NASCAR’s version of musical chairs is over. We think.

Now that drivers and crew chiefs have their 2012 plans in place, it’s time for Sprint Cup teams to have their whopping three-week off-season until the media tour rolls through Charlotte.

With such a small window, let’s quickly make five bold predictions for 2012.

All four Hendrick Motorsports drivers make the Chase

Jimmie Johnson is a given. Jeff Gordon is a sleeper title contender. Kasey Kahne did in 2011 what Carl Edwards did in 2010. That leaves Dale Earnhardt Jr. to pick up the slack. Pretty good problem for Rick Hendrick to have.

Zero Richard Childress Racing drivers make the Chase
Something was amiss at RCR in 2011. Sure Jeff Burton closed well, Paul Menard won the Brickyard and Kevin Harvick was relevant until the final five races. But every year, a team takes a massive step back. I don’t see Roush falling behind. Clearly I don’t see Henrdick moving backward. These aren’t slightly tepid predictions after all.

Michael Waltrip Racing makes the Chase

I predicted this two years ago. I predicted this last year. Third time has to be the charm? Come on Clint Bowyer.

A Nationwide Series race won’t start with a full field

I almost made this prediction for the Sprint Cup, but there is too much money in starting and parking, which needs to be a college major by the way.

On the Nationwide Series, that money isn’t there. Neither are sponsorships. Last year, races took place where only two teams failed to qualify. This year, a field starts with fewer than 43. And chances are I’ll be in the massive minority of people who actually notice.

The 2012 Sprint Cup Champion won’t drive a Chevy

That doesn’t sound very bold. But you have to go back to 2004 for the last time a series champion drove something other than a Chevy.

There’s no way Tony Stewart can recreate his 2011 run. There are cracks in the Knaus-Johnson juggernaut. Jeff Gordon struggled in the 2011 Chase. Kahne, Ryan Newman and Dale Jr. haven’t contended in years.

Comapre that to a streamlined Roush, reinvigorated Joe Gibbs Racing and Brad Keselowski lurking in his Dodge. The streak ends.

So too does this column. Daytona can’t come soon enough. Stay warm, and insert random catchphrase here.