Opinion: Behind the Magic 8 Ball
Motor Racing Network | 3 months ago

Why not go straight to an expert in order to get answers about the upcoming NASCAR season?

Every year us media types get asked to make predictions about what will unfold in the coming year. Most times the best use of those pontifications is to print them out and use the paper to line your bird cage or wrap fish.

So rather than just taking a shot in the dark as it applies to the most pertinent questions of the NASCAR season that kicks off this weekend at Daytona International Speedway, I've brought in an expert - the Magic 8 Ball.

After careful consideration, some WD-40 and a good shake or two, here's what the all seeing, all knowing vessel has come up with for 2018:

Will Martin Truex Jr. be as dominant in 2018?

Answer: "It is certain"

What reason is there to think last year's champion won't be a force again this season? The Furniture Row racing team may be a little smaller scaling down to a single car effort but the resources, knowledge, talent and speed will be just as good as it was during the organization's title run a year ago.

Will Chase Elliott get his first career Cup win?

Answer: "Most likely"

It appears Elliott has reached the point in his career that the answer to the question is when not if he'll win. Five second place finishes last season with four coming during the playoffs is more than a strong knock on the door of Victory Lane and the odds appear very much in favor of win number one coming this season. As a sidebar the 8 Ball's answer to whether Elliott will win the Most Popular Driver award was "Without a doubt."

Will Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s retirement leave a void in the sport?

Answer: "Yes definitely"

The exodus of veterans from the sport for a variety of reasons over the last several seasons has been extraordinary. Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth and Danica Patrick's departures came in rapid succession but Earnhardt Jr.'s decision to hang up his helmet was the biggest hit to the sport's superstar population. Earnhardt Jr. transcended NASCAR into the mainstream consciousness and the argument can be made his name actually resonated as much as the sanctioning body's. The good news is he's still part of the NASCAR universe as an XFINITY Series team owner and NBC analyst. There is also a wealth of talented young drivers coming through the pipeline. But you don't replace the magnitude of superstars like Earnhardt Jr. overnight and it will take some time for his large footprint to be filled.

Does Joey Logano return to the playoffs?

Answer: "Outlook good"

It's hard to imagine Logano and company going through another season like last year. After the encumbered Richmond win in the spring the Team Penske No. 22 entry was a shadow of its former self and struggled mightily. There was a small glimmer of hope during the last weeks of the campaign that should serve as a springboard for a much better 2018 effort.

Will there be 16 different winners this year to claim all the playoff berths?

Answer: "Don't count on it"

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