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Predicting NASCAR Chase Drivers In 2013

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.

Brad Keselowski

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.

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Daytona 500 Preview

After the shortest offseason in sports, NASCAR is back. And unlike any sport, NASCAR starts its season off with its biggest event. NASCAR has made this years edition of the Great American Race more unpredictable than others by restricting the use of the two car tandem racing that we have seen over the past few years and created a hybrid of the two car tandem and traditional restrictor plate racing seen at Daytona and Talladega. As the Budweiser Shootout and the Gatorade Duels showed us, this race should be exciting.

Entering the 2012 season there are several big stories about several big names that have and will continue to dominate speedweeks. The obvious attention getter is the first Sprint Cup start for Danica Patrick. Bringing the attention and all of her fans to NASCAR from Indy Car, Danica has become the no. 1 sight for fans to see at Daytona this week. But she is not just here to be a side show. In her duel race on Thursday she showed she can hang with the big boys in Sprint Cup and had a good run going for her until Aric Almirola got into her after being forced down by Jamie McMurray and caused her to take a huge hit against the inside wall down the backstretch and will send her to a backup car for the 500. But in Nationwide qualifying Danica took the pole for the race so her week has had his ups and downs.

Danica’s car owner for the Daytona 500 and defending Sprint Cup Champion Tony Stewart comes into speedweeks as the hottest driver out there. Putting on a clinic in the 2011 Chase, winning half of the races after struggling to compete in the regular season, lead him to his third Championship in NASCAR’s highest series. But the one thing missing on Tony’s resume for the Hall of Fame is a Daytona 500 victory. Could this be his best chance to get it?

As with every year in NASCAR drivers switch teams and move to different cars for the next season, and they are a few this year. Kasey Kahne leaves Red Bull Racing after his one year contract is up and joins Hendrick Racing in the #5 car forming one of the best 4 car teams in NASCAR history with Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Kahne replaces Mark Martin who moves to Michael Waltrip Racing and will run a limited Schedule in the #55 car. Clint Bowyer joins Mark at MWR and will drive the #15 5 Hour Energy car after leaving Richard Childress Racing. After his tirade towards ESPN pit road reporter Dr. Jerry Punch, Kurt Busch finds himself being let go from Penske Racing and joining Phoenix Racing driving the #51 car. Replacing Kurt will be AJ Allmendinger in the #22 car.

Trying to predict the winner of a race at Daytona is like trying to hit a three pointer with a blind fold on so rather than give you one pick for a winner, I will give you 5 drivers I expect to have a chance to win at the end and a few drivers who can surprise some people this Sunday.

Expect To Win

Kevin Harvick

Harvick has to be thought of every time there is a race he is in. Kevin just finds a way to be near the front at the end of any race. Just see the end of the Daytona 500 in 2007. Selling his truck team should help him focus just on the 500 more than other years. Harvick will start 13th in the Great American Race and he should stay up front and have a great chance to get his 2nd 500 victory.

Tony Stewart

The defending champion has won almost everything in NASCAR except this race and he knows it. He is coming off one of the greatest postseason runs in sports history and is looking to use the momentum of that run to get his first Daytona 500 victory. He has already visited victory lane once this week winning the first Gatorade Duel race and will start 4th for the 500. Look for Smoke to be in the front when the white flag waves.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Yes I know Dale hasn’t won a race in forever but he has made strides towards ending that streak. And what better place to do it than at the place his father owned for years. Dale has always ran great at Daytona including a victory in 2004 in the Daytona 500, and he has to always be a favorite to win every trip to the track. He will start 5th and will keep himself in the front of the pack all day possibly leading him to his 2nd 500 win and his first win in a long time.

Kyle Busch

Kyle showed how skilled he is behind the wheel of a race car durring his win in the Bud Shootout on Saturday, almost wrecking twice but somehow saving the car both times. Kyle has run good in the 500 but just could never get to the checkered flag first. This year could be the year he finally gets there first.

