The future could look like the past as no matter how you look at it, if Jimmie Johnson isn't the best bet, who is? How about the two guys who fought to the last lap for last year's title or the fellow who has four cups to his credit.
The 2012 Sprint Cup Season begins Sunday with the Daytona 500 as a season with numerous changes prepares to run. Mechanically, the big change is the use of fuel injection which appeared to cause trouble for one team in the twin 125’s as Kenny Wallace’s guitar lost fuel pressure, for the rest of the field, there was no apparent difficulty and possibly some advantages. The other big change is of course one of personnel including crew chief changes at the highest level with Darien Grubb leaving Tony Stewart to work with Denny Hamlin, while Steve Addington moves to Stewart Haas to supervise Tony Stewart’s crew. The Stewart Haas operation is enhanced by the addition of Greg Zippedelli who will serve as competition director and be chief for the 10 rides of Danica Patrick in the #10 car. Some drivers suffered demotions, most notably David Ragan giving up the #6 at Roush/Fenway to run for Front Row. David Reutimann was fired from Michael Waltrip Racing and will race the majority of the season in the #10 car for Tommy Baldwin. Clint Bowyer moves from Richard Childress to Michael Waltrip as does Mark Martin who will share the #55 ride with Michael Waltrip. Kurt Busch fired from Penske will race for James Finch. We’ve attempted to find a rational means to pick which drivers will be in the chase and who will win the championship. We considered a number of factors starting with last year’s results, how consistent drivers perform year-to-year, and the overall strength and resources of the ownership. A total of twenty factors were considered total. We’ll only rate the top 30 drivers since beyond that mark there are two many variables and the tams involved, quite simply lack commitment or are unproven at this point.
1- #48, Jimmy Johnson, 68 pts.
2- #14, Tony Stewart, 64 pts.
3- #99, Carl Edwards, 64 pts.
4- #24, Jeff Gordon, 64 pts.
5- #17, Matt Kenseth, 57 pts.
6- #29, Kevin Harvick, 55 pts.
7- #11, Denny Hamlin, 53 pts.
8- #18, Kyle Busch, 53 pts.
9- #5, Kasey Kahne, 45 pts.
10- #2, Brad Keselowski, 41 pts.
11- #88, Dale Earnhardt Jr., 41 pts.
12- #16, Greg Biffle, 40 pts.
13- #39, Ryan Newman, 39 pts.
14- #51, Kurt Busch, 36 pts.
15- #15, Clint Bowyer, 35 pts.
16- #31, Jeff Burton, 33 pts.
17- #27, Paul Menard, 30 pts.
18- #41, Juan Pablo Montoya, 30 pts.
19- #9, Marcos Ambrose, 29 pts.
20- #56, Martin Truex, 28 pts.
21- #1, Jaime McMurray, 28 pts.
22- #20, Joey Logano, #25 pts.
23- #22, A.J. Allmendinger, 24 pts.
24- #34, David Ragan, 20 pts.
25- #78, Regan Smith, 19 pts.
26- #47, Bobby Labonte, 17 pts.
27- #43, Aric Almirola, 13 pts.
28- #38, David Gillilland, 13 pts.
29- #13, Casey Mears, 11 pts.
30- #36, Dave Blaney, 7 pts.
Part-Time Rides (performance dependent on appearances)
1- #55, Mark Martin/Michael Waltrip
2- #21, Trevor Bayne 3- #33, Elliot Sadler
3- #6, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
4- #10 Danica Patrick/David Reutimann
The remainder of the field consists of either unproven or substandard teams, five of which could win the honor of being in the top 35 in owner's points, the importance of which will be sufficiently clear in the first five races.