It’s almost time for the 2012 NASCAR Season to start soon. In seven days, the Budweiser Shootout (the unofficial season opener) will take place, featuring the deepest field of drivers in that event for some time.
Here are some things I will be looking out for this season…some questions that will no doubt be answered one way or the other as the season progresses.
1. Will Kurt Busch do as well with James Finch’s Phoenix Racing operation as he has done in his days at Roush and Penske?
As many of you have heard, Kurt will no longer be racing for Penske this season as they have parted ways, mostly due to an unfortunate incident. Kurt Busch leaves behind a lucrative contract from Shell Penzoil in order to pursue more racing fun with the underfunded Phoenix organization. There are several upsides to this though. Phoenix racing uses Hendrick engines! A car with a Hendrick engine has won the last six championships in a row. With that kind of power under the hood Busch could definitely thrive, if it is consistent. Sometimes Phoenix Racing experiments with Research and Development packages that don’t turn out too well…as we have seen from Landon Cassil’s efforts last season. However, Busch is a different kind of racer. Nobody has more to prove these days than Busch. He will be very competative on the track, at Daytona for sure, and perhaps other places too if Phoenix Racing can get their program together. Hopefully Busch can remain competitive.
2. Will A.J. Almendinger be a suitable replacement for Kurt Busch?
The new driver of the #22 Shell Penzoil / AAA Dodge is indeed former CART star A.J. Almendinger. Almendinger has had mediocre to moderately decent finishes in the Sprint Cup Series standings. Now driving for Penske, Almendinger finally has a chance to “prove himself” in top level equipment. Almendinger has big shoes to fill as Kurt Busch has been a consistent chase contender for the championship.
3. Will Jimmie Johnson be able to win another championship?
A very inconsistent thing happened for NASCAR’s dream team in that the Hendrick owned #48 Lowes team did not win a championship for the first time in five seasons. If anyone can bounce back it seems that they would be the first team able to.
4. Can Carl Edwards win a championship?
After finishing a disappointing second place in the Sprint Cup Series standings (He and Tony were tied in points but Tony had more wins) there is nobody who wants it more than Carl Edwards at this point and he will definitely try his hardest.
5. Will any of these newly formed race teams be able to be competitive?
In the last week or so there have been formations of several new race teams, the most highly acclaimed of these being Simco Motorsports, The yet to be named former Red Bull Racing organization and America Israel Racing. It makes me wonder that with so little time before the season starts, are these teams serious about being competative, or will they just hang around the back of the pack and drop out of races after the first few laps? We will have to wait and see.
Those are the NASCAR questions that have been on my mind the last little while. It should be interesting.
*NOTE: The “Picks For The Win” segment will resume next week with the non-points Budweiser Shootout race!*
Pictures from www.jayski.com and Google Images