 

Greg Biffle

Roush has brought a lot of fast cars to Daytona but the one car who has been constantly fast all week has been the #16 car of Greg Biffle. Greg qualified on the front row for the 500, was competing for the win in his Duel race, and has been at the top of the charts for speed all week in practice. Him and his race team have got his car hooked up for the 500. They just have to put it all together in order to get his first Daytona 500 victory.

Surprise Drivers

Regan Smith

After getting his first career win at Darlington last year, Smith is looking to take the next step in his career. Regan raced well last year in the 500 especially in the Duel race pushing Kurt Busch to a win. Finishing 2nd in this years Duel race again, Smith looks to have a car that can compete this sunday and starting 6th will help him try to get his 2nd career win.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

This may only be a one race deal for the defending Nationwide Champion but this young driver has shown he can race with the best of them. Filling in for Trevor Bayne last year in the Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte, Ricky finished 11th in his first career Sprint Cup Race. Now driving for Jack Roush in the #6 car Ricky has been running fast all week and looks to be just as fast in the 500.

Danica Patrick

Danica has shown that she can race with NASCAR’s top tier drivers and be competitive. Despite the rough wreck during the Duel race on thursday, Danica was competitive and stayed near the front all race. She will have to start in the back of the field because of going to a backup car so she will have her work cut out for her, but if she can keep her noes clean and stick around till the end, she could find herself in a history making position.

by: Andrew Isaac

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Predicting NASCAR Chase Drivers In 2012

Coming off one of the best years in NASCAR history, the 2012 season will have a lot to live up to. The historic chase run by Tony Stewart and fighting Carl Edwards for the Sprint Cup championship and Stewart winning his first championship as a owner. The drama and conflict between Kyle Busch vs Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch vs Ron Hornaday, Kyle Busch vs Richard Childress, Kurt Busch vs Dr. Jerry Punch. Seems to have a common theme there.

With the addition of the Chase to the Championship, it has made every year since much more exciting adding the additional pressure for every driver to make it to NASCAR’s version of the playoffs and then the usual struggle of winning a championship.

With all of the driver changes this year like Kurt Busch being replaced by AJ Allmendinger at Penske, Kasey Kahne joining Hendrick, and Clint Bowyer leaving Childress and joining Michael Waltrip Racing, this year will be another exciting year.

Just Missed The Chase- Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman, AJ Allmendinger, Kurt Busch, Joey Logano.

12.- Greg Biffle, 16 3M Ford Roush Fenway Racing

With Roush now dropping to a three car team, there will be more pressure on each of the remaining cars. Coming off a disappointing 2011 campaign going winless and not making the Chase, Greg will change both of those problems by winning at least one race and just squeaking in to the playoffs. I expect him to struggle when the Chase begins and he will fade away rather quickly. Usually a couple drivers do each year.

11.- Matt Kenseth, 17 Valvoline/Best Buy Ford Roush Fenway Racing

Coming off his best statistical year since 2006 it will be tough for Kenseth to repeat the success.  Matt won three races and finished fourth in the Chase. Matt basically forced NASCAR into creating a playoff system after his 2003 title only winning one race in the process. 2012 could be Kenseth’s last year with Roush as his contract is up after the season. Just like his teammate Biffle, Kenseth will fade in the Chase and finish near the bottom of the standings.

10.- Dale Earnhardt Jr., 88 National Guard/ Diet Mountain Dew Chevy Hendrick Motorsports

After having absolutely embarrassing years in 2009 and in 2010, NASCAR’s most popular driver had a comeback year in 2011 nearly breaking his winless streak that now stretches over three years and making the Chase finishing 7th. With the addition of Kasey Kahne at Hendrick, Dale now becomes the 4th best driver in their stable and now even if it seemed impossible, there is more pressure on him. He will win at least one race this year im calling it. Being competetive in the Chase? Not just yet.

9.- Kasey Kahne, 5 Farmers Insurance Chevy Hendrick Motorsports

Kasey was put in a odd position last year. Driving for a dying race team with Red Bull Racing and only racing with a one year contract and signing up for this ride two years ago, Kasey knew what his future held so going into the 2011 year and with all of the awkwardness that existed, Kasey one a race and almost made the Chase. Imagine what he could do now with a great team and fantastic equipment. Give this group a year and Kasey will be competing for the championship, but this year making the Chase and winning a couple races will do just fine.

