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Winners and Losers of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Offseason so Far

Michael GuadalupeFeatured ColumnistDecember 20, 2012

Winners and Losers of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Offseason so Far

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    With the 2013 season just months away, NASCAR is in their offseason and there have been winners and losers so far.

    Even before the 2013 season starts, drivers are making progress and testing the new car for the 2013 year.

    Joey Logano seems to be clicking on all cylinders with Penske Racing, and more specifically, his new teammate Brad Keselowski.

    But not everyone can be lucky.

    Dodge, for example, announced their departure from the sport well into the 2012 season. Now after winning a championship and seeing the progression Penske has made with Ford, Dodge has lost a big opportunity in NASCAR.

    The 2013 NASCAR season is only a couple months away, and as the 2012 year ends and the offseason continues, there are several winners and losers moving into next year.

Winner: Joey Logano

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    Before the 2013 offseason even started, Joey Logano was a winner.

    Since the announcement of Matt Kenseth joining Joe Gibbs Racing, the future looked bleak at one point for Logano.

    But after A.J. Allmendinger failed a drug test and was eventually dropped by Penske, Logano become one of the luckiest drivers in the sport.

    He struggled with JGR but now has a fresh start with Penske and with his new teammate, Brad Keselowski.

    As the offseason continues to move throughout the rest of the year, the two Penske teammates work together and discuss how NASCAR's new "Gen 6" car feels, as they try to pick up more speed during testing.

    "You have to understand the goal of bringing Joey Logano to Penske Racing," said Keselowski over at ESPN.com. "The goal is to have two cars that can run for a championship. I'm hoping he can push me to be better."

    "I don't want to get stagnant. I've reached the highest pinnacle you can reach in this sport and don't want to fall off it."

    Penske Racing is looking like the perfect fit for Logano so far in the offseason. With a new teammate in Brad Keselowski who likes to hang around the garage as much as Logano does, Logano seems like the right choice for the Penske No. 22.

    Will Joey be successful next year? Only time will tell, but for right now Logano looks like a big winner in the offseason.

Loser: Dodge

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    With the 2012 season over, Dodge is no longer part of NASCAR.

    And while their departure was discussed before the 2012 season even ended, the 2013 offseason has made it even clearer that Dodge will be taking a huge loss by not being in NASCAR.

    For one thing, the new car on which NASCAR has been working is turning out to be something special.

    With speeds that drivers have never seen, the new cars of 2013 are looking like they could change how drivers race.

    Dodge did exit the 2012 season with a championship, but could they have won more if they decided to stick around?  Keselowski might only be getting started, and with a driver like Joey Logano who is full of potential, Dodge is clearly missing out on a huge opportunity.

    Without Dodge in NASCAR, Keselowski and the Penske Organization have already moved on.

    Brad was quoted by David Newton of ESPN.com as saying:

    “It's hard to get a great read on the whole manufacturer change because, obviously, it's a different car. But I think all the signs are there that we have the potential to be just as strong, if not stronger than we were last year, which is very, very encouraging."

    It was Penske's choice to switch over to Ford in 2013, and when Dodge lost its top team in NASCAR, they decided to exit the sport.

    "One of the best advantages of switching to Ford is it gives us something to prove all over again," Keselowski continued over at ESPN.com. "That we can continue to be successful no matter what the manufacturer or no matter what the circumstance is."

    Keselowski is already looking strong for the 2013 season, and has already made strides with Ford as the new manufacturer for Penske Racing.

    Dodge leaving NASCAR was a big loss for the organization, and now with Penske Racing looking stronger than ever, it only adds more insult to injury for Dodge.

Winner: Hendrick Motorsports

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    Hendrick Motorsports took a huge loss when Jimmie Johnson failed to capture the 2012 Sprint Cup championship.

    As Hendrick moves into the offseason though, they have made progress, and some of their top drivers managed to win awards worth mentioning.

    For the 10th straight season, Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the NASCAR NMPA Most Popular Driver award, Jr. Nation is still standing strong and even into the offseason, Jr. is a big part of Hendrick Motorsports.

