I looked at the calendar today and realized the Daytona 500 was roughly a month away. For any self-respecting race fan that's great news, especially after the last few months of this ecnomic mess.
It's been a difficult offseason for NASCAR with numerous teams folding, merging or selling out. This may have been little more than the tip of the iceberg. How many cars will we see fall by the wayside as the season progresses? The majority of the top 35 Sprint Cup teams still lack full sponsorships for the entire 36-race schedule, and we haven't even mentioned the Nationwide and truck series.
But, hey, let's leave the gloom and doom in the pits for awhile. We'll have to deal with it soon enough.
Today let's have some fun and rank the top 10 drivers for 2009 and the top 10 drivers who will likely disappoint:
2. KYLE BUSCH: He's only driver/team that can realistically unseat the 800-pound gorilla in the No. 48 car.
3. CARL EDWARDS: Edwards is THAT close to being recognized as an elite driver. All he needs is a championship asterisk by his name — but it's not coming this year.
4. DALE EARNHARDT JR.: He faded miserably late last season. He needs to prove himself once and for all, because there are no more excuses about not having the equipment or other resources. The "overrated" whispers in the pits are growing louder.
5. GREG BIFFLE: He has the uncanny knack of being in the right place at the wrong time and getting T-boned or sideswiped in the most unusual incidents. The man has no luck at all. If that ever changes, he could be a champion.
6. JEFF GORDON: If No. 24 stumbles out of the gate, look for crew chief Steve Letarte to get a pink slip. There is no earthly reason for Gordon not to have won a race last year. He's actually No. 3 on the Hendrick depth chart right now, and that's a crime.
7. DENNY HAMLIN: Hamlin is another driver plagued by poor performances from the rest of his team, but he's also a loudmouth who has to learn when to keep his yap shut. It's one thing to criticize your teammates behind closed doors, but it's quite another to air your dirty laundry on national television.
8. DAVID RAGAN: Here's my semi-sleeper of the year. Ragan and crew chief Jimmy Fennig have meshed very well and should maintain the momentum they built in 2008.
9. MARK MARTIN: His last hurrah. The nicest guy in NASCAR makes one final push for a championship with Hendrick resources behind him.
10. MATT KENSETH: We've seen this picture before. Slow start. Great second half. He'll make the Chase, even though you won't notice him until about August.
TOP 10 DISAPPOINTING DRIVERS
2. RYAN NEWMAN: Stewart's new teammate has an even lesser chance of succeeding. Long, long season for those two boys.
3. CLINT BOWYER: Great person, but his 15 minutes of fame might have come in 2007-08. He's ripe for a major tumble.
4. KEVIN HARVICK: "Happy" has been running a lot of people the wrong way in recent years. Both his on- and off-track demeanor have taken turns for the worse in recent years, and so has his performances. He (barely) qualified for the Chase in 2008, logging only seven top-five finishes.
5. MARTIN TRUEX JR.: DEI has merged with Ganassi, which means even more confusion will be surrounding this once-budding star.
6. KURT BUSCH: His career continues a downward spiral in the shadow of brother Kyle's success.
7. KASEY KAHNE: At one time, I thought he could be a Cup champion. I don't think that way anymore.
8. JEFF BURTON: Methinks Mr. Burton's career has started to reverse itself again. By the way, whatever happened to Ward Burton? I sure do miss his post-race interviews.
9. JOEY LOGANO: So much is expected of this rookie, it will be impossible for him to deliver.
10. BOBBY LABONTE: He's now with the No. 96 team and has no more chance of winning than he did with the Pettys.