Saturday, September 19, 2009

Light 'em up!

I seriously doubt that Jeff Gordon reads this blog, but something sure lit a fire in him. At Richmond, last Sunday, he and Denny Hamlin gave us a great of red hot wheel to wheel racing. He wasn't boring at all. That's the Jeff Gordon we want to see.

At the beginning of the season, listening to Gordon gave us the perception that he was ready to grab the bull by the horns and start racing to win again. But that fire we saw quickly dwindled, and suffocated under a blanket of, for the 24 team, mediocrity.

For the majority of teams in the Sprint Cup Series, Gordon's performance would be great, but this is the 24 team we are talking about. This is the team of one of the best drivers in the history of NASCAR, and we expect that desire to win to burn brightly.

Jeff Gordon must know that he will have to win some races in the Chase for the Championship. He should have learned that in 2007 when he gave away the Cup by finishing consistently in the top five while Jimmie Johnson finished consistently in Victory Lane. Now it is not just Johnson who will snag top five finishes and win races during the Championship season. We can be sure that Mark Martin, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, and possibly even Juan Pablo Montoya will each win at least one of the last ten races as well as post several top five finishes. Jeff Gordon needs to find the old fire that would make him unhappy with a second place finish if he is to achieve that fifth championship that has eluded him for so long.

That being said, here are my uneducated guesses for how I think the Championship points race will turn out:

Champion: Tony Stewart. I know, this is my heart talking, but my mind almost agrees. Stewart took a team that was barely making the top thirty five in points and turned it into a winner. He has mellowed when talking to the press, a necessity for a team owner, but he still has the fire and determination to win. After winning the qualifying season, so to speak, he will be hard to stop. Certainly, there has been some poor performance on the part of him and his team since Watkins Glen, but this is a team and a leader who will overcome those errors. I know this is a change of view from the beginning of the seasons, but I will now admit that all of my expectations from that time were wrong.

2. Jimmie Johnson. The other teams have caught up to what the 48 team has had for the last three seasons, and the competition is better. Besides, Jimmie hasn't been hitting as many cars lately, so it will be harder for Knaus to put the magic aerodynamics improving dent in the right place on the fender. I am only partly joking--many of the races Johnson has won have been won after he has had contact with one or more other cars early in the race. Yes, it's a crackpot conspiracy theory, but it does make you think. But Johnson will still be hard to stop. I think the points race will be close throughout the Chase.

3. Jeff Gordon. The new bridesmaid.

4. Mark Martin. He loves to win, but maybe he just isn't aggressive enough to be competitive with Johnson and Stewart. Still, we would be very happy to see him finally get a championship.

5. Juan Montoya. As mentioned before, this guy knows how to win championships. This team will come together during the Chase, and he will show us he knows how to win races as well. He has to remember, though, that "Shake" comes before "Bake."

6. Denny Hamlin. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition, and nobody expects Denny Hamlin. Yet the guy is a good racer, and Loudon, Dover, and Martinsville are all good tracks for him. He could keep the points among the top six very close.

7. Ryan Newman. A very competent racer, and he knows when to be aggressive and when not to be. He has been in the Chase before, and he knows how it works.

8. Carl Edwards. It's very difficult to understand why the Roush Magic isn't there this year, but still, they got two drivers in the Chase. Perhaps it's just that, as the teams get the hang of the Cup car, the competition becomes tighter, and things are evening out. Edwards has a strong will, proven by showing us that the only thing he can't do with a broken foot is a victory backflip. His determination will put him in the top ten at the end of the season.

9. Kasey Kahne. We would love to put him in the top five, but the way things are getting shaken up at RPM there may be some lack of concentration.

10 Brian Vickers. He has a lot of determination, and will likely finish in the top ten points position. He will make the Chase interesting, but it is not Red Bull's turn quite yet. They will learn a lot, and will be even stronger next year.

11. Yea, he made the Chase. I wish he would make the top ten, but he won't.

12 Kurt Busch. The same mechanical and emotional problems that have plagued him in the past will continue to plague him his year. Too bad.

So that is my take. As always, I am very interested in discussing this with other fans and maybe changing my mind. Remember, I don't intend to slam any driver or team. This is just for fun, so please don't bet on my picks. Thank you.

1 comment:

BruSimm said...

Where is everyone around here?