Wednesday, January 25, 2012

2012 Chase Predictions

Making predictions for the Chase are always risky.  Doing so will make some people look like geniuses, while making others question if their friends should be admitted to a psychiatric hospital.  Well, hopefully I fall into the first category.  There may be a few surprises on this list, like Kasey Kahne finishing so high in the final standings.  But I don't think it is a surprise to anyone who I am picking to win it all in 2012.  Let's take a look into my crystal ball and see how I think the Chase field will shake out in 2012.

1. Carl Edwards
Carl Edwards was very classy after just losing the Sprint Cup Championship in Homestead at the end of last season.  But after having the strongest Chase run of anyone in history (he had a 4.9 average finishing position), he seems poised to finally capture his first Sprint Cup Championship.  Hopefully he can avoid the team breakdown that occurred after finishing second in the points standings to Jimmie Johnson in 2008.

Carl Edwards in the garage during Daytona Preseason Testing (Photo courtesy Associated Press)
 2. Jeff Gordon
The "Drive for Five" has been going on ever since Jeff Gordon's fourth championship back in 2001.  Unfortunately for Gordon fans, he will fall just short of tying protege Jimmie Johnson in 2012.  Gordon will have a fantastic season in 2012, but will fall just short of Edwards.  Gordon will keep it close heading into Homestead, but the power of Edwards and his Roush-Fenway Racing team will prove too much for Gordon and the 24 team to overcome.

3. Matt Kenseth
The Roush-Fenway cars were strong at the end of 2011, and that should translate into strong cars in 2012.  Matt Kenseth seems to have returned to championship form, but it may not be enough to overcome Edwards and Gordon.  But Kenseth will have one of his best seasons to date, and he will once again own the nickname "Mr. Consistency."

4. Jimmie Johnson
"Five-time" will not win a sixth championship in 2012.  After a disappointing 2011 season (by "disappointing" I mean that they didn't win a sixth consecutive championship), Johnson will turn it around in 2012.  Though he may get the ship righted in 2012, he and crew chief Chad Knaus will continue to bicker over the radio, and this bickering will affect Johnson's championship run.

5. Kasey Kahne
After proving he can win in sub-par equipment at Red Bull Racing, Kasey Kahne will flourish at Hendrick Motorsports.  I believe Kahne will have multiple wins for the first time since 2009.  He will become a force to be reckoned with on the racetrack in 2012.  Look for Kahne to do big things this year, and even bigger things in 2013.

Kasey Kahne and Kenny Francis find themselves at Hendrick in 2012 (Photo courtesy Associated Press)
 6. Tony Stewart
Why is the defending Sprint Cup Champion so far down this list?  Two words: Steve Addington.  Sure, Addington has proved that he can win with the Busch brothers, but he was never able to elevate them to championship-caliber status.  Addington and Stewart will have some missteps and stumbles in 2012, and they will prove costly when it comes to the championship.  It is very unlikely this first-year combination will make much noise in the Chase.

7. Kyle Busch
Kyle Busch ran into trouble in 2011, and he seeks to put that behind him in 2012.  He will, and will have his best season to date with Joe Gibbs Racing.  He won't win the title, but he won't get into any major trouble either.  Busch will use this season as a stepping stone to 2013, where he will challenge for the championship.

Kyle Busch during Daytona Preseason Testing (Photo courtesy Associated Press)
 8. Kevin Harvick
After finishing third in the points the past two season, Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 team will falter in 2012.  Harvick will get one or two wins this season, but he will no longer be called "The Closer."  He will also run into some trouble early on in the Chase, and that will spell out the end to his championship run.

Kevin Harvick with RCR Teammate Jeff Burton (Photo courtesy Associated Press)
 9. Greg Biffle
Greg Biffle missed the Chase last year for the first time since 2007.  He was winless in 2011, but he will make both his return to Victory Lane and the Chase this year.  But he, like Harvick, will run into trouble early in the Chase and it will greatly affect his championship hopes.  At ninth place in points, he will also be far behind his Roush-Fenway teammates of Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth.

10. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
While Dale Earnhardt Jr. will return to Victory Lane in 2012, he will come nowhere near hoisting the Sprint Cup Trophy.  I believe the No. 88 team will completely break down in the Chase, and Earnhardt Jr. will once again be relegated to the bottom half of the Chase field.  Earnhardt Jr. will make it into the Chase using a wild card spot.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. looks to return to Victory Lane in 2012 (Photo courtesy Associated Press)
 11. Denny Hamlin
Denny Hamlin will continue to be plagued by bad luck in 2012.  Even with new crew chief Darian Grubb, Hamlin will not be able to rekindle the magic that Jimmie Johnson stole from him in 2010.  Hamlin will find himself on the outside looking in when the series gets to Richmond, and he will have to settle for a wild card spot in the Chase.

12. Jeff Burton
Richard Childress Racing and Jeff Burton will get it turned around just enough to get Burton into the Chase, but no more.  Burton will just squeak into the Chase, and will prove to be a non-factor as the Chase rolls on.  Burton will simply not be able to keep up with everyone else that will be in the Chase.

Hopefully some of these predictions come true, so that I look a little bit smarter than I actually am.  And if not, I think I left my explanations vague enough that I have some room to back out of my arguments.  Is it time for Daytona?  I know I'm ready to get the season underway, and I can't wait to see how the season unfolds!

The Daytona 500 is February 26th (Photo courtesy Associated Press)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Current Winless Streaks in NASCAR

While many in the NASCAR community continue to talk about Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s winless streak in the Sprint Cup Series, many other drivers are also currently in winless droughts.  I'm going to shed light on ten Sprint Cup Series drivers who have not won a race in at least one season.

Jamie McMurray
Jamie McMurray had a wonderful 2010; he won the Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400, and the Bank of America 500.  He followed that up with a less-than-stellar 2011, when he failed to win a single race in NASCAR's top division.  I expect McMurray to continue to struggle in the Cup Series this season, but he may be able to pull off an upset victory if everything works in his favor.

Jamie McMurray talks to the media during testing at Daytona (Photo courtesy Getty Images)
Greg Biffle
After going winless in 2011, Greg Biffle failed to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship for the first time since 2007.  In fact, Biffle was the only driver from Roush-Fenway Racing that did not record a win last year.  I expect Biffle to return to Victory Lane this year, as well as making a return to the Chase.  Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth were strong at the end of last season, and that should help Biffle find success.

 Juan Pablo Montoya
A force to be reckoned with when the Sprint Cup Series races at road courses, Juan Pablo Montoya failed to impress in 2011.  Along with teammate Jamie McMurray, he failed to give Chip Ganassi a victory in NASCAR's premier series.  His last win came at Watkins Glen in 2010.  I expect Montoya to contend on the road courses this season, but don't be surprised if Montoya can find a way to win on an oval.

David Reutimann
David Reutimann recorded two victories in his tenure with Michael Waltrip Racing.  His last victory showed promise when he raced Jeff Gordon for the victory at Chicagoland in July...of 2010.  He did not have a victory in 2011, and was released from MWR at the end of the season.  He now finds himself at Tommy Baldwin Racing, where his only chance of winning this season will be on a restrictor-plate track.  Chances of doing that? I'd say very slim.

Brian Vickers
Now, let me start off by saying that Brian Vickers has had a lot against him these past few seasons.  In 2010, he only ran 11 races before he was sidelined with blood clots that kept him out of the seat for the rest of the season.  Then in 2011, Red Bull Racing decided that they would close their doors at the end of the season.  So it is no surprise that Vickers has not been able to win since 2009.  And he will not win a race in 2012; Vickers is still without a ride with just a few weeks before the start of the season.  Because of Vickers' health problems, I have excluded the races in which Vickers did not participate in from his winless tally.

Joey Logano (20), Mark Martin (55), and Kyle Busch test at Daytona (Photo courtesy Getty Images)
Mark Martin
Markaholics everywhere had high hopes heading into the 2010 season for their driver; Mark Martin was coming off a season where he won five races and finished a runner-up to then four-time champion Jimmie Johnson.  But then it all went downhill for the No. 5 Team, a downhill slide that would plague Martin for the rest of his tenure at Hendrick Motorsports.  Now, Martin finds himself at Michael Waltrip Racing, where he will run a part-time schedule, much like the one he ran in 2007 and 2008.  I think it is very possible that Mark Martin will make his return to Victory Lane in 2012 driving the No. 55 Aaron's Toyota.

