Archive for category NASCAR
The shortest offseason in sports comes to a close as on sunday we start the 2014 NASCAR season with the running of the great american race, the Daytona 500. The super bowl of stock car racing gets the season underway sunday, and just like any restrictor plate races, its very unpredictable. So here is five drivers who have the best chance of winning sunday and three drivers who could surprise a lot of people.
Expect To Win
Matt Kenseth, 20 Home Depot/Dollar General Toyota- Joe Gibbs Racing
Last season Kenseth had arguably his best complete season in his career, winning a career high 7 races in 2013. The only thing he couldn’t win was a championship. He hopes to have similar success in 2014 starting with the Daytona 500. In last years 500, Kenseth looked to have the car to beat until his engine blew, resulting in a DNF. Matt already has one win in this Speedweeks in the duel races, so Matt will have one of the cars to beat in the 500.
Kevin Harvick, 4 Budweiser Chevy- Stewart/HAAS Racing
Harvick’s runner up finish in his duel race may have been disqualified due to his car not meeting the right measurements in post race inspection, but that doesn’t mean that car wont be just as fast on sunday. Harvick is making his first start in the 500 for his new team at Stewart/HAAS Racing and has been fast all through Speedweeks so he will move up through the pack with relative ease. Also Harvick has been known to just show up at the front towards the end of any race at Daytona.
Kurt Busch, 41 HAAS Automation Chevy- Stewart/HAAS Racing
Running for his 4th different team in four years, this may be Kurt’s best chance of returning to championship form. The former series champ now has his best equipment in years and is has shown this week, finishing third in his duel and starting 8th. This could be Kurt’s best and last real chance to capture the great american race.
Denny Hamlin, 11 FedEx Toyota- Joe Gibbs Racing
After a rough 2013 season which for a good amount of it had Denny in a hospital for a collapsed vertebra, Hamlin has started this season the best way possible, winning the Sprint Unlimited and his duel race. Hamlin and the rest of the Joe Gibbs cars have been fast all week so most likely one of them could find themselves in victory lane on sunday. Hamlin can complete the Daytona trifecta with a 500 win.
Jimmie Johnson, 48 Lowe’s Chevy- Hendrick Motorsports
Last years series and 500 champion is a threat everywhere he goes and even with a back up car for this years 500, Johnson should be competitive as always. As long as Johnson can avoid the big one and stay alive till the end he will be a threat for another Daytona 500 championship to add to his already impressive resume.
Austin Dillon, 3 DOW Chevy- Richard Childress Racing
Dillon already has a ridiculous amount of pressure on him, taking over the legendary number 3 car for his grandfather Richard Childress. But now after winning the pole for the 500 it adds more on the young driver. He has the talent and the equipment to win and the media explosion that would happen if Austin could take the number 3 back to victory lane at Daytona would make any NASCAR fan happy.
Danica Patrick, 10 GoDaddy.com Chevy- Stewart/HAAS Racing
Speaking of possible stories that could rock the NASCAR world, imagine if Danica won the biggest race of the year. Well crazy things can happen at Daytona and all it takes is to be in the right place at the right time for a driver to get the biggest win of their lives. Danica has good equipment and with past Daytona 500 and Sprint Cup Champions around her in Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick, she has as good a chance as any to become the first women to win the 500.
Brian Scott, 33 Whitetail Chevy- Richard Childress Racing
OK so this one may be a bit far out but this team has been fast all week. Finishing 5th in his duel race and qualifying 12th for the 500 shows that Scott can race in his 33 Richard Childress Chevy. Hey crazier things have happened.
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.
90 minutes before the start of the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway, NASCAR announced that driver of the #22 car A.J. Allmendinger has been suspended for the race for failing a random drug test after the Kentucky race last week stunning everyone at the track.
Despite a very exciting finish to the Coke Zero 400 that had Tony Stewart holding off Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle taking his third victory of the year in front of a massive final lap pileup, all anyone wanted to talk about after the race has been A.J. Allmendinger.
A.J. and Penske Racing has 72 hours to request another test to possibly reverse or shorten the suspension if it is negative. If they do not request another test or the test is positive, the suspension will become indefinite.
