NASCAR: 2013 New Year's Resolutions for Each 2012 Sprint Cup Chase Driver

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IDecember 28, 2012

NASCAR: 2013 New Year's Resolutions for Each 2012 Sprint Cup Chase Driver

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    Making resolutions for each new year is a phenomenon that involves making changes in one's life, hopefully for the better. Of course, it is common for most of those resolutions to be for naught.

    It is the goal of every driver within the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series to contend for the series title, but only 12 drivers make their way to the playoffs known as the Chase. For some it may be the impossible dream.

    After 26 points races during the season, the 10-week Chase for the title begins with the champion being celebrated at the season finale in Homestead.

    For several drivers in the 2012 Chase, unexpected success was found, while those expected to be serious contenders failed to seal the deal.

    Each and every one of the 12 drivers experienced highs and lows during the Chase. Perhaps even the series champion Brad Keselowski realized he might have done some things differently.

    This slideshow will take a somewhat lighthearted look at resolutions each of the 12 drivers might make for the upcoming 2013 season. The drivers will be listed as they finished in the standings from 12th to first.

12. Dale Earnhardt Jr.

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    Dale Earnhardt Jr. never really liked the COT that was introduced in 2007 and mandated as the NASCAR Cup car through the 2012 season. All but a scant few races of his 19 career wins were prior to the COT.

    Alas, NASCAR unveiled the new-generation race car known as the G6 (generation six), which has been tested and will be officially debuted at Daytona for use in 2013.

    At Charlotte recently, Earnhardt commented on the new model. He stated, "I think the car has really awesome potential, and I like it already leaps and bounds beyond the COT."

    Earnhardt added, "The COT was just frustrating for me. Just personally, I didn't like the car for what it was."

    His New Year's resolution may likely be that he will grab this car by the horns, so to speak, and wrangle it to Victory Lane multiple times during the upcoming season.

    The driver of the No. 88 may also vow to win at tracks with names other than Michigan International Speedway, though he would take a win at any track.

11. Martin Truex Jr.

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    Martin Truex Jr. had a record to be proud of in 2012 with his seven top-five finishes and 19 top-10 finishes that gave him an average finish of 12.9 as driver of the No. 56 NAPA Toyota.

    During Champions Week in Las Vegas, his team was awarded the Mechanix Wear Most Valuable Pit Crew title, which is voted on by crew chiefs from other teams.

    Truex has all the pieces in place to win races, but he just was unable to close the deal with a win during the 2012 season.

    This driver for Michael Waltrip Racing finished second at both races in Kansas this season, so his resolution might be to capture a win in 2013 at the Kansas Speedway because close only counts in horseshoes.

    Truex might also resolve to make a showing in the Chase like his teammate Clint Bowyer, who was runner-up to the champion. Of course, better yet would be winning the title, but that may be a bit optimistic.

10. Jeff Gordon

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    Jeff Gordon has won four NASCAR Sprint (Winston) Cup championships during his career, but his last title came back in 2001.

    There is little doubt that the driver of the No. 24 for Hendrick Motorsports wants that elusive fifth title that will tie him with his teammate Jimmie Johnson.

    Gordon is still passionate about racing and winning. He is showing more aggression with his driving as the competition level increases.

    The wreck with Clint Bowyer at Phoenix caused many fans of the sport to criticize Gordon for behavior unbecoming a championship-caliber driver. Gordon was showing that aggressiveness we may see more of during the upcoming season. 

    Gordon's New Year's resolution may well be to finish every race ahead of his newest arch-nemesis, Bowyer, at all costs.

    The two drivers have not exchanged pleasantries, so he may resolve to move the driver of the No. 15 out of his way if he gets the chance. Gordon may be making some uncharacteristic moves on other drivers as well.

9. Tony Stewart

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    Three-time Cup champion Tony Stewart made his way to Victory Lane three times in 2012 with his No. 14 Chevrolet, but it was not without some mishaps on his way to ninth in the point standings.

    At the fall Bristol race, Stewart was unhappy with Matt Kenseth, so he pummeled the front of the No. 17 using a direct hit with his helmet. It made for a good show for the fans and showed Stewart's helmet-throwing ability.

    One resolution Stewart might consider is to remember that if he has an encounter with the No. 17 in 2013, he better not get too angry because it is being driven by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. It will be the No. 20 he will have to take aim at if he wants to go after Kenseth.

    Stewart does not like to be blocked when he is racing, and should a driver block him, it is a sure bet it will be returned in kind.

    At Talladega during the Chase, Stewart decided to do some blocking as he went for the win on the final lap. The result was a good part of the field being taken out with Stewart's car flipping on its lid.

    A second resolution for this driver might be to remember his mantra on blocking.

8. Kevin Harvick

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    Kevin Harvick decided to bid adieu to Richard Childress Racing, where he has driven the No. 29 Chevrolet in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series since 2001.

    His departure was leaked at an inopportune time much to the displeasure of his boss Richard Childress. Harvick will continue to race out of RCR during 2013 with a move to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014.

    Typically a driver in his last year with an organization is designated a lame-duck driver, and performance is usually off for the team.

    Harvick was the only RCR driver to win a race in 2012. It took him until the next-to-last race of the year to score the win.

    Despite Harvick leaving Richard Childress Racing, he won't be one to lay down in 2013.

    It is very likely the driver of the Budweiser No. 29 will resolve to win the series title as a going-away present for Childress, who has not had a Cup title since Dale Earnhardt's last one in 1994.

    This may be Harvick's best chance to win a championship under the guidance of his crew chief Gil Martin. If he has strong equipment, count on this driver to give his all one last time for RCR.

7. Matt Kenseth

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    Matt Kenseth found the need to make a leap of faith with his decision to leave Roush Fenway Racing for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2013.

