Brad Keselowski’s 2012 title proved that there are more than just a select few who can win NASCAR's top prize: the Sprint Cup championship. Heading into last season with changes being the focus at Penske Racing, they were still able to win it all. However, what does 2013 bring for NASCAR? Here are the top five favorites for the upcoming year.
5. Brad Keselowski – The defending champion and his team are moving into 2013 with huge changes equipment-wise that may hinder them from winning back-to-back championships. But the view at the top of the American motorsports scene is a compelling draw for Keselowski and Penske Racing. Brad K will be very competitive but whether they can transition from Dodge to Ford while still being a top challenger is the question.
4. Clint Bowyer – Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR) has established themselves as a major player amongst Cup teams and 2013 shouldn’t be any different. Bowyer was a surprise contender last season in his first year at MWR and finished an unexpected second overall in the points. Can 2013 be their year? If Jeff Gordon stays out of Bowyer’s way, Clint just might be a favorite for the championship.
3. Denny Hamlin – He appeared to be the car to beat through much of the past year with five wins including a victory at the last regular season race and a win in the second race of the Chase. However, Hamlin’s chances of title came apart in the final stages of the playoffs with three finishes outside the top 20 over the last four events. The Joe Gibbs Racing team now looks more competitive than ever with the addition of Matt Kenseth, which can only elevate Hamlin’s chances of a championship in 2013.
2. Kasey Kahne – He had an inauspicious start, driving for Hendrick Motorsports in 2012, but a steady climb into the championship at the end of last season showed the promise for being a title contender in 2013. Kahne now has a year under his belt at Hendrick and having shown the knack to be competitive at any type of track, he should be a favorite to win it all this season.
1. Jimmie Johnson – After winning an incredible five consecutive Sprint Cup titles in-a-row, Johnson has been shut out the past two seasons. That lull will likely end in 2013. The new car should favor Johnson and his crew chief Chad Knaus who seems able to adapt quicker than most to changes in the rules. At years’ end, ‘Five-Time’ will likely become six-time.
It would be a shocker if the four cars of Hendrick Motorsports weren’t all in the Top 10 battling for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. Along with Johnson and Kahne, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. both proved last year that they were more than capable of winning races and being in the championship battle – expect nothing different for 2013.