There are new rules for the Sprint Cup Chase this season as the field has been expanded to 16 drivers. The Chase participants will be determined after the 26th race. If there are 15 drivers who have posted victories they will be entered in the Chase as long as they’ve finished at least 30th in points. The 16th and final spot will go to the driver who has the most points. A complete rundown of the new Chase rules can be found at NASCAR.com.
As the season is about to start with the running of the Daytona on Sunday, here’s my prediction for the 16 drivers who will compete for the 2014 Sprint Cup Championship.
The 16 Drivers Who will Make The 2014 Chase For The Cup
1. Jimmie Johnson: The driver of the #48 Lowes Chevrolet will look to defend his 6th Sprint Cup Championship. Johnson is once again the favorite going into the 2014 season.
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: What a celebration we’d see from Junior Nation if the driver of the #88 Chevrolet could bring home his 1st Sprint Cup Championship.
3. Kyle Busch: In this authors opinion the younger Busch brother is the most talented driver never to win a Sprint Cup Championship. It’s only a matter of time before he does. This could be the year the driver of the #18 Toyota wins it all.
4. Matt Kenseth: The driver of the #20 Toyota had an excellent season and gave Johnson all he could handle last season. I see no reason why that would change.
5. Tony Stewart: After missing a large portion of the 2013 season, the driver of the #14 Chevrolet returns stronger than ever. It wouldn’t be a shock to see “Smoke” lead the field.
6. Greg Biffle: Another talented driver that just seems to lack the consistency to get to that next level. If the driver of the #16 Ford could add consistency to his resume he’d be tough to beat.
7. Jeff Gordon: Will the driver of the #24 Chevrolet ever reach the top of NASCAR racing again? Time may be running out for the future Hall of Famer.
8. Denny Hamlin: The driver of the #11 Toyota is coming off just a miserable season. Just a couple of seasons ago he gave Johnson a run for his money. This could be the year he does it again.
9. Kurt Busch: He moves to a new, better funded team and should be a force to be reckoned with. He’ll be behind the #41 Chevrolet for Stewart-Hass Racing.
10. Kevin Harvick: Here’s another driver who moves to a new team in hopes of improving his Chase results. Harvick moves to the #4 Chevrolet where he will join Kurt Busch as a new member of the Stewart-Hass stable.
11. Clint Bowyer: After becoming embroiled in NASCAR’s biggest scandal of 2013, Bowyer looks to make his noise on the race track. The driver of the #15 Toyota was winless in 2013. He’ll have to find his way into the winners circle in 2014 if he’s to be a serious contender.
12. Kasey Kahne: The driver of the #5 Chevrolet is another tremendously talented driver that needs to find a way to reach that next level. When Kahne was good last year he was very, very good. When he was bad, he was very, very bad.
13. Joey Logano: Logano took a huge step last season in improving his standing among today’s drivers. The #22 Ford was among the best cars on many a Sunday last season.
14. Carl Edwards: Coming off his best season in 2012, the driver of the #99 Ford had a disappointing 2013. Look for a big comeback for Edwards this season.
15. Brad Keselowski: It was a very quiet year for the driver of the #2 Ford. The defending 2012 Sprint Cup Champion was never a factor in 2013. Will he have a bounce back season?
16. Jamie McMurray: McMurray missed the Chase last season but the driver of the #1 Chevrolet did capture a victory and might be poised to make a run this season.
That’s my 16 drivers I see making the Chase this season. With the new Chase format which places a premium on wins, we could see someone winning one of the restrictor plate races or the road course races and slip into the Chase.
Whether you like the new Chase format or not, it should provide a more wide-open opportunity for teams to make it into the Chase. It should be fun.
My Picks for the Daytona 500:
1) Kyle Busch
2) Jeff Gordon
3) Dale Earnhardt Jr.
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