Archive for February, 2013
Another year of NASCAR brings a lot of changes to the sport. The biggest is the debute of the new generation 6 cars from Ford, Chevy, and Toyota. Seeing how the drivers can handle the new cars will be something to keep an eye on all year. After the crowning of a new champion in 2012, Brad Keselowski will have the opportunity and the challenge of defending his title in 2013. After all of the expectations and the excitement, we finally get to see the generation 6 cars in action at the “Super Bowl of Stock Car Racing”, the Daytona 500. Because of how unpredictable picking a winner at Daytona can be, here are five drivers I believe have the best chance to win the Great American Race and three other drivers who may surprise some people by having a great run on Sunday.
Expect To Win
Kevin Harvick, 29 Budweiser Chevy- Richard Childress Racing
Nobody has had a better Speedweek’s this year than Harvick. Winning the Sprint Unlimited and his Budweiser Duel race, the new father has been on point all week with his eyes set on his second Daytona 500 championship. Harvick always has a habit of showing up at the front near the end of a race so don’t be surprised if Harvick is in a great position at the end for the win.
Kyle Busch, 18 M&M’s Toyota- Joe Gibbs Racing
Kyle 2012 season was a rough one for the driver of the 18 car. Missing the chase last year and only winning one race, Kyle got the 2013 season off to a much better start by winning his Budweiser Duel and has a very fast car for the 500 and will try to get his first 500 victory.
Tony Stewart, 14 Bass Pro Shop/Mobil 1 Chevy- Stewart/HAAS Racing
Year in and year out Stewart comes to Daytona Speedweeks with the goal to win the 500 and every year he comes up just short. Tony has won just about every race at Daytona from the July race to Nationwide race but the 3 time champ just can not get the big one. Why not this year?
Matt Kenseth, 20 Home Depot/Dollar General Toyota- Joe Gibbs Racing
Last years Daytona 500 champion finds himself defending his victory with a new team. Moving from 17 car with Roush Fenway Racing to the 20 car with Joe Gibbs Racing, Matt will have to adapt on the fly with his new team to find success again at Daytona this year. Throughout Speedweeks the 20 team has seemed in sync and will give Kenseth a great chance to defend his title.
Greg Biffle, 16 3M Ford- Roush Fenway Racing
Biffle would have the best Speedweeks of any driver if Kevin Harvick didn’t exist. Finishing 2nd to Harvick in both the Sprint Unlimited and the Budweiser Duel race, Biffle has shown he has a car that can run up front and compete on Sunday. Starting 5th won’t hurt his chances either.
Danica Patrick, 10 Godaddy.com Chevy- Stewart/HAAS Racing
We all know she has got a very fast car, but just getting the pole position in the biggest NASCAR race of the year isn’t enough for some people to give Danica respect. Winning the 500 sure would. Having a teacher/Teammate like Tony Stewart will help Danica learn and get better all week leading up to the 500 on Sunday. If she can keep her car clean and out of trouble, she could be in position to make even more history this Sunday.
Paul Menard, 27 Menard’s Chevy- Richard Childress Racing
Just like his teammates, Paul has had a fast car this week and the former Brickyard 400 winner should have one in the 500. Finishing 7th in the second duel race and starting 16th for the 500, Paul will have some work to do but stranger things have happened at Daytona.
Austin Dillon, 33 Honey Nut Cheerios Chevy- Richard Childress Racing
The grandson of owner Richard Childress, Austin will be running a few races in Sprint Cup this year including the Daytona 500 and he has a fast car. Finishing 3rd in his duel race and starting 8th, Austin will try to make the most of his chance in the 500 and starting up front with great equipment and a whole lot of talent. He may just pull a Trevor Bayne this Sunday.
After the exciting 2012 season that saw young Brad Keselowski holding off five time champion Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer to win his first Sprint Cup Championship. Seemingly out of nowhere, Brad went from a young driver of the future to the champion of the sport. Seeing this youth movement could result in even younger drivers winning NASCAR’s biggest prize.
