2010 Season Preview

The thing I love the most about NASCAR is that from year to year, things change drastically. Take the 2008 seasons of Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch for instance. Carl won nine races while Kyle won eight for a combined total of 17 races and both drivers made the Chase. In 2009, Carl did not win a single race and Kyle won a grand total of four races. Carl finished 11th in the standings while Kyle finished 13th. As far as anyone can tell, there were no real drastic changes to either the 99 or 18 teams until late 2009 when Kyle Busch’s crew chief, Steve Addington, was replaced with Nationwide series crew chief Dave Rogers.

As you can see, two drivers with a lot of talent didn’t make a lot of noise in 2009. One didn’t even make the Chase. When you look at the big picture, there were probably a lot of little things that led to such poor performance in 2009 compared to 2008.

Looking ahead to 2010, it is not difficult to make guesses and conjectures about who will win and who won’t do very well in the coming season. But we have to look at it objectively. Going into this season, who is more determined and who seems to be getting a little too comfortable?

We’ll begin with defending 2009 Daytona 500 champ Matt Kenseth. He won the first two races of the season right off the bat and was less than consistent for the remainder of the season. He had only seven top fives and twelve top tens the entire season. Average finish? 15.4. These numbers do not speak well for a Daytona 500 champion. However, as I’ve always said, Kenseth is one of NASCAR’s most underrated drivers. He is the 2003 cup champion as well as one of the top drivers at RFR. Look for this team to pull together and pull out some wins in 2010.

Kyle Busch had a stellar season in 2008 with 8 wins, 17 top fives, and 21 top tens, but finished a rather dismal 10th in the Cup standings. In 2009, he had 4 wins, 9 top fives, and 13 top tens and didn’t even make the Chase. My take on Kyle is that he tends to get really comfortable really late in the season and tends to slack off a little. However, he has shown a certain amount of maturity when it comes to his racing. He’s definitely one of the most passionate drivers on any of the circuits and all he wants is to win but it looks like he’s beginning to realize that consistency is just as important as winning. He’s got the talent, now if he can keep his head cool, he could easily be another consecutive 4 time champion.

Tony Stewart and the entire organization of Stewart-Haas Racing was the underdog story of 2009. Very few people expected the 14 and 39 teams to even come close to winning. With Stewart being crowned as the regular season champ, it was definitely an unexpected but pleasant surprise. Stewart ended up winning 4 points races, and one non points race. He had an astounding 15 top fives and 23 top tens which is virtually unheard of for an owner/driver. Stewart’s teammate and driver, Ryan Newman saw 5 top fives and fifteen top tens. The 2009 season also was Newman’s ninth consecutive year to win a pole award. He, in fact won two. Solely based upon 2009, both the 14 and 39 teams will be strong race contenders in 2010.

Hendrick Motorsports has been a powerhouse in NASCAR for so long that one can hardly tell you a time when HMS did not dominate the Cup series. They’ve won four consecutive championships and their cars dominated a good part of the Chase. Martin and Johnson won a combined total of five races in the Chase. The top three drivers in the Cup standings were all HMS drivers. Only a fool would believe that HMS can be easily over thrown in 2010.

Richard Childress Racing had a dismal year. Not one of the drivers for RCR had a single race win and for the most part, none of the teams were very consistent. Until the very end of the season, they didn’t run very well at all. Harvick had 5 top fives and 9 top tens, Bowyer had four top fives and 16 top tens, Burton had 5 top fives and 10 top tens, and Mears had just 4 top tens and no top fives. Stats like these don’t make one very confident in this organization but they definitely have the talent and resources to win races and championships and be very consistent.

Joe Gibbs Racing saw several wins, four of them from Kyle Busch, four from Denny Hamlin, and just one from Raybestos ROTY Joey Logano. This team definitely has the potential to be the next great team in NASCAR if the drivers had just a little more discipline on the track and if so many technical issues didn’t plague them. This team will be strong again in 2010. Look out for young Logano, he is finally finding himself behind the wheel and will probably break out and win more races this year.

You can probably expect to see a few breakout drivers this season as well. Here’s some of the drivers that had unexpectedly good stats in 2009.

Marcos Ambrose had 4 top fives and 7 top tens in his JTG Daugherty Racing Toyota. He started third and led several laps of the Ford 400 at Homestead Miami Speedway before technical issues got the best of him, giving him a 35th place finish.

AJ Allmendinger had just one top five that came at Daytona International Speedway in the 500 and 6 top tens this season. He’s already come a long way since his first season in Cup in 2007.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the sport’s most popular driver and many people blame the drop in viewer ratings on his lack of consistency and wins in 2009. This is a driver with 18 career wins. Yet he hasn’t had a win since 2008 at Michigan. However, he still managed to find the consistency he needed to finish 12th in the standings. He finished 25th in 2009. This is a driver that’s hungry for a win and his fans are ready to see him win.

I fully expect 2010 to be a much better, more exciting season for both the fans and the drivers. With the new rules NASCAR has implemented, it should make for some very exciting racing! Here’s to 2010!

2010 Season Preview 2010 Season Preview Reviewed by Genna on Thursday, January 14, 2010 Rating: 5