5 NASCAR Drivers Who Will Be the Breakout Stars of 2013
The Daytona 500 is just a couple of months away, and with it, the 2013 season will officially begin.
2013 will be filled with several drivers who will break out and prove they belong in the Sprint Cup Series. Some drivers will continue their overall improvement and become even better drivers than they were last year.
Other drivers, like Carl Edwards, will get back on track after a bad 2012 season and will break out to be one of the top drivers of the year, like he was back in 2011.
It takes a lot in some cases to be a breakout star. Some of the younger drivers, for example, need to make an impact by running well in several races or actually pulling off a win. They may not make The Chase, but if a new face in the Sprint Cup Series managed to win a race or more, they would easily be a breakout star.
Other, more experienced drivers will need to make The Chase if they want to break out in 2013.
Next season will see some drivers stumble, while others will continue to have average seasons.
Here are five drivers, though, who will break out in 2013.
5. Martin Truex Jr.
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Martin Truex Jr. hasn't won a race since 2007.
He still made it into The Chase in 2012 and finished the year leading a total of 434 laps. Still, Truex needs to start winning if he hopes to become a Sprint Cup champion someday.
Michael Waltrip Racing had an amazing year in 2012, with two of their drivers making it into The Chase. Even before The Chase started, though, Truex Jr. was impressive.
He managed to lead 173 laps at Kansas in April, before losing the race by inches to Denny Hamlin.
He has constantly improved over the years since making his Sprint Cup debut, and while he hasn't won a race since 2007, he has improved greatly as a driver.
With a veteran like Mark Martin joining Michael Waltrip Racing in 2012, it clearly had a positive impact on Truex Jr. and Michael Waltrip Racing as a whole.
Will Truex be able to finally win another race in 2013? Who knows? But he has constantly improved year after year, and after a solid 2012 season, 2013 should be even better for him.
Expect the young driver to break out in 2013, as he looks to break his long winless streak.
4. Carl Edwards
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Carl Edwards was a breakout star in 2011. However, after losing the championship to Tony Stewart, Edwards took a hard fall in 2012.
He went the entire season without winning a race and couldn't even make it into The Chase.
He would lose crew chief Bob Osbourne due to health issues, and he never managed to get it going with his replacement crew chief, Chad Norris.
He had solid runs toward the end of the season, but nothing like he did in 2011.
With Matt Kenseth leaving Roush-Fenway Racing in 2013, Edwards has the possibility to benefit. Jimmy Fennig, who was Kenseth crew chief when he was in the 17, is moving over to the 99 team in 2013.
Jack Roush was quoted over at AOL by Bob Pockrass as saying:
"Pairing two highly successful veterans like Carl and Jimmy should be quite a matchup and it is our expectation based on what Jimmy has been able to accomplish with many high profile drivers, that it will provide the spark to get the No. 99 program and Carl back into championship form."
Fennig can be the solution that the 99 team needs moving into 2013. He has had great success with Matt Kenseth, and that success should translate well for Carl Edwards.
Edwards stumbled in 2012, but expect him to get back on track and break out once again in 2013.
3. Aric Almirola
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Aric Almirola started building a solid run at the end of the 2012 season.
When given a good enough car, Almirola has proven he is a solid driver. During the October Kansas race, Almirola not only led a lot of laps, but he also came back to the front after hitting the wall when a tire went down.
His day ended in a wreck at Kansas, after he had another tired go down and hit the wall once again, this time causing his engine to go on fire.
Still, Almirola can clearly race when given solid equipment, and he drove extremely well during the 2012 Chase.
He was good enough for Petty Motorsports to want to re-sign him, and he will continue to show a big improvement moving into the 2013 season.
"We went through some changes this season. But since being paired with Todd and this crew, I've had the most fun I've had in a Cup car," said Almirola over at CBSSports.com.
"I think we have a lot of things 'clicking' right now and have a lot of momentum heading into 2013. Everyone at RPM seems to have good chemistry right now, and that's a good feeling as we all prepare for 2013."
With his glimpses of great driving in The Chase coming from when Petty Motorsports decided to switch up Marcos Ambrose's and Almirola's crew chiefs, the 2013 season is looking good for the 43 team.
Almirola has benefited greatly from having Todd Parrott as his crew chief. He will be a breakout driver in 2013.
2. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
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After winning two back-to-back Nationwide titles, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is getting set to make a full-time Sprint Cup series debut in 2013.
Taking over the 17 car for Matt Kenseth, Stenhouse will be paired up with a new crew chief in Scott Graves and a new pit crew as well.
Stenhouse is in an elite Nationwide class, being one of only a handful of drivers to win back-to-back titles. When Dale Jr. did it in 1998-99, his first full-time Sprint Cup season saw him win two races.
Martin Truex Jr. was the last driver to win back-to-back Nationwide titles, and in his first full-time Sprint Cup year, he managed two top-five finishes.
Stenhouse Jr. was quoted over at Sports Illustrated by Tim Tuttle as saying:
"It (Cup) is going to take some adjustment. We struggled in qualifying in the few Cup races we ran because I went and drove it like my Nationwide car and you can't do that. With all the horsepower (approximately 300 more than Nationwide cars), you have to lift, you have to use the brakes. Throughout the races we have run this year, I have learned how to be more patient with the race car. I will have a lot more time (pit stops) to work on it with the Cup side."
Clearly it won’t be easy for Stenhouse to stand out in the Sprint Cup Series. However, he is the type of driver who likes to race hard, and it paid off for him in the Nationwide series. Once he gets the feeling down for the Sprint Cup cars, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will break out in 2013.
1. Joey Logano
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Joey Logano hasn't managed to make any real noise in the Sprint Cup series since he moved up from Nationwide several years ago.
He was easily lost in the shuffle of Joe Gibbs Racing, and stood behind teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch.
Now that Matt Kenseth is moving over to Gibbs in 2013, Logano was faced with a choice:
Stick around and possibly run limited races in the Sprint Cup series for Gibbs while still racing in the Nationwide series, or join Penske Racing.
Logano choose Penske, and it was a smart move. Not only is he stepping out of the shadows of Hamlin and Busch, but Logano is going to be a major part of the Penske team and is going to benefit from having the NASCAR Sprint Cup champion as his partner.
It would have been a bad move for Joey to stick around with Gibbs, or to even go back to the Nationwide series. Last season alone he won nine Nationwide races. Why bother to go back to a series where he would clearly dominate?
"I am looking forward to the opportunity, as it will be an honor to drive for Roger Penske and race for wins and championships," Logano said over at ESPN.com.
Now that he can step out of the shadows of Joe Gibbs Racing, Logano is one driver who will break out in 2013 and become another great driver for the Penske organization.