2013 will also bring Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer together again after Jeff wrecked Clint’s season away in Phoenix, causing members of Clint’s team finding Jeff and putting the smack down on him on national television. Seeing how these two drivers will move around each other this season will be very interesting.
As with any Sprint Cup Season, there are always several driver changes. Matt Kenseth moving from Roush to Joe Gibbs racing no. 20 car and moving Joey Logano from the 20 to Penske racing and the no 22 car. Kurt Busch and Regan Smith swap rides with Busch moving to the 78 and Smith moving to the 51. Also NASCAR’s newest couple Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. both moving up from the Nationwide series to compete for the Rookie of the Year award this year.
Just Missed The Chase- Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Newman, Joey Logano, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Paul Menard.
12.- Matt Kenseth, 20 Home Depot/Dollar General Toyota- Joe Gibbs Racing
The defending Daytona 500 champion moves from the only team he has raced for in the Spring Cup Series to Joe Gibbs racing and the 20 car. It will be different for Matt not seeing the cat in the hat on his pit box each race helping him. This will be a transition year for Matt and the 20 team so seeing them struggle this year will not be that much of a surprise.
11.- Kevin Harvick, 29 Budweiser Chevy- Richard Childress Racing
Announcing last year that 2013 will be Harvick’s last year with Childress Racing, he will be moving to Stewart/HAAS Racing in 2014. Now Harvick and the 29 team will have to avoid the always dreaded lame duck season when all members of the team know they won’t be working together for much longer. The 29 team will make the chase but never find their footing in it and end Harvick’s run at Richard Childress Racing.
10.- Greg Biffle, 16 3M Ford- Roush Fenway Racing
Now the senior member at Roush Racing, Biffle is now the “leader” for the drivers. Greg found success last year in the regular season but just couldn’t have it transition into the Chase resulting in a fifth place finish. Greg will make the chase again this year but without the success he had last year in the regular season.
9.- Kasey Kahne, 5 Farmers Insurance Chevy- Hendrick Motorsports
Kahne’s first year at Hendrick Motorsports started off slow but picked up late to help Kasey finish 4th in 2012. Kahne will look to continue the success in 2013 and should be competitive all year however his struggles in the chase this year will hurt his hunt for the cup.
8.- Carl Edwards, 99 Fastenal Ford- Roush Fenway Racing
Well my pick for the 2012 Sprint Cup Championship didn’t have the season anyone thought he would. Missing the chase completely and going winless, Carl looks to have a bounce back year after the nightmare season that 2012 was. Carl will backflip a few times this year and return to the chase in 2013.
7.- Tony Stewart, 14 Bass Pro Shop/Mobil 1 Chevy- Stewart/HAAS Racing
Tony’s title defense last season didn’t match his expectations but the three time champ is still always one of the best out on the track. From the owner side of Stewart’s job has gotten a little more exciting and complicated with the addition of Danica Patrick to his team. The driver/owner will look to win his second Sprint Cup trophy as a owner driver in 2013 but will fall just short this year.
6.- Jimmie Johnson, 48 Lowe’s Chevy- Hendrick Motorsports
This must be strange for the five time champion, not winning a Sprint Cup trophy in two years. After failing to be in real contention for the trophy in 2011, last year Johnson had a chance in the last week of the season before trouble found him and he fell to third in the season standings. Johnson will fall even further away from the title this year.
5.- Kyle Busch, 18 M&M’s Toyota- Joe Gibbs Racing
Kyle has been on his best behavior since his Truck Series incident in 2011 and after missing the chase in 2012, Kyle will be focused to make a run at the trophy in 2013. In the 10 chase races last year, Kyle scored the second highest amount of points in the chase of any driver, only trailing eventual champ Brad Keselowski. Kyle will return to the chase and compete for the cup.
4.- Dale Earnhardt Jr., 88 National Guard/ Diet Mountain Dew Chevy- Hendrick Motorsports
NASCAR’s most popular driver finally returned to victory lane in 2012 and was a real threat for the Sprint Cup until Dale suffered a concussion in the chase, making him sit out two races and just about ending his season. Dale will look to keep the momentum he built up before the concussion going in 2013 and will fight for the Cup this year.
