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2013 NASCAR Preview

I have been fighting writing this column for the last three weeks. I know it's still a bit early but with football ending I'm so GD excited for NASCAR to start back up.

Three weeks from today is the Bud Shootout (now the 'Sprint Unlimited') and four weeks from tomorrow is the Daytona 500 with the two Duels, now the Budweiser Duels, go fuck yourself Gatorade, it's still a little ways away but how could I keep fighting a NASCAR preview when Danica and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. are now public with their relationship?

So since we last saw Brad Keselowski raise the trophy much has changed. We have the Camaro joining the Nationwide series

2013 Chevrolet Camaro NASCAR Nationwide race car
Which is now the best looking NASCAR car taking the top spot from the Dodge Challenger. Recently the new Ford Fusion was also unveiled and turned some heads...

It's neat how they really got the looks of the Fusion meshed with the rally car looks, but ultimately it's a Ford Fusion. It is no Camaro or Challenger.

But most importantly these cars are the new Gen-6 NASCAR Cup Car. The new car is designed to create a more competitive/safe enviornment. I fear that that may mean slower speeds and ultimately take away from the experience of attending a race, and while I feel it may take away from the integrity of the sport a bit, I can't sit here and say I'm complaining about racing that's more fun to watch. Maybe that makes me sound like a fake fan, but watching guys run away with races is a bit depressing. There's plenty to watch still even with a blow out race but you can't sit there and tell me that the restrictor plate races don't produce better finishes.

That being said the restrictor plate races are in fact a bit of a gimmick, the first real tests will come at Phoenix then Vegas. The intermediate tracks is where we should really see a difference in the cars. Remember how big of a deal the COT was? This car is being underplayed, probably because there's a chance it hurts the true nature of racing, but if things play out the way they want it will being in new fans and provide the current fans with a much better viewing experience.

The people it turns away however is the people that really made NASCAR big in the first place, the gear-heads. The car was basically designed to create parody amongst teams. Basically the difference is the difference between a "fun" movie and a "great" movie. The drivers however haven't complained much. They have had three testing sessions, one in which Dale Jr. wrecked a pack of cars, but there aren't many complaints about it this year, so I'm pretty excited to see them get out there and get after it.

All that aside maybe the biggest advancement in NASCAR this year is the new drying system they have figured out. Using compressed air and heat they claim to be able to dry a track like Martinsville in just 15 minutes, and they will be able to cut the time it takes to dry Daytona from 2.5 hours to just 30 minutes. That's an incredible advancement which should speed up weather delays and allow for more race day finishes, you know unless Juan Pablo blows them all up. 

There are several other major storylines worth mentioning heading into this year. There have been several team changes such as...

Kurt Busch to the #78
Rough couple years for Kurt. His brother just signed a big extension and his old car won a title. He has bounced around the past two years and now has landed on a small team with Chase hopes. Can Kurt can his cool and get them there? Probably not.

Jimmy Fenning to the #99
Carl Edwards will have yet another new crew chief. Bob Osbourne got the #99 to finish in a tie for the title with Tony Stewart only to lose on a tiebreaker. Then he was teamed up with Chad Norris in July after a poor start, and after not winning a race things had to change again. Carl is a great race car driver it should be interesting to see how long it takes him to get over the hump and win a race.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to the #17
The new Roush Fenway team will have big shoes to fill since Matt Kenseth has departed. The rookie Stenhouse has had tremendous success in the Nationwide Series it will be interesting to see how that translates. He should be able to hold his own as long as he can keep Danica off his mind long enough.

Joey Logs to the #22
After getting the boot from JGR with Matt Kenseth's arrival he will be starting out on a team that will be making a manufacture change from Dodge to Ford this season. Interesting move for a team that just won a title. Anyway Logs has underperformed a to a point thus far in his career, but with such crazy spotlight put on him it was no question he wouldn't meet expectations. He's a young kid that has some growing up to do. He is going to make JGR pay for letting him go mark my words. Maybe not this year, but he will be a dominant force at some point in his career.