8.- Kyle Busch, 18 M&M’s Toyota Joe Gibbs Racing

After all of the drama last season, everyone hopes that Kyle has learned to grow up and actually control his temper. Obviously his race team and his sponsors are losing their patients with him and he needs to change for good. He has talent but that can only get you so far. I think he is learning to control his temper but still will continue his Chase struggles and finish in the middle of the pack.

7.- Tony Stewart, 14 Office Depot/ Mobil 1 Chevy Stewart Haas Racing

What a year Tony had last year. After barely making the Chase, Tony went on a crazy run leading to his 3rd Championship and winning his first as a owner/driver. He will have a lot to live up to. Adding defending his championship on top of owning his team and now managing Danica Patrick’s start in NASCAR, this will be a difficult year for Tony. But if anyone could do it Tony can. But he wont this year.

6.- Brad Keselowski, 2 Miller Light Dodge Penske Racing

What a year Brad had as well. Surprising everyone, Brad won 3 races last year and made the chase finishing 5th. Now he takes over as the no 1 driver at Penske as Kurt Busch was let go after his tirade about Dr. Jerry Punch after the season ending Homestead race. Some people think that Brad will regress after a breakout year but he will win races and compete in the chase.

5.- Jimmie Johnson, 48 Lowe’s Chevy Hendrick Racing

Well the run had to end at some point. 2011 just didn’t have the same feeling for Jimmie Johnson as the last five years did, those obviously ending in championships for the 48 team. Now Jimmie will have to do something he hasn’t had to do for years. Not defending the Sprint Cup Championship and having to take it from Tony Stewart. He will have the same group that he had last year and knowing that team they will finish near the top of the standings this year and win several races.

4.- Jeff Gordon, 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevy Hendrick Racing

Its surprising to think that it has been 11 years since Jeff last one a Spring Cup Championship but he has taken a back seat to his teammates dominance over the past 6 years now. But now with a chink in the armor of Jimmie Johnson shown last year, Jeff can use this year as a start to a late career run at another title. Jeff faded last year finishing ninth in the standings struggling in the Chase. He will stay competitive in this Chase and get close to his fifth title.

3.- Kevin Harvick, 29 Budweiser Chevy Richard Childress Racing

Harvick’s year is already off to a fantastic start with the announcement that he will be a father. It can become even greater if it ends with a championship. Happy Harvick has a habit of sticking around in a race quietly and showing up at the end finding ways to win races. Just see his Daytona 500 race win. Harvick is usually a lock for a few wins every year and after finishing third last year in the Chase, tying his previous best, Kevin should be motivated to make a strong run for his first Sprint Cup Championship in 2012.

2.- Denny Hamlin, 11 FedEx Toyota Joe Gibbs Racing

After having a championship slip through his fingers in 2010, Denny Hamlin faltered in 2011. Struggling all throughout the 2011 season managing only one win after winning a career high eight races in 2010, Denny finished ninth in the Chase. Now with Darian Grubb coming over from Stewart Haas after winning a title in 2011 with Tony Stewart to replace Mike Ford as Crew Chief, Denny has a championship winning leader who can push that team over the top. Denny will return to his winning ways and stay competitive all year, falling just short of a title.

1.- Carl Edwards, 99 Fastenal Ford Roush Fenway Racing

After losing to Tony Stewart via a tiebreaker in one of the greatest seasons and finishes in NASCAR history, Carl will have to avoid the second place curse that happens to the second place finishers the next season. Denny Hamlin suffered from it last year, just like Carl did in 2009. Carl put up consistant numbers all year and almost won the championship despite only winning one race in the beginning of the year at Las Vegas. If Carl can put up another consistant year and add a few more wins in during the season, Carl can obtain his first title. He has been a bridesmaid long enough. So my pick for the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship is Carl Edwards. Expect a season ending flip.

by: Andrew Isaac

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