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Who are favorites for 2013 Chase?

Sir Isaac Newton’s law — “To each action, there is an equal and opposite reaction” — doesn’t fully apply at this NASCAR juncture, because a new season is about to start. New cars, rules changes and the like are undoubtedly going to produce actions and reactions of their own.

Still, there were some developments in 2012 that might lead to predictable extensions in 2013.

For instance, Kyle Busch had his best Chase ever, or at least he had his best performance ever, in the final 10 races. The trouble was that it did him no good. He didn’t qualify for the Chase. He wasn’t eligible for the championship. Yet Busch had as many top-five finishes (13) as the champion, Brad Keselowski.

Kyle Busch’s obvious extension is to make the Chase. Then he might finally win it.

If you’re looking for a darkhorse candidate for the 2013 championship, look no further than Kasey Kahne, whose first year at Hendrick Motorsports was one of steady improvement. After the first 10 races, Kahne was 19th in points. After 20, he was 13th. He wound up fourth.

For Clint Bowyer, who finished second, and Jimmie Johnson, who was third, the extension is obvious. It’s winning the championship. For Kahne, it won’t be cited so regularly, but it’s a distinct possibility.

History wasn’t Carl Edwards’ friend last year. It is now. Edwards has had three seasons — 2005, 2008, 2011 — in which he came reasonably close to winning the championship. He struggled the next season in all three instances. If his past is really pertinent and not just a series of coincidences, Edwards will be back in the Chase this year and make a title run in 2014.

Danica Patrick is like a minorleague baseball player constantly being promoted to the next level too quickly. It has taken the ex- IndyCar driver a long time to get conversant in the intricacies of driving stock cars. She is by no means ready for Sprint Cup, but there she will be, nonetheless. Her reach still exceeds her grasp. Gradual improvement is one thing in the Nationwide Series. Her star will begin to dim if she does not pick up the pace in Cup, and that will not be easy.

Monte Dutton covers motorsports for The Gaston (N.C.) Gazette.

©2013 King Features Synd.

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