It’s been almost two weeks since the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season wrapped up in Miami. After letting the championship slip through his grasp at the end of 2012, there were no such slip-ups for Jimmie Johnson this time around. The 38-year-old driver further cemented his legend as one of the sport’s all-time greats in winning his sixth Cup.
The 2013 season was stable at the top much of the way, with Johnson and Matt Kenseth usually trading off being in the command position, and it was Kenseth who ultimately finished second. The stability at the top belied some interesting movement throughout the standings though…
*Another driver who couldn’t win a race, though he drove well all year, was Clint Bowyer. The inability to get a win killed Bowyer in the Chase, though in sheer point volume, he was in second place when the regular season closed.
*Injuries were a big factor in determining the playoff field and perhaps the eventual champion. Denny Hamlin suffered a bad neck injury early, and then later in the year Tony Stewart broke his leg. Stewart has won championships and Hamlin has that kind of ability. But the missed time was too much for either to overcome.
*One of the really pleasant surprises was Kevin Harvick, who put together a consistent regular season and then made a nice push in the playoffs. Harvick finished third overall and lurked with an outside shot at winning the whole thing right to the very end.
Here at TheSportsNotebook we previewed each race from the start of the season at the Daytona 500 in February, to the November finale in Miami. It was my brother Bill, the NASCAR junkie in the family, who provided the expertise and background throughout the season. And it turns out, Bill did an effective job handicapping the drivers at the start of the year.
When we previewed the entire season prior to Daytona, I asked Bill to structure a hypothetical betting package if someone had a few bucks to play with and wanted to bet some different drivers to win the championship. Bill set up a plan where, so long as Johnson won, you would at least break even. Then he targeted a longshot for a bigger payout and that longshot was Harvick.
If you followed that betting advice, you spent the entire year in good position to at least get your money back and have the chance for a bigger payout. I suppose one could argue that it would have been even better to wager the whole bankroll on Johnson, but to do that with the favorite means you sweat a whole lot for a fairly small profit margin.
TheSportsNotebook’s NASCAR Sprint Cup series coverage moves into the offseason. But it’s not a hiatus that lasts very long–by mid-February we’ll be back for the Daytona and another big year of racing.