13 February 2014

2014 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Season Predictions

What a season it was in 2013 for Matt Crafton in the Camping World Truck Series, as it obviously is when you win the title, but Crafton was a marvel of consistency all season long. He did not finish outside of the top ten for the first 16 races, and he made history by being the first ever driver to finish every lap, going 3391 for 3391. And for a veteran like him that had been close before, it was all made sweeter. Pretty good for a guy I said in last year's preview "may not be a title driver" after picking him to win it in 2012.

Can Crafton repeat and be the first driver to go back-to-back? Or will we see somebody else break through to win it all? Here are my 2014 CWTS predictions.

Cup Series Predictions
Nationwide Series Predictions

1. Ryan Blaney, #29 Cooper Standard F-150, Brad Keselowski Racing
Everybody knows that Blaney is on track to be one of the next big stars of NASCAR. Team Penske is bringing him along slowly with another season in trucks for Brad Keselowski's team, likely Nationwide next year, and then Cup slowly thereafter. And he looked very good last year in his first full trucks season, but he was also inconsistent at times en route to a sixth-place finish in the points. But I know there are a bunch of folks thinking just like me that he is poised for an awesome year, and in good equipment, I think he is poised for a titleand become the youngest champion ever.

2. Johnny Sauter, #98 Nextant Aerospace/Carolina Nut Tundra, Thorsport Racing
After a relatively down couple of years, including last year's somewhat disappointing fourth-place finish after winning the first two races of the year, Sauter looks poised to make a run at the title, especially with the attrition of so many top guys from the series last year. He's a guy that can win at pretty much everywhere, and he is in strong equipment. However, I think he falls just short.

3. Matt Crafton, #88 Menards Tundra, Thorsport Racing
Crafton parlayed his consistency, a record amount of consistency, into his first title and he just may do it again, although it has never been done. I do not see it happening, but in a weaker year for the series, you have to factor him into the hunt. But will his lack of wins hold him back this year like they have in past? It's something for folks to consider.

4. Timothy Peters, #17 Tundra, Red Horse Racing
Peters came very close to winning the 2012 title, but he took a step back last year with six finishes outside the top 20 and career lows in top fives and top tens. He will bounce back because he's too good, and the equipment is too good, for him not to rebound. In fact, I would not be surprised if he came back so strong, he wins the title. Now I'm not predicting that, especially as there are sponsorship questions, but it could happen.

5. Darrell Wallace, Jr., #54 Toyota Care/Camping World Tundra, Kyle Busch Motorsports
One of the great stories of NASCAR last year was the man they refer to as "Bubba" becoming the first African-American to win a NASCAR race since Wendell Scott won in 1963 in what was the Grand National Series at Jacksonville. The Joe Gibbs Racing developmental driver had a good year but with the inconsistency that was expected, but with more seasoning could become a real force in this series as the sport as a whole.

6. Joey Coulter, #21 Allegiant Travel Silverado, GMS Racing
This is where the depth of the series really starts to become shallow. Coulter was the lowest finishing driver that started every race in the 2013 season in his first and only year with Kyle Busch, after finishing a strong third in 2012, and now he is running for a new team that is utilizing Childress equipment, ironically his former owner, after RCR's truck team was shuttered. Look for him to rebound while driving for Chevrolet once again.

7. John Wes Townley, #5 Zaxby's Tundra, Wauters Motorsports
What is good for Townley is that he is no longer the laughing-stock that he was just a few years ago thanks to a lack of success coupled with finding rides due to the sponsorship he brings thanks to his father (a co-founder of Zaxby's). But he has done solid work in the last two years in trucks and look for him to put together a career-high in the points while driving for Wauters.

8. Brian Ickler, #7 Bullet Liner Tundra, Red Horse Racing
Ickler is a guy that I have liked but he has not gotten that many stable opportunities to showcase his talent. But now he has a strong ride while running for RHR and I think he will surprise a number of folks and have a strong 2014 campaign.

9. German Quiroga, #77 OtterBox Tundra, Red Horse Racing
Quiroga was hit-or-miss in his first full year running in the trucks series, but he showed some speed with nabbing a pole and a pair of top fives. Look for the veteran Mexican driver to crack the top ten in points as the he becomes more comfortable with driving trucks.

10. Ben Kennedy, #31 Tundra, Turner-Scott Motorsports
Kennedy is one of the favorites to win Rookie of the Year in what appears to be a weak field, and given that he is running for one of the stronger teams in the series, which won a title with this team just a couple of seasons ago, he will be a guy one should not overlook in 2014.

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