2013 Preseason Preview: No. 12 Dale Earnhardt Jr.

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: 12th. One win (Michigan)

2013 Predictions:
Bromberg: 11th
Busbee: 11th
Hart: 11th
Miller: 11th

Wait, you all have Dale Earnhardt Jr. 11th. How is he 12th? We each submitted a top 12 and assigned points on a 12-1 sliding scale to each driver. Because of (slight) variation amongst our top 12 drivers, Junior ended up with the 12th highest average despite coming in at 11th in all of our rankings.

Crew Chief: Steve Letarte

When we last saw Junior: He was missing two races in the Chase after sustaining a concussion in a crash at Talladega. Because he missed Kansas and Charlotte, he finished 12th in the Chase standings.

Big Question for 2013: Can the man win anywhere other than Michigan International Speedway? If Junior doesn't win any of the first 10 races of the season, it will be seven years since he last won at a non-Michigan track. (Richmond, 2006) You know what the number one song was that week? Daniel Powter's "Bad Day," that horrendously annoying yet stick-in-your head catchy tune that American Idol used. And no, no apologies for making it get stuck in your head for the rest of the day.

Track most likely to win at: Duh. In the non-Michigan category, it seems like a cop-out to pick Talladega and Daytona, and while Junior is really good at Martinsville, there's that whole Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson thing. So let's say Texas, where Junior has only finished outside the top ten once in his last six starts.

Track most likely to require a miracle to win at: A road course. Junior has finished in the top 10 just twice at a road course, and both those were at Watkins Glen in 2003 and 2004.

How Junior could win the Chase: Those consistent top 10s from last year turn into top fives and multiple victories. The formula doesn't need to change much; Junior lept from an average finish of 14.5 in 2011 to 10.9 in 2012. Another jump like that and we're talking about a title other than Most Popular Driver.

How Junior couldn't: It's much harder to make the leap from top 10s to almost top 5s than it is from the mid-teens to the top 10. There's no disputing that the combination of Junior and Steve Letarte is Chase-worthy, but they won't be championship worthy in 2013.

A Haiku:
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
He's a popular driver
Can he be a champ?

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