As soon as NASCAR announced Allmendinger’s suspension, Penske Racing and the #22 team scrambled to get a replacement driver to fill the seat. They had to call Penske Nationwide driver Sam Hornish Jr. who flew back to Charlotte after his race on Friday Night, to get on a plane immediately and get back to Daytona. Hornish arrived in Daytona 8 minutes before the command to start engines. Sam finished the race in 33rd place several laps down after blowing a tire early.
After driving for Red Bull Racing and Richard Petty Racing, getting behind the wheel for Penske Racing this year was Allmendinger’s big break in NASCAR. Giving him the team and equipment to pair with his driving ability, this was the perfect situation for A.J. to win races and compete for a championship. But the 2012 season has not been going the way both A.J. and Penske hoped for, going winless through Kentucky sitting in 23rd in Sprint Cup Points far away from chase contention.
The thought of anyone driving a car 200 MPH on any type of drug is a extremely scary thought. Driving a stock car requires your full attention and concentration and that could be a little difficult on any type of drug especially in a three wide pack with 42 other cars. Thats putting not only your own life but all of the other drivers, crew members and fans in danger as well.
NASCAR’s biggest drug use story was in May of 2009 when driver and car owner Jeremy Mayfield tested positive for methamphetamine and again in June of that same year after his suspension was lifted effectively ending his racing career. His legal fight with NASCAR ended years after the positive test and has not raced in NASCAR since. His race team has folded and bought off as well. A.J. now runs the risk of forever having his name stand next to Mayfield’s as faces of drug use in NASCAR.
Now A.J. is innocent until proven guilty but in the eyes of most people around the sport he is guilty until proven innocent. Even if the second test that A.J. takes comes back negative and the suspension is removed from him, he will have an extremely difficult time returning to the mainly clean image and track record he had. A.J. was reportedly “shocked” by the positive test results. This has not been A.J.’s first run in with problems. In 2009 while driving for Richard Petty Motorsports, Allmendinger pleaded no contest in North Carolina to a misdemeanor charge of driving while impaired and was given a 60-day suspended sentence, 18 months of unsupervised probation and 24 hours of community service.
Even before the positive drug test his job security was in a little bit of jeopardy. His performance on the track was below expectations for Roger Penske and with possible free agent drivers like series points leader Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Joey Logano, and Nationwide Penske driver and replacement for A.J. durring the suspension Sam Hornish Jr., they may move on to another driver with a better track history and cleaner slate then A.J. and will attract more sponsors that he will.
If the suspension continues, Hornish could take over for the rest of the year and use A.J.’s misfortune as his ticket back to NASCAR’s premere series if he can preform well enough. He is currently racing for the championship in the Nationwide series but wants to return to the top series. This could be his big break.
A.J.’s entire career and future will be impacted by this positive test and the events that follow it and will determine if he can keep a ride, find a new one or become another ex driver forced out of the sport due to drug related issues.
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
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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
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.
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
Everyone has to grow up some time.
Apparently that time has not come for the Busch Brothers yet.
The most criticized and disliked brothers in NASCAR have always had their attitudes overshadow their skill for as long as they have been driving in NASCAR full time. Almost every time there is a conflict in NASCAR, either the Sprint Cup, Nationwide, or Truck series, it usually involves either Kurt or Kyle.
Both of the brothers have has a great amount of success in all levels of NASCAR. Kurt Busch won the 2004 then Nextel Cup Championship driving the #97 car for powerhouse Roush Racing. He is one of only 23 drivers to win in all 3 levels of NASCAR competition.
Kyle Busch has had just as much success as his brother. He currently holds the record for most race wins in a season across the top three NASCAR series with 24 in 2010. On August 21, 2010, Busch became the first driver to win in all three of NASCAR’s top three touring series in the same weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway. He also holds the record for most wins in the NASCAR Nationwide series with 51. Since his first year in NASCAR in 2001, Kyle has earned over 100 total wins and now owns his own race team that runs in the Truck series.
Before the 2011 season Kurt and Kyle seemed like they had at least started to grow up and mature. They seemed more calm and took a professional approach to the upcoming season. But many people around the sports were obviously skeptic of the “new” brothers. Their skepticism was right as shown over the season.
