With the uncertainly of what’s to come this season with everything that is new, the power rankings I list below could be completely true by season’s end or entirely wrong. They’re some drivers who you know will do good and then there are some, that you are up in arms about. My pre-season power rankings give the best forecast I can regarding the upcoming season. Hopefully by Homestead, I won’t be disappointed on how my picks turned out after a long and tough Sprint Cup Series season.
1. Denny Hamlin
Hamlin will have his best year in Cup yet by being very consistent and winning five or six races. Hamlin will show how strong he can be in the Chase by running up front each and every race and he’ll roll into Homestead with a chance to win the championship.
2. Jimmie Johnson
Johnson and the No.48 team will handle the new car extremely well and have early success with the car and get a high Chase seed. It will look like a championship winning season for Johnson throughout the Chase but, he will come up short at Homestead.
3. Brad Keselowski
Keselowski will follow up his championship season with an even better season in the wins/consistency column but, he’ll just barely lose the championship to Hamlin and fall to third behind Johnson. Keselowski will be in victory lane a lot this season.
4. Kasey Kahne
Kahne will come off a great first year with Hendrick with an even better year by running up front a lot more. Kahne will start falling in the beginning of the Chase and he’ll never be able to recover in-time for a championship run, but he’ll reach fourth by the time the season ends.
5. Kyle Busch
With the new car and a new outlook for Busch, he will be very good all season long like he has been in the past but; a mistake in the Chase will cost him a shot at the championship. Busch will be very dangerous in each and every race this season which will result in many wins for the No.18 team.
6. Matt Kenseth
A new ride for Kenseth in 2013 will lead to success. Toyota is on top of their game with the Gen 6 car and Kenseth showed strength in testing which will led to success on the track. Kenseth will win three or four races and stay in the top ten in points all season long while being very consistent. Kenseth won’t be able to pull together his new crew for the Chase but, he will do well in his first season at JGR.
7. Clint Bowyer
Bowyer had such a strong first season at MWR that he’ll fall backwards a little realizing how well he did last year. The backwards fall won’t be too bad but he’ll be on the edge of making the Chase, barely sneaking into the top ten. Bowyer will have a few victories in the season and have a so-so Chase but a solid season overall.
8. Tony Stewart
Stewart will have a similar season to last season where he has a strong start but, he’ll have consistency problem which will lead him to not being able to do well in the Chase. Stewart will have two or three wins which will come at tracks he’s had good history at. Overall, Stewart’s performance will reflect last year’s.
9. Dale Earnhardt Jr
Earnhardt Jr will have a much different season than last year. Earnhardt Jr will have some consistency problems which will result in an up and down regular season. The ups will include a win or two which will give him a wild card spot so he can make the Chase. Like before, Earnhardt Jr will not be able to do anything in the Chase and he’ll end the season looking for more in 2014, like he did after 2012.
10. Martin Truex Jr.
Truex Jr. will repeat what he did last year by being very consistent, missing victory lane but, coming very close and not being able to do anything in the Chase. Truex Jr will be consistent in the regular season and make the Chase but, not be able to do anything in the Chase and come home empty handed again.
11. Jeff Burton
Burton will surprise some people in 2013 by winning a few races and being very successful with the new car. Burton’s success with the new car will lead him to winning a few races and earning a wild card spot. Burton won’t do anything in the Chase but, this season will be a much better one for Burton.
12. Jeff Gordon
Gordon has the chance at some success this season but, it will be hard to come by for Gordon. Gordon will stay consistent enough to get in the Chase without a wild card spot but, he will have issues in the Chase like he did last year. Gordon may pick up a couple of victories that will help him make the Chase.
13. Carl Edwards
Edwards will barely miss the Chase but, the inability to have a lot of success will hurt Edwards. If Edwards wins a few more races than I expect him to, he could be in the Chase but, I don’t believe he’ll be included.
14. Kevin Harvick
The questions about leaving RCR at the end of the year will distract Harvick and his team and they’ll have a pretty-off season. Bad finishes will hurt Harvick and by the time the Chase comes, the team will just about have given up on the season.
15. Ryan Newman
Newman will miss the Chase because he can’t win races and he doesn’t have enough consistency. The Chase will be without Newman again and Newman may not be back at SHR by the times 2014 rolls around.
16. Greg Biffle
Biffle will have one of his bad seasons and just struggle to find success. The Chase will fall out of grasp by the time Richmond in September rolls around and the No.16 team will just be looking for a restart that’ll come in 2014.
17. Joey Logano
Logano will have some problems adjusting to everything new this season and those issues will hurt his ability to have good finishes. Logano will just not have enough consistency to come close to the Chase.
18. Ricky Stenhouse Jr
Even though I predict Stenhouse Jr to finish 18th, he’ll have a decent first full-time season in Cup. He’ll have an average rookie season which will consist of decent finishes. He may win a race or two as well.
19. Kurt Busch
Busch won’t do much in 2013 and his finishes will show it. Wrecks and inconsistency will hurt Busch and his whole No.78 team.
20. Marcos Ambrose
Ambrose won’t shock anyone this season and he may be vacant from victory lane. Ambrose will have the same sort of season he has had ever since stepping into the No.9 car.
21. Jamie McMurray
McMurray will be off all season and not have the finishes his team is looking for. A win at Daytona or Talladega is possible but, some luck will be implemented in the victory.
22. Paul Menard
No shocks will come from Menard this season and problems will faze him and his team throughout the year.
23. Aric Almirola
24. Juan Pablo Montoya
Nothing new will come out of Montoya this season and the same inconsistency will show up almost every weekend.
25. Danica Patrick
Patrick will perform well enough to finish the season in the top thirty in points with many top twenty finishes. Wrecks won’t be as big as a problem as they were in 2012 but, they will still be mixed in her season.
26. Bobby Labonte
27. David Ragan
28. Mark Martin
Martin will win a race or two and have some great finishes in the select races he competes in the No.55 car.
29. David Reutimann
30. Casey Mears
By Jason Schultz