Chevrolet aims to regain title

Thursday, Feb. 07, 2013

This is the final installment of a three-part preview of each manufacturer’s full-time entries in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this season.

It was an atypical season for Chevrolet during 2012.

Yes, Chevy won its 10th consecutive manufacturers’ championship in NASCAR’s top series and 11th in 12 years, but for the first time since 2004, it failed to win the driver’s title.

Prior to Brad Keselowski’s championship last season for Dodge, Chevrolet drivers Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson had racked up seven consecutive titles between them.

Regardless, Chevrolet again enters a season loaded.

Hendrick Motorsports likely will lead the way again with Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr. looking to repeat their performance of year ago when all four made the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Johnson will be looking for his sixth championship and Gordon his fifth.

Stewart-Haas Racing might face its most difficult test. Stewart returns, but Ryan Newman is only signed to a one-year contract and Danica Patrick continues to struggle in her move to NASCAR. In addition, all three teams still need some primary sponsorship.

Kevin Harvick will depart Richard Childress Racing after 2013, which has the potential to provide a very interesting farewell season.

Earnhardt Ganassi Racing will be looking to recover from a dismal 2012 by Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya.

Kurt Busch, the last non-Chevy driver to win the Cup title prior to Keselowski, now is competing for Chevrolet with the Furniture Row Racing team, which is looking become a weekly contender.

Dave Blaney plans to run a full season with Tommy Baldwin Racing again, and Phoenix Racing hopes to field the No. 51 Chevy in every race, but will use a varied list of drivers.

Q&A with Jimmie Johnson

Q: Does the offseason feel longer when you are not the champion?

I wasn’t ready for the season to end. Sure, I would have loved it to end after Texas when we had the points lead and we could be champions, but I honestly had more in the tank when the season was over. I think I did a much better job of managing the pressure and stress than any other year.

Q: How much more is Hendrick Motorsports playing catch up than any other team?

Our situation is a lot like anyone else. We’ll be able to hopefully get prepared faster than most and where we are most concerned is if we get into the season and we start crashing cars, especially your downforce cars.

Q: How different will this car be from the last model?

I hope and assume that we will be in that front wave of guys figuring things out. … Change is good, but if the downforce package stays like it is, they will be easier to drive in some respects and a lot faster.

2013 Chevrolet

Sprint Cup teams

Car No., Driver, Crew Chief, Team

No. 1, Jamie McMurray, Kevin Manion, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing

No. 5, Kasey Kahne, Kenny Francis, Hendrick Motorsports

No. 7, Dave Blaney, Tommy Baldwin Jr., Tommy Baldwin Racing

No. 10, Danica Patrick, Tony Gibson, Stewart-Haas Racing

No. 14, Tony Stewart, Steve Addington, SHR

No. 24, Jeff Gordon, Alan Gustafson, HMS

No. 27, Paul Menard, Slugger Labbe, Richard Childress Racing

No. 29, Kevin Harvick, Gil Martin, RCR

No. 31, Jeff Burton, Luke Lambert, RCR

No. 39, Ryan Newman, Matt Borland, SHR

No. 42, Juan Pablo Montoya, Chris Heroy, EGR

No. 48, Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus, HMS

No. 51, Regan Smith/A.J. Allmendinger/Austin Dillon, Nick Harrison, Phoenix Racing

No. 78, Kurt Busch, Todd Berrier, Furniture Row Racing

No. 88, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Steve Letarte, HMS