Hey, race fans! This is Atlanta Motor Speedway President and General Manager Ed Clark!

Can you believe it? It’s almost time for the start of another NASCAR season! Last year, I put out some bold predictions. Some turned out well, such as Brad Keselowski contending for a championship. Overall, I was right on six out of eight predictions. That’s a pretty good record, isn’t it?

And then there were predictions I made last year, such as Carl Edwards winning the championship. Let’s just say that those didn’t work out too well!

But on to 2013!

First of all, the most widely-asked question is who the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion will be this season. At the end of the season, my prediction is that we will have another first-time champion. This time, it’ll be Kasey Kahne!

Kasey Kahne will have the best year of his career to date. He is right in that period of his career where drivers excel. Plus, he is driving Hendrick Motorsports equipment, so he’ll have cars under him capable of running well each week. He’ll win races, and if he can avoid last year’s early-season bad luck, he’ll win the championship.

Hopefully, I don’t jinx him. I picked Carl Edwards to win the championship last year and he didn’t even make the Chase!

As for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year, look for that one to go to Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

He’ll simply carry on his momentum from the NASCAR Nationwide Series onto the Sprint Cup side, and having good equipment from Roush Fenway Racing will help him. It won’t take Stenhouse Jr. long to run with the leaders on a regular basis.

 

When the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rolls into Atlanta Motor Speedway Labor Day Weekend for the AdvoCare 500, all three Joe Gibbs Racing cars will be positioned well to lock themselves into the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship

Just one JGR entry qualified for the Chase last year. Don’t expect that to happen this year. Kyle Busch’s problem last year wasn’t a lack of running well – he was just bitten by bad luck. Denny Hamlin was right in the middle of the Chase for the top spot until the second half of the final stretch.

Add the ability of those two drivers in with past series champion Matt Kenseth, and you are talking about one of the best three-driver combinations in the entire garage area. Kenseth’s presence will provide a positive lift to the whole team. He knows how to race for a championship. Intangibles like that are hard to find, and Kenseth has them.

He always shows up at the end of the race near the front, after taking care of his equipment all day. He’s a proven, steady championship contender. His maturity will show through and will elevate his teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch.

Expect early-season surprises

Any time there is a new body style or chassis; every team within the garage is put on a level playing field, until someone gains an upper hand. As a result, you may very well see some unexpected drivers running near the front as the season begins with the new Generation-6 cars.

All of that, of course, will change when the better-funded teams get a stronger handle on the cars as the season goes on. Until then, however, expect the unexpected near the front of the field.

Well, that’s it for this year’s predictions. Anyone want to take a bet on how many I’ll get right this year?