Sunday, February 11, 2007

I Guess I Should Go Ahead & Do This... 2007 NASCAR Predictions

I know, I know... I try to avoid doing predictions on the season because, well, I suck at them.  Badly.  But I figure this year I'll go ahead and pick my champions, surprises, and disappointments of the 2007 NASCAR season.

Nextel Cup

Champion: Matt Kenseth
I hear it now... homer!  You picked your favorite!  That may well be true, but I haven't seen anyone in, out, or around the sport picking Kenseth to do even finish in the top 5 this year.  Given those circumstances I'll take Matt, who traditionally does well when he has something to prove.  In 2002 he won the most races in the series but was not a championship factor.  He rectified that in 2003.  Last season, he was the runner-up but had mystifying bad luck in the Chase.  I think he can rectify that in 2007.

Rookie of the Year: Paul Menard
The trendy pick has been Juan Pablo Montoya for obvious reasons.  Don't be so quick to overlook Menard, though, because he has quietly been improving his skill in Busch the past two seasons and is ready to make the jump to Cup.  I see it working out like this: Montoya runs spectacularly in some races but struggles in others, while Menard plays the consistency game with fewer top 10s, but fewer DNFs as well.

First-time winners: Clint Bowyer, Reed Sorenson, David Gilliland, and Martin Truex Jr.
Make that likely first-time winners.  All 4 of these guys could win on a given weekend, but all 4 will not.  I'm shamelessly hedging my bets because at least 2 of these guys will make an appearance in Victory Lane before November.

Biggest surprise: Ganassi Racing
I think Ganassi Racing will have a resurgence to prominence in 2007.  JPM is adding a whole new level of intrigue and you know when someone of his caliber with the attention he will get drives your cars, you damn sure better have some good equipment.  I think that has motivated Ganassi during the winter and they'll be considerably better in 2007 than they have been in previous seasons. 

Will disappoint: Ginn Racing
I have no delight in doing this, but right now I just don't see this team doing considerably better than they have been since their existence.  Therefore, the attention of the signing of Mark Martin has made them more important than they really are.  I mean, Regan Smith?  He couldn't get a top 15 in Busch on a regular basis.  Sterling Martin and Joe Nemechek are done as far as being competitive goes.  All those saying this team will step up in 2007 really need to think it through.  I personally don't see it happening.

Busch Series

Champion: Carl Edwards
Well, this is easy.  I'll be shocked if he manages to lose the Busch title for a third consecutive year.

Rookie of the Year: David Ragan
I say that with a bit of an asterisk, because depending on the Wood Brothers/JTG equipment I would not overlook Marcos Ambrose in the #59.  Being 40 years old obviously helps him as well, but I think running the Cup Series will be more than enough help for Ragan to take it home.

First-time winners: J.J. Yeley, David Ragan, Todd Kluever, Juan Pablo Montoya
I could very well see all four of these guys winning a race.  Yeley will rival Edwards for the Championship in the 1 and also win multiple times.  Ragan and Kluever could win if they hit the setups right on their cars, and Montoya will be a huge threat at the road courses along with a few other places.  He did run very well in the ARCA race at Talladega...

Biggest surprise: Braun Racing
This team has darkhorse written all over it.  Toyota is providing the engineering and technology; Leffler, Blaney, and Andretti are all solid Busch drivers; and the team principals are well-versed in Busch competition (Braun, Akins, ppc).

Will disappoint: Brewco's #27
Ward Burton is your driver... need I say more?  The culture of losing at Morgan-McClure in Cup just might rub off on Ward.  Besides, I couldn't really think of anyone else.

Craftsman Truck Series

Champion: David Starr
Are you shocked I didn't go for Travis Kvapil in the 6?  Yeah, I think he has an excellent shot.  But the more I think about it, Starr is in a great spot.  He is driving a truck for Rick Crawford and Circle Bar Racing, which always has some good trucks.  At Crawford's age, I don't see him as a factor anymore.  PowerStroke Diesel has come on board to provide some serious $$$ to the team so I'm going to throw in with this team for 2007.

Rookie of the Year: Who cares?
Seriously... I don't even know who is competing for Truck ROTY.

First-time winners: Erik Darnell and A.J. Allmendinger
Allmendinger has 12 races for Darrell Waltrip's team to win a race and based on the runs he had last season I think that it is very likely he will.  Darnell will run the full schedule in the 99 and will win 2 or 3 and I think he could manage a top 5 points finish.

Biggest surprise: Circle Bar Racing
I gave it away with the championship pick, but this team was always one step away from being a force.  Crawford would win a race every year or two but they just came off as underfunded.  With the addition of PowerStroke to the team I think they'll win multiple times with both drivers.

Will disappoint: Germain Racing
Not even going to hesitate with this pick.  Bodine and Musgrave are champions but we all know that coming off a year like they had, the only way to go is down.  They'll face tougher competition from within (Bill Davis) and from Ford (Roush, WB-JTG, Circle Bar) in 2007.

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