The time for bench racing, non-points Shootouts and Duels is past.
After a short and eventful offseason, NASCAR returns to the track this weekend at Daytona International Speedway.
As a result of the slumping national economy, since last October’s season-ending races at Homestead-Miami teams have formed, merged, gone under and added and/or subtracted drivers and sponsors.
Big questions remain about what the future holds for not just NASCAR, but also IndyCar and Formula One. Will there be enough teams, fans and sponsorship money to keep the big racing series going this season and for years to come?
For now at least our attention can shift to the track in Florida where NASCAR will opens the 2009 campaign.
I started making Fearless Predictions last year as a regular feature of this blog, and this season an edited form will be in the actual paper.
My ultimate goal is to complete what I like to call the Grand Slam of Prognostication: picking a winner in each major racing series during the season. In a few months when local racing begins I’ll begin my quest for the Mini-Slam of Prognostication, picking a winner for each of Evergreen Speedway’s divisions.
Someone asked me last year why my predictions are “fearless.” I’ve always been told that fear comes about when someone is concerned about the consequences of an action. Folks who are afraid of heights (like me) worry about falling, etc.
When I make racing predictions, the door is opened for readers to question my intelligence and ability to reason. In other words, y’all can call me an idiot.
My response to that concern? Grab a ticket and get in line. Just know that my wife pulled the No. 1 stub more than 25 years ago, so it may be awhile.
On to the picks.
These are some tough picks, because so much is unknown. Still, I’m Fearless, so here goes:
Sprint Cup: Carl Edwards … Jack Roush will not be denied, and he’s not afraid to throw his weight behind his favorite driver.
Nationwide Series: Kyle Busch … I expect “Rowdy” to be in the mix for the Cup and Truck series titles, too.
Camping World Truck Series: Ron Hornaday Jr. … this year for sure, although it was a tossup between “Grandpa” and Mike Skinner.
Success in the Great American Race does not mean certain success in the Sprint Cup series. In the past 10 years, just once — Jimmie Johnson in 2006 — has the race winner gone on to win the title. In fact, 11.8 is the average overall final standing of the past 10 winners of the Daytona 500.
So I’m looking for a driver who could win the title, but more likely will just have a good enough season to be one of the 12 Chasers.
Tony Stewart fits the bill nicely. Much has been written of Stewart’s inability to win the Daytona 500, and his decision to leave Joe Gibbs Racing after 10 years to be the co-owner/driver for Stewart-Haas Racing. Although many think he will struggle this season, I’m of the opinion the change will do Stewart good, starting on Sunday.
Also look for: Jamie McMurray (although the last time a Ford won the Daytona 500 was Dale Jarrett in 2000) and Kyle Busch.
Nationwide Series races at Daytona have been dominated for years by Cup drivers, once called “Buschwackers” and now known as “Insurance Frauds.” The last Nationwide-only driver to win the February race was Randy LaJoie in 2001.
The trend won’t change this year. Look for Kyle Busch to win Saturday’s race, although also watch for fellow Frauds Carl Edwards and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
The past three Camping World Truck Series races on superspeedways, going back to Talladega in 2007, have been won by Todd Bodine, and I’m thinking he’ll make it four straight on Friday.
Also watch for Kyle Busch, who would make history if he swept the three Daytona races, and Johnny Benson.
Don’t forget to look for Sammamish/Mill Creek’s Tayler Malsam, who will be in the No. 81 truck for Randy Moss Motorsports.