Like many of you, I work between Christmas and New Year. I’ve done all the work I can do at my real job, cleaned up boxes of photo albums at home and helped install a new bathroom. While listening to my wife advise/nag me about accomplishing these tasks, my mind wandered to the weekends of 2010. I can imagine it now. The sound of engines and Darrell Waltrip will force my wife away in disgust, leaving me alone with my beer, nachos and Paul Menard crashes.
It’s under that context/haze that I bring you the end result of my mental contemplations, what others would call the bold predictions of 2010. (My boldest prediction is at the bottom of the column. And yes, my editor has promised to test me for crack.)
This feels like false advertising. Michael Waltrip won’t make the Chase as a driver. He will as an owner. Martin Truex Jr., Chowder Man, has made the Chase. David Reutimann has won a race. Marcos Ambrose improved throughout the year and helps with road racing strategy. And as my classmate from freshman English told me after a random bar encounter a few weeks ago:
"If Michael Waltrip was such a dope, how could he make it almost two decades as a driver?"
Touche’, Jason. Touche’. Waltrip’s a smart guy who can now focus on owning a team. It will pay dividends in September.
He is one of the 12 best drivers on the Sprint Cup circuit. His surroundings aren’t. At some point, this has to become a factor. I say it’s in 2010.
Two weeks ago, I thought the No. 88 was due for a huge comeback. Then my slightly goofy uncle came up with a point I couldn’t refute:
"You think Rick Hendrick hasn’t pumped everything he can into that sorry !#% team already?"
Add the work, pressure and responsibility that comes with Danica Patrick’s addition and I just don’t see 2010 ending well for the 88. I hope I’m wrong on this one.
Maybe it’s health. Maybe it’s age. Maybe it’s something I can’t think of right now. But Jeff Gordon can’t close races the way he once could. Mark Martin has been a bridesmaid more often than Katherine Heigl. (You’re welcome.)
That leaves Jimmie Johnson. I know he’s won four straight. But, you saw all the interviews JJ did after this title. He really seemed to enjoy it, as he should. All I’m saying is the rubber chicken circuit tends to wear on people. So does being a marked man every single mile of every single week over half a decade. At some point it’s reasonable to think any driver, even Jimmie Johnson, can slip just enough for someone else to take the throne.
Tony Stewart knows how to win titles. Kyle Busch knows how to win races. Denny Hamlin knows how to be edgy. Carl Edwards knows how to run in even-numbered years. I don’t know how it’s going to happen. But I believe it’s going to happen. The streak ends in 2010.