Monday, February 1, 2010

Tyler Head's Power Rankings: Preseason

Welcome to a new year of Tyler Head's Power Rankings! After taking a hiatus from blogging, I'm back and better than ever! Okay, maybe I can't promise that I'm better than ever, but I'm back nonetheless! So with that here are the preseason rankings on a 2010 season that is sure to be exciting with Jimmie Johnson unpresidented seeking his fifth consecutive championship, while the likes of Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart and Mark Martin look to dethrone him. Meanwhile, Nascar takes a step back to its roots, leaving racing in the driver's hands, and removing the rear wing in favor of a spoiler. Without further delay, here are my preseason rankings!

1. Jimmie Johnson

Are you surprised? You shouldn't be, there's no need to explain why this man is on top of these rankings, considering that he is, and has been for the last four years, on top of the Nascar world. Johnson may not be the points leader in the early months of the season, but when it counts towards the end of the season he'll be right where he wants to be, its up to the other 42 drivers out there to make sure he doesn't stay there. Until that happens though, Johnson stays where he's been for so long: the top.

2. Denny Hamlin

Hamlin had a fighting chance at the title in 2009, but an accident while leading at Fontana and mechanical failures at Charlotte and Talladega kept Hamlin from keeping touch with Johnson, despite earnign two wins at Martinsville and Homestead over the last five races. Despite those issues, Hamlin finished a solid fifth in the final standings, and despite a torn ACL he is one of the favorites to take the championship from Johnson in 2010. Hamlin will only get better as he matures, all he needs is a little good luck to come his way to win it all.

3. Jeff Gordon

On the final race weekend of 2009, Rick Hendrick announced that Gordon was committed to racing full time through at least 2013, indicating that Gordon still has a lot left in the tank. His performance last year shows it as well, with a win and eight second place finishes to his credit, and a third place finish in the final point standings. If Gordon can get things rolling at the right time of the season and close out races strong, he will be among the drivers racing for the title at Homestead.

4. Tony Stewart

Talk about an instant success, Stewart took a team that was sub-par at best and turned it into a championship caliper team, winning four races and making the Chase, silencing all critics of his departure from Joe Gibbs Racing to start his own team. Stewart should perform well once again in 2010, will the foundations of Stewart/Haas Racing clearing well in place.

5. Mark Martin

Remember way back when this guy was retiring in 2005? With a contract extension with Hendrick Motorsports to drive full time through 2011, that clearly is a long forgotten memory for the 51 year old veteran. Five wins and his fifth second place championship finish in 2009 show that he can still perform on the track, and his sophomore year with Hendrick Motorsports may just be the one where he finally rids himself of the title "best driver to never win a championship."

6. Kurt Busch

Busch rounded out 2009 with a fourth place finish in points, with wins at Atlanta and Texas to his credit. Roger Penske will look for Busch to have continued success, as he continues to lead the team as Sam Hornish Jr. continues his transition from open wheel racing and Brad Keselowski begins his first full season in the Sprint Cup Series. If 2009 is any indication, the Blue Deuce will be a contended on the 1.5 milers, a complete package in 2010 will put Busch in the hunt for his second championship.

7. Kyle Busch

Coming off a disappointing 2009 campaign where he won four races but failed to make the twelve man Chase at the end of the season Busch will be more determined than ever to win races and compete for a title. Watch out for Busch in the 500 as well, he had strong cars in both the 2008 and 2009 Daytona 500s, and had a streak of three consecutive finishes of 2nd or better heading into the 2009 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona when he wrecked from the lead coming to the checkered flag.

8. Juan Pablo Montoya

Montaya hit the high point of his short Nascar career in 2009, failing to earn a win despite coming close in several races, including the Brickyard 400, but made the Chase for the first time and finished 8th in the final standings. Montoya should continue to improve, earning a wins on ovals and making the Chase. If he can get things to go his way in the final 10 events, he can upset Johnson when the checkered flag flies at Homestead.

9. Carl Edwards

Edwards was supposed to be the one to prevent Johnson from earning a fourth championship, instead he earned fewer top fives than he had wins in 2008, and finished 11th in the final championship standings. Cousin Carl shouldn't stay down long, though, as he'll attempt a resurgance in 2010. If the 99 runs the way it did in 2008, Edwards will be in position to give Jack Roush his third championship. However, Bob Osborne has a lot of work to do to get the team running at that high a level.

10. Kasey Kahne

With rumors spreading that Kahne might leave Richard Petty Motorsports after the 2010 season in favor of a better team, you can expect RPM to the majority of its resources into its star driver. Kahne's 11 career are proof of Kahne's driving ability, its up to RPM to give him the equipment he needs to succeed.

11. Jeff Burton

Richard Childress Racing struggled throughout the 2009 season, with each of its four teams failing to reach victory lane. However, Burton's Caterpilla Impala SS came close in the final races of 2009, earning three top-5's in the final three races. Expect that momentum to rollover into 2010, and for Burton to make his way back towards the top of the standings with consistent finishes each week.

12. Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Are you surprised? You should be, Earnhardt's 2009 campaign was dreadful at best, as the 88 team managed to earn just five top-10's in 36 races, with none in the final 12 races of the season. So, why is he ranked so high? Its simple, Earnhardt is coming into the 2010 season a new man, focused more on racing and confident in his team's ability to give what he needs to succeed, as Lance McGrew begins his first full season as Earnhardt's crew chief. You simply cannot keep a star like Earnhardt down, which is why I'm going out on a limb and predicting a resurrection of the fourth Hendrick team.

Other notables:

Ryan Newman - Newman silently made the Chase alongside teammate Stewart. Expect Newman to make a highlight reel or two in 2010, without flipping his car.

Matt Kenseth - The 2003 champion is coming off his first season in which he did not make the Chase. Expect Kenseth to get back on track in 2010, with consistency being a key to success.

Kevin Harvick - Harvick was part of the misery that was Richard Childress Racing in 2009. He'll be driven to get out of the gutter and back to the headlines in 2010.

Marcos Ambrose - Ambrose's oval effort improved dramatically in 2009, and continued improvement in 2010 may just see Ambrose sneak his way into the Chase.

Brian Vickers - Vickers earned the second win of his career at Michigan and made the Chase for the first time, but had little success in the season's final ten races. Vickers and crew would certainly appreciate a second chance to show what they can do when it matters most.


  1. Glad to see you and the power rankings are back.

    Nice breakdown of your top 12. Of course, I disagree with a few, so I may have to post my top

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Go for it, I'll check it out. Just make sure you put Gordon high enough or I'll have to complain haha.

  4. Great new picture for your power rankings Tyler!
    Glad to see you back blogging. I have to get back on the stick one of these days too!

    Hmm, Kurt seems a little low but you stuck Jr in there at the end so I will forgive you!

  5. Tyler, welcome back to blogging. I'll have to take exception to Dale Jr being in the top 12. He has to prove that he can run consistently in the top 15 and not have finishes below the top 25. If he can do that, then a top 12 is warranted. If he averages a 15th place finish after 26 races, he could sneak into the Chase. I see him improving, but not making the Chase. Next year, in all likelihood. Harvick will break out of his prolonged winless streak early in the season, I'm saying by the Bristol spring race.