With the 2017 NASCAR Season just a couple of weeks away, we here at The Athletes Hub will be taking a look at the upcoming season, and make five surprising and bold predictions for the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Season.
1) Danica Patrick Makes The Chase
This may be the most shocking prediction, as Danica has yet to win a race in her Cup Career. However, with Tony Stewart now retired, he may be able to help out his drivers a bit more and give them more advice on the tracks on the Cup Circuit this year. Danica could definitely take advantage of this opportunity, as she has shown flashes of great potential over the past few seasons. Tony could be the perfect mentor to help guide Danica to her first Chase birth, or maybe even her first win.
Not to mention, Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer are great teammates to have, with plenty of experience (and it helps that Harvick and Bowyer were teammates at RCR for a few years). If there was a year for Danica to exceed expectations, it would be this year.
2) Ryan Blaney wins a race before Chase Elliott does
The 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rookie Class seemed to be very promising. In fact, it was one of the best Rookie Classes NASCAR has had in awhile. The two drivers who spearheaded the class were Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott and Wood Brothers’ Ryan Blaney. Both drivers had a respectable first season, and Chase even made it into the Round of Sixteen in The Chase last year. That was good enough to give Elliott Rookie of the Year Honors, but neither driver scored a win in the 2016 Season.
Now that both drivers have experience at all the tracks on the Circuit, expect both of them to have breakout years, but especially Ryan Blaney. He is a solid driver with great equipment, and if the conditions are right, Blaney could punch his ticket into victory lane this season.
3) Jimmie Johnson wins his eighth Cup Title and retires shortly after
This is arguably the most likely prediction in this list in terms, as Jimmie goes for his eighth record-breaking Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship. On the other hand, arguably the most unlikely in terms of Johnson is him riding off into the sunset on top (names who come to mind of who retired on top are NFL Legends John Elway, Ray Lewis, and Peyton Manning). You could say that Jimmie, a now fifteen-year Cup Series Veteran, is still in his prime. However, fifteen years is a long time in any sport, let alone NASCAR.
Jimmie has established himself as one of the greatest drivers in NASCAR history, and could arguably be the greatest driver of the 21st Century. Between 2006-17, all but four years were championship wins.
He’s also the only driver to make every Chase since its inception in 2004. It’s likely that we will see Johnson retire within the next five years, and when he does, a bit of history will be gone too. If this year is when Jimmie breaks the Cup Championship Record, don’t be so shocked if he steps away from the car. After all, he has earned it.
4) Kasey Kahne is released from Hendrick Motorsports at the end of the season
Kasey has struggled to find his mojo over the past two years, and it is certainly heartbreaking to see a driver that had so much potential suffer a career-threating slump. I’m not saying Kasey could not find another ride if he were to get released, as I’m sure a lot of lower-tier/under budget teams would love to get him under a contract. However, if he has another lackluster season, he could find himself out of a ride for the 2018 Season. A win and a Top-15 Points Finish could be the only remedy to this developing problem for both Hendrick and Kahne.
5) Dale Earnhardt Jr. finally wins a Cup Title
Although this kind of contradicts the third prediction on this list, I felt it necessary to include, as Dale is returning from injury and looks more motivated than ever. The story is there for Junior; a comeback season after having last years ending abruptly due to injury. Earnhardt seems to have great chemistry with his team, and can get the job done when put in the prime position. Dale’s time with Hendrick Motorsports has arguably been the best stint of his career, even with the season-ending injury from last year.
He has the car, crew, and the owner to help him get a championship. The question is; Can Dale be consistent enough to get the job done and finally win what his dad won seven times?
Bonus: 6) Alex Bowman, Landon Cassill crack the Top-20 in Points
Although Bowman and Cassill have never previously cracked the Top-20 in the Cup Series Point Standings, this years point standing changes could be very beneficial to underdog drivers, and none have shown more promise and growth over the last couple of seasons like Alex Bowman and Lanson Cassill. Neither driver has ever won a NASCAR National Series Event (Cup, Xfinity, Truck), but have been able to show some consistency with consecutive finishes inside the Top 20-25. They continue to get better through the years, and I expect one, if not both, of these drivers to breakout and guide their respective teams to a career-best year. It’s only a matter of time before the tide changes and we see a set of new faces lead the charge into the next evolution of NASCAR.
Are there any predictions you thought of or maybe one I missed? Comment below or email me at email@example.com. I would love to hear your response!
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