CUP: New Year, New Scenarios

As with almost every Sprint Cup season, some drivers and teams embark on the new year with situations and scenarios different from those they raced under in 2012.

How the new dynamics work will say much about the teams’ successes in 2013.

Five new deals:

1. MATT KENSETH – Kenseth engineered the biggest change from one season to the next, deciding to leave virtually a career-long association with Roush Fenway Racing for a fresh start at Joe Gibbs Racing. Although Kenseth’s career certainly is not in tatters, he hasn’t won the championship since 2003 and probably sees JGR giving him his best shot at a second title.

2. JOEY LOGANO – Logano left Gibbs, opening the door for Kenseth’s arrival. Logano moves on to Penske Racing, where he and defending series champion Brad Keselowski could form a potent duo. Logano has had splendid success on the Nationwide Series circuit but hasn’t been able to transfer that to Sprint Cup.

3. RICKY STENHOUSE JR. – Stenhouse has done all he can do in Nationwide Series racing, winning the past two championships with relative ease. Now it’s time to see how he fares at the next level – and in a proven car, Kenseth’s former No. 17.

4. KEVIN HARVICK – Harvick remains with Richard Childress Racing for the 2013 season, but that’s hardly the biggest part of his story. He is scheduled to move on to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014, and how that plan, leaked to the media last year, might impact his and RCR’s performance in 2013 will be a hot topic much of the year.

5. BRAD KESELOWSKI – Bad Brad will take a shot at a second consecutive Sprint Cup championship in 2013, but he’ll make that run in Fords, not Dodges. Penske Racing decided to sign on with Ford, its previous partner, for 2013, making Keselowski’s situation a bit of an unknown for the new year.

Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for and has been covering motorsports for 31 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.