The Frontstretch: NASCAR Predictions To Make You Laugh by Thomas Bowles -- Sunday July 30, 2006

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NASCAR Predictions To Make You Laugh

Bowles - Eye View · Thomas Bowles · Sunday July 30, 2006

 

One of the funniest things I've encountered since starting to write about this sport in 2001 is how readers and fans truly believe that with your license to write in NASCAR, you've automatically developed a side career…as a psychic.

That's right. Whether it's asking me to pick your fantasy team for you, to deduce whether Budweiser will still be the primary sponsor for Dale, Jr. in 2012, or to say when Kentucky Speedway will be added to the Nextel Cup schedule (all real questions I've gotten in my email inbox this year), you readers can be a pretty crazy bunch sometimes.

Don't get me wrong; receiving those emails is definitely an honor, because I truly appreciate and respect that people will look to me to answer those types of questions about the future. I truly hate to burst that bubble…but… I'm going to let you in on a little secret. While I'd like to think I'm pretty knowledgeable about this sport, in terms of predicting the future, I'm no different than any Joe Schmo out there on the street with a crystal ball in front of Madame Tussaud's. My NASCAR fantasy team continually finishes at the bottom of the barrel in pretty much any league I try to participate in (I still blame it on a classic case of constantly overthinking my team to the point of picking too much on past history). I also have as much luck as predicting the winner of each race as winning the lottery; over at SI.com, I'm currently 4th out of 5 writers in the "pick the winner" standings this year.

But it's my yearlong predictions that truly take the cake. In the last off week of the Nextel Cup section, I thought it high time to sit back and share a few laughs with you all at my list of predictions for what would unfold in this sport back in February. It's truly memorable…for all the wrong reasons.

Rookie of the Year : February Prediction
I don’t think there’s any doubt Truex, Jr. is the overwhelming favorite here. Clint Bowyer and Denny Hamlin have the best chance at giving him a run for his money, but in the end, even subpar D.E.I. equipment won’t keep a star of the future from making his mark on the Nextel Cup Series, perhaps even with a race win to go along with the rookie trophy.

Whoops! Just a little off base on that one, to say the least. While Hamlin has two race wins already and is cruising in the Top 10 in points, Truex, Jr. has just two Top 10 finishes and is struggling to crack the Top 20 in the standings.

Biggest Surprise : February Prediction
Throughout all the hubbub of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Jeff Gordon missing the 2005 Chase, people forgot how Joe Nemechek would have snuck into the Top 10, if not for a blown engine while leading at California last February. With solid, veteran MB2 teammates in Sterling Marlin and possibly even Bill Elliott in a reasonable part-time schedule, this could be the year “Front Row Joe” finally backs up his qualifying runs with tangible race results.

Well, I guess Nemechek has been a surprise…for how badly he's been heading in the opposite direction. Part of the MB2 disaster of 2006, Nemechek has yet to finish in the Top 10 in any race this season, slumping to 30th in driver points and putting his team in danger of having to qualify on speed. Chased him right out of contention, didn't I?

Biggest Disappointment : February Prediction
There are a few rookies I could see ousted before the end of the year, but the veteran driver in the worst shape in my mind is Kevin Harvick. Although the circumstances may not be entirely his fault, his performance the past two seasons has not reflected his standing as RCR’s #1 driver, and with Toyota beckoning in 2007, a slow start may mean a new beginning for Harvick somewhere else, with an early release coming after Richmond in September.

Yeah, Toyota wishes they could have gotten their hands on Harvick. With a win at Phoenix and a spot in the Chase nearing lockdown status, Harvick only has to find me walking around the garage area and set me straight about how I abandoned ship on RCR so quickly and his "to do" list for the regular season will be all but completed.

2006 Champion : February Prediction
I’m going with a gut feeling more than anything, but at the end of last year, no one was running better than Carl Edwards. There are many things that scream out “sophomore slump,” but in a year where the title chase appears wide open, if Edwards has a storybook run to a Nextel Cup title, don’t be surprised.

