Johnson repeats, and other predictions

Each new year brings three days I dread.

April 15 is the most taxing.

May 17, my birthday, gets older each year.

Then there’s today, when I review my predictions from the previous year and gaze into my crystal helmet for the new year.

More predictions were right than wrong — 7-6 — last year, but some big ones were blown like an engine without oil.

ON TARGET

My optimistic vision that the move from Chevrolet to Toyota would be good for Joe Gibbs Racing was right on, thanks to eight Cup wins by Kyle Busch and the three-car JGR team that won 10 times. I also knew Busch would win with his new team before Dale Earnhardt Jr. did with his.

Thanks to Busch, Toyota won more Cup races than Dodge, by a 10-4 margin. Good call.

My forecast for NHRA was for a tumultuous year, but I didn’t see the alleged nitromethane shortage or Scott Kalitta’s death in a crash that resulted in 320 feet getting cut from quarter-mile racing for the two premier classes.

Seeing Ashley Force as the first woman to win a Nitro Funny Car title wasn’t a big risk.

But it was to pick Danica Patrick to win her first title in IndyCar.

I was confident the Champ Car World Series would cancel at least one race, but it exceeded my expectations by canceling its series. That led to another correct pick that IndyCar and Champ Car would begin serious talks of a merger; I won that one by default.

MISSED THE MARK

I thought Las Vegas Motor Speedway would announce a second annual Cup date. But that was before owner Speedway Motorsports Inc. purchased Kentucky Speedway and SMI chairman Bruton Smith vowed to get a first Cup race for that track before Las Vegas gets a second.

My bet was on John Force to complete his comeback from an horrific crash in September 2007 by winning his 15th Funny Car championship. He didn’t, but at least he won another race title.

The field lapped me when it came to the country’s biggest series.

I promised neither Jimmie Johnson nor Jeff Gordon would dominate as they had in 2007 when they combined to win 16 of 36 races.

And that neither would win the Cup title.

My pick was Kyle Busch, which was right on — before the final 10 races.

Well, Johnson won his third straight Cup with seven wins, and none of my preseason top five finished in the final top five.

BANK ON IT

Finishing above .500 is good enough to try again.

I’ve learned my lesson and am picking Johnson to win his fourth straight title, with Carl Edwards finishing second, Busch third, Gordon fourth and Matt Kenseth fifth.

New team owner Tony Stewart will put his Chevrolet in a winner’s circle before anyone driving a Dodge does, and he will be in the Chase.

Mark Martin, now driving for Hendrick Motorsports, will win the March 1 Shelby 427 at Las Vegas.

No Cup driver will win more than five points races.

Las Vegas native Brendan Gaughan will be the top rookie in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and will win at least one race for Rusty Wallace Racing.

It will not be a banner year for the National Hot Rod Association, which will enter into negotiations again to sell off its professional assets.

Fewer than 10 Top Fuel dragsters will show up for at least one NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.

Larry Dixon will win the Top Fuel championship for the new team owned by Alan Johnson and Sheikh Khalid Bin Hamad Al Thani of Qatar; Robert Hight will get his first Funny Car championship; and Greg Anderson regains the crown in Pro Stock.

Dario Franchitti returns to the IndyCar Series a better driver after a year in NASCAR and will win the series title. Danica Patrick won’t find her way into a winner’s circle and will announce she’ll drive stock cars in 2010.

What are your predictions?

Jeff Wolf’s motor sports column is published Friday. He can be reached at 702-383-0247 or jwolf@reviewjournal.com. Visit Wolf’s motor sports blog at lvrj.com/blogs/heavypedal/ throughout the week.

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