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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Undoubtedly, Jimmie Johnson would like to forget that the 2011 season ever happened. Apparently, voters in NASCARMedia.com’s annual preseason poll already have.
Members of NASCARMedia.com picked Johnson to reign supreme once again – despite a career-low sixth-place finish in the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points.
Johnson received 147 votes in the annual preseason poll, just two more than Carl Edwards, who finished second in last season’s championship points. Rounding out the top 12: defending champion Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch Brad Keselowski, Kasey Kahne, Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle.
Voting among the top four was especially close, as Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Gordon were separated by only seven votes. Stewart trailed Johnson by three votes.
“To be honest I'm stoked they did,” Johnson said. “They know racing and know how much last year will motivate us. Now, we need to go out and do our best to make them all look good.”
Media members were also tasked with predicting the final top 10 for the NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
NASCAR reporters feel déjà vu in NASCAR’s No. 2 series, picking Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to become the first NASCAR Nationwide repeat champion since Martin Truex Jr. accomplished the rare feat in 2004-05.
Stenhouse, who tallied 74 votes, nabbed two more than Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Austin Dillon and last season’s runner up Elliott Sadler. Filling out the top 10: Justin Allgaier, Sam Hornish Jr., Danica Patrick, Kenny Wallace, Cole Whitt, Trevor Bayne and Michael Annett.
Johnny Sauter came a scant six points short of winning last season’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship. Instead, Austin Dillon wore the 2011 crown. Dillon’s gone now, moving to the NASCAR Nationwide Series, and NASCARMedia.com prognosticators believe Sauter will take advantage of his absence.
In the closest vote among the three series, Sauter’s 62 votes barely edged Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Ty Dillon (Austin’s little brother) for the top spot. The younger Dillon tallied 61 votes from the media.
Rounding out the top 10: Ron Hornaday Jr., Matt Crafton, James Buescheer, Timothy Peters, Parker Kligerman, Joey Coulter, Nelson Piquet Jr., Jason Leffler, Justin Lofton and David Starr.