We already told you to pencil in Gordon for the 2002 title; here are a few other things to watch for in the second half
?Silly season will be longer and sillier than ever. Young drivers are a white-hot commodity, and a few older hands are thinking of hanging it up, so we're in for quite a game of musical rides. One near certainty: Elliott Sadler will go from Wood Brothers to Robert Yates Racing. Slightly less certain: Will he replace Ricky Rudd, who has hinted at retirement if he can't work out a deal with Yates?
? Dale Earnhardt Jr. will win at Talladega in October. Dale Earnhardt Inc.'s cars are becoming one-trick ponies. They dominate restrictor-plate tracks and are so-so elsewhere. With Michael Waltrip's victory last Saturday, DEI drivers have won five of the last seven events at Daytona and Talladega. (Of Waltrip's and Junior's eight career Winston Cup wins, five have come at those two tracks.) Guys, do us a favor: Spend less time on your restrictor-plate program. You might run better elsewhere, and superspeedway races wouldn't be so predictable.
?We'll see a race that fails to field 43 cars. It nearly happened at Pocono last month, but two ARCA drivers, Frank Kimmel and Carl Long, rounded out the field at the last minute. A late-season race at a track without a supporting ARCA event—say, Phoenix—might produce the first short field since 1996.
?A big-name open-wheel racer will find work in NASCAR. Sam Hornish, Max Papis and Paul Tracy have all made noise recently about giving stock cars a shot. If one of them agrees to a deal—which probably wouldn't take effect until 2003—it would further underscore NASCAR's superiority in the racing world.