December 27, 2014

Football is done, now it’s racing season

By James Kuch
Staff Writer | news@arenacindependent.com
Posted 2/15/11

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During Super Bowl XLV, I caught myself getting excited over the Daytona 500 commercials that were shown.

For those who have read my columns in the past, you know about my love for sports, including NASCAR. Well, when I saw those promos during the Super Bowl, I could not help but start thinking about the coming season that kicks off on Sunday.

You can bet that on Sunday, I will be in front of the television watching my favorite event of the season.

There is nothing quite like the Daytona 500. Even if you don’t like racing, Daytona is a special race, and fun to watch.

Because of the size of Daytona International Speedway, the engines of the cars have to be restricted to keep speeds safe. This causes pack racing. Cars can’t escape from the pack, and 20 to 30 cars get bunched up for all 500 miles.

By the time the cars come off of turn four on the last lap, a potential winner is still up in the air.

Another great thing about the Daytona 500 is that unpredictability. Last year, no one could have predicted that Jamie McMurray would win the race, but he did.

Personally, I think that this is going to be one of the most competitive seasons in NASCAR history. But until Jimmie Johnson gets defeated for the series championship, he has to be the favorite to win it all again.

Some up-and-coming drivers that could make a run at making the Chase for the Championship that fans should keep an eye on include Michigan’s Brad Keslowski, A.J. Allmendinger, and Joey Logano. I expect all of these drivers to be in the top 15 by season’s end.

As for true championship contenders, I have my list down to five drivers.

The first driver on the list is Johnson. Like I said, he is the favorite until someone can stop his five-year run as champion. I also like Denny Hamlin to challenge for the crown, much like he did last season. I believe his close loss to Johnson in the season’s final race will only make him stronger.

I don’t want to play favorites, but I think that, my favorite driver, Tony Stewart is close to being a top three contender once again. People forget how dominant he was in 2009 before his performance tailed off at the end of the season. With his equipment coming from Hendrick Motorsports, he has the best stuff under the hood, and his colleagues still claim that he is the most talented driver in the sport.

My top two drivers to challenge Johnson this season are Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick. Edwards has always had the talent, but now it appears that Roush-Fenway Racing has made strides with their engine power and will be tough to beat this season.

As for Harvick, he proved last year that he was the most consistent driver in NASCAR. If he can repeat that consistency again this year, he will find himself in the hunt once more.

As for this Sunday, I will pick two drivers. One as a favorite, a second as a dark-horse pick. Someone people might think has no chance to win.

I think the winner will be Kyle Busch. He has been strong at Daytona in the past, and I think this year he will be the man to beat. My dark-horse is Allmendinger. A.J. was close in last season’s Daytona 500; look for him to be in the top 5 with five laps to go.

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