As we approach the start of what I’m hoping will be a fantastic NASCAR season, it’s time for my annual predictions on who will be in and out of the Chase. Of course there are the familiar faces but the new Chase format has thrown a wrinkle into my picks. So without further adieu I give you my 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup field in alphabetical order.
Marcos Ambrose- He is my dark horse pick this year simply because of the new chase format.With the win and you are in and his ability on the road courses, he could pull off an upset.
Greg Biffle- He’s a perennial Chaser and race winner. But Roush Fenway Racing as an organization needs to find more speed and consistency this year. If they can, he will be a title contender.
Clint Bowyer- He is a favorite to make the Chase each year and 2014 will be no different. I’m afraid the struggles and changes at Michael Waltrip Racing might be a distraction. I hope not because a Chase without him would be a lot less entertaining.
Kyle Busch- After missing the Chase in 2012 he came back strong last year. I expect him to be even stronger this year. Will his racing in the other two series be a help or hindrance to his championship aspirations in Sprint Cup?
Dale Earnhardt, Jr- He showed consistency last season but failed to win a race. He was agonizingly close so many times. This year needs to step it up and pull out a few wins.
Carl Edwards- Since his second place finish in 2011, he had disappointing seasons by his standards, the last few seasons. Hopefully new crew chief Jimmy Fennig can return Edwards to his contender status.
Jeff Gordon.- A NASCAR executive decision put him in the Chase last year and he made the most of that second chance. Hopefully this year will see him in victory lane more often this year.
Denny Hamlin- He missed the Chase last year after sustaining a back injury but he won the finale at Homestead. He says he is completely healed and feeling better than ever. Now he needs to put last year’s dismal season behind him and return to his contender status.
Kevin Harvick- He left Richard Childress Racing for Stewart Haas Racing this year, hoping that would bolster his championship chances. Only time will tell.
Jimmie Johnson-Six time shows no signs of slowing down. As he goes for seven is there anyone or anything that can knock him off of his throne?
Kasey Kahne- Although he won several races last year he finished a disappointing 12th in the standings. Will he be able to find the consistency to put together a title run?
Matt Kenseth- His first year with Joe Gibbs Racing was a rousing success as he came in second last year. Will this season see him succumb to the runner up curse that has plagued other drivers in the past several years?
Brad Keselowski- He missed the Chase last year ending his bid to win consecutive titles. He’ll be in the Chase this year but will his championship form return? And if it does, do we see a return of the championship beer mug?
Joey Logano------ He was the Penske driver who made the Chase last year. So can he back up last year and improve in the standings for a second year in a row?
Ryan Newman --- "The Rocket" was shown the door at Stewart Haas Racing only to land at RCR. Will this change in scenery help him become a title contender or just a place in the Chase?
Tony Stewart- After missing six months due to a horrific broken leg, he comes back more determined than ever. The question is, will the time off and injury hurt him? Also as co owner of Stewart Haas that went from two teams to four teams will that be a distraction to his title hunt?
There it is in black and white. How will I fare this year? Check back with me in 26 races as we wind our way through the season.
Also, check back to see who I pick as champions for each series.
Happy racing y’all.