Welcome to Bobfoolery, a time when the Stock Report column is a bigger loser than the Stock Market.
Most readers don't know or care that Bobfoolery is an annual attempt to predict the NASCAR Winston Cup champion and the attendant 19 in the point standings. In fact, our word processor program underlines "Bobfoolery" in red, indicating it isn't even a real word.
Before the folly and with a straight face, let's drop the checkered flag on 2002 with superlatives. Such honors, while belated, are not authentic without Bobfoolery's official stamp of approval.
Driver of the Year (Winston Cup and National): Champion Tony Stewart. There's no question about his ability to drive a race car, and we aren't on the motorsports panel that picked CART's Christiano da Matta as National Driver of the Year.
Crew Chief: Greg Zipadelli. He kept his team focused and motivated amid off-track distractions and turmoil.
Team: The Joe Gibbs Racing/ Home Depot No. 20 Pontiac. When the going got tough, the tough got going.
Car Owner: Jack Roush. With due respect to Joe Gibbs, Roush's four teams logged 10 wins, and three of those teams ranked second, third, and eighth in points.
Engine Builder: Mark Cronquist from Joe Gibbs Racing, for the second time in three years.
Manufacturer: Ford Motor Co. won its third factory trophy in 4 years with 14 wins (compared to 10 by Chevrolet) and had 7 drivers in the Top 10 in points.
Story of the Year: Jack Roush's plane crash and life-saving rescue by ex-Marine Larry Hicks. Runner-up: Stewart's up-and-down season, on and off the track.
Person of the Year: Kyle Petty, whose Victory Junction dream for chronically ill kids is near reality.
NASCAR Official: Jim Hunter. The director of communications helped bridge the gap between NASCAR and the press.
Race: Food City 500, Bristol. Kurt Busch bumped and ran by Jimmy Spencer for his first Winston Cup victory.
Track: Indianapolis Motor Speedway for its "soft" wall SAFER energy-absorbing barrier, introduced to stock cars at the Brickyard 400.
Best Comeback: Kurt Busch. The Roush No. 97 Ford driver vaulted from 27th in points in 2001 to 3rd, winning three of the last five races.
Best Newcomer (tie): Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson. Newman earned top rookie honors on the strength of 14 Top-5 finishes, but Johnson won three races, tying the record for most race won by a rookie, and was fifth in points, one notch above Newman.
Shocker: Jamie McMurray's incredible victory at Charlotte in his second Winston Cup start.
Dramatic Moment: Teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Steve Park walk away arm-in-arm from the crash of their cars at Pocono.
Touching Moment: Johnny Benson's emotional first Winston Cup victory, at Rockingham, in his 226th start.
Magic Moments: Johnson, Newman, and McMurray also won for the first time.
Oddity: The steering locked on Mark Martin's Ford and collected Johnson's Chevrolet on the parade lap at Talladega. Runner-up: Sterling Marlin's no-no "repairs" to his car under red flag conditions at the Daytona 500.
In Memoriam: Buck Baker, Charlie Harville, Dan Lohwasser II.
Quotes: "I practically destroyed this team by midseason, single-handedly, and Zippy was the glue that held everybody together. Zippy was the friend that got me back on track and got my mindset right to do what we did the rest of the year."-Tony Stewart on crew chief Greg Zipadelli.
"Nobody has been able to make that many cars run that good."- Champion car owner Joe Gibbs complimenting Jack Roush on his teams' great year.
"I dropped right in on Larry Hicks. ... How can that be ... ?"-Jack Roush, on his plane crash.
"Holy cow!"-Jamie McMurray at Charlotte after his first Winston Cup victory.
"I've got some really good words for him I can't say."-Ward Burton after his car was kayoed in a collision with Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Bristol.
Bobfoolery relates, Ward, but it's not what we want to say-it's what others want to say about us. We persevere, though, forging ahead in a dense fog.
No one saves these predictions from year-to-year, with the exception of a few veterinarians who need lining for animal cages. So, Bobfoolery 2002 has been reprinted along with the official Winston Cup standings, for mockery, not comparison.
|BOBFOOLERY 2002 |
| ||Driver ||Car ||Wins* |
|1. ||Jeff Gordon ||Chevy ||5 |
|2. ||Jeff Burton ||Ford ||3 |
|3. ||Tony Stewart ||Pontiac ||3 |
|4. ||Ricky Rudd ||Ford ||2 |
|5. ||Sterling Marlin ||Dodge ||2 |
|6. ||Bobby Labonte ||Pontiac ||2 |
|7. ||Dale Jarrett ||Ford ||3 |
|8. ||Kevin Harvick ||Chevy ||2 |
|9. ||Dale Earnhardt Jr. ||Chevy ||2 |
|10. ||Rusty Wallace ||Ford ||1 |
|11. ||Ward Burton ||Dodge ||2 |
|12. ||Mark Martin ||Ford ||1 |
|13. ||Jeremy Mayfield ||Dodge ||1 |
|14. ||Johnny Benson ||Pontiac ||1 |
|15. ||Matt Kenseth ||Ford ||1 |
|16. ||Bill Elliott ||Ford ||1 |
|17. ||Jimmy Spencer ||Dodge ||1 |
|18. ||Ricky Craven ||Ford ||1 |
|19. ||Joe Nemechek ||Ford ||0 |
|20. ||Bobby Hamilton ||Chevy ||1 |
*Drivers outside Top 20 picked to win two races.
