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Who’s Going To Win It All? Our 2008 Chase Predictions

The fifth edition of NASCAR’s Chase has three clear favorites: Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson. But in a system where 12 drivers are separated by just 80 points, anyone could come out on top in a playoff race that seldom goes according to plan.

With so many drivers and so much at stake, how do you sort out the mess? Well, your Frontstretch favorites have given you a head start. All your favorite experts have submitted their Chase picks, giving you their take on the good, the bad, and the ugly for the next 10 weeks. Scroll down to the writer you trust… or scroll through them all to get the inside scoop on the playoffs!

2008 Chase For The Championship Picks
Expert Tom Bowles Ren Jonsin Kim DeHaven
Title Editor-In-Chief Co-Publisher Co-Publisher
1st Jimmie Johnson Tony Stewart Kyle Busch
2nd Tony Stewart Jimmie Johnson Jimmie Johnson
3rd Carl Edwards Kevin Harvick Carl Edwards
4th Kyle Busch Kyle Busch Kevin Harvick
5th Kevin Harvick Carl Edwards Tony Stewart
6th Denny Hamlin Matt Kenseth Greg Biffle
7th Dale Earnhardt Jr. Denny Hamlin Dale Earnhardt Jr.
8th Jeff Gordon Clint Bowyer Matt Kenseth
9th Greg Biffle Greg Biffle Denny Hamlin
10th Matt Kenseth Jeff Burton Jeff Gordon
11th Clint Bowyer Jeff Gordon Jeff Burton
12th Jeff Burton Dale Earnhardt Jr. Clint Bowyer
Darkhorse Title Pick Tony Stewart Greg Biffle Kevin Harvick
Spoiler (Best Non-Chaser) David Ragan AND Brian Vickers David Reutimann David Ragan
Why They Picked How They Did Two things fueled my choice: experience and payback. Johnson has the seasoning of two championships already behind him, and crew chief Chad Knaus knows how to turn it on at exactly the right time (see: two straight wins to close out the season). The No. 48 team also hasn’t ruffled any feathers this year; that’s something we can’t say for either Busch or Edwards, who could find payback a b*tch at the worst possible time. One mistake will be all it takes to lose the Chase – and here’s to betting that Johnson doesn’t make one. Also, don’t be surprised to see wins from both Ragan and Vickers over the final 10 races, as both men are having career-defining years in the Cup Series. I picked Stewart because the man knows how to treat a lady. Plus, Johnson is Satan… so I couldn’t put him up there. Simple: it’s hard to argue against eight wins.
Correctly Picked How Many Chasers? 9 of 12 0 of 12 (Didn’t Pick) 9 of 12
2008 Chase For The Championship Picks
Expert Toni Montgomery Amy Henderson Cami Starr
Title Senior Editor Senior Editor Fantasy Racing Editor
1st Kyle Busch Tony Stewart Kyle Busch
2nd Jimmie Johnson Jimmie Johnson Kevin Harvick
3rd Carl Edwards Kyle Busch Jimmie Johnson
4th Jeff Burton Carl Edwards Dale Earnhardt Jr.
5th Dale Earnhardt Jr. Kevin Harvick Greg Biffle
6th Denny Hamlin Dale Earnhardt Jr. Carl Edwards
7th Kevin Harvick Jeff Burton Matt Kenseth
8th Tony Stewart Greg Biffle Denny Hamlin
9th Matt Kenseth Matt Kenseth Tony Stewart
10th Clint Bowyer Jeff Gordon Jeff Burton
11th Greg Biffle Denny Hamlin Clint Bowyer
12th Jeff Gordon Clint Bowyer Jeff Gordon
Darkhorse Title Pick Tony Stewart Kevin Harvick Kevin Harvick
Spoiler (Best Non-Chaser) David Ragan Brian Vickers Brian Vickers
Why They Picked How They Did Because Kyle came out of the hat first. And because I really don’t want him to win and I’m always wrong, so… Every time I pick Tony to win it all, Jimmie does. So I’m picking him. I don’t have to have a better reason. Kyle has got the determination, guts and nerve to finish the job he started this year.
