NASCAR Race Weekend Central

The Stars Of NASCAR, 2013: Staff Championship & Chase Predictions

With a new Gen-6 car, different rules and a whole new set of manufacturer, driver, and crew chief combinations NASCAR is hoping for a bounceback year in 2013. Will it happen, and will the ever-elusive parity of more than just Hendrick, Roush Fenway, Joe Gibbs Racing, and Penske come along with it? Can new faces emerge from the pack of typical, top-tier contenders and walk away with a Chase berth or even a championship? Jump in the crystal ball along with us as your favorite writers reintroduce themselves and offer their expert view at how the next nine months will play out.

_Note: Did you miss any of our 2013 season preview columns? Check them out below before predictions start becoming reality once the green flag flies at Daytona._

“PART I: IS THE GEN-6 NASCAR’s FIX-ALL”:https://frontstretch.com/tbowles/42266/
“PART II: WHAT CUP DRIVER HAS THE MOST TO PROVE?”:https://frontstretch.com/tbowles/42267/
“PART III: DOES A CHAMP NEED TO CHANGE”:https://frontstretch.com/tbowles/42270/
“PART IV: SOLVING THE CUP SPONSORSHIP CRISIS”:https://frontstretch.com/tbowles/42275/
“PART V: BRUTON SPEAKS OUT ON START-AND-PARK… ANY SOLUTIONS?”:https://frontstretch.com/tbowles/42278/
“PART VI: THE SPORT’S RISING STARS”:https://frontstretch.com/tbowles/42294/

Tom Bowles, Owner / Editor-In-Chief
*Columns:* “Bowles-Eye View (Mondays),”:https://frontstretch.com/bowleseyeview/ “Did You Notice? (Wednesdays)”:https://frontstretch.com/didyounotice/
2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Predictions
*Chase Champion* Jimmie Johnson
*2nd Place* Kyle Busch
*3rd Place* Brad Keselowski
*4th Place* Carl Edwards
*5th Place* Matt Kenseth
*6th Place* Tony Stewart
*7th Place* Kasey Kahne
*8th Place* Kevin Harvick (Wild Card Entry)
*9th Place* Martin Truex, Jr.
*10th Place* Jeff Gordon
*11th Place* A.J. Allmendinger (Wild Card Entry)
*12th Place* Greg Biffle
*Rookie Of The Year* *Timmy Hill.* Do I have any other choice? I would say Danica Patrick, but she’s not entered, and for good reason. After running ten races this season, you know the 2013 rookie rules will be magically changed so she can move up and still compete for the award full-time.
*First Driver Fired* *Joey Logano.* I’m regretting this pick a little bit after seeing him drive during Speedweeks with confidence. But a slow start for the No. 20 will be the final straw for a Sliced Bread Sensation whose small list of Cup accomplishments have gotten stale.
*Why I Picked This Way* I know, I know. Jimmie Johnson is the easy way out. But after his five-year streak came crashing to a halt, at a time when this team had begun to think seven straight was a possibility leaves them entering 2012 thinking revenge. Just ask yourself this simple question: Who’s going to beat a resurgent No. 48? Past history leaves Edwards with a runner-up hangover; Denny Hamlin should struggle with Darian Grubb (see: not on this list); and Jeff Gordon remains J.J.’s permanent Hendrick lackey. Kevin Harvick? I once thought yes, but that whole baby thing, combined with internal adjustments at Richard Childress Racing will leave him coming up short. The wild card could be Kyle Busch, if he takes some steps forward but the poor Chase track record leaves me hesitant to go out on a limb.
Beth Lunkenheimer, Co-Managing Editor
*Columns:* “Truckin’ Thursdays,”:https://frontstretch.com/tearingapartthetrucks/ “Tracking The Trucks”:https://frontstretch.com/trackingthetrucks/
2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Predictions
*Chase Champion* Tony Stewart
*2nd Place* Jimmie Johnson
*3rd Place* Jeff Gordon
*4th Place* Kevin Harvick
*5th Place* Kasey Kahne
*6th Place* Kyle Busch
*7th Place* Brad Keselowski
*8th Place* Carl Edwards
*9th Place* Ryan Newman
*10th Place* Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (Yup, I went there!)
*Wild Card* Kurt Busch
*Wild Card* A.J. Allmendinger
*Rookie Of The Year* *Danica Patrick.* There just aren’t any real candidates, so at this point, it pretty much gets handed to Danica based on her status as one of the only rookies for the year and the uncertainty of whether Timmy Hill or Josh Wise will even run the full season.
