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: 6th. 5 wins (Phoenix, Kansas, Bristol, Atlanta, New Hampshire)
Crew Chief: Darian Grubb
When we last saw Hamlin: He was having a fluky electric failure at Martinsville that ruined his Chase chances. Hamlin is really really good at Martinsville and was really really good on that Sunday, driving through the field twice after pit road speeding penalties and looked like he was going to be able to stay in touch with Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski. But then suddenly, his car started sputtering and coasting and eventually had to go to the garage. Hamlin's race and his championship hopes were done.
Big Question for 2013: After Martinsville, Hamlin said this: "One of these days it's going to be our time. It's just not right now." Is 2013 right now? While the honeymoon period between he and Grubb wasn't entirely seamless, the positives far outweighed the negatives and Hamlin established himself as the driver to beat when he grabbed the Chase's top seed and won its first race. Yes, the circumstances were different, but Hamlin wasn't as emotionally spent after Martinsville than he was after Phoenix in 2010. That bodes well for minimizing the chances of a repeat of 2011.
Track most likely to win at: Martinsville or Richmond. Next!
Track most likely to require a miracle to win at: Did you know that Hamlin has finished in the top 10 just twice in Daytona points races? Kind of hard to believe, isn't it.
How Hamlin could win the Chase: Avoid that fluky finish somewhere in the Chase. Three years ago, it was that late pit stop at Phoenix that allowed Jimmie Johnson to close the gap. Last year, it was Martinsville. Hamlin has the confidence, and now the resolve. It's just a matter of turning that into results.
How Hamlin couldn't: Well, as you can see from above, two of us think that Hamlin's going to take care of business. (It's just that Hart is bringing down his average). I know it's become cliche at this point to joke about, but if the Joe Gibbs Racing engine gremlins reappear during the Chase aboard Hamlin's No. 11, that could be the quickest way to derail this title attempt.
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