NASCAR Sprint Cup Race Predictions: Jimmie Johnson and Chasers Dominate

Hank EptonCorrespondent IOctober 4, 2010

NASCAR Sprint Cup Race Predictions: Jimmie Johnson and Chasers Dominate

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    Jimmie Johnson captures his first chase win of 2010. Will there be more?Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    With Jimmie Johnson leading the Sprint Cup Points standings and Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick hot on his heels, we take a look at the possible winners down the stretch as the Chase for the Sprint Cup winds down to Championship weekend in Homestead.

    So far, there's been three different winners in the first three Chase races, and there's no reason the rest of the season shouldn't provide as much of a cross section among the Chasers as the last month.

    Looking forward, we have two flat intermediates, Bruton Smith's two palaces in Charlotte and Texas, a short track, a plate race, and a progressively banked oval. Each one plays to a different driver's strength, so hopefully this will make for varied winners and one of the most exciting Chases since the format's genesis.

    Remember, these picks are for entertainment purposes only, so please, no wagering.

Race 30: Fontana, CA Pepsi Max 400

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    Carl Edwards has something up his sleeve when the Sprint Cup series heads to the west coast.Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images

    The first time around at Fontana and her sister track Michigan, Edwards posted a 13th- and 12th-place finish respectively. Things sure turned around for Cousin Carl when the series returned to Michigan a few weeks later.

    Edwards posted a third-place finish on the wings of more knowledge in the new Ford FR9 engine. Greg Biffle posted wins at both Pocono in August and Kansas this past weekend: two fast tracks with low banking. Edwards won't get left out of Victory Lane in 2010.  Fontana is his best shot.

Race 31: Charlotte, NC Bank Of America 500

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    Kyle Busch thrives on tracks where he can attack the corners and drive the car harder than the field.Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

    Kyle Busch posted a third-place finish at Charlotte in May in a race big brother Kurt won. It's in their blood this year to win at Bruton Smith's mile and a halfers. Teammate Denny Hamlin took home the trophy at Texas, while Busch finished third.

    Joe Gibbs Racing will have a good package for The Shrub when NASCAR plays its last home game of the season at Charlotte.

Race 32: Martinsville, VA Tums Fast Relief 500

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    Denny Hamlin captures the spring race at Martinsville.Jerry Markland/Getty Images

    Denny Hamlin's season took off after posting his first win of 2010 at the rain-delayed race at Martinsville. His Chase for the Sprint Cup could very well take off there this fall in his home state. After starting 19th by virtue of his points position, he marched his way to the front and dominated. Look for Martinsville to be good to him again.

Race 33: Talladega, AL Amp Energy 500

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    This stirring last lap pass led to Harvick's first win of 2010.Jason Smith/Getty Images

    Easy pick: Kevin Harvick. Until someone proves otherwise, he's the restrictor plate king of 2010. Two wins and a seventh-place finish for the season at the 2.5 mile monsters. He probably had the best car at the Daytona 500, but a bad lane choice and multiple green, white, checker finishes did him in. There's no reason to believe that RCR won't bring another scary ride for Harvick on Halloween.

Race 34: Texas Motor Speedway AAA Texas 500

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    A tangle with teammate Jimmie Johnson raised eyebrows during the Texas spring race.John Harrelson/Getty Images

    Jeff Gordon got knocked out of the spring race at Texas with an accident, but not before trading paint with teammate and current points leader Jimmie Johnson. Gordon has gone winless in 2010, but don't expect him to have empty pockets heading into the offseason.

Race 35: Phoenix, AZ Kobalt Tools 500

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    Jimmie Johnson cruises to a third place finish this spring at Phoenix.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    As much as Jimmie Johnson winning titles has become familiar, so has No. 48's performance in the fall at Phoenix. Johnson posted a third-place finish there in the spring, and has won the fall event in each of the last three years. With Kobalt Tools on board as the race sponsor, Johnson should put on a clinic for the suits from Lowe's.

Race 36: Homestead Miami, FL Ford 400

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    Juan Montoya would like to make a statement at the end of the season.Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

    Juan Pablo Montoya has run well at Miami before, and would like to serve notice that he'll be back in the Chase next season. An on track tussle with Tony Stewart cost him dearly last year, but this year's JPM is more calm for playground antics. His Earnhardt/Ganassi teammate Jamie McMurray has stolen much of his thunder this season, but Montoya is far too competitive not let the rest of the garage know that he'll be back in 2011.

Sprint Cup Winner: The Fans

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    The 2010 Chase for the Sprint Cup could be the most competitive yet.Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    The Chase for the Sprint Cup is tighter after three races than it's ever been. Without multiple winners from here out, the points among the top five or so drivers could be tighter than ever down the stretch. That'll give fans something to cheer about come November.

    Coming Wednesday: Rethinking the Chase for the Sprint Cup Points