** First of all, I’d like to send well wishes out to seven-time F1 champion Michael Schumacher and his family. Schumacher is in a medically-induced coma after a skiing accident in the French Alps on Dec. 29, 2013. **
We’re nearly a week into 2014 and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season is quickly approaching, albeit, not soon enough. Maybe this would be the perfect time to go ahead and get started on some of those preseason predictions. So here it goes:
It’s hard to bet against Jimmie Johnson when it comes to predicting a series champion. After all, with his most recent 2013 crown, Johnson has claimed the Sprint Cup six times in eight years. Picking Matt Kenseth for the 2013 title, if for no other reason than picking Johnson being just too easy, didn’t quite work out for me in last year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup. But, once again, I’m not going to take the easy route and go with Johnson. Actually, I’m going to go out on a limb and pick a driver who has yet to win a Sprint Cup title. In fact, my pick didn’t even come close to making the Chase last season. I’m going with Denny Hamlin.
If momentum can carry over from November to February, at least Hamlin has that going for him as winner of the 2013 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. That win was, perhaps, the only bright spot in Hamlin’s beyond lackluster season. He missed several races early on, as he recovered from an injury after an on-track incident or two with former teammate Joey Logano, and after his return, Hamlin struggled mightily.
So why am I picking Hamlin, aside from my refusal to take the easy Johnson route? Aside from that whole momentum thing, I’m going with Hamlin’s past performance. I’m not talking about 2013 performance; I mean before that. Hamlin has come close to winning a championship before, so he knows how to lose one, and maybe that, in turn, taught him how to win one.
I’m sure Hamlin would like to just forget 2013 ever happened, from a racing standpoint. His injury is now behind him. He’s had an offseason to recover from said back injury, and if it’s possible to carry momentum from the end of one season to the beginning of the next, there is that Homestead win on his side. Hamlin’s come close before and look for a renewed, refreshed Hamlin in 2014.
There may not be many crystal balls showing Hamlin’s image in the coming weeks, but then again, how many picked Brad Keselowski this time two years ago? At least I’m not taking the easy way out and going with Johnson.
What are some of your predictions for 2014? Let us know on Twitter @autoracingdaily or on Facebook (facebook.com/autorcngdaily). Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook: NASCAR Examiner