The Sports Dump writers are here to give you our 2012 NASCAR season predictions and what to expect for the Daytona 500. Feel free to chime in on the comments, especially you, Jr. fans. Before we get to that, we have started a fantasy NASCAR league on Yahoo.com for the Sports Dump writers and readers. Feel free to join. Here is the link to the front page. Our Group ID is 21792 and Password is sportsdump
On to our predictions!
Charlie: Kyle Busch has the skill to win on any track. He will continue to be a challenger to win to win every week.
Phil: Tony Stewart. His tear will continue this season and he’ll win in a cluster during the summer session.
Richard: Jimmie Johnson. The 48 team has never needed motivation to perform, even coming off five straight championships. This year though, they have plenty of extra motivation to prove they’ve still got it.
Surprise to Make the Chase
Charlie: Joey Logano will surprise and run very good this season. 2-3 wins are not out of reach for him.
Phil: Paul Menard. Paul had his best year last year and picked up his first win. With RCR going to 3 teams from 4 his team automatically gets better and word is there will be more sharing of information in house, all teams benefit.
Richard: Marcos Ambrose. The Aussie has slowly improved as an all around driver and I think he take a big leap this year.
Tommy: A. J. Allmendinger
Surprise to Miss the Chase
Charlie: Matt Kenseth will struggle this year based on a gut feeling I have.
Phil: Brad Keselowski. Many will expect him to get back into the Chase because of his strong push to get in and his 5th place points finish. I think this team will struggle at times. He won’t get the wins needed to qualify this time.
Richard: Jeff Gordon. Really no reason other than just a hunch. Sorry Rainbow man.
Tommy: Kurt Busch misses the Chase
When Will Dale, Jr. Win?
Charlie: Daytona 500 will end Dale’s winless streak
Phil: I think Dale, Jr. does not win. I think his hard luck continues. The man is going to be in contention a lot but crew mistakes or strategy misfires will keep him from victory lane another season, unfortunately.
Richard: I think Dale wins fairly early this year. Maybe Richmond or Talladega. He and Letarte have definite chemistry and a win is right around the corner.
Tommy: Dale breaks his winless streak atTalladegain April and then again in Charlotte in May.
What will Danica’s year look like?
Charlie: I think she will have 1 top 20 in her Sprint Cup races (Texas). I would play the fuel mileage game with her any race I could. That is her best chance to win. Nationwide she will get some top 10s and maybe contend for a win.
Phil: Danica’s best shot to win will come when she races at Daytona in either series. The cookie cutter tracks will show her some kindness and maybe a win at Vegas orTexas. She will largely struggle overall and look for her to have 5-6 DNF’s in Nationwide and Sprint Cup combined..
Richard: I think Danica will be terrible early and slowly progress to not that terrible by the end of the year, at which time Dale Jr. knocks her up and she retires from racing to raise their baby in that weird town that he built on his property.
Tommy: Danica will race competitively this year, even be in the hunt for top 12 in Nationwide points until the last few races, but despite a couple of top 10 finishes will not win a race.
Which Busch, if any, will find trouble and when?
Charlie: The Busch will be clean.
Phil: For once they’ll behave. But it will be very hard for Kurt and you’ll see this genuine positivity wear off as the season progresses.
Richard: Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick will finally end their flirting and get into a fist fight. Delana Harvick will break it up and slap both of them and make them fix her a sandwich together, humiliating both and ending the fued.
Tommy: Kyle Busch will get angry at a restaurant in Atlanta and assualt numerous bystanders when his steak is cooked “medium” instead of “medium rare.”
Who will be in the hunt for the Championship?
Charlie: Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards will be in it at the end. Jimmie and Carl will be the most consistent drivers but Kyle’s wins will have him near the top.
Phil: Kasey Kahne, Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick. Kasey will finally be in good equipment again and we know he has the skills. Carl and Kevin are extremely consistent drivers and there isn’t a doubt they’ll be in the hunt late this year.
Richard: Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson. Edwards has felt the runner-up curse before and I think he knows how to shake it off this time. He is a talented driver with a great car who is desperate for a championship. Kyle is simply too good to not contend for one of these things eventually if he can just stay out of his own way and avoid his usually pettiness. Jimmie is out to prove he still has plenty of gas left in the tank and this team hates losing. Six in a row would have been absolutely absurd, but it still really bothered this team that they couldn’t get it done.
