Crystal ball on target, for once


Excuse me as I limber up.

It's not easy at my age to get either hand to scratch my back, let alone pat it. But it's just something I have to do today -- pat it, not scratch it.

In January, the crystal ball was taken out of the closet. For the first time in nine years, a giant cataract did not cloud the visions within it.

In years past, the outcome of many predictions were not worthy of mention, though I would admit my shortcomings each year.

My 2008 prognostications published in the Jan. 4 edition of the Review-Journal -- autographed copies not available -- were too on target to ignore. But I wasn't perfect -- close, but not perfect.

A recap of my winners, contenders and a big miss:

WINNERS

Champ Car World Series will cancel at least one event; serious merger talks will begin between Champ Car and the Indy Racing League.

Done. Champ Car canceled its season and folded, sending many Champ teams to the IRL.

Kyle Busch will win a Cup race with his new Joe Gibbs Racing team before a victory is logged in a points race by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Busch's replacement at Hendrick Motorsports.

Done. Busch won the fourth race of the year to beat Earnhardt to Victory Lane.

Danica Patrick will become the first woman to win an IndyCar race.

Done. She won April 20 in Japan.

Ashley Force will become the first woman to win a Funny Car title.

Done. She won April 27 near Atlanta by beating her dad, John Force, in the final round.

Earnhardt will win a Cup race before anyone at his former Dale Earnhardt Inc. team wins.

Done. He won three weeks ago, and the best finish by a DEI driver this year is third (Mark Martin).

NHRA will experience a tumultuous year.

Done, but far worse than I had imagined.

The sale of its professional assets imploded, and Scott Kalitta died in a Funny Car crash two weeks ago.

Once considered the safest form of racing, NHRA is confronting issues over track safety and speeds in its premier Nitro classes. And a shortage of China-made nitromethane fuel.

CONTENDERS

Kyle Busch will win the 2008 Cup championship.

Looking good. The Las Vegas native is the points leader with a series-best five wins.

The top five in the final Cup standings will be Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson.

Kyle Busch is looking good with 50 Chase bonus points (10 for each win), but Kenseth (13th in points), Kurt Busch (18th), Gordon (six) and Johnson (fifth) have a fight ahead; only Kurt and Johnson have won.

NASCAR will not let Johnson and Gordon dominate as they did last year.

I'll shift the blame for their anticipated demise from NASCAR to their crew chiefs and engineers at Hendrick. Through 17 races last year, Johnson and Gordon each had won four times.

Toyota will win more Cup races than Dodge.

Through 17 of 36 points races, Toyota leads Dodge 6-5.

BIG MISS

Las Vegas Motor Speedway will announce it will host a second Cup race beginning in 2009.

Wrong.

How was I to foresee that owner Bruton Smith would buy Kentucky Speedway this year and fall in love with bluegrass? Smith is the founder and president of Speedway Motorsports that also owns LVMS.

He has vowed that his priority is to get Kentucky a first Cup date before his former sweetheart Las Vegas gets a second one. Or that he would become a chowder head after spending time at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, a purchase he made late last year, and commit to keeping two annual Cup dates at the track.

I still will bet Las Vegas gets a second date before Kentucky gets its first, but it won't be before 2010.

A big slap instead of a pat on the back might be needed if I choke on this one.

Jeff Wolf's motor sports column is published Friday. He can be reached at 383-0247 or jwolf@reviewjournal.com. Visit Wolf's motor sports blog at lvrj.com/blogs/heavypedal/ throughout the week.

 

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