At first glance, most people would probably assume that if one of the In This Corner pickers correctly identified the winner (Tony Stewart) and sixth-place finisher (Kevin Harvick) of last Sunday’s Sonoma race that they would easily win the point for that weekend.
In most cases, that would be true.
Unfortunately for John Farrell, this wasn’t the case this past weekend. While John did have Stewart, who put on an excellent display of hard-nosed racing and executed an exciting last-second pass, and Harvick, he also had Clint Bowyer.
Most races, picking Bowyer to round out your three selections, especially when those other two finished as well as Stewart and Harvick, would be a solid choice. But, when Bowyer lasts only five laps and finish dead last in the race, there’s not much room for margin.
John could have paired Bowyer with the top-two finishers and still lost the week’s In This Corner, especially when Alex Pohlman and Jim Utter’s picks were so strong.
John’s three picks netted him a combined finishing position of 47, which landed him in third place.
Jim, last week’s celebrity guest picker, scored the In This Corner win with a trio of drivers that included Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch and AJ Allmendinger. Kyle finished seventh, while his older brother came home 10th. Allmendinger put together a solid 14th-place performance after leading 20 laps. Altogether, Jim had a combined 31 points.
Two of Alex’s picks were identical to Jim’s — Kurt and AJ. The difference was Jimmie Johnson, who finished 13th — six spots behind Kyle Busch. Her total of 37 points was good enough for second place.
Jim’s win tied the celebrity guest pickers with John at six points apiece. Alex is not far behind with four points.
This weekend, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads back to the state of Florida and Daytona International Speedway for Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola. It can be seen on NBC and heard on PRN/SiriusXM. The race will start shortly after 7:45 p.m. EST.
If this is your first time reading “In This Corner,” we’ll explain how it works. The 2016 season marks the second year our “expert” prognosticators, Alex Pohlman and John Farrell, will choose who they they think will win the upcoming race. (They’re experts only in their heads.)
Each week last season, Alex and John picked one driver they thought would win that weekend’s race. Alex based her picks on guts, while John made his picks relying on stats. It was an epic showdown of guts vs. stats. The weekly winner was determined by who chose the driver who finished better in the race.
Fore every weekly win, they received a point. In the end, Alex beat John 14-10. (The competition began with the May Dover race.)
This year, In This Corner is similar, but with some new twists added to make it more challenging and entertaining. Joining Alex and John each week will be a different guest prognosticator. In addition, instead of selecting one driver, each oracle will pick the three they think have the best shot at ending up in Victory Lane.
Whoever selects the three drivers with the lowest combined finishing position will receive the point for that weekend. For example, if Alex picks the race winner and the 20th- and 30th-place finishers, but John picks the 10th-, 15th- and 20th-place winners, John would receive the point (depending on who the celebrity guest picker selects) because his drivers’ accumulated finishing position total (45) is lower that Alex’s (51).
The celebrity guest forecaster can choose whichever three drivers he or she wants regardless of who Alex or John select. However, Alex and John can only have one pick in common.
We will keep a running tally between all three. At the end of the season, the prognosticator with the most points will be crowned the victor.
This week’s Celebrity Guest Picker is a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s inaugural class Junior Johnson. Junior grew up on a farm and developed his driving skills while running moonshine as a young man. In 1953, he gave up moonshining for racing stock cars. Junior served 11 months in prison in the 1950s for running moonshining and received a presidential pardon almost 30 years later. He compiled 50 wins, 148 top 10s and 46 poles during his 14-year career as a driver. As a team owner, Junior worked with some of the sport’s most legendary drivers: Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, Bobby Allison, Bill Elliott, Terry Labonte and many others. His drivers won a combined 139 races and six championships in NASCAR’s premier series (Yarborough — 1976-78; Waltrip — 1981-82, 1985).
1. Chase Elliott: He’s come so far and he has the support of his family and Bill and his team, a good team. He sat on the pole in Daytona and knows how to get the speed out of his car. He’s been finishing too good to not get a win here soon.
2. Joey Logano: Penske cars have been competitive this year and I think they have an edge. He’s a smart driver with good equipment.
3. Kevin Harvick: He’s hungry for a win because he’s finished up front just about every week. I’d look out for him.
1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: This pick is a no-brainer since Jr. is a novice on restrictor-plate tracks.
2. Kevin Harvick: He is leading points and it seems like he’s pretty good anywhere.
3. Denny Hamlin: He won the Daytona 500 this year; could he make it a sweep at Daytona?
1. Jimmie Johnson: Jimmie has three wins at Daytona and it’s been a little too long since he’s been in Victory Lane. It’s about time he makes another appearance.
2. Kyle Busch: Couple the fact that Kyle won this event back in 2008 with his three wins he’s posted so far in 2016 and you have a recipe for another strong finish.
3. Kurt Busch: Although Kurt has never won at Daytona, he does have 12 top-five finishes there — that’s good enough for me.
GUESTS — 6; ALEX — 4; JOHN — 6