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.