NSCS Top 25 in 2011 Predictions for 2012 – 1st Edition
Posted By: Holly Blake with David Starr
December 31, 2011
Happy New Year! 2012 is just about here and we thought it would be fun to look at the top 25 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (as they finished last season) and try to make our predictions for them in the upcoming season. We’ll be looking at them in groups of five from 25th to first.
Brian Vickers landed in the 25th position in the standings at the end of the 2011 season. He is also without a ride for 2012 at the time of this writing. Red Bull Racing announced back in June 2011 that it would no longer compete in NASCAR. This was Vickers’s return to the series after being forced to take most of the 2010 season off for blood clots. Many had fairly high expectations for him as he seemed to be building momentum just about the time the life-threatening news came. To say the 2011 season was a roller coaster ride for the No. 83 team would be an understatement. Vickers ended the season with no wins, 3 top-five, seven top-10 finishes and two DNFs (Did Not Finish). It is unclear where he may end up – at the last portion of the season his typical comments left one to believe there were deals in the works but nothing has been announced to date.
HB: At this time I have no prediction for Brian Vickers as we don’t know if or with whom he may have an opportunity to race in the 2012 season in the NSCS.
DS: Unfortunately, there isn’t much to say about Vickers at this point. It probably isn’t a good sign that you haven’t seen Vickers mentioned for any of the current openings.
Joey Logano was 24th at the end of 2011. Not what was expected or what he had envisioned I’m sure. Logano spent most of the season mid pack at best. He had no wins, 4 top-five, six top-10 finishes, and three DNFs. Logano will have a new crew chief in 2012 in Jason Ratcliff. Ratcliff has been with the organization as Kyle Busch’s crew chief on the NASCAR Nationwide side. This could be a good move for Logano and the No. 20 Home Depot team. Time will tell.
HB: In my opinion, this upcoming season is crucial for Logano to get back in the competition. He really didn’t prove to be a contender for much of the 2011 season. I have to believe that he is going to have a lot of pressure on his shoulders and at the very least must win a race and must finish in the top 20 to remain in the seat. I think he can do it but he must continue to grow and keep his emotions in check while in the car.
DS: I completely agree with Holly, the upcoming season is a crucial one for Logano’s future at Joe Gibbs Racing. Logano entered last season with high expectations but had an abysmal start and it didn’t get much better from there. If Logano can’t become a more consistent driver with new crew chief Jason Ratcliff he could be in trouble. I think Logano needs to do more than just win a race or finish top 20 to keep his ride; he needs to be a legitimate contender for a Chase spot.
David Ragan does not have a ride at the moment. His 2011 season wasn’t horrible. He finished 23rd in the standings but won his first Cup race at Daytona in July. He also had two poles. He ended the season with one victory, four top-five, eight top-10 finishes, and five DNFs. Ragan knew for most of the last half of the season he may not have a ride for 2012. There were rumors that UPS was not going to continue with their sponsorship of the No. 6 team. That came to be and as of this writing, Ragan is another driver without a ride for 2012. There are rumors that he is being considered for the NNS JR Motorsports No. 88 if that ride is vacated by Aric Almirola who is rumored to be in negotiations with RPM for the No. 43.
HB: It doesn’t appear at this time that David Ragan will have a Cup ride next year. This saddens me a bit. Ragan is a great guy and unfortunately has fallen to the mid pack brigade. I wish him success wherever he finds a home.
DS: I share Holly’s feelings about Ragan. He seemed to have the inside track to drive the No. 22 car at Penske Racing before AJ Allmendinger became available. I think a move down to the Nationwide Series would ultimately be beneficial to Ragan. If he can get the No. 88 at JR Motorsports I think he would be successful and in a year or two be back in the Sprint Cup Series. We will have to wait and see what opportunity develops for Ragan in 2012; I do think he will be driving somewhere.
Mark Martin finished 22nd in 2011. He finished his last season with Hendrick Motorsports with no wins, 2 top-five, 10 top-10 finishes, and three DNFs. Martin will drive for Michael Waltrip Racing in the No. 55 for the 2012 season.
HB: I have to believe that Mark Martin made the decision to stay with HMS one more year because he knew it was his best shot at that elusive trophy. His glimmer of hope of a Championship is all but a twinkle now. Will he win one before he retires? I don’t think so. I think he has one or possibly two more years left in him and he just may finally retire.
DS: I have the utmost respect for Mark Martin but he was barely competitive the last two seasons and that was with some of the best equipment in the garage. Now he moves to a part time schedule with Michael Waltrip Racing, a team that has just two wins in five seasons in the Sprint Cup Series. I just don’t see it, I can’t shake the feeling he is just riding out a career that has gone on a couple years too long already.
Juan Pablo Montoya tried to stay out of trouble in 2011 – or did he? He finished in the 21st position in the standings. Montoya found himself winless, two top-five, and eight top-10 finishes, with no DNFs. He will have a new crew chief in 2012 with Chris Heroy calling the shots for the No. 42 team. Heroy came over from Hendrick Motorsports where he was their lead engineer. This leaves a lot of unknowns but one thing is for sure – Montoya needs to win some races and move up in the standings in 2012. For his team, sponsors, and for himself.
HB: I’m not sure how Montoya will fare in 2012 but I think he will win at least a race if he and his new crew chief click. He is a decent driver, he’s learned a lot, he now has five full-time seasons under his belt in the series. It’s time for him to show what he’s learned if he can keep cool under the helmet. He needs to move up to contend for the Chase in my opinion.
DS: I don’t think Montoya will have as bad of a year as he did in 2011 but I’m not sure if it will be as successful as he or EGR is hoping for either. Like Holly said, it will all boil down to how he clicks with his new crew chief. Montoya needs to avoid the kind of incidents that make him enemies with a lot of drivers and ultimately cost him good finishes. If Montoya can keep his cool I expect him to return to victory lane and be around the Chase bubble most of the season.
Stay tuned for the next edition which includes the drivers from 20th to 16th (Jeff Burton, Marcos Ambrose, Martin Truex Jr., Paul Menard, and Greg Biffle).
Posted: December 31st, 2011
Categories: Featured, Nascar Sprint Cup Series, Track News.
Tags: Brian Vickers, David Ragan, Joey Logano, Juan Pablo Montoya, Mark Martin, NASCAR, Nascar Sprint Cup Series