Wednesday, November 23, 2016

2016 NASCAR Predictions: Revisited

The NASCAR season is just behind us and with Thanksgiving a day a way, it is time for the annual tradition of looking back on predictions made 11 months ago.

1. Kyle Busch Leads Joe Gibbs Racing Solely in Cup Victories
Correct! Busch won four races while Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards each had three victories and Matt Kenseth won twice. I will be honest; outside of his Daytona 500 victory, I can't recall anything Hamlin did during the season and I remember watching Watkins Glen a race he won. Then again, I don't recall either of Kenseth's victories.

2. At Least One Penske is Eligible For the Title at Homestead
Correct! Joey Logano was eligible for the title and finished second in the championship to Homestead. I really thought both Penske drivers would be in the final four after the first round of the Chase but then Keselowski had his accident at Kansas and engine failure at Talladega. It was another really good year for Penske but the title was just out of its grasp.

3. Ryan Blaney Scores More Top Tens Than Chase Elliott
Wrong! Chase Elliott easily took Rookie of the Year honors with ten top five finishes and 17 top ten finishes while Chris Buescher finished as second-best rookie because he qualified for the Chase with a victory at Pocono, though it was one of his two top fives and two top ten finishes. Blaney had three top five finishes and nine top ten finishes. The spotlight wasn't too hot for Elliott and Blaney had a respectable season but there is some room for improvement.

4. At Least One Driver Under-24 Wins A Cup Race
Correct! Kyle Larson and Chris Buescher each won a race while under the age of 24.

5. At Least Five Cup Races Feature a Rain-Delay
Correct! Las Vegas, both Texas races, both Pocono races and the August Bristol race all had rain play a role. Both Pocono races were pushed to Monday. The Bristol race was pushed to Sunday and there was a caution for rain during that race. The start of Las Vegas and both Texas races were pushed back and the fall Texas race ended prematurely due to rain. And this isn't even including the rain-delayed Showdown that moved from Friday night to just before the All-Star Race on Saturday.

6. Tony Stewart's Average Finish is Worse Than 16.0
Correct. His average finish was 18.3 with a victory, five top fives and eight top tens from 28 starts. He finished on the lead lap only 15 times. That kind of went how I expected. It wasn't going to be pretty. It wasn't going to come close to Jeff Gordon's farewell. After the delayed start to the season because of an offseason injury, it just felt the 2016 season wasn't going to be special.

7. Martin Truex, Jr. Doesn't Finish in The Top Twelve of the Championship
Wrong! He finished 11th in the championship and probably should have finished slightly higher. Truex, Jr. had a very successful season in year three for Furniture Row Racing and in the team's first season with Toyota and unlike half of Joe Gibbs Racing, he had a memorable season. Truex, Jr. arguably had one of the best seasons in NASCAR this year. He annihilated the field in the Coca-Cola 600, leading 392 laps of 400 laps and won the Southern 500 and finished second in the Daytona 500 by about three inches and led 1,809 lap, the most in NASCAR. Damn.

8. JR Motorsports Wins at Least Seven Second Division Races
Wrong! JR Motorsports did win five races, three by Elliott Sadler, one by Chase Elliott and one by Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Justin Allgaier didn't pick up a victory but finished third in the championship after having 27 top ten finishes. Next year, JR Motorsports will have four cars as the team retains Sadler and Allgaier, promotes William Byron from Trucks and accepts the demoted Michael Annett.

9. A Driver Breaks a 50-Race Winless Streak in the Grand National Series
Correct! Elliott Sadler won at Talladega after a 66-race drought. Aric Almirola ended a 72-race drought at Daytona in July. Michael McDowell got his first career victory in the series in his 94th start.  Ty Dillon did not win a race in 2016 and he has not won in his last 80 starts.

10. Ryan Reed Scores at Least Two Top Tens But Zero Victories
Correct! Reed had a staggering seven top tens, including a fifth-place finish at Road America that fifth in Wisconsin was his best finish of the season and it was his third career top five finish, his first not at Daytona.

11. The Average Age of the Top Five in the Trucks Championship is Under 28.8 Years Old
Wrong! The average age of the top five in the Trucks championship was 30.6 years with Johnny Sauter, Matt Crafton, Christopher Bell, Timothy Peters and William Byron making up the top five. Had the championship been decided like it had been in every prior Truck season, Daniel Hemric would have finished in the top five and 40-year-old Crafton would not have, dropping the average age of the top five to 27.6 years. Close but no cigar.

12. There Will be at Least One National Touring Division Race With More Than Two Drivers Not From North America
Correct! And I am glad it happened and I am glad who the drivers were. The drivers participating might not have been the likes of Daniel Ricciardo, Lewis Hamilton and Romain Grosjean, who all expressed interested in running a NASCAR race during 2015 but didn't. It happened at Mid-Ohio where four drivers from outside of North American participated. The top finisher of the four was Israel's Alon Day ahead of Australia's Owen Kelly and Kenny Habul and Brazil's Nelson Piquet, Jr. Two races later, Road America featured three Australians (Kelly, Habul and James Davison), Day and Scotsman John Jackson.

Eight-for-12, 66% is pretty good and I got a few that seemed like stretches such as the rain delays and the last one about international drivers.