Thanks a lot, Tony Stewart. Should have known "gut feelings" would make me stomach sick…

Biggest Problem of 2006 : February Prediction
Without question, the tires are the series’ biggest question mark. The race at Lowe’s last Fall was a debacle that left a black eye on the sport’s integrity and put NASCAR in a position in which they nearly (and should have) cancelled the event. Goodyear claims they have a better tire for the coming season, but with the current spoiler and tire rules, you have to be at least a little skeptical about how much they can actually improve the compound. Ever the optimist, I’m hoping for the best…but reality sings a different tune that problems will continue.

This one is actually the closest I came to a reasonable prediction…there are still some tracks, such as the abovementioned Lowe's, where tires continue to be a problem. However, harder and better compounds produced by Goodyear have made this a non-issue at other tracks, as we're seeing green flag pit stops again for the first time in ages. Looks like Goodyear is owed a "thank you" card from me…although I still can't quite get over all the races last year that they ruined. Maybe this Christmas, I'll get around to it.

So, as you can see, even the writers don't always get it right. There's a famous saying somewhere that the best kind of laughter is when you're able to laugh at yourself…all I need to do is look at the computer screen for proof of that. For those readers who took my predictions to heart, backing it up with their checkbook…while I wish I could have served you better, but I hope you learned a lesson.

If I had the power to predict the future, I certainly wouldn't be doing this column, and neither would any of your other NASCAR writers out there. Of course, that doesn't mean we won't stop trying…there's always the off chance I could actually get one of these things right someday.

Looks like that chance will have to wait for 2007.

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Cami
07/31/2006 06:46 AM
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Good points there Tom! I mean just look how Mike’s picks have done so far in our Picks N Pans column. :)
(Insert shameless plug here: Which will be back this week!)

Luke
07/31/2006 09:36 AM
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Tom, I think the biggest reasons that reader ask these questions is that they feel writers are “in the loop”, and have heard/seen things that the general population hasn’t yet. Whether it’s from little birdies, or just being closer to the sport than they are.

While that may be the rare case from time to time, it by far isn’t the norm.

Melissa20
07/31/2006 02:11 PM
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What does Tony have to do with Carl not making the Chase? Don’t be blaming Tony for that. If it wasen’t for Carl running and finishing so badly he never would have been on the bubble to make the Chase.

James M
07/31/2006 02:25 PM
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Hey boss,

Don’t beat yourself up! Your predictions were damn reasonable at the time. Just goes to show how unpredictable NASCAR racing can be. The fact that things don’t often happen as “predicted” (not just by the media, but by fans too) is what makes this sport so much fun to watch.

I think a lot of fans like being surprised, like with the Hamlin situation. Nobody doubted he’d do well and win races eventually, but for this to happen so fast is nothing short of amazing. To a lesser extent it reminds me of 2004 with Brian Vickers/Kasey Kahne. Everybody thought Vickers would come out of the box on fire, and Kahne stole the show that year. Granted, neither one of them won a race, but by the end of that year Kahne was a household name. And EMS has had its time and patience rewarded with his results this year.

The “bad” surprises – i.e. Edwards, Nemecheck, are NOT fun to see but just reinforce that there’s only so much you can do to “predict” anything with NASCAR.

I think when David Gilliand goes out and wins a Busch race in a woefully underfunded car, the concept of predicting the future in NASCAR kind of goes out the window…

Mike
07/31/2006 07:57 PM
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Oh Cami, Cami, Cami. It is a marathon, not a sprint. Just because you did better for a couple of weeks, don’t think you have been annointed the Fantasy Goddess just yet. We’ll see how it looks when Homestead gets here.

Bonkrr
07/31/2006 10:34 PM
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While Carl and his team haven’t run well enough to be in the chase to this point, they were starting to run better. Tony may not have dug the hole, but he likely nailed the coffin shut with his assinine driving.

 

Contact Tom Bowles

Recent articles from Tom Bowles:

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