*First Driver Fired* *Robert Richardson, Jr.* Won’t be fired, per se but forced to not run the entire season thanks to the lack of funding that’s out there for the smaller teams trying to break into the world of the larger juggernauts.
*Why I Picked This Way* The top 10 Chase drivers are pretty similar every year, and since Kurt Busch is with a new team, I’m expecting them to struggle in the beginning before hitting their stride and grabbing at least a couple wins that’ll help them slide into the Chase on a wild card. And the same can be said for A.J. Allmendinger — he’s been so close to Victory Lane for so long and had bad luck take away a decent run. Now, with better equipment, he has that chance to visit Victory Lane, but there will likely be a learning curve before they move into a consistent streak.
Amy Henderson, Co-Managing Editor
*Columns:* “Holding A Pretty Wheel,”:https://frontstretch.com/holdingaprettywheel/ “Kenny Wallace Driver Diary”:https://frontstretch.com/kwallace/
2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Predictions
*Chase Champion* Kevin Harvick
*2nd Place* Brad Keselowski
*3rd Place* Jimmie Johnson
*4th Place* Jeff Gordon
*5th Place* Carl Edwards
*6th Place* Tony Stewart
*7th Place* Denny Hamlin
*8th Place* Kyle Busch
*9th Place* Matt Kenseth
*10th Place* Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
*Wild Card* A.J. Allmendinger
*Wild Card* Kasey Kahne
*Rookie Of The Year* *None.* Without a full-time rookie candidate that has proper funding, this category could be a wash in 2012. Thank you, NASCAR, for your wanton destruction of the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series in recent years and the subsequent lack of sponsor support for drivers who are not already proven Cup stars. This crisis is the end result of the “big picture” scenario that the sanctioning body refused to even consider until last year, and still has not fully addressed.
*First Driver Fired* *Joey Logano.* Is that a given? Absolutely not. But the No. 20 program is being built completely around the young driver for the first time since he came on board. That means that there’s a new focus by the organization on “Sliced Bread,” but also that the pressure ramps up. If Logano finally performs to the level many think he is capable of, he’s safe. But if performance lags, look for Joe Gibbs to seriously consider wooing some free agents.
*Why I Picked This Way* Harvick has been knocking on the door for years now, and he’s got one more thing going for him this year: no inevitable distraction from being a team owner. If that’s not replaced by a new distraction when Harvick becomes a first-time father this summer, he’s got nothing to focus on but the prize, and that could change everything for Happy.
Toni Montgomery, Senior Editor
*Columns:* Aric Almirola Driver Diary
2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Predictions
*Chase Champion* Carl Edwards
*2nd Place* Kevin Harvick
*3rd Place* Tony Stewart
*4th Place* Jimmie Johnson
*5th Place* Brad Keselowski
*6th Place* Jeff Gordon
*7th Place* Matt Kenseth
*8th Place* Kyle Busch
*9th Place* Denny Hamlin
*10th Place* Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
*Wild Card* Ryan Newman
*Wild Card* A.J. Allmendinger
*Rookie Of The Year* *None.* Can they opt to not award Rookie of the Year if no one is seriously running for it? That would be my vote.
*First Driver Fired* *None.* All major drivers keep their jobs through the season.
*Why I Picked This Way* Edwards learned his lesson about sandbagging in the Chase, isn’t running any other series full-time to distract him, and finally puts it all together. It’s bound to happen sooner or later.
Bryan Keith, Senior Editor
*Columns:* “5 Points To Ponder,”:https://frontstretch.com/5pointstoponder/ ARCA & Development Driver Expert
2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Predictions
*Chase Champion* Jimmie Johnson
*2nd Place* Jeff Gordon
*3rd Place* Tony Stewart
*4th Place* Kevin Harvick
*5th Place* Matt Kenseth
*6th Place* Carl Edwards
*7th Place* Kyle Busch (Wild Card Entry)
*8th Place* Denny Hamlin
*9th Place* Brad Keselowski (Wild Card Entry)
*10th Place* Greg Biffle
*11th Place* Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
*12th Place* Clint Bowyer
*Rookie Of The Year* *Josh Wise.* Timmy Hill isn’t even going to qualify for races, making Wise my pick by default.
*First Driver Fired* *J.J. Yeley.* He is going to be out of that seat quickly, either because he’s frustrated over the equipment or there’s simply not enough money to run the car.