Correctly Picked How Many Chasers? 10 of 12 10 of 12 9 of 12
2008 Chase For The Championship Picks
Expert Matt Taliaferro Mike Neff Jeff Meyer
Title Senior Editor Senior Writer Senior Writer
1st Jimmie Johnson Jimmie Johnson Carl Edwards
2nd Carl Edwards Tony Stewart Kyle Busch
3rd Kyle Busch Dale Earnhardt Jr. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
4th Denny Hamlin Kevin Harvick Jeff Gordon
5th Matt Kenseth Carl Edwards Jimmie Johnson
6th Kevin Harvick Greg Biffle Tony Stewart
7th Tony Stewart Matt Kenseth Clint Bowyer
8th Dale Earnhardt Jr. Kyle Busch Jeff Burton
9th Jeff Burton Denny Hamlin Kevin Harvick
10th Greg Biffle Jeff Gordon Matt Kenseth
11th Jeff Gordon Jeff Burton Greg Biffle
12th Clint Bowyer Clint Bowyer Denny Hamlin
Darkhorse Title Pick Denny Hamlin Dale Earnhardt Jr. Bill Lester disguised as Jeff Burton
Spoiler (Best Non-Chaser) David Ragan Brian Vickers Kasey Kahne
Why They Picked How They Did Johnson and Chad Knaus represent the best driver/crew chief combo on the circuit – and have for the last two years. The team is hot at the right time and has proven it knows how to navigate within the parameters of the Chase better than any other. Not only will Johnson win the title, but four wins out of this bunch from here on out is not out of the question. Also, Ragan will win a race in the next 10 weeks. Johnson has won the most races during the Chase since it was created, and they are peaking at the right time again this year. But Earnhardt Jr. could be the darkhorse. If Tony Eury Jr. doesn’t cost them with pit strategy, he’ll be there at the end. Also, Vickers is going to win a race on an intermediate track during the Chase this year. Because my girlfriend would leave me (hanging) if I didn’t pick him. Besides, I’m an Edhead too!
Correctly Picked How Many Chasers? 9 of 12 10 of 12 10 of 12
2008 Chase For The Championship Picks
Expert Matt McLaughlin Beth Lunkenheimer Tommy Thompson
Title Senior Writer Senior Writer Senior Writer
1st Kyle Busch Jimmie Johnson Jimmie Johnson
2nd Carl Edwards Kyle Busch Carl Edwards
3rd Jimmie Johnson Carl Edwards Kyle Busch
4th Jeff Burton Tony Stewart Jeff Burton
5th Dale Earnhardt Jr. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jeff Gordon
6th Denny Hamlin Jeff Gordon Dale Earnhardt Jr.
7th Jeff Gordon Kevin Harvick Denny Hamlin
8th Tony Stewart Clint Bowyer Tony Stewart
9th Kevin Harvick Denny Hamlin Matt Kenseth
10th Clint Bowyer Matt Kenseth Clint Bowyer
11th Matt Kenseth Jeff Burton Greg Biffle
12th Greg Biffle Greg Biffle Kevin Harvick
Darkhorse Title Pick Jeff Gordon Kevin Harvick Jeff Burton
Spoiler (Best Non-Chaser) Kasey Kahne David Ragan Ryan Newman
Why They Picked How They Did Why Kyle? The guy has won on short tracks, intermediate tracks, big tracks and road courses. Busch seems to delight in pissing the fans off, and what’s going to piss off most fans more than a Busch championship? You don’t have to like him. On a personal level… I don’t. He doesn’t want to be liked, but respect what he’s done this season to date. It won’t be long until we’re seeing “I Don’t Care Who Wins as Long as It Isn’t the 18 Car” t-shirts, just like back in Big Dale’s heyday. It’s easy to see it’ll be a three-way battle between Johnson, Busch and Edwards this year, and it’s hard to bet against Busch. But Johnson is coming off of two back-to-back wins (just like he had last season) and managed to win four of the 10 “Chase” races in ’07. Once again, the No. 48 team is peaking at just the right time to win their third consecutive title. Because that’s what Johnson/Knaus and team do… win the Chase to the Sprint Cup. They have already started their annual charge.
Correctly Picked How Many Chasers? 9 of 12 10 of 12 9 of 12
2008 Chase For The Championship Picks
Expert Vito Pugliese Tony Lumbis Mike Lovecchio
Title Senior Writer Senior Writer Senior Writer
1st Jimmie Johnson Kyle Busch Jimmie Johnson
2nd Carl Edwards Carl Edwards Carl Edwards
3rd Kyle Busch Jimmie Johnson Kevin Harvick
4th Tony Stewart Tony Stewart Kyle Busch
5th Dale Earnhardt Jr. Greg Biffle Greg Biffle
6th Jeff Burton Denny Hamlin Dale Earnhardt Jr.
