Hendrick has shown their dominance in the Cup Series over the years, especially in years where NASCAR implements a new car or racing package. Well this season, we’ll have a new car and a level playing field which will allow Hendrick Motorsports to soar back to the top. They have arguably the best driver lineup in the garage and with their past success with a new car; they could easily have their drivers competing for the win each weekend this season.
Kahne surprised us all last year when he had so much success in his first season with Hendrick Motorsports. Two wins, a Chase birth and great finishes don’t usually come in a driver’s first year with a new team but they all came last season for Kahne. Kahne can only get better this season which will put Kahne up front each and every race weekend. No big personnel changes were made for Kahne in the off-season which gives him an advantage since he has worked and had success with the same guys last season.
Kahne has had crew chief Kenny Francis for almost all of his years in the Sprint Cup Series and every year they have been getting better and better. Kahne and Francis definitely have the possibility of putting all the parts and pieces together to have unlimited success and compete for the championship. The No.5 team should be up front each and every weekend competing for the win and maybe come November, a championship.
My Prediction- Kahne fares well all season long and gets three or four wins to make the Chase as a high seed. I believe Kahne will stumble out of the gate early in the Chase and have an opportunity for a championship taken away. Overall, Kahne will have his best season in Cup yet and he will have a bunch of success in his second year at Hendrick Motorsports.
After Gordon ended last season on a wave of emotions from wrecking Clint Bowyer at Phoenix and being involved in a garage area brawl to winning his first ever race at Homestead and closing the year out strongly. Gordon will need to keep up with the younger drivers this season and try to go after his fifth championship by staying consistent. I don’t believe consistency will be a problem for Gordon this season but I do believe winning races and chasing a championship will be.
Gordon is getting older which means it’s going to get tougher for him to keep up with the pack but if any driver can contend with the young guns, its Gordon. Wins for Gordon will be key this season especially at tracks he’s run well at. If Gordon can stack up the wins and have a decent outlook on the Chase, he could contend for the championship. I believe the key to success for Gordon this season will be getting to victory lane.
My Prediction- Gordon will run decent throughout the regular season and maybe pick up a pair of victories. I believe Gordon will stay consistent and make the Chase but he will be just making the cut. Gordon will start off the Chase strong but he will be unable to keep up with the rest of the Chasers by the end of the ten races. Consistency will be on Gordon’s side this year but he will need to get to victory lane as much as possible.
For the second season in a row, Johnson came up short of the championship in 2012. Going into last season, fans thought that Johnson would be tougher than ever to beat because he was looking for redemption after coming up short of the championship in 2011. Well, Johnson was tough to beat but Brad Keselowski managed to do so in the final race of the year at Homestead. So should we believe that Johnson will be looking for redemption after coming very close to the championship again last season? Yes we should. Johnson will be even more dangerous than ever in 2013.
Johnson’s five championships came between 2006 and 2010. That was smack in the middle of the COT car. In between Johnson’s reign, the car he succeeded in was changed almost every year. From a total re-design of the car to a wing on the back, Johnson managed to do better than his competition during the years when the Cup car was undergoing drastic changes. In 2013 we find ourselves in a similar situation since the Gen 6 car is brand new.
Johnson has proven before he and his team can handle a changing car and win championships with it, why should this car be different? It shouldn’t and Johnson should be considered a front runner for the championship this season before we even get to Daytona. A changing car has proven well for Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports in the past so Johnson should be the driver to beat as we head into the 2013 season.
My Prediction- Johnson does extremely well in the regular season and has multiple wins, especially in the early months of the season. Johnson will be the top Chase seed heading into the Chase with four or five wins. I believe Johnson won’t perform as well as he will in the regular season in the Chase but he will still be tough to beat. A driver will come along and challenge Johnson in the Chase and Johnson will not be able to keep up and lose his shot at a sixth championship.
Dale Earnhardt Jr
Earnhardt Jr has been looking for success each year since he has been at Hendrick Motorsports and he has failed to find the kind of success he has envisioned. After one of his best years yet at Hendrick, Earnhardt Jr will be looking to build on the success from a year ago. Earnhardt Jr has a great opportunity to build on his 2012 performance and he can do so by just being more consistent and winning more races.
One thing Earnhardt Jr will need to do in 2013 is compete better when it counts, the Chase. Earnhardt Jr is typically less competitive in the Chase than he is in the regular season and Earnhardt Jr will need to change that if he wants to compete for the championship this season. Earnhardt Jr has never been successful enough in the Chase to have a shot at the championship come Homestead but Junior will need to run extremely well in the Chase if he wants a shot at his first championship.
My Prediction- Earnhardt Jr will not be Mr. Consistency in the regular season but he will stack up a win or two. I predict Earnhardt Jr will make the Chase, but as a wild card and he will not be able to find success in the Chase and he will repeat his past Chase performances. Earnhardt Jr needs just one thing to be successful this season and that is consistency but I don’t believe Earnhardt Jr will find that this season.
Hendrick Motorsports will be successful once again this year but in a different way. I believe Hendrick Motorsports will stack-up more wins than usual and have a strong showing going into the Chase but they might not come out on top. The rich history of Hendrick Motorsports will get even richer this season through the names of the new Hendrick Motorsports group. Victory lane is a calling ‘ol Rick Hendrick and the boys and they will most likely answer the call very soon as the season gets underway. Victory lane will be the place for Hendrick Motorsports this season and we will see what the victories will bring.
By Jason Schultz