And so it begins. The 26-race regular season has set up NASCAR for this very moment. Although it may have started out at the Chicagoland Speedway as a bit of a pool with the weather, it still doesn’t take away what this weekend is all about.
The Chase has begun, and the 16-driver grid has their Sprint yellow decals in place, and the feeling in the garage is positive. Even those that are not going for a championship feel confident as it’s an opportunity to take the focus has on the Grid, and instead bring some of that focus to them.
But the next 10 races will help determine exactly who a champion will be.
It also means a reset in the Horsepower Fantasy Racing Pool, as the 10-writer field gets to compete in their own round by round championship battle. At the end of this first round, the top-8 writers will move on, as the shorter field means less of a deletion list for each reset.
The victory list has put everyone in a new spot, with some familiar faces at the top, and others in unfamiliar territory. What the Chase also means is a new set of rules for them when it comes to picking drivers. Starting this weekend, each writer must pick a different driver each week, that is until they are eliminated. In the end, one writer will have chosen 10 different drivers on their way to the championship.
With that in mind, let’s get the Chase going as we reveal the picks for the myAfibRisk.com 400:
Misan Akuya: Kyle Busch
All of a sudden Joe Gibbs racing is the strongest team in NASCAR (Xfinity too). It all started with Kyle Busch. I see Kyle adding to their win total again.
Rob Blount: Joey Logano
A Penske car won this race last year, but it was Keselowski. This year Logano has been stronger. He’ll win Chicago.
Mary Jo Buchanan: Kyle Busch
No reason given.
Kara Martin: Joey Logano
No reason given.
Ashley McCubbin: Kyle Busch
He’s going to keep the momentum going for JGR and start off the Chase with a win.
Klarissa Mitchell: Brad Keselowski
No reason given.
Dustin Parks: Matt Kenseth
Joe Gibbs Racing has a lot of momentum entering this Chase. Two of their drivers enter the fray with four wins on the season, one of which missed the first third of the season. However, Kenseth has the momentum after winning at Richmond, and he won back here in 2013, his first season with JGR. So, gimme that Dollar General Toyota.
Patti Rodisch: Ryan Newman
Yea well I figure those bottom guys have nothing to lose. Be aggressive.
Sal Sigala Jr: Matt Kenseth
Gotta go with Matt and JGR now that they are hot. Once Matt gets cold there are not enough races for him to gain back momentum.
Rob Tiongson: Matt Kenseth
Why not start the Chase with one of the strongest racers in the Chase? Gotta like the 2003 Cup champ’s chances to go all the way this season and he starts off his postseason with a big dub-ya at Chicagoland!
Challenger Round after Richmond:
Rob Tiongson (2012) Jeff Gordon finished 7th – 4
Patti Rodisch (2012) Kevin Harvick finished 14th – 4
Sal Sigala Jr. (2009) Kevin Harvick finished 14th – 3
Dustin Parks (2009) Kurt Busch finished 15th – 3
Rob Blount (2006) Joey Logano finished 3rd – 2
Misan Akuya (2006) Kevin Harvick finished 14th – 2
Kara Martin (2006) Kyle Busch finished 2nd – 2
Ashley McCubbin (2003) Kevin Harvick finished 14th – 1
Mary Jo Buchanan (2003) Kevin Harvick finished 14th – 1
Klarissa Mitchell (2000) Kevin Harvick finished 14th – 0
Final Remarks: This race sets the pace for the championship, and over the last few seasons it has been one to recall, both for momentum and controversy. In 2011, it was Tony Stewart, entering winless, that got the checkered flag…and would win half the Chase races to become champion. In 2013, it was the controversy of adding in a driver, taking another out, then adding in a 13th driver to make a baker’s dozen championship.
Last year, it was talk of flared out sheet metal that was the talk of the race.
So what will be the topic of discussion that will determine how the 2015 Chase will go? Find out beginning at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN.
Summary of Picks: