Daytona Day is upon us. Finally.
With that, come season predictions. And considering I correctly predicted 0 of the final 4 at Homestead last year, this should be fun. Let’s take this race-by-race.
Daytona, 2/21 — Denny Hamlin
- Denny has always been strong at Daytona, but I don’t see him becoming another Tony. He’ll get his 500 win this year.
Atlanta, 2/28 — Kevin Harvick
- Happy Harv finished 2nd in this race last year. He started last year strong, and he’ll probably do the same again.
Las Vegas, 3/6 — Carl Edwards
- It took some time for Cousin Carl to warm up to JGR (which was a given, after changing teams for the first time in his 12 year career). But, he got into his groove at the end of the season, and the Gibbs cars are looking good right now.
Phoenix, 3/13 — Kevin Harvick
- Harvick owns this place. That is all.
Auto Club, 3/20 — Kurt Busch
- Kurt won the pole for this race last year and came home 3rd. I think he’ll be able to finish the job this time.
Martinsville, 4/3 — Jimmie Johnson
- Well, I usually had trouble picking between Jimmie and Jeff when choosing a Martinsville winner. That got a little easier this year.
Texas, 4/9 — Martin Truex Jr.
- Truex was a machine of consistency last year, but didn’t win until Pocono. I see him earning his spot in the Chase a little earlier this time around. He got 9th here last year, and with JGR power under the hood now, that should improve.
Bristol, 4/17 — Joey Logano
- Logano could easily get his first win of the season way before Bristol. Either way, he’s starting to really improve on short tracks. And don’t you think he’d love to win the race Kenseth won last year?
Richmond, 4/24 — Joey Logano
- Joey is no stranger to consecutive wins.
Talladega, 5/1 — Austin Dillon
- Dillon is just about due for his first win, and there’s a good chance that’ll come at a superspeedway. And seeing the #3 back in victory lane at Dega? Sign me up.
Kansas, 5/7 — Matt Kenseth
- After what happened the last time NASCAR travelled to Kansas, I bet Kenseth wants nothing more than to earn the win he thinks he was robbed of at the hands of Joey Logano.
Dover, 5/15 — Kyle Larson
- Speaking of drivers due for their first win… Larson came home 3rd here last year, so this would the the place to finally get it done.
Charlotte, 5/29 — Carl Edwards
- Carl loves these intermediate tracks, so I’d expect another backflip at Charlotte.
Pocono, 6/5 — Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
- Sorry to make you wait, Junior fans.
Michigan, 6/12 — Brad Keselowski
- Penske cars always seem fast at two-mile tracks, and this should be where Brad K gets his win.
Sonoma, 6/26 — Kurt Busch
- In all the hype that surrounded Kyle Busch at this race last year, we seem to forget Kurt finished right behind his little bro (which was somehow only the first time that ever happened). But Kurt is due for another road course win.
Daytona, 7/2 — Jimmie Johnson
- It’s hard not to pick a Hendrick car for at least one of the Daytona races. It’s almost a toss-up between the 48 and 88, but I’ll take Jimmie. (Sorry again, Junior fans)
Kentucky, 7/9 — Kyle Busch
- Kyle is stupid fast here, and I don’t see that changing.
New Hampshire, 7/17 — Matt Kenseth
- Matt finished 6th and 1st here last year. I think he likes this place.
Indianapolis, 7/24 — Joey Logano
- He was the first loser here last year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Joey has this race marked on his calendar.
Pocono, 7/31 — Jimmie Johnson
- He finished 6th and 3rd here last year. I see Hendrick sweeping Pocono this year with Jr and JJ.
Watkins Glen, 8/7 — Brad Keselowski
- Brad is one of the best road course racers in the field; especially at the Glen.
Bristol, 8/20 — Kyle Busch
- Kyle is stupid fast here, too.
Michigan, 8/28 — Kevin Harvick
- The Closer likes to show up in crunch time, and with three races left before the Chase, he’ll get another win.
Darlington, 9/4 — Denny Hamlin
- He got 3rd in this race last year with another Gibbs car grabbing the win, so Denny has a good chance here.
Richmond, 9/10 — Chase Elliott
- Yup, Chase Elliott. Wouldn’t this be a fairy tale? Chase makes the Chase just one race before the Chase. And it’s not irrational to think this, considering he dominated here in the Xfinity Series. If he were to win a race his rookie year, this is probably where it would happen.
With that, here’s the Chase field:
- Harvick (3 wins)
- Johnson (3 wins)
- Logano (3 wins)
- Hamlin (2 wins)
- Edwards (2 wins)
- Kurt Busch (2 wins)
- Kyle Busch (2 wins)
- Keselowski (2 wins)
- Kenseth (2 wins)
- Earnhardt, Jr. (1 win)
- Truex, Jr. (1 win)
- Austin Dillon (1 win)
- Larson (1 win)
- Elliott (1 win)
Round 1, Chicagoland, 9/18 — Matt Kenseth
- JGR came out hot to begin the Chase last year and, maybe with a little something to prove, Kenseth will win the Chase opener.
Round 1, New Hampshire, 9/25 — Jimmie Johnson
- Jimmie was eliminated far earlier than expected last year, and I doubt he’ll let that happen again.
Round 1, Dover, 10/2 — Joey Logano
- Joey was on fire in the Chase last year, and it’ll definitely carry over.
With round 1 over, it’ll be the end of the road for McMurray, Dillon, Larson, and Truex, Jr.
Round 2, Charlotte, 10/8 — Kevin Harvick
- I think we’ve learned by now; Harvick is pretty damn good in the Chase. He got 2nd in this race last year, and I see him being the first driver to punch their ticket to the next round.
Round 2, Kansas, 10/16 — Carl Edwards
- Carl was the only Gibbs driver without a Chase win last year, but that will change this time around.
Round 2, Talladega, 10/23 — Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
- Let’s be real here, Dale would have won this race last year if it weren’t for that late caution. Unless Harvick has another trick up his sleeve, Junior will get it done.
Plot twist: the defending champion Kyle Busch is eliminated this round, along with Keselowski, Kahne, and Elliott.
Round 3, Martinsville, 10/30 — Jimmie Johnson
- Surprise, surprise; Jimmie sweeps Martinsville.
Round 3, Texas, 11/6 — Kyle Busch
- There should be at least one Chase race this year where a non-eligible driver wins. Even though Kyle is out by this point, he could easily do what Junior did last year at Phoenix and spoil the party for the remaining Chase drivers.
Round 3, Phoenix, 11/13 — Carl Edwards
- I bet you were expecting Harvick. But he has to lose here eventually, as Carl will continue his impressive year.
With that, Harvick, Kenseth, Kurt Busch, and Hamlin are eliminated.
Hopefully I get at least one of the final four correct this year, but I predict Johnson, Edwards, Logano, and Dale Jr will enter Homestead with a chance at the championship.
Championship Round, Homestead-Miami, 11/20 — Joey Logano
- No one has more wins in the last two years, and the “greatest thing since sliced bread” will earn his first (and definitely not his last) championship in 2016.