Opinion: Five Predictions for 2013

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As the calendar gets ready to turn to a new year, Pete Pistone gives you his forecast for the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. (Photo: Getty Images)

As the calendar gets ready to turn to a new year here is a forecast for NASCAR 2013:

Penske Racing Struggles
The glow of the Sprint Cup Series championship performance will quickly fade to frustration for the Penske Racing organization. After Brad Keselowski’s stirring drive to bring Dodge last year’s title in the manufacturer’s farewell season, next year’s move to Ford will not be easy. Overall the Ford Sprint Cup effort was not up to par in 2012 and although the Fusion may be the best looking of the new Gen 6 machines, getting it up to a competitive level will be a challenge. Newcomer Joey Logano is a great asset to the team and will make a solid partner to Keselowski. But the odds of Roger Penske celebrating a second straight Sprint Cup title after finally making it to the top of the NASCAR mountain last season are long.

Kevin Harvick Excels
If you think Harvick’s bon voyage season at Richard Childress Racing before he leaves for Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014 will be a bust, you’ll be disappointed. Look no further than what Matt Kenseth did as a lame duck with Roush Fenway Racing this season as reason why Harvick won’t just phone in his final year in the RCR stable. While the entire organization was just plain bad last year even though Harvick made the Chase, things appear on the upswing. The addition of Dr. Eric Warren as competition director as well as the move to the new Chevy SS bode well for RCR’s fortune’s to change for the better. Having Gil Martin return as crew chief will get Harvick back to his winning ways and a repeat trip to the Chase should be on the horizon.

Carl Edwards Rebounds
It would be nearly impossible for Edwards to have a more disappointing season than the one just completed. He went winless, missed the Chase and was rarely even in contention for a trip to Victory Lane nearly from the start of the year. Veteran crew chief Jimmy Fennig has been moved to the Roush Fenway Racing No. 99 team and should provide Edwards with a much-needed spark to find his way back on track. There were more than a few rumblings of internal strife at RFR last season and personality conflicts among drivers. Edwards and company need to put the frustration of 2012 in the rear view mirror immediately and focus on once again becoming a factor for the title.

Stellar Year for Truck Series
The Camping World Truck Series is poised to have one of its best seasons in history. There’s a real buzz around NASCAR’s number three series these days and the addition of Canadian Tire Motorsports Park and Eldora Speedway to next year’s schedule has created tremendous anticipation with fans. The trucks are coming off a year that saw 16 different winners in 22 races and next year might just continue that extraordinary competition. Another mix of veteran and young drivers is set to do battle in a series that keeps increasing its SPEED Channel television ratings on a near weekly basis. The trucks are a great combination of today’s NASCAR and old school racing that continues to capture fans’ imagination.

NBC Returns to NASCAR
The new NASCAR television contract that begins in 2014 will be finalized next year and expect NBC to return as part of the plan. FOX has already re-signed to basically carry the first half of the Sprint Cup Series season and signs point to TNT retaining the six race “Summer Series” stretch. But ABC/ESPN will have a major competitor in NBC to keep the Nationwide Series as well as the 17-race Cup slate that kicks off with the Brickyard 400 and includes the Chase. The Peacock Network is anxious to seed the new NBC Sports Network using quality programming and with its Indy Car and Formula One properties is turning to motorsports to build the outlet. The addition of the Nationwide Series and selected Cup races would help put the network on the map. It all bodes well for NASCAR to increase television rights fees across the board well beyond the current multi billion dollar deal that ends next season.

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