by Ryan Isley
Writer’s Note: Each Friday from November 23rd to February 15th, I 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.
With just one prediction left – the Top Five finishers and Sprint Cup Series Champion – I thought it would be a good time to take a look back at all of the previous NASCAR 2013 Predictions I have made for More Than A Fan.
Just like in 2012, a concussion will become a major storyline for either a driver making the Chase field or will have an effect on where a driver will finish once the Chase has started. Last season, it was Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – who will it be in 2013?
If a driver would be forced out of a race early in the season, they might be able to make up the points and still have a shot at making the Chase and still give themselves a chance at winning the championship. But even missing a race early in the season would put a driver in a bad spot, as every point is crucial in this new points system that NASCAR adopted prior to the 2011 season.
Joey Logano has moved to Penske Racing from Joe Gibbs Racing for the 2013 season, but I feel that his luck will be no different than in previous seasons. Logano has missed the Chase in all four of his full-time seasons in the Sprint Cup Series and 2013 will be the fifth.
While the enticement of a full-time ride in the Sprint Cup Series is hard to turn down (and sometimes hard to come by) it may have been better for Logano and his career had he just stayed with Joe Gibbs Racing and run a full season in Nationwide in 2013 with a limited schedule in Sprint Cup. A break from the big leagues may have been exactly what he needed.
Austin Dillon may be the favorite by some to win the Nationwide Series title in 2013, but he will also be looking at another goal – the Sprint Cup Series in 2014. With Kevin Harvick leaving Richard Childress Racing following 2013, the seat is open for Dillon. He will get a few races in the Sprint Cup Series in 2013 to prepare and I think he will show why he belongs.
While some drivers – Denny Hamlin – seem to think that the only reason Dillon gets his chance is because of his name, thinking that way would be inaccurate. Dillon may have gotten his first chance because of his relationship with Richard Childress but he took advantage of that opportunity. One thing we have learned about Dillon over the past few years is that he can race successfully in whatever series he happens to be in at the time.
Danica Patrick gets a lot of the hype, but has shown little substance. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. has shown the substance but seems to get little of the attention. NASCAR’s newest couple (that seems so strange to type) will now face off for the Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year. To me, it looks like a landslide victory for Stenhouse, Jr.
The 25-year-old Stenhouse, Jr. proved his worth as a driver over the past two seasons, winning back-to-back series championships in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. He picked up six wins, 19 top-5s and 26 top-10s in the 33 races of 2012, leading Nationwide Series regulars in wins (second only to Joey Logano with nine) and top-5s while finishing second in top-10s. He also led all series regulars in 2011 with two wins, 16 top-5s and 26 top-10s in 34 races.
Regan Smith found victory lane in the 2012 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway and there is no reason to believe that he will not find it a few more times this season in his JR Motorsports ride. Smith has experience in both the Nationwide Series and the Sprint Cup Series but this season can focus all of his attention on driving the No.5 car for JR Motorsports.
JR Motorsports announced in October that they had signed Smith to a full-time ride in 2013 driving the No.5 car. The last time Smith drove in the Nationwide Series on a regular basis was in 2007 when he was entered in 17 races, finishing with three top-5s and five top-10s. It was an improvement over the previous season when Smith ran in all 35 races with just one top-10 finish.
This was the first of the predictions that I know probably have little chance of happening, but at the same time made the most sense. Danica is an Indianapolis 500 veteran who would love another chance at the Borg-Warner Trophy and the celebratory drink of milk. This would be the best season for her to take that shot.
The reason it would make sense for Danica to race in the Indianapolis 500 this year is that she would only have to miss one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points race – the Coca-Cola 600 – and would be able to participate in all Indianapolis 500 practices and qualifying. And let’s be honest – nobody expects her to be in the hunt for a championship this season, so missing one race would not be a huge deal.
This could be a historic season for Hendrick Motorsports, just one season after they had all four drivers make the Chase. This season, their history will come in victory lane, where Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will combine to win at least 18 races in 2013 in NASCAR’s premier series.
While it may seem far-fetched that one team in the sport’s top series could win half of the races – especially against the competition in NASCAR – the one team that can pull this off is Hendrick Motorsports. Hendrick has been to victory lane 209 times in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with 147 (70%) of those coming from Gordon and Johnson.
After a drama-filled 2012, Allmendinger gets another chance to drive in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. After failing to win a race in any of the sport’s three series, the former IndyCar driver will find a way to make it to victory lane for the first time in his NASCAR career. He showed last season that he has the talent, so this year is all about breaking through.
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.
This is another of the predictions that I don’t feel very confident about, but again is one that just makes sense. After the success of the 2012 Daytona 500 when it was forced to Monday night, NASCAR should explore putting a race on the schedule for Monday night and I have it figured out as to how they could make it happen. They can thank me (and pay me) later.
NASCAR would have to be very careful in how they planned out this idea in order to maximize the potential. Ideally, they would wait until the NBA and NHL playoffs are finished and make the race before the NFL season starts. The race that would make the most sense to move to Monday night would be the weekend of the first race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Ty Dillon will be looking to fill brother Austin’s seat in the Nationwide Series in 2014, but 2013 will be all about joining his brother as a Camping World Truck Series Champion. Dillon finished fourth last season and was the series Rookie of the Year.
It will not be easy for Dillon, as the series will no doubt be a close battle again this season, after the top five drivers in 2012 all finished within 30 points of the series lead. James Buescher finished as the series champion, beating Timothy Peters by six points, Joey Coulter by 19 points, Dillon by 24 points and Parker Kligerman by 30 points.
After finishing second for two straight seasons – both to Stenhouse, Jr. – Sadler will finally be able to claim the Nationwide Series championship for himself this season. In what looks like a two-driver race between Sadler and Austin Dillon, the edge in experience goes to Sadler.
2012 could not have started much better for Sadler, who finished first, third, first and third in the first four races of the season to open a 25-point lead on Stenhouse, Jr. It was the first of two times during the season that he would record four consecutive top-5 finishes.
Sadler either led the standings or was tied for the lead following 26 of the 33 races in 2012 and he was in second place after the remaining seven races, including the final two.
When it was time to sit and look at how the Sprint Cup Series championship would shake out in 2013, I took the 12 drivers I thought would make the Chase and I split them into two categories – the top-5 and everybody else. This list is everybody else. They are the drivers who will make the Chase but in the end will come up short of not only the championship, but the top-5 as well. The drivers include Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne.
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.
There are the first 12 predictions for the 2013 NASCAR season. This Friday, I will be revealing not only my pick for the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship, but also my top-5 Chase finishers.
Comments? Questions? You can leave them here or email Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org