Here are my predictions about who will complete the field.
- Gordon - He built up a huge lead in April and May, and it remains. This is supposed to be his "drive for five" season. However, he has never done well since the old Winston system gave way to the Chase system. He doesn't seem to be a good enough points racer to get it done. He will go in as the leader, but will not win the championship.
- Hamlin - seems to be firmly locked into second. Could win the championship. Should be a strong contender for victories in at least two chase races: New Hampshire and Phoenix.
- Kenseth - the fantasy racer's racer. He will be strong in the chase. He is good at most tracks (not great at superspeedways or roadcourses). The Chase is so heavy with mile and halfs on which he excels that he is my pick for the championship.
- Burton - will make it in with no problem. He choked about midway through the chase last year. I don't forsee him being a serious contender all the way to Homestead, but I would love it if he were.
- Stewart - After missing the Chase last year and then dominating the Chase period as a non-contender, I expect Tony to unfortunately be in the thick of the hunt for the Cup all the way to Homestead. He is my pick for the silver medal. He might win it all.
- Harvick - A master at flat tracks and not bad anywhere. He is a jerk of the highest order, but should go in about fifth or sixth and finish the season a little higher.
- Johnson - My fantasies of his precipitous fall continuing aside, we all know that he will be there in the end. He hasn't won a race since May and hasn't contended for a win in almost as long, but there is not a better points racer in the series. He's 9th now, but will be okay.
- Kyle Busch - will be in the Chase and will perform better in the playoffs than he did last year. He could win almost anywhere. He will not win the championship.
- Edwards - He will be in the chase and will win at probably Atlanta and Texas in the fall. He might get a top five out of the season.
- Bowyer- Third Childress car out of three in the Chase. He's got to be enjoying this. My prediction: He will win a race before the year is over.
- Truex - Surprise of the season. Martin Truex had a great May and June and is tentatively there. He is still in a position where he could fall out, but I think that he wants a Chase berth as much, if not more than, anyone. His suddenly aloof teammate could learn something from Truex about fire in the belly.
- Kurt Busch - He will grab the 12th spot from Junior. Prone to mistakes and overagressiveness, Busch still is looking at about 3 or 4 races in the leadup to the chase that should be generous to him. (Watkin's Glen, Pocono and Michigan are all tracks that, while not his best, he is traditionally a lot stronger than Junior.) I think that Busch will get the spot, probably with fifty or so points to spare.
Six weeks out, those are my predictions.