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« Junior’s failings, Delana’s firesuit and Bowyer’s fines made 2010 memorable | Main | Has NASCAR become the sporting equivalent of ‘New Coke’? »

What does 2011 hold for Johnson, Edwards, Gordon and Earnhardt?

By admin | January 2, 2011

By Richard Allen

 

I like to begin each year with some predictions for the coming NASCAR season. Sometimes I get them right and often times I get them wrong. But undaunted, I will try once again. So, here goes:

2011 Sprint Cup champion: I am going to start with the easy one. As I have said many times, there is no reason to pick anyone other than Jimmie Johnson to win the Sprint Cup title until it is proven that he can be beaten. Some might say it is time for the Hendrick Motorsports team to finally run out of luck. Problem with that theory is that Johnson’s crew has not relied on luck to win five consecutive championships.

No doubt, drivers such as Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick will challenge Johnson, but in the end, I am going to predict that he will win his sixth title in a row.

Most race wins: A number of drivers come to mind when thinking about who will win the most races in 2011. Johnson, Hamlin, Harvick and Kyle Busch could certainly pile up a number of victories. However, I am going to go with what might be considered a bit of a long shot.

Carl Edwards won the final two races of 2010 and really looked like he and his crew were coming together after a season of struggle for those who campaigned for the Ford Motor Company. That momentum should propel this driver and team to a good season in 2011. So, Edwards is my pick to win the most races in 2011.

Daytona 500: Unlike most other sports, NASCAR begins its season with the biggest event on their schedule. Winning this race can make a driver’s season a success no matter what else happens the rest of the way. Jamie McMurray can attest to that.

Last year, the hot ticket on the restrictor plate tracks was the Earnhardt-Childress Racing Engine. Those power plants won every plate race in 2010. Even with that said, I am going to go in a different direction.

Jeff Gordon will be driving his first race with crew chief Alan Gustafson. This driver has already accumulated six wins at the Daytona International Speedway, including three Daytona 500s. The track has been newly repaved and it seems as though such a big change ought to play into the hands of HMS, the sport’s most well financed organization.

I predict that Gordon will capture his fourth victory in the ‘Great American Race’.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: Normally a driver of such mediocre credentials would not warrant his own heading in a pre-season prediction piece. However, the sport’s most popular driver is typically at the center of many conversations even with sub-par statistics.

In 2011, Junior will have a new crew chief. Trouble with that is, he has already had one change atop his pit box while at HMS with no improvement and his new chief, Steve Letarte, did not win much with Jeff Gordon so there is little reason to believe Junior will fare any better. There may be some improvement but I do not believe a banner season is in the future for the popular driver.

Drivers who will make the Chase for the Championship(considering that the Chase will consist of 12 drivers): Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton, Tony Stewart and Jamie McMurray will make the Chase.

Well, there they are. A few predictions for NASCAR 2011. Some will be right and some will not. Please feel free to offer your own thoughts.

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6 Responses to “What does 2011 hold for Johnson, Edwards, Gordon and Earnhardt?”

  1. sylvia richardson Says:
    January 3rd, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    wheres MARK MARTIN NAME? did you just forget about MARK?????

  2. tlheadley Says:
    January 3rd, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    I don’t know why people waste their time reading your lame “writing.” I don’t know why I expected this article might have something of substance to say. And I don’t know why I am even bothering to write in response.
    I predict Earnhardt will win three races and make the chase — finishing in the Top 5 in points. Why do I say this?
    The changes to the car will likely make it behave more like the old car. As DW says it is actually beginning to look like a racecar again.
    There is no doubt that Dale Jr. can drive, contrary to your constant attempts to slam him. There are numerous reasons obviously why he hasn’t won in the past couple of years, some of these are technical, some are obviously personal. The technical issues can be fixed with an improved relationship between driver, crew chief and the engineers in the shop. The personal/psychological issues can be fixed by something as simple as a few good runs strung together.
    Probably unlike you, I am a former athlete. I know a little something about the psychological aspect of a sport. I doubt seriously that you have ever done anything more strenuous than change the channels on your television.

  3. Deb McCormick Says:
    January 3rd, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    Unfortunately I think you are right here. Would like to see someone else get the cup but unless they shake up the last 10 tracks it will be JJ. Junior is Junior, he needs to change himself not the crew chief and as some drivers Kasey Kahne etc are in transition next year they unfortunately maybe left out of the chase.

  4. Richard Allen Says:
    January 3rd, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    Sylvia, Martin’s name was originally in my final 12 but I cut him at the very last. He will make it anyway because they are almost certainly going to expand to 15.

    TLHeadly,

    Played both baseball and basketball. Coached HS basketball for 7 years and just completed my 11th year as HS cross country coach.

    Have taught Psychology for 21 years. So yes, I can recognze a sports psych problem when I see one.

  5. Brian Says:
    January 4th, 2011 at 2:17 am

    Ok, so Jr in on his 3rd crew chief in 3 years. So what? Matt Kenseth went through that many in 2010 alone. Oh yeah, and he didn’t win any races either. This is a former champion that is struggling just as bad as Jr, talk about that for a while. Oh wait, that would require you to write something original.

  6. Marcus Says:
    January 4th, 2011 at 10:03 am

    I am not going to get overly optomistic about my driver Dale Jr, due to the fact that it’s such a let down when your hopes are much higher than his results, which are yet to be seen. So I’ll be playing it safe. Only two problems with your theory about Dale not improving much, based off of results from the last CC switch. Jr’s last switch was to a CC who had 1 prior win(B Vickers spinning out Jr and Jimmie on last lap @Talladega). His new crew chief, although not overly successful, has 9 career wins, which is 8 more than Jr’s former CC. Secondly, Jr’s new shop(formerly 24/48 turned 88/48) has much more chemistry and probably works more efficiently throghout the week. Also, the personnel in that shop are unquestionably better.