse Jr each came away with another top ten finish, with Cole Custer and Cindric right behind them. Cindric still leads the championship, with Briscoe in 5th, Jones in 6th, Almirola in 7th, and Wallace in 9th after two races. There is still a long, long way to go but this is clearly a different type of season.

NASCAR is still trying to iron out some things with the NextGen car. Flat tires are beaching these cars. The wheels are still a hot topic. Teams and officials are still trying to figure out the toll that these cars can take in terms of crash damage. There is still a ton to learn, but early indications are that there is a lot to be excited about with the NextGen car.