NASCAR: Uncertain Times
It’s possible that the next NASCAR season will be similar to the one just completed, but it’s not as likely as in the past for 2013 to link seamlessly with 2012.
Brad Keselowski is the Sprint Cup champion, and his first probably will not be his last. Keselowski is just 28, with a future as bright as the noonday sun. He drove a Dodge Charger to his title. Next year he’ll be in a Ford Fusion, which, at the very least, requires some adaptation, and at the very most, a bit of uncertainty that wasn’t in place a year ago.
Keselowski’s gamble isn’t as great as Clint Bowyer’s a year ago. Bowyer switched teams, moving from Richard Childress’s Chevy into Michael Waltrip’s Toyota. Bowyer finished as runner-up to Keselowski.
Really, though, all the cars are going to be different. NASCAR is implementing a design change, the most noticeable development being that the cars will look less like one another and more like cars that actually sit in showrooms and roll around streets.
Teams will shake down their cars and pore over data from tests sanctioned by NASCAR, but the in short run, the balance of power almost surely will shift. Some teams will adapt better than others at the outset. In time, it will even out. Early on, one manufacturer might appear to have a slight advantage. That, too, will pass, but in a sense, the change might make the early part of next season more crucial than last.
NASCAR officials also have made changes in the qualifying process, reducing the number of automatic spots in the starting fields.
In fairness, it should be added that 2012 was hardly a carbon copy of 2011. The championship changed hands. Keselowski surprised the experts, most of whom expected him to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup but gave him little chance of winning it.
A driver who almost won the 2011 championship, Carl Edwards, didn’t even make the Chase. Neither did Kyle Busch, who is almost unanimously considered one of the sport’s great talents.
Stay tuned. February is going to be very interesting.
Monte Dutton covers motorsports for The Gaston (N.C.) Gazette. E-mail Monte at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(c) 2012 King Features Synd., Inc.