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The Checkered Flag writes:
"My 2010 Predictions from the Bottom Up (Part 3 of 3)"
Posted by Mile501 on February 4, 2010
Viewed 363 times


Today we will take a look at my predictions for the top tier of drivers for 2010:

I'll go backwards today to make it a little more suspenseful...

8. #16 Greg Biffle - Even though he didn't win last year, he had several opportunities where he could have. As Roush continues to improve in 2010, he should get a few wins and could even make a run at the championship. He is still trying to become the first driver to win championships in all three of NASCAR's top series.

7. #31 Jeff Burton - Burton really came on strong toward the end of 2009 as RCR as a whole began improving, and he nearly won at Homestead. I expect him to lead the RCR trio in 2010 and should have a solid showing throughout the season.

6. #24 Jeff Gordon - Gordon will probably remain near the front of the pack as long as he continues to drive, but I haven't seen any strong indications that he will be right at the front (leading the points or winning that elusive fifth title). I expect more of the same in 2010: Consistently strong, but rarely dominant.

5. #48 Jimmie Johnson - Am I crazy? Perhaps. I believe this is the same position I put Johnson in when making my 2009 predictions, and we see how that turned out. But sooner or later it just seems that the odds have to catch up to this team. Whether it be wrecks, mechanical failures, pit road issues, or his newfound fatherhood--I just have a feeling something will cause this team to drop back a few notches in 2010. There's no good evidence to support the idea that he won't win another title, but five in a row? I'll only believe it when I see it.

4. #14 Tony Stewart - Contrary to what we normally see, Stewart faded towards the end of 2009 after having an unexpectedly strong start. I believe this team will be about the same or perhaps a little better in 2010 and should stay strong until the end, giving Stewart a shot at his third championship.

3. #99 Carl Edwards - Assuming Roush gets its act together again, Edwards should be able to make another strong run at the championship. It's hard to believe he didn't win a single race last year, but I feel certain that trend will not continue in 2010. Edwards and Bob Osbourne work well together and are hard to beat when Roush is on par with the other top teams.

2. #11 Denny Hamlin - In my initial predictions that I made around the time of last November's Homestead race, I picked Denny to win the championship. But even though doctors say it won't affect him, I am concerned about his torn ACL. Even if it doesn't affect his driving very much, it is still a distraction, and champions do not need any additional distractions. He could still win it all, but he certainly made it harder on himself with that injury.

1. # 5 Mark Martin - Can Mark finally win the title that has eluded him for 20 years? I hope he can, and I will be honest in saying that my hope for him to win it may have influenced this decision a bit. However, I honestly believe he can do it. You won't find a driver of any age who is in better physical shape, and Martin brings as many years of experience as Hamlin, Edwards, and Stewart have combined. There are also some interesting numbers to look at. This alone wouldn't justify this pick, but four of Martin's runner-up years came in 1990, 1994, 1998, and 2002. 2006 was an off year, but 2010 is the next year in that sequence. Will he be runner-up again or can he finally do it this year? I honestly believe he can. He has the team to win it and he as a driver is capable of winning it. Now it's just a matter of getting the job done.

So, to recap, here is my complete list of predictions:

Top Tier:
1. # 5 Mark Martin
2. #11 Denny Hamlin
3. #99 Carl Edwards
4. #14 Tony Stewart
5. #48 Jimmie Johnson
6. #24 Jeff Gordon
7. #31 Jeff Burton
8. #16 Greg Biffle

Middle Tier:
9. #18 Kyle Busch
10. #17 Matt Kenseth
11. #42 Juan Pablo Montoya
12. #33 Clint Bowyer
13. #47 Marcos Ambrose
14. # 2 Kurt Busch
15. #43 A.J. Allmendinger
16. #00 David Reutimann
17. #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
18. #83 Brian Vickers
19. #56 Martin Truex Jr. [was #55]
20. #20 Joey Logano
21. #39 Ryan Newman
22. #29 Kevin Harvick
23. # 9 Kasey Kahne
24. # 1 Jamie McMurray
25. # 6 David Ragan

Lower Tier:
26. #12 Brad Keselowski
27. #71 Bobby Labonte
28. #34 Travis Kvapil
29. #78 Regan Smith [locked into first 5 races]
30. #77 Sam Hornish Jr.
31. #19 Elliott Sadler
32. #82 Scott Speed
33. #98 Paul Menard
34. #38 David Gilliland [all but 3-5 races] [locked into first 5 races]
35. #36 Mike Bliss
36. #49 / #7 Robby Gordon ?
37. #26 Boris Said [locked into first 5 races]
38. #90 Casey Mears
39. #09 Aric Almirola
40. #37 Kevin Conway [locked into first 5 races]
41. #46 Terry Cook
42. #66 Dave Blaney
43. #87 Joe Nemechek ?
44. #55 Michael McDowell [teammate to Blaney]

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