March 20, 2008 | 10:50 A.M. EST
Despite yet another winter snowstorm bearing down on us here in the Midwest, the Easter break is upon us. Time to take a short breather in the Sprint Cup Series world, which has given us a steady stream of storylines in a pretty short period of time.
The next stretch of the season, which kicks off in Martindville next week and goes only three weeks (Texas and Phoenix to follow) before the second break in the schedule, promises to be an interesting time with a number of developments to keep our eyes on: Will Hendrick Motorsports finally get off the floor and win a race. You have to like the odds at Martinsville and Phoenix, where they dominated a year ago, but not so much in Texas. While Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continues to carry the load for the stable, the vaunted duo of Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson have been nowhere to be found, except for the two-three finish in Fontana. And Casey Mears, predicted by many (myself included) to be in for a breakout season, has been pretty much a non-entity since the opening bell at Daytona. The prediction is the No. 24 and No. 48 will each have a victory before our next recess the third week in April.
Can Kyle Busch continue his torrid pace? Had mechanical problems not sidelined him the last few weeks, Busch would most like be on top of all three of NASCAR's top divisions at the break. It's hard to remember a better start by anyone across the board and Busch has an opportunity to make his mark in Cup while impressing even more with his Nationwide and truck series efforts.
Will Roush Fenway continue its comeback? There's no doubt on this one and Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth will all make the "Chase" in my estimation. After admitting they were behind on the COT last year, Jack Roush has come true on his promise to catch up and this team looks like the same group that dominated a few years ago. Not everything's completely peachy however as Jamie McMurray's future is in serious doubt and David Ragan's progression needs to step up quickly or bother could find themselves looking for work elsewhere.
When will Dale Earnhardt, Jr. win? Soon. Earnhardt has handled the pressure of moving to Hendrick very well and in the best way possible - with results. He's been in the hunt every weekend except for the Fontana debacle and the first Hendrick win will come soon, and then be followed by at least a couple more before the final checkered flag of 2008 flies.
Will television ratings continue to rise? It seems most of the media has missed the fact that TV ratings are on the upswing this year, even though there were so many "NASCAR TV Ratings Decline - Again" headlines a year ago. Interest is back up for three reasons - Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s success, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson's miseries and controversy. Carl Edwards' penalty, the Goodyear tire debacle at Atlanta, last wek's slam bang finish with Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart have all helped get NASCAR headlines and in turn brought the ratings higher. Better racing has also been on display from time-to-time and as teams get more of a handle on the new car, the competition will improve. That will keep the TV numbers going higher.
Enjoy the Easter weekend. March Madness NASCAR-style picks back up in a few days.