By admin | January 21, 2013
By Richard Allen
Throughout January, I have been running pieces on both RacingWithRich.com and BleacherReport.com highlighting the 12 drivers I am predicting to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup in 2013. So far, Kasey Kahne, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer and Carl Edwards have been featured. That means there are four picks remaining, including my choice for the 2013 champion. But it also means there are plenty of drivers who won’t be chosen as well.
So, who won’t make the playoff? Here are some capsules of 12 drivers I’m saying will be left out of the NASCAR Sprint Cup title hunt after the 26th race in Richmond:
Kevin Harvick- Although nothing of the sort has been officially announced, it has become fairly well known since the end of last season that Harvick is leaving longtime team Richard Childress Racing for Stewart-Haas Racing after the conclusion of the 2013 campaign. As a result, the Bakersfield, Calif. driver will essentially enter the year as a “lame duck”. And despite what anyone involved may say, there is no way such a status will not become a distraction.
Some may point to Matt Kenseth’s performance at the end of last season as evidence that “lame ducks” can succeed. But prior to the good runs the #17 team had at the very end, there were disastrous efforts earlier on that doomed their championship hopes. At least some of that may be attributed to the driver’s pending departure.
And furthermore for Harvick, it isn’t just his status that could be an issue. RCR had, at best, a down year in 2012. The entire three car operation only visited victory lane once throughout the whole year and that was in the season’s penultimate event in Phoenix when Harvick took the checkered flag.
Last year, Harvick only accounted for five top-5 and 14 top-10 results on his way to an 8th place finish in the final Sprint Cup standings. With the other factors involved, it’s hard to imagine those numbers getting much better in 2013.
Martin Truex, Jr.-This is a driver who is coming off what was arguably his best Sprint Cup season to date. Although he did not garner a victory at NASCAR’s top level in 2012, he did post a career high of 19 top-10 finishes and he managed to qualify for the Chase. Further, the Michael Waltrip Racing organization definitely raised its level of performance last year in comparison to other campaigns.
However, Truex’s playoff effort was sunk by two particularly disappointing runs when he placed 23rd in Martinsville and 43rd in Phoenix.
Although I do not necessarily think Truex is due for a major letdown, the reason I am leaving him out of my list of 12 Chase contenders is simply a product of mathematics. I am predicting that Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch will recover to make the playoff after missing out last year. As a result, two drivers from 2012 have to be kicked out to make room. Truex and Harvick are those two drivers.
Ryan Newman-This is a driver who just seems to be a chronic under-performer. Granted, Newman has won one race in each of the past three seasons. But at the same time, he has only qualified for the Chase in one(2011) of those years.
As a matter of fact, Newman has only won a total of seven races since his career best season of eight victories back in 2003. Ten years ago it seemed as if this driver was destined to join the list of elite competitors in NASCAR, but that has never really come to fruition. Since 2005, his best overall finish in the standings was a 9th in 2009.
With his contract set to expire at the end of this season after receiving only a one year extension last year, Newman could find himself as the forgotten man at Stewart-Haas Racing very early in the year if he gets off to a poor start.
Jeff Burton-Much of what was said regarding Newman can be applied to Burton. However, as was mentioned in the Harvick capsule, it is hard to discern how much of this driver’s performance is due to his own failures and how much is due to the drop off at Richard Childress Racing.
Burton has not won a race since 2008 and has only accumulated 11 top-10s over the course of the last two seasons. With his contract set to expire at the end of the 2013 season, those numbers will not be good enough to keep him in the #31 seat. That is especially true considering there are two young drivers in waiting who refer to the team owner as “Pop-Pop”.
Kurt Busch- This driver will run better in 2013 than he did last year. As evidence of that possibility, he scored three consecutive 8th places to end last season. The Furniture Row team that he now drives for is supported by Richard Childress Racing and Earnhardt-Childress Racing Engines. I would not be surprised to see the 2004 champion outperform all the RCR drivers. However, it would be a monumental chore for Busch or any other driver to make the Chase with this single-car organization.
Joey Logano- The move away from Joe Gibbs Racing and high maintenance teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch will help this driver. Signs are already evident that 2012 Sprint Cup champion and Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski has taken Logano under his wing.
Logano will improve greatly in 2013, but he still won’t be quite ready to make the Chase. Maybe next year.
Danica Patrick- Some folks believe in her. I’m not one of them. I’ll be surprised if she makes the top-20.
Marcos Ambrose-It would be a very popular thing if this driver and his Richard Petty Motorsports team made the Chase. He did win what was perhaps the most exciting race of the year last year in Watkins Glen but he has yet to get it done on an oval.
Aric Almirola- Like with Ambrose, a Chase appearance in the No. 43 car would be very popular. But it’s just not very likely to happen.
Juan Pablo Montoya-It seems like the time has come and gone for this Indianapolis 500 and Formula 1 winner to develop into a solid NASCAR driver. As of now, he will be more remembered for destroying a jet dryer in Daytona than he will for his Sprint Cup and Nationwide road course victories.
Jamie McMurray-This driver won two of the biggest races(Daytona 500 & Brickyard 400) in the sport and caused a NASCAR rule change(Chase wildcards) back in 2010. Since then, what the heck happened at Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing? Perhaps the switchto engines supplied by Hendrick Motorsports rather than Earnhardt-Childress Racing Engines will make a difference for both the No. 1 and No. 42 but it won’t be enough to get either in the Chase.
Paul Menard-He won the Brickyard 400 on a fuel mileage stretch in 2011 but has done little of note since. Again, he faces the same issues as Harvick and Burton in that the equipment at RCR could be as much to blame as the driving, if not more so.
So there you have it. Twelve drivers who won’t make the Chase for the Sprint Cup in the opinion of this writer. Please feel free to agree or disagree in the comments space below.
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