Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Heat is on in Homestead

No, we're not going to talk about the Miami Heat, we're talking about some guys who really want to win. Here are some random thoughts on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship as it comes down to Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson just 15 points back and Kevin Harvick, 46 points back.

The leader
In any sport, with the possible exception of golf, it's always better to be ahead than behind. So, Hamlin does have 15 points to play with here. Johnson and Harvick are chasing him, it's not the other way around. Hamlin will start 37th today in Homestead, but he won from 38th last year. He just has to avoid early trouble, and it shouldn't be a big deal because the non-contending drivers don't want to be the ones to decide the championship, so they'll be extra careful around Hamlin, Johnson and Harvick.

The defender
Johnson has won the title four years in a row. The big thing here is that if he wants to eventually get to the all-time mark of seven titles, he doesn't want to let one get away. Johnson has had just one top-five finish at Homestead since 2005, but that's an overrated stat. That's because in the past four seasons, he's gone into that race protecting a sizable lead with the lone goal of just staying out of trouble, not getting a high finish. He knows he has to go for the win today.

The neighborhood bully
It was no surprise that Harvick said he would do whatever it takes to win the title. That's translated as if you're in his way and not faster than him, he'll bump you right out of the way. He's done it all year to different drivers, so there's no reason to think he'd not do it with everything on the line. However, at least he's honest about it, so there's that.

So, how's this going to play out?
Johnson has the sixth starting spot, easily the best of the three, and he won't be afraid to be safely aggressive. He's been trying to say the pressure's on Hamlin all week, but really the pressure's on him. And that's why I'm picking him to come out of Miami the winner. Chad Knaus may be the best crew chief (whether you like his pompous attitude or not) and Johnson has Jeff Gordon's crew again this week. There were a couple of other Chase races where Johnson was well back in the pack and had a top five and a top 10 finish anyway. That's when he really won this thing and the track position today will get him the start he needs.

Here's a look at my top five for today:
Carl Edwards
Kasey Kahne
I actually like Edwards to win this race. He's the kind of driver that can get hot, but this time it's coming too late in the season.
Enjoy the race

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Five questions five picks

Here's a quick take on some NASCAR happenings this week, along with picks for Phoenix

1. Does Jeff Gordon need to take boxing lessons? Yes, but it was good to see him stand up for himself, even if was against Jeff Burton.
2. Has Jeff Burton replace Mark Martin as the classiest act in NASCAR? Probably. He admitted he made the mistake in the Gordon wreck and didn't blame Gordon for being fightin' mad.
3. Will the close Chase race save the current points system? Probably not. But lets hope the NASCAR bosses use a system that rewards some type of consistency, not some attention getting quick-fix scheme.
4. Will Dale Earnhardt Jr. ever win another race? Yes, certainly, but probably not either of these last two. Let's go with the early race at Talladega in 2011.
5. Can Denny Hamlin become the next NASCAR Sprint Cup champion? Yes, he can, but he'll need to hold off Johnson at Phoenix this week, one of Johnson's best track. The Phoenix race may be even more key than the finale at Homestead, just because Johnson has been dominant at Phoenix.

OK, here's the picks:
1. Jimmie Johnson. Thought I'd surprise with this one.
2. Kevin Harvick. The neighborhood bully just keeps hanging around.
3. Tony Stewart. Due for a late-season win.
4. Carl Edwards. Can't believe he is winless this year.
5. Denny Hamlin. Too much at stake for him not to try and win this.