Back in February I made some fearless predictions on who I thought would be the 12 drivers to make the Chase, who would finish where, and which driver would be hoisting the championship trophy in Homestead on November, 18th.
Since the Chase field is set, now is the time to revisit those predictions to see how well (or how bad) I did.
12) AJ Allmendinger: Well, this one I got way wrong. I thought that Allmendinger had the potential to win a race or two since he’d shown so much potential in a bad car and now he was finally in a very good car. Not only did he not win a race (best finish was second at Martinsville), he didn’t make it past Daytona in July in the number 22 Penske car after failing a random drug test the week before in Kentucky.
11) Paul Menard: I’ll start this one off by saying the whole Richard Childress organization has been below average all season long. That said, Menard has been quietly mediocre. He’s 17th in points, which is about the same as last year, but he didn’t get a win so he had no shot at making the Chase. I predicted that he’d get two wins this year and get the first wild-card spot. Totally wrong again.
10) Denny Hamlin: Since my post was about where the drivers finished the season, this prediction isn’t wrong just yet. At least I got it right that he’d make the Chase! Hamlin got hot lately and finished the first 26 races with four wins so that makes him the top seed entering week one at Chicago. He still has time to finish 10th and make my prediction come true, though.
9) Brad Keselowski: I said Bad Brad would make it. I’m 2-for-4 now. I didn’t think he would have three wins though. In February I said “Brad will make it again and prove that 2011 wasn’t a fluke, but won’t be as strong this year as he was last year.” I’d say I got that half-right. He’s definitely proved that last year wasn’t a fluke; he’s been much stronger this year though.
8) Dale Earnhardt Jr.: I said Earnhardt would make the Chase. I was right. I said he’d contend to win a few races. I was right on that too. I said the losing streak would continue. I was wrong there. Junior finally broke the streak. He did at Michigan too; which was where he won last to start the streak.
7) Carl Edwards: I said that Edwards wouldn’t repeat his performance from last season and I was right on that prediction. I said that he would struggle like Hamlin did last season, but just not as badly as Hamlin. There was where I was wrong. Edwards’ 2012 season has been way worse than Hamlin’s 2011 season. Edwards doesn’t have a win and missed the Chase. At least Hamlin made the Chase last season though he didn’t contend for the championship.
6) Kyle Busch: My prediction was that Kyle would “once again have a great regular season.” Boy, was I wrong on that one. He won the Budweiser Shootout, and won at Richmond in May, but those were the only bright spots on an otherwise dismal season for Busch’s standards. Busch was plagued by mechanical issues almost all season long, but the worst was when his engine blew two weeks in a row at Dover and Pocono. Busch looked like he would make the Chase in the first half of the race on Saturday night, but missed it by just one point.
5) Matt Kenseth: 2012 has been a typical Kenseth season. He won the Daytona 500, has been fast for most of the season and made the Chase. Kenseth will be a contender, though you won’t hear his name mentioned much. Hopefully for Matt’s sake, the decision to leave Roush-Fenway for Joe Gibbs Racing at the end of the season won’t cost him a chance at the title this season.
4) Jeff Gordon: All season long it looked like Gordon wouldn’t make the Chase. And then came Pocono in August and the rain. Gordon got the lead when the leaders crashed in front of him on a restart, and then the skies opened up. NASCAR was forced to call the race, which gave Gordon the win and a chance at getting in via the wild-card. Then came Richmond. Gordon had to beat Kyle Busch by 13 points to make it into the Chase. He led one lap and finished second. Busch finished 16th. Gordon made it in by three points. He said earlier this season that if he made the Chase he’d bring back the infamous mustache from his early days. He said Sunday that will keep his word. Gordon’s having fun again, and he can compete for this championship.
3) Jimmie Johnson: Johnson made the Chase again. No shock there. He’s made the Chase every year since its inception in 2004. He’ll be the man to beat once again.
2) Tony Stewart: I said Stewart would make the Chase, and I was right. I didn’t think that he’d struggle as much as he has this season. Sure, he has three wins, but where’s he been besides those wins? Luckily, Stewart was able to make it in on points and gets to use the nine bonus points from those wins.
1) Kevin Harvick: I predicted that Harvick would win the championship this year. Through 26 races, the number 29 team hasn’t looked like a team capable of even competing for it. Harvick and Shane Wilson didn’t gel, so Gil Martin is back again. They don’t have a win so far, but maybe with Martin back atop the pit box the no. 29 team can contend again and make me look like a genius.
Final Score: I was right on all but four picks. Not too bad I guess.
Your 2012 Chase Lineup:
1) Denny Hamlin
2) Jimmie Johnson
3) Tony Stewart
4) Brad Keselowski
5) Greg Biffle
6) Clint Bowyer
7) Dale Earnhardt Jr.
8) Matt Kenseth
9) Kevin Harvick
10) Martin Truex Jr.
11) Kasey Kahne
12) Jeff Gordon