2006 Nascar Season Preview ]]> include($base_url . “/includes/header.htm”); ?>
|THE BUDWEISER SHOOTOUT MEANS NASCAR IS HERE!
by Bob Acton of Sportingbet USA – now SuperBook.com –
A few years ago I never could have envisioned myself sittingdown to discuss the beginning of the NASCAR season, but hey yourenever too old to learn right? Actually 2005 was a great year interms of racing and the sport is just booming and what I likemost about NASCAR is the great personalities that bring so muchcolor to the track.
It sometimes reminds me a little of Vince McMahon and his wrestlingoperations as you have drivers who came be crowd favorites oneweek and the next weekend they are blocking traffic on the trackand threatening other drivers.
For years the bad boy of the track was Tony Stewart and thisguy was out of control on several occasions and then last yearhe becomes the poster boy of the sport with his Nextel Cup Championship.Obviously Mr. Joe Gibbs coach of the Redskins and owner of theracing team has been a positive influence on the Indiana native.
Most experts around the oval are suggesting that Jimmie Johnsonthe driver not the former football coach will bag his first titlethis year. Hes come agonizing close three times already, finishingsecond in the points in 2003 and 2004 and fifth last year.
His 2003 run gave the team the confidence it needed to go afterthe title and it opened 2004 as the team to beat, winning eightraces while spending most of the season atop the standings. Buta late season swoon forced Johnson to fight his way back intocontention and ultimately he fell eight points shy of the titlein NASCARs closest championship race.
Then 2005 was supposed to be Johnsons year ashe came out surging, leading in points for 17 weeks but againhis team faltered and could not keep pace with eventual winnerStewart. He ended the season on a sour note with a blown tirein the final race, which basically summed up the attitude in thepits!
Someone once said that out of defeat come ourgreatest triumphs and Johnson and his crew chief Chad Knaus, bothfeel the lessons learned have made them stronger and wiser.
Jeff Gordon is the fifth driver to win threeor more Daytona 500s, joining Richard Petty (7), Cale Yarborough(4) and Bobby Allison and Dale Jarrett (3).
Gordon is 12 career victories away from beingthe all-time leader during the modern era. He is chasing DarrellWaltrip who has 84.
Though his ribs are still sore from a sprintcar crash last month, reigning NASCAR Nextel Cup champion TonyStewart would still rather be in a race car than sitting and frettingover his aching right side.
Stewart drove several long stints last weekendduring the Rolex 24 sports car endurance race in Daytona Beach,Fla!
Kurt Busch spent the first five full years ofhis NASCAR Nextel Cup career with Roush Racing, winning 14 racesand the 2004 championship. But, midway through last season, hesigned a contract with Penske Racing South for the 2007 season,a move that did not sit well with team owner Jack Roush.
Eventually, though, a deal was worked out tolet Busch leave to replace retiring Rusty Wallace in Penske’sNo. 2 Dodge in 2006.
Busch was stopped by police for running a stopsign the night before the Phoenix race. Although it was laterproven he was not driving under the influence of alcohol, therewere rumors after the traffic stop that he was. Adding to theproblem, Busch became belligerent with the police and was brieflydetained. We will watch this driver very closely!
What an outstanding first full season for Edwards,as he far exceeded all his goals and expectations by earning hisfirst four wins in Cup competition. He missed winning the championshipby a mere 35 points. Other than the title, the only other thingthe back-flipping Missouri native didn’t do was win Rookie ofthe Year which he wasn’t eligible for (he would have been arunaway winner).
In one season Edwards went from a virtual nobodyto a Nextel Cup superstar. But he comes into 2006 with two keyquestions: 1) Can he top last year’s performance? 2) Can he surviveNASCAR’s notorious sophomore jinx? Last year showed that Edwardsis the real deal, so any drop-off is unlikely. Yet it’s not outof the question, either look at what happened to Dale EarnhardtJr. and Jeff Gordon last season.
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