Friday, February 13, 2009

NASCAR 2009: Will this season be the year of change and surprises due to the economy?

Welcome back ladies and gentlemen, I’ve been a huge NASCAR fan since 1991-1992 and in that time, I have seen a lot of change go through the sport from the 7-time champion Richard Petty retire, the sport loss one of the best, Dale Earnhardt, to Jimmie Johnson win three-straight NASCAR Cup Series Championship and Dale Earnhardt Jr. leave DEI and join Hendrick Motorsports.

I’ve also seen a huge change with the stock cars from once a stock car that looked like something you could buy on the showroom floor to something that at least looks like something on the street to now a car of tomorrow that is prototype, but at least is safer. And yet see the sports hasn’t change in other way, NASCAR is still NASCAR and unlike what some say, the racing on track is good at times, just with new drivers and teams.

In reason years, I can’t remember the last time I was this excited for a season to start, mainly because there was first, a very business off season with mergers and alliance from Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, Stewart-Haas Racing, and Richard Petty Motorsports to name a few, and second, there was no preseason testing.

There is a lot of questions going into the 2009 NASCAR season in all three national series, some in which we have already answer, but most will not be answered until at least September after the Richmond race, if not until after the finale in Homestead in November.

How about the 2009 Budweiser Shootout and did it live up to the hype and what would the race be? Going into the shootout, the main focus wasn’t really on the format, but was on who’s in and who’s out and the fact that this was a manufacturers race and the yet the race it, was full of surprises and turned out to be a good race at that. Daytona seems create wild finishes and yet wild wrecks at the same time and the shootout had that including a last lap slingshot move by Kevin Harvick with help from Denny Hamlin around the leader Jamie McMurray to win the Shootout. Never underestimate Kevin Harvick and that goes double for him at Daytona, he is known for being there at the end to win, 2007 Daytona 500 for example, he won by inches over Mark Martin.

One question after the Budweiser Shootout, what should NASCAR do with the Budweiser Shootout? I touched on that very subject at the end of last month (Read the article here…)

Who is going to win the Cup Series, Nationwide Series and Truck Series Championships? Three names, Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski and Ron Hornaday Jr.

What about double and triple duty drivers? Kevin Harvick is running several races in the Nationwide Series and the Truck Series, Kyle Busch is running the full-time in Cup and Nationwide Series and a few races in the Truck Series, Carl Edwards is running full-time in Cup and Nationwide Series, along with other drivers running in a few races in the Nationwide Series, how will they far.

Who to watch in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2009? #20-Joey Logano, #14-Tony Stewart, #5-Mark Martin, #43-Reed Sorenson, and #07-Casey Mears.

Who will win NASCAR Rookie the Year in the Cup Series? Joey Logano or Scott Speed to name a few.

Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year? The rookie of the year is widely contended between six driver, however two drivers really do stand out, first the 2008 ARCA Series Champion and now the driver of the #12 Verizon Wireless for Penske Racing, Justin Allgaier. This is the one driver to watch in 2009, not only to be the 2009 Rookie of the Year, but in winning his first Nationwide Series race in 2009. Allgaier made headline last season in his first Nationwide race by qualifying and racing good most of the race at Charlotte, only to get caught up in a wreck on just past halfway and while 2008 didn’t go too well, for 2009, he will be the break out star.

Second Brendan Gaughan will move up from the Truck Series, to take over the #62 (formerly #64) ride at Rusty Wallace Inc. after David Stremme who moved up to the Cup Series with Penske Racing. In my eyes, Brendan Gaughan should have been the Truck Series champion back in 2003, what a finale at Homestead for the Truck Series that year with Gaughan being taken out by Ted Musgrave’s teammate, then Musgrave losing the championship because of a NASCAR penalty, ultimately, Travis Kvapil won the championship that year by 9 points over Dennis Setzer. For 2009, Gaughan will now have a chance in a ride that has been just outside victory lane last season with David Stremme.

Who will make the Chase for the Sprint Cup in 2009? In no particular order, Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, Jeff Burton, Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman. (Read Articles with details…)

Who will be NASCAR’s “Most Hated Driver”? (thanks RevJim for this idea) Kyle Busch already has this honor in the Cup Series, however after watching the ARCA finale last year, Scott Speed should be considered on this list, as well as David Starr.

Will the mergers and alliance work? Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, Stewart-Haas Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports (formerly GEM), Yates racing with Hall of Fame Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing and JTG-Daugherty Racing just to name a few.

Will Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman make the chase and win race?

How will Ricky Carmichael do in 14 races in the Truck Series?

Finally, I wonder just what is the future of both of the Nationwide Series and the Truck Series with the economy is right now, drivers, teams, sponsors are all cutting back, unemployment not only in the Cup Series is big, but in these two series are huge, some teams like Roush-Fenway Racing is only running one truck this season and there isn’t 35 trucks on the list running the full 2009 schedule in the Truck Series, let along with lack in the Nationwide Series and this brings me to a subject that I have touched on a few times including last month, What would you do with the NASCAR Nationwide Series and Truck Series?

This was just a few questions going to the 2009 NASCAR Series and I can’t wait to see what happens, now let’s go racing, the Daytona 500 is this Sunday.