1. Denny Hamlin
Denny Hamlin was strong last year, and was in the championship hunt until he had some mechanical issues late in the Chase. I look for Hamlin to rebound this season, and finally win his first Sprint Cup Championship.
|Hamlin earlier this winter at Daytona Testing. (Courtesy SPEED)|
Kasey Kahne was strong last season. If not for a dreadful first couple weeks of the season, he may have been in championship contention when the field was set after Richmond. I think Kahne will have a strong start to the season, and he'll prove that he belongs at Hendrick Motorsports.
3. Jimmie Johnson
Jimmie Johnson will be strong yet again this season. He and crew chief Chad Knaus will be strong early in the season when they figure out the new Gen 6 car, but the rest of the field will catch up by the time the Chase rolls around. Johnson will be a part of another great championship fight, but he'll fall short of his sixth Spring Cup title.
|Johnson at Charlotte testing earlier this year (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)|
The 2012 Champion will have another great season in 2013. But with his team switching to Ford, along with the Gen 6 car, Brad Keselowski and Penske Racing will not be able to find the same magic that led them to a Sprint Cup Championship.
5. Kyle Busch
If it wasn't for a season filled with bad luck, Kyle Busch may have been a championship contender last year. Instead, he was mired back in 13th place in the standings, not even a part of the title fight. This year, Busch's team will get their ship turned around, and they'll be strong throughout the season.
6. Clint Bowyer
Clint Bowyer surprised everyone last season when he and Michael Waltrip Racing made the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Bowyer finished second to Keselowski last season, but he won't be able to do it again. He'll get a few wins this season, but his team will have trouble getting acclimated to the Gen 6 car.
7. Jeff Gordon
Jeff Gordon will have a decent season this year. He'll get a few wins, but he will be nowhere near where he was when he won his four championships. Gordon's best days are behind him.
8. Matt Kenseth
Matt Kenseth will have a new team this year, and he will help take the No. 20 team back in the Chase. He won't be as strong as he was at Roush-Fenway Racing, but he'll have a multi-win season, something that the 20 team hasn't seen in a long time.
9. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
The defending Nationwide Series Champion will surprise everyone in his rookie season by making the Chase. The switch to the Gen 6 car will help Ricky Stenhouse Jr. acclimate to the Sprint Cup Series faster, and he should pick up a few wins and easily win Rookie of the Year.
10. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
NASCAR's Most Popular Drive will get at least one win this season. Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be strong during the season, but when the Chase comes around, he'll run into problems again, and he will round out the Top 10.
|Edwards' car during the Sprint Cup Media Tour (Courtesy SPEED)|
Carl Edwards had a nine-win season in 2008. Since then, he has only had four wins in NASCAR's top series, and he hasn't won a race since 2011. This will continue to plague Edwards this year. He will return to victory lane, but it won't be enough to hang with the title contenders.
12. Tony Stewart
Tony Stewart will have a more consistent season this year. He will win a few races, but he will struggle to run in the Top 10 the rest of the time. And with Danica Patrick joining Stewart-Haas full-time in 2013, Stewart's focus won't be completely on the No. 14 team.
If you don't agree with my picks, that's okay. I'll probably look like an idiot in September and an even bigger idiot once the Chase is over in November. Let me know who you would have on your list by commenting below or letting me know on Twitter.