There are two similarities between the first two races of the season and the last two races of the season. The first is they are held in the same states, with the only difference being which beach one is at. The other is just the time of year.
As the season winds down, NASCAR is seeing yet another championship battle come down to two individuals that are completely opposite in experience, and driving style.
One has the experience of being a champion, wanting to get another one on the mantle for himself and his team. The other came on like a hurricane, taking the sport by storm one year ago and has put himself as one of the elite drivers in Sprint Cup. Now he's in position to try and knock off the face of the sport over the last six years.
Many other drivers are trying to play spoiler, taking the focus away from those two drivers. But in essence, the term "dual in the desert" certainly applies.
The next-to-last race of the year is a return trip to the Phoenix International Raceway. A track that one year ago this weekend got a finished makeover, and an entirely different way of driving it.
That has our writers on edge, especially with their field of drivers becoming more narrow. Here's a look at who they want to win the AdvoCare 500:
Misan Akuya: Clint Bowyer
Why not? He does good on these types of tracks.
James Broomhead: Kyle Busch
Kelly Crandall: Kyle Busch
Billy Fellin: Kyle Busch
The 18 has been running really well in the Chase...just sucks for Kyle that he missed said Chase. He has only one win at Phoenix, but I'll take his momentum going into the desert.
Michael Hirshbein: Carl Edwards
Christopher Leone: Mark Martin
Kara Martin: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Ryan O'Hara: Clint Bowyer
its getting grindy here boyz...and girls lol.
Dustin Parks: Jimmie Johnson
Remember Dover when pretty much the entire pool picked Jimmie Johnson? Well that weekend I decided to save that pick for when I will likely need him to make a run.
Guess what, that man made a run to the lead in the standings, thanks to two straight wins and max-points in each race. I'm betting those that decided to choose him early are regretting it now, especially since I made my run up the ladder to get to the runner-up spot where I'm at right now.
Mr. "Five-Time" is on a tear, and another win this week will almost assure that he'll get a new nickname for 2013. He'll be the only active driver that can say he's got a "six-pack."
Patti Rodisch: Kasey Kahne
After totally forgetting to submit my pick last week I have very little time to make up some ground. Kahne was good on this track a year ago and I think with his championship chances taking a hit last week, Kahne has nothing to lose.
It has been a successful year for Kasey Kahne and his new team. A win this week would give them some momentum heading into the off season and 2013. Kahne wins at Phoenix on Sunday.
Sal Sigala Jr: Brad Keselowski
No reason, although I'm picking Antron Brown to be this years NHRA top fuel champion.
Rob Tiongson: Kyle Busch
Oh this is so tough. It was either The Biff or Smoke, but then I thought...hey, why not go with a guy who's probably looked strong in the Chase that's not in title contention? I've won this race the last two years and to be honest....it does seem like it's time to get Rowdy soon.
I'm ready to take the Cup again - ladies and gentlemen, bring on the last two races of 2012!
Standings following Texas:
Rob Tiongson (2320) Matt Kenseth finished 4th (4)
Dustin Parks (2302) Clint Bowyer finished 6th (2)
Sal Sigala Jr. (2300) Matt Kenseth finished 4th (3)
Ryan O'Hara (2295) Jimmie Johnson WON (3)
James Broomhead (2288) Denny Hamlin finished 20th (3)
Kelly Crandall (2274) Mark Martin finished 29th (4)
Christopher Leone (2259) Kasey Kahne finished 25th (4)
Michael Hirshbein (2247) Brad Keselowski finished 2nd (1)
Billy Fellin (2243) Matt Kenseth finished 4th (5)
Patti Rodisch (2242) NO PICK SENT (2)
Kara Martin (2237) Carl Edwards finished 16th (3)
Misan Akuya (2224) Mark Martin finished 29th (1)
Final Thoughts: Just two races left in the season means time has all but run out for some drivers. The writers are also running out of time to make their run at their own championship. Just under two races separate first from last, meaning after this weekend, some will mathematically be unable to win the title.
The action on the track has been heating up as the season comes to a close. Sunday will be no different when ESPN has the call beginning at 2 p.m. ET.
Summary of Picks:
Dale Earnhardt Jr-1