Shootout and the start of Speedweeks 2006, the kickoff to the whole season.
Pre-season testing has already happened at Daytona and Las Vegas.
A couple of stories that will be interesting to watch this year:
Tony Stewart and Joe Gibbs Racing - coming off his second Championship in 4
years, Tony has firmly established himself as one of the premier racers in
the country. As Mark Martin said "Tony Stewart is the greatest racecar
driver in this era." Tony got his temper in check last season, and it
seemed to work wonders. I would expect that to continue this year, though
an outburst here or there wouldn't surprise me! With Bobby Labonte leaving,
TS is also the vetran driver at JGR now. They have what appears to be tons
of talent in Denny Hamlin in the #11 car, and JJ Yeley in the #18 car.
Hamlin performed excellently in the last part of the season in the #11 car
(3 Top 10s in 7 starts). Yeley has a very similar background to TS, and
like him, he has never really lit it up in the Busch series. May be a long
year for Yeley, but the talent appears to be there. Before we start 06, let's just remember this one last time.
Kurt Busch in the #2 Miller Lite car - with Rusty Wallace retiring, Kurt Busch moves to Penske to take over the #2 car.
Of course, Busch was suspended by Jack Rousch for the last 2 races of last season after he got
into an altercation with a cop before the Phoenix race. Busch could
not have ended the season on a more down note, and for someone that has
traditionally had issues with fan and sponsor support, he will certainly be
looking to wipe the slate clean with this new team.
Jamie McMurray in the #26 Rousch car - with Busch moving to Penske, it
opened up the ride at Rousch to be filled by McMurray.
Bobby Labonte and Petty Enterprises - after 11 years with JGR, Bobby Labonte is moving
to Petty to drive the famous #43 car. In addition to Bobby, Petty has added
Robbie Loomis to oversee the teams, and Todd Parrot to be Labonte's crew
chief. Petty has added Championship-winning people in Labonte, Loomis and
Parrot, so it will be interesting to see if these moves can put a Petty car
back in victory lane for the first time since 1999, and Labonte back for the
first time since 2003.
Dale Jr. & DEI - Jr. is coming off of an awful 2005 season, that saw him log
only 5 Top 5s, one Win, and miss the Chase. After swapping crews with the
#15 team before the season, this team struggled almost all year. Late in
the season, Jr. and his cousin Eury Jr. put aside their differences, and
Eury Jr. was back as crew chief of the #8 car. With Waltrip leaving DEI,
Jr. prodigy Truex Jr. will step in as the #8 cars full time teammate this
season. I have a feeling this two will work really well together, as they
appear to be good friends, and no matter what they said, I never thought
Mike and Jr. cared for each other. Also, it appears that DEI's dominance
at restrictor plate tracks has all but gone away. We'll see. There are a
lot of Juniors on this team.
Michael Waltrip - Sorry Mike, I think your time in the sun may have come
and gone. The TV cameras love you because you are a good interview, but I
have a feeling that this team is going to struggle mightily this year, and
we won't be seeing Waltrip too much. Napa is pissed. Looks for Mike to
get more airtime talking about Toyota entering the series in 07, than for
his top finishes.
Greg Biffle - After a long off-season spent tightening lugnuts, look for the #16 team to make another strong run this year.
This team had a great run, and if they can be a little more consistent some at some tracks (no top 10s in any plate or road courses)
they should make another run for the Championship.
Jeff Gordon - Jeff Gordon has a long season last year. They started off
well, and then really struggled. A late season crew chief change seemed to
really get the #24 team back on track (5 Top 10s and 3 Top 5s in the last 7
races). I expect the #24 to pick up where they left off, and be solidly in
the Top 10 (Top 5?) by the end of the year.
Jimmie Johnson - he is having a hard time escaping the question of "Can he win it all?"
For the second year in a row, JJ had a great Chase and a shot
to win it all, but he faded right at the end. Also, at the end of the
season, there was a lot of talk of friction between crew chiew Chad Knaus
and JJ. They deny it, but maybe JJ thought it was a stupid idea to trash
talk the #20 team and "try to get inside their heads." We all know how that
worked out. For some reason, I have a feeling this team will struggle more
this year than they have in a while. My guess is they make the Chase, but
never really contend for the Championship.
Dale Jarrett - retire or race the truck. One or the other.
Rule Changes - it appears that NASCAR is all but doing away with impound races this year.
There seemed to be no real consistency to it, and
it seemed to confuse the teams. Also, it seems like there will not be as
many aero changes this year, and hopefully this will allow teams to tune
into what they have, and the racing will ultimately improve. It seems like
some teams struggled to get the hang of the new package last year, but when
they did, they saw quick results (see the 20 team's midsummer run). As
NASCAR gets ready to introduce the highly touted Car Of Tomorrow next season,
hopefully there won't be too much endless tinkering this year.
That's it for now, I'll add more as I think of it and I get closer (I'll change the title too).
Is anyone still reading?
Edited by ragecage, 20 November 2006 - 11:48 AM.