Cami Starr · Thursday February 9, 2006
With just a week left before the Busch Series and Craftsman Truck Series kick off their seasons, there are plenty of unanswered questions as the teams take to the track at Daytona. One of the biggest stories, of course, is the high number of Cup drivers planning on running full time in the Busch Series this year. While I won’t rehash the debate over the "Buschwhackers", it does bring up the question; can a full time Cup driver win the Busch Series title?
I’ll tackle that question and a few others in this week’s edition of Second Fiddle.
Will a "Buschwhacker" win the Busch Series title this year?
Without a Busch Series regular as dominant as Martin Truex Jr. has been in recent years, I think the point gap from the leader down the Top-10 will shrink considerably in this series. That leaves plenty of room for one of the six drivers running full time in both Busch & Cup to have a valid shot at winning the Busch title. Just look at last year’s final standings. Carl Edwards finished third in the points despite missing a race. Greg Biffle, running only 27 of the 35 races on the schedule, finished tenth. If I had to wager who I think will be the one to do it, I’d bet on Biffle or Edwards. Clint Bowyer was tough in the Busch Series last year, but I think running Cup as well may hurt his performance in Busch.
Who will be the next driver to join the triple win club?
Last year three drivers (Steve Park, Tony Stewart & Ricky Craven), joined the exclusive list of drivers who have won at least one race in each of NASCAR’S top three series. Currently, there are 15 drivers who have completed the feat, with just four drivers who have won in each series more than once.
This year, I think Johnny Benson has the best shot to become the latest driver to pull off this feat. With wins already in Busch & Cup, Benson was stout in the Trucks at the end of 2005, earning three third place finishes in the final four races of the year in the Truck Series.
Who will be the next emerging star in the Busch Series?
Each year, there seems to be one driver in the Busch Series that has a breakout year, with teams clamoring for his services in the Cup Series.
So who will it be this year? Todd Kluever is one name that keeps popping up. He’s been strong in testing so far in the offseason, but he doesn’t have to worry about his future Cup plans. He’s already slated to take over for Mark Martin in 2007.
If Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s crystal ball is as clear as it was when he tapped Martin Truex Jr., then Mark McFarland will be the next name you will be hearing for years to come out of his stable. McFarland will drive for JR Motorsports in 2006 and battle for Rookie of the Year honors in the series.
Another Cup driver putting on the owners’ cap in the Busch Series is Kevin Harvick. Harvick has tapped rookie Burney Lamar to run the second entry full time for KHI in the Busch Series in 2006, with Harvick and Tony Stewart splitting seat time in the second car. Harvick has shown in the past that he has a knack for spotting talent and has put together a winning organization. Watch Lamar in 2006 as he tries to break out of the pack to make a name for himself.
What regular Busch Series driver has the best shot at beating the Cup drivers?
With Martin Truex Jr. gone to the Cup series now, which Busch Series regular will step up and win a few races for the Busch guys in 2006?
Kenny Wallace, David Green and Jason Keller are all Busch veterans that managed to earn Top 10 spots in the standings last year. Green has championship experience and was in the thick of the point’s battle in 2003 and solid in the last two years. Wallace is starting his second season with ppc Racing, and not making another team switch in the offseason could pay off big for Herman in 2006. Keller hasn’t won since 2003, but a new ride with James Finch this year could pay dividends in the win column.
Of the three, I look for Wallace to have the better season and pick up a few more wins for the Busch regulars this year.
That wraps up all the preseason talk and armchair driving. When the cars hit the track next week at Daytona, the drivers will let the results speak for themselves, and all the answers to our questions will finally be answered. Maybe some of us media will have egg on our face, and maybe some of us will be smiling knowing we called it right. But I’ll gladly put my own ego and predictions aside as long as we have one constant on the track: great, competitive racing out of both Busch & Trucks this season.
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