Thursday, February 13, 2014
NASCAR 2014 Season Predictions
* Kyle Busch leads 54 laps and passes Ryan Newman on the final lap to win the Daytona 500, his first Sprint Cup win at the season opener. In a post-race interview with Erin Andrews, Busch announces that he and his wife Samantha are pregnant with their first child. Busch beams to Andrews that, "I'm sure I'll be a good father, because I know what it's like to be a baby."
Busch finishes second in the Sprint Cup point standings, winning five races, and caps his year with a win at Homestead and his first Sprint Cup championship.
* Tony Stewart vows to win his third Sprint Cup championship in 2014, and fans and other drivers notice his new attitude. Former teammate Ryan Newman quips in an interview at Daytona that Stewart seems to be "walking with a purpose, as well as a limp."
Stewart wins at Watkins Glen and qualifies for the Chase, but finishes a disappointing seventh in the final standings.
* Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s No. 88 car gets a new sponsor just in time for the Daytona 500 when an online funeral planning service signs on for 12 races. The service, known as "Final-E," sees a boom in business after their logo appears on Earnhardt's Chevy.
Earnhardt finishes second in the Daytona 500, and wins at Daytona in July on his way to a fourth place finish in the Sprint Cup points standings.
* Kevin Harvick coins the name "Two Men and a Babe, and Kurt Busch" to describe the Stewart-Haas Racing stable of Stewart, Harvick, Kurt Busch, and Danica Patrick after a heated drivers' meeting following wreck at Fontana initiated by aggressive driving from Busch.
Harvick, aided by new buddy Stewart, exacts his revenge the following week at Martinsville, where the two craft an elaborate hoax in which a phony façade of Busch's hauler placed in front of a Port-a-Potty lures Busch into a trap. Once inside, Busch is fork-lifted to an outer parking lot, and is forced to walk back and misses qualifying.
* E! Network and ABC collaborate on a new reality show called "Keeping Up With the Chase Format: Extreme Makeover: NASCAR Edition." In the show, host Brad Daugherty roams around NASCAR events asking fans if they understand not only the Chase For the Cup format, but Daugherty's hayseed, mountain drawl.
* Richard Childress Racing rookie Austin Dillon bulls his way to the win in a wreck-filled race at Bristol on March 16, as only 22 cars are running at the end. In Victory Lane, Dillon salutes his detractors with a middle finger, then pops the top on a beer before shouting, "Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass!"
The outburst makes Dillon a sensation, but also saddles the driver of the Childress No. 3 Chevy with the nickname "The Imitator."
* In an interview promoting a partnership between the No. 48 team and Caesar's Palace before the March race in Las Vegas, Jimmie Johnson coins his quest for his seventh Sprint Cup championship "VIIni, VIIdi, VIIci."
Later, after International Speedway Corporation CEO Jim France makes Smith an insulting offer for Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Smith slaps France, leading a fallen France to quip, "Et tu, Bruton?"
Johnson leads the points standings for most of the year, and heads to Homestead with a chance to win No. 7, but engine trouble ends his day. He finishes third in the points standings.
* Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. elope in Barbados on April 19th at a ceremony presided over by Russell Brand and streamed live on GoDaddy.com. Patrick wears a Vera Wang gown crafted from fire-suit material and accented with a HANS device and also featuring a plunging neckline that leaves little to the imagination.
Patrick's good fortune continues when she wins at Talladega on May 3rd, darting from 23rd to first on the final lap as a wild pileup eliminates half the field. A wild celebration ensues in Victory Lane, where Patrick delivers a message to her competitors, "There's a party at my house. I hate to be 'Petty,' but no one's invited, so you can all go home."
* In a new advertisement for ESPN's SportsCenter, Clint Bowyer leads a spin class in the ESPN company workout facility, while Michael Waltrip is seen guiding a tour group from Finland around ESPN's headquarters. The commercial ends when Bowyer and Waltrip dupe the tour group into paying a second admission fee before they're busted by Jeff Gordon and Ryan Newman, who accuse the MWR duo of "manipulating the Finnish."
* Carl Edwards is scheduled to make an appearance in the March 2nd episode of AMC's The Walking Dead, in which he portrays the leader of a brainless following of half-dead dimwits, a group eerily similar to the Carl Edwards Fan Club.
To publicize the event, the No. 99 sports a Subway/The Walking Dead paint scheme bearing the slogan, "Subway: Eat Flesh" at Phoenix. Edwards leads 88 laps and wins in a race that features only three lead changes. In Victory Lane, Edwards performs his trademark back flip while disappointed fans file out like zombies.
* Matt Kenseth wins the Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 6th, and is presented the winner's trophy by "Duck Dynasty" patriarch Phil Robertson, who oddly comments that his favorite parts of the 1.5-mile track are the "straights."
* After a crash at Kentucky Speedway on June 28th, Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards are summoned to the NASCAR hauler for a talk with NASCAR officials. Keselowski creates a firestorm when he tweets a picture from inside the hauler, a photo which shows he and Edwards smoking cigars and playing ping-pong while officials in the background relax in a hot tub.
Keselowski is placed on probation for two weeks, while NASCAR bans cell phones and all liquids in excess of 3.4 ounces. 5-Hour Energy shots takes advantage of the opportunity, and becomes the official drink of drivers called to the NASCAR hauler.
* June's road race at Sonoma is delayed for three hours after a mild earthquake strikes the region, causing slight damage to the circuit's surface. Swan Racing part-owner 50 Cent is seen inspecting a fissure in the track along pit road, leading to TNT's Kyle Petty to make the controversial statement, "Well, he was a crack dealer."
50 laughs off the comment, and later in the year makes a big splash when, as honorary starter at Dover in June, eschews waving the green flag and instead fires a starters pistol nine times. In doing so, 50 becomes the first rapper to be "shot nine times" twice.
* Gene Haas abandons his plan to enter Formula 1 and instead opts to field a funny car in the NHRA. Haas car flops, failing to qualify for a single final, and becomes the laughingstock in the drag racing garage, leading to the nickname "Funny Haas Haas."
* A healthy Denny Hamlin wins four races on the season, including March's Martinsville race, where he fights off a challenge from Joey Logano, than challenges Logano to a fight after the race. Hamlin and Logano settle their differences in a charity one-on-one basketball game, which ends in a tie, 1-1.
Hamlin qualifies for the "Elimination Round" of NASCAR's revamped Chase For the Cup format, and wins at Phoenix on November 9th, but tweaks his back shaking an oversized champagne bottle and struggles the following week at Homestead.