Sprint Cup 2013: Power Ranking Drivers with Best Chance at Championship
With the unveiling of the new Generation 6 cars for NASCAR's 2013 Sprint Cup series, this year's championship is really up for grabs.
Essentially, all teams and drivers are starting from scratch this season, and how it all plays out, changes tactics and alters driving styles is anyone's guess. After all, unlike the Car of Tomorrow, these cars were not eased into the rotation.
Given this uncertainty, there are still plenty of clues that led to my power ranking of drivers with the best shot to win the 2013 Sprint Cup championship.
5. Tony Stewart
All of this uncertainty in the new cars is good news for Tony Stewart. Stewart has been racing everything with a motor since he came out of the womb. It is a safe bet that it won't take Stewart long to get acclimated to these cars.
The 2011 champion was not nearly as dominant last year as he made a switch in crew chiefs from Darian Grubb to Steve Addington. Needless to say, this will be a big year for Addington, and if Stewart isn't in the thick of this race, Addington will likely be looking for another gig.
4. Jeff Gordon
The new cars are going to take NASCAR back. These cars aren't likely to handle in traffic as well and it is going to make drafting far more difficult.
This is going to be similar racing style to the late 90s and early 2000s. That should suit Jeff Gordon just fine—between 1995 and 2001, Gordon won the series championship four times.
Gordon has shown good form over the past few years, but he has lacked the consistency needed to take the championship. I expect the 41-year-old to make a strong push to add a fifth title this season.
3. Denny Hamlin
As Stewart suffered without Grubb, Hamlin flourished. With Grubb on the team, Hamlin had a fantastic 2012...until the Chase started.
We all know Hamlin has the speed and talent to win races. Now, it is simply a matter of him putting that together at the right time and maintaining consistency.
He will undoubtedly struggle with his consistency as the year begins, but that is of little concern in the long run as it is at the end of the season where he has to improve.
2. Brad Keselowski
Defending champ Brad Keselowski has to make the switch from Dodge to Ford, but any lag time he would have experienced is erased by the fact that everyone is jumping into new cars.
Keselowski was a model of consistency last year and there is no reason to think he won't be again this year.
The biggest question facing the 28-year-old is how he'll respond to being the man everyone else is gunning for. This is new territory for BK, and for that reason, I have him behind a man we know can handle it when everyone is gunning for him.
1. Jimmie Johnson
It's been two long years since Jimmie Johnson claimed his last championship, and you better believe this legend is itching to add his seventh.
Johnson is coming off of a solid year and he has everything he needs to succeed this season.
Like Gordon, Johnson will benefit from being on the powerful Hendrick Motor Sports team. This team will get the new cars dialed in fast, and Johnson will be out in front of the pack giving all his peers someone to gun for.
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