Monday, January 17, 2011

Three drivers who could pick up first win in 2011

Greetings race fans, welcome to my first blog of the year.  A great season is in the rear view mirror, and another is right on the horizon.   One thing I know I am hoping for is some first time winners.  With the lack of development in NASCAR’s lower tier series, we have been limited to seeing the same group of guys winning each week.  While I don’t expect this upcoming year to produce the next Jeff Gordon, I believe to see some first time winners again. After having none in two of the past three seasons, here are the candidates most likely to put a different face in victory lane.

AJ Allmendinger – In today’s NASCAR, if you aren’t having success in your first couple of years, you might as well start looking for new work.  Allmendinger, who was a victim of this in 2008 at Red Bull Racing, was able to get a second chance at Richard Petty Motorsports.  He has made the most of his opportunity, and has steadily improved each season.  His career race came in last year’s fall event at Dover, leading 143 laps before a speeding penalty on pit road eliminated his chances of winning.  Still, Allmendinger proved he can compete with the best and that a trip to the winner’s circle is near.

Marcos Ambrose –With his undeniable talent on the road courses, Ambrose will continue to be on this list (and everyone else’s) every year until he finally wins a race.  Last year at Infineon, he was well on his was to victory number one until he thought it would be a good idea to turn off his fuel thirsty engine going up a hill.  Despite being known for his road racing prowess, he has been competitive on the short tracks as well, having a finished in the top 10 in half of his Bristol and Richmond races.  Like his new teammate Allmendinger, Ambrose is still looking for that first win.  Now that he is driving for a team that has proven capable of winning, 2011 just might be the year the Aussie seals the deal. 

Paul Menard – I admit, this one is a bit of a stretch.  However, as long as restrictor plate racing is around, anything is possible.  Despite having no top-10’s in any restrictor plate race last year, Menard’s career best finish came at Talladega in 2008, finishing runner up to Tony Stewart. Going back to his Nationwide days Menard always proved to be a threat at Daytona and Talladega.  There was also vast improvement on the intermediate tracks last year, where five of his six top 10’s came on the 1.5 mile venues.  Now that he is with Richard Childress Racing, expect more top 10’s and maybe a surprise trip to victory lane.

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