|OFFICIAL 2002 STANDINGS |
| ||Driver ||Points ||Wins |
|1. ||T. Stewart ||4,800 ||3 |
|2. ||M. Martin ||4,762 ||1 |
|3. ||K. Busch ||4,641 ||4 |
|4. ||J. Gordon ||4,607 ||3 |
|5. ||J. Johnson ||4,600 ||3 |
|6. ||R. Newman ||4,593 ||1 |
|7. ||R. Wallace ||4,574 ||0 |
|8. ||M. Kenseth ||4,432 ||5 |
|9. ||D. Jarrett ||4,415 ||2 |
|10. ||R. Rudd ||4,323 ||1 |
|11. ||D. Earnhardt Jr. ||4,270 ||2 |
|12. ||J. Burton ||4,259 ||0 |
|13. || B. Elliott ||4,158 ||2 |
|14. ||M. Waltrip ||3,985 ||1 |
|15. ||R. Craven ||3,888 ||0 |
|16. ||B. Labonte ||3,810 ||1 |
|17. ||J. Green ||3,704 ||0 |
|18. ||S. Marlin ||3,703 ||2 |
|19. ||D. Blaney ||3,670 ||0 |
|20. ||R. Gordon ||3,632 ||0 |
What's clear is, there's virtually no comparison. Jeff Gordon didn't win the championship. Bobfoolery picked just 2 of the Top 5 (Gordon and Stewart), 5 of the Top 10, and 13 of the Top 20-none in the proper order. We badly underrated Mark Martin and Matt Kenseth and grossly overrated Jeff Burton, Bobby Labonte, and Kevin Harvick, who finished 21st, among others who didn't even make the final Top 20. We were absolutely T-boned by the kids, three twenty-somethings in the Top 6.
Thirteen of Bobfoolery's 19 picks to win a race did, but only four numbers are correct. Four drivers not picked to win a race or picked in Bobfoolery's top 20 scored a total of 9 victories. Given our awful record, you might check our math, too.
Largely because Editor Larry Jewett says this misguided missive isn't worth much more space, we activate our patented system to make this year's predictions: a crystal ball filled with used motor oil, flip of an old penny (FLOP), phone call to Madam Swami, and names drawn from a hat.
Bobfoolery picks Jeff Gordon and the No. 24 Dupont Chevy to return to the Winston Cup throne in 2003-for the fifth time. While all but three drivers would have traded seasons with Gordon, Bobfoolery believes he was distracted by his divorce, though we doubt it was loneliness. He will be back in focus and form this year. Hey, he might need the money. The hardest part will be overcoming the Bobfoolery jinx.
No question, Winston Cup has a new face. The young guns, as the 2003 chart indicates, will be strong contenders again, and the champion is going to have to beat one or two of them. But we don't think Busch, Newman, Johnson, Kenseth, or Earnhardt Jr. have yet established the consistency it takes to win a title. Stewart could repeat, but mustering a team to the highest level for two straight years is exceedingly difficult. Mark Martin, Sterling Marlin, and Jeff Burton should return to the hunt.
Those omitted from Bobfoolery's top 20 can breathe a sigh of relief. Our reputation says they'll overachieve.
|BOBFOOLERY 2003 |
| ||Driver ||Car ||Wins* |
|1. ||J. Gordon ||Chevy ||5 |
|2. ||K. Busch ||Ford ||3 |
|3. ||T. Stewart ||Chevy ||3 |
|4. ||R. Newman ||Dodge ||2 |
|5. ||J. Johnson ||Chevy ||2 |
|6. ||M. Martin ||Ford ||2 |
|7. ||S. Marlin ||Dodge ||2 |
|8. ||J. Burton ||Ford ||2 |
|9. ||R. Wallace ||Dodge ||1 |
|10. ||D. Earnhardt Jr. ||Chevy ||2 |
|11. ||D. Jarrett ||Ford ||2 |
|12. ||B. Labonte ||Chevy ||2 |
|13. ||M. Kenseth ||Ford ||2 |
|14. ||R. Rudd ||Ford ||1 |
|15. ||K. Harvick ||Chevy ||1 |
|16. ||B. Elliott ||Dodge ||1 |
|17. ||M. Waltrip ||Chevy ||1 |
|18. ||J. Green ||Chevy ||0 |
|19. ||R. Craven ||Pontiac ||0 |
|20. ||J. McMurray ||Dodge ||0 |
* Two wins outside the Top 20.