NASCAR at Fontana: Jimmie Johnson and 10 Drivers Likely to Be in the Mix

Melissa Bauer-Herzog@mbauerherzogCorrespondent IMarch 24, 2011

NASCAR at Fontana: Jimmie Johnson and 10 Drivers Likely to Be in the Mix

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    FONTANA, CA - OCTOBER 10:  David Ragan, driver of the #6 UPS Ford, and Kurt Busch, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Dodge, crash in to each other during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pepsi Max 400 on October 10, 2010 in Fontana, California.  (Photo by Tom Penn
    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    Fontana is the California track that some love to hate. But for the next 11 drivers, they hope that when they leave there after the race on Sunday, they'll love it.

    Here are my predictions for who we will see in the mix come the last few laps on Sunday. Some drivers, some people will love. Others will be those people love to hate. And some may be those that no one has any idea about.

    No matter who is up front on Sunday, it should be an exciting race.

Jimmie Johnson

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    BRISTOL, TN - MARCH 20:  Jimmie Johnson (L), driver of the #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet, holds his daughter Genevieve Marie (C) on the grid prior to the start ofduring the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Jeff Byrd 500 Presented By Food City at Bristol Motor
    John Harrelson/Getty Images

    This is Johnson's "home track," and you can look for him to be burning rubber on Sunday.

    He's won four of the seven races at this track and there's nothing to suggest he won't be adding a fifth this weekend.

Tony Stewart

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    BRISTOL, TN - MARCH 19:  Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, walks in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Jeff Byrd 500 Presented By Food City at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 19, 2011 in Bristol,
    Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

    Smoke won the last race at the speedway and he is sitting third in points. He is definitely one who should be moving through the field when the end of the race comes around.

Kurt Busch

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    BRISTOL, TN - MARCH 20: Kurt Busch, driver of the #22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge, stands on the grid prior to the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Jeff Byrd 500 Presented By Food City at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 20, 2011 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Pho
    Geoff Burke/Getty Images

    The points leader has been dominant at this track before, winning the pole in three of the four races in 2006 and 2007, plus winning the race in 2003. 

    He's dead set on keeping that points lead, and winning this race would be a good way to do that.

Carl Edwards

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    BRISTOL, TN - MARCH 19:  Carl Edwards, driver of the #60 Scotts EZ Seed Ford, stands next to his car on the grid prior to the start of the NASCAR Nationwide Series Scotts EZ Seed 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 19, 2011 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Pho
    John Harrelson/Getty Images

    Edwards has had two poles in four races this season, one win and three top fives. He's also earned the most money up to this point in the season.

    Look for him to keep rolling forward this weekend.

Kyle Busch

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    BRISTOL, TN - MARCH 20:   Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M's Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Jeff Byrd 500 Presented By Food City at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 20, 2011 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo by
    Jason Smith/Getty Images

    Kyle is... Kyle.

    You can't count him out in any situation. He may have calmed down this year, but he still has the desire and edge to win races.

    Plus, he's trying to rebound back to the top of the points and he swept the races last weekend at Bristol. That makes for a dangerous Busch.

Dale Earnhardt Jr

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    BRISTOL, TN - MARCH 20: Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet, stands on the grid prior to the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Jeff Byrd 500 Presented By Food City at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 20, 2011 in Br
    Geoff Burke/Getty Images

    Yep, I said it. I expect Junior to be in the mix come Sunday.

    He's really done well this season, running near the front in long stretches, so I don't see why this will be any different.

    I don't expect him to win, but I do expect he'll get a top 10.

Denny Hamlin

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    BRISTOL, TN - MARCH 18:  Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, stands on the grid prior to qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Jeff Byrd 500 Presented By Food City at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 18, 2011 in Bristol, Tennessee.
    Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

    Hamlin has been having issues this season, but I'm guessing that he's got them solved and he will be in the mix for the majority of the season.

    Plus, he's still hungry for that championship after last year. That would push anyone.

Kevin Harvick

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    BRISTOL, TN - MARCH 18: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #29 Budweiser Chevrolet, walks from his car after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Jeff Byrd 500 Presented By Food City at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 18, 2011 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Ph
    Geoff Burke/Getty Images

    The new Bud guy is "at home" in California, and this would be the perfect place for him to rebound his season.

    He's never won here, but there's a first time for everything and he's got two top 10s under his belt this season already.

Clint Bowyer

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    BRISTOL, TN - MARCH 19: Clint Bowyer, driver of the #33 BB&T Chevrolet, smiles prior to practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Jeff Byrd 500 Presented By Food City at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 19, 2011 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo by Geoff Burk
    Geoff Burke/Getty Images

    Bowyer is trying to stay in the points race and he needs a good run to do that.

    This could be the place where he starts his upward trend when it comes to finishes.

Mark Martin

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    BRISTOL, TN - MARCH 20: Mark Martin, driver of the #5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, stands on the grid prior to the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Jeff Byrd 500 Presented By Food City at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 20, 2011 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Ph
    Geoff Burke/Getty Images

    Mark is still running for the elusive win in his last year in the No. 5 car. With just one top 10 in four races, he's struggling, but I expect that he'll connect the dots and work his way up to the front at the end of the race. 

    It should be noted that he hasn't won here since 1998.

Matt Kenseth

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    BRISTOL, TN - MARCH 18:  Matt Kenseth, driver of the #17 Crown Royal Black Ford, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Jeff Byrd 500 Presented By Food City at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 18, 2011 in Bristol, Tennessee.
    Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

    Mr. Consistent is back for another year, and he was one of the few to sneak in a win over Johnson in the last few runnings of the race.

    He's only one spot out of the Chase and should be in the running for a top-five finish on Sunday, which should vault him up the standings.

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