The 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season is now complete and a new season in NASCAR has begun. The short offseason in NASCAR is often referred to as “NASCAR’s Silly Season.”
It has only been two weeks since the checkered flag was waived at Homestead Miami Speedway, ending the 2012 season. Most of the personnel changes for the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup series are already in place.
The biggest storyline for the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season will be the design of the cars. Each team will use cars that resemble the production model car driven by the fans. Chevy will use the Chevy SS, Ford will use the Fusion and Toyota will use the Camry. The new cars for each team can be viewed at the Jayski.com 2013 Paint Scheme page.
The design of the race cars is not the only changes in NASCAR for the 2013 season. Many personnel changes have been made and some teams have switched to new manufacturers. Here is a list of the NASCAR team changes that will have the most impact on the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season…
Kurt Busch finished what can only be called a nightmare season in 2012. The former NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion went from driving the No. 2 car for Penske racing (the car that won the 2012 championship), to driving the significantly less funded No. 51 car for Phoenix Racing.
Busch was only able to finish in the top 10 two times while driving for Phoenix Racing. His best finish was a third-place finish at Sonoma.
With only six races left in the 2012 season, Busch signed a deal to take over as the driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing car. Busch found more success in his new car. He finished three of the final six races in the top 10. With more time to practice with his new team, Busch could take one of the most underrated teams (Furniture Row Racing) in NASCAR to the Chase for the first time.
There is no secret in NASCAR who makes the best engines. Hendrick Motorsports has been building the best engines in NASCAR for most of the last decade. Five of the 12 drivers in the 2012 Chase were using Hendrick Motorsports engines. In 2013, Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing will be powered by Hendrick Motorsports engines.
Last season, the two drivers for Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing—Juan Pablo Montoya and Jamie McMurray—used engines that were built by their own racing department at Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing. Montoya finished No. 22 and McMurray finished No. 21 in the final point standings. Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing had to do something to make their cars more competitive. The switch to Hendrick Motorsports engines could be just what the team needs in 2013 to make a push for a spot in the Chase.
What happened to Carl Edwards and the No. 99 Roush Fenway team in 2012? After a great finish to the 2011 season, Edwards was the popular pick to win his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship. He had a terrible season and failed to make the Chase.
Changes had to be made with the No. 99 car. Longtime crew chief Bob Osborne was replaced in July by Chad Norris. Norris was not the answer for the No. 99 car, so in 2013 Jimmy Fenning will be the new crew chief for Edwards.
Last season, Fenning was the crew chief for Matt Kenseth and the No. 17 Roush Fenway Ford. He was able to guide the No. 17 car to a seventh-place finish in the point standings and won three races. Roush Fenway Racing is hoping that Fenning can have the same kind of success in 2013 with the No. 99 car.
One of the biggest driver changes to watch in 2013 will be with the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing car. For the past 14 seasons Matt Kenseth has driven the No. 17 car. In 2013, two-time NASCAR Nationwide Series Champion, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., will take over the driving duties.
Stenhouse has competed on a limited basis in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series without much success. That could change in 2013. Stenhouse will be driving the top car for Roush Fenway Racing. He has proven he can win championships in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Now he must prove he can compete in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Stenhouse should easily win the 2013 Rookie of the Year award in NASCAR.
The theory of “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” does not hold true in NASCAR. Teams must continuously try to stay ahead of their competitors in order to win the championship.
Last season, Tony Stewart won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship and immediately fired his crew chief (Darian Grubb) and hired Steve Addington. In 2012, Brad Keselowski won the championship for Penske Racing. Instead of sticking with what won them the championship in 2012, Penske racing is making the switch from Dodge to Ford in 2013.
The Ford engines will be supplied to Penske Racing by Roush Yates engine department. In 2012, Penske Racing was the only Dodge team competing full-time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The team had limited resources to gather information for each week’s race. The switch to Ford will give the Penske Racing teams the opportunity to share information about their engines with other teams using Roush Yates engines.
The switch to Ford engines is not the only change for Penske Racing in 2013. In 2012, the No. 22 car was driven by A.J. Allmendinger and Sam Hornish Jr. The car will be driven by Joey Logano in 2013.
Logano comes over to Penske Racing from Joe Gibbs Racing. Logano has had some success in his four-year career in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He has won two races and his best finish in the point standing is his No. 16 finish in 2010. Logano should be able to improve upon those numbers at Penske Racing.
Logano will benefit from being teamed with the defending NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, Brad Keselowski. The two young drivers could be a force in the 2013 season.
The biggest driver change of the 2013 season will be Matt Kenseth’s move to Joe Gibbs Racing. Kenseth spent the first 13 full seasons of his career at Roush Fenway Racing. It was another solid season for Kenseth in 2012. He won three races and had 19 top-10 finishes.
2013 could be the season Joe Gibbs Racing finally wins the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Kenseth and his teammates, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin, will form one of the best teams in the sport. The addition of Kenseth to Joe Gibbs Racing is an upgrade over Joey Logano, the driver Kenseth will replace in the No. 20 car.
Kenseth won the NASCAR Sprint Cup title in 2003. Don’t be surprised if he wins his second championship in 2013.
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