12 September 2012

2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup Predictions

After an awesome final race at Richmond, even with the rain delays, we finally have set the field for the Chase for the Sprint Cup as the above twelve drivers, most notably Jeff Gordon who raced his way in on Saturday night. Who will end up with the trophy at Homestead in November? Here are my Chase predictions.

Standings entering the Chase

12. Matt Kenseth, #17 Best Buy Ford, Roush-Fenway Racing
Kenseth started off the season really strong and was in the points lead as recently as the middle of July. But since the first Loudon race, Kenseth only has had three finishes in the top ten and only one top five. He may say that he is completely focused on this season, his last with Roush, but I really think he is looking ahead to joining Joe Gibbs Racing next season so I do not expect much from him in the Chase.

11. Martin Truex, Jr., #56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing
How about MWR this season, getting two drivers into the Chase. And Truex was off to a great start this season, getting as high as second in the points standings after Kansas City. The New Jersey native has also not won this season and I am not sold if he can pull off what Tony Stewart did last year, getting hot and winning a bunch of Chase races.

10. Kevin Harvick, #29 Budweiser Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing
I am hesitant about putting Happy Harvick this low because I think he could very well pull a Tony Stewart, getting really hot and pulling out a bunch of victories en route to a championship, but Harvick has been pretty inconsistent all season. He has the fewest amount of top fives (four) and top tens (eleven) of any Chase driver but there is hope as he has ran well under new crew chief Gil Martin in the past few races.

9. Clint Bowyer, #15 5-Hour Energy Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing
I think Bowyer could be a real wild card in this Chase. He has title talent and he has ran very well at times this season. There are questions though if his team has the potential Bowyer has, as it has never been in the Chase before. I think this may be a year early before this team becomes a real contender in the Chase but Bowyer has surprised us in the Chase before.

8. Tony Stewart, #14 Old Spice/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing
You can never count out Smoke come Chase time, as last year showed when he did not have a great regular season but had an incredible Chase, winning half the races. But can he catch lightning in a bottle once again, for the second year in a row? I'm not so certain, as he had another topsy-turvy season and particularly down the stretch, with one top five and four non-top tens in his last five races.

7. Kasey Kahne, #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports
It has been a return to the limelight by Kahne as this is his first Chase berth since 2010. Kahne has always been strong on the intermediate tracks that fill the Chase and the always strong Hendrick equipment will keep him a contender. He also has had a great run this season after an awful start to get into the Chase but I am not sold from what I have seen this season that he can win the title.

6. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., #88 Diet Mtn. Dew/National Guard Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports
Junior has been remarkably consistent this season and has been fortunate to have had no DNF's. But the fact that he only has one victory worries me because as we saw in last year's Chase, it was not the consistent driver (Carl Edwards), it was the red-hot one who was winning races (Stewart). I have no doubt that Earnhardt is capable of a hot run, but we also have not seen that from him in a while. That, I think, limits his ceiling somewhat.

5. Denny Hamlin, #11 FedEx Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing
Hamlin is one of the hottest drivers entering the Chase, and very well could be entering the Chase with three consecutive victories (he led a lot of laps at Richmond but happened to finish behind Kyle Busch, who was fighting for a Chase spot...hmm). But the thing this year with Hamlin has been a little bit of inconsistency, as he has crashed out of two races, had a broken suspension in one and a blown engine in another. No doubt he could win the title but you do have to worry if he can avoid a wreck or mechanical trouble.

4. Jimmie Johnson, #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports
Can Jimmie win the title a sixth time? Absolutely. And yet for some reason, I'm just not feeling Johnson this Chase. I'm not sure why, considering he excels at almost every track and has obviously done this before. But I feel that once he finally did not win the Chase that it could be a while before he wins it all again. Is that weak reasoning? Yes, but screw it.

3. Jeff Gordon, #24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports
The Drive for Five lives! Gordon made a great run from being 24th in points after Darlington to rally into the Chase and raced really hard on Saturday night to get in. Seems crazy that I asked after Dover if his Chase hopes were dead. And I really think that Gordon can keep up his momentum and run really well in the Chase, even if they don't win. He and Alan Gustafson have really started to click and Gordon has had much better luck than he had early in the season. He's a legitimate title contender.

2. Brad Keselowski, #2 Bud Light Dodge, Penske Racing
I think Keselowski is going to send Dodge out with a bang as I think he will be the Chase runner-up this year (and I really considered him as the champion). Keselowski is another guy that had a mediocre start but he has been on a tear all summer, finishing outside the top ten only once since winning at Kentucky. He is starting to put it all together and he is really good at the intermediate tracks that litter the Chase.

1. Greg Biffle, #16 3M Ford, Roush-Fenway Racing
This is finally Biffle's year where he will become the first driver to win the Truck Series, the Nationwide Series and a Cup title. I really was not feeling the Biff after his disappointing 2011 where he finished 16th in the points but what a difference a year makes. Biffle has spent much of the season atop the points and he has completed all but two laps this season. He has been remarkable consistent and his strongest tracks are intermediate tracks, which make up half of the Chase tracks. I think Biffle is set up to win the title.

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