The 2017 NASCAR season may have just finished, but that doesn’t mean race fans have to wait until February to talk NASCAR.
The rubber from the tire marks Martin Truex Jr. left at Homestead after winning his first career title are still visible. Which means, it’s probably too early to take a peek at the 2018 NASCAR season.
But with a majority of the silly season changes already announced, there’s enough information to make a few early predications for the 2018 NASCAR season.
Chase Elliott and William Byron will both win a race
Elliott has been knocking on the door since his rookie season and has finished second seven times in his career. During the playoffs, Elliott led laps in four of the ten races and at Dover led a race high 138 laps before being passed by Kyle Busch with two laps to go.
It’s only a matter of time before Elliott finds victory lane and he has scored top five finishes at every type of track except a road course.
William Byron will be a rookie in 2018, driving the famed No. 24 Chevrolet. This will be the third year in a row Byron will be a rookie in a NASCAR series. In 2016 he scored seven wins in the Truck Series and earned four wins in the Xfinity Series in 2017 on the way to the championship.
Byron has proven himself a quick study and a winner in both of his full-time seasons. With 36 races on the Cup Series schedule, that should be enough time for Byron to find victory lane at least once.
Joey Logano will win to make the playoffs
After his struggles during the 2017, Joey Logano will find victory lane twice before the regular season ends and earn his spot back in the playoffs.
Logano’s struggles were noted throughout the season and began after his race-winning car failed post-race inspection at Richmond in April and his win was encumbered. This meant his win wouldn’t count towards making the playoffs. Logano never found victory lane again and wasn’t even close to making the playoffs on points.
Next year will be different though and Logano and his No. 22 Team Penske Ford will find their winning ways once again. With the addition of Ryan Blaney to Team Penske, there will now be three teams to pull resources from and their close alignment with Wood Brothers Racing will create a mini-four car team.
Kyle Larson will win the 2018 championship
This might not seem too bold, given Larson’s multiple win season in 2017, but he failed to reach the Championship 4 for the second straight year.
That all changes in 2018. Larson won’t find himself facing any freak engine woes or mechanical failures and reach Homestead-Miami Speedway with a chance at a championship.
The 2018 season will be a big one for Larson and his Chip Ganassi Racing team. This is the first season for Larson without long-time sponsor Target, who elected not to return.
Larson has yet to win on a 1.5-mile speedway but has shown speed consistently at those tracks which make up a majority of the playoffs.
Making the playoffs isn’t the problem for Larson, it’s getting to Homestead. In the last two races at Homestead, Larson has led 279 laps and finished inside the top-three in both of those races.
The 2018 season could be the “now or never” year for Larson.
Follow Matt on Twitter, @mattlovisa.