Grading Ryan's 2012 NASCAR Predictions

by Ryan Isley

Back before the 2012 NASCAR season began, I decided to put my prognosticating skills to the test and made six predictions for the upcoming season. The season started with a Monday night finish at the Daytona 500 and ended this past weekend when Brad Keselowski closed the season by winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.

I thought this was the time to look back at those six predictions I made and see which ones I hit on and which ones I whiffed on.

1 – Kurt Busch Most Likely 2011 Chase Driver to Miss the Chase in 2012:

Result: Nailed it.

Busch finished the 2012 season in 25th-place and missed the Chase by 15 spots.

It was a tough year for Busch – as I predicted – with an average finish of 23.2 and just one top-5 finish and five top-10 finishes in the 35 races he entered.

He was only in 35 of the 36 races because he served a one-race suspension for a tirade towards reporter Bob Pockrass when Pockrass asked Busch if he was forced to show restraint on the course during a Nationwide race when he was being raced hard by Justin Allgaier.

Busch retorted by telling Pockrass:

“It refrains me from not beating the (expletive) out of you right now, because you ask me stupid questions. But since I’m on probation, I suppose that that’s improper to say as well.”

It was his off-track incidents which forced Busch out the door at Penske Racing following the 2011 season and led to him signing with Phoenix Racing (a single-car operation) to drive the No. 51 TAG Heuer Chevy Impala in 2012. He finished the season in the No.78.

2 – A.J. Allmendinger Will Make the 2012 Chase:

Result: Missed completely.

Allmendinger started the 2012 season in the No. 22 Shell Oil Company/Pennzoil Dodge for Penske Racing, replacing Busch. He ended the season in 32nd-place and without a full-time ride.

It was already a rough season for Allmendinger but it got worse when he was suspended indefinitely in July after violating NASCAR’s drug abuse policy. At the time of the suspension, Allmendinger was running just 23rd in the points standings and had one top-5 and three top-10 finishes in 17 races.

After the suspension, Allmendinger was replaced by Sam Hornish, Jr. in the No. 22 at Penske.

Allmendinger was given four races with Phoenix Racing at the end of the season, replacing Busch once again. In the four races, he finished 24th, 35th, 28th and 36th

3 – Danica Patrick will Challenge Dale Earnhardt, Jr. for Popularity:

Result: Incomplete, but leaning towards correct.

Danica won the Nationwide Series “Most Popular Driver” award this season, the only trophy she came close to getting her hands on. Earnhardt, Jr. is the favorite to win his 10th straight “Most Popular Driver” award in the Sprint Cup Series this season.

The two drivers both have loyal fan bases and continue to be popular no matter where they go. They are not only popular among their fans, but with the media as well.

If you aren’t aware of the popularity and the reach of Danica’s fans, just write something negative about her or tweet something negative about her. You will surely endure the wrath of her loyal followers, especially the women and horny men.

When she races full-time in the Sprint Cup Series in 2012, it will be interesting to see which of these drivers wins the award.

4 – Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Will End His Winless Streak:

Result: Nailed It.

Earnhardt, Jr. only found victory lane one time this season, but it was enough to end the streak. Earnhardt, Jr. raced a special Dark Knight Rises paint scheme to the win in Michigan in June, ending what had become a 143-race winless streak.

5 – Hendrick Motorsports Will Have Three Drivers Finish in the Top-5:

Result: Looked good for a while, but ultimately missed.

When I predicted that Hendrick Motorsports would dominate the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2012, I said that Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. would make the Chase – finishing in the top-5 – and thought that Kasey Kahne would just miss out.

Well, all four made the Chase.

After the third race in the Chase at Dover, all four even stood in the top-10. After the next race at Talladega, Johnson (second), Kahne (fourth) and Gordon (sixth) made it look like Hendrick could get three drivers in the top-5.

Unfortunately, Earnhardt, Jr. missed two races with a concussion and Gordon lost 25 points after the race at Phoenix, which dropped him to 11th-place with one race left. Earnhardt, Jr. finished the Chase in 12th and Gordon finished in 10th.

Kahne entered the last race in third place, but finished 21st at Homestead and ended up fourth in the final standings. Johnson entered the final race in second place with a chance at winning his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup championship but problems in the pits and then ultimately a problem with the car forced Johnson out of the race and he finished third in the standings.

All is all, a pretty good season with all four drivers making the Chase, three finisheing in the top-10 and two in the top-4.

But it wasn’t good enough compared to my prediction.

6 – And the Champion is…

Result: Missed by a mile.

I chose Jeff Gordon to win his fifth NASCAR Sprint Cup title in 2012. Gordon eventually finished 10th, but was never really a threat to win the championship.

It was an up and down year for Gordon, with way more downs than there were ups. Gordon had two wins on the season (including the final race of the season) but had to race his way into the Chase in the last week of the “regular season” to knock Kyle Busch out of the Chase.

It was also a tough year for Gordon at the end, as everyone knows about the incident between him and Clint Bowyer at Phoenix which led to Gordon being docked 25 points and fined $100,000. The 25 point loss cost Gordon a seventh-place finish in the final standings.

Here is how I predicted the rest of the standings (with actual finishing position in parenthesis):

2 – Carl Edwards (15th, missed Chase)

3 – Jimmie Johnson (3rd, Nailed it)

4 – Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (12th)

5 – Brad Keselowksi (1st)

6 – Kyle Busch (13th, missed Chase)

7 – Tony Stewart (9th)

8 – Denny Hamlin (6th)

9 – A.J. Allmendinger (32nd, missed Chase)

10 – Matt Kenseth (7th)

11 – Clint Bowyer (2nd)

12 – Greg Biffle (5th)

This was an exciting NASCAR season and I am already looking forward to what is in store for 2013.

In fact – starting this Friday, I will be writing a prediction every Friday leading up to Speed Weeks at Daytona International Speedway (November 23 through February 15). That’s 13 predictions for 2013. I will then have a special Daytona 500 prediction on February 22.

If you have any topics you would be interested in a prediction on, let me know.

Comments? Questions? You can leave them here or email Ryan at

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