Friday, September 17, 2010

Reviewing my pre-season picks

This weekend not only marks the start of the Chase, but it is also that time of year to look back to February and see how I have done with my preseason picks. Shortly before the season opening Daytona 500, I predicted who the Chasers would be and where they would finish in the final standings. And to top it off, I also included who I expected to make their first trip in victory lane in 2010. Without further adieu, lets view my pre-season picks.

1. Jimmie Johnson – One for one so far, but lets face it – this pick was a freebie. Even my dog knew Jimmie was making the Chase this year.
2. Denny Hamlin – A popular pre-season pick by many to win it all this year, Hamlin has been Johnson’s toughest competitor this season as far as victories go.
3. Kyle Busch – In February, I documented my approval of the crew chief change with Dave Rogers. The change appears to be paying off – not because of the consistency or the 3 wins, but it looks like the 18 team is getting stronger going into the final 10 races, something they did not do with Steve Addington as crew chief the last two seasons. (Note: Kyle’s brother Kurt appears to be suffering the same fate with Addington. They started the season off wicked strong, but have faded since the summer months.)
4. Tony Stewart – I was right predicting Tony to make the Chase. However, if you have read any of my blogs, you will know I started to change my stance back in May. When he was sitting 18th in the points with only one top 5 and 3 top 10’s, I was convinced Tony was not going to make it. Of course, Tony went on his typical hot streak, and no driver has scored more points since than Smoke himself.
5. Carl Edwards – Like Stewart, it almost seemed like Edwards was going to miss the Chase this season. But, also like Stewart, Edwards has picked it up over the past nine races, having not finished worse than 12th in that stretch.
6. Jeff Gordon – Half way there, 6 for 6! Despite being shut out of victory lane, Gordon is tied for second most top 5’s with 10 along with 13 top 10 finishes.
7. Mark Martin – My first miss. Prior to this season, Martin had made every Chase in which he was running full time. Mark was looking pretty good up until Charlotte, but since then his best finish has been 7th with NO other top 10’s.
8. Clint Bowyer – The last driver to make in the 2010 Chase. Don’t expect him to finish last, though, as Bowyer has shown enough consistency to possible be top 5 at season’s end.
9. Greg Biffle – I noted before the start of the season I would be surprised to see him shut out of victory lane this year. And thanks to his Pocono win, Biffle’s season has been about what I expected.
10. Matt Kenseth – Kenseth is quietly in the Chase once again for his sixth career playoff appearance. Although he isn’t tearing it up with a bunch of top 10 finishes, he has only finished outside the top 20 TWICE this year. Impressive, but it won’t win you anything.
11. Brad Keselowski – Yuck. I really whiffed on this one. Go ahead and make fun of me for it. Brad hasn’t managed a single top 10 finish this year (he would have had one at Atlanta if not for Carl Edwards. But even one top 10 finish is pretty said given the expectations I had for Keselowski).
12. Jeff Burton – This will mark Burton’s 4th career Chase appearance. The hot streak he had to end last year definitely carried over into 2010, just like I thought. Ten of twelve isn’t too bad, is it?

Drivers I didn’t expect to make the Chase that did

Kevin Harvick – Many thought Harvick would rebound from a disastrous 09 season to make the Chase this year. For whatever reason, I was not one of those many. Despite Harvick’s resurgence, few expected him to be so dominant. Not only did he make the Chase, he was the first one locked in as he led the points standing for most of the year.

Kurt Busch – I like Steve Addington, I really do, but I believe he is overrated as a crew chief. That was exactly why I had Busch missing the Chase this year. Luckily, Addington proved me wrong, but at the same time, Kurt Busch and the Blue Deuce look to have lost their early season swagger.

First time winners

I expected Marcos Ambrose to be the lone first time winner this year, and I expected it to be at a road course. Well, Ambrose still does not have a Cup win and there are no more road courses left this year. Really though, he had Sonoma in the bag until he and his fuel system choked it away.

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