NASCAR Panel: Shootout week

Published 11:43 pm Friday, February 11, 2011

What driver faces 2011 as his “put up or shut up” year?

Jason Cannon: Dale Junior. I think last year was the first of two “put up or shut up” seasons. Now, with his third crew chief, it’s all on him. We all know Steve Letarte can win on top of a pit box.

Ken Mays: Two picks here. Dale Jr. and David Ragan. Junior may be the most popular driver in NASCAR, but I have to believe Papa Hendrick is getting restless. A lot of time and money has been poured into this team, and it appears its only going backwards. Ragan has been mostly invisible in the 6 car, and Papa Roush wont allow that to continue either.

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Mark Trest: I am giving that to the driver of the 88 car, Dale Jr. He has had so many chances to better himself as a driver than anyone in the series. They have given him a whole new team that is made up of the best that his owner has. So now he has no excuses but to win at least a few races and a lot of top ten finishes.

Were the changes to the points systems NASCAR’s attempt to liven up the Chase or is it an attempt to dethrone Johnson?

Jason Cannon: A little of both. If Jimmie Johnson wins races, you can’t stop him from winning a championship. What the new points system does is it gives the consistent winners and finishers a little more reward. However, I think NASCAR would be thrilled to see something other than the 48 parked in the winners circle at the end of the year.

Ken Mays: Its an attempt to liven up the Chase. However, they can come up with the most complex points system or the most archaic, the cream still rises to the top regardless, so the new system just makes it simpler to follow.

Mark Trest: I am kinda leaning towards the system dethroning Jimmie Johnson. I know he is good but I don’t believe that he is that dominate.

What do you expect from Kasey Kahne’s one-year stint with Red Bull this year?

Jason Cannon: Mediocre results, as usual. I’ve never thought Kahne was an elite driver and there’s not a ton of loyalty and effort on the line when you’re guaranteed a ride with another team the following year.

Ken Mays: Team Red Bull is definitely better with Kahne at the wheel, so I expect a win or two this season.

Mark Trest: I think he will show good things in a few races, I don’t look for him to win many races if any. He is sitting in a good spot just to impress his fan base.

What do you expect from Denny Hamlin this coming season?

Jason Cannon: Denny Hamlin is a beast and his time is coming. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him win eight to nine races this year. He’s one of the more consistent drivers on the track and the only one I would put on Jimmie Johnson’s talent level.

Ken Mays: Provided they don’t have a fall off in performance, I expect Hamlin again to contend for the title.

Mark Trest: I believe Denny will do good things this year. I proved that he is a tough guy last year driving and winning a race right after having a knee operation.

Who is your pick to win the 2011 Championship?

Jason Cannon: I like Denny Hamlin. The new points system rewards winning and he wins races. And, for the most part, he finishes consistently in the Top 10.

Ken Mays: I rode the 48 horse all last year to the title, and I will ride it again this year, until proven otherwise, that someone else is the Champion. Team 48 and Jimmie Johnson is the team to beat.

Mark Trest: I am picking Tony Stewart to win it all this year. He has been building up for something big to happen and I think it might be one of those fun season for him as a driver to show us fans what NASCAR was meant to be.