*Why I Picked This Way* I picked J.J. this year because there’s no clear-cut favorite. So when in doubt, lean on the guy who’s won five of the last six Sprint Cup titles.
Phil Allaway, Senior Editor
*Columns:* “Couch Potato Tuesdays”:https://frontstretch.com/talkingnascartv/
2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Predictions
*Chase Champion* Kevin Harvick
*2nd Place* Jeff Gordon
*3rd Place* Tony Stewart
*4th Place* Jimmie Johnson
*5th Place* Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
*6th Place* Carl Edwards
*7th Place* Denny Hamlin
*8th Place* A.J. Allmendinger
*9th Place* Kasey Kahne
*10th Place* Brad Keselowski
*Wild Card* Clint Bowyer
*Wild Card* Paul Menard
*Rookie Of The Year* *Timmy Hill.* We have no real, funded candidates for the full season. Heck, we outright had nobody at all (who knows if Josh Wise will even run?) until Timmy Hill announced out of nowhere that he’s moving up. So unless Danica decides to make 2012 her official rookie year… there aren’t many choices. And let’s face it, the chances of that happening are equal to someone getting 108 points on the final answer in Fast Money on Ray Combs’ Family Feud.
*First Driver Fired* *Travis Kvapil.* I have no clue how long Kvapil’s going to last in that second BK Racing car. Or, for that matter, how long the team’s going to last.
*Why I Picked This Way* I feel that Kevin Harvick will finally get over the hump this year. He no longer has 140 dudes’ livelihoods to worry about and can buckle down and get to “brass tacks.” Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s improvement will continue, hopefully with that all-important and much-needed victory to shut everyone up. We’ll likely see the last of the first-time winners for quite a while when Allmendinger gets to Victory Lane in the first half of the season. Hendrick Motorsports will be strong, but they won’t win the title. Meanwhile, Roush Fenway will go into a swoon (at least in Sprint Cup). For the “wild cards,” the MWR team will be much stronger this year. The No. 55 is ineligible for the Chase due to split-seat, and I just don’t think that Truex can get there, so in Bowyer goes. Also, I predict Paul Menard’s going to surprise everyone and snag another win. Don’t know where, but it will be somewhere.
S.D. Grady, Senior Editor
*Columns:* “Fan’s View – Frontstretch Newsletter”:/notice/9557/
2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Predictions
*Chase Champion* Kyle Busch
*2nd Place* Brad Keselowski
*3rd Place* Carl Edwards
*4th Place* Jeff Gordon
*5th Place* Tony Stewart
*6th Place* Denny Hamlin
*7th Place* Jimmie Johnson
*8th Place* Matt Kenseth
*9th Place* A.J. Allmendinger
*10th Place* Kevin Harvick
*Wild Card* Ryan Newman
*Wild Card* Kasey Kahne
*Rookie Of The Year* *None.* No solid candidates.
*First Driver Fired* *Kurt Busch.* If he does something incredibly stupid, yet again, I suspect we’ll see him self-terminate. Otherwise, it’d be some S&P team that I wouldn’t even care if it happened.
*Why I Picked This Way* Ummm…I just have this funny feeling that it will be the make-or-break year of Kyle Busch. Otherwise, it’s sort of random – although I firmly believe anybody in that Top 12 could actually win the Cup. The years of domination are over! Call me tickled pink.
Vito Pugliese, Assistant Editor
*Columns:* “Vexing Vito – Frontstretch Newsletter”:/notice/9557/
2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Predictions
*Chase Champion* Carl Edwards
*2nd Place* Brad Keselowski
*3rd Place* Jeff Gordon
*4th Place* Kyle Busch
*5th Place* Matt Kenseth
*6th Place* Jimmie Johnson
*7th Place* Denny Hamlin
*8th Place* Jeff Gordon
*9th Place* Tony Stewart
*10th Place* Kevin Harvick
*Wild Card* Greg Biffle
*Wild Card* A.J. Allmendinger
*Rookie Of The Year* *None.* Umm… you know… that one guy… with the, uh… hair… do they still have a ROTY award?
*First Driver Fired* *Scott Speed.* Not because of Scott, but because the team will fold.
*Why I Picked This Way* Edwards gets it done. Simple as that.
