Making the Grade: A Preview of the Probable 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Top 12 (Part 12 of 12)
Every once in a while, predictions can be right and when they're made far in advance, it sure feels even better.
That's the feeling here with The Podium Finish's selection for the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, which is going with a driver from Enumclaw, WA and has increasingly improved and honed his racing talents to a higher level each year.
Combine that with his new home at Hendrick Motorsports, which fields cars for Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and one can get the idea of how strong and powerful this quartet is in the world of stock car racing. They're four of the best drivers and when it comes to this year, their best driver will be none other than Kasey Kahne.
Consider the fact that Kahne was as low as 32nd in the points race after the Bristol spring race, which is usually a good barometer to measure a team's performance early in the going. It looked like it'd be a case of too much ground to make up, almost worse than the sad, sorry start of their teammate Jeff Gordon.
Then when spring became the summer in NASCAR racing, the heat was on for the No. 5 team and they handled it by winning twice and parlaying consistent top finishes in the Chase.
A win in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte was quite impressive, coming at the right time to start a legit ascension to the front of the field.
However, Kahne's victory in the July New Hampshire race was perhaps the most telling moment of the 2004 series rookie winner as a Cup driver. He was relentless to the end, even when Denny Hamlin made a hard charge at him for the lead and win. As for the fate of the lobster following Kahne's win, that has since not been reported.
Save for some hiccups and a few driver gaffes at Watkins Glen (about everyone not named Marcos Ambrose spun out in that race), this team poured it on like champions, showing up at the tracks and battling it out with Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Hamlin, and Clint Bowyer on a weekly basis.
Amazingly, Kahne and crew chief Kenny Francis saw their No. 5 team's effort climb up as high as third after the Texas fall race, but they'd eventually fizzle down to a fourth place overall points standings effort last year, which was quite impressive all things considered.
The No. 5 pit crew is one of the best in the business, but it's to no surprise, as Hendrick Motorsports employs some of the finest and fastest athletes for their over-the-wall efforts across the board.
Add that along with the strong, stout communication and chemistry that Kahne and Francis have and it's no secret that they've got the makings to bring home the Cup in 2013.
Consistency and quietness with the No. 5 team - that doesn't sound too far fetched. Despite lacking a mustache and a southern drawl, Kahne and Francis are almost like today's version of Terry Labonte and Gary DeHart, who were the last duo with the 5 team to win the Cup back in 1996.
Of course, the times are different and the competition is closer and faster. Then again, one of the best drivers that has a handle on the hard racing and faster pace of NASCAR Sprint Cup action is Kasey Kahne, who will finally put together a complete season.
If not, this writer has a lot of explaining to do with somebody who makes him listen to One Direction, aka apologizing to her when it's this year's season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Otherwise, to JET and any fan of Kasey Kahne and the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevy team, it's going to be a year for "Kandy Man," who'll finally join the elites of NASCAR racing...and perhaps making a few of us guys more jealous at how someone like Kahne gets "all the luck!"
Thanks for tuning in for this year's countdown of the 2013 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship field - did you like or dislike our picks for this year's top 12? Share, comment, and tell us your thoughts on here or on Twitter by tweeting to us via @ThePodiumFinish.