The haulers should be rolling into Daytona anytime now. NASCAR's short respite is over, and it's time to welcome in the 2013 season.
Sure everyone is “excited” about their prospects going into the new season, but we are here to separate fact from fiction. That said, we know that drivers such as Aric Almirola, Juan Pablo Montoya and Jeff Burton are long-shots — as in 300-to-1 — to win a Sprint Cup championship. The smart money will ride on guys such as Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin.
But the more compelling storylines this season involve something more challenging than handicapping odds. Here's a look at our Top Five Sprint Cup topics of interest in 2013:
1. The new car. NASCAR is all in when it comes to the Gen 6 model. It's universally touted as a car that will engage the paying customers with the longtime NASCAR adage — “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday.” The Chevys, Toyotas and Fords look very cool, but there is still the practical application. Will racing these new machines bring more excitement to the season, or are we in for some of the same long monotonous grinds? We shall see what transpires in the Great American Race on Feb. 24.
2. Danica and Ricky. It's impossible to ignore the gossipy pillow talk involving Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse, aka “Danicky.” They are dating. They are also competing full-time in the Sprint Cup series this season on opposing teams. Will Ricky come to Danica's aid if there is a dustup with another driver? What if they break up? What if they get married? It's a soap opera of unprecedented proportions in the NASCAR garage.
3. Clint and Jeff. Here is yet another relationship that merits our attention. But it's hardly lovey-dovey. Clint Bowyer made a frantic beeline at Jeff Gordon in the pits after Gordon purposely wrecked Bowyer in Phoenix last November. I am fairly certain that the grudge match isn't over, even though they did spend a few minutes on P Diddy's yacht on New Year's Eve. They may have chatted briefly but they won't be making any beautiful music together anytime soon. Stay tuned.
4. Is Joe Gibbs ready to challenge Hendrick Motorsports as NASCAR's top dog? Hendrick has four drivers who made the Chase last season, but Gibbs has three guys who should contend for a title — Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Hamlin. Busch just missed qualifying for the Chase after he was edged out by Gordon (a Hendrick guy) in Richmond. Kenseth is the new/old guy who crosses over from Roush Fenway Racing. Both teams are stacked. Should be fun to watch.
5. Brad Keselowski. He's the perfect guy for the next generation of NASCAR drivers — talented, brash and big on Twitter. It will be great for the NASCAR business model if he makes a solid run at defending his 2012 Cup title, even though he has switched over from Dodge to Ford this season. You'll probably get daily updates at @keselowski.
MCT Information Services