Friday, January 14, 2011

Five Things to Look Forward to in 2011

Kasey Kahne dons the Red Bull Racing firesuit
at the Fall Talladega race.
Good news: NASCAR fans are on the tail end of the off-season slump.

Pre-season thunder is a mere week away.  And the Daytona 500? Just one month to go.

We're on the verge of a NASCAR  tabula rasa. There are second chances for drivers who need redemption. And endless possibilities for the new kids on track who have something to prove.

There's no telling just what will play out this season, but there are five things I can't wait to see:

Team Earntarte: By all accounts, December testing at Daytona went well for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and new crew chief Steve Letarte.  Letarte has already brought some much-needed positive vibes to his new team - and Junior Nation is feeling it. Letarte could well be the golden ticket that gets Junior back to Victory Lane.

The Boys at Red Bull:  Brian Vickers will be back behind the wheel at Daytona and fans couldn't be happier.  Though it's a hackneyed cliche, Vickers has a new lease on life after his medical leave of absence.  And, to make things even more interesting, he'll be working with new Red Bull teammate Kasey Kahne.  Look for them both to exceed expectations this year.

Edwards vs. Keselowski Part Deux: Edwards ended 2010 with a whole lotta momentum.  And, if he keeps it up, he could be a serious threat to Jimmie Johnson's title dynasty.  And now that neither Carl Edwards nor Brad Keselowski can battle it out for the Nationwide Series crown, look for these rivals to settle their unfinished business on the Cup side.

Chaser McMurray: Although it doesn't affect my life  in any way whatsoever, I'm still dismayed that Jamie McMurray didn't make the 2010 Chase for the Sprint Cup after sweeping the Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400 and Charlotte's Bank of America 500.  In the words of my cousin (also named Jamie), "That ain't right."  Given Jamie Mac's stellar year, I have no doubt he'll be in the top 12 post Homestead.

Waltrip Getting the Nod: In 2010, Darrell Waltrip was left out of the NASCAR Hall of Fame class for the second year in a row.  But I seriously doubt he'll get the cold shoulder again.  Waltrip rejoice - you'll get your moment in 2011.

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