Note: This was originally posted March 7, 2007.
In a way, the Nascar Nextel Cup 2007 season is starting over again. We're at a new track, basically, since LVMS has been totally redone with new banking and pavement. We're going to see new tires, new gasoline, new engines, and basically everything but the Car Of Tomorrow, which will debut at Bristol.
After the NBS race in Mexico City, we're probably all wondering if Juan Pablo Montoya will translate his first Nascar win into a hot streak that carries over into the Cup. Confidence can be a great thing, but there's very little in common with the road course in Mexico City, and the lighter, underpowered cars of the Busch Series and the new unknown, which is Las Vegas, and the heavier fire-breathing beasts which are Nextel Cup cars. Personally, I don't see JPM's Mexican Triumph carrying over to the 1.5 mile high banked oval this weekend.
Probably the biggest question is whether or not DEI has solved their engine problems. I wish I had an answer for that, but I suppose only time will tell. DEI is at a crossroads this weekend, and the outcome of this weekend's racing will probably set the stage for the rest of the season for Martin Truex Jr., Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Paul Menard (who's not a Jr. as far as I know. It's a shame, they could really have a monopoly going on Jr.'s if Paul was one too!).
Another question is Tony Stewart. After 2 races in a row of being penalized for speeding on pit road, does Tony have enough points left on his license to finish the Las Vegas race? And what about Jimmie Johnson? How can Nascar's current reigning champ face the world when he's out of the top 10 for the first time in about 3 years? For Shame!
Jeff Gordon is still stuck at 75 wins in Cup so far this year. When will Boy Wonder shut up all those pesky Earnhardt fans once and for all? 75 wins is a great thing, but how many more are there left in the Rainbow Warrior? How many championships are left? Time keeps on ticking, ticking.... Jeff is only one away from tying Dale Earnhardt for total wins, but he's still 3 championships away from tying him and the King, Richard Petty for all time championships. Jeff will probably eclipse Earnhardt in total wins, but I think that the championship total will be hard to beat. Jeff's still a relatively young man, but his chances of being the Prince of Nascar fade a little more every year. He's had a fantastic career, and that can never be denied though. Jeff probably has at least about 5 more truly competitive years left in him, and I imagine that he'll eventually win 80-85 races, but I just don't see him eclipsing Dale Earnhardt or Richard Petty in total championships. As a spokesman for Nascar, Gordon has been Hollywood perfect, but to a Nascar purist, he leaves a lot to be desired. Enough said, ok? I should have shut up about that way before now!
Kasey Kahne, if he wins Sunday, could continue his record pace that he started last year. This young driver has impressed me more than anyone else in 2006. The other driver that impressed me, obviously, was Denny Hamlin. I hope Denny doesn't suffer any major sophomore woes like so many other drivers have experienced.
In Las Vegas, you can't forget the Busch brothers. They love playing before a hometown crowd, and I really wouldn't be surprised if one of them won on Sunday. I'm guessing Kyle, but could be Kurt. Just a feeling I have at the moment, but I'd almost bet that at least both will be competitive. A 1-2 finish before the hometown crowd would be story book, wouldn't it?