2012 NASCAR Nationwide Series Predictions

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HICKORY, N.C. — The 2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series season saw the end of the virtual “top-series” lock that Sprint Cup drivers had possessed on the Nationwide championship as of recent.  Granted, many would attribute the passing of this virtual lock’s key to the NASCAR backed edict of “pick-a-series”, but the fact remains that the quality of young talent in the Nationwide Series has increased in recent years.

In 2011 it was not out of the norm to see a Nationwide Series contending driver battling for a win each and every Saturday.  One Saturday that driver might have been eventual series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr., the next it might have been his Roush Fenway Racing teammate Trevor Bayne.  The same could be said for Turner Motorsport’s Justin Allgaier and Richard Childress Racing’s not-so-young Elliott Sadler.

Nonetheless, we know that the “big boys” of the Sprint Cup Series, guys like Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski, will prove victorious in many of this season’s Nationwide races but it is no longer the upset it has been of recent to see a true Nationwide regular in contention.

The story-lines in the series are significant, from JR Motorsport’s Danica Patrick running her first full NASCAR slate and bringing Danica-mania and all that entails along with her, to Sam Hornish Jr. getting a legitimate shot at a NASCAR career rebound with committed Penske power.

With the start of the 2012 season just hours away it is time to take a look at the drivers who I feel have the best chance of unseating Stenhouse as series champion.  What follows is the way that I foresee the drivers championship standings shaking out by the time the day is done on a South Florida Saturday afternoon in November.  From 10th to champion:

10.)  Kenny Wallace  (Hometown: St. Louis, MO)

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9.)  Danica Patrick  (Hometown: Roscoe, IL)

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8.)  Michael Annett  (Hometown: Des Moines, IA)

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7.)  Cole Whitt  (Hometown: Alpine, CA)

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6.)  Sam Hornish Jr.  (Hometown: Defiance, OH)

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5.)  Trevor Bayne  (Hometown: Knoxville, TN)

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4.)  Elliott Sadler  (Hometown: Emporia, VA)

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3.)  Austin Dillon  (Hometown: Lewisville, NC)

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2.)  Justin Allgaier  (Hometown: Riverton, IL)

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…and the 2012 NASCAR Nationwide Series (Repeat) Champion will be…

1.)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr.  (Hometown: Olive Branch, MS)

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