After the 2011 Southern 500, driver Kevin Harvick parked his car in front of Kyle’s car and went over to Kyle’s car to “talk” to him about the two of them racing each other a little too hard sometimes during the race. When Harvick approached Kyle’s car, Kyle floored his car pushing Harvick’s car down pit road unmanned until it eventually ramed into the pit lane wall. Because of this Kyle was fined $25,000 and put on probation for 4 races.
Later on this season once again Kyle got into trouble. At the O’Reilly Auto Parts 250 it is believed that Kyle bumped the #22 car driven by Joey Coulter for Richard Childress after the race in retaliation to the way Coulter raced him. In the garage after the race Childress, age 66, came up to Busch, put him in a head lock and started punching him. Busch, who was still on probation at the time of the incident, did not violate his probation. Childress however, was fined $150,000 and placed on NASCAR probation until the end of the year.
On November 4th, 2011 at Texas Motor Speedway during a Truck series race, Kyle Busch driving for his own race team entered the race against other drivers racing for that series title and because Kyle is racing for the Sprint Cup Championship he could not race fot the Truck series championship. After a racing incident during the race with series regular and championship contender Ron Hornaday, Busch deliberately turned him into the outside wall under caution, ending Hornaday’s title hopes. This caused a wave of backlash towards the disgruntle driver. NASCAR black-flagged Busch and parked Kyle for the rest of the race. The next morning, NASCAR announced that Busch would remain parked for the remainder of the weekend, including the Nationwide series race and more importantly the Sprint Cup race for that weekend, all but ending his hopes for the Sprint Cup Championship. In addition to sitting for the weekend, Kyle’s main sponsor, M&M’s, removed their sponsorship from the #18 car for the rest of the season. It was the first time since the Truck Series was created in 1995 that a driver was suspended from all three series in NASCAR.
Not to be overshadowed by his brothers actions this year, Kurt Busch took what Kyle did a step farther.
At the season ending race at Homestead, Busch finished 47 laps behind the leaders, after spending time in the garage for mechanical issues for the majority of the race. While turning into the garage, Busch made an obscene hand gesture towards someone that was caught on the in car camera and shown on the live national broadcast. To make the day worse for Kurt, while his car was being repaired in the garage, Kurt began verbally abusing ESPN reporter Dr. Jerry Punch who was waiting to do an interview with Kurt. Unknown to Kurt the off camera conversation was captured by a fan and placed onto youtube where the video spread like wildfire. Kurt’s race team, Penske Racing, issued a apology for Kurt’s inappropriate actions. After the season Kurt Busch and Penske Racing agreed to a mutual split, however many in the sport believe that he was fired rather than a mutual split.
Kurt Busch will run for Phoenix Racing for the 2012 season. If I had to compare NASCAR race teams to MLB teams, If Hendrick Motorsports is like the New York Yankees, Phoenix Racing is like Pittsburgh Pirates.
When Kurt was let go from Penske Racing and when NASCAR sat Kyle for intentionally wrecking a driver, it showed that no matter who you are if you make stupid decisions you will be punished. The incidents that stretched throughout the entire season showed that the Busch Brothers did not change as much as they had said at the beginning of the season. The lack of respect that they showed through the season that they are still as immature as they have always been and NASCAR and the people around are losing their patience.
Just like in every business if your behavior is unacceptable people will not want to work with you no matter how talented you may be. Kurt Busch losing his job at Penske made a statement that others in NASCAR are following. When Kurt was looking for a car to drive for the upcoming year he tried to agree to a deal to run for Richard Petty. However when Petty was asked why he did not sign Kurt during the offseason, he was approached by his sponsors for his race teams and they told Petty that they did not want Kurt to drive a car that they were sponsoring. The same type of sponsor reaction was made by Kyle’s primary sponsor M&M’s after the Texas incident. What this says is that a drivers personal image and character has a huge effect on their success especially in a sponsor driven sport like NASCAR where drivers wear something with a company logo on it almost all the time.
At some point both Kurt and Kyle Busch need to learn to control their temper when they are driving and realize that every action that they make in the heat of the moment will have a reaction that often times will be bad for them. Hopefully having Kurt lose his job because of his off the track actions will wake both of the talented drivers up and show them that they need to change their ways. It is ok to be agressive on the racetrack but you need to have a level head on and off the track.
If these two dont change their acts and grow up soon no one will put up with all of their baggage and they will be known as the drivers that nobody could deal with.
by Andrew Isaac