06 May 2009 - Jeff Burton at Lowe's Motor Speedway. (HHP/Harold Hinson)
Keith Waltz

WALTZ: Dusting Off The Crystal Ball

HARRISBURG, N.C. — It’s that time again. Time to grab the old crystal ball from the shelf in the office, dust it off and see how it answers our questions about the season ahead.

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Pato O’Ward at Barber Motorsports Park last season. (Al Steinberg photo)

Q: Who will win the NTT IndyCar Series championship?

C.B.: Pato O’Ward will claim the title as Zak Brown continues to methodically build the IndyCar side of McLaren into a team capable of upending the big three of Penske, Ganassi and Andretti.

Q: Who should fans keep an eye on in NASCAR?

C.B.: Ryan Preece has arrived with his full-time gig at Stewart-Haas Racing, and the 2013 NASCAR Modified Tour champion will turn heads in the No. 41 Ford.

Q: Will there be a new champion in the World of Outlaws sprint cars?

C.B.: Yes, Brad Sweet’s domination will end at four in a row. Carson Macedo will win the most races and claim his first series title in the No. 41 Jason Johnson Racing entry.

Q: Is running the NASCAR All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro a good idea?

C.B.: It will be the most talked about event of the year — and we expect fireworks both on and off the track.

Q: Will the STARS National Series be successful during its inaugural season?

C.B.: Absolutely. A marquee series for super late models has been missing from the American racing landscape for far too long.

Q: How will Steve Francis impact the World of Outlaws Late Model Series in his new role as series director?

C.B.: Steve Francis is a true racer — someone who has been there and done that. He knows what works and what doesn’t, and he’ll make the hard decisions. Excellent choice.

Q: Will Tony Stewart become a full-time drag racer?

C.B.: At this point in his career, Tony Stewart is more important to the sport of auto racing out of the race car — any race car — rather than in it.

Q: Will streaming video be a hot topic throughout the year?

C.B.: Maneuvers and discussions will be ongoing as every side tries to get a bigger slice of the streaming pie.

Q: Who will win the Indianapolis 500?

C.B.: Josef Newgarden will become the first American to win The Greatest Spectacle in Racing since Alexander Rossi in 2016.

Q: Will an NHRA Top Fuel car top 340 mph this season?

C.B.: Yes, and Brittany Force will be the one to set the record.

Q: Should we expect a female feature winner in USAC this year?

C.B.: Definitely, but selecting who that winner will be is a much tougher choice as I’m not getting a clear reading.

Q: What are the chances of your predictions actually coming true?

C.B: We’ll leave that for debate among the readers.

■ As this publication originally known as National Auto Racing News enters a new era with the introduction of SPEED SPORT Weekly, we’ll end by reflecting on a personal milestone.

Forty years ago this month, a 22-year-old, wide-eyed graduate of Ball State University drove from Columbus, Ind., to Ridgewood, N.J., to take his place behind the news desk at National Speed Sport News. It was the beginning of a four-decade journey through the motorsports universe that resulted in us working alongside Chris Economaki, Darrell Waltrip and H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler.

We toiled on the public relations side of the sport for several years, but a majority of our time has been spent as a member of the SPEED SPORT family, first as a full-time employee and most recently as a freelance writer and editor.

Like many of our readers, we don’t deal well with technology, so we are still coming to grips with the transition from SPEED SPORT Magazine to SPEED SPORT Weekly. However, everyone should enjoy the switch back to the days when National Speed Sport News was a weekly publication, and it will only be a matter of time before we find a comfort level with how to smoothly access and read the digital content.

A lot has changed in 40 years — both on and off the race track. Fortunately, SPEED SPORT is still here to cover it all.

This story appeared in the Jan. 11 edition of the SPEED SPORT Insider.

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