7th Greg Biffle Matt Kenseth Matt Kenseth
8th Denny Hamlin Dale Earnhardt Jr. Tony Stewart
9th Kevin Harvick Kevin Harvick Denny Hamlin
10th Jeff Gordon Jeff Burton Jeff Gordon
11th Matt Kenseth Jeff Gordon Clint Bowyer
12th Clint Bowyer Clint Bowyer Jeff Burton
Darkhorse Title Pick Jeff Burton Tony Stewart Kevin Harvick
Spoiler (Best Non-Chaser) Mark Martin David Ragan David Ragan
Why They Picked How They Did Picking this year’s Sprint Cup champion is akin to picking who will win the Presidential nomination; the odds on favorite to win the title all year long is suddenly finding himself a half-step behind. The 2008 championship Chase is getting off to much the same start as it did in 2007, when Johnson and company laid low for much of the spring and summer – right before suddenly remembering how to race again (i.e., preparing cars for the races that matter) in winning California and Richmond while heading into the 10-race runoff. The No. 48 team has mirrored that performance this year, and have since put all others on notice that 2008 won’t be much different. Busch and Edwards are the only real serious threats to win (let alone lead) the remaining 10 races, though Earnhardt Jr. seems to get around Talladega pretty well for some reason. You will see a couple of bows and a backflip or two, but the end result will be what it has been the previous two seasons: The No. 48 team at the head table at the Waldorf Astoria in December. If not, Burton’s quiet consistency might be just enough to edge out the competition. The RCR/DEI powerplants are bested in horsepower only by the Penske Racing Mopar Mills, and if it’s a seventh-place average finish that traditionally will lead you to the title… then here’s your guy. Earlier this year, I didn’t think Busch could keep up his blistering pace for more than a few months. But I was proved wrong, and now I think he will continue “Win-Fest 2008” all the way to the Sprint Cup championship. No wins and staying off of everyone’s radar has Stewart making a rare appearance in the “Darkhorse” category, but he is getting hot… and angry at the right time. And Ragan has been knocking on the door for a win all year long; with the pressure of the Chase gone, don’t be surprised if he puts the No. 6 in Victory Lane. It’s a little thing called deja vu. Every year at this time, Johnson hits his stride and proves to be the favorite for the title. Each of the past two years, he went on to win the Cup; and with two consecutive wins coming into the Chase, I don’t see why he can’t win number three this year. If Harvick can keep his top 10 streak alive (six races) he and Edwards could really factor into the championship picture as well.
Correctly Picked How Many Chasers? 9 of 12 8 of 12 9 of 12
2008 Chase For The Championship Picks
Expert Danny Peters Kurt Allen Smith Bryan Davis Keith
Title Contributing Writer Contributing Writer Writer/Editor
1st Jimmie Johnson Carl Edwards Jimmie Johnson
2nd Carl Edwards Kyle Busch Carl Edwards
3rd Kyle Busch Jeff Gordon Tony Stewart
4th Kevin Harvick Jimmie Johnson Kyle Busch
5th Greg Biffle Tony Stewart Matt Kenseth
6th Tony Stewart Clint Bowyer Denny Hamlin
7th Dale Earnhardt Jr. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Greg Biffle
8th Jeff Gordon Jeff Burton Kevin Harvick
9th Denny Hamlin Kevin Harvick Dale Earnhardt Jr.
10th Matt Kenseth Matt Kenseth Clint Bowyer
11th Jeff Burton Greg Biffle Jeff Gordon
12th Clint Bowyer Denny Hamlin Jeff Burton
Darkhorse Title Pick Jeff Gordon Jeff Gordon Matt Kenseth
Spoiler (Best Non-Chaser) Sam Hornish Jr. Kasey Kahne Brian Vickers
Why They Picked How They Did Johnson’s coming into form at just the right time. The No. 48 has been the team to beat in the Chase, and they will be this time around, too – no one will catch Jimmie J. Expect Hornish Jr. to take out Busch at a key point in the Chase – denying him the title. I picked Edwards because he was my pick at the beginning of the year and I’m sticking to it… but Kyle will be tough to beat. Jimmie will always be a threat and let’s not forget Gordon and Earnhardt Jr. are on the same team. Why Hamlin in last? His team has been too prone to self-destruction this year. Busch may well have eight wins and Edwards may have dominated the intermediate circuits on the Cup schedule – but Johnson has all the momentum coming into this Chase with two straight victories. The No. 48 team has more Chase experience than any of their competitors and is peaking at just the right time. It’s going to be business as usual for Johnson in the fall – and that means a third Cup is on the horizon.
Correctly Picked How Many Chasers? 10 of 12 10 of 12 0 of 12 (Didn’t Pick)
2008 Chase For The Championship Picks
Expert John Potts Phil Allaway Doug Turnbull
Title Contributing Writer Newsletter Contributor Contributing Writer
1st Carl Edwards Carl Edwards Kyle Busch
2nd Tony Stewart Jimmie Johnson Carl Edwards
3rd Kyle Busch Kyle Busch Jimmie Johnson
4th Jimmie Johnson Kevin Harvick Denny Hamlin
5th Dale Earnhardt Jr. Tony Stewart Dale Earnhardt Jr.
