Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Wrath of Danica and Answers to Other 2012 Questions

Regan Smith was among those to feel the wrath of Danica
Before the start of the NASCAR season I put forth 12 questions for 2012.  Time to close out the year with the answers.
Carl's Turn?  Nope, not even close.  Before the year started I said Ford was the make to beat and Carl Edwards was the Ford to beat.  Hardly.  Not only didn’t he win a race, he didn’t even make The Chase.  While both his Roush teammates were competitive, Edwards finished 15th in points. 
Is this the year for Penske Racing?  “Very possibly,” I wrote.  “(Brad) Keselowski could win a bunch of races.”  I also thought it was going to be a big year for A. J. Allmendinger.  Well 50/50 is not bad. Especially when it includes the Cup champion.
Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne or Dale Earnhardt, Jr.?  “Team owner Rick Hendrick says he wants all four drivers to make the Chase.  Ain’t gonna happen,” I wrote.  100 percent wrong this time.  During the season I also asked if Junior would ever win again -- the week before he won at Michigan.  Sorry.
Can Tony Stewart re-create the magic? Too many distractions I wrote, would leave Stewart on the onside looking in.  No repeat, but Stewart came closer than I expected.
Is Joe Gibbs Racing still one of NASCAR’s elite teams? Hmmmm.  Just one of three cars made The Chase, and Denny Hamlin faded again.  By the end of the year, JGR wasn't even the best Toyota team (see next question). 
Make-it or break-it year for Michael Waltrip Racing?  Interesting to see how this all comes together – or if it all comes together,” I wrote at the start of the year.  Well it came together better than anyone could have imagined.
Any life left at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing? Apparently not.  2011 was a disaster according to Juan Pablo Montoya and 2012 wasn't any better.  The team’s lone highlight came when Montoya drilled a jet dryer in the first race of the season.  The team is on the verge of becoming irrelevant.
Happy Harvick? Apparently not, given that he’s leaving Richard Childress Racing at the end of the 2013 for Stewart/Haas.  “Will be interesting to see how the team and Harvick react,” I wrote at the start of 2012.  Ditto for 2013.
Can NASCAR survive all-Danica all the time? NASCAR survived and even got a boost from Danica's first full season.  I’m not sure about Cole Whitt, Sam Hornish, Regan Smith, Landon Cassill and Tony Eury, Jr., all of whom felt the wrath of Danica during the season.  "Danica, The Sequel," opens in February. 

What becomes of Bayne and Stenhouse? “Two of NASCAR’s brightest young stars,” I wrote at the start of the year and they remain that way.  Stenhouse won another Nationwide championship and is making the jump to Cup to replace Matt Kenseth.  Bayne moves into Stenhouse’s Nationwide ride along with a partial season for the Wood Brothers.

Is the Pack Back? The Pack was back at Daytona and Talladega, and so was the Big One, unfortunately.  Now we have to wait and see how the new 2013 cars react to pack racing and bump drafting.

How big of an impact will EFI have this year? A non-issue.  I thought it would have a much larger impact.  Doesn’t deserve a mention as we head into 2013.

There will be a host of new questions for 2013.  In the meantime, Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

See you next year.

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