3.- Brad Keselowski, 2 Miller Light Ford- Penske Racing
Wow, what a year Brad had last year. Coming out of nowhere to win a Sprint Cup Championship last year, Brad solidified himself as one of if not the young face of NASCAR. People thought Brad could and possibly would win a championship one day, just not this fast. Now Brad has the difficult task of repeating that feat as the defending champion and he will put up a fight for it but come up just short.
2.- Clint Bowyer, 15 Five Hour Energy Toyota- Michael Waltrip Racing
Clint had himself a fantastic 2012 season and was in great contention for the championship in his first season with Michael Waltrip Racing. That is until the Phoenix race when Jeff Gordon intentionally wrecked him, taking him out of contention for the trophy and causing the two teams to fight in the garage. This season Clint will try to look past all of the drama of last seasons finish and try to capture this years title. He will get close but will not be able to take home the trophy.
1.- Denny Hamlin, 11 FedEx Toyota- Joe Gibbs Racing
My pick for the 2013 Sprint Cup Championship is Denny Hamlin. Denny had a bit of a disappointing 2012 campaign but still finished sixth in the standings. Denny, who just had his first child this year, looks more focused and ready to finally get the trophy that has eluded him for years. Denny has been very close to the trophy in the past falling just short to Jimmie Johnson in 2010. Denny, learning from his mistakes in the past will finally reach the top and win his first Sprint Cup Championship in 2013.
Super Bowl Sunday is finally upon us and it couldn’t have come quick enough. With all the non stop talk about the Harbaugh brothers matching up to Ray Lewis playing for the final time, its finally time to stop talking about it and let the play on the field speak for itself. But until then a little more talking.
The San Francisco 49ers enter the Super Bowl with a record of 11-4-1 after winning the NFC West title for the second year in a row. After last years disappointing NFC championship defeat to the eventual Super Bowl Champion New York Giants, the Niners return to their 6th Super Bowl with a record of 5-0 in their previous 5 appearances.
The Baltimore Ravens enter the big game with a record of 10-6 after winning the AFC North title in back to back years. Similar to the Niners, the Ravens avenged their heartbreaking loss last year to the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game by beating them convincingly in New England two weeks ago and return to their second Super Bowl in team history.
A good Super Bowl has to have good story lines to keep the conversation going during the weeks before it and this one has plenty of backdrop. This game has been named the “Harbowl” by many because of the coaching matchup between the San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh and the Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh. This being the first time in NFL history two brothers will be coaching against each other in the Super Bowl. Another big story heading into the game will be the final appearance of Ray Lewis in a NFL game. The sure fire hall of famer will end his 17 year career sunday trying to win his second Super Bowl and ride off into the sunset in the most perfect way possible. Another future hall member who will try to get his first Lombardi trophy will be Randy Moss, playing in his second and possibly last Super Bowl, knows he does not have many years left so he must make the most of this opportunity.
Colin Kaepernick leads the high powered Niners offense that has been firing on all cylinders this postseason into the big game to face Lewis and the Ravens always tough defense in one of the big match-ups this sunday. Kaepernick will shine on the big stage as he has done all year while in games and help the Niners get the lead early. His natural athleticism will cause countless problems for the Ravens defense throughout the game but the Ravens will fight back.
One big question mark for the Ravens seemingly all year has been quarterback Joe Flacco. After a shaky regular season, Joe showed critics he could deal by throwing 8 touchdown passes while not throwing a single interception this postseason, beating Indianapolis, Denver, and New England. Joe will make a early mistake that the 49ers will capitalise on and take the lead early. Joe will bounce back with the help of running back Ray Rick and keep up with Kaepernick.
One playmaker that I believe will be a big difference maker will be 49ers running back Frank Gore. With all of the attention seemingly on Kaepernick, Frank will not have the defense watching him all game, giving him opportunities to make big plays for the 49ers. Expect Frank to find the endzone a few times on sunday.
