- Looking Under the Microscope: How Do My Pre-Season Predictions Look Now?
With the Chase field set on Saturday night, no wait, Sunday Morning; I really couldn’t tell you when exactly the race ended because I fell asleep. Go ahead, make fun of me. I deserve it and I blame the love seat. Well, with that out of the way, it’s time we revisit my Chase predictions from February.
Let us refresh our memories about whom and how I made my picks: I wasn’t brave enough to predict the finishing order so I only predicted that Kevin Harvick would be our 2012 Sprint Cup Champion. The other 11 were in alphabetical order.
- Kevin Harvick – I thought with the pressure of being a team owner off of him he could concentrate on his cup efforts. I was slightly worried that fatherhood would be a distraction. I never in a million years thought the crew chief change would have the negative impact it did. With Gil Martin back at the helm, I have confidence that they will right the ship and contend for wins.
- *Kyle Busch- As he always wins a ton of races and is a threat to win the title, I thought this would be a sure thing pick. But he has struggled this season like no other. I have to wonder if expanding his race team to Nationwide has hurt his focus at the Cup level. That was one of my concerns heading into the season.
- Greg Biffle – has lead the points twice this season and his been one of the more consistent drivers so far. After missing out last year, he’s back with a vengeance. I was afraid he would just occupy a spot if he got in, but he’s a bona fide contender.
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. – after coming oh so close numerous times, that elusive victory was finally his in June. He has been at the top or near the top of the points for much of the season. The Chase reset leaves him in seventh place, but don’t expect him to stay there for long. As one of the more consistent drivers this season, I expect him to climb and have more trophies to add to his collection.
- *Carl Edwards – like Kyle Busch, it seems Edwards is winning every other week. But this year, his magic touch is lost. Some might attribute it to Runner Up hangover. However, I think there is much more to it than that. The primary being the health and subsequent departure of Bob Osborne.
- Jeff Gordon- This year has been more of a struggle for him than I thought it would be. If it wasn’t for bad luck he would have no luck at all. But after some solid performances, he gets the final spot in the Chase. Hopefully, he and crew chief Alan Gustafson are getting their act together at the right time.
- Denny Hamlin- He enters the Chase with the points lead after back to back wins. He and new crew chief Darian Grubb seem to have clicked. The question now is: Can he keep it up or have they peaked too soon?
8. Jimmie Johnson- it’s really no surprise he’s in the Chase. He’s been in it every year. Coming up short last year has made him even more focused on achieving his “six pack."
9.Kasey Kahne- After a rockier start than Gordon, Kahne has shown that the faith car owner Rick Hendrick showed in him by hiring him a full season before he could put him in the car was warranted. Now that he’s in can he and crew chief Kenny Francis finish as strong as they have been down the stretch?
10. Matt Kenseth- He’s always been one of the more consistent drivers every year, so it’s no shocker that he’s in here again. What is shocking is his announcement that he would be leaving the only team he’s ever driven for, Roush Fenway to take over the number twenty for Joe Gibbs Racing next year. Which begs the question: Will being a lame duck driver hurt his chances for a championship?
11. *Ryan Newman- If truth be told, I was reluctant to include him in my initial prediction, but I did because I thought Stewart-Haas Racing would be strong following the phenomenal Chase owner/driver Tony Stewart had last year. But Newman has struggled at times and with only one win, was on the outside looking in after Richmond.
12. Tony Stewart- the reigning champion has often times look lost on the track but has also won earlier in the season than he usually does. He was not a definite lock until Richmond, but did manage to finish in the top ten. At times this season I’ve wondered to myself if he regrets parting ways with former crew chief, Darian Grubb. Something tells me he’s a focus on the future and have no regrets kinda guy. Is there a run in him like last year? Only he and the next ten races will tell.
The asterisks above are the three drivers who didn’t make the Chase. So who did I leave out: Brad Keselowski, Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr.? I missed three drivers. I consider that beginners luck. I honestly didn’t think that BK could keep up his hot streak from last season. I left Bowyer out because of his move from Richard Childress Racing to Michael Waltrip Racing. And Truex Jr. didn’t make my cut because in past years he has been about a middle of the pack driver. But some fresh blood in the Chase should make for some interesting races.
Michael Waltrip Racing has more drivers in the Chase than Joe Gibbs Racing and Richard Childress Racing. If anyone saw that coming, please raise your hand. I didn’t think so. Also I get to brag, just a little, because I did predict all 4 Hendrick drivers would make it in.
With only ten races left in this 2012 season, it’s time to sit back and enjoy what surely will be a great Chase. Happy Racing!