Projecting the Breakout NASCAR Stars of 2013
The 2013 NASCAR season is right around the corner, and with it will come several drivers who will be breakout stars.
Across all three of NASCAR's racing competitions, there will be drivers who make a big impact on the sport this year.
From newcomers to the Sprint Cup Series, to a returning champ in the Camping World Series, NASCAR is filled with several drivers who are looking to have a better year than they did in 2012.
Drivers like Carl Edwards are hoping to correct the mistakes they made last year and are looking to get back on top as the best in the sport.
The 2013 season is less than six weeks away, and these seven drivers will be the breakout stars of NASCAR this year.
Austin Dillon ended his 2012 Nationwide Series with a fifth-place finish at Homestead and a third-place finish overall in the driver standings.
He had a solid year and was racing for the Nationwide championship by the end of the season.
He is getting set to make another full-time Nationwide run, but he will also be running several Sprint Cup races for his grandfather, Richard Childress.
In addition to driving for Childress, Dillon picked up a ride with Phoenix Racing for the Las Vegas Sprint Cup race.
Dillon will debut during the Daytona 500 in February for Richard Childress Racing. He is definitely a driver on the verge of breaking out in NASCAR.
He won the Camping World Truck Series championship back in 2011, and now has his sights set on trying to win a Nationwide title in 2013.
He will shift over to the Sprint Cup Series in 2014, but with a handful of Sprint Cup races already scheduled for this young driver in the upcoming season, Austin Dillon is one driver who could have a major breakout year.
Carl Edwards had a rough 2012 season. He went from being the runner-up in the Sprint Cup Series in 2011 to failing to win a single race in the 2012 season.
Now with a new crew chief in Jimmy Fennig, Edwards will get a fresh start in 2013 and look to regain his position as a dominant driver.
Edwards will be a breakout NASCAR star of 2013, and Fennig will be the main reason.
Fennig was Matt Kenseth's crew chief when he was still racing for Roush Fenway Racing, but since Kenseth moved on to Joe Gibbs Racing, Fennig has been paired up with Edwards and the 99 team to help them get back to championship form.
"This year I think we have a couple of really good things going for us. I think Jimmy Fennig being the experienced guy that he is…I think that will help me," Edwards was quoted as saying by Matt Weaver at SBNation.com.
He slipped from his spot as one of NASCAR's top drivers last season, but in 2013 expect Edwards to regroup and become one of NASCAR's breakout stars.
Joey Logano's move to Penske Racing is easily the best decision of his career.
Logano did relatively nothing in the Sprint Cup Series at Joe Gibbs Racing, and having teammates like Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch clearly didn't help the young driver.
His current teammate Brad Keselowski is the 2012 Sprint Cup championship. Being paired up with the defending champ might seem like something that would put a lot of pressure on Logano, but Keselowski will end up helping Joey in the long run.
"His work ethic and the way he is is very similar to me when it comes to being a race car driver," Logano was quoted as saying by David Newton at ESPN.com.
Logano and Keselowski are both young drivers who truly love the sport of stock car racing. Keselowski had a big breakout season last year, and in 2013 it will be Logano's turn.
With a solid team behind him and a teammate who will be helping him along the way, Logano will be set to break out in 2013 as he debuts in the Penske 22.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
After winning back-to-back Nationwide titles, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will make his full-time Sprint Cup Series debut driving for Roush Fenway Racing.
Stenhouse is one of the newest drivers to enter the Sprint Cup Series and can possibly have a breakout season in 2013.
He has run limited races before for Roush Fenway in the Sprint Cup Series, so he has some idea of what he is getting into.
Only a handful of drivers have managed to win two consecutive Nationwide titles, and while any rookie moving up to the Sprint Cup Series should be expected to struggle, Stenhouse might end up being the exception.
When Stenhouse was winning races in the Nationwide Series, he was winning them against some of the better drivers who raced in both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series.
With a new team and new crew chief heading into the 2013 season, Stenhouse will easily be one rookie that everyone will be talking about.
James Buescher walked away with the Camping World Truck Series championship in 2012 and is looking to do the same in 2013.
He seems satisfied with sticking around the Camping World Truck Series for now, but don't be surprised to see him move up to the Cup level soon.
Buescher was quoted as saying (via aol.sportingnews.com):
I’m only 22 years old. If I play all my cards right, I’ve got plenty of time in this sport to make it up to the Cup level. I want to make sure I’m as successful as I can be at every level in the stock-car ranks up the ladder.
He plans to do some Nationwide races in 2013 as well, but his schedule for the Series is still in the works.
Buescher may have landed on everyone's radar after his Camping World Truck Series title win, but in 2013 he will become a true breakout star, as he looks to defend his title.
After the 2012 season, Regan Smith found himself back in the Nationwide Series. He lost his ride at Furniture Row Racing and landed in the No. 5 car for JR Motorsports.
With solid equipment now behind him, expect Smith to be one of the top drivers in the 2013 Nationwide Series.
He didn't make too much noise in the Sprint Cup Series last season, but he did have a couple of solid finishes when he was asked to fill in for an injured Dale Jr.
Dale was clearly impressed by the young driver, and offered him a full-time spot racing for his motor team.
On top of racing in the Nationwide Series, Smith will continue to race in Sprint Cup under Phoenix Racing. He will be splitting the No. 51-car schedule with A.J. Allmendinger.
Smith looked impressive when he filled in for Dale Jr. last season and proved he is a solid driver when given the right equipment.
Expect him to break out in the Nationwide Series in 2013 and be one of the drivers going for the championship.
Kyle Busch missed The Chase in 2012, but don't expect the same thing to happen this year.
He recently signed a multiyear deal to stay on the Joe Gibbs Racing team, and Busch will be back next season ready to redeem himself for his sloppy performance in 2012.
His entire 2012 season wasn't a disappointment, though, as Busch was a major factor in several races toward the end of the season.
He will be trying to keep that momentum as he heads into 2013.
The biggest reason Busch will be a breakout star in 2013 could be his love for the new Gen-6 car.
“This new car, I love it,” Busch said over at NASCAR.com. “I think it looks awesome. It looks like a street car, which is great.”
Kyle was never a big fan of the Car of Tomorrow, and after testing NASCAR's new car, Busch will have an even bigger chance to break out in 2013.