The following drivers were the top 10 finishers in points in the 2010 stock car season. Here’s what I see for each of those drivers in 2011:
1. Jared Schlipman: Unless your name is Michael Long, it is next-to-impossible to put together back-to-back championship seasons in this division, which is arguably the deepest of the five weekly series at the track. Schilpman’s breakout summer in 2010 was entertaining to watch unfold, but he’ll need another perfect storm type of year to win two in a row. I’m assuming Long will not be running a complete points schedule, so Schlipman’s primary competition for the 2011 championship will likely be Steven DeLonjay, Dave Wietholder, Justin Reed and possibly Shawn Deering. I see “Schlip” running strong again, but probably winding up second or third.
2. Michael Long: If he runs the complete points schedule he’ll win his third track title. It’s not rocket science. He’s that good.
3. Steven DeLonjay: He’s knocked on that championship door three straight years, never finishing lower than third in points. This is the season he breaks that door down. Meet your 2011 modified track champ, Steven DeLonjay. If that scenario plays out, it will mean he will have won three track titles before the age of 20. (Don’t forget those two hornet championships.)
4. Dave Wietholder: Wietholder is a regular near the top of the points, but seems cursed in an effort to break through with that first modified track title. Seriously, what can you say about No. 05, other than if he avoids that one catastrophic week late in the points year the title could be his. Maybe the sod gods will be on his side this season. If Wietholder avoids one of those engine meltdowns my prediction is he battles with Schlipman for second behind DeLonjay. If we see a plume of smoke come from beneath his car in August he’ll likely have to settle for a top-five finish.
5. Justin Reed: “Justin Credible” found out how the other half lived in 2009 after roaring to that 2008 championship. An accident there, an engine problem there and it wound up being a mildly frustrating season. A fifth-place finish is nothing to sneeze at in this series, but once you have reached the penthouse, anything else is a disappointment. I see another top-five finish in the cards, but I’m not sure the Team 4 power plant can catch DeLonjay & Co. ahead of him.
6. Shawn Deering: If you want a breakout pick for 2011, this could be the guy. This is Deering’s sixth season as a regular in the mod lineup and he has never finished lower than ninth — but never higher than fifth. I’m picking him to match his sixth-place finish from a year ago, but if you want a dark horse pick for the three this is it.
7. Tony Dunker: Mr. Excitement says he is not running for a track title, but I won’t believe it until I see it. Sunday nights with “Bone” at the Bullring? Say it ain’t so. (Dunker needs at least a top-10 points finish from 2011. He’s currently tied with Hank DeLonjay at 11 for the most consecutive years with a modified top 10 finish.)
8. Ryan Meyer: Meyer had his first top 10 points showing at Quincy since 2002. He should have no trouble duplicating that ffeat.
9. James Leffew: The next goal for this rising star is a top-five points finish. Will it come in 2011? I think we might have to wait one more season, but No. 25 will definitely be pressuring the series’ elite drivers..
10. Robbie Reed: If Reed runs the full points schedule, he’s at least a top-five car, maybe more. The last time he ran the complete points schedule was 2006, the same year he won the track championship.