Matt McLaughlin, Senior Writer
*Columns:* “Thinkin’ Out Loud,”:https://frontstretch.com/mattmclaughlinracereports/ “MPM2Nite”:https://frontstretch.com/mattmclaughlinmouthsoff/
2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Predictions
*Chase Champion* Jimmie Johnson
*2nd Place* Carl Edwards
*3rd Place* Jeff Gordon
*4th Place* Matt Kenseth
*5th Place* Tony Stewart
*6th Place* Kyle Busch
*7th Place* Kasey Kahne
*8th Place* Denny Hamlin
*9th Place* Kevin Harvick
*10th Place* Brad Keselowski
*Wild Card* Ryan Newman
*Wild Card* A.J. Allmendinger
*Rookie Of The Year* *DanicaBorg.* Midway through the season, Ford Motor Company will introduce their genetically engineered answer to Danica Patrick, a cyborg designed to look like a twentysomething Heather Locklear but have the reflexes of Tim Richmond. Driving with the aid of stealth onboard My-Synch/GPS technology, Stephanie 2.8 will be unstoppable until a circuit shorts out and she inexplicably quits racing to campaign for Mitt Romney.
*First Driver Fired* *Kurt Busch.* The pairing of James Finch and Busch has seemed an uneasy odd couple from Jump Street. Busch doesn’t seem to really want to drive for the team but had limited choices available. He’s also freely admitting he wants to be somewhere else in 2013. Finch doesn’t seem to want to have Busch driving for him (already warning Kurt he’s not going to put up with his crap) but didn’t have anyone with a resume like Busch’s banging at his door seeking a ride. Maybe Busch and Finch will surprise everyone and win a bunch of races. Sure, and maybe me and Stephanie 2.8 will run off to Hawaii and grow old together sipping boat drinks on the beach.
*Why I Picked This Way* Matt let Stephanie 2.8 pick out of a hat… and then realized Johnson and Knaus were primed for a comeback year like no other.
Summer Dreyer, Senior Writer
*Columns:* “Power Rankings Editor,”:https://frontstretch.com/powerrankings/ “Four Burning Questions”:https://frontstretch.com/fourburningquestions/
2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Predictions
*Chase Champion* Kevin Harvick
*2nd Place* Brad Keselowski
*3rd Place* Jimmie Johnson
*4th Place* Kasey Kahne
*5th Place* Carl Edwards
*6th Place* Kyle Busch
*7th Place* Matt Kenseth
*8th Place* Jeff Gordon
*9th Place* A.J. Allmendinger
*10th Place* Denny Hamlin
*Wild Card* Clint Bowyer
*Wild Card* Paul Menard
*Rookie Of The Year* *Aric Almirola (since there are no strong freshman candidates).* No, he’s not a rookie, but it’s a second chance in the Sprint Cup Series and I think Almirola will make the most of it.
*First Driver Fired* *Kurt Busch.* Phoenix Racing won’t put up with his crap for very long.
*Why I Picked This Way* Kevin Harvick has been very close the last couple of years, and just needs that extra “something” to propel him to the top. The addition of Shane Wilson to the team may be just what the doctor ordered, and I expect to see both driver and crew chief atop the standings in November.
Mark Howell, Senior Writer
*Columns:* “Professor Of Speed”:/mhowell/
2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Predictions
*Chaser* Jeff Gordon – His performance in 2011 shows a return to both confidence and consistency.
*Chaser* Tony Stewart – 2011 Sprint Cup champion based on number of wins. ‘Nuff said.
*Chaser* Matt Kenseth – His talent, team affiliation, and experience make him a triple threat.
*Chaser* Kyle Busch – If he stays calm, he’ll make trouble… for his competitors.
*Chaser* Carl Edwards – Has something to prove and will do so through driving consistency and team chemistry.
*Chaser* Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – My outside shot for making the Chase this year. He got pretty lucky in 2011.
*Chaser* Brad Keselowski – The main man at Penske has some solid experience on which to build, so long as he stays healthy.
*Chaser* Kasey Kahne – Good driver, good crew chief, great organization – finally a place to call home.
*Chaser* Kevin Harvick – Less responsibility means more success. And baby makes three…
*Chaser* Jimmie Johnson – Down, but not out.
*Wild Card* Greg Biffle – Always a threat for the Chase, but wrestling with some mighty steep competition yet again. Wins will give him the emotional boost needed to slide into the postseason.
*Wild Card* Juan Pablo Montoya – Recent organizational changes will mean a return to the successes of yesteryear.
*Rookie Of The Year* *Josh Wise.* This season looks like slim pickings, if there’s even a realistic candidate, but expect a dogfight in 2013.
*First Driver Fired* *Jamie McMurray.* He has to run better and produce more than he has as of late. Unless, of course, Kurt Busch freaks out in public again…
*Why I Picked This Way* See above.
