As if the Chase wasn't exciting enough, Texas gave every NASCAR fan, media outlet and employee within the sport something to talk about.
There was Kyle Busch deciding to show a NASCAR official two middle fingers, then the notorious fight between Jeff Burton and Jeff Gordon that spawned from an incident under caution. As if that wasn't enough, the points have shook up to where it is officially a three-man race.
With his win last week, Denny Hamlin now sits in the lead just 33 points ahead of Jimmie Johnson, who now is in unfamiliar territory. This is the first time Johnson has trailed in the standings since winning at Dover yet was eight points behind Hamlin at the time.
Next on the schedule in this epic points battle is the "Jewel of the Desert," the Phoenix International Raceway.
At this race last year, Johnson entered following a nightmare race at Texas to dominate and emerge victorious. This time though, he will be in the uncomfortable spot of being the hunter. It will not be easy for the four-time champion to claw his way past Hamlin, but it's a strong chance this could happen.
While all the focus is on Hamlin and Johnson, third-place Kevin Harvick is sitting back and doing what he needs to do to stay in the hunt.
Despite losing ground last week even though he finished higher than Johnson, Harvick is extremely tough at Phoenix. This could be his final opportunity to stay close to the No. 11 and No. 48 teams. Harvick will certainly make the most of it.
Unfortunately for our creatures, everyone had already picked Johnson, Hamlin, or Harvick at some point in the Chase. Some saved their choices for last week and it payed dividends, with one writer picking up a victory. But now, every writer has chosen the Chase leaders, leaving the pool really slim for the final two races.
However, that doesn't mean the list is limited. Phoenix has a lot of past winners, and potential break-through drivers as well. Who is it going to be this week?
Here's who the writers think will be victorious in Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500:
Misan Ayuka: Ryan Newman
Until this spring Ryan Newman was too good at Phoenix. But after winning there in the spring Newman now has one win, four top fives, four top tens, 164 laps led, and an average finish of 21st.
The "Rocket Man" has also won poles here too. Two races left and Newman has nothing to lose he will be one to watch.
Kyle Brandt: NO PICK SENT
No pick sent at posting time.
James Broomhead: Mark Martin
No reason given.
Billy Fellin: Joey Logano
The kid has been on fire recently. And besides at this point, why not?
Christopher Leone: Mark Martin
It’s really not hard to bet against a guy who hasn’t finished outside the top 20 at a track since his debut there.
Last week’s race at Texas yielded a third-place finish, so the team has momentum on its side.
Kara Martin: Mark Martin
No reason given.
Dustin Parks: Mark Martin
This man has been on a roll as of late. Second at Martinsville, third at Texas; sure it's not exactly the best time to get momentum, but it will lead to big things in 2011.
This veteran needs these kind of runs this late in the season. Going with GoDaddy.com's "Grand Daddy" to win at Phoenix.
Rob Tiongson: Mark Martin
You get the feeling that Mark Martin's now thinking, why didn't I race this way for a majority of the year?
Nevertheless, returning to one of his better tracks on the series, it might be a rather convenient victory to win at GoDaddy.com's backyard in Phoenix.
Alan Wade: Kyle Busch
Been waiting to pull Rowdy out of the bullpen, this looks like a good week because he had a rough one in Texas. He should bounce back solidly, be up on the wheel and ready to bring a win home.
STANDINGS FOLLOWING TEXAS:
Dustin Parks (6,276) Denny Hamlin WON (6)
Rob Tiongson (6,236) Kyle Busch finished 32nd (3)
Christopher Leone (6,114) Tony Stewart finished 11th (5)
Misan Ayuka (6,081) Kyle Busch finished 32nd (4)
James Broomhead (6,071) Kevin Harvick finished sixth (4)
Alan Wade (6,070) Mark Martin finished third (3)
Kara Martin (6,053) Kurt Busch finished 24th (3)
Billy Fellin (5,991) Kurt Busch finished 24th (5)
Kyle Brandt (5,727) NO PICK SENT (2)
It seems as though the favorite this week is the GoDaddy.com Chevrolet of Mark Martin. Not surprising as he won here last spring, and has been on a roll the last few weeks.
But, like Texas showed, anything is possible and anything will happen. The season is nearing it's end, which is sad and exciting at the same time.
What could happen next is anyone's guess. All we can do is just hang on for the ride, and enjoy where it leads.
The green flag is set to wave on ESPN shortly after 3 p.m. ET.
SUMMARY OF PICKS
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