Tommy: Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart
Who will win the Championship?
Charlie: Kyle Busch will show a maturity he hasn’t shown yet and win the title.
Phil: Edwards will combine the consistency he had last year with a few more wins and get over the hump. Losing the title to a tiebreaker last year will serve as motivation instead of disappointment.
Richard: Jimmie Johnson. Chad Knaus has already shown he’s willing to toe the line to get every advantage he can this year. These guys are on a mission and when the two of them are on the same page, the 48 team is terrifying.
Tommy: Kahne – Strong finish to last year. Hendrick powered now, Why not?
Pick your Daytona 500 winner.
Charlie: Dale Jr.
Phil: Kyle Busch. Skill is on his side, will luck be?
Richard: Tony Stewart. The fat man keeps the momentum going for at least a little while.
Tommy: A.J. Allmendinger. Daytona is a good place for underdogs.
Speaking of the Daytona 500, here is what you can expect this weekend.
Pack Racing: Unless you haven’t been paying attention to Speedweeks at all, then you know that Pack Racing is back at Daytona. I have noticed an overwhelming response by fans on Twitter over the last week in support of the return of the Pack. Drivers were also positive too as well. Although there were some comments that those sentiments may change if one of them gets caught up in the “Big One” on Sunday. Largely absent from the Shootout, practice sessions and the Duels was the two-car tandem racing we saw last year. It is expected that you will see some of that on Sunday, but I would not expect to see a lot of it. The cars have been approaching water temperatures of 300 degrees whenever a couple drivers tried to pair up thus far at Daytona. Drivers are not going to want to put that kind of strain on their engines throughout the race. NASCAR, no doubt, made rule changes to ensure the tandem racing will not be the norm. You are going to see these guys stay in a pack most of the race. There are going to be big wrecks, as we saw in the Shootout, but the drivers know the dangers of bump drafting in the corners, especially on the left side of the rear bumper. The race Sunday will be a much smarter race than we saw last Saturday night. One final word about Tandem Racing, it seems as if many think the finish will come down to a couple of guys that roll the dice at the right point and hook up to break away from the pack at the end. It could be similar to what we saw on Saturday with Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch. Kevin Harvick says, “Tandem is still going to win the race. I will promise you that.” Look for that to happen with a couple of teammates hooking up if they find themselves together at the end.
Weather: The weather is supposed to be a bit cooler, around 65 degrees. This will help keep car temperatures down a little bit and could also provide a better gripping track for the drivers. I’m sure the competitors will appreciate the track being a little less slick since they will be racing inches from each other around 195-200 MPH.
Underdogs: As mentioned in our predictions, the Daytona 500 is a good place for underdogs. The last 10 Daytona 500’s have been won by 10 different drivers including the last 6 who have never won this race before. Everyone knows Trevor Bayne’s story from last year, but don’t forget that David Ragan (another driver without a win at that point) looked to be the favorite to win late in the race, if it weren’t for a crucial mistake. Look for A.J. Allmendinger, Marcos Ambrose, Regan Smith and Joey Logano all to be making some noise at the front of the pack on Sunday.
Fast Fords: We picked aToyota, a Dodge and Two Chevrolets as our favorites to win at Daytona this weekend. How did the Sports Dump writers ignore the Fast Fords at Daytona? Didn’t Fords sweep this Super Speedway last season? Didn’t Matt Kenseth just win a Duel race and aren’t there a pair of Roush Racing Fords on the front row? Well of course we knew all that. This is Daytona, the obvious never seems to happen. Call it a hunch, but I think the Chevy’s will have the strongest showing in the top 10 on Sunday. I picked aToyota to win, because I think it is Kyle Busch’s time in the 500 and maybe it’s his season, too.
Danica Patrick: She is what everyone will be talking about before, during and after the 500 no matter where she finishes. NASCAR and FOX will be happy because plenty of people will be tuning in to see her in her first Sprint Cup event. I would expect record ratings and just hope that she doesn’t get caught up in a wreck early so people stick around to see an exciting finish. UPDATE: She’s on the pole in the Nationwide Race. If she makes noise in that race, look for even more hype going into Sunday.
Don’t forget to join our fantasy league, the info is at the top of the article! Leave us some thoughts in the comments on this weekend… and pick your winner in the comments! I’ll be back on Monday with a recap of the weekend and maybe have some crow for lunch. Thanks for reading.