We are only a few weeks away from the first full-field NASCAR Sprint Cup testing of the new surface at Daytona International Speedway, and then only a couple weeks after that we all head back to Daytona for SpeedWeeks.
After five straight years of dominance, everybody knows that Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team are the ones to beat. Everyone is working on their master plan to dethrone him and his Hendrick Motorsports team.
So who is going to have a breakout year and rush to beat him? Who is going to simply have a breakout year and put up great numbers? Those are big unknowns.
Off the top of my head, I think Carl Edwards is poised to rekindle and find the form he had a couple of years ago. Actually, I think you could include the entire Roush Fenway Racing bunch in that statement.
If you remember, Richard Childress Racing made a huge leap in 2010 after a pretty dismal 2009. It would not surprise me in the least to see that scenario repeated in 2 011, but this time by Roush Fenway Racing.
One up-and-coming driver I am definitely going to keep my eye on is Trevor Bayne. He did well in his debut driving the famous No. 21 car for the legendary Wood Brothers. What kind of results will this young man with limited experience be able to deliver with more opportunity? The jury is obviously still out.
The same can be said with the changes to the car. We have that new nose now. Will it hurt some folks and help others, similar to the change we made in early 2010 from the wing to the spoiler? In years past, you normally saw the Hendrick cars adapt the fastest; last year, however, you clearly saw Hendrick struggle with the change from the wing.
It wasn’t until crunch time that we saw Johnson and his gang get a handle on the spoiler.
Let’s face it, what teams learn at Daytona can’t really be applied anywhere else. With its new surface and all that grip, you could probably run these cars without that new nose and the spoiler and still have a great race. So if anyone tries to tell you that how these cars run in Daytona will be a good indicator for the rest of the season, well, that’s not going to be true at all.
It’s just going to be another one of those challenging changes that’s going to take the teams time, again, just like going from the wing to the spoiler.
I think the guys with the best engineering groups will be the front-runners once again, at least temporarily.
Again, unless there is a major change in the format, all you have to worry about is getting yourself caught up and back in the top 12 before Richmond in September.
That’s the plus of our Chase scenario these days. You can give up ground early, as long as you can recover and be in the top 12 by Richmond. Then like always, in those final 10 Chase races it is a whole new season.
There are still folks that want to go back to the old format.
Folks, that isn’t going to happen. Respect the past but live in the present.
This is 2011. This is what we are racing under today. This is what we are and this is what’s going to happen. The “What if’s” simply don’t cut it anymore. You can’t keep saying “What if . . . ” It doesn’t pay the bills and it doesn’t get you to Victory Lane.
The battle cry this year should revolve around what is in front of us and who is putting it out there on the line.
The holidays are over. The teams are all back to work. It’s 2011 — 2010 is in the books, so if you want to go back to it, all you are doing is backing up.