NASCAR Wagers and Sports Illustrated Predictions: A No-Win Proposition

Kara MartinSenior Analyst IApril 2, 2017

At the culmination of each racing season, Sports Illustrated puts out its much anticipated NASCAR edition, highlighting great moments of a season past and predicting the outcome of a season future.

Adoring the cover was this year’s most celebrated driver, reigning champion Jimmie Johnson. If you are wondering whether or not the fabled SI cover curse will affect Johnson’s chances of making the “drive for five” in 2010, think again. He last appeared on the cover of SI on Nov. 24, 2008 and blew that theory out of the water by winning his fourth consecutive championship in 2009.

From Tony Stewart’s journey as a first time owner/driver to the outrage over Kyle Busch smashing a one-of-a-kind, hand-painted Gibson guitar trophy in Victory Lane to the bizarre twists and turns in the Jeremy Mayfield vs. NASCAR saga; the issue showcased some of 2009’s most amazing, controversial and unbelievable moments.

The magazine also focuses on the 2010 Sprint Cup preview. The “Scouting Report” predicts how the drivers will finish when the last checkered flag drops in Homestead on Nov. 21.

This year’s sneak peek into where the top 12 will place according to Sports Illustrated , are as follows.

  1. Jimmie Johnson
  2. Tony Stewart
  3. Denny Hamlin
  4. Juan Pablo Montoya
  5. Jeff Gordon
  6. Mark Martin
  7. Ryan Newman
  8. Kurt Busch
  9. Kyle Busch
  10. Carl Edwards
  11. Brian Vickers
  12. Matt Kenseth

It is a star-studded cast of the usual suspects and at face value looks to be spot on, but before you head out to Vegas to place those bets, let’s take a look back on seasons past to see just how off the world’s most prominent sporting magazine is when it comes to NASCAR's version of lady luck.

At the beginning of the 2009 season. Sports Illustrated ’s so called “experts” selected their top-12, in order of finish.

  1. Carl Edwards -finished 11th 
  2. Jimmie Johnson -finished first
  3. Kyle Busch -finished 13th
  4. Greg Biffle -finished seventh
  5. Mark Martin -finished second
  6. Jeff Gordon -finished third
  7. Jeff Burton -finished 17th
  8. David Ragan -finished 27th
  9. Matt Kenseth -finished 14th
  10. Kevin Harvick -finished 19th
  11. Dale Earnhardt Jr. -finished 25th
  12. Denny Hamlin -finished eighth 

Not a single correct pick.

In 2008, SI fared only slightly better, by foretelling two of the 12 Chasers.

  1. Jimmie Johnson -finished first
  2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. -finished 12th 
  3. Matt Kenseth -finished 11th 
  4. Jeff Gordon -finished seventh 
  5. Tony Stewart -finished ninth
  6. Carl Edwards -finished second
  7. Kurt Busch -finished 18th
  8. Denny Hamlin -finished eighth
  9. Kyle Busch -finished 10th
  10. Clint Bowyer - finished fifth
  11. Martin Truex Jr. -finished 15th
  12. Greg Biffle -finished third

Hey Sports Illustrated, I want you, I need you, but there ain't no way I’m ever gonna love your predictions, cause two outta 12 is bad!

And 2007 proved to be another shot in the dark with only one direct hit.

  1. Tony Stewart -finished sixth
  2. Jimmie Johnson -finished first
  3. Matt Kenseth -finished fourth
  4. Greg Biffle -finished 14th
  5. Jeff Gordon -finished second
  6. Kevin Harvick -finished 10th 
  7. Kasey Kahne -finished 19th
  8. Dale Earnhardt Jr. -finished 16th
  9. Kyle Busch -finished fifth
  10. Dale Jarrett -finished 41st
  11. Carl Edwards - finished ninth 
  12. Denny Hamlin-finished 12th 

I even went back to 2003 to a time before the “Chase,” to see if the choices made in the latter part of the decade were just flukes when it came to Sports Illustrated soothsaying, but once again it produced dismal results.

  1. Ryan Newman -finished sixth
  2. Tony Stewart -finished seventh
  3. Jeff Gordon -finished fourth
  4. Kurt Busch -finished 11th
  5. Matt Kenseth -finished first
  6. Jimmie Johnson - finished second
  7. Sterling Marlin -finished 18th
  8. Jeff Burton - finished 26th
  9. Mark Martin -finished 11th
  10. Rusty Wallace -finished 14th 
  11. Dale Jarrett -finished 26th
  12. Dale Earnhardt Jr. -finished third

While the magazine undoubtedly spotlights some of NASCAR’s most memorable story lines year after year, their track record of predicting NASCAR contenders sadly rivals that of your local weatherman’s forecast.