1. Who else could be? Til you beat the man, he will still be the man. I know that I am going out on a huge limb here, but hey, its my list, if you do not like, put your comments in at the bottom. Anyways, JJ has proven even when he is not at the top of his game, he is still the best and so his team. So who is going to challenge The Champ?
2. Well, first up to challenge The Champ, why not the guy that came the closest last year to dethroning him. If not for some unlucky or dim-witted pit strategy, we might be talking about Denny Hamlin this off-season as the target everyone will be gunning for this season. Hamlin led the series with eight victories, was second in top-five's with sixteen, and had the most top ten's with twenty- six. He is young, hungry, and extremely pissed off. Now if he can just channel that inner beast, he is going to beat tough to beat in 2011.
3. Speaking of channeling energy. Rowdy has all the talent in the world. With the new rule of all drivers having to declare what championship they want to run for this year, this should help Rowdy focus in on what helps pay the bills for his fledgling truck program. Of course, he could surprise everyone, say the hell with it and run a full time truck schedule, just so he does not have to fight the JJ Express. Yeah right! The guy is such a competitor, a year older, and pound for pound the best driver out there. I do not like the guy, but there is no denying his talent or cajones. He can just plain get it done.
4. Smoke a little smoke. Tony Stewart I think has flown under the radar the past couple of seasons. He has qualified for the Chase under his own banner the past two years. No reason to think he can not make it a third. He is known for having a fiery temper, but since owning his own team, the guy to me seems as cool as a cucumber. He is not going to go out there and win a ton of races, but when the checkers are in site, I expect him to be there to fight it out. Nothing in this guy says quit, that is what makes him such a tough out.
5. Happy Harvick had a great season last year. He led the Childress resurgence, again, and along the way made a lot of fans. In short, you screw with him or any of his teammates or if the mood strikes him just right, he is going to dump you and not be sorry. I love it! I swear, he was a one man Gibbs wrecking crew. Logano, Pocono, dumped. Hamlin, Homestead, dumped with the title on line no less. He has the attitude, Richard Childress has rejuvenated a stagnant organization, now let us see if like the Atlanta Falcons, RCR and Harvick can put together back to back successful seasons.
6. Jeff Gordon, I swear, something has to give. He runs up front week in and week out, yet the man has no wins to show for it. He talks about how every week if they run up front, that eventually the wins will come. Well, its going on two years now, he is running up front, and still no wins. The man's won four championships, his protege' just won his fifth. If that does not fire up the "old man", then I have no idea what will. I have him a little low to start the season, but I think once he and Alan Gustafson gel, I think the winless streak will be over and a fifth title will be a real possibility.
7. Cousin Carl. He is a feisty son of a bitch. I do not particularly like him, I think he is a dirty driver, but when he keeps his head, can drive the wheels off a car. I then get to see what I think is a pretty cool celebration, the back flip. If not for anything other than because I can not do one. I think if Carl, like Kyle, can keep his head, he is a dangerous contender for the title. You do not think Carl and Kyle are related in some way do you? He just seems to go through one of those lulls in the middle of season that he can never seem to overcome down the stretch. Consistency Cuz, that is the ticket.
8. Red Bull Racing/ Hendrick Motorsports driver Kasey Kahne is going to surprise people this year. I think a lot of people are deeming this a throw away year. That must have been helluva sell job to get Kahne to jump to Toyota for a year. I guess the end result it what he is looking at: getting a chance to run for the best organization in NASCAR. Now, if he can take care of his equipment, that whole my brakes are garbage stuff I did not buy. I just think he hard on equipment, good driver, wins a few races, but still hard on equipment. He is going to keep his crew chief busy for sure.
9. Matt Kenseth. He has never missed the Chase. He is as consistent as JJ in that way, other than that, he is no JJ. The man has ice water running through his veins. I think that is also his problem. That aw shucks midwestern attitude just does not work anymore. Yes, he won a title, he out pointed everyone and basically lulled everyone to sleep. That is how he was able to beat the crap out of everyone back in 2003. I think it takes a little more these days. He is great for sponsors, but I do not think great enough to win a second title.
10. Joey Logano. I think this is going to be his breakout year. He is going to win multiple times, get a lot of top five's and ten's, and because he is still young, will be somewhat inconsistent. He is going to be fun to watch, on and off the track. Remember Harvick and JPM? Going to be interesting to see how much he takes this year. Our little boy is growing up right before our eyes.
11. Jamie McMurray. Last year's feel good story just keeps getting stronger. I do not believe he is going to win all the big races, but he is going to win. He is going to cry and he is going to win some more. He keeps his nose clean, his head down, and with a little more consistency he could move up the board in a hurry.
12. What? Did you think I was going to do a list and not put Dale Jr. in it? I mean, I am follower, sometimes not for my own good, but, it is a new year and new found optimism. He has a new crew chief, again, so why not dream big and think he can get off the schnide and win a few for ole Junior Nation. I do not ask a lot, just drive with a little passion and act like you want to be out there with the best and want to be considered one of the best.