Jeff Meyer, Senior Writer
*Columns:* “Voices From The Cheap Seats,”:https://frontstretch.com/voicesoftheheartland/ “Frontstretch Top Ten”:https://frontstretch.com/topten/
2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Predictions
*Chase Champion* Carl Edwards – Why not? Without the distraction of the Nationwide Series, the No. 99 team will be able to focus full-time on getting more wins. After all, Tony and Carl scored the exact same amount of points during the Chase, resulting in a tie. It won’t happen again.
*2nd Place* Jimmie Johnson – Still stinging from the embarrassment of last year, Jimmie and or Chad will try harder. We still don’t know if the No. 48 team is more Jimmie or Chad, as they have never been apart. Personally, I think it may be Chad.
*3rd Place* Jeff Gordon – Again, why not? Predicting these things this far in advance is a crapshoot at best. Might as well throw darts at a board of driver pictures.
*4th Place* Kevin Harvick – Actually, I would like to see Kevin finish higher, but the 29 team can be streaky.
*5th Place* Tony Stewart – Again, just putting names in here as they come to me. Unlike the No. 48, we know Tony is the better half of the team no matter who is on the pit box.
*6th Place* Matt Kenseth – Just good old Wisconsin stubbornness will have Matt in the Chase again.
*7th Place* Greg Biffle – Same deal as Matt (except for the Wisconsin part).
*8th Place* Kyle Busch – Had to put Kyle in there somewhere and realized I was down to number 8 already. There is no doubt about Kyle’s talent; too bad there is no such thing as a ‘total personality transplant’ to go along with it.
*9th Place* Jeff Burton – Always liked Jeff. Always hope he does well. Seems to get the short end of the stick at RCR, though. Maybe he needs to be more assertive.
*10th Place* Marcos Ambrose – Actually, I hope Marcos does a lot better. He is a highly talented, delightful change from the norm in NASCAR. He has also gained respect and worked his way up into respectful equipment, showing that he is just as good as anyone out there. I’d like to see Chad Knaus paired with Marcos! Wouldn’t that be something!
*11th Place* Kasey Kahne – Totally forgot about Kasey and he deserves to be higher on the list. But I’ll be damned if I’m gonna go back and rewrite it all now!
*12th Place* Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – Gotta throw Junior in there just to appease the “Nation.” With Junior, it always has been a 50/50 chance if he will make the Chase. He’d be better suited to be a TV meteorologist.
*Rookie Of The Year* *None.* Are there any? I’m sure they will find some deserving young lad. It’s not like this honor holds the same meaning or promise (due to the way drivers are no longer groomed like they once were) as it once did.
*First Driver Fired* *Kurt Busch.* Kurt will have a mental meltdown at some point during the season and will spend many hours with Denny Hamlin making some quack very rich as they continue their mental therapy.
*Why I Picked This Way* See above.
Mike Neff, Short Track Coordinator & Senior Writer
*Columns:* Short Track Expert, “Full Throttle – Frontstretch Newsletter”:/notice/9557/
2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Predictions
*Chase Champion* Jimmie Johnson – The No. 48 team still has what it takes but now they’ve lost a championship. They’re going to come back with a vengeance in 2012.
*2nd Place* Kyle Busch – Finally makes it through the Chase without a bad finish and still comes up short because the five-time champs are just that good.
*3rd Place* Denny Hamlin – Hamlin has been a contender for the title before but has been held back by racing conservatively. Darian Grubb doesn’t do conservative, which will result in Hamlin making a run at the title.
*4th Place* Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – Letarte and Earnhardt have come a long way in a year and they’re now ready to make the next step. The No. 88 will be relevant again in 2012.
*5th Place* Brad Keselowski – Adding A.J. Allmendinger to the company might put more of a strain on the organization than people think.
*6th Place* Carl Edwards – Edwards is going to be a Chase driver again but still won’t get over the hump, ending in the upper half of the final standings for the Chasers.
*7th Place* Matt Kenseth – Probably will make me look bad by winning the title, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he does.
*8th Place* Jeff Gordon – Going to win a few times this season but will have a stumble in the Chase that hurts his chances.
*9th Place* Tony Stewart – Last year was magical; this year will be ordinary.
*10th Place* Kasey Kahne – He’s in Hendrick equipment, but it’ll take a wild card to put him in the Chase.
*11th Place* Kevin Harvick – Being a new father will keep him from making noise in the Chase.
