Although we are just 2 races into the 2010 season there's some early season changes to the pecking order compared to 2009.
One thing that changed was Jimmie Johnson actually won the February California race after leading either the most of 2nd most laps in the last 3 events but failing to win. What hasn't changed is that Jimmie's the man to beat this season... again!
What has completely changed is RCR's fortunes. Out to lunch nearly from the get go in 2009, Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton finished 2nd and 3rd at California with Clint Bowyer finishing 8th. They've finished in the top 11 in the first 2 races and sit 1st, 2nd and 5th in the standings. Only two races in but a strong start always helps and it's a good sign.
The extra year behind the wheel of a Cup car has welcomed a heap of change for sophomore drivers Joey Logano and Scott Speed. Sitting around 40th in the points after the first two races of 2009, they're sitting 9th and 15th respectively. Logano finished 5th at California after starting the race running in 20th, breaking the top 15 around the middle and then getting into the top ten towards the end before charging to a well earned 5th. Scott Speed has finishes of 19th and 11th in the first two races and if he keeps this up he'll join JPM and Allmendinger and possibly Hornish as former open wheel drivers who "got it".
What hasn't changed, or maybe even changed for the worse, is Roush Fenway Racing. They won only 3 races last year, one by the guy who left and won this year's Daytona 500, but Jack Roush was confident that they had found something that would make them competitive again. So far it seems like they lost it again because at a race that Roush has won the last five times at, they couldn't finish better than 7th and didn't lead a single lap. Carl Edwards finished outside the top 10 for only 2nd time in his career at California, the first time that isn't due to problems on track. Hopefully Las Vegas, another track they've run well at, will get them back on track.
Mark Martin's early season fortunes have changed. An awful start to 2009 put his Chase hopes in jeopardy for most of the regular season but with his 4th at California he's sitting 6th in the standings and on track to a worry-free Chase spot. But a blown engine at Las Vegas could put him or anybody down 10 spots in the standings.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s luck hasn't changed thus far, even if his performance is slightly improving. A top 15 finish was in reach until a broken axle put him laps down and killed the momentum of his runner-up finish at Daytona.
SHR's and JPM's reliability has already changed so far this year; blown engines by Newman and JPM put an end to the races of the drivers who completed the most and 6th most laps in 2009. But it hasn't changed Newman's tough early season luck from 2009.
So far many things have changed in 2010 but as long as the one most important thing doesn't change then the ending will be same: Jimmie Johnson being the guy to beat.
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