Everything is really good in the NASCAR world right now.
Ratings are way up over last year, a new driver in Trevor Bayne burst onto the scene with a stunning win at Daytona, an old driver in Jeff Gordon won at Phoenix, and Jimmie Johnson hasn’t won a race, nor is he in the top 10 in points.
The only thing missing to make it the perfect season for the typical NASCAR fan is a Dale Earnhardt Jr. win.
NASCAR has made a lot of changes to ensure the 2011 season would be sexier with hopes of recapturing some of the lost audience that the ratings revealed. But before we start patting them on the back for a job well done, let’s keep in mind that the beginning of 2010 was going head to head with the Winter Olympics.
The Las Vegas race saw nearly a 30% increase in ratings from last year, but at the same time last year’s race was going on, the USA hockey team was playing Canada for the Gold Medal.
I must say that I have been caught up in the season thus far with an anxiety for each race like never before. I’m not sure if it’s just withdrawals from the off-season or if I’m actually enjoying the racing more, but whatever it is, I’m all in and ready for the next green flag to drop.
For instance, I was bored and miserable this past week with no racing heading into Bristol this week. Despite all the great college basketball conference tournament games and spring training baseball, I was longing for a Saturday practice followed by a Sunday race.
I’m not a Jimmie Johnson hater; in fact, I marvel at his talents and consistency, but maybe I am getting excited about the fact that someone else looks like they have a great shot at knocking him off this year.
The last four seasons, I honestly didn’t see it happening. Johnson was two levels above everyone, but this year we have Carl Edwards who looks to be the king in waiting.
This week at Bristol we get to see another hopeful to dethrone Johnson with Kyle Busch who has won three of the last four Bristol races. He is the current king of the half-mile high-banked track having won four times in his 12 career starts and it’s likely he’ll continue the domination this week.
Over the years at Bristol we’ve seen a few drivers come in and just dominate for long stretches at a time. We’ve seen it passed on down the line from Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, Rusty Wallace and Jeff Gordon to Kurt Busch, and now Kyle.
Kurt Busch is a five-time winner at Bristol and finished in the top 10 in both races last season. Carl Edwards is a two-time winner of the fall night race and looks to be back on track with horsepower under the hood to make him a solid contender there once again.
Jimmie Johnson won for the first time at Bristol in this race last season and should be expected to do well again this week, but it still is going to come down to Kyle. Chances are, if Busch stays on the track, he’ll be in position to win again.
The wild cards on the track this week will be Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle from the Roush stable. Even before we saw a resurgence with their program late last year, they each had top-5 finishes in the spring race.