Larry McReynolds says at the beginning of every FOX broadcast, "Pull those belts tight one more time!"
Those words have never meant more as the 2010 Chase for the Sprint Cup begins this weekend at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. It has come down to 10 races, 12 drivers, and one opportunity to secure a title.
Last week at Richmond, the Chase contenders decided that up front was the safest place, as many of them ran in the top-10 all night. At the end of 400 laps, it was Denny Hamlin tasting victory once again at his home track.
That win was his sixth on the season, giving him the points lead entering this weekend.
Teammate Kyle Busch made some noise with his runner-up finish, while Jimmie Johnson showed he was still in this race until the final checkered flag falls.
Other drivers, like Clint Bowyer, raced hard to get into the Chase and made sure their position was secured. Both Bowyer and Greg Biffle clinched their spots at Richmond, setting the entire 12-driver line-up.
But now, the real race begins. Will someone find some magic at the "Magic Mile?" Last week, our creatures made a strong showing in their picks, as over half picked winner Hamlin or second-place Busch.
Can they repeat? We shall see. Here is who our creatures are picking for Sunday's Sylvania 300.
Misan Ayuka: Tony Stewart
I can only pick Smole once during the Chase and this is his best track in it. In 23 races, Tony Stewart has 2 wins, 12 top fives, 14 top 10's, 1,030 laps led, and an average finish of 12th.
Could have easily won this race in the summer if not for a fueling issue on an early pitstop. Stewart was my pick to win the championship early on, and I am sticking with him. He'll help that effort with a win at NHMS.
Kyle Brandt: Tony Stewart
He finished second in the June race at NHMS this year after having issues of not being on the same pit cycle as the leaders.
Tony has the third-best average at NHMS with an average finish of 8.40 with two career wina and 14 top-ten finishes.
James Broomhead: Denny Hamlin
"It's all just a little bit of history repeated" goes the song, and that's exactly what I'm hoping for at New Hampshire.
Last year Denny won the regular season closer at Richmond and back it up with a Chase opening win at Loudon. "Play it again Sam" or Denny to butcher another famous quote.
Billy Fellin: NO PICK SENT
No pick sent for New Hampshire.
Christopher Leone: Denny Hamlin
The summer 2007 winner at Loudon finished second in this race last year after leading 22 laps and has completed the full race distance every time he’s competed at the track.
Plus, coming off a win at Richmond with the Chase lead, he’s got the momentum.
Kara Martin: Jimmie Johnson
It is his time to shine and where better than at the kick off to the Chase.
Dustin Parks: Clint Bowyer
When Bowyer made the Chase in 2007, we all knew he was going to be a good driver. We saw the year before that he had a lot of potential if given the opportunity. One year later, he manages too get into the top-12, as this was the first year the Chase would go to a 12-driver format.
That first race out, Bowyer showed he belonged and went on to victory, the first of his career.
Fast forward three years, and he made the top-12 again, but he didn't have to sneak his way in this time. We saw how strong Bowyer was at Richmond, and I can't help but think he's going to be just as determined this year. The fact that his teammates are there as well will further increase his confidence.
Who knows, we all may just cheer for Cheerios once this one is done.
Patti Rodisch: Ryan Newman
Everyone else will go with a Chase driver; they are there for a reason, right? One driver who in the last month or so has followed the path that his owner has done, that’s run consistently top-10.
Ryan Newman might not have made the Chase but he will be the one to spoil the Chase party this weekend.
Newman has a two wins, five top fives and 11 top 10 finishes at NHMS. I suspect his recent finishes of 6th, 8th and 11th; this team is ready to break into victory lane. Newman will play spoiler this weekend and we should be surprised.
Rob Tiongson: Clint Bowyer
Has anyone learned how to step it up lately like Clint Bowyer? The No. 33 Cheerios Chevrolet team has really turned up their performances lately and are proof of the RCR resurrection of 2010.
It's most likely going to be noticed in the Chase starting with a win at "The Magic Mile" by the Emproia, Kans. native, who won this race back in 2007.
Alan Wade: Kevin Harvick
Harvick has done well on this track in the past, and he needs a win Sunday to establish himself in the running for the Cup.
1. James Broomhead, 5040 points (4)
2. Christopher Leone, 5040 points (4)
3. Dustin Parks, 5040 points (4)
4. Billy Fellin, 5030 points (3)
5. Kara Martin, 5030 points (3)
6. Misan Ayuka, 5020 points (2)
7. Kyle Brandt, 5020 points (2)
8. Rob Tiongson, 5010 points (1)
9. Alan Wade, 5010 points (1)
10. Patti Rodisch, 5000 points (0)
Whomever can get of to a fast start in this race will certainly keep the momentum as the Chase continues. Many different drivers, many different scenarios could play out.
The title hunt begins now. Strap in for a ride that is bound to get bumpy along the way.
SUMMARY OF PICKS: