One Chase race down, another nine to go. The first race of the title hunt gave a starting indication of who the top contenders possibly will be for the 2012 Sprint Cup, and also saw a few drivers stumble and find themselves in a deeper hole than before the green flag.
Some of those drivers are hoping for a little magic, and the second Chase race may provide that.
Once again, NASCAR heads to New England, an area that usually at this time of year is fixated on the play of Tom Brady and Wes Welker, but for one weekend in the fall the asphalt of the New Hampshire Motor Speedway becomes the focus of sports in the northern tier of the country.
This track hosted the first race in the Chase since it's inception up until last season, and has seen it's share of historic moments. Kurt Busch won this race in 2004, launching his quest to win the first ever Chase. Clint Bowyer won this same race in 2010, only to have his points taken away because of penalty.
Last year, Stewart-Haas Racing swept the victories at the track, with Tony Stewart getting the win last season to assist in his improbable run to a title.
So, who exactly would be favored to win this year?
The writers have their choices in, and as the rules state, their picks must be different from last week. Here's a look at who each has chosen for victory in the Sylvania 300:
Misan Akuya: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Junior has been a model of consistency this year. He got another top ten last week. But he was not happy about that. Loudon has been a track that Jr has yet to win at, but he has contended for
many wins here.
He is in top form right now and is ready to win a championship.
James Broomhead: Clint Bowyer
Sorry, not much time for reasons, prepping for my fifth 24 hour race of the year.
Kelly Crandall: Denny Hamlin
Was strongly leaning towards Kasey Kahne who won back in July. But it was Hamlin who was dominate that day an probably would have won had it not been for a four tire stop.
Plus, Hamlin and I both need good days on Sunday to climb back in points. And he called his shot on Twitter this week so that'll be fun to watch.
Billy Fellin: Denny Hamlin
He called his shot on Twitter that he would win this race. I believe it. He had a winning car at Loudon in July, but missed because of that snafu on pit road. Don't think this team will let that happen again.
Michael Hirshbein: Kyle Busch
Christopher Leone: Clint Bowyer
He wins this one legitimately this time.
Kara Martin: Tony Stewart
Ryan O'Hara: Brad Keselowski
Miller is a cruddy beer, but hey, Brad will dominate.
Dustin Parks: Denny Hamlin
Honestly this was the only pick I had marked down prior to the Chase beginning. He had the first race here in the bag, but the pit road miscue made him play catch-up the rest of the day. Hamlin almost made it to the checkered flag, but finished second.
He's already called his shot for this race, so he's already fired one bullet. I'm hoping after 300 laps, he'll hit the bullseye with another round, and another victory.
Patti Rodisch: Ryan Newman
For the second week in a row I am going with a non chaser. I might be a little crazy but I think Ryan Newman who runs very well at NHMS could be the guy to knock off a Chaser from a win. He has three wins, six top fives and 14 top 10 finishes at NHMS.
Newman strong run last week continues his streak of top 10 finishes even though he missed the Chase, Newman could be tough to beat on Sunday.
Sal Sigala Jr: Tony Stewart
Smoke had some good runs at this track, and maybe this will be the week he gets back into victory lane. If not, a top-five will be greatly appreciated.
Rob Tiongson: Kasey Kahne
Wow, this one's tough because I wanted to pick him for Charlotte but ultimately, I feel that Kahne will get the season sweep at my hometown track of Loudon.
Hamlin will be strong off the truck but I just see the No. 5 car having the ummmph factor to win on Sunday and take the points lead.
Standings following Chicagoland:
Christopher Leone (2053) Brad Keselowski WON (3)
Sal Sigala Jr. (2049) Kyle Busch finished 4th (3)
James Broomhead (2048) Tony Stewart finished 6th (3)
Kara Martin (2047) Brad Keselowski WON (3)
Rob Tiongson (2047) Clint Bowyer finished 10th (4)
Patti Rodisch (2046) Kyle Busch finished 4th (2)
Dustin Parks (2042) Tony Stewart finished 6th (1)
Misan Akuya (2042) Tony Stewart finished 6th (1)
Michael Hirshbein (2041) Kasey Kahne finished 3rd (1)
Ryan O'Hara (2038) Kevin Harvick finished 12th (2)
Kelly Crandall (2038) Matt Kenseth finished 18th (3)
Billy Fellin (2021) Jeff Gordon finished 35th (4)
Final Thoughts: The second Chase race could provide a clearer image of the contenders, but there's 31 other drivers on the track that just want to win a race. It is one of the few tracks in the Chase where those that aren't battling for a title also have a strong chance at victory.
All the action will commence on ESPN as the green flag will wave shortly after 2 p.m. ET.
Summary of Picks:
Dale Earnhardt Jr-1