LEMASTERS: The Next Best Thing!


CONCORD, N.C. — Remember last year, when we in the media anointed Denny Hamlin as the Next Big Thing? He was going to end this pesky Jimmie Johnson reign and hasten the dawn of a new day in NASCAR.

How’d that work out for us?

Better than the year before, when Carl Edwards was Next Man Up, or the year before that when it was someone else.

This year, one of the guys being touted in that same category is Joey Logano. Can’t argue with that, given the way he finished the 2010 season. That was seventh, sixth, fifth, fourth, third…and 39th. That last was thanks to Juan Pablo Montoya’s misplaced fender at Homestead.

He drives the last car not numbered 48 to win the Sprint Cup Series crown, and he has the same crew chief. He’ll challenge for the Chase, but is probably a season away from battling for a title.

Another guy that had some traction in that regard was…say it with me now…J-u-n-i-o-r. That’s right. You heard me. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. The same guy who hasn’t hit victory lane in 900-something days.

I gotta tell you, I can get behind this. In the wacky world of NASCAR, this is something that just might ring true. Why? What momentous event in NASCAR history happened 10 years ago this year?

I can see that you’re a bit skeptical, and rightly so, but things like this have a way of playing out in that happy, gee-wouldn’t-it-be-cool way (reference 1998 Daytona 500, to kick off 50th Anniversary of NASCAR) in this sport.

If it happens, don’t say it didn’t occur to you either. You’ve been warned!