Fearless Forecasts For 2017 NASCAR Season

Daytona 500 Feeling the need for speed? The Advanced Auto Parts Clash is set for Saturday night, a kind of soft opening for the 2017 NASCAR season.

Who will be the winners? The losers? Unlike forecasting the weather, trying to speculate of racing is more art than it is science. Like the weather, we can be famously wrong and no one gets fired.

Two of the sport’s bigger names- Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards are gone. Dale Earnhardt Jr. will return. Clint Bowyer has a new ride. How will it all shake out? These are our predictions.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Rookie Of The Year: Erik Jones- Furniture Row Racing. There’s a nice crop of rookies that includes Daniel Suarez, Ty Dillon, Corey Lajoie and Gray Gaulding. Among them all, Jones has seems to have that “it” factor, displaying confidence and competence behind the wheel.

Cinderella Story: Ryan Blaney. It’s not like he and the Wood Bros. are coming out of nowhere, but you can’t help but think that big things may be around the corner for the son of the World Of Outlaws legend and one of NASCAR’s earliest innovators. In his first full season, Blaney racked up three top fives and nine top 10s. This could be his breakout year, signaling the Wood Bro.s return to relevance. ESPN.com put out their list of teams on the outside looking. A candidate could emerge that takes us all by surprise.

Daytona 500’s First Caution: Corey Lajoie. No, we’re not suggesting the kid is a caution flag on wheels, but when you combine the first big racing event of the year, an underdog team, and a young driver trying to make an impression, you have a combustible combination ripe for trouble. At restrictor plate tracks, a slightly over-aggressive move in cramped quarters can trigger a pile-up. Sometimes, it’s the car itself, crumbling under duress. We truly wish Lajoie success in the 500, and the truth is- at a plate track- all bets are off.

NASCAR’s Next First Time Winner- He knocked on the door numerous times in 2016, but couldn’t knock it down. Perhaps one of the easier predictions for the 2017 NASCAR season is that Chase Elliott checks this one off his list early. Daniel Suarez is another strong candidate, equipped with a strong ride from Joe Gibbs Racing.

Who Will Miss The Playoffs?: Nick Bromberg from Yahoo.com has an exhaustive list. Hard to argue that Jamie McMurray wins some races here and there, but can’t quite put that magical season together. It’s tempting put Kasey Kahne on this list, but we suspect a comeback of sorts is in the offing. Among other notables, we’re saying Aric Almirola, AJ Allmendinger, and Ryan Newman will miss the show.

Who Makes It: Some of this is a no-brainer, but the last two of three spots are where you might see someone on the list above crash the party. From where we sit today, defending champion Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr., Erik Jones, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney get in. Don’t be surprised if Austin Dillon, Danica Patrick and Daniel Suarez make spirited runs.

Manufacturer’s Champi0nship: The competition is as tough as ever. Getting to the top is one thing. Staying there is another. By virtue of sheer numbers, Mytopsportsbooks.com is forecasting a Chevy comeback. For our part, we’re picking Toyota for a repeat.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Champion: Perhaps another feelgood story for this season would be that elusive champiomship for Dale Earnhardt Jr. He has the talent, he has the resources, and he has some newfound motivation.

Let’s hear from you. Who are some of your picks for the 2017 NASCAR season?