Grading Our Preseason NASCAR Chase Predictions; Did We Pass Or Fail?

When I unveiled my preseason Chase predictions on Feb. 19, I offered a guess about my guesses: After getting nine of the top 12 correct last year, I said "2011 is the year when I'm going to turn it all around and get every Chase driver correct."

Not surprisingly, that did not happen. In fact, I did even worse this year than in 2010.

Thanks to the unforeseen performance of Brad Keselowski, the resurgence of Dale Earnhardt Jr., a better year for Matt Kenseth and a quietly consistent run for Ryan Newman, I only got eight of the top 12 Chase drivers correct this year.

Who did I have instead of Keselowski, Earnhardt Jr., Kenseth and Newman? Greg Biffle and Clint Bowyer were two of the guesses, which doesn't seem so bad. But the other two were AJ Allmendinger and – gulp! – Joey Logano.


Anyway, I picked Jimmie Johnson to win the championship – and that still seems like a possibility – so maybe I can feel OK about that.

Here's a look back at some of the smart things I said:

• "Alan Gustafson is a great crew chief. Jeff Gordon, who will win three races this season, is about to find out how good."

• "Tony Stewart gets into the Chase again, but still isn't as strong as in his Joe Gibbs Racing days."

• "Traditionally a slow starter, Denny Hamlin will struggle out of the gate before a summer resurgence. He won't match last year's Chase run, though (runnerups rarely do)."

• Kyle Busch will have four wins heading into the Chase.

And here's a look back at some of the dumb things I said:

• "Kevin Harvick will experience a Chase hangover from 2010."

• "Joey Logano makes his first Chase this year, and may never miss it again."

• "AJ Allmendinger establishes himself as a more consistent driver this season, allowing him to have a breakout year."

• Not one word about Brad Keselowski in the preseason predictions.


--- contributor Jay Pennell also got eight out of 12 Chase drivers correct.

Pennell picked Kasey Kahne to make the Chase, along with Jamie McMurray, Biffle and Allmendinger (we shared the 'Dinger optimism).

Who did Pennell leave out? Keselowski, of course, along with Kenseth, Newman and – a surprising omission here – Kurt Busch.

On the plus side, Pennell correctly predicted the Richard Childress Racing stumble and left both Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton off his list.

Pennell has picked Jeff Gordon to win the championship this year (more on that later).


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