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The 2012 Picks: After Casual Consideration…

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, February 27 2012

The 2012 Sprint Cup season begins today with the Daytona 500. At the risk of spoiling both, here are the winners... (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

The start of the 2012 Sprint Cup season is at hand. The start of the biggest race in stock car racing is at hand.

And everybody wants to know: Who?

Who will win the Cup title and who will win the Daytona 500? RacinToday.com is here to serve.

The following are the RacinToday.com staff’s picks to win this year’s Sprint Cup champion and today’s Daytona 500:

Mike Harris

The Sprint Cup championship pick – Carl Edwards. I figure the boy has suffered enough. He’s proven he can win races and contend for a title. And, if the old saying that you have to lose a championship before you can win one is true, Cousin Carl is long overdue.

Dark horse pick for Sprint Cup championship – Though this may be a misnomer in this car, Jimmie Johnson. He certainly won’t sneak up on anybody, but a lot of people figure JJ’s run is over. I’m not so sure. He’s still got Chad Knaus, that Hendrick equipment and all that driving talent.

The Daytona 500 winner – I think Jeff Gordon is ready to win another one, whether it be a two-car draft

Jeff Gordon. His year? (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

or a 20-car freight train. Gordon looked more hungry on track last year, and I think he is ready for another solid, winning season.

Dark horse pick for the Daytona 500 – Mark Martin. New team, new car, same driving ability.

Jeff Hood

The Sprint Cup championship pick – Brad Keselowski. The Michigan native won’t need to break a bone in his foot this year to go on another title run. I predict that Keselowski and crew chief Paul Wolfe will come strong out of the gate and be a consistent force each week for team owner Roger Penske.

Dark horse pick for Sprint Cup championship – Jeff Gordon. Last season, the driver of Rick Hendrick’s No. 24 Chevrolet showed flashes of the brilliance he displayed on a regular basis in the late 1990s. Look for Gordon to rekindle even more memories of his dominance throughout the upcoming campaign.

The Daytona 500 winner –Kevin Harvick will win the Daytona 500. A year after finishing dead last in the Great American Race, Harvick will rebound mightily as Richard Childress Racing once again flexes its muscle in restrictor plate racing.

Dark horse pick for the Daytona 500 – Martin Truex Jr. A decent plate track racer, Truex will dodge the carnage associated with this type of racing and position himself to be a factor in the closing laps.

Jonathan Ingram

Sprint Cup championship pick – Tony Stewart.  We might already be talking about one for the thumb for Stewart absent the gas mileage fiasco at New Hampshire in 2010.

The Daytona 500 winner – Tony Stewart. Tony is a streaky driver. He’s won four straight 300-milers in the Nationwide series at Daytona and clearly he’s been on a roll lately.

Rick Minter

The Sprint Cup championship pick – Kevin Harvick. Despite the new rules which are supposed to reward

Kevin Harvick is fast everywhere. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Brian Laawdermilk)

winning, it’s still consistency that counts as much as anything, and Harvick and RCR are good at being consistent.

The Daytona 500 winner – Matt Kenseth. It’ll take a tandem effort to win the 500, despite all the effort put into bringing back pack racing, and Kenseth ought to be able to find someone in the Ford camp to push him to the front – someone like Ricky Stenhouse Jr. or Trevor Bayne, just to name a couple.

Jim Pedley

The Sprint Cup championship pick – Kyle Busch. Over the course of a 36-race season, a good place to start a search for a championship pick is with the best driver in the series. Kyle Busch is right up there when it comes to that. The Joe Gibbs Racing team will bounce back from an off year and Busch will benefit most.

Dark horse pick for the Sprint Cup championship – Greg Biffle. The Roush Fenway team is looking extremely buttoned up this year. It looks like Doug Yates is still winning the horsepower wars. With a lot of eyes on Carl Edwards, Biffle could be the RFR driver who has that special year.

The Daytona 500 winner – Tony Stewart. It’s the one thing that he would really, really like to add to the resume. And Stewart is pretty darn good at getting what he sets out after. Look for a cool move late in the race.

Dark horse pick for the Daytona 500 – Kurt Busch. Busch is bubbling beneath the surface. He would love to have a that’ll-show-em season with Phoenix Racing, but with that unlikely, a that’ll-show-em victory in the 500 will do.

John Sturbin

The Sprint Cup championship winner – Carl Edwards. Displayed plenty of grit while losing the 2011 title to Tony Stewart via the dreaded wins tiebreaker. That anomaly figures to be all the motivation Cousin Carl and his Roush Fenway Racing crew need to win another race or three before the Chase kicks in.

Dark horse pick for the Sprint Cup championship – Brad Keselowski. Making the Chase in a Dodge after breaking a bone in his foot spoke volumes about “Bad Brad’s” determination. This year, he’s paired with A.J. Allmendinger – a guy who might actually understand the concept of “team player” at Penske Racing.

Daytona 500 winner – Kyle Busch. Only big brother Kurt made a bigger fool of himself in NASCAR last season. There’s no better way to prove you’ve adjusted your mercurial attitude – and appreciate the opportunities at your disposal with Joe Gibbs Racing – than by winning “The Great American Race.”

The Daytona 500 dark horse winner – Regan Smith. Finished less than a second behind Matt Kenseth in Thursday’s second Gatorade Duel qualifying race, and will start sixth in Monday’s rain-delayed Daytona 500. Smith’s No. 78 Chevrolet fielded by Furniture Row Racing could cap off a weekend of upsets.

Deb Williams

The Sprint Cup championship pick – Carl Edwards. To win the championship. The old adage, you have to

Carl Edwards heading for a Great American flip? (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

lose one before you can win one. He’s now lost two titles, last year, of course, being the closest, so he and his team have definitely figured out what needs to be done to win one. Also, Roush Yates Engines developed the electronic fuel injection engine being used this year in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series. Even though data has been shared, I still think the Ford teams have an upper hand in the engine department.

Dark horse pick for the Sprint Cup championship – Dale Earnhardt Jr. He and Steve Letarte have developed the type of driver-crew chief relationship Junior has been needing. They respect each other, but Letarte doesn’t let him get away with anything. By making The Chase last year, Junior regained his confidence and should be able to improve his performance this year.

The Daytona 500 winner – Kurt Busch. Kurt is an excellent restrictor-plate racer. In fact, that is his forte. He is driving for James Finch, who has always fielded competitive cars at Daytona and Talladega. Kurt also has something to prove, so he should be driving extremely aggressive.

Larry Woody

The Sprint Cup champship pick – Jeff Gordon. He’s too good to stay down this long, and this could be his last best shot.

The Daytona 500 winner – Jimmie Johnson. Last year’s “off-season” will have him ready to roll.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, February 27 2012
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