By Jared Turner
With every new NASCAR season there are new possibilities. While some never come to fruition, others inevitably do.
Here are six bold predictions for the 2016 Sprint Cup Series campaign.
- Joey Logano Will Win It All: In 2015, Joey Logano had the speed to make it all the way to Homestead-Miami Speedway and capture his first title. Logano, however, lacked the patience.
Instead of wrecking Matt Kenseth at Kansas, Logano should have played it safe and finished second if necessary to avoid contact. Instead, he went for broke, took Kenseth out and effectively lost the championship two weeks later when Kenseth retaliated. Rest assured, though: Logano will learn from his mistake and won’t repeat it in 2016.
For that reason, he’s the odds-on favorite to claim the series’ crown.
- Chase Elliott Will Find Quick Success in No. 24: Like any newcomer to NASCAR’s top series, Chase Elliott is bound to experience some growing pains in his first year as the successor to Jeff However, Gordon in the iconic No. 24 Chevrolet. The son of 1988 Cup Series champion Bill Elliott, however, is in good hands with Hendrick Motorsports, which has a proven knack for grooming young talent.
Elliott being paired with veteran crew chief Alan Gustafson is an added bonus. Expect Elliott to win at least one race and make the Chase. The driver, team and crew chief are all too good not to find quick success.
- Tony Stewart Will Enjoy a Solid Farewell Tour: Coming off the worst season of his career from a performance standpoint, Tony Stewart heads into his final year as a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver.
Although it’s unlikely the co-owner and driver for Stewart-Haas Racing will go out on top, it’s hard to believe a man of Stewart’s talent and accomplishments will finish his career without at least showing marked improvements over 2015 – a season when he not only failed to win but also recorded nary a top-five finish. Don’t be surprised if Stewart wins a race or even two in 2016.
- Another Driver Will Announce Retirement Plans: First it was Jeff Gordon; then Tony Stewart. So which aging driver will be next to reveal his intentions to call it quits from the sport’s No. 1 series? And when will he make his plans known?
At age 46, Greg Biffle is older than both Gordon and Stewart. Although he has a contract with Roush Fenway Racing through the end of 2017, it’s hard to believe “The Biff” will stick around beyond next season if RFR continues to struggle as it has the past couple of years.
- Truex Will Sign with Another Team: With all due respect to Furniture Row Racing, there’s only so much Martin Truex Jr. can accomplish with the single-car team based in Denver, Colorado. After shocking the world in 2015, Truex has seen his stock rise considerably, giving him a lot more options.
If Truex wants to be a viable title contender each year, he simply must join a multi-car organization with a greater depth of resources. So where might Truex go? Richard Childress Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing lead the list of teams that both have room to expand and are likely interested.
- Clint Bowyer Will Struggle: Set to race for HScott Motorsports for one season before taking Tony Stewart’s place in the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet in 2017, Clint Bowyer is all but destined to struggle.
Despite having familiar primary sponsorship from 5-Hour Energy, Bowyer will not have the tools at his disposal to run competitively for owner Harry Scott Jr., whose underfunded, independent organization, based in Spartanburg, South Carolina, has never as much as sniffed a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win.
The only consolation for Bowyer is, if he can just grin and bear 2016, much brighter days are ahead.