by Ryan Isley
Writer’s Note: This is Part 8 in a 13-Part series. Each Friday from November 23rd to February 15th, Ryan will make a prediction for the 2013 NASCAR season spanning over all three main touring series – Sprint Cup Series, Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series. On February 8th and 15th, Ryan will predict the 12 drivers who will make the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase and the Sprint Cup champion. You can check out all of the predictions here.
NASCAR 2013 Prediction No.8 is that AJ Allmendinger will win his first NASCAR Sprint Cup race.
If nothing else, I am pretty consistent. Last season, I picked AJ Allmendinger to be the breakout driver of the season and make the Chase. While we all know how that worked out – Allmendinger was suspended for violating NASCAR’s substance abuse policy – I am sticking with a positive outlook for the 31-year-old driver this season.
I can’t pick Allmendinger to make the Chase this season because he will be splitting seat time in the No.51 car for Phoenix Racing with Regan Smith. But I think that Allmendinger will take full advantage of the second chance he has been given after completing NASCAR’s Road to Recovery program and will find victory lane at least once.
While victory has continued to elude Allmendinger in NASCAR, he proved in his open-wheel racing career that he could race to the checkered flag. In his final season in the Champ Car Series, he took home wins in five of the final nine races in 2006, including a streak of three wins in a row. Prior to that, Allmendinger won seven of the 12 races in the Atlantic Series en route to the series championship in 2003.
Allmendinger has not won in NASCAR yet, but has shown the ability to have good finishes as he has five top-5s and 27 top-10s in his last 129 races. He tied a career-high finish of second place in the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 1 last season.
In the two races before being suspended last season, Allmendinger had back-to-back ninth-place finishes – the first time in his career that he had consecutive top-10 finishes. Unfortunately he was not able to build on that momentum as he would miss the next three and a half months while trying to complete the Road to Recovery program.
Allmendinger was reinstated and was able to finally find a ride with Phoenix Racing for four races at the end of last season and while he was not able to find success, just getting back into a car was a victory for him.
This season won’t be about just getting behind the wheel for Allmendinger though. It will be about showing that he belongs in NASCAR’s premier series. And I think he will do just that by winning his first career NASCAR race in 2013.
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