As the opening of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season approaches, Atlanta Motor Speedway President and General Manager Ed Clark went on the record to give his annual thoughts about the upcoming season.
Last season, Clark ended up being accurate on 81.25 percent of his predictions. His 2012 season forecast included several bold proclamations, included in those were that Brad Keselowski would be in the championship mix, Denny Hamlin would win five races and that Michael Waltrip Racing would experience a breakout season, all of which came true.
Here are six things that the AMS President thinks will take place in 2013:
Ricky Stenhouse will win a race and win Rookie of the Year
“Ricky’s going to pick up and continue the momentum he had in the Nationwide Series right over into the Sprint Cup Series. Afterall, he’s in Roush-Fenway Racing equipment, so it won’t take him long to get up to speed and run with the leaders on a fairly regular basis. “
When the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rolls into Atlanta Motor Speedway Labor Day Weekend for the AdvoCare 500, all three Joe Gibbs Racing cars will be positioned well to lock themselves into the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship
“Newly-added Matt Kenseth will provide a positive lift to the whole team. He always shows up at the end of the race near the front, after taking care of his equipment all day. He’s a proven, steady championship contender. His maturity will show through and will elevate his teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch.”
Speaking of Kyle Busch, he will have a much-improved season, winning as many as four races and contending for the championship.
“Kyle is going to carry the momentum from the end of 2012 into 2013. He had fast cars last season, but had lots of bad luck. He will make noise all season and be a threat for the title.”
Jimmie Johnson and defending champion Brad Keselowski will again be title contenders right down to the final race, but they will be joined by Kasey Kahne, who will win the championship
“Kasey Kahne is my pick to win the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. He will have the best year of his career to date. He’s right in that time period of his career where drivers excel. He’s driving Hendrick Motorsports equipment, so he’s got the equipment to do everything. He’ll win races and if his early-season luck is better than 2012’s, he’ll win it all. I just hope I don’t jinx him, as I picked Carl Edwards as my championship winner last season and he didn’t even make the Chase!”
Expect to see unusual faces at the front early in the season with teams still figuring out the new Generation-6 cars
“It always takes teams a while to figure out a new body style or a new chassis. The learning curve that the new Gen-6 car will throw the teams should provide a window of opportunity for guys not normally up front to run there before the bigger, better funded teams get their typical handles on the car.”
The Nationwide Series will be more competitive than ever with the infusion of talent of Sprint Cup drivers
“Several Sprint Cup drivers have dropped down to the Nationwide Series and have found success and reinvigorated their careers. When you throw in talented drivers like Brian Vickers and Regan Smith joining up with Elliott Sadler and Sam Hornish Jr., the younger drivers will be racing against the best-of-the-best each week. Plus, other Sprint Cup drivers like Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski will make appearances in the series. This will only help the young guys, like Austin Dillon, Trevor Bayne and Travis Pastrana, develop into better drivers, and quicker.”