One the eve of the Spring Unlimited, nee the Busch Clash and Budweiser Shootout, the media met with the stars of NASCAR. Never mind that only three weeks ago, they spent a whole week interviewing and questioning most of these same stars, but there was a new subject that became almost an obsession. Since during the Sprint Media Tour, there wasn’t any news about the romance between Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., every driver was asked about that. Very rarely was the 2013 season mentioned, so I plan to concentrate on the season at hand. Keep in mind that much of this is based on what I learned at the Media Tour, since little was learned today. Several questions come to mind.
1. Who will make the Chase? I really have no idea, but if I were a betting man, I would say three of the four Hendrick Motorsports drivers (with either Jeff Gordon or Dale Earnhardt, Jr. being left out), All three of the Joe Gibbs Racing drivers, two of the Roush Fenway drivers (with Stenhouse being the odd man out), Clint Bowyer from MWR, defending champ Brad Keselowski and joey Logano from Penske, and Kevin Harvick from RCR. The results of my predictions may change as the season goes along.
2. Who will win the Daytona 500? Who knows? Daytona (and Talladega) are a crapshoot. These are not normal races and have little effect on who is the power driver for most of the season. If you want a wild card, you need to look elsewhere. I used to participate in a race pool. It was a blind draw based on qualifying position. I won the pool twice on a high qualifying position. Anyone can win this race. My money’s on Casey Mears or someone like that.
3. Will RCR have a comeback year after a disastrous 2012? No one has any more resources than Richard Childress. One trip to his ballroom will tell you that, but with star driver Kevin Harvick being a lame duck and Jeff Burton being near the end of his career, not to mention Paul Menard’s uneven career, I’d guess not. Time will tell.
4. Can Penske Racing with defending champ Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano really be as successful as the 2012 championship season? One thing is for certain, this team is pumped up for 2013. It didn’t hurt anything that among the crowd at their Media Tour stop were all the Ford brass which included Ford’s Edsel Ford and Jamie Allison and many more Ford people. Ford is banking on Penske helping bring home a manufacturer championship for Ford. It’s going to be a tall order.
5. Will Chevrolet continue to dominate the Sprint Cup season? Yes. The sheer numbers are staggering. Looking at the entry list for the Daytona 500, the brand dominates the field with 13 out of the 18 entered being strong teams. Ford only has eight strong teams entered (and that’s being generous), and only six of the 12 Toyotas being in that category. Game, set, and match. Give the bowtie the championship.
6. Can Michael Waltrip Racing match the success of 2012? Never was there a season that surprised everyone as much as MWR did in 2012. Can they repeat? With few changes from last year, they have a chance, but only when the season plays out will we know. My guess is no, even if they will be strong this year.
Regardless of the new car looking like the showroom car and the renewed enthusiasm we see over the so-called Gen 6 car, things won’t change much. Daytona will be sort of a barometer, but not much of one. Matt Kenseth won last year’s 500 in a Ford and though he had a successful season, successful enough to get a new ride at Joe Gibbs Racing, we surely didn’t dominate the season. Expect that in 2013. One thing is for certain, it’s been a long winter and I’m looking forward to racing tomorrow night.