By Dean Reller
ST CLOUD, MN (February 7, 2010)- I'd like to make a bold prediction about how someone is going to dethrone the hottest NASCAR driver in recent memory, but I cant bring myself to do that. Jimmie Johnson has won four straight Sprint Cup championships and really hasn't made any changes that would keep him from doing it again this year. Johnson will be back in the same equipment, with the same crew and sponsors so, coming into the year there, is no significant change that would keep the team from doing what they do best, win Championships. Daytona and the early season races only seem to be a tune up for the 48 team as they find out what doesn't work and then they gain momentum as the Race To The Chase begins only to be at their strongest as they enter The Chase For The Championship. Once again I see Jimmie Johnson taking it all to the bank.
A familiar mix of drivers will also be in contention and possibly could unseat Johnson if Jimmie and company slip ever so slightly. Leading that group is Mark Martin who has been so close, oh so many times. Mark is in some of the best equipment he's had in years, and will be starting the 500 from the pole, so the "Ageless Wonder" might finally be able to win that elusive race and possibly the Championship. Jeff Gordon again will be knocking on the door and will just a couple of better finishes than last year, he could put himself back on top for his fifth Championship. Tony Stewart used last year to work the bugs out of his new team, winning races and having several top finishes in the process. This year, Stewart should be stronger and will easier find himself at or near the top, when racing winds down in November. 2010 will be much better for Dale Jr. and Carl Edwards. Both of these drivers struggled in 2009, but should make significant rebounds as they will win races and put themselves back in the fold as the season rolls on.
Don't let the first couple races of the year be an indicator for the rest of the season. Remember Matt Kenseth won the first two races last year and then took a significant fall, which too nearly the rest of the season to rebound from. The great thing about NASCAR is that it is a long season and there will be plenty of excitement along the way. So buckle up, the ride is about to begin.