September 13, 2011
by Lee

The time has arrived for what he have talked about all season. We have all waited for the final ten races of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The Chase is on!

Over the next ten weeks we will watch the weather get a bit cooler, the leaves will change colors, and ten different tracks and races will be the battle ground to crown the next Nextel Sprint Cup Champion. A lot of different topics can be brought up at this point that could point to an eventual winner of the Cup. Although those reasons are at the forefront at this point, that does not mean after Chicago this weekend the story lines will be the same.

So what is going to take to win the Sprint Cup this season? My first prediction is that you are going to need to have at least two wins to capture the Cup. This year’s field features some of the biggest names in the sport. All of the teams who have qualified for NASCAR’s version of the playoffs have all had ups and downs this season. Each team is bringing a little bit something different into the Chase though.

My next prediction, or more really an observation, has to do with crew chiefs and pit crews. Crew chiefs can only make adjustments to cars that will be beneficial when the driver provides the clearest description and feedback on what the car is doing on the track. The crew chief must then factor in weather and temperature to any adjustments that are made during a pit stop. The pit crew must then execute the pit stop flawlessly. Any lost time in the pits during any of the ten races can give up the magic point or two than could mean the difference to winning the championship and losing it.

One final observation before I give my finishing order of the 12 drivers that have qualified for the Chase. This observation is how many mulligans’ can teams afford before they will have no chance at winning the Cup. My feeling is that each team can only afford one bad race in the Chase. If you finish out of the top 15 more than two times during the Chase, you are really not going to have a shot at winning it all.

Here is my prediction of how the 12 drivers in the Chase will finish in the points standings when the checkered flag falls in November at Homestead:

  1. Jimmie Johnson
  2. Kyle Busch
  3. Jeff Gordon
  4. Matt Kenseth
  5. Kevin Harvick
  6. Brad Keselowski
  7. Carl Edwards
  8. Kurt Busch
  9. Tony Stewart
  10. Ryan Neman
  11. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  12. Denny Hamlin

I know, the safe pick of Jimmie Johnson to win it all for the sixth straight time, but no one has been able to best him when the chips are on the table in the last five seasons. I just think the 48 team is priming to put it all together again to leave the rest of the Chase field in their wake.

We get it all started on Sunday in Chicago. Follow us on Twitter @troublinturntwo for at the track updates and pictures. We will also have a full recap of all the action over the weekend and early next week.

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