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Bold predictions for 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season

The 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season kicks off Sunday with the 61st annual Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The NASCAR Digital staff gathered a few bold predictions prior to the start of the year.

Zack Albert: All four Hendrick Motorsports drivers will win a race this season. Chase Elliott continues his winning ways after a successful second half of 2018, and Jimmie Johnson returns to form. And if Hendrick Motorsports adapts as quickly to the new rules package as it should, don’t be surprised if Alex Bowman and William Byron join the ranks of first-time winners this year.

Pat DeCola: William Byron will have at least as many Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series wins as Kyle Larson in 2019. And possibly more.

Torey Fox: Denny Hamlin will make the Championship 4. With all the talk surrounding Martin Truex Jr.’s move to JGR as well as Kyle Busch’s hunt for a second title, some have forgotten that Denny Hamlin won a race every year from 2006-17 and nearly won a championship in 2010. The point? Hamlin can drive. Chris Gabehart re-energizes the No. 11 team and Hamlin establishes himself as a title favorite by winning at Martinsville in October to clinch his second berth into the Championship 4.

Marissa Fuller: Jimmie Johnson will win his eighth championship this year.

RJ Kraft: Alex Bowman will be the first of the Hendrick drivers to win a points-paying event in 2019.

Jonathan Merryman: After a miserable 2018 season, Hendrick Motorsports gets all of its drivers to Victory Lane before any other team.

Brad Norman: Another Team Penske driver makes the Championship 4 following a hot run in the NASCAR Playoffs. It’s not Joey Logano … and it’s not 2012 champion Brad Keselowski. No, it’s Ryan Blaney, who wins at both Talladega and Martinsville to set up a title push in Miami.

Tyler Strong: Erik Jones will win at least three races this year and make the Round of 8. He had an impressive streak of finishes last summer (including his first win) and was carrying serious momentum into the NASCAR Playoffs before being derailed by two sub-30 finishes.

Chase Wilhelm: Chase Elliott wins the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship. Last year he earned two victories in the NASCAR Playoffs Round of 12, which shows he can win under the postseason pressure. Another season of experience launches him into the Championship 4, hoisting the big trophy at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

George Winkler: Daniel Hemric will show consistency similar to what he enjoyed in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and that will be enough to edge out Richard Childress Racing teammate Austin Dillon and Hendrick Motorsports’ Alex Bowman for the final playoff spot in 2019.