Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Katy Lindamood rolls the dice with 2014 Championship picks

Chances are I’d have better luck picking the winning lottery numbers than picking three NASCAR Champions. New teams, new driver/crew chief pairings, a new qualifying procedure, a new Chase format – just like each new beginning, this is a clean slate. 

Will we see a dark horse emerge the victor? A comeback from a veteran?
These are my picks.

Sprint Cup Series
Credit: Jared C. Tilton

Matt Kenseth, who finished second to Jimmie Johnson in 2013, seems like the obvious choice, right? Wrong. It’s never a safe bet to put your money on the second-place finisher from the previous season. Remember Carl Edwards' 2012 season? Clint Bowyer’s 2013?

Maybe Kenseth will be different, but for 2014 I’m picking his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin.

Hamlin’s back in fighting form after a dismal 2013. Plagued by injury, engine failures and crashes, the FedEx Racing driver never had a shot at contending. Eight DNF’s and an average finish of 21st placed him 23rd in the driver standings, his worst rank since a partial season in 2005. After a rocky road there’s only one place to go, and that’s to the top.

A win at Homestead Miami Speedway gave the team something positive for the off-season and his victory in the Sprint Unlimited last weekend starts 2014 off on the right track. It won’t be an easy row to hoe for Hamlin, but he’s proven in the past he’s a fighter and when it comes down to the final race this season it’s winner take all.

I’m picking Kurt Busch as my dark horse champion and Kyle Larson as Rookie of the Year. In November I’ll either be hanging my head in shame or doing a victory dance, only time will tell.

Nationwide Series
2014_nns_headshot_021314_scottbrianWith Cup drivers having dominated the Nationwide Series in recent years and sponsors unwilling to sign on for more than just a handful of races, the list of title contenders is limited to only a handful. Regan Smith seems to be emerging as a favorite among Skirts and Scuffs contributors and he’s sure to be in the hunt, but I’m liking Brian Scott’s chances.

Scott is a driver who flies under the radar. People forget about him and this might be his best chance to steal the spotlight from the likes of Sadler, Smith, Bayne, and Ty Dillon.

In 2013, Scott finished seventh in the Nationwide Series standings with one pole, three top fives and 13 top 10’s.

Ty Dillon and Chase Elliott will fight it out for Rookie of the Year with Dillon ultimately taking the honor.
Camping World Truck Series

In all the years I’ve participated in the Championship Picks posts I’ve always chosen Matt Crafton. I didn’t participate last season so of course he won the Camping World Truck Series Championship. Figures.

Crafton has had the potential to be a champion for several years, but in 2013 all the pieces fell into place. Can he become a repeat champion? I don’t see why not. Consistency is key and no one showed more than the No. 88 Menard’s team. Crafton finished 22 of 22 races in 2013 on the lead lap and earned an impressive 19 top 10’s and one win.


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