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Archive for Thursday, February 15, 2007

A look ahead

Writers forecast 2007 Cup season

February 15, 2007

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David Poole

David Poole covers NASCAR for the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer.

¢ The 2007 Nextel Cup champion will be: Tony Stewart. In a season in which just about everything is changing, the sport's most versatile driver seems like the obvious choice to cope with it.

¢ The biggest surprise making the Chase will be: Elliott Sadler. Actually, I don't think there will be any surprises in the Chase this year; but the driver of the No. 19 Dodge will come closest.

¢ The biggest surprise missing the Chase will be: Greg Biffle. He finished second in 2005 but will miss the playoffs for a second straight season.

¢ This year's breakout driver: Dave Blaney. Bill Davis Racing will have the best year among Toyota's teams.

¢ The issue that will consume the sport this year will be: Dale Earnhardt Jr. and DEI. Until the sport's most popular driver is signed to a new contract, there's no bigger story.

¢ You won't believe this, but: Nextel Cup television ratings will go down again this year, mainly because so many of the sport's races are on cable.

John Sturbin

John Sturbin covers NASCAR for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

¢ The 2007 Nextel Cup champion will be: Matt Kenseth. Kenseth will put his team on notice that he won't tolerate the same kind of problems that plagued him late in 2006.

¢ The biggest surprise making the Chase will be: Casey Mears. The support from Hendrick Motorsports helps this underrated driver reach his potential.

¢ The biggest surprise missing the Chase will be: Denny Hamlin. This driver might be a little impressed with himself as he faces a sophomore jinx.

¢ This year's breakout driver: Juan Pablo Montoya. His real talent will begin to shine through in his first full season in stock cars.

¢ The issue that will consume the sport this year will be: The car of tomorrow. The new car could easily decide this year's champion, based on whose team took it seriously soonest.

¢ You won't believe this, but: Fans will quickly tire of ESPN beating them over the heads with blanket NASCAR coverage.

Jim Pedley

Jim Pedley covers NASCAR for the Kansas City (Mo.) Star.

¢ The 2007 Nextel Cup champion will be: Tony Stewart. He's got momentum from the end of the 2006 season and he's the best driver in the series.

¢ The biggest surprise making the Chase will be: Clint Bowyer. He almost did well enough to make it as a rookie, and now he's another year smarter.

¢ The biggest surprise missing the Chase will be: Denny Hamlin. He got through his first season relatively clean, but may run into more trouble this year.

¢ This year's breakout driver: Clint Bowyer. See above.

¢ The issue that will consume the sport this year will be: Rising costs, and not just for the teams. Eventually, the cost of being a fan will take its toll.

¢ You won't believe this, but: Juan Pablo Montoya will win a race this season.

Jim Utter

Jim Utter covers NASCAR for the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer.

¢ The 2007 Nextel Cup champion will be: Kevin Harvick. Harvick won his second Busch Series title last season and had his most successful year in Cup. There is no reason he should slow down.

¢ The biggest surprise making the Chase will be: Reed Sorenson. Ganassi is primed to make its first appearance in the Chase and Sorenson's team appears the one most ready to fit that role.

¢ This year's breakout driver: Mark Martin. Surely someone believes there is still time for Martin to stay one more season as a fulltime driver.

¢ This year's breakout driver: Casey Mears. Mears' new home at Hendrick Motorsports should help cash in on his potential.

¢ The issue that will consume the sport this year will be: The future of Dale Earnhardt Jr. In fact, it may consume all of sports.

¢ You won't believe this, but: Jeff Gordon will not win a fifth championship. Again.

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