November 29, 2012

Looking Ahead to the 2013 Season

Brad Keselowski was the last driver standing in 2012, but will
he have enough left in the tank to repeat in 2013? (Getty)
With the 2012 season officially in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look ahead to 2013. Newly designed cars, faces in new places and a new champion set to defend his title are just some of the storylines to watch as we gear up for another exciting season of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing in 2013.

Here’s a look at 10 things to watch for next year:

November 28, 2012

Waving Flags: 2012 Year in Review

Brad Keselowski reminds us that no matter what flag you
see, the American is still the most important. (Getty)
By many race fans' standards, the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season wasn't the most exciting.  It definitely had some memorable moments: the jet dryer fire in the Daytona 500 started the season; Tony Stewart's helmet throw at Matt Kenseth punctuated Bristol's on-track fireworks; and, the Jeff Gordon/Clint Bowyer melee marked the end of a frustrating season for a No. 24 team still struggling to succeed with the Chase format.

In between instances, however, NASCAR fans complained about follow-the-leader racing.  The Chase lost its competitive nature when Jimmie Johnson hit the wall in Phoenix, ending any hope of drama during the season's final race.  Dale Earnhardt Jr. fell out of the running due to a concussion suffered in a highly dangerous, last lap wreck at Talladega.  And, Kevin Harvick needed a late season win at Phoenix to avoid being the second chaser, along with Martin Truex Jr., to go the whole season without a win.

It's not that bleak though.  NASCAR fans at their core love to argue.  For every complaint that the racing wasn't exciting, there was someone reminding people that it's a sport about finishing with the fastest car, not wrecking it.

November 15, 2012

FANTASY: Racing for Respect

Ford EcoBoost 400 Fantasy Preview

It's been a tough year for Carl Edwards,
and this writer knows how he feels. (Getty)
I'd apologize that I wasn't able to write a preview last week, as I was on vacation in California.  However, I saw three of the four cars I started in Yahoo fantasy head behind the wall at one point or another and scored an embarrassingly-low 157 points.  I really don't feel like missing my advice was detrimental last week.

It's been a tough fantasy season.  I rank in the 70th percentile on Yahoo, which is about the same as my standing when I first got into the sport in 2009.  It's a far cry from last year's near perfect run to the 98th percentile.  I honestly look at the No. 99 of Carl Edwards each week (when he even makes it on TV), as he runs somewhere outside the top-10, and know exactly how he's feeling.

Last year was great.  I finished so close to the top and had a lot of optimism entering the season.

This year has been the exact opposite.  From an opening week bomb out in Daytona (176 points), which was only topped in terms of disaster at Phoenix last weekend, it's been a "that's racing" season for sure.  For both myself and Cousin Carl.

November 2, 2012

BUMP STOPS: Corey, Caraway And Competition

It's Friday again. Time to dust off the ol' Mini Stock for a test spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

SOME OF THE drama of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season finale at Rockingham Speedway was stripped away with the announcement this week that Corey LaJoie had been slapped with a 25-point fine following his win at Greenville Pickens Speedway last weekend.

LaJoie stormed from the back of the pack and put a bump-and-run on Brett Moffitt in the final corner of the Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 140 to win the race Saturday night – and take the K&N Pro Series East points lead in the process. He was to enter the series' inaugural race at Rockingham tomorrow afternoon with a six-point lead over Kyle Larson and a much larger one over Moffitt.

Instead, it's Larson who now enjoys a 10-point lead over Moffitt and a 19-point advantage over LaJoie. Chase Elliott is 30 points out and out of contention.

Larson is certainly in the driver's seat. Not only does he have a nice cushion over Moffitt heading into the final race, but he also boasts a career average finish of 3.6 on speedways – defined as tracks .75-miles in length or longer. He won the last K&N Pro Series race contested on a mile track, having visited Victory Lane at New Hampshire Motor Speedway back in September.

November 1, 2012

FANTASY: The Texas Two

AAA Texas 500 Fantasy Preview

Jimmie Johnson took over the points lead with
his win at Martinsville Speedway. (Getty)
And then there were two.

The championship Chase is down to just Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski with two races to go.  There are plenty of drivers that aren't mathematically eliminated, but let's be honest, it's down to two!

Johnson is cool and confident, and he should be.  He's won this ordeal five times and knows exactly how to go about business to rise to the top of the standings.  Last week, he finally overtook Keselowski after sitting like a snake in the grass behind him for several weeks.

However, just because Johnson's ascent is complete doesn't mean it's finished (if that makes sense).  Keselowski seems to have an almost boyish ignorance to the pressures of auto racing.  That's not a slight, he simply doesn't seem like the kind of guy that gets rattled.