It’s almost time race fans. The 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Season is approaching fast, and that means a new year of Fantasy Racing. As always, this guide is best used for Yahoo.com’s fantasy racing. This week we will take a look at the drivers in the A-List.
Drivers are listed in the order they appear on the Yahoo page.
Kevin Harvick: 2012 was a down year for Kevin Harvick and the 29 Budweiser team. Harvick notched five top-fives and 14 top-10s. He scored one win last year at Phoenix International Raceway in the penultimate race of the season. It will be interesting to see how Harvick does this season because it will be his last with Richard Childress Racing before he moves to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014.
Tony Stewart: Stewart got off to a quick start last season on the heels of an incredible championship victory in 2011. He won at Las Vegas and Fontana early in the season and added another win in July at Daytona. But as the temperature continued to rise, Stewart started to cool off. He made the Chase, but was never really a factor. Look for Stewart to continue his normal trend of getting hot when the weather gets hot in the summer time.
Jeff Gordon: 2012 was a roller-coaster ride for the four-time champion. The first half of the season saw Gordon have really fast race cars, but the worst luck he’s ever had in his career. If it could break, it probably did at some point last year. But somehow Gordon was able to stay in contention for a wild-card spot in the Chase. He won the rain-shortened race at Pocono in August, and came back from a lap down at Richmond to make clinch a spot on the final night possible. His Chase ended quickly when his throttle stuck going into turn one at Chicagoland Speedway. Then he got into the infamous fight with Clint Bowyer in Phoenix. Many wanted Gordon suspended for the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but NASCAR thought otherwise. Gordon went on to win that race at HMS. If Gordon’s luck turns around in 2013, maybe the Drive-for-Five could be revived.
Matt Kenseth: Kenseth had a great year in 2012, but didn’t get the trophy to show for it. In 2013 Kenseth switches teams. He’s leaving the number 17 Ford that he’s driven for Roush Racing since 1999 to move into the number 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. The 20 car has struggled since Tony Stewart vacated the ride after the 2008 season. Can Kenseth bring the 20 back to the front?
Denny Hamlin: Hamlin had a rough 2011 season but rebounded strongly in 2012. He was a contender for the championship until mechanical issues at Martinsville ended his hopes. Hamlin just recently became a father, so 2013 is already off to a good start for the 32-year-old. If JGR can get their mechanical issues to stop, this year could be Hamlin’s to really shine.
Clint Bowyer: When Bowyer left Richard Childress Racing for Michael Waltrip Racing at the end of 2011, everybody figured that Bowyer was making career suicide. But Bowyer and the MWR team proved all the naysayers wrong by scoring three wins and finishing second in the points standings. The surprise team of the year was in the thick of the championship battle all Chase long until they made it to Phoenix when Gordon ended their title hopes. It will be interesting to see if Bowyer and the 15 team can repeat their 2012 performance, or maybe do themselves one spot better and get the championship.
Jimmie Johnson: 2011 was a down year for Johnson and the 48 team. They actually were mathematically eliminated from title contention before they made it Homestead. But he rebounded in 2012 and it looked like nobody would stop Johnson from winning his sixth championship. But the 48 team experienced issues in the final two races and lost the championship to Brad Keselowski. Kyle Petty said in preseason testing that he believed the 48 team had won their last championship in 2010 and would never win a championship again. I’m sure that Johnson and Chad Knaus will strongly disagree.
Kasey Kahne: The start of Kahne’s 2012 season was very similar to Jeff Gordon’s. If something could go wrong, it went wrong for Kasey Kahne. But the number 5 team got things turned around and they too were able to make the Chase and win a couple races. Kahne finished fourth in points last season and should be even stronger this year.
Brad Keselowski: “Bad” Brad had an OK year in 2012. He only won five races and his first Sprint Cup Series championship. Nothing too special. In all seriousness, 2012 was an incredible year for Keselowski. He won on every style of race track possible, excluding a road course (though he did finish second to Marcos Ambrose at Watkins Glen). The only downside to Keselowski’s 2012 season was his qualifying. It was very rare to see the Blue Deuce start up front. The duo of Keselowski and crew chief Paul Wolfe should continue to be even stronger in 2013. But two questions face the 2 team: Will they be plagued by a championship hangover? And how will the move from Dodge to Ford impact Penske Racing?
One thing to keep in mind as we move closer to the start of the season is the new, Generation-6 car. The CoT is gone, and brand identity is back. The cars look amazing, but many questions remain regarding its performance on the race track. It will be very interesting to see which teams adapt to the new car the quickest.