Editor's note: Yahoo! Sports is counting down the top 20 drivers of the 2011 season. The order was determined by a survey, which asked five NASCAR journalists – Jay Busbee and Jay Hart (Yahoo! Sports), Jenna Fryer (Associated Press), Dustin Long (Landmark Newspapers) and Nate Ryan (USA Today) – to predict the final standings for the 2011 season. The countdown will conclude on Feb. 11 with the unveiling of the No. 1 driver.
|Finish||Poles||Wins||Top 5||Top 10|
No. 19: Revealed Jan. 18
2010 finish: 18th
Our 2011 predictions:
• Jay Busbee: 16th
• Jay Hart: Not ranked in top 20
• Jenna Fryer: 18th
• Dustin Long: Not ranked in top 20
• Nate Ryan: 15th
2011 outlook: A year ago, David Reutimann was the hot surprise pick to make the Chase. But while he's proven capable of winning races, it's become clear that he's more capable of finishing 15th to 35th, something he did 23 times in 2010.
This is why the enthusiasm surrounding "The Franchise" has gone from a steady simmer to stone cold. And it's not all him.
As a whole, Michael Waltrip Racing ran in place in 2010. The addition of Martin Truex Jr. did little to energize the organization – Truex had just one top-five finish en route to finishing 22nd in the standings – and now MWR seems at a crossroads.
As it stands, MWR has to be considered a third-tier team, one step below the likes of Penske and Earnhardt-Ganassi. It's a blunt assessment, but one that's fair considering Reutimann and Truex combined to lead a total of 192 laps last season.
MWR doesn't need a bunch of wins to elevate to the next level. However, the organization does need to be a consistent top-10 threat, and as the franchise driver, that starts with Reutimann.
Can he flip the numbers around and have 23 top-15 finishes in 2011? The prediction here is no.
What you need to know: Both of Reutimann's Cup victories have come on 1.5-mile tracks, which overshadows the fact that he is a very good short-track driver. Don't be surprised if he were to win a race at either Richmond or Bristol.