In This Corner: Crown Royal Presents the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard (w/ Celebrity Guest Jeff Gordon)

If you haven’t been hiding under a rock over the past week, you’ve heard the big news in the NASCAR world: Jeff Gordon will return to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Yes, it is true. The four-time champion will be filling in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 Chevrolet. Earnhardt is sitting out his second consecutive race with concussion-like symptoms. Gordon will also get the start the following weekend at Pocono Raceway for the sport’s most popular driver.

While it may be strange to see Gordon in a car other than the No. 24, legions of fans across the country are excited to see him come out of retirement for at least two races.

We here at Splash ‘n Go, specifically those who work on “In This Corner,” were ecstatic a couple months ago when we received confirmation that Gordon would join our in-house pickers John Farrell and Alex Pohlman as the celebrity guest picker for the Indy race. Obviously, we didn’t know at that time that Gordon would be returning to competition the same weekend.

Therefore, we consider it a very huge honor and we are all extremely humbled to have Gordon decide to stay on as our celebrity guest picker for this weekend. It should make for some interesting picks and great on-track competition.

Before we get into the picks for this week’s Crown Royal Presents the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard, which can be seen on NBCSN at 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 24, let’s quickly recap last week’s race at how our pickers fared.

John pulled out the big win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the eighth time this season to go up by two over the guest pickers and by three over Alex. His three drivers included Tony Stewart (second), Denny Hamlin (ninth) and Jimmie Johnson (12th). Hamlin ran in top 10 most of day and led five laps, while Johnson led one lap.

John’s combined finishing position was 23, 13 points better than Alex’s 36.

In her stable of drivers for last weekend’s New Hampshire 301, Alex had selected Joey Logano (third), Martin Truex Jr. (16th) and Kyle Larson (17th).

Alan Hinson, last week’s guest picker, had a total finishing of 57. His picks were Kyle Busch (eighth), Brad Keselowski (15th) and Chase Elliott (34th).

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.

As previously mentioned, this week’s celebrity guest picker is none other than four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon. Gordon, who won NASCAR titles in 1995, 1997, 1998 and 2001, amassed 93 victories and 81 poles during his 23-year career in NASCAR’s premier division. He ranks third on the all-time wins list — trailing only NASCAR Hall of Fame drivers Richard Petty and David Pearson — and captured a record five Brickyard 400 trophies. Gordon is currently an analyst for FOX Sports, President of Jeff Gordon, Inc. and its related business entities, and a partner at Hendrick Motorsports. In 1999, Gordon founded the Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation, dedicated to supporting pediatric cancer research aimed at finding more effective, less toxic cures for children.

JEFF’S PICKS

Jeff Gordon AARP 2015 Studio Shoot at CIA STUDIO in Mooresville, North Carolina on December 9, 2014. CIA Stock Photo

1. Kurt Busch: It seems like drivers that run well at Pocono also run well at Indy, and Kurt won Pocono earlier this year.

2. Joey Logano: Joey is with a great team and he is a great qualifier — and qualifying is so important at the Brickyard.

3. Martin Truex Jr.: The No. 78 is one of the best cars week in and week out, no matter the track.

ALEX’S PICKS

InThisCorner-Alex1. Jeff Gordon: He’s coming out of retirement and he’s not half-bad at Indy.

2. Kevin Harvick: Harvick has had a rough couple of weeks so a win at the Brickyard would help lift his championship spirits.

3. Kyle Larson: Don’t count out Larson who has been strong the past couple of weeks and is still looking for his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup win.

JOHN’S PICKS

InThisCorner-John1. Tony Stewart: I said last week in my picks that I would pick Tony in back-to-back races; I’m fulfilling my promise and I’m confident in my choice after he finished second last week.

2. Jimmie Johnson: Another week, another race, another track at which Jimmie’s dominant. He leads active drivers with four wins and a 106.5 driver rating at Indy.

3. Kyle Busch: He won this event last year and has car to do it again.

GUESTS — 6; ALEX — 5; JOHN — 8

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