Twenty-six races down, 10 all-important races to go. While ESPN and other sports networks are focusing on Wild Card and Division races, the start of NFL, and NCAA football; this Sunday more people will be tuning in to ABC's broadcast of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race from New Hampshire International Speedway than any other program on TV.
It's that time of year where you see do or die racing and tons of action. It's time for the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Being from the NY Metropolitan area growing up I was never really into NASCAR. To me it was just a bunch of cars going around an oval-shaped track real fast. Of all of the sports, this was the one to interest me least. Then I went off to college at Siena (Go Saints!!) and met some friends who were NASCAR fans.
I joked with them and made fun of them, but I started watching a few races with them. Then they invited me to a race and I promptly accepted. After all, who can resist a full weekend of boozing, eating and camping out in a random area.
We went to NHIS, where this weekend's race is taking place, and it was that weekend that I realized just why they loved NASCAR so much. The high-paced action. The deafening loud engines. The wrecks. The unbelievable fan support. It wasn't just another sporting event, it was a 72 hour party, and I've been hooked ever since.
From the time we got there Friday morning until the time we left Monday morning, it was always a blast. Since then I've been to a few more NASCAR races in both Dover and re-visiting New Hampshire and it's yet to disappoint me.
Even when I went to a rain-postponed race in Dover there were still people partying all weekend until the race was over Monday afternoon. What a great experience.
Well, enough about my first NASCAR experience. It's time for the field and my picks. Going into week one of the Chase the field sits with Mark Martin on top, followed in order by three-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, Brian Vickers, Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards and Juan Pablo Montoya.
Now time for me to tell you who wins with my fool-proof formula (or at least I seem to think it's fool proof).
Rule No. 1 - No first time Chaser will win. It hasn't happened before and this year is not the year. Sorry Vickers and JPM, but that includes you two.
Remaining Drivers - Martin, Stewart, Biffle, Edwards, Kahne, Johnson, Gordon, Hamlin, Newman and Kurt Busch
Rule No. 2 - Anyone who wasn't in last years Chase isn't going to win. That means you Kahne, Newman, Martin and Kurt Busch.
Remaining Drivers - Biffle, Edwards, Johnson, Gordon, Hamlin and Stewart.
Rule No. 3 - Anyone who hasn't won a single race this year can't possibly win a championship can they? No. Better luck next year Cousin Carl and Biff.
Remaining Drivers - Johnson, Gordon, Hamlin and Stewart.
Rule No. 4 - Heave ho four in a row. It's never been done before, this has to be the year. Nope, it not only takes skill and a great team to win a championship, but a good amount of luck as well. No one can be that lucky four years in a row no matter how good you are. Unfortunately, that means you're out Jimmie.
Remaining Drivers - Gordon, Hamlin and Stewart.
Rule No. 5 - What have you done for me lately? It's been proven that the driver who is hot entering the Chase usually carries that momentum into the Chase. This year will be no different.
Smoke hasn't won a race outside of a road course (which there are none on a road course in the Chase) since June 7 at Pocono so that eliminates him. Jeff Gordon hasn't won since Apr. 5, so where's his hot-streak? Sorry Rainbow Warrior, this isn't your year.
This all adds up to Denny Hamlin breaking through with his first ever Sprint Cup series championship. Ever since Denny's emotional victory at Pocono in the beginning of August he hasn't finished out of the Top 10.
In that span he's recorded two wins, three top fives, six consecutive top 10s and an average finishing position of 5.5. Beating JJ will be tough, but I think he will continue this streak for the next 10 races and be your 2009 Sprint Cup Champion.
Or at least that's what my formula tells me. Tune in to ABC Sunday to start following and see if I'm right.