"Speedweeks 2009" is finally here and we can put all the doom and gloom talk of economic issues and finances on hold for real racing. This weekend marks the beginning of the 51st time stock cars have gathered at "The World Center of Racing" for the annual mid-winter festival of speed.
The week is jam-packed with racing and a variety of events so for strictly laughs, here's one man's opinion of how things will go. Remember this is for entertainment purposes only so please, no wagering:
Things start off with the annual ARCA RE/MAX Series Daytona 200 on Saturday afternoon as the Toledo-based stock car series kicks off its season with the traditional Daytona opener. This year's field is its usual eclectic mix of youth and veterans, led by the "seasoned" Bobby Gerhart, who is shooting for his record sixth win in the race. Phenom Joey Logano is also in the show as "Sliced Bread" looks for valuable seat time and I think he'll get it - and then some - when he celebrates Saturday afternoon in victory lane.
It's a different-looking Shootout in terms of how the field was set but once the green flag flies it will most likely be teh typical wild affair we've grown accstomed to over the years. With so many new faces in new places this year, it could gt even wilder. Hendrick and JGR will battle it out like they did last year and since Dale Earnhardt, Jr. took the checkered flag for HMS in 2008, I'll go with the Gibbs bunch this season and hand it to Kyle Busch.
DAYTONA 500 QUALIFYING
Only the front row gets locked in for "The Great American Race" and qualifying 57 cars on a restrictor plate track could rival the recent 24 Hours of Daytona in time. But once it's over, look for Yates Power to be upfront with Bobby Labonte getting off to a fast start with the Hall of Fame Racing Team and its alignment to Yates with RCR's Kevin Harvick outside row one.
GATORADE DUEL AT DAYTONA TWIN 150s
Kind of hard to pick these winners ahead of time since the starting fields aren't known until after 500 qualifying with odd qualifiers in one and even qualifiers in the other. So rather than picking winners - although I see Dale Earnhardt, Jr. winning the race he's in and a JGR Toyota taking the other - the Cinderella stories of who makes the race might be the ones to watch. I'm picking the new Tommy Baldwin entry and Joe Nemechek as two of the Davids to beat the Goliath chances of making the 500 this year.
TRUCK SERIES OPENER
Lots of changes in the trucks this year with a new series sponsor in Camping World and many many driver and team changes. We will have a full field at Daytona but things will get tough after that. Kyle Busch will start his busy season of Cup, Nationwide and truck racing with a Daytona win for owner Billy Ballew.
NATIONWIDE SERIES OPENER
This race will have a large field of Cup regulars in it as many try to get more seat time in preparation for Sunday's Daytona 500. Others like Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer are also running for the Nationwide title. Edwards will get things off to a good start in his quest for a third title in three years with a Daytona win.
NASCAR's Super Bowl should be a very competitve affair this year and although the super teams will dominate, the racing among teammates at Hendrick, Roush, JGR and RCR will be fierce. Jeff Gordon went winless last season for the first time in 15 years and h'll put an end to that quickly by beginning the year with another Daytona 500 win.
Okay there you have it. Now let's see how reality plays itself out.