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Top 20 NASCAR Drivers of 2011

Posted By Joseph Hopkins On Feb 3 2011 @ 2:30 pm In NASCAR | 1 Comment

Photo: IconSportsMedia.com [1]

Photo: IconSportsMedia.com

1. Jimmie Johnson

Crew Chief: Chad Knaus

Primary Sponsor: Lowe’s

Projected 2011 Wins Total: 7

Really gutsy pick in my part, right? Last year was an off year for them, and yet they still won the championship. There’s no reason they won’t make it sixth straight.

2. Kyle Busch

Crew Chief: Dave Rogers

Primary Sponsor: Mars/Interstate Batteries

Projected 2011 Wins Total: 5

Consistency has always been Kyle’s Achilles’ heel. He’s due for a strong Chase one of these years. Since 2006, Kenseth, Gordon, Edwards, Martin, and Hamlin have been the drivers giving Jimmie a run for his money. He’s a fitting name to be next in line. Absolutely dominant on his good days. I expect him to gain more consistency this year. He’s too good not to.

3. Denny Hamlin

Crew Chief: Mike Ford

Primary Sponsor: FedEx

Projected 2011 Wins Total: 4

So close last year. It’s going to be difficult to get that level again this year. Coming that close and not getting the championship is draining. They’ll still be good. Hamlin and Ford are an excellent combination. I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s again the one people are counting on to dethrone Jimmie.

4. Jeff Gordon

Crew Chief: Alan Gustafson

Primary Sponsor: AARP (Drive to End Hunger)

Projected 2011 Wins Total: 2

Finally separated from Steve Letarte after five years together.  Never could recapture the magic of 2007. Had a fast car at Las Vegas and Texas (same car), but rarely had the speed to compete at the very front. Gustafson should be an upgrade. He’s due for at minimum a win. Should be a strong 2011 season.

5. Tony Stewart

Crew Chief: Darian Grubb

Primary Sponsor: Office Depot

Projected 2011 Wins Total: 4

I look for them to rebound after a mediocre 2010 season. They were great in the first year of Stewart-Haas racing. They just kind of had a sophomore slump. Kind of felt like they raced the way they should have raced in ’09. They should be up front much more this year.

6. Carl Edwards

Crew Chief: Bob Osborne

Primary Sponsor: Aflac

Projected 2011 Wins Total: 3

Hit or miss pick here. I think I’m cautiously buying into the Carl Edwards that we saw in the last two races. They were very mediocre most of the year though. He can drive with the best of them. I’m gambling on a slightly lesser version of the 2008 Cousin Carl.

7. Greg Biffle

Crew Chief: Greg Erwin

Primary Sponsor: 3M

Projected 2011 Wins Total: 2

Ultra consistent. Will find his way to victory lane a couple times. Has had some strong Chase performances too.

8. Kevin Harvick

Crew Chief: Gil Martin

Primary Sponsor: Budweiser

Projected 2011 Wins Total: 2

He was so good last year. Having the consistency he had last year will be difficult. I still give him two wins, which is a lot for a guy who doesn’t win much. He’s been hot at restrictor plate races. He could win the Daytona 500 for second time. That would make his wife in the pit box happy.

9. Clint Bowyer

Crew Chief: Shane Wilson

Primary Sponsor: General Mills

Projected 2011 Wins Total: 1

Was strong in the Chase, especially considering how many points were deducted. He just needs to make the Chase. That’s not a given. But he’s still underrated.

10. Kasey Kahne

Crew Chief: Kenny Francis

Primary Sponsor: Red Bull

Projected 2011 Wins Total: 2

Much better team. Finally some stability. He’ll have a chip on his shoulder. I’d be stunned if he missed the Chase and didn’t win a race. The talent’s always been there. Now he has guys around him.

11. Kurt Busch

Crew Chief: Steve Addington

Primary Sponsor: Shell/Pennzoil

Projected 2011 Wins Total: 1

Will win at least a race. Make the Chase. Not do anything in the Chase. Maybe finish fourth like he did in ’09 if he’s lucky.

12. Joey Logano

Crew Chief: Greg Zipadelli

Primary Sponsor: Home Depot

Projected 2011 Wins Total: 0

Breakout season? He quietly had a great second half. He could make the Chase.

13. Matt Kenseth

Crew Chief: Jimmy Fennig

Primary Sponsor: Crown Royal

Projected 2011 Wins Total: 0

Hasn’t done anything since his last win in Fontana. Came close to winning at Martinsville last year. Hasn’t had much speed since Reiser left. I don’t really think he’ll be much better this year. He’s still a talented driver and consistent. So could easily make the Chase. He’s only missed it once.

14. Jeff Burton

Crew Chief: Todd Berrier

Primary Sponsor: Caterpillar

Projected 2011 Wins Total: 1

Had some strong performances last year. I have him finally ending the losing streak this year. I’m going weak on him for picking him at 14th.

15. David Reutimann

Crew Chief: Rodney Childers

Primary Sponsor: Aaron’s

Projected 2011 Wins Total: 1

Rooty Tooty can drive. The media never gives the guy any credit. He outdrove the whole field at Chicagoland last year though. The ability is there. I wish he was younger. Great talent. Might even make the Chase. Might.

16. Mark Martin

Crew Chief: Lance McGrew

Primary Sponsor: GoDaddy.com

Projected 2011 Wins Total: 0

New crew chief might take time to adjust. I think he got treated unfairly losing Gustafson. I don’t like the situation there. He’s also getting up there in the years. I know he’s fit and he was great in ’09, but he’s got to wear down eventually.


17. Juan Pablo Montoya

Crew Chief: Brian Pattie

Primary Sponsor: Target

Projected 2011 Wins Total: 0

Overrated. Too much of a loose cannon. Always has been. That’s not going to change. Good road course driver. I think he’ll do about the same.

18. Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Crew Chief: Steve Letarte

Primary Sponsor: Amp Energy

Projected 2011 Wins Total: 0

Steve Letarte couldn’t win with Jeff Gordon. Dale’s not as good as Jeff Gordon. I think you can see the problem here. I am intrigued in some aspects though. They’re personalities might work well together. This was probably the worst thing for Stevie though. He finally gets out a situation where a strong fan base runs him out, and now he has to fix a big mess with the pressure of an even bigger fan base. It could work, I’d be surprised though.

19. Brian Vickers

Crew Chief: Ryan Pemberton

Primary Sponsor: Red Bull

Projected 2011 Wins Total: 1

Much better teammate. Hungry to get back behind the wheel. A good talent. Could make the Chase again. I have him winning his third career race this year.

20. Ryan Newman

Crew Chief: Tony Gibson

Primary Sponsor: US Army/Tornados

Projected 2011 Wins Total: 0

I like Stewart-Hass this year. I like him more than McMurray. Not much else to say about him.

*Nobody will remember these picks luckily. A lot of them will completely bomb. Did anybody see Kyle Busch missing the Chase in 2009 coming? Or Carl Edwards to go that long without a win? That would be cool if I did call all 12 drivers to make the Chase though.

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