*12th Place* Kurt Busch – Makes the Chase as a wild card but the organization can’t keep up in the final ten races.
*Rookie Of The Year* *Danica Patrick.* Danica realizes that no one else is going to run, so she applies and wins it only running ten races.
*First Driver Fired* *Jamie McMurray.* The pressure is ramped up on the No. 1 and poor results through Charlotte will end up costing McMurray his job.
*Why I Picked This Way* See above.
Danny Peters, Senior Writer
*Columns:* “The Yellow Stripe”:https://frontstretch.com/theyellowstripe/
2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Predictions
*Chase Champion* Jimmie Johnson
*2nd Place* Kevin Harvick
*3rd Place* Denny Hamlin
*4th Place* Tony Stewart
*5th Place* Carl Edwards
*6th Place* Jeff Gordon
*7th Place* Brad Keselowski
*8th Place* Matt Kenseth
*9th Place* Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
*10th Place* Kyle Busch
*Wild Card* Kasey Kahne
*Wild Card* Juan Pablo Montoya
*Rookie Of The Year* *None.* They still award this?
*First Driver Fired* *Kurt Busch.* How long can the new “nice guy” act last? Not long, I’d wager. Should be fun to watch, regardless.
*Why I Picked This Way* Who knows? It’s all so subjective at this stage. I’d love to tell you I have some Moneyball-esque rating system but I just don’t. Sorry, folks. These are mere educated guesses without any real sense of how good teams really are heading into the 2012 season. You just never know year to year. So I’m backing Chad and Jimmie to pick up title number six for no other good reason than that they’re just that good. As for the rest of the top ten, it’s a pretty obvious bunch. Kahne and Montoya (on a road course and (finally!) an oval) should pick up the wild card spots.
Brett Poirier, Senior Writer
*Columns:* “Who’s Hot And Who’s Not In NASCAR”:https://frontstretch.com/whoshotwhosnot/
2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Predictions
*Chase Champion* Carl Edwards
*2nd Place* Jimmie Johnson
*3rd Place* Kevin Harvick
*4th Place* Matt Kenseth
*5th Place* Tony Stewart
*6th Place* Kyle Busch
*7th Place* Brad Keselowski
*8th Place* Denny Hamlin
*9th Place* Jeff Gordon
*10th Place* Kasey Kahne
*Wild Card* Marcos Ambrose
*Wild Card* A.J. Allmendinger
*Rookie Of The Year* *None.* They still award this?
*First Driver Fired* *Aric Almirola.* If there was one team in the garage that I felt downgraded in the offseason, it was Richard Petty Motorsports. Almirola has yet to prove that he can be competitive at the Sprint Cup level; while the former Drive For Diversity candidate hasn’t had a host of opportunities, what he has done in the Camping World Truck and Nationwide Series hasn’t impressed me.
*Why I Picked This Way* Carl Edwards’ average finish of less than five in the 2011 Chase was overshadowed by Tony Stewart’s heroics, but Edwards and the No. 99 team proved they are ready to win a title. Marcos Ambrose may come as a surprise wild card pick, but given the wild card format he shouldn’t. It is unlikely that the No. 9 team competes for a top-10 position, but Ambrose can easily crack the top 20 and win both road course races, which is what I’m predicting he will do.
Tony Lumbis, Marketing Manager
*Columns:* “Dollars And Sense”:https://frontstretch.com/tlumbis/
2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Predictions
*Chase Champion* Carl Edwards
*2nd Place* Jimmie Johnson
*3rd Place* Tony Stewart
*4th Place* Matt Kenseth
*5th Place* Kyle Busch
*6th Place* Jeff Gordon
*7th Place* Kasey Kahne (Wild Card Entry)
*8th Place* Denny Hamlin
*9th Place* Brad Keselowski
*10th Place* Kevin Harvick
*Wild Card* A.J. Allmendinger
*Wild Card* Joey Logano
*Rookie Of The Year* *None.* Ricky Stenhouse will get a few more races and perform admirably, qualifying as the best “rookie” on the circuit, but no newbies will run enough to truly earn this title.
*First Driver Fired* *Landon Cassill.* Cassill is a very good driver with a lot of potential but the No. 83 team was put together too fast, too late. The performance will show and the driver will take the fall.
*Why I Picked This Way* Carl Edwards already fell victim to the runner-up curse in 2009. I think the team learns lessons from that year and the one that got away last year, putting it all together in 2012. Kahne and Allmendinger make it in as wild cards and Joey Logano saves his career for at least one more season by making his first Chase.

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