Believe it or not, the 2018 NASCAr season is rapidly approaching, and the first race of the season is less than two months away.
Atlanta Motor Speedway president Ed Clark gives annual predictions for the season, and some his predictions for the upcoming season are very bold.
According to Speedway Digest, Clark believes Chevrolet will win the 2018 Manufacturer’s Championship based on the strength of the new Camaro ZL1. He cited Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson as the Chevy drivers who will help the manufacturer get back on top. Toyota dominated last year, but Chevy is bound for a bounce back year.
Clark predicts that William Byron will win Rookie of the Year for the fourth straight year. Byron won the K&N Pro Series East ROY in 2015, the Truck Series ROY in 2016 and the Xfinity Series ROY in 2017 en route to the championship. He’s certainly the favorite to win another ROY title in 2018, so it’s easy to understand why Clark is picking him.
Clark said all three Team Penske drivers will reach Victory Lane and make the playoffs in 2018. That includes Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and new team member Ryan Blaney. All three won races last year, but Logano’s win was encumbered and Blaney drove for Wood Brothers Racing. All three will be playoff contenders next year.
Clark’s fourth prediction is perhaps his most intriguing. He said a top team will switch manufacturers, and he expects the news to come out some time in 2018. He said it could even be a team with a long tenured alliance. He didn’t speculate which team, but Team Penske moving to Chevy would make sense given Ford’s recent struggles.
The fifth prediction was that there will be more competitive stage finishes. Truex took advantage of the stages last year and earned many points by winning stages, so drivers will likely focus on having better stage results next year. Drivers were just getting used to the stages last year, so they will likely adapt their strategies next season.
Finally, Clark predicted that three drivers would earn the first Cup Series victories next season. There were three first-time winners last year (Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Austin Dillon, Ryan Blaney), and there are several drivers who could join them in 2018.
Chase Elliott is the favorite to earn his first Cup Series win, and other drivers such as Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez, Alex Bowman, William Byron and Bubba Wallace could also be threats to win their first races. Three is probably the right number for next season.
Clark didn’t pick a winner for next year, but he did go outside the box for some of his predictions. If they come true, the 2018 season promises to be one of the best in recent NASCAR history.