    He had driven for Jack Roush throughout his entire career as a Cup driver spanning some 15 seasons. He became the 2003 NASCAR Sprint (Winston) Cup champion, winning 24 races in the series along the way.

    The 2013 season will find Kenseth wheeling the No. 20 Dollar General/Husky Toyota at JGR. He will be easy to spot in his banana yellow Dollar General firesuit. They will be his primary sponsor.

    Kenseth may need to make a New Year's resolution to not jump in the No. 17 race car or enter their hauler. Sometimes old habits die hard.

6. Denny Hamlin

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    Denny Hamlin headed into the 2012 season with hopes of finally winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship under the guidance of his crew chief Darian Grubb, who had just guided Tony Stewart to five Chase wins and a title in 2011.

    Despite Hamlin's five wins, 14 top-five finishes and 17 top-10 finishes, he and his team were plagued with mishaps and miscues. He may have passed more cars than most other drivers with his runs from the rear to the leader of the pack.

    The driver of the No. 11 car headed into the Chase as top seed by virtue of the four wins he had in the preseason. His title hopes headed south at Martinsville when an inexpensive switch failed on his car.

    Hamlin will become a father by the start of the 2013 points races. Hopefully that new baby will be his lucky charm.

    No doubt Hamlin's resolution for the new year will be to not screw up on pit road with speeding penalties and be more of a leader and motivator for his team, who cannot make mistakes like they did in 2012.

    He will also resolve to bring home the NASCAR Sprint Cup trophy to his young child and longtime girlfriend Jordan Fish.

5. Greg Biffle

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    Greg Biffle has sometimes felt that he doesn't get the respect he deserves as a driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

    The driver of the No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford was paired with crew chief Matt Puccia after the Kentucky race in 2011. The chemistry was strong between the two and performance improved.

    Biffle looked to be a serious contender for the title in 2012 with his two wins, 12 top-five finishes and 21 top-10 finishes. He remained atop the point standings much of the preseason.

    Biffle's resolution for 2013 will probably be to prove he is worthy of respect by standing strong in the points not just in the preseason, but the Chase as well. He knows he can contend for the title after being the star performer at RFR in 2012.

4. Kasey Kahne

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    It was a long wait for Kasey Kahne from the time he knew he would drive for Hendrick Motorsports and when he actually did in 2012.

    Expectations were high for Kahne to win races and vie for the Cup series title alongside his crew chief Kenny Francis, but things did not start out well, and he fell deep into the point standings.

    Kahne didn't disappoint as he bounced back to win two races with 12 top-five finishes and 19 top-10 finishes.

    Kahne's New Year's resolution may well be to be grateful to Francis and to all those who work to give him a fast, healthy race car. Of course, he will continue to be grateful to Rick Hendrick for the ride.

    The driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet doesn't have to worry about switching teams this year. He gained a good footing at Hendrick Motorsports in 2012, and the momentum should carry him forward as a title contender in 2013.

3. Jimmie Johnson

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    Jimmie Johnson hopes he will have more than five NASCAR Sprint Cup titles in the record books beside his name. In 2012, he thought the Lowe's 48 team would capture a sixth championship.

    Johnson came very close to his goal with five wins, 18 top-five finishes and 24 top-10 finishes that put him third in points, but only one point behind Clint Bowyer, who was second.

    During the season, this driver got caught up in wrecks, hit the wall, suffered car failures and made some poor decisions that ended with uncharacteristically bad finishes for Johnson. Some calls from the pit box were off as well.

    It looked like perhaps the driver and team were at fault for losing the title. Johnson will likely resolve in 2013 to take a hard look at his driving and reevaluate team performance and calls from the pit box.

    Though this team thrives under pressure, they faltered and beat themselves during some of the races. They can't afford a repeat performance in 2013 if they expect to win that sixth title. 

2. Clint Bowyer

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    Clint Bowyer had a stunning first season with Michael Waltrip Racing as the driver of the No. 15 5-hour Energy Toyota. His three wins and 24 top-10 finishes gave him an average finish of 10.9.

    Bowyer was a potential title contender until the dustup with Jeff Gordon at Phoenix. It is said if you poke the bear enough, he will come after you (or something like that).

    Gordon deliberately wrecked Bowyer after multiple incidents that proved to be too much for the driver of the No. 24 to deal with. The incident basically took the No. 15 driver out of title contention.

    Bowyer's New Year's resolution should be to race Gordon clean and forget about those paybacks that linger in a driver's mind.

    The driver, who finished second in points, also needs to resolve not to let the typical runner-up syndrome become an issue in 2013.

    This easygoing driver shouldn't suffer in performance like so many drivers do who come in one slot short of the championship.

1. Brad Keselowski

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    Brad Keselowski moved to an elite group of drivers who were able to win a Cup championship in only the third full-time season.

    The driver of the No. 2 Dodge for Penske Racing won five races with 13 top-five finishes and 23 top-10 finishes. He and crew chief Paul Wolfe never wavered from their mission to contend for the title.

    Keselowski is still young, and winning this title for Roger Penske is a huge deal for him. He now sees himself as a leader in the sport who is destined for wins and titles.

    He should also be the leader of the youth movement in the next generation of drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. His talents with social media blend with the goals of NASCAR.

    Keselowski is smart and mature, but a lot has been thrust upon this young man with the winning of his first title.

    Keselowski needs to resolve to keep his ego in check, focus on his G6 Ford Fusion and not rely on the 2013 season bringing him the same success he found in 2012.

    It is a new ball game for all of the teams with the new car and higher level of competition each year.

    His resolution for the new season must include the realization that he may have to race harder and smarter than he ever has.