So on to 2011.
Here are 10 stories that could make news in 2011. That is, if they really occur. They might sound strange, but who could have predicted last year a Daytona pothole, a Jeff Burton-Jeff Gordon scrap and a driver signing a contract to get in a car in 2012?
10. Danica Patrick has a baby. In trying to ingrain herself into the NASCAR culture, she has decided to have a child. If Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Elliott Sadler, Carl Edwards, Juan Pablo Montoya, Jamie McMurray and Ryan Newman do it, she should do it, too.
9. Kasey Kahne fights Brian Vickers. These two new teammates scuffle after Kahne pushes future teammate Jeff Gordon instead of Vickers to victory at Talladega and Rick Hendrick is called in by buddy Jay Frye to sit them down for “milk and cookies.” But when word gets out, the home office in Austria orders it to be a “Red Bull and cookies” sit-down moment in proof that sponsorship is everywhere in NASCAR.
8. Mark Martin sets a record – for the number of times he says he’s not retiring. Since this likely will be his last full-time season, that question will come up several times.
7. Brad Keselowski gets involved in another “boys, have at it” moment. Keselowski has vowed not to back down. Someone will test him again this year. Keselowski decides to get back by calling that driver two dirty names over the loudspeaker.
6. Carl Edwards gets even closer to the fans by inviting one to do a backflip with him after a victory. Aflac stops sponsoring the postrace celebration after the first two fans injure themselves.
5. Richard Childress gets a letter from the IRS questioning a $150,000 contribution to the NASCAR Foundation made late in 2010. Childress’ reply begins with, “This is what the thickness of a quarter cost me.” The IRS drops its inquiry.
4. Denny Hamlin has surgery. Maybe it will be another knee surgery from a basketball injury. Or maybe he and crew chief Mike Ford will get in a wresting match with another crew chief or driver. Or among themselves.
3. Kyle Busch wins 20 races across three divisions. Winning four fewer races than in 2010 prompts the question, “Do you think getting married had anything to do with it?” Busch responds with a double-barrel, one-finger salute.
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. makes the Chase. No egg nog has been consumed during the writing of this column. Swear.
1. Jimmie Johnson doesn’t win the title. Granted, last year this likely would have been the top story predicted as well. But the odds of him winning another have to be less than in 2010, right? But just in case, the drivers, who have threatened to lock him in a bathroom for the final race next year, bring a padlock and a portable potty to Homestead just in case.