As the days until the Daytona 500 dwindle down, the excitement continues to build up. Yet, for certain drivers, that ‘excitement’ might be nerves. Much is at stake this season, with the competition tougher than ever, and some of our favorites need to step up and prove themselves. Everyone has something to prove, but there are three drivers who need to put it all on the line.
1. Joey Logano
Joey Logano was predicted to come into the Sprint Cup Series and make a lot of noise. Unfortunately, that noise turned out to be the combination of screeching sheet metal and exploding engines. His lone win came in 2009 during the rain-shortened race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and that’s all she wrote. In 2011, the rumor of Carl Edwards taking over the #20 was released. Although untrue, it made people wonder what was wrong with Logano, why he wasn’t doing as well as everyone predicted. The reason most likely is that he was thrown into Sprint Cup too early. When you run with the big dogs, you’ll feel the bite soon enough, and Logano is being eaten up.
I have no idea how this season will work out for Joey. There’s no doubt he’s feeling the heat, especially after Greg Zipadelli left the pit box to go over to Stewart-Haas Racing. However, he is gaining Jason Ratcliff as a crew chief, who won the 2009 Nationwide Series Championship with Kyle Busch. This change may finally give Joey the confidence he needs. We will have to wait and see what happens.
Prediction? Joey Logano wins a race and has a shot at The Chase. Not sure if it’s enough, though.
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
If wins were determined by fan power, Dale Earnhardt Jr. would have won five championships and swept every race by now. The reality of it is that Junior hasn’t won a race since 2008 at Michigan. Yet, last year, the #88 became a blip on The Chase radar, consistency locking him in. It was his first season with new crew chief Steve Letarte, who was sent over from Jeff Gordon’s stable. They did pretty well for working together for their initial arrangement. It’s definitely Go Time for Dale, and it’s because of Kasey Kahne, who has been predicted to do amazing things with Hendrick equipment. If that doesn’t light a fire underneath Junior, then something is wrong. There is a possible chance for Kahne to become the lead driver at the race team, and that won’t be good for NASCAR’S Most Popular Driver.
There’s no doubt that he can win. He was close a few times in 2011, and it will happen. When and where? That, my friends, is unknown.
Prediction? Dale Earnhardt Jr. breaks his winless streak and pleases Junior Nation with a strong Chase run.
3. Greg Biffle
Remember Greg Biffle? No? That’s because he hasn’t done much in a while. His last win came at Kansas two years ago, making 2011 his second winless season in his career. We didn’t hear about him, and it was very weird. With Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth making The Chase, and David Ragan getting released from RFR, The Biff was left in the shadows. The most exciting thing that happened to him was actually his little rivalry with Boris Said. This season, he was practically a ghost.
Missing the playoffs for the first time since 2007, Greg Biffle is starting to look like the next victim of downsizing. Sponsors are running thin, and they want a driver that will show up and run up front. Seeing him go would be very saddening; he’s a great person who can drive. However, recently, his results aren’t as good as they use to be. Can he start racking up the high finishes and crawls into The Chase? Or will he falter and collapse into himself?
Prediction? Greg Biffle sneaks a win, but it isn’t enough to help his case at RFR.
All in all, every driver has something to prove, but more have something to lose by not manning up. It’s time to light a fire under your bumper, folks. Because, in NASCAR, those who can’t get the job done? They don’t have a job in the end.