A season preview? No sweat, this will be easy, just pick everyone, make some predictions, stomp on some people’s dreams, and it’ll write itself. WRONG! This was hard! It’s hard for a few reasons, including differentiating what you think will happen versus what you want to happen. I want Ryan Newman to win 36 races and Kyle Busch to crash out of 36 races, but it’s not going to happen. I wanted AJ Allmendinger, Marcos Ambrose, and Juan Pablo Montoya to do good this year, and while they’ll have moments of brilliance, we should expect a lot more mediocre races. Also, you have to sift through what people did last year. When I made my first break down, it was nearly identical to how they finished in points last year. That won’t happen again, so you have to massage it. Who had bad breaks, who made good changes, and who came on strong at the end of the year? And finally, it was hard to figure out who was racing the full year. There’s a ton of teams out there but only 37 I could pin point as racing all year. I even resisted the urge to look at my NASCAR Illustrated magazine to see what the “experts” say.
Without further ado:
They still race?
This grouping includes drivers who won’t crack my top 37 ranking. Including Bill Elliott (partial schedule with the #09 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet), and Robby Gordon (doing whatever Robby will do in the #7 Speed Energy Dodge). Rotating drivers in the #71 Chevrolet (Andy Lally at Daytona, yeah, Andy Lally, I’m gonna let that one linger for a second), #32 Ford (a new team by Frank Stoddard, will have Terry Labonte at Daytona), and the #77 Toyota (Steven Wallace makes his NASCAR debut at Daytona, no word if they’re driving more than that).
The Start ‘N’ Park All Stars
These drivers will start and park at about half or more of the races. It’s like there’s a competition for first one out of the track wins money or a trophy. Sadly, they do not.
37) J.J. Yeley, #46 Chevrolet for Dusty Whitney Racing (I think, could never find a team name and was too lazy to look any more). I bet they try to run six races full, all four plate tracks and the two road courses, beyond that, Yeley is going to have a great view watching everyone else.
*Gregs Note: Should have stuck with USAC, JJ. At least there you had a fighting chance of being something more than answer to the trival pursuit question “Who drove the #18 Interstate ride after Bobby Labonte?” They have that question in there, right? They don’t? Oh….well. Moving on.
36) Michael McDowell, #66 Toyota for HP Racing This is our boy PP’s team, rebranded but with the same sad results. McDowell will waste another year driving for this phantom team. But I guess that keeps his name out there or something.
*Gregs Note: At least he won’t have to worry a bout going for a wild ride at Texas during qualifying, since they probably won’t even bother to travel that far. You know, with gas prices eating into their profits from parking at Daytona, Charlotte, Richmond, Bristol, *slowly trails off*
35) Joe Nemechek, #87 Toyota for NEMCO Motorsports He should be ranked lower for giving Kevin Freakin’ Conway a ride at Daytona, but I could over look that. Oddly he still tries to complete races, so I got to give him some props. Other than that, he might as well put the left blinker on and drive 55 in the left lane out there.
34) Scott Riggs, #90 Chevrolet for Keyed Up Motorsports I’d rather think of the Scott Riggs who drove the NesQuik car or the soul patched Riggs driving the Valvoline car.
*Gregs Note: The least they could do is bring back Junie Donalevy. At least that might make this team somewhat respectable, even if just in name. Keyed Up Motorsports? Makes me think someone ran along the side of their car with a key and scratched it all up. I bet it would be Kevin Freakin’ Conway. It just sounds like something he’d do. 33) Casey Mears, #13 GEICO Toyota for Germain Racing
Don’t let the sponsorship fool you, they’re only on board for 15-20 races, then the Gecko splits town and gambles away the rest of the money allotted for the team.
32) Dave Blaney, #36 Chevrolet for Tommy Baldwin Racing Again I want to pull for Blaney here, but this team will complete more laps going to McDonald’s then going around the track.
*Gregs Note: What I don’t get about Tommy Baldwin, is that the guy is heavy into dirt and asphalt modified chassis building, and has partnered with a titan in Troyer Chassis, and is starting to become dominant in those racing disciplines. Blaney is a dirt driver, always has been, always will be. Why are they in Cup racing? Seriously? Someone please answer this for me
The Kyle Petty All Stars
Here’s the pack of drivers who are trying, the teams are trying, but they’re just not going to go anywhere.
31) Travis Kvapil, #34 Long John Silver’s Ford for Front Row Motorsports Don’t count this swashbuckler out of the race! Well you can, I just wanted to use that line. Since I’m sure Travis is running the full truck series, he’ll probably miss some races or be jet lagged for some races. Either way, enter random top 15 every now and then to give them hope.
30) Regan Smith, #78 Furniture Row Chevrolet for Furniture Row Racing Another one, he’ll net maybe one top ten, but spend the rest of the year 25th to 35th wondering how they could be out run by Paul Menard when they have similar equipment.
29) David Gilliland, #38 Taco Bell Ford for Front Row Motorsports This year the engine comes with only 35% horsepower versus the USDA approved 38%. That’s right a current event joke. Remember when David randomly won a Busch race? Neither does anyone else.
*Gregs Note: Has anyone ever made more of a career from less besides David here? Outside of Snooki, The Situation, and Kim Khardasian (I bet I spelled that wrong but am too lazy to google it), has anyone else ever done more with less? I just don’t get it. The guy lucks out with a Nationwide win, and suddenly he’s destined to a Cup ride. Somewhere, Sam Ard is turning over in his grave. (He’s dead right? Someone check this for me.)
28) Bobby Labonte, #47 Little Debbie Toyota for JTG-Daugherty Racing I really wanted to put Labonte higher, but I don’t think he has it anymore. Granted he has been driving in sub par equipment, this is a fairly young team (Cup wise) who still don’t have a good direction. Like most before him, enter random top 15, sprinkle in crashes and engine failures, and finish in 28th overall.
27) Paul Menard, #27 Menards Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing I keep saying this is going to be Paul’s year to prove he belongs at the highest level, but in the end he’ll just be the fourth wheel at RCR that’s helping foot the bills. As per Greg, he’s the rich man’s Brent Sherman with cool facial hair.
26) Dale Earnhardt, Jr., #88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports You give him Steve Letarte who could BARELY get anything out of a four time champ in Jeff Gordon and think he’ll work well with Junior? Not going to happen, so far all the crew chief swaps at Hendrick have gone great, except for this one. It’s like two people awkwardly set up with by friends and just going with it to not disappoint them. I will say this, Junior will win a race this year. Print it, he will. But it will either be a restrictor plate race or another fuel mileage race where his team gives up and somehow stretches it 20 extra laps.
25) David Ragan, #6 UPS Ford for Roush-Fenway Racing Talk about the fourth wheel on a team, Menard for RCR, Junior for HMS, and Ragan for RFR. But thank God, he’s signed through 2014 so you can continue to watch this painful drive for 25th for three more years! I’m excited, you should be too! Random prediction (my first one!) after his stint at Hendrick is over, wouldn’t it be interesting if Mark Martin ends up back in the old 6 car for one (maybe two) more years. I’m just saying, it makes sense.
That wraps up the bottom of the standings! Stay tuned for tomorrows release of places 24 through 15! Who’s going to get the coveted “3rd place out of the Chase” award? You’ll see tomorrow!