Joey Logano
"Sliced Bread" has yet to live up to the hype that followed him into the Sprint Cup Series.  With just one win in three full-time seasons, Joey Logano may be one of the biggest disappointments in the Sprint Cup Series.  This year, Logano gets a new crew chief, and this may be his last chance.  Joe Gibbs Racing can either re-sign Logano at the end of the season, or let him go and move on.  Logano needs to win at least one race this year, and I think he will be able to pull it off.  Don't expect him to do anything spectacular, but I think Logano will do enough to keep his ride at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Joey Logano in the garage at Daytona (Photo courtesy Getty Images)
 Jeff Burton
Jeff Burton has fallen on hard times at Richard Childress Racing.  He has seen Kevin Harvick compete for the Sprint Cup Championship for the past two seasons, while he has remained winless.  In fact, Burton hasn't won a race since 2008.  RCR has shrunk to just three teams once again, and it should help Burton regain his old ways.  I expect Burton to win at least once this season.
WINLESS FOR: 113 Races

Dale Earnhardt Jr.
What can I say about Dale Earnhardt Jr. that hasn't been said already.  The Most Popular Driver of the Sprint Cup Series moved to Hendrick Motorsports so that he could win a championship that eluded him at Dale Earnahrdt Incorporated.  But until last year, he hadn't made the Chase since 2008.  In fact, he only has one win with Hendrick; a fuel-mileage race at Michigan in 2008.  Earnhardt Jr. seems to have turned a corner, and he seems poised for a win.  I believe that Junior Nation will be able to celebrate a victory this season.
WINLESS FOR: 129 Races

Burton (31), Truex (56), McMurray (1), and Marcos Ambrose (9) test at Daytona (Photo courtesy Getty Images)
Martin Truex Jr.
Martin Truex Jr. has a winless streak even longer than Dale Jr.'s.  In fact, Truex only has one win in six full-time seasons.  That win came at Dover in 2007, and Truex has failed to return to Victory Lane since.  Truex Jr. has not yet won since coming to Michael Waltrip Racing, but he should be even more competitive this year for two reasons: Mark Martin and Clint Bowyer.  With Martin and Bowyer joining the fray at MWR, it should help Truex Jr. return to victory lane.  I see a victory in Truex Jr.'s future, just maybe not right away.
WINLESS FOR: 167 Races

I know by now, you may be thinking to yourself, "Wow, I didn't know all these other people had long winless droughts!  I thought it was only Dale Earnhardt Jr.!"  Or sadly, some may be thinking, "There are other drivers other than Dale Earnhardt Jr.?!"  Whatever you're thinking, I hope this post has opened your eyes.  Maybe it will make you think differently when one of these drivers is in a position to win this season; you never know, you may find yourself rooting for them a little bit.


I would like to apologize for the limited posting since the season ended.  I decided to take some time off over my winter break from school, but I had been meaning to write this post before I went back to school.  I had actually started thinking about this blog while the season was still going on.  I hope you enjoyed it, and I can't wait to get the 2012 season started!  And if it's anything like 2011, we're in for another great year!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Happy Birthday Mark Martin!

Today is Mark Martin's birthday!  He was born 53 years ago today, on January 9, 1959.  Obviously, I had to post something about this due to the fact that he is my all-time favorite driver.  I really can't wait to see him pilot the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota in the Daytona 500 on February 26th.  In case you missed it, Mark will also be driving a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota for the Nationwide race at Las Vegas on March 10th.  The car number/sponsor have not yet been announced.

I would also like to apologize for not blogging a lot over the off-season.  But I'm working on a new blog that should be up in the coming weeks, and I will have regular weekly blogs as soon as the season starts again.  On one last note, if you haven't gone to Michael Waltrip Racing's Website, you probably should.  They're updating the site, and following picture is on the homepage. 

Happy Birthday Mark!!