This season the new car makes the 12 spots in the Chase not a lock for anyone. Come the checkered flag at Richmond International Speedway in September, 12 drivers will have their shot at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title.
Here are my picks for the 2013 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship.
I wonder how many times this off season Matt Kenseth practiced his sponsors and his new car number? Might be a new number but it is the same consistent Kenseth who will once again make the Chase. Youth can only take you so far and Kenseth has wealth of knowledge and that will only make his new teammates better.
Kyle Busch had seven top 10 finishes in the 10 Chase races in 2012, if only they made the Chase. A lackluster regular season capped off at Richmond where his Chase hopes disappeared after poor pit strategy. Now in 2013, Busch is confident in his team and looks to rebound with a Chase berth and a run for the title.
Jimmie Johnson is on a bit of a Chase losing streak. He has never missed a Chase and that won’t change in 2013. Johnson admitted during the media tour that this the most relaxed he has ever been heading into a season. That could be bad news for the rest of the Chase field.
You know those old Kasey Kahne Allstate commercials where the women would be chasing Kahne? Well, Kahne is hoping the field will be chasing him when it comes to the Chase this season with a lot less damage left behind and big ole trophy to raise at Homestead.
If you ever questioned whether Jeff Gordon was hungry for trophy number five please refer to Phoenix. Gordon has gotten feisty the last few seasons after watching opportunity after opportunity to win a title slip by him. Gordon will and should make the Chase but like Busch it is a matter of putting it all together.
Carl Edwards is always the best man and never the groom when it comes to the Chase. After missing the Chase completely last year he will be happy just to make it back in. 2013 will be a bounce back year for this team and that will be capped with making the Chase.
Brad Keselowski hopes to win back to back titles. First step is to make the Chase and Keselowski should do that in 2013. With success comes expectations and Keselowski sets those expectations higher than anyone on his team.
In 2011, Tony Stewart’s run in the final 10 races put on the best Chase performances ever. In 2012, they fell flat in the Chase and couldn’t pull off a repeat. In 2013, he will make the Chase hope to put on a repeat performance of his 2011 title run.
Clint Bowyer and his team making the Chase shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. The rise of Michael Waltrip Racing has been building the last couple seasons capped off with both Bowyer and Martin Truex, Jr. making the Chase in 2012. In 2013, Bowyer will be looking to better his career best points finish of second, by one. Don’t be surprise if he pulls it off.
Lame duck anyone? Not for Kevin Harvick in 2013. He will make the Chase for the final time as a Richard Childress Racing driver. While everyone else has confirmed the move to Stewart Haas Racing in 2014, neither Stewart nor Harvick have. In 2013 he wants to leave behind a little parting gift, RCR’s first Championship since Dale Earnhardt, Sr.
Denny Hamlin nearly won the championship a few seasons back. If not for having to pit late in the race at Phoenix in 2010, Hamlin would have won the title and ended Johnson’s reign. Hamlin has never missed the Chase in his NASCAR Sprint Cup career and that streak will continue in 2013.
“Sliced bread” aka Joey Logano has found a new ride for 2013. Once considered to be the next big star of NASCAR, Logano struggles to fill the shoes of Stewart were well documented. A fresh start is exactly what was needed and that will propel him from not just a race win contender but a Chase contender.