Monday, January 11, 2010

Top 10 Motorsports Things To Look Forward To in 2010

(In no particular order)

Alonso vs Hamilton vs Button vs Schumacher

Yes, on paper, this upcoming Formula One season looks to be one of the best showdowns in the series' history. Four world champions, including three of the last four, will all be driving in top equipment for the three biggest names in the business (Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes)...

We have the potential for Michael Schumacher to make a successful comeback, since he's jumping into last season's championship car, and has Ross Brawn at his side...

We have Fernando Alonso at Ferrari, and above all else he's known to be the best driver in the series in terms of car DEVELOPMENT--so you know the Ferrari will be more competitive than last year...

And we have the last two world champions, Button and Hamilton, at McLaren, making up a British "super team"...

We also have Vettel and Webber lurking in the shadows. So we potentially have six drivers (Rosberg = seven?) who can win races, possibly more, and four manufacturers doing battle at the top of the grid.

Or not: Looking at this objectively, though, and comparing it to past Formula One seasons, it's quite possible none of that will happen.

Button is quick, and a very good underdog champion who rightly deserved his championship (see my previous post), but is he quick enough to beat Hamilton in equal equipment? I doubt it, but it'll be fun to watch either way.

Webber and Vettel, in my opinion, will not have the car to compete for the championship consistently. I just don't see it happening.

Schumacher will no doubt run as quick as the car is capable of, and maybe even win some races, but it's just as possible that the new Mercedes (formerly Brawn) car will be as good as it was at the END of last season--which it was not.

And Alonso is sure to find some speed in the Ferrari--but considering how awful it was last season, will it be enough?

I think it's just as possible Hamilton runs away with his second title. I'd like to see otherwise, but that may be wishful thinking.

Brad Keselowski at Penske

This kid has something to prove, and has a style and tenacity that, dare I say it, reminds you of a young Dale Earnhardt. He'll have equipment on par with Kurt Busch, who made the Chase and won two races last year--I predict Keselowski makes it into the Chase, at minimum.

Or Not: It's also possible he'll be wreck-prone and end up like Kyle Busch, winning a few but overall finishing poorly.

Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series

The Grand-Am Rolex Series is already proving to be the best road racing North America has seen in a long time, with strong fields in both classes and, in particular with the Prototypes, nail-biting championship battles. My vote for story of the year? Stevenson Motorsports has switched to the new Camaro, now that Pontiac is dead. While a new car is always a challenge, it's being built by Pratt & Miller, the same folks who build the all-conquering Corvettes for LeMans. Seeing these guys tussle with Porsche and the awesome Mazda RX-8s will be worth the viewing alone.

Or Not: While GT sounds better than ever, Prototype teams are beginning to scale back due to the economy. Penske is closing up his 2-car team, which did not win a race in 2009 but were looking close. On top of that, Brumos Porsche will be reduced to a single car team, in part because of JC France's crack posession charges.

The Nationwide Series

For the first time since the 90s, I'm actually excited about a new Nationwide Series season. Why? As of right now, the only Cup driver set to run a full schedule is Carl Edwards. That means that there's a somewhat reasonable chance a Nationwide driver might actually compete for the Nationwide Championship!! Couple that with a better and more diverse schedule than the boring-ass Cup series (Montreal, Road America, Watkins Glen, Iowa, ORP, Gateway? HELL YES), and new Nationwide-series cars that actually SOMEWHAT resemble Mustangs and Challengers... This could be very interesting.

Or Not: Kyle Busch will still be racing twenty-someodd events, and there'll still be plenty of Cup invaders throughout the season stealing wins and points from underfunded, hard-luck Nationwide teams. Plus, the Challenger and Mustang bodies look great but might end up sucking.

Camping World Truck Series

While Cup continues to suck and suck, the Truck Series continued its successful ratings climb on The SPEED Channel. This season should be good, though there may still be sponsorship question marks for some teams. The good news is, Ron Hornaday will continue to try and re-write the record books with his 5th championship, but he'll do so with a new crew chief, as Rick Ren has defected to head up Kyle Busch's new Truck Series team. This may give the competition some time to catch up, and Busch's team is sure to be stout, with Taylor Malsam and Bryan Ickler. Hopefully, we can also see former champ Johnny Benson back in a truck thanks to Kyle Busch, if they can find sponsorship. Add to that Matt Crafton, Todd Bodine and Mike Skinner coming back to take another crack at the championship, and a red-hot Aric Almorola taking over Kyle Busch's dominant #51 truck, and we have the makings of another kickass truck season.

Or Not: Not much of an "or not", since the Trucks always kick ass... But Kyle Busch is still gonna show up for a ton of races, and win a ton of races, this time in his own truck, shared with Ickler.

Mark beating Jimmie

Wishful thinking perhaps, but had Mark not got caught up in that wreck at Talladega and that bizarre screw-up at Charlotte, he would be the 2009 Champ, quite possibly. I expect him to fire on all cylinders right out of the gate this season, and provided we don't see two straight blown motors, we can expect to see him fight for the title again, maybe for once beating the so-called "Superman."

Or Not: Then again, the Chase sucks, and Jimmie Johnson's team has figured out the Chase. A fifth straight title is almost as likely.

Danica in Stockcars

Only time will tell... She was quick in drafting practice but, let's face it, drafting around Daytona with a bullshit restrictor plate is not the same thing as racing at any other track. She has the skill (and couldn't show it because she wasn't with one of The Big Two teams in the IRL), but she will have NO excuses as she steps into Brad Keselowski's old car, which was a championship contender in the NWS and won several races. I think she's capable of winning, but not necessarily right out of the box. The question is whether people will give her enough time to prove it.

Or Not: Or all the Danica-haters are right and she's just a PR machine and will fail miserably.

Danica Wins the Indy 500

Right, right, I know. But sadly, the only reason she doesn't have a better shot at it is that she doesn't drive for Penske or Chip Ganassi. Sure, she re-upped with Andretti for a few more years and sure, they have great resources, but clearly they're doing something wrong, and so is the rest of the field... And the IRL won't do anything about it. People complain about Hendrick "dominating" NASCAR, but have they looked at the IRL lately? Anyway, she finished 3rd in a shit car last year, so who knows...

Or Not: She'll continue to go winless for another 3 years, or opt out of her contract after 2 years, and go Nationwide Racing fulltime. And if I had continued to be fed mediocre equipment and kept losing to the same two teams over and over and over and over and over, I'd probably do the same. At least I'll be seen on more than five televisions.

NASCAR Canadian Tire Series in Toronto

One of the very first CASCAR races I watched on TSN (as opposed to live) was at the Toronto Molson Indy. 20-someodd stockcars taking to a narrow, twisty street course with "no passing zones." They proceeded to put on probably the best street course race I've ever seen, with the top 5 swapping positions a dozen times over the course of the short race. Now they're finally returning to the venue, and I expect it to be no different. Go Micksey!

Or Not: Just a minor grump, but I was hoping Delaware would get two races. Oh well.

Bruno Senna in Formula One

A Senna is in Formula One, for the first time since 1994. Ayrton Senna once said that "if you thought he was fast, you should see his nephew." We'll get the chance, as he's signed for one of the new teams, Campos, for this season.

Or Not: In GP2 he had a grand total of three wins, struggled with consistency, and never won the championship, though he did finish second to Pantano. He'll be fast I'm sure, but will he be fast enough for one of the big teams to notice him?

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