    Jeff Gordon won the 2012 National Motorsports Press Association Myers Brothers Award this offseason, which is an award that acknowledges people who provided outstanding contributions to NASCAR. 

    Gordon's accomplishments inside and outside NASCAR are outstanding, and this offseason was just another reminder.

    Now with NASCAR introducing a new car for the 2013 season, Hendrick Motorsports could end up dominating like they did in 2007 when NASCAR introduced the car of tomorrow

    “NASCAR is changing a lot of rules with the cars." Earnhardt said over at motorsport.com, "If you do the homework and you go out and test as much as you can, you are going to know more, you're going to learn more, you're going to be more prepared and more ready for what you're going to face in the first several weeks of the season."

    Hendrick Motorsports always does their homework when it comes to new technology. They missed another chance to win a championship in 2012, but so far this offseason, things are looking good for the Hendricks organization.

Winner: Stewart Haas Racing

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    Stewart-Haas Racing as a whole is one of the biggest winners of the offseason so far.

    Danica Patrick is clearly going to bring a big fan following with her when she starts her 2013 season.

    She was voted the most popular driver in the Nationwide series, and while she didn't manage to win a race in 2012, her popularity will help her succeed in 2013.

    Heading into the offseason, Danica will have even more time now to work with Stewart-Haas Racing and help get her set for her first full-time Sprint Cup schedule.

    Tony Stewart was recently offered a chance to race in the Indy 500 by Roger Penske.

    Smoke was quoted by Heather Tucker at USAToday.com as saying:

    "I'm very humbled by the fact that he offered it to us. It's a great opportunity, but it's very hard when you're running three Cup teams right now and the obligations that we have making sure that we're doing the right things. We have a lot of people that depend on us...It's kind of like being at Thanksgiving dinner. My plate is finally full. I don't know if I can add anymore to what I have right now."

    He declined the offer, but even being offered a ride in the Indy 500 by Roger Penske alone speaks highly of Tony Stewart, and was something that speaks well of Smoke and his driving ability.

    Stewart Haas has also managed to sign extensions with four of its partners. WIX Filters, Outback Steakhouse, Aspen Dental and Code 3 Associates will continue to sponsor Ryan Newman's No. 39 car for 10 races next season.

    These sponsors will add onto the already large sponsorship of Quicken Loans. This is great news for Newman, who now has enough sponsorship to last his current one-year contract, but is also a big turnaround after Stewart-Haas lost a major sponsor in the Army.

    The 2013 offseason has been good for Stewart-Haas Racing, as they move forward and prepare to start off the 2013 season right.

Loser: Richard Childress

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    With Kevin Harvick set to leave Richard Childress Racing in 2014 to join up with Stewart-Haas Racing, the 2013 offseason and regular season look bleak for Richard Childress Racing.

    To add insult to injury, not only will Harvick be leaving RCR, but his sponsors might leave with him as well. That is a huge blow for any racing organization to take, and they still need to make it through 2013.

    Childress is easily the biggest loser of the offseason. Kevin Harvick is the top driver in the organization and with him on the way out, Childress has opened up a little more about the issue.

    David Newton of ESPN.com quoted Childress as saying:

    "People are not going to be buying a lot of [No.] 29 souvenirs for sure. It'll make a difficult year. It's there. We've got to live with it and move forward."

    To move into an offseason already knowing your top driver will be leaving in a year is rough for any organization.

    Jeff Burton, another Childress driver, is still struggling. Burton hasn't won a race since 2008, and failed to make The Chase two years in a row.

    Now, in 2013, Burton is going to need to step up more than ever. 

    The same can easily be said about Paul Menard.

    Besides winning at Indianapolis in 2011, Menard has done relatively nothing in RCR.

    With Harvick already on his way out before he actually leaves, it's going to be an extremely tough 2013 for RCR. 2014 might end up being even worse if the company loses major sponsors who decide to follow Harvick to Stewart-Haas.

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