Five NASCAR Drivers Ready to Break Out in 2013
Casey Mears gearing up for 2013
Casey Mears hasn't had the best of careers. However, going to a smaller team has helped him in the long run. As the team gained experience, so did he which is benefiting both sides at Germain Racing. Mears fits the team perfectly as well as his sponsor, Geico. They finished inside of the top-25 for half of the 36 races on the schedule last season and likely would have had plenty more including some top-10's if they didn't start-and-park five times during the course of the season which had them way off track when they returned to a full-race the week after. Expect Mears to be one of the few drivers to have a breakout season in 2013. He and his team have developed to the point where they can run inside of the top-20 on a weekly basis and should be able to do so. Mears was also third fastest during testing at the Charlotte Motor Speedway which shows their intermediate track program has strengthened.
Marcos Ambrose looking ahead
Richard Petty Motorsports has big plans for the 2013 and man o' man does Marcos Ambrose need a breakout season. Each year there's always a few races that Ambrose does well within, but he's never been able to run that well on a long-term basis. Also, he's never won on a non-road course track which could change if the team gives him the equipment to do so.
Trevor Bayne running Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series in 2013
After running part-time schedules in the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series for the past few seasons, Trevor Bayne will finally receive the opportunity that he deserves during the 2013 season. Bayne will continue to run a limited schedule with Wood Brothers Racing while also running a full-time schedule in the Nationwide Series with Roush-Fenway Racing as Ricky Stenhouse Jr.'s replacement who takes over the No. 17 car from Matt Kenseth. Bayne should have an overall good season. He may struggle once in a while as he adjusts to the full schedule, but look for Bayne to run upfront with Roush's team with an array of mediocre runs for the Wood Brothers.
Joey Logano making the move to Penske Racing with Ford
Sliced bread needs to make the most of the 2013 season otherwise he'll be toast. Joey Logano has made a nice transition to Penske Racing so far. He was 15th during testing at Charlotte which was roughly in the center of the pack. Logano entered the sport with Jeff Gordon like expectations, but over the years, those expectations have seemed to decrease dramatically. 2013 should be a good year for the newest member of Team Penske as he and defending Sprint Cup Series champion, Brad Keselowski, have developed a great relationship over the off-season which can only help them on the track.
Aric Almirola using momentum to his advantage
Aric Almirola will win a race, if not more, in 2013. Almirola has the talent to do it. Every race fan that saw him racing at the Milwaukee Mile in 2007 during a Nationwide Series event will likely agree with that statement. Almirola probably would have won the race at Kansas in October if it weren't for issues that weren't of his doing. 2012 was his first full season in the Sprint Cup Series. It took him a while to adjust to the different competition, but when he did, he and his Richard Petty Motorsports team definitely clicked. Expect Almirola to run upfront during the 2013 season, making dramatic strides from 2012 and taking his momentum with him from last season. Oh, he was also the fastest car at Charlotte during the test, setting a track record. Seems like Almirola is on his way to becoming a force to be reckoned with in the 2013 season.
Fact: NASCAR drivers are insane.
Fact: NASCAR drivers have more courage than most other athletes.
Fact: NASCAR drivers are the most charitable athletes.
Fact: not every NASCAR driver succeeds in the sport they all love and cherish. However, each time the checkered flag waves at the season finale at the Homestead-Miami Speedway, there are always a few drivers that have a break out season, stunning the entire NASCAR nation.
It’s unthinkable about how quickly a driver can go from running in the back of the pack, to winning one of the largest races on the NASCAR schedule. Just look at Paul Menard. Menard was probably the most shocking winner that the Sprint Cup Series has had over the past two seasons. Yeah, even more shocking than Trevor Bayne winning the 2011 Daytona 500 or Regan Smith winning at Darlington. He never won a race in NASCAR’s top tier series before and to do it, he held off Jeff Gordon at his home track in Indianapolis, can the story get any better?
In 2012, the breakout drivers weren’t so much drivers that won races, but drivers that were able to race in the top sector of the pack on a weekly basis. Patience is a part of this sport more than any other factor which was shown last season for sure. Martin Truex Jr. wasn’t able to break his winless streak in 2012, but he was able to rack up a career high 19 top-10′s as well as being as high as second in the point standings for the first time in his career which was a breakout performance in of itself.
2013 should be similar to 2012 when it comes to breakout performances. However, it’s expected that some names that not many people have thought about before, will end up being in contention more often than not, especially with the playing field being evened out with the “Generation 6″ body.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.