Fan Perspective – 2013 Sprint Cup Series Predictions

crystalPrediction is an interesting word, because in reality no one can really predict what will happen in the future.

But what’s interesting is that for NASCAR fans, this time of year brings on a strong urge to give an opinion about what you think will or will not happen in the upcoming season.

Well, this year is no different and our Fan4Racing team is accepting the challenge, by pulling out our crystal ball and providing our 2013 predictions for the Sprint Cup Series via seven questions.  We’d love hearing your predictions too, so go ahead and indulge yourself by using your own crystal ball and share your responses by commenting with your 2013 predictions to the seven questions below:

Q1 – Which driver will be the dark horse in 2013?

Jason – Ricky Stenhouse Jr will be a dark horse in 2013. Stenhouse won’t be a dark horse as in championship contender but he will be competing for the win and possibly even the Chase as a dark horse because he is a rookie. Rookie’s aren’t usually successful in the their first season but I see Stenhouse Jr winning one or two races and being more competitive than we think he will be.

Rich – Denny Hamlin

Jordan – Kurt Busch. He finished with three top tens at the end of 2012. If the Kurt Busch and his new team, Furniture Row Racing, can find that type of chemistry with only six races together, then competitors may need to watch out. FRR’s alliance with Richard Chrildress Racing will only help Kurt Busch’s performance in 2013.

Michelle – Carl Edwards will comeback from last year’s disappointment and rebound with great results.

Sharon – My dark horse is also a favorite driver of mine – Jeff Burton. He’s coming off a couple of really rough years with Richard Childress Racing, who has suffered as an entire organization during the same timeframe. They’ve made some great changes organizationally and brought back Luke Lambert as crew chief for the #31 team. The introduction of the G6 car seems to be an added breath of fresh air for this team and could be just what they needed to be strong contenders in 2013. My second choice for dark horse is Martin Truex Jr. as he comes off a career best season and with his team MWR on the rise.

Q2 – Who will make the Chase for the Sprint Cup (in no particular order)

Jason – Top 12: Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr

Rich – Top 10: Kyle Bush, Clint Bowyer, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne, Brad Keselowski, Carl Edwards, Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon

Jordan – Top 10: Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne, Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Wildcards: Kyle Busch and Joey Logano

Michelle –  Top 12: Keselowski, Kahne, Bowyer, Gordon, Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Biffle, Stewart, Edwards, Truex Jr, Hamlin, KyBusch

Sharon – Top 12 – Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr. Tony Stewart, Jeff Burton, Carl Edwards and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Q3 – Who surprisingly doesn’t make the Chase for the Sprint Cup?

Jason –  I believe Greg Biffle will surprisingly miss the Chase. Biffle hasn’t always been the most consistent from season to season and I believe Biffle won’t perform the way he will need, in order to make the Chase.

Rich – Dale Earnhardt Jr

Jordan – No shocker there. The long season separates the men from the boys.

Michelle – Jeff Gordon could go either way, by either winning another wild card or not making it at all.

Sharon – Actually I have three drivers that will shock many, and may anger some. Keep in mind it’s really just pure guessing on my part. I like these drivers, it’s just that I think they may not do that well this season. Jeff Gordon is my first, big name driver, that may not make the Chase this year. He barely made the Chase last year and as a wild card, and only because his closest competition had a rough night at Richmond in September. Like Burton, the G6 car may be a breath of fresh air for Gordon, only time will tell which way the wind blows for his season.

Another driver that may have some difficulty making the Chase this year is Greg Biffle. Similar to his teammate, Carl Edwards, Biffle tends to have good year followed by not so good year and that does not bode well for him in 2013, but brings his teammate back into contention. Again, we’ll see which way the wind blows as the season progresses.

And my third pick is Kevin Harvick, with the premature announcement of his team change for next year, from RCR to Stewart-Haas Racing for 2014, I see this as a difficult year for Harvick on a variety of levels.

All of these drivers may prove me wrong, which would be great for them, but time always has a way of telling the rest of this story. It will be interesting to see how this works out in the 2013 season.

Q4 – Who will surprisingly make the Chase for the Sprint Cup?

Jason – There aren’t that many surprises in my Chase picks but I will say Martin Truex Jr will surprisingly make the Chase. Truex Jr won’t have the same consistency he had last year but he will likely win a race and slide into the Chase in a wild card position.

Rich – Ricky Stenhouse Jr

Jordan – Joey Logano will gain valuable knowledge from Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano’s wants/needs to prove he is a top notch driver.

Michelle – Carl Edwards will make the Chase in 2013

Sharon – Same as my picks for dark horse this year.  See my question one response.

