On the morning of the Daytona 500, I posted some detailed predictions for how the regular season would unfold. Let’s take a look back and see which ones I got right and which ones were total misses:
Here are my picks for the 2017 NASCAR Cup playoffs (alphabetical order):
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Martin Truex Jr.
Verdict: Hey, actually not too bad on this one! I got 13 of 16 playoff drivers correct. Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Joey Logano did not make the playoffs; instead, Ryan Blaney, Ryan Newman and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. did.
Clint Bowyer will get back to his old competitive self after joining Stewart-Haas Racing. By September, any hiccups SHR has in the transition to Ford will be forgotten.
Verdict: Eh. Bowyer was definitely improved compared to recent seasons (he ended the regular season 11th in the point standings) and SHR really never had that many hiccups after moving to Ford. But by “his old competitive self,” I was picturing him winning races and running up front. He was winless and led just 22 laps.
Four Toyotas will make it, but rookies Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez will barely miss out because of a few late-race mistakes.
Verdict: Mixed. Four Toyotas did make it — Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth — but it’s not accurate to say Jones and Suarez “barely” missed the cut. I was picturing more rookie mistakes, but both had respectable regular seasons; Jones was 13th in the point standings and Suarez 17th. Jones ended up with six DNFs due to crashes, but not all of those were on him (nor were they “late-race mistakes,” as I had predicted).
All four Hendrick drivers will be in the playoff, including Kasey Kahne after his best season in several years. Dale Earnhardt Jr. will finish the regular season within the top 10 in points.
Verdict: Big whiff here. Earnhardt was one of the biggest disappointments and didn’t come anywhere close to the top 10 in points all season (the highest was 20th after Texas; he is currently 22nd). Kahne made the playoffs as predicted, but that turned out to be a lucky guess thanks to his Indy win. Otherwise, this has actually been one of the worst seasons of Kahne’s career in terms of average finish (20th), top-10s (just four all year) and points position (21st until the reset).
Both Chip Ganassi Racing drivers will be in and Kyle Larson will win two times in the regular season.
Verdict: Mostly right. Larson had just one career win entering this year, so I thought predicting two wins was somewhat going out on a limb. But ended up winning four times(!) and both drivers made the playoffs.
Austin Dillon will win his first Cup race by late August.
Verdict: Nailed it! Well, kind of. I thought it would be because he was running so competitively, not because he won a fuel-mileage race in May. (But I didn’t mention that part in the prediction, so can we just pretend like I called it all along?)
Overall, Hendrick Motorsports will be the best team in the regular season (with Jimmie Johnson having the most wins), followed by Team Penske. Joe Gibbs Racing will experience a slight drop-off after two great years, just part of the usual cycle in racing.
Verdict: Oh no. Ohhhhhhh no! Where’s the delete button?
I hate leaving Ryan Blaney out, but I’m not a Blaney detractor. I picked him to make it last year, and it’s certainly possible he could have a great year.
Verdict: This was dumb. Why even write this? Such a wishy-washy statement. If I thought he could have a great year, just pick him to make it! Ugh.
Joey Logano will win his first championship in 2017.
Verdict: This entire post was a bad idea! Ack!!!! (And yes, I put this in bold in the original post.) Obviously, this is further proof I have no idea what I’m talking about.
Related: If you want to see my predictions for the upcoming playoffs (which aren’t as detailed), they’re at the bottom of this post.