NASCAR 2013 Prediction No.12: Sprint Cup Series Standings – Drivers 6 through 12

by Ryan Isley

Writer’s Note: This is Part 12 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.

Well we have finally reached that point of the predictions series for the 2013 NASCAR season. After predicting Ty Dillon would win the Camping World Truck Series championship and Elliott Sadler would finally break through for the Nationwide Series championship, it is time to make standings predictions for the Sprint Cup Series.

This week I will start with the drivers who will finish sixth through 12th in the standings.

12. Greg Biffle – No. 16, Roush Fenway Racing

2012 Finish: 5th

Career Best Finish:  2nd (2005)

2012 Wins: 2

2012 Top-5: 12

2012 Top-10: 21

Biffle continues his quest to add a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship to his trophy case that already includes a Camping World Truck Series championship (2000) and a Nationwide Series championship (2002).

The problem with Biffle seems to be consistency. His average finish of 10.2 in 2012 was just the second time in his 10 full-time seasons that he has had an average finish of better than 12.5. He also has a strange pattern going when it comes to wins, as he has won two races in each of the last three even years (2008, 2010, 2012) and has not won a race in each of the last two odd years (2009, 2011).

I think Biffle will finish the season in the 10th spot, earning the final non-wild card spot in the Chase but will falter and finish last of the 12 drivers who are running for the championship.

11. Carl Edwards – No.99, Roush Fenway Racing

2012 Finish: 15th

Career Best Finish: 2nd (2008, 2011)

2012 Wins: 0

2012 Top-5: 3

2012 Top-10: 13

After giving Tony Stewart everything he could handle and losing the 2011 championship on a tiebreaker, Edwards had a disappointing 2012. He saw his top-5 finishes drop from 19 to three and never got back into the top-10 in the points standings after the 11th race of the season – keeping him out of the Chase because of his zero wins. It snapped a five-year streak of making the Chase for Edwards.

2013 will be a year of redemption of sorts for Edwards, who will race his way back into the Chase. He will make it in as one of the top-10 in points (not a wild card) but will struggle once the Chase begins and will fall just short of making it to the postseason banquet.

10. Kyle Busch – No.18, Joe Gibbs Racing

2012 Finish: 13th

Career Best Finish: 5th (2007)

2012 Wins: 1

2012 Top-5: 13

2012 Top-10: 20

Busch came so close to making the Chase in 2010, as he was passed for the final wild card by Jeff Gordon at Richmond in the last race before the field was set. After winning 19 races in the previous four seasons – and at least three each of those seasons – Busch found victory lane only once in 2012. It wasn’t like Busch didn’t have a good season however. He had the third most top-5 finishes in his career and tied for the second most top-10s in his career despite not making the Chase. Those numbers led to him having his third best career average finish for a season at 13.3.

Busch will not make the Chase on points, but will make it as one of the two wild cards by virtue of wins. After entering the Chase, he will race to the 10th position and gain just his fourth career top-10 series finish.

9. Kevin Harvick – No.29, Richard Childress Racing

2012 Finish: 8th

Career Best Finish: 3rd (2010, 2011)

2012 Wins: 1

2012 Top-5: 5

2012 Top-10: 14

After back-to-back third-place finishes, Harvick slipped to eighth in 2012 – a season that was surrounded by rumors about his future. The future was made a little more clear in November when it was discovered that 2013 would be the 13th and final season for Harvick at Richard Childress Racing before heading to Stewart-Haas Racing starting in 2014.

While I expect Harvick to still drive like he always has in 2013, I see a season for the 37-year-old which will be comparable to 2012. Harvick has seen his top-5s and top-10s both go on the decline over each of the previous two seasons after possibly his career -best statistical season of 2010 when he finished with 16 top-5s and 26 top-10s en route to his third-place finish.

8. Tony Stewart – No.14, Stewart-Haas Racing

2012 Finish: 9th

Career Best Finish: 1st (2002, 2005, 2011)

2012 Wins: 3

2012 Top-5: 12

2012 Top-10: 16

A three-time champion, Stewart heads into 2013 looking to improve on his ninth-place finish from last year, just one season removed from a championship. The thing with Stewart has been that he is all or nothing when it comes to the Chase, as he hasn’t finished above sixth in the standings in seasons he didn’t win the championship since 2001. Other than his three championships, Stewart has three sixth-place finishes, two seventh-place finishes, two ninth-place finishes and an 11th-place finish since 2002.

As long as Stewart makes the Chase, he is threat to win the championship. Not only does he have three titles to his name, but he also dominated the 2011 Chase, winning five of the 10 races to win the tiebreaker over Edwards.

While Stewart has the ability and talent to turn it on when it counts, I see more of a repeat of 2010 (he finished seventh) or last season than I do of Stewart winning his fourth championship.

7. Matt Kenseth – No. 20, Joe Gibbs Racing

2012 Finish: 7th

Career Best Finish: 1st (2003)

2012 Wins: 3

2012 Top-5: 13

2012 Top-10: 19

Kenseth enters his first season at Joe Gibbs Racing after 13 seasons at Roush Fenway Racing. While Kenseth was the veteran at Roush Fenway, he will be the new kid on the block at Gibbs, joining Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch.

The 2003 champion started off the 2012 season on a high note, winning the Daytona 500 and finishing in the top-5 in six of the season’s first 10 races.  Unfortunately, he would have only seven more top-5s the rest of the season and did not win again until the fourth race in the Chase. Kenseth also had an up-and-down Chase in 2012, winning twice, finishing fourth once, 14th four times, 18th twice and 35th once.

For Kenseth, I see 2013 as a season to get comfortable with a new team before making a serious run at the 2014 Sprint Cup Series championship.

6. Kasey Kahne – No.5, Hendrick Motorsports

2012 Finish: 4th

Career Best Finish: 4th (2012)

2012 Wins: 2

2012 Top-5: 12

2012 Top-10: 19

Coming off what most (myself included) would call a surprising fourth-place finish in the Sprint Cup standings, Kahne will now have the pressure to prove that 2012 was not just a fluke.

Kahne had a rough start to his first season at Hendrick Motorsports, finishing 29-34-19-37-14-18 in the first six races. He then reeled off seven straight top-10 finishes to right the ship, including his first win for HMS at Charlotte. Kahne entered the Chase tied for ninth but moved up to fourth after a third-place finish in the Chase’s opening race at Chicago and never fell out of the top-5 the rest of the season. Kahne faltered down the stretch, however, as he finished 25th and 21st in two of the final three races of the season.

I think Kahne will just miss out on making the top-5 in 2013. While some would consider a sixth-place finish a disappointment after finishing fourth a year ago, he had never finished higher than eighth in his previous eight seasons.

Next week, I will be breaking down who I think will finish in the top-5 in the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and will also crown my preseason champion.

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