In which we forecast the future of the 2012 NASCAR season

The NASCAR season is almost upon us, so it's time to begin peering into that old crystal ball and seeing what might take place. Your Yahoo! Sports/From The Marbles crew offers up these predictions, which should not be used as a basis for wagering. Unless, of course, we're right, in which case you owe us a cut.

Someone is going to have a "Carl Edwards 2011" — and it's going to end in a championship. The fact that Edwards lost in the closest finish in NASCAR history is quite possibly one of the cruelest blows in all of sports, and it's only because Tony Stewart is such a fan favorite (and we're all so glad to have had a fascinating season) that we kind of glossed over how amazing Edwards' run really was. He broke through as an elite driver last year, and this year, someone else will do the same thing: running so well you can never count them out until the final lap at Homestead. Best guess? This is the year Kevin Harvick becomes a name in non-NASCAR households. — Jay Busbee

Danica Patrick wins a Nationwide race. Yeah, this may not be too bold of a prediction, but Patrick will have the equipment to do it and the week-to-week consistency of simply being in a stock car will be the best thing for her improvement in NASCAR. It may not be in the first 10 races and it may be a standalone race with no Cup drivers, but she'll get a win. — Nick Bromberg

This will be Joey Logano's final year at Joe Gibbs Racing in the Sprint Cup Series. The loss of Greg Zipadelli as crew chief combined with an intense focus to right the ship for Denny Hamlin will leave Logano in the dust, and sponsors looking elsewhere in 2013. Don't be surprised if he stays with Gibbs, though, in a full-time Nationwide Series role for 2013. — Geoffrey Miller

The Busch bros will get their acts together. I know, this one's a crap shoot ... but something's telling me that these two have hit bottom and are clawing at ways to get back up. There's too much on the line here for both of these guys, who have the potential to become one of NASCAR's all-time great families. But, right now, only the potential. — Jay Busbee

Carl Edwards will host a talk show. Wait... that's actually happening. — Nick Bromberg

Races at road courses, short tracks, Darlington and Atlanta will continue to be the most noteworthy events of the season for the Sprint Cup gang. That's thanks to their unique character and ways of bringing out the best of a driver's temper and pure racing ability. It won't matter, though, to NASCAR's 2013 schedule-makers who remain cruelly indebted to the 1.5-mile cookie-cutter way of life.  — Geoffrey Miller

NASCAR will continue its recovery both in the stands and in the ratings. Sponsors will start to trickle back in, not as rapidly as teams would like, but not in the will-they-or-won't-they guessing game of years past, either. The Jimmie Johnson Era may or may not be over, but it's certainly on hold, and that'll help keep the door wide open for many more fans to hope that this is The Year for their guy ... and more interest translates across the board. — Jay Busbee

A driver in Hendrick equipment will "struggle." This doesn't count Kurt Busch, who has the virtue of being fairly expectation-less at Phoenix Racing, but there seems to always be a straggler at Hendrick. For the sake of the restless masses and tired storylines, let's hope it's not Junior. — Nick Bromberg

AJ Allmendinger will get his first and probably second NASCAR wins. Dinger, now in the best ride of his NASCAR life with Penske Racing, will take at least one road course race (as long as former teammate Marcos Ambrose doesn't sweep) and maybe snag a win at a 1.5-mile oval. I may have chosen AJ to win at least a race had he remained at Richard Petty Motorsports, but now it's got to be a lock. The Chase, however, will remain an outside-looking-in affair. — Geoffrey Miller

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is going to win a race. Hey, if I keep saying it, one day it might come true. — Jay Busbee

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