Here's my preview for the upcoming Truck series season; includes my Daytona winner, rookie pick, manufacturer championship pick, shocking champion pick, owners title, and some scenarios we could see play out in 2010.
A note on my pic. I was looking at some pictures of Speed's F1 car, and came across this one. Thought it was very cool, and decided to use it for this article.
The best news heading into the 2010 season is that there are seven new teams that have started up and will be making their debuts at Daytona.
With good news comes bad news. Sadly, many teams are still struggling with finding sponsors and it affects both full or part-time teams.
Darlington Raceway, double-file restarts, normal pit stops with six pit crew members and the inaugural event at Pocono Raceway.
All of these will make this the most competitive season yet in series history and we'll see teammates battling for the title.
Ron Hornaday will be doing the "Drive for Five" (Titles) and the first to repeat as champion in the Truck series.
It also will be a very colorful year, paint scheme wise. I'm hearing that Rick Crawford will have a pretty awesome paint scheme at Daytona, with more to come over the season and Hornaday will also have some pretty neat paint schemes.
Unlike past seasons, this off-season was the busiest in series history with drivers, crew chiefs, and owners moving around making changes.
These changes could also be beneficial or detrimental to teams as the season plays out. We could see personnel changes made mid-season, should any of them be failures.
Of the changes made, here's three I like.
-The pairing of Hornaday and David Fugo will be a winner. They've raced as competitors in the Southwest Tour, then with Horn from the driver seat and Fuge from on top of the pit box.
-The pairing of Mike Skinner and Gene Nead will be another successful match.
-Kyle Busch Motorsports will have a slow start to the season, but let them get some races under their belt and look out.
With the season starting in two weeks, with the Nextera Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway.
It would be pretty cool to see Todd Bodine win his third consecutive truck race at Daytona and he'll join the likes of Cale Yarborough, Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Jr. to do it.
It looks like this year's rookie class for the Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors will be: Austin Dillon, Justin Lofton, Dillon Oliver, and Jennifer Jo Cobb.
I'm picking Dillon as my top rookie. He has an advantage with Richard Childress Racing experience, racing one of those stout KHI Silverados, and his crew chief Danny Stockman is loaded with talent. He was Rick Ren's right-hand man for Hornaday's No. 33.
I do think it'll still be a great battle between Dillon and Lofton and if sponsorship comes through for Cobb. It'll be great to see her in the mix and running full-time.
Manufacture-wise it's Chevrolet's year to reclaim its throne and win another manufacturer's title.
Here's my prediction for the top five, and my surprising Champion picks.
Both Tayler Malsam and Timothy Peters will have decent seasons, but finish sixth and seventh in the points respectively.
5. Todd Bodine
Bodine, like last season, has sponsorship issues, but he will win some races and will battle hard to stay in the top five.
Should he miss races due to sponsor issues, Malsam will be my fifth place finisher.
4. Mike Skinner
Skinner will have another great year, win some races, be in the title hunt late in the season, but come up short against those stout KHI Silverados he'll be racing against.
With my top three picks, any of the three drivers could be the 2010 champion. It all comes down to who's the most consistent, collecting bonus points and wins, and who has a little luck on their side.
3. Matt Crafton
Crafton willl have another great season, win a couple of races, battle hard...but Hornaday will beat him out by bonus points and Sauter will have one of those years where everything just clicks.
1. Ron Hornaday
My heart says go with Hornaday, he'll win regardless of who's on his pit wagon and it would be cool to see him be the first in series history to repeat as champion.
Horn will win some races again this year; it'll be another close battle all the way to Homestead and it'll come down to mere positions as to who's the champion.
1. Johnny Sauter
My brain says, don't overlook Sauter. Since being paired with crew chief Joe Shear Jr., he's been on fire, and will be da man at Thorsport Racing.
Sauter has everyone back, he'll win some races, be tough all season, hold his own bonus points wise and it'll come down who has lady luck on their side.
Of course, I could have this wrong with my top two picks, but I think the battle between the two for the championship will be too close to call and come down to Homestead as they battle to the checkers.
Now the Owner's title; it'll be like it's been for 16 years now, whomever wins driver wise will also win the owner's championship.
Some other interesting scenarios:
-The re-emergence of the Skinner-Hornaday rivalry, and it will only get better in 2010.
-Now the growing Busch-Hornaday, oops I mean Harvick rivalry, will also be interesting. I don't see a Busch-Hornaday deal, it's more like Busch just seems to spout off at whomever is his closest rival in whatever series he runs in.
Plus the media doesn't help, especially the Speed crew trying to create one, by constantly comparing the two.
Of course if old Horn were closer to Busch's age, then it would be bigger and badder than what it's been between the two wily veterans (Horn and Skinner).
-Last season, we saw two interesting alliances between drivers racing for different manufacturers happen. Crafton-Busch and Bodine-Hornaday; it would be interesting if we see a deal like this happen, but earlier in the season and not down the stretch.
-Will the new self-venting fuel can be introduced this season? Does this make the catch-can man extinct in the Truck series?
-The tire lease options were also tweaked by NASCAR over the off-season. One change allows teams to swap tires between national series at combo events were D-codes match up.
Does this give a handful of teams that run in Trucks and the Nationwide an advantage of having extra sets of tires that other teams don't have?
-NASCAR will be introducing a spec engine as an option on tracks less than 1.25 miles in length in hopes of encouraging teams from regional series to get their feet wet racing in Trucks and also to reduce costs for current teams.
I think this will work, we'll see teams use this and help get teams to the track. I can't see this hurting the series by implementing the program.
-Parker Klingerman will be running seven or less races for Brad Keselowski Racing with help from Penske Racing. What are the odds that this phenom does end up winning one of those races?
And KBM's Rick Ren probably has stashed his beloved Tums all over the race shop and at least had one moment were he thought, "Damn, I wish I was still sitting on Horn's No. 33 pit wagon (LOL)."
Ren will make KBM a success; it will be weird for a couple of races not seeing him sitting on the pit wagon.
The only question I have:
Will Busch use Ren's library of crew chief notes looking for improvements to help him driver wise? Because according to Horn, he has notes on which lines to drive in depending on the track.
Here's how the Speed crew picked their top five:
Krista: 1.Crafton, 2.Hornaday, 3.Bodine, 4.Peters, 5.Malsam
Adam: 1.Crafton, 2.Hornaday, 3.Skinner, 4.Sauter, 5.Bodine
Phil: 1.Hornaday, 2.Skinner, 3.Sauter, 4.Bodine, 5.Peters
Rick: 1.Hornaday, 2.Sauter, 3.Skinner, 4.Malsam, 5.Crafton
Ray: 1.Skinner, 2.Sauter, 3.Peters, 4.Hornaday, 5.Crafton
Photo Credit: David M. Vaughn (2007)