Controversy turned into CHASEtroversy.  Guys worked their way in, fell out, and then were taken out.  In the last week we've seen teams get penalized points, one get kicked out of the title hunt, another one added, and one more still being looked at.

Never before has NASCAR been in such a tough position when it comes to deciding a champion, especially when some feel the job to fix it was just "half right."  This is becoming a debacle that will certainly be continued to be discussed through the weekend, and as the Chase continues in the weeks ahead.

It overshadows the beginning of the Chase, and the fact there is still a race to be run on Sunday.

The central area of America in the northern tier does not have many speedways, but since 2001 NASCAR has visited a top market, normally dominated by names like Michael Jordan and Mike Ditka.  The Chicagoland Speedway once again kicks off the Chase for the Sprint Cup, and the hope is that the actual racing will take away from what occurred the week prior.

The writers pool has also been redone, with everyone set up in the Chase format, and no controversy.  But, for the next 10 weeks, don't expect any repeats.  The rules for the Chase require each week to have a different driver picked, so this puts the writers in a critical box to figure out who to choose and when.

No turning back now, as the picks are in for the first Chase event, so here's who the writers chose to win the GEICO 400:

 

Misan Akuya:  Kevin Harvick

Harvick is racing the 29 for Richard Childress the only team that he has ever raced for, for the final ten times.  Harvick is so good at Chicagoland with two wins (won the first two races this track held).

Only Tony Stewart has more wins, but unfortunately isn't here.  And based solely on stats, Happy is the favorite to win.

Rob Blount:  Kasey Kahne

The 5 is always strong on the intermediate tracks, and frankly I’m not sure where else I’d use him at any other point during the Chase. There are other places where he’s a good fit, but other drivers are better fits there.

So Kahne at Chicago. Book it.

James Broomhead:  Brad Keselowski

No reason.

Kelly Crandall:  Kevin Harvick

Past winner here and he's been strong at the end of the last few races while others have fallen by the wayside. Hopefully he'll start the Chase off strong for me.

Billy Fellin:  Martin Truex Jr.

Yes, he has a broken wrist and yes, he's going to be dealing with the fall out of being kicked out of the Chase.  But, he's been so solid on 1.5 mile tracks this season and I don't see that changing.

Michael Hirshbein:  Clint Bowyer

No reason.

Christopher Leone:  NO PICK

No pick submitted by posting deadline.

Kara Martin:  Jeff Gordon

No reason.

Ryan O'Hara:  Kasey Kahne

No reason.

Dustin Parks:  Kurt Busch

I thought about going with one of the MWR teams, but lost in all that controversy was the single-car operation that is losing it's driver, but drove his heart out and clinched a Chase spot.  That is huge because Kurt wants to win for this team, and is showing that even though they aren't based in traditional "NASCAR Country," they can compete alongside those teams.

Why not start the Chase off with a bang and win the first race out?

Patti Rodisch:  Brad Keselowski

No reason.

Sal Sigala Jr:  Kevin Harvick

No reason.

Rob Tiongson:  Kevin Harvick

Gotta go with the Budweiser man here at Joliet, IL!  Why not?  See the boss man has the lead, so time to punch my ticket to Victory Lane right now.

 

Chase Standings following Richmond:

Michael Hirshbein (2009) Kyle Busch finished 19th (3)

Rob Tiongson (2006) Kevin Harvick finished 11th (2)

Billy Fellin (2003) Kevin Harvick finished 11th (1)

Rob Blount (2003) Kevin Harvick finished 11th (1)

Sal Sigala Jr. (2003) Brad Keselowski finished 17th (1)

Kara Martin (2003) Kyle Busch finished 19th (1)

Kelly Crandall (2003) Clint Bowyer finished 25th (1)

Patti Rodisch (2000) Kyle Busch finished 19th (0)

Dustin Parks (2000) Denny Hamlin finished 21st (0)

Ryan O'Hara (2000) Clint Bowyer finished 25th (0)

James Broomhead (2000) Kyle Busch finished 19th (2)

Misan Akuya (2000) Clint Bowyer finished 25th (1)

Christopher Leone (2000) Kyle Busch finished 19th (0)

 

Final Thoughts:  The focus now needs to be getting back to racing, because the problem now is everyone is still looking in the mirror rather than out the windshield.  The controversy of Richmond may never be over, but teams aren't at that track, they are in Chicago, and 12 drivers now have a chance to win a championship.

That needs to be what is talked about, the racing at Chicagoland, not what happened the week prior.  Will that change?

Tune in beginning at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN to find out.

 

Summary of Picks:

Kevin Harvick-4

​Kasey Kahne-2

Brad Keselowski-2

​Clint Bowyer-1

Kurt Busch-1

Jeff Gordon-1

Martin Truex Jr.-1