Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Predictions: Top 10 biggest NASCAR storylines to watch in 2012.

As the start of the 2012 NASCAR season approaches towards the end of next month (February 2012) with the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway followed by the 2012 Daytona 500.

Today I want to share my thoughts and insight with my readers with my predictions for the upcoming 2012 NASCAR season including mainly the Sprint Cup Series. Here are the top 10 storylines to watch in 2012.
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1. Another “Boy’s Have at it” moment will force NASCAR to finally change the rules package in the sport and wake up at the same time. During the 2012 NASCAR season, it is a safe beat that their will be another “Boy’s Have at it” moment so long as NASCAR drivers know that there is little penalty by NASCAR. And finally that moment will lead to a reaction that NASCAR will make changes to the current rules in the sport regarding where a hard line will be and what the penalty will be.

Letting the drivers run the sport without much in the form of penalties isn’t the way to run such an amazing sport of NASCAR, I predict that changes will have to be made to restore NASCAR credibility with everyone including the fans, teams and sponsors.

2. Rule Changes: In 2012, NASCAR will be making changes at both Talladega and Daytona superspeedway races in hopes of getting rid of the two-car tandem drafting racing that fans have seen throughout the 2011 NASCAR season including the boring Coke Zero 400 at Daytona last July.
Will the new changes work? You will see a difference at the July Daytona race, but not before and I’m being optimistic.

3. Track Attendance and TV rates will have a slight increase at many tracks and on some networks:  In 2012, I believe NASCAR fans will continue watching NASCAR grow again by watching races on TV and attending races again. I also believe that attendance at several racetrack will be very strong, while others will just show a lot of empty seats, it will all depend upon the market and quality of the racing, plus the average ticket prices. One thing I can say is fans continue to attend and sell out many concerts in 2011, so that should be a good sign that NASCAR fans will once again come out and attend races so long as they get their money’s worth. …

4. Dale Earnhardt Jr. rebound: Last season (2011) was a good season for Dale Jr. and while he didn’t win a race in 2011, he still made the chase and finished 7th in the final point standings. So in 2012, I believe the #88 will continue to be running up front and contending for wins and make the chase again.

5. Having sponsorship is going to be the key to survival in NASCAR: Many fans might not think of this, but it’s a reality that in NASCAR that there isn’t as many sponsors as there once was especially in the Cup Series. As of now, Red Bull is gone, Best Buy has cut back on sponsorship and moved to the #17 Matt Kenseth RFR Ford Fusion and many other sponsors will followed suit. But the magic question is, since the Cup Series is struggling, what will the Camping World Truck Series and Nationwide Series see for sponsorship in 2012?

Bottom line, money equals racing and without sponsorship, you’re not racing period.

6. Hendrick Motorsports rebound and be the organization to once again beat: I’m looking at Hendrick Motorsports with its four elite drivers (#5-Kasey Kahne, #24-Jeff Gordon, #48-Jimmie Johnson and #88-Dale Earnhardt Jr.) to dominate the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season and win the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship – Just one question, which driver will win the champion in 2012?

7. The Nationwide Series will see more Nationwide Series regulars win races in 2012. Yes you read that correctly, more Nationwide only drivers will win more races in 2012 and there is a reason for that.

First, we have a good crop of Nationwide only drivers in 2012.

Second, several Cup Series drivers aren’t running in the Nationwide Series in 2012. Carl Edwards will be in the booth as far as I know, Brad Keselowski is sharing the driving duties of the #22, Kyle Busch will be limited due to JGR and sponsors request.

And other drivers are running the series full-time without running Cup.

8. These 10 drivers will make the chase for the championship. In no particular order: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, and Kyle Busch.

But look for Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle and Jamie McMurray to contend for the two wild card spots. BTW: I believe that Carl Edwards will have a Denny Hamlin 2011 type season as he is the runner up in the 2011 Cup Series point standings.

9. Kasey Kahne and Austin Dillion will be the Breakout star of 2012 in the Cup Series. Kasey Kahen is due and he is driving for Hendrick Motorsports, need I say more. And Austin Dillion is making his Nationwide Series full-season debut in the #3 Bass Pro Shop RCR Chevrolet Impala SS, I see him contending for wins for sure.

10. Stewart-Haas Racing will find success again in 2012: In 2011, Stewart-Haas Racing had a banner season with Ryan Newman winning a race and making the chase and of course Tony Stewart not only making the chase, but winning 5 races enroute to capturing his third Cup Series title after wining at Homestead and a tiebreaker. In 2012, SHR enters with Tony Stewart having a new crew chief (Steve Addington), Ryan Newman and Danica Patrick, along with Zippy coming on-board as Patrick's crew chief and working with all three teams.

So, how will Danica Patrick do in her 10 race season? Will Stewart contend and repeat as Cup Champion and how will Ryan Newman do? Hendrick Motorsports and Stewart-Haas Racing is the teams to watch in 2012 for competing for the Cup Series Championships and race wins.

Hopefully the 2012 NASCAR season will be less frustrating and more entertaining then both the 2010 and 2011 NASCAR seasons.