Each year, before the season starts, I make my NASCAR predictions on who will win the championship, the most races, etc. Sometimes the predictions come true and sometimes they are way off. Let’s take a look at this year’s and see how they turned out.
Champion: Prediction: Jimmie Johnson Actual: Tony Stewart
What can I say? I went with the safe bet and was wrong. Jimmie had his “worst” year ever in NASCAR with career lows in point standings (6th) and wins (2). His average starting position of 12.9 was his worst since 2002. To my defense, I did say that I wouldn’t be surprised if someone like Carl Edwards won the championship. He tied for it, so I guess that doesn’t really count. Congrats to Tony Stewart and his great run in the Chase. Maybe we should have known he would break Jimmie Johnson’s streak since he was the driver that won the championship back in 2005, before Johnson’s amazing run began.
Most Disappointing: Prediction: Clint Bowyer
I was pretty close on this one. Bowyer did not make the chase, and finished 13th in points. I thought he may be further down in 15th – 20th, but overall it wasn’t a good year for Bowyer. He had 16 top ten finishes in 2011. The only time he had fewer in a full season was 2006, his first one as a full-time driver. Bowyer will have to work hard to get back in the chase.
Most Surprising: Prediction: A.J. Allmendinger
I think my prediction of Allmendinger’s season was a darn good one. He didn’t have to make the chase to be surprising, but he almost did it anyway. Also, finishing 15th is a good accomplishment for Allmendinger. He’s improved each season of his career, and should be a legitimate contender to make the chase next season.
Rookie Of The Year: Prediction: Trevor Bayne Actual: Andy Lally
Winning the Daytona 500 is a great way to start off your career! Officially, Bayne wasn’t a rookie in 2011, but how can you say he wasn’t the best first year driver out there? NASCAR has recognized Andy Lally as the 2011 Rookie Of The Year. He won by default since he was the only official rookie racing in the Sprint Cup Series. Lally averaged a 30.8 place finish in 2011 while Bayne averaged a 25.8 place finish. Both have a ways to go, but Bayne got the big win and shows a lot of promise.
Comeback Driver: Prediction: Brian Vickers Actual: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
It can be hard to judge the comeback driver of the year, but it’s safe to say that , although Vickers does have a great story with his comeback, his performances on the track weren’t good enough. Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the other hand, really stepped up in 2011 and proved that he is still a good driver and can contend with the elite. Earnhardt made the chase and finished 7th, right in between his teammates Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon.
Most Wins: Prediction: Tony Stewart Actual: Tony Stewart
Nailed it! Five wins for Stewart gets him the award for most wins this season. The amazing part is that he did this in the Chase, propelling himself to the championship. Stewart really is a great driver, and I guess we can now call him a pretty good owner.