Anyone remember the movie "Back to the Future, Part II?"
In it, the character named Biff (not Greg Biffle, but just "Biff") gets hold of a sports almanac from the future and bets on games because he always knows the outcome.
When I started making sports predictions, I wanted to be that accurate. I figured if I unlocked certain trends or stats, it would lead me to the correct conclusions and I could have a cool reputation as an accurate predictor.
I later learned that the best predictors don't survive on a writer's salary, nor do they share their predictions; they just move to Las Vegas.
Anyway, I've spent hours and hours looking for that secret formula in NASCAR. And it's been time wasted.
There's no way around this fact: I stink at racing predictions. I predicted exactly three of the 36 races correctly last year. I missed five of the drivers in the Chase (David Ragan? Really?). And my championship guesses kept alive an embarrassing streak in which I haven't even come close.
YEAR PREDICTION RESULT
2005 Jeff Gordon 11th, Missed Chase, four wins
2006 Carl Edwards 13th, Missed Chase, zero wins
2007 Kasey Kahne 19th, Missed Chase, zero wins
2008 Jeff Gordon 7th, Made Chase, zero wins
2009 Carl Edwards 11th, Made Chase, zero wins
As you can see, I picked against Jimmie Johnson for all four of his Sprint Cup titles. Smart move.
That said, I'm going to do the entire sport a huge favor and write in big, bold letters that JIMMIE JOHNSON WILL WIN HIS FIFTH CONSECUTIVE CHAMPIONSHIP THIS YEAR.
Two reasons, and I admit they're very simple (no formula here): 1) I'm not dumb enough to pick against Johnson again and 2) the fans of every other driver need me to use my jinx now more than ever.
This year, going more on my gut and less on stats, I'm looking to Roush Fenway Racing for a rebound. Team owner Jack Roush sure made it sound like they've found something over there, and though I'm usually fairly skeptical about preseason boasting, I'm going to buy this one.
So even though Carl Edwards totally burned me and my fellow reporters (the majority of whom picked him to beat Johnson last season for the Cup), I'm predicting he'll be back. And back-flipping.
Along with Edwards, teammates Biffle, Matt Kenseth (who missed the Chase last year) and semi-teammate Kasey Kahne from Richard Petty Motorsports will bring a four-car contingent into the playoffs.
There's another four-car group, too: From Hendrick Motorsports/Stewart-Haas Racing. Johnson makes the Chase again, along with Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Tony Stewart.
SHR's Ryan Newman is out of the top 12 this year. I have no good reason for that, but like I said, I'm going on gut.
With only four more spots remaining, two go to Joe Gibbs Racing: Kyle Busch rebounds from his stunning miss last year, and hobbled Denny Hamlin makes the Chase but isn't as strong of a contender now that he's torn his ACL.
I know Hamlin is highly motivated, but he needs a sound mind AND body. He's good for the sport with his outspoken ways, so I hope he proves me wrong.
Who gets the remaining two spots? Juan Pablo Montoya - who is only getting better - and Kurt Busch, a darkhorse to win the whole thing.
All the spots have been filled, which means there's no room at the inn for Dale Earnhardt Jr. But take heart, Junior Nation: Perhaps my prediction of a Chase miss is actually a good thing given my jinxing ways.
Aside from Newman, Brian Vickers also drops out this year. I just didn't like how his Red Bull Racing team finished last season; the No. 83 lost a ton of momentum heading into 2010.
I left Michael Waltrip Racing's David Reutimann and Martin Truex Jr. out, too. Truex Jr. is Chase-capable but needs to get used to a new team, and part of me wonders whether Reutimann can handle the Chase pressure when the Richmond cutoff looms (again, another instance where I hope he proves me wrong).
Finally, I'd like to mention Joey Logano. I was among those who doubted Logano early last year when the rookie struggled and some felt he may have been rushed to Cup. But he really came on strong the second half of the season, and I think his future remains sun-caliber bright.
Logano will make a run at the Chase this year but fall just short. It may be the last time he ever misses the Chase.
So that's it. For you readers with shorter attention spans, here are my predictions in order of finish:
- Jimmie Johnson
- Kurt Busch
- Carl Edwards
- Juan Pablo Montoya
- Mark Martin
- Denny Hamlin
- Jeff Gordon
- Tony Stewart
- Matt Kenseth
- Greg Biffle
- Kyle Busch
- Kasey Kahne