6th Jeff Gordon Greg Biffle Kevin Harvick
7th Kevin Harvick Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jeff Gordon
8th Jeff Burton Jeff Burton Tony Stewart
9th Denny Hamlin Matt Kenseth Jeff Burton
10th Greg Biffle Denny Hamlin Clint Bowyer
11th Matt Kenseth Jeff Gordon Matt Kenseth
12th Clint Bowyer Clint Bowyer Greg Biffle
Darkhorse Title Pick Tony Stewart Kevin Harvick Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Spoiler (Best Non-Chaser) Kasey Kahne Brian Vickers Kasey Kahne
Why They Picked How They Did I like Carl’s attitude, and I think he’s up to the challenge. To predict this, I first compiled the average finishes of the Chasers over the past six races. If you’re interested, here they are: Edwards – 5.2, Harvick – 5.5, Stewart – 8.0, Johnson – 10.3, Busch – 10.5, Biffle – 10.8, Bowyer – 13.0, Hamlin – 13.2, Kenseth – 13.5, Earnhardt Jr. – 15.0, Gordon – 18.2, Burton – 19.0. Watch out for Harvick, though: he’s been kind of quiet up front, but he’s got the momentum. And look for Vickers to potentially steal a race during the Chase. Busch has won on every kind of track and has not had a true slump all season. The title will end up being a crapshoot between Busch, Edwards, and Johnson, but 2008 will be the year that NASCAR welcomes a new champion to its select fraternity. And believe it or not, Earnhardt Jr. could be a darkhorse. The No. 88 team has been consistent all year, except for the past few experimental weeks. The AMP Energy team has the equipment and driver to stay in the hunt in the event of rotten luck that could strike the obvious title favorites.
Correctly Picked How Many Chasers? 0 of 12 (Didn’t Pick) 0 of 12 (Didn’t Pick) 0 of 12 (Didn’t Pick)
2008 Chase For The Championship Picks
Expert Nikki Krone S.D. Grady
Title Driver Diary Coordinator Senior Newsletter Columnist
1st Carl Edwards Jimmie Johnson
2nd Kyle Busch Kyle Busch
3rd Jimmie Johnson Carl Edwards
4th Tony Stewart Dale Earnhardt Jr.
5th Clint Bowyer Clint Bowyer
6th Jeff Gordon Jeff Burton
7th Dale Earnhardt Jr. Greg Biffle
8th Greg Biffle Denny Hamlin
9th Jeff Burton Jeff Gordon
10th Kevin Harvick Tony Stewart
11th Matt Kenseth Kevin Harvick
12th Denny Hamlin Matt Kenseth
Darkhorse Title Pick Tony Stewart Jeff Gordon
Spoiler (Best Non-Chaser) David Ragan Brian Vickers
Why They Picked How They Did Edwards: I still just find it interesting that had Busch decided to stay with Roush and not switch over to Hendrick, there is a very good chance Edwards may not be in the position he is today. But it may end up biting Busch in the butt if Carl wins the championship over him this season. Had it not been for a 100-point penalty at the beginning of the year, Edwards would have been much closer to Busch in the regular series points. With the bulls eye on Busch’s back and the new “rivalry” in play, I think Edwards will persevere and find a way to beat Busch to take the championship. Jumpin’ Jimminy! I didn’t believe he could pull off a two-in-a-row championship year. But he did. And I really don’t think he’s got a three-in-a-row season happening… so I picked him. Johnson seems to generate the best luck when the pressure is on. He must have some kind of rabbit foot farm! Should Johnson stumble too often, though, you can bet the No. 18 team will crank it up and take home the trophy.
Correctly Picked How Many Chasers? 10 of 12 8 of 12
2008 Chase For The Championship Picks
Frontstretch Top 12 (Based On Averages Of All Staff Predictions)
1st Jimmie Johnson
2nd Carl Edwards
3rd Kyle Busch
4th Tony Stewart
5th Dale Earnhardt Jr.
6th Kevin Harvick
7th Denny Hamlin
8th Greg Biffle
9th Matt Kenseth
10th Jeff Gordon
11th Jeff Burton
12th Clint Bowyer
Darkhorse Title Pick Kevin Harvick
Spoiler (Best Non-Chaser) David Ragan
Final Analysis As you can see, the top three favorites leading into the Chase are our favorites as well. It was a tight race, but Johnson edged out both Edwards and Busch to be our pick to win his third straight title. Other interesting points: Earnhardt Jr. was picked to finish in the top five (despite no one having him higher than third on their list), and we picked Bowyer as a last-place finisher for the second straight year. Hey, maybe that’ll motivate last year’s Chase Cinderella!

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Bryan Davis Keith

So much time wasted. Surely y’all have something better to do.

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