The 2011 Nationwide Series season was fantastic for many reasons. It had great races, great finishes, and a great champion.

Before the start of last season NASCAR made a rule that drivers have to choose which series they would like to have points scored in, which was meant to keep Sprint Cup drivers from winning the Nationwide Series championship. The rule worked perfectly. Sophomore driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Elliott Sadler battled to the end of the season, with Stenhouse winning his first series championship.

This season has the potential to be even better.

Austin Dillon is moving to the Nationwide Series from the Camping World Truck Series, Stenhouse is back to defend his title, Trevor Bayne should get to run the full season this year, and Elliott Sadler should be a title contender again this season.

This season will be the second full season with the new Natiowide car, so the teams will have more of an understanding for how the car handles.

A major storyline this year will be the performance of Danica Patrick. This is her first full year in NNS, and she finally is not alternating between stock cars and Indy cars. Patrick has said that her goal for the season is top five in points. It certainly is possible, given her equipment, but she certainly will be worth watching this season anyway.

Kyle Busch Motorsports also jumped into the NNS ranks for this season with what will probably be the most exciting driver-duo. Kyle and his brother Kurt will share the KBM number 54 Monster Energy Drink Toyota. The Busch brothers should win quite a few races this season, but seeing how the two of them work together should be ever more fun to watch.

But there is also some negatives heading into this season.

Kevin Harvick Incorporated went out of business and sold their assets on the NNS side to Richard Childress Racing. Rusty Wallace Racing also is out this season after “suspending operations” because they have run out of funding. That leaves Steven Wallace and Michael Annett without rides for the season.

Stenhouse and Bayne are still without sponsors this season too, which is sad given that one is the defending series champion and the other is the defending Daytona 500 champion.

Now is where we make a prediction for who wins the championship.

I’m going with Sadler. RCR has always been solid when they’ve run this series. Sadler will be in his second year in the series and will run even better than he did last year. He will finally win some races, which is something he failed to do last year. Had he won at least one race last year he may have been the champion over Stenhouse. This year will be Sadler’s year.