2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship Preview

2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship
February 26-November 18, 2012
Defending Champion: Tony Stewart
All odds courtesy of Bookmaker

Tony Stewart looks to defend his Sprint Cup title as the 2012 NASCAR season starts Sunday with the Daytona 500.

Last season Tony Stewart won his third NASCAR Sprint Cup Season points Championship. He held off a furious rally from Carl Edwards, and it wasn’t decided until the last race of the season. Tony Stewart finished first in that race at Homestead, Florida and Edwards finished second in the closest points championship ever. The two were actually tied, but Stewart won the tie breaker with more race wins.  Stewart’s win snapped a string of 5 straight championships for Jimmie Johnson. All three of those drivers are among the favorites for the 2012 Championship. Here is a look at them and other contenders with odds courtesy of Bookmaker.

Jimmie Johnson (4/1)

Johnson had a down year last year by his lofty standards. He only had 2 wins, but did have 21 top 10’s in 36 races. Normally, so dominant in the last 10 races of the season that determine the champion, he struggled with only one win and 2 runner ups. He only had one other top ten finish in the chase, and the rest were disappointing. He ended up finishing 6th in the points to end one of the greatest streaks not just in NASCAR history but in all of sports. He looks to rebound from a disappointing 2011 and win his 6th championship which would put him one behind NASCAR legends Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty. There is no reason to believe he won’t contend for the title this year.

Carl Edwards (6/1)

Though Edwards had an incredible 26 top ten finishes in 36 races last season, he had only one win. That is the main reason he couldn’t quite catch Stewart for his first Sprint Cup championship. He finished 11th or better in all ten Chase races. Edwards is a former Nationwide series champion so he has the talent and the discipline to win a points championship. He is my pick to win the 2012 Sprint Cup.

Tony Stewart (7/1)

Much like the New York Giants and St. Louis Cardinals, Stewart got hot in the playoffs to win the championship during the playoffs after a lackluster regular season. After barely qualifying for the Chase, Stewart won five of the ten Chase races to clinch his third  Sprint Cup Championship. It was his first since leaving  Joe Gibbs racing a few seasons before to form his own racing team. Although Stewart is using the engines and chassis  from the powerful Hendrick Motor Sports team. He will contend this year as well, but I don’t know if he will ever get as hot as he did during that 10 race stretch. Stewart had a 25th place finish in one race in the Chase and a 15th, but the rest were top ten finishes. Stewart was passed at the finish line by Kyle Busch at last week’s season opening Bud Shootout at Daytona.

Kasey Kahne (8/1)

Kahne replaces Mark Martin as the fourth team at Hendricks. It is his fourth different team and manufacturer in as many years. He is very talented but the uncertainty of not being on a stable racing team has hampered him. Now he is on the premier racing team in NASCAR, and that alone should make him a contender for the championship. It is a little like being traded from the Pirates to the Yankees. Kahne didn’t qualify for the chase last year but finished in 14th place in the standings, 6 points behind Clint Bowyer. He had 1 win and 15 top 10’s last season.

Kyle Busch (8/1)

The younger Busch brother is one of the most talented drivers in NASCAR. The problem has always been mental with Kyle. He has a temper and sometimes acts immaturely. He entered the Chase last year in first place, with 4 wins. However, in the Chase race weekend in Texas, he entered in a truck race. After the race, he intentionally wrecked another driver and was suspended for the rest of the weekend. He never recovered and finished 12th out of 12 drivers in the Chase. Busch won the Nationwide series points championships a couple of years ago, so he has the talent. If he can cut down on boneheaded things like jeopardizing his chances at the Sprint Cup by sending someone into a wall after a meaningless truck race, then he will contend. Busch had 18 top tens last year but only 2 in the 10 Chase races. Busch narrowly won last week’s Bud Shootout after saving his car three times from accidents.

Kevin Harvick (9/1)

Harvick finished third last year in the Chase last year with 4 wins and 19 top tens. He had a DNF at the Daytona 500 last year but didn’t have another for the rest of the season. Harvick will certainly contend and could be a semi-dark horse to win the Sprint Cup.

Denny Hamlin (9/1)

Hamlin finished 9th in the Chase last year with 1 win and 14 top 10’s. He started off the Chase slowly with no finish above 16th in the first four races, but he had 4 top tens in the last 6 races. The slow start doomed him, and he needs to be a little more consistent in order to be a true contender.

Jeff Gordon (9/1)

The 4 time Sprint Cup Champion had 3 wins and 18 top tens last year. He had 4 top tens in the Chase last year, but 5 of the other 6 starts were 21st place finishes or worse. It is hard to believe the veteran Gordon hasn’t won the title since 2001. He has never finished lower than 11th in the standings since then, but Gordon desperately wants that 5th title to equal his friend and rival Jimmie Johnson.

Matt Kenseth (12/1)

Kenseth had 3 wins and 20 top 10’s last year to finish 4th in the Sprint Cup. Kenseth had 5 top 10’s and a win in the Chase races, but the rest of the finishes were 18th or worse. He won the Championship in 2003, and has 4 top 5 finishes in the last 6 seasons. Kenseth could be worth a play at 12/1 because he is so consistent.

Brad Keselowski (12/1)

Kesolowski takes over as the top driver for Penske racing after Kurt Busch was fired for getting into an altercation with a reporter. Keselowski finished 5th in the Sprint Cup standings last year with 3 wins and 14 top tens. It was an impressive feat especially when you consider he drove the last half of the season with a broken ankle. He had 8 top 5 finishes in the last 16 races. Keselowski is one of the most talented young drivers in NASCAR but he needs to control his sometimes fiery temper.

Here are the odds for some of the other contenders. Clint Bowyer (13/1), Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (20/1), Greg Biffle (25/1), Kurt Busch (30/1), Ryan Newman (40/1), Jeff Burton (40/1), Juan Pablo Montoya (40/1), Field (all other drivers) (20/1)

It should be a great season with some exciting racing.








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