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. Terry Houston: No. 97 may or may not run full-time in 2011. My guess is he will ultimately decide to tackle the complete points schedule because there is nothing like being a defending champ going for two straight titles. If that’s the case, he is the man to beat, plain and simple. If not, to borrow a line from Seinfeld, “It’s chaos, Jerry, chaos.”
2. Abe Huls: Barring a change of heart, Honest Abe will not be running any sort of full schedule this season, so we have to consider No. 30 to be a non-factor in 2011.
3. Steve Steinkuhler: Steinkuhler will either be one of four favorites to win a first track championship, or one of four drivers battling to finish second behind Houston. If Houston decides not to campaign for the championship, Steinkuhler is my pick to finish a close second to … you’ll have to wait a couple of paragraphs to see how that sentence ends.
4. Jerry Jansen: Jerry “Don’t Call Me Larry” Jansen is steady, smooth and does not tear up his equipment. He’s a definite contender and could easily win the series championship with a break or two, but with all things being equal (and Houston deciding not to make a title run) I see Jansen finishing a close third.
5. Andrew Griffin: This is another of my contenders, arguably the sleeper of the quartet. I look at Griffin to potentially have the same kind of breakout season as Nathan Anders could in the hobby stocks. I call it the Jared Schlipman syndrome. First you dominate the heats, then come the features. Remember this, Griffin won more points heat races than any other stock car driver in 2010. I think he takes the next step in 2011, becoming a bona dife contender with Steinkuhler, Jansen and …
7. Aaron Brocksieck: Here’s my championship pick for 2011 if Houston takes some Sunday nights off. Brocksieck knows how to win a track title (he won the hobby stock crown in 2008), had a solid rookie season in stock cars in 2009 and then sustained every kind of bad lock possible a year ago. I think Lady Luck — not to mention the law of percentages — shines in Brocksieck’s favor in 2011.
8. Kevin Tomlinson: OK, here’s the wild card among the stock car guys. If Tomlinson can keep his car on the track and stay away from the mechanical issues that dogged him in 2010, there will be five legit title contenders, and Tomlinson could easily walk away with the big iron. He knows how to run up front and is not afraid to move a bumper out of his way. He also can’t afford to get buried int he points race early in the season like he did last spring.
9. Derek Sammons: Derek needs a full season in this series after coming aboard midway through 2010. I want to see more of him in a season-long run.
10. Jason Leapley: The same with Jason. We simply did not see enough of him a year ag, so we’ll put him under the micrscope in 2011.
Intangible: We could very well see the return of 2008 series champ Jeff Mueller to the Bullring in 2011. Maybe a few other drivers such as John Oliver and Jason Cook, too (if not full time, a lot of the time). It doesn’t take a genius to realize if that’s the case we will have a revised look into the crystal ball. But for now, we’ll stand by our fearless forecasts.