The Niners offense will exploit the Ravens defense’s flaws to take a early but the Ravens who have been riding on the will of Ray Lewis for the postseason. Joe Flacco will get the Ravens close at halftime with the help of wide recievers Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin. The game will stay close with each team trading possessions till the Niners take a double digit lead. The Ravens will fight back and make the game close late, but the Niners strong defense lead by Aldon Smith and Patrick Willis will shut the Ravens offense down and hold on to the lead for good. The San Francisco 49ers will win their 6th Super Bowl trophy and end Ray Lewis’s magical last ride. Frank Gore will get the MVP and the Niners will return to the top of the NFL.
San Francisco 27 Baltimore 20
You could put Peyton Manning in at MVP and Comeback Player of the Year and I would have no problem with it but Adrian Peterson is much more important to the Vikings than Manning is to the Broncos. After last seasons horrific season ending injury, tearing his ACL and MCL, Adrian’s 2012 season was in doubt. Many people thought even if he came back, would he be as strong has he has been in the past? Well he’s back and better than ever by putting together one of the best seasons by a running back in NFL history. Finishing the 2012 season with 2,097 rushing yards, finishing only 9 yards short of breaking the all time record held by Eric Dickerson with 2,105 yards. Adding on 12 touchdowns, Adrian lead the Vikings from a 3-13 record in 2011 to a 10-6 record in 2012 and a wild card birth. Without Adrian, the Vikings would be nowhere near the postseason making him the most valuable player to any team in the NFL.
Ok, Adrian could and maybe should win this award too but after the season Peyton has had, he deserves at least one award right? And what a season Peyton had with the Broncos. After missing the entire 2011 season by having 4 neck surgeries, his comeback season showed doubters that Peyton could still sling pretty good. Throwing for 4,659 yards and 37 touchdowns, Peyton lead the Denver Broncos to a 13-3 record and home field advantage throughout the playoffs, even if they didn’t go as planed for Peyton and the Broncos. Even if the playoffs didn’t play out the way Peyton wanted, it takes nothing away from the spectacular season he had.
J.J. Watt lead the terrifying Houston defense as one of the best in the NFL. Leading the NFL in sacks with 20.5, Watt was a nightmare for offenses. Racking up 81 combined tackles, 4 forced fumbles and recovering 2 himself, Watt was all over the field. Even when Watt was getting blocked at the line, J.J. made his presence known, recording 16 pass deflections at the line of scrimmage.
Ok, so technically he was not a head coach last year, but stepping in for head coach Chuck Pagano when he was diagnosed with Leukemia during the season and leading the Indianapolis Colts to a 9-3 record under him and a 11-5 total record, returning the Colts to the playoffs after winning two games last season. Keeping his team focused enough to play football as their leader was fighting a much more serious battle was tough enough, but getting that team to win a lot of games and make the playoffs is impressive. So impressive that he is now the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, hoping to find success there as well.
I can’t imagine a more difficult situation for a rookie quarterback to walk into than the one first overall pick Andrew Luck had this year. Replacing one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time and beloved icon in the Indianapolis area, Peyton Manning, Andrew had ridiculous expectations to meet. Add in the absence of his head coach, Chuck Pagano who was battling Leukemia throughout the season, and it made for one of the most difficult rookie seasons imaginable. But Andrew took all of the obstacles and found great success. Throwing for 4,374 yards and 23 touchdowns, Andrew lead his team back to the playoffs after the 2-14 debacle of a season for the Colts last year. RG3 and Russell Wilson had equally impressive years as well and all three could and should win this award, I just believe Luck had the better season and was more valuable to his team.
Luke had himself a very excellent year for the Carolina Panthers. Recording a NFL leading 164 combine tackles, Luke showed why the Panthers picked him ninth overall in the draft that year. Luke also had two interceptions and three fumble recoveries to complete his impressive rookie campaign for the Panthers who with Cam Newton on the offensive side and Luke on defense have two young, impressive pieces to build around.