Q5 – Who will win the Rookie of the Year?

Jason – Ricky Stenhouse Jr will win rookie of the year hands down. Danica just doesn’t have the experience behind the wheel of a stock car yet to run competitive. Stenhouse Jr has plenty of experience and in the select races he ran last year, he ran very well. Patrick will struggle to keep up and Stenhouse Jr will glide home with the rookie of the year award.

Rich – Ricky Stenhouse Jr

Jordan – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Is there even a question? Danica Patrick will be Stenhouse’s only competition and Patrick’s stats are in no way as impressive as Stenhouse. And, like many, I believe she is moving up to the Cup series a year too soon.

Michelle – Ricky Stenhouse Jr

Sharon – (chuckling) There’s a part of me that really wants to say Danica Patrick – just because. She’s done well with testing of the G6 cars and her teammates at SHR seem to appreciate her progress-to-date and her input for the team as a whole. It will be a fun competition to watch unfold this year – and I do think Danica will have a few surprises for fans – but in the end I think it will be Ricky Stenhouse Jr with the Rookie of the Year title. But there’s that other part of me that would love to see Danica pull this one off – just because.

Q6 – Will the G6 car give the fans what they’ve been looking for since the introduction of the COT?

Jason – The new G6 car will give the fans and NASCAR what they have been looking for and then some. From what we saw in testing, the style of racing is looking like what it did in the early 2000s and that’s the kind of racing fans have been looking for. The mile and a half tracks will be more competitive and close which will make them less of a bore. The short tracks however may just be the same old tracks because short track racing never changed with the changes of the cars they race on the short tracks. G6 will bring NASCAR what it has been looking for.

Rich – Based on my personal research of the G6 cars, I don’t believe the Gen-Six car is going to be all of what it is suppose to be, other than the looks.

Jordan – Yes, the Gen6 car was created to produce better racing on the track. Driver’s feedback so far makes one believe that is the case. Driver’s can now pull up to the back of someone and pass! Not to mention, tandem drafting will no longer be an issue after watching testing at Daytona.

Michelle – Yes, I think it will by getting fans excited about drivers getting control of their cars, back into their hands.

Sharon – My prediction here is really based on high hopes for something better than what the COT gave race fans. Although the COT is great as a safer car for the drivers, and I applaud NASCAR for taking those steps, it just seems so many of the drivers struggled with that car. That breath of fresh air is really what this sport needs for the 2013 season and especially for the 1.5-mile tracks. We really won’t know until we see the G6 cars in racing conditions on the track, but the dream is alive and well with me.

Q7 – Who will win the 2013 Sprint Cup championship?

Jason – Denny Hamlin will win the 2013 Sprint Cup Championship. Toyota is right with the rest of the teams with the new car unlike ever before and JGR/Toyota will build on their success from last season and Denny Hamlin will take advantage and bring home his first championship. Hamlin showed towards the end of the summer in 2012 that he can win when he needs to and that will come in handy for Hamlin when the championship gets heated up towards the end of 2013. Denny Hamlin will have his best season yet and take home the Sprint Cup.

Rich – Kyle Busch

Jordan – Clint Bowyer will win the 2013 championship. Unlike past runner-up finishers, the No. 15 team out performed their own expectations. They won’t have the usual let down year. All they have going into 2013 is momentum. And the solid chemistry between Brian Pattie and Bowyer will only get better after one full season under their belt together.

Michelle – Kasey Kahne will win another championship for Hendrick Motorsports. After showing their strengths last year, Kasey and his team have shown they are championship contenders.

Sharon – This is the most difficult prediction for me to make, I like all of the picks above and feel they are great choices. Although, I think it would be great for Jimmie Johnson to win another championship – it would be ‘epic’ historically speaking – I just feel it’s not what would benefit the sport overall and bring new fans to the NASCAR fold. Every time Johnson starts winning, the TV ratings go down as people find other ways to occupy their hours versus watching the same driver win all the races. Having Tony Stewart and Brad Keselowski as champions in the last two years has made the sport more interesting to watch and, of course, Jimmie Johnson has been there, making them earn their titles – he’s an amazing competitor and his place in history is secure.

Seeing another new champion in 2013 with the new G6 cars would make for another exciting season for fans to continue engaging with the sport. Personally, I would enjoy seeing a dark horse or another new face rise to the occasion and take the Sprint Cup trophy this year – see all of the choices above. One thing is for certain, the Sprint Cup Series is full of great competitors and the best racers in the world, so as fans, we have a lot to look forward to in the 2013 season!

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