The road less traveled can be both a great journey or one filled with a lot of troubles.  Sure you can make it to the end of the trip, but how you get there is what determines how good of a trip it becomes.

For one driver this week, his journey to a championship has officially been put on a permanent detour for 2013.

The idea of seeing a race at Watkins Glen, or anywhere else for that matter, without Tony Stewart at the track is something no one would expect.  But after his accident on Monday night racing sprint cars, that is a reality.  There have been drivers that have raced with torn ligaments in their legs, but Stewart is down for the count with the broken tibia and fibula.

No Sprint Cup action for the man known as "Smoke" for an undetermined amount of time.  That leaves a seat open for fill-ins, with one this weekend and another to be named next week.

It gives Watkins Glen a very different outlook, since Smoke has always been a favorite to win here.

Makes a harder choice for all the writers, because road courses are good for many, and favorites are hard to come by.  Yet, somehow everyone got their choices in for this week, hoping the right turns lead to victory.

Here's the picks for the Cheez-It 355 at the Glen:

 

Misan Akuya:  Max Papis

A series of unfortunate events have lead to Tony Stewart not racing for at least three weeks and Mad Max Papis in the 14 for this race.

Papis has a top ten in this race and tested for SHR at Road America.

Rob Blount:  Brad Keselowski

He’s finished second the last 2 years. Things haven’t gone too well for the Blue Deuce this season, but this is where it all will turn around.

James Broomhead:  Marcos Ambrose

No reason.

Kelly Crandall:  Kurt Busch

Needs to make up for giving away what could have been a victory at Sonoma.

Billy Fellin:  Marcos Ambrose

Going for 3 in a row at The Glen, but how can this guy not be the favorite? He's has an average finish at Watkins Glen of 4.6.

Money, money, money here.

Michael Hirshbein:  Marcos Ambrose

No reason.

Christopher Leone:  Max Papis

Meh, why not.

Kara Martin:  Jeff Gordon

No reason.

Ryan O'Hara:  Marcos Ambrose

No reason.

Dustin Parks:  Jeff Gordon

I honestly had Stewart in for this race...till Monday.  Then I had Ambrose, but then I realized I need wins and rather than end up in a tie with everyone, I need to go with someone I know can get the job done.

Gordon was SO CLOSE last week to winning he could taste it.  He has long been the road king in NASCAR, and has four wins at this place, three coming back-to-back from 1997-1999.  His confidence is through the roof right now, and both wants and needs a win, as do I.

Patti Rodisch:  Jeff Gordon

No reason.

Sal Sigala Jr:  Jimmie Johnson

No reason.

Rob Tiongson:  Jeff Gordon

Kinda forgot how Tony Stewart had overtaken JG as the all-time race winners at WGI.

Well, he'll tie Tony in that category when all's said and done so all he has to worry about is not so much if he'll make the Chase, but what position he'll start in this year!

 

Standings following Pocono:

Rob Tiongson (751) Kasey Kahne WON (2)

Patti Rodisch (722) Jimmie Johnson finished 13th (0)

Kelly Crandall (695) Jimmie Johnson finished 13th (1)

Sal Sigala Jr(688) Jimmie Johnson finished 13th (1)

Billy Fellin (686) Kurt Busch finished 3rd (1)

Michael Hirshbein (673) Kyle Busch finished 8th (2)

Rob Blount (653) Jimmie Johnson finished 13th (1)

Dustin Parks (637) Tony Stewart finished 9th (0)

Kara Martin (603) Tony Stewart finished 9th (0)

Ryan O'Hara (597) Jimmie Johnson finished 13th (0)

James Broomhead (579) Matt Kenseth finished 22nd (1)

Misan Akuya (562) Jimmie Johnson finished 13th (1)

Christopher Leone (463) Jeff Gordon finished 2nd (0)

 

Final Thoughts:  Obviously even with one of the top road course racers out, there were still plenty to choose from to win, and it's clear who the writers feel is the top dog for victory this week.

Will any of them be right?  Find out at Noon ET on ESPN.

 

Summary of Picks:

Marcos Ambrose-4

Jeff Gordon-4

Max Papis-2

Kurt Busch-1

Jimmie Johnson-1

Brad Keselowski-1