Just before the season opened, Yahoo! Sports asked several of NASCAR's most esteemed journalists, including USA Today's Nate Ryan, the AP's Jenna Fryer, Landmark Newspapers' Dustin Long and Yahoo! Sports' Jay Hart -- plus yours truly, of course -- to predict how this season will shake out. We listed our predicted top 20 drivers in order, and as a group, we scored a C, getting 9 of 12 correct.
Now, pretty much everyone got the top half-dozen or so right, taking Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth. It's the second half of the bracket that got tricky. So let's run them down, shall we?
Jay Busbee, Yahoo! Sports:
Johnson, Edwards, Kyle Busch, Hamlin, Harvick, Gordon, Stewart, Bowyer, McMurray, Kenseth, Biffle, Kurt Busch.
Verdict: 9/12. Thanks for showing up this season, McMurray.
Jay Hart, Yahoo! Sports
Picks: Johnson, Edwards, Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Harvick, Gordon, Kenseth, Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch, Mark Martin, Tony Stewart, Jeff Burton.
Verdict: 9/12. Missed Keselowski, along with everyone else.
Jenna Fryer, AP:
Kyle Busch, Hamlin, Johnson, Harvick, Edwards, Gordon, Juan Pablo Montoya, Jamie McMurray, Stewart, Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Verdict: 8/12. Overreached on Logano, but picked Junior.
Dustin Long, Landmark Newspapers:
Hamlin, Edwards, Johnson, Kyle Busch, Harvick, Biffle, Montoya, Gordon, Logano, Stewart, Bowyer, Kurt Busch.
Verdict: 8/12. The Biffle bites again.
Nate Ryan, USA Today:
Johnson, Harvick, Kyle Busch, Gordon, Kenseth, Edwards, Hamlin, Stewart, Earnhardt, Montoya, Bowyer, Biffle.
Verdict: 9/12. Oh! Nate was going so well before those last three picks.
Bottom line? Nobody had much confidence in Ryan Newman, nobody had ANY confidence in Brad Keselowski, and we all thought a little too much of the Bowyer/Biffle/Montoya trio. Ah, well ... there's always next year.