As we count down to the 2013 Daytona 500, we're also counting down how we think the Chase will play out this season as predicted by Nick Bromberg, Jay Busbee, Jay Hart and Geoffrey Miller. So sit back, relax, and watch the 2013 Chase unfold before your very eyes. Though you should be warned, we picked Carl Edwards to win last year.
2012 Finish: 2nd. Three wins (Sonoma, Richmond and Charlotte)
Crew Chief: Brian Pattie
When we last saw Bowyer: He was capitalizing on Jimmie Johnson's rear gear issues at Homestead to finish second in the points standings by a single point. And just before that, he was darting through the garage in search of Jeff Gordon and team after Gordon wrecked him at Phoenix. Hindsight is always 20/20, but given the events at Phoenix, it's fair to wonder if those events at Phoenix cost Bowyer more of a shot at the championship than we realized.
Big Question for 2013: Does the curse of second place exist? In the Chase era, the highest finish in the following season for a second place driver has been fourth, and that was Matt Kenseth in 2007. Of the nine second place finishers before Bowyer, four have missed the Chase. There's no common thread to why second place drivers tend to go backwards (other than, of course, there's not much room to move forward), but an almost 50 percent missed Chase rate is something.
Track most likely to win at: Richmond. It's Bowyer's best track, and he also finished seventh there in the spring.
Track most likely to require a miracle to win at: Did you know that Bowyer's win at Charlotte in October was his first win at a 1.5 mile track of any kind in the Sprint Cup Series? Though we'll follow that up by saying Darlington, which isn't a 1.5 mile track, but it's fractionally close. In seven Darlington starts, Bowyer has just one top 10.
How Bowyer could win the Chase: Avoid getting wrecked on purpose in the penultimate race of the Sprint Cup Season. OK, so it's not as simple as that, but Bowyer's Chase was pretty close to the formula that's needed to get it done. He had a win and was consistently in the top 10, it's just that finishes of 23rd (Talladega) and 28th (Phoenix) got in the way. Repeat that performance and turn one of the finishes in the 20s into a top 10, and voila.
How Bowyer couldn't: The curse of second place does exist and Bowyer takes a large step backwards a la Carl Edwards last season. Or that the leaps forward that Michael Waltrip Racing took last season aren't sustainable, and Bowyer and Pattie can't find the speed that they had last year.
Hey Carl, got advice?
I gotta avoid this curse.
I can't miss the Chase.
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