Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Cut to the Chase

So I was 9 for 12 on my preseason Chase picks.  I don't think that's too bad.  I had Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, and Jeff Burton in the Chase, and I missed Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer, and Brad Keselowski.  Not sure what I was thinking with Burton and Keselowski, but we all make mistakes.

Anyway, I'm gonna make my picks for the Chase.  It would be easy to pick Denny Hamlin or Jimmie Johnson to win the Championship this season.  Those are good picks, I'll admit it.  And many are probably going to think I'm crazy for my pick to win the Sprint Cup Championship.  But when he's in Victory Lane in Homestead, I'll look like a genius.

Courtesy Tim Fuller/US Presswire
1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Earnhardt has been one of the most consistent drivers all season.  He has been running at the finish of every race this season, and has completed all but 20 laps all season.  He and Steve Letarte have found something that they can work with, and it seems that Earnhardt is ready to win his first Sprint Cup Championship.

2. Denny Hamlin
Hamlin has come on strong in recent weeks.  He won four races in the regular season, including two in the past three week, and even came close to winning at Richmond.  He has the most momentum of any driver going into the Chase.  He and Darian Grubb should be strong during the Chase, but Hamlin will ultimately fall short to another Hendrick driver.

3. Jimmie Johnson
Johnson and Chad Knaus have not been as strong this season as in recent years, but an off year for the 48 bunch is still better than most driver's best years.  They'll be strong throughout the Chase, but they will fail to win their sixth championship together. 

4. Brad Keselowski
After last season, many wondered whether Keselowski was the "real deal," or if he would cool off this season.  He hasn't cooled off, and he has continued to run well.  A good finish in the standings will once again show everyone that Keselowski is here to stay.

5. Matt Kenseth
Kenseth has been the most consistent driver at Roush-Fenway Racing this season.  While Edwards and Biffle have been hit-or-miss, Kenseth has been able to reel off good finishes.  His departure at the end of the season will have some effect, however, and it will keep Kenseth from winning his second Championship.

6. Clint Bowyer
Bowyer moved to a new team at the beginning of the season, and he helped Michael Waltrip Racing's resurgence.  With two wins this season, Bowyer helped MWR return to Victory Lane.  He should be strong throughout the Chase, but MWR's inexperience running for a Championship will show.

Michael Waltrip Racing made the Chase for the first time (Courtesy Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
7. Martin Truex Jr.
Truex has been a very pleasant surprise this season.  He has run strong this season, including coming close to two victories.  Truex is in the Chase for the first time, and he should run well.  But inexperience will catch up with him, and he will falter late in the Chase.

8. Tony Stewart
Last year's Champion has been surprising this season.  When he's running well, he's hard to beat.  But when he isn't running well, he can't seem to break the top 20.  This will be the main reason Stewart doesn't repeat as Champion.

9. Jeff Gordon
Gordon just barely made the Chase.  He's had some of the fastest cars all season, but he just can't seem to finish the races.  Gordon will run strong, but he will fail to be a factor in the Chase.

10. Greg Biffle
Biffle has two wins this season, but he has been a little inconsistent this season.  He runs near the front a lot of the time, but, more often than not, he finishes outside the top 10.  His (and Roush Fenway's) inconsistencies will prove too much to overcome.

11.  Kasey Kahne
Kahne has had a strong season.  After a slow start, the 5 team rallied back to clinch one of the wild card spots.  But Kahne and Francis haven't been in the Chase since 2009.  A lot has changed since then, and they might have a hard time with the competition.

12.  Kevin Harvick
Harvick hasn't won this season, and it's not his fault.  Richard Childress Racing has not had strong cars this year, and not even Harvick can overcome these problems.  He quietly made the Chase this year, and I don't expect "The Closer" to make an appearance in the final ten races.

Do you agree with these picks?  Comment below with yours.  Just don't say I didn't tell you when Dale Earnhardt Jr. is standing on the stage in Homestead.

Courtesy Jerry Markland/Getty Images

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