Series Champion Tony Stewart poses with his trophy during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion's Week on November 29, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Biggest Storylines of the Offseason

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has one of the shortest offseasons in all of professional sports, but it is constantly rife with developing stories despite the short schedule.

Drivers and teams are already looking forward to the testing session at Daytona International Speedway for the 54th running of the Daytona 500.

Faces and places have been altered in the past couple of weeks since the checkered flag dropped at Homestead-Miami Speedway. While, many driver placements are still in the works.

Here are just some stories that we’ve seen come into the fold during the 90 day offseason.

Can Tony Stewart Win Another Championship?

Its pretty safe to say that Tony Stewart can’t be expected to duplkicate his 2011 Chase performance. Winning five of the ten Chase races is a new record that may never be broken. However, the question of whether or not he can repeat as champion will be asked and asked again until most everyone is sick of talking about it. At some point, Smoke will definitely get sick of repeating himself. It would not be a major surprise to see a sound-bite of his going viral that sees him berating another helpless reporter. Better question should be, who will be the reporter that gets harassed by Stewart?

How Short is Kyle Busch’s leash?

The short answer to the question is that he will not have a huge margin for error. His best bet is to avoid any conflict at all costs and to keep his mouth shut about different incidents, including Kevin Harvick. The tenuous standing with NASCAR may result in a slow start for Busch; he will have to curb his aggressiveness which is partly what makes him a great driver. As soon as Kyle Busch is involved in his first incident, questions will explode as to what NASCARS, M&Ms, and Joe Gibbs Racing will do with the younger Busch.

Darian Grubb+Denny Hamlin= ????

I figure I will stay in the Joe Gibbs Racing organization for just another topic that has developed this off-season. JGR replaced Mike Ford with the reinging NASCAR Sprint Cup champion crew chief, Darian Grubb. This definitely drew a lot of attention and will put some extra pressure on Grubb to get results fairly quick. While the expectations of Joe Gibbs Racing have not been expressed in the public, it is assumable that they hired Grubb to get te No. 11 Toyta bback to its 2010 form. While this has been a heavily discussed topic since it was announced in early December, this story will continue to develop for the better part of 2012.

Kasey Kahne Heads to Hendrick Motorsports

Based on Kahne’s stellar performance in the 2011 Chase, he was not a contender for the championship, Hendrick Motorsports has to be excigted about the prospects of putting him in one of their rides. The media and fans are already excited to see what Kahne can do. Better funding and better equipment, Kahne has a great chance of being in the Chase for the Sprint Cup in 2012.

How Will NASCAR Change Two-Car Tandems?

The general consensus at the superspeedway tracks is that its boring and produces random winners. NASCAR has recognized this and pledged to make an effort to change it. The question being asked by fans is How. One way could be to remove the restrictor plates, but for safety concerns this is an unlikely option. Perhaps in the weeks leading to the Daytona 500, NASCAR will unveil its official plan to truly change a formerly exciting for of racing that has become unpopular to the fans, but to the drivers as well.

Fuel Injection

This topic will be discussed until the checkered flag of the Daytona 500 has been waved. NASCAR has finally removed the carburetors from its cars and switched to a more modern fuel injection system. Whoever wins the Daytona 500 will love it, while others will dispise it. Either way, all the teams have had a chance to test it and see how differently it performs in terms of fuel conseravation and overall mileage. The real testing ground will begin in race condtions at Daytona.

What Will Brian Vickers Do?

With the doors of Red Bull Racing being closed after the last race of the 2011 season, Brian Vickers was without a job. He is currently unemployed and was never considered a leading candiate to replace Kurt Busch in the No. 22. While Vickers mentions through social media that he is working on things for the 2012 season, he is not mentioning as to what route he will be heading. Could the former Busch champion head back to the Nationwide series? Guess we will have to wait and see.

What Will David Reutimann Do?

Former Michael Waltrip Racing driver, David Reutimann is in the same spot as Vickers. He is not at the top of any lists to get a new ride and was given much less warning than David Ragan to try and find one. The best he can realistically hope for is to make a last minute deal to drive either a NASCAR Nationwide or Camping World Truck Series vehicle. Either way, Reuitimann will be taking a serious pay-cut in 2012.

Where Will David Ragan Do?

Roush-Fenway Racing scaled back to a three-car team for 2012 as UPS was no longer willing to sponsor a car fulltime. That was bad news for the UPS driver. Like Reutimann and Vickers, he is currently unemployed. According to many, he was a lead candidate to replace Kurt Busch in the No. 22 but A.J. Allmendinger will be in the Shell-Pennzoil Dodge next season. Ragan may be spending another season in the Nationwide Series.

Will Carl Edwards Be the Next Denny Hamlin?

In 2010, Denny Hamlin had the NASCAR Sprint Cup points lead going into the last race of the season. We all know what happened next, Jimmie Johnson captured his fifth title. Carl Edwards did the same thing in 2011, though he was even closer to the title than Hamln and did not surrender the points lead. Edwards just didn’t win enough races. Edwards’ season will be followed closely in 2012, as he emerged as a perennial Chase contender and a serious championship contender. During the 2011 season, Denny Hamlin did not rebound well from his near-miss at the title. What will Carl Edwards do? Will he improve to win the 2012 title? He will be asked that question a lot during Daytona SpeedWeeks and throughout the course of the season.





Tags: Brian Vickers Carl Edwards Darian Grubb David Ragan David Reutimann Daytona International Speedway Denny Hamlin Electronic Fuel Injection Hendrick Motorsports Joe Gibbs Racing Kasey Kahne Kyle Busch Michael Waltrip Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Red Bull Racing Roush-Fenway Racing Tony Stewart

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