Matt Kenseth to the #20
I'm still really curious what would have happened if Matt hadn't been in a contract year this past season. He was so good for so long, then the contract talks kept coming up and he seemed to taper off. Then it came out he was joining JGR and he faltered in the Chase. I'm not sure what to expect from him this year. He could be great and he could seem like he is out of place.

At some point there will be a Daytona preview so I won't step on that but there are Championship odds.

Jimmie Johnson 5-1
The favorite obviously. Although is there is one team that should be most upset with the Gen-6 car it's the #48 team. The new car could even further shorten the gap between the #48 team and the rest of the field.

Kasey Kahne 7-1
This is crazy to me. You could chalk up his struggles last year to bad luck but how much bad luck does it take before you take a look at who is behind the wheel? Obviously too much because nobody is willing to call Jr. a bad driver still to this day. Anyways Kahne is NOT winning the title this year. The fact that he has the second best odds including better than the defending champ is crazy.

Brad Keselowski 8-1
Denny Hamlin 8-1
Kyle Busch 8-1

A bit of disrespect for the champion from Vegas. I'm actually fine with him being 8-1 I just feel like the others should be higher. No f'n way I'm taking Kasey Kahne at 7-1 or Denny/Kyle at 8-1 before I bet Brad.

Kyle is always a threat to compete for the title but he's also a threat to miss the Chase. It seems like we have seen more of the later from him throughout his career. Denny has been in the thick of the title run before but has come up short. This could be his year. He's a legit threat to win this thing.

Tony Stewart 10-1
Matt Kenseth 10-1
Jeff Gordon 10-1

Matt is a bit of a mystery going into this year in my opinion, while Jeff raced his ass off to get into the Chase only to disappoint and Tony struggled a bit after winning a title the year before. They all could win, but of the three Stewart has the best chance to do so.

Carl Edwards 12-1
Clint Bowyer 12-1
Greg Biffle 12-1

Something tells me the Biff is going to struggle this year without his wingman Kenseth. I was never a fan of them from a rooting standpoint, but as a spectator I loved watching them work together. They worked together more/better than any other two teammates in NASCAR the past few years. I think they will both miss one another this season.

Carl should continue to struggle a bit, he will get off the schnied and I think he will make the Chase but he won't be a legitamate threat to win.

Clint Bowyer on the other hand is a legit threat. If it wasn't for Gordon's bullshit move Clint would have finished second in the final standings. Racing for Michael Waltrip Racing, that is huge. That team is young and hungry, he could be the man to get them their first title.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. 15-1
Martin Truex Jr. 15-1

This should tell you something. Dale Jr. has the most fans yet is short sponsorship for 13 races and is 15-1 to win the title. Either NASCAR fans are far smarter than I give them credit for, or he is really that bad. Dale Jr. should be a very public bet therefore pushing his odds to that of no value. 15-1 I'm not saying there's value, but if I'm a Jr. fan and I bet him, I'm pretty pumped about those odds.

Marty is also a big puzzling. 15-1 feels like it could be both good odds and bad odds. He can't seem to figure out how to actually win a race that counts. I think he will get over that hump this season but as far as winning the title I'm not so sure I want to put money down on him at 15-1. However if he wins one of the first couple of races that thinking would radically change.

Kevin Harvick 20-1
Joey Logano 35-1
Marcos Ambrose 150-1

These are my three favorite longshot picks. Harvick is a lame duck driver but 20-1 is great value for someone with his talent, Joey Logs has quite a bit of the revenge factor while Ambrose can dominate the road courses and has shown a growing strength in all the other races. He's obviously one of if not the best road course racer, and he's great on short tracks, it has just been a matter of being more consistant on the 1.5 mile tracks. He is getting better ever year. I think he makes the Chase, so having him at 150-1 is a gift.

My Pick: Clint Bowyer
I think he is the best bet there is at 12-1 and after seeing his fire at Homestead he truly cares about winning. Like I said before MWR is young and hungry and after coming